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INVESTIGATION

NBET MD, Marilyn Amobi allegedly squanders billions, harasses staff with police

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The managing director/chief executive officer of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc., Dr Marilyn Amobi is in the news again for the wrong reasons, The Witness learnt.

She has been accused of flagrant disobedience to extant circulars and the desperation to allegedly amass wealth illegally thereby leading to her deployment of armed policemen with AK47 to harass and humiliate any staff who refuses to cooperate on her alleged illicit deals.

A staff who spoke on condition of anonymity confided in The Witness that some staff have petitioned the Inspector General of Police on the harassment being suffered from armed policemen stationed on the floors of the Bank of Industry building occupied by NBET at the Central Business Area, Abuja each working day. The policemen, we learnt, are being funded by NBET with taxpayers’ money.

Dr. Amobi, The Witness gathered was said to have bought cars worth over N400million in the last one year without commensurate performance in collections from Electricity Distribution Companies, otherwise called DISCOS. Our source disclosed that all the cars and office relocation expenses in the 2017 budget worth over one billion naira were allegedly procured using over-invoicing, contract splitting to avoid being queried by either the Federal Executive Council or ministerial approval threshold as virtually those procurements were wasteful spending of public funds. More worrisome is the shocking revelation from Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission that the commission was prudent by transferring the vehicle used by the vice chairman of the commission to the newly appointed chairman of NERC so as to minimise wasteful spending of public funds.

The Witness authoritatively gathered that both the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation have swung into action aimed at unraveling the alleged massive corruption being perpetrated in Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc by its boss and her cohorts. A whopping sum of N102million contained in the 2018 budget awaiting assent under the heading of library is currently being sponsored by a foreign donor in addition to funding for provision of legal advisory services among others, these amounts of money are still budgeted for by NBET in the 2018 fiscal year. Investors and other stakeholders are wondering why Dr Marilyn Amobi appears untouchable and why pre/post consideration of NBET budget by the National Assembly are not subjected to scrutiny given all the atrocities she has perpetrated since her assumption of office.

However, Dr Amobi is not new to scandals. A training institute in Denmark attended by both staff and non-staff of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) has affiliate with the firm incorporated in Nigeria by Dr Marilyn Amobi.

Several hundred millions of Naira from capital budget and receipts from distribution companies are being used to fund all the illegal foreign training, The Witness learnt. Our source further divulged that Dr. Amobi is able to perpetrate the fraud using her company incorporated as ESL Economics and Management Associates Ltd with RC NO- 1025108.

The registered address of the company is Plot 604, Hunkuyi Close, Area 11, Garki, Abuja and has the first directors as Dr Marilyn Chikaodili Nwanneka Amobi and Dr Ifeoma Edna Amobi holding 80% and 20% share respectively. A certificate number 751030 was issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission for increase in the company share from 1 million to 20 million and the address was changed to 46, Lobito Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.

Upon the appointment of Dr Marilyn as NBET’s MD/CEO, The Witness gathered that the NBET Chief resigned from being member of the board of directors but retained her shareholding of 80% in the company till date. Professor Erik Reimer Larsen who was responsible for the academic training programme in Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University Denmark regarding professional training programme is a partner in ESL Economics and Management Associates Ltd.

Another scandal was loading when on 28th of November 2017, a whopping N65 Million from public funds was alleged to have been spent by the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) under her for an 11-day trip to Gainesville, Florida, despite federal government’s restriction on foreign travels and trainings abroad.

A circular conveying the message, titled ‘Restrictions on Foreign Trainings and International Travels by Public Servants,’ was issued from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to all ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government in 2015, placing an embargo on foreign travels and international trainings.

“Public servants invited for foreign trainings/study tour, conferences by any organisation, government or other bilateral/multilateral organisation will be allowed to travel provided that no travel cost, estacode application or any other cost on government is involved,” the circular stated.

In defiance of the federal government’s rule, Dr Amobi had given a directive to spend $96,350 USD of public funds for participation at the 43rd International training programme on the utility regulation and strategy held in January 15-26 2018 in Gainsville, Florida, USA, by members of the National Assembly committees on power.

A whistleblower had alleged that the National Assembly members did not attend the event, describing it as a shocking waste of tax payers’ money.

The National Assembly members were Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, (PDP Abia), Senator Adamu Aliero, (APC Kebbi), Senator Lanre Tejuosho, (APC Ogun), Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, (PDP Abia), Hon. Daniel Asuquo, (PDP Cross River) Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo, (APC Bauchi).

