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IDL ‘Master of Fun’: Two days of mixing business with pleasure

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How often has it been said – you do not mix business with pleasure. How true is it? Well, with a full impetus, the answer was delivered in clear terms to this age-long dictum, last weekend – not in all cases do business and pleasure not mix! In fact some businesses and pleasure are like Siamese twins – inseparable. That much was proved by Intercontinental Distillers Limited (IDL), Nigeria’s foremost producers of wine and spirits for the two days they locked down parts of Lagos.

Between Thursday, 24th and Friday, 25th of November, 2023, every visitor or passerby within the precincts of Isaac John in the Government Reserved Area (GRA), Ikeja, must have noticed something unusual as the route was lined with cars of all shapes, models and sizes. Inside the imposing Radisson Blu, located in the highbrow street, showed the company spared no cost in returning the favours of their customers by giving them first-class treatments – a carnival of some sorts, worthy of every expression.

The event, which was the 2023 edition of the IDL Distributors Award, to reward customers for their loyalty, also included the re-launch of Teezers cocktail brand, and the unveiling of the new packaged products. But it was clearly beyond that by the other activities daintily choreographed to fit into the entire show. Like the fine work of a weaverbird the guests, right from their arrival on Thursday to the time they finally retired to their rooms, some in the early hours of Saturday, witnessed a sequence of events sure to remain in their memories for many years.

Emerging from their rooms on Thursday evening, the distributors and other guests were first treated to a dinner after which they sat down to enjoy a superlative performance by Nice, one of Nigeria’s current celebrated music stars followed by a welcome party that stretched far into the night, enabling them to meet, greet, mingle and exchange banters, amid tables filled with exquisite food and drinks from the company’s stable.

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The next day was kicked off with a breakfast, health and business talks, followed with lunch, makeup, green carpets and picture sessions that preceded the major event of the awards and the unveiling of the new product and designs to the guests at the banquet hall of the hotel, which was filled to capacity with the guests.

The glittering presence of some of Nigeria’s A-list celebrities in the Nollywood and BBNaija brands, accentuated the kaleidoscope of colours from the gaily-dressed awardees, guests, management and staff of the company, as well as their friends and well-wishers, which blended with the interludes of musical performances to create the perfect concept of entertainment, enjoyment and pleasure.

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IDL management with some of the awardees

Aare Hope Gbagi, IDL’s Head of Sales, captured the raison d’etre of the event when he told the audience it was the company’s idea of rousing their major stakeholders – the distributors out of their daily routines of business to a different arena of relaxation, necessary for their physical and mental health, particularly considering the stiff and challenging economic situation in the country.

Congratulating the distributors, whom he said deserved special welcome for surviving the harsh business climate in the country, particularly the various challenges of the year 2022, he added: “This ceremony presents us with a unique opportunity to pull you our distributors out of your daily routines of buying and selling to a beautiful atmosphere to unwind and relax and by this idea, contribute our own quota in improving your mental health, which is part of our discussions earlier this morning.”

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Elaborating on the necessity to fete the distributors, Engineer Patrick Anegbe, Managing Director of the company, said the event was a testament to the amazing partnership IDL shared and the impressive achievements both accomplished together in-spite of the unfavourable business environment in the country.

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He said: “Today, we embrace the theme “Beyond Limits” which perfectly reflects our collective journey of surpassing boundaries and pushing ourselves to new heights. Each and every one of you have steadfastly navigated through challenges and persevered in the face of adversity. Your dedication and unwavering commitment have uplifted our business to new levels of excellence.

“To be more specific, the Theme, “Beyond Limits” to you our distributors implies:

  • Experiencing products that go beyond your expectation.
  • Experiencing opportunities in sales of both successful and new brands for the growth and success of your business.

For us in IDL; the theme implies:

  •  Showcasing innovative products.
  • Strengthening customer loyalty and building long term partnerships.
  • Highlighting the company’s commitment to continuous improvement and pushing limits.”

Speaking specifically on the challenges, he added: “One of the most significant challenges we faced as a manufacturing company and partners was the high cost of doing business. Market conditions became increasingly unstable; prices of input materials continued to rise almost on a daily basis; energy cost went up due to high cost of diesel. The foreign exchange (FX) required for raw materials, equipment and spares was not readily available and our roads continued to remain in deplorable state, making movement of goods from one part of the country to another difficult and expensive.

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“Our dear business partners, despite the unfavourable business environment you had to contend with in 2022, your performance at the end of the year was impressive. This is indeed commendable and we are sincerely thankful to you all.

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Dorothy Anegbe, displaying her trophy

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“IDL as a company also strived relentlessly in 2022 to tackle the challenges encountered head-on through strategic planning, operational efficiency and investment in technology. We have pioneered processes that empowered us to thrive in the face of adversity. To ensure more availability of our brands to our esteemed distributors the future, we have invested heavily in capacity building. You will therefore start to notice improvement in supplies of our products from the beginning of next year.

