Is Dr Ambrose Byrant Chukwuemeka Orjiako broke?
Dr A.B.C Orjiako, one of Nigeria’s biggest private investors in the oil and gas sector, co-founder and former Chairman of Seplat Energy Plc, a leading Nigerian Independent oil and gas company is sinking in debt. Access Bank Plc declared him bankrupt in July this year. His fortunes dipped barely 14 months after his controversial exit as Chairman of Seplat. His family too is crumbling.
Orjiako, a trained orthopaedic surgeon with specialisation in trauma management has an estimated net worth of U.S$1.5 billion from investments in oil and gas, maritime services, construction, real estate and pharmaceuticals. He sits as Chairman of many public companies including Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Int’l Plc. A director at Leadsway Assurance Company. Some of the companies linked to him include, Amaze Limited, Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited, Salvic Petroleum Resources Limited, Zebra Energy Limited, Helko Nigeria Limited, ORDREC Group Limited, Helko Marine Services Limited, Abbeycourt Petroleum Company Limited, Abbeycourt Company Limited, Pursley Resources Limited.
His companies are losing big-ticket patronage. For instance, Seplat terminated million dollar consultancy contract with Amaze Limited and Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited, and further handed him a $5 billion suit. Orjiako has a record of corporate governance violations and abuse of official privileges, according the Board of his former company.
He was removed as Chair of Seplat for initiating a letter to the Nigerian government to consummate a stalled, highly contentious and widely criticised sales of ExxonMobil’s U.S$1.28 billion equity in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited – which included more than 90 shallow-water oil assets and 300 producing wells – to Seplat without the consent of the Board of Directors. Seplat’s Board unanimously terminated consultancy contract with Orjiako’s Amaze Limited after repeated breaches bothering on unilaterally making significant commitments using the company’s letterhead. To protect the company, its shareholders, directors and officers from ‘potential and increasing liabilities’, Orjiako’s company had to go. He said he acted within his powers and his decision was it the company’s best interest. Seplat thinks otherwise. Orjiako’s commitments had damning consequences on the prospects of Seplat in same manner his actions are tearing apart his brothers and step-brothers.
Media reports say Orjiako and Directors at Seplat awarded contracts worth $5.03 million to their companies. Good corporate governance culture abhors such practice especially where there are no strong internal supervision and control mechanisms over the Board. Even where there is, such practice usually creates huge accountability gaps. And, could breed corruption in contract procurement, accounting, supervision and audit, and stonewalls probity. Nevertheless, Orjiako’s Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited got a contract of $916,500 and $1.1 million in 2021 and 2022 from Seplat. Amaze Limited got jobs worth $1.457 million. A report credited to Bloomberg states that Seplat has spent over $540 million in 12 years on firms linked to Orjiako.
With his company’s huge loss of patronage and the $5 billion suit hanged on his neck by Seplat, Orjiako appears hard-pressed by Access Bank’s debt bondage. His liability to the bank is $101 million as at 2021. The financial institution said Orjiako is bankrupt. To recover her money, the Bank got Order of a Federal High Court, Lagos, in July to freeze his accounts in all banks across Nigeria and takeover his property in Lagos, Port Harcourt -Rivers State, and Uli -Anambra State. Orjiako’s Italian-furnished palatial mansion in Uli sits inside his father’s – Late Ichie Daniel Obiesie Orjiako – compound along the Onitsha-Owerri highway, Uli, Anambra State.
Access Bank was empowered to takeover the following property: No. 25A, Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos; No. 6, Agodogba Avenue, Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos; No. 10C, Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos; No. 11, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan Street, Ikoyi, Lagos; No. 175A, Moshood Olugbani Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; 1034B, Ologun Agbaje Street, Victoria Island, Lagos; Plot 144; lyeowuna Drive (Off Peter Odili Road), Port Harcourt; and No. 81, Woji Road, GRA Phase 2, Port Harcourt.
