FREEPREES: Information reached us that you were on air yesterday, precisely on Independent Telelvision (ITV) and you raised some allegations against the governor owing to your time in office because you were privy to some information. We want to know what happened at that time, but before you do that please introduce yourself
Frank Ewele: “Okay, I am Chief Barr. Frank Okafi Erewele, former lecturer in Alli’s government of Bendel State, I was the director of protocol to Bendel State government for the four years of Alli in office, I was Director of Edo Broadcasting Service appointed by Chief John Odigie Oyegun, I was also the Commissioner for Education during the first tenure of Chief Lucky Igbinedion. Comrade Oshiomhole also appointed me as Chairman Edo State Urban Water Board. So I have been in virtually all the governments in Edo State from the time of Professor Ambrose Alli till date, so I am eminently qualified to talk about the issues that affect the State as regards the corruption of Adams Aliu Oshiomhole”
The weighty allegations you made on air yesterday have been making the rounds and we want to know the genesis of the whole story, so can you throw more light on it?
“Yes, like what I said yesterday, they were in four major areas. One was when I was the chairman of the Edo State Urban Water Board. You would recall that there was some very expensive large quantity of water pipes that were put at Army Barrack, Ikpoba-Hill. Those pipes have been there, it’s a World Bank water project. The larger part of the pipes was kept at the army barracks in Ikpoba-Hill, while the remaining parts were kept in Ikpoba River Dam (Upper Okhoro). At a point, the Commissioner of the Ministry supervising water board, Barr. Chris Ebare, (he has been sacked), contacted me that we should look for buyers because the governor wanted the water pipes to be sold. I went to Port-Harcourt and brought buyers thinking the state was trying to generate money to enhance the revenue of the state. When we finally brought the people, they met the Secretary to State Government (Prof. Julius Ihonvbere) who issued a letter approving the sale and how much they were going to sell the pipe worth over four hundred million (N400,000,000). The people also wrote back to the government accepting the offer, and I will tell you where I became suspicious was when they had told the people who were buying to make some payment, very meager payment to government account or buy a bank draft that would reflect a fraction of the total sum and the balance should be converted into dollars. I kept asking questions and the commissioner said I should hold on. I later discovered that they were coming at night to evacuate the pipes. They sold and did not tell me, and when I investigated I saw that they paid a fraction of that money to government coffers with a huge part of the money converted to dollars which they shared among government officials.”
(Cuts in) who are these government officials?
“The governor is involved in the sharing, the Secretary to government, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere is involved, Barr. Chris Ebare and those in the House of Assembly, who were supposed to be having the custody of the oversight function, supervise government activities and monitor had a share. Former Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Uyi Igbe, the Deputy speaker and the majority leader Philip Shuaibu had their share of the money. Unknown to them, while they were stealing the pipes supervised by these top government officials, I was monitoring them equally. They later brought in one honourable member from the House of Assembly to bring in new buyers who came and bought at a higher rate. This is the reason I am calling for Judicial enquiry since the governor is shouting about probe every day, now and then he want past government to be probed. I am saying he should look inward and start the probe from the disappearance of the water pipes and I would like gladly to be invited as a prosecution witness because I have what it takes for the probe to be meaningful and I vow to come all out to expose every person involved and how much each person got from the deal, I am aware being in touch with those that bought the pipes, who are also aggrieved that they took too much from them”.
You also spoke about the fire incident that razed a part of the Ministry of Education. What is also your concern about that?
“Yes, because it is another part where I want the government to investigate. It is the fire incident in the Ministry of Education (the document room). I was Commissioner of Education so I know everything there and that is why I am so interested. When there was accusation that Oshiomhole has no primary six, he had the fear that the Ministry of Education would be invited to produce some documents, we were in the court premises when we were told that there was fire incidence in the Ministry burning the document room, as we speak now, I don’t think any person would have a duplicate of his/her certificate in the Ministry”.
(Cuts in) can you prove these allegation?
“The way to prove it is why would there be fire at the Ministry of Education at the exact time when Oshiomhole was undergoing some judicial questioning in court. Why is it that it happened exactly at the time they were expecting the Ministry to come out? We have in law what is called the circumstantial evidence. The enquiry would find out whether there was fire incident at the exact time Oshiomhole was in court to prove his primary six matter, whether it occurred at that exact time and why is it that it was the document room where the certificate are kept that caught fire? Why is it that there was no electricity that particular night? I had to go to the Ministry and asked the security who still respect me how the incidence happened and they said they just saw fire there when there was no light. That means it was not a power surge that occurred which could not have burnt just the room where certificate are kept. That is why under circumstantial evidence you would suspect that there are persons to be suspected in that matter. I call on the governor to set up judicial enquiry to look into that fire incidence”.
How true the allegation that the furniture meant for our schools have all been destroyed in a ware house?
