In several interviews with sources close to Mr. Andy Uba, a former domestic aide to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Saharareporters has been able to piece together how the controversial politician plans to regain the governorship of Anambra.
One informant, whose membership of Uba’s inner circle is solid, revealed in the course of a series of interviews that Uba and his business associates had budgeted “up to N20 billion to actualize our plans.” Our investigation also revealed that Justice Niki Tobi of the Supreme Court has agreed to serve as Uba’s point man in “softening” other justices to give Uba a favorable ruling.
Another aspect of Andy Uba’s strategy is to neutralize the media or influence favorable reports. In the past one month, he has placed calls to us. In the first call, Uba, who was in New York to attend the publicity event, tagged “Nigeria Meets the World” and organized by ThisDay publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, accused Saharareporters of “hating me even though you have never met me.” Challenged to provide proof of what he called “hate,” Mr. Uba cited “all the negative reports you people have been writing about me without hearing my side of the story, especially your latest claim that I am a business associate of Sam Iwajoku.” But when he was asked if any of our reports contained errors of facts, Uba became cagey. “We’re all young men,” he answered, “and you don’t know when we might work together.” We told him in no uncertain terms that the editors of Saharareporters did not foresee “working together with him.”
Saharareporters informed Uba that the publication has a policy of publishing unedited any rejoinders to its reports, urging him to write a rejoinder. We also offered to interview Uba to give him the opportunity to refute any of our reports. Our condition was that it should be a no-holds-barred session and that no questions should be off the table. We told him we wanted to hear how he would explain his purchase of a multi-million dollar Gulf Stream private jet. Uba said he would think about it and get back to us.
The a few days later, he asked his contact to phone us with the news that he would be willing to do the interview if we would agree to meet in a different country—and after the Supreme Court would have heard his case. We rejected the offer.
A week later, Uba and his contact called us again. This time, he pleaded that Saharareporters should not report anything negative about him until the Supreme Court had finished hearing his case. We told him that as a policy, our publication could not promise to withhold any news report. All attempts made to have his views were subtly rebuffed by pretending that the phone network was bad. We did ask him about the Gulf Stream jet during the last conversation, first he said it was lie, insisting that we could verify if he owns the jet(s) he rode in, when we asked him to provide the registration number, he demurred saying that he can’t remember any but surreptously admitted that he travels in private jets.
Uba’s media strategy has also led him to fund a new online publication called ogenereports.com. The publication was set up on October 9th 2007 and is edited by Ikenna Ellis-Ezenekwe, a former Uba critic who co-wrote the story about Uba’s fake degrees with Omoyele Sowore on Saharareporters.com.
A senior editor at a Lagos-based newspaper also disclosed that Uba had paid off many top editors and opinion page editors to ensure that his case receives favorable reporting and commentary in newspapers and magazines prior to the Supreme Court ruling stated for November 1st 2007.
Uba, who was declared the winner of a highly discredited election in April, had spent only two weeks in office before the Supreme Court removed him on June 14. The nations’ highest court reinstated incumbent Governor Peter Obi, ruling that his term continues till 2010.
But after months of speculation, Mr. Uba last month filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, asking it to reverse its earlier ruling.
Uba’s appeal has been widely criticized by Nigerian lawyers, with most of them asserting that Uba’s odds of persuading the court are between nil and negligible.
However, in extensive interviews that spanned one and a half weeks, one of Uba’s confidants boasted that the skeptics are in for a rude shock.
“Look, Chief Uba doesn’t need any more money,” said the source, who, in the manner of his principal, also punctuated his statements with allegations that Saharareporters and some sections of the Nigerian media were biased against Uba. He continued: “Chief Uba has made all the money he needs under Obasanjo. What he’s after now is power.”
Reminded that Uba could not have made his money legitimately, the man answered with rage: “Is Chief Uba the only man who has made money in government? Why are you not attacking others?” Our reporters assured him that Saharareporters does just that.
Asked why Mr. Uba was so desperate for power, the confidant responded that it was to correct his bad public image. “He wants to show that those who have been attacking him are wrong. He will definitely move Anambra State forward. When he starts transforming Anambra, those who have been insulting him will be silenced.”
When our reporter reminded the source that most Nigerian lawyers doubt the strength and validity of Uba’s case, the source laughed. “Wait and see,” he said, after a bout of laughter, adding, “This is not a case of what you write in newspaper or report on your website. Uba is going to surprise you people.”
After some prodding, the source admitted that Uba had budgeted “enough money to make sure that things work out this time around.”
“Are you suggesting that your man is going to bribe the justices?” our reporter asked. He initially demurred. Then, in a stunning volte-face, he vowed, “Uba is ready to spend this time. He’ll attack from all fronts.” Then he asked our reporter: “Are you not aware that [Governor] Obi and Charles Soludo spent money to gain victory in June? Have you not heard that he bribed Chief Ifeanyi Okonkwo to withdraw from the case at the Federal Court of Appeal?”
Our independent investigation with two other sources inside the Uba camp corroborated that the former senior presidential assistant has set aside a hefty fund for the seven-man panel if it rules for him. One source told us that some of the justices are nearing retirement in a year or two, and that Uba figures that they might have their eye on comfortable lives after retirement. Through Justice Tobi, who is freely named by the Ubas as their most trusted ally, the message has been sent to the other justices that Uba is willing to dole out at least N1 billion naira to each justice.
