Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is currently undergoing extensive cancer treatment in the United Kingdom, has strongly refuted claims that she awarded crude oil swaps valued at $24 billion without supporting contracts.
In a statement, supported by letters from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the former minister when she was in office, which was issued in Abuja through her spokesman, Mr. Clem Aguiyi, Alison-Madueke rejected reports attributed to the probe in the House of Representatives on the oil swaps claiming that she granted an “extension” instead of approval for the renewal of the contracts for the swaps.
She described the latest attack on her person as a fabricated tissue of lies deviously concocted to sustain the escalating evil narrative against her person.
Recalling the events and putting the facts in proper perspective, the former minister who spoke through Aguiyi insisted that what she gave were “approvals for renewal of contract for first, a one-year term each for Messrs Trafigura Beheer BV and Messrs Society Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR) in August 2010 and then for a two-year term in August 2011 for the same companies”.
The NNPC subsidiary, Duke Oil, was given approval for a one-year term in January 2011, while two other approvals were consequently sought by the group managing director of NNPC – the first of these on the 29th August 2014 was seeking to ratify all three aforementioned approvals which had apparently variously expired during the course of 2013, the statement said.
“In view of the criticality of the situation, the former minister immediately approved/ratified all three renewals. Expiration of those terms were put at 31st December 2014, following assurances to the former minister that the contractual obligations of the parties to NNPC had in fact been fully met, despite the regrettable lapse in renewal time,” it added.
Alison-Madueke, in the statement, revealed that the said lapses in expiration to renewal dates were seven months for Duke Oil, 10 months for SIR and 12 months for Trafigura.
“Secondly, on the 28th of October 2014, following the recommendation of the then GMD, NNPC, the minister approved OPAs for a new term of two years commencing from 1st January 2015.
“The entities recommended by NNPC were Sahara Energy Resources Ltd, Aiteo Energy and Duke Oil. NNPC strongly recommended and outlined the benefits of the OPAs over the SWAPs and put forward the case for migration from the OPAs and crude exchange (swap) contracts to OPAs fully.
“NNPC posited that the ‘experienced benefits of the OPAs to the federation’ would be much greater. All approvals were due process-driven and were only given by the former minister following formal statutory written requests, which contained the technical basis for the renewal and were sent to her by the GMD, NNPC, as is the normal practice.
“NNPC had clearly requested for the approval of the former minister for renewal of the crude oil for refined products exchange agreement and renewal of the offshore processing agreements on all the various occasions outlined earlier in this press release.
“Whereas, it was the former minister’s responsibility to either give or refuse approval, it was not within her purview as minister to draft, initiate or conclude the processes of signing the final contracts, as it is the statutory responsibility of NNPC to ensure that all technical areas are duly covered and all requisite due process parameters are duly implemented,” the statement noted.
According to her spokesman, “There would have been little need to respond to this particular issue at this time considering that the former minister is still indisposed and would have wished to be left alone to recuperate.
“She will speak for herself in due time. It is nevertheless imperative that records are set straight so that Nigerians and posterity will know the truth.
“Mr. (Austin) Oniwon (former GMD, NNPC) was right when he stated that the 445,000 barrels of crude oil for domestic refining is the property of NNPC, bought from the Federal Government of Nigeria at the prevailing rate and therefore as GMD, he did not need the Federal Executive Council’s or presidential approval to enter into swap arrangements that will enable NNPC fulfill its statutory obligations.
“It was also correct that contrary to the picture being painted in the media not more than 210,000 bpd out of the 445,000 bpd lifted by NNPC to ensure adequate supply and distribution of petroleum products was traded under the following swap arrangement: OPS – SIR – 60,000bpd; Swap – Trafigura – 60,000bpd; and swap – Duke Oil – 90,000bpd.
“What the GMD was required to execute of the above was the statutory approval from the minister for the companies! Refineries chosen by NNPC to participate in the swaps as outlined in Section 4 of the Petroleum Act and Section 20 of the NNPCAct.”
Continuing, Aguiyi said that it is incorrect to say that the former minister gave “approval for extensions” unless “extension” could legally be substituted for “renewal” because what Alison-Madueke gave (and the records are there) was approval for “renewal of contracts”.
“And these approvals were given based on the letters of request received from the GMD of NNPC,” he added.
Aguiyi also described as “extremely disturbing” reports that Trafigura and SIR had lifted crude worth $24 billion before their respective contracts were signed in 2014 and that those contracts were back-dated to look like they were signed in 2011 when their initial contracts first expired.
“If indeed that was the case, then the former minister could not have been party to it, as she was not involved in either the preparation or the signing of NNPC contracts.
“She reaffirmed that she most certainly signed the second set of requisite approvals requested by NNPC for renewal of the contracts of both Messrs Trafigura Beheer BV and Messrs Societe Ivoirienne de Raffinage in August of 2011 for a two-year term.