Independent investigation revealed that an additional $7,200  was charged by the organizers of the training for each participant, revealing an additional N15 million tab by the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc.

More revelations show that Dr Marilyn has unplucked wings because of her rooted relationship in the Ministry Of Power, Finance, National Assembly and the Presidency that she can do and undo. Our undercover journalist had earlier reported how N650million not included in the 2017 budget proposal submitted by Mr President to the national assembly found its way into 2017 appropriation tagged as office relocation wherein the current office being used by NBET is befitting enough.

The approved N650million was forcefully cash backed and has been syphoned. Reports had it also on how Dr Marilyn used the national assembly through house committee on power to publish public hearing notice on the dailies against her employer, disagreement erupted when the document given to Dr Marilyn for publication on Calabar PRG was tampered with before been published; the said public hearing was eventually swept under the carpet because of the betrayal of NBET boss. A clerk with the knowledge of the shoddy dealing informed us on the condition of anonymous that there was no evidence of neither approval nor payment for the publication of the public hearing notice.

Several reports on social media shows unethical dealings of NBET boss since her assumption of office till date and nothing was done to investigate those deals by the anti-graft agencies of the federal government due fear.

In line with The Witness investigative journalism practice, our reporter contacted Dr. Amobi for her angle to the allegations, but there was no response as at press time.

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INVESTIGATION

Kogi East Senate: PDP candidate, Sen. Aidoko’s dilemma

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If information filtering in from Kogi State political circle is anything to go by, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Kogi East senatorial candidate in the 2019 election who also is the present lawmaker representing the district at the upper chamber, Senator Attai Aidoko could as well add “former” to his appellations as his greatest challenge appears to be coming from his party, the PDP, on account of his my-money-can-get-it disposition as well as his notoriety for using and dumping party faithful.

A few days ago, he enlisted the Odoma Attah Igala and a few party stalwarts to begin the process of reconciliation with aggrieved party members ahead of the senatorial election in weeks. Aidoko is banking on the Atiku influence and the “level of political literacy” of his people to be victorious. But, times have changed as the other two major contenders and Parties appear to have dug deeper than any reconciliation can abate.

Statistically, all the political parties in Kogi East account for less than 30% of the electorate leaving over 500,000 votes to the decision of the electorates assuming party members will, without question, vote the candidates on their various platforms.

There’s also the issue of constituency loyalty and certain salient understanding on the region to produce the next senator of Kogi East, not on the front burner but very major decider of the voting pattern in the forthcoming senatorial election.

In the final analysis, the senatorial race has become a two-horse one between Dr. Victor Alewo Adoji of the ADC and Alhaji Jibrin Isah aka, Echocho of the APC. Two candidates are strong in their own rights and in the end it comes down to two things: alliances and partnerships across concerns and interests.

As for Senator Aidoko, he has deceit, double-speak and payback to contend with. Whether he’s able to circumvent the imaginary huddles and leverage the acceptability of Atiku, his party’s presidential candidate is left to be seen.

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INVESTIGATION

Ocean Marine exposes Kola Karim’s Shoreline, Eraskorp and the Trans Forcados Pipeline underhand dealings

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If the indigenous oil industry is a tableau of treachery and cold ruthlessness, the promoters of Ocean Marine Solutions believe that billionaire Kola Karim and his Shoreline Natural Resources Limited and Eraskorp Nigeria Limited embody all that is perfidious and despicable about the industry. And they have good grounds for their belief.

OMS is a leading asset protection company dedicated to protecting Nigeria’s natural resources from graft and illegal activities and has a successful track record of securing strategic national infrastructure and stopping illegal bunkering, vandalism and oil theft. Incorporated inDecember 2010, Shoreline Natural Resources, owned by Karim, acquired 45% stake in Oil Mining Lease 30 (OML). Eraskorp Nigeria Limited, on the other hand, is a multi-service conglomerate, which provides solutions and services across several industries such as power, oil and gas, security agribusiness, infrastructural development and real estate.

What connects the three entities is their operations in the oil sector, particularly the Trans Forcados Pipeline, which is the major trunk line in the Forcados Pipeline System. After the Bonny Oil Pipeline System, the TFP is the second largest network in the Niger Delta, transporting about 200,000 to 240,000 barrels of crude per day equivalent to 14% of Nigeria’s daily production. Thus, the TFP is the key to transporting crude oil from some of Nigeria’s largest and most prolific assets and it is therefore of fundamental national strategic importance.

