Timipre Sylva: The Kpleptocrat Of Bayelsa State

By Basoene James

Timipre Sylva: The news that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has again filed fresh corruption charges against former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, before a the Federal High Court, Abuja did not come as a surprise. EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said in a statement that the fresh 50 counts of corruption were filed on Friday.

The reason is that all the substantive matters about the multi-billion corruption cases have not been tried. There are strong indications that the embattled former Governor bribed the EFCC lawyer to mess up court processes. The foregoing is culled from the internet, explaining reasons why EFCC must imprison Timipre Sylva and his accomplices before September, 2015.

Former Governor Timipre Marlin Sylva became Governor of Bayelsa State after President Goodluck Jonathan was nominated as Vice –Presidential Candidate to Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Born in Okpoama some 51 years ago, he had all the opportunities to write his name in the psyche of the Izon race like King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Late Senator Melford Okilo their predecessors.

As a son of the soil, the Governor is acutely aware of the marginalized State of Bayelsans: near absence of federal presence, absence of infrastructure and industries. Prior to his ascendancy, most Bayelsans believed that with his experience as Personal Assistant to the Minister of Petroleum and President of OPEC, he would perform fairly better in governance. We were wrong. An old parrot can hardly learn a new language.

Both participants and spectators of governmental administration agree that during his first year in office, Governor Timipre Sylva demonstrated some measure of seriousness in pursuing the goals of good governance. Some internal roads were constructed and there was some zeal in trying to complete the projects he inherited by the previous administration.

However, allegations were rife that most of the contracts were over-inflated. Some progress was also noticed in the education sector. Not only was the administration faithful in meeting her obligations in respect of payments in overseas scholarships and students bursaries, the College of Education, Okpoama was also established even though the standard has always been called to question. In 2009, revenue inflows into the State dwindled because of militancy, which affected the State's quota of oil production. This rationalized the N50 billion bond obtained by the government.

As from 2009, there were noticeable cracks and inertia in the administration. The first signs of deviation started to manifest when there were series of complaints that the Governor had alienated most of those who contributed to his electoral victory. Like Shakespeare would say 'he bestrode the world like a colossus and regarded every Bayelsan as petty and inconsequential. Some of those who resisted the trend were subjected to a witch-hunt reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. The implications is that most of the people who would have been bold enough to advice the Governor either kept aloof or decided to adopt a sidon look approach. Nature abhors a vacuum, so their place was taken by self-aggrandizing people masquerading as support groups.

Secondly, Governor Sylva constituted a cabinet which somebody aptly described as “Third Eleven”. It was a cabinet that had more politicians than technocrats. No administration can be better than the quality of its cabinet. A visionary leader hires high caliber people that have expertise and that can give credibility to the administration. But unfortunately, perhaps because of bad advisers, the Governor surrounded himself with self-confessed loyalists and crafty sycophants and voodoo men who succeeded in discrediting the administration. Such people very easily betrayed the Governor in times of trouble.

Thirdly, Governor Sylva was given the unenviable record of the most traveled governor in Nigeria. Under the guise of scouting for investors the tax payers’ money was used for junketing around Europe, Asia, Latin America, Norway, Israel and Vietnam among other countries. The ulterior motive was to invest Bayelsa resources in private businesses. It was not surprising that the several MOUs signed by government were not been implemented. Bayelsa State entered into an MOU with Vietnamese on rice cultivation, Israelis on vegetable cultivation, Norwegians on shrimp culturing and with First Bank Plc on Housing. None of these MOUs was implemented. For more than four years Bayelsa State could not boast of one foreign investor so all the balderdash about looking for investors were diversionary.

Fourthly, Governor Timipre Sylva engaged in extra-budgetary expenses and this was accomplished by excessive borrowing from banks and other financial institutions. The administration procured loans: N6 billion from Bank PHB, N60 billion from Oceanic Bank PLC and N4billion from Equatorial Trust Bank and all was done with impunity and without the approval of the State executive council and the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. Bayelsans were made to believe that the N50 Billion bond was for the development of infrastructure but since the bond was secured, the Senatorial District roads, the Model Secondary Schools and other projects that justified the bond were not implemented. This is the height of official deception, executive recklessness and impunity.

