Saturday, 24 February 2018

NEWS AND STORIES

There seem to be no let up on the scandals plaguing the National Intelligence Agency as another $202 million has been discovered to be missing from its coffers
 
Recall that first there was the issue of $43 million found in an Ikoyi, Lagos apartment said to belong to the NIA, Then there was the $44 million allegedly missing from the NIA’s coffers which the House  of Representatives mandated its committee on Public Safety and National Security to investigate.
 
Chairman of the Committee , Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji (APC Zamfara) said while investigating the missing $44 million as mandated by the House, a stunning discovery came to light that an additional $202 million is missing from the coffers of the NIA.
 
In a post-meeting briefing with reporters at the weekend, the committee chair said it was discovered that a total of $289 million was given to the NIA by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for ” intervention”
 
According to him, the money was not appropriated by the National Assembly for the Agency.  “The NIA got the money for ‘intervention’ from the past administration. For whatever reason, the past DG, Ayo Oke failed to disclose to the present administration that we have this amount of money.,” he said.
 
He further said: “Even the National Security Adviser, said it was when our  committee began its investigation, they got the information that the NIA got $289million.
 
“You know we had a meeting with the NSA today ( Friday) we later discovered since last week in our meeting with the past Acting DG NIA that the $44 million is not missing.
 
“For now, I can categorically tell you the money is not missing. They only moved the money from one agency to another place pending when all the issues surrounding the agency is resolved.
 
“If you remember, there was this $44million which is among the $289million approved to the then Director-General, that is Ayo Oke. Just April last year, they discovered $43million in Ikoyi. He tried to say that the $44 million and $43million are part of the $289million.
 
But  for us, we are still working to see where the remaining $202 million was placed. We only know about the $43million now, the one discovered in Ikoyi and the $44 million in their vault. In the course of our investigation, we’ll come up with where the $289m really is, not the $43m and not the $44m but the entire amount.
 
“For me, the money($202million) is still missing. If you subtract $43million and $44million from $289million, then where is the balance? That’s why we’re where we are today. That is why we have to intensify our investigation.
 
On the issue of the citizenship of the the new DG of NIA Abubakar Rufai Ibrahim and his wife, Jaji said by the referral of the House to the committee, the circumstances surrounding his appointment was discussed.
 
“One of the issues is that some are saying he has dual citizenship, but he said to us categorically that his father is from Katsina and he (his father) after sometime decided to migrate from Katsina to Chad. His mother is a Nigerian, and his wife too is a Nigerian.
“He even showed us the approval of the then DG that he was allowed to marry her. I think she’s Fadilah by name. She’s from Katsina. She did her secondary school in Sandamu.
 
“According to the documents supplied to us, he said really he did his primary school in Chad, but he did secondary school in Nigeria and his first degree was in BUK. We saw all that.
 
Jaji said his committee also discussed the allegations that he failed his promotion exams with the new DG.
 
“Not only that but we also saw all the promotion exams that he went through when he was in service. He passed all the promotion exams that we saw in his file. We also saw that he retired not as an assistant director but as a deputy director.
 
“According to him, he retired voluntarily, that’s what we saw in the retirement notification in his file.

Arsenal’s record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his debut and Aaron Ramsey hit a hat-trick in a swaggering 5-1 rout of woeful Everton on Saturday.

Aubameyang vowed to emulate Arsenal legend Thierry Henry after arriving from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) this week.

While it is too soon for such lofty comparisons, the Gabon striker certainly made the perfect first impression at the Emirates Stadium.

Aubameyang, recovered from an illness that had placed his debut in doubt, capped an exhilarating first half from Arsenal with a composed finish to put his side four goals ahead.

Ramsey had opened the scoring and Laurent Koscielny increased Arsenal’s lead before Ramsey struck again to make it three goals in the first 19 minutes.

Aubameyang’s lively debut was aided by three assists from Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his first Arsenal start.

Wales midfielder Ramsey completed his treble in the second half and the only angst for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was the sight of goalkeeper Petr Cech limping off injured.

Sixth-placed Arsenal are now five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who face Watford on Monday, in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.

Wenger had bemoaned Arsenal’s defending in their wretched 3-1 loss at Swansea on Tuesday, but the two changes he made were both attack-minded as Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan came in.

Aubameyang replaced misfiring France striker Alexandre Lacazette, who has only one goal in his last 12 appearances.

Lacazette had been Arsenal’s record signing until the Aubameyang swoop, but while he has struggled to live up to expectations, Aubameyang quickly set about repaying his hefty transfer fee — with help from an old friend.

Mkhitaryan was making his home debut after arriving from Manchester United as part of the deal that sent Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.

Mkhitaryan rarely showed his best form with United, but he and Aubameyang had formed a deadly double act during their time at Dortmund and they were back in the groove as Arsenal took a sixth-minute lead.

When Aubameyang slipped a pass into Mkhitaryan, the midfielder whipped over a superb cross that invited Ramsey, timing his run perfectly, to slot past Jordan Pickford from close-range for his first goal since October.

Aubameyang joins party
Mkhitaryan went close to doubling Arsenal’s lead moments later with a fierce strike that whistled wide from the edge of the area.

Lethargic Everton were unable to stem the tide and Wenger’s men didn’t have to wait long to claim their second goal in the 14th minute.

Shkodran Mustafi met Mesut Ozil’s corner with a header towards the far post, where Koscielny stooped to head home from close-range.

Everton’s dismal display was ruining Sam Allardyce’s 500th match as a Premier League manager and there was worse to come in the 19th minute.

Afforded time and space by Everton’s statuesque rearguard, Ramsey unloaded a 25-yard strike that took a deflection off Toffees debutant Eliaquim Mangala on its way past the wrong-footed Pickford.

With Arsenal threatening every time they went forward, Aubameyang, who also scored on his Bundesliga debut, was able to join the party in the 37th minute.

Mkhitaryan’s pass split the Everton defence and, although Aubameyang looked offside, the linesman’s flag stayed down as the debutant clipped a deft finish over Pickford.

It was another remarkable goal blitz from Arsenal, who scored four times in the first 22 minutes of their previous home league game against Crystal Palace.

Everton’s capitulation made it a depressing return for Theo Walcott, who was subbed midway through the second half of his first return to Arsenal since his January transfer.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin got one back for Everton with a 64th header, but there was still time for Ramsey to strike again with a low finish from Mkhitaryan’s pass in the 74th minute.

• Ex-minister writes EFCC, says “I’ll be available on February 19th”
• Anti-corruption agency quizzes Sen. Nwaoboshi over N2.1b failed contracts, 30 undeclared accounts

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) appears to be running out of patience with former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, over an alleged N9.4billion curious contract involving her.

The agency believes she has been playing a ‘hide and seek’ game over repeated invitations to her for questioning in respect of the allegation.

She may be declared wanted if she continues to be evasive, The Nation gathered yesterday, although sources said she had informed the EFCC of her intention to now make herself available on February 19.

The anti-graft agency has already interrogated Senator Peter Nwaoboshi for alleged N2.1b failed contracts, securing questionable loan from NEXIM Bank and operating 30 accounts without declaring same to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

Reliable sources said yesterday that Oduah had been invited thrice in the last seven months over the security contract only for her to fail to turn up on each occasion.

This development informed the decision of the EFCC to consider the option of declaring her wanted.

The former minister, according to a fact sheet sighted by The Nation, is wanted by the EFCC in “respect of investigation into a N9, 443,549,531.25 contract awarded to I-Sec Security Nigeria Limited for the procurement and installation of security equipment in 22 airports across the country.

“The contract was awarded when she held sway as Minister of Aviation in the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

“There were issues surrounding the contract, including alleged non-execution of the project in some airports, abandonment of the contract in a few ones, diversion of part of the contract sum and suspected case of money laundering.

“These are allegations she is expected to respond to in order to clear the air on the security contract. She is only expected to explain her roles.”

Attempts to interrogate Oduah over the last seven months have failed following excuses from her.

An EFCC source said:  “ She was invited on three different occasions to report for interview on the 13th June, 2017, 29th June 2017 and 13th November 2017 but she failed to honour any of the invitations.

“Rather than appear to face a panel that was raised by the EFCC to interrogate her, Oduah, through a letter dated  January 5, 2018, informed the commission that she would  honour the invite on January 29, 2018.

“The letter was duly acknowledged by the commission and just as the investigators were looking forward to her arrival, Oduah played a fast one on the EFCC with another letter indicating that she would no longer be available on January 29.

“She cited an invitation by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to accompany him to London where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the House of Commons on January 25.

“Oduah stated that her next convenient date to honour your invitation is 19th February, 2018”.

The source said it was obvious that this suspect “is not willing to submit herself to the Commission for interview in relation to the ongoing investigation, which leaves the Commission with a few options.”

The source added: “The Commission has been very patient with her but she may be declared wanted if she continues this hide and seek game”.

It was also  gathered that after several efforts, the EFCC has succeeded in  interrogating Senator Peter Nwaoboshi  over alleged failed N2.1b contracts;  obtaining loan from NEXIM Bank while still on the board of the bank; and for operating 30 accounts without declaring same to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

A source said: “As regards your enquiry, Nwaoboshi finally presented himself for interrogation by the Commission on 27 November, 2017  and, for two days , was grilled by operatives of the Commission on sundry allegations bordering on abuse of office, criminal breach of trust and under declaration of assets.”

Nwaoboshi, who represents Delta North in the Senate, is alleged to have “used his company, Bilderberg Enterprises Limited, to secure contracts worth N2.1 billion to supply new equipment to two agencies of Delta State Government but defrauded the state in the execution of the contract by importing and supplying used equipment which he passed off as new.”

He is also accused of laundering the proceeds of alleged criminal activity to acquire properties in Delta State and Lagos.

Listed among such properties are a 12-storey building at Apapa in Lagos belonging to Delta State Government which Nwaoboshi bought for N805million and an N800million warehouse at Apapa Wharf, Lagos

The 12-storey building property was allegedly acquired through one of his companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited.

The warehouse is already subject of interim forfeiture by the EFCC.

