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I. N. C. HERBERT (B.Sc) (MBA) (FCA) (CFAN)

19th August,2014

MR. I. N. HERBET

The Managing Editor

The Newswriters

No. 23 Hospital Road

Port Harcourt

 

REJOINDER TO NEWSPAPER PUBLICATION CAPTIONED ABANDONED PROJECTS: N360M FRAUD ROCKS BILLE KINGDOM

 

My attention has been drawn to a newspaper publication captioned – Abandoned Projects: N360m Fraud Rocks Bille Kingdom – on front page and page 8 of The Newswriter, Vol 5 No 29 of July 24 -30, 2014.

 

  1. The said newspaper report alleged, inter alia, that:

i)          A group of Bille youths worried by series of abandoned community projects in Bille Kingdom in the Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State threatened to cause problems if contractors handling the said projects failed to complete them.

 

ii)         The youths spoke through their leader one Comrade David Bibi

iii)        The youths issued the threat when they paid a courtesy visit to Chief Bebe Jacobs, the Agbaniye-Jike I of Niger Delta, in his office in Port Harcourt. Chief Bebe is also national coordinator of Transformation Agenda for Goodluck 2015.

iv)        The projects were awarded to the contractors by Shell Petroleum Development Company under the Bille Kingdom Community Trust and that of the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU).

v)         Comrade Bibi highlighted some of the abandoned projects which include: “…Water Project (34,000,000)…”

vi)        Comrade Bibi named some of the contractors and the projects awarded to them, viz: “…the Water Project (INC Herbert)…”

 

  1. That all allegations stated in the said newspaper publication concerning water project are not true save the fact that the project was awarded by Degema 1 Cluster Development Board   under the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) between Shell Petroleum Development Company and Degema 1 Cluster Communities – Bille Kingdom, Ke and Krakrama.

 

  1. It is not true that I defrauded the sum of Thirty-Four Million Naira (N34,000,000) – the contract sum of Bille Water Project. I became involved in initiating and monitoring the Bille Water project in the ordinary course of discharging my duties as Chairman, CDC Bille; Chairman, Bille Kingdom Community Trust and Chairman, Degema I Cluster Development Board. The three offices I held concurrently for three year tenure.

 

  1. I was appointed the Chairman of Bille Kingdom Community Development Committee (CDC) in November, 2009 by the Bille Council of Chiefs. I was also nominated by the Bille Council of Chiefs as the Chairman of the Bille Kingdom Community Trust on the basis of which I was nominated as the Chairman of Degema I Cluster Development Board for three (3) year tenure respectively. These nominations were accepted by Rivers State Government through the then Commissioner, Rivers State Ministry of Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Dr Tammy Danagogo and my appointments confirmed in an Inauguration Ceremony held on Monday, 28th June, 2010 and letter from the Rivers State Government Ref MCCA/CA/ADM118/02 dated 24th November, 2010. The Degema I Cluster Development Board also ratified my appointments in its inaugural meeting.

 

  1. I became involved in Bille Kingdom Water Project as Chairman of the Bille Kingdom Community Development Committee (CDC) when one Mr Stanley of Environess Nigeria Limited handed over keys of the Bille Kingdom Water Treatment Plant to me on the verbal instruction of the Bille Council of Chiefs. On routine inspection of the facility handed over to me in the company of Mr. Stanley of Environess Limited, I observed that the Water Treatment Plant Project initiated by my predecessor Chairman of Degema I Cluster Development Board, Barrister Iyalla Gabriel Igani, executed by Stanley and his group (Environess) was not functional. But the project has already been marked completed by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) GMOU Monitoring Team and Environess Nigeria Limited. All efforts to register complaints were to no avail.

