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Who is on a Motive to Destroy ABC Orjiako’s Reputation after he Paid $143.3m?

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ABC Orjiako

By Hauwa Hazan-Baba

An American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, Warren Edward Buffett in one of his famous quotes said: “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway”.

Recently, there have been several media publications in relation to loan facilities taken by Shebah E&P Limited to carry out a drilling campaign in OML 108. These cases had been in various courts between London and Nigeria since 2014 until the latest initiated by Zenith Bank in October 2021. All these cases are in relation to the inconclusive drilling campaign in Ukpokiti oil field, offshore the Niger Delta.

The origin of the who brouhaha

Like Buffett said, “What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.” The origin of the matter is that in 2012 Shebah E and P obtained a $150million loan facility from a consortium of banks (AFREXIM/Diamond- now Access/Skye- now Polaris) led by AFREXIM.

The facility was meant for a workover and drilling campaign at the Ukpokiti field (OML 108) operated by Shebah E&P.

Incidentally, all these cases have received extensive media attention and each time one individual has been mentioned repeatedly as the debtor in these facilities.

That person is ABC Orjiako, an orthopaedic surgeon, who is also the co-founder and Chairman of Seplat Energy Plc. It is therefore incumbent on any investigative journalist to carry out an independent analysis of these debts and associated court cases to reveal the underlying facts behind all the Stories and whether Dr ABC Orjiako is “Guilty As Charged”.

It is pertinent to state that this current frenzy over the loan matter is not a fresh case but the same case that has been reported variously in the media since 2016.

Never a borrower and never utilized facilities as a person

The most astonishing fact in all this is that Dr Orjiako was never a borrower and never utilised the facilities as a person. He was merely the majority shareholder of Shebah and guarantor of the facilities. Dr Orjiako was not even a member of the management of Shebah but stepped up to salvage the company by making payments to the banks using personal and family assets to liquidate the facilities. The banks disbursed the loan directly to the service providers of the company.

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Shebah drilled a successful horizontal well, the first of its kind in the offshore Niger Delta and tested 4000 barrels per day of oil and condensate production but encountered large gas reserves. The company then decided to find a solution to the huge associated gas based on professional oil field best practices before the continuation of the oil/ condensate production. The company required more funds to commercialize the gas to avoid excessive flaring while producing the discovered oil.

AFREXIM led consortium of lenders

It is worth noting that the AFREXIM led consortium of lenders, could not provide further facilities to Shebah to conclude the operations. In 2014, Shebah then approached Zenith Bank, which appraised the situation and provided a $250 million loan facility fully approved by its board to salvage the situation. Zenith proposed to pay the consortium of banks $50million to reduce their collective exposure, enhance the facility to $350million, provide Shebah with additional funds to monetize the gas and produce the discovered oil. The enhanced facility would have had Zenith join and lead the syndicate with $250 million, while the consortium of existing lenders would have reduced their exposure and stay at $100 million (about $33 million each).

Zenith requested to have a moratorium period of 9 months

Zenith further requested (in line with Shebah’s need) to have a moratorium period of 9 months to conclude the projects and extend the facility tenure to 5 years. This was meant to spread the cash flow and enable easy repayment of the enhanced facility.

Surprisingly, the AFREXIM consortium rejected the $50 million offered by Zenith on the grounds that Zenith should not lead the syndicate and they were not willing to extend the tenure of the facility which was remaining about two and half years as at the time of Zenith’s offer.

Preparatory to monetizing the discovered gas, Shebah negotiated and executed a GSPA of $2.5billion for 20 years gas sale on a take or pay basis with the Nigerian Gas Company(NGC) as the gas offtaker supported by a payment bank guarantee in the sum of $70million from Zenith bank.

The AFREXIM consortium rejected all the efforts being made by Shebah and proceeded to file an action to call the facility in 2014 (just two years after final draw down). The call of the facility ahead of the maturity triggered the default on the loan.

The Justice Phillips of the London High Court judgment

On 19 February 2016, Mr Justice Phillips of the London High Court delivered a judgment in favour of the AFREXIM consortium for the repayment of the $150M loan facility. The judgment creditors then registered the judgment in Federal High Court in Lagos and applied for enforcement of the judgment.

