Posted November 07, 2006

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Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its Executive Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, presented its report to the National Assembly; the report has indicted 31 governors in Nigeria on allegations of corruption. The said report has raised more questions than answers in Cross River State, in particular, where daily discussions have been proceeding about the “clean bill” of health pronounced for the Governor, Mr. Donald Duke. Opinions in the state consider it curious that the said report has totally exonerated Governor Duke; people are beginning to wonder if EFCC is actually familiar with all the available facts. This paper is therefore meant to raise, for the benefit of doubt, issues that the EFCC are probably unfamiliar with, pertaining to the conduct of public affairs and finances in the Cross River State of Nigeria.

In Cross River State, probably only very few people are ignorant about the billions of Naira that have accrued to the State from federal allocations, privatizations, loans, internally generated revenues (both from local government and state government sources) ecological funds, and grants from donor agencies as well as donations from public spirited individuals. There is need therefore for the EFCC to investigate, more thoroughly, the financial operations of the government of Mr. Donald Duke in the last almost eight years and ask for more information pertaining to the true nature of the expenditure of these funds; we believe that the EFFC should not allow itself to be guided only by the cosmetic type information that it has so far received from the official public relations organs of government. Evidence abounds to show that there are economic and financial crime matters in the Cross River State of Nigeria, probably unknown to the EFCC. It has become imperative therefore, to guide the EFCC on the approach employed by the governor to defraud the poor people of Cross River State of their legitimate funds while the various government officials are compelled to maintain “a conspiracy of silence” or risk being “sacked” from work. Significantly, the EFCC should note that after committing these various acts of fraud, government officials are made to post fictitious accounting figures to various heads and sub-heads in an apparent effort to balance the accounts of the state expenditure. The accounts of the eighteen local governments in the State have recently been harmonized for the purpose of covering up these financial crimes. The above and many other approaches has become a recurrence decimal in the management of public funds in Cross River State.

For the avoidance of doubt, the following specific issues are hereby being submitted to the EFFC, for further consideration. It is hoped that these issues will lead the EFCC to a better understanding of the affairs of Cross River State, in order that they could also reach a valid conclusions about the operations of the government and the Governor.

a) The deduction of N360,000,000.00 from local government allocations in the pretext of purchasing the cable
    car at the Obudu Ranch Resort.

b) The monthly payment of N18,000,000.00 to the Governor’s wife, Mrs. Onari Duke through her NGO called
    Enterprise Nigeria Foundation with Head office at Plot 15E, Flat 2, Muri Okunola Street, P. O. Box 71003,
    Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria; and operational office at Suit C9, Amin Building, Calabar Free Trade Zone –CTZ,
    Calabar. For the month of November 2005, this amount was paid vide Cheque No: 00000714 of Guaranty
    Trust Bank – GTB, Calabar, dated 06-01-2006.

c) The monthly deductions of N42,968,036.53 meant for the poor communities and people of Cross River State
    from the local government joint account as equity participation of Councils in the Tinapa project.

d) The arbitrary deduction of N62,812,531.51 from the local government joint account as loan repayment for
    the Tinapa project for the month of September 2005, vide Guaranty Trust Bank GTB.

e) The inexplicable deduction of N50, 810,121.76 from the local government joint account vied Guarantee
    Trust Bank – GTB in favour of Citizens International Bank.

f) The unauthorized deduction of N62,575,342.40 as Tinapa loan repayment for the month of August, 2005,
   vide Guaranty Trust Bank.

g) The unauthorized deduction of N50,810,121.76 at source from the LGA joint account as loan repayment
    for the month of July 2005, vide Guaranty Trust Bank.

h) The unauthorized deduction of N50,810,121.76 from the local government joint account (meant for the
    poor rural and forest dependent communities) as loan repayment for Tinapa for the month of July 2005,
    vied GTB in favour of Citizens International Bank Plc for August 2005.

i) The unauthorized deduction of N63,505,013.70 at source from the LGA joint account as loan repayment
   for Tinapa for the month of July 2005, vide Guaranty Trust Bank;

j) The unauthorized deduction of N143, 267,132.29 from the local government allocations vide Guaranty Trust
   Bank in favour of Citizens International Bank Plc for the months of June and July.

k) The unauthorized deduction of N70,028,538.81 from the local government joint account vide Guaranty
   Trust Bank in favour of Citizens International Bank Plc for the month of August 2005.

