Dr. Reuben Maitamuno Jaja, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the BFI Group, he is licensed by the State of California Bureau of Securities & Investment Services, and also founder of the Africa-USA International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a non-profit organization chartered to promote trade, commerce and industry between the 53 nation states of Africa and the United States.
For over 10 years in this capacity, he has worked with an array of U.S. governmental agencies and private sector business leaders on various projects and infrastructure development matters involving Africa.
He is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the University of California, UCLA,
Director Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Steering Committee on Air Transportation (The ECOAIR Project), Delegation leader of United States Special Indigenous group to Ogoni land and other producing communities of the Niger Delta, and Director, African Business Roundtable, a private sector African Business forum of the African Development Bank.
- Jaja is an advisor and lecturer, Export Training Assistance Program (ETAP)
- Jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Export & Import
- Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as Multilateral bank
- and the United States overseas private Insurance Corporation.
He is a lead banking law enforcement participant on various delegations including the U.S. Financial Institution Experts delegation to the Republics of Russian and Hungary.
In this interview with editors of select national newspapers, Dr. Reuben Jaja opened up extensively for the first time on his protracted battle on behalf of his group with the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE. He expressed very deep concerns on why in a nation of laws, a government agency would treat judgments of the Supreme Court with such flagrant disregard and seemingly get away with it. He also spoke on the negative effects of such sad development on prospective investors and the nation’s Foreign Direct Investment. He expressed confidence that at the end of the controversy which has spanned 16 years across several courts, the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON would be handed over to his group the BFIG.
Q:It’s been about 16 years of intensive litigations over the ownership of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON. Can you walk us through how this all began?
JaJa:It all began in 1996. When I came to the country from the United States. At that time there was a serious upheaval in the state due to the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
So I led a group of investigators to come and investigate the matter and to appeal to the international community not to sanction Nigeria. During that time we looked at the source and causes of all these issues, and we realize that there were lack of corporate and manufacturing entities and industries that will support employment of people, particularly the youths.
ALSCON was one of those that were brought up, and particularly for ALSCON, Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria that company was built in the Niger-Delta to help alleviate the issues of environmental pollution because it was supposed to take the gas that was being flared, harness it to support the production of aluminum. But, the factory was not moving well, nothing was happening, hence I became fully aware of that and pleaded with government to ensure that entity was well completed and activated to serve the needs of the Niger-Delta people. This was also contained in the recommendations that I made to the government then under the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
Q:So what happened afterwards?
JaJa:In the year 2000, I realized that a civilian administration has been elected to government. The civilian administration at the time was trying to make the economy to work, and I had interest to see that the place works because I am from the Niger-Delta, I have lived in the United States, I’ve worked there, I’ve worked with the US federal reserve bank, the state of California banking commission, and I’ve participated as a delegate to several countries in an effort to support their development, including Russia, while I was on the employment of the United states government and the state of California banking Commission.
I was very much interested to see that the issue of the Niger-Delta is being addressed using that company because of its capacity.
I then realized that the place was dormant, abandoned with people laid off, and I decided to find out what was the issue, and they told me its listed to be privatized.
Q:(cuts in) this was in year 2000?
JaJa:Yes it was. So I said okay, the moment the process commences and they’re asking for international investors, I will like to be involved. In 2003 they started calling for international investors, so I immediately deployed resources to mobilize investors in the US. I brought in some of the best including those who manufactured the plant. Experts from several countries were brought together including Germany, the United States and even Ghana.
The best team that the country could ever think of pulling together was assembled. This included people who actually developed the plant including the chief technology officer of that plant. Lots of money was involved, but we succeeded in bringing everyone together and applied, and when we applied, we won.
However, after we won the bid, another company from Russia called UC Rusal, (then it was just Rusal) also bided but we won the bid, and thought that was the end of it. I received a lot of congratulatory messages from my Niger-Delta people who informed me that it was the first time a son of the Niger-Delta will be winning a bid for one of the major national companies that the federal government privatized. They said in the past other ethnic nationalities have been the ones benefiting from such scheme, so they were very happy with our struggles and success. But nonetheless, members of my group of American investors and I now decided to proceed and implement the bid, but we didn’t know that there was already a plan to give it to the Russians.
Q:(cuts in) was this still in year 2000?
Jaja:No, this was now in 2004 and it was at that point we realized that they have already planned to give it to the Russians. So we questioned the government. Why will you publish an advert inviting international government to come and bid, whereas you have made up your mind to give it to one person, that is absolutely fraudulent and this are part of the decisions that damages the country’s image in the investors circle. We however moved forward to complete our acquisition, but all of a sudden we discovered we’ve been disqualified, and this was still in 2004.
