Electricity supply to the 22-floor Nigeria House in New York was yesterday disconnected by Con Edison, the local company that is the main provider of power the city. Supply was however restored by the time of this report.
The company decided to disconnect the building from its grid following the failure of officials at the Consulate and the Permanent Mission of Nigerian to the United Nations, which use it, to pay up bills of about $23,000.
Members of staff of both offices told SaharaReporters that former officials in charge of the building, led by Ambassador Joy Ogwu, who served as Permanent Representative for many years, thoroughly mismanaged the property to siphon off funds meant for maintenance of the building, which is about $100k per month.
Ambassador Ogwu, in an astounding act of nepotism, went as far as awarding the contract for the cleaning of the property to her son, who lacked experience in the business, and without the competitive bidding required by law. After she retired last December the son was kicked out as the contractor in charge of cleaning the building.
Prior to the disconnection of electricity yesterday, the air conditioning in the entire building had packed up, making life hellish for Nigerians who work there, as well as others who transact business, such as procurement of immigration documents, in the building.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bulus Lolo and a former Chancery officer, Ibrahim Rabiu, both visited the Nigeria House last Monday only to leave via British Airways on Thursday without solving the billing issue in the building. Their departure followed a closed-door meeting with its maintenance engineers.
Apart from the issues of unpaid bills, the Nigeria House has other issues relating to corruption on the part of Immigration officials seconded from Nigeria as attaches.
A source said that attaches in charge of passports have begun to collect bribes from prospective passport applicants to expedite processing. On many occasions, said our sources, the Attache had people waiting in her office to collect their passport or they simply collect telephone numbers of desperate applicants and meet them in the restaurants in the area to hand over passports after they have collected bribes ranging from $50-$100 per passport or visa.
Also disturbing at the Nigeria House is security provided in the building, which is reportedly manned by family members of Consulate and Mission staff, leaving the building with no professional security cover.
The 4th Floor used to be rented to the United Nations for a whopping $22,000 per month, but that those offices moved out due to poor building maintenance and the floor is now used as a lodge for visiting dignitary who mostly claims hotel refunds when they return to Nigeria.
In 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the Nigerian government over accumulated taxes and debts said to be $16 million. It is unclear how the matter was resolved.
Power supply to the building has been interrupted in the past in similar circumstances.