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INVESTIGATION

PENCOM boss, Aisha Dahir-Umar accused of fraud, abuse of office

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Aggrieved staff of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), has accused the acting Director-General of the commission, Hajiya Aisha Dahiru-Umar of fraud, flagrant violation of procurement process and abuse of office.

In a petition sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by staff of PenCom under the aegis of Pension Reform Advocacy Group and signed by its coordinator, Isyaku Abduralman, the staff alleged that upon the resumption of duty of Dahiru-Umar, PenCom entered into a phase of tragic demise. The group further alleged that in the last one year, the commission have witnessed brazen financial recklessness, gross incompetence, nepotism and mismanagement of material and human resources.

  

READ THE FULL PETITION BELOW:

We, the concerned and aggrieved staff of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), are writing to inform and brief the Commission (EFCC) about the state of the PENCOM where we all work and contribute our quota to nation building, progress and development of our fatherland. You would recall, Sir, that there was a change of management of the Commission in 2017 where the PenCom Exco was removed and required to hand over to the most Senior Staff Member of the Commission. We are at a loss as how the person of Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar was saddled with the responsibility of leading the Commission in Acting Capacity since she ought to have retired since December 2016. Furthermore, she has spent all her time in the Commission in the facility management and lately in the CSR Department due to her severely limited intellect and as such lacks the regulatory competence required to head the Commission.

It is without doubt that the two previous Excos made remarkable progress in institutionalizing the Commission’s long term developmental strategy, especially in the core areas of daily operations, infrastructure and welfare enhancement of all staff. It was clear to all and sundry that Pencom was being directed to a glorious path evidenced by consistent factual milestones.

Unfortunately, however, upon the resumption of duty of Aisha Umar, Pencom entered into a phase of tragic demise. We have, in the last one year, witnessed brazen financial recklessness, gross incompetence, the most extreme form of nepotism and mismanagement of material and human resources. These ills have essentially engendered Staff disillusionment and a general feeling of helplessness and despondency. This is truly unfortunate Sir.

A chronicle of the fraud and insider dealings going on in the Commission shall follow in turn Sir.

 

  1.  CONTRACT SCAMS AND DEMAND FOR KICKBACKS

There is large scale financial impropriety and graft going on in the Commission at present. Contractors have been inundated with constant request for kickbacks from Aisha Umar during contract negotiations (Evidence Available), without which the said contracts are diverted and given to another company that is ‘willing to do business’. Legitimate contractors who have since fulfilled their deliverables are being owed and are told to come for “discussions” otherwise they will not be paid.

Most reprehensible is the malicious illegal stalling of the Pension Administration Project (PAS) for the simple reason that the American Company who have emerged the preferred bidders are not willing to engage in talks for kickbacks. Sir, contrary to the falsehood that is being peddled by her, we would like to bring it to your attention that the PAS project had been ongoing for over a year and the Commission has expended a lot of resources to document the steps required to fully automate its regulatory activities. The procurement process commenced with the issuance of a Request For Proposal (RFP) and culminated in the issuance of a no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement. We gathered that the no objection arrived in the Commission shortly before the management change. Since then, instead of Aisha Umar to move it forward, she and her evil cohorts have been trying to get the BPP to cancel the contract. Following a letter drafted by Sani Mohammed, the Commission Secretary/Legal Adviser (CSLA), the BPP in rejecting the request to cancel the contract, faulted the points raised by Mohammed Sani as lacking in legal merit reprimanded the Commission with a stern warning to immediately finalize the procurement process. This technology ought to have been installed since last year, without which the Micro-Pension initiative, a major milestone of the administration cannot take off.

A sinister group of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Mohammed also unilaterally awarded contracts to whom they please and back it up with bogus evaluations which they instruct Mr. Bako Mohammed, a long time criminal associate of Aisha Dahir Umar, to process. Mr. Bako Mohammed who has been undergoing investigations for rent seeking activities, was returned to procurement to facilitate Aisha’s nefarious transactions.

