CHARLES UGWU BLOCKADES PROSHARE NIGERIA WEBSITE

Charles Ugwuh, son of the immediate past Minister of Commerce and Industry, Eng. Charles Ugwuh, is at the centre of a controversy over the illegal blockade of Proshare Nigeria website, a popular investment focused website. According to owners of the website, Ugwuh shut down the site so as to blackmail Proshare.

In a release made available to FORTUNE&CLASS, Proshareng explains that on Friday, November 7th 2008, Charles Ugwuh of ContentOmni made good his threat to shut down the website of the company in an attempt to blackmail it to pay for spurious bills.

Ugwuh manages the Information Technology arm of Proshare through his ContentOmni IT company. He had informed the management of Proshareng that the site would be hosted on a dedicated server for which payment was made to January 2009. This, according to Proshareng management, was backed up with a full year maintenance agreement, equally paid for.

The revelation that Ugwuh had, in fact, breached the specific order to host the site on a dedicated server was made when, according to the Proshareng statement, it discovered, sometime in the first quarter of 2008 that Google had flagged the blog website as ‘possibly harmful’ to users.

“This was brought to his attention with nothing done. We realized the need to take better care and full control of issues related to the site as we were responsible for the site and requested that a 3rd party investigate the cause. We discovered that the problem resides on ContentOmni server for which we had no control over. This led to the discovery that we were indeed not operating on a dedicated server as contracted; and was sharing the platform with his other clients.” Proshareng explains.

Highlighting the reason for the need to have a dedicated server, Proshareng said:

“The agreement states that we shall be able to deliver 50,000 newsletters per 60 minutes amongst other service qualities desired by us. This unfortunately was never the case because of the deceit and non-conformity with the contractual obligation as agreed with us. To deliver this service, the company has had to operate shifts in a 24 hour cycle to meet newsletter demands.

Commenting on the challenging relationship Prosahreng had had to contend with Ugwuh because he held the sensitive information and access to its site, Proshare observed:

“The ContentOmni office in Ikeja was shut down early this year, barely two months after we had commissioned the firm and we have had serious challenges locating him or reaching him on phone when we had service issues which was a daily affair, for which our maintenance agreement covered.

“Most importantly, we needed ContentOmni to complete outstanding work from Proshare 2.0 which remained outstanding till date. A culture of service failures, non-observance of delivery timelines; desperation for money and disregard for client preferences, all well documented in formal correspondences showed no sign of abating.

“As the market entered the bearish state in May/June we feared for our ability to respond to the anticipated need for ‘another type’ of market information during the increasingly obvious market downturn, and requested that the website be handed over for us to take full responsibility for.

“Several entreaties from him for understanding of pressing challenges were made. On one of such visits, we made available additional funds to assist.

“Again, nothing happened and when ten (10) months after, sometime in September 2008 we asked again that he simply hands over the site and refund our money when able, he pleaded with us that we would have the site ready in October 2008.

“During the period of waiting, we requested for but did not receive information on the look and feel, functionality changes, logic for uploading and information on what customers should do and know about the new site. We still do not have that information.

“He rather sprung on us the need to move us to a ‘better’ dedicated server on a day when we were due to load a clients advert and while the website was acting up. It was literally a ‘gun to the head’ moment. We then realized that given the ‘catch 22’ situation we found ourselves, the only reasonable thing to do was to go ahead with it but insist that payment will be made by us directly to the web host, especially given our most recent experiences with him on matters relating to integrity.

“We recall that we have a subsisting contract till January 2009 and reckon that we could validate all works completed by the firm to achieve a smooth handover.

“ContentOmni migrated the platform to a test version of Proshare 3.0 in October 2008. The transition was anything but smooth or professional. Clients, advertisers, subscribers and staff members found it challenging to buy into the site and we thus demanded for a meeting/presentation from the firm. This he said he could not create time to do as ‘anyone should be able to apply themselves to the information there if serious’.

“Ugwuh’s disparaging remarks about users’ level of IT literacy would be considered by some as unusual but his formal response to our request to provide FULL DISCLOSURE of all third parties to which he had allegedly contracted on our behalf was anything, but sincere or professional.

“ContentOmni, he said, cannot and considers it unprofessional to disclose the identity of the third parties with whom he had contracted on our behalf nor can they disclose the source codes relating to our site (though initiated and paid for by us) if we want to take over the site and move it from them.

“We responded by demanding for a meeting as we became convinced of ContentOmni’s resolves to use any means available to them to keep us from being independent of them. When we insisted that we wanted a complete control of third party obligations and direct relationship with service providers supporting our operations as part of the transition, he threatened to shut us down unless full payment was received in a matter of days for spurious bills which included previous work done and paid for, and cost of transferring the website from one server to another.

