Monday, April 29, 2019 10:11 am
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
As much as possible, influential politicians in Nigeria, like President Olusegun Obasanjo, would do all they could to avoid the nation’s bad roads. Travelling on those roads endanger their lives as well as those of their exotic automobiles. To get round the danger, Nigerian leaders prefer commuting by helicopters and make beelines from the comfort of their abodes in the capitals to the villages.
During one of such trips two years ago, Chief Obasanjo took Prince Bola Ajibola on his Presidential chopper for what looked like a war reconnaissance along Iseyin Road in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State. He and Ajibola, a former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, have been friends from childhood. And in the recent past, he appointed Ajibola to oversee the implementation of the World Court verdict on Bakassi after which Nigeria ceded the oil-rich peninsula to Cameroun. They therefore, could afford to swap jokes.
As the helicopter hovered in the air, Obasanjo’s croaky voice sliced through the clattering of the machine’s propellers and the crackles of its radio communication facility. “Bola, look down to your left,” Obasanjo nudged his friend. “What can you see?” Prince Ajibola’s eyebrows arched in an attempt to lock his eyes on the direction and reacted that he could see nothing other than what looked like an evergreen forest. “Look properly, are your eyes failing you?” Obasanjo asked further.
Obasanjo then patiently revealed that what Ajibola saw were not trees haphazardly scattered by nature, but a carefully planned plantation of teak. The trees are like the cedars of Lebanon, valued for their usage as electric poles, export-earning and artificial regenerative potential. Ajibola interjected: “Segun! What are you doing with teak?”
Shrugging, Obasanjo replied: “For your information, there are over one million trees in that plantation,” adding that they were part of what would sustain him in retirement. He further revealed that his teak plantations are not only in Iseyin, but in other parts of the country where he also owns farms producing palm oil, rearing chickens, pigs and other things. “These are money-spinners,” Obasanjo said with satisfaction.
Even as Obasanjo’s helicopter will take off from Abuja on 29 May (after handing over power to Umar Yar’Adua) and land at Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta, from where he would proceed for a reception organised for him by his Egba kinsmen, what he, his passengers and crew members will see will go beyond teak. They will have an opportunity to appraise the extent of work at his multi-billion naira Presidential Library, Hill Top mansion in Abeokuta, and his farm in Ota, Ogun State.
Apart from all these, however, President Obasanjo, in the view of critics, has other business interests that will not only sustain him during retirement, but will make him one of the world’s wealthiest statesmen. These span land ownership, farming, oil exploration, banking, hospitality business, a university and an ethanol factory among others.
Indeed, President Obasanjo is looking forward to his retirement, the rites of which will begin this week. Like in 1979 when the late General Mamman Vatsa, then Commander, Brigadier of Guards, accompanied Obasanjo back to Abeokuta from Dodan Barracks, Lagos, after handing over to the civilian government, headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Obasanjo will, on 29 May, also be given a rousing reception at Moshood Abiola Stadium in the Ogun State capital. On Sunday, 3 June, a thanksgiving service will be held for him at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Ake, Abeokuta. This will be followed by another reception at the Valley View Auditorium of the Government House in the city.
After these, he will relax and enjoy the fruits of his labour, or scheming, as the case may be. “I am going back to my farm,” President Obasanjo said on a Nigerian Television Authority phone-in programme. “But I am getting old and so I will not be able to run the farm hands-on,” he noted.
Established since 1978, Obasanjo’s farm has been producing fresh agricultural products for almost 30 years. According to Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Special Assistant to the President on Public Communications and now the Minister supervising the Aviation ministry, the President’s farm makes an average of N30 million a month or N360 million per year.
Obasanjo’s desire to be the richest farmer in the country is not in doubt. His government banned the importation of “grandparent stocks,” a variety of chickens, so much that his farm has the sole franchise for them. Obasanjo is the only one with authority to import and sell them to other poultry farmers in the country.
When he became President in 1999, Obasanjo could only boast of farms in Eruwa, Ota and the nondescript one on the Mambilla. By 2007, however, he has developed farms in Ibadan, Iseyin, Lanlate, Igbo Ora and Ibogun, each of which boasts many Chinese experts.
According to an Aso Rock source: “It is a proof of the President’s foreign travels on behalf of Nigeria. As he was scouring for foreign investment, he was also helping himself.”
Apart from the President’s cattle ranch and hatchery at Igbo Ora, Oyo State, the biggest in Africa, he has big fish farms in Lanlate, Ota and a big poultry in Ibogun.
