An international oil sale scandal is brewing in Malawi over a multimillion government-to-government oil contract the country reached with Nigeria; and at the centre of the deal is the Nigerian Anyiam-Osigwe group, the business clan accused recently of fraud in Zambia.
An investigation by a newspaper in the southeastern African nation points to what appears to be a flawed oil deal, facilitated by the Nigerian group between Nigeria and Malawi.
The Anyiam-Osigwe group has been embroiled in similar allegation of fraud purportedly by Zambian authorities, in which the group was accused of pocketing $5 million in commission without delivering crude oil from Nigeria – an allegation that draws a semblance with Nigeria’s notorious fuel subsidy fraud. A former Zambian president, Rupiah Banda, is facing charges related to the deal.
The Nigerian group has forcefully denied the charges. In an emailed statement to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, the group restated its claim of innocence, and tendered a letter from the Zambian justice ministry exonerating it of blame.
But as the Zambia controversy appears to recede, another erupted weekend against the Anyiam-Osigwe family in Malawi, Zambia’s neighbour to the west.
This time, the company is accused of conniving with the Malawian government of President Joyce Banda to initiate an apparently flawed oil contract between Malawi and Nigeria; thereby drubbing the country’s already struggling economy, and failing to come clean with the supposed proceeds of the contract.
An investigation by The Nation in Malawi says proceeds of the deal appear to have vanished as no official admits knowing how much Malawi earned from the deal, or their whereabouts.
“Malawi’s State House has dragged the country into a crude oil contract with a Nigerian firm that could be costly for the already troubled economy,” the paper said.
The Nation said the deal was sealed after Mrs. Banda met with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja May 2012, and agreed on crude oil shipping to help deal with her country’s perennial fuel shortage.
The Anyiam Osigwes are close to President Goodluck Jonathan and awarded them contracts while he was Bayelsa State governor.
It is not known whether Mr. Jonathan is aware of the controversy that has now coloured a contract he approved. Presidential spokespersons, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe could not be reached Tuesday night.
Without a refinery, the idea was for the Malawian government to resell the product, raise profit with which it would import refined fuel for domestic use, according to the terms of the contract quoted by the paper.
As Malawi’s Consular-General to Nigeria, appointed by President Banda in an honorary capacity, Michael Anyiam-Osigwe was tapped by the president to lead negotiations with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and sign the deal on behalf of Malawi.
The allegations purport that Mrs. Banda kept a purely technical negotiation away from the country’s legal and oil and gas experts, allowing Mr. Anyiam-Osigwe, who, though relatively experienced in the family oil and gas business, failed to fashion a favourable cost-benefit analysis for Malawi, leaving legal pitfalls for the country.
Worse, for a one-year contract ending April 30, two weeks away, how much Malawi has benefitted from the deal, if any, remains a mystery with relevant government offices claiming ignorance of the matter. At best, the information are contradicting and appear dubious, the paper said.
While the general manager of Malawi’s National Oil Company, Robert Mdeza, for instance claimed the country managed to uplift 900,000 barrels of crude of about three cargoes, he refused to say how much the government has earned.
“All that has been remitted and is in our custody and no single cent has been used,” he was quoted by the paper as saying.
But the paper quoted an unnamed finance ministry source as saying that not even the country’s Treasury Department had the “slightest idea” where the money was.
Even that has been disputed. In November 2012, Raymond Anyiam-Osigwe, another member of the Anyiam-Osigwe family, reportedly told another Malawi paper that the country was getting US0.4 cents in royalties per barrel, which he said totaled $760 000 by November.
He said Malawi had uplifted 903, 691 barrels in August and 997,416 in the second phase in October last year, which is nearly two million barrels to date, a figure more than double the one Mr. Mdeza gave.
History of friendship and business
Michael Anyiam-Osigwe serves on boards of several companies under the Anyiam-Osigwe group, a conglomerate involved in oil and gas, shipping and bunkering, mining, agriculture and legal services.
The family’s relationship with Malawi goes beyond oil. In March, the prestigious Africa Movie Academy Award, AMAA, organized by the Anyiam-Osigwes, was hosted in Malawi to the delight of Mrs. Banda-a telltale of a relationship stretching multiple interests.
The Malawi deal was reportedly initiated by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, President Banda’s predecessor, the Nation newspaper says in its investigation.
Mrs. Banda completed the deal after Mr. Mutharika died in April.
The contract gave Malawi the approval to buy and sell 30,000 barrels of crude from the NNPC per day as specified in the lifting schedule for each month, with an aggregate approval of over half a million barrels a month for the country.
After Malawi failed to deliver a conditional upfront fee of $2.5 million, Mr. Anyiam-Osigwe offered to facilitate a rescue from a different company, Petroleos De Geneve SA Ltd, the agent firm he enlisted to act for Malawi.
The paper said it could not verify whether PDG paid $2.5 million needed before the first uplift was made or the terms, if it did.
The Anyiam-Osigwes didn’t reply email sent to them by PREMIUM TIMES seeking comments for this story.
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