“We will continue to exhibit our strength in research, new products developments and innovative activities to keep our brands above others in Wines and Spirits industry in Nigeria and make doing business with us more interesting. I want to make a passionate appeal to our valued distributors to always ensure that you buy across the range of our brands whenever they make purchases. This will ensure improve growth and profitability for your business.”

The introduction of the Teezers cocktail brand, which also now comes in three flavours of orange, ginger and lemon to the audience, clearly underscored the reason IDL maintains a leading role in the entertainment industry, where premium drinks remain the major partner. The audience watched as the performance of a group of young men and women told the story of its re-launch through a breathtaking choreographic show, decked in suspense and eventual revelation.

Mobolaji Alalade, the company’s Head of Marketing, who put the show together, explained that the fresh move came out of the need to close the gap of the limited cocktail variants in Nigeria with the needs of the consumers.

Hear him: “Today marks a new beginning – a beginning of changing the fun narratives within the Cocktail Sparkling Drink Category of the Wines and Spirit business in Nigeria and Africa at large.  This game changer is the relaunch of Teezers Lime/Lemon as well as the Teezers Apple Sparkling Cocktail Drink and the introduction of two brand new variants -the Orange Flavour and Lemon and Ginger Flavour which is non-alcoholic.

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“With the limited variant options available within the Cocktail drink category, the highly youthful Nigeria population have been yearning for more fun options. Intercontinental Distillers Limited (IDL) equipped with research findings and consumer feedback rose up to the challenge of closing the gap and has now redefined the category with the revamp and consequently the relaunch of its already existing variants as well as the two new exciting additions – Teezers Orange for those who love the refreshing citrus flavour and the sense of energy its vibrant colour gives, while the Lemon and Ginger non-alcoholic flavour will cater specifically to children and teetotallers so as to ensure no one is left out.

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Some of the celebrities at the even

“Today, Teezers Sparkling Cocktail Drink has been upgraded from 300ml to 400ml in a contemporary, trendy, easy to carry bottle definitely offering our Consumers more. The brand label has been redesigned in sync with the spirit of the new age while the logo now radiates the elegance and youthful fun filled nature of the brand.

“Apart from presenting to you the new look of Teezers and the new additions to its variant bouquet, we unveil our new marketing campaign ‘More fun’ which underscores the brand’s unique preposition as the Master of Fun. As such, the brand will be engaging directly with the core consumers across all leisure destinations at all touch points in Nigeria.”

Indeed, the event, packaged by ISO-BLACK Concept Limited, a vibrant multi-channel brand communication solution and support services concern, lived up to its billing as the Master of Fun in Nigeria. The huge success of the third edition of the agency’s involvement, which included the design, deployment and execution of all the programmes, not only underscored a full grasp of the environment, but provided a demonstrable evidence of taking the gown to town in the fun business.

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Anegbe

For the over 300 distributors that were feted at the occasion, and others who did not make list,  the words of Dorothy Anegbe, Managing Director, Ogbohu Nigeria Enterprises, Sango Ota, who picked the star prize during the event, would continue to ring a bell.

“I pray that God should continue to be with them. They will grow from strength to strength and we will be able to come here and collect award.

How else to prove a partnership that works and the saying that indeed, for IDL and its stakeholders, business and pleasure indeed do mix.

 

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June 12 without Nwosu: The hollow ritual called Democracy Day!

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What is June 12 without Option A4? Who created that unique model of voting that led to the classic electoral outcome which not only shook the nation, but shocked the world? Would there have been June 12 without that that cryptic but unmatched electoral creation?

That eclectic electoral construct was the outcome of creative thinking exclusive only to geniuses. So, why was the name of Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the political genius who created it missing in the hall of fame announced by President Bola Tinubu on June 12, 2024 edition of Democracy Day, when Nigeria rolled out the drums to celebrate?

For obvious reasons, it could be understandable that under the regime of Muhammadu Buhari, who, in 2018, acceded to the idea of making June 12 a significant event in the country, as a political masterstroke to win the votes of the South West in the 2019 presidential election, rather than any personal taste for democratic ethos, that no mention would be made of Nwosu.

One Buhari, though pretended to be a democrat, purely for the purposes of pleasing certain interests, he never pretended about his place with the Igbo or even about his nepotistic credentials. His aversion for the Igbo, was not only real, it stuck out like a sore thumb. He not only stated from the outset that he would run his strange permutation of 97-5 per cent structure against Ndigbo, he followed it to the letter. So, it would not only be unfair to him but a bogus expectation to believe that he would agree to anything that would celebrate the Igbo, which Nwosu, unfortunately, was.