“The former minister clearly fulfilled her statutory obligations by signing the request for approval for the renewals as and when presented to her.
“She noted that on the 29th August 2014, NNPC sought her approval for a new short contract ratification term that would expire on 31st December 2014.
“It became apparent that NNPC had failed to request for ministerial approval between late 2013 and August 2014 when the previous respective contracts had variously expired which meant that the various transactions had had no written contractual cover for the periods varying from seven to 12 months as follows:
• SIR: contract expired 3rd October 2013 and was renewed 29th August 2014 (10 months without written contract);
• Trafigura: contract expired 30th September 2013 and was renewed 29th August 2014. (12 months without written contract);
• Duke Oil: contract expired 30th January 2014 and was renewed 29th August 2014. (seven months without written contract).
“It must be noted that the corporation gave assurances to the former minister that it had assiduously upheld all its rights and performed its obligations as if a written contract existed during the periods mentioned, thereby ensuring the protection and safeguard of all national interest,” Alison-Madueke’s spokesman said.
He added that the former minister also took time to correct what she described as the erroneous impression being created by the media that she originated the OPAs and swaps.
“It is important to note that the crude oil swap arrangement predates the tenure of Mrs. Alison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum Resources. All the Swap/ Offshore Processing arrangements currently in place and under her watch followed the same rigid template that was established by late Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman as Petroleum Resources Minister and approved by late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2009.
“The Yar’Adua administration had in 2009 signed a one-year term Offshore Processing Agreement with Nigermed Petroleum SA, a joint venture company between NNPC and British Petroleum International (BPI),” he disclosed.
According to her spokesman, “The OPA and Crude Oil for Product Swap were strategic arrangements/decisions reached by the NNPC and the federal government in 2009 in view of the down-time of the nation’s refineries.
“The arrangement was designed to help NNPC achieve an effective and robust petroleum products delivery option to the Nigerian public. Under this arrangement, it was the responsibility of NNPC to identify a crude oil trader and term contract holder who had affiliations with a refinery.
“The former minister’s role was limited to granting statutory approval to requests made by NNPC in this regard. The former minister never exceeded her powers nor did she take on the role of anyone else,” he added.
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
Lawmakers Tensed Over Possible Boko Haram Attack On National Assembly
Lawmakers have been notified of a possible attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the National Assembly complex and other public buildings in Abuja, The media gathered.
Several members of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, confirmed to Punch correspondent that they had been notified of the imminent attack by the terrorist group.
One of them, who is from a state in the South-West, said his presence would henceforth be limited on the premises.
“That is the security alert I saw today. I’m already moving out of here. I’ll only be around when there is a major reason to do so. Nowhere is safe in the country anymore,” he said.
Already the notice of the impending attack has been made available to the lawmakers.
The notice, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, was sent to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, other principal officers and all members of the House.
The ‘security alert’, dated May 4, 2021, was issued by the Chairman of the House Committee on Internal Security, National Assembly, Mr. Usman Shiddi.
It was titled ‘Re: planned insurgent attacks on VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja.’
The alert read, “I refer to the above subject of which a copy of the intelligence report from the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force in the National Assembly Complex has been made available to my office.
“The report indicates planned insurgent attacks by some elements of Boko Haram on some VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja, including the National Assembly complex.
“In view of the above intelligence, I have considered it paramount to advise that all members should, henceforth, use the presidential gate for ingress and egress.
“This is to avoid the unforeseen congestions that are sometimes encountered at the main gates since such congestions could easily be the targets for these insurgent elements.
“Security agencies are, however, actively on top of the issue to unravel and to contain the intended menace. Accept the assurances of my highest regards, please.”
Security has been beefed up in and around the complex since Thursday last week.
For the first time, security operatives on that day checked vehicles entering the premises, causing traffic congestion especially at the third (and last) gate, a process that has continued to date.
Before now, the security operatives were only after the identities of drivers and passengers to confirm that they were staff members, legislative aides, journalists, or persons working in private businesses in the complex.
The media correspondent observed that soldiers joined the regular sergeants-at-arms and men of the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps that manned the gates.
Recall that the Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, had on April 26, 2021, raised the alarm over Boko Haram terrorists taking over a part of the state, hoisting their flag in Kaure village from where they had made incursions into more than 50 villages.
Bello said Abuja was not safe, with Boko Haram’s presence in Kaure – a two-hour journey from the Federal Capital Territory.
He said, “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here.”
The same day, Gbajabiamila had met with the President, Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, in company with the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
On the next day, the House held a long executive (closed-door) session to discuss the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, calling on Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security.
At the secret session that lasted over three hours, the lawmakers unanimously adopted a series of resolutions, one of which was that “the Federal Government should ensure the protection of national infrastructure and assets, particularly the Shiroro and Kainji Dams in Niger State.”
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