In one interview, Uba’s agent remarked that his principal liked the fact that Governor Obi’s camp as well as most lawyers had made light of their Supreme Court appeal. “They’ll wake up after we demolish them,” he said with an air of confidence.
While he refused to be drawn into a discussion of the sources of Uba’s wealth, our independent investigations indicated that Uba’s business interests continue to thrive and expand under the Yar’adua administration.
One security source has revealed that the former presidential aide continues to make huge profits from crude oil allocations to his fronts. The source showed us three allocation letters to Emo Oil, one of Uba’s front companies. Mr. Noel Ojei, Uba’s partner, is the ostensible owner. The “profit” on each of the letters is $4 million, our source revealed.
Emo Oil used to enjoy at least one cargo of crude oil every month during Obasanjo's regime. Under Yar’adua’s administration, that allocation has been kept rolling.
In addition, Emo Oil has been allocated 120,000 barrels a day of crude oil of which the “profit” is $1 million every month. Uba, through Ojei, is now trying to consolidate his allocations by using the names of different companies. Noel Ojei is changing to Team Trade International for the allocation of the new crude.
Besides, Uba has been profiting from another front company that recently changed its name to Buckingham Oil and Gas. Buckingham Oil and Gas (www.buckinghamog.com) is a new upstart run by Faith Vedelago, her brother Richard Vedelago, and mother, Charity Vedelago. Faith Vedelago, who is known to be one of Andy Uba’s mistresses, lives in one of his mansions on Minister’s Hill. According to our source, the Vedelagos are also the owners of "Windsor Petroleum" (www.windsorpetroleum.com) that been short-listed for crude oil lifting as well. Our checks at Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) could not find the immediate owners of Windsor Petroleum International. Faith Vedelago holds both Nigerian and Italian citizenships and runs a religious firm known as Faith Miracles Ministries ( http://www.faithmiracleministries.org). She is also said to be the owner of Argent Wealth Management www.argentgp.com based in Geneva, Switzerland. Our security source disclosed that she uses one Stefan Moser Andon, a young man who works for Richard Vedelago in Nigeria and has a Swiss citizenship, to front as the owner of the company.
The Vedelagos use the Argent “black” debit card. A “black” debit card is so-called because it is not linked to the owner’s bank account and therefore cannot be traced to the owner. The Vedelagos also hold foreign accounts with Barclays International, Knightsbridge Branch, London, UK under the name of Federica Vedelago. The account numbers 1001902, 1002974 have a balance of millions of pounds/dollars, revealed our source within the State Security Service (SSS) who has kept a tab on Andy Uba’s business deals. The source said the EFCC was fully aware of Uba’s far-reaching illegal business deals but remains unwilling to nab Andy Uba.
One legal expert who teaches at Lagos State University insisted that Uba would find it an uphill task finding a majority of judges to take his bait. “I’m not saying there may be no corrupt justices, but the vast majority of them are of sound integrity. They’d find it objectionable that Uba thinks their judgment is for sale. If we were talking about the Federal Court of Appeal, it’s a different matter. Honestly, there are a few judges at that level whose reputations are open to question.”
A Senior Advocate with law offices in Lagos and Abuja told us that he was worried about Uba’s alleged plan to try to infiltrate the Supreme Court with cash. “I don’t think he’s going to succeed at all,” said the lawyer, who asked for anonymity. “But one remembers that the Uba family has a notorious record when it comes to undermining the nation’s judiciary. Chris Uba was responsible for the sack of Stan Nnaji, a judge of the Enugu High Court. The Ubas were also directly involved in the case that led to the removal of Wilson Egbo-Egbo from the Appeals Court. Ugochukwu Uba’s bribery to two Appeal Court judges who heard the appeal over his election to the Senate led to the shameful end of the judges’ careers. For Andy Uba to now think of rubbishing the nation’s highest court is something that should be viewed with grave concern.”
On November 1, the Supreme Court will hear Uba’s appeal for the vacation of the order that removed him from office.
When asked what would be Uba’s response should he lose again at the Supreme Court, his agent simply boasted, “Chief Uba is not going to lose.” Prodded further to speak about the eventuality of Uba’s legal loss, the man said: “Let’s wait and see.”
However, Saharareporters has learnt from another source that Uba has a Plan B, which is to get Obi impeached. Almost all the members of the Anambra State Assembly owe their loyalty to Uba. Using his influence in the Independent Electoral Commission and his control over its chairman, Maurice Iwu, Uba had selected each member of the state legislature. Uba is also wholly funding the legal bill for all the members whose “elections” have been challenged at the electoral tribunals. Our source said part of Uba’s N20 billion budget is to ensure that the members of the electoral tribunal uphold the “election” of Uba’s candidates. The source further disclosed that Governor Obi’s refusal to come to the financial aid of those seeking to overturn the verdicts has improved the odds of Uba having his way at the tribunals.
“Once Uba’s legislators are pronounced legitimate representatives, they will move against Obi in an impeachment process,” said our source. “This time it would be difficult for Obi to get a court to reverse the impeachment.”
Our source added that Uba wants Obi out of the political picture in order to pave the way for Uba’s reemergence as governor in 2010.