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But what about Tinubu? Could the same be said of him? Was he not supposed to be the broad-minded, open-personality democrat? It might even be difficult to see anyone who could bet that Buhari, was not part of the supposed Northern oligarchy which stopped the June 12 election from being consummated.

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After all, at the time Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola was languishing in gulag of the late General Sani Abacha, the despotic Head of State, who arrested him for claiming his mandate, the selfsame Buhari was holding court like a Czar at the prestigious Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under the same regime.

So, any reasonable person, ought to count him out of the equation of the June 12 idea without feeling any sort of guilt. He never presented himself as a June 12 advocate and never pretended about being one. He was never in the trenches or was exiled from the country as a result like Tinubu and his group. On the contrary, he was on the other side, enjoying all the perks that came from the annulment of the historic election and the subsequent incarceration of Abiola, and must have missed the end of that era to boot. So, nobody should blame him.

But certainly not Tinubu! He not only saw from close quarters, the June 12 saga as a politician and Senator under the banner of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) like Abiola, during the period but lived the harrowing impact as a prominent member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the alter ego of the June 12 struggle.

So, in this context, he should know and therefore could neither be excused nor extricated of blame for any manifest gaffe or omission thereof, because his motive for either punctuating or defacing history can only be deliberate. Tinubu cannot pretend not to know the contribution of Nwosu to June 12. He cannot pretend not to know that without Nwosu, there would not have been that history. So, why?

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O! The argument in some quarters is that Nwosu should have completed the process and having not done so, he was as guilty as the collaborators. Really? Complete the process with a gun on his head? Complete the process and probably risk the threat of having his entire family wiped out, as only a murderous and despotic military government could do?

In that case nobody should have the right to stand on the podium to receive accolades as a June 12 hero, outsides the likes of Abraham Adesanya, who remained in the country to face the naked danger. Why should a Tinubu, expect Nwosu to announce the results and face sure death, at the same time he was plotting to escape the country through the uncharted routes of Benin Republic.

Nwosu’s sin could only be attributed to cowardice and not willingness or intent. If he lacked the two, he would not have gone the extent he went to create the Option A4 template that produced the freest and fairest election in the Nigeria’s history. Were this to be so, then virtually everyone was guilty.

There is a limit to courage. It is only a mad man would stand against a man with a gun, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the late Owelle of Onitsha, once said. Nwosu was not a mad man. Tinubu and his NADECO colleagues, who had to flee into exile to continue the fight, were not mad either. So, if Tinubu and the rest could not stand at the rail-track to stop the moving train that was the military government at the time, why should they expect Nwosu to? Why should they demand if?

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If they ran away from Nigeria in order to preserve their lives, so as to live to fight another day, why would they expect Nwosu to remain on the same rail-track and lose his own life, so that he would never live to see the next day? That will be wicked.

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So, that event of June 12, 2024, elaborate as it was, with all its kaleidoscope of colours and concepts, lost the zest and shine it ought to have when the planners deliberately left out Nwosu one of the true heroes of that historic event.

What is more? Its light, was not only dimmed by this act of deliberate omission, but the entire essence was shredded to smithereens on the slaughter-slab of nepotistic, if not egoistic outcome of replacing Abiola as the true hero with Tinubu, as depicted by the mounting of that giant painting of the President at the Eagle Square at that event.

Surely, the whole world knows that much as he played a significant role in the June 12 history, Tinubu was never the main protagonist of June 12. MKO was. Even Nwosu has a better place in the podium of honour. Maybe that is what the gods were reminding the world by that Great Fall! Time is now to make amends, perhaps to avoid more dobales and rulees. Enough said!

 

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Otti-Ikpeazu: Putting the records straight on KPMG report 

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It is often said in local parlance that somebody set for execution, must first of all be allowed to defend himself. It is also said that only a tree would hear that it would be cut down and still stand. Better still, as was popularlised by the late Sam Mbakwe, Governor of old Imo State, a rat does not eat the food of a man while he is still awake. In both law, and journalism, the maxim, audi autaram partem, the Latin expression for hearing the other side remains a grundnorm for ethical practice.

All these elements have been playing out in Abia State between Alex Otti, the state Governor and his officials on one side and Okezie Ikpeazu, his predecessor and his camp, on the other. At the heart of heart of it all is the back and forth allegations and counter being traded between the two on the handling of the state resources by the former, particularly that a whopping N107 billion grew wings under his care.

Otti, had Friday, April 19, 2024, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, in the United States of America, where he delivered a lecture entitled: State of Governance and Economic Transition: Meeting the challenges, told his audience comprising indigenes of the state, residing in the US: “Talking about corruption, I had set up a forensic audit as soon as I took over office in Abia, last year (2023). So that there won’t be any argument, I called in one of the top three audit firms in the world, and not too long ago, they turned in their report, and some of the things in their report are frightening.

