By ODUNEWU SEGUN
THE Federal High Court in Lagos has heard that a multinational oil company, Total E&P Nigeria, shortchanged Nigeria to the tune of N74billion.
The Federal Government has told a Federal High Court in Lagos how Total E&P and Chevron Nigeria Limited under-declared the volume of crude oil they took out of Nigeria between January 2011 and December 2014.
The Federal Government is seeking an order compelling Total E&P Nigeria to pay it $245,258,640.
The amount, it said, is “the total value of the missing revenues from the shortfall under-declared/undeclared crude oil shipments of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Aside from applying for a 21 per cent interest per annum on the sum until liquidation, FG is also praying for general damages of $245,258,640 from Total E&P Nigeria.Federal Government also filed a similar suit against Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited over similar allegations.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola on Friday ordered Total and Chevron to defend the allegations.
She dismissed their preliminary objections to a suit for being unmeritorious on the basis that they are unmeritorious.
The Federal Government, through its lawyer, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), said his client sued after a forensic analysis linking the decline in crude oil export and government revenue to the alleged under-declaration of volume of crude oil shipped out of the country by the oil companies.
Three United States-based experts -a US citizen and Lead Analyst at Loumos Group LLC, a technology and oil and gas auditing firm based in the US Prof. David Olowokere; a counsel in the law firm of Henchy & Hackenberg, Jerome Stanley, and founder and Chief Executive Officer, Trade Data Services Company, State of Arizona, US, Michael Kanko deposed to supporting affidavits to the suit.
According to them, about 57 million barrels of crude oil were allegedly illegally exported by the defendants and sold to buyers in the US between January 2011 and December 2014.
They alleged the companies did not make due remittance to the Federal Government contrary to the terms of agreement.
The deponents cited an instance where Total allegedly shipped out 968,784 barrels of crude oil, valued at $106, 566240, using a vessel named, TRIATHLON.The shipment, they said, had a bill of lading numbered TCVMTRIATIA 1388; the oil giants allegedly failed to declare it to the relevant agencies.
According to the experts, the crude oil was sold to Tostsa Total oil Trading SA of San Felipe Plaza-Suite 2100, 5847SAN FELIPE, and 770557-HOUSTON, US at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.They cited another instance where about 491,850 barrels of crude oil, valued at $54,103,500, were allegedly shipped out without making remittance to the government.
The government alleged that Total bypassed the pre-shipment agents appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to inspect crude oil shipments.This, the plaintiff said, led to the failure of the shipment records to be deposited at the Ministry of Finance.
The case will be heard on October 25.