Cases abound with proof of companies and contractors who were and are still unduly engaged without recourse to proper procurement and bidding processes. For instance, an actuary firm, RBA Limited who has close ties to Ekanem Aikhomu was paid N60 Million for nebulous services without due process being followed. This is in contravention of all procurement laws and due process. This group of individuals have continued to help themselves in a most wanton manner to the coffers of the Commission and have subjected those against their activities to frequent changes of their departments as a way of subjugating them so that they will not expose their clandestine activities. They reward the faithful with incessant trips out of the country sham “overseas training” to keep them loyal.

We appeal that a thorough investigation be carried out to unravel this reprehensible activity and secure the immediate return of all monies to the Commission as leaving this unchecked is antithetical to the anti-corruption stance of this noble administration. The ‘Kickback regime’ style now in Pencom which was NEVER the case essentially renders nugatory the efforts of our indefatigable President in curbing the menace of corruption in our body polity.

 

  1.  MEDIA SCAMS

Frequent singing off of huge public funds in the name of media and sensitization programmes, a large chunk which is usually pocketed by the Aisha Umar and two of her cronies; Mr. Peter Aghahowa,who is currently the head of Communications in Pencom and Mr. Tunde Philips who is the South West Regional Head, based in Lagos is now the order of the day. The office of the DG has a statutory approval limit of N2.5M, and Aisha Umar has continued to squander funds by signing multiple payment vouchers daily just under the capped limit thereby providing a slush fund for embezzlement by her and her cronies. Part of these funds are used to lobby various stakeholders in furtherance of her desperation to be confirmed as substantive DG. She has also used part of these funds to purchase two brand new 2018 fully loaded Lexus Jeep cars. This transaction was facilitated by Tunde Phillips who, again, with funds siphoned from “media enlightenment” arranged a door to door trucking delivery from Lagos to her residence in Stallion Court, Wuse 2, Abuja.

A cursory look at the books will reveal this fact. We do not believe in hearsays neither do we engage in wishful thinking, the facts are there. An investigation into the media and sensitization programmes in the Commission and the funds disbursed in the past year under the subhead will reveal dirty deals perpetrated by Aisha Umar in furtherance of her personal aggrandizement and a desperate bid to secure a confirmation as substantive Director General.

 

  1.  RECKLESS DIVERSION OF PUBLIC FUNDS

There is rather incestuous utilization of Government funds to settle the Acting DG’s personal expenses. Again, a cursory look into the TSA account of the Commission will reveal diversion of Government funds into personal business of Mrs. Umar under various guises. A most perfidious phenomenon on this score is the quest for collection of humongous travel allowances for seminars, courses, sensitization programmes and other ‘events’. She collects all the monies for the aforementioned – local and international – without making an appearance in any of them. This can be verified from local and international airlines and the events themselves. She is ALWAYS represented at functions for fear of her ignorance of the entire pension reform being exposed. She studiously avoids engaging with the public and yet she collects allowances for such appearances.

This is a gross violation of public service rules and regulations. Sadly, while President Buhari’s administration has made tremendous strides in cutting cost and entrenching improved service delivery, the reverse has been happening in Pencom for the past one year. We have evidence of phantom contract engagements which huge public funds have been appropriated for. It is disheartening that such level of graft is going unchecked and Aisha Umar has been boasting that she has ‘settled’ very important people and no one can investigate her. These are verifiable facts and we urge you to correct this wicked stance by conducting a full scale investigation so that Pencom can be cleansed, returned to its former glory and further be strengthened to achieve its laudable mandate. To allow the continuation of these crimes unchecked would send the wrong signals to the contributors and retirees alike whose interest we seek to preserve and protect.

 

