By Hauwa Hazan-Baba
An American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, Warren Edward Buffett in one of his famous quotes said: “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway”.
Recently, there have been several media publications in relation to loan facilities taken by Shebah E&P Limited to carry out drilling campaign in OML 108. These cases had been in various courts between London and Nigeria since 2014 until the latest initiated by Zenith Bank in October 2021. All these cases are in relation to the inconclusive drilling campaign in Ukpokiti oil field, offshore the Niger Delta.
The origin of the who brouhaha
Like Buffett said, “What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.” The origin of the matter is that in 2012 Shebah E and P obtained a $150million loan facility from a consortium of banks (AFREXIM/Diamond- now Access/Skye- now Polaris) led by AFREXIM. The facility was meant for work over and drilling campaign at the Ukpokiti field (OML 108) operated by Shebah E&P.
Incidentally, all these cases have received extensive media attention and each time one individual has been mentioned repeatedly as the debtor in these facilities.
That person is ABC Orjiako, an orthopaedic surgeon, who is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Seplat Energy Plc. It is therefore incumbent on any investigative journalist to carry out an independent analysis of these debts and associated court cases to reveal the underlying facts behind all the Stories and whether Dr ABC Orjiako is “Guilty As Charged”.
It is pertinent to state that this current frenzy over the loan matter is not a fresh case but the same case that has been reported variously in the media since 2016.
Never a borrower and never utilized facilities as a person
The most astonishing fact in all this is that Dr Orjiako was never a borrower and never utilised the facilities as a person. He was merely the majority shareholder of Shebah and guarantor of the facilities. Dr Orjiako was not even a member of management of Shebah but stepped up to salvage the company by making payments to the banks using personal and family assets to liquidate the facilities. The banks disbursed the loan directly to the service providers of the company.
Shebah drilled a successful horizontal well, the first of its kind in the offshore Niger Delta and tested 4000 barrels per day of oil and condensate production but encountered large gas reserves. The company then decided to find a solution to the huge Associated gas based on professional oil field best practices before continuation of the oil/ condensate production. The company required more funds to commercialize the gas to avoid excessive flaring while producing the discovered oil.
AFREXIM led consortium of lenders
It is worth noting that the AFREXIM led consortium of lenders, could not provide further facilities to Shebah to conclude the operations. In 2014, Shebah then approached Zenith Bank, which appraised the situation and provided a $250million loan facility fully approved by its board to salvage the situation. Zenith proposed to pay the consortium of banks $50million to reduce their collective exposure, enhance the facility to $350million, provide Shebah with additional funds to monetize the gas and produce the discovered oil. The enhanced facility would have had Zenith join and lead the syndicate with $250million, while the consortium of existing lenders would have reduced their exposure and stay at $100million (about $33million each).
Zenith requested to have a moratorium period of 9 months
Zenith further requested (in line with Shebah’s need) to have a moratorium period of 9 months to conclude the projects and extend the facility tenure to 5 years. This was meant to spread the cash flow and enable easy repayment of the enhanced facility.
Surprisingly, the AFREXIM consortium rejected the $50million offered by Zenith on the grounds that Zenith should not lead the syndicate and they were not willing to extend the tenure of the facility which was remaining about two and half years as at the time of Zenith’s offer.
Preparatory to monetizing the discovered gas, Shebah negotiated and executed a GSPA of $2.5billion for 20 years gas sale on a take or pay basis with the Nigerian Gas Company(NGC) as the gas offtaker supported by a payment bank guarantee in the sum of $70million from Zenith bank.
The AFREXIM consortium rejected all the efforts being made by Shebah and proceeded to file an action to call the facility in 2014 (just two years after final draw down). The call of facility ahead of the maturity triggered the default on the loan.
The Justice Phillips of the London High Court judgment
On 19 February 2016, Mr Justice Phillips of the London High Court delivered a judgment in favor of the AFREXIM consortium for the repayment of the $150M loan facility. The judgment creditors then registered the judgment in Federal High Court in Lagos and applied for enforcement of the judgment.
The defendants immediately opposed the registration and the enforcement of the judgment based on their convictions on rule of law and on the fact that they would like to negotiate an out of court settlement and pay back the loan under a restructured arrangement. This case is still life before an Honorable Justice of the Federal High Court Lagos. The court is awaiting the outcome on the settlement which will be entered as consent judgement.
