Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Multi-Fraudulent Activities of Multichoice in Nigeria

John Ugbe

Nigeria is a country where foreigners come to enjoy to its fullest even to the detriment of the citizens. This seems to have encouraged the dismal manner Nigerians are treated by many of the so-called multinational companies that normally infringe on the rights of their Nigerian customers without relevant government agencies or organisations batting an eyelid. The ineffectiveness of the controlling or regulatory agencies has further emboldened these companies to continue in their bad way of relating with the people. An example is the way Multichoice, a South Africa-owned company, has been treating Nigerians with no regard.

Multichoice is the owner of DStv, the leading satellite pay TV in the country. As the oldest satellite pay TV in the country, DStv has seized this opportunity to monopolise the market, wielding monstrous power with which it is terrorising the people of Nigeria and competitors and turning a deaf ear to the many negative comments about such unsavoury practices in the Nigeria media.

Not minding the many complaints against the company, Multichoice has continued to gallop on, with sources claiming the company has compromised the integrity of those at the helm of affairs of bodies saddled with the responsibility of regulating the operations of the company, thereby empowering them more to treat the complaints of Nigerians with outmost levity.

Multichoice has proven to be the only company to add another form of business to its current one in the country without proper clearance - as applicable in Multichoice’s decision to start GOtv which can only operate on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) without the necessary authorisation to operate it. According to a petition filed to the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) some years back, GOtv has no legal right to transmit digital broadcasting in Nigeria using DVB-T technology. The petitioners through a letter to the NBC questioned the right of GOtv providing Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) services in Nigeria. They stated that such services can only be provided for now by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), which is the only organ licensed by the NBC to provide such service in Nigeria.

This was further confirmed the Minister of Information, LabaranMaku, who said that NTA is the only organisation approved by the Federal Government to provide DTT service; thus meaning NTA is the public signal distributor licensed in the country. Simply put, no DTT licence has been granted to any other service provider except the one given to NTA. This, invariably, means that Multichoice’s GOtv is operating illegally but unchallenged by the body that should do exactly that in Nigeria.

Another of Multichoice’s above-the-law attitude in the country is the way it relates with Nigerian customers, also fleecing them indiscriminately by incessant scrambling; it is now very common for those who are having valid subscription to have it scrambled especially when an important football match is about taking place. And this has been helping the company generate a lot of money in connivance with some GSM company that collects money for SMS which Multichoice lied would easily rectify or clear the error code that has become a regular thing for the subscribers. To clear errors the company has asked that a certain information be sent to the company’s short code of 30333, knowing fully that a percentage of the SMS fee will be going back to the company for every one sent.

Another of the company’s tactics unearthed by the investigation is the employment of inconsistency in the method of payment; the company has been making sure the date of validity on the receipt collected by customers is usually not the same on the computers of the satellite TV. An example is when the date on the payment receipt obtained from the office of Multi-choice shows that a subscriber’s account will be valid till, say, 20th of the month only for the same subscriber to receive SMS later that the account validity will expire by 14th, cutting off six days from the due date of the subscriber while it is near-impossible to get the company to rectify the perceived problem.

While all these are going on in Nigeria undisturbed, it is pertinent to note that the Multichoice company operates on a different wavelength in South Africa where it is operating a pay-per-view payment structure while it is fixed monthly in Nigeria. This invariably means you do not need to use it in Nigeria for your payment to lapse. The subscription starts running out the moment payment is made, not minding if you watch it or not, a situation that has seen the company pocket money for services not rendered in most cases.

It was discovered that despite the fact that DStv makes the bulk of its money from Nigeria, most of its promos are held in South Africa and this much is beamed even to the Nigerian customers’ chagrin, knowing that the government has no law or policy in place to protect the interest of the company’s Nigerian subscribers.

According to a customer of the DStv:  “It is even more annoying for you to get home from work with the hope of enjoying what you are paying heavily for and it is scrambled when you are still having like two weeks subscription left.”
This we gathered is a normal occurrence in the way Nigerians are being treated by the company, and all these happen with no form of compensation. It will take the subscriber ceaseless calls to the pay TV customer care centre, which also eats heavily into the airtime of the subscriber, before it is picked for the problem to be rectified.