  1.  300% INCREASE IN THE TERMINAL BENEFITS OF GENERAL MANAGERS

Aisha Dahir-Umar together with some General Managers have plunged the Commission into financial abyss by recommending and unilaterally appropriating a salary increase for all cardres of staff to gain support for the clueless and incompetent leadership of Aisha Dahir-Umar. What the staff are just finding out however is that she surreptitiously embarked on a 300% increase in the terminal benefits of GMs. Terminal benefits, as we are all aware, are paid at the end of service of a public servant. However, right now in Pencom under the machinations of Aisha Dahir-Umar, the GMs have started paying themselves upfront and enjoying terminal benefis while they are still receiving salaries!! This is a gross violation of public service rules and all known rules of engagement. The question is who approved the humongous package? At what point was the approval obtained? And by whom? Where are the supporting documents? It is quite obvious that the sinister group made up of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Muhammad and Aisha Dahir-Umar have pushed for this unhealthy increase. With the active connivance of Sani Muhammed, the Commission Secretary and Legal Adviser who has been falsifying memos to mislead the Office of the SGF, Aisha Dahir Umar pulled off this heist to the detriment of the Commission. As a result, the Commission’s financial health is now at grave risk, staff are unable to pursue their regulatory activities because basic supplies like photocopying paper and ink cannot be provided as funds have been diverted by Aisha Dahir-Umar. As we write, terminal benefits payments are being disbursed in instalments so they would have received all illegally appropriated funds in the event of their eventual sack. We cannot continue like this if we hope to build a formidable system and process to drive the change we so desire.

It is worthy to note that the level of ineptitude and incompetence displayed in her absolute lack of capacity to manage a blue chip organization like PenCom is responsible for the numerous major policy somersaults in the Commission today. For example, the Commission has witnessed more than three reshufflement exercises in less than one year in order to “silence” perceived dissenting voices. In addition, she has been engaged in running battle with the management of the Creche. We understand that she is bitter at the transformation of the Creche which was a cesspool when it was under her watch and wants to shut it down. It took the intervention of a high ranking official in the Presidency for her to pay the backlog owed. She was overheard furiously exclaiming that the high ranking official cannot command her and only paid a portion of the amount owed. She issued a termination letter to the Creche providers and shortly afterwards (no doubt following outcry by staff) hurriedly retrieved it and issued another letter of appointment but still wickedly slashing their engagement fees.

She has recklessly promoted staff to the General Manager cadre, bringing the number to seventeen (17!) from 10 last year. These General Managers, some of whose job functions are unclear (a GM is heading a protocol unit hitherto manned by a staff seven notches below the grade of a GM) and whose wages and allowances are now exceeding the emoluments of the highest paying multinational companies in the country. The question Sir, is what hope do we as employees have for career progression if the General Managers are seeking to perpetuate themselves in office? According to the staff policy, GMs are promoted based on availability of space and funds and several existing GMs ought to have retired before any promotion was done, but this was ignored as Aisha Umar claims to be above all rules and regulations.

 

  1.  RESUMPTION OF NEWLY EMPLOYED STAFF

Last but not the least, Sir, is the clandestine recruitment that is being carried out by Aisha Dahir-Umar to supplant 43 persons who had been issued letters of employment since March 2017 for resumption in May/June 2017. These people were verbally directed by Mrs. H, Oniyangi not to resume work on the instructions of Aisha Dahir-Umar. No reasons were given to these 43 staff, most of whom had resigned from their previous employment and are now unemployed as a result of the Aisha Umar’s reluctance to absorb them despite appeals from all and sundry.

Upon their several petitions to the Office of the SGF, again, as is in consonance with her criminal character, she has lied copiously to the SGF, citing abnormalities and need for time to provide requisite infrastructure. An enquiring mind should ask: what infrastructure is required for a new staff besides a desk, chair and a computer? Provisions were already in process for this in March 2017, hence their resumption in two batches of May and June. What abnormality? There were requisite approvals by EXCO based on the memoranda from both finance and HR (Sani Muhammed is in custody of the excerpts and MUST produce them from where he has been directed to hide them by Aisha Dahir Umar) and following oral and written interviews, successful candidates were forwarded to the Federal Character Commission for a no objection. This was granted and it was based on this that the employment letters were issued by Mrs. Oniyangi.

We have since discovered that the real reason for preventing the resumption of staff is because a secret employment is being undertaken by Aisha Dahir-Umar to swap the 43 positions with her own candidates. Sources claim that in her greedy fraudulent quest for money, she is charging each candidate N2M per slot! We are all aware of the grave implications this would have on the society at large. These newly employed young men and women have families who depend on them and have been made to remain in limbo for the past 13 months. We believe strongly that the candidates have the right to resume work having been issued  valid letters of employment and shoul not be subjected to the inordinate greed and criminality of Aisha Umar.

