The Man Emeka Offor
Within the business and political circles of Nigeria, the name of Sir Emeka Offor is one that is associated with wealth, class and power. Though he is one of the insiders who play at the big table as far as the PDP is concerned, Offor himself never fails to admit that he had a humble background. He was born in Kaduna to a father who was a policeman. Street Journal found out that he went into business right after he finished secondary school. The story of his “self made success” is not without some hitches though, he was said to have once worked as a driver with Julius Berger. Ask Chief Emeka Offor how his big break came and he will tell you that he was a petty contractor until he hit it big when he won a contract worth N 19 million in 1983. But ask the intelligentsia in Anambra and they will tell you that ‘no one of note had ever heard of Emeka Offor outside Anambra State until he emerged from nowhere to become one of the praise singers begging General Abacha to metamorphose into a civilian President then’. He did that effectively through his Movement for National Stability.
Street Journal also gathered that during his days at Abbot Boys’ Secondary School, Ihiala in Anambra State, where the billionaire businessman wrote his school certificate examinations in 1977, Offor never shared the last position in his class with anyone. And as expected, his school cert result did not surprise anyone.
While many see Offor as a man who has always made his living as a government contractor, a good number of Nigerians still remember him for his N 200 million donation to the re-election campaign of former President Obasanjo. He also stunned most Anambrans way back in time when he bankrolled former Governor Mbadinuju’s election in 1999 and personally ensured that he lost his nomination in 2003 simply because the Governor did not give him unchecked access to the state’s treasury.
It has also become an open secret that a large chunk of Sir Emeka Offor’s business is with the Nigerian government and most of his wealth came from inflated government contracts. The probability that he might have laundered money for some former government officials cannot also be ruled out. It is even being insinuated that Offor was a major front for the late General Sani Abacha and his first major contract also came from the Abacha regime.
Testimonies of Chief Emeka Offor’s obscene wealth include his overstated residence at Oraifitte, his hometown in Anambra State. The house is nothing short of a presidential palace and it is evidently a place of affluence as it is well guarded by armed policemen. He is also said to own several houses and flats in London and in Houston.
His Chain of Companies
Chief Emeka Offor’s string of companies includes the Chrome Group which has companies like the Chrome Oil Services, Chrome Radio, Oraifitte, and Chrome Air under it. Others are the African Express Bank (AFEX Bank) and the Environmental Remediation Holding Company (ERHC).
The Chrome Group prides itself as a leading regional conglomerate based in Abuja with vast interests in oil and gas, insurance, destination inspection service, bio-fuels energy production, petroleum products trading, the power sector, real estate, logistics and dredging services. Chrome Oil Services is said to be the pioneer company of the group and it has been doing business since the early 1990s.
ERHC on the other hand has the rights to explore for oil in a stretch on the Gulf of Guinea believed to hold billions of barrels of crude oil.
The Many Inflated And Failed Contracts of Emeka Offor
Those who describe Offor as a kingmaker may not be wrong after all, his association with those who matter has paid off for him and big time too. His Chrome Oil Services handled the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) on two Federal Government owned refineries in Port Harcourt at a cost of over $ 100 million, and even with the money invested, the refineries have not performed at full capacity since then.
The Turn Around Maintenance underperformed by Emeka Offor at a great expense has been described by many as a chronic tragedy.
Those who describe Offor’s contracts as archetypes of contract scams always claim they have good reasons to do so. He and Gidado Idris were alleged to have contributed in no small measure to the doom that befell organizations like the defunct Oil and Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), The National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) and the Eleme Refinery through overblown contracts. Most of the contracts were allegedly hijacked, the contract sums manipulated and grossly inflated.
Never known to leave his political contacts unused, Offor allegedly used his relationship with the then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar to corner the $ 8 billion NEPA contract for building the Yola-Bauchi transmission line, though the original sum for the contract was said to be $ 6 billion.
