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Alleged $650 million scam: Who is deceiving the President? [opinion]

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By Magnus Abe

WE will not shy away from defending our national interest. My attention has been drawn to a story by Sahara Reporters titled: “Petroleum minister, cronies plot kangaroo NNPC report to divert $650 million oil contracts to themselves.”

The said story is clearly designed to create the impression of a major scandal and to armtwist the Federal Government in the matter concerning the recent attempt to revoke some oil blocks from a foreign company, Addax Petroleum. To create the needed sensation, all kinds of names, including mine, were dragged into the fray.

For the avoidance of doubt, I recently headed a Presidential Inter-ministerial Committee made up of technocrats from several federal ministries and departments to advise the President on the plight of an indigenous engineering and technology company, Kaztec Engineering Limited.

The committee was set up by a presidential directive conveyed by the chief of staff to the President. There is nothing in the committee assignment that involved the allocation of oil blocks. Nigerians, however, need to know that Kaztec Engineering Limited, a local company, was awarded contracts worth over $650 million to develop the oil fields operated by Addax Petroleum.

In 2015, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari in keeping with its anti-corruption agenda accused Addax of tax atrocities which resulted in substantial losses to the Federal Government.

Addax was asked to pay. But in response they declared a force majeure on their exploration activities and cancelled their investments in the oil fields. The Nigerian company, Kaztec, which has invested of $650 million in the project with Addax was forced to bear the brunt of the entire dispute, which was actually between Addax Petroleum and the Nigerian government. Over three thousand workers were laid off; equipment, vessels and a fabrication yard worth billions of naira borrowed from Nigerian banks went to waste.

Nigerians must look beyond the needless sensationalism and ask the hard questions that need to be answered: Who is deceiving the President?

Is it Addax, the company that was accused of tax fraud, and abandoned its Nigerian investments for over 10 years or the Department of Petroleum Resources that tried to hold them to account for the economic damages they were inflicting on the Nigerian oil economy by withholding investments at a time when the nation is in dire need?

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For the avoidance of doubt, the Kaztec committee was neither set up by the Minister of Petroleum to award any oil block nor is the place of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to award or revoke oil mining licences.

The committee’s report focused exclusively on measures and reliefs, which the government can legally extend to the company to salvage the heartbreaking and tragic losses to an indigenous company.

It is unfortunate that Sahara Reporters made no effort to reach me or verify whatever sensational lies it was fed. There is absolutely no scam on oil blocks, or contracts involved in the Kaztec committee report.

Issues of revocation, allocation and management of oil blocks are  exclusively the preserve of the Department of Petroleum  Resources. In the light of the abandonment of the oil blocks, lack of investment in the field, the colossal losses to the Nigerian economy by the actions of Addax, the Department of Petroleum Resources was right to recommend a revocation of the mining leases  issued to Addax in the national interest.

Those who have contrary interest can pursue same without destroying our nation’s economy.

Nigerians need to know the whole truth about this deal and to be duly informed that there was nothing sinister about an indigenous player in the oil and gas industry deploying its intellect, human and materials resources to add value to the country and its citizens.

There is no need whatsoever to continue to live under the shadows of those trying desperately to use the tar brush against honest and hardworking Nigerians.

It is evident that those peddling lies through Sahara Reporters are the same people trying to mislead the presidency because the $650 million contract referred to by Sahara Reporters was a contract awarded to Kaztec Engineering by Addax.

The Sahara Reporters’ story is clearly a misrepresentation of the facts. Nigeria should not be held hostage by any foreign company. It is time for Sahara Reporters to begin to focus on nothing but the truth and stop dwelling on shadows.

Rather than continue to cast aspersions on credible Nigerian firms and outstanding men and women working round the clock to provide jobs for teeming Nigerians and add value to the Nigerian economy, the news medium should to focus on developmental journalism that seeks to promote such efforts and encourage others to do more for the country and its people.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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