l) The unauthorized deduction of N61,279,178.08 from the local government joint account as loan repayment
   for Tinapa vide Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

Supporting documents including vouchers pertaining to items (a – l) sited above have already been forwarded to EFCC and ICPC for appropriate investigation. Therefore it would appear that the alleged pronouncement of the EFCC on the Cross River State Governor is hasty because any information to the contrary will endanger the integrity of the EFCC locally, nationally and internationally. For the avoidance of doubts therefore, the EFCC should justify its claims by deliberately investigating the financial operations and records of Mr. Donald Duke. The EFCC, whose corporate integrity comes into question in the event of failure to recover huge sums of public funds, must be concerned. The following are specific areas of concern in this context:

i. A situation where huge sums of public funds allocated for poor rural communities is being diverted monthly for the Governor’s wife (Mrs. Onari Duke) for personal use and expensive life styles while the poor people languish in abject poverty and penury is fraudulent and should be investigated as a matter of urgent public interest. This is important because expenditure of over four hundred and eighty million naira [N480, 000,000.00] by Enterprise Nigeria Foundation (an NGO owned and managed by Onari Duke) without definite policy guidelines and presentations to the council authorities for ratification and approvals questions the transparency of the Governor’s operations.

ii. A situation where huge sums of local government funds meant for poor communities are being diverted from the local government joint account for personal use in the pretext of loan repayment amount to fraud. The urgent question at this point is: Who authorized and received the loans on behalf of the 18 local government councils? What were the loans meant for and how much was actually taken? When will the repayment terminate?

iii. A situation where local government statutory allocations are being budgeted to undertake specific operations by the various council chairmen to meet the needs and aspirations of their poor communities, and these funds are being diverted to undertake an unbudgeted operation, i.e. to purchase the cable car at the Ranch Resort ostensibly to play Chief Executive and meet the recreation needs of the rich class, is outrageous and tends to raise very serious questions of budget discipline and financial prudence. The pertinent question therefore is: do the poor people of Cross River State really need/use the Cable Car?

iv. A situation where the local government chairmen who are the accounting officers of their various councils are being prevented from maintaining clear records of actual expenses of their programmes and activities, questions the TRANSPARENCY of the Government of Mr. Donald Duke. Indeed a scenario where hundreds of millions of naira are being signed off single handedly without recourse to, and due approvals from the appropriate council authorities amounts to a breach of trust and should be investigated.

v. A situation where the Ministry of Local Government Affairs arbitrarily disburses hundreds of millions of Naira meant for local government councils calls for urgent investigation.

vi. A practice where public property are being grossly under valued and privatized to unknown persons in disregard to the appropriate policy procedures for the sale of public property should be viewed seriously by the EFCC and indeed the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC. For instance, who bought Metropolitan Hotel Calabar (a six storey building in a prime location, precisely opposite the Governor’s office; adjacent the stadium and international conference centre as well as the Millennium Park; accessible to over ten banks and the Calabar airport) valued over N2 Billion naira but sold at only N200,000,000.00 even when General Ukpo had offered to buy the same property at N600,000,000.00? What is even more provoking is that this same property was renovated during the junior World Cup tournament hosted by Nigeria in 1999 at the cost of over N400,000,000.00. If Metro Calabar was sold at a loss of 2 billion naira in public funds, what was the rationale behind the decision? Is government not constituted to safeguard the overall interests of the people? In what way does the act of foregoing 2 billion naira amount to safeguarding the overall interests of the people? Does the act of foregoing 2 billion of public money amount to transparency in the conduct of public business? Importantly, who bought Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar? This is indeed a classical case for urgent investigation.

vii. A practice where public properties sold for a grand total of N1,291,000,000.00, and consultancy alone gulped a whooping N1,258,449,687.00 remaining a balance of N32,550,313.00 only, as revenue to government is unacceptable.

viii. A practice where huge sums of public funds meant for poor rural people are being diverted by Mr. Donald Duke for private and personal investments, i.e. for the construction of the ADMIRALTY TOWERS (three sets of high rise luxury flats) located at No. 9A Gerard Road, Ikoyi, in Lagos, is fraudulent. Mr. Duke rents out these flats at $5,000 per flat each month. For the avoidance of doubt, SHELL Petroleum is one of his tenants and has already paid rents for two years amounting to $960,000. This is a clear case of Mr. Duke putting his personal interest before public good. It is unacceptable and should be investigated urgently.

