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N35m Bribery Scandal: Senate Advises FCDA To Suspend Official

The Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory on Friday asked the management of the Federal Capital Development Authority to investigate the allegation that an official in the legal secretariat of the authority, Mr. Joshua Ehimoni, demanded N35m bribe to secure a removal of caveat on three pieces of land in Abuja.

Based on a petition, the Senate committee had begun a probe into the alleged plan by the FCDA to revoke three plots out of the 203 hectares of land located in Kyami District along the Airport Road, Abuja, which were “duly allocated” to the petitioners through Statutory Rights of Occupancy, dated October 27, 2010.

At a public hearing on the matter on Friday, the petitioners accused Ehimoni of demanding N35m bribe from them, an allegation the lawyer denied.

Chairman of the Committee on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye, in his opening speech, said the plots were allocated to Living Treasures Limited, owner of Plot 14; Accepters Nigeria Limited, owner of Plot 15; and Max-Energy Limited, owner of Plot 16.

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Melaye said, “It may interest you to know that in 2016, two persons, named, Tomi Asuni and Bashiru Dantata, claimed to be trustees of Nigeria Polo Association, charged the Minister of FCT, the owners of the above-named plots, and 12 others allotted land at Cadastral Zone E23, Kyami District, to the High Court of the FCT, Abuja.

“The suit was struck out on the premise that the ‘Registered Trustees of Nigeria Polo Association’ could be found under the company that was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission.”

The hearing, however, took a dramatic turn when the managing director of the three companies who owned the three plots, Lady Laurel King, alleged that Ehimoni demanded the bribe during a conference telephone conversation between her, the FCDA official and her project coordinator, Bishop David Angel.

King further alleged that Ehimoni sent a text message to her on March 23, 2016, containing details of two accounts with First Bank and GT Bank, which were in his name, asking her to deposit N30m and N5m respectively in the accounts.

She said, “We first refused to pay the sums into the accounts but after persistent pressure from the FCDA official that the monies must be paid before the lifting of the litigation caveat, I paid N5, 000 into each of the two accounts through my secretary on June 19, 2017, to confirm his ownership of the accounts because we needed evidence to nail him.”

Melaye, who said the panel had requested for details of the telephone conversations from the service providers, which showed that Ehimoni communicated with the petitioner, asked that the FCDA official be summoned to the hearing immediately.

Ehimoni, who later arrived at the venue, denied knowing King or having any transaction with her. He, however, admitted knowing Angel for a long time.

The panel thereafter asked Ehimoni to provide his account details. He said he had three accounts with First Bank, two with GT Bank and one with Diamond Bank.

After providing the details, including those of a First Bank account, which he said was for a law firm he was running before joining the FCDA, Melaye said they tallied with those provided by King in her petition.

He said, “Somehow, there is a coincidence in the information in the petition and the information you have just given to us. One of your accounts is with First Bank – the company account; and the second one you also gave – the name of the account is Ehimoni Sunday Joshua.

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“You have been accused of trying to extort money and soliciting a bribe in order for you to facilitate the removal of caveat on these three (plots of) land. And the information they have given us is absolutely in tandem with the ones you have given us, both the corporate account and the personal account; and the account numbers you gave us also tallied; the names tallied.

“We have done our preliminary investigations before now, including your telephone conversations with Angel, and it was a conference call which this madam (King) was part of.”

Ehimoni said, “Bishop Angel had promised to send me money to get (a) surveyor to locate the land he wanted to sell. He had also, at some point, promised to send me money – a token – and I sent my account number to him.”

Melaye, in his closing remarks, asked the FCDA and the FCTA to “set up an investigative panel to try Ehimoni Sunday Joshua for bribery and corruption” and ensure that justice “is given to whom justice is due.”

He added that Ehimoni should be suspended during the investigation.

PUNCH.

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