Q:What was the reason given for your disqualification?
JaJa:The basis of disqualification was that we did not pay before signing the agreement, but we told them we were not suppose to pay before signing an agreement, nobody does that. We bided US$410 million; this is a plant that was built at the cost of US$3.6 billion then, so we won it at US$410 million in 2004.
We met with the government before opening our bid and they agreed to the conditions of the bid, stating that if any investor should win the bid, here are the pre-conditions agreed to by all parties, and one of them was that whichever company emerges the winner, will have to pay 10 percent within 15 working days of executing the share purchase agreement, SPA. This was agreed to and I was asked to affirm it and we signed accordingly.
Affirmation is a statement of oath. So we signed and we agreed. But after we won and it turned out we weren’t the group expected to win, they now say we should pay first before executing the SPA, but we said no, as we have all agreed in writing, signed by us and agreed by you as well on your letter head which you sent to us all, and it carried all the terms and conditions.
This is important because we had already told our bankers that immediately we win, we will require 15 working days to pay and the share purchase agreement is the instrument that will activate payment. So the trick they use to drag us behind and cause confusion was that we must pay before signing the SPA, we said no, that’s not going to happen and they went ahead and disqualified us. We proceeded immediately to the lower court in that 2004 and by the following year 2005 the court gave its judgment ruling against us.
Q:So you lost the case?
JaJa:Yes, we lost the case, but proceeded immediately to the Court of appeal and this was around 2007. The appeal court also ruled against us and upheld the Judgment of the lower court. But we didn’t give up. We felt it was a great injustice because the understanding was clear, so we proceeded to the Supreme Court in 2008. By 2012 the Supreme Court now heard the case and unanimously all the justices 5 to 0 upheld our case, and said our case was meritorious to the extreme, contrary to what the other two previous courts had said.
The Supreme Court now issued specific orders of the court in addition to our prayers asking them to immediately give us the share purchase agreement to execute, and the SPA must be mutually agreeable, and that we are to pay the 10 percent as agreed in the SPA.
The 10 percent will come 15 working days after the execution of the SPA as agreed.
The court also placed an injunction on the federal government that nobody should take that property or go to ALSCON by any means at all and purchase it other than us, except if we are unable to pay as agreed. This Judgment was issued on July 6,2012.
So we commenced the enforcement of the judgment accordingly, as we progressed, the BPE immediately introduced another different element by giving us a contract that was totally different from what the Supreme Court ordered. This contract was unilateral and developed by them alone without our input, thereby ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered that they must provide us with a mutually agreed SPA. They asked us to immediately sign this agreement, which had been loaded with sorts of things that were commercially unreasonable. For instance the new agreement is asking us to pay about N4.2 billion of employees pension funds, these are employees that never worked for us as we are yet to take over the plant.
They also did not guarantee us gas as it was stated in the agreement before we bided. We now agreed that the new agreement is nothing other than a set up which they want us to reject so they can again disqualify us. We now called their attention to the Supreme Court judgment and informed them that their failure to comply only means we are going back to the Supreme Court.
So in 2013, we went back to the Supreme Court and the court read the case all over again and instructed us to go and enforce the judgment, as the enforcement mechanism does not exist here in the Supreme Court. So they asked our lawyers to know which of the lower courts we would like to go, is it the high court or the appeals court? Our lawyers agreed that we proceed to the lower court, so we now proceeded for enforcement.
In that same year of 2013, the lower reviewed the matter, and looked at the agreement we were given by BPE and the agreement the Supreme Court asked us to sign and the court upheld that of the Supreme Court saying there is no cause for comparison as the case was clear, and we got Judgment to go ahead and execute that agreement, but the BPE immediately went on to appeal the Judgment.
They delayed the case for almost 4 years. They refused to file their papers; they pulled every possible stunt in the book to frustrate us until 2016/17 thereabout they now started moving and that was with the incoming of this new administration. The appeals court now really began looking into the matter and at the end still ruled in our favor stating that the judgment of the Supreme Court did emphasize a specific share purchase agreement, SPA, and here is it. It has exhibits, annexures and all other things that go with it. So we executed that along that along with the exhibits and annexures that goes with it. But by the time we realized it, they have now removed all the annexures and gave us just the main agreement.