“So, some N9.3 billion was paid to seven contractors for contracts that were not executed at all up till today. Another N15.9 billion (N16 billion) was paid to 63 contractors with no supporting documents anywhere in the state. Another N12 billion was paid to two contractors for contracts that do not exist, out of this figure N10 billion was on September 25, 2020, paid to a contractor for the construction of the Abia State Airport.

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“We have spent time trying to locate the airport and up till now have not been able to locate it… So, as we continue to look for our airport, we have also told the security agencies to help us search. When you juxtapose that with pensions that were lying unpaid for about 10 years and the salary arrears, just one of these headings, the N10 billion that was spent to build a non-existent airport, was exactly the amount of money our government used to take off the pension arrears.”

By that singular outing, the governor had drawn the axiomatic ant-infested faggots to himself as Ikpeazu and his camp have not rested in taking him to task to come clean of the entire revelations, particular on the Forensic Audit Report of the firm, which he claimed he relied on to make his assertions. Key among the allegations was that Ikpeazu, allocated N10 billion to a non-existent airport project in the state, which he attributed to the said audit report..

They accused him of not disclosing to the same audience in the US, after previously claiming that he met an empty treasury when he took office on May 29, 2023, that the Ikpeazu government actually left for him a net cash balance of N3,495,207,127.14 in various banks, where the state government operated about 78 accounts in 14 banks in the country.

Indeed, it turned out, they further stressed that Otti had on July 13, 2023, less than two months after assumption of office, engaged the services of KPMG, a globally reputable firm, to carry out a financial process review of the Ikpeazu administration from May 29, 2015 to May 28, 2023, when the former Governor left office.

However, he was said not also to have disclosed the terms of the review, which was contained in the report of KPMG, which was submitted to the government by electronic means, received by Dr. (Mrs.) Njum Onyemenam, Accountant General, Abia State Government and Michael Akpara, the Commissioner for Finance.

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In the 360 page report, which was titled: Provision of Process Review Services; Project Azumini, Final Report of Factual Findings, submitted in March 2024, KPMG was clear on Page 15 of the document that, “(A). This assignment was not performed by us in the capacity of a statutory auditor. Hence, this is not any form of financial statements audit of ABSG or any entity listed in the report. We are therefore not required to render an opinion on the financial statements of ABSG or any entity listed in the report. (B) Rather, we have performed the procedures we considered appropriate in the circumstances and in line with relevant KPMG methodology. (C). We were also not required to review the adequacy or otherwise of the output of the prior or current external auditors and/or consultants of ABSG, and did not perform any of the following: (I) Conduct a trial and / or inquiry in the course of the assignment.

(II) Act as a tribunal, commission of inquiry or in judicial or quasi-judicial role.

(III) Perform, any adjudicatory function whatsoever in the course of the assignment.

(IV). Conduct any exercise with a view to determining whether any person was guilty or innocent of any offence.”

KPMG further clarified on Page 16 of the same report that it was limited to only the documents provided to it by the government and as such, could not be said to have exhaustively dealt with the review, since it did not see certain documents from the government. It said under “Limitations and subsequent events”, that, (A). We have included and records information relevant to the scope of work and objectives in line with the executed engagement letter of 13 July 2023, and as provided by the relevant MDAs of ABSG and the banks. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is possible that documents and/or information exist, which were not made available to us.

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(B) The provision of additional documents and / or information after submission of this final report will however attract a separate fee and timeline discussion between KPMG and ABSG.

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(C). For ease of understanding of this report, specific limitations (if any) are stated in the relevant sections of this report.”

Instructively, the report warned the Otti-led government that the report was not a public document and that the agency shall not be answerable to the document being made public or queries from agencies of government, should the Abia State government decide to make it public or submit same to security agencies.

On Page 2 of the report, it said: “This final report is intended for the use of the Abia State Government (“ABSG”) and should not be used for any other purposes. This report may contain legally privileged and confidential information. No part of the content may be quoted, referred to or disclosed, in whole or in part, without KPMG’s prior written consent.

“Nothing in any part of this report shall preclude or subject to any limitation whatsoever the release of the report / communication by ABSG to any law enforcement or court of law to whose control ABSG is subject, or becomes subject, provided that KPMG shall accept no responsibility or liability to such agency of government in connection with their use of the report.

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“ABSG acknowledges that KPMG to the fullest extent possible shall not assume any liability whatsoever to any third-party recipient of this report or any other person or authority whomsoever under any circumstances whatsoever, irrespective of whether KPMG has consented to the disclosure of this report to such a third party.