Notwithstanding the foregoing; the illegality of her position is glaring. In accordance with the Commission’s approved staff policy, she ought to have retired from the Commission since December 2016. She, therefore, could not have been the most senior person in the Commission as at April 2017 following the disengagement of the EXCO. Flowing from this, she has no legal basis to occupy the seat, award contracts, employ new staff and increase allowances and pay herself double salaries – salary of a DG and a GM. This may well be the basis for brazen impunity in siphoning public funds – there is no career to protect.

We implore the Commission (EFCC) to urgently intervene and thoroughly investigate the financial frauds being perpetrated by Aisha Umar and her cohorts who are bent on destroying the gains of Pension Reform over the past decade.

Thank you.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Isyaku Abduralman

For: Pension Reform Advocacy Group

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INVESTIGATION

NBET MD, Marilyn Amobi, enmeshed in multiple corruption allegations

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Marilyn Amobi, the managing director of the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc, fraudulently paid at least N2 billion naira to two power generating companies, documents obtained by Leaks NG have shown.

The documents also revealed that Mrs. Amobi, who was made the substantive boss of NBET in July 2016, was also involved in a series of corruption allegations such as subversion of board approvals and infraction of procurement laws.

 

Fraudulent payments to GENCOs

A few weeks after she was confirmed as the managing director of NBET, the organisation that manages the electricity pool in the country’s electricity supply industry, Mrs. Amobi started overpaying two power generating companies – Omotosho Electric Genco and Olorunsogo Electric Company – in flagrant violation of the details of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) the companies signed with the government in February and August 2016, respectively.

The PPA is an agreement between NBET and power generating plants for the sale and purchase of energy generated by the plants. Embedded within the PPA are the Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) that covers the supply of natural gas to the generating plant and the Gas Transportation Agreement (GTA), which is an agreement between gas transporters and power generating plants.

According to the PPA, to qualify for full payment, generating plants must provide evidence that they have active GSA and GTA or else the power purchase agreement would be deemed inactive and would only receive payment for the power they supplied.

“Seller (Omotosho Genco) hereby agrees that any claim for Available Capacity payment under the PPA are conditional on the Seller providing evidence acceptable to the Buyer (NBET) confirming that it has a legally binding and enforceable Gas Supply and Aggregation Agreement and Gas Transportation Agreement, in accordance with clause 3.2.2 and 4.2.1 of the PPA,” the agreement obtained by Leaks NG stated.

However, despite the fact that Omotosho did not provide evidence of gas supply aggregation and transportation, the company continued to tender request for full payment 20 months. According to the document in possession of Leaks NG, the over-invoicing was detected in October 2017 following an NBET internal audit.

On September 22, 2016, NBET had written to Omotosho requesting that it fulfills the condition for the PPA. The generating company was first given a 30-day grace to provide the necessary document. The window to provide the document was later extended to 90 day, yet it never provided the document.

For instance, in June 2017, Omotosho supplied energy to the tune of 33.16 megawatts but invoiced up to 161.74 megawatts.

This implies that Omotosho laid claim to an excess of 128.58 megawatts as excess capacity for the cycle.

For this capacity, Omotosho requested for payment of N1,023,532,574 instead of N209,824,177, leaving an excess of N813,708,397 for the capacity in June 2016.

Similarly, Olorunsogo Power Plc, whose PPA took effect from August 2014 in the said month, tendered 11.9 megawatts for energy while 197.83 as capacity. Since the PPA was not active, the capacity ought to be equal to the energy to make the firm qualify for payment as stated in the agreement.

Olorunsogo issued an invoice of N1, 251, 881, 528 for capacity for June 2016 as against N75, 363, 267 calculated by its actual energy. The difference is an over-invoicing of N1, 176, 518, 261.

For both firms, the over-invoicing amounts to N1, 990, 226, 658 as excess in just one month, June 2016.

Leaks NG could not lay hold to all invoices issued by the companies, the two we obtained showed that NBET made partial payments to the companies.

In one of the invoices, Mrs. Amobi paid Omotosho N339, 813, 418 in October 2016. The fund is part payment for July 2016 energy and capacity.

