By Udeme Akpan
An indigenous oil and gas consulting company, Peto-Gas Ltd ( Peto-Gas), has petitioned relevant government agencies and organisations over alleged non-payment of 10 per cent brokerage fee by Trafigura Beheer B.V (Trafigura), the parent company of Puma Energy Ltd (Puma).
In a petition sent to Vanguard, Peto-Gas indicated that it facilitated a $41 million Bitumen Joint Venture deal between Puma and Wabeco Petroleum Limited (Wabeco) on terms and understanding that Peto-Gas would be entitled to 10 per cent industry standard Brokerage Fee.
It stated that after the transaction was successfully consummated, Puma failed to honour its obligation.
The indigenous company disclosed that after writing to the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum, where nothing was achieved, it also appealed to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria (HAGF) to seek redress.
It stated that in consequence of this, a mediation meeting was held on 7th July 2017 at the instance of HAGF, the meeting Presided by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice (SGF/PS) in the person of Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, Esq., and was duly attended by Peto-Gas and its Counsel (Bode Olanipekun, Esq of Wole Olanipekun & Co.), Mr. Victor Umar, Company Secretary of Puma and its Counsel, and the Director and Deputy Director of the Citizens’ Rights Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The company disclosed that at the said meeting, after listening to both parties, the SGF/PS and his team highlighted the numerous inconsistencies in the case presented by Puma and further advised the Puma team to consider settling the matter amicably.
It stated that in response, Victor Umar agreed that Puma would pay Peto-Gas an amount to be communicated no later than 17th July 2017 with a caveat that the payment may be less than the 10per cent being demanded by Peto-Gas.
The company indicated that Victor Umar specifically sought Peto-Gas’ approval in principle that Peto-Gas was willing to reduce its demand and Peto-Gas responded in the positive.
It stated that: ‘’Typical of Puma, by a letter dated 17th July 2017 to the HAGF, Puma reneged on the agreement and stated that “the management of Puma Energy has carefully reviewed the aforesaid suggestions, and is unable to find basis to make any settlement offer of any kind to Peto-Gas.
‘’At this juncture, it is important to highlight that Puma’s position has been characterized by crafty inconsistencies, half-truths and total denial of obvious facts. For instance, in response to Peto-Gas’ Letter of Demand dated 4th August 2016, by a letter dated 14th Sep 2016, Puma denied ever having anything to do with Peto-Gas! Subsequently, via a letter of reply to Peto-Gas Petition dated 31st January 2017 to the HAGF , Puma made a 360 degree turn and stated that all services provided by Peto-Gas has been duly paid for. At another instance, Puma contended that Peto-Gas played no part during over one year of the commercial negotiation and due diligence of the $41m Wabeco J.V Deal.
‘’To further show that Puma/Trafigura is not a witness of truth, and that its representations should not be taken serious: Puma in a letter dated 31st January 2017 to HAGF claimed that the inaugural meeting organised by Peto-Gas between Puma and Wabeco in respect of the Joint Venture was not fruitful. Whereas that meeting was the foundation which ultimately culminated into the $41m J.V Deal in contention.
‘’In a letter dated 31st January 2017 to HAGF, Puma stated that the contract in issue was a private arrangement between the MD of Peto-Gas and one Mr. Steve Carty who was merely known to Puma through his former position as the Vice President at Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd. Whereas available documentation from the Corpoate Affairs Commission revealed that Mr. Carty was a Director of Puma between 2004 and 2011 and was indeed Puma’s local boss with sufficient authority to bind Puma in the instant transaction. Puma elected to deny Mr. Steve Carthy and misrepresented his position to HAGF because it was convenient to do so.
‘’Out of desperation, Puma obtained a letter dated 30th November 2016 from Wabeco, stating that Peto-Gas or any of its personnel has never had any dealings with Wabeco. Whereas, Mr. Salim Audu who served as Wabeco’s Depot Manager for 35 years (1985-2015) via a letter dated 28th March, 2017 to Office the HAGF confirmed Mr. Adelanwa Saheed’s (MD Peto-Gas) decade long professional service to Wabeco. Puma also surprisingly confirmed in a letter to HAGF dated 31st January 2017 that the particular introductory Puma meeting held on 9th October 2010 with Chika Okoli and Ik Okoli of Wabeco in respect of ‘Nigeria Bitumen Business Case’ which ultimately culminated into the $41m J.V Deal in contention was indeed initiated by Mr. Adelanwa Saheed of Peto-gas Ltd.
‘’Puma procured a letter dated 27th February, 2017 (from its parent company-Trafigura) where it was misrepresented to HAGF that Puma Energy is not their subsidiary. Whereas, Trafigura owns currently 49.6% of Puma Group as can be seen at page 3 of Trafigura’s corporate website which can be accessed via: https://www.trafigura.com/3370/trafigura-corporate-brochure-2017-en.pdf
‘’Puma in a letter dated 31st January, 2017 to the HAGF stated that Peto-Gas ‘obviously noticed in the newspaper article (Appendix 3 of his original submission) that Puma has carried out a transaction’. Whereas, Peto-Gas’ first letter of demand was dated 4th August, 2016 which predated the said Newspaper publication dated 8th September, 2016.
‘’Puma stated in their letter dated 31st January, 2017 to the HAGF that leveraging on the relationship that exist between the management of Wabeco and Puma, in September 2014, both entities struck a deal for puma to acquire terminal in Cotonou, controlled by Wabeco’. Also unfortunately for Puma, at the aforementioned Mediation meeting, Puma presented another shocking argument that it was another (unnamed) party entirely that brought the Wabeco J. V Deal in 2015- and not Peto-Gas. Whereas, it is incontrovertible from all the foregoing that Peto-Gas facilitated the foundational introduction meeting between Puma to Wabeco on 9th October 2010 which preceded the said ‘Puma’s acquisition of the terminal in Cotonou, Benin Republic in 2014’..
‘’The above obvious inconsistencies by Puma has said it all. It is a shame that Puma/Trafigura, notwithstanding all the fortunes they have made out of/from Nigeria can be grasping at straw at this time, just to avoid its obligation to a Nigerian entity that has assisted its development immensely.
‘’Unfortunately, Puma has consistently boasted that it would not honour its obligation to Peto-Gas and also threatened to exploit the weaknesses in the relevant Nigerian institutions to frustrate any case that Peto-Gas may institute in respect of same. Hence this appeal to all men and women of goodwill, and relevant regulatory agencies in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry to come to the rescue of Peto-Gas and to ensure that Puma does not cheat Peto-Gas nor deny it of its due entitlements.’’
However, Vanguard visited Trafigura’s website and duly sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, demanding its responses on the various allegations.
But at press time, the company did not respond except the automatic email response saying: ‘’Thank you for contacting Trafigura’s media office. We will endeavour to respond to your e-mail within 24 hours.’’