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OPINION

A.B.C Orjiako, Shebah Petroleum and creditor banks: Getting the facts right

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Facts emerging in the on-going case between Shebah Exploration and its creditor banks which has been reported by few media channels since a Thisday newspaper publication of Sunday October 14, 2018 have provided actual  insights.

Further investigations into recent reports reveal that actual facts are at variance with contents of the publication.

In the said publication, the writer made references to an ongoing legal matter involving Shebah Petroleum, its owner Orjiako and some of their creditor banks.

Sources knowledgeable about the matter indicate that the story contained some misrepresentations leaving the facts of the matter at variance with the contents of the publication.

Contrary to the publication, it was the banks: Afrexim bank, Skye bank (now Polaris)  and Diamond bank who filed the action at the Lagos high court, where they registered the judgement of the English Court. So, any suggestion that the judgement was registered in Nigeria with the knowledge of the defendants is false.

The fact of the matter is that Shebah Exploration, Allenne Ltd and Dr Orjiako merely filed defensive action against the registration of the summary of the English court’s judgement.

Now to the issue of payment; contrary to the insinuation that Shebah had only paid back about $6.1million, the fact is that Shebah has been working to negotiate and settle with the creditor banks and meet its obligations in respect of the facility. Going by evidence filed at the Federal High Court Lagos, Shebah has paid back over $68 million in principal and interest to the creditor banks and is committed to full resolution of the issues of the loan.

Another fact that was glossed over in the report is that creditor banks suffered a huge setback when they made an attempt to obtain a Mareva injunction (freezing order) and failed as the presiding judge ruled against the creditor’s application on 25th September, 2018 according to the records of the court.

SEPCOL is a foremost indigenous player in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, which became the first indigenous company to operate an offshore shallow water block with an FPSO, following the acquisition of 40% working interest in OML 108 from ConocoPhillips in 2004. SEPCOL was producing and meeting its obligations until 2014 when it suffered inconclusive workover program due to inadequate funding and collapse of oil prices. Consequently, the creditor banks called the facility on the company after two and half years tenure. The default in the facility was further triggered when the lenders declined a $50m repayment offer from a reputable Nigerian bank that offered to join the syndication with an additional facility in the sum of $200m

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OPINION

Kogi East Senate: Open debate will guarantee transparency and accountability, By John Paul

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Considering the present state of affairs, 2019 election season is one we cannot afford to make old mistakes. Why? Because, the system has become so progressively worse that such may lead to the end of Kogi East senatorial districts. As a matter of reality, there is no alternative to amelioration of the dilapidated legislative and socioeconomic strides. And there is no time other than now to right the wrong. We must get things fixed now or forever live as refugees in our fatherland.

Take it or leave, a lot of people travels far away to another part of the country in search of greener field. Not because Kogi East perhaps the state entirely is not economically endowed. But because, the inhabitants of power blocs don’t have political will for a judicious use of what we have. Efficaciously, Kogi Easterners have found solace in their present place of abode regardless of how unsecured it is. Those living in the Northern part can testify. We have heard of several crisis rocking places like Kaduna, Kano, Jos etc. But the decision to return home is always uttered by the rotten state of Economy, political warping and security upheavals.

It might also interest you to know that, had Kogi East produced a genuine candidate in the legislative assembly, Kogi would have been listed among the oil producing states in Nigeria, With Kogi East as epicenter. Apart from the controversial Ibaji oil well, I can mention at least four or five oil wells discovered so far in Kogi east yet to be explored. And those who are conversant with benefits accrued to these Niger Delta states knows Kogi has missed numerous financial/infrastructural opportunities.

Igala/Bassa are the majority ethnic groups in Kogi state. Therefore it’s expected that issues sheltering the welfare of the state at large should have our representatives at the fore struggling for it. But on the contrary, lack of commitment by our legislators outweighed our roles on such core issues. For instance, the revamping of Ajaokuta steel company (the largest steel complex in West Africa). There had never been a time the current legislators raised or supported a bill on Ajaokuta steel revival. But the minority had continuously done so. To the glory of God, information reaching me few hours ago has it that, the bill soliciting over $1 billion investment on Ajaokuta steel company has been passed into law.