We said to them how could you do a deal of US$410 million and not even one exhibit? The audited financial statement of the company, which was the basis upon which we bided US $410 million, has to be inclusive. We have already identified all these 19 exhibits for which we have a letter written to by the BPE confirming the19 exhibits.
Q: …and all those were detached from the original SPA ordered by the courts?
JaJa:Yes, they detached them completely. So when they told us this is the agreement, please sign it immediately, we knew again they were up to something and are still hell bent on scuttling the deal.
Q:This was after you have gotten some hope that a new administration has come and there will be some movement with the case?
Jaja:Exactly! So at the stage we now decided to issue form 48 and 49, which are the forms to initiate a compelling ground to obey the court order, failure of which can result in imprisonment. We made it clear to them that our sole desire is simply to buy this plant and not to make trouble.
I am from a prominent dynasty in the Niger-Delta region; we are interested in fixing our region in particular and our country in general by helping the country to activate this plant and do great things in the area of metals. The BPE however insisted that we should sign off on the agreement while the exhibits will be negotiated later on and we said no to that, and insisted the exhibits can not be negotiated as those were the basis upon which we negotiated and bided for the plant in the first place.
Q:This was after we have concluded negotiations years before?
JaJa:Yes! After negotiations have long been concluded. The Supreme Court didn’t tell us to go into any negotiation twice. Rather it said the BPE should hand us the share purchase agreement, which should be self contained and complete one document, and these exhibits are not things that anyone can even change. They are the audited financials of the company as of 2003, which was what we looked at to buy in 2004. So whatever is in there is what were buying.
Then the post acquisition plan, which is our own plan of action on how to develop it. We are to develop the plan and they are to review and approve it, this has to be there, also the ATS or authority to sell it to us, yes you are the BPE but it is standard procedure to have the ATS, and what is more?
The said ATS has already been gazeted, also the document in question was given to us by you, so that has to be inclusive, including the statement of liabilities which you alredy developed and gave to us showing the liabilities as of the time of the bid. Employees compensation plan, the list of the facilities, land and all the assets and liabilities of the company so these are documents that you can not sit down and begin to negotiate.
Q:These are things that were there before but were detached?
Q: How did you go past this?
Jaja: Well, we couldn’t go past it without asking them to come before the law. So we told them that by disagreeing to attach these exhibits means you have not given us a share purchase agreement, therefore you are in contempt of the supreme court order because you’ve been ordered by the court to give us the SPA and what you’re giving us is not the SPA.
Hence, if you fail to give us one that is complete, we will go to court again and ask that you be compelled to obey the court. We then proceeded to serve them the form 48 which was a warning and still they did not care, so we went ahead to serve them the form 49 which is a request that the court commit them to jail for disobedience and the court granted our prayers.
On December 17, 2019, the court issued a judgment stating that those exhibits are an integral part of the agreement and for the Director General of the BPE to continue to prolong this matter, dribble and frustrate the enforcement of the supreme court judgment from 2012 to this time the court will have to set an example to deter future occurrence and the DG was sentence to a 30 days jail term until he complies by giving us all the exhibits.
So that became news and the DG started a fresh argument that he is an individual and therefore shouldn’t be jailed but fact remains that organizations are not run by spirits but humans so whoever heads that Agency at this moment takes responsibility. This is so simple. Just complete and give us the agreements with at the exhibits included and we will have 15 working days to pay and if we fail to pay within that stipulated period then the deal is over! What are they afraid of? They know we will pay, and that will expose and frustrate whatever corrupt transactions and practices that they have engaged in all this while.
Q:So at this point it became clear that the BPE is simply trying to frustrate your group?
JaJa:Exactly! They want to frustrate us because they have a plan to steal that asset from us. It is the third largest infrastructural asset in the country, and it is located between Akwa-Ibom and Rivers.
Q:I’m sure it’s just a stone-throw from your town?
Jaja:Yes it is a stone throw from Opobo town and in fact that was the area that my great grandfather had his commercial port. It’s a historic economic center and we are determined to keep the flag of this country flying in that region, and that is another major reason why we want that plant because we have so many boys in the amnesty program.
They go overseas and get training, they come back and no place to work. But this is a huge plant for which we have lined up experts from Germany and the United states who helped in building the plant in an effort to reactivate the plant, and our plan is to enable the company to grow to the point where all our youths both from the amnesty program and regular universities will have opportunities and hope of somewhere they can go to be economically empowered.
