Mr. Obiefuna Timothy Nwasike is one of the many Nigerians in diaspora who has bitter tales to tell of their experiences in the hands of business partners, bad media and law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.
The former SHELL Petroleum staff, who is based in Basingstoke, England, spoke with our correspondent, Ayo Ogunojemite expressing disappointment and displeasure at the way some officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Sahara Reporters, a popular online news publication were used to harass and embarrass him in an attempt to destroy his reputation. This they allegedly did in connivance with one of his business partners in Nigeria, Mr. Okwy Okwudili Okeke, the Managing Director of Continental Alarms Limited (CAL)
According to him, Okwy Okeke sent the EFCC after him for trying to expose his unethical business practices, embezzlement and misappropriation of company’s fund.
On how he came to do business with Mr. Okeke, Nwasike stated that Mr. Okwy Okeke is a young man twenty years my junior. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend in 2011 or thereabouts. Okwy had just returned to Nigeria after a series of failures in the US and needed rehabilitation in business. Over a period, we discussed and agreed to work together. I invested in CAL and invited a close friend to join me as an investor, with 20% equity held by us. I was appointed as CAL chairman and with an equity investment. I paid for my shares in CAL in cash, and the business took off. I trusted Okwy Okeke and did not pay any attention to the way that he was running the company. For example, I allowed him and CAL to use my private company, Chester Mead Associates Limited (CMA) to deliver services to Shell Petroleum. Significant work was delivered to Shell over that three-year period and Okwy was operating the account that we set up for the business with Sterling bank.
I trusted him with no holds barred. Some three and half years later it became clear to me that the flow of money into the company was being diverted by Okwy Okeke. I had asked our finance team leader in CMA to carry out an audit and we discovered a level of theft on a grand scale. Among other governance misbehavior, as Managing Director, Mr. Okeke single handedly appointed new Board directors and placed a friend of his as the external auditor of CAL. He unilaterally placed himself on US$20,000 a month in fees. He never called for board meetings until mid-2015 when I complained and made a claim against him.
In parallel, I recall that in 2013, as part of my efforts to grow the CAL business, I encouraged Okwy and another company that I promoted and am Chairman of in Nigeria to team up to set up a JV relationship In less than ninety days, it became very clear to our team that Okwy Okeke was not an individual that we share the same ethical approach in business with. The JV was aborted. This company was to later set up a sole IT security subsidiary along the same service line and it has since been succeeding very well”.
I saw Okwy as a younger brother who I should help to develop in business. I gave him unhindered access to my business, and to my network of contacts. After three years, he abused and raped my good will, and created a story with his friends in statutory financial compliance departments to enable them arrest me on 16th July 2017. He then arranged with Sahara Reporters publishers to try to damage my reputation. But I am still standing strong and unbowed he said.
He however advised the EFCC to be more thorough in their investigations to make sure that the innocent does not suffer unjustly like he did.
“Your practices and approach in fighting corruption is below the cut off threshold for good governance in corruption fighting. Be prepared to apologize when you make mistakes in the fight to rid Nigeria of corruption” he said.
Engr. Nwasike regretted having anything to do with Mr. Okwy Okeke and wished that he never even met him. Speaking further, he advised investors, especially those who are not based in the country to be careful and make sure that they do a thorough background check of the integrity of those they want to partner with.
I deeply regret meeting Okwy Okeke. My wife has always in the 35 years of our marriage, advised me to not trust too much. The truth is that, I trusted Okwy Okeke from day one, I did so because he was introduced to me by a friend but he betrayed my trust and took me to the cleaners. I regret the day I met him. There is a ‘reward’ that God has marked up for those who return good with evil. I delivered a lot of scope to him but he chose to stab me. He placed me in EFCC and took along Sahara Reporters to damage my reputation. For the evil that he returned to me, the reward that goes to those who return good with evil, will be his portion. Of that I am sure. I will focus outside his sphere of influence for the rest of my life. The issue with Okwy Okeke drew me closer to my other business partners. It also drew members of my family closer as we came together to fight the enemy from outside. It is as if God placed several prominent and respected business associates in Nigeria in my path to protect me during the trauma of the EFCC/Okwy Okeke experience. From the experience, I have seen that I have a sound set of friends and business partners that God has blessed me with, all these years. I really needn’t have bothered to go into a relationship with CAL and Okwy Okeke. Now I know better. I will like to advise all those willing to do business with Nigerians to first do a proper due diligence exercise on the business scope, and on the parties they are entering into business with. Compile a Risk Register and seriously determine how to manage the risks that will be come up during the business execution, be very clear on their exit strategy, i.e. they need to know when to leave the business and how to leave. Finally, they should avoid smooth operators who say all the right things.
Engr. Nwasike gave our correspondent a peek into his background. “My name is Obiefuna Timothy Nwasike, my friends call me Obi or OTN, I am also Ugwu, an abridged form of my traditional title. I was born at. St. David’s Hospital in Cardiff Wales at 1325 hours on 7th September 1954. At the time of my birth, my father, Edmund Phillip Onuora Nwasike had recently graduated Summa Cum Laude in Mining Engineering from the University of Wales in Cardiff in 1952 and was training in coal mining operations services in the Rhonda Valley in Wales. My mother, Maud Odinchezo Nwasike had arrived the UK from Nigeria and joined my dad Edmund on his graduation in 1952. We returned to Nigeria on the Aurora ship owned by the Elder Dempster Lines in May 1955. We lived in Enugu, where he worked as Nigeria’s premier mining engineer, founding president of Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, and first black man to preside over the Nigerian Coal Corporation, until he passed in April 1967 and the war started shortly after. The war years were spent in Biafra as refugees.
