Former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said he was ripped off by a Nigerian consultant, John Chiamehen, who he hired for the planning, design, build-out and rollout of TV Gotel Africa to be based in Abuja.
Abubakar, in a statement on Thursday, offered the explanation following accusations that he failed to pay the expatriates who were brought from various well established outfits from around the world, to set up the television station.
The statement, signed by Abubakar’s spokesman, Paul Ibe, said the expatriates, whose complaints on non-payment had been published in the media, should hold Chiamehen responsible for their ordeal.
Abubakar said “fiduciary infractions” were committed by Chiahemen in his company in the process of executing the mandate, adding that he did not account for the huge resources placed in his care.
So also did the statement accuse the consultant of not fulfilling his own part of the bargain to deliver N150 million to the company from the project.
The statement, titled: “On the Matter of Gotel Expatriates,” said the consultant has since vanished.
The statement said: “It has come to our notice that some persons purporting to be expatriate staff of Gotel Communications Limited, founded by Atiku Abubakar have caused to be published media reports suggesting that they are owed salaries. Nothing can be further from the truth.
“To retool its operations, Gotel had in 2013 hired one Mr. John Chiamehen to lead the planning, design, build-out and rollout of TV Gotel Africa to be based in Abuja.
“To this end, Chiamehen was given a free hand by the founder and board of the company to run the affairs of Gotel.
“Requisite resources, as requested by Chiamehen were made available. On his own part, Chiamehen had committed to a revenue profile of N150 million, among others.
“But by 2016, there were concerns that the Chiamehen management was only long in promises and short in performance, prompting the then board to empanel an adhoc visitation committee to examine the state of the company. The findings of that committee were damning.
“Consequently, the committee recommended the need for a comprehensive audit of the company. The audit revealed serious fiduciary infractions by the Chiamehen led management.
“Further to the audit report, a board meeting was convened to consider the auditor’s report. However, before that meeting, Mr. John Chiamehen bolted and has refused to make himself available to account for the huge resources put in his charge.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the funds dedicated to the payment of salaries of staff, both local and expatriates that were engaged by Chiamehen himself were made available to him. All those concerned are advised to contact Mr. Chiamehen accordingly.
“On the 14th of December 2016, a formal petition on alleged breach of trust, fraud and misappropriation of funds against the former managing director/CEO was filed at the FCIID (Interpol) for investigation.
“Mr. Chiamehen is encouraged to make himself available to give account of all monies put in his charge during his tenure as MD/CEO of Gotel.”
The international broadcast journalists, drawn from CNN, NPR, CNBC and other reputable networks, accused Abubakar of breaching a one year contract they had with the company as consultants.
David Guinan, Ebong Udoma, William Chu, Devon Petley, Susie Iliyan, Teddy Vuong, Hannington Osodo, Kostas Sergiadis and Richard Spiropoulos are among those yet to be paid.
The workers, who claimed they are owed several months of salaries, revealed that they left Nigeria hapless and with only promissory notes instead of monies owed them by Gotel.
They were hired between late 2014 and early 2015 for Hotel by Chiahemen.
Chu said: “Before I left New York, John Chiahemen and Gary Alfonso gave me the rundown of what I’d be doing when I arrived.
“I was told that I’d be based in Abuja for a year.
“I was told that the project was fully funded to the tune of several millions of United States dollars.
“I was told that we had a facility ready to build out and funds budgeted for equipment.
“None of this was true.”