Warri – Following the alleged sudden disappearance of 300 million from the account of the Itsekiri Regional Development Council (IRDC), Warri based lawyer, Chief Robinson Ariyo has accused The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , Judge , Keystone Bank PLC, the Police , lawyers , alongside some compromised members of the IRDC of embezzling collective funds meant for the Itsekiri people.
Addressing a press conference in Warri, Chief Robinson Ariyo who said, he was part of the legal team hired by the IRDC to handle the case however , expressed dismay over the way and manner an “out of court settlement” was purportedly reached on the case without his(Ariyo)knowledge.
Chief Ariyo, a development expert /peace builder is the Egogo of Warri kingdom. He explained that the project account is where Chevron Nigeria Limited(CNL) Channels its funds for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the socioeconomic development of the communities where it operates through.
“At the most critical time in this whole story, there was in the Project account of the IRDC, 2.1BN. Some social critics dragged the IRDC to Court. Hence, the money became inaccessible. That money was designed for projects across Itstekiri communities.
“Sometime late last year 2020, there was a huge scale conspiracy involving the court system, the leadership of the IRDC with the acquiescence of Chevron Nigeria Limited, the Delta State Government and some members of the IRDC.
“The project account is an account that has three principal signatories; representative of Chevron Nigeria Limited, representative of Delta State government and representatives of IRDC, with Chevron Nigeria Limited being signatory category A ; meaning that, without that signatory, every other thing being equal, no can be withdrawn from that account.
“The case holding that money was in Warri High Court here. I was involved in the case as a lawyer, that is why I’m so pained! Now, a young man called Emmanuel Agenejuone was a party initially in the case. So, there was a conspiracy to strike out his name, his name was struck out.
“He appealed to the Court of Appeal, bringing an application that the proceedings in the lower court should stall, what we call stay of proceedings. At the same time, there was an appeal in the Supreme Court, proof of which is this (showing the documents)now, I was also served this as a lawyer.
“The question now is , how did the 300 Million Naira vanish? He queried.
“While the case was transferred from Warri to Effurun, we have here the proof that the young man called Emmanuel Agenejuone appealed his name being struck out from the case.
This process was filed on the 16th day of May, 2019 still before the Court of Appeal.
‘Now, a team from the leadership of IRDC, a team from the bank (Keystone Bank PLC) where the money was kept for safe keeping, and some of the lawyers involved in the case , came together, without anybody ,they planned that 300million Naira be withdrawn and shared in the name of legal fees (professional fees for lawyers)
“This they did by removing the names of those parties in the case who are claimants, who will not cooperate with them.
It will interest you to know that it was in the morning of 19th October, 2020 that they filed the process to remove the two people’s names who would not cooperate with them
Chief Ariyo further explained that “the leadership of the IRDC immediately applied for the order of the judgment of court which the judge, that morning, signed and they went ahead to sign Form 48 of the bank telling the bank that if it didn’t release the money, they would commit the bank to prison.
“So, they were able to withdraw the money,” he averred.
He, however, exonerated CNL, the category A signatory to the account, saying it did not sign the document.
Displaying the documents, the lawyer said the oil giant had deposed to an affidavit to the effect that it did not sign the papers before the withdrawal was made.
“They said they were not also privy to the out of court settlement of the case. That the notice of withdrawal was done in bad fate to surreptitiously remove the suit from court. They also remove CNL from the suit knowing they won’t agree with them.
“We petitioned the EFCC and annexed all the documents to Benin. At the end the EFCC Said we reported the matter to too many agencies and that there’s a civil matter in the court so they can’t investigate further.
“There’s a court judgment that says both civil and criminal matters can go together. It’s an elementary law. EFCC has also compromised.
“We went against the back. We wrote the CBN that you can’t withdraw money from an account where signatory A did not sign. They replied saying that since there was a civil matter in court, they can’t look into the case.
“We wrote the police. They found merit in it. They invited the IRDC leaders but later came with govt officials. They were let go without any form of documentation. After more pressure, the police issued a second invitation and later bench warrant. As they were about to arrest them, a call came from Abuja saying force headquarters had taken over the matter. And that we the petitioners are ‘suspects’, who are trying to breach public peace.
“I then petitioned Buhari and Malani which slowed them down. I’ve gone to the executive, it has failed. I’ve gone to the judiciary, it has failed. Where else will I go to except the fourth estate of the realm!
“This is too dangerous. We live in a society of public private partnership. I’m under pressure to remove the case from the court. But I can’t keep quiet. Having failed in the regular court, I want the court of public opinion. I’m been branded as someone stalling the balance of N1.8 billion in the bank.
“I’m bothered when people do evil and go away with it, it encourages more people to do evil. There are primary schools roofs leaking no chairs, no books, health care system is zero, and the embezzlers are living comfortably. Oil and gas won’t be here forever”. He said.
Chief Ariyo called President Muhammadu Buhari to look at the issue again with a view to unraveling all those who are actively or inactively involved in this offence, in this sudden disappearance of 300 million Naira from the IRDC’s Project account.
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