Continuing, the source said: “besides, Senator Nwaoboshi allegedly diverted proceeds of a NEXIM loan to acquiring properties, objectives which contravene the conditions for which the facility was granted in the first place.

“The senator equally failed to disclose his interest in about 30 bank accounts in the assets declaration form.

“Preliminary findings indicated that he has a case to answer. So, he might face trial accordingly.”

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has filed a two-count charge against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar, in connection with an alleged N10million bribery scam.

Umar reportedly demanded for the bribe from a former Comptroller of Customs, Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo.

Umar is due to face trial in the High Court of Federal Capital Territory.

In the charge sheet, marked CR/109/18, the CCT chairman was alleged to have collected N1.8million bribe, suspected to be part of the N10million, through his Personal Assistant, Ali Gambo Abdullahi.

The suspect will be prosecuted by Festus Keyamo (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The charges read in part: “That you, Danladi Yakubu Umar, being the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and presiding over a case with Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12, involving one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, sometime in 2012, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did ask for the sum of N10million  from the said Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to the pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) in discharge of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 12(1) (a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003.

“That you, Danladi Yakubu Umar, being the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and presiding over a case with Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12, involving one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, sometime in 2012, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did receive the sum of N1,8million from the said Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, through your Personal Assistant by name Alhaji Gambo Abdullahi, for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to the pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) in discharge of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 12(1) (a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003.

With five witnesses already lined up, the EFCC said it would rely on a petition dated 20th June, 2013, by Rasheed O. Taiwo; the statement of the CCT chairman; the Zenith Bank Statement of Taiwo Rasheed Owolabi.; the Zenith Bank Statement of Ali Gambo Abdullahi and a copy of Zenith Bank Cheque of Taiwo Rasheed Owolabi; a copy of Zenith Bank Cheque of Ali Gambo Abdullahi and all processes and documents in Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12.

The CCT chairman allegedly asked for the bribe from Taiwo, who was a retired Comptroller of Customs.

The ex-Customs officer was arraigned before the tribunal in Suit CCT/ABJ/03/12 for alleged failure to declare his assets.

But the judge was alleged to have asked for the bribe to throw away the case.

The ex-Customs Officer allegedly played along when he paid N1.8million out of the N10million bribe cash into the account of the Personal Assistant to the judge, Ali Gambo Abdullahi.

It was learnt that Ali Gambo Abdullahi, had appeared before EFCC more than 20 times since 2012 on the matter.

It was not clear what accounted for the charges against the CCT chairman because the EFCC had claimed that the allegations against him were “insufficient” to establish a prima facie case.

But in 2016, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki asked the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from proceeding with his trial.

Saraki had queried Umar’s “moral standing” to try him because he has been under investigation by the EFCC for alleged bribery scam.

A top source simply said: “We have reached a convenient stage in our investigation to put the CCT chairman on trial. This latest bend of findings supersedes our previous reports on him.

The EFCC had in a letter to the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim absolved Umar of bribery allegation.

“The letter signed by its ex-chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde said: “We refer to your letter ref. No. SGF.19./S.24/11/451 dated 23rd February 2015 on the above mentioned case reported by one Mr. Rasheed Taiwo (DCG rtd) of 6AB Milverton Road, Lagos against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar and his Personal Assistant, one Gambo Abdullahi.

“The complainant who is facing charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal alleged that Justice Umar made direct demand for the sum of N10 million to quash the charges sometime in 2012.

“He disclosed that he was compelled to pay the sum of N1.8 million after persistent inundation with phone calls from Justice Umar, who received the bribe through the Zenith Bank account of one Ali Gambo Abdullahi, his personal Assistant in December, 2012.

“Investigation was extended to one Hon. Justice G.A Oguntade (Rtd) who confirmed that the complainant informed him in 2012 of the issues he had at the Tribunal and the demand being made by Justice Umar. He disclosed that Justice Umar denied the allegation when he called him.

“There are indications that the Tribunal Chairman might have demanded and collected money from the complainant through his said Personal Assistant.

“However, efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012. This has made it impossible to subject it to independent scientific analysis with a view to corroborating the allegation.

“In the same vein, the complainant could also not make available his telephone set for analysis on the grounds that he had lost it. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the Tribunal. This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.

“There is a prima facie evidence to however prosecute  the Personal  Assistant, Abdullahi, who could offer no coherent excuse for receiving N1.8million into his salary account from Taiwo, who is  an accused person standing trial at the tribunal.

“The full money has been recovered from him in May 2014 and aptly registered as exhibit. The fact that he made two contradictory statements on the reason he was paid the money, is clearly an attempt to cover up on the  reason the money was paid to him. He has  accordingly been charged to court in charge no. CR/137/2015 pending  at the High Court of FCT, Abuja.

“However the facts as they are now against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute him for the offence.

“Above is submitted for the information of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, please.”

Also, the Secretary to EFCC, Mr. Emamnuel Adegboyega Aremo, in another letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on April 20, 2016 exonerated Justice Danladi of corrupt practices.

The letter said: “We will like to reiterate the Commission’s position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you and state that the allegations leveled against Justice Umar were mere suspicions and consequently insufficient to successfully prosecute the offence.”

 
Saturday, 03 February 2018 18:24

City Falter In Title Race, Draw At Burnley

Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s late equaliser for Burnley denied Manchester City victory for only the fourth time in the Premier League this season as Pep Guardiola’s side paid the price for missing a host of chances.

City took the lead through a long-range Danilo strike but failed to turn their dominance into further goals.

BBC reports that Raheem Sterling was guilty of their worst miss when he failed to find the target from six yards after meeting Kyle Walker’s cross at the far post.

Burnley, lifted by a home crowd buoyed by Sterling’s miss, had gone close through Ben Mee and Aaron Lennon, who were both denied by brilliant Ederson saves, but there was no stopping Gudmundsson’s effort.

He ran into the box to meet Matthew Lowton’s cross with a powerful half-volley that City’s Brazilian goalkeeper got a hand to, but could not keep out.

City still extend their lead at the top of the table to 16 points, at least until nearest rivals Manchester United play Huddersfield later on Saturday.

Burnley have now gone nine league games without a win, but the manner of their comeback to hold the runaway leaders will give boss Sean Dyche something to smile about after a disappointing start to 2018.

 
 

An alumnus of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) now Rivers State University (RSU), Port Harcourt, Dame Judith Amaechi, who hails from Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikola Local Government Area of Anambra State, is the wife of Transportation Minister, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a former Governor of Rivers State, who is an indigene of Ubima in Ikwerre LGA of the state. The ex-First Lady of Rivers State, in this interview with our Bureau Chief in Port Harcourt, BISI OLANIYI and FAITH YAHAYA, speaks about her relationship with a former Rivers Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, what motivated her to establish a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI), and the face-off between her husband,  and the incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, among other issues. Excerpts:

How was it, while you were growing up, considering the fact that you lost your mother at a very tender age?

I have never been asked this question in my life. I was privileged and it is a great opportunity to have grown up in a house of one of the most wonderful women I have ever met on earth, with her husband. She was everything to me. As a mother, she did the best and gave me the best of education. For me, it was just okay, while growing up.

Will it be correct to say that you had silver spoon in your mouth, while growing up?

Not quite. I grew up in a house where education was the main bane of sustenance for them. They believed so much in education. They also taught us discipline and morals. I will not say I was looking for food to eat, but I know that I had challenges, when sometimes there would be nothing, as much as children who were more privileged, but I just grew up in a normal house. My parents were both teachers and maybe civil servants.

You got married in 1993 to Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was then the Special Assistant on Students’ Affairs to the then Governor of Rivers State, Chief Rufus Ada-George. How did he meet you? How did he propose to you and what was your reaction?

Oh, my goodness! Whaoooooo! We met for the first time in a wedding at Elekahia (Port Harcourt). Then I was still a JAMBITE, having been admitted to the then Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), now Rivers State University (RSU), Port Harcourt, where I was studying Urban and Regional Planning, and I later graduated by God’s grace and mercy, with Bachelor of Technology.

While still a JAMBITE at RSUST and quite young, during the wedding, he greeted and talked to me. He later asked for my name and address in the course of the discussion. I was very suspicious. So, I gave him a wrong name and address.

How did you eventually reconnect?

I did not meet him again until one day he caught me up in Port Harcourt, after about three years. He said he was going to drop me off, but I did not want to take him to my destination. I did not realise that he was then living very close to me at Elekahia Housing Estate. He then took me to my house and he waited for me to enter the house, but he used the opportunity to inform me that he was the person I earlier gave a wrong name and address. He then said I could not trick him anymore, since he had known my house and that was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.

During courtship and when we eventually got married, he was very nice. He was more like an elder brother and a father to me. He was always treating me so kindly. He taught me a lot of things. He was a very patient person and he was willing to allow me grow.

After knowing my house, he was visiting occasionally and would also call me up. Then, perhaps, I was not too much of a knowledgeable person, in terms of the worldview and relationship. While going to fellowship, he would drop me off. He was then working.

Since he was then working and you were schooling, was he always spoiling you with gifts and cash?

I did not realise that I had needs and it was not really that kind of relationship. He was not that kind of person. He was more like personal interaction between us. It was like two persons who just wanted to talk to each other. It was not like that kind of relationship of spoiling a lady with gifts or cash. I actually did not have that kind of interest at all. He was just keeping up with me. He was actually a very good and understanding person and I would also not joke with my studies and fellowship.

Besides his intellect, kindness, care and being handsome, what actually attracted him to you?

I just liked him and I still like him. Then, I did not think about relationship with him, but with time, we became much closer. It is just like when you see someone for the first time, something just clicks and you can get along with the person.

What of the insinuation that he met you while you were with a former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, and his wife, Justice Mary Odili, now of the Supreme Court?

I did not know anything about his (Amaechi’s) political inclination. That is the truth. Dr. Peter Odili is an indigene of Ndoni in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, where my mother hailed from. It is just mere coincidence. I met him (Amaechi) as any young girl would meet a young man and somehow, he had interest in me. He is a very kind person, with a giving nature and he always wants to help people. He does not bother about material things.