“ABSG shall indemnify and hold KPMG harmless against any claim, litigation fee, cost, expenses, or liability relating to the submission of this report to third parties by ABSG. KPMG may provide ABSG with oral, inception reports, status updates, draft reports, or draft presentations. Nonetheless, our final report shall take precedence in all circumstances, and therefore, no reliance should be placed by ABSG on any oral, inception report, status updates, draft reports, or draft presentations.”

But when Otti broke the ice by announcing the result of review in the United States and subsequently released the report, it drew serious rebuttal from the Ikpeazu camp. Ikpeazu warned Otti, to focus on governance and stop deceiving the people with lies and fiction.

Ikpeazu, who said that Otti was diverting attention from the quarterly financial reports of Abia State, which showed that his government has been reckless with funds, added: “Accounting for the N10billion, no dime was diverted. Otti is diverting attention from his own Quaterly financial report which captured him spending N3billion on research and other nonexistent projects.

“Why is it that he is using the same Ferrotex contractor, who he accused of receiving N10billion from us for major contracts today? What stopped him or his auditors from asking Ferrotex for explanations? We have decided to respond to him with evidence of jobs done. The time of truth has come.”

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John Okiyi Kalu, Commissioner for Information under Ikpeazu, said that the alleged N10billion originally budgeted for the airport project was rechanneled into road projects, following the approval of the Executive Council, after traditional rulers in the state told Ikpeazu to forget an airport project but focus on fixing major roads in the state, adding that the royal fathers had told Ikpeazu that the airports in Owerri and Uyo made an Abia airport project unviable.

Okiyi-Kalu, who later served as a Commissioner for Trade and Investment, said that it was shocking that Otti and his media handlers rushed to a blogger to help them publish an indicting report against his former principal instead of the publishing the ‘forensic audit’ report through official state channels.

Okiyi-Kalu explained that the airport project issue first came to the Abia State Executive Council at a meeting on September 24, 2020.

He said that based on the presentation made to the Exco, they approved the project and also approved the borrowing of N10billion “from UBA Plc as an initial investment by the state with repayment charged to our FAAC account with the bank.

In an allusion to what KPMG later confirmed that they did not see all the documents in their review, Okiyi-Kalu challenged the current Secretary to State Government, Kenneth Kalu, to review and confirm his claim from Exco records in his custody, adding that on November 17, 2020, Ikpeazu took to his official X (formerly Twitter) handle to inform Abia Citizens that the airport project had been suspended.

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The former commission, while stressing that Ikpeazu informed the then Commissioner for Works, Elder Bob Ogu, of his intention to suspend the Airport project in anticipation of Exco approval, hence the State Ministry of Works selected road projects in Abia 2020 budget for funding with the N10 billion and allocated resources to the contractors, also gave a detailed account of the roads and contractors that received the N10billion initially marked out for construction of an airport and listed about 18 projects that were done, in place of the airport.

According to his list: “China Zonghghao for Osisioma flyover Aba & ABSUTH Road Aba got N800,000,000. Trackcare Construction Company for Aba-Owerri road Aba (Brass to Osisioma junction segment, Ururuka road Aba, Afor Ibeji/ Ubakala Umuahia, Stella Marris Catholic Church, etc got N1,035,000,000.

“Ferrotex Construction Company for Aba-Owerri road (Railway junction-Brass junction segment) Aba, Obohia Road Aba, Opobo Junction-Ukpakiri Ogbor-Hill Aba, Uratta Ugwuati, Itungwa, Rehabilitation of failed Ururuka got N1,500,000,000.

“⁠Shannah Jardon Construction Company for Okigwe Road Aba, Milverton Road Aba, Cemetery-Eziukwu Road Aba got N450,000,000. Ecklean: Osusu road Aba-N 200 000,000, Cosmos Construction Company for Immaculate Avenue Umungasi Aba got N150,000,000 while Setraco/Hartland for Port Harcourt road got N1,000,000,000.”

He added that, “⁠Rockwaters for Ohanku Road Aba, Okpu Umuobo Aba got N650,000,000, MOW for Ebenma Street Aba and Ovom street Aba got N1, 130,000,000. Zubbalco for MBUBO Umuakwu got N200,000,000.”

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Other details showed that Tunnel End Construction Company got N780,000,000 for the construction of Umuene-Obikabia, Umuojima-umuokiri- Ekeakpara, umuakatawom-Eziama-Ohanze while Paceo Carretera company got -N312,000,000 for the construction of Agalaba Ring road in Obingwa.

Others, according to him were ⁠Delhope Construction Company got N557,000,000 for the construction of Umuobiakwa-Owo road Obingwa, Federal Medical Centre internal road, Aba Road Umuahia (GG-shoprite).