In recent time, however, the OMS claims that it has been the victim of a crude smear campaign orchestrated by Karim and his cohorts at Eraskorp.

In a strongly-worded reaction to what it terms the outrageous, untrue, defamatory allegations being bandied about its operations, the OMS recalls the genesis of its relationship with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), stating, “After successfully revamping and rehabilitating the Escravos-Warri pipeline, the NNPC approached OMS to replicate the achievement on the Bonny-Port Harcourt pipeline. Our efforts led to the formal re-commissioning of those pipelines on 22 and 23 April 2016 by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, and the immediate past Group Managing Director, NNPC. Since April 2016, we have delivered 60,177,843 barrels of oil (and counting) to both refineries without any loss to the nation.”

The company made it clear that; “OMS did not seek out the TFP security and surveillance contract. We were approached and invited to render our services because of the dire security situation and because we have a reputation for delivering results… OMS has pioneered a lasting solution in the quest for a cost-effective and operationally efficient method of supplying Nigeria’s refineries with crude oil feedstock for local refining and consumption. We have shown that Nigeria does not have to accept failure.”

Before the OMS, Eraskorp was the contractor in charge of surveillance and security of the TFP. It was during its time that the TFP reportedly suffered huge crude oil losses of over 11 million barrels on the line and 60 days downtime (a value of $800million) due to the TFP’s vulnerability and several illegal valve insertions from which oil thieves and vandals conduct their nefarious activities.Based on this, the NNPC severed the relationship with Eraskorp, stating, “The decision to assign the TFP surveillance package to Ocean Marine Solutions was reached after consideration of huge losses on TFP and rigorous appraisal of the company’s impressive record of performance on the Bonny-Port Harcourt and Warri-Escravos Crude Oil evacuation lines.”

However, in what the OMS described as a desperate quest to malign and create public disaffection against it, Eraskorp alleged that the NNPC awarded and re-awarded several surveillance and security contracts to the company for a total sum of $9.9 million per month; “This assertion is not only a fallacy but also a deliberate misrepresentation of facts as OMS currently manages and is in contract only on the Escravos – Warri and Bonny – Port Harcourt pipelines.”

Also reacting to the allegation that the security contract for TFP was awarded to OMS against the wise counsel of all stakeholders in OML 30, the JV Partners, Operators and 111 communities in the oil field, the company stated, “This is untrue. The claim that the TFP contract offered to OMS is three times that of the Eraskorp contract is false, baseless and unfounded. In any event, you cannot compare apples and oranges. The deployment structure, scope, terms and conditions of the proposed contract to OMS differs in all ramifications to that of the Eraskorp agreement. Contrary to the false assertion put about by Eraskorp and others that pipeline security and surveillance contracts awarded to OMS by NNPC did not follow due process, it is pertinent to state that the contract followed due process and complied with the relevant provisions of the Public Procurement Act.”

Meanwhile, the NNPC has publicly declared that there is nothing illegal in respect of the security contracts awarded to OMS for the provision of security and maintenance services for the Escravos-Warri and Bonny-Port Harcourt pipelines: “It is pertinent to note that the TFP contract is not subject to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2017 by virtue of Section 15 (1) (b) of the PPA.”

The OMS stated further, “All our contracts from the IOCs and NPDC (NNPC) have fully followed the due process in line with international competitive bidding; the “Proof of Concept” or “The Cure and Pay” model which has been our modus operandi and hardly found in the oil and gas industry, creating uncommon values for clients.It has remained the duty of OMS to effectively protect and maintain these pipelines whether the refineries are working or not as abandoning them will make them revert to their once deplorable state. OMS contract is on a fixed cost element so long as the line is protected.”

When the subterfuge and smear campaign did not work, the OMS said the players re-strategised. “We also have on record several requests from Kola Karim to meet with Capt (Dr) Idahosa Okunbo which were declined as well as unethical offers made to OMS by Kola Karim on behalf of Eraskorp’s Maxwell Okoh and Morris Idiovwa. It must also be stated that the Executive Chairman and vision bearer of OMS – Capt (Dr) Idahosa Okunbo – is a man of great integrity, who has served the oil industry for about 30 years without any blemish. Never been called for questioning, interrogated or indicted by any government security agent over the conduct of his businesses in the oil and gas industry.