“I attended primary school at All Saints School in Enugu and regularly attended All Saints Church in the GRA area of Enugu where we lived. My primary school teachers were English and Scottish mistresses, sent to Nigeria by the Anglican Church of England and Scotland. After a period of secondary schooling in Government Secondary School Afikpo and higher school at Kings College in Lagos, Nigeria, I returned to Wales where I attended the University of Wales in Swansea starting in September 1973. I graduated with a first class honours in mechanical engineering in June 1976 and also won The Institute of Mechanical Engineers Prize for the Best Graduating Student in June 1976, having won the Frederic Bacon Prize for Excellence in 1975.
“On graduation from Swansea in July 1976, I gained a scholarship from The Ford Foundation that enabled me to undertake post graduate research in Environmental Engineering Science at The California Institute of Technology, CALTECH, in Pasadena I graduated with a masters’ degree in July 1976 following a short period of research in The Combustion of Coal Particles and Impact of Particle Size on Air Quality in the Los Angeles Valley. I returned to Nigeria in February 1979 and served the NYSC in Lagos state.
“My university education in the UK was sponsored by The Shell Petroleum Company who had awarded me the highly prized Shell Scholarship in September 1973. On my return in May 1979, I was immediately employed by The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria in 1979 as a trainee Mechanical Project Engineer after my NYSC.
“I have been in the oil and gas industry since 1978 till today. My career has taken me across many environmental regimes handling oil field development in West Africa, Middle East, North Sea, Central Asia and North America. Along the way, the oil industry developed me in Human Resources practices and management during which tenure I handled an assignment as Head General Services managing real estate assets in Shell’s Eastern Division around Port Harcourt.
“I left Shell employment in September 2000 and set up Chester Mead Associates Limited, a private company delivering engineering and project management services to clients in the oil sector.
“Ten years ago, along with a very good friend of mine, we set up Alpha Mead Facilities & Management Ltd. I am the Chairman and my friend Mr. Femi Akintunde is the GMD/CEO of Alpha Mead Group. We have about 700 employees and provides services across many African and Middle East countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, Senegal and Dubai.
“With spare time on my hands since January 2015, I read and write a lot. I have two book projects in the pipeline – the first one is a follow up on an earlier book I wrote and published in 2003 titled ‘Christian Perspectives for Business Success’, and the second one is for now titled ‘Leadership Issues and Lessons on how to improve National Governance ‘. This book is modelled from the Project Management delivery style that has been very effective in the oil sector.
“Finally, The Hillsyke Foundation that I set up in August 2000 with seven trustees has supported over one hundred Nigerians through educational scholarship awards at the primary and secondary level in Rivers, Lagos, Anambra, and Enugu states of Nigeria. Hillsyke is funded by freely given donations from my family that includes some of the trustees. I am a committed Christian and attend The Methodist Church in Sarum Hill, Basingstoke, and Hillsong Pentecostal Church located along Tottenham Court Road in Central London. In Nigeria, I am a member of The New Era Anglican Church in LEKKI Lagos, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church OGIDI, Nigeria”.
He also took our correspondent on a stroll down his career lane, spanning over 40 fruitful years and highlighted some of his business accomplishments during the period.
“I am a certified oil and gas engineer with competency certificates and accreditation in a variety of oil and gas facilities development regimes, i.e. offshore engineering, pipelines, flow stations, gas compression and process engineering, project engineering and engineering administration. I am NSE registered and COREN certified. I left Shell Petroleum in September 2000 as the deputy engineering manager and set up a private engineering and project management firm, Chester Mead Associates Ltd. From CMA, we invested and are one of the two original partners that set up Alpha Mead Group, the fastest growing Facilities a management firm in Africa. We have about 700 employees and provides services across many African and Middle East countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, Senegal, Dubai, and the United Kingdom. Alpha Mead has grown in just 10 years to become a leading FM services company with ISO 9002 certification in Nigeria and which was listed as one of the fifty fastest growing companies in Nigeria by The Tony Elumelu Foundation and All World, an NGO run by Prof. Michael Porter of Harvard University. A turnover of two billion naira was earned by Alpha Mead by end of 2014 financial year. By 2016 turnover was well over seven billion Naira per annum with operations in seven African countries, one Middle East country and the United Kingdom. CMA is now essentially an investor in several companies in operation by ours. We have seats on the board of the firms that we participate in. I am also the chairman of Novantus Energy Ltd that is in business selling gas to users in south-east and south-south Nigeria.
“I also established Chester Mead Associates (CMA) Limited in 2002 to deliver engineering design and project management services to the upstream oil and gas sector in Nigeria. Executed detailed design of a 70,000-barrel capacity crude oil handling terminal system integrating with existing facilities onshore West Africa – managed detailed engineering executed by local engineers, for Addax; the first inland crude terminal designed by a 100% local firm in West Africa.
“In August 2000, I established and launched The Hillsyke Foundation, an NGO creating solutions for widows, the fatherless and orphans. Executed a number of solutions – homeless children feeding program in Port Harcourt Nigeria, widows micro credit scheme in Port Harcourt Nigeria, scholarship awards to over one hundred students in Rivers, Lagos, ANAMBRA and Enugu states of Nigeria between 2000 and 2015.
“I have presented technical papers at international conferences in Norway and London on Arctic Projects and presented papers on Local Content issues at international conferences.
I joined the LibDem political party in England and in May 2005 ran for elective office, which I won, and became a representative for Rooksdown Ward in Basingstoke. At some point, I was also made a board member of the Sickle Cell Society of Great Britain.
“I was given a traditional title by the late Igwe of OGIDI, HRM Engr. Walter Amobi as Ugwu Chukwu debelu n’Ogidi, i.e. the place and person of refuge and rest, and the blessing that God gave to OGIDI in Anambra state” he concluded.