How Edeoga, Enugu LP guber candidate looted N2b council funds
Enugu lawyers petition EFCC
More facts are emerging on how the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, walked himself into a N2 Billion magazine scandal to fund a long-nursed gubernatorial ambition.
Edeoga, who was Commissioner for Local Government Affairs in the first tenure of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from 2015 to 2019, it was gathered, came up with the idea of a publication called “Enugu LGAs News”, which he presented to subscribers and the public as state-owned magazine.
On its official social media handles and website, the magazine is boldly promoted as a “State Magazine, established in 2015 to encourage robust citizen participation in the governance process, to show proper accountability and transparency”.
Consequently, being state-owned, the 17 local governments funded the magazine through the compulsory release of N1.5 Million on a monthly basis, purportedly to the Ministry of Local Government, superintended by Edeoga. This comes to about N25.5 Million monthly.
However, rather than the promised transparency and accountability, the magazine, unknown to the governor, local government chairmen, and members of the public, was a grand design by Edeoga to feather his own nest and governorship project
For instance, it was gathered that rather than passing through the banking system, the N1.5 million was remitted to the Ministry of Local Government Affairs in cash.
Because Edeoga advertised himself as the governor’s ‘brother’, everybody was afraid to challenge him or speak up to the Governor. He also intimidated council chairmen and other politicians as the heir apparent and governor-in- waiting.
The brazen extortion allegedly ran into more than N2 Billion in his 48 months as the Honourable Commissioner for Local Government and another 34 or so months as the Commissioner for Environment.
However, upon his redeployment to the Ministry of Environment at the beginning of Ugwuanyi’s second tenure in 2019, it was discovered that the magazine’s ownership had already been transferred to Rivers and Time Communication Limited, a limited liability company, the reason it was not handed over to the Ministry of Local Government Affairs.
“Everything about the magazine disappeared once Edeoga left the State Ministry of Local Government, only for the magazine to reappear later as privately owned. It soon emerged that Edeoga, who is a lawyer, had tied all the legal loose ends to seal and mask his personal ownership of the magazine, and he rebuffed all entreaties from his successor, Chief Peter Okonkwo”, a staff in the information unit of the Ministry told our correspondent on condition of anonymity.
However, a search conducted at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to unveil the new owner, Rivers and Time Communication Limited, showed that the company with CAC certificate number 324176 was registered by Hon. Edeoga on 7th November 1997 with himself and his younger brother, Eugene Edeoga, as the two Directors, each holding of 500,000 share capital.
Instructively, Rivers and Plate was registered while Edeoga was the Council Chairman of Isi-Uzo LGA.
Also, the certified true copy of the incorporation documents from the CAC showed the company’s registered address as No. 17A Onoh Crescent, GRA, Enugu. Findings at the Ministry of Lands and Housing revealed that No. 17A Onoh Crescent, GRA, Enugu was acquired by Edeoga in August 1997 while he was the Executive Chairman of Isi Uzo LGA.
Furthermore, the registered office address and operational headquarters of the magazine as printed on the various editions since the takeover of the company is No. 21, Prof Ofili Ugwudioha Street, off Ibusa Road, Independence Layout, Enugu.
Interestingly, findings showed that the magnificent, double-wing opulent mansion was acquired by Edeoga in 2018 while he was the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs.
“The truth is that Edeoga bamboozled all of us. So, if he said the governor directed that we fund magazine production, we sheepishly had no reason to doubt him because he craftily sold the falsehood that he was very close to the governor. But it was after the PDP governorship primary that the scale fell off our eyes. We were fooled and swindled all these years.”, a former council chairman mourned.
Meanwhile, further findings showed that Edeoga oversaw the management, running and production of the magazine as a private business but under the guise of a government-owned magazine.
This was in contrary to extant laws and Code of Conduct for public servants.
A cursory look at the masthead of the editions of the “Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine” as regularly published on its masthead, Edeoga’s name is conspicuously as the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the board, which means that instructions and communication directly flowed from him.
This same method of funding and management continued even while Edeoga had left to the Ministry of Environment, while fellow commissioners, council chairmen, chief executives of government parastatals, contractors and friends of the government were tricked to place adverts and special reports, as Edeoga smiled to the bank.
Moreover, a visit to printing presses in Enugu, where the magazines were printed revealed that a 1,500 copies of the magazine were usually printed at the cost of between N1.8 Million and N1.9 Million per edition, which translated to roughly N2 Million per edition. At most, each edition of the magazine was printed at cost of N23 Million and this went on for 34 months.
It is recalled that Edeoga is a veteran journalist and chaired the House of Representatives Committee on Information in the 4th National Assembly between 1999 and 2003.
So, findings equally showed that Edeoga hid under the guise of recruiting an editorial and reportorial team for the so-called Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine to assemble a crack squad of fellow veteran media professionals, spin doctors, propagandists, essayists, ghost writers, hatchet men and raucous social media foot soldiers to drive his governorship campaign. This explains the viciousness of Edeoga’s attacks on perceived political opponents, including former benefactors like Governor Ugwuanyi, in his bid to succeed the incumbent.
Some of those are people like Dr. Don Eze (the Managing Editor of Enugu LGAs News Magazine), Malachi Ochie, Emma Ikwueze, Chris Chime, Egbuna Akpa, Reuben Onyishi, Ifeanyi Ogenyi, Francis Edeh, Shepherd Iyioku, among others.
However, someone like Rueben Onyishi had since parted ways with Edeoga since he discovered that they were misled into joining Edeoga as the governor’s purported anointed successor, a story they had no reason to doubt at the time.
Meanwhile, Edeoga’s magazine saga has been described as a brazen act of impunity and throwing caution to the wind.
“Section 1 Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule and Section 209 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), unambiguously provides that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities. But there is a clear conflict of interest in all these.
By all these actions, Edeoga put himself in an untenable position where his personal interest conflicted with his public duties and responsibilities, pressurising, browbeating, and arm-twisting local governments and individuals for subscription in the name of their respective local governments, while the monies were going into private pockets, was a criminal act and an act of reckless corruption
“The Nigerian Constitution is also clear that public officers shall not engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade except farming. So, he should pay for it”.
Meanwhile, in a petition dated November 8, 2022, listing alleged corrupt practices by the Labour Party governorship candidate, the Enugu Lawyers Anti-Corruption Network has asked the EFCC to wade in to probe the alleged malfeasance by Edeoga.
“THE EFCC Chairman is urged to give urgent attention to this monstrous corruption perpetuated under Edeoga’s watch and bring those responsible to book” the eight-page petition signed by the Secretary of the group, Chief Obiora Eze Nwankwo concluded.