Another testament to his wealth was his ability to procure appropriate medical facilities to insulate his farm from the bird influenza pandemic that ravaged many poultry farms in the country. Other farmers, however, lost a lot of birds. An aggrieved farmer told TheNEWS: “The compensation per bird was only N250, whereas a day-old chick costs about N200-N250. Imagine the reward the farmer got having fed the chickens for 36 weeks.”
Chief Obasanjo, according to a source in Ota, sells all the day-old chicks available to farmers in Nigeria. The source added that Mr. Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti State, procured N200 million worth of day-old chicks for his controversial poultry projects from Obasanjo’s farm. “That was what Fayose was talking about recently when Obasanjo disowned him on a campaign tour of Ekiti. Fayose threatened to open his mouth wide!” a former functionary of the state government recently told this magazine.
The success of his Ota poultry farm notwithstanding, it has been the butt of criticisms and cynicism against the president. In his piece entitled, “Of OBJ, Nigerians and Chickens,” published in a recent edition of the Nigerian Tribune, Stephen Gbadamosi, a columnist, compared the standard of living of Obasanjo’s chickens with that of ordinary Nigerians. It was an indirect way of saying that while Obasanjo made good for himself, his pigs and chickens, the masses, over whom he ruled for eight years, have been wallowing at the lowest level of the global human development index.
Gbadamosi put it succinctly: “One can be sure that no chicken in Obasanjo’s farm feeds on raw corn. There are highly concentrated, mineral-fortified feeds for them. The ordinary man in the street can hardly afford enough eko (corn meal) to fill his bowel. In 1999, when Obasanjo was sworn in as President, a fair size of wrapped eko (agidi) cost N5. Today, that size is sold for N10. A bowl of elubo isu (yam flour) now sells for N250 (about $2) as against N90 in 1999. That will hardly go round a family of three at a meal time. There is no chicken, even day-old, in Obasanjo’s farm that can be in want of water – vaccinated water. But the chicken in Yemetu, Oje, Bere, Gege, Aremo, Elekuro (Ibadan), Ajegunle, Ketu, Ijora, (Lagos), Tundun Wada (Kaduna) Kaima, Opolo (Yenagoa), Arochukwu, Afara-Ukwu (Umuahia) drink from the gutters.”
In 21st century Nigeria, Gbadamosi lamented that people scoop water from brooks and gutters. “You find them daily in unending queues, waiting for this government largesse,” he argued.
Beyond the appraisal of the social responsibility of Obasanjo’s government which his chickens illustrate, the integrity of that agri-business was, in the past, called to question by Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s men when the two threw caution to the wind, hitting each other below the belt.
The Atiku Campaign Organisation challenged Obasanjo to tell Nigerians how he could change his status from bankruptcy in 1999 to an immensely rich farmer in 2007. Atiku’s men actually rubbed it in that the number one citizen had only N20,000 in his bank account before he became president.
Uba Sani, the President’s spokesman, did not allow that missile to hit its target before replying with a ready made answer. He claimed that his principal was able to secure a N2 billion loan to rehabilitate his farm, otherwise known as Temperance Farm.
But Atiku’s men raised their voice a pitch higher. “The explanation of Uba Sani has only further exposed the duplicity of General Obasanjo. General Obasanjo should tell Nigerians how a farm, which was moribund in 1999 and had to be bailed out of impending liquidation, became so rich to generate the collateral for a N2 billion loan,” the group said. “Every one conversant with the banking system knows that you need collateral of about N6 billion to raise a N2 billion loan. President Obasanjo should tell Nigerians how he transformed from a man, who his closest minister said had less than N20,000 in his account in 1999, to someone who now has N6 billion collateral to take a N2 billion loan,” the group retorted, referring to a statement credited to Malam Nasir el- Rufai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
Atiku’s men asked Obasanjo to tell his subjects the date he procured the loan, the conditions attached to it and his collateral. “Nigerians will be glad to know if President Obasanjo solely took a N2 billion loan from the N50 billion agriculture fund facilitated by the Federal Government when there are millions of Nigerian farmers who should access the loan, but have been crying for access since the introduction of the loan last year. If President Obasanjo collected N2 billion from a N50 billion agriculture fund approved by his government, does this portend conflict of interest or corruption? These are the questions President Obasanjo should answer to rescue his sagging integrity,” the Atiku camp argued.
