Abuja-based Ice Energy Petroleum Trading Company Limited on Monday admitted that Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Access Bank Group Managing Director, has a family interest in the company.
It said although the chairman, Special Committee on Subsidy Payment Verification and Reconciliation is not personally on the board of the company, he has a younger relative, who holds three million shares and sits on the board of the firm.
PREMIUM TIMES had faulted President Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede as Chairman of the special committee after receiving findings of searches conducted at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to unmask the faces of owners of companies indicted in the House of Representatives subsidy payments probe report.
The CAC finding had indicated that Ice Energy, whose three-man Board of Directors has Aigbovbioise Aig-Imoukhuede as member, had links with the Access Bank boss, a development observers say raises conflict of interest issues about the role of the Chairman of the presidential committee in carrying out his mandate.
Junior relative of Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede on Ice’s board
Incensed by the report, Ice Energy, in a release by its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Chuks Iroche, said the company, alleged by the Farouk Lawan Committee to have pocketed $2,131,166.32 in hard currency (about N345.3million) in 2011 without supplying petroleum products, has no relationship whatsoever with the Access Bank boss, rather with his “junior relative”, Aigbovbioise Aig-Imoukhuede.
“Aig-Imoukhuede on our Board is a younger relative of the CEO of Access Bank,” Mr. Iroche said in his statement Monday.
But even this disclosure has got critics arguing that heading a committee that is considering an issue in which his close relative’s company has a case to answer raises serious questions about the presidential committee chairman and his understanding of conflict of interest dilemma in assignments.
Available information at the CAC on the current ownership structure of Ice Energy shows that the younger Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede controls three million of the total nine million shares of the company as one of the three directors, and some sources believe he is still on the company’s board as a proxy of the Access Bank’s MD, a charge Ice Energy has denied.
Mr. Iroche, who also used the statement to absolve his company of any complicity in the alleged massive fraudulent activities by marketers in the fuel subsidy scam, said Ice Energy did not appear before the Farouk Lawan probe committee because no invitation was extended to it, contrary to claims by the committee that it flagrantly ignored same.
Similarly, he claimed that allegations by the former House Committee that his company collected huge foreign exchange for products not supplied as well as claims that Ice Energy benefitted from subsidy payments, were false, as the oil firm had written to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to cancel the importation allocation it received when it became obvious that it would not be able to meet the deadline set for product delivery.
Having been indicted by the Farouk-Lawan probe panel, Ice will have to explain this to the House of Representatives, anti-corruption agencies and presidential subsidy verification committte to clear its name.
Network of intrigues
The web of intrigues involving the two Aig-Imoukhuedes, who often answer to similar abreviations of their names as Aig Aig-Imoukhuede, is no less evident in another position held by the younger relative in another company, Marina Securities, whose links with Access Bank is so overtly undeniable.
Marina Securities is a Lagos-based stock-brokerage and portfolio management firm, with Paul Usoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as chairman of the Board and Aig Aig-Imoukhuede as director, Wealth Management.
Curiously, two other directors of the company, Idaere Ogan and Angela Jones, are all senior officials of Access Bank Plc.
While Mr. Ogan is a member of the Audit Committee of Access Bank, Ms Jones still works as General Manager in charge of Wealth Management in Access Bank, according to information available on the company’s official website.
Despite the bold-face posturing of the Ice Energy management, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the GMD of Access Bank, would still preside in judgement over the activities of companies indicted in the fuel subsidy scam, including one belonging to his “younger relative”, except the president thinks otherwise.
It is not clear if Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede availed both the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and President Jonathan the full disclosure of his knowledge of the involvement of his “younger relative” in the ownership of Ice Energy before he accepted the appointment as head of the presidential verification and reconciliation committee.
Public officials and bank chiefs in Nigeria often sit on boards of several companies using fronts or proxies, tapping their connections to facilitate businesses for the firms.