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Bizman Petitions IGP Over Alleged N125bn Fraud At Army Shopping Complex

A businessman, Arc. James Onyemenam has petitioned the Inspector General of Police seeking a probe of an alleged N125 billion fraud affecting a 24-year concession agreement with the Nigerian Army Shopping Complex – The Arena at the Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos.

In the petition, Onyemenam, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Woobs Resources Limited, accused a business partner and minority shareholder in the firm, Whoba Ogo, of conniving with several accomplices to unlawfully remove him from the firm, to clear the way to defraud the company.

Onyemenam, an architect, said the fraud was committed in the course of the company’s execution of the 24 years concession to design, finance, construct and operate a modern market (the Nigerian Army Shopping Complex – The Arena) at the Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos.

In his petition, he alleged that Ogo in connivance with several accomplices, including bank officials criminally converted the money belonging to the company and has been using the same to acquire property in Nigeria and abroad.

According to him, Ogo absconded with his family to Texas, the USA over 23 months ago immediately after the EFCC commenced its investigation in May 2021, from where he has continued to carry out his illegal activities.

The CEO appealed to the IGP to direct an investigation into the case with a view to arresting and prosecuting the suspects if the investigation finds them culpable.

Onyemenam, a majority shareholder in the firm, made the allegations in a May 18, 2023 letter to the IGP titled; “Complaint of criminal conspiracy to wit: money laundering, advance fee fraud, forgery, stealing and criminal conversion of the sum of N125 billion and counting, property of Woobs Resources Limited against one Whoba Ogo and others.’

He said: “Mr. Whoba Ogo (a director and minority shareholder of the company) and I entered into a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) by which we agreed to use the company as the joint venture vehicle to bid for and execute The Arena project for the Nigerian Army.

“I am aware that as from 2009 to date the suspect, Whoba Ogo, and others have conspired amongst themselves together and with the company’s banks to criminally convert the sum of N125 billion and still counting using the same to acquire properties all over Nigeria and abroad.

“As the majority shareholder and Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the company, I hold 275,000 shares out of the company’s issued share capital of 500,000 shares.”

He explained that the Nigerian Army granted the company a 24 years concession to design, finance, construct and operate a modern market (the Nigerian Army Shopping Complex – The Arena) located at the Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos on a Build, Operate, and Transfer basis.

The Arena, with all its infrastructure, is expected to be transferred back to the Nigerian Army at the expiration of the 24 years and 2 two years construction moratorium.

He added that the financing of the project was carried out with borrowed funds from his banker, Messrs. Oceanic Bank International Plc (now Ecobank Plc), and other creditors (ie. contractors and consultants).

“I got a final award dated 6 March 2015 from an arbitration tribunal. The Tribunal Award decided that The Joint Venture between Mr. Whoba Ogo and James Onyemenam is valid, enforceable, and subsisting.

“James Onyemenam is the holder of 275,000 out of the 500,000 fully paid-up shares of the company.

“The resolution by which Mr. Whoba Ogo purported to remove James Onyemenam as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the company is contrary to the Joint Venture Agreement and is consequently set aside.

“James Onyemenam remains the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the company. Sterling Chambers (Barristers and Solicitors) remain the Company Secretaries of the company”.

The petitioner stated further that a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Ayokunle Faji had on 27th April 2020, dismissed Ogo’s application to set aside the arbitral award and granted his application for the enforcement of the said Award, 1as well as perpetual injunction restraining Whoba Ogo from obstructing his contractual rights.”

He accused Ogo, one Victor Ukutt of Victor Ukutt and co, Col Kingsley Umoh and his security company of illegally taking over The Arena since October 2011, saying they are still perpetuating illegalities in the management of the Arena, “in clear violation of the aforementioned court judgment.

The revenues generated from the Arena since 2011 are being criminally diverted to other private purposes.”

He alleged that the suspects fraudulently opened several new bank accounts without the Board of Directors’ resolution, so that they can divert the company’s funds, and changed the mandates of the company’s accounts with several listed banks of which they are joint signatories without the approval of the Board of Directors of the company.

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