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He also argued that Ministry of Works’ Construction department got N325,000,000 for the construction of Umuobiakwa internal roads, Umuobiakwa (Gov) roads, Mbawsi internal roads and desilting of Aba big gutter while ⁠⁠BOK construction got -N100,000,000 for the construction of Agbama Ring road Umuahia.

“Crystalkleen Construction for York/Jubilee/Nicholas street Aba got N30,000,000, Pumeco Construction for Aba road (Uchenna/ShopRite) Umuahia, Zero portholes in Umuahia roads got N353, 000,000, while Yodel construction for Afrata road, Umuahia got N100,000,000.

“⁠E&P for Trinity College Road Umuahia got N60,000,000 and Obitex Development Company Ltd for construction of Ohuhu road from Isiokata, diversion from the gully erosion at isiokata to Umuawa Ohuhu to Nkwoegwu got N125,000,000.”

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More details provided show that Smutedge Company got N200,000,000 for the rehabilitation of failed portions of Umuikaa-umuenne, Pacon Company got N12,000,000.00 for completion of drains at

Ozuomba/Ohazu road. MOW company for Zero pot holes(Aba) got N100,000,000, Charbel Company for Government house got N400,000,00 and the State Ministry of Public Utilities got N100,000,000 for Streetlights.

However, explaining further that the list containing the tranche payments was not exhaustive as those were the only ones in his personal Exco note that he kept during meetings, he said that it is also true that other tranche payments were made from other sources, stressing that the Ministry of Works led by Elder Bob Ogu and the Ministry of Finance led by Dr Aham Uko back then, should be able to supply a more comprehensive list to what he was saying.

Okiyi-Kalu added that Ferotex Construction Company, as one of the reputable indigenous construction companies with anti-graft agencies’ clearance was selected by the Ikpeazu administration as lead company in the “contractor financier” arrangements with UBA.

He said that the above-mentioned arrangement, the “contractor financier” arrangement was not alien within the public sector, alleging that a similar arrangement was entered into by the Otti’s government with Craneburg Construction Company for N50bn facility earmarked for “various roads”.

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He explained that such lead companies are more or less consultants that would receive the bulk amount and pay other road contractors as banks would not likely agree to enter into multiple agreements with all the contractors.

He said that Otti’s claim that he got the top three audit firms in the world to do the forensic audit was untrue, as his top three audit firms have failed to follow the money as expected of any audit firm, even the least ones, adding that a serious forensic audit investigation would simply seek to establish if the allocated funds got to the companies and also if the contractors did the work.

According to Kalu, “Those who claim that there was need for “virement” may be speaking out of ignorance in this case. The road projects were already in our approved 2020 budget, hence no need for further house approval.

“All state revenues are expected to be used to fund state budget and from the time we had approval to spend on the roads instead of Airport there is, no further need for legislative approval.”

“For the further education of those who verbalize terms they do not understand, “virement” is the process of transferring items from one financial account to another. In this case, the airport project and the road projects must both be in the 2020 budget before you can execute virement….says Otti lied deliberately to mislead Abians.

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Okiyi-Kalu was to further explain that the net credit balance of N3.48 billion left for Otti by Ikpeazu was different from other near-cash assets, such as a 3.5% share in Aba Independent Power Project (IPP) Geometric now valued at over N40 billion, among others. RAAMP funds of $50 million and AfDB fund of $115m as well as net FAAC credit of N6 billion and stamp duties accrual of more than N40 billion naira.

Okiyi-Kalu said that given that one should at least expect a former Managing Director of a Bank to know the difference between a Process Review report and a Forensic Audit Report, he can only say that Otti lied deliberately to mislead the public. “Furthermore, Governor Otti sought to mislead the public when he alluded to the N10 billion being taken from the state’s consolidated revenue account whereas it was a contractor finance loan from UBA plc”, he said.

He expressed sadness that many of Otti’s cheering crowd do not know the difference between a forensic audit and a process review, a situation he advised all those confused to do proper research to know the difference.

“How much did Governor Alex Otti pay KPMG? Abians deserve to know because we are already paying a state-owned audit unit that would have done a far better job. So far, Otti’s government has spent N9 billion on a subhead called “research & development”. What is he researching and developing in Abia State? Check quarterly financial reports published by his administration, if in doubt.

“Based on antecedent, never trust anything said by Governor Otti. He lies and misrepresents facts too frequently to be taken seriously. Did you notice that after I responded to his allegation of missing N10b with details of road contractors paid from the money, he said, “The money was moved into 32 different accounts” instead of the money being paid into road contractors’ accounts?”

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He said that he remains grateful to whoever forced Otti to leak the KPMG report, stressing that at face value, the report exonerates Ikpeazu of any wrongdoing and highlights the leadership shortcomings of Otti.