Contrary to the Syndication agreement by the AFREXIM consortium, Polaris bank transferred its share of the judgement facility to AMCON. Notwithstanding the unilateral action by Polaris bank, AMCON initiated a fresh action in Federal High Court Abuja, not minding that the same case had already got a ruling in London and subject to a contested enforcement proceeding in the Federal High Court Lagos. It was by the case that AMCON filed that an Ex-Parte order was granted in 2019 which was widely reported in the press.
See what Orjiako has paid
Buffett’s saying goes that that, “If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians”. Orjiako has paid the following sums to the lenders: $89.3 million (out of a total principal of $150million) including $20million paid this year to the consortium of AMCON/AFREXIM/ACCESS toward the repayment efforts. This means that if his proposal is accepted by these creditors, the outstanding Principal amount would be $60.7 million. He had made a proposal to these creditors to accommodate Zenith bank in the distribution of the repayment, but they have not accepted this proposal, which would have prevented the Zenith bank action of October 2021.
In the case of Zenith Bank, ABC Orjiako has also paid back $54million (including proceeds of forced sale of his family Seplat shares by Zenith bank) out of the principal of $70m and is currently engaging the bank to negotiate an out of court settlement. This means that Dr Orjiako has paid a total sum of $143.3million ($89.3million plus $54million).
Why the misrepresentations of facts
Most stories read recently on this issue are unfortunately been used to misrepresent facts as they have portrayed an innocent person in a very bad light with enormous reputational damage.
It is important to note that these kinds of misrepresentations are misinforming the global investing community with its negative consequences for Nigeria. It would be recalled that Dr Orjiako has continued to lead Seplat Energy to its exponential growth attaining the enviable position as an indigenous Nigerian Independent Energy company listed in the London and the Nigerian Stock Exchanges, among many other feats.
Payments clearly show high moral duty and integrity
These payments are clear show of high moral duty and integrity to repay a loan Dr Orjiako did not utilise and for oil assets that are not generating any revenues. From the deluge of negative media reports, most of which misrepresent the matter, there is a strong impression that these are smear campaigns.
It was also revealed that SEPLAT where Dr ABC Orjiako is the Chairman is not involved in any of these matters what so ever contrary to the nuances in the media report. The SEPLAT board of directors being very strong in corporate governance had activated all governance and compliance processes and procedures to ensure that there are no breaches of any aspect of regulatory compliance or its governance policies.
Out of court settlement in the offering
There is information also that the parties maybe considering out of Court settlement of the commercial dispute. A positive outcome of such a settlement will bring the entire impasse to a final close.
In a completely different case, Access Bank versus Cardinal Drilling, ABC Orjiako unfortunately had a misfortune of being blamed for the Cardinal facility because he is seen as the alter ego of the company.
Dr Orjiako’s involvement was just as an investor in Cardinal where his company Shebah invested alongside Platform Petroleum and Maurel et Prom, all of who are founding shareholders of Seplat. Neither Orjiako nor other shareholders ever received dividend from Cardinal. All the equity investments were lost but again, curiously, only Orjiako was singled out for the smear campaign.
Miss Hauwa Hazan-Baba (BSc Econ, MSc Management) is an Economist and Public Affairs Analyst based in United States.
2021 NCOY: FirstBank Partners Junior Achievement Nigeria, Reiterates Commitment to Innovation and Education
For 11 years, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has partnered with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) to host its annual flagship event; the National Company of the Year competition (NCOY), which convenes winners of the JA Company Regional Competitions across Nigeria to compete for the National Company of the Year Award.
This year, the event will bring together outstanding ‘student business teams’ across Nigeria to compete for prizes and an opportunity to represent the country at the national competition – JA African Company of the Year Competition (ACOY). The 2021 edition of the NCOY competition will be held virtually via Zoom meetings at 10am on Saturday, 27th November 2021. Interested participants are to register via the link https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtd-qvqz4pE90NXOHcy-tve6aEXpY_yYAE
The competition themed ‘Innovation with Grit’ will have 12 teams from 12 schools pitch their innovations to a team of 5 guests judges. The represented schools at the competition include: The Seer company from Alvana High School; Sonic Informatics company from Heritage Global Academy; Nexus Queens company from Queens School; JA Stars from Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN); Amazing Amazon Students from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Abaji; KereTerra Company from Secondary School Etoi, Uyo and The Exploit thinkers from Taidob College.
