OPIC N2.5bn: We Operated With Senator Amosun, Others Under Scrutiny, Odusolu Replies OGHA - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

OPIC N2.5bn: We Operated With Senator Amosun, Others Under Scrutiny, Odusolu Replies OGHA


••• Says No Money Is Missing

                 •Babajide Odusolu


Our attention has been drawn to a publication by the Ogun State House of Assembly purported to be the Report of its Committee on Public Accounts and Anti-Corruption under the chairmanship of Hon. Musefiu Lamidi which considered the State Auditor General’s Report on the Ogun State Property Investment Corporation (OPIC) between 2015 and 2019.

For the records, all issues raised in the publication had been addressed during my appearance before the House Committee on the 13th of October, 2020, following their invitation and in my capacity as the immediate past Managing Director of the Corporation for the period under review. Also at this session were members of the then current management team of OPIC led by its Director of Finance and Administration (DFA), Director of Projects, the Internal Auditor, the Head of Allocations and other members of the OPIC finance team, who had apparently also been summoned by the committee. During the course of the interaction with the said House Committee, I provided clarifications on all issues handled by me as the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation, while referring all technical audit and accounting queries to the DFA, who was present to address them.

I am therefore appalled and taken aback by the publication and the call for investigations by anti-corruption agencies. For the benefit of our stakeholders and discerning members of the public, I shall now address the four key issues raised in the said publication:

1. Allegation that N2,579,771,717.71 was unaccounted for

This allegation was made during the interaction in October 2020. The DFA and I made it clear that OPIC is a Statutory Corporation that is regularly audited by auditors independently recommended by the Auditor General of the State. The accounting processes, policies and standards are predefined, and this allegation is false in its entirety. No money is missing, and a formal forensic audit will confirm that fact.

2. Allegation of unaccounted N40M Expenditure Claim in Year 2019

The House directed a refund of the sum of N40 Million on the ground that it was unaccounted for. At the appearance before the committee, the DFA of OPIC explained OPIC’s accounting procedure to the committee. We fully demonstrated that such expenses were typically incurred as part of the running costs for managing OPIC projects located in several satellite towns of the State. We further explained that these monies were used to provide cash stipends for staff and artisans working on those sites; provide basic site amenities and cover other ongoing site expenses. This imprest system allowed the men at site to work without undue delay. The DFA and Director of Projects subsequently provided the breakdown of the N40 Million expenditure which the committee chose to totally ignore in its report.

To further illustrate this strategy, the chairman (House Committee on Public Finance), Honourable Musefiu Lamidi was conversant with these procedures, as he was a Special Adviser under the Senator Amosun led administration and he was assigned to supervise the OPIC team working in Ipokia during the construction of the Polytechnic in the Local Government.

Similarly, during the accelerated construction of MITROS Residences which occurred within a sixty (60) day window, the entire State Executive Council were witnesses as we (OPIC) deployed several labour teams and artisans on twenty-four shifts delivering materials and finishing tasks. This could only be done, using an on-site imprest which was collected and signed for by the workers. This labour-intensive approach enabled us meet tough targets throughout my tenure.

3. Allegation of N881.5M Unbudgeted Expenditure:

The sum was spent on the construction of MITROS Residences on the approval of the State Executive Council. The edifice was constructed within an accelerated period in 2017, when the State Executive Committee resolved that the amount annually spent on accommodating visiting dignitaries and guests of government could be saved with the construction of functional Guest Houses that could also serve commercial purposes. The fifty-five (55) Room MITROS Residences was constructed with a full complement of an event centre, swimming pool, gym etc. The resolution of the Senator Amosun led administration was that OPIC should recoup the money spent on the construction of the edifice by netting off the costs incurred by government with the commercialisation of the facility. This hotel was built under a STATE GOVERNMENT MANDATE and all expenditure were approved by the State Executive Governor with proper documentation. OPIC as a statutory corporation invested in that hotel and delivered it with great value.

This hotel has helped the government to save cost especially during occasions like the Africa Drum Festival, hosting of State Governors, Federal Government Delegations, Party Functions and other guests of government. It is important to note that the incumbent government is also using the facility daily for its activities.

The value of the facility in question (MITROS RESIDENCES) as of today stands in excess of N1 billion. Copies of all records related to the project inclusive of all the approvals were submitted to the House Committee.

On a final note, it is laughable that the House recommended a retroactive legislative approval for the construction of the edifice from OPIC or in the alternative, a refund of the amount spent on its construction by me in my personal capacity.