“A Governor does not award contracts in Abia State and a Governor does not sign Cheques. It is the Finance & General Purpose Committee (F & GPC) that reviews tenders, recommend companies for the award of contracts and passes the same to State Exco for approval. Similarly, only the top officials of the Ministry of Finance sign State Government Cheques and at the level of ministries it is the Permanent Secretary and Director of Finance.

“As a Commissioner in Abia State for six years I never signed any government or ministry cheque because it is not within my remit. Where then is the evidence of Dr Ikpeazu stealing N10bn meant for Abia Airport.”

Okiyi-Kalu went further to call on all those who need a copy of the process review report, to contact him via his WhatsApp, assuring that he will send it to them if he believes they are capable of understanding such reports.

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In the report, KPMG said its investigation for the period under review covered Zenith Bank and Union Bank is from 1 January 2020 to 28 May 2023 as the two (2) banks were KPMG audit clients up to 31 December 2019.

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The firm said that although “our report may contain references to relevant laws and regulations, we do not provide legal opinion on compliance with such laws and regulations. (b). Our discussion of the relevant laws and regulations is intended solely to facilitate the determination of applicable facts, which may be relevant to the interpretation and/or application of such laws and regulations. Should such interpretation require legal advice, we recommend that ABSG obtain an independent legal advice.

It said that in its process review, it held discussions with the officials of ABSG to obtain an understanding of the contract, analysed Abia State Public Procurement Law 2012, the Abia State financial regulations (as amended in 2001); Analysed schedules of contracts awarded during the period under review to determine in-scope contracts from the Governor’s office and ministries and agencies of the state government and reviewed documents for business justification, approval process, and completion of project, in line with the

relevant policies, procedural manuals and practices. It also reviewed Tender Documents, Bid Submissions, Jobbing Order, Contract Agreements, Minutes of MTB, Award Letters, Interim Certificates, Final Completion Certificates and Payment Vouchers. It also reviewed and analysed the bank account statements received from 35 circularised banks to determine payments to contractors for the period under review. That is in addition to the reviewed of records from ABSG Cash Office, Admin Office, Office of the AG,

UBA and Access Bank to ascertain total payments to contractors through CFF: 1 Ministry of Lands and Ministry of Housing has been merged into Ministry of Lands and Housing in the new administration. 2 Retrieved on 5 August 2023 from Contract Award Publication | Abia State Government. It also interviewed bank officials, officials of the state government and consulted “CBN guidelines and circulars on bank charges and benchmark against the amount charged by the three (3) banks, and independently reviewed and analysed the fees, and payments on the credit facilities, in line with the executed offer letters and extant CBN guidelines.”

These among other process yielded some findings, which included the fund for the now controversial airport project and some issues of conflict of interests, where some Civil Servants and some government officials had interests in some companies that were awarded contracts by the government. Significantly, some of the contracts were awarded without the approval of the governor.

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The report added: “We did not perform any scientific test on any of the records and / or information provided to us by ABSG and/or the circularised banks during this assignment, to ascertain their authenticity, as this type of assignment does not require scientific test on the records. Therefore, our review, analysis and examination of the records and information provided were limited to the content of such records or information.”

Stating that under Ikpeazu, the government awarded 560 contracts to 23, 121 contractors with 520 contracts, having a cumulative contract value of ₦294,824,123,365.79, it added: “Notwithstanding that ABSG did not provide sufficient information to enable KPMG to: Determine the contract values of the remaining 40 of the 560 contracts. Independently verify the accuracy and completeness of the ₦294,824,123,365.79 contract value of the 520 contracts.

“We analysed available records, noting the following: ABSG paid ₦131,877,519,592.0622 to the 231 contractors, via three (3) means i.e., CFFs (₦71,315,434,474.50), directly from ABSG bank accounts (₦59,467,035,117.5623), and procuring MDAs (i.e. Ministry of Works – ₦927,200,000.00 and ASOPADEC – ₦167,850,000.00). We reviewed sample payments of ₦107,234,358,515.21 of the ₦131,877,519,592.06, noting the following exceptions amounting to ₦56,662,966,007.76: ₦15,936,522,309.43 – 6324 contractors with no supporting documents maintained by the Cash Office, Office of the AG.; ₦12,800,851,500.00 – Four (4) contractors for contracts that do not appear to exist, per available records and discussions with relevant officials.

These include: ₦10,000,000,000 to Ferotex on 25 September 2020 for the “construction of Abia State airport”; ₦2,000,000,000.00 on 6 June 2022 and 1 September 2022 to Logistics De Luke, for the “delivery of 22 different brand-new vehicles”, among others.