I remember telling him (Amaechi) in the early days that the Lord Jesus Christ was looking for people like him, especially with his good nature, charitable heart and always wanting to help people, because I saw God’s gifts in him and that how great it would have been, if he could be much closer to God and to be attending fellowship. He is always parting with his money and material things, and he would not mind giving out everything he had, because I was watching him closely.

I always like to evangelise and attend fellowship. As days rolled by, I saw someone who was really selfless. To be honest, having my kind of background, because it was my auntie that brought me up, with a knack for education and also very kind, catering for other people’s children. So, he suited me, to be honest and I felt that I was in a very good hand.

At times, he would sit me down then, telling me that I was juvenile in my thinking and my ways, insisting that life was not like that. He taught me a lot of things that shaped my life, but very personal, which I will not reveal.

I met Dr. Peter Odili then without knowing who he was. Prior to meeting Dr. Odili, I was already in the relationship (with Amaechi). It is not true that Dr. Odili or his wife introduced me (to Amaechi). Never. He met me like every other man would meet a lady. In fact, he was not even introducing me to anybody and he decided not to take me to any of his bosses or friends, until much later.

How is your relationship now with the Odilis, considering what later happened, when your husband was the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and eventually the governorship aspirant and later candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2007, before the party’s ticket was given to his kinsman, Sir Celestine Omehia, from the same Ubima in Ikwerre LGA, because of K-leg, while Dr. Odili was Rivers governor and presidential aspirant on PDP’s platform, with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, then of PDP, as President?

To be very honest, we have never held anything against the Odilis. My husband and I have always seen them as our parents. I really do not know their own opinion. One of my children, who is taking the course-line of Dr. Odili (medicine), would always say that he was inspired by the Odilis, but I know that sometimes, people can read meanings to things. My husband is always having respect for the Odilis.

For the first time, I will voice out something that most people do not know about my husband. He respects authority and his bosses. When you have ever been useful to him in his life, he will never try to harm you, talk nonsense about you, bring you down or tries to disrespect you. He is like that. Sometimes, I would feel upset with him and I would tell him that someone was hitting him hard and dealing with him, but he would just remain calm, but he would respond that as long as the person was part of his success, it would not be nice of him to wake up in the morning and abuse the person. He would prefer to let the person be, adding that if God wanted it to happen like that, so be it, but let it not be that he would be the one that would be found wanting.

I remember when I got married to him, he was always very busy, always going out and he was fond of saying, ‘my boss and my Oga’. One day, he told me that one thing he wanted me to do was to take Dr. Odili as my father and that for whatever it might be or whatever inconveniences it might cause me, he would never do anything to go against him or things that would hurt him.

Sometimes, I would hear rumours but I would rather toe the positive side of life, I would rather spend my energy listening to good news and that is what my Bible advises me to do. Rather than sitting down, talking down on people or listening to bad things that some people would want to say. How do you progress in life when all you do is to listen to gossips and act on them? My husband does not take things to heart.

My husband and I will never go against the Odilis. I do not think anybody has ever heard me or my husband criticise or say anything negative about the Odilis. I believe it is a political problem. My husband sees politics like sport but unfortunately, some people take it beyond sport. The only time I can take it beyond sport is when someone is threatening my life. At that point, I would simply ask my God to handle the person.

In the second term of your husband being the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, in the days of K-leg in early 2007, he relocated to Ghana and you moved with your children to the United States of America, but your husband’s kinsman, Sir Celestine Omehia, was inaugurated as governor on May 29, 2007, instead of your husband, who decided to go to court, with the matter ending at the Supreme Court, which gave a landmark judgment on October 25, 2007, sacking Omehia and your husband was inaugurated as governor the next day, making you to become the First Lady of Rivers State. How was the experience?

That is one moment I really do not always like to remember, but in all, God is faithful. To be very honest, it was a fine moment because it just came suddenly and I could not believe that we were in that position. Me and my children were in one room and we were separated from him (Amaechi) for so long and we were moving from one house to another. He was in Ghana, while the children and I stayed in three overseas countries.

We had horrifying experiences. The first nasty experience we had was losing all our passports and my bag at Atlanta. I felt somebody deliberated picked up the bag, because they later saw the person on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV). At the Atlanta airport, I told God to have mercy on us. At every moment, I could see the glory and the hand of God. When our passports got lost, it was normal for them to ask us to go back and re-organise, but they allowed us. We reported to the immigration and they allowed us to continue our journey because we had not reached our destination in the United States of America.

We were not heading for USA because we just wanted to go there, we decided to leave Port Harcourt because the political scene became so mean and our lives were hunted for. We were not safe. My husband never believed in children being out of Nigeria. He always believed that we should be in Nigeria since Nigeria is our country and we should stay and struggle it out. Moreover, it prepares someone for tough times as well but for some reasons, we had to just leave Nigeria because we needed to be alive.

Therefore, we started going through the ordeal of not having anything (money and other needed items) with us. We just left Nigeria and my children had to abandon school in Nigeria. Before then, my children had started having series of attacks in the school. When we left and we had that unpleasant experience at Atlanta airport, it was really depressing. I want to really thank God because it was a terrible moment that I do not always like to remember. We are still alive by the special grace and mercy of God.

In the USA, we stayed in a friend’s house and the four of us stayed in one room. I had to stay with them because they were children then. We stayed downstairs, where the room was, close to the living room. From there, we had to move to London and we later moved to another country, but our passports were lost. We were just trying to stay safe.

I do not want to go into details of what we passed through and everything that happened. Most times, we would see the people who were chasing us. They would either send their family members or agents to be on our trail. Immediately we sighted them, we would run because we did not have any form of security other than God.

We did not do anything to the persons who wanted to kill us but they felt that my husband was a threat to their ambition. So, we had to stay away from Nigeria. In the USA, initially, we were staying in a hotel, but it got to a point that we could no longer afford it because everything was not planned. My businesses in Nigeria were there, but what we were thinking about first then was safety. Something interesting was that my kids were so good. They did not make me feel down and out.

In the one room in USA, me and my last son would sleep in the room. We got a mattress for my two other sons to sleep with on the floor of the living room or they might use the foams of the chairs, with one toilet. We all managed it and we continued to pray. My last son prayed a prayer that I believed that God really answered but I will not disclose his special prayer. My other sons also prayed.

People would say what they wanted to say. Whenever I wanted to speak with my husband in Ghana from USA, I would move into the room, but the children would wonder what I was hiding when everything could be found in Google. That was my first time of knowing that the things were in Google.

There was a day that my last son knelt down and prayed on what we were passing through, especially the challenges his daddy was facing, but I will not disclose his special prayer to the members of the public, but the then small boy prayed to God and God answered his prayer.

Something miraculous also happened. Throughout the period we were in the USA, we were living like king’s children, because people that I did not know from Adam would send us big money and sometimes passports. My husband too would send to us the money he could afford, telling me that our children and I must be going through hell because it was a very challenging period, considering how he was surviving in Ghana, the court cases in Nigeria and the lawyers’ fees to pay. I saw the very strong hand of God.

When some people behave the way they are behaving these days, I would just laugh because when I remembered the Egypt, I would simply give thanks to God. While in the USA, my children and I became the envy of people around us, because they saw God in action especially for divine provision and protection.

In difficult times, God would always show His children mercy and favour.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s President in the days of K-leg, but while your husband was Governor of Rivers State and Chief Obasanjo was out of office, he visited Rivers State and he was lavishly hosted by your husband and he inaugurated and inspected many capital-intensive projects of the administration. What was your reaction then, to the eventual reconciliation?

I did not see anything wrong with the later reconciliation. People were then struggling for power and they might have gone to the extreme. We never went to the extreme. I knew that God would certainly vindicate us and give us victory. I will rather make heaven than sit back here and dwell on the wickedness that happened. I will never be part of wickedness.

If anybody came back and said he was misunderstood and he did not know the truth then, why not embrace reconciliation?

When I saw former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when my husband was governor, honestly, I was very happy and I thanked God that finally, the truth was in the open.

No greater joy than having the joy of reconciliation, especially when it is genuine, not the one that is fake. I learnt something from my husband that it was always better for someone to be the victim, than to be the one that would be unleashing the evil, in order to be able to sleep well and have a clear conscience, no matter the situation. Above everything you are doing on earth today, there is an answer you have to give someday in our lives and I will not want to be remembered for evil. I want to be remembered for good.

Sometimes, interests matter. People too also gossip to leaders. My husband would always fight for people with all his heart, strength and everything he has, without thinking about the benefits, but some people are not like that. To them, it is all about themselves and themselves alone.

Some people might have gossiped to the then President Obasanjo about my husband, hoping to jam their heads, for Dr. Peter Odili and my husband not to get what they were then looking for (presidency and governorship respectively).  The gossipers would meet big and small Ogas (bosses), telling them different stories, just to cause confusion or disaffection.

What is your foundation about?

I have something that I call a passion and the name is Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI). It was founded on the 16th of October, 2008 and it was launched by the then First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua.

What is the foundation about and did you go into it because it is a trend with women whose husbands hold political positions?

The organization was born out of a passion. The passion is dated as far back as even before I became the wife of the Speaker. I l have always wanted to help people as a person maybe by virtue of the position I have found myself. Even from my house, we have always had people coming to us with one need, burden or desire and for some reasons,  except you have a stony heart, you would just find yourself giving and finding solutions but beyond that, I lost my mum quite early and I have sympathy for people who are orphans. I have that soft spot for them having being through some of those traumas as well and luckily for me, I had a great opportunity. A wonderful woman and her husband brought me up and gave me the best and for me, I take it as an opportunity and that opportunity is what I want to give to everybody that I come across, especially when they are less privileged. I could have been different if I didn’t have the opportunity but I did and see me now. So, the passion didn’t start because I became a governor’s wife or speaker’s wife. It was born out of the circumstances I found myself in and then having married my husband, I just found it very interesting to carry on because he is someone that is selfless and generous.  It was a dream fulfilled because I met a partner who was really there to reach out to the needy. He had so much compassion in him too. I love reaching out and I believe that if every child or every human is given an opportunity, they will make the best out of life and the world will be a better place to live in.