 

  1. In November/December, 2009, there was an outbreak of cholera epidemics in Bille. This was reported to the Rivers State Ministry of Health. The Rivers State Government intervened in the cholera epidemics through Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWATSA). The Agency confirmed that the cholera epidemic was as result of lack of portable water in Bille and it made a case for Bille in the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development. The Ministry immediately responded by awarding an Intervention Contract for the Rehabilitation of Bille Water Scheme. The Contractor from the Ministry, Waterpit Nigeria Limited, mobilized to site to link existing abandoned but serviceable Borehole drilled under the Coastal Communities Project with existing abandoned OMPADEC Overhead Water Tank for onward distribution of water through existing network of water distribution pipes as suggested in our letter dated 8th February, 2010. The intervention effort was short-lived by sudden collapse of abandoned OMPADEC overhead Water Tanks, the integrity of which was not considered at the time it was incorporated into the project. Again, by the time the overhead water Tank collapsed, Waterpit Nigeria Limited has already demobilized from site. I was involved in the above process as the CDC Chairman – representative of the true project owner – Bille Kingdom.

 

  1. The intervention effort of the Rivers State Government did not yield the desired result as indicated in my letter of 8th March, 2010. Consequently, portable water supply problem persisted in Bille. In an attempt to ameliorate the suffering of the masses, I took another bold step to re-introduce Rehabilitation of Bille Water Treatment Plant as GMOU Project as I did promise in my Inauguration Speech. My vision for providing portable water in Bille was ratified by both the Bille Kingdom Community Trust and the Bille Council of Chiefs as entrenched in our Community Development Plan (CDP) – (See 3. New Deal (b)). I was introduced to one of the Engineers/technicians who installed the RO Water Treatment Plant for Environess, who told us why the Treatment Plant was not working. Satisfied with his explanation, I did a proposal for Rehabilitation of the Bille Water Treatment Plant to the Degema Cluster Development Board. This project proposal went through due process of GMoU and was approved with a major amendment from SPDC (GMoU Team) changing the power source from our Community Generator to Solar Power. Thus, contract was awarded to Robinnas Nigeria Limited for Rehabilitation of Bille Kingdom Water Treatment Plant and Installation of Solar Power at Bille Water Treatment Plant respectively on the recommendation of Bille Council of Chiefs.

 

  1. Having worked in the area, one of the conditions necessary for the above mentioned engineer/technician to undertake the Rehabilitation Project was the engagement of Bille indigenous contractor to avoid interference or interruption by errant youths demanding marching grant and such other payments. It was in this manner that Robinnas Nigeria Limited was single sourced to handle the project.

 

  1. Robinas Nigeria Limited through the engineer/technician mentioned above and his team diligently carried out their work but not without problems. First, the Bille Council Chiefs ordered that the contractor should not mobilsed to site for their own reasons. That order was sustained for about one year. Later the Bille Council of Chiefs directed me to instruct the Contractor to mobilize to site for the Rehabilitation of the Water Treatment Plant but ordered that Solar Power should not be installed rather the power source should be the Community Generator. Every conceivable diplomatic means to crave the indulgence of members of Bille Council of Chiefs and a cross-section of the Bille people to understand and accept the innovation of use of modern technology – Solar Power- in this project proved abortive.

 

  1. As a faithful representative of the project owner (Bille Kingdom) I passed on to the contractors, facilitating NGO (Youth Advancement Initiative), Degema I Cluster Development Board and Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited (GMoU Team) all the directives of the Bille Council of Chiefs and the agitation of the cross-section of the Bille people.

 

  1. The Rehabilitation of Bille Water Treatment Plant Contract was scheduled to be executed in two ( 2) phases. All activities under the two (2) phases were certified complete except aspect of remedial works on the water scheme viz: to provide and cast grade 25 concrete in 225mm x 255mm thick concrete columns from foundation to fence level at 3m interval; provide, cut and fix 12mm Diameter high yield reinforcement to BS 449 in conc. Col within fence wall; formwork support for all reinforced concrete works; Supply and install 1m wide fabricated steel gate complete with locking devices etc. Reason being that remedial works should be the last milestone after satisfactorily rehabilitated the Water Treatment plant and installed Solar power.

