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Delta: Okowa’s contract bribe tears political parties apart

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…As Gov’s aides lament

 By: RICHARD EGODIBIE, Asaba

Contracts  worth about N20 million allegedly used as bribe by Delta State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa to pacify political parties in the state is currently causing ripples across the parties.

The governor had approved the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) contracts to the political parties under Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Delta state chapter, but rather than excite them, it has torn the parties apart following the hijack of the contracts by the senior political adviser to the governor, Mr. Festus Ochonogor and others.

The political parties have also accused the state IPAC chairman, Mr. Frank Igwebuike and the state chairman of Accord Party, Mr. David Ashikodi of connivance with the governor’s political aide to defraud them and deny them financial grants from the state government.

According to the IPAC members, “The political parties jointly tendered for five jobs in SUBEB and drew His Excellency’s attention to it and in his usual way he asked that we should be given, but to our greatest surprise we learnt that Chief Festus Ochonogor who unfortunately has hijacked the works and functions of the SSA Inter-Parties has gone to SUBEB to collect the jobs and order that no information about the jobs should be given to us.”

In a petition titled, “A Case of Harassment, Blackmail, Intimidation And Shortchanging Of Political Parties By Chief Festus Ochonogor, Frank Igwebuike and David Ashikodi”, signed by Obaro Unuafe of PPP, Peter Emuakpoje of Green Party of Nigeria, Tony Ezeagwu of Labour Party and 25 other chairmen, addressed to the governor and exclusively obtained by Nigeria Witness correspondent they hinted  of the “unholy, ungodly and greedy manner the SUBEB jobs were shrouded in secrecy by the senior political adviser.”

The petition further read in part: “It is quite unfortunate that the jobs you gave us in the spirit of partnership in order to alleviate some of us from the hard economic condition of the country has ended up in bringing sorrow and bitterness against your administration and acrimony among political parties in the state. This gesture has led to the parties splitting into various groups. Political parties in the state have not seen this kind of daylight robbery that is coupled with intimidation, highhandedness with occultic aura.

 “On our meeting day of 11th of July 2017, Igwebuike came with three armed policemen with the sum of N1.1 million, saying he sold the job for 10% and the value was N11 million,  that an order from above said he must not share the money to all the parties but 23 parties only. Meanwhile, contractors from SUBEB came to the venue with the intention of buying the job and they tendered N4 million but Igwebuike refused and said he wanted to sell it for N1.1 million and he has sold it to Ochonogor.

 “On the 29th of May 2017, Democracy Day, Igwebuike brought out the sum of N150, 000 that the money was what the governor gave the 40 parties that graced the occasion; on sensing that the parties were not pleased he went out and came back after few minutes saying he just spoke with the governor and he was sending someone to bring additional N500, 000 for us. Few minutes after, Ochonogor walked in with a bag containing N750, 000 and handed it to Igwebuike in our presence. Though we smelt a rat, we decided to let go.

“Another case of fraud was on the 9th of September 2016, when you released the sum of N2.5 million to the SSA on Inter-parties to enable him have an interactive session with the political parties, Ochonogor and Igwebuike used the governor’s name to intimidate the SSA on inter-parties and forcefully collected the sum of N900, 000 from the money. On grant to political parties, the trio of Ochonogor, Igwebuike and Ashikodi held series of meetings so that the political adviser can collect over 35% of the N30 million from the SSA, the same way they collected over 40% from the N2.5 million money given to the SSA.”

The political parties stated that following the refusal of the SSA to succumb to Ochonogor’s threats and intimidation, Igwebuike who is Okowa’s kinsman and was handpicked by the governor to head the state IPAC and Ashikodi are now conniving with the political aide to blackmail, tarnish and usurp the functions of the office of the SSA adding,”The latest plans and moves are how the likes Ochonogor, Igwebuike and Ashikodi will be the ones to disburse the 2017 grant to political parties with the inter-parties office completely out of it.”

The IPAC members vowed not to have anything to do with the Igwebuike-led IPAC and told the governor to henceforth recognise Mr. Tony Ezeagwu of the Labour Party as the new leader of the 40 political parties in the state who will work closely with the SSA on Inter-Parties with a strongly-worded warning to Mr. Ochonogor to mind his office and stop meddling in political parties affairs and the office of the SSA on inter-party relations.

When contacted, the senior political adviser to the governor, Mr. Festus Ochonogor confirmed knowledge of the petition but declined comment while all efforts to reach out to the state chairman of IPAC, Mr. Frank Igwebuike and the state chairman of Accord Party, Mr. David Ashikodi were unsuccessful as calls to them were ignored severally as at the time of filing in the story.

