Edo guber: Obaseki accused of N5.5bn fraud

Following seemingly successful gubernatorial primaries held by the Edo All Progressives Congress (APC) which produced a flag bearer in the person of Godwin Obaseki, a political storm has begun to gather threatening the credibility of the party’s candidate.

This followed a petition at the House of Representatives, urging it to investigate the APC candidate over alleged fraudulent dealings involving real estate development as the committee on public petitions commenced investigations against a company in which the APC gubernatorial candidate is a major shareholder.

The petition titled, ‘Complaint of criminal appropriation of the sum of $16 million (N5.570, 950, 000) against the estate of the late Chief Humphrey Idisi of blessed memory’, was submitted on the floor of the House on May 25, 2016 by a member, Hon. Lovett Ederin Idisi.

According to documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) following a search on the company by the lawmaker/petitioner, of the 94 million shares being held by KCA-Deutag, Obaseki holds an equal amount of 36 million at the company, while “the trustees of the Nigerian people” holds 4.8 million shares, and the estate of the late Chief Humphrey Idisi holds 18 million shares.

The lawmaker also sought to know how the shares of the late Chief Humphrey Idisi suddenly shrunk by half from 36 million to 18 million shares.

The lawmaker in the petition had claimed “the outright breach of contract entered between the estate of the late Chief Idisi and a German company called KCA-Deutag (Nigeria) for the payment of certain percentage of the day rate in all their drilling operations in Nigeria.

“This case witnesses a further violation of certain local content provisions in our laws especially against one of the pioneers of local content initiatives in this country besides obvious criminality herein occasioned.”

However, drama ensued when the chairman of the committee, Uzoma Abonta, told the participants in the session that an Abuja High Court order has stopped the process.

According to him, the court is asking the committee to appear on June 28, to convince it why they should go on with the hearing.

Abonta said the hearing will resume after the committee might have vacated the order on June 28.

He said: “Court process is different from court order. This is a court order. Court has said come and show us. We can’t tell the court, go to hell, we are not coming. We will adjourn; we’ve already briefed a SAN.

“It will amount to judicial arrogance not to go. It’s a public hearing and we will hear the case publicly. In my honour as a lawyer and a legislator and seeing all these documents, I won’t stand here and say no”.

This caused a major row as the lawmaker who presented the petition on the floor, Lovett Ederin Idisi, disagreed with the ruling of the chairman, insisting that the committee has the statutory power to continue the hearing as he was not personally served the order and one arm of government cannot stop another from carrying out its constitutional duties.

According to the aggrieved lawmaker, the purpose of the order is “to gag and ambush the legislative arm of government from carrying out its statutory and constitutional duty”.

Addressing journalists, he said: “My protest today is based on asking how independent are the arms of government? A situation where the judiciary will prevent the legislative arm of government from carrying out its duties is why I am with the committee. Yes, we are guided by law. The court has given us window to vacate the order, which I believe that the committee will do. But I ask, how can I be bound by a court order which I have not been served with?”

“This petition was laid well over two months ago on the floor of the House and it was referred to the committees on Local Content and Public Petitions”.

Obaseki was represented at the hearing by a lawyer, Olukayode Dada, who asked the committee to adjourn sine die until the case instituted against the committee’s power to investigate the contractual agreement between the late Idisi and KCA-Deutag is settled.