By Suleiman Abubakar
A recent frivolous and ill-advised interview granted by the National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, and reported on page 3 by the Daily Trust newspaper of Monday July 13, 2015 titled “Jonathan’s Centenary City is Crime-Personified – PDP Vice Chair” was also carried by several online publications within and outside the Nigeria.
In the reckless interview, Mr. Ojougboh described as illegal, President Muhammadu Buhari’s action to release funds to States to pay workers’ salaries. He also stated that the national Centenary City Project (in Abuja) initiated during the tenure of President Goodluck is crime personified.
In taking up these issues Cairo Ojougboh, either ignorantly or deliberately chose to forget that President Buhari won the last election and should, in compliance with the constitution, take actions showing that the welfare of Nigerians “is the primary purpose of the state”. He also forgot that you cannot describe as “crime personified” a project that has all its processes and legal status fully confirmed by law.
It is necessary to quickly point out certain basic facts concerning the issues highlighted in Ojougboh’s rather misleading interview, so as to properly inform the reading public about the correct situation of things.
The Centenary City that Mr. Ojougboh talked about, was one of the Legacy Projects initiated by the Federal Government as part of activities to celebrate Nigeria’s 100 years anniversary as a nation. As the SGF, Senator Anyim was directed by the President to coordinate the activities for Nigeria’s Centenary Celebration and the Centenary City as a purely and wholly private sector driven and programme; without any financial involvement by the Federal government.
The land for the Centenary City Project was not given to any one man. The due processes for securing the land for the Centenary City Project are well documented and the records are available at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). Anybody can verify that.
Moreover, the entire transparent process and steps taken have been copiously documented publicly. These include the establishment, registration and incorporation of the Centenary City PLC, appointment and inauguration of its Board with His Excellency Gen Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar (rtd) as Chairman, hiring of its management, the withdrawal of the SGF as the Facilitator of the Centenary City Project after the inauguration of its Board, the groundbreaking ceremony of the Centenary City Project, the granting of a Free Zone status to Centenary City by NEPZA, and the commencement of the Centenary City Project by its principal developer – Eagle Hills International Properties LLC .
At present, the Centenary City PLC is a public limited liability company owned by known, credible and verifiably individuals and organizations, and duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). And is indeed the biggest single private foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria ever.
Moreover, Centenary City PLC duly applied to NEPZA for a Free Zone status. Their application was duly processed by NEPZA and recommended to the President by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment for approval. The Centenary City Free Zone, like the Eko Atlantic City Free Zone, was one of the 4 free zones approved by the President in 2014;
Clearly, the Centenary City initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan government will remain one of the most outstanding legacies any administration will ever leave behind in Nigeria. Even when it has become fashionable to deny every achievement of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration and denigrate and disparage everybody that served in it, the Centenary City will stick out as one well thought out, carefully planned, methodically implemented and social and economically rewarding initiative of any government in Nigeria.
Not a few readers of the recent interview have continued to ask: Who is Mr. Cairo Ojougboh?
Mr. Cairo Ojougboh is a well-known, branded thug. An independent search on Google Engine will indeed deliver his devilish persona, as the man who defrauded the African Leadership Institute in the University of Kansas, U.S.A. in 2010. He is also remembered for the attempted murder of Hon. Nduka Irabor, a former member of the House of Representatives. The list is endless, but is in every case associated with fraud, thuggery, polictical mischief and blackmail – always for cash reward. So Mr. Ojougboh, very likely in response to some unknown new paymasters, is on a binge to disrespect Buhari, is free to disrespect former President Jonathan, Gen. Abdulsalmi Abubakar who is Chairman of the Bord of Centenary City Plc. and Senator Anyim. Thr fact that he is attacking his own party, the PDP, only shows how desperate he must be for some form of political rehabilitation.
Those who know Cairo as some of us do, and who also understand the issues the man is groping about in the dark with and dabbling into just in order to get money from new paymasters, have seen how sly, silly and stupid a man can be when he is hunted by the hollowness of his character and “smallness” of his mind.
For those who do not recall Mr. Cairo Ojougbo was Chairman of the Board of the NEPZA, the sole Federal Government Parastatal that can designate areas as free zones. Free Zones are to Foreign and Local Direct Investment (FDIs and LDIs) and also aid the industrialization of the country. As Chairman of a Board of a government parastatal with a government-appointed management headed by a Managing Director, the duties and entitlements of a Board Chairman were clearly spelt out to him.
But in a bizarre fashion Mr. Ojougboh insisted he must be assigned an office in NEPZA, where he came to work every day to treat and approve non-existent administrative files; and with a retinue of personal staff on official emoluments and vehicles. He demanded for NEPZA official letter headed papers for unofficial use, requested his Personal Secretary to give directives to Directors in the agency, encouraged Agency staff to help his friends with operational matters, and tried to employ 40 people into a closed recruitment exercise at the Agency. These are only a few of the truly astounding acts of irrationality associated with him as Chairman.
The then Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, made several interventions to educate Mr. Ojougboh on his responsibilities as a non-executive Board Chairman, but to no avail. At the request of the Honourable Minister and Managing Director of NEPZA, the SGF invited the Mr. Ojougboh and the Managing Director to a meeting where he reminded both of them of their terms of engagement and urged them to operate within the confines of those terms.
But Mr. Ojougboh continued his recalcitrance, which seriously threatened the operations of such an important Agency of government. The negative impact of this on Foreign Direct Investment into the country became so glaring that he had to be sacked as Chairman of the Board of NEPZA.
How clueless can a Board chairman be? It is on record that the application by Centenary City PLC for a Free Zone status was made and processed by NEPZA while Mr. Ojougboh served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NEPZA. It is interesting to note that the recommendation for the approval of the Free Zone status of the Centenary City and the Eko Atlantic City was made to Mr. President by the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and was duly approved.
Even the disparity of Free Zones in Nigeria must one day become a policy issue. Today, it is on record that Lagos State alone has 10 Free Zones, with nine of them in private hands. It is also on record that the entire Northern part of the country has only 5 free zones located in Borno, Kano, Kwara, Adamawa and the FCT. All the Free Zones in the Northern part of Nigeria, including Sabore Farms, owned by the now indicted former Governor of Adamawa State, are in private hands. They are also not operational. Only the Centenary City Free Zone, which was only designated in September 2014, has made landmark achievements – outstripping all others in the country. The South East is not even in the picture at all!
Maturity and decency will not allow me to divulge some of the many things we know about Cairo that shows him to be a truly disreputable character. He was clueless at NEPZA, where he is yet to return some of the Agency’s property in his possession. Let no one be deceived or distracted by this man, who will soon face the wrath of the law for his many misdeeds.
*** Abubakar, an investment banker, sent this piece from Kano.
NB: Opinion expressed here does not reflect the views of News Investigators but that of the writer, Ojougboh has a right of reply.