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Puzzle over Enugu govt’s N100b deal with four days old Pragmatic Palms Ltd

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Ben Ezechime, Enugu (ikengaonline.com)

The Labour Party In Enugu State has raised the alarm over the partnership agreement recently signed by the Enugu State Government and Pragmatic Palms Products Limited for the resuscitation of the state owned United Palm Products Limited Enugu.

In a public statement made available to Ikengaonline in Enugu on Monday, the Chairman of the opposition party, Barrister Cosmos Agbo, alleged that the company was registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on May 4, 2024.

“The attention of the Enugu State chapter of the Labour Party has been drawn to a major news headline emanating from the office of the Governor of the state, Governor Peter Mbah, purporting that a N100 billion partnership has been reached with a company by the name, Pragmatic Palms Limited, towards the revival of the state-owned United Palm Products Limited.

‘This piece of news, widely published in various national news channels claims the project, which will see the state government invest a staggering N100 billion, will support efforts at job creation while also boosting the agricultural potentials of the state.

‘We are raising this alarm because the entire project smells of large-scale fraud and as a responsible and responsive political party, we owe it to the people of the state, the duty of drawing their attention to what we see as economic rape and corrupt tendencies,” LP said.

The party revealed that checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) had created a cloud of suspicion around the project.

According to LP: “Following our discovery that Pragmatic Palms Limited was registered only on May 6, 2024, four days before the partnership agreement was signed with the Enugu State Government on May 10, 2024.

“This partnership defies logic and due diligence because it is practically impossible for a state government to enter into such a large-scale partnership with a company that was so newly incorporated, and as a result, lacks the requisite experience and professional track record to handle such a humongous project.

“It is important to also draw the attention of the people of Enugu State, the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the anticorruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to what looks like a grand plan to divert the resources of Enugu State through what looks like a conduit.

“We say this because further checks reveal that Pragmatic Palms Limited was referenced in the news items as a subsidiary of another company known as Diamond Stripes Limited, a business owned by one Prof George Nwangwu and his wife.”

The party wondered how the state government decided to trust N100 billion belonging to the over-taxed and deprived people of the state to “a glorified sole proprietorship, something that has to be explained.”

“Diamond Stripes Limited, it is also worth highlighting, started business in 2013 and has its capacities in the area of hydroelectric generation and port management.

“Nowhere, on its website was its capacity for agriculture and agro-processing mentioned. More worrisome is the fact that the owner of the company, Prof George Nwangwu, has no known track record in agriculture and related areas.

“We even went further to explore the search engine and the George Nwangwu we were able to find is a professor of Law and has never been involved in anything relating to agriculture before the N100 billion deal he reached with the Government of Enugu State.

“We are worried because a lot of things in the transaction do not appear straightforward. First, by sheer stroke of coincidence, Pragmatic Palms Limited’s registered office located at 5 Kokoma Close, Wuse II, Abuja, appeared in our search to be the same as that of a Law firm, Ratio Legal Practitioners LLP, which also processed the registration of Pragmatic Palms Limited.

“It is also worrisome that although Pragmatic Palms Limited was mentioned in the press release as a subsidiary of Diamond Stripes Limited, there was no indication that Diamond Stripes is a shareholder in Pragmatic Palms Limited. The only shareholder that was returned in the search is a certain George Nwangwu, who curiously owns the entire one million shares of the company.

“We are also worried that while on its website, Diamond Stripes Limited claimed it was in the business of electricity generation, ports services and the building of silos, data on its registration documents at the Corporate Affairs Commission indicated that it was registered “to carry on the business of manufacturer, importation, exportation, distribution, promotion, sales, supply and marketing of all types of products, materials, agents, reagents and equipment. to engage in the business of real estate and property.”

The suspicion heightens given the fact that the CAC no longer permits the registration and operation of omnibus businesses in Nigeria,” Agbo said.

It called on “the good people of Enugu State to be vigilant.

“We also invite the anticorruption agencies to investigate this transaction with a view to saving the people of Enugu State from what looks like a bogus transaction designed to facilitate diversion of money belonging to the people.”

“While we welcome efforts to revive some of the moribund companies belonging to the state, especially those that were established by our visionary leaders of yore such as the late Michael Iheonukara Okpara, we demand that such has to be done transparently and in ways that would not raise suspicions of corrupt intentions.

“The people of Enugu State are currently under a crushing tax siege as the government has made it its business to impose all manner of levies on every little business operating in the state.

“We insist that these monies being squeezed from the poor masses of the state must be appropriated accountably and invested in tangible projects of measurable economic impact and not on bogus projects with a suspicious company as partner,” LP said.

● Report by ikengaonline.com

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