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Police to probe N25m debt allegation against Ijaw billionaire in Delta

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Sylvester Idowu, Warri

Following petition by one Mr. Corniel Segi over Twenty five million naira (N25m) debt allegation against First Marine Energy Limited owned and operated by Chief Joseph Penawou, the Delta State Police Command has said it would commence investigation to ascertain the facts about the case.

It was gathered that Mr. Segi had petitioned the command seeking help to retrieve the money said to be the outcome of an agreement reached with the company while he was His Royal Highness of Tuomo community inline with the structure of the area.

According to the petition dated April 2, 2022, and titled, “Petition Against Chief Joseph Penawou Over Refusal To Pay My N13.5m, N12.25m Workers Salaries For Services Rendered To His Company, First Marine And Engineering Services Ltd,”said that instead of being paid, the company’s owner was using security agents to harass and intimidate him.

Mr. Segi appealed to the State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ari: “Use your good office to help recover the said above sum from Chief Joseph PENAWOU, being payment for the services rendered to his company when I was His Royal Highness of Bolou community in Burutu Local Government area of Delta State”.

While stating clearly that the position of His Highness of Bolou community is not a traditional stool but a political arrangement for the management of the community with two-year time limit, he acknowledged that there is a new person occupying the seat which he will vacate at the end of his tenure also.

He explained that as His Highness of that community in 2011, Chief Joseph Penawou approached him seeking for his cooperation in smooth execution of a contract by his company, First Marine and Engineering Services Ltd, in the community.

The multi billion naira contract he disclosed was awarded by the Ministry of Niger Delta for the construction of Bolou-Ndolo canalisation project and River Training job at Foupolo-Bolou Ndoro creek in Burutu Local Government.

“As His Royal Highness between 2011 and 2012, a two-year tenure, Chief PENAWOU approached me for cooperation and smooth execution of the project without any disturbance or hostility from the community. He gave money as Ishiagware, as customs demands, in the presence of some of the community leaders.

“After the Ishiagware, Chief Penawou placed me on a monthly salary of N100,000 for the period of the execution of the contract. He also sought my assistance in the recruitment of indigenes that would work in the execution of the project at a salary of between N35,000 and N60,000 per person which I did.

“The breakdown of the workers employed by the company through me are as follows: Chief Security Officer (CSO) placed on a salary of N60,000; 2 Community Liaison officer (CLO) at N50,000 each; 3 Barge boys at N40,000 each; 3 Pegger at N40,000 each and seven Security men at N35,000”, he said.

According to Segi, the workers he engaged on the instruction of Chief Penawou worked for 19 months and had to abandon the job due to refusal of their employer to pay them despite the fact that they have responsibilities to take care of.

“A copy of the letter of employment of one of the youths dated December 19, 2011 and signed by one Mr. Kizito Adjekugjele, the Human Resources Manager of First Marine and Engineering Services Ltd is with one of your operatives already investigating a related matter at the SIIB.

“The agreement with Chief Penawou is that the monthly allowance offer of N100,000 to me and the salaries of the workers were tied to the duration of the job. The contract was rounded up in 2020. If we calculate that, then Chief Penawou is owing me N12 million and the balance of N1.5 million promised when he paid the homage to me. He has also not paid the salaries of the workers which accumulated to N12, 255,000 M while my tenure lasted.

“Throughout the period of the contract execution, Chief Penawou did not pay me a dime and that of the employees I sought for him. I made several efforts through prominent Ijaw leaders to prevail on him to fulfill his part of the agreement but he failed to listen to their pleas”, he stated.

Instead, according to the petitioner, Chief Penawou resorted to threatening adding “He usually used some of his security aides to intimidate me wherever we meet and demanded for my money despite several intervention by the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godsday Orubebe who awarded him the contract.

“He told many of the Ijaw leaders that intervened that he actually owed me and the workers but I wonder why he is finding it difficult to honour the agreement. I have an ailment to take care of and family to feed but his refusal to pay is just an act of wickedness and to suffer me. I left all I could do to finance myself all through the period of the contract to serve Chief Penawou and my community.

“Sir, if Chief Penawou deny owing me, please prevail on him to let us follow our ijaw traditional process by swearing which I am also ready to do in the presence of your personnel before I let go.

“At a point, I was so angry and resorted to the press to help draw attention of Government and prominent leaders to prevail on Chief Penawou to pay me my money but he instead wrote a petition against me to your command. An investigation commenced only for him to abandon the matter. I was bundled like a criminal from my Warri residence to Asaba because of that petition.

“I wasn’t angry then but happy with the arrest hoping that the police will help unravel the truth and compel him to pay my money and that of the workers I sought for him but it appears he has achieved his aim and abandon the matter.

“Sir, I am by this petition reopening the matter before your command. Let Chief Penawou come before your office and explain his own side of this issue for you to know the truth and “force” him to pay my money”, he added.

Mr. Segi urges the Delta State Police Commissioner to use his good office to protect and ensure that he is paid for the services rendered to Chief Penawou and his company, First Marine and Engineering Services Ltd.

The petition has been approved by the Delta State Commissioner of Police and forwarded to the SIIB for investigation.