Emeka Offor, one of Nigeria’s most controversial government contractors, is quite broke now.
Several sources, including employees of his various companies who have not been paid for months, told SaharaReporters that the flamboyant businessman and politician is so cash-strapped that he frequently travels between Abuja and Lagos by road. Mr. Offor used to hire private jets for his trips within and outside Nigeria. But our sources said he has since last year been unable to afford the jets, which cost $6,000 per hour. “In the last two months, Chief Offor has traveled three times by road from Abuja to Lagos,” one source disclosed. He added that the owners of a leased private jet that Mr. Offor used to travel in confiscated the aircraft because the businessman could not pay accumulated lease fees.
According to our sources, Mr. Offor still has enough personal funds to afford to make local first class flights in Nigeria, but has chosen the road option for fear that people may wonder what has become of his private jet if they see him on commercial planes.
“We do not know how things have become so hard for Sir E,” said a relative of the businessman who hails from Oraifite community in Anambra State. The relative added that Mr. Offor’s father died last February, but has yet to be buried because of the businessman’s financial crisis. “Sir E’s father’s remains have been in the mortuary in Ekwusigo Local Government Area for the past seven months because Sir E wants to give him a high profile burial which he cannot afford right now. He gets very hostile whenever we the relatives ask him when the old man’s burial will take place.”
SaharaReporters learned that Mr. Offor’s companies in Abuja have for one year been under lock and key because of the severe business challenges. Several disenchanted employees told our correspondent disclosed that Mr. Offor stopped paying their salaries shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015.
Mr. Offor, who for 16 years relished his media image as a top financier of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), raked in huge government contracts in the power, petroleum and communications sectors. A source at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that the businessman had made several attempts to have an audience with President Buhari, without success. The source said Mr. Buhari was aware of the controversies surrounding how Mr. Offor made his fortune, adding that the president was not eager to associate with “Aso Rock contractors,” a reference to businessmen who used their ties to those in power to accumulate obscene wealth. Our source said Mr. Offor was one of the numerous contracts during the 16-year reign of the PDP who got paid for little or no work done in an era when the economy was vandalized.
Our Presidency disclosed that Emeka Offor had approached several individuals to help arrange a meeting with President Buhari. Among those Mr. Offor asked for help are President Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari; the director general of the Department of State Security, Lawan Musa Daura, who hails from the same town as Buhari; the Emir of Daura, Faruk Umar Faruk; and the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmuminu Kabir Usman.
One of Mr Offor’s associates claimed that the businessman gave several brand new cars to the emirs as public relations gifts to facilitate the meeting. An Igbo auto dealer, who supplied the cars, is accusing Emeka Offor of tricking him into releasing 12 vehicles without upfront payment.
In the 1990s, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had blacklisted Offor’s company, ANCHOFF Strongholds Ltd, in line with the recommendation by a panel led by the late Aret Adams, regarded as the most respected NNPC chief executive ever. The company was blacklisted following its shoddy performance on a controversial turnaround maintenance (TAM) contract awarded to it for the 115,000 barrels per day Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company in Delta State.
Yet, in 2014, the Goodluck Jonathan administration secretly awarded Mr. Offor’s Chrome Energy the turn around maintenance (TAM) contract for both the Old 60,000 bpd Port Harcourt Refinery and the 150,000 bpd New Port Harcourt refinery in Rivers State for an undisclosed amount. The New Port Harcourt Refinery TAM contract had in 1997, during the Sani Abacha dictatorship, been given to Offor and his Romanian partners with large sums of money paid. The refinery has, however, been the worse for it, as it has since gone comatose.
The Romanian partners subsequently sued Mr. Offor for not paying them, but the judgment has yet to be executed for curious reasons.
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, in an interview published on Monday August 3, 2015 by Premium Times, lamented the controversial refinery job and other contracts in the Nigerian industry awarded to Offor’s companies. Mr. Obasanjo also x-rays the contracts in his newest book, My Watch, which was published last year.
“Work began on the two Port Harcourt refineries given to Offor's Chrome to do the turn-around maintenance only after Buhari won the presidential election,” a source in the NNPC told our correspondent. He added that Chrome “abandoned the work no sooner than it was resumed.”
An associate of Mr. Offor said the businessman’s hope of generating income in the foreseeable future is the Anambra State government, which has just awarded his firm a road contract. According to this source, Governor Willie Obiano gave the contract in a bid to secure Mr. Offor’s endorsement for a second term in next year’s gubernatorial election in the state. “If it were in those days when Sir Emeka Offor was swimming in money, he would not have considered doing a state government contract,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Offor’s financial woes seem to have given his Oraifite people the courage to protest against him. The businessman likes to be addressed as “Sir,” a title he started using after becoming a knight of the Anglican Church. However, SaharaReporters learned that the Anglican Church recently deleted his name from the roll of knights of the faith, citing his polygamous status. On January 3, 2014, Mr. Offor married his third wife, Adaora Ufondu, who hails from his Oraifite hometown at a lavish ceremony where expensive musicians like Flavor and P-Square played. His second wife, Joy Offor, hails from Orodo in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State while the first, Nkiru Emoke, is from Otulu in Oru West Local Government Area, also in Imo State. Mr. Offor’s knighthood was withdrawn after some prominent Anglicans from Oraifite questioned how a church that upholds monogamous marriage would honor a man with several wives.
Several sources told our correspondent that Offor would soon face legal trouble from some of his townsmen who were arrested by the police when Mohammed D. Abubakar was the inspector general. Offor apparently asked the former police chief to detain the townsmen for months in the same cells as kidnappers, armed robbers and other hardened criminals because the men had personal disagreements with the businessman. “Chief Offor’s victims are now taking steps to sue both him and the police authorities for human rights abuses,” a lawyer told our correspondent. The men considering a lawsuit against Offor are led by Bonny Okonkwo, a South African-based businessman who was arrested in his home in Lagos in the early hours of July 17, 2013, handcuffed and bundled into the boot of a vehicle and driven all the way to Abuja where he was kept in solitary confinement until Magistrate Dahiru of the Federal Capital ordered his release on August 23, 2013, describing his persecution as dehumanizing. The police charged Okonkwo with merely writing an article insulting Offor in a village online newspaper when the case was taken to court following the insistence of Okonkwo’s lawyer, Sam Ogala, from the chambers of Femi Falana, a leading human rights activist and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
SaharaReporters learned that, despite being rebuffed so far by President Buhari, Mr. Offor has not given up on the idea of getting close to the president. One step Offor quietly took was to join the ruling APC. He has also asked his business partners, including ex-Senate President Ken Nnamani, to join the APC. Mr. Nnamani serves as chairman of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, a deal Mr. Offor acquired in a most controversial manner on November 1, 2013, during the Jonathan administration.
A member of Mr. Offor’s extended family said he and other relatives have different concerns. “All we want is for Sir E. to give a decent burial to his father, who was a father to so many. Sir E. is the head of our family because he is the eldest in the family, but he must not continue to give the world a false impression of his wealth. Everyone knows the country is in an economic mess right now. The earlier our father is buried, the better for all of us. Unless our father is buried, none of us can face our business squarely”.