Being a Press Release by the Coalition of Civil Societies of the Niger Delta on the Fraud behind the N3 Billion MDG Funds in Bayelsa State

By For Coalition of Civil Societies of the Niger Delta
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Our investigations within the past couple of hours have so far have revealed that the SSG's Office – which warehouses the Directorate of Project Monitoring in connivance with some members of the House of Assembly are responsible for the misappropriation of the funds meant for the MDG projects.

1. That during the Alamieyeseigha administration, there was a project Monitoring and implementation Committee. The major objective was to inspect all government projects on site, ascertain completion before issuing CERTIFICATE OF PROJECT COMPLETION, which enabled the Ministry of Finance to pay Contractors.

2. That during the same period, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly passed a bill into Law establishing a Directorate of Project Monitoring and Implementation. A perusal of the Law shows that the BSHA had preponderant powers to summon contractors or intimidate them to do their bidding. The Alamieyeseigha administration refused to implement the law because of the Self-Accounting Bill which the House was about to pass, and which would have confer unfettered discretion to the House to meddle into the award of contracts. On the contrary Alamieyeseigha used the Committee, which inspected all constituency and government projects, including those executed through Public-Private Partnership.

3. That when Governor Timipre Sylva came on Board, he continued with the Committee system for the first year – which saw so many projects completed because the PMIC was involved in the inspection of projects. However, after the Appeal Court judgement – in which the Governor won, the BSHA put enormous pressure on the Governor to do away with the Committee and implement the Directorate system; and Chief Gideon Ekeuwei – the SSG and some members of the BSHA spearheaded the dissolution of the Committee. That was the genesis of the fraud in the Directorate.

4. That when Mr. President was Governor of the State, he used the Committee System to achieve a lot in terms of building the Okaka Housing Estate, the Secretariat, the Ecole Creek Bridge, the commencement of the Millennium Park, the 4-Star Hotel and International Conference Centre among other basic infrastructure in Yenagoa. He did not stay long to complete them, Chief Timipre Sylva did. It is our candid opinion that most these underhand deals happened without the knowledge of the Executive Governor.

5. That the Coalition gathered that while a member of the BSHA recommended Chief Abagus Roxy – a former motor park ticker to be Chairman of the Directorate while the SSG recommended the appointment of one Chief Augustine Lugbeinowei as Secretary. Our investigations revealed that more than 80% of the Project Completion Certificates issued by the Directorate are fake – that is certificates were issued to contractors without inspection of visiting project sites. The implication is that most projects, which exist on the pages of papers, do not really exist. The House also insisted on the dissolution of the Committee because the two main officers in the Directorate were their stooges.

6. That consequent upon the use of the Committee, Contractors and Members of the BSHA compelled them to raise false CERTIFICATES, which they presented at the Finance Ministry for payments. Two groups of people are involved in this criminal act of forgery: Government Contractors and Members of the House of Assembly who claim to have done constituency projects that do not exist. It is not surprising why members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly have no respect for public funds. It is now understandable why BSHA Members build gigantic Estates, hotels and other choice property with public funds.

7. That we understand that the Chairman and the Secretary fraudulently issue these fake Contract Completion Certificates in their private homes hence the office designated for the Directorate has since stopped to function and the BSHA is also comfortable all these years until the visit of the Special Assistant to the President on MDGs Hajiya Amina A-z-Zubair came for project inspection. From Newspaper Reports, no tangible projects were inspected by the Special Assistant, and she started to ask where the N3billion has been spent.

8. That our deduction is that, four groups of people will be prosecuted namely by the anti graft agencies namely:

 The Chairman and Secretary of the Directorate of Project Monitoring and Implementation: Chief Abagos Roxy and Chief Augustine Lugbeinowei

 The Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government Chief Gideon Ekeuwei, who masterminded the dissolution of the Committee and influenced the appointment of Chief Augustine Lugbeinowei as Secretary of the Directorate

 The Contractors who influenced the officials of the Directorate to prepare fake certificates of Project Completion; and

 The Members of the House of Assembly that conspired with them to breach the Public Procurement Act and Due process of awarding contracts, which the Law Makers should be protecting.

9. We therefore have no confidence in the BSHA in investigating the matter since some of them are beneficiaries of the juicy contracts. We have therefore resolved that litigation is the best option to the resolution of this matter. We want the BSHA to be placed on notice that any of the aforementioned groups may be summoned to appear before the anti-graft agencies. On several occasions they have displayed their lack of respect for public funds and their tendency to build empires around them. The public should be rest assured that the Coalition will pursue this matter to its logical conclusion, as we are already in touch with the EFCC; the ICPC and Transparency International. Recognizing that non-implementation of the MDGs will cause Mr. President and the People of Bayelsa State monumental embarrassment; we shall update the public on the outcome of the investigation. We also urge the Government to use her machinery to track the expenditure of the money. This is just the beginning.

Idumange John Barr (Mrs) Caroline Bassey Barr. Osaro Osagie

For Coalition of Civil Societies of the Niger Delta