The ExxonMobil-Seplat transaction which Orjiako pushed passionately for its consummation was widely criticised. Host communities and civil society organisations said sales of MPN’s oil asset would aid ExxonMobil evade “accountability and ecological justice” for oil spilled, gas flared, and other hazardous footprints left on the ecosystem in years of hydrocarbon extraction in the Niger Delta by MPN. This is not Orjiako’s business! After all, his beautiful wife and children live in the U.S and London. Not in the polluted slum of the Niger Delta.
Under the polluter pays’ United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), ExxonMobil would not be liable for ecological damages had Seplat took over the company’s equity in MPN. The public was curious about Orjiako’s interest in this transaction. Did he seek to help ExxonMobil evade ecological accountability, thus deny host and impacted communities justice despite overwhelming ecological, health and livelihoods concerns? At what cost? ExxonMobil did not carry out hydrocarbon impact assessment or remediation of impacted communities before putting up its equity in MPN for sale. A huge liability it wanted to flee from.
Seplat has a disposition towards protecting foreign interests and expatriates against Nigeria’s and Nigerians. It’s a culture. The levity with which the coy treated Nigerian workers’ complaints bothering on racism against its CEO, Mr Roger Brown, is typical. Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior withdrew Brown’s passport, visa and resident permit over acts of racism against Nigerians working at Seplat. A chunk of the company’s $19.4 million spent on professional and consulting fees in half year 2023 went into defending the company’s CEO and absolving him from those grave accusations.
Dr A.B.C Orjiako Ambrose was born into a polygamous family. His mother, Madam Rebecca, was the second wife of the late Ichie D.O. Orjiako, a multi-millionaire trader from Ukwuoffor – Umuchima in Uli, Ihiala local government area, Anambra State. Ichie Orjiako was renowned in Calabar, Anambra and the entire Southeastern region for his enterprise, wealth and influence. He was among the wealthiest traders and exporters of palm produce in the 60s. In Uli, Dr Ambrose’s father reportedly bought and owned the largest palm plantation and land by individual in Umuchima. Ichie Orjiako died in 1995. His inheritance yet to be shared among his children is subject of a messy feud. Dr A.B.C Orjiako against his step-brothers.
Dr Orjiako built his mansion on the family land. He however allegedly used governments’ apparatus to illegally demolish his younger step-brother’s building constructed on the family land. Dr Orjiako is the only child of the late Ichie Orjiako that has built on the family land. The cold war in the family between Dr Orjiako and Ogbuehi Chinedu Orjiako, is escalating. Mediation attempts by the Umuchima Development Union and the Catholic Bishop of Orlu Diocese, Bishop Augustine Ukwuoma, failed. The influential A.B.C Orjiako, a Knight of Saint Gregory the Great, calls the shot in Ukwuoffor, Umuchima, Uli, Ihiala local government area and beyond. Recently, he asked the Uli Ancient Kingdom to strip his step-brother of the Ogbuehi title. Driven by rage and unmatched desire to humiliate, intimidate and frustrate his younger step-brother further, Dr Orjiako reportedly moved the palace, Igwe and traditional council members in his hometown to Awka in a bid to remove the highest title in Uli Ancient kingdom from Ogbuehi Chinedu Orjiako. Sacrilege. Sacrilege, it is. It has become necessary to call on the government of Anambra State through the Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters to look into this sacrilegious act against the Uli Ancient Kingdom.
Dr Orjiako uses his wealth and contacts to influence and direct the affairs of his town and kindred politics, imposing his foot-soldiers on the people and publicly challenging anyone to dare him. His action is suffocating his kindred. Umuchima needs help. Community talebearers have heartstruck stories – of avarice, victimisation, disparity, rivalry – on the family. Ichie Daniel Obiesie Orjiako’s family was revered, cherished and dignified. Rivalry has rend its dignity, giving it up to public scoffery, aversion and ribaldry.