Again, it my surprise you to know that, if not for the intervention of a venerable daughter of Egbiraland and a Senatorial aspirant (Barrister Natasha Akpoti), the state government at a time went into unholy alliance with some Igala elites (name withheld) to sell out our God given asset- Ajaokuta steel. I know that even if Kogi central refuse to campaign for her, (Natasha Akpoti) God almighty will. Because as far as I have seen, she represents a brighter light for Kogi central.

It would be a gripping tale if I reveal that my findings shows 90% of coal Americans are using today is illegally mined from Kogi state. I will not discuss this details. Please do your findings and prove my lies. But why is this so apt here? Everyone knows the important of coal to electricity generation. So, had our lawmakers been able to think outside the box and tap into coal (which we have in abundance in Kogi state), perhaps the state government made efforts to it, by now unemployment palavers would have been minimal in the state. But to God be the glory, God is given us a governor that has penned down utilization of coal in his agenda comes 2019. He has pledged to serve only four years, after which Kogi state will be revived again.

No time is more telling than now. Kogi East cannot afford a self ambitious lawmaker anymore. But a sound technocrat with untainted abode. And with copious knowledge of our socioeconomic debut.

How do we achieve this? Its through collective behest to produce a grass-root oriented representative. A vision bearer with political sagacity and capacity to unite Igala/Bassa on the various fonts.

Let me be frank with us. Open debate for senatorial aspirants may not guarantee 100% thrust for all-inclusive and transparent legislation. But to a magnificent extents, we can be rest assured. So instead of keeping mute while justice gets slaughtered year in year out, why can’t we err our voices and bring the illusion to a logical end?

Open debate will be all about deepening democracy. It’s all about transparency and accountability. It would be all about a nation where it’s government will depend on the masses for survival contrary to the status quo. Open debate lends credibility to genuine stewardship. It’s is the criteria for equitable distribution of common wealth. Open debate is the bedrock for a sound and secured Kogi East we all aspires.

I hereby call on the Nigeria election debate group (NEDG), media houses, NGOs and all concerned to help shape Kogi East political hemisphere by bringing all our gladiators to the podium for a live debate. Remember, Kogi East political fortune remains a must raveled mystery. Therefore, no stone should be left unturned.

 

I stand for justice.

 

JOHN PAUL (OPERATION WIN BACK KOGI STATE)

07064258752.

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OPINION

Between Diamond Bank and Seyi Bickersteth: The unanswered questions, By Rafiu Adegboye

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Over the past few weeks, Diamond Bank Plc has been enmeshed in various dramas and just when it seemed that the bank had risen from the storms and was on an upward trajectory, a new twist emerged when Mr. Seyi Bickersteth, one of the ex- directors that resigned from the bank made some allegations against the management of the bank.

Mr. Bickersteth is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and has served as Chief Executive Officer at KPMG Professional Services Limited.

There is a popular maxim that says “He who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” Mr. Bickersteth also served for a time on the board of ARM Holding company (Asset Resource Management) and it is rumoured that his exit was shrouded with allegations of improper conduct. What exactly took him off the board of ARM? A quick search of his profile online does not list his time at ARM under his biography. The CBN similarly appointed him to the board of 9mobile (formerly Etisalat) and till date we are yet to see how well that has fared so far.

The former minister of petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke likewise appointed Mr. Bickersteth to a special committee to oversee the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) during her tenure. The brazen allegations of corruption and mismanagement carried out under her watch has since been exposed and is currently the subject of international probes and is being investigated by the Courts even now.

His involvement with Diamond Bank started when he was appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Director in Diamond Bank on June 26, 2018 and resigned in October of the same year. He has denied his resignation, claiming that he did not resign but was forced out but investigations reveal this as a falsehood. There is evidence that he did resign and his letter was forwarded to the appropriate regulatory authorities. His denial of his resignation brings to question his motives.

Mr. Bickersteth’s actions after his resignation have been questionable to say the least. This leads one to wonder, is he acting out a sinister agenda hatched out by some people? He has tried to portray himself as a saint yet his actions run contrary to this image and depict that of a person on a mission to bring down an institution with a well-established name and history.

As a professional who has worked at executive level at a highly reputable Consulting firm, if there were issues with Diamond Bank should he not have approached the regulator and tabled his matters rather than sending or leaking letters to the press, engaging in interviews that have only served to sully the brand name of an organization he was chosen to serve?

