BY GEORGE OKOJIE, Lagos
The aggrieved subscribers of the Nigeria Union Of Journalists(NUJ), National Association Of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) housing scheme, Abaren Town, Ogun State have petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over illegal misappropriation of journalists’ housing contributions that amounted to N78, 674, 490.
The subscribers in a petition signed by their solicitors, Oluyinka Olujimi, Principal Partner, Oluyinka Olujimi Associates obtained by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND alleged that the National President of NAWOJ, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Omowole, an employee of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), obtained the funds from journalists under the pretence of facilitating the development of the housing estate.
The petition posited, “That, sometime in 2009, the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secured for its members some one thousand, seven hundred (1700) plots of land at Abaren Village, Ofada, in Ogun State.
“That, the National President of NAWOJ, Mrs Ifeyinwa Omowole became aware of the acquisition and requested that her national executive be permitted to adopt the land and help source for fund for building three bedroom bungalows on each plot for the beneficiaries, on a repayment scheme that would be spread across several years.
“That, consequent upon the adoption, Mrs. Omowole informed the Lagos chapter of the NUJ and NAWOJ that she had secured the interest of a foreign Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) CRCI Africa, to build cheap prefabricated houses for subscribers.
“That the condition for actualising ‘3’ above was the contribution of $250 (Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars) by each subscriber.
“That, subsequently, over 700 (seven hundred) members of the NAWOJ and the NUJ subscribed to the scheme and paid the mandatory $250.
“That each subscriber was required to pay the said $250 into a domiciliary account with the United Bank for Africa (UBA).”
The petition continues, “That the then chairperson of the Lagos NAWOJ, Mrs Dupe Olaoye-Osinkolu was the desk officer, working in conjunction with the National Treasurer of NAWOJ, Mrs. Oluwatosin Odusola , an employee of Radio Lagos/Eko FM to receive proof of the payment in ‘6’ above and record the contribution of each contributor.
“That after over two years of receiving the said sum, the NAWOJ President requested for additional payment of $170 to enable CRCI Africa build the houses.
“That Mrs. Omowole subsequently announced that CRCI Africa had pulled out of the agreement and that she had found a Nigerian company that had agreed to build the houses, but that the subscribers should pay yet another sum, this time N50,000 (Fifty Thousand Naira) each. That, again, many of the subscribers did as demanded.”
The petition further averred, “That on enquiry at the bank, Our Clients discovered that Mrs Omowole had withdrawn $227,000 (about N72 million at the exchange rate of N309.50 at the time) of contributions from the dollar account.
“That during the Federal Government’s freeze on domiciliary accounts, another contribution of $27,610 was handed over by Mrs. Olaoye-Osinkolu to the said Mrs. Omowole through the National Treasurer, Mrs. Oluwatosin Odusola.
“That to date, Mrs. Omowole has neither accounted for the $227,000 and $27,610 nor delivered on the promise of delivering the houses.”
The solicitors appealed to the EFCC to hasten investigations into the colossal criminal diversion and conversion of funds, saying such act of corruption cannot be tolerated in this era of zero-tolerance for corruption in the country.
They further prayed the EFCC,” To help us get to the root of the matter by locating the whereabouts of the $227,000 and the $27,610 contributed by hapless journalists which are hanging between the bank and the National President of NAWOJ. Retrieving the contributions of the subscribers, inexplicably and unilaterally withdrawn by Mrs. Omowole; and Prosecute, if need be, any criminal action against anybody that your esteemed organisation may find culpable in the process of investigation.”