Prejudice or Corporate Warfare: Reinterpreting the Media Assaults on Orjiako


A few years ago, ‘Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo’ the apex socio-cultural organization of the Igbo’s who predominantly inhabits the south eastern part of Nigeria, drew attention of the apparent conspiracy to frustrate the economic progress of Igbo sons and daughters, sometimes with policies initiated by government, at other things from ploys orchestrated by their competitors from other part of the nation to gain an undue advantage.

In recent times, most of the leading industrialist of Igbo extraction has found themselves in one debacle or the other with Nigerian government, their competitors or unprotected from external influences, the list is endless and consists of people like Barrister Allen Onyema of Air Peace , Chief Chukwuma Innocent of IVM Motors, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Capital Oil, Clement Ibeto of Ibeto Cement and host of others.

Most of them are still in a tight situation trying to wrangle their way out, and others have broken free from the chains of suppression and these are patriotic and selfless industrialists who have projected the image of Nigeria on the global industrial map, and are providing mass employment for Nigerian youths as well as adding to the Gross Domestic Product-GDP of the country.

And when it seems the page on that chapter of Igbo’s plight in Nigeria is about to be turned another case of incessant witch-hunting of an Igbo goal setter has commenced on the person of ABC Orjiako of Seplat Energy.

The Rise and Rise of ABC Orjiako

ABC Orjiako  is the Chairman and co-founder of SEPLAT, a leading Nigerian independent oil and gas company listed on the London and Nigerian stock exchanges with a strategic focus in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.

He started as a medical practitioner having obtained his M.B.B.Ch. degree in 1985 from the College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Nigeria. He also trained as a General Surgeon at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos and later sub-specialized in orthopaedic and trauma surgery. He became a fellow of the West African College of Surgeons in 1996. In 2006, he completed the OPM program of the Harvard Business School.

He went into full-time business in 1996 after eleven years of active medical practice and successfully established and managed various companies in the upstream, downstream and service sectors of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. These include Abbeycourt Trading Company Limited, Abbeycourt Energy Services Limited, Zebbra Energy Limited and Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited.

He also has other business interests in construction, real estate development, pharmaceuticals and shipping. In 2009, his company Shebah Exploration and Production Company and Platform Petroleum Limited co-founded SEPLAT.

Leadership Prowess of Orjiako

Under Orjiako’s leadership, Seplat has become a highly reputable Nigerian Independent brand recording several milestones, successfully closing landmark acquisitions, growing the company’s oil and gas production exponentially and becoming a well-run company with strong and transparent governance.

Under his watch, the company pioneered dual listing of its shares on the Nigerian and London stock exchanges in 2014. In recognition of the company’s achievements, SEPLAT recently won the Best Africa listing 2014 award by Africa Investors (Ai), “Mid-Cap Company of The Year 2014” award by the Oil and Gas Council and was named a “Global Growth Company 2014” by the World Economic Forum in 2014.

Dr. ABC Orjiako is on the board of companies in various sectors; he is a director of MPI, which is listed on NYSE Euronext Paris and a director of Leadway Assurance Company Limited. By invitation of the London Stock Exchange, he became a founding member of the London Stock Exchange Group’s Africa Advisory Group (“LAAG”), a select group working towards generating and channeling ideas towards the issues affecting the African continent from a commercial and social perspective.  

Philanthropic Strides of ABC Orjiako

Consolidating his firm commitment to philanthropy, he founded the Daniel Orjiako Memorial Foundation (‘‘DOMF’’) in 1996 in honour of his late father, Chief Daniel O. Orjiako. Since inception, the DOMF has executed numerous programmes in rural Nigerian communities in education, healthcare services and economic empowerment through agriculture aimed at providing welfare and breaking the poverty cycle.

In recognition of his services to humanity, Pope John Paul II in 2003 bestowed on him a Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSGG).

