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Uduaghan And The 'Missing' $6m Chevron's Ugborodo New Town Dev Fund?

Source: pointblanknews.com
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Is it not shameful and disheartening that for over four years now, the

slow progress of work at the site of what was supposed to be the largest

gas plant in Africa- the Chevron's over $15 billion dollar gas development

project at Ugborodo community in Delta state could be clearly traced to

issues revolving around two dominant questions both bothering on

self-centredness and malfeasance of few privilege individuals. First,

where is the $6 million the American oil major sent as its counterpart

fund in the negotiated relocation of Ugborodo community from their current

site and development of a new town project? And where is the N3.85 billion

the Delta state government claimed to have released as it own share in the

counterpart funding arrangement?
Leader of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Pa Johnson Ayomike, Monday January

20 2014 raised alarm that the $6 million sent by Chevron in the United

States of America as its contribution in the counterpart funding

arrangement towards the relocation and development of the Ugborodo new

town project in Delta state has been either misappropriated or outrightly

missing.
The Delta state governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri, was directly

accused of complicity both in the missing money and the crisis that has

rocked the Ugborodo community, the host the new gas plant.

As alleged by Pa Ayomike, the money “was changed to naira and deposited in

a bank account controlled by signatories named by Governor Emmanuel

Uduaghan, without the knowledge of registered trustees of Ugborodo

community.”
His words: “To set the Ugborodo record straight, the initial N900 million

fixed at a 13 per cent annual interest has depleted after five years, when

the account became public. Simple mathematical extrapolation suggests that

the balance should have been N1.4 billion at this time based on the

exchange rate of $1 to N150 that prevailed in 2008 when the money was

deposited.”
The Itsekiri leader also raised questions over the additional N3.850

billion which the Delta state government claimed to have contributed as it

own counterpart fund as agreed for the development of the same new town

project. He alleged “professional estate valuers have indicated that only

about N60 million worth of job had been done on the site and yet the money

had been expended.”
Ayomike who blamed Uduaghan for the crisis in Ugborodo, said the governor

meddled in the local Ugborodo community affair by asking the elected

chairman of the Governing Council of the Ugborodo Community Trust to step

down for another candidate. He alleged “the governor backs the illegal

governing council led by his cohort as the authentic team despite the

existence of a set of electoral rules embodied in the instrument long

adopted by the community and registered with the Corporate Affairs

Commission in Abuja.”
The concerns expressed by the octogenarian, Pa Ayomike raised so many

questions about the Uduaghan's interest and complicity in the community

issue.
First, Pa Ayomike and his faction claimed to have solid evidence that the

Delta State Government's counterpart share of N3.850 billion was

documented as spent on the Ugborodo New Town Project. So the question is:

Where is the $6 million contributed by Chevron for the relocation and

development of Ugborodo New Town Project? Also, where is the Delta State

Government's N3.850 billion alleged contribution to the project?

The issue of the actual initial deposit is very crucial in this matter

also. Pa Ayomike and his group alleged the initial deposit was N900

million using the exchange rate of $1 to N150 that prevailed when the

money was paid in 2008. And this makes some sense. But the Delta state

government declared that it was N705 million that was initially deposited.

So the alleged differential of N195 million in the claims by the two sides

also needs to be adequately clarified at best by warehousing bank- Ecobank

and signatories to the account. ofcourse this would resolve the difference

between the N1.4 billion and N908 million declared by the Pa Ayomike's

group and the Delta state government respectively as the current value of

the money.
Uduagha in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary following the

accusation by the octogenarian Itsekiri leader maintained that the money

($6 million) brought by Chevron with the accrued interests has not been

embezzled but intact in Ecobank. The governor did not say anything

concerning the purported expended N3.850 billion allegedly contributed by

the Delta State Government. Instead, it was the Secretary to the State

Government (SSG), Mr Ovouzourie Macaulay who on an interview on Channels

Television on Sunday January 27 stated that the Delta state governor's

alleged complicity in the Ugborordo community crisis was because the state

government moved in to mediate and ensure peace and security of lives and

property in the area.. The SSG also insisted that the Chevron's money has

not been embezzled.
If true as the governor claimed the money could not have been embezzled by

a third party without Chevron's involvement because: “The way it is

arranged Chevron has to approve the project. Chevron has to sign the

cheque and Chevron has to supervise the project. The money is a fund that

no single individual can withdraw,” then, Chevron has to make public

statement on the status of the account.
As Uduaghan is sure the money and all the accrued interest are intact in

the bank, should with the urgency it deserves ask both Chevron Nigeria

Limited and Ecobank to make independent statements concerning the funds.

At least this would douse the mounting tension in the area arising from

mutual suspicions. Though it may be more difficult for Chevron considering

the likely backlash of heightened community antagonism from the warring

factions, Ecobank should set the pace since the request on the status of

the fixed deposit is being demanded by established owners of the money and

also signatories to the account.
The Delta state governor must extricate himself from allegations of

complicity in the leadership crisis and convincingly show that he is only

mediating without bias for the sake of peace and progress of work at the

site of the gas plant. Uduaghan should build on truth and transparency as

this will convince the people of the community that he is actually working

for their good. Anything short of this will only breed more suspicion and

ultimately a complete breakdown of law and order.
Now to Ugborodo community, supposing the Delta State Government actually

set out to contribute the N3.850 billion as its counterpart fund, which

faction of the community leadership is Uduaghan going to dole out the

money? Which group is the oil company- Chevron going to be dealing with

as authentic leadership of the Ugborodo community without getting itself

messed in the dirty politics of community crisis? If the Ugborodo people

cannot even develop and agree on a workable plan which is basic for their

new town project but more interested in squandering monies meant for the

community development, would they ever have the moral stance to challenge

Chevron for renegading on its community social responsibilities or even

the Delta state government for neglecting them?
The community has spent so much time fighting over who controls the funds

rather than doing a single thing on their part to produce a blueprint of

what they think they want as their new town? Is there an articulated

development masterplan for the new town project? There is none: because if

such plan exists, at least houses and other infrastructures would have

been fully built in the place to enable relocation of the indigenes while

other bigger development issues are being sorted out. You see why the

current disposition and power tussle in the community should make all the

parties hide their faces in shame.
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on:

[email protected]; 234-8033043009)