The defendants immediately opposed the registration and the enforcement of the judgment based on their convictions on rule of law and on the fact that they would like to negotiate an out of court settlement and pay back the loan under a restructured arrangement. This case is still life before a Justice of the Federal High Court Lagos. The court is awaiting the outcome on the settlement which will be entered as a consent judgement.

Contrary to the Syndication agreement by the AFREXIM consortium, Polaris Bank transferred its share of the judgement facility to AMCON.

Notwithstanding the unilateral action by Polaris bank, AMCON initiated a fresh action in Federal High Court Abuja, not minding that the same case had already got a ruling in London and was subject to a contested enforcement proceeding in the Federal High Court Lagos. It was by the case that AMCON filed that an Ex-Parte order was granted in 2019 which was widely reported in the press.

See what Orjiako has paid

Buffett’s saying goes that, “If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians”.  Orjiako has paid the following sums to the lenders: $89.3 million (out of a total principal of $150 million) including $20 million paid this year to the consortium of AMCON/AFREXIM/ACCESS toward the repayment efforts. This means that if his proposal is accepted by these creditors, the outstanding Principal amount would be $60.7 million. He had made a proposal to these creditors to accommodate Zenith bank in the distribution of the repayment, but they have not accepted this proposal, which would have prevented the Zenith bank action of October 2021.

In the case of Zenith Bank, ABC Orjiako has also paid back $54 million (including proceeds of forced sale of his family Seplat shares by Zenith bank) out of the principal of $70m and is currently engaging the bank to negotiate an out of court settlement. This means that Dr Orjiako has paid a total sum of $143.3 million ($89.3 million plus $54 million).

Why the misrepresentations of facts

Most stories read recently on this issue are unfortunately been used to misrepresent facts as they have portrayed an innocent person in a very bad light with enormous reputational damage.

It is important to note that these kinds of misrepresentations are misinforming the global investing community with their negative consequences for Nigeria. It would be recalled that Dr Orjiako has continued to lead Seplat Energy to its exponential growth attaining the enviable position as an indigenous Nigerian Independent Energy company listed in the London and the Nigerian Stock Exchanges, among many other feats.

Payments clearly show high moral duty and integrity

These payments are a clear show of high moral duty and integrity to repay a loan Dr Orjiako did not utilise and for oil assets that are not generating any revenues. From the deluge of negative media reports, most of which misrepresent the matter, there is a strong impression that these are smear campaigns.

It was also revealed that SEPLAT where Dr ABC Orjiako is the Chairman is not involved in any of these matters whatsoever contrary to the nuances in the media report. The SEPLAT board of directors being very strong in corporate governance had activated all governance and compliance processes and procedures to ensure that there are no breaches of any aspect of regulatory compliance or its governance policies.

Out of court settlement in the offering 

There is information also that the parties may be considering out of court settlement of the commercial dispute. A positive outcome of such a settlement will bring the entire impasse to a final close.

In a completely different case, Access Bank versus Cardinal Drilling, ABC Orjiako, unfortunately, had the misfortune of being blamed for the Cardinal facility because he is seen as the alter ego of the company.

Dr Orjiako’s involvement was just as an investor in Cardinal where his company Shebah invested alongside Platform Petroleum and Maurel et Prom, all of who are founding shareholders of Seplat. Neither Orjiako nor other shareholders ever received dividends from Cardinal. All the equity investments were lost but again, curiously, only Orjiako was singled out for the smear campaign.

Hauwa Hazan-Baba (BSc Econ, MSc Management) is an Economist and Public Affairs Analyst based in the United States

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Feature/OPED

Teeth Cleaning for Children and its Significance

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Teeth Cleaning for Children

Teeth cleaning is really substantial, so for children as for adults. Tooth plaque and bacteria can be removed by brushing teeth and avoiding the illnesses of gums and decay of teeth. People should brush their teeth in the morning and in the evening just before falling asleep, that is twice a day.

