EFCC In Dilemma Over Ibori

Ibori denies all saying, ‘another Lie Against Ibori Implodes’

LEADERSHIP WEEKEND reports that The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) appears to be in a quandary over the large debt owed Intercontinental Bank Plc by a former governor known to be very close to President Umaru Yar’Adua. But Ibori denies all as ‘ lies the group has been telling against Ibori have been unravelling now’.

The former Delta State governor, who is also being investigated on charges of money laundering by the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, is the brain behind Ascott Offshore (Nigeria) Ltd, the biggest debtor to Intercontinental Bank Plc that has led to the recent sacking of the entire executive board of the bank by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Ascott owes Intercontinental Bank a more than N44 billion non-performing loan, according to the CBN.

The former governor was said to have obtained the loan for his company when he was still a serving governor, which he secured with the large Oceanic Bank Plc shareholding owned by Delta State. It was also said that when he left as governor, his successor objected to that transaction and insisted that the state-owned assets cannot continue to be used to secure a loan personally held by an individual. The problem has still not been resolved between the governor and his predecessor.

But the EFCC is still keeping the former governor out of its radar range, maybe because of the former governor’s closeness to the president.

When LEADERSHIP WEEKEND tried to find out what EFCC would do at the expiration of the one week of grace given to debtors of non-performing banks to start performing, in the event Ascott Offshore (Nigeria) Limited and the former governor still do not perform, most of the EFCC officials we spoke to hedged.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the managing directors of Finbank, Union Bank and Afribank.

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday published a list of over 200 individuals and companies owing non-performing loans totalling over N746 billion to the five banks.

According to the CBN report, Intercontinental Bank gave out the highest number of loans without collateral.

Meanwhile, Ibori have issued a statement at below:

Bad Loan; another Lie Against Ibori Implodes

Any who has followed the career of Sahara, an internet blog that has done little to shield the role it has been playing for its pay masters, would have noticed the lies it uploaded on the internet on Monday August 16, 2009. As usual, it jumped at the opportunity of tarnishing Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s image for no just cause; this time it accused him of being singlehandedly behind whatever malady that the Intercontinental and Oceanic Banks might be facing. In as much as we do not want to make that asinine report respectable by giving to it an unmerited official reaction, we wish to first point out the incongruity in that story,  especially for the sake of the well-intentioned and the ignorant who may be deceived by the lies it contained.

Yet, any person with little intelligence would have noticed that Sahara Reporters suddenly was singing a new song. Thus, where they had for years been alleging that all moneys Ibori might have ever made in his life were stolen from Delta State’s coffers, they lost their minds and accused Ibori of having obtained loans from the two banks to the tune of $200 million from each bank. They alleged Ibori used the loans so gotten to purchase two companies. So even they, in their rush to harm Ibori, forgot that the report would negate all they have been saying all along; that Ibori’s source of wealth could never be explained.

Yet, in a remarkable act of transparency, the transparency Sahara Reporters had ever refused to credit to the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the names of those behind the companies that took the loans which unsettled the five banks, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released Tuesday, a day after the wishy-washy report, did not include Ibori’s name. Yet, that fact had been there all along, but Sahara Reporters, as is usually their style, disdained them has become as clear as daylight. For instance, Notore Chemical Industries Limited, operated by Mr. Onajite Okoloko, and which owed Oceanic Bank some N32. 39 billion, was turned by Sahara Reporters to be a company owned by Ibori. Why? It gave no concrete reason, except that they claimed that Okoloko was Ibori’s friend. Finish! Yet, that same man was already a big player in OOANDO Plc before he pulled out from that outfit.  But to Sahara Reporters shame, the same man was named as
owner of another company, Mid-Western Oil and Gas Company Plc, which took another loan of N23.86 billion according to a list released by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The meaning of this should be clear to all by now; That the man is MAN enough to own the company he says is his. Actually, Notore had taken several newspaper-page advertisements about a month before Sahara Reporters attack on Ibori, to list out the names of their investors and directors, but Sahara Reporters chose to stick to lies.

