Ondo state government has tackled the lawmaker representing Ondo Central senatorial district, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, over unfounded allegations that the state government had concluded plans to sell off the Chocolate factory at Idanre, in Idanre Local Government Area of the state, for less than N100m.
The state government stated that the allegations are not only untrue but unfounded and described the Senator’s allegations as an attempt to pitch the people of the state against the state government.
Akinyelure had alleged that some aides of governor Rotimi Akeredolu are taking advantage of the governor’s ill health to sell some state assets at ridiculous amounts, saying they are giving out chocolate factory worth between N9bn and N15bn at a give-away price of N100m.
But while speaking on the allegations, the Senior Special Assistant (Agric & Agribusiness) to the governor, Akin Olotu, said the claim of the senator was not true, but admitted that the state government wanted to sell the chocolate company, but the process was not yet concluded and has not been sold.
According to him, the State Asset Disposing Committee had placed an advert in a national daily on September 16, 2022, and September 19, 2022, asking for submission of expression of interest in the chocolate manufacturing company.
Olotu however, said only two companies showed interest in the company and the committee had done the evaluation and other necessary processes and handed them over to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for necessary assessment.
He explained that it is after the Bureau completes its processing that the documents would be presented to the state Executive Council for ratification before the chocolate manufacturing company could be handed over to the better bidder after paying the required sum.
Olotu said: “The factory was an uncompleted project inherited from the immediate past administration. It was completed by this administration using the same consultant we inherited.
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“The contract the state had with the consultant gave him “right of first refusal” in the privatization and running of the factory. This administration complied with that provision by entering into an agreement with him. He was to roll out chocolate from the factory on April 2, 2020, unfortunately he couldn’t return to the country because of COVID-19 outbreak.
“However, he put up another proposal with a humongous financial implication, demanding for another set of equipment including bringing in of many other workers from the United States.
“The position of the State, was that he should begin operation with what is on ground as the procurement and setting up were 100 percent done by him.
“Some Nigerians were put together to run the factory, they did exceedingly well technically, but were not having the needed fund to take it over. The leader on ground (Mr Robo Aduze) in the factory died last year and the State Government decided to advertise the factory for outright sales or partnership, in national and state newspapers, calling for tenders as statutorily required.
“This was done by the investment Agency of the State, Ondo State Development Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA)”
He explained further that “Evaluation assessment was carried out by the appropriate ministry (Ministry of Lands, Infrastructure and Works) to determine the value.
“At the expiration of the period in the advert and all other needed due diligence, the two bids were opened in the presence of all committee members drawn from all the MDAs mentioned above and also the two companies that bidded.
“Extension was given to one of the companies to address the omission in his bid and was advised to visit the factory for on the spot assessment.
“The report was collated by ONDIPA and forwarded to the Bureau of Public Procurement for further benchmarking. This is where we are to the best of my knowledge and my findings.
“It is after the benchmarking which is still on-going that the report will go to the State Executive Council for consideration, approval or otherwise.
“At this junction, it is crucial for me to mention that N100m or even N200. was never in consideration as none of the tender was below N300”
Coroborating Olotu, a member of the State Assets Disposition Committee, Mr. Emmanuel Omomewo, from Ondo State Development Investment Promotion Agency(ONDIPA), said the company has not been sold but still undergoing processing
Omomewo who disclosed that the chocolate company was valued above N400m but less than N500m and maintained that the company is still undergoing process and has not been sold, saying due diligence was followed in the process to sell the chocolate factory.
Akinyelure had last week specifically alleged Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Agriculture, Olotu, of conniving with some people to illegally sell out the state chocolate factory worth between N9bn and N15bn at a give-away price of N10m.