SERAP asks EFCC to investigate Gitto’s church building gift to Jonathan

The Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Monday asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC) to investigate the allegations that an Abuja-based Italian construction company gave a church building to the Nigeria Pressident, Goodluck Jonathan as a gift.

President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife Patience and the Bayelsa state governor, Seriki Dickson during the dedication of the 2,500-seat church building in his home town, Otuoke; the building was donated to him by Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited (GCG).

In a press statement signed by SERAP’s Executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said it “petitioned Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) urging him to “urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into allegations that the Abuja-based Italian construction company, Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited (GCG) gave to President Goodluck Jonathan as ‘gift’ a 2,500-seat church building in Otuoke, his village in Bayelsa State.”

In a petition SERAP sent to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Mumuni said “We are seriously concerned that given the huge sum of money involved and the timing of the church building ‘gift’, the acts may amount to a bribe to the government by a construction company that has sought and obtained huge contracts from the federal government.”

“Procurement and investment agreements corrupted by this kind of ‘gift’ invariably lead to increased costs not only in higher prices but also in needlessly expanded and ultimately inefficient projects,” he added.

He said “Both the acts of giving and accepting the disguised bribe undermine the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardises sustainable development and the rule of law. The acts also hurt the government and ordinary Nigerians who may suffer as a result of bad execution of projects by GCG.”

According to SERAP, “the allegations violate Section 6 of the Code of Conduct for Public officers embodied in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act (CAP C15) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which provides that, “A public officer shall not ask for or accept any property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties. The allegations also constitute a breach of national anti-corruption legislation and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a party.”

The organization also asked the EFCC to “exert its mandate, power, and resources to ensure that the allegations are fully and effectively investigated the findings of the investigation published and the company and other suspected perpetrators held liable.”

“Foreign bribery is a crime even if the briber would have been awarded a contract or business advantage. It is therefore very important that the Commission sends a strong message that it is willing and able to step up its efforts to detect, investigate and prosecute cases of bribery in international business deals,” the organization added.

Read SERAP’s petition to EFCC here.

Last months, local media reported that Mr Jonathan confirmed during the dedication of the 2,500-seat church building in his home town, Otuoke in Bayelsa state that the building was donated to him by Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited (GCG).

According to him, the Managing Director of Gitto made him a promise to build and donate the church to Otuoke community after he had complained of the aging structure of his church, which apparently no longer befits the status of the president’s village.

Gitto construction is a company stained with controversies in the areas it operates, it is facing allegations of destroying properties in Eket (Akwa Ibom) without compensating the property owners, as well as abandoning the Bodo-Bonny road in Bayelsa.

Also, only recently a group of lawmakers in the National Assembly have called on Mr Jonathan to review the N 58.6 billion contract awarded Gitto for the Second Niger bridge.

All these developments are fueling speculations that the church was built in order to give Gitto construction a smooth landing as the President reviews their contracts.