The farm at Ota is just one of many owned by Obasanjo. While some are developed, others lie fallow and may, according to people who are close to him, be put to other uses. Obasanjo actually laid the foundation for his land acquisition tendency when he promulgated the Land Use Decree in 1978. The law stipulates that all rights to land were vested in the governor of a state who has the sole authority to issue certificates of occupancy to those who want to secure land for residential, business and agricultural purposes.
He has actually benefited from the decree and, given his status as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, his security operatives actually used force to harass hapless villagers that may challenge his expansionist agenda. With regards to this, his armed policemen descended on the people of Akpa near Badagry to prevent a protest organised by the rural people against Obasanjo’s acquisition of their land for his Bells University.
Worse still, the people of Lekitaba and Gembu town on the Mambilla Plateau will never forget their ordeal with the President’s men when they were trying to resist Obasanjo’s acquisition of their ancestral land for what his officials called “the Savannah leg of the expanding Obasanjo Farm.”
A similar fate awaited the people of Ishasi-Akute in Ogun State, and Ayetoro, Itele via Ayobo in Lagos State. In April 2004, seven members of Ayetoro, Itele communities were tortured by the police when they kicked against Obasanjo’s forceful acquisition of their land. When the people almost turned to another set of Agbekoya, a band of hunters who were believed to use occultic powers to fight excessive taxation in the old Western Region, Obasanjo soft-pedalled. He told the police to leave the people alone because, as he said in Yoruba, oto l’eto, oto le’to (legal and backdoor processes are different).
Not far from Ayetoro is another village called Awela, where Obasanjo acquired 500 hectares over 12 years ago. The farm had an administrative block and a farm house. To expand this facility, Obasanjo, in 2002, acquired another 250 hectares at Ajoda for teak cultivation.
At Abela, near Abeokuta, where he secured another expanse of land, villagers reacted when, in 2005, he moved his tractors to plough the site. In their words: “He didn’t buy the land from us properly. What he did was to meet the heads of families who owned the land and give them some paltry sums before he took over the land.” One Alhaji Yusuf complained to TheNEWS in January 2005 that because Obasanjo is the President and “has used his status to give us what he likes, the family members are fighting one another instead of the land grabber himself.”
Obasanjo, in his desire to have a befitting retirement home, secured another piece of land along the MKO Abiola Stadium road, a shouting distance from the Governor’s Office in Abeokuta. It was, according to government sources, part of a land ownership scheme which former Governor Segun Osoba initiated to reward those citizens of Ogun that had, in their different endeavours, brought honour to the state. Although Osoba allocated one plot per head, Obasanjo used his influence to get multi-plots where his hilltop mansion is being built.
Near Iseyin, Oyo State, Obasanjo also leased a large expanse of land from Jim Shina Farms for N250 million for 50 years. This magazine gathered that he ordered the resuscitation of an abandoned Federal Government dam that would turn the new farm into lush field.
As if Obasanjo has made up his mind to acquire large expanses of land in all the geo-political zones of Nigeria, South-South was his next port of call. Since Cross River is reputed to still have over 30 per cent of virgin forests in Nigeria, Obasanjo, in 2001, acquired 10,000 hectares from Governor Donald Duke for his oil palm estate. Not satisfied with Duke’s gesture, Obasanjo grabbed an additional 5,000 hectares at Kwa Plantation and took over the government oil palm nursery in Ochong. “When this thing started some few years ago, Obasanjo was coming here regularly,” Goddy Akpama, National Democratic Party, NDP, Publicity Secretary, lamented to TheNEWS. He added: “We all thought he was doing this anti-deforestation campaign. Later we heard rumours that he was coming to take over the forest and all that.”
Obasanjo’s incursion into Cross River was in the guise of agro-forestry, a scheme that allows the growth of forest-friendly crops to restore virginity into degraded lands. Spread across nine communities in Akamkpa and Akpambuyi local government areas, the farm occupies over 100 square kilometres.
It was when Obasanjo moved in his tractors and erected his signboard, reading: “Obasanjo Farms, Mfamosing” that trouble began. Youths from Abiati, Mfamosing, Aningafe, Mbobui, Ndigane, Akonganaku and Akira Ikot, all in Akampa Local Government Area, as well as Effanga Ikot and Oyom Eneyo, rose in protest of the takeover of their land.