On the same date: October 11, 2016, NBET paid Olorunsogo N372, 498, 731 also as part payment for July.

These payments are clearly in breach of the PPA and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) order of Transitional Stage Electricity Market (TEM).

Order IV of The TEM states that: “Gencos without effective PPAs shall be paid for their delivered energy and delivered capacity by NBET (Delivered capacity for the purposes of this order means the capacity equivalent of the energy delivered at Gencos busbar.”

These illegal payments wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Amobi’s insistence.

While the Internal Audit of NBET refused to process the payment, Amobi signed the July payment on 13th October 2017 assuming the role of internal audit in violation of financial regulation.

This is a breach of Section 1705 of the financial regulations which states that “the Head of Internal Audit Unit in all ministries/extra-ministerial offices and other arms of government shall ensure that 100 per cent pre-payment audit of all checked and passed vouchers is carried out and the vouchers forwarded under security schedule direct to the appropriate Central Pay Office for payment. Checked and passed vouchers received in the internal audit Unit must be promptly dealt with and, under no circumstances shall a voucher be held in that unit for more than forty-eight (48) hours.”

Illegal payment to law firms

Sometimes in 2014, NBET wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to request the agency sign off on power procurement and retroactive no objection in procurement.

The request simply means that NBET requests to be excluded from being subjected to BPP act in its power purchase agreement. The request was declined by BPP.

In a response dated April 29, 2014, BPP stated that NBET, like other agencies, must follow due procurement process in power procurement.

BPP noted in its reply, “That if section 5 (a) of PPA was intended to exclude some sectors like the Power Sector, it would have been stated clearly. Consequently, giving NBET a one-off approval for NBET’s power procurement process would not only amount to a contravention of the Act, but it would also open a floodgate of similar requests thereby engendering confusion in the system.

“It is pertinent for NBET to note that electricity (being goods) can only be procured within one of the procedures stated in part 42.4 of standard bidding documents.

“The bureau therefore strongly advises that NBET should consult the Public Procurement Regulations, manuals for complex projects and standard bidding documents for procurement of goods, as this would assist NBET in complying with extant procurement rules and regulations.”

However, the management of NBET, then under the leadership of its inaugural Managing Director, Rumundaka Wonodi, was unsatisfied with the position of BPP. The agency sought legal advice on the way forward.

On June 1 2015, NBET advertised a notice for an expression of interest to engage lawyers in such cases, more specifically on BPP’s response.

According to the advert, the successful law firm is expected to discharge such duties as, “General, corporate, commercial and administrative law, with a view to advising NBET on general commercial and contract matters, providing legal opinions as necessary, and advising on various civil law.”

According to a report by NBET’s evaluation committee, three firms: Azinge and Azinge, Chukwuka Ugwu and Associate and John Erameh submitted their bids.

The process was however truncated upon advice by the Internal Audit Department of NBET.

Surprisingly, in April 2017, two years after, the Internal Audit received a request from Mrs. Amobi for payment of N30 million to two firms.

Mrs. Amobi wants Azinge and Azinge to be paid a contract sum of N14 million and Aelex N16 million respectively.

The process that led to this request was one replete with infractions and breach of public procurement law.

It is worthy of note that the procurement process was stopped in 2015 and if there would be a need for the services of law firms in 2017, the process of engagement is supposed to take an entirely new process according to procurement laws.

The BPP act in Section 16(1)(b) states the process of procurement; “based only on procurement plan supported by prior budgetary appropriations and no procurement proceedings shall be formalised until the procuring entity has ensured that funds  are available to meet the obligations and subject to the threshold in the regulations made by the Bureau, has obtained a “Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to Contract Award” from the Bureau.”

There was no new advertisement or procurement process but Mrs. Amobi presented the two firms for payment.

Surprisingly, one of the firms laying claim to payment, Aelex, was not part of the 2015 process, as the firm was not captured in the evaluation report.

Illegal payment to consultant

In 2016, NEXANT, a software and energy firm, engaged a former staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Uzoma Achinaya, to provide advisory and analytics work for NBET.

According to the arrangement, Mr Achinaya would work for NBET for a period, present a report to NEXANT and claim his payment from NEXANT.

