He cannot forget September 12 in a hurry. It was a Saturday, his peace was shattered the moment operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invaded his Ikoyi, Lagos, residence and arrested him. His crime? He was being picked up on the allegation of ‘419’, he was told. Promptly, the media was involved. His picture was taken and the following day the news went viral? On Monday, the print media feasted on it.
There was no more hiding place for Alhaji Mohammed Gobir, erstwhile director and head of Business Development Committee of the Board of Directors of Afromedia Plc, Nigeria’s foremost outdoor advertising company.
The case has not been resolved but Gobir says he wants justice.
In an interview, he says he was not given the opportunity to state his own side of the story, neither was he invited for questioning prior; his traducers went to town to paint him black and make him look like a criminal.
Linking him with ‘419’ is what is beyond comprehension for him. In 30 years of doing business in Nigeria, he has never been indicted, has never been arraigned for any criminal offense, he has never been involved in fraud. Why would he now, at the height of his professional and business life be involved in ‘419’ or what they called ‘corporate fraud’?
He has been a credible businessman and contractor to Federal Ministries, Parastatals, Military and state Governments.
It is this background in business with extensive contacts that earned him the recommendation to join the board of Afromedia in 2009 at the time the company was raising funds to enhance its operations.
He was specifically invited because of his network and goodwill which Afromediaidentified and needed at the time to obtain big accounts.
And Gobir did not disappoint. He says from the period he joined the board of Afromediain 2009 till the time of his resignation in 2013, he brought in business worth at least N2 billion for the company.
He also got Afromedia to set up a regulatory framework for outdoor advertising in FCT, Abuja, similar to the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA).
It is in this context that one can understand the current travail of Alhaji Gobir. The EFCC, acting on the instruction of Mr. Akin Olopade, Group Managing Director of Afromedia, accused Gobir of illegally collecting $3,500,000, N514,457,151.87, $2,102,740 and 51,000 Pounds Sterling at various times through a phony investment deal.
The answer to this is simple, Gobir said. As somebody in charge of business development, his main duty was to secure high level business opportunities for the company. It was on this basis that in one of the several private meetings he held with Olopade, both men agreed on the possibility of the company exploring and receiving capital investments following the melt down in the Nigerian stock market. In accessing the capital investment, money was required to process and access the fund of which part of the sum was expended by Mr. Olopade who later turned around and requested for refunds of which several payments were made in repayment to him (Mr Olopade.)
Both men disagreed on the arrears to be paid as the figures were incorrect, and Olopade did not want to deduct earlier repayments from the total sum, therefore, reaching a deadlock.
That was the main issue in contention. According to Gobir, Olopade even got mutual friends involved in the matter. While that was ongoing, EFCC operatives arrived that Saturday, September 12 and whisked Gobir away for interrogation, accusing him of “corporate fraud” and “419”.
Gobir says, he was not in a transaction with Afromedia, who wrote the petition and took him to EFCC. Whereas, he did not obtain any loan whatsoever from Afromedia, nor was he in a transaction with the company.
He says his dealings were personal with Olopade, the Group Managing Director of Afromedia, with whom he wrote the agreement and whom had received repayments of over 120m via bank transfers and foreign exchange cash form lodgments into his personal accounts.
How could this have been ‘corporate fraud’ when I was dealing with, and making repayments to an individual who changed his mind to carry through a business and wanted his money back. Would any fraudulent person, make repayments when you want to end a transaction, says Gobir.
The next day I was in the media, condemned, and judged without any hearing” Gobirlaments.
Had both men met prior to their paths crossing in the boardroom of Afromedia? Gobirsays he never met Olopade before then but that once they met in the company, a deep friendship developed between them.
That friendship has been seriously injured if not destroyed. Gobir is hurt, aggrieved, bitter, and feels betrayed.
I need justice”, he declares.