The family of the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof Orunmwense is in a fresh scandal, this time, with an in-law, Michael Ashien.
Mr. Ashien, a brother to Franca Oril Orumwense has hauled his older sister to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for extorting him to the tune of N92,000,000 (Ninety-two million naira).
The problem began for Ashien when he wrote an authorization letter to the University of Benin, requesting the money to be paid into his sister’s account after a series of failed efforts to get paid for a contract completely executed for the University.
Ashien bided and was granted the contracts to be executed between 2016 and 2017 and invoices put in for payment. Some of the contracts were the supply of computers to the ICT Unit of the University; supply of chairs to the University Library and others by Prof Orunmwense (Brother-in-law).
Educational lectures however gathered that after the completion of the contracts, the University withheld payments despite ceaseless requests from the contractor.
Ashien banked on his sister, whom he had lived with in the past coupled with her close relationship with the University as the wife of the then Vice-Chancellor to procure the payment.
According to a copy of the letter, Ashien’s legal counsel, Goode and Company Solicitors, Legal Practitioners and Corporate Advisers addressed to the EFCC, seen by educational lectures, Mrs. Franca Orunmwense had said: “if the University Management sees my name and account number in respect of the contract, they will pay the contract sum without delay because I am the Vice-Chancellor’s wife and nobody toys with what I am interested in”.
Ashien who spoke with educational lectures on Sunday said his sister advised him to write a letter of authorization, instructing the University to pay the contract sum into her account.
The frantic Ashien wrote the authorization letter to the University on the 14th of June 2018 instructing the University to pay the contract sum into a Fidelity Bank Account No. 6060253382 supplied by his sister.
Ashien faced a different challenge as Mrs. Orunmwense refused to release the said money, instead accused her brother of owing her more money.
In December 2019, the disappointed contractor wrote a letter to the EFCC.
The legal counsel wrote “That on receipt of the said letter, the University paid our Client’s contract sum of N92,000,000 (Ninety-two Million Naira) in Mrs. Franca Oil Orumwense’s account, but she bluntly refused to remit the said sum to our Client, instead she willfully defrauded our Client of the money in spite of several demands.
“That on the 17th day of December 2019, our Client caused his solicitor to write a payment of his money paid into her account but rather than address our client’s demand she wrote a reply through her solicitor dated January 6th, 2020 making unfounded/baseless allegations and also indicting her husband, the former Vice-Chancellor of money laundering. The letter is attached hereto as Annexure 11 for your perusal.
“That from the foregoing, it is clear that Mrs. Franca Oril Orumwense has defrauded our client of the sum of N92,000,000 (Ninety-two Million Naira) only he legitimately earn from contracts executed in the University of Benin.
“We, therefore, urge you to use your good office to investigate Mrs. Franca Oril Orumwense for this massive fraud, financial crimes, and possibly prosecution.”
In her defense, Mrs. Franca Orunmwense alleged that she loaned the sum of N45,000,000 (Forty-five Million Naira) to her brother, Ashien for a business transaction. She also claimed her brother could not account for the money when required.
On a separate occasion, the wife of the ex-Vice Chancellor said she also gave another N39,500,000 (Thirty-nine Million, Five Hundred thousand) to her brother who has yet to repay the said amount.
In the same letter she addressed to her brother’s lawyer, Mrs. Orunmwense claimed she, for the third time, gave her brother N2, 100,000 (Two Million, one hundred thousand nairas) and another N6, 387, 500 (Six Million, Three hundred and Eighty-seven, five hundred) to execute contract for the University of Benin.
“It is not true that our client, particularly Mrs. Orumwense, ever advised your client by way of assurances in her capacity as the wife of the Vice-Chancellor, to issue a letter of authorization dated 14th day of June 2018 in her favor, save and except to partially remedy and satisfy the huge sum of indebtedness owed to the family of Orunmwense.
“Prior to the said 2018, your client has always been duly credited with the proceeds from the contract sum directly into his designated account and not to the account of one of our client Mrs. Orumwense.”
She also argued that the said letter of authorization was executed in the presence of witnesses acquainted with the facts of indebtedness of her brother, Ashien.
Adding “Your client is still heavily indebted to our clients to the tune of N17, 587, 500.00 (seventeen Million, Five hundred and eighty-seven thousand, five hundred Naira)”
In the same reply, Mrs. Orunmwense gave her brother 21 days to pay the alleged outstanding sum of N17, 587, 500 and failure, she said, would resort to any action deemed appropriate.
Meanwhile, Ashien denied borrowing money from Mrs. Orunmwense. He told educational lectures crew on Sunday that the sister concocted the story as her defense not to pay the money.
He, however, disclosed that they both partnered in some businesses, arguing that there was no money owed.
“That is a false statement. We did some job together, she is just cooking up a false allegation. If you look at her reply, she said I signed. I don’t where all those are coming from. The names she mentioned in the letter are forged names.
“She runs a company but she is not the director of the company, and she is not a signatory of the company. The money was paid into that company’s account. The company is owned by the cousin. My sister is a contractor at the University of Benin too.”
The EFCC, Benin branch has invited both parties on Wednesday for questioning.
More to come on several corruption allegations against Prof. Orunmwense’s administration as the University of Benin Vice-Chancellor.