4. Sale of 8.2 Hectares of Land at Isheri to Rainerhill Ltd.

The Senator Amosun led Administration prioritised the provision of incentives to attract investors to the State. This policy was approved by the State Executive Council and publicly announced at the State’s Investors Forums held annually between 2012 to 2018. Under this scheme, the 8.2 Hectares of land Isheri was offered to Persianas Group, the promoter of Shoprite to construct a Mall. The land is a marshy area and was offered at a discounted rate of approximately N20.5 Million per hectare as against the actual rate of N30m per hectare.

Under the arrangement with the government, Persianas Group was to construct a Mall each in Ota (which has been completed), Abeokuta, Isheri, Sagamu and Ijebu Ode. It is instructive to note that Messrs Persianas was not the only beneficiary under this policy. The company made several representations and wanted the State to cede the land to it as incentive for the investment to be made in Isheri Mall particularly immediately after the Ota Mall which they spent in excess of $20m to build. However, the State insisted that there must be cash consideration of N20m per hectare to make such commitment binding. It is on record that over 200 manufacturing and services companies were attracted to Ogun State by the application of this policy.

It is also on record that through this strategy, Ogun State emerged as the number one (1) industrialised state in Nigeria and became the destination of choice for Local and Direct Foreign Investment in Nigeria in the area of manufacturing and industry.

This sale was properly documented and approved by the then Governor on grounds of stimulating the economy of the State. There was no underhand dealing and the position canvassed by the Committee is ill-informed and not in alignment with the policy direction that made the transaction worthwhile to the State. If the recommendation of the committee is to be implemented, more than 60% of all the attracted investments/industries in Ogun State from May 2011 to date will have their title revoked!!!

5. ALLEGATION ABOUT FIVE-STAR MARRIOT HOTEL AT OPIC IKEJA PLAZA

This claim again shows the clear bias of the committee. The funds in question had been invested prior to my assumption of office as Managing Director and the transaction predated the Senator Amosun led Administration. The documentation costs were simply carried forward on OPIC’s accounts and until the project is consummated and/or written off, it will continue to reflect in the records of OPIC.

CONCLUSIONS

I was and remain a real estate developer and prior to joining the administration of Senator Amosun led Government in 2013, I had proven my competence in that vocation. I was headhunted just as many of my colleagues that served between 2011 and 2019 by our principal – Senator Ibikunle Amosun to contribute my quota to improving the affairs of Ogun State in my area of specialisation.

Under his leadership, we successfully delivered over FOURTEEN (14) projects including:

Agbara Industrial & Residential Estate Road Network Construction.
Orange Valley, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta -Phase One consisting of sixty-six (60) units of semi-detached duplexes and reclamation of a further larger expanse now developed as Kings Court.
New Makun City, new city development inclusive of site acquisition, internal road networks, electrification and waterworks
MTR Gardens, Isheri -site reclamation, infrastructure grid provision and development of 180 units of three bed apartments
New Dawn Gardens, Agbara -site infrastructure and development of three bed bungalows – 52nos
New Dawn Terraces, Agbara – site infrastructure and development of two bed row bungalows – 45nos
Gateway Poly Ipokia – site clearing and development of start-up cluster for the Polytechnic
Isheri Road Projects – construction of access roads and electrification
MITROS Residence Hotel – development of 55 room boutique hotel
Family Homes Housing Project – development of pilot phase of the 1000 units affordable homes cluster

During my six-year tenure, we expended approximately NGN 15 Billion and generated over NGN 20 billion in revenues.

All these projects successfully transformed the status, capacity and abilities of OPIC. We were 100% self-funding and successfully grew the asset base of OPIC turning it into a mega corporation with an asset base in excess of NGN60Billion.

We operated under intense scrutiny with a principal, His Excellency Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who is a seasoned Chartered Accountant, two commissioners of finance, who were also Chartered Accountants; and independently appointed auditors, who were not accountable or reporting to us.

Furthermore, the structure of OPIC and its clear accounting policies did not create any room for the sort of laxity or mischief being alleged by this Committee.

OPIC is a statutory corporation with legal personality, attempting to hold me liable without any proven infractions directly attributable to me or obfuscating facts is a deplorable act, a clear and brazen abuse of legislative privilege and by so doing, the Committee has done incalculable damage to my reputation and by extension demarketing OPIC and Ogun state.

Being a response By 
BABAJIDE O, ODUSOLU
FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER / MANAGING DIRECTOR, OPIC 21ST SEPTEMBER 2021 
To  A  STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE OGUN STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS & ANTI-CORRUPTION

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