“ It is very true. In comparative analysis, you have to either compare a State government with a neighboring State government. While Governor Ayodele Fayose had finished renovating schools and he needed to furnish the school, he invited all the carpenters in the state and gave them the design he wanted, asking them whether they would be able to produce it within a specified period and the carpenter agreed they could. The submitted quotations to him and the contracts were awarded and allocated carpenters to various schools, the school as we speak are well furnished. In the case of Edo state, because of the fraud that is attached to the current government, he decided to give out the contract of making school desk, table and benches to a contractor based at Abuja (Tony Ezekiel) which worth over three billion (N 3,000,000,000). No one here is angry that he gave the contract to Tony Ezekiel who happens to be from Edo but the issue here is that Benin City is renowned for wood business furniture making world over; why would the government deprive the people who voted for him from participating in government and contract because if they got the money as a way of payment, the money would remain in Benin. You can see everywhere is dried with a bastardized economy in the state. What drew my attention to the production of this furniture from Abuja was that when the man finished the production, the man asked the governor to send people to get the furniture as he has finished the production. The governor replied the man stating that he paid for everything concerning the furniture (production and delivery) but the man objected pointing out that even large part of the money for the contract also went back to the person who awarded the contract so he has no money to deliver the goods. There was a heated argument about it but the governor agreed to do variation asking the contractor to hire trailers to bring the finished jobs to the State. The man was honest enough to have hired trailers and brought the things to the state and they were to discharge in front of government house. The governor pleaded with them to allow the trailers to distribute the furniture to various senatorial zones but the people objected saying they are into haulage business and have a directive to carry furniture from Abuja, deliver in Benin and could not be diverting from place to place. Out of frustration, the governor resort to opening an abandoned government ware house along Sapele road where they chucked the whole furniture there. When there was need to use the furniture they discovered that rain has spoilt everything because the roof was leaking. this is the reason the children sits on the floor.
Till now they keep hiding the things because they don’t know how to remove those things for discarding being that Edo State money has been lost in that process all because of selfish interest. If he had given this contract to carpenters in Benin, there would be no way he would have gone round collecting 10-20%, instead he resulted to bulk collection from one person even though news are making the rounds that he is having issues with the contractor”.
You also insisted the governor must probe the money spent on the Airport road. What issues do you also have with the road?
“A lot and I call for investigation on the tarring of the Airport road. The simple definition of democracy is that it is the government of the people, for people and by the people, hence we want to know how much the construction of Airport Road was awarded for and why the original contractor was disengaged from the contract. Investigation have stated that there was an argument as to how much would be the governors kick back and for that reason the contractor ran out of fund to complete the contract. The governor thereafter revoked the contract and re-awarded it to another firm. You are aware that the road from Ring road to Ogba River where the contract terminated is about 4.7 kilometer and the road contract is not an virgin construction but re-surfacing and by the standard of the Federal Ministry of Works, the amount for re-surfacing of road is not more than N 250,000,000 per kilometer and even if it is on the extreme of one billion per kilometer, it would amount to 7 billion Naira. Only recently I found out that the road has a cost of about 17.2 billion Naira, we have persistently asked the governor to tell us how much the road was constructed but he never disclosed. When Rt. Hon. Zakawanu Garuba was the speaker of the State House of Assembly, they asked him while on oversight function to disclose the amount spent on that road but he refused telling them. When you take roads like Sapele Road (Warri to Ring Road), Asaba to Ring Road through Ikpoba-Hill/Akpakpava, Shagamu through Oluku/Uselu/Dawnson to Akpakpava junction are Federal government road and for whatever he is claiming he has done, I am aware the money has been refunded to him. The governor should tell us where the money refunded to him from the Federal government is. The latest from him now is the tenement rate. You are aware that there is no month the government through the Edo State Inland Revenue Service has not collected about two billion Naira as IGR. The first thing they sign for them as a board is 5% and yet as Executive Directors of government they collect salaries. The 5% is considered an incentive and I wonder how 5% of two billion would be incentive to some few people”.
(Cuts in) in the event that the judicial enquiry that you are calling for is not set up, what would you do?
“I will take advertorial pages in national newspapers and start publishing what I am saying now. I will list in those papers how the pipes disappeared, those top government official involved. I am now ready to align with Buhari on his anti-corruption campaign as a thief cannot be calling another person a thief. Also, I want to call on INEC to expand their requirement for persons seeking to be governor. One of the requirements should be the examination of the brain; a psychiatrist must examine the person to certify that he/she is mentally balanced so that you don’t bring a mad person to lead. Oshiomhole is now so frustrated that one can liken him to a loosed cannon or a mad man in a Chinese shop. In the celebration of his seventh anniversary, all the governor could do was to stand in the podium insulting the Esama of Benin. The people expected the governor to produce a score card of what he has done but the only thing he said was that he never promised Edo voter that he would establish any industry. I have warned yesterday on my outburst in Independent Television (ITV), advising the traditional rulers that if they can sit down with Oshiomhole insulting the person of the Esama of Benin who is one of them, the day he would invite them to governor’s office, he would attack them physically because his face is covered with frustration”.
In a nut shell how would you summarize Oshiomhole as an individual?
“Oshiomhole I will tell you with fairness that he started well but ran off track after he got the second nomination and I will say that the grace of God departed from him and he would continue to make mistakes since he is not ready to take corrections on the ones he has made, for example, should a governor recruit women to come and demonstrate that he was right to have insulted a chief in this town? He paid women from Edo North, Central and South huge amount of money with bales of lace materials to come and demonstrate that the governor is right to have insulted a notable Benin Chief. I think it is not right as he is wasting money. He should recruit teachers for our schools. During my time as a commissioner in Lucky Igbinedion’s tenure, the Governor instructed us to employ 3, 600 teachers and we did. We also replaced the 420 teachers that left for Delta state. Oshiomhole, like Fela, the late musical icon said is as a vehicle moving on reverse gear, he is no more moving forward but on reverse gear”.