– EFCC officials in alleged N.120bn bribery scam
By Umar Muhammad Puma The House of Representatives is to investigate a N700 billion Shell gas project on resumption from the Sallah break over allegations of tax evasion to the tune of N7 billion. The project, sited in Bayelsa state, was said to have contravened the Statutory Development Permit (commonly called Building Permit) as required under the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Act CAP 138, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; the Petroleum Act of 1969 (CAP 350) First schedule section 2 (3); paragraph 35 and Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations L.N 69 of 1969; Regulation 18. The probe is sequel to a petition by Chidi David Adebanya, a former Interface manager of Shell Production Development Company (SPDC), against officials of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who allegedly demanded for N120 million bribe from him. The gas project, according to the 280-page petition sent to the House Committee on public petition, “is the largest Shell project in sub-Saharan Africa, costing $4.2 billion (N700 billion) occupying a land area of 2 million sq.m (about half of Lagos Island) and produces 1 billion standard cubic feet (1,000,000,000 scf) of gas and 100,000 barrels of oil per day, earning about $30 million (N5 billion) daily in revenue.” A member of the House, Hon. Peter Edeh (Ezzah North/ Ishielu Federal Constituency, Ebonyi State, who led the petition on behalf of Chidi David Adabanya, “prayed the House to investigate Mr. Chile Okoroma and Olaolu Adegbite, directors of the EFCC, who were allegedly involved in corrupt practices and official misconduct in connivance with SPDC, with a view to ensuring transparency, equity and justice”. The investigation is being conducted by the Ozor Azuibike- headed House Committee on Public Petitions. The petitioner alleged that Shell failed to pay various taxes worth N7 billion to Bayelsa state government as building permit fees on the Gbaran Ubie Integrated Oil and Gas project in Gbarantoro LGA of Bayelsa State. Adebanya in the petitions dated 21st May, 2014 said: “Things took a bad turn in June 2010 when Forstech reported SPDC for underpayments to the Government of Bayelsa state wherein the then Governor, Timipre Sylvia raised an alarm on the N4.1 billion underpayment to Bayelsa state government by SPDC. “To avert international reputational damage that the Forstech allegation of fraud and tax evasion will cause, SPDC hurriedly put up a petition against me alleging that I conspired with Bayelsa state government to defraud her (SPDC) of the amounts so far paid and engaged the service of EFCC to ‘help’ them recover the payments so far made to the Consultant. It is not surprising that EFCC was a willing collaborator given the SPDC styled cooperation with EFCC,” he alleged. Adabanya who accused EFCC of corruption, disclosed that one of the EFCC directors, Chile Okoroma had in October 2011 “demanded N120 million from me to close the charade allegations of SPDC against me, he had said that it lies within his powers to swing the case whichever way he chose, so I should choose which way it will be because he has to share the money with Olaolu Adegbite and Farida Waziri and according to him, also make returns to the Attorney General of the Federation, Hon Mohammed Adoke before this matter can close. He (Okoroma) boasted that I dare not play smart by reporting it because no one would believe it.” Adabanya, said in spite of the fact that the Bayelsa State House of Assembly has found the SPDC guilty of fraud and tax evasion and had passed a resolution on the matter urging Shell to pay the said amount, the company has refused to do so up till date. The petitioner wondered under what section of the EFCC Act was Lamorde restrained from arresting SPDC. However, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde has said the allegation against the agency is not true. In a letter dated July 14th, 2014 with reference EFCC/EC/NA-HOR/06/51 and signed by Lamorde himself, the agency said Adebanya has been charged to court over the issue, hence it would not allow the two directors accused of demanding the N120 million bribe to appear before the Reps committee, “While we acknowledge the fact that the hearing is a good opportunity to correct the gross misinformation in the petition, there is no doubt that we would be going against all rational norms of natural justice and inviting anarchy in the criminal justice sector if we allow our directors of operations and legal departments to join issues with an accused person at a public investigative hearing in this matter, without prejudicing the criminal case before the court,” Lamorde said. Adabanya, in another letter dated 24th July, 2014 addressed to the Chairman, Public Petitions Committee and another dated 11th August 2014 to the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal has countered Lamorde saying rather than come and respond to the weighty allegations against his agency before the House Committee, the EFCC Chief is hiding under “rationalizations.” He said: ” Ibrahim Lamorde, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC has no tenable response to the specific issues of illegal acts of the Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC), EFCC corruption, abuse of office, official misconduct, lack of due process, executive lawlessness subversion and cover-ups under his watch, which are facts I have raised and supported with verifiable evidence. He seeks comfort in rationalizations, name calling, abusiveness and subjudice with the desperate hope to divert attention from the subject matter.” The House committee has invited the SPDC, the EFCC, the Bayelsa state government and other stakeholders to appear before it after the Sallah break for further investigations.