Ship Deal Divides Sylva, Daukoru

Tension is mounting between Governor Timipre Sylva-Sam of Bayelsa State and his estranged uncle, Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru, over a shipping deal involving two luxury cruise liners apparently bought with public funds. Emerging facts show that the recent plot by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Sylva was master-minded by Daukoru, who leaked information about a cruise liner known as “Silver Spirit,” an imposing seafaring spectacle allegedly owned by Governor Sylva.

Daukoru recently lobbied Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to endorse the impeachment of Governor Sylva. On February 23, 2010, the former OPEC president made a solidarity visit to Aso Villa, during which he openly canvassed the ouster of his nephew whom he described as “corrupt, irresponsible, inept and unpatriotic.”

A Bayelsa-based expert in the boat business who claimed he was being owed in excess of 500 million naira by the state government over a harbour project that is yet to materialize, disclosed that the governor began negotiations for the ship in the last quarter of 2007.

In many respects, the specifications of the executive marine vessel are comparable to its royal counterpart “MV Maduabebe,” the more recent marine wonder acquired by the former Petroleum Minister to mark his second anniversary as Mingi of Nembe.

In a curious turn of events, however, moves to dethrone Dr Maduabebe Daukoru as paramount ruler of Nembe have reached fever pitch. A coalition of youth groups working under the umbrella of Movement Against Maduabebe, MAM, have jointly condemned “the expensive habits of the king,” saying the acquisition of a luxury cruise liner at this time in the political calendar of the state was in bad taste.

According to a spokesman for MAM who gave his name as Diepreye John, “it is outrageous and insensitive for Maduabebe to embark on such an ostentatious display of wealth in the face of grinding poverty in the Nembe kingdom and Bayelsa State as a whole.”

A disgruntled faction of the Nembe Chiefs Council is also gathering support from their colleagues in the light of the scandal surrounding the new exclusive marine vessels. Barrister Olu Coker, leader of the faction which began a campaign against the flambouyant king last month, has called on Mingi Maduabebe to step aside, describing him as “an absent monarch who has got his bearings wrong.”

A member of the Chiefs Council and close confidant of the king, who pleaded anonymity, said the cost of the ship could have built twelve modern villages in Nembe clan from scratch. As he put it, “it is a sign of gross irresponsibility for a man of Daukoru’s standing to put his personal comfort over and above the larger interest of the community. If he had bought a regular ferry to convey passengers from one poor village to another, it would have made more sense.”

Boat-building experts say “MV Maduabebe” carries the Almarine signature in design and finishing, and measures over 100 feet in length. The exact cost of the cruise liner has not been ascertained, but it is believed to be in excess of Two Billion Naira. The ultra-modern cruise liner is fitted with a dazzling array of marine gadgetry, and speaks of a lavish interior décor.

Its facilities include an extensive sun deck, a royal observatory, a palace theatre, a bistro café, a fireworks lounge, an internet café, a video arcade, a swimming pool, a fitness centre and beauty salon, a restaurant and dining extension, two travel shops, a piano bar, a photo gallery, a library and a conference room, as well as a reception lobby, among others. It also has over 48 extensive state-rooms each fully furnished with shower, WC, wash basins, air conditioners, telephones, televisions and fridges.

Since Alfred Diete-Spiff’s “Ogina Bereton” and Alamieyeseigha’s “Sunseeker,” no son of the Niger Delta has ever owned a private ship with such luxurious credentials. Specifications of “MV Maduabebe” in terms of gross tonnage, length, breadth, passenger decks, cruising speed, draught and electric currents, exceed average expectations.

Transportation in the Niger Delta creeks has been a major challenge for most governments over the years. Since the days of “Water Lines,” a government-sponsored ferry system established by the Diete-Spiff regime in the old Rivers State of the late 70s and 80s, no state government has been able to undertake an effective marine transportation scheme for the long-suffering people of the area.

Daukoru ascended the coveted Mingi throne in Nembe on Saturday February 23, 2008, after putting two contestants, Chief Pedro Adukpo-Egi Ikata and Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, behind bars in Abuja. The coronation ceremony was conducted under the watchful eyes of a contingent of gun-touting soldiers and mobile policemen.

It will be recalled that Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was named in the recent Halliburton scandal involving top Nigerians in the oil and gas industry.