 

  1. Contract for Installation of Solar Power was also scheduled to be completed in two (2) Phases. All activities were completed except linking the Solar Power to the borehole by changing the sumo pump to solar power sumo pump. The members of Bille Chiefs Council and a cross-section of Bille people vehemently resisted the connection and change of sumo pump.

 

  1. Consequently, the last milestone for Solar Power Installation contract together with Retention money has not been release to the Contractor by the GMoU team. On benefit of hindsight, the Bille Council of Chiefs sent a delegation of Chiefs (Chief Boma Renner Dappa, Chief I D Mina) and my self to approach the GMoU team to release the said money to the contractor to enable him complete the project but to no avail because Cluster Development Boards were dissolved by the Rivers State Government on the expiration of three year tenure of office and Joint Account frozen.
  2. As stipulated in the Contract of Rehabilitation of the Water Treatment Plant, indigenous operators were trained to take charge of the working of the facility. Those recommended by the Bille Council of Chiefs for the training were: Mr Awo-ingo Benebo, Gold Sanipe, and Mr Isobeye Orugbani. An indigene – Mr Temelaye Gogo – was also engaged as Security because of the sensitive nature of equipment installed and solar power equipment yet to be installed but was in the premises. At the end of training these trainees and the security guard were presented to the Bille Council of Chiefs for salary/allowances negotiation and engagement. The chiefs kept the trainees on probation. These trainees operated the facility for about three weeks supplying fully treated portable water in Bille, incident free.

 

  1. One night at about 2.00 am, I had a telephone call from Gold Sanipe informing me that there was fire outbreak in the Water Treatment Plant. The Fire, according to Gold Sanipe, affected the electrical cables but it was timely put under control. I asked to know the extent of damage so as to inform the Bille Council of Chiefs and the Contractors respectively. In the following day, he called me on telephone again saying that there was minor damage and that one (1) coil of 2.5mm cable could repair the damage. He pleaded with me to arrange for 2.5mm cable for him to change the burnt cables so that they could supply water. I kept the contractors and Bille Council of Chiefs posted on the development. The Council approved the immediate replacement of the burnt cable and provided the required cable for the change.

 

  1. After changing the electrical cable, the Community Generator as usual supplied power to the Treatment Plant but the borehole (raw water source) was not working again.   I briefed the Council of all that I was informed concerning the fire outbreak and its effect on the borehole. The Council further directed that since the Sumo pump they were protecting has problems occasion by the fire incident, I should invite the contractors to come back to site to now install Solar Power (and Solar Power Sumo pump) they had earlier vehemently resisted. I obliged without hesitation.

 

  1.    The Engineers/Technicians sent somebody to carry our integrity test of the borehole. The result showed that borehole we inherited has collapsed; fire was a consequence of the collapse of the borehole; and the only viable remedy was to drill a new borehole rather than changing from electrical sumo pump to solar power sumo.   The Spokesman of the Bille Council of Chief, Chief D T Temebo, was present when the engineers/technicians sent by the contractors gave this verbal report.

 

  1. I wish to reiterate that there was no fraud on the Water Project. The project was frustrated by the Bille Council of Chiefs for over one year; the same Council and a cross-section of the Bille people were brainwashed to kick against the use of Solar Power – modern technology; and finally, the borehole collapsed on its own. The aspect of the Water Project I initiated and monitored is self evident: The Water Rehabilitation Plant was working until the sudden collapse of the borehole – the raw water source; I am optimistic that it will continue to work with new borehole except for changing of media filters and minor maintenance; the Solar Power equipment/ Material are all on ground – some have been installed and others like Solar Power Sumo Pump would have been installed but for the fire incident leading to the collapse of the borehole.

 

 

  1. My tenure has already expired but I hope that those in positions will be proactive enough to put finishing touches to this project for the good of all.