How do you reach out?

I don’t believe that calling people together and giving them food to eat, giving them rice or wrapper is an empowerment. Teaching them constructively how to use their talents or how to use their hands to do something that would sustain their living is a form of empowerment to me and then probably giving them a backup to that which they have learnt . I believe empowering them through skills would take them off the street and off your burden as well. For me, that is what I do whenever I find myself in a circle of the less-privileged.  I never would have been the governor’s wife but God decided to promote my husband and I found myself again in another privileged position and it was a tough one and I think I had to make some covenant to be able to get to where I am. Part of the idea for ESI came when I travelled abroad and I saw where women were producing garments in quantities and I sat down in the company for like three hours. Nobody knew why I was there but I was amazed at how about 300 people were sitting down and producing. I became very inquisitive and I asked lots of questions and something in me said this can be done in my country and in my state in particular. When I came on board as the governor’s wife, I brought people together to actualize the idea. I looked at our state then and militancy was the order of the day and luckily for me, my husband is one man who is very much inclined to education. So I said to myself, if they are already convincing young children in primary school to go into carrying arms and being vulnerable to doing the bidding of the so called well-to-do, then I said the best thing I can do to address it is to go to the nursery school because the formative age of a child is between age 0-9 and when you guide a child at that age, the child becomes near perfection.

You hardly hear of children within that age drop out of school, so you would have opened that child’s horizon to becoming a better person in future.  I then asked what to do and to be honest, it was just God’s brilliant idea because I didn’t know how it came about. I always say that when you have a dream, you need God to bring it to fruition and God used a man from Bayelsa, who is now late. The nursery school idea came and I felt if we follow the idea, we would give the children a sense of direction and avoid majority of the vices that we are finding ourselves suffering from today. I have also noticed that in Nigeria and in my state, all we do is amendment.  Why wait for a human being to get to age 18 before we start thinking of how to make that person’s life more useful?  Why not key in on that child’s age when he is very young and needs some sort of direction and I used to use a phrase; ‘catching them young’. When you catch them young, you can make or mar them.

As I started having outreaches, I asked the elites where their kids were and those who had kids below age 9 said they were in nursery or primary school and  I asked why they didn’t keep their children at home? I asked because it was the problem in the rural areas; children were not in school for some reasons; either they were not exposed or they lacked the wherewithal to get basic education.  Now, how do you get a mother in the village who does not have any money to convince her that her children should go to school and remember, she does not know what education is all about? How do you make her child go to school and expose the child to seeing the values of being in school and how do you convince a child who is not exposed that carrying arms and engaging in other crimes  are not right? So, from that tender age, you instill morals in them by way of education and give them a brighter hope for tomorrow because when a woman is vulnerable, anyone who is rich and into all the vices like militancy can easily give the woman N10,000 and being someone who has never seen N100, she will easily do whatever the rich man tells her to do.

It is for me very important that every child be given an opportunity to go to school and then leave the rest to God.

How many nursery schools have you established?

We have over 37 nursery schools in Rivers State and we hope to expand to other parts of the country.

How much does it cost to train a child in the nursery school?

One child used to cost me N36,000 per term and N108,000 per year when the foreign exchange was okay.

Why are the schools located in Niger Delta?

I started the school project from Niger Delta because I was concerned about our people because all we hear is militancy and it is not true. Majority of us are not into that at all and we also wanted the agitation to stop.  We wanted to create an enabling environment and opportunities that would make us get out of that negative image.

Why did you decide to go into skill acquisition centre?

I decided to empower people with skills because people come to my house to ask for help but the truth is this, how many people can I help? There is also this feeling in Nigeria that just because it is government, it should run down. But it is wrong. I think at the individual level ,  we must take the responsibility of trying to shape our people’s lives and giving them the right norms and values so that at the end of the day, they will see government as not just “use and dump” or it is “our fathers right”. I ensured that the centre was handled by a professional because not everybody wants to go to school. We have about 92 skills and nine faculties and we work with people who would give the best. I believe if you have the best hands as trainers, the trainees would come out to be the best too.

How many people would you say you have reached out to since the foundation was launched?

For the nursery schools, we are clocking over 4000 children because every year we graduate pupils and it has not been easy between 2015 and 2017 but we are still moving on. For the skills, we try not to do more than 300 every session because it is very expensive to train them but I cannot get the proper data right now.

A political group, Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), was on Wednesday unveiled in Abuja.

The move may not be unconnected to the call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s charge on the need for a Coalition for Nigeria.

The Acting Chairman of CNM, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who spoke at the unveiling, described the coalition as a movement to salvage Nigeria.

Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State, said that CNM remains a movement and not a political party unless members agree to transform it into a party.

He said that the movement came into being in response to Obasanjo’s call for the emergence of a Coalition to help rescue the country from bad administration.

The coalition hitmen

Oyinlola was also the former Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), before defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He said that the movement would provide equal platform for all Nigerians, especially women and youths.

The former governor added that the movement would be led by the youth, while the elders would only play the role of a guide.

Oyinlola faulted the allegation that the movement was carrying out Obasanjo’s agenda to install a new leadership for the country.

“To say that we are legitimising Obasanjo’s legacies is a beat off the mark.

“There is no one who can fault the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter. Forget the messenger, let’s discuss the message.

“What he has done is to stir us from our slumber to the reality of what is happening in Nigeria to take charge and take action.

“Are there no other leaders sitting around and watching how things are going?

“I think we should give some kudos to him for being able to address Nigerians on the ills of the society which requires attention.’’

When asked whether he had resigned his membership of the APC, Oyinlola said the issue did not arise since CNM was a movement and not yet a political party.

Coalition-NM-Logo

He, however, said that he was not tied down to any political party.

On whether the movement would be transmuted to a political party to contest the 2019 presidential election, Oyinlola said CNN remains apolitical.

“But if the movement says they want to transform to political party, that will be a collective decision, not mine.’’

Former governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke also spoke at the ceremony, and described the formation of the movement as timely.

Duke stressed the need for Nigerians to come together and chat the way forward for the country.

He said the country was not going to get better except Nigerians come together to change the narrative and the situation.

According to him, 39 years ago, Nigeria with a population of about 90 million budgeted 25 billion dollars, and now with more than 200 million people, her budget is only 23 billion dollars.

Buba Galadima, a member of APC, said that the movement was being formed to rescue the country from disintegration.

On the possibility that President Muhammadu Buhari may be seeking re-election, Galadima said Nigerians would only support his bid if there was concrete evidence that he had performed well.

“If the president wants to be re-elected and he can show us empirical evidence that he has performed in terms of infrastructure development in this country.

“Evidence that he has put food on the table and unify the people of this country, then so be it, we will be prepared to vote for him.

“But if those indices are not available, then he does not deserve a second term,’’ he said.

Thursday, 01 February 2018 04:50

Eagles beat Sudan 1-0, qualify for CHAN final

Nigeria yesterday in Marrakesh, Morocco proved that when you have the guts you could achieve your dream. The odds were stacked against Salisu Yusuf’s boys in their African Nations Championship (CHAN) semifinal game against favourites, Sudan, but the home-based Eagles, who played about 30 minutes of the game one man down, defied the pundits’ predictions to come away with their first final ticket in three outings at the competition.

The Sudanese started the game like a house on fire, but they were rebuffed by the Nigerians, whose goalkeeper and captain, Ikechukwu Ezenwa was in inspired form.

Ezenwa, however, had to pay the price for his daring moves when he was injured in the seventh minute while trying to thwart an onrushing Mohamed Idris. He could not come back to the game and in came Dele Ajiboye.

Despite the setback, Nigeria took the lead in the 16th minute when Gabriel Okechukwu shot past Sudan’s goalkeeper, Akram from close range after beating the defence with his pace. Before Okechukwu’s goal, Sudan had a glorious opportunity to grab the lead in the 15th minute, but Ajiboye was quick to read the danger.

The Eagles could have increased the tally in the 25th minute through Okechukwu but his left-footed shot sailed inches wide of Akram’s left corner.

The first half ended 1-0 in Nigeria’s favour despite Sudan’s dominance in the later part of the half. The second half began with Nigeria more purposeful, but the Eagles were deflated when Ifeanyi Ifeanyi was sent off in the 58th minute for a dangerous tackle.

Sudan tried to take advantage of their numerical advantage but they met Ajiboye in inspired form. With three minutes to go, Sudan were also reduced to 10 men when Bakri Bachir received a straight red for bringing down Solomon Ojo.

Ajiboye kept his team in the game after producing two brilliant saves in the 90th minute to ensure they are through to the final.

Nigeria will meet hosts, Morocco, who defeated Libya 3-1 in first semifinal.

Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun and suspended Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) boss Mr Mounir Gwarzo yesterday disagreed on the cause and propriety of the suspension of the Director-General.

At a House of Representatives’ public hearing by the Tajudeen Yusuf – led Committee on Capital Market and Institutions on Gwarzo’s suspension, Mrs. Adeosun said the suspension was in the interest of the capital market investing public. Gwarzo disagreed; he said it was all as a result of his decision to conduct a forensic audit on Oando Plc.

Yusuf explained that the investigation was not intended to witch-hunt anyone but aimed at building and restoring the confidence of the investing public in the capital market.

Gwarzo, who appeared at the hearing with a counsel, James Igwe, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), faulted his suspension on the point of law and Public Service Rule (PSR), stressing that the minister had no power to suspend him.

He pointed out that payment of severance package of N104 million to himself as well as awarding SEC contracts to companies he has interests in as alleged by the minister were untrue.

Gwarzo said his suspension was as a result of his resolve to conduct a forensic audit of Oando despite several attempts by the minister to stop him.

He also wondered why the minister interfered in the case of Oando and Oasis Insurance, and cited five other investigations carried out by SEC in the last two years which the minister never interfered in.

