Hon Prince Lasbery Okaforanyanwu is the immediate past Commissioner for Transport, and the former Chairman of Omar Oil and Industries limited, a concessioned company managing the Imo State Transport Company, ITC.
In this interview with in Owerri over the weekend, he revealed the mysteries behind ITC before and after his stay in the parastatal.
The Oru East LGA born administrator seized the opportunity to clear the air on salient issues bordering the State owned transport company.
Who is Emeka Aririguzo to you?
Aririguzo as I was made to understand is a franchise owner in ITC even before I came there. He was disenfranchised because he had problem with the past management, and the only criteria to disengage someone in ITC is if your drivers fail to render proper accounts or flaunt the ITC laws.
What was your working relationship with the franchise owners?
When I got to ITC late November 2015, we went as taskforce with the duty to revamp and revive it, because prior to that time, workers were on deadly protest demonstrating with caskets and all the roads in ITC barricaded.
Then, I looked at the nominal roll with over 500 workers. As at that time, the Franchise owners had serious problem with the then management for non payment of their investment and entitlements.
The first thing I did was to call them for a meeting and we united. From there, we proceeded for a joint account opening. We were four in number as signatories comprising Stephen Madu, Daniel Ajunwa, Emeka Obi Egeonu from their executive, including my humble self making it four. Since then, every money realized from the franchise was being remitted into the account we opened with Fidelity bank with the association’s name (Franchise Welfare Association of Nigeria).
Also, we have a system there. There are two wage bills. Every vehicle has a ledger and way bill, if a driver comes back, it’s usually three. The ITC management will have one, the driver too will have one, and then the owner of the vehicles.
At the end of every month, the owners of the vehicles will cross check their own way bill, the management of ITC does that too, after which the two parties will reconcile and agree on what to pay. Once they agree with the management, they will sign a cheque for onward. Another important thing is that they were being paid online, because all the franchise owners have accounts that their monies are paid into their ‘choice’ accounts. They get alerts instantly. So throughout my tenure there, I did not owe any franchise any dime. I owe them no kobo. I do not have any reason to owe them. I had no access to their account. That was how I managed to bring back their confidence and brought back their vehicles for business.
So the issue is baseless per say. I can still give you the contacts of the signatories for further confirmation because they are still there in ITC working with the present management.
Moreover, I have withdrawn from the account. I have removed my name from the account. They are the ones managing it currently. So, it is not possible for anybody to touch franchise account at all.
Your successor has alleged of meeting 33 vehicles as they came onboard. How true?
(Laughs) That one is another lie from pit of hell. As at last count, what I left there was 134 functional vehicles, and the funny thing is that every vehicle has a driver, and a ledger that are still intact in ITC. If you bring out the ledgers, you will be able to find out when last the vehicles went to work. Every vehicle has a driver, every driver has a file, and every file has a guarantor. Traditional rulers guarantees the drivers. Till I left, all the drivers were being paid promptly. The evidence is clear.
This 33 vehicles Aririguzo is talking about is very strange. How can it be 33? Do you know the wage bill of ITC staff? I was paying workers almost N9million every month. How can only 33 vehicles achieve that magic? And the N20million I paid to the State government as monthly IGR?
ITC has 3 pay IDs, so at the end of every month, I don’t even wait till month end before I instruct all the ITC branches to be paying into the ITC designated accounts so as to meet up to the wage bills. Every payment we made then have receipts because it was paid through the bank. I can also show you receipts of every payment. Some were paid into the Polaris bank, Eco bank, UBA, even to Imo Microfinance Bank.
Can you give a financial run down of ITC under your watch?
Management of ITC was concessioned to a Corporate Affairs registered company known as ‘Omar Oil and Industries limited by the then Rescue Mission government. It is not the responsibility of the management to be paying into ITC account for a start. It is also not compulsory having been concessioned to a company. But when I went to ITC, I found out that using ITC account would be safer and easier which made me to start using their UBA and Zenith Bank accounts respectively.
But then, I didn’t know there was a judgement by an Industrial Training Fund (ITF). There was a court judgment garnisheeing the account and had already gone absolute waiting for money to be paid into it. So, people that supplied us tyres that were issued the cheque returned with them, on the excuse that bank didn’t pay them. It was at this time we discovered that the funds there had been garnished. You can verify from Zenith Bank or UBA. I reported to the government, but was dismissed and given the option to either pay my compulsory N20million or resign from the concessioning policy.
When I came back, I continued using ITC account with Eco bank, unaware that there was a court matter between the parastatal and Heritage Bank. They sued ITC and the former company it was concessioned to (Global Ginikana) to court for a transaction they did.
It was on this note that the bank secured a court order to garnish the account of ITC which we were not aware of. At the end of that said month, we paid our normal IGR to the State government which the cheque was returned too. When we approached Eco bank for rejecting the cheque, they said there was another court order tagged ‘Mariba’. So we started pursuing it holistically. The case was in the federal high court Lagos. We went there to be joined and told them we have no contention under the basis that Imo State government did not take any loan from the bank nor authorized any transaction for procurement of new vehicles but only concessioned it to a company..
Three months after, the court vacated the order, and we immediately moved the money, (over N90million) and paid our IGR to the government and staffers which had accumulated to 3 months arrears. After the experience, Omar Oil then opened an account having been officially concessioned ITC to by governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration. Our responsibility is to make sure that we pay N20million to the State government every month, and pay workers salaries as at when due.
How was Staff/Management Relationship during your stay, Did you at all paid 50%?
Let me tell you, ITC is a parastatal, and I managed it as a business concerned. I didn’t manage ITC as a State owned agency, but purely business concerned. When I came on board, we met with the heads of department with an option of laying off workers so as to take the number we can comfortably manage.
I told the workers, see what I can pay because there was no new vehicles there. Also, there was a federal high court order to confiscate every ITC vehicle for the sins committed by my predecessor. If you go to the police command now, Zone 2, Ibadan, court premises Lagos, you will see a lot of ITC vehicles impounded, although we appealed the judgement.
As a matter of fact, I left ITC better than I met it. Notwithstanding the nominal roll was 500, I never owed workers. I managed ITC transparently.
Let me even ask, Aririguzo should first of all account for cumulative money realized in ITC from 28th May, 2019 to 5th June, 2019, and 5th June – July 2019 which amounts to over N80million. During my tenure, manifest and promo which were owned by another persons were collected by respective individuals, but now, he collects everything, yet can not pay workers he has reduced from 500 to 350.
He claims to be running Treasury Single Account TSA, while he opened personal accounts in Unity bank with the name (Imo fleet management 1 and 2).
For record purposes, my contract is still running in ITC because it was concessioned to me for a 10year duration.
It is so sad that on May 29th 2019, the government of Ihedioha led by the SSG led thugs to the place and humiliated the ITC manager, Bank-Louis Adebionwu, took away his private vehicle and chased everyone away, but not without leaving threats to my life should I be seen any where around the ITC premises. They locked even our personal documents and all correspondences inside their offices. As I talk with you now, I haven’t stepped foot there since then.
So are you coming back to continue with your PPP since it lasts for 10years?
I want the government to settle down first before I can take my rightful position back. The governor claims to be a due process man, but if he is one, they wouldn’t have chased us away the manner they did. My lawyer has already written them, because my contract is still running.
I am an Imolite and has committed no crime. For me to have contributed a whooping sum of #740million to the State coffers from late November 2015 to May 2019 shows my readiness to do more.
Thanks for this opportunity sir
The pleasure is mine