My Reaction to the purported withdrawal of (Three hundred million naira only from the IRDC account

Over the past days, the social media has been awash with


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Topic: Opinion


My Reaction to the purported withdrawal of 				(Three hundred million naira only from the IRDC account
Hon. Omamofe J. Pirah


Over the past days, the social media has been awash with news of the purported withdrawal of a whooping 300,000,000.00 (Three hundred million naira only from the account of the Itsekiri Regional Development Committee (IRDC) for an out of court settlement.

There have been accusations, counter-accusa!ions and denials from different quarters and people that ordinarily would command respect from the generality of Itsekiri people. It has taken me days to assimilate these realities and the following are my thoughts.

As a past chairman of the IRDC, it struck me negatively that a fraud of such magnitude can actually take place under the watch of well-meaning individuals. If this was not fraud perpetuated by those that represented Chief Lori, her lawyer and the Bank, how come her lawyers charged a whooping 80 million as legal charges when they discovered how much was in the account?. What was the legal fees that Chief Rita Lori and her team agreed with their lawyers prior to this time. Shouldn't the respected Chief Rita Lori /Engr. Victor Wood pay the legal fees from their personal finances, as a sacrifice for the betterment of Itsekiri? I believe that the intention to head for the courts was to ensure that Itsekiri funds in the IRDC was judiciously used and that their deed was selflessly geared towards the general good.

Taking a cursory look at the Terms of Settlement, I have my doubt if the document would stand the test of time. Some questions readily comes to mind when I went through that document and these are:

Were the 89 leadership members of the IRDC consulted prior to this TOS? Were the constituent communities that made up the IRDC consulted before deciding that they will purchase fishing trawlers on behalf of the communities. Was a feasibility studies undertaken to ensure viability of the proposed business venture and that it could employ up to 1000 Itsekiri people?

Who undertook assessments to determine the sustainability of the venture? Who will manage the business on behalf of the Communities - the case of the DESOPADEC dredger easily comes to mind.

Personally, I am not averse to the provision of economic activities in the riverine communities. I recalled sometime last year when the IRDC invited stakeholders to a meeting to announce that they wanted to build houses in the communities with the sum of I opposed the idea in favour of an economic zone in the Benin River axis that would galvanise peoples drift back to the communities. I made instances of a rice farm at Ebrohimi/Obaghoro and Mills in Koko and some people agreed with me but the EXCO of the IRDC insisted that they would continue with the construction of the houses because they've already gone far in the process. I went further to raise my objection through my layers to Chevron but some of the Leaders of IRDC went and threatened Chevron and the CEMB and my objection was overruled. Thankfully, Dr Godwin Ebosa is presently working towards the creation of economic activities that would galvanise peoples interest in the communities and rejuvenate livelihood in Oboghoro and the Benin River in general.

Another point in the TOS is the registration of the IRDC and I started wondering how easily that can be achieved given the fact that all the communities were not consulted prior to reaching agreement on the TOS. At the formation of the IRDC, it took well over two years to get all the constituent communities to agree to the GMoU model. Presently, the Ugborodo Communities have a valid court judgement to pull out of the IRDC, so how can the TOS guarantee a buy-in from the 6 Ugborodo communities and Ugboegugun Community?. Till date, sharing formula for the GMoU Communities is still an issue as Chevron has refused to provide production quota of the various communities /fields and so, the communities are left to argue over an acceptable formula within the communities. It's on record that Obonteghareda and Daleoketa till date could not be absorbed into the IRDC because Chevron has refused to officially recognise them because of financial obligations. These are some teething issues that are inhibiting the registration of the IRDC and I wonder if these problems have been surmounted to pave way for its registration.

It is a fact that no entity in the structure of the IRDC can single handedly withdraw money from the project funds of the IRDC. The three parties must sign the instrument before any withdrawal can be made, starting with the Chairman, then Delta State Government before Chevron will sign and the project for which the money is meant must also be signed by the Community Engagement management Board (CEMB) being the highest decision making body in the Council. Membership of the CEMB consist of 2 members of the IRDC, The DTSG, Chevron, the Local Govt Councils, NDDC, DESOPADEC and an NGO who is chairman of the Board.

That was withdrawn from the account smirks of a high level connivance between the bank, the lawyers and the principal actors in IRDC. Engr. Victor Wood, Sir A.S Mene and Kennedy Ebigbeyi cannot claim ignorance of the deal as rumours have it that there was disagreement when the lawyers initially demanded for a hundred million naira for the case to be settled out of court because the IRDC was owing their lawyers and outstanding 15 million naira only at the time. One would therefore wonder how the amount was later jerked up to 300 million naira. If what some of them claimed that the lawyers agreed to a 5% stake of the amount which would have been about 110 million naira is true, how come 300 million naira was withdrawn?. To make matters worse, its alleged that DSTG and Chevron Nig Ltd who are key signatories to the account didn't not even sign on the instrument that was used to withdraw the money, rather, it was the Secretary of IRDC that wrote a letter transmitting the TOS to the bank with an instruction to disburse the funds. It must be noted that Barrister Richard Omare, as the Secretary of the IRDC is NOT a signatory to the project accounts of the IRDC and for him to write a letter instructing the bank to disburse funds is unheard of. I must say that I am highly disappointed in Barr Richard Omare, my elder brother. If Itsekiris and the IRDC impacted communities decides to ignore this matter, some of us who has been severally accused and maligned on the social media over these funds will not allow the matter to fizzle out without accountability.

