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Published On: Tue, Jan 28th, 2014

Uduaghan and The ‘Missing’ $6m Chevron’s Ugborodo Fund?

Delta State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan

By Ifeanyi Izeze
LAGOS JANUARY 28TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Is it not shameful and disheartening that for over four years now, the slow progress of work at the site of what was supposed to be the largest gas plant in Africa- the Chevron’s over $15 billion dollar gas development project at Ugborodo community in Delta state could be clearly traced to issues revolving around two dominant questions both bothering on self-centredness and malfeasance of few privilege individuals. First, where is the $6 million the American oil major sent as its counterpart fund in the negotiated relocation of Ugborodo community from their current site and development of a new town project? And where is the N3.85 billion the Delta state government claimed to have released as it own share in the counterpart funding arrangement?
Leader of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Pa Johnson Ayomike, Monday January 20 2014 raised alarm that the $6 million sent by Chevron in the United States of America as its contribution in the counterpart funding arrangement towards the relocation and development of the Ugborodo new town project in Delta state has been either misappropriated or outrightly missing.
The Delta state governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri, was directly accused of complicity both in the missing money and the crisis that has rocked the Ugborodo community, the host the new gas plant.
As alleged by Pa Ayomike, the money “was changed to naira and deposited in a bank account controlled by signatories named by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, without the knowledge of registered trustees of Ugborodo community.”
His words: “To set the Ugborodo record straight, the initial N900 million fixed at a 13 per cent annual interest has depleted after five years, when the account became public. Simple mathematical extrapolation suggests that the balance should have been N1.4 billion at this time based on the exchange rate of $1 to N150 that prevailed in 2008 when the money was deposited.”
The Itsekiri leader also raised questions over the additional N3.850 billion which the Delta state government claimed to have contributed as it own counterpart fund as agreed for the development of the same new town project. He alleged “professional estate valuers have indicated that only about N60 million worth of job had been done on the site and yet the money had been expended.”
Ayomike who blamed Uduaghan for the crisis in Ugborodo, said the governor meddled in the local Ugborodo community affair by asking the elected chairman of the Governing Council of the Ugborodo Community Trust to step down for another candidate. He alleged “the governor backs the illegal governing council led by his cohort as the authentic team despite the existence of a set of electoral rules embodied in the instrument long adopted by the community and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja.”
The concerns expressed by the octogenarian, Pa Ayomike raised so many questions about the Uduaghan’s interest and complicity in the community issue.
First, Pa Ayomike and his faction claimed to have solid evidence that the Delta State Government’s counterpart share of N3.850 billion was documented as spent on the Ugborodo New Town Project. So the question is: Where is the $6 million contributed by Chevron for the relocation and development of Ugborodo New Town Project? Also, where is the Delta State Government’s N3.850 billion alleged contribution to the project?
The issue of the actual initial deposit is very crucial in this matter also. Pa Ayomike and his group alleged the initial deposit was N900 million using the exchange rate of $1 to N150 that prevailed when the money was paid in 2008. And this makes some sense. But the Delta state government declared that it was N705 million that was initially deposited. So the alleged differential of N195 million in the claims by the two sides also needs to be adequately clarified at best by warehousing bank- Ecobank and signatories to the account. o fcourse this would resolve the difference between the N1.4 billion and N908 million declared by the Pa Ayomike’s group and the Delta state government respectively as the current value of the money.
Uduaghan in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary following the accusation by the octogenarian Itsekiri leader maintained that the money ($6 million) brought by Chevron with the accrued interests has not been embezzled but intact in Ecobank. The governor did not say anything concerning the purported expended N3.850 billion allegedly contributed by the Delta State Government. Instead, it was the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Ovouzourie Macaulay who on an interview on Channels Television on Sunday January 27 stated that the Delta state governor’s alleged complicity in the Ugborordo community crisis was because the state government moved in to mediate and ensure peace and security of lives and property in the area.. The SSG also insisted that the Chevron’s money has not been embezzled.
If true as the governor claimed the money could not have been embezzled by a third party without Chevron’s involvement because: “The way it is arranged Chevron has to approve the project. Chevron has to sign the cheque and Chevron has to supervise the project. The money is a fund that no single individual can withdraw,” then, Chevron has to make public statement on the status of the account.
As Uduaghan is sure the money and all the accrued interest are intact in the bank, should with the urgency it deserves ask both Chevron Nigeria Limited and Ecobank to make independent statements concerning the funds. At least this would douse the mounting tension in the area arising from mutual suspicions. Though it may be more difficult for Chevron considering the likely backlash of heightened community antagonism from the warring factions, Ecobank should set the pace since the request on the status of the fixed deposit is being demanded by established owners of the money and also signatories to the account.
The Delta state governor must extricate himself from allegations of complicity in the leadership crisis and convincingly show that he is only mediating without bias for the sake of peace and progress of work at the site of the gas plant. Uduaghan should build on truth and transparency as this will convince the people of the community that he is actually working for their good. Anything short of this will only breed more suspicion and ultimately a complete breakdown of law and order.
Now to Ugborodo community, supposing the Delta State Government actually set out to contribute the N3.850 billion as its counterpart fund, which faction of the community leadership is Uduaghan going to dole out the money? Which group is the oil company- Chevron going to be dealing with as authentic leadership of the Ugborodo community without getting itself messed in the dirty politics of community crisis? If the Ugborodo people cannot even develop and agree on a workable plan which is basic for their new town project but more interested in squandering monies meant for the community development, would they ever have the moral stance to challenge Chevron for renegading on its community social responsibilities or even the Delta state government for neglecting them?
The community has spent so much time fighting over who controls the funds rather than doing a single thing on their part to produce a blueprint of what they think they want as their new town? Is there an articulated development masterplan for the new town project? There is none: because if such plan exists, at least houses and other infrastructures would have been fully built in the place to enable relocation of the indigenes while other bigger development issues are being sorted out. You see why the current disposition and power tussle in the community should make all the parties hide their faces in shame.
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: iizeze@yahoo.com

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