One funny discovery about the ERHC is that with just one full time employee at its headquarters in Houston and a debt of over $ 30 million, it got a major contract in Sao Tome. The contract however would have had no value until an international treaty was made between Nigeria and Sao Tome to delineate the territorial boundaries between the two countries. The original American owners of the company were persuaded by Offor that he could arrange that Nigeria set out such a treaty using his friends, President Obasanjo and his vice. The company then agreed to sell its shares to Offor, retaining a number of shares in their own name. By mid 2001, Offor acquired about 75% stake in ERHC and a few weeks later, the governments of Nigeria and Sao Tome signed a treaty delineating the borders. That gave the oil lease (which promised 5% of the revenue stream to Chrome) a recognized value. And to prove that Offor is a man who knows how to get things done, the chief negotiator of the deal in Sao Tome was their Minister of Natural Resources, Raffael Branco, whose two children were among those who had received college scholarship from ERHC. Offor’s ownership of the ERHC makes him the number one player in the oil industry of Sao Tome & Principe. Sources also revealed that Offor did not maintain an office in ERHC’s Texas office.
That Offor got contracts with ease from the Nigerian government in the Obasanjo days is not an unknown fact. N 8.8 billion was awarded to Chrome Consulting Energy for New Haven- Uguaji 33 kva sub station project. About N 5.6 billion was paid and by the expiration of the tenure, nothing tangible was on site. Incidentally, Reynalds Engineering Company was awarded N 643 million for Nsukka 32/ 33 kva sub station out of which N 246 million was paid without any meaningful result. And though both Chrome and Reynalds got the same contract, a big difference exists in what they were paid.
Nimek Investments Limited, another company traced to Offor was also awarded the contract of the canalization of 20km of the Awoye-Benin River in Ondo State. The terms of contract given by the NDDC included that the job should be done within thirty weeks and the sum agreed on for the work was N 1.831 billion (One billion, Eight hundred and thirty one million Naira). Another canalization of 14 km of the same river was incidentally simultaneously awarded to Chrome Dredgers and the contract sum was N 494.7 million. In both instances, 25 % of the contract sum was paid as mobilization fees.
Why EFCC Looked The Other Way
The explanation being offered by those in the know as to why Sir Emeka Offor is still walking the streets as a free man despite the unsuccessful completion of most of the contracts awarded to his companies is “his deep friendship with those who matter in Nigeria”. For instance, Offor is known to be close to both Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar but sources close to the former Vice President disclosed that ‘Offor and Atiku were never really close. Though Emeka Offor was introduced to Obasanjo by Atiku in their days at Aso Rock, it was only a matter of time before Offor became closer to the then President than his vice.’
Some even describe Chief Emeka Offor as one of the luckiest Nigerians around and the reason is not farfetched; he is one of those who escaped being justifiably blacklisted among those who had all sorts of deals with the Abacha administration.
Though there is virtually nothing to show that he knows anything about power or engineering, neither has he ever been in power business. Yet Emeka Offor got a mouth watering contract of over $ 200 million under General Sani Abacha.
And even when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources to explain the non completion of the Turn Around Maintenance of the refineries years ago, he was discourteously impolite to members of the committee. Nothing came out of it eventually. That of course led to the submission that Emeka Offor is untouchable.
The NEPA contract too generated hues and cries then. The original sum was said to be $ 6 billion but Offor got $ 8 billion for the job. Secondly, Pivot Engineering allegedly came first on the list of bidders, and the company expressed its grievance through a petition to the Presidency. Offor was however quick to deny Atiku’s intervention as he described it as an open tender bid handled by NEPA management and approved by the Federal Executive Council. When officials of the Power Holding Corporation were contacted, they denied that there was any project called the Yola/ Bauchi Transmission line. However, Chrome Consortium was paid part of the contract sum up front.
His activities have however generated a lot of unanswered questions, for instance, is Offor fronting for someone? If yes, who?
One would also be tempted to ask how ERHC, a company with no operations, a debt burden of $ 30 million and one member of staff acquired a lucrative oil deal in Sao Tome? Or why did Offor buy the company and why did he pay more than 75 % of its debts?
The Oraifitte born Chief even disclosed years ago that former President Obasanjo offered him the Chairmanship of NITEL. That of course leads to the question that why would such a technical position be offered to someone who did not make school cert? Till date, the questions are still begging for answers.