Gwarzo  said: “I strongly believe that anybody or group of persons that do not want a forensic audit to be undertaken on Oando Plc does not believe in the anti-corruption war of Mr. President. The forensic audit is yet to take place almost two months after my suspension and more than four weeks after Mrs. Kemi Adeosun told the nation that the exercise will commence. There is no court order as at today restraining SEC from undertaking the exercise. Oando has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal and the matter is yet to be heard not to talk of issuing any order and SEC only obeys court orders and not filing of papers as was the case in Gombe Bond, BGL and Partnership, and the board of the Nigerian Capital Market Development Fund has since approved the engagement of the investigators and also approved the sum of N160 million for the exercise. Therefore, SEC has no right to vary the decision of the Board and no reason not to continue with the forensic audit”.

Igwe quoted copiously from the Securities and Investment Act, PSR and the constitution that the DG was not subjected to the PSR since he was not a public servant but a head of a government parastatal appointed by the President.

Igwe said the minister lacked the powers to suspend a SEC DG and that Gwarzo could only be guided or disciplined by the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and staff manual of the agency, adding that the provisions of laws acted upon by the minister were non-existent in the rule books.

On the allegation of payment of severance package of N104 million to himself, Gwarzo said the payment was in accordance with the rules governing such matters.

He noted that though he was a commissioner for two years before being appointed by the President, subject to the approval of the Senate, he still went through the process of a new appointment and, as such,  he was entitled to two years of severance package.

He said all heads of government agencies, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), including commissioners, are entitled to such packages, adding that all the commissioners as well as the Head of Legal and Enforcement of the Commission agreed that the payment be made to Gwarzo except the acting Head of Legal Department at the time who disagreed.

He said the approval of the minister was not required on the matter, notwithstanding the non-existence of the Board of the Commission at the time.

On his interest in certain private companies and award of contract to one of them, Gwarzo said he resigned his membership of the companies but found out that the resignation letters were not filed.

He also said there was no law that prohibits companies belonging to members of his family from sourcing for contracts.

“The Minister lacks the power to suspend me from service. The appointment into office or removal from office of the Director-General of SEC is a power strictly resident with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is evident from the provisions of section 5 and 8 (1 and 2) of the IS Act, 2007. The minister’s role is only limited to recommendations to the President. It is elementary to Labour law that only an employer can suspend an employee, thus bringing to question the suspension by the Honourable Minister,” Gwarzo said.

According to him, as soon as the SEC issued a notice on 18 October 2017 to the public that a forensic audit will be carried out on Oando PLC and the shares be put on technical suspension, the Minister of Finance invited him to her office on 19 October 2017 at 9:30 am to inquire into the activities of the Commission on Oando Plc at that meeting.

“She sought to know the power I as the DG had to undertake such an exercise, stating that it had been suggested to her that I should be relieved of my job for taking such a decision,” Gwarzo said.

The minister said Gwarzo was economical with the truth by claiming that his suspension was a result of the investigation of Oando.

Saying that Gwarzo’s only wanted to play up emotion on the issue, Mrs. Adeosun said she could not have endorsed the investigation of Oando by SEC if she had other motives, despite being informed after Oando has been suspended by Gwarzo

While the  Minister questioned the sincerity of Gwarzo on allegation of  interference in the affairs of SEC against her by the suspended DG, Mrs. Adeosun said what explanation would Gwarzo give to the investigation of a company owned and managed by her personal friends, found wanting and banned for life by Gwarzo.

This is the story of Paddy Adenuga, a young Nigerian and son of Dr Mike Adenuga, Globacom boss, on how at the age of 29, he tried to acquire one of the biggest oil companies in the world, Chevron Netherlands. Read the story below.

“A LION IN THE NORTH SEA: THE BATTLE FOR CHEVRON NETHERLANDS.”

It was October 2013, two years had passed since I had left the family business in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to London, England to start my own oil trading company. My time in the family business, as a director in the telecoms division and upstream oil & gas company was challenging to say the least but engaging and ultimately rewarding. However, I have never felt comfortable with sitting back and getting a golden pass through life. Whilst the easy thing to do was to be a “good boy and good son” and enjoy all the luxuries of being in a family business – I decided that striking it out on my own once again was the best course of action.

I’ve always loved the oil & gas business, like many other Nigerians. However, what I love about the business, particularly the exploration and production (upstream) side, was the mixture of strategy, operational capability, technical know-how, politics and business acumen which all had to be married with a gambling spirit and sheer luck to be successful. In my decision to move to London, I decided I would only be in the oil & gas business as long as it didn’t pose a direct conflict to the family’s interests. There is striking it out on your own and then there is just being plain foolish. Luckily for me, I had stopped being foolish by then.

The modus operandi of my oil trading business was simple. I kept an office in Lagos with a small team of five to run operations and logistics. I converted one of the bedrooms in my townhouse in London into a study. My team in Lagos under my guidance would get oil trading contracts and I, sitting in London, would either market these contracts to the global oil trading houses to execute in Nigeria on a joint venture (JV) basis or in some instances, I would find the capital to execute the contract from end to end. This formula proved effective and it was good enough to pay my bills and afford me an above modest lifestyle.

One of the traits I took from my parents is that I am highly ambitious and find it hard to sit still. There always has to be a new conquest, a new mountain to climb, or, as is the case most times, a new business to go after. Oil trading was my day job but was never exciting to me except for when I got paid. After days and weeks in London plotting my next move, I came up with an idea and a plan. In the world of upstream oil & gas, especially in Africa, companies that were operators, actively producing oil & gas in commercial quantities that wanted to invest or participate in the oil business were the darlings of the industry. They were like the prettiest girl in high school and every guy wanted her to come to the prom with him.

Most of the oil producing nations in sub-Saharan Africa such as Nigeria, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea would always require any investor into oil & gas assets in their country to either be an oil & gas operator with production on stream or be partnered with an operator, deemed a “technical partner”. This logic makes sense. If you are going to buy prized national assets, you should have the know how to develop and operate them or at least be partnered with an entity that does. I decided that I was going to use a Trojan Horse strategy. I had read ancient Greek literature when I’d attended military academy in Texas and it served as inspiration. I would acquire an oil & gas operating company in Europe (the Trojan Horse), where the political barriers and costs to entry in comparison to Africa would be significantly lower. I would then use this newly acquired company, which would now be of Afro-European in heritage, to become a technical partner to many local and international investors in the upstream oil & gas business in Africa. This company would be the first of its kind and likely the most sought-after oil & gas company on the African continent because of its unique DNA and ownership. After thinking of this idea, I took myself out to a bar a few blocks from my house and ordered myself a nice strong drink. I felt like a genius.

I registered a new upstream oil & gas investment company offshore and called it, The Catalan Corporation. The name didn’t really have a meaning, it just sounded nice and had a confident, stately demeanour to it. To keep costs at a minimum, I decided to put together an advisory board that consisted of Vance Querio, the COO of Addax Petroleum at the time and an industry professional and my mentor (who will remain nameless for good reason), one of Africa’s biggest business giants. Vance was all too happy to join and signed on quickly. I called my mentor and before signing on, he wanted a face to face meeting for me to explain my plan and ambitions for Catalan. He asked me to meet him in the early spring of 2014 at a health spa in a small Swiss village outside of Zurich. I have to admit the drive from Zurich to this little village tucked within the Swiss mountains still remains one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The spring sun had begun to melt the snow on the mountains and in the distance; you could see the melting snow turn into giant waterfalls pouring off the mountains. It was like an oil painting come to life.

I eventually met with my mentor and after explaining my idea to him and that him being on my advisory board would not only give my burgeoning company credibility but help us raise cash, he agreed in totality and went further to tell me that I should tell anyone and everyone that he was not only on board but was going to give our company his full support. We drank some tea together and the next morning I was off back to London. My little plan for Africa oil & gas was coming together, finally put into action by two African men in a Swiss village. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

On the plane flying back to London from Zurich, even though I had just gotten my mentor on board, I felt that there was someone missing. A few years prior I was the spearhead of my family’s acquisition drive for OML 30 (this is another whole story in itself), one of Shell Nigeria’s most lucrative oil blocks that was up for sale, I met a brilliant English banker named Edgar. Edgar had more than 30 years of oil & gas operations and finance experience. He was respected by the industry on a global basis and having him on board would be the final piece in the puzzle, the icing on the cake. I called Edgar immediately I landed and asked if we could meet for lunch, my treat as always.

I pitched Catalan to Edgar and how if we pulled this off it would be the grandest of coups. Edgar was highly intrigued but stated that he wanted hard cash upfront from the onset. Whilst the others were all too eager to come on board and make their money via sweat equity or cash incentives when we had a target company in our sights, Edgar wanted to be paid money and a substantial amount before putting pen to paper. I was confused by his behaviour. I told him who the others were that were on Catalan’s advisory board but he wasn’t having it, either he would be paid his princely sum to attach his name to Catalan or no deal. I was 29 at the time and was still head-strong and prideful. How could this guy develop such an attitude? I thought we were friends. I suppose Edgar knew his value and wasn’t going to mortgage it on a promise of monies at a later date. As much as he liked my Trojan Horse idea, he just happened to like money more. I balked at his request in annoyance. I paid for lunch, told him no way, and stormed off home. This was a big mistake on my part that would rear its ugly head later.

I appointed two of my most trusted confidants as directors in Catalan and with that the company was set to go. I designed the logo for Catalan – a coat of arms with a cross in the middle. I am after all a devout Catholic and a strong believer in God, so why not have my faith represented on my company logo? I then called my friend Nicolas Lavrov, a web and graphics designer and over the course of a week we put together a sleek and polished company profile which me, my directors and advisory board began emailing out to interested parties. A few weeks later, I got an email from Richard Kent of Jeffries. Jeffries are an investment bank that work closely with multi-national oil companies (the majors) on the acquisition or divestment of oil & gas assets on a worldwide basis. Richard had gotten a copy of my company profile and wanted to have a meeting. I wore one of my finest suits and hopped into a taxi to his offices in London City.