Q:Dr. Jaja, in the period under review you’ve talked about four different administrations in Nigeria. You’ve been in court all through these various administrations. How come none of these administrations were able to review and reconsider the seeming and protracted injustice meted out to you and your group?
JaJa:The injustice started with the Obasanjo administration, which obviously disqualified us for absolutely illegal reasons as affirmed by the Supreme Court. Now, we rolled into President Yar’Adua who invited us and we went in company of the US ambassador to Nigeria, and after the matter was presented to him he regretted on behalf of the country and apologized. He however assured us that he was going to correct it.
Then he told me he was ready to cancel it now, but our lawyers said since we are already in Supreme Court, it was better to get judgment, but he said if you want me to cancel it now I will because I have three transactions on my desk that that were so corrupt in terms of how they were privatized and ALSCON is one of them.
We humbly declined telling him that since were already in court we will like for it to be resolved legally rather politically and he agreed with us, saying if that’s what you want, no problem, lets wait until the supreme court decides. But unfortunately we lost before that could happen.
President Goodluck Jonathan now came in, but unfortunately he did not give us the level of attention needed.
Q:How do you mean sir? Did you make representations to him?
JaJa:We wrote him letters and sent people to see him, but no response. Some people had the notion that since President Obasanjo was involved and all that so we became fed up and felt nothing will happen.
Then when this current administration came in, I presented it to them, and they moved very swiftly to correct it. But then, the BPE went and place the thing in the court, telling Mr. President its better to wait for the courts to decide.
Q:How come the current ad ministration was very willing and supportive to bring this sad situation to conclusion?
JaJa:Well, I know this president very well as a man for the rule of law and do not tolerate injustice. He believes that such injustice must be corrected, but you see, civil servants are so difficult to manage. When they have their interest and support certain interest groups they will do all sorts of things including lying just to have their way. Can you imagine that they went and told Mr. president that we don’t have money to pay? Okay, if we do not have money to pay, give us the agreement to sign and if we fail to pay within the stipulated 15 working days then the game is over.
Q:Is this with regards to the agreement that was signed?
JaJa:Yes! What is the difficulty in this matter? Anytime they’re aware that our money has come into the bank and were preparing to pay, they do everything to scuttle our efforts. For instance, after the appeals court upheld and ask that they enforce the supreme court judgment they gave us the agreement, bust as soon as they became aware that our money has come in and we are prepared to pay, they suddenly returned two copies to us, because they gave us six copies to sign, which we signed along with all the exhibits and submitted for counter signatories. When these documents were returned we got only two copies back! All the exhibits were gone! With a letter of it saying we will negotiate the exhibits later. That is childish and ludicrous!! We are an American company and our money is coming from American bank and no bank will ever give you a 14-page agreement with all the referenced attachments taken away.
Q:This is sad to know, especially as it affects investor confidence in the economy. Nigeria is a country begging for foreign direct investment to diverse sectors of the economy. What message do you think this ALSCON controversy sends to prospective foreign investors about the Nigerian economy?
JaJa: A horrendous message! A very very terrible and horrible message!! Particularly to Nigerians in diaspora who are really the ambassadors that speak of this country to different investor groups, and in most cases they also lead them to come. The Americans are our classmates, they’re our co-workers, we live there with them, so this my own experience has been discussed at the US chamber of commerce. Investment groups in the capital market in New York, because it tells them clearly that how can Supreme Court of Nigeria issue a Judgment on a commercial transaction and it is not obeyed? Why would anyone take his or her money there? As even the justice system cannot protect you.
Q:This seemingly affects Nigeria’s image negatively and its ranking on the ease of doing business index?
JaJa:Of course, but not only that, it will only attract criminals to come here and do business because no investor that relies on a conducive environment for investment will ever come. Here is a good example. You want someone to sign a contract of US$410 million and you’re also telling him that you will not give him the supporting exhibits that explains and support what he has bought, now how can such a person explain what he has bought?
So this is a terrible situation, which sends a horrible message, and for me the only reason why I’m staying back is simply because my root is here, otherwise there is nothing in the world that will cause me to stay behind. My fellow diapsoreans who are out there working in many big corporations with access to funding, as well as friends who are CEO’s in big corporations are all looking at me as an example. Infact they cite me all over the place saying look at one of us that went back and for 16 years he doesn’t know what he’s doing In Nigeria.
Q:So the potentials of the Nigerians in diaspora to be a spark plug for the Nigerian economy is now being undermined by this?
JaJa:Yes! Extremely undermined! Discouraging, frustrating and shameful!