He has embarked on a campaign of calumny against the bank alleging all sorts of allegations and claims against the management. In one of his attacks, he wrote a letter where he stated that “My overall and irrevocable interest remains ensuring the reversal of the declining fortunes of DIAMONDBANK, as well as ensuring that no party, however and wherever placed, threatens the survival of Diamond Bank”.

Curiously however, financial and market analysts maintain that before his recent attacks against the bank, Diamond bank shares were actually on the upswing and rose by 57% in five days after its announcement of CBN’s approval of its application to operate as a national bank in line with its “objective of streamlining its operations to focus resources on the significant opportunities in the Nigerian retail banking market, and economy as a whole.”

Barely had shareholders begun to heave a sigh of relief and analysts start to look through the positivity of this new development as reflected in the new Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of Diamond bank with Financial experts lauding the move as an indication that its management is strengthening its domestic competition and boosting its earnings at the same time creating value for its shareholders, when another letter hit the media and public again.

Mr. Bickersteth’s actions seem in direct contradiction to what he claimed in his letter. He claims to be acting in the interest of the bank and its shareholders yet his actions have directly led to a drop in share price which will adversely impact on the shareholders. Investigations have also revealed that before his resignation, Mr. Bickersteth was appointed to the Diamond Bank board on the recommendation of a majority shareholder in Diamond bank yet his actions are running contrary to the interest of the group. Sources even say that the CBN had questioned his independence on the board of Diamond bank. This begs the question, in whose interest is Mr. Bickersteth acting and why is he crying louder than the majority shareholders who have maintained a dignified silence in the face of his rants and accusations. In the past few months, the value of the shares of Diamond bank have dropped dramatically following all these board shenanigans.

So exactly whose side is he on? From a neutral standpoint, it appears that the Diamond bank brand is being dragged through the mud, in trying to “protect” the interest of the business, the staff and shareholders have watched helplessly as their beloved business is maligned in letters and statements leaked to the press. Is this the best way to go?

Is Mr. Bickersteth’s buttons being pushed by a group of people that are threatened by the rising potential of Diamond bank and are seeking to ruin its upward trajectory by any means or are his attacks based on a more personal reason? Why is Mr. Bickersteth the only one of the Directors that resigned the one making all the accusations and trying to tarnish the banks image? After all, there are three board directors who resigned at the same time that he did and these people have not in any way corroborated his misinformation and have distanced themselves from him and his actions.

These are some of the questions that these silent sufferers would want to ask the erstwhile chairman.

-Adegboye, a financial analyst wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.

