By CrossRiverWatch admin
General Anthony Ukpo rtd, an indigene of Yala in northern Cross River state and former Military Administrator of old Rivers State, has been named among the persons to return monies that were allegedly collected from the government of Rivers State under the administration of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, for projects that were not executed.
The allegations were made by staff of the Rivers State government during their testimony at the Justice George Omeregi Judicial Commission of Inquiry set my by Governor Wike to probe the immediate past administration in the state.
General Ukpo’s company, TSI Property and Investments Holdings Limited, which owned 80% of the Rivers State monorail project which it was supposed to Build Operate and Transfer after 22 years is alleged to have collected 11.1 Billion Naira and did not execute the project.
During her appearance, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, Mrs. Stella Ebere-Wigwe, disclosed that over N33.9 billion has been expended on the monorail project so far from the initial N50 billion earmarked for the entire phase one of the controversial monorail project.
The original scope of the monorail project is 21.7 kilometers and valued at Two hundred and fifty million Euros (€250m).
She explained that having collected N11.1 billion, TSI Property and Investments Holdings Limited, later backed out as it could not fulfil its financial commitment after it had built about 2.6 kilometers of the project.
”On Jan 15, 2010, the Rivers State government paid N11.1bn into Rivers State Monorail Account at First Bank with account number: 2030012306, representing 20 per cent of the state’ s equity representation. The Rivers State Monorail account was to be managed solely by TSI,” she said.
She disclosed that besides a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between the state and TSI, there was no legal agreement between the parties in the event of a disagreement or breach of contractual terms.
According to her, available records show that TSI did not pay any money into the monorail account at First Bank, implying that all the money spent so far on the project is from the state coffers.
She explained that Amaechi’s administration later paid additional N22 billion to another company, ARGUS GIBBS, which is at present working on the project.
According to her, the state government invited ARGUS GIBB into the monorail project after the MoU with TSI failed. ARGUS GIBBS was contracted at a cost of N660 million for its services and paid N36.3m monthly to evaluate and assess the activities of TSI.
However, the Head of Safety and Aviation Department in the state Ministry of Transport, Saya Antiok, said two companies were initially involved in the race to partner with the Rivers State government on the project. TSI represented by retired Brig-Gen. Anthony Ukpo and URBANAUDE, an American firm, but TSI was given the nod by the governor.
“The people from TSI said then that the N11bn was a GAP-DOWN payment. I have never heard of that term before. They explained that it was for feasibility study and technical development. It became very clear to some of us at the ministry that the N11bn paid upfront by the state government was to enable TSI put a structure on ground with which it will showcase to attract foreign investment for the project.
“It is now obvious that TSI had no intention of investing its own funds into the monorail project, yet it had 80 per cent equity in the build, operate and transfer monorail project.”
Antiok disclosed that engineers in the ministry were side lined as there was so much secrecy about the monorail project.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the state executive council meeting where the White Paper on the Commission’s report was issued, the Rivers State Commissioner for Housing, Barrister Emma Okah, said among other things that the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi will be prosecuted and would be prosecuted along with the former commissioner for Finance, Dr. Chamberlain Peterside and his counterpart in the Ministry of Power, Sir Augustine Nwokocha.
Okah stated that the state government also ordered the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, to commence the recovery of funds that were misappropriated.
He further stated that former Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker is also expected to refund some billions of naira that were used without due process for the construction of the Justice Karibi-Whyte Hospital while the former Commissioner for Transport, George Tolofari and former Military Governor of Old Rivers State, General Anthony Ukpo are to join Amaechi in returning N33 billion spent on the state monorail project without passing through due process.
CrossRiverWatch attempts to reach General Ukpo for his reaction are yet to yield any result as several calls to his phone have not connected.
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