The Sahara Report story listed another debt against Ibori’s name; the N44.67 billion loan Intercontinental Bank granted Ascot Offshore Nigeria Ltd. The published list of Ascot’s directors did not include Ibori’s name. But even then, that issue is not new, having been a subject of a court case between the bank and the loan taker.

Chief Ibori wishes to make it clear that he has nothing but genuine concern for the companies, the stakeholders in those banks or the individuals and companies named as beneficiaries of such loans. This is because, from the personal attacks he has been receiving for years now, enemies would twist the facts involved in this loan issue, just to score some cheap political or business points. There is nothing wrong in a bank extending loans to deserving companies just to grow their businesses and make profit for the banks too. Even when companies default for no fault of theirs but just because of unforeseen circumstances, banks could guide them back from insolvency to good financial health. What is frowned upon everywhere, and Ibori shares that notion too, is when a company or an individual actually refuses, for no just cause, to pay back their loan.  Otherwise, loan taking is as natural to companies as water is to a fish.

Yet, the greatest evidence that the said report was intentionally malicious against Ibori was that several persons and companies were mentioned in the CBN report as was widely published in newspapers of Wednesday 18th August 2009. And the amount involved in the loan came to over N700 billion. But Sahara Reporters left all of that alone and chose to invent lies and rope Ibori’s name where it was never mentioned. In fact, Sahara Reporters focused on Ibori and Ibori alone even though his name was not mentioned in that official list at all. Second, Sahara Reporters lied that the two companies it alleged were owned by Ibori took two different loans of $200 million each. But thanks to the CBN list, the loans the companies the blog-for-hire credited to Ibori took, were not the same amount; one was N44.67 billion while the other was N32.39 billion. How both amounts rounded off to $200 million can only be explained by Sahara Reporters. But Sahara Reporters,
quoting authoritative sources, put the two amounts as $200 million each. Yet, there is a gap of almost N13billion between them.

Here is another example of a lie.  Sahara Reporters wrote:

“As collateral, Ibori placed Delta State Celtel shares with the bank, but InterContinental was badly exposed when the Delta State government reportedly cashed out on substantial part of the shares  from the bank when they became cash-strapped”.   

But everybody knows that that is not how banks treat COLLATERALS. Could Ibori, the individual have placed a State property as collateral for a private business? Did he sign the papers, or actually did he submit the share certificate to the bank?  If so, how did the Delta state government retrieve it, and without a fight from the bank? And then it sold it and the bank said nary a word? Nonsense!!!.

And by the way, do you place share certificates, houses, cars, etc, with banks when they serve as collateral? The idea of collateral is that it is linked to the loan a bank extended to an individual or company, and so must not be tampered with or disposed of, until the loan has been repaid. Actually as long as the loan subsists, the collateral remains that bank’s property. Or almost.

As we said earlier, we do not intend to make the Sahara Reporters’ lies respectable by giving it an official reaction. We have just attempted to put the issue concerning the report about the loans in a true perspective so as to warn those who still believe in Sahara Reporters that they have been lapping up lies dressed as truth for a long time now. If we had intended to give that report a direct reply, we would have pointed out at least 20 instances of outright lies and non-logical reasoning in that single report.

The lies the group has been telling against Ibori have been unravelling now. First, it was the Wings Aviation aircraft which Sahara Reporters said Ibori had arranged to be flown out of Nigeria’s air space, and that the plane was stuffed with foreign currency and incriminating documents. As the wreckage of that plane was discovered in Cross Rivers State, Sahara Reporters was exposed as  terrible liars. The plane was on a scheduled flight to pick up the Cross Rivers State Governor, when it crashed. On that aircraft story, they attributed everything to sources upon impeccable sources. Same too, with the shopping mall that collapsed while under construction in Jabi District of Abuja. Sahara Reporters had said that the building belonged to Ibori, but it later turned out that Sahara Reporters were maliciously wrong as the collapsed building belonged to one Chief Obielum, a retired Police officer from Delta State.

Now the credibility of Sahara Reporters has again collapsed like that Abuja shopping mall. But it is likely that if the CBN has not released the list fast, there would have been many Nigerians who would have been deceived into believing that malicious story. This is just an example of the falsehoods that had been severally passed off as truth against Ibori. We will expose more of them here for the benefit of those to whom the truth means something.