CORRUPTION FIGHTS BACK DIRTY IN ASABA.
UCHE OKPUNO AND IWUVWRIE TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER ABANDONED UGHELLI-ASABA ROAD PROJECT.
The last may not have been heard about the mystery surrounding the abandoned 46-kilometre Sector C section of the Asaba-Ughelli dualisation road project, as the contractor, Mr. Luke Okpunor, has alleged that Mr. Evans Ivwurie, Chairman of the Delta State House of Assembly Committee on Works, who recently ordered him to refund N7.4 billion collected for the project for non-performance did so because of his (Okpunor’s) refusal to accede to the unholy demands the lawmaker made on him.
Okpunor, Chairman of ULO Consults, speaking in Asaba, the state capital, yesterday, said it was understandable that Ivwurie may have been “angered after he rebuffed him on November 4, this year, when he visited his residence in Asaba and made the unholy demands.”
Okpunor, who claimed to have a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage of the visit, which he said he was ready to play at the right time, stressed that it has never been the policy of the company to accede to such requests, considering its huge participation in the infrastructural development in the state, particularly in Asaba, since the creation of the state in 1991.
He said: “Recent expression by this legislator in the media to “probe” all contracts awarded to the company is quite understood. We are confident that we can defend all our obligations to the Delta State Government since the creation of the state at the appropriate time and place.”
Okpunor stated that despite outstanding payments for duly certified payment certificates running into billions of naira, it was baffling that Ivwurie has arrogated to himself, the functions of the executive arm of government by unilaterally determining the value and quality of works executed by the company.
He added: “Ivwurie has assessed and determined the payments released to ULO Consultants without clearing with the office of the Ministry of Finance, the actual payments made and for what purpose.”
But Ivwurie, speaking on phone from Benin Airport in Edo State on his way to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national convention in Abuja, vehemently denied the allegation, insisting he did not at any time demand anything from Okpunor.
He read out a text message he said was sent to him on November 16 at 9.24 am by the ULO boss: “Good morning honourable. For your information only. Me and the SPD have arranged a welfare package. My boy will deliver it today after the inspection. His name is Jerome.”
The lawmaker said in reply that same day at 11:41am, he wrote: “Thank you very much for the offer sir, but I am not interested in taking any money from you sir. Respectfully,
According to Ivwurie, Okpunor fired back at 5:46pm same day, vehemently denying being the source of the earlier text message: “Good evening honourable. Pls, am just seeing your text message. I didn’t remember offering you any money. I hope nobody did on my behalf. Thank you.”
However, Okpunor said the welfare package by him and the Special Project Director (SPD), a government official, was not at all about money, but normal entertainment when officials come inspecting.
He retorted: “In my text message, did you see anything about money? I never offered him money and made it clear in my response.
“Why would I and the SPD, a government official, offer him money? For what?”
This is obviously not the end of the unfolding drama, as more information are expected to be revealled in the coming days as the controversy rages.