Staff of National Theatre and some concerned stakeholders have accused Professor Sunny Ododo, the General Manager of the Theatre, of mismanaging and looting N856m, as well as multi-million naira assets of the parastatal.
The stakeholders who petitioned anti-corruption agencies – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), alleged that Ododo and his cohorts had been looting the assets of the parastatal since the beginning of a rehabilitation work embarked upon by the Bankers’ Committee.
An audit report by the office of the Auditor General for the Federation which the concerned stakeholders made available on Tuesday, shows that Ododo flouted the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act and Financial Regulations when he awarded contracts and made payment of the sum of N300 million to contractors without recourse to due process.
The audit report, signed by the Director, Extra-Ministerial Audit Department, Dr Onwudili A. O. also indicted Ododo-led management of corruption charges and embezzlement of fund assets of the historic monument.
In a series of petitions written to the EFCC and ICPC, the stakeholders also accused Ododo, the Technical Director, Abiodun Abe and a junior ranking officer, Ephesian Nodza of embezzling the sum of N856 million.
While calling for the removal of Ododo and the resignation of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, they alleged that the minister had been foot-dragging, aiding and failing to implement the Auditor-General’s report which indicted the embattled General Manager to pave the way for a thorough investigation of the allegations.
In one of the petitions dated June 15, 2022, they alleged that Ododo conceded the sales of valuable assets of the parastatal including 200KVA generator, 1500 metres of steel pipes of 8-inch thickness and looting of the central workshop amounting to N750 million.
“We, the Concerned Stakeholders of National Theatre, urged the ICPC to conduct an unbiased investigation into the allegations of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds levelled against Prof Ododo.
“As contained in the report and recommendations by the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, Professor Ododo made payment of N300, 000, 000.00 to contractors without following due process and the vouchers not stamped ‘Paid’.
“The report observed that advances amounting to N44 million were granted to different members of Staff of the parastatal for execution of various services and purchases but were not retired.
“Audit review of procurement documents, payment vouchers and other records of the Agency show that contracts amounting to over N27 million were awarded to various contractors without evidence to show that due process was followed in the award of the contracts.”
The petitioners insisted that the document showed that Ododo violated the BPP Act and Financial Regulation.
“We, the Concerned Stakeholders, therefore recommend the removal and investigation of the General Manager of National Theatre, Prof Sunny Ododo to pave the way for proper investigation.”
The group however noted that in 2008, the former General Manager of National Theatre, Mallam Kabir Yusuf was suspended for not cooperating with the management board but he was reinstated after he was investigated and found not guilty. They asked if the case of Ododo would be different.
“But this was not the case with the current General Manager, Ododo. Despite all the allegations of corruption and misappropriation of the funds of the parastatal against him, he has refused to resign to allow for a proper investigation.
“The office of the Auditor-General has found him guilty of corruption charges and embezzlement of funds but the Minister has refused to implement the recommendations.
“Also the Board of the parastatal, in a separate investigation, indicted Professor Ododo and recommended him for suspension but this was not implemented,” a member of the concerned stakeholder, who didn’t want the name mentioned for fear of victimisation said.
He said, “Whereas when the Auditor-General was found wanting in cases of corruption, he was hurriedly removed. Why is the Ministry feigning ignorance about happenings in the National Theatre? We are aware that the GM is currently being investigated by the ICPC but he is still in the office while being under investigation.
“In a letter dated 5th of April, 2022 and signed by the Resident Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Kabiru Elelu, the ICPC invited Prof Ododo to its Lagos office requesting for some documents that could aid its investigation but upon his return, Ododo was boasting that ICPC told him that the corruption charges levelled against him are mere administrative errors.”
The petitioners maintained that they were hopeful that the anti-graft agency would still do the needful no matter how long it would take.
“Therefore, we urge the ICPC and the EFCC to scale up their efforts in investigating all the allegations levelled against Prof. Ododo and other members of his management team and bring erring officers to justice.
“We are also calling on the Federal Government to implement the Auditor-General reports which seem to have been set aside for a long time.”
However, when contacted on the telephone, Ododo described all the allegations as a fallacy, insisting that he never committed fraud since he became the General Manager of the National Theatre.
He said, “There is actually no merit in what they are saying; absolutely no merit. I wish you were around; I would have asked you to come to my office so that I can take you through evidential documents.
“However, if you forward their petition to me, I will respond line by line to everything they alleged. But I can assure you that that is a fallacy. Since I assumed office here, nothing of such has happened.”
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