Meanwhile, for using the name of the party to seek benefits as well as being part of the SUBEB contracts, the national leadership of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) has disowned one Lucky Okorakpa parading himself as the Delta State chairman of the party, accusing him of impersonation

The party reacting to a petition against the senior political adviser to governor of the state, Mr. Festus Ochonogor, state chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Frank Igwebuike and the state chairman of Accord Party, Mr. David Ashikodi, addressed to the governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, which Mr. Okorakpa, also signed as the Delta State chairman of the PRP, noted that the current state chairman of the party is Mr. Paul Otu.

 In a statement on behalf of the national chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, titled “Impersonation By Lucky Okorakpa As Delta State Chairman Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)”, signed by a national official and immediate-past Delta State chairman of PRP, Comrade Emmanuel Odafe Igbini and made available to Nigeria Witness, the party disassociated itself from the membership of IPAC.

“Ordinarily PRP would not have reacted to the protest letter or to other activities of political parties in the state but is compelled to do so because the letter made reference to the party as signatory to the letter and more worrisome was the fact that these persons claimed that one Mr. Lucky Okorakpa is the Delta State chairman of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP),” the statement read.

The party stated unequivocally that Mr. Okorakpa was an impostor and never known to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).

 “The current Delta State chairman of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) is Mr. Paul Otu. Mr Lucky Okorakpa is an impostor and never known to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) is not and will not be a member of IPAC. Our party remains a member of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) which is under the leadership of the national chairman of PRP, His Excellency, Alhaji Balarabe Musa.

 “Further, from the content of the protest letter, these reported Delta State chairmen of these political parties have been enjoying some financial assistance and supports from the Delta State government and sadly with this impostor, Mr Lucky Okorakpo, as beneficiary. This is very unfortunate and a case of criminal impersonation to defraud Delta State government using the name of Peoples Redemption Party.

 “We are surprised that Delta State government would embark on disbursement of funds belonging to the people of Delta State to some persons impersonating Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) without first verifying from the national secretariat of Peoples Redemption Party and/or INEC, the names of Delta State executive officers of PRP.

“PRP is consistently known to be a political party with high level of integrity and credibility about 40 years now. We are therefore using this opportunity to strongly advise the Delta State government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Delta State and the general public to henceforth disregard Mr. Lucky Okorakpo as state chairman or member of PRP. The Delta State chairman of PRP is Mr Paul Otu.

 “If in doubt, clarification regarding the activities of PRP in Delta State should be obtained from the national secretariat of PRP, Abuja. Finally, we want to warn that if Mr. Lucky Okorakpa or any unauthorized person or group of persons impersonate our party for any reason whatsoever, we shall not hesitate to take lawful action to institute criminal charges of impersonation and fraud,” the statement threatened.

Several calls made by our reporter to the trio of Festus Ochonogor, Mr. Frank Igwebuike and Mr. David Ashikodi were not responded to as at press time.

Meanwhile, political aides to the Delta State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa have described him as a wicked and clannish governor the state ever had since the creation of Delta State 25 years ago.

The angry aides who are mainly from Delta South and Central Senatorial Districts of the state complained that the governor treats them with disdain and like second class citizens in their own state while he treats his kinsmen from Ika who are aides too, like kings and queens.

Some of the aides who pleaded for anonymity during a chat with Nigeria Witness Correspondent, lamented that governor Okowa who is good at divide and rule, has provided official vehicles to his aides from Ika while those from the two senatorial districts and few others from Delta North district of the state have not been provided with a single official vehicle.

“We are dying and smiling in this government. I can tell you that over 50% of us the aides to the governor are not happy. Governor Okowa, continue to treat his Ika appointees in his government like super aides while we not from Ika are treated like slaves. Can you imagine that those from Ika have been bought official cars while aides not from Ika have not gotten anything? I bet with my life, Okowa cannot make it to a second term in 2019,” one of the visibly angry aide stated.

Another aide, who is a special assistant to the governor, said majority of the aides from Delta South and Central districts would have thrown in the towel but because of nothing to fall back on, they decided to stay put. “Our Ika colleagues get extraordinary benefits and entitlements from governor Okowa while we are starved of the same benefits and entitlements due us.

“Okowa is too wicked and clannish; we never knew we will be treated like this. We are all waiting for him come 2019 general elections,” the aide lamented.

 Calls placed to the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Charles Aniagwu’s mobile line were not answered as at press time.

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