He has received numerous awards and recognition’s for his service to humanity and his entrepreneurial achievements. Some of these notable awards include the Distinguished Alumnus Award and Doctor of Sciences (D.Sc. Honoris Causa) by the University of Calabar, Nigeria in 2001; Platinum Award of the West African College of Surgeons in 2006;  National Honours as an Officer of the Federal Republic (“OFR”), conferred on him by the President of Nigeria in 2012; the coveted Zik (Nnamdi Azikiwe) Prize in the Professional Leadership category by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) and African Business Executive of the Year 2014, by the Oil and Gas Council.

The Campaign of Calumny on ABC Orjiako

After such a lofty start and enviable records of accomplishments in diverse fields, it is not uncommon for a person of his status to attract detractors either from fellow competitors , colleagues  or  corporate associates, as the top echelon of the corporate world has its own mafia attributes, in the Oil and Gas sector one can  easily make invisible enemies in the political circle, as Oil business in Nigeria, including the acquisition of oil wells etc is not devoid of influences of political machinery and lords in the corridors of power.

Many articles are flying in the media, all aimed at defacing the amazing achievements of ABC Orjiako  and misrepresent him to the local and international community, as his name has garnered lots of global recognition for his success in steering the corporate affairs of the brands that he is associated with.

The campaign of calumny on the person of  Orjiako is hinged on  a loan facility granted to Cardinal Drilling, and Kalu Nwosu, the former Managing Director of Cardinal Drilling by Zenith Bank back in 2014 to carry out a drilling campaign in OML 108,  and has  evolved  into a shapeless amoeba, a multi faceted operation of calculated misrepresentations  aimed at  maliciously harming Orjiako’s  reputation.

Recently Zenith Bank obtained  an order from a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos blocking Seplat from transacting any business with Orjiako and two other firms —Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited, and Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited.

Justice Yellin Bogoro of the Federal High Court, Lagos made the interim order while granting ex-parte Mareva application filed by Zenith Bank Plc in the case of an alleged $78,426,578.64 debt against Orjiako, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited and 7 others, with an additional 29 cited parties.

The most astonishing fact in all this is that findings have always revealed that Orjiako was never a borrower and never utilized the facilities as an individual, the situation   arised from a corporate transaction between corporate entities with projections and targets that were not realised from an expected investment  between multiple organisations.

The diverse issues that has emanated from the deal that went wrong, is being heard in at least 3 separate cases in courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria and United Kingdom yet all accounts in the media are negatively aimed at the person of  Orjiako as  an individual , and one keeps wondering why the deliberate attempt to drag the orthopedic surgeon through the mud.

The fact however is he was merely the majority shareholder of Shebah and guarantor of the facilities and was not even a member of management of Shebah , but yet he  stepped up to salvage the company by making payments to the banks using personal and family assets to liquidate the facilities.

Interestingly, the banks disbursed the said loan directly to the service providers of the company and never directly to Orjiako,  yet  he has so far repaid $89.3 million (out of a total principal of $150m) including the $20 million paid this year to the consortium of AMCON/Afrexim/Access Bank toward the repayment efforts. 

in the case of Zenith Bank, Orjiako has also paid back $54 million (including proceeds of forced sale of his family Seplat shares by Zenith Bank) out of the principal of $70 million and is currently engaging the bank to negotiate an out of court settlement. This means that Orjiako has paid a total sum of $143.3million ($89.3 million and $54 million).

Orjiako has exhibited a honourable conduct of the highest pedigree in defense of his integrity, by taking responsibility of repaying loans that he did not utilize personally but was rather spent on oil assets that are not generating any revenues. It must also be emphasized that Seplat, where Orjiako is the Chairman is not involved in any of these matters what so ever contrary to the nuances in the media reports.

It is pertinent to affirm at this time that Mr. Orjiako is not deserving of the lopsided negative publications on his person for a responsibility or decision that was made by a group of individuals and boards of corporate executives of over 5 corporate institutions. We call on those involved directly or indirectly in the orchestrated campaign to frustrate our industrious son to desist from their evil act before it is too late.

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