This indeed happened but instead of NEXANT to pay the consultant, NBET’s leadership decided to pay him despite not being party of the engagement agreement.

On January 23 2017, Mr. Achinaya wrote Mrs Amobi requesting NBET to pay him the sum of N7 million advance payment for the work he had done so far.

“I refer to the advisory and analytics work that l have done for NBET on the sustainable solutions to the Liquidity Challenges in the Nigerian Electricity industry.

“I appreciate the steps NBET management is taking to resolve the issues with NEXANT regarding my contract which has resulted in the delayed payment of my fees for the services rendered. However, I have some very urgent family commitments, including school fees for my children, which need immediate funding. It will be appreciated if I can be granted a payment advance in the sum of Seven Million Naira (N7, 000, 000.00}, in lieu of the money I am owed for the work already done, to enable me meet some of these commitments.

“The amount should be recovered from my payment when the issues with NEXANT are finally resolved.”

The irregularities in the request were flagged by the Internal Audit, which declined payment to Mr. Achinaya.

The audit department argued that it declined the payment because Mrs Amobi’s N7.5 million request was above her N2.5 approval threshold and that the process of contracting was not subjected to any procurement process.

Internal audit also argued that the consultant does not have a Tax Identification Number (TIN) as stipulated by procurement law, inside sources told Leaks NG.

To bypass the procurement part, Mrs. Amobi allegedly directed the Parastatal Tenders Board of NBET to seek consideration and approval for the requested fund.

The board submitted its report in March claiming that due process was followed in the award of the consultancy contract.

The memorandum for consideration and approval indicated that the bid was opened on March 1, 2017, with a deadline of March 6.

At the end of the process, two individuals were said to have emerged out of five expressions of interest received; Joe Agah with 59.7 total weighted scores and Uzoma Achinaya with 95.1.

The contract was later awarded to Mr. Achinaya at the sum of N25, 850, 000.

Even at that, the board did a shabby job in the cover-up.

The consultant started work in 2016, requested for payment in January 2017 for his ongoing work but the NBET management instituted a post-dated procurement process to make the payment possible.

Transfer of staff without board’s approval

In 2017, Mrs. Amobi made a request to the Accountant-General for officials from his office to be transferred to NBET to head the Internal Audit and Finance departments. Inside sources alleged that she made this request because she felt the officials who headed the department at NBET was standing in her way.

The request was granted in June 2017. The AGF posted Hauwa Bello from the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) to head the Internal Audit. He also posted Sambo Abdullahi to the Learning and Development, a newly created department at NBET.

Waziri Bintube of the Finance Department was reposted to Risk and Guarantee, another department created by Mrs Amobi allegedly to victimise the two top officials.

A month earlier, Mrs. Amobi had facilitated the transfer of two people, Ajulo Adesola from the national Agency for Science and Engineering (NASENI) and Acho Onyechege from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to NBET as treasury officers.

Though the new postings were communicated in a letter by AGF on 30 May 2018, they flouted the requirement of NBET charter which places the responsibility of recommending postings within the agency on the Human Resources Committee of NBET.

Section 2.4 (b) of the charter state that the Human Resource Committee shall ‘review and make recommendations to the Board for approval of the Company’s organisational structure and any proposed amendments.’

Although the Accountant-General reserves the authority to approve such reviews, the office does not have the power to make postings.

Amobi evasive, abusive

When contacted to respond to the series of allegations against her, Mrs Amobi, rained abuses Leaks NG reporter.

Without first listening to the reporter’s questions, in in a statement, replete with swear words, the MD she said she would not comment to any of the allegations because the issues are in court.

“If they are things about NBET that are currently in court, there is really no need…some of them are in court. I’m sure some people brought this to you.

“You’ve written a story about us before of us sending some people to America which of course didn’t happen. These are issues that are with EFCC, ICPC and even in the court,” she said.

After calling the reporter many unprintable names, Mrs Amobi ended the call.

 

This report was put together by Leaks.NG, a coalition of news and civil society organisations, which provide a platform for Nigerians to submit evidence of wrongdoing by public office holders in Nigeria. To make a submission, please go on Leaks.NG and follow the simple steps involved.

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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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