Their leader, Chief Daniel Asuquo, who is also the Chairman of Akampa Council, was allegedly victimised for this. Apart from losing his re-election bid, he was detained for 18 months for alleged involvement in murder. It was only when the court ruled in his favour in 2004 that he regained freedom.
Just as Obasanjo fixed the revival of a moribund dam in Oyo State for the benefit of his farm, he has also influenced the construction of a road from his Mfamosong farm to Ekongyanaku and the Calabar-Oban highway. The construction of a bridge over Ikpam River to link Ekuganaku also began simultaneously.
To show that he meant business, Obasanjo’s oil palm mill on his plantation has been producing 10 tonnes of palm oil per day since 2000. The factory is under the supervision of one Gilbert, a Malaysian.
Obasanjo has also built quarters for the oil mill staff, a majority of who he recruited from the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, Evborneka in Edo State. The staff quarters are located at Kwa Housing Estate. He has also built a farm house on a former property of Calabar Sports Club on Ekorenium Road.
In Rivers State, Chief Obasanjo also acquired a large parcel of land for his oil palm estate. It is located at Ehuagie in Ogbo/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state. He also owns two fish farms at Ota Ahoada and Ogbo communities. Other choice lands procured in Rivers are at Omuotude area.
However, with the threat by the President-elect, Umar Yar’Adua, to tamper with the Land Use Act, critics are eager to know what will happen to Obasanjo’s estate.
Closely linked to Obasanjo’s land acquisitive tendency is his Hilltop Villa located in Abeokuta. Situated along the Ibrahim Babangida Boulevard, it is made up of about six structures. A source informed TheNEWS that work started on the property in August 2006 and would end this month.
Given its location, the villa offers, as it seems to have been so designed, its owner a psychological feeling of being on top of everyone. Obasanjo’s villa overlooks his Presidential Library.
The villa, according to TheNEWS sources, is being constructed by Messrs Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited, an Abuja-based Italian company. It is part of the Abuja Gateway Consortium which got the federal government’s lease for the operation and management of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja. The company, which has a 49.5 per cent equity in the airport management contract, was responsible for the construction of the N5.2 billion Edibe-Itigidi Bridge in Cross River State.
Another controversial property acquired between 1999 and 2007 is the N7 billion Presidential Library. Obasanjo told his compatriots on network television a week before his retirement: “And then I have a library which I am developing. We haven’t had anything like that in Nigeria or, indeed, in Africa. So, I’ll pay a bit of attention to that.”
True, given the amount of money that went into it and its potential to generate revenue, Obasanjo’s critics maintain that the project is worth 100 per cent attention. Launched on 14 May 2005, the library will have facilities like guest houses, cyber café, publishing resources, souvenir/gift shops, auditorium (for seminars, exhibition, social events), museum and an amphitheatre. Others are a restaurant, park/garden, artificial lake/stream/waterfall, zoo and a gym.
On its Board of Trustees are Ambassador Christopher Kolade, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; Mr. Carl Masters (an American), co-chairman; Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel; Vernon Jordan, former adviser to former American President, Bill Clinton; and Mr. Richard Branson, the Virgin Atlantic boss. Others are Jim Ovia, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Zenith International Bank; Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, immediate past Ogun State Commissioner for Health and now a Senator-elect, and Mr. Nyakno Osso, Obasanjo’s librarian.
The launch of the project was one of the most eye-popping events in Nigerian history. Chief Mike Adenuga, Globacom chairman, donated N250 million; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Group, N211.6 million and Chief Sunny Odogwu, the Ide Ahaba and chairman of Odogwu Group of Companies, weighed in N200 million.
State governments were not left out in that rain of money. Each of the 36 states donated N100 million, making a total of N360 million. While the private sector chipped in N622 million, the Nigerian Ports Authority offered $1 million. Also, Chief Arisekola Alao and Olorogun Michael Ibru (chairman, Oceanic Bank) donated N100 million and N50 million respectively. Those who also donated money were Chief Sam Nwake, N20 million; Dapo Abiodun, N10 million; Oba Okunade Sijuwade, N10 million; Dr. Bayo Kuku, N5 million; Chief Ernest Shonekan, N1 million; Ogun State obas, N5 million, and all aides of Obasanjo, N2 million. The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, delivered N25 million and Obasanjo HAt the occasion, Professor O.O. Akinkugbe extolled Obasanjo’s virtues of leadership. “He appears irrevocably consumed by the credo: get leadership right and all else will be added unto it.”
