What does Ubah want? By Lilian Onajide

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“This makes one wonder how far the House Committee can go in the task that Ubah has saddled it with.”

The hearing that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions scheduled for Thursday, December 6, could not hold. The absence of two very relevant parties in the petition brought by Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas Limited filed, which necessitated the public hearing – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, Managing Director of Access – forced the House committee to reschedule the hearing for Thursday, December 13.

From information that is available in the public domain, Ubah wants the National Assembly to determine if it is morally in order for the Access Bank Chief Executive to head the presidential panel on the oil subsidy probe, when his bank is an interested party in the exercise, considering the fact that the bank is involved in the payment of subsidy claims by fuel importers. Ubah says the bank is also an interested party because it funded the fuel importation business that his company and the Coscharis Group jointly executed, which has now become a subject of litigation in Nigerian and United Kingdom courts.

From what transpired at the botched public hearing last week, it was obvious that the House committee was not properly briefed on what the Capital Oil chairman wants. For, it was clear that the lawmakers were trying to discuss a matter that is already in court, a point that lawyers representing Mr. Cosmas Maduka, chairman and chief executive officer of Coscharis, made clear. They have asked for all the relevant papers on the tripartite transactions involving Capital Oil, Coscharis and Assess Bank, apparently to guide them in their deliberations on Thursday. The same papers are currently with the courts.

If indeed Ubah wants the legislative arm of government to determine the appropriateness or otherwise of having Aig-Imokhuede preside on a panel that handles an assignment in which he is an interested party, the question arises as to what business Maduka has with the House committee, as far as his petition is concerned, to warrant his appearance before it. The Coscharis chairman did not set up the presidential panel, nor did he appoint the Access Bank managing director into the panel. If Ubah has any issues with Aig-Imokhuede’s membership and headship of the panel, is it not proper he makes the cause of his grouse very clear?

At the hearing that did not hold proper, Ubah repeated his orchestrated allegation of a gang-up for the purpose of taking over his business. So, what is the House committee expected to deliberate on? Is it the inappropriateness of having Aig-Imokhuede on the panel? Is it the supposed attempt to take over his business? Is it the current freezing of his company’s assets, which was ordered by courts of competent jurisdiction? Is it the fuel shortages being experienced in the country, which he claims the continued closure of his company’s premises has engendered? Is it the payment of his subsidy claims?

What, really, is Maduka’s interest in all this? Or, put it the other way round, who is the aggrieved party in what has come to be known as the Maduka/Ubah feud, for which the latter wants the intervention of the law makers? I thought that if there was one person who should cry blue murder, that person is Maduka. He, it was, who took a loan to finance a fuel importation business that sailed into troubled waters. He, it is, who is currently fighting to extricate himself from a debt burden that sees him cough out almost 400 million naira as interest every month, with the debt profile now in the region of 21 billion naira. It is an issue courts in two countries are trying to resolve. This makes one wonder how far the House Committee can go in the task that Ubah has saddled it with.

It is interesting to note that Ubah has advanced so many reasons to explain his current travails. If it is not that competitors (including his kinsman?) are envious of his soar-away success, it is that he is being hunted because he has broken the barrier of ethnicity to succeed in a foreign and hostile environment, that is, besides the earlier mentioned allegation of attempt to take over his business.

The public hearing may not go beyond the propaganda that Ubah seeks, to draw public attention to the crisis. One only hopes that the courts would speedily resolve a matter that has inflicted pain on the three principal parties in the transaction.

Onajide lives in Abuja

(lilonajide@yahoo.com)