…You are an accomplice, CSOs fire back at governor.
Edo State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for Good Governance and Internal Democracy on Monday berated the state governor, Godwin Obaseki for his perceived desperation to humiliate his predecessor and national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, describing it as unfortunate. The coalition said the indictment of Oshiomhole by a panel of Inquiry set up by the governor to probe the award of contract for the supply of equipment for the controversial five-star Specialist Hospital, Benin, amounted to “giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it”.
A press conference addressed by the coalition came on the heels of a protest march earlier in the day by a pro-Obaseki group, the Alliance for Collective Progress, ACP, to the Benin Zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, calling on the anti-graft agency to prosecute Oshiomhole for allegedly running foul of the state’s Public Procurement Law in the award of the contract.
Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, Justice James Oyomire (rtd), who on Thursday May 14 submitted the commission’s report to the governor, said the procurement law clearly stated that any contractor working on a government project should not receive more than 25 percent upfront payment upon contract award, which Oshiomhole’s administration contravened.
Justice Oyomire said “the immediate past administration paid 75 per cent of the contract sum upfront for the project to Vamed Engineering”. The commission, amongst other eight-point recommendation directed the Ministry of Justice to institute civil and criminal actions against those found culpable in the breach of the law. Receiving the report, Obaseki vowed that anyone found culpable, no matter how highly-placed, would be called to account for their action.
However, upbraiding the governor, convener of the coalition of civil society organisations, Solomon Idiogbe wondered why he failed to tell Edo people that the decision to pay the contractor 75 percent was taken by the State Executive Council which he (Obaseki) was the head of the economic team. According to to Idiogbe, “We make bold to say that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the governor lacks merit in all aspects. Apart from the fact that the governor is an accomplice in the matter he is said to be investigating, the composition of the said panel set up by the governor reflects an under-hand motive geared towards indicting and demeaning the social capital of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.”
The group warned the state government to desist, henceforth, from harassing decent sons and daughters of Edo State through spurious allegations and claims. “We urge the governor to refrain from further attacks on Oshiomhole. The truth is that the neutrality of Oshiomhole is Obaseki’s greatest undoing as he has no political collateral to stand on his own. His first tenure, it is apparent, has worsened his extremely limited electoral value rather than improve it.”
But presenting their grievances at the EFCC office, the protesters, suspected to have been sponsored by the government, and brandishing placards with various inscriptions, urged operatives of the anti-corruption agency to arrest and prosecute Oshiomhole for his alleged failure to procure key equipment needed for smooth operation at the multi-billion naira hospital built by his government and commissioned by the President, Muhammadu Buhari in the twilight of his administration.
Spokesperson for the group, Nehemiah Omogiate expressed shock that all those involved in the “shoddy deals” were walking freely in the streets. He therefore called on the EFCC to act fast by arresting them. Omogiate said, “We want to register our grievances over the multi- billion naira project which four years ago the past administration had claimed they have paid for the equipment. As we are speaking now, the equipments have not been supplied and the person they paid the money to is walking freely. There is a committee set up to investigate this and they have come out with their report, and it indicted Oshiomhole, the former governor; and up till now, the EFCC is yet to act. We are here to ask them to do their job. Nobody is bigger than the law”.