Fifthly, the corruption profile of the administration appears to be the worse we have seen since Bayelsa State was created. Allegations are rife that Governor Sylva failed to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau before and after assuming the office of the Personal Assistant to the minister of energy and later petroleum – which means that on assumption of office as Governor, most of his assets were not known. There was the case of fraudulent diversion of N27 billion naira excess crude of April 2008 to May 2008 for the re-run gubernatorial election and bribing the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly with N2.6 billion naira to secure a post-procurement approval for the bank loans. Another allegation is the fraudulent transfer of N40 million dollars to a docile account of the Bayelsa State Oil- Company with the intention of transferring the funds into private accounts as well as the criminal diversion of N500 million released by the

federal government for the construction of the State airport. Apart from glaring cases of over-invoicing, in the award of Road contracts, government is believed to have spent an outrageous N 37 billion on an already completed 500-Bed Hospital including the awards of an over-inflated 7 billion naira contract for the renovation of Opolo Health Centre. These allegations do not include diversion of state funds to finance private businesses, buying up choice property and the mindless running of foreign accounts by top government functionaries. It is estimated that Bayelsa State might have lost over N380 billion to corruption under the Sylva administration. It was these allegations and public outcry that led to the ugly incident of publicly stoning the Governor- which was symbolic of rejection by his people.

Sixthly, Governor Sylva is a serial breaker of promises and this includes non-implementation of the budget. From 2008 till date, no budget has been implemented. Analysis shows that government's budget compliance index is below 40%. Research has shown that from 2007 till 2011, Government House and Governor's office appropriate more money than five Ministries: Water Resources; Environment; Women Affairs and Social Development; Commerce and Industry and Agriculture put together. When Government House and the Governor's office are used as conduit-pipes, making it easy for top government functionaries to operate several foreign accounts and own choice properties abroad and the anti-graft agencies are not quick in coming.

Seventhly, there was gross misuse of the security outfit nicknamed Operation Famou-Tangbe OFT. Not only was OFT used as an instrument of political repression and intimidation; it was used as a killer machine like the Gestapo under the Third Reich. OFT also played the role of debt collector, arbiter in matrimonial issues, land disputes and other civil and domestic issues that have no bearing on security. Officially, it is estimated that the sum of N150 Million was spent monthly to maintain the outfit, the fact that OFT never took directives from the Police Command show that its operations are sinister and illegal. The Plant Manager at Gilly-Helena Hotel Late Mr. Karina Frank-Oputu - was beaten to death by OFT operatives, Freddie Philip Ockiya, 22 was arrested and shot by the same OFT and another ThankGod Michael, 26, was abbreviated by OFT operatives. All these murders occurred in September, 2011. The international Community, especially the Amnesty

International was at the point of blacklisting Nigeria before the disbandment of the outfit. These extra-judicial killings and the allegations of government sponsorship of cult-wars put a dent on Sylva's democratic credentials. It is the bloodiest regime of terror Bayelsans have ever seen.

Objective analysts now know that the Sylva administration lacked the sagacity in dealing with critical issues of State matters. For three whole years, the administration did not conduct Council elections and the result was the mindless diversion of Council funds. This was done with the connivance with the Governor, the Commissioners of Finance and Local Government. The Commissioner's quarters built by the Alamieyeseigha administration was sold to commissioners – who were rich enough to buy up several houses. This amounts to the destruction of the legacies of his predecessors. Governor Sylva placed an embargo on employment since he assumed office but pays lip-service to job creation. Amidst several financial scandals of government functionaries in the Sylva administration, not even one Commissioner was been punished. There are indications that Sylva rewarded mediocrity and derides excellence. Little wonder that while the on-going projects were

metaphorically abandoned, the commonwealth was used to pay Lawyers, bribe traditional rulers, Local Government Chairmen and some self-serving politicians. This does not include the countless millions spent in the media, hiring people to protest and bribing the anti-graft agencies and even fellow governors. Now the State is Bayelsa is in a State of inertia because of the second tenure ambition of Governor Timipre Sylva.

