Friday, 18 January 2008

Nigeria: An Exposé on influence peddling

The requirements for alimony

It is no doubt a personal tragedy for Gbenga and Moji Obasanjo with the explosive counter-arguments that have emerged regarding their divorce.

Worse still, is the damaging effect this might have on the children who have become pawns in the acrimonious and vitriolic squabbling that is being played out by their parents and grandfathers.

In the end it appears the husband is looking for the dissolution of the marriage whilst exacting a kind of vindictive punishment on his wife, the wife however is doing everything to maintain the status and style to which she is accustomed and has seriously lofty ambitions for the children.

Secondary school in Switzerland and University in America for kids who are hardly 8 years old, very few parents can make that kind of commitment even in the West – The privilege of being the grand-children of an African ex-President must be one to aspire to.

Assets, claims and qualifications

Beyond this squabble, the matter of alimony requires that a clear indication of assets and living circumstances be known for the court to set a fair and just settlement.

With that has come, claims and counter-claims between husband and wife. The husband holds academic degrees (MBBS, PhD, MPH) in medicine and public health, all his business dealings but one appears to be in oil-trading, construction and commissions-based influence peddling.

The one involving HIV/AIDS where in his alumnus profile he declared, “Understanding the complex effects of HIV on the African society and vice versa must take into consideration a very wide range of cultural, economic, environmental and biological factors”, he appears to be helping to negotiate something with a mobile phone company.

An investigator’s Aladdin’s cave

There are so many dimensions to this story, the humanity aspect concerning the children is the most disturbing but we also need to see how the determination for alimony has exposed networks of contracts, liaisons, companies and influence.

If the EFCC needed an insight into how the few control a lot in Nigeria, they probably should be looking no further than the families and relations of people who have held political power and monetary leverage.

It must be an Aladdin’s cave of information that could never have been exposed but for circumstances like this where an acrimonious divorce leads the parties to break ranks and expose an underbelly of the entrenched corruption, that has become a moral standard in Nigeria.

Opportunity to probe it all

Each and every one of these asset inventories exposed by husband and wife should suffer scrutiny on the following terms

  • Can any of the parties provide a fully audited account of all their means of wealth?
  • Were the businesses put under pressure to engage in corrupt practices through influence-peddling and patronage to engage these persons when other competent parties might have arranged the deals better?
  • Where the contracts are with government agencies, did they commercial vehicles go through the due process of competitive tendering and win on merit?
  • Where the persons involved have obtained commissions for contracts awarded, how did they get appointed as negotiators and I mean, is there any professional or business expertise that confers on them this status?
  • Who are the directors of the companies that these people represent and are there any indication of a conflict of interest or insider-dealing that allows these companies to gain pecuniary advantage?
  • Are these companies duly registered with the appropriate authorities, declaring the accounts competently and paying their taxes?

Companies involved

  • Bowen and Brown Ltd (Quite a neat website) – Provides consultancy training and project management services to the NNPC (The premier National oil company), it also owns several oil contracts. How does a trainer or project manager get to handle oil contracts?
  • Royal Properties Limited – executed contracts for the Ogun State Government having obtained concessions. Does concession mean this is a preferred business on the grounds of …?
  • Co-ownership of a Bitumen factory in Ogun State with an ex-intelligence chief and has massive concessions granted by the Ogun State Government. An intelligence chief on the board, you have got the goods on anyone you engage and “blackmail” them to do your bidding.
  • Linetrale Oil Supply & Trading Company Ltd – imports, sells, supplies and markets petroleum products, it owns oil blocks and is one of the largest importers of gasoline for NNPC, this probably rubbishes the denials that Gbenga Obasanjo got oil allocations. The amazing reach of a medical degree.
  • Health Aids Support Services – HIV consultancy and working on transactions with MTN (A mobile communications company). Well, he is probably an expert in one of these fields. There seems to be a partnership of HIV/AIDS helplines and Q&A handbooks. This might well be above board.
  • Glo Oil Limited & Hyster Investments Limited – Business activities not listed but probably vehicles for trading oil and other businesses.

Influence-peddling

Somehow, through these named companies and probably other clandestine vehicles they have obtained concessions – read pecuniary advantage through influence-peddling – to do the following

  • The husband earns NGN 500 million ($4.3m) per annum as alleged by the wife.
  • Obtain commission for the allocation of a NGN 11 billion ($95 million) construction contract, even just 1% commission is almost a $1 million. Looks like this is Mr. FixIt.
  • Collect oil allocations from the NNPC as well as substantial investments in oil blocks. Someone has been allocating Nigerian oil to people as if it is theirs to use and abuse.
  • Broker deals on behalf of foreign companies. Were they using the fact that he was the President’s son to gain access for which commissions have been earned? I smell the stench of corruption.
  • Receive commissions for the supply of 800 vehicles to Ogun State. Remember the ex-President is from Ogun State. But I do not think any of the companies had any automobile industry connections.

Living a charmed life in Nigeria

Other assets include lands and houses one of which is disputed, land in Maitama, Abuja, land in Banana Island, Ikoyi, land in Lekki Phase 1, land in Abeokuta, house at No. 8 Ladipo Bateye Street, GRA Ikeja (Disputed), property in London and house at 14411 Andrea Way Lane, Houston, TX 77083 in the United States.

Cars include a BMW 3 Series, a Toyota Highlander SUV, a Peugeot 607, a Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep 2006 model and a Kia Opirus. For a family of four in Nigeria? These people must be living in a completely different Nigeria.

Consider the case of the World Bank saying 126 million Nigerians (90%) are living on less than $2 a day, in this number more than 70% are living on less that $1 a day and this is in a country of 140 million, indicating only 10% enjoy above-poverty livelihoods.

I am sure a lot can be read into all this, but like Jeremy of NaijaBlog said, what more is needed but for a decent investigative journalist to dig into all this morass and obtain the truth about how the Nigerian elite and their families have plundered Nigerian resources and opportunities to their own ends.

One of the brood

This just pertains to one son of the many (brood ) of the ex-President Obasanjo and there is also the issue of the contracts signed with a false identity by a daughter of the ex-President Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, an ex-Commissioner in Ogun State and now a Senator in National Assembly, she is being investigated by the EFCC.

There seems to be no limit exerted in the corrupt activities of this family, the investigation of this one family might just reveal the extent to which other influential but corrupt Nigerians have wrecked the country.

It must be a worthwhile activity to any professional journalist and now is the time to give oxygen to the quality of our press and uphold the mantle of democracy or the little of it we have in Nigeria.

The sources are the sworn affidavits submitted as petitions by the husband and wife to the court concerning the dissolution of the marriage and the alimony requirements of the spouses. As published by Thisday Online and Odili.net.

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