Governor Daniel argued also that the library is unique, because it “combines facilities of rigorous academic work, statesmanship reflection and wholesome recreation.” Carl Masters agreed with Daniel that the library would be the first of its kind in Africa.
Obasanjo responded with glee. Expressing appreciation for the donations, he said: “We should keep institutional memories as well as the nation’s memories.”
Although Governor Daniel said at the occasion that Obasanjo established credible benchmarks for good governance, promoted accountability and nurtured transparency in private and public life, critics felt differently.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar, reacting to Master’s statement that the project would not be financed by the Federal Government, cynically observed: “What if the next government decides to take it over?”
Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s opposition to the project was, however, less subtle. He dragged Obasanjo to a Federal High Court in Abuja and urged it to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate all the contracts awarded by the Federal Government from 1999 till then “in so far the donors of the gifts of money received at the launch of the Presidential Library at Abeokuta, Ogun State, on May 14, 2005 are involved in such contracts and for the EFCC and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission to take appropriate actions against the President and the donors.”
Chief Fawehinmi claimed that Obasanjo violated Section 15(5) of the constitution which states: “The state shall abolish all corruption practices and abuse of power.” He said Obasanjo also abused Item 1, Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution, which states that: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”
Chief Fawehinmi alleged that the president also “flagrantly disregarded” the code of conduct for public officers contained in Item 6 (1) (2) of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution which states that a public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties. He added that the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention of the laws of the land.
Apart from questioning the board membership of Dr. Kolade and Governor Daniel, Chief Fawehinmi condemned those of Carl Masters, Vernon Jordan and Richard Branson because being foreigners, they could jeopardise the security of Nigeria.
Another proof of Obasanjo’s new-found wealth is his ownership of Bells University of Technology, with campuses in Ota, Ogun State, and Badagry, Lagos State. It is one of the seven private institutions approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2005.
However, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC Executive Chairman, told The Nation that they were investigating Obasanjo’s direct link with certain business interests like the Bells University and Transcorp. “We are investigating and we will come out with our report,” he vowed.
Obasanjo’s ownership of Bells, according to experts, is against the spirit and letter of the 1999 Constitution, which forbids a public servant from engaging in any business apart from farming.
The highest ruling body of Bells University is the Board of Trustees, appointed by the proprietor. The first president of the university is Professor Tekena Tamuno. Other members of the Board are Chief (Mrs.) Toyin Olakurin, Dr. Mrs. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, Elder Workman Atsu, Engineer Habu Ahmed Gumel, Dr. Sheriff Adetunji and Professor Emmanuel Edozien.
Professor Isaac Adeyemi is the Vice-Chancellor; Mrs. Oluyemi Gbadebo, registrar; Adegoke Omotosho, Bursar, while Clement O Omagbemi is the acting Principal Librarian.
The university has begun to make its presence felt. In March this year, it organised a national technology fair, which is to be an annual event, in Ota. The fair, entitled, “Energy and Technology Development,” was organised by Bells and Emerald Energy Resources Limited, an independent Nigerian oil and gas exploration company.
Made up of three sessions and an interactive panel discussion, there was also an exhibition of technologies and research achievements from the industries, universities of technology, polytechnics, research institutes and some secondary schools.
To divert attacks away from the President, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, a former Finance Minister and Obasanjo’s friend, claimed ownership of the university. But Fawehinmi told him to tell that to the marines.
Obasanjo’s other treasure box is Transcorp, which he initiated and launched on 17 November 2004. It is fashioned after Chaebol, a South Korean business octopus. Transcorp’s areas of operation are agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing, power generation and Free Trade Zones.
In October 2005, Transcorp bought 51 per cent stake in NICON Hilton Hotel (and changed it to Transcorp Hilton) for N13 billion. It bought NITEL in July 2006. It also acquired four oil blocs, OPL 218, 219, 209 and 220 on 21 July 2005. Transcorp’s Board of Directors is chaired by Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke.
There was controversy over Obasanjo’s alleged ownership of shares, valued at N200 million, in Transcorp through what Okereke-Onyiuke told the National Assembly was ‘blind trust.’ This is defined by legal practitioners as when the executors or those who have been given power of attorney have full discretion over the assets and the trust beneficiaries have no knowledge of the holdings of the trust. It is generally used when a trustee wishes to help the beneficiary (unaware of the specific assets in the trust), so as to avoid conflict of interest between the beneficiary and the investment. When politicians want to avoid being accused of conflict of interest and corruption, they resort to blind trust.