The confrontational posturing of the Governor against President Jonathan seems to be the most buffeting of his veranda behavior. The body language of Governor Timipre Marlin Sylva bespoke the dilemma he had found himself. The Governor became a victim of the evil machinations of selfish advisers, political godfathers with messianic posturing and spiritualists who were willing to turn him into Boko Haramite to do damage to the system or engage in self-immolation.

In the word of Forn, “When the healthy pursuit of self-interest and self-realization turns into self-absorption, other people can lose their intrinsic value in our eyes and become mere means to the fulfillment of our needs and desires.” Sylva is imbued with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence and invincibility. Like a sadistic narcissist, he now perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless figure and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and copiously exudes belligerent posturing. The question is: Is Governor Sylva quarrelling himself and dancing this vile orchestra of self-hate because of the “trinity of Power, Property and Protection? Discerning minds need no esoteric bravura to know that Sylva played the symphony that heralded his last orchestra and his endgame became imminent.

He is a cold-hearted brute, an unrepentant man who is capable of putting sand in Buhari’s garri. He is obsessed with embarking of political vendetta. He is very corrupt and that is why Tinubu like him but I think President-elect Mahammadu Buhari is beginning to keep him at arm’s length.

One of Timipre Sylva’s weakest points is that he lost out on peace and security. Whereas, the Amnesty Programme brought a little reprieve, Bayelsa did not capitalize on it. He believed that the cultists will rig him into power. He was mistaken. The security outfit “Operation Famou Tangbei” set up by the Timipre Sylva administration engaged in scores of extra-judicial murder and it was for that reason the outfit was abolished. The psychological trauma inflicted on the people is yet to be healed.

Sylva’s administration was characterized by monumental fraud, excessive borrowing and sharp practices. He left behind N4, 451 in the coffers while leaving a debt burden of N257 billion plus a bond of N50 billion and a massive interest of N75billion- all amounting to N332billion. What a callous man?

Mr. Timipre Sylva’s administration was characterized the following:

1. Timipre Sylva’s administration is notorious for embezzling MDG money amounting to N3billion was mismanaged by former Governor Sylva’s SSG Mr. Gideon Ekewei and nobody complained about the mismanagement. EFCC is aware of this matter too.

2. Paying “Ghost Workers syndrome”: Government pay vouchers were inundated with ghost workers who were receiving salaries without working. This resulted in a bloated wage bill of N4.8billion. Even the Due Process and E-Governance Bureau only exacerbated corruption

3. Administration epitomizes policy inconsistency and failure to deliver the dividends of democracy. The administration was smeared by financial misappropriation. Monies meant for projects were diverted into the pockets of politicians. For example, N3billion was earmarked as loans for Agriculture but the money was misappropriated by only one Mr. Ikiogha Dekeviw the then Commissioner and no punishment was meted out to him. Again, the N50billion bond taken by the administration was not used for the purpose.

4. Sylva did not pay attention to development at all. All the MDG money that accrued to Bayelsa State during Timipre Sylva’s tenure got lost between the SSG, the Finance Commissioner and he the Governor. Not even one MGD project was embarked upon,

5. For as long as Timipre Sylva lived, he neglected every part of Bayelsa State in terms of development. He did not even build a house for himself. This shows his hatred for the State. While there was infrastructural deficit in the State, Timipre Sylva built an em Most of his personal property

6. Council Elections were not conducted for three years. This is in breach of the constitution. The effect of using caretaker Committee Chairmen was the illegal deduction of monies accruing to Local Government Councils.

