Ondo top officials fingered in $963m oil scam

Posted by Kamarudeen Ogundele, Abuja on 2009/01/24 | Views: |

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Ondo top officials fingered in $963m oil scam

Three top officials of the Ondo State Government have been accused of forging documents relating to oil bloc sales with the aim of defrauding the state of about $963 million.

Three top officials of the Ondo State Government have been accused of forging documents relating to oil bloc sales with the aim of defrauding the state of about $963 million.

In a petition addressed to the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri, two Abuja based lawyers-Ogboli Charles and Osuagwu Ugochukwu accused the official of conniving with a senior official of Owena Oil and Gas in hatching plans to sell 70 percent shares of Oil Bloc (OPL 241) at a give-away price of $37 million when it is worth $1 billion in the open market.

But the state government has denied the claim as "as a figment of the petitionersí imagination".

The petitioners alleged that the officials have also perfected plans to re-sell the oil bloc at the open market the moment they leave office.

They described this as an attempt to rip off the people "to the tune of $963 million".

They alleged that the principal actors in the planned fraud are using a company engaged to market the block potential core investors, as a conduit pipe.

From investigation, they said they discovered that a businessman whom they claimed is a close childhood friend of Agagu is the Managing Director of the company.

The intended fraud, noted the petitioners, was planned through a hasty council memo dated January 21, 2009, sponsored by one of the officials and approved by the State Executive without recourse to other shareholders.

The lawyers referred to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on March 22, 2001 which bestowed joint ownership of Owena Oil and Gas Limited on Integrated Mineral Development Company Limited (IMDCL) and the State Government.

They claimed that it was agreed that while 30 percent belongs to the state, 30 percent is owned by IMDCL another 40 percent was to be held in trust for a foreign technical partner.

According to the duo, the situation remained so until the state officials forged the signatures of some of the Directors of Owena Oil and Gas Ltd, passed a Board Resolution and altered form CAC 7 dated April 22, 2008.

AAAAAAAThrough this, the state government, the petitioner said, took firm control of the company, "having already shut out IMDCL".

"From a scrutiny of these documents, you would agree with us that the signatures appearing on the Board Resolution and Form CAC 7 purporting to be that of Victor Eburajolo are not his true signatures as appearing on his International Passport. It is a mere simulation not properly perfected by the masterminds. They have been caught in their overt acts".

The petitioners urged EFCC to investigate the issues surrounding the planned sale and conversion of the oil bloc and in the meantime "stop the planned sale/conversion of the OPL 241 pending the final outcome of the investigations.

"We believe the stoppage of this shady deal will be a big boost to the economy of Ondo State as the Stateís Revenue will have been enriched by as much as $963 million if prevented", they stated. The stateís Information Commissioner, Mr. Eddy Olafeso, who was contacted on the telephone by The Nation last night, said:

"Itís all a figment of the petitionersí imagination. There is no plan to sell OPL 241 at a give away price as claimed.

"If the petitioners have $1 billion, please let them come to Ondo, give us their cheques and collect OPL 241 licence.

"Ondo has not sold OPL 241. There have been preliminary discussions, nothing conclusive yet. OPL 241 is to reposition the people of Ondo, government has no reason to toy with the peopleís welfare.

"Why do the petitioners seek to destroy Ondo through such petitions that lack basis?"

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