This character, we can inform, is not a thing that started just overnight as such tendency has been shown before now while the regulatory body folds its arms and does nothing about it. It is to be noted that Multichoice in the past decided to offer the management of Cable News Network (CNN) money for the right to be the only station that will be beaming the otherwise-free broadcast of the CNN in Nigeria when some new indigenous satellite pay-TVs started springing up and also tapping into the CNN news network which was then free; thereby cutting off the companies from enjoying what it (Multichoice) had enjoyed for many years and killing off any sort of competition from those new stations. This gave Multichoice a monopoly of that market, while the government agency supposed to be in charge has seemingly been compromised by Multichoice. This appears to be the reason the regulators have been silent on the many atrocities the company has been perpetrating on Nigerians.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

After His Failed Senatorial Ambition in Delta State: Gov. Uduaghan Begins Journey into Political Oblivion

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan

There is usually a time in man’s life when things will be quiet. Though such period is despised by the politician, it is certain such period must come in the life of every popular man. While some will fade away completely from mind, some will still come to mind from time to time, even when they are hardly again in the news because they have impacted the life of so many who owe their positions to them. Such is the way the people of Delta State are likely to relate to two of their prominent sons. One is the incumbent governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the other is his predecessor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori.

For James OnanefeI bori, the immediate past governor of the state, who is currently serving jail term in a London prison for fraud- related offences against the people of the state, findings show he has successfully enshrined himself in the heart of the people of Delta State due to his philanthropic gestures and the number of those whose lives he has changed for good while he was the governor the state. And it is for this reason that they have been singing his praise even when he was serving term over financial crimes he allegedly committed against the state while he governed them almost eight years ago. However, such cannot be said about the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, even while he is still serving as the governor of the state.

Investigation revealed that it is common knowledge that the residents and people of Delta State could not wait for him to leave office come May before he was cast into their unconscious memory. This much was revealed with their vote in the last Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries where the anointing of Uduaghan’s candidates for positions they were seeking turned to be a curse. The people voted against such candidates, including his choice in the governorship primaries. The decision also forced Uduaghan to drop his senatorial ambition.
Unlike Ibori, who made sure that the capable contractors in the state were awarded contracts, which in turn helped some of them make additional money, Uduaghan has been known to only issue contracts to members of his family. It was revealed to SG that the contract to negotiate with the airline company that would fly the pilgrims in the state was made by a member of his family. It is as bad to the level where it is his wife, the First Lady of the state, that is even supplying stationery that is used in the Governor’s Office, a situation that has seen the local contractors facing idleness for lack of works in the state.

There is however a new twist to things in the state as sources revealed the incumbent may decamp to an opposition party should the people follow through on their plan to push him into political oblivion as intended, knowing that his defection would give him a chance to relevance. Though there is nothing to suggest he will be defecting now, sources close to him say he is open to such opportunity to have another go at prominence.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Questionable Wealth of Two Nigerian Born Billionaires, Kase Lawal and Kola Aluko

+ The Many Fraudulent Activities Linked to Their Wealth

Kase Lawal

Kola Aluko
They are more like the most popular Nigerian billionaires in the countries they reside. Their wealth was so pronounced that people are of the belief that they qualify to be the richest Nigerians. Welcome to the world of Kase Lawal and Kola Aluko, two international Nigerians whose sources of wealth are believed to have something to do with their involvement in a fraudulent activity in Mother Nigeria.

For Ibadan, Oyo State-born Kase Lukman Lawal, his journey to the USA dates back to the time he spent to obtain his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Texas Southern University in 1976, after which he had his MBA from Prairie View A&M University, also in Texas, in 1978. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of CAMAC International Corporation, chairman and chief executive officer of CAMAC Energy Inc, and chairman of Allied Energy Corporation in Houston, Texas; and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, CAMAC HOLDINGS; vice chairman, Port of Houston Authority Commission. He also serves as a member of the board of directors and a significant shareholder in Unity National Bank, the only federally insured and licensed African-American-owned bank in Texas.