ix. A practice where government contracts are over-priced arbitrarily for personal gains is fraudulent. For instance, it was initially announced to the public that the construction cost of Tinapa is N25 Billion. Sadly, Mr. Duke now claims that the cost has arisen to N65 Billion, perhaps to justify his monthly deductions of local government allocations.

x. A situation where Banks in Calabar are being threatened and penalized for refusing to contribute N200 Million each to support the Tinapa project should be investigated.

xi. A situation where the Governor’s wife and brother are contracted to handle multi-billion naira Christmas carnival shows, the so called People Empowerment Programme (PEPI), architectural and construction projects (through Hameg consultants and COGEDS which bare a striking resemblance with HEGEDS, the company Donald Duke operated with office at 6 Razaq Balogone Street, Surulere Lagos, before he became governor) in Cross River State tends to raise very serious questions of ethics. The disclosure policy is instituted as a system of checks and balances to circumvent actual or potential conflict of interest. The provisions of the disclosure policy are very clear on matters such as this. Under this policy, the Governor is expected to make known his interest with persons or groups doing business with his government. This means that His Excellency who has actual or potential conflict of interest should not participate in decisions or vote on matters affecting any transaction (s) between his government and the other person or group. The danger in the Governor not making his interest known is that he may connive with such persons or groups to the detriment of the state. Therefore the appointment of Mrs. ONARI DUKE and GEORGE DUKE to undertake multi-billion naira projects for the government of Cross River State would appear to be prejudicial to the disclosure policy, and indeed a clear case of conflict of interest.

The inability of the National Assembly to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to empower the local government council chairmen and their councilors specifying clear functions and regulatory procedures for checks and balances regarding disbursements of local government funds has developed into a situation where Mr. Donald Duke through the Ministry of Local government Affairs expends council funds arbitrarily while the chairmen are compelled to retire such expenditure. In other words we have in the past almost eight years; run the risk of operating local government councils for whose financial operations the democratically elected Chairmen do not possess any legal instrument for expenditure.

It should be noted that billions of Naira accruing to the state government from statutory allocation are available for Governor Donald Duke to initiate any project his administration considers relevant for his people. It should equally be noted that already Billions of Naira as loans have been sourced from financial institutions and expended on the Ranch Resort and Tinapa projects. It would be recalled that Bonds were also floated for the purpose of enhancing the viability of the projects. It is therefore carious to see that local government allocations intended for the rural poor populations are being deducted arbitrarily in the pretext of purchasing the cable car for the Ranch Resort project and also funding the Tinapa project. The issue of deducting local government funds for the project should not arise. The deductions made on local government funds for the purported cable car and Tinapa projects involve huge financial commitment that would require appropriate authorizations from the various local governments ab-initio. Therefore the following questions are pertinent:

vAre Tinapa and the Ranch Resort Projects public investments or private investments?

vIf they are private investments, then are the funds of Local Governments properly secured within the
  structure of the  private investments? What sorts of securities or guarantees have been provided or so
  far been given? Are the guarantees available in the records of the councils for the benefit of future generations?

vIf Local Government funds have been committed into Tinapa and the Ranch Resort, upon what authorities
  were the funds committed? Local governments are supposed to have budgets for their annual expenditures;
  local government funds are supposed to be spent in accordance with specified procedures spelt out in the
  constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, have the Chairmen received approvals of their
  respective councils for the expenditure on Tinapa and the Ranch projects?

vIf Tinapa and the Ranch Resort are government projects, then is government well advised to commit the state
  and the local governments to new investment projects? Is it not curious therefore that this is happening at a
  time that all the previous investments of previous governments are currently being privatized? The compelling
  question is: can a government be investing in new ventures and privatizing old ventures at the same time?
  Is this not a manifest display of contradictions in the art of governance?

vAre Tinapa and the Ranch Resort more viable and more profitable to the local people in the LGA’s in the short
  term and in the long run, than other projects?