Other teams competing include: Mystic Global Company from Rosa Mystica High School, Agulu; PetraMech Tech from Petra Schools; The Amazing Inventors from Government Secondary School Tudun Wada; Blue crystal company from Methodist Girls school and the Artisans from Igbobi College.
Judges at the event include: Oludolapo Adigun, Group Head, Retail Banking Lagos & West First Bank of Nigeria Limited; Chidimma Juliana Okparah, Project Management Consultant (PMIEF); Sheila Ojei, Head of Communications Jobberman; Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative and Simbo Olatoregun, Policy Programs Manager for Facebook in Africa. In attendance also is the Honourable Commissioner for Education Lagos State, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo as a Special Guest.
The 2021 National Company of the Year Program will also feature SPARK Competition. SPARK as an initiative of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, is an acronym for Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness. SPARK reiterates the Bank’s commitment to institutionalise kindness in Nigeria by encouraging and amplifying a culture of kindness.
The SPARK competition will feature 15 finalist schools across Nigeria, whose CSR projects align with the Bank’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability pillars of Education, Welfare and Health, Financial inclusion and Responsible Lending and Procurement.
Speaking on the event, the Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney said “FirstBank’s partnership under its Future First initiative with JA Nigeria Company programme has positively impacted over 100,000 people in different locations across the country in preparing and teaching them how to generate wealth, effectively manage it and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Our commitment to fostering entrepreneurial development amongst youths is mainly the driving force behind our support of the National Company of the Year (NCOY) and Africa Company of the Year (ACOY) competitions in past 11 years”.
According to the Executive Director, JAN, ‘’the National Company of the Year Company competition provides our students with a platform to show how innovative they are while displaying their dexterity and grit especially as it relates to creating sustainable business solutions to problems in their immediate community. The students have learned critical skills during the implementation of the Company Programme and we are proud to celebrate them as they compete in the National competition. I would like to specially appreciate FirstBank Nigeria for their continued support and belief in the boundless potential of young Nigerians’’.
European Investment Bank Strengthens Engagement in Africa
On his first official visit to Africa since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer and Vice President Thomas Östros today formally opened the EIB’s new Nairobi Hub with Kenyan Finance Minister, Cabinet Secretary Ukur Kanacho Yatani.
Ahead of the launch of the EIB’s strengthened presence in Africa President Hoyer joined the CEO’s of Co-Operative Bank, Trade and Development Bank and International Housing Solutions to announce EUR 400 million of transformational new financing to help the Kenyan private sector recover from COVID, strengthen investment in fragile regions across East Africa and construct affordable and energy efficient housing.
“At the European Investment Bank we are committed to enhancing the impact of our sustainable investment around the world in close cooperation with our global partners and through an increased local presence of our technical, environmental and financing experts. The EIB’s new Nairobi Hub opened today marks a milestone in the EU Bank’s engagement in Kenya and builds on our 56 years of operations in Africa. In the coming weeks the EIB will launch a dedicated development branch that will further intensify the EIB’s contribution to addressing global and local investment challenges.” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.
“The EIB’s new Nairobi Hub will open a new chapter for the bank’s cooperation with Kenyan, African, Team Europe and global partners. It will allow the EIB to better respond to private and public investment priorities and build on best-practice engagement with project partners. It is a pleasure to be in Nairobi for the first high-level EIB visit to Africa since the pandemic and join political, business, banking and civil society stakeholders for today’s formal launch.” said Thomas Östros, European Investment Bank Vice President.
The European Union Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Henriette Geiger, noted: “We are honoured that the EIB has chosen Nairobi as the location for its regional hub. This is a testament to the growing importance of Nairobi as gateway to the East Africa region, and Kenya as a strategic partner to the European Union, through which we are engaging in different spheres, including trade and investment.”
The EIB Nairobi Hub was formally launched in Kenya in the presence of government, business and banking leaders, civil society and African and European diplomats.
Strengthening the impact of EIB engagement in Africa
The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and the new Nairobi Hub will further enhance the impact of EIB technical and financial support for high-impact investment across East Africa. This will build on the EIB’s engagement in Kenya since the start of operations in 1976 and opening of the EIB’s East Africa representation in 2005.
In the coming months new Nairobi Hub will expand and increase its expertise on climate action, innovation and digital investment, in close cooperation with East Africa based partners.