In the Transcorp case, blind trust is held on behalf of Obasanjo Holdings, the umbrella company of all Obasanjo’s business concerns. Given Obasanjo’s interest in it, Transcorp, according to critics, has enjoyed a lot of waivers from the Federal Government on some of its operations.
Apart from NITEL and NICON Hilton, other examples of preferential treatment Transcorp enjoyed include the approval it got from the federal government to build a N33.25 billion refinery in the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos. The President also made it easy for the company to secure a licence to build an independent power facility.
For these and more, Chief Fawehinmi dragged Obasanjo to the Code of Conduct Bureau to have his shares in Transcorp seized because, as he put it: “For the president to allocate oil field or blocs as the Minister for Petroleum Resources to Transcorp, a company in which he has substantial shares, is clearly an abuse of office contrary to section 15 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which provides that “the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.” Not a few Nigerians believe that Obasanjo’s hands are in different oil deals, some of which cut across countries. His friend, Carl Masters, was the go-between for Nigeria and Jamaica over oil sales.
It all began in 1978 when Prime Minister Michael Manley visited Nigeria, which then had Obasanjo as the head of state. The two leaders reached an agreement on the supply of 5.5 million barrels of crude oil annually to Jamaica. Part of the agreement was that Nigeria granted Jamaica a 90-day credit facility.
While Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) handled the contract for Nigeria, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) represented the other side.
Jamaica began lifting oil from Nigeria on 1 May 1979, using Vitol S.A. which shipped it to Shell’s refinery in Curacao. This continued until 1984 when certain strains started to show in the relationship. First, Nigeria ordered that all countries trading in Nigerian oil must post a $1 million bond, which PCJ could not afford. They were also supposed to make huge investments in the Nigerian economy, a task which PCJ was not equal to.
While Nigeria increased oil sales to Jamaica to 7.3 million barrels, it reduced its credit facility to 30 days. All these went on until 1993 when the Interim National Government, headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, cancelled the agreement. Although Shonekan asked all companies concerned to submit applications afresh, PCJ’s was not successful.
But when Obasanjo returned to power in 1999, he exhumed PCJ’s file. That was after the visits of Jamaican Prime Minister J. Peterson and Minister of Mining and Energy, Robert Pickergill.
It was at this point that Masters, Obasanjo’s business associate, appeared on the scene. Masters, who was an oil agent for Chevron, offered to help PCJ and Obasanjo promptly approved another trade agreement, leading to commencement of Jamaica’s lifting of oil on 1 October 2000.
Masters, who has a link with Goodworks International, was appointed by Jamaica as its oil liaison agent. Since then, his company has been receiving 15 per cent on all proceeds of oil liftings.
Between October 2000 and April 2006, Jamaica lifted a total oil volume of 37.2 million barrels, which gave PCJ an income of $2.8 million. It represented the margins it earned over trading Nigerian oil in the open market. Currently, the agreement allows for the supply of 10.95 million barrels of Nigerian oil to Jamaica.
Many Nigerians have questioned the relationship between President Obasanjo and Masters. Apart from being a board member of Obasanjo’s Presidential Library, the Nigerian leader hosted Masters’ wedding at Aso Rock banquet hall, a gesture that drew potshots from critics. “For a man whose hand is laced with glue, Obasanjo’s generosity on Masters is more than meets the eye,” an Aso Rock source told TheNEWS.
On Obasanjo’s oil deals and others, Fawehinmi said: “For eight years, Obasanjo was the Minister of Petroleum Resources apart from being the head of state. No oil bloc was ever given to anybody without the connivance and approval of General Olusegun Obasanjo. He was more active as an oil minister than Mr. President. So there must be more than meets the eye. I will, therefore, want Ribadu to dust all files, to look at all records and do a thorough investigation into the administration of General Obasanjo, into the personal fortunes of Obasanjo, into the family fortunes of Obasanjo and into Obasanjo’s business interests all over the world.”
Obasanjo is also alleged to be the owner of an ethanol factory being built at Akodo
in Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State. The foundation stone of the factory was laid on 5 October 2005. Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State once told a Lagos weekly: “Is the President not building an ethanol factory? Is he not building a juice factory and all kinds of factories in Ota with Asians?”
Given his multiple income streams, Obasanjo is guaranteed a lush life out of office. The only trouble is, many Nigerians have become poorer during his eight-year rule.
-This story was first published in the hard copy of TheNEWS in 2007