By Sufuyan Ojeifo
These are trying times for many businesses and their owners in Nigeria. Businesses are crumbling due to economic upheavals. Reputations of businessmen and women, nay government contractors, especially those of them who are not politically correct, are being shredded on account of some alleged malfeasances in recent years.
Nevertheless, survival, in this season of anomie, is sure banker’s draft for those who have not dipped their hands in the cookie jar of crime; those who have run their businesses on the wings of fidelity and built solid reputations on the strong foundations of integrity. This community of businessmen is not shy to take up the gauntlet to unravel in proof of its purity.
Such puritanical disposition in the execution of contractual businesses with government would, understandably, appear to be impossible in this clime, given the laissez-faire mind-set that allows or positions few privileged individuals to access the nation’s honey pot in cahoots with government officials. Even at that, some are still conscionable enough to embrace moral values.
But if, from the morass of the culture of impunity that is pervasive in our nation, someone has dared to distinguish and position himself as being far from the compromising and conniving gangs of economic saboteurs and undertakers; then, such a person must be appreciated for climbing down, for probe, from the bandwagon of so-called successful Nigerian businessmen in that ilk.
This is exactly what the Chairman of Ocean Marine Security Limited (OMS), an offshore asset protection company, rendering services to major oil companies in Nigeria, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Captain (Dr) Idahosa Wells Okubo, JP, (Captain ‘Hosa for short) has done with his unambiguous riposte to the reported campaign of calumny that some conspiratorial forces tried some days ago to weave around his individuality.
The issue Captain ‘Hosa has taken up with the apparitional masterminds of the negative narratives in some online media, which tended to insinuate him into the testy multi-billion dollar oil swap scandal, is how satanic they were to have conceived the piece of fiction. If they had thought of presenting a salacious running story on his imaginary involvement in the oil swap scandal, then they must have got a big think coming.
In a nutshell, the recipient of Vanguard newspaper businessman of the year 2016 award has denied any involvement, at all, in the controversial offshore processing agreements (OPAs), popularly known as oil swap, involving the former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, and her allies- Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore.
The denial of any involvement came on the heels of the listing of the trio by the US Department of Justice as persons of interest in a civil complaint reportedly filed at a District Court in Houston, Texas, detailing how the duo of Aluko and Omokore laundered millions of dollars on Allison-Madueke’s behalf which were used in buying properties in the U.S. and the UK in return for oil contracts.
His further clarification, in a statement by his Media Assistant, Olanrewaju Anjolaoluwa, was prompted by the disingenuous attempt by some mysterious conspiracy theorists to portray him as one of the prominent Nigerians purportedly involved in the deal, perhaps, because of the services his company rendered to the NNPC. According to the statement, “There have been reports that more names involved in the multi-billion dollar deal would be revealed as investigations continue. However, some online media outfits have begun to concoct names of prominent Nigerians purportedly involved in the deal, including that of (Captain “Hosa) Okunbo.”
Captain ‘Hosa is apparently angry. The shape and texture of his response did not suggest otherwise. Read him: “My attention has been drawn to another highly falsified report establishing a link between me and the on-going investigations of the controversial offshore processing agreements by a U.S. jury. For the umpteenth time, the online media feasted on blatant falsehood and outright lies in relations to my business dealings. As this falsehood is being assisted with the ubiquity of social media, it is becoming increasingly clear that maintaining silence further will be misconstrued for consent.”
In 2015, a similar misinformation was purportedly published in an online news medium about his business and he had, as confirmed by him, addressed the issue in the belief that his response then would have put paid to a repetition of such and similar malicious reports. He, however, conceded that sheer laziness and unprofessionalism on the part of some bloggers have sustained the repetitive misrepresentation of the contract that formed the basis of the first publication.
The humble Benin-born businessman, whose community and humanitarian services are legendary, gave an insight into the scope of OMS’ contractual business with the NNPC, which had nothing to do with oil lifting. None of his businesses in Nigeria or outside, by his declaration, has ever engaged “in any deal requiring lifting the tiniest drop of oil, crude or refined.” He declared:” I am not a trader; I have never submitted nor participated in any ‘Oil Swap’ deal, neither do I own a company trading in any petroleum products.”
According to him, “Ocean Marine Solutions Limited was contracted by the NNPC to provide security coverage for the crude oil transportation because of its longstanding ‘sterling reputation in maritime security’. This became imperative after NNPC had offered PPP Fluid Mechanics Limited (his indigenous procurement and oilfield services company) a contract to transport crude from Escravos to Warri refinery when it had become highly uneconomical to transport crude oil between these locations through the pipeline in view of government’s huge expenditure of about $121 million for the maintenance and repairs of the Escravos-Warri broken crude oil pipeline.
“Upon satisfaction by NNPC with the delivery of PPPFM and OMS, the companies were adjudged competent and capable for continued transportation of the crude.” The facts supra, according to him, were made available to the online medium that started the story.
He declared magisterially: “I have never stood before any administrative, judicial or legislative panels to answer any questions related to any shady deal. I have conducted my businesses with utmost openness, honesty and integrity. I am not oblivious of the fact that not a few people look up to me as a role model; the least I can do is to exhibit exemplary leadership quality to this group of young Nigerians, many of whom interact with me on a regular basis.”
Captain ‘Hosa has expressed his readiness to face prosecution and be sent to jail if found guilty of any complicity or fraud; even as he affirmed that in his three decades in business, spanning engineering and technology, energy, integrated service in the petroleum sector, maritime, security, agriculture and others, integrity has been his guiding principle and a core value with which he has been able to earn trust and confidence of companies and corporations of global repute.
That elemental integrity, which has underpinned his business conduct thus far, is evidently Captain ‘Hosa’s weapon to deal with the gravamen-alleged involvement in oil swap deal- with which the faceless conspirators had plotted to tar his person and business. From his reactions, he is ready to defend his hard-earned reputations. He has my support.
Mr Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, contributed this piece via email@example.com