Richard and I talked extensively about my background and my ambitions for Catalan. I explained to him the type of company we were looking to acquire, ideally an oil & gas company in Europe, preferably operating out of the North Sea with a strong daily production and enough reserves to warrant further investment in development. I also told Richard how much we would be ready to spend for the first acquisition – between USD 50 million and USD 100 million. We would finance our acquisition via reserve based lending and would likely raise cash equity of thirty percent of our purchase price with a Bank raising debt of seventy percent to help the balance of the purchase price. I had described the “goldilocks” company Catalan needed to acquire. With that said, Richard told me to give him some time to find the best deal for Catalan.

A few weeks later Richard called me, “I have the perfect deal for you Paddy!” US oil giant, Chevron, had decided to sell their entire upstream, exploration and production business in the Netherlands and had appointed Jeffries to manage a bid process for the sale of Chevron Netherlands. The sale included their production platforms in the North Sea off the Dutch coast, their office buildings, around a thousand or so native Dutch staff, and their crude and gas pipeline evacuation infrastructure. Even the Chevron coffee and tea mugs were part of the sale. Richard was right, this deal was perfect and the ideal Trojan Horse with which to enter the Africa oil & gas terrain with from Europe. He informed me that this would be a competitive bid against other companies to acquire Chevron but thought that Catalan and I stood a good chance. I told him I was interested and that he should send all the necessary paperwork over. Something within me believed I was going to win this bid and with that in mind I was going to throw everything at it. If I won this bid, I thought, there would be stories written about me for a long time to come.

Chevron are by nature, prudently selective with which companies they invite to bid. So the fact that Catalan was chosen was a big deal to me. I felt like for once in my 29 years, I wasn’t being judged solely by my last name but for my skill, merits and ability. I got the first bits of information from Chevron on their Netherlands assets and I began putting together a team of hired hands to act as my management team for Catalan’s bid. I appointed Dutch law firm DeBrauw as my lawyers, Canadian firm Canaccord Genuity as my finance managers, RPS Energy as my technical managers, and Moore Stephens as my accountants. I informed Chevron of my management team and they asked for a few weeks to open the data room and kick off the bid.

Whilst Catalan and its hired management team waited on Chevron, I decided to be pro-active. From previous my experience with OML 30, not engaging government regulators enough could prove to be unwise. I decided that I needed to meet with the government body in the Netherlands responsible for managing their oil & gas affairs. After all I was a young Nigerian man, trying to buy prized, national Dutch assets. I, more than anyone, needed to be ten steps ahead at any given time. My lawyers put me in touch with Jan-Dirk Bokhoven, the managing director at the time of the Dutch state-owned oil company, EBN. Jan-Dirk and I spoke on the phone and agreed a date to meet at EBN’s head office in Utrecht, a one-hour drive or so outside of Amsterdam.

I had never been to the Netherlands before. I took the first flight from London to Amsterdam and arrived a little after 7am. The hotel sent a car to pick me and on my ride into Amsterdam the most fascinating thing I saw was that the Dutch rode bicycles everywhere. When parents take their kids to school, they pop them onto the back of a bike and ride on. I had never seen an entire city on bicycles. It was like something out of the twilight zone. A few hours later I changed and drove to Utrecht on a warm and sunny morning. The ride to Utrecht was stunning. The skies were a picturesque baby blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. On either side of the motorway there were golden fields of farm land and further beyond, wind turbines spun in synchronicity. The view was so special to me that I asked the driver to stop on the side of the motorway so that I could get out and appreciate the scenery for fifteen minutes or so. The driver thought I was odd.

I finally met Jan-Dirk at his offices with his head of operations, Thijs. I could see in both their faces, looks of confusion and reverence at the same time. How could a 29-year-old Nigerian have found himself in a position to buy Chevron’s business in the Netherlands? I told Jan-Dirk and Thijs of my intentions and that I took this bid seriously and wanted to make sure that I did everything right in the eyes of not only Chevron but the Dutch government. They both assured me that I was on the right track and that if there was any issue, they would let me know. I spent a few more days in Amsterdam, met up with a few friends, and enjoyed the Dutch nightlife and hospitality. I flew back to London.

Chevron finally opened the data room for the bid and provided all information needed for all companies to put in a bid. I put my team, my directors, and Vance Querio on the task of reviewing all the documents with a request that we have a bid review meeting in a few weeks. Tarica Mpinga of Canaccord Genuity served as the lead of the management team. Tarica called me that the team was ready to present their findings and proposal on the way forward. I went over to Canaccord’s offices and for once saw my team assembled in front of me. Here I was, in my late twenties, in a massive boardroom, with a management team of fifteen people presenting to me. I felt like I had arrived.

While acquiring Chevron Netherlands was mostly for an Africa oil & gas play, Catalan had to deal with the reality of the company’s books, resources, and liabilities. Chevron Netherlands by production was attractive, producing 9000 boepd broken down into 8000 barrels of gas per day and 1000 barrels of crude. The off-shore production facilities were top class, the gas reserves were attractive with ample room for development to increase production numbers, the management team of Chevron Netherlands were the best the industry could employ, and the crude and gas evacuation infrastructure and sales contracts were solid. The Catalan management team presented me the bad news. The oil reserves were seen as weak and having very little production life even if new wells were drilled. The biggest problem however was the abandonment liability which had been projected at first glance to be in the USD 300 million region. This became the thorn in the flesh of entire bid process. Essentially the Dutch government required all operators to restore their areas of operation back to how nature intended – which meant all infrastructure had to be removed at the end of production. The cost of this is what is termed “abandonment liability” or “abandex”. Catalan’s management team felt that because the abandex was so high, it negated an aggressive bid price and moreover Catalan would struggle to raise cash to pay for Chevron Netherlands.

Unperturbed, I corralled my management team on a road show. We would meet with as many Banks, investors, and oil trading companies as possible to pitch Catalan’s bid and Africa strategy for Chevron Netherlands. The team and I spent countless hours in meeting after meeting but to no avail. The abandex amount and weak oil reserves of Chevron Netherlands were too significant that it blinded people from the Africa strategy entirely. Alas it was clear that this would have to be a cash deal with no bank debt or oil trading dollars. Despondent, I called my mentor for a way forward. We spoke extensively and as I expected, he was the only one that saw how important Chevron Netherlands would be as a technical partner-operator in Africa. We agreed that between myself as a small cash contributor, himself, and a few other investors we could raise cash of USD 50 million as a maximum bid price. That night I went back to that bar not far from my house and ordered an even stronger drink. This bid could not slip away from me.

Chevron sent an email to Catalan advising when they expected bids to be received. The Catalan team once again huddled in Canaccord’s offices to work on a bid submission document, which would include Catalan’s offer and bid price. We deliberated for hours and the management team insisted that because of the high abandex amount that no cash should be offered. Essentially Catalan would agree to absorb the entire abandex amount and would pay a notional “$1” for the company. This would be a liability absorbing deal, allowing Chevron to clean out and move on. The team advised that Catalan put in this offer but as a way to play hard to get, we would commit to the gas abandex but stay quiet on the oil abandex. I was convinced at that moment that we would have the winning bid. The team prepared all the necessary paperwork, which I signed, and hand delivered to Jeffries offices to the manager of the bid process. After submitting the bid documents, I went to my church, St. Mary’s. I always like going to church when there is absolutely no one there. I prayed for God’s blessings and good graces.

Jeffries and Chevron confirmed they had received Catalan’s bid and would need two weeks or so to review all bids and come back with an answer. In the meantime, I gave a break to my management team and spent all my free time now on my kung fu training with my master, Shifu Heng-Wei. Kung Fu was not only for my fitness but for my well-being and spiritual balance. It was my greatest stress-relief. On a Tuesday afternoon, whilst Shifu and I were in the middle of an intense kung fu session, my phone rang. I knew it was about Chevron. One of Richard Kent’s deputies was on the line. Chevron had reviewed my bid and were “confused” on my position in respect to the oil abandex and wanted a re-submission clarifying Catalan’s position on both oil and gas abandex. I immediately re-convened my management team at the boardroom and began debating our response to Chevron. I saw this as a second chance opportunity from Chevron to submit a more aggressive bid. My management team argued that I should keep the same bid and state now clearly that Catalan wanted nothing to do with the oil abandex. I countered that we needed to be aggressive and should take the entire abandex and offer cash of USD 50 million so that we could acquire Chevron Netherlands uncontested and plough quickly to our Africa strategy.

The Catalan management team thought I was crazy. Surely, I was 29 and now undeniably stupid. How could I look at that enormity of an abandex amount and now want to offer hard-earned cash on top of that? They believed I was frequenting my local bar too often and having one too many drinks. They pleaded with me that I follow their proposal. We argued further and eventually as a compromise, we agreed that we would take all of Chevron Netherlands oil & gas abandex but would still offer a notional $1 bid price. In my heart of hearts, I felt that a cash offer was needed to win but my management team, for which I had paid a respectable amount for their services, had convinced me otherwise. They were professionals I thought and they had my best interest at heart. The team printed out the documents for which I appended my signature and re-submitted. Again, I went to my church, when there wasn’t a soul in sight and prayed to God for his guidance and blessings.

Chevron confirmed that they had received Catalan’s revised bid document and would need another 2 weeks to come back to me on whether we won the bid or not. One night as I stayed up watching CNN at home, I had another idea. If I was able to find out whom the other bidders were for Chevron Netherlands, I could coerce these bidders to drop their respective bids and join me in a new multi-bidder venture. With this, Chevron would have no choice but to sell Chevron Netherlands to Catalan and the other bidders in a new joint venture (JV) company. This was to be my insurance policy in case Catalan’s solo bid failed. As I said, I am the underdog here by a country mile; I always had to be ten steps ahead of everybody else. I arranged a conference call with my management team and charged them to find out who the other bidders were for Chevron Netherlands. I also pulled out my diary and began making phone calls. At this point I didn’t care what the rules were, this was business – either hunt or be hunted and I believed Catalan led by me, was an apex predator, even if Chevron was one trillion times bigger than Catalan. Fortune favours the bold and I fancied this as David versus Goliath.