Bayelsa State under Former Gov. Timipre Sylva administration was the first to set up the Due Process Bureau among other price intelligence agencies such as passing the Fiscal Responsibility and Public Procurement bills into Law. Governor Timipre Sylva is in a class of his own when the issue of corruption is discussed in Bayelsa State. On assumption of office, Mr. Timipre Marlin incorporated a Company called MARLIN MARITIME LIMITED. Marlin Maritime bought a Company for Eight Hundred Million N800 Million and the money was

sourced from FINBANK Plc. The business was facilitated by a former Commissioner for Finance in the State. MARLIN MARITIME LIMITED deals with dredgers, tugboats, fishing trawlers and other sea-going vessels. The office is situated in the D/Line area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State The General Manager of the Company is one Mr. Gbenga. What resulted was that MARLIN MARITIME LIMITED could not defray the FinBank loan.

Consequently, in December, 2010, the Bank took a court order and sealed off the premises. After about two months, Marlin Maritime and FinBank had to reschedule the loan through a former Finance Commissioner and they used another Company owned by Timipre. Marlin Maritime Limited has its headquarters near Aberdeen Port Scotland in the United Kingdom and its Port Harcourt office is in D/Line Port Harcourt. Since then, Marlin Maritime is believed to have defrauded the State to the tune of N6.9 billion. Governor Timipre established the Company as Governor of Bayelsa State and this company defrauds the State to the tune of N90 million a month.

The Bayelsa State House of Assembly was not sufficiently consulted before the Sylva administration went ahead to procure some dead weight loans from financial institutions: N6 billion from Bank PHB; N60 billion from Oceanic Bank PLC and N4billion from Equatorial Trust Bank. Our man had a chat with the House Committee Chairman on appropriation said the Assembly members were not bribed but they knew that the series of loans were intended to solve certain infrastructural problems but sadly, monies appropriated were not properly applied.

The key players in Marlin Maritime Limited are: Governor Timipre Sylva, Mr. Gbenga – who is the General Manager of Marlin Maritime and Ms. Okoroafor who serves as Secretary to the Company. One Ahmed looks after Governor Sylva's Jetty at Abuloma-Port Harcourt and some Bankers involved in the deal. All these are a part of the cronies and fleecing clan of the Governor. Part of the loots from Marline Maritime Limited was used by Governor Sylva to award a Contract to NO.1 Property to build Sixty-one (61) duplexes in a choice area in Abuja. The same Company was used to build another Sixteen (16) duplexes in Abuja. The wife of the owner of NO 1 Property is one of the best friends of Mrs. Alayingi (UDUAK) Sylva. The manager of the entire process of building the duplexes is one Mr. Iyke – a former Laundry man at Beverly Hills Hotel, GRA Port Harcourt.

The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (centre LSD) with support of Pact Nigeria from 5th -6th September, 2011 at Niger Delta Wetlands Centre, organized a budget awareness workshop in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Analysis of the Bayelsa State budget shows that government house and governor's office received more budget allocation than agriculture, commerce and industry, women affairs and social development, environment and water

resources put together from 2008-2010. By the same token, the study showed that the only sectors that maintained a steady increase in terms of the percentage share of the budget allocation over the years (2007-2011) was the state House of Assembly, Government house, and Governor's office and health sectors. No report can be more indicting than the LSD report.

Unconfirmed reports also point to the fact that there was fraudulent diversion of an undisclosed sum of money during the period when so much excess crude oil money was collected. It has been suggested that the sum of N27 billion naira excess crude of April 2008 to the May 2008 re-run gubernatorial election and bribing the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly with 2.6 billion naira to secure a post-procurement approval for the bank loans. Our team also confirmed that there was another wave of fraudulent transfer of $40 million dollars to a docile account of the Bayelsa State Oil- Company with the intention of transferring the funds into private accounts. This deal was facilitated by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the BSHA. An analyst asked is it the man APC just made their leader in Bayelsa State. What a dossier?

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."