Crude Oil theft: FG’s suit against Shell, Agip et’al and matters arising
IT is not surprising that failure or rather lack of will power to be honest by foreign multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria has stoked a fraud scandal that is gradually unfolding.How else can anyone describe the news Tuesday 20th September, 2016 of Nigeria suing several leading foreign oil companies for $12.7 billion of crude oil that allegedly was exported illegally to the United States between 2011 and 2014, if not to say it was refreshing?
As disclosed, The Federal High Court in Lagos will on September 30 2016 begin hearings in cases filed against Nigerian subsidiaries of U.S. multinational oil corporations including Chevron, British-Dutch Shell, Italian ENI’s Agip, France’s Total and Brasoil of Brazilian Petrobas. The Nigerian government is alleging that from audits of declared exports and what was unloaded in the United States, the companies did not declare more than 57 million barrels of crude oil shipments.
As said in the court documents, ‘some shiploads registered less when they left Nigeria and more on reaching the United States, while some entire shiploads were undeclared in Nigeria, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the cases still are in court.”
Though not many of us knew the federal government had engaged a consortium of experts comprising Nigerian and American lawyers as well as technical partners (both foreign and local) to generate intelligence-based tracking of the global movements of Nigeria hydrocarbons, including crude oil and gas, with the main purpose of identifying the companies engaged in the practice that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas exports/sales to different parts of the world, Agency report had it that, “Michael Kanko confirmed that his U.S.-based ImportGenius database was used by attorneys to confirm declarations made to U.S. customs by shippers and importers.”
Now, following series of investigations undertaken by this consortium, it was established as suspected, that the crude oil declared to have been exported from Nigeria between January 2011 and December 2014, was less than what was declared to have been imported into the United States of America, a country that maintains detailed records and has stricter compliance measures.
Most times, what oil tankers declare they load at Nigerian ports are far lower than what the vessels discharges on arrival at ports in the USA. These were facts established by the Nigerian government-commissioned team of experts. Just imagine what this country would have lost over the years to these dubious business practices of the foreign multinational oil operators who come from countries that lecture us everyday on integrity and transparency in business transactions!
In the law suits as reported, it was asserted by the federal government that there is documentary evidence showing that scores of millions of barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil was illegally exported by the oil companies and sold to buyers in the US alone from January 2011 to December 2014.
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And as explained by the federal government’s legal team in its deputations, the significant crude oil theft for which due payment is being sought by the nation, takes the form of accounting fraud, non-declaration or under-declaration of crude and gas cargoes.
The argument by the federal government’s legal team led by Prof Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) is that cumulative missing revenue, as estimated, due to Nigeria as a direct result of this non-declaration and/or under-declaration of shipments made between 2011 and 2014 to buyers in the US alone is valued at $12,722,600,327.
The case against Chevron comes up first on September 30th 2016.
Different interest groups dangled figures of the volumes of stolen crude oil and blame it on Niger Delta militants when in actual fact “na oyibo wey dey here dey steal the oil give oyibo wey dey America and Europe. It should be emphasized without mincing words that this will be more or less the first serious step by President Mohammadu Buhari in debriefing the real thieves that have been stealing our crude oil for decades.
The federal government was severally accused in the past of not doing enough to address the menace of crude oil stealing either because some officials of government were directly involved or highly-placed people in the oil industry that are usually close to government deliberately deceived all of us into looking at the wrong quarters blaming the Niger Delta militants for the criminal act.
On several posits on the menace of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, this writer had insisted that if the magnitude of crude oil stealing as reported were to be true, then there couldn’t have been anyway such fleecing could occur without the collusion of some major producers in the country and international oil tankers that lift Nigeria’s crude on behalf of the IOCs and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
All these years, these same oil companies have blamed Niger Delta militants for the spate of crude oil theft in the region when in actual fact the companies may have encouraged the “boys” to take some oil so that the companies can hide under that to siphon our oil to their various countries.
Was it not actually suspicious that top executives of the multinational operating companies including Shell, Chevron and Agip were at the forefront of trumping outrageous figures of mind-boggling volumes of even as much as 1.25 million barrels per day as daily losses from their facilities in the Niger Delta?
How is it possible for thieves to be stealing a fixed (pre-determined) number of barrels of oil daily by mere pipeline tapings? This has been my query over time. How can this heist be carried out without the connivance of the owners of the facilities- pipelines, wellheads, and flowstations who also operate the crude oil loading terminals in Nigeria, most times un-policed?
The nation’s offshore arena is littered with scores of mega floating-production and storage platforms bleeding some of the nation’s most prolific wells and fields and yet these facilities are either poorly monitored or even unmonitored at all.
Let’s even look at recent pronouncements by Shell, Chevron, and Agip on magnitude of loss each suffers everyday: The problem of crude oil tapping by thieves, as we were told, is localised on facilities on land and swamp areas. It is a near impossibility to steal crude oil from either wellheads or flowlines in offshore arena without being spotted right on arrival.
Chevron in Delta is majorly an offshore producer (near shore and deep offshore). So majority of the company’s loses to thieves and vandals take place of the Chanoni Creek flowlines. Shell and Agip’s loses due to tapping from their facilities occur onshore- land and swamp terrains.
Question: what is the daily average of Shell and Agip’s combined onshore production that thieves can suck away 1.25 million barrels every day as recently declared by some top officials of these foreign operating companies?
It is important to note that the $12.7 billion reimbursement being asked for by the federal government is just for under-declared or rather stolen volume in the USA alone. The stealing may be of the same magnitude or even far worse in Italian, Indian and Chinese and European discharge ports as some business interests from these areas have over years as revealed in the Salt Pond oil theft scandal shown that they have no iota of regard to integrity and transparency in handling of oil transactions in Nigeria.
As earlier advised, the American established cases should be a morale booster for the federal government investigators either the team in place or new ones to actually extend their searchlight to Italy, India and China and the entire Europe where for sure, we are going to rake-in bigger and mind-blowing claims.
God helping Nigeria, we will get to the root of this matter, if not today, tomorrow, continuing with genuine patriotic commitment and uprightness. God bless Nigeria!