NUJ explains its refusal to intervene in Pen-Jewel Estate fraud allegation



NIGERIA: THE leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has explained reasons why it rescinded its decision to directly intervene in the alleged misappropriation of the funds for the construction of the Mowe (Abaren)/Pen-Jewel Estate.

The National President of the NUJ, the umbrella body for journalists in the country, Alhaji Abdulwaheed Odusile, who confirmed receiving petition sent to it by the former Chairperson of the Lagos chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Dupe Laoye-Oshinkolu, said those involved assured the union leaders that the matter would be resolved internally among themselves.

*Odusile…NUJ National President.

Similarly, the National Secretary of the union, Shuaibu Usman Leman, said that despite the non-intervention of the NUJ, the union had no vested interest in the housing fraud apart from the desire to ensure accountability.

It would be recalled that barely three weeks ago, the land probe committee set up by the Lagos Council of the union, submitted its report to the Chairman, Dr. Qasim Akinreti, where it indicted the Chairperson of NAWOJ, Mrs. Ify Omowole, the association’s Treasurer, Mrs. Tosin Odusola, and the immediate past Chairman of the council, Mr. Deji Elumoye.

In fact, the 10-man committee headed by Fabian Anawo of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), in its report recommended the ban of Omowole, Odusola, who refused to appear before the committee, and Elumoye from holding any position within the NUJ for 10 years.

But in an interview with GatewayMail, Odusile said: “I recall Mrs. Dupe Laoye-Oshinkolu, former Chair Lagos NAWOJ while in office, did discuss and sent a complaint to the National Secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists on what was happening in the association in Lagos especially with regard to the housing project.”

“She made some allegations against some people including former chairman Lagos NUJ, Deji Elumoye and NAWOJ national chairman Ifeyinwa Omowole which I referred to NUJ national secretary Mallam Usman Shuaibu to handle,” he said.

Odusile further explained: “Specifically, I told him to ask those mentioned in her complaint to respond to the allegations which I think they all did.  From the response, I noticed there were differences and I called for further explanations.  Though I did not get the details I expected because I gathered they were still working on them, they assured me they were going to resolve the differences.

*Omowole…Committee imposed 10 year ban on her.

“I trusted them to do just that because they initiated the project and I believed they would do their best to make it a success.  For a while after this I did not hear anything from them again and I had the impression all was going well.  There was even a ground breaking ceremony after this to signal the commencement of the project and I was very happy.”
He also said: “However, in the run up to the Lagos NUJ election last year, rumors were flying that all was not well with the project and I called the principal actors to know what was going on.

“I made it clear to them on the need to come good on the project as promised the depositors especially as the tenure of the immediate past exco in Lagos Council was coming to an end soon.  This regrettably did not happen.  You know the rest of the story.”
“It is wrong to say I did not do anything since we got Mrs. Oshinkolu’s complaints.  I have no vested interest in the matter and certainly nothing to cover up.  I am also a contributor/depositor to the project and eager to know what has happened to my investment.”

Also, Shuaibu declared: “Yes we received a petition from Dupe and her colleague over the land issue.  We did not sweep it under the carpet.  We requested for explanation from NAWOJ President and Lagos council which we got.”

“At that time there was no compelling reason for us to pursue the matter that was why we kept it in view,” the National Secretary said, adding: “We had no vested interest in the NAWOJ controversy apart from the desire to ensure accountability.”

*Shuaibu…NUJ National Secretary.
*Odusola…Shunned the panel.

“This I can assure you.  I cannot say whether the NUJ President truly encouraged Dupe to write that petition or not.  I suggest you take it up with him please,” Shuaibu stressed.

However, while submitting its report, the committee, which also uncovered fictitious “NAWOJ Cooperative account through which suspicious payments were alleged to have been made to some persons,” said that the decision to impose the ban on the erring journalists was taken to “serve as a deterrent to others who may in future want to serve the NUJ to be upright in their dealings while in office.”

“For his role in the NUJ/NAWOJ Pen Jewel Estate scheme, and also the NUJ Abaren Village land in Mowe, Ogun State, Mr. Deji Elumoye should be banned for 10 years from holding any office in any capacity under the NUJ,” the committee said, adding: “He is also to be stripped of any privilege(s) that may be accruable to any past NUJ chairman during the period of ban.”

“The above (in 14) should also apply to Mrs. Ify Omowole and Mrs. Tosin Odusola,” the committee declared in its report on the 56. 753 hectares Pen Jewel estate scheme valued at N1.6 billion.

The committee, which was inaugurated last October 27, also ordered Omowole to refund about N7.079 million, while Elumoye, who was lambasted by the panel and recommended for serious reprimand, would also join the NAWOJ boss to refund N4 million “being the excess on the alleged N10 million claimed to have been paid to the traditional land owners, Omonile” and untraced “N2 million he claimed to have paid for the extra land he bought in Mowe if he is unable to provide evidence of purchase of same.”

*Elumoye…To refund money to NUJ.

It also called for cancellation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the developer, Primewaterview Holdings Limited, and termination of the housing project.

“The MOU signed with the developer should be cancelled and the project terminated.  The developer has shown gross lack of commitment, and diligent execution on the project,” the committee stated, adding: “A letter should be sent to the developer terminating the MoU and 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 (developer) should be made to refund the difference,” it maintained.

Should the developer failed to comply, according to the committee, it “should be reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to help recover the money.”

According to the report obtained by GatewayMail, the panel advised the Lagos Council to report Odusola to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to explain her role in the financial transactions on the failed housing scheme.

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