His influence in the USA has seen him befriending politicians both of Democratic and Republican parties and this has earned him recognition as he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He has however been linked to a series of fraud and illegal transactions that have to do with Africa.

He was at a time being mentioned in a spectacular fraud-related matter in the oil business in Nigeria, where he and others allegedly conspired to "steal" an oil block and pump millions of barrels of oil from it. Despite protracted legal proceedings  (though he was never prosecuted and he has consistently denied the allegations), information revealed he was at a time on the list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wanted Nigerians and this much was confirmed by the then Attorney-General, Mr. Michael Andoakaa at a function back then.

In 2003 the Mail & Guardian revealed how Lawal, after becoming close to former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, benefited from "what appears to be a fraud on the Nigerian and South African public". It was reported that CAMAC, a company owned by Kase Lawal, had in that deal set up a subsidiary in South Africa, with the name "South African Oil Company". This he was said to have done in association with a group of individuals connected to the ANC, South Africa’s leading and ruling political party.

According to the report, Mbeki was said to have written to his then-counterpart in Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, chipping in good words about the company and supporting the company's request for "a long-term crude oil contract on behalf of the Republic of South Africa". This it was said helped the company get substantial oil allocations at discounted "government-to-government" rates from Nigeria. The report explained further that the oil was however diverted as it was never taken to South Africa, with the proceed paid into an account opened in the name of South African Oil Company at a bank in the Cayman Islands, where a mystery co-owner shared the proceeds with Kase Lawal-owned CAMAC.

The statement read further that after the tenure of Thabo Mbeki, the government of Jacob Zuma, who was the immediate deputy president to Mbeki, quizzed him about the oil deal in a parliamentary debate and his answer portrayed him as not having any knowledge of the deal, whereas questioning on the fraud directed towards Lawal had his lawyer deny any impropriety by the company, claiming the allocations were never meant for South Africa.

Kase and his CAMAC were again in the news over illegal transaction, this time in gold. In December 2010, Dikembe Mutombo, a Congolese basketball hero formerly with the Houston Rockets, was said to have introduced Lawal to the opportunity to buy 475kg of gold supposedly held in Kenya, and Lawal, we gathered, involved diamond trader Carlos St Mary to help execute the gold deal with an agreement that Kase, Mutombo and St. Mary would split the estimated $10-million profit after the deal had been finalised.

It however turned out later that the gold was actually being bought from a DRC Congo warlord who had been banned by the UN. The deal, it was gathered, cost Kase Lawal a sum to the tune of about $30 million which he could not recover as the deal was stopped by the ban decreed by President Joseph Kabila on all precious mineral exports from the eastern DRC, in an attempt to stop the financing of arms smuggling and destabilisation in the country.

While Kase Lukman Lawal is enjoying the life of affluence in the USA, another Nigerian, Kola Aluko, is living in similar fashion in the United Kingdom (UK). Born Kolawole Aluko in Lagos in 1969, he’s one of nine siblings of a pharmacist mother while his father, Chief Akanni Aluko (Chairman Island Club and High Chief in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria) is a geologist. Kola Aluko attended Igbogbi College in Lagos. He was ranked by Forbes as one of the top 40 richest Africans.

Kola Aluko had worked in different industries, from pharmaceutical companies to car companies, before settling for the oil industry some years back. He co-founded Besse Oil, a pioneering oil trading company in Nigeria, in 1995. Besse Oil, one of the first to obtain a credit line with major international banks, traded crude oil and fuel oil, as well as being a major importer of gasoline. Some six years later, in 2001, Aluko founded Fossil Resources, an indigenous downstream oil and gas company, where he held the role of CEO.

He, in 2004, formed Exoro Energy International, becoming CEO and moved into Exploration and Production. Exoro Energy partnered with a division of Weatherford, to showcase its exploration and production technology. In 2007, the division of Weatherford was bought out and merged with Exoro Energy to form an independent company, Seven Energy. Aluko was a Director of Seven Energy from 2007 until his departure in 2011.

