Oh! Poor Mrs. Adenike Jolapoma-Onifade! What a burden of innocence and trust! A family bond-inflicted pain!
She is the reported latest victim of the consuming web of intrigues in the maritime business sector where the Niccolo Machavelian’s principle of the end justifies the means reigns.
In this web, sabotage, treachery, deceit, back-stabbing are permissibly fair provided they are pleasing to the predator. The preys accept their fate as being naïve and life goes on.
But Jolapoma-Onifade was so soaked in shock and disbelief that she blew the whistle, a courage many victims lack because they could be ”dismissed” from the earth’s surface.
Ironically, her case is a catalyst to allegations of lack of integrity and transparency in the leadership of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), which her father, Chief Isaac Jolapoma chaired for 12 years.
Jolapoma-Onifade has accused Capt. Niyi Labinjo, the current president of NISA of diverting part of a USD5.85 million (about N1.2 billion) loan facility granted by a Nigerian commercial bank to an indigenous shipping company, Acenk Maritime & Energy Services Limited for the purchase of two vessels.
The allegation was made against Labinjo and his wife, Bola by the daughter of Jolapoma, who is the Managing Director of Acenk Maritime & Energy services and a Burkingham University trained lawyer.
According to her, she trusted the Labinjos so much that she did not see anything wrong with Mrs. Labinjo’s idea for her and her husband to be part of the loan deal she initiated.
She explained that she had told Bola about her plans to access a loan from a commercial bank and she pleaded with her to increase it.
“I was so naïve. I don’t know if they used some spiritual powers on me. These people are heartless. They want to ruin me”, she exclaimed.
In the words of Jolapamo-Onifade, “She (Bola) said General Alexander Ogomudia wanted to give them a 30% deposit to purchase a Fast Support Intervention Vessel (FSIV) for him. She told me the price of the FSIV was USD4.2 million and then sought for USD7.5 million loan.
“The bank requested for 10 percent equity on the transaction. This amounted to USD650.000 (125 million) which Mrs. Labinjo made available. She said it was provided by General Ogomudia.”
The loan application for USD6.5 million as reduced was eventually granted to her company, Acent Maritime & Energy Services Limited on approval and she demanded for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purpose of repayment.
In keeping with her obligation, she instructed the bank to transfer the balance of the facility, USD2.35 million to Labinjo’s broker, Radunia International Corporation in Greece,for the purchase of her own vessel, oil tanker but apparently this remittance was hijacked and re-routed in connivance with Labinjo into his personal company.
However, Labinjo has denied having any direct dealing with Jolapamo-Onifade, saying she had and MoU, which had broken down with his wife, Bola.
Irked by this rip-off, Jolapamo-Onifade has dragged the Labinjos to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Were Labinjo in the country, he would have been detained. However, five of his newly acquired vehicles, SUVs inclusive have been impounded by EFCC officials.
Attempts to speak with Labinjo to hear his own side of the scandal have met brick walls, very unlike him known for luquaciousness.
Disturbed by the development, NISA executes held emergency meeting, last week, and resolved to ask Labinjo to defend himself in writing or step aside for investigation into the allegation.
Speaking with MMS Plus Weekly, the Publicity Secretary of NISA, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori said, “the maritime industry is more important than anybody and the focus of this executive is to make sure that the Nigerian maritime industry is protected and manned by people of integrity. We are not going to be deterred on the issue of integrity. NISA will not undermine the development of the industry. The industry is greater than one person or any sectional or tribal interest.”
Asked to speak on the stand of NISA on the allegation against their president, Ilori added; “We cannot just react on mere allegation. We have to follow due process. We have asked for clarifications from the president in writing to the allegation so that the executive will use that as a guide.
“I am not aware that the president has been asked to step aside. Let us be very clear, you have to see that you follow due process. Don’t forget that we were elected by electorates as directed by government”, Ilori noted.
This development has no doubt cast a serious blight on the integrity of NISA as a group again especially against the background of forest of allegations against the leadership of NISA under Chief Jolapoma with Capt. Labinjo as the Secretary.
Some of the disenchanted members who lefty NISA in protest against Labinjo’s victory as presidency at the recently concluded polls appear to have been vindicated, especially on the issue of integrity in leadership and election process which were raised.
According to sources at the weekend, the Labinjo-led NISA is headed towards extinction and ultimately the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) could bear the brunt as an offspring of NISA.
Already, we gathered that members of NISA are divided on what to do with Capt. Labinjo. A group appears hell-bent on asking him to resign as President.
The Labinjos have declined to make comment on this raging allegations.