Gov. Sylva’s Corrupt Empire & the Cronies REVEALED! (1)

There are people who believe that it takes an intelligent person to be corrupt. This may be partially true but corruption needs more than intelligence; it also requires a veneer of kleptomania and greed. In Nigeria, corruption is so pervasive among the public office holders that even agencies statutorily empowered to curb the scourge fall into the same trap. Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency so goes the saying. Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual; the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country." In Bayelsa, official corruption is worse than the threat of Boko Haram.

A couple of days ago we were discussing good governance and the topic that readily came to the table was the massive corruption in Bayelsa State. We wanted to find out if what has been written in some dailies and the online media were correct. Our preliminary look at the landscape was stunning. When some of the discussants started to mention figures, we thought it was Alice in wonderland. The surprising angle came from the fact that Bayelsa State under the present 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 Governor Timipre Development Research Derivatives, which they claimed is rendering financial advisory services. The Company was used to defraud the State of the sum of Two Billion Naira (N2billion). 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 key players in Marlibn Maritime Limited are: Governor Timipre Sylva, a former Finance Commissioner of Bayelsa State; Ms. Gloria Dede – who works at 5 Goodluck Jonathan Road, Opolo Bayelsa State 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. We put a phone call through to him and he answered but when the issue of duplex saga was mentioned, his phone was immediately switched off. Our investigations point to the fact that he was the same person who was contracted by Governor Timipre Sylva to bring Kanu Nwankwo and other internationals to Bayelsa State.

We wish to once more lay all these facts before the anti-graft agencies because in our opinion, corrupt enrichment or failure to declare assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau constitutes a criminal offense. Now, it heartwarming that the EFCC under MR. IBRAHIM LARMODE is taking a hard look at the graft cases of Governor Timipre Sylva and this should be seen against the background that the monumental corruption has denied Bayelsa State the much-needed development

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. The plausible explanation in official quarters for not implementing the budget has been inadequate inflow of revenue and difficult terrain. It also provides welcome excuses for not delivering social services thereby foisting bad governance on the people. Our checks also revealed that the Chief of Staff – Samuel Ungbuke has been the manipulative influence over resource allocation in Creek Haven. For Government House to earn enjoy more allocations than five Ministries is an eloquent testimony that the tax payers money has been wasted by the Sylva administration.

Defenders of the criminal activities of the Sylva administration have always argued that the administration has lots of on-going projects and therefore should be given more time. Such apologists have lots of knotty issues to contend with, especially the allegations levied against the administration by one Joseph Ambakederemo in 2009. Most people dismissed these allegations by the wave of the hand but as time passes, it is becoming real the given the level of wealth stockpiled by the principal actors. Most of the allegations bother on gross misconduct and financial malfeasance.

Our clandestine checks from the Code of Conduct Bureau revealed 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. We also confirmed that 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 Mr. Alfred Egba, who said 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.

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.

Whereas the Ministry of Works and the Due Process Bureau failed to avail our group with facts on how much the road contracts were awarded, it appeared that the road contracts were awarded at outrageous sums. From the records, we discovered that outrageous sums—a total of approximately 30 km of roads at 75 billion naira (2.5 billion naira per km), which were even poorly constructed because of huge kickbacks; among others. This does not include billions of money of state funds diverted to finance private businesses, buying up choice property including the operation of foreign accounts.

The corrupt profile also included the fraudulent diversion of 500 million released by the federal government for the construction of the state airport into private pockets and the expenditure of an outrageous N37 billion naira on an already completed 500-Bed Hospital. The other include the awards of an over-inflated contract of N7 billion naira contract for the renovation of Opolo Health Centre- all these financial atrocities were perpetrated in the name of governance.

Independent Investigations also showed that Governor Timipre Sylva has siphoned over N1.25 billion through a London based Publisher from Akwa-Ibom extraction. The crony appears to have had a long standing relationship with the Government of Bayelsa State. An informant who preferred anonymity visited 53 Ikwerre Road, Mile 1 Diobu Port Harcourt – office of The Moment Newspaper. We can authoritatively report that a serving Commissioner who is believed to come from Governor Sylva's community was the person who transferred all the money for establishing the Newspaper, and in turn got a huge slice of the resources to feather his nest. We also confirmed that most of the staffers in the Port Harcourt office are from Akwa-Ibom. One of them whispered to us that Ms. Linda- perhaps the only notable worker of Ijaw extraction, who also heads the Office ran inside her office because according to the staff, she thought we were agents from the anti-graft agencies. This is coming on the heel of unconfirmed reports that a 4-Star hotel owned by the Governor of Bayelsa State in Johannesburg, South Africa has been seized by his crony.

Our visit to the Ogudu Office of The Moment Newspaper, Lagos showed that there was an uneasy calm among the top management staff of the media outfit. Our interaction one Mrs. Adobola Adewale indicate that the Publisher (as they call Mr. Moffat Ekoriko) may be concluding plans to convert the property into his own to shade the Governor from EFCC interrogation. We are confident that at the appropriate time, all the shaddy financial transactions will be revealed to the appropriate authorities.

Chief George Fente – onetime Special Adviser to the Governor of Bayelsa State on Political Affairs. Our informant in Bayelsa State revealed that since Governor Timipre Sylva relieved him of his appointment, he went into a secret agreement with him to establish a construction company and today the company GEFESCO ENTERPRISES NIGERIA LIMITED has so many bulldozers, swamp bogies, badges, dredgers and other earth-moving equipment. Somebody who works with the Capital City Development Authority, CCDA, who preferred said it was for this reason that Governor Timipre Sylva appointed Fente Chairman of CCDA and since then he has been hiring the equipment of his company and paying heavy sums of money to his own company.

In anticipation of setting up a propaganda machine to oil his second tenure, he also used the same crony to set up a broadcasting corporation called ROYAL F.M. 95.5 situated in Agudama-Epie - Yenagoa. Although the Broadcasting Station has been trying hard to convince Bayelsans that it is owned by George Fente, the sophistication of the equipment and the fact that the same man is establishing a Television Station bespeaks the fact that so much government resources have been siphoned through George Allen Fente by the Governor. Our informant told us that it is because of this level of stealing that most of the projects in the State are not making headway in terms of completion. The conclusion is that a SYLVA at the saddle for another 10 years would make no difference in the State.

Governor Timipre Sylva is also a proud owner of an oil Company called Seven Waves Oil – onshore and offshore oil he uses to fleece the State. There are indications that the Company was incorporated when he was Personal Assistant to the Petroleum Minister. One anonymous writer aptly said “Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual; the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country”. It logically follows that the stench of the corruption of the Bayelsa State Governor has lacerated the moral ligament of Bayelsa State such that any discourse on the positive development of Bayelsa State is soon overwhelmed by the carcinogenic virus of corruption. In Bayelsa State – which is 90% water, corruption can place Bayelsa on the orbit of perpetual inertia. The consensus is that the present regime of kleptocracy and insensitivity to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of Bayelsa State.

Mr. Morowei Ebipade Mr. Barnabas Bekewei Mr. Inainfe Goodhead

Bayelsa Progressive Platform (BPP)

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Articles by Kingsley Ebikibena