Parents should teach their children to clean their teeth early in the morning and make teeth cleaning an indispensable part of the list of their daily must-do activities so that this habit will stay with them when they become adults.

From what age, children should start off brushing their teeth?

Commence teeth brushing once the first tooth appears, in general beyond seven months of age. First and foremost, start to apply a mild wet cloth, as well as parents, can try cleaning the teeth using water and a mild toothbrush. Teeth are extremely significant for adults and, notably, for children. Teeth aid babies in speaking and eating, so it is significant to take care of them properly from the first months of life onward. Many children do not allow cleaning their teeth as it is an unpleasant activity for them. In this case, parents are advised to try to entertain the kid with the games on smartphones, for this a vivid instance can be the casino gaming like 22Bet Nigeria. So, as the parents adore much to play, they are able to grab the attention of children by these games and clean their teeth in the meanwhile.

The pickup of the right brush and toothpaste for kids

Children under 18 months only make use of only water during tooth brushing.

From 18 months to 6 years old, apply a toothbrush with a tiny head and mild stubble. Check out the fluoride quantity on the pack of toothpaste, it should be with a low.

Teach your kid the right brushing of teeth

Cheer your children up to be engaged in the process of tooth brushing with pleasure. Support them to adopt this skill and entitle them to brush their teeth on their own. After the age of 8, kids develop the perfect motor ability required for cleaning the tooth. Nevertheless, control over the children is mandatory until parents are assured that the kids are able to succeed in this activity and many others by themselves.

After cleaning, cheer your child up to spit out the toothpaste, rather than to swallow it with water.

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Feature/OPED

Making 2023 General Elections a Rewarding One

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2023 General Elections

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The central interest of this piece is not to spot leadership faults in Nigeria or proffer solutions to what the present administration is not doing well to salvage the socio-economic well-being of the poor masses. Rather, the present piece is out to perform two separate but related functions.

First, as the nation races towards 2023 general elections, the piece x-rays the volume/strength with which foreign observers have in the past two decades raised strong voices against uncivil antics particularly the thorny transparency challenge that characterized concluded elections in Nigeria and the organized resentment it brought to the nation at the global stage/ exposed the nation to the pangs of sociopolitical challenges that prevent her from enthroning true democracy that ensures a corruption-free society.

Secondly, it is primed and positioned to find both practical and pragmatic ways Nigerians and particularly the present administration can use the forthcoming 2023 general election to correct the nation’s leadership challenge which is gravitating towards becoming a culture.

Aside from the fact that we cannot solve our socio-political challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it, the 2023 electoral project will among other things demand finding nations that have met the electoral challenges that we currently face, how they had tackled it and how successful they had become. We must admit and adopt both structural and mental changes, approaches that impose more discipline than is conventional.

Indeed, we are challenged to develop the world perspective in performing the traditional but universal responsibility which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on us, as no individual or nation can live alone and our geographical oneness has to a large extent come into being through modern man scientific ingenuity.

Again, with the amendment of the electoral Act that presently accommodates the electronic transmission of results, one can say that as a nation, we have made some political/electoral gains.

However, to help achieve electoral perfection in the country, there exists also, a study report which provides a link between the factors that impede credible election in Nigeria as well as made far-reaching measures that could pave way for development and orderliness in the nation’s political sphere.

The report was put together by the Centre for Value in Leadership (CVL), Lagos in partnership with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), and supported by MacArthur Foundation. It has as title; Ethics and Standards in Electoral Process in Nigeria (guiding tools/principles).

Going by the content of the report, an election is said to be credible when it is organized in an atmosphere of peace, devoid of rancour and acrimony. The outcome of such an election must be acceptable to a majority of the electorate and it must be acceptable within the international community.

If elections are to be free and fair, laws designed in that regard must not just exist; they must be operational and be enforced. And the power of freedom of choice conferred on the electorates must be absolute and not questionable.

But contrary to these provisions, since the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, our country has conducted different elections. These elections have many common features and few things differentiate them.