In September the European Investment Bank’s shareholders, the 27 EU member states approved plans to strengthen its global development engagement and the EIB will launch a dedicated development branch in the beginning of 2022.
EUR 400 million new EIB support for business impacted by COVID, fragile regions and housing
Ahead of the formal opening the EIB confirmed new support for transformational investment across East Africa.
This includes backing EUR 50 million of new investment by Kenyan private sector firms in sectors most challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic in a new business financing scheme in partnership with Co-Operative Bank.
The EIB also agreed its first ever targeted support to unlock investment in fragile regions and overcome challenges linked to climate change, poverty and instability. The new EUR 163 million initiative with the COMESA Trade and Development Bank will finance projects across East and Southern Africa.
Construction of thousands of more affordable and energy efficient homes in Kenya will be accelerated in a EUR 180 million programme with African partner International Housing Solutions.
Building on EIB engagement with African financial partners
Last year the EIB provided more than EUR 5 billion of new financing to support more than EUR 12 billion of transformational private and public investment across Africa.
This includes launching new targeted financial initiatives in collaboration with African banks and financial institutions to help business recover from COVID-19 challenges, accelerate climate finance, improve access to finance by female-led business and enhance financing for rural small holders.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.
EIB, Cooperative Bank of Kenya to Support Kenyan Companies Most Affected by Covid With EUR 50 Million
New investment by companies active in sectors most challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic will be accelerated by a new EUR 50 million targeted financing initiative launched in Nairobi today by the European Investment Bank and the Cooperative Bank of Kenya. The new business financing programme will also be supported by European Union grants.
Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank and Dr. Gideon Muriuki, Group Managing Director and CEO of The Co-Operative Bank of Kenya highlighted how closer cooperation between Kenyan and African financial partners will unlock crucial access to finance by firms impacted the economic, trade and health impact of the global pandemic.
“COVID-19 has dramatically impacted business activity across Kenya and ensuring new investment is essential to help companies recover from the pandemic. The unique partnership between the European Investment Bank and the Cooperative Bank of Kenya has successfully supported private sector investment across Kenya since 2003. The latest cooperation backed by the European Investment Bank’s targeted East Africa COVID-19 Rapid Response facility will unlock EUR 50 million of new investment, strengthen economic resilience and allow Kenyan companies to harness opportunities for growth.” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.
“The European Investment Bank is pleased to join forces with the Cooperative Bank of Kenya to help small businesses across Kenya to withstand the shock of COVID-19. This new initiative will enable companies to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 operating environment and is a key part of the EIB’s support for health and economic resilience across Africa and around the world.” said Thomas Östros, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for Eastern and Southern Africa, and development.
The Ambassador of the European Union to Kenya, H.E. Henriette Geiger said “As the European Union we are happy to have enabled this cooperation between the EIB and the Cooperative Bank. With a grant of 8 Million Euro from the European Union, we expect that this line of credit will allow Kenyan businesses strengthen their economic resilience to shocks from the impact of Covid 19 and avoid further employment losses.”
The Co-operative Bank of Kenya and the European Investment Bank have worked together to finance investment across Kenya since 2003. This long-standing partnership has financed expansion of manufacturing, education, agriculture, transport and logistics firms and supported thousands of jobs.
Thanking the European Investment Bank, Dr. Gideon Muriuki on his part added: “Co-operative Bank commitment to the SME sector in Kenya will ensure that this facility will be available immediately to fund acquisition of tangible business assets, working capital, development of distribution networks, innovation and business research among others, and contribute to the recovery of Kenya’s businesses following the covid-19 challenges.
“The credit facility will be available for up to a maximum of Kes 1.5billion per customer for a maximum tenor of 7 years. Businesses employing up to a maximum of 250 employees can apply immediately, he added.
Backing private sector recovery with long-term local currency financing
The new targeted financing scheme will include support companies in sectors most impacted by the trade, economic, tourism and health challenges triggered by COVID-19 and unlock investment to accelerate private sector recovery from the pandemic.
Kenyan companies will be able to access long -term loans in KSH, with tenors of up to 7 years, far longer than usually available.
EIB strengthening presence in Africa
New partnership highlighted ahead of the formal launch of the EIB’s new regional hub for East Africa.
EIB President Werner Hoyer and Vice President Thomas Östros are spending four days in Kenya meeting political, business and financial leaders on their first official visit to Africa since the pandemic.
The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and last year provided more than EUR 5 billion for new investment across Africa.
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