Seven Energy is an indigenous Nigerian oil and gas exploration, development, production and distribution company, and it is run by the trio of Kola Aluko, Phillip Ihenacho and Jide Omokore. It was after this that Aluko, together with a team of Nigerian and international E&P executives, co-founded Atlantic Energy, a private upstream oil and gas company, with an increased focus on under-developed producing fields in Nigeria. In partnership with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Atlantic Energy focuses mainly on Niger Delta assets, contracted and executed under Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) with the NPDC.

He diversified into the aviation industry in 2010, becoming a member of the Vistajet advisory board, assisting with the West-African expansion of the Swiss-based luxury aviation company. His supposed hard work however come under public scrutiny when he decided to squander $1.5 million on bottles of champagne at the 39th birthday party of Hollywood star, Leo De Caprio in the US sometime in 2013. He was said to have attended the event in company of controversial super model, Naomi Campbell, whom he was said to have impressed with the reckless spending at the party that had Kanye West, who performed 10 songs, present together with his wife, Kim Kardashian, who sang along all through.

Sources believed the spending must have been at the instance of Naomi Campbell, whose ex-boyfriend of five years, Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin ,was present amongst other dignitaries like the producer of The Wolf of Wall Street, Joey McFarland and Texas businessman Nate Paul, Ron Burkle, Jho Low and Vivi Nevo.

This seems to have further added fuel to the embers of fire generated by the allegation of fraud labeled against him in the Nigerian oil industry as one of the associates of the Petroleum Minister Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who had allegedly been using the billionaire to ship money abroad. Initially accused of colluding with the Minister to defraud Nigeria of several billions through all sorts of shady deals, Aluko and some others were in 2010 said to be involved in the  scandalous take-over of the oil mining licenses (OMLs) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Kola Aluko was said to have through his company, Septa Energy, a subsidiary of Seven Energy and some other associates of his in the questionable deal, were awarded without proper process of bidding the deal when Shell divested its operatorship in the OMLs. A situation that legally reverted the ownership to the NNPC which would in turn manage the oil assets on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The operatorship was said to have been reverted to the NNPC, which had also transferred the operatorship to its exploration subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

Subsequently, the operatorships of the seven blocks were handed over to a consortium of local companies some of which are: Septa Energy, a subsidiary of Seven Energy, a company he has interest in, which got oil mining licences for some blocks and Atlantic Energy, a private upstream oil and gas company that Aluko owns 50 per cent stake in was awarded four (4) oil blocs, numbers 26, 30, 34, and 42, with a combined output of about 108,000bpd. Interestingly the companies were to receive crude oil allocation of over 40,000 barrels per day as “loan repayment”.

Though he is alleged to have been from time to time soiling his hands with fraud in the lucrative oil sector, he was alleged to have fallen into crisis with the Petroleum Minister on an issue that had to do with breach of trust. Unconfirmed sources alleged that he made away with a staggering $4b, for a deal transaction concluded together with his associates that allegedly helps the Minister move money abroad. Sources revealed that it became disturbing when after the deal, Aluko moved to Switzerland where he’s also a citizen, with none of his associates getting to hear anything from him.

His absence was said to have spurred panic when news of his new acquisition started filtering to the ears of his partners: he was said to have bought a £150 million Galactica Star Yacht, which he acquired in June 2013. Galactica Star is a one-of-its-kind custom-built super yacht. The 65-metre-long play boat is the newest and largest Heesen yacht ever built. It was also that period that he started the acquisition of luxury property in very expensive and exclusive neighbourhoods like New York, Beverly Hills, London, Las Vegas, Dubai, Paris, Monaco and Miami.

It got to a stage he was said to have been declared wanted by the Interpol and other security agencies in Nigeria. Though most of these allegations have been denied by Kola Aluko, it is believed that there must really be something fishy about the wealth of these two Nigerian billionaires in diaspora.