While raising posers as to why Nigerians and the federal government particularly should be wary of the antics and activities of Karim and his co-travellers, the OMS stated that it has not even signed the contract that was presented to it by the NNPC due to the controversies that have been generated and its resolve never to work in terrains where its intentions are misrepresented. “However, it is notable that the TFP Proof of Concept contract proposed to OMS is premised on a structured security plan and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Under the proposed contract, OMS is obligated to protect the lines and is accountable if there is any breach to the pipeline and losses of crude. This arrangement is completely different from the old order where the contractor (Eraskorp) is paid for surveillance duties and totally exempted from repair costs or any other form of responsibility in the event of any break or breach to the pipeline for which the company has been contracted to watch over. In this way, the new contract will no longer reward failure.”

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INVESTIGATION

Ex-Akwa Ibom Gov. Victor Attah in trouble over N5.6bn

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Victor Attah

Former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah is in fresh trouble.

Investigations revealed that the former governor in connivance with a faceless South African based company allegedly embezzled over N5.6 billion Naira meant for the construction of a Science and Technology Park in the state leaving the project uncompleted.

SecretReporters gathered that the Science Park which was meant to be a centre of research for universities, and an avenue for creating an enabling environment for capacity building in high-tech industries and services located at Afaha Oku, Uyo, was awarded to SBT Juul of 122 Pybus Road, 3rd Floor, Sandton, South Africa and registered with Corporate Affairs Commission with registration number RC 618773 as SBT JUUL Africa Ltd, with an office address at 43 Aka Road, Uyo and 10-03-2005 captured as its registration date. However, it was gathered that the ground floor of the four-storey building address is currently occupied by a beer parlor while the other floors are empty with no occupants. Enquiries made from the owners of the beer parlor and residents around the property reveal that no company with such name (SBT JUUL Africa Ltd) ever occupied the building or operates in the area.

More diggings reveal that the political veteran awarded the contract for the building of the Science Park on 27th September 2005 while in office as governor and immediately paid mobilization fee of over N820 million on 9th November 2005 to the faceless company. The formal agreement for the project was signed on 30th January 2006 with 18 months as the proposed date of completion howbeit 18 years after since the inception of the project; it is still below 5 percent completed.


It was also gathered that ICT components and equipment were imported, cleared and delivered to the site whereas the house to accommodate them was not in any way completed.

SecretReporters further gathered that before the expiration of Attah`s administration, the total cost incurred in the course of executing the project to its present status were as follows: Integrated Cognitive Technology at N196 million, Connect Technology Limited was paid N30 million, Ibom Science Park Account (other Expenditure) received N192, 783,326.00, making a total of N418, 783,326 (Four hundred and Eighteen million, Seven hundred and Eighty Three thousand, Three hundred and Twenty Six Naira) while Total Money Expended on the project was N5, 618, 783,326 (Five billion, Six hundred and Eighteen million, Seven hundred and Eighty-three thousand, three hundred and Twenty Six Naira).

However, in carrying out an in-depth analysis of the total work done, an estate valuer and an engineering consulting firm assessed the actual work done on the site and other components of the job and discovered that the work done does not in any way commensurate with the over N5.6 billion Naira paid to the contractors who are alleged to have bolted after receiving the money.

More appalling is the fact that the project was totally abandoned by the Godswill Akpabio`s led administration on the grounds that it was not feasible as it would collapse in the nearest future due to massive erosion in the area and the work done on the site is estimated to be a little over N400 million naira which does not in any way commensurate with the over N5.6 billion naira expended hence he cannot be part of such a corrupt scheme. This has left the 122 hectares of land meant for the construction of the park 18 years after to become farmland for residents in the area with only a few market-like uncompleted buildings and empty containers as its dividend.

Ironically, when one would have thought that the current administration under the leadership of Mr Udom Emmanuel will launch an in-depth probe on the whereabouts of the over N5.6 billion Naira allegedly embezzled by Obong Victor Attah in connivance with the inexistent SBT Africa Ltd, it was gathered that probably in a show of loyalty to his former boss and trying to atone for his sins of embezzlement, Governor Udom went ahead to recently sign another Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Australian-based company with Chinese affiliations, SERGE Capital Investments Company Limited for the completion and management of the Ibom Science and Technology Park with allegedly over N10 billion Naira taxpayers money earmarked to resuscitate the Park.

The move by Gov. Udom Emmanuel may appear innocent and backed by his intention of completing all abandoned projects in the state, but many believe that it is a clearly thought out scheme to cover the corrupt tracks of Attah so as to avoid probe in future.

All efforts to get across to the former Akwa Ibom State number one man for his reaction proved abortive as his mobile lines were not reachable as at press time.

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