One by one, Catalan began finding out who the other bidders were. Mercuria, an oil trading company I had done business were in the running but then pulled out. Dana Petroleum looked at the assets but were also out of the running. Tullow Oil was also out of the bid out of the fear of the abandex costs. I scheduled another call with my team and asked everyone to re-double their efforts to find active bidders. The clock was ticking and I was keen to find the other bidders before Chevron replied to my bid. I was too late however, on a Friday afternoon in early summer of 2014, whilst I was out drinking rose wine with friends at the Arts Club in London, I got an email from Chevron. They had rejected Catalan’s bid and had deemed our bid unsuccessful. I felt like sinking into the ground. I hastily said goodbye to my worried friends and ran home. I couldn’t believe it. How could Chevron say no to me? This bid was destined for me to win. I was meant to be the Alexander the Great of Africa oil & gas and barely into my thirties.

All weekend, I re-traced my steps. I called my management team, my directors, my advisory board, and my mentor to understand where we went wrong. Vance Querio told me that it looked like I had fallen in love with Chevron Netherlands and it was time to walk away. I said no way, I was too deep in love and I couldn’t turn back now. I made up my mind that I was going to find the remaining active bidders, coax them into joining me, and leave Chevron with no choice. I called my management team for a meeting on Monday and they were soundly reassured that I was mad. The game was up and here I was, trying to bring back life to Catalan after a deathblow. The show was not over and we were going to be victorious. I left the meeting with a sense of purpose. That night I went on a dinner date and bumped into an older friend of mine, Remi. I had always looked up to Remi. Remi is smart, successful, and highly intelligent. I felt like him and I were very much the same person and that he was me, just twenty or so years down the road. Remi asked me what I was up to with work and why I wasn’t in Lagos running the family business. I coyly changed topics as I didn’t want any Nigerians knowing what I was up to, certainly no one in “high society” or the political elite. Even though Remi was a great guy, I couldn’t take the risk. Chevron Netherlands was my Trojan Horse and it was on a strictly need to know basis. We will get back to Remi later.

The next day I called Jan-Dirk of EBN and told him that I was going to make a USD 50 million re-bid for Chevron Netherlands but this time I wanted to do so with the other bidders as part of a JV. I was going to use all the cash I had agreed with my mentor to go for one final strike. Jan-Dirk at first was unsure that this was possible but when he heard my sense of urgency and willingness to put down cash, he invited me to back to his offices in Utrecht and felt there could be a solution. The next morning, I dashed off to the airport and flew back to Amsterdam. I landed early as I usually do and by this time I had gotten used to the city being on bicycles. I remember pulling up to a red light and seeing twin Dutch toddlers on the back of their mother’s bike waving at me. These Dutch and their bicycles.

I met with Jan-Dirk again and this time he was more forthright and eager to help out. He then dropped a few bombshells on me. First off, EBN, the Dutch state oil company, were an active bidder for Chevron Netherlands and were specifically interested in the oil side. I was shocked. The second bombshell was that they had put in a joint bid with an indigenous Dutch oil & gas producer called Oranje-Nassau Energy (ONE). Thirdly, EBN knew that apart from itself, Catalan and ONE, there was one more active bidder that wasn’t European or African for that matter but had no leads. Jan-Dirk pledged that EBN would join my new JV but that I had to meet the Chairman of ONE, Marcel, to get his buy in. In my presence, Jan-Dirk called Marcel and arranged a lunch meeting in London with Marcel and the managing director of ONE, Alex.

Back in London, I met with Marcel and Alex at a prestigious members club that both Marcel and I were members of. Marcel and I hit it off very well and found that we had a lot of mutual interests in common, more so he knew my mentor and on the strength of that would be happy to enter into a JV with Catalan and EBN. However, Alex, was slightly reticent. Alex, it seemed wasn’t too pleased that I was charming his Chairman right before him and wanted to put the brakes on this budding bromance. If he wasn’t careful this young Nigerian could even end up taking his job if this JV worked out. It then became a battle for control now between Alex and I on the fate of the JV. Alex proposed that the Catalan management team meet EBN and ONE at ONE’s offices in Amsterdam the following week to discuss the structure of this new JV and how we would formally propose to Chevron that we wanted to bid together for Chevron Netherlands. I agreed to this meeting. I would come with full force.

The following week, the Catalan team and I arrived in Amsterdam. I ensured that we arrived in style. I had the hotel arrange for five, brand new, jet-black Mercedes s-classes to ferry the Catalan management team to ONE’s offices. I wanted Marcel and Alex to know that we meant business and this wasn’t a Mickey Mouse affair. Marcel and Alex received us at the entrance of their offices. We certainly made an impression, it looked more like a state delegation had just arrived at ONE’s offices, ready to discuss oil & gas diplomacy.

We were taken up to their main conference room where we were introduced to the rest of ONE’s management team. Our meeting was to discuss two major points. First, if the JV was to be successful, how would we carve out the Chevron Netherlands empire? Secondly, if we were to agree to the first point, how would we approach Chevron and manage the bid process? The meeting became slightly contentious. EBN did not attend the meeting and didn’t need to. They made it clear that they were focused on the oil side of Chevron Netherlands and would only come in for the oil. ONE was also no small fry, they produced 60,000 barrels of crude and gas a day from their assets in the Netherlands and worldwide. They were not only keen on the gas coming from Chevron Netherlands but wanted operational control. This would leave Catalan as a mere financier/investor with no management control.

Tensions were flaring with no headway being made. I looked at Marcel and knew that he and I were both frustrated. I motioned to him for us to meet outside the conference room. Marcel waved to Alex to join us and I asked Tarica to step outside with me. The four of us walked over to Alex’s office for a man-to-man resolution meeting. I made it clear to Marcel and Alex that Catalan’s main objective was to use Chevron Netherlands as an Africa operator and would make our fortune from “selling” our technical know-how to wealthy, local investors in oil-rich producing nations with Angola and Equatorial Guinea as prime targets followed by Nigeria. However, Catalan would need to have management control of Chevron Netherlands as we know potential African partners would want to see the Afro side of an Afro-European oil company in control. Marcel agreed and Tarica re-emphasised my point. Alex however was keen for ONE to be an active player on the gas side as they saw the gas production and potential as the key driver for being involved in the first place. We agreed that Catalan would have management control but would let ONE drive the gas affairs in the JV with EBN doing the same for the oil. The empire had been carved. Lastly, we agreed that we would write a joint letter to Chevron notifying them of our intent to form a JV and permission to submit a joint bid for Chevron Netherlands. The four of us walked back into the main meeting and marshalled out the next steps to our respective teams. Marcel saw me off and we both felt like we were on the verge of something great. I spent a few more days in Amsterdam and revelled in the Dutch nightlife. I even bought a bicycle. On one fine Amsterdam afternoon as I rode my bike through town, I thought to myself, “I am about to be a Nigerian Dutchman”.

When I arrived off the plane from Amsterdam to London, I got a rather unnerving email from Alex of ONE. He was back to that power-playing game of his again which was becoming highly frustrating. Alex had written me stating that before EBN and ONE would agree to write a JV letter to Chevron they needed to see financial statements from Catalan, a substantial amount of money had to be put in an escrow account, and he listed another laundry list of conditions precedent (CP). I was surprised he didn’t ask for my birth certificate and my mother’s driving license. I thought to myself “Na wa o, this Alex bobo really has it out for me.” Alex had done this largely to checkmate me and show that he was the authority on the JV. It was all well and good for his billionaire Chairman, Marcel to say he was okay with it, but it was Alex that was responsible for managing the JV and not some young upstart. On the taxi ride back home, I thought to myself, it would take too long for Catalan to meet all of Alex’s CP’s and in that time Chevron could have announced a winner as I was well aware that there was another bidder still out there that we didn’t know of. Also, Alex was effectively making Catalan bid for ONE’s partnership. He would make Catalan sweat to earn partnership rights with ONE and EBN and then we would sweat further to convince Chevron of our JV. I decided this was a dangerous road to go down and I would not cave into Alex’s demands. If there was anything I excelled at in military academy two decades before, it was in military strategy and tactics. I was going to put all my training and knowledge to teach this Alex fellow a lesson. ONE and EBN were going to sign that letter I told myself. They simply had no choice.

I devised a plan, which I fine-tuned with the other two directors of Catalan. I made sure not to discuss the plan with Catalan’s management team for fear that it could leak out. The Catalan directors agreed that for our plan to be successful, I in particular would have to eat humble pie. I had to reach out to Edgar and I’d also have to pay that princely sum of his. In addition to Edgar, I needed to get French banker, Guillaume Leenhardt on board. Guillaume, I had known since I was 13 years old and I’d come to find out that he was a close friend of Marcel. I met with Edgar for a steak dinner. I swallowed my pride and apologised profusely for our last meeting that didn’t go so well. I told Edgar that I wanted him on my team now on a full-time basis. Edgar knew he was needed now more than ever and cheekily asked for twice the amount he had originally requested for. This was no longer a princely sum but a king’s ransom. I did the math. It was worth it. I called my Bankers and made sure Edgar was paid. That was the first chess move. I called Guillaume and he just happened to be in London. He asked me to meet him in Hyde Park by the serpentine lake. I arrived at the lake and saw Guillaume sitting on a bench, feeding bread to ducks. It was like something out of a spy movie. I briefed Guillaume on the whole Chevron Netherlands saga and he was impressed to say the least, “You’re as ambitious and as crazy as your father… I like it!” With that said Guillaume was on board. More chess moves. My plan for Alex was now set in motion, it was a mixture of “good cop-bad cop” and what Yoruba’s from Nigeria call “Ogbon agba”, loosely translated to “An old man’s wisdom”.

