Bayelsa: Environment & Finance Commissioner Pocket N7.2million Of Workers [youths] Pay


“I have told you not to publish this trash or you will join them. The police are looking for them. They were not given any contract for N10.2million. There was no such contract like that. Those boys are criminals. If you publish this, we will get the police after you. You better not join them. We have a petition against them in police. You should come to Bayelsa and let us discuss” – stated an agitated Bayelsa State commissioner for environment to our correspondent over allegations that she pocketed money meant for the payment of youths awarded a contract by the State government in Bayelsa for the clearing of gutters at the government house. In the same light, the finance commissioner denied [through phone text message] the allegation, stating that “those guys are thieves and criminals”.

Bayelsa State presently finds itself battling on the fridges of financial criminality and collapse of government integrity. This is as has gathered documentary evidence of embarrassing financial mischief by two of Governor Tinipre Sylva's trusted aides in the persons of the Finance Commissioner [Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles] and the Environment Commissioner [Mrs. Victoria P. Denenu].

The duo awarded a N10.2million cleanup contract to a youth owned company. The two commissioners collected the N10.2million that was released by the State Government but only paid the youths N3.2million. When the youths protested, they were threatened by the police - and were told that the contract was for N3.2million and not N10.2million – and that the difference of N7.2million was for both commissioners to share for their efforts.

According to the information gathered, the environment commissioner in cohorts with the finance commissioner had set up a contract for the cleaning of gutters and cutting of grasses in government house in May of 2009 against the visit of President Umaru Yar'Adua to Bayelsa State. The President was scheduled to visit Bayelsa State in June 2009. And the State Government was engaged in the preparation for his visit. It was under this cloud that the contract for clearing and cleaning of the government house compound was conceived.

The contract scheme began with a letter to the governor. In the letter generated by the environment commissioner [Mrs. Victoria P. Denenu] and dated May 13, 2009 with caption “desiltation of concrete drainage in government house”, it read “all the concrete drainage in government house are blocked with refuse and silt. The blockage does not allow for the free flow of water, which has resulted in the frequent flooding of government whenever it rains. In addition to the menace of flooding, the blocked drains constitute an eyesore. There is thus urgent need to desilt or evaluate all the drainage in the State House before the President's visit to allow the free flow of water into the Epie Creek.”

The environment commissioner included with the May 13, 2009 letter an itemized list of the proposed work. She listed – the main entrance to government house up to the gloryland church, the presidential lodge stretch, deputy governor's lodge, office area of the governor and his deputy, guest house [SSG etc], back of government house, governor's lodge and squash court, banquet hall and entrance to guest houses from Onopa. The commissioner placed the cost for the required work at N10,175,009. As she wrote in her May 23, 2009 letter to the governor, “His Excellency is graciously requested to approve the sum of N10,175,009 only to clean the gutter as per the attached breakdown. The money could be secured from funds approved for the president's visit.” [see letter: Page 1, Page 2]

Two days later, on Friday the 15th of May 2009, the governor gave his approval and made available the N10,175,009 for the project. And five days later, on Wednesday May 20, 2009, the environment commissioner instructed her permanent secretary to generate a letter to the permanent secretary to the government house – to request for access for the workers who will do the work at the said premises. The letter signed by the Permanent Secretary [Barr. Ebi Domo-Spiff] read “the ministry has engaged the services of JEASCO group of company Nigeria LTD to clean all the gutters and cut the grasses in government house in preparation of the president's visit.” The letter continued to read “consequently, kindly allow the company workers access to government house to commence work on Thursday 21st May 2009. The list of the workers numbering 100 is attached for ease of reference. The company would work under the supervision of Patrick Osain, Chief Environmental Health Officer with the ministry of environment.” [see letter]

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