For someone who has never directly eked out a living for himself in his 39 years of existence and is a billionaire, Mohammed Babangida, first son of retired military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, should arouse some curiosity. For the past few weeks, he has actually been doing just that. From the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which has been probing the vast Babangida empire, or rather how the patriarch of the family laundered the billions of all shades of currencies Nigerians widely believe he stole from the public treasury while he ruled from August 1985 to August 1993, the former first family has been in the news. By last week, there were indications that the EFCC had completed its investigations on the steal of the century and that its report should be ready soon.
It has always been widely believed that IBB’s management of the nation’s stupendous crude oil revenue from 1985-1993 when he ruled was as tidy as the ruthless manner Ishola Oyenusi, the vicious robber executed in 1972, managed the salaries of WAHUM workers when he and his gang hit the company one bloody morning some 34 years ago. But the retired General has always dared anybody to probe him and declared he would, any time, come out of it cleaner than a whistle. But from what TheNEWS was able to scoop out of EFCC, IBB’s confidence appears headed for the rocks. Details of the EFCC report promise to be most revealing. Expected to be unfurled is how IBB ploughed huge funds, using his sons and other fronts, into investments in the banking, telecommunications and oil sectors, three most lucrative areas that assure him of monumental returns.
The EFCC has been particularly digging into the activities of Fruitex International London Limited, FILL, which has a subsidiary, Fruitex Oil Exploration and Production Limited, FOEPL, in Nigeria. FILL began business in 2001 with a share capital of 400,000 pounds sterling. It was registered with number 4216189 to number 53 Marlborough Hill, Flat 4, London NW8 ONG. The two listed directors were Mohammed Babangida and Susan Scott, 49, a London-based British citizen and company secretary. Aminu Babangida was later brought on board as a director in 2005. Another spin-off of the group is understood to be Memfis Investment Company, Egypt. The Marlborough Hill building housing FILL, though held by a solicitor (beneficial owner), Ashley, solicitors at 19-21 Grovesnor Gardens, is actually owned by Beaumont Group Limited, an offshore company registered in Jersey in the Channel Islands. It could, however, not be ascertained before going to press if this building is the same as the one in Northwest London said to have been bought by IBB on 17 December 2004 for 385,000 pounds sterling.
FOEPL, the Nigerian arm which started operations in February 2004, is owned 65 per cent by “Mohammed Ibrahim.” This name is obviously a dilution of the first names of both son and father. The chairman is listed to be Dr. A.B.C. Orjiakor, 46, a surgeon and wealthy Catholic from Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State, while Chief Boniface Madubunji, proprietor of the Mabon Group of Companies, is also part owner. The Nigerian address of FOEPL is listed as plot 175A Moshood Olugbani Street, Victoria Island. TheNEWS checks last week showed a vacant property on which was hung a Diya & Fatimilehin’s To Let or Lease signboard. Investigations, however, showed that the building, until a couple of weeks ago, actually accommodated the Ordrec Group of Companies, owned by Orjiakor.
The group, which engages in varied businesses as oil services, shipping, oil rigs supply and medicare, includes Ordreco Shipping Services (a subsidiary of Ordrec Holdings Limited also registered in Jersey, Channel Islands), Ordrec Petroleum, Abbey Court Energy Services Ltd, First Aries Petroleum, Zebbrah Energy Ltd, Odfjell Offshore International Ltd, Shabah E & P Company Ltd, Abbey Court Trading Company (registered in London but now dissolved), Amach Security Services Ltd, Berwick Nigeria Ltd, Helko Nigeria Ltd and Helko Marine Services Ltd. The Group has relocated to No. 25, Lugard Road, Ikoyi. The Babangida family and Orjiakor were said to have been brought together by virtue of an oil well exploration joint venture in Equitorial Guinea. An aide to Orjiakor swore that besides the joint venture that the two, with two others, have to collaborate on to get the job done, there is no business relationship whatsoever between them.
Although IBB’s FILL owns substantial interest in Equitorial Guinea’s “Block M” estimated to be worth $8.2 billion, four entities, including the Babangida family, Orjiakor and the Equitorial Guinea government, are understood to have floated a special purpose vehicle, which is believed to be FOEPL, to jointly execute the project due to the huge capital and technical outlay involved, and as is the practice in the oil industry. IBB is understood to be reaping extensively from certain cronies that he awarded oil blocks when he was in power. Such frontmen include Alhaji Aminu Dantata, who floated Express Petroleum and Gas Limited, solely for the purpose of winning an oil block(s) even though he and the company are in no way qualified for the award, and Alhaji Muhammed Indimi, father-in-law to Mohammed Babangida, who owns Oriental Energy Oil Resources.
These fronts are labelled in business and government circles as the “idle rich”, because they don’t have to spend a kobo on their OML which they simply pass on to foreign companies to operate, while they collect commissions in millions of dollars. Dantata’s Express, it was gathered, could in no way manage Oil Mining Licence, OML, 108, awarded it by the dictator. He conceded it to CONOCO–Philips, while he sat back to periodically cream off his commissions. In one windfall, Dantata, this magazine learnt, was paid a sum of $200 million. Orjiakor’s Shebah E & P, run by Joe Attueyi, however, bought off 40 per cent of CONOCO-Phillips shares in 2003 and promptly increased production from 1,900 barrels per day to 5,000 bpd. Shebah also paid Dantata about $28 million in another commission.