I emailed Alex, copying Marcel and key members of ONE, EBN, and Catalan’s management team. I wrote that Catalan was no longer interested in partnering with ONE and EBN. I reminded them that Catalan was invited to bid by Chevron and Jeffries because of our cash raising ability. Alex’s list of CP’s was a slap in the face to Catalan and had personally offended me and my mentor. In the same email, I instructed the Catalan management team to cease all communication with ONE and EBN. The email was a tsunami. ONE and EBN couldn’t believe that they had just been dumped. Imagine telling the prettiest girl in school that you were planning to take her to the prom, she thought she had you wrapped around her finger, and then in one ninja move, you tell her you are no longer interested. This dejection is what Alex and co. were now feeling. How could ONE and EBN be told to bog off and most of all by this small boy? It put them in a state of cataclysmic shock. Bad cop. I then called Edgar and Guillaume that I had to write such a nuclear bomb of an email because my mentor and investors were unhappy that ONE was trying to shift the goal post. I asked Edgar to reach out to Alex and the ONE management team since he knew them well to speak some sense to them, stating that I wanted to partner with them but that my mentor and investors were the ones holding me back, that they were about to lose out on a fruitful partnership. I then reached out to Guillaume to do the same with Marcel. Good cop. More chess moves. A week went by. The Catalan team, still bewildered, called me to reverse the decision in my email, pleading with me that my stance was suicidal. I refused to budge. Edgar was making progress with Alex. Alex began to feel that this whole mess was now his fault and didn’t want to look bad in front of his organisation and EBN. He caved in and with his contrition, EBN were on board. It was now left for Marcel to give the final green light. Marcel was enjoying a cruise on the Greek seas on his lovely yacht and was a little hard to reach. Guillaume finally reached him. Marcel agreed. Checkmate. Ogbon agba!

I drafted the JV letter to send to Chevron. The reward for my victory. I emailed it out to ONE and EBN. One hour later the letter was sent back to me with their signatures. I signed the letter and then forwarded it via email to Chevron and Jeffries with the Catalan management team in copy. Tarica called me and wondered how I’d pulled off such a coup. I told him they don’t teach such at Harvard Business School, that this was native Nigerian business sense. We both laughed. Chevron on the other hand wasn’t laughing. In the words of Jeffries, “Catalan was taking over the bid process”. Chevron now knew that it wouldn’t be too long before the last bidder was found and coerced into the Catalan-led JV. Chevron is one of the wealthiest companies in the world and also one of the smartest. They made a few chess moves of their own. They decided to stall and told the JV through Jeffries that they needed some time to consider our proposal. They would cleverly use this time to tidy up the bid with the last, final bidder. A week passed by and I knew this was a race against time between Catalan and Chevron. If Catalan found this last bidder the game was up and Chevron would have to cede Chevron Netherlands to the Catalan-led JV. Chevron for their own part, needed to wrap things up with the last bidder because if not, they would have been outfoxed by Catalan and might end up having to sell Chevron Netherlands for a much smaller sale price. Worst still, there was no way they would lose their Dutch empire to me of all people.

I called both Edgar and Guillaume, asking them to use all their contacts and resources to find the last bidder. I arranged a conference call between Catalan, ONE, and EBN with a clear order to find the last bidder and that once we found them, the bid was ours for the taking. During my time in the family business, as a director in the upstream oil & gas business, I had a close working relationship with Chevron Nigeria and knew its managing director. I dug deep into my email and found emails years back between Chevron’s senior management based in Houston and I. I reached out to the Chevron Houston team and went into full salesmanship. The Catalan-led JV was well suited to buy Chevron Netherlands. We were a mix of cash (Catalan), operational experience (ONE), and government-state backing (EBN). There was no better group to sell to. Chevron Houston asked for time to consider. Guillaume had come up with no leads but Edgar had, the kings ransom I paid for his services was showing dividend. Edgar had gotten in touch with Martin Lovegrove, a senior adviser to the global CEO of Chevron. Martin informed Edgar, that the Chevron global deal team sitting at headquarters in California – Chevron San Ramon, were debating what to do. It was becoming an internal debate between Chevron Houston and Chevron San Ramon on whether to conclude with the last bidder or pivot to the Catalan-led JV. I waited on the outcome. My 30th birthday was on June 21, 2014. I had planned a big comic book inspired costume party to ring in my special day but I cancelled all those plans. I felt Chevron Netherlands was slipping away from me and this was not the time to celebrate anything.

On July 14, 2014, I received a letter from Chevron. They had made up their mind. Chevron San Ramon had their way. There was to be no room for the Catalan-led JV and they were concluding the sale of Chevron Netherlands imminently. To say I was devastated wouldn’t capture how low and defeated I felt. Chevron Netherlands was destined to be mine. I was going to ride back into Africa on my Trojan Horse and become King. I had given every part of me, every fibre of my being and it was immeasurably painful to come so close to victory and lose. ONE and EBN wrote to Catalan formally withdrawing their participation in Chevron Netherlands. They had sailed off into the North Sea sunset. I stubbornly refused to give up and wrote another letter to Chevron that Catalan would be prepared to pay up to USD 100 million for Chevron Netherlands. Frankly, I didn’t know where I was going to find the money but I was throwing one last shot out there when in actuality it was no more than medicine after death. A few days after my last pitch letter, Richard Kent sent me an email; Chevron Netherlands had been sold to Petrogas of Oman. The last bidder, the mystery company I couldn’t find. I’d later come to find out that USD 50 million plus an absorption of all the abandex was the winning formula for the bid – the same formula that I had proposed to my management team but they had pushed back on. This was a painful lesson to always trust my instincts, no matter the circumstance. Edgar later told me that if I had brought him on from day one, the first question he would have asked me was, “What amount are you willing to pay for Chevron Netherlands, given what you wanted to use it for in Africa?” I told Edgar that the price I would have paid was USD 50 million. I should have paid Edgar his princely sum the first-time round, never again would I let ego or pride cloud my judgement.

Members of the Chevron team in London called me. They congratulated me on a well-fought bid and marvelled at my ability to push them so hard in their own bid process. Richard Kent of Jeffries took me out for a drink. He told me I was the type of bidder he liked working with, tenacious and aggressive. Richard wanted to know if I was interested in another bid, something was coming up in Italy. I told Richard I was done. I looked finished. I said goodbye to the Catalan team and paid their fees. Tarica took me out for a meal, trying to encourage me. We joked about how legendary this bid was and how I had brought back Catalan’s quest to life on multiple occasions when all seemed lost. This was all consolation. I thought, no one remembers the 1st runner up, second place is just not first place. My mentor called me and told not me not to be hard on myself, that this was all a learning process and that it would shape me for further battles in the future. I agreed with him but nothing could make up for my loss.

Whilst I lay in bed that night, one of my closest confidants nicknamed Heisenberg and a director in Catalan called me. I remember our conversation like it was yesterday. Heisenberg said, “Mr. P, how many people are given the opportunity you had at 29 to buy Chevron Netherlands? How many Nigerians can ever say they were in a competitive bid to buy an oil & gas company in Europe and almost won? How many young men at your age with the same background, simply settle for less? But you went out into the real world and fought hard and fought valiantly. You got one of the largest indigenous Dutch oil companies and the Dutch state-run oil company to partner with you. You might have lost but you won. Take this as a privilege and that God himself is shaping you into a Man and not just any Man.” He was right and I agreed. Heisenberg advised that I head off to the one place that always rejuvenates my soul… Los Angeles. I got up out of bed, walked down into my study, went online and bought a ticket for the next morning’s flight to Los Angeles. I would go away for two months.

I arrived in Los Angeles half a day later. I sat in my apartment for the first two days. I barely ate and just stared into nothing. This was the cathartic process to get over my loss. Then I got into my car and drove to Malibu. There is nothing more peaceful than a scenic drive down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The Pacific Ocean waters out to infinity on your left and there are cliffs, bluffs, and stunning mountains to your right. The California sun in all its warmth shines down and that good Cali fever infects your soul. This was Californication at its finest. I enjoyed my two months in Los Angeles. I partied hard, went to the Drake vs. Lil Wayne concert at the Hollywood Bowl, sat courtside and watched Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers play a good game, ate well and one night dined at BOA steakhouse on Sunset – at the table in front of me was an orange haired business man named Donald Trump, if only I had a crystal ball then. I went to Disneyworld and had a blast. California had healed me. I was okay again. I thanked God not only for the opportunity and the experience but also for blessing me with a good life. He had taught me some valuable lessons and helped me discover new parts of myself I didn’t know existed. Heisenberg was right, I was becoming a Man in the true sense of the word.

A year later, I moved back to Lagos for a few months to be closer to my family and to take a break from work. A South African company, HKLM that had helped my father design the logo for his telecoms company were in Lagos doing some further design work for my father. My father always uses a bull as his personal insignia and it had become synonymous with him. Gary Harwood of HKLM asked me if I wanted my father’s bull insignia adorned on any clothing or stationery. I told Gary that I wasn’t a bull and that my father was “the bull”. Gary countered and said, “Well Paddy if you are not a bull, then what are you?” I paused for a moment, thinking. My mother was born on August 2nd, 1950; she is a Leo by star sign. Leo’s are lions and I was my mother’s lion son, her Simba. I told Gary, “I am a Lion. I always have been and always will be.” Two weeks later Gary sent me a design of my own personal insignia, it was a Lion’s head. We made a few tweaks to make the Lion look more intimidating yet regal and Gary sent me the final design. In a very clever and touching way, Gary and his team had woven some of my facial features into the design of the Lion’s face. This Lion no matter who might see it or who might copy it would have me staring right back at them. I thanked him for a wonderful present.

I called Remi and told him that I was back in Lagos. He invited me over to his palatial and modern home. He liked my Lion’s head insignia that I had stitched onto the pocket of my native Nigerian kaftan. We sat down for hours and talked business and politics. Then Remi asked me what was I doing in London all that time, away from the family business. I was happy to tell him about Chevron Netherlands at this point, the deal was done and over. Remi looked at me in astonishment, “You mean you took on a whole Chevron, with no noise, no fanfare and none of us knew? Ahh bros you try!” We laughed it off. Remi then revealed the biggest bombshell of my Chevron Netherlands adventure. The managing director of Petrogas of Oman was a close friend of his and he knew he was bidding for Chevron Netherlands at the time. If I had told him what I was up to when we saw in London, whilst I was searching for the last bidder, he would have introduced us. I was blown away. There it was that whole time. That mystery last bidder that I had searched so hard for was there for my taking and it passed right by me.

I went back home that night and made myself the strongest drink. History couldn’t tell this story. I would have to.

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