By Efemina Williams
Our attention has been drawn to recent false and malicious publications regarding the investments of well-known philanthropist and entrepreneur, Dr. Ernest Obiejesi (OFR) in 0ML42. Dr. Obiejesi for more than 4 decades, either directly or through any of his associated investments played major roles in the growth and development of host communities.
For the records, the 0ML42 is an Asset owned by NEPL and Neconde but operated by NEPL. The NEPL and NECONDE partnership has been riddled with all manner of intrigues and drama to the chagrin of the host communities who have patiently awaited improvements in their livelihood and those of their loved ones.
It is a pity that stakeholders including the host communities, the Nigerian government, and her people have been denied the expected benefits from this Asset. A value-driven approach to ensure uninterrupted production of hydrocarbons from the field has consistently been fought against by some elements who are just interested in procurement and award of contracts.
This unfortunately was the case for nearly a decade until the government decided on an alternative funding mechanism that is envisaged to bring a disciplined and more accountable approach to operations. Sadly, this is not what inspires those who do not believe in integrity. Dr. Obiejesi has been nicknamed a “fighter.” I heard that the man has been fighting those bad elements. Personally, I do not like fighting, but if fighting will enable him to achieve his years-long desire of bringing a disciplined, transparent, and more accountable approach to operations in the 0ML42 Assets, then let him fight on. It is for good. But I don’t envy him.
As I said, I do not like to fight, but can you blame the man? For instance, it is unbelievable that the Asset will be allowed to shut down at a time when the Federal Government is demanding an increase in production and oil prices are nearing US$100 per barrel. Besides, Chimaobi Okoro who is the NEPL representative on the Asset appears to be more interested in jumping from one Asset to another, not too long ago, he moved into OML 42 and since then the production and stability that was being achieved with the community and vendors seems to have fallen apart as he seem to be interested in non-value driven contract award rather than well thought out quality execution strategies, asset stability and production.
Recently a vendor supplied fuel (VLSFO) that was of very poor quality but was rejected by a vessel owner (another contractor) but some incorrigible members of the Asset team are pushing that this should be accepted and paid for even if it won’t be used. Upon inquiry, it was realized that these government officials who use these funds to support their families in Canada, purchasing houses in Dubai and Lekki, and have expensive lifestyles that are way above their salary income.
They work with some dissident community elements and are fighting desperately to ensure they grab these fictitious contracts disguising themselves as community contractors, instead of pushing for the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and the development of the Asset that will benefit genuine investors, the Government, and the community.
As a community, we can say that we have seen it all. We have observed these two “supposed” JV partners hurl aspersion at each other, and we have observed a lazy and lackadaisical approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Recently we have observed the return of old players who honed their skills in nefarious activities during the AMT period. These “returnee” old players have been doing all manner of things in order to scuttle a recent beneficial solution championed by Dr. Ernest with the alternative funding mechanism — Financing and Technical Service Arrangement.
I care little about Dr. Ernest as a person and his riches, but I doff my hat for his tireless persistence to bring transparency and increase production for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians. But I must say that I still hold the entities NEPL and NEL responsible for the state of affairs in 0ML42.
It is known widely within the community that Dr. Ernest for several years undertook the burden of a CSR initiative termed the Peace Bonus. He had wisely put structure to the initiative which prevented the bad apples within NEPL and NEL from dipping their proverbial hands in the cookie jar. This wise initiative has been ensuring that the community has full transparency on the remittance. When he struggled under the low oil price regime, he still insisted that enhanced CSR- GMOU- practice being deployed by the IOC should be implemented on the Asset.
Once again to ensure transparency, a well-known astute, and principled community member with a consultancy practice was assigned this promising task. Today, the PIA Chapter 3 (Host Community Development Trust Fund) which by law requires that the Settlor (NEPL as Operator) should implement within the deadline of August 2022 is yet to be done. I keep wondering, why NEPL is still the operator? While it may be evident that there are indeed bad apples in these organizations who are vision scuttles, it may be said that the mistake Dr. Ernest continues to make is that he has left his precious investment to be attended to by persons who have not invested a dime and essentially have nothing to lose.
Williams, a seasoned Public Analyst, writes from Asaba, Delta State