Q:If and when your group finally takes over ALSCON, what specific plans do you have to turn the plant around for the better?
JaJa:We have a most solid and strategic plan to turn that plant around, but before I answer that let me share something with you. When you look at the metal industry in the world, you’ll discover it’s so strategic, so many countries especially the industrialized nations strive to control that market. For instance in the aluminum sector, Rusal Aluminum is a major player and what they do is to ensure control of the demand and supply. This cartel will ensure control through the quantum of product that they put into the market. Whenever the price is not favourable they reduce output. So what happen was that Rusal Aluminum was going around the world buying Aluminum plants just to put it under their own control hence determining the quantity of Aluminum they can put into the global market, because all plants do have their production capacity. So if the entire supply is one million and they control half of it, then they will determine the price. The can gang up and sometimes they can even frustrate third world outfits by making sure that they continue importing or buying from them.
In our own case, Rusal came in and bought the plant since 2013 and have produced nothing! Prior to that, when Nigerians were managing the plant, the production capacity was at 30%, but today it has been reduced to zero percent! Since they came in 2004 they have not gone up to 11 percent!
Q: So this is part of the strategy to control the market global price of aluminum?
JaJa:Exactly. And this is possible because they’ve taken over most manufacturing plants and others cant produce. So they will now determine the quantity to put into the global market space. Plants of the same size in Russia are producing, employment is being generated and quality of life is improving, while the one in Nigeria is suppressed and assigned zero production. By this they alone can decide when to activate Nigeria and when not to activate Nigeria. So we understand this game but unfortunately people at home do not understand the implication of some of these global players.
This was the same thing that happened at Ajaokuta, where the Indians came and said they wish to invest in the plant, and afterwards all they did was to incapacitate the plant.
Q:Why would they do that?
JaJa:Simple! So that you can keep buying from them through their home based plant in India.
Q: What do you think the Nigerian economy is losing as a result of this lingering controversy?
JaJa:The country is losing quite a lot. As this plant continues to be mired in controversy without working, millions of foreign exchange that ought to come into the country through sales of aluminum will not come. The consumption capacity for aluminum in Nigeria is about 20 percent of the plant’s installed capacity, while the rest 80 percent is to be exported abroad, so you bring in hard currency, and the foreign reserve of the country increases and stabilizes. But with what we have now, we’ll continue to import and that sadly takes its toll on other sectors of the national economy, and our consumption of aluminum related product becomes more expensive for the consumer because they aren’t produced here. So all these factors frustrate the economy, and ensure that the growth and development of our economy is restricted by these constraints.
Q:You have had 16 years of litigation, both in the courts and the boardroom, it’s certainly been painstakingly wrong for you and your associates, with several wins at the courts including at the highest court of the land the Supreme Court, how confident are you at this stage?
JaJa:The future is very bright because we have fought a righteous war. We have been able to expose all the corrupt practices that were involved in this transaction. We have sensitized the nation with regards to all the gimmicks involved in the privatization program. So were confident that despite the shortcomings of certain courts and the justice system, we continue to rely on and believe in not just the justice system but also this administration especially in their commitment to fairness and equity.
Justice will definitely prevail in our matter because when I met the president in 2007 while he was campaigning to be president I presented this matter to him and he was outraged and also had his own experience of what is happening in the privatization sector. He is also trying to ensure that he makes no mistakes in untangling this web of deceit that started since 2004. He is untangling them cautiously in order to get us to wherever we ought to be especially because the Supreme Court has given us judgment.
Q:(Cuts in) but it’s taken too long. He has been in power for almost five years now and has finished one term isn’t it?
JaJa:Well I will like for everything to be resolved today, but of course I’m dealing with government. Government has its own speed. They have their pace, so I have no choice but to continue to appeal to this administration to allow justice prevail in my case.
They claim we don’t have money, so where did we get money to prosecute this case for almost 17 years now? We hired the best lawyers and amongst them was the current Vice President of Nigeria while he was a private citizen practicing law, and he it was who won this case at the Supreme Court even though for fear of conflict of interest he has chosen to distance himself from the matter, but the facts are known and remain sacrosanct.
We have been doing all we can, and most importantly (let me emphasize clearly on this) in 2004, we brought in US$500 million to purchase ALSCON, this same BPE frustrated us and we couldn’t take that money, those who helped us to arrange that money sued us in the US courts and we had to settle this case in court for US$2.8 million.