For instance, the elections were all conducted periodically as expected. They were closely monitored by domestic and international observers, and they aroused varied contestations from Nigerian politicians and voters and they were marred by varying degrees of malpractice.

The implication of this finding is that the electoral process in Nigeria is rendered vulnerable to abuse, through massive rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices by political parties- especially by those in power as they seek to manipulate the system to serve their partisan interest.

Elections, which are a critical part of the democratic process, therefore, lose their intrinsic value and become mere means of manipulation to get to power.

This, the study noted, derogates the sanctity of elections as an institutional mechanism for conferring political power on citizens in a democratic dispensation.

As a way forward, it underlined four basic conditions necessary to create an enabling environment for holding free and fair elections. These include; an honest, competent and non-partisan body to administer the election, the knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power, a developed system of political parties and teams of candidates presented to the electorates as alternative choices. And an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.

For transparency and accountability during and after the election, INEC should; be free from any form of financial encumbrance, funding of INEC should henceforth come from the first-line charge. The commission should also be removed from the list of Federal bodies. And, the procedure for the appointment and removal of the INEC chairman and members of the board should be reviewed.

To perform its role effectively as the final arbiter of electoral dispute, and curb the excesses of the politicians, the court must possess both juridical expertise as well as political independence. There should be adequate time between resolution of conflicts and swearing-in of elected officials; section 134 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 should be reviewed such that election tribunal cases are expedited. And finally, the court must resist the political or financial pressure and adhere strictly to the underlying legal grounds in their consideration of injunctions.

Aside from adopting or enforcing provisions requiring aspiring candidates to have been a member of a political party to address a high prevalence of defections before elections which dilutes political party growth and development, political parties should act as a bridge between people and the government and help integrate citizens into the political system. Also, they should inform citizens about politics through socialization and mobilization of voters to ensure that the decisions are made by the people.

While the report stressed that any discussion on democracy without the right to receive and impart information is empty. It, however, regretted that journalism in Nigeria with regard to its constitutional roles is not scientific; adding that Nigerian politicians have always used the media in an unwholesome manner.

To exit this state of affairs, the report urged practitioners to help build enlightened electorates as public enlightenment is a prerequisite for free and fair elections.

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, private and state-owned media outlets should strictly enforce, and adhere to regulations on media neutrality and take steps against hate messaging and misinformation in the media. The media should uphold the ethos of providing accurate and factual information to the citizens at all times.

While this is ongoing, the Nigerian Police Force should be guided by,  and conform to the appropriate principles,  rules, codes of ethics, and laws governing police duties especially in relation to crowd control and use of firearms. They should maintain impartiality and eschew partisanship or discrimination between the ruling and non-ruling, big or small.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Feature/OPED

Money, Society, Development and Economics

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By Nneka Okumazie

For some people, all they will ever become is what money can make them.

For them, the power of everything money can do makes everything about money.

They often measure to money and measure for money. They talk for it and ensure it is what is seen about them.

Many of these people have money above all culture in some of the countries the people there have described as unbearable.

In most of these countries, the same reason government does not work is the same thing outsiders are about, bringing the country to a contiguous halt.

Government is all about who can grab for self and interests, around power, resources and money.

This same reason is why many organized crimes exist and several kinds of harmful practices across the private sector.

Money will never develop any country. Though some continue to say money is what is lacking.

Money will never change anything about anyone because if there are real changes at any point, money may have enhanced it but was never cause.

Things that look like changes that money made does not change; they are just more of how money keeps itself important.

For many things done because there was money to do it, they are many times purposeless. There are also others that should be been important, but because money was more important in that project, it also became purposeless.

If in some developing country, someone lives in a nice apartment or drives a cool vehicle, making that individual seem important, the importance of the individual is to whom, and what purpose does it serve, and for what it serves, what does it change, affect or improve?

The comfort that is lived in many of these places is a false peak.

It keeps them there and there is rarely much else to find meaning for.

Money continues to dictate how to be seen to have it, going around in circles, absent of progress, but ensuring participants are unaware.

Money, for what it can, makes people become a sunset. Money stays important using people as tools to itself.

[Ecclesiastes 6:7, All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.]

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