N1.6bn NUJ Pen Jewel Estate: Council recommends EFCC actions
..Cancels MoU with initiators over sharp practices
The Congress of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos council, has cancelled the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the erstwhile Chairman and his executives.
The project initiators, NAWOJ President, Mrs. Ify Omowole; immediate past Chairman of the Lagos Council of NUJ, Mr. Deji Elumoye, and the Developer, Messers Primewaterview Holdings Limited, were alleged to have manipulated the project in the interest of the developer.
In arriving at this decision, the committee noted that the contents of the MoU were skewed in favour of the developer. The congress also agreed that the principal actors in the housing fraud, Elumoye, Omowole and Mrs. Tosin Odusola, be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution and recovery of the over N100 million involved in the housing scheme.
According to the report submitted by the audit committee, it was allegedly revealed that the developer, based on the MoU, was to take 300 units of houses in the scheme to defray cost of infrastructural development in the scheme. The MoU did not state cost of infrastructure to be built. Besides, the firm had spent N21 million of the N73 million it collected from NAWOJ/NUJ on “road stabilisation,” which to the committee should not have been since it was part of infrastructure development to be paid for with the 300 housing units.
The council agreed that, “the developer has shown gross lack of commitment, and diligent execution of the project. A letter should be sent to the developer terminating the MoU and the project in its entirety. A quantity surveyor should be engaged to assess the value of work done by the developer on site. Where the assessment by the quantity surveyor falls short of expenditure submitted by the developer, Messers Primewaterview Holdings Limited, it should be made to refund the difference. In the event of failure to comply, the developer should be reported to EFCC to help recover the money,” the report stated.
Besides, the report condemned Omowole for her decision to withdraw subscribers’ $227,000 unilaterally. According to the committee report, Omowole’s explanation for such withdrawal is unacceptable and does not hold.
“Omowole’s excuse for the withdrawal of the $227,000 because of the falling exchange rate and also to pay the developer (Primewaterview Holdings Limited) the advance of subscribers’ counterpart funding is unacceptable because as at the time of withdrawal of the money, there was no signed MoU between NUJ/NAWOJ Pen Jewel Estate and Primewaterview Holdings Limited as developer. The $227,000 was withdrawn four clear months before the signing of the MoU, hence no need to pay counterpart funding at that time. Also, the excuse that the US dollar was losing value at that time is unacceptable as the Nigerian naira further crashed as at the time of signing the MoU,” the committee noted in its report.
The report also noted thus: “That there was a case of ‘Expired’ US dollars amounting to $27,610. That Omowole confessed to giving the $24,000 out of the ‘Expired’ $27,610, to a car dealer to use for transactions in America after she claimed she was unable to convert the said currency to naira as it was rejected by banks here.
“That Omowole claimed that the said car dealer was unable to spend the $24,000 in the American market. That the car dealer eventually agreed to change the $24,000 at N150/$1, amounting to about N4 million. This is very curious because if the money could not be spent in America, why would the car dealer agree to change same to naira? Is he a Santa Claus?”
Omowole, the committee submitted, must pay back N159 per dollar, amounting to about N4.3 million, being the balance of the expired $27,610 purported to have been exchanged for N150. This amount was arrived at using the N309 exchange rate figure earlier agreed on. She is also to provide evidence of remittance of the earlier N4 million from this money to the NAWOJ Pen Jewel Estate account. The NAWOJ President, the committee further submitted, must refund the N779,000 collected from subscribers in form of application form fees. Although 713 subscribers were captured on the application list, 779 people actually bought the application form for the PEN-JEWEL project at N1000 each.
The report did not spare Elumoye, who it said must refund N4 million being the excess on the alleged N10 million he claimed to have paid to the traditional land owners, “Omoniles,” after findings revealed only N6 million was paid. Elumoye is also to refund the N2 million he claimed to have paid for the extra land he bought on behalf of the Lagos NUJ Council in Mowe since he was unable to provide evidence of purchase of same.
Meanwhile, all efforts to speak to the erstwhile Chairman, Elumoye, Omowole, the NAWOJ Chairperson and the developer, Messers Primewaterview Holdings Limited, proved abortive. The phone numbers of the last two were permanently blocked while Elumoye could not pick his calls.