 

  1. I am a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Certified Forensic Accountant of Nigeria. The newspaper publication to say the least is malicious, injurious and calculated to damage my reputation and good will earned with years of labourious service to the Bille Kingdom, mankind and God. It is ill-fated, calculated to tarnish, ridicule and bring to disrepute my professional image. It is calculated to rubbish my political status to score cheap point in political circles to rob me of the honour, rights and privilege, benefits of a founding member of the People Democratic Party (PDP) and first leader of the Party in Ward 16 (Bille ) in the Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. It is willfully and deliberately targeted to running down my leadership prowess in Bille Kingdom and society in general

 

  1. It is the custom and tradition of Bille people that an ordinary citizen does not address himself as “Chief”. The use of Chief as a title is a special preserve of members of Bille Kingdom Chiefs Council. There is no member of the Bille kingdom Chiefs Council that is called, addressed or named Chief Bebe Jacob as at the date of the said publication.

 

  1. Agbaniye-Jike is Kingship title preserved for the Amanyanabo of Bille. The Bille people choose this title for the highest office of the land as a posthumous honour to King Agbaniye-Jike 1 of Bille Kingdom for his unsurpassed contribution to the sovereignty of Bille Kingdom. Hence, Bille Kingdom has to date 17 legitimate holders of Agbaniye-Jike Kingship title namely,

(1)        King Kurowi

(2)       King Konbo

(3)       King Arukroyesa

(4)       King Lomu

(5)       King Alaowi

(6)       King Alaye-Emine

(7)       King Alaowiye Opubo

(8)       King Agbaniye-JIKE

(9)       King Jikeye-Omuso

(10)     King Awene Okobeye

(11)      King Dappa Awene

(12)      King Alaoguruye-Ateme

(13)      King Ogiliye Kari (Carrie)

(14)     King Igolima Dappa

(15)      King Benjamin Inengi

(16)     King Luke Alagba

(17)      King Justus Henry Igolima-Dappa

  1. Agbaniye-Jike Chieftaincy Stool is recognized by the Rivers State Government. The last incumbent was His Royal Highness Chief J H Igolima-Dappa, Agbaniye-Jike (XVII).

 

 

  1. The people of Bille, through the Bille Council of Chiefs, in various memoranda to the Rivers State Government, have demanded for upgrading and recognition of Chieftaincy stools in Bille Kingdom with no mention of Chief Bebe Jacob either as incumbent chief or Agbaniye-Jike chieftaincy title-holder.

 

  1. There is no recognised Agbaniye-Jike title holder in the whole of Bille Kingdom, Degema Local Government Area, Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta Area save the 17 legitimate holders of the title who were past Kings (Amanyanabo) of Bille Kingdom. The people of Bille Kingdom as at the date of the said newspaper publication are yet to elect, enthrone and crown any person as Agbaniye-Jike(XVIII) – the eighteenth.

 

  1. The use of “ chief” as a title and the claim of “Agbaniye-Jike I of Niger Delta” by Mr Bebe Jacob is calculated to embarrass the entire people of Bille, mislead the general public, arrogate powers that are not duly earned, impersonate the office of members of the Bille Kingdom Chiefs Council and the office of Amanyanabo of Bille.

 

  1. In the entire Bille Kingdom there is no person, living or death at the date of the said publication, called David Bibi, the purported Youth Leader. David Bibi is figment of imagination of Mr Bebe Jacob and the Newswriter newspaper.

 

  1. Mr Bebe Jacob whose photograph was published in relation to the said newspaper report sponsored the false, malicious and misleading publication.

 

  1. To report in a newspaper a case of alleged N360 Million fraud involving eminent personalities of Bille Kingdom extraction without proper investigation is grossly short of professional standard expected of a journalist or newspaper house.

 

Action Required

I demand that the said newspaper publication be retracted jointly and severally by Mr Bebe Jacob, Mr. David Bibi (the faceless spokesman) and the Newswriter newspaper within 14 days from the date of this reply or face litigation.

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