It said there were cases of non compliance to due process relating to the selection of contractors and award of contracts. These included: “Six (6) MDAs did not provide “Certificate of No Objection” from the Bureau of Public Procurement for 8232 contracts worth ₦156,759,362,425.87, contrary to Section 21 (h) and Section 18 (4) of State Public Procurement Law. Six (6) MDA did not provide record of bid evaluation for 7,234 of the 85 sampled contracts with a cumulative value of ₦98,570,680,828.07. The firm said it did not see any record that the governor approved 3535 contracts amounting to ₦83,382,082,143.10, in line with ABSG’s practice.”

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Some of the contractors listed by the report have gone public to confirm receiving payments for work done as stated by the Ikpeazu team. They listed the work they did for the state government and offered pictorial evidence. They also highlighted the fact that the process reviewers listed sums pertaining to contract awards as if they are funded projects emphasizing that contract award is different from funding for contract. One of the contractors, Track-Care Global Construction Limited in a recent media statement said: “After the publication of the KPMG reports, we have deemed it imperative to further enlighten the citizens of Abia State about the various processes of contract jobs.

“There is a difference between contracts awarded and the amount paid. Payments are released in multiple tranches therefore, some of the contracts mentioned are yet to be mobilized or funded eg. Ururuka phase 2 etc. All the contracts that were mobilized have been completed. KPMG in their reports, have stated that the figures are yet to be verified. It is important to set the record straight in order to avoid further defamatory information against a reputable organisation”

 

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Garlands for Uwa, ‘Chimerem Eze 1,’ of Coca-Cola in Nigeria

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There is a local saying in Nigeria that when a child washes his hands clean, he will dine with elders. But for Dr. Aja Uwa, a lecturer with the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), that popular saying has even been stretched further – he is not only dining with elders, but with kings.

That was the status to which he was elevated when he bagged the enviable title of Chimerem Eze 1, of Coca-Cola in Nigeria – a title that has put him in good stead to sit at the high table of the global giant to enjoy the fruit of his labour that came out of dint of hard work that has catapulted him to become one of the highly rated associates of the conglomerate in Nigeria.

The event to commemorate this new status, was not only officially acknowledged by the company, but had the imprimatur of royalty as it was sealed, like the coronation of a king by no less a king himself than Eze Geoffrey I. Ejimogu the Anunu 1, of Umuanunu.

Venue was the Coca Cola depot at Umuanunu autonomous community in Obinze, Imo State. With that crown, garland and other paraphernalia of royal authority, the event was sealed. Date was Friday, February 23, 2024.

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From all indications and given the testimony of those, who honoured him, the university don, did not pick to this enviable position from the streets, but rather, he attained it by dint of hard work, struggling night and day to close the gaps speedily and achieve milestones in the most remarkable way.

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Chidozie Okoro, Commercial Manager, Owerri Commercial Territory, spared no glowing words in acknowledging the contribution of Uwa, currently Senior Legislative Aide (SLA) to Senator Professor Anthony Ani, the newly elected senator representing Ebonyi South zone in the National Assembly.

At the event where the erudite scholar was garlanded with pomp and pageantry in flaming colours, he said his outstanding performance in the sales of the company’s products, was impacted immensely on the fortunes of the global brand, praising his meteoritic rise in the business.

Hear him: “Aja delivered a record distribution feat of 1.2m of the company physical cases of products which included bottles, cartons and other packs within the year 2023. His total performance of over 1.2million cases, attracted a revenue of about N2billion in turnover to the company. It’s such performance that earns him what he is enjoying today.”

Giving further insight, he recounted how Uwa started his business with the company in 2015 as a one way pack dealer, meaning he was not allowed to sell the bottled products of the company as a one line dealer, but within five years of doing business with the company, became a mega distribution partner of the company in 2020.

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“Today Dr.Aja Uwa is the number one distributor in the Eastern region comprising states like Imo, Rivers,  Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, part of Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi. This feat has been maintained steadily since the past three years till date,” Okoro said.

He added that even outside the shores of Nigeria, the don had also earned immense recognition, having maintained the number one role leads in the Atlanta promo which allows the leading distributor to travel to Atlanta, United State of America with all expenses sponsored by the company to visit the operational headquarters of Coca-cola for over a week.

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He added: “Dr Aja Uwa, is heading to win the ticket to Anfield, a promo that will enable him to watch Liverpool matches live, fully sponsored by the company, as he remains till date the highest distributor of the company’s Energy Drinks. For all these feats, the company Council of Elders resolved to induct him into the prestigious club of kings of the company.”

On his part, Uwa told reporters at the event witnessed by his colleagues from FUTO, friends from the Senate Wing of the NASS, staff and customers of Coca-cola brands, that the recognition was the first time such eminent body in the company would be taking a decision of this nature.

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Expressing surprises for the huge recognition, he said: “I least expected that my humble inputs would deserve this magnitude of attention. The reward for good work is more work. I’m going to double my efforts to achieve more. I cannot afford to let anyone down at this point given the confidence reposed on me.

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