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UDOM: How Much Does Akwa Ibom State Government Owe Julius Berger?

Nov 29, 2017
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UDOM: How Much Does Akwa Ibom State Government Owe Julius Berger?

PRESS STATEMENT!

Tuesday November 28, 2017

Concerened Akwa Ibom Elders Forum

OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD CHAIRMAN AND SHAREHOLDERS OF JULIUS BERGER PLC

The Chairman

Board of Directors

Julius Berger Plc

Abuja

Attention: Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu

How Much Does Akwa Ibom State Government Owe Julius Berger?

In the early morning hours of Saturday, October 28, 2017, Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State attended a prayer meeting at Government House Chapel in Uyo and spoke extensively on the crushing debts the state government owes to Julius Berger Plc. The prayer meeting holds every last Saturday of the month in the Chapel. It was clear that the governor was at pains, helpless and frustrated in explaining his challenges in meeting the obligations to your company.

Mr. Udom Emmanuel stated following facts:

1. The debt obligations to Julius Berger is huge (he did not mention the exact figure) and was incurred during the administration of Godswill Akpabio, his predecessor.

2. As soon as he was inaugurated as governor on May 29, 2015, he was under intense pressure from his predecessor to pay down on the debts owed Julius Berger by the state government.

3. He then ‘looked for money everywhere’ and paid N6 billion (six billion Naira) in a lump sum to Julius Berger.

4. Since then he had been paying N1 billion (one billion Naira) every month to Julius Berger.

5. These obligations and the monthly payments to Julius Berger are a major drain on the resources of the state and is the reason why his administration is not doing much in terms of road construction and infrastructural development in the state.

In addition, the governor also alluded that these debts were incurred in very dishonest transactions by his predecessor as the projects were highly inflated and padded. This further lends credence to the belief that the former governor is also a beneficiary of these payments to your company.

Mr. Chairman, from Udom Emmnuel’s revelations, our government has paid your company N36 billion (Thirty six billion Naira) since June 2015. We do not know how much the government of Chief Akpabio paid Julius Berger in the eight years he was governor. But as responsible and tax-paying citizens of Akwa Ibom State, we will therefore like to ask and demand answers to the following:

1. Just how much is the total debts owed Julius Berger by Akwa Ibom State government (and incurred by the Akpabio administration?)

2. How long will it take the government to liquidate these debts if the government continues to make N1 billion monthly payment?

3. For what projects were these debts incurred? This question is very critical since the governor also described some of the the Akpabio-era projects as ‘the more you look, the less you see’ during the said Chapel talk. He particularly described the hotel project in Ikot Ekpene as ‘a mere block work’.

4. Can you confirm the widely held views in Akwa Ibom State that parts of the reasons these debts are insurmountable is because your company is paying or had paid kickbacks to the officials of the past and current Akwa Ibom State government, especially the governor and his predecessor, or their preferred proxies?

Mr. Chairman, we are very disturbed that our government is under a debt peonage to Julius Berger, a company whose reputation is very notorious. JB’s involvements in public-sector projects in Nigeria over the years usually carry a halo of suspicions. Even abroad, the stench oozes to the heavens. We recall that in 2013, the US Justice Department and FBI announced that your parent company, Bilfinger SE, had agreed to pay a $32 million penalty for charges relating to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because Julius Berger PLC was charged with bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain contracts related to work for the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS). A project valued at $387 million.

The agreement followed a three count criminal charge filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas. According to the complaint from late 2003 through 2005, Julius Berger conspired with Willbros Group Inc., and others to make payments totaling $6 million to unnamed Nigerian government officials to obtain EGGS contracts. Julius Berger and Willbros formed a joint venture and inflated the joint venture’s bid by three percent to cover the cost of the bribe. Part of the conspiracy involved Julius Berger employees bribing Nigerian officials with cash by employees sent from Germany to Nigeria.The Justice Department and Bilfinger agreed to resolve the charges by entering a deferred prosecution agreement for a term of three years. Bilfinger has also agreed to implement internal controls, continue cooperating with the Justice Department, and retain a corporate compliance monitor for 18 months.Prosecutors also resolved charges with Bilfinger’s collaborator on the bribe, Willbros, and three former Willbros executives or consultants who pleaded guilty, and a fourth who remains a fugitive.

Mr. Chairman, we know that you were appointed to the Board as Chairman only last year after a long meritorious career in Shell Petroleum Dev. Company Limited (SPDC), and so you were not involved in the above sleaze. We are also aware that your career in Shell was unblemished and unstained. Your colleagues in SPDC describe you as a man of honour, integrity and impeccable character. This is why we are directing this letter to you because we expect that you will ask the Managing Director and other Executives the hard questions about JB’s dealings in Akwa Ibom State. We just do not want Udom Emmanuel to turn the debts allegedly owed your company into avenue for depletion of our state’s resources and perpetual excuses for his dismal performance in office.

We await your answers.

Signed:

1. Barr. Imoh Akpan

Attorney-at-Law & Social Activist

2. Dr. Emaeyak Ukpong

Businessman & Environmentalist

Former Member, Federal House of Representatives & Former ASUU Chairman, Univ. of Uyo

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