Again, it beats my imagination that the respected Irojowo would agree to discuss settlement with Hon Michael Diden on behalf of Itsekiri people knowing full well that the same Michael Diden told her sometime ago that he (Ejele) was NOT in politics to develop Itsekiri but rather to develop himself personally. When the Late Ogiame Atuwatse wis alive, he asked Ejele what he would do if he sees a sack of money labelled Itsekiri to which Ejele responded that he would take it home, spend it and give to people as he so wish. One would therefore wonder what to expect when you discuss Itsekiri issue with people that exhibit this mindset. The stories making the rounds now is it that the IRDC lawyer (Filtzgerald Buiks Olorogun) collected 120 million, Chief Rita Lori's lawyer (Peter Aihiokhai ) got 80 million and Michael Diden l s laywer, Uyoyou Charity Egware got 100 million naira from the loot. Furthermore, it's very obvious that the all the parties (Chevron Lawyers, Government Lawyers, the IRDC lawyers, the Bank and their lawyers) were all involved in the conspiracy to bleed the IRDC funds. Else, how do you explain the fact that 2 of the original parties (from Cheif Rita Lori's camp), the Chevron lawyer and Alero Tenumah were removed from the suit prior to their agreeing to the TOS that eventually led to the illegal sharing of the loot?. I am afraid that the well respected chief Rita Lori Ogbebor now have to prove to Itsekiri that she actually knew nothing about this deal since all the members of her team are accomplices, apart from Alero Tenumah that was removed from the suit.

Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere of Warri, handed over the mantle of leadership to the present EXCO. I was the pioneer Chairman of the IRDC that took charge for over 5 1/2 years and I am from Ugborodo and Olero field by birth. Before my tenure, there was an interim chairman. I wonder why all of us were not informed and our input sought before this decision to defraud the IRDC. I recalled that when Chief Rita Lori and his team started this litigation, my name and Chief Ayiri Emami were listed on the petition to both the office of the Inspector-General of Police and the EFCC in Abuja and we were invited to defend ourselves. I have to volunteer to take the EFCC team to the communities to see for themselves what we did during our tenure even when Gbokwa refused to appear at the office of the EFCC.

During my tenure, Chief Barrister Robinson Ariyoh was the IRDCs lawyer. Because of his incorrigibility and unwavering stance to issues like these, he was dropped by the present leadership in favour of a lawyer from the Ijaw ethnic nationality - which ethnic nationality would do that, if not for pecuniary reasons?. I remembered vividly that some of us were against the emergence of Austin Oniyesan (Gbokwa) as the Chairman of the IRDC. I told him on one occasion, during their on-boarding meeting that I don't have confidence in his capability to lead the IRDC and I challenged him to prove me wrong. Another meeting was called where I told the people that If I would relax for Gbokwa to take leadership, then Barrister Omare and Emmanuel Adun should be prepared to guide him because he (Gbokwa) lacks leadership traits. I am sure that Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere of Warri and Chief (Hon)Ereyitomi Thomas, representing Warri Fed Constituency in the house of Reps, who foisted the Gbokwa 00 Ogiame Ikenwoli and Itsekiris would be regretting their actions by now.

My greatest pain is that the actions of these people seem to give flesh to insinuations from some quarters that there are no good people in Itsekiri anymore. The respected "Irojowo l must have trusted members of his team believing they would live up to her standards but unfortunately, she has been disappointed. However, in all these, I can speak for myself that I differ. I was brought up by strict parentage that lay emphasis on integrity and I won't sacrifice that upbringing on the altar of pecuniary gains. Members on my EXCO at the IRDC would attest to the fact that I insisted on buying the IRDC office complex rather than leasing it and when the deal was struck, I resisted all entreaties to inflate the cost. Prince Yemi Emiko and Barrister Eroro Emiko are alive to bear me witness in this. I don't belong to the class of leaders who project their personal interest before the interest of the people and community.

My Opinion

Going forward, it is my candid opinion that:

a) The banks and all those involved in this fraud should be made to refund the money as a matter of urgency.

b) That the principal leadership in the IRDC that is involve in the fraud should be recalled by their communities as they have betrayed the peoples trust.

c) His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli should call a stakeholders meeting with a view to setting up an investigative panel to find out what went wrong and proffer solutions on the way forward.

d) That we should sit down as a people to see how we can resolve the teething problems that have prevented the registration of the IRDC to pave way for its registration.

e) that until this present fraudulent conspiracy, the IRDC has been one organisation that filled the gap after the Warri crisis when all our communities were razed. The IRDC stepped in and built houses that made it possible for some of our indigenes to return to the communities today. Pulling out of the IRDC arrangement by some communities may thus not be the best option, rather, efforts should be made to strengthen the institution and ensure proper accountability to forestall against situations like this in the future. The IRDC has now grown to be a united front for the Itsekiris.

f) that the IRDC should move ALL their accounts from Keystone bank as the bank has displayed a gross negligence and irresponsibility.

Itsekiri must act fast as a people to correct this anomaly as Itsekiri is far behind in all spheres of modern life. We lack physical development in our communities. There is a big gap in our educational infrastructure and the economy of our communities are moribund. These challenges are due to a dearth of leadership in lwere land. We need to rejig our consciousness to be the great and proud nation that we once were.

May God help us.

Thank you all and God bless Ogiame!

God Bless the Itsekiri nation!!

Omamofe J. Pirah

 


Copyright: Fresh Angle International (www.freshangleng.com)



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