Maduka/Ubah faceoff: Questions, more questions! By Olayinka Olaleye

But while the war rages on, what has become apparent is that the truth is buried somewhere beneath the propaganda

 

The drama that is currently playing out in the media, involving two ‘heavyweight’ sons of the industrial town of Nnewi, in Anambra State, is becoming interesting by the day.

From all indications, the (Cosmos) Maduka/ Ubah (Ifeanyi) faceoff does not appear to be an issue that will soon go away. The war (well, that’s what it is), is being fought in the law courts, and also in the electronic and print media, with indications that it would soon become a communal issue. It does appear, however, that the matter has passed the stage at which the traditional ruler of Nnewi and his cabinet can handle, contrary to what Dan Ulasi, who would like to be seen as a troubleshooter in the ongoing war, hinted on Sunrise, the Channels Television breakfast programme, a few days ago.

Ifeanyi Ubah, the chairman of Capital Oil, had, for several weeks, been in the news for the wrong reasons, namely, alleged involvement in the fuel subsidy scam, for which some oil marketers are currently standing trial. Ubah, it was alleged, had got the federal government to pay his company subsidy benefits for fuel it did not supply. And just when the public was trying to find answers to the whys and where-to-fores of the allegation, Cosmos Maduka, the president of the Coscharis Group, came into the picture, raising the alarm to the effect that a brother, Ubah, whom he bailed out of trouble, had turned around to bite the finger that fed him and, in a curious twist, plotted a sinister move to put him (Maduka), in trouble.

Ubah has, since coming out of incarceration, been crying foul, alleging a grand design involving the minister of finance, Access Bank and, wait for it, Maduka, to run him out of business.

The point must be made that both men in the centre of the current war are what we usually refer to as ‘men of timber and caliber’ in the Nigerian economy. One is an industrialist of no mean repute, with significant contributions to the growth of the Nigerian auto industry and the transport sub-sector, while the other is a major player in the downstream sector of the oil industry.

From what can easily be discerned, there was a business relationship involving Maduka and Ubah, over the importation of fuel. Maduka says he intervened to assist Ubah secure a facility from Access Bank of which he is a director, when no bank would grant him facility, on account of the alleged bad record he has across the financial sector. But even then, the Coscharis boss could only secure the facility by using his own name. And being the calculating risk taker that he is, he got Ubah to guarantee him, just in case a situation like we are witnessing today occurred. And because he isn’t a Mother Teresa, or a Santa Clause, Maduka, who can perceive the smell of money just like any other businessman, made sure he benefited from the business for which Ubah needed his assistance.

The Capital Oil owner, who is not known to have any connection whatsoever in Access Bank, on the other hand, says he helped Maduka secure a facility in Access Bank. Not only that, Ubah allegedly pledged many of his company’s assets, including a choice property on Banana Island, as collateral for the loan.

All went well with the business of importation of fuel, with the first six consignments delivered and the proceeds properly accounted for, and both parties smiled in satisfaction, well, until something happened to the seventh consignment! Maduka says one year after the vessel conveying the fuel was supposed to have berthed in Nigerian waters, following in the footsteps of the first six, there has been no trace of the ship, its cargo or the proceeds that should accrue from the sales. He contends that even if Molue, the popular Lagos mass transit bus, was used to convey the fuel from its point of purchase, it would have arrived Nigeria a long time ago. Ubah argues that the consignment arrived quite all right, was sold, and the proceeds deposited in the vaults of Access Bank, where they can never be traced, hinging this bizarre argument to the supposed machinations of Maduka and Access Bank.

The Maduka/Ubah saga is nothing other than a business transaction gone awry. It is typically what happens when transparency is in short supply in a business dealing or, for that matter, any dealing. In analysing the fallouts of the multi-million dollar fuel importation business that has now obviously fallen on its face, there is need to ask some salient questions.

With about 38 years’ active involvement in the Nigerian economy, Maduka is not known to have ventured into any business and failed. Indeed, he has been a pace setter in the different sub-sectors of the auto industry which he has been involved in. If he found attraction in the fuel importation business, why would he need to climb on Ubah’s back to achieve his aim? Who helped who? For a man whose name opens doors within and outside Nigeria, including financial institutions, why would Maduka need Ubah’s assistance to secure a loan facility in a bank in which he is a director? It cannot be that Ubah has exclusive knowledge of the intricacies of fuel marketing, such that a Maduka would need his help to navigate the rough waters of the industry. If children of politicians and other money bags are using their fathers’ names to succeed in the sector, Maduka, who has been around for a long time, would hardly need Ubah to succeed.

Access bank is not a charitable organization. Its first objective for being in existence is to make money. So, why would it connive with Maduka to withhold proceeds from a business for which it granted a loan; indeed, why would it hide the proceeds in its vaults, with the full knowledge of the borrower (in this case Maduka), while making the latter pay a monthly interest of almost 400 million naira? Something doesn’t look tidy here.

Did Ubah watch the AIT interview in which Maduka alleged that he is a bad sale among banks? I expected the Capital Oil boss to slam a libel suit on Maduka, with AIT joined as co-defendants. But as I write this, the man has yet to take that action.

What is the interest of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Aig Imokhuede and Maduka in running Ubah out of business? Ubah did not say Maduka is seeking to take control of the downstream sector of the oil industry, nor did he reveal that the three own a company that is involved in the importation of fuel. And if we have to contend with the bring-him-down syndrome that is common in Nigeria, are we to believe that the London court that has frozen Capital Oil’s assets worldwide in connection with the deal is also working in collaboration with Ubah’s adversaries to ruin him?

I watched Ubah on Channels Television when he appeared to give his own side of the story. I saw him brandish some documents which he threatened to read from, but he did not read any portion of the document till he left the set.

We are watching a battle whose end is certainly not in sight. But while the war rages on, what has become apparent is that the truth is buried somewhere beneath the propaganda, to be unearthed only by the truly discerning.

Olayinka Olaleye, a company executive writes from Lagos


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