The All Progressives Congress (APC) has called on the National Assembly committees probing alleged revenue losses and graft at the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), especially through the crude-oil-for-refined-product barter, to focus their searchlight on the activities of the two companies involved in the deal.
In a statement issued in Washington, DC, the United States of America, by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, APC said the call became necessary following the discovery that the two firms involved in the swap deal – Taleveras and Aiteo – submitted the highest and unmatched bid of $2.85 billion for the largest of Shell Nigeria’s four oil blocks put up for sale, the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29, which the Dutch oil giant is selling with its 97-kilometre Nembe Creek oil pipeline.
The party described as incredulous the fact that the two firms, which were oil marketers – and not explorers – of less than five years, could make such a huge bid.
APC noted that this has put into a glaring context what may be the opacity of the barter programme under which the NNPC exchanges a huge chunk of the 445,000 barrels per day – which the government allocates for domestic refining – for refined petroleum products.
The statement added: “This bid, by the two upstart firms, must attract the attention of the various National Assembly committees, including the House (of Representatives) Committees on Downstream, Upstream and Justice, and the Senate Committee on Finance.
“How is it possible that these two companies, which were nowhere prior to now, have metamorphosed, in just five years, to become companies that can buy assets of $2.85 billion? Is there a link between this sudden leap in fortunes and the possible underhand dealings in the swap programme, considering that they are the two firms involved in the programme? Is it a coincidence that while Nigeria continues to get less and less from the programme, those who service the programme are feeding fat on it?
“Is there any link between the stupendous wealth of these firms and the ever-expanding huge revenue losses going on at the NNPC? How did it happen that Taleveras and Aiteo have, in less than five years, grown from obscurity into the oil sector hegemony by simply exchanging crude oil for an equivalent refund of petroleum product? And is there a link between the activities of these firms and the alleged missing $20 billion oil funds?
“Nigerians will also like to know: why is it that the highest bidders on the OML 29 are not big industry players but some deal-making firms? How did swap become the most lucrative sub-sector of the oil and gas market in Nigeria?
“These and other questions are begging for answers, and we do hope the committees will provide the answers”.
The party said it would also be necessary for the committees to look into the five-year audited report of the two companies to know the source of their record-breaking earnings and achievement, within such a short time of their active participation in the industry.
“For the avoidance of doubt and lest we are misunderstood, we are not accusing these companies of engaging in any misdeed. What we are saying is that those who are saddled with investigating the alleged revenue losses and possible sleaze at the NNPC must not leave any stone unturned in their attempt to unearth the truth.
“Since the two firms are the main players in the NNPC’s swap programme, and in view of their recent (planned) expenditure profile, they must also come under the scrutiny of the committees”, APC insisted.