The family of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, has denied involvement in the contract scandal involving the managing director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Engineer Adeseyi Sijuwade.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had earlier arrested the Managing Director of the corporation, Engineer Adeseyi Sijuwade after an investigation by the State Security Service (SSS) into allegations of manipulation of contracts awarded for the rehabilitation of the rail line worth over N40 billion.
However, investigation by SSS into the alleged fraud revealed that ESER Nig Contracting Coy Ltd, one of the companies favoured by the embattled MD, is believed to be a family business owned by the Ooni of Ife who is widely known as the father of the NRC MD.
In a telephone conversation with Nigerian NewsDirect, Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade, first son to the oba denied any relationship between the royal family and the contracting company stating that they never had any knowledge of such company until now.
Prince Sijuwade who pointed out that the Ooni of Ife was out of the country on holiday said there has never been any sign of investigation that involved the Oba because the company can never be traced to the royal family.
“For all I know, we don’t have any link with ESER Nigeria contracting company or whatever they call themselves, my father is not involved in any contract scam, there might have been a mix up somewhere along the line” Prince Sijuwade said.
However, a source close to the family said the Oba’s trip abroad might not be unconnected with the planned arrest by the SSS, as he might have gone on self imposed exile.
The source said SSS had gotten its fact right and is in the process of arresting the Oba when it learnt that the Oba had traveled out of the country.
“Right now SSS have plain cloth security men around the palace since last week, they are just waiting for the Oba to come back into the country in order to arrest him” the source said
SSS Investigations had revealed that one Ade Sijuwade is a signatory to ESER’s account with Skye bank while the address given by ESER to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) also shows that the said Ade Sijuwade resides at No. 65, Queen Street, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos, a place allegedly owned by Oba Sijuwade.
SSS had earlier sent its findings to the Secretary-general of the Federation apparently to seek the help of the government in interrogating the Oba.
In a document signed by one Tunde Aderiye, for the director-general, SSS and sent to the Federal Government with reference No. S.389, dated 25th October, 2010, the SSS stated that “the NRC MD, Adeseyi Sijuwade, is accused of favouring ESER Nig Contracting Coy Ltd, which is believed to be a family company, to be awarded the contract. The company has one Ade Sijuwade, a brother to the MD, as a signatory to the company’s account at Skye Bank. The Corporate Affairs Commission confirmed the company’s registered address as allegedly owned by his father the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
According to the document, ESER has not been involved in any related job since its registration in 2009, hence not qualified to handle the project,”
With the interrogation of the NRC boss, an impeccable source close to the SSS said all is now set for the security agency to invite the Ooni for his involvement in the fraud scandal.
Moreover, The SSS further uncovered some facts that some of the shortlisted/prequalified comanies, who bidded for the contract had submitted expired tax clearance certificate.
This is said to be an arranged process adopted by the management to disqualify them, if they win the bid, so that ESER would be recommended for the contract.
The document further reads that “the MD in a move to ensure that ESER is recommended for the contract, despite the fact that the company did not submit evidence of bid security as at 26th May, 2010, when the bids for the rehabilitation of the Kafanchan - Maiduguri Eastern line was opened, caused the company to open an account with Skye Bank Plc on 16th June 2010, three weeks later, the bid security was obtained and inserted in the bid documents of ESER.”
The process of selection, according to SSS is in contravention of the Public Procurement Act 2007, section 58 (8b).