Knowing our desire and passion to always serve the people, especially at this critical time of financial turbulence; Charles Ugwuh went ahead to block the website by placing a suspended service notice with the view to embarrassing the company and bring the brand into disrepute for no just cause. The notice was placed by ContentOmni and not the web host as anyone with knowledge of such services would know that no credible business will behave in such a reckless manner over disputed bills.

He had hoped that our zeal for service would compel us to succumb to such lawless act of intimidation and blackmail. WE REFUSE! If he is not responsible for the shut down, can he allow us pay direct to those who are, so we can hold them to a higher standard of decorum and service regard.

“This singular action of Ugwuh was subsequent to a commissioned project to deliver on the ideas put forward by us on the anticipated market requirements for investors in the Nigerian Capital Market; known as Proshare 3.0 – a customer centric platform which would remain free for all users. The completed site was due for launch in January 2008, having paid for same in November 2007.” Proshare recounts

“Charles Ugwuh, a son of a former minister, touts and believes that he is privileged enough to ignore the consequences of the shutdown by taking the law into his own hands. Sadly, this will be another chapter in the list of incidents we have had to grapple with this year in what many believe is a deliberate attempt by certain faceless persons/institutions to stifle the service and muzzle our voice in the market. It is not lost on us that the last incident we had to issue a disclaimer on related to the possible hijacking of our mails to which we used the website to immediately quell. More tragic is the fact that ContentOmni, referred to in the said broadcast as looking into the remote causes of such has allowed itself to be a willing tool to shut down our capabilities to defend ourselves.”

“This makes it such a compelling reason, not to allow such a blackmail to stand.” Proshareng affirms.

FOR THE FIRST TIME…A SOCIALIST IN A STATE HOUSE

Finally, an avowed socialist is in a government house in Nigeria. It has been a long trek for that community that belongs in the ideological bend of the Marxist/Engel political thoughts. The first experience with a publicly declared socialist inclined government was way back in the 1950s when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was Premier of the Western Region. Even as the British colonialists lingered in the background of the nation’s political cadence, Awolowo wrought some of the most astounding welfare programmes that till date, people of south west Nigeria embrace the Awolowo years with the nostalgia of a baby’s yearn for a mother’s breast.

Though years had passed, Awolowo’s political exploits and programmes implementation in government have been passed from one generation to the other, and has continued to generate a yearning for a re-enactment of the Awolowo years. This yearning has become more intense with the growing state of hopelessness of Nigerians, seemingly captured in the vice grip of a generation of political brigands that has raised mediocrity to new standards, celebrating the nation’s state of decay with all imaginable plum. It has become so bad that when a Governor of a State buys a bucket for the state’s house bathroom, a large press conference is called and the drums are rolled out to celebrate the “massive” achievement. It tells how much government provision for the needs of the governed has reduced to the deliquence of tokenism.

The coming of Adams Oshiomole to the government house in Benin Edo State provides a new vista for refreshing expectations. Labour and all its philosophical postulation should be the very antithesis of the free wheeling politics of the area boys in Nigeria. The Nigerian state is even more unfortunate because the politicians that straddle the landscape have no idea of what ideological governance must of necessity be administered. The consequence for the country has been the wholesale violence of misdirection that has seized the political environment.

This is just by the way. The truth of the matter is that Oshiomole former labour leader and unarguably, a respected radical now sits in government house, and already, we are getting a feel of the flurry of progressive activities that will characterize political administration of Edo State in the next four years. Immediately after he was sworn-in, the governor declared free education as a state policy in Edo State. It’s a policy that always sits well with the people, south of Nigeria. It was hailed.

Then the governor reeled out other banishments; the banning of illegal taxes at all motor parks within the State and a hint of probing the administration of his immediate predecessor, Prof. Osunbor. It’s just all right the governor has moved the State to the action mode, even, when he was yet to see a single file in the State House.

I dare to call for a slow down, at least in the first few weeks of the administration. Many well intentioned programmes and ideas have failed on the implementation scale, most often, because they lacked well thought out processes. I believe that government policies must be well researched on the template administrative briefing by appropriate officers of state administration. Even if there is a primordial suspicion of civil servants, consultation with them and other stakeholders in governance is important.

While not questioning the competence of Comrade Oshiomole, of course, he had shown sterling qualities with his leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress, I still think governance is different from politicking. It is even more important for the Comrade-Governor to conduct a minimum one week review of the state of situation in Edo State before rolling out his programmes implementation direction. This is against the background of the deplorable state of infrastructure and morale Edo State had degenerated into in the administration of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors.

Generally, Comrade Oshiomole’s coming is a good thing for all that bid good for Nigeria, at the minimum, there is a now a basis to compare labour with the band of degenerates that had for long assailed our sensibilities.