Edo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Louis Odion, while addressing news men after the meeting, disclosed that “There is an issue of fraud that was discovered while turning our books. We found that the sum of $31 million was fraudulently taken from state coffers during the administration of Chief Lucky Ogbinedion. The governor has directed the Attorney-General to commence legal action in that direction.
“So, in coming days, the state government will take legal action to ensure that what was stolen from Edo State government is recovered. When you convert $31 million to naira, it is a whooping N7 billion. You can imagine what N7 billion will do in improving the condition of Edo State.”
Illuminating further on the $31m fraud, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry of Edo, Honourable Abdul Oroh expatiated that: “The $31 million, which was stolen from the people of Edo State for the transaction which was designed clearly for criminal purposes. This project was called Abat Cement Company, situated at Ekpe, near Ikpeshi in Akoko Edo Local Government Area of the state.
“The company was supposed to produce cement to take advantage of the large scale deposit of limestone in that part of the state. The company was registered as Abat Cement Company Limited and this company had three shareholders. The Abat Cement Company had 75 per cent shares, Edo State government had 15 per cent shares and 10 per cent shares were reserved for ‘other Nigerians’.
“Although Edo State government was given only 15 per cent share, 100 per cent of the revenue invested in the company, $31 million was taken from the account of Edo State government. This money was withdrawn from the account of Edo State government under Afribank. As the money was withdrawn, construction of the company started and all the major structures were in place, 90 per cent completed, machines were installed, but there was no other contribution from any other source for the construction and procurement of these equipment. So, everything invested in that company came from Edo State government.
“It is on record according to the shareholders’ agreement, those who claim to be first shareholders, Abat Holdings were given 75 million shares, representing 75 per cent, the second shareholder was given 10 per cent and the third shareholder, the Edo State government was given 15 million shares, representing 15 per cent. The agreement was signed by the Fashunu and Governor Igbinedion, who signed on behalf of the shareholders.
“The fruit juice processing company in Ehor was established in 2001 by the Lucky Igbinedion-led administration. The cost of establishing that company was N368,458,195 was invested in this company by the Edo State government. The company was owned 100 per cent by the Edo State government. The materials for the company were imported from England from a company at a sum of £310,000.
“The company is now sold, including the land and the three hectares pineapple farm, which was also developed by the Ministry of Agriculture for N283.8 million. The company was completed and there was a test run. There was no reason to privatise it and it was sold out at a give-away price which only could have been influenced by criminal intentions.
“There is also one at Ikpeshi, the Solid Mineral Processing Industry. This company which was also owned 100 per cent by Edo State Government was established in 2003 at the sum of N85 million. This company was sold to a company called Copex Solid Mineral Processing Company owned by Chief Mike Ogiadomhe, the then deputy governor for N56 million.
“There were other criminal transactions. If you look at the fertiliser company in Auchi, most of the equipment installed at the point of commissioning were all fraudulent, because they were outdated and not useful and fertilisers were procured from somewhere and released as being products of the company.
“At Okpella Cement Company, they manipulated the transactions to the detriment of the people of Edo State and to the adversity of the state economy. When the comrade-governor came in, in 2009, he had to re negotiate the whole process of the Okpella Cement. As we speak, the company that is running the cement company now has invested about $500 million and very soon, they will be producing cement in the new plant and in the old plant that has been reactivated.
“The state government has authorised us to proceed with the criminal aspect and in the next few days, we are going to arraign the Chief Executives of these institutions in the law court for possible liabilities on tax invasion which is a criminal offence. It doesn’t matter whether they have remitted the amount which was discovered to be outstanding even they are still withholding such money.” Honourable Abdul Oroh assures