In respect of the loan portfolio of Cross River State, it is evident that there are huge burdens
of loans already incurred on behalf of this and future generations of the poor people of the
state. By this development, the State is totally mortgaged and, invariably, future
administrations are saddled with the burden duty of repaying these loans, sadly at source
from Federal Allocations. As previously highlighted, Mr. Donald Duke has had the
privilege of receiving huge bank loans and floated bonds on behalf of the poor people of the
state. It should be necessary therefore to act transparently to notify Cross Riverians of
details of the loan portfolio namely: the source of loan, amount involved, the repayment
schedule as well as the general conditions including interest rates. It is curious that the
governor have not considered it prudent to publish this information for the benefit of Cross
Riverians, on who the huge burdens of loans are ultimately visited.

Records from the Cross River Privatization Council show that between 2002 and 2006 the following public properties have been sold arbitrarily:

1 CREL Plc 500,000,000.00
2 Niger Mills Plc 300,000,000.00
3 Calvenply 70,000,000.00
4 Biakpan Rubber Estate 40,000,000.00
5 Equity Guest House 30,000,000.00
6 Oban Rubber Estate 50,000,000.00
7 Cross Lines Limited 11,800,000.00
8 Cross Lines (Real Estates Quarters) 15,000,000.00
9 Equity Gas Plant 9,100,000.00
10 Equity Guest House 30,000,000.00
11 Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar 200,000,000.00
12 Metropolitan Hotel, Ikom 23,100,000.00
13 Kwafalls Palm Oil Estate 12,000,000.00
Grand Total N1,291,000,000.00

In addition to the above, the following public properties have also been sold without any trace of the funds being paid to the state treasury as a result of the sales:
a) The Calabar Cement Company Ltd, CALCEMCO
b) The Cross River State Newspaper Co-operation
c) The Government Printing Press
d) The Cross River Liaison office in Lagos
e) The Cross River State property at No.3, Military Street, near Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos
f) Numerous residential buildings and vast area of lands designated for building purposes owned by the Cross River State government have been sold to fronts of Mr. Donald Duke.

v  At a time when the watchword of government is poverty alleviation – in what ways do all the above contribute to
    alleviating poverty among the masses of Cross River State and its local governments?

v  At a time when the overall posture of government is privatization, is it ethical to be privatizing and investing at the
    same time? Will the new investments not end up again in privatization shortly?

It is my understanding that as the agency responsible for monitoring and exposing economic
and financial crimes in our dear country, it is the duty of EFCC among other things to
investigate appropriately the financial operations of our public officers before reaching a
valid conclusion. To pronounce a clean bill of health on Mr. Donald Duke on the excuse
that there has been no petition from Cross River State against the Governor amounts to a
deliberate concealment and a grand conspiracy against the severely impoverished people of
Cross River State of Nigeria. Nevertheless, the facts have now been put before the EFCC
for consideration. The EFCC should therefore assume greater responsibility and share a
commitment to its mission to cause appropriate investigation on the matter with a view to
recovering the huge amount of monies belonging to the poor local people of
Cross River State. It has become necessary to draw the attention of the EFCC to facts
above because the EFCC is the only properly constituted authority mandated by the Laws of
the Federal Republic of Nigeria under PART II, Section 7, sub-section “a”, of the EFCC
ACT 2004 to cause investigations on matters such as this.

Our prayer therefore is as follows:

1. That the EFCC should compel the Cross River State Governor to open his financial records for investigation
    as an urgent matter of public interest.
2. That the 18 local government council chairmen in Cross River State should as well be compelled to open
    their financial records for appropriate investigations.
3. That in the cause of carrying out the investigations, the civil society, public servants and civil servants as
    well should be requested to forward useful memoranda to aid the process.
4. That only such procedure can help the EFCC to investigate and present an unbiased position on Governor
    Donald Duke.

Finally, governments serve the broad public good, and the EFCC is established primarily to investigate, expose and restrain fraudulent governments from engaging in any matters that are detrimental to public trust. The EFCC should respond to their moral and constituted responsibility to ensure prudent management of local government finances and indeed public finances belonging to the poor rural people of Cross River State of Nigeria. Based on the available facts highlighted herein above, It is fervently hoped that the EFCC would respond to this matter of the Governor of Cross River State regarding the transparency and morality of his operations in the disbursement of public funds in order that the public will be in a position to adjudge Mr. Donald Duke SAINT OR SINNER..

Fredrick Osari
Executive Chairman
Suit 5, Cultural Centre Complex, Calabar Cross River State, Nigeria  


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