We also brought an investor that came into Nigeria with 2.1 billion British pound to work with us and establish a refinery in our plant so after we’ve acquired. That investor was frustrated. We have the evidence at the central bank of Nigeria as well as Union Bank to show that this money came in to the system.
Q:For an economy that’s in dire need of foreign direct investment, this is quite alarming don’t you think?
JaJa:Of course it is! So when you hear them say we don’t have the funds, note that these are what we have done. We have secured 41 million from Zenith bank the moment the Supreme Court gave judgment in 2012. I called Zenith bank, our US guarantee came in and 41 million was immediately approved, but immediately they realize that, they frustrated the agreement. But you’ll start hearing them say we don’t have money and all that, meanwhile these are concrete evidence to show that we are very prepared. In the southern district court of California, there is a lawsuit against us there for failing to collect that money and we must pay them their fees.
Q:(Cuts in) just because you didn’t collect the money?
JaJa:Yes! And so we had to pay the $2.8 million, this is excluding the legal charges of our lawyer for defending us in this court. Then the one we brought into the country, £2.1 billion that was a facility that will jointly fund us and establish a refinery on our plant because we are by the sea with about 1200 hectares of land, and we gave them about 1/6thof the land space for the refinery and these were frustrated. They frustrated the money and even seized it!
Q:So what do you think all these say about the justice system in Nigeria and the rule of law?
JaJa:The justice system is simply poor. If you don’t have the resources to fight aggressively with good lawyers, you cannot move your case from the lower court to the apex court and get Judgment especially as that is where you will get judgment in most cases just like ours. The apex court knows that it is an institution that does not have the privilege to give a wrong Judgment, as that will last forever, and the lower courts will all be quoting bad Judgments. However, if you do not posses the financial wherewithal to prosecute your cases to that height, while also fighting all forces of intrusion and ensure you get your judgment.
Q:Dr. JaJa, at this point what are your prayers, especially to the executive branch of government?
JaJa:Our prayers are simple and you can’t imagine. BPE should hand over the 19 exhibits contained in the share purchase agreement, which the supreme court ordered in its wisdom since 2012 to be handed to us so that we can sign off on it accordingly and pay the requisite 10% within 14 working days from the date of signing that agreement and the balance in 90 days as agreed. What is difficult in doing this? One would think that this man is joking. One could think that this is all a joke, as government normally would quickly grant this kind of prayers in order to bring in this kind of money.
But I put to you and all Nigerians that in Nigeria today, the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave a judgment in our favour directing that the mutually agreed SPA be handed over to our group, and the document in question is being toyed with by an agency of the federal government in order to frustrate that enterprise simply because of personal interest.
We went back and looked at ALSCON, which we bought in 2004, and this is now 2020. In 2012 when the Supreme Court gave its judgment, the company was valued at 3.6 billion but today they have run it down to less than a hundred million. A company that had 800 employees, they ran it down to less than 20 employees. A company managed by Nigerians and with 36 percent production output capacity when we bought it, now posses zero production capacity.
A company that had zero liability when we bought it in 2004 now has a liability of US$163 million even as the KPMG book value of ALSCON during the same period stands at US$89.9 million. A company that 120 million dollars was given to dredge the river, today no one knows the condition of that money and the river of Opobo estuary remains undredged.
Now, all these are the issues frightening these people, as they very well know that the moment we take over the company all these shenanigans will be exposed.
Q:You talk about a personal interest, now the BPE is not a person and neither is the federal government. Who in particular sir, is responsible for this protracted controversy?
JaJa:We know them, but this is not the time to expose them. We have solid intelligence and very concrete information that there are groups who really want that facility to help handle their oil operations offshore. These are also entrepreneurs that are heavy in the oil and gas sector. They need our waterfront and facility to enhance their offshore activities. So these are the ones who have gone as far as even implanting individuals in the BPE. Another very cogent example is this, the Director General of BPE used to be a non-executive Director of Transcorp holdings.
Q:(Cuts in) and who owns Transcorp Holdings?
JaJa:A blind trust I understand. We however know those who talk about blind trust at all times. Now, this same Transcorp invited us that they’re interested in buying ALSCON from us. We travelled to Lagos and met with them and at that meeting we felt they wanted to do a joint venture with us, and all they said was that they want to buy us out. Of course we declined and told them we are not interested.
Q:Do the owners of this corporation include any former president?
JaJa:I understand that to be positive, as it has been reported in some dailies, but I’m not sure, especially as I haven’t seen a copy of their shareholding structure and would not wish to speculate unduly at this time.