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OPINION

Isa Pantami as a metaphor, By Adamu Tilde

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NITDA DG, Dr. Isa Pantami. PHOTO: NITDA
By Adamu Tilde
The appointment of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), September 2016, to the position of the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) by president Muhammadu Buhari could have provoked the usual and expected bashings of the north by the Southern press as a product of quota and federal character system. For the fact that Dr. Pantami had a steady academic career that spanned for almost two decades, rising to the position of an associate professor, put an end to the question of competence and merit; his expertise and training in the IT-industry made the appointment more relevant and timely.
There is this weird stereotype, even if absurd and baseless, that outlived its usefulness despite its refusal to die peacefully and efforts by its advocates to deliberately— even if illogically— make a statement of fact that a Northerner, no matter how trained and well-grounded, could not attain the pinnacle of his career purely on merit without a policy of federal character system or patronage by the power that be. Farfetched as it is, this belief is held by a large chunk of those not from the North. [His Royal Highness] Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was a victim of that narrative; he had his credentials challenged, his competence ridiculed and his merit questioned. Never mind the irony in the misdirected protests given that, then, before his appointment, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was heading the largest bank in West Africa. Kemi Adeosun and Babatunde Fowler were given a vote of confidence even without been subjected to any competency test while Hadiza Bala Usman could not be given. Why? well, she is from the other side of the Niger. Nothing could be more ridiculous!
It is no longer news that Dr. Pantami is steadily and meticulously positioning NITDA to its deserving status as the country’s regulatory body of the IT industry. This essay will attempt to chronicle the journey so far of the chief technology officer of the country, particularly with respect to competence, fairness and cosmopolitanism. His preferred prefix, Sheikh, for some inexplicable reason evokes mixed metaphors. However, Dr. Pantami is daily proving the nay-sayers by being like what the Hausas call ‘Murucin kan Dutse’— he came well-prepared!
Following the signing of Executive Order 003 by the present administration, reference to a circular from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation on the implementation of executive order 003 on support for local content in public procurements, and building on the success story of the implementation of local content policy in the Oil and Gas industry; NITDA through its local content policy thrust that promotes patronage of “Made-in-Nigeria” goods and services with the goal of strengthening the Naira, creating jobs, grow entrepreneurial capability to engender competition among local manufacturers that will drive down cost and improve quality;  Independent Software Vendors, Original Design Manufacturers, Original Equipment Manufacturers and host of other IT related services are smiling to their banks as a result of unprecedented patronage they currently enjoy from MDAs.
Today, for example, NITDA under the supervision of Dr. Pantami, through its subsidiary office – Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC) – had transformed the local “Original Equipment Manufacturers” into a vibrant sector of the IT-industry from an abysmal performance in the purchase of 92,000 units of IT-equipment only by MDAs in 2015 to 350,000 units of IT facilities purchased by the MDAs in 2017. This unprecedented achievement is largely due to the charismatic leadership of the NITDA that dutifully follow, supervise and uphold the rule of law. To demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law, there was a report on how a single MDA made a purchase of 10.5B worth of ICT facilities locally— this was after its short stay at EFCC custody of which NITDA orchestrated.
Again, our young innovators have never been happier. Through the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE), a subsidiary of NITDA, today, startups and innovators are given an unprecedented support, motivation and encouragement to showcase their creativity, originality and ingenuity. Platforms, locally and at the global stage, were and are still being offered to our innovators to compete and demonstrate their competence in solving problems and proffering solutions using information and communication technology. Ten and six innovators were rigorously and fairly selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants, and sponsored to participate in the 2017 and 2018 The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) – an annual consumer computer and electronics trade show, exhibition and conference, Dubai – respectively.
Also, StartUp Friday, another event specifically created to identify, evaluate, encourage and support promising innovators, which were hitherto restricted to Lagos and Abuja has now enjoyed geographical spread for inclusion and equal participation. Under the supervision of Dr. Pantami, StartUp Friday has taken place in Gombe, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, and Kaduna. Given the publicity NITDA offered to startups, today our startups had in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter of 2018 alone contributed 9M, 57M and 35M USD respectively to our GDP. Through the strategic leadership of Dr. Pantami, ICT had contributed 13.36% of Nigeria’s GDP by the 2nd quarter of 2018. This is a record achievement by the competent leadership manning the affairs of NITDA. Like Dr. Pantami is fond of saying: the statistics are there.
In a widely publicized press release of the beneficiaries of NITDA Scholarship, Dr. Pantami has yet again demonstrated a sense of fairness, equity, inclusiveness and cosmopolitanism that is rarely found in our current democratic setting. Unlike what characterized BEA or PRESSID Scholarship, NITDA scholarship is equitably distributed among successful candidates without the minutest exhibition of preference to a particular region or tribe.
In an essay, “Isa Ali Pantami: A Role Model of Leadership in Nigeria”, my good friend, Dr. MD Aminu, succinctly and compellingly argued that (and I paraphrase): what Nigeria needs at this trying moments are people like Dr. Pantami to influence the affairs of government. The dirt in Nigeria’s leadership can only be cleansed by encouraging good people to participate in the leadership process to flush it out of its current situation, its wanton depravity.
The opportunity to serve Nigeria in public office for Dr. Pantami came as a delight and a renewal of hope in the Nigerian project. People who had followed Dr. Pantami through his scholastic pedigree and personal antecedents for several years had hoped for his recognition in government where his impact will be most felt. I am confident that Dr. Pantami’s best is yet to come if he continues to exude managerial excellence in many aspects within Nigeria’s IT industry and maintain the positive traits everyone would expect from him. If he continues in the path of upholding probity and accountability in executing the core mandates of the organization that he leads, if he continues towards a visionary leadership formed from a well-thought-out perception, then he will carve out a place for himself as a leader whose styles are not usually common, and from whom others could learn
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