SPECIAL REPORT: Adenuga’s Mountain of Debt: Several firms, AMCON chase billionaire for unpaid bills

ConOil, owned by Nigeria’s second richest man, is being pursued by creditors for a combined debt of over $140.5 million by two foreign and one local companies, PREMIUM TIMES has learned.

Despite making several pledges to pay, ConOil and other companies owned by Mr. Adenuga have reneged on paying the debts, multiple sources in the oil and gas sector have told this newspaper.

Things have got so bad that some of the creditor companies have either commenced or are considering commencing legal actions to force the billionaire businessman to pay up, having exhausted all options to make him honour promises and agreements to do so.

In fact, one company successful secured an interim order from a federal court to place one of Mr Adenuga’s companies under receivership.

The increasing debt profile of the telecom and oil mogul, who increased his net worth by almost $5 billion in the last year, according to luxury lifestyle magazine, Forbes, has hit some of his creditors so hard that they had to shut down some of their operations.

One of such companies is Depthwize, a local oil servicing company, which is owed $40 million by ConOil.

The refusal of the management of ConOil to pay Depthwize, a small drilling contractor, has forced the company to lay off workers and shut down services on two of ConOil’s rigs until the money is paid, those familiar with the matter said.

“Depthwize says it can no longer afford the day to day running cost of working on the rigs,” one source said.

Similarly, American oil and gas firm, Baker Hughes, was forced to lodge a court petition to wind up one of Mr Adenuga’s companies, Belbop Nigeria Limited, over a USD $12.09 million bill they have been trying to get the company to pay.

Baker Hughes argued that in 2009, Belbop awarded it a contract for the provision of directional drilling, MWD/LWD services and supply of drilling fluids and drilling bits, logging cabin and surface acquisition system.

The company told the court that after it duly discharged its obligation and rendered all requisite services, Belbop refused to pay. Baker Hughes said it incurred a liability of $9.4 million in the course of executing the contract.

On April 12, 2016, Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos placed an interim injunction on the accounts of Belbop, pending the determination of the suit.

The judge therefore appointed the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court as the receiver/manager of Belbop until the substantive suit is determined.

Mr. Adenuga is also causing multinational oil firm, Total, headache over a $28.5 million debt it owed the French oil giant since 2009.

Although Total is trying to resolve the debt problem without litigation, the refusal of Mr. Adenuga to pay the debt has forced the company to stop work on the OML 136 gas field. Total is ConOil’s technical partner in the project.

At a meeting held with Total in November 2015, it was agreed that ConOil would pay the $28.5 million dollars owed before January 31, 2016.

That meeting, which minutes is in the possession of PREMIUM TIMES, was chaired by Mr. Adenuga and attended by four executives from Total.

But those familiar with the matter told this newspaper Mr. Adenuga’s company was yet to pay up. All attempts by Total to make him release the money have failed, insiders said.

Some said they were baffled by Mr Adenuga’s refusal to pay Total the $28.5 million, which would have seen work commenced on the lucrative oil field.

The OML 136 asset is considered one of the largest gas fields in Nigeria, with a proven reserve of 11 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas.

The exploration of the oil assets can boost Nigeria’s economy by creating jobs and would have yielded massive return to Total and ConOil, experts say.

When contacted, Total’s spokesperson, Charles Ogan, in an email to PREMIUM TIMES, said the matter was an “obvious internal administrative subject.”

Also, ConOil is engaged in a decade-long dispute with British oil firm, Vitol, over its alleged failure to pay a $60 million debt incurred from lifting of cargoes of refined petroleum products.

Vitol secured a court judgement in the UK in respect of the debt but has been unable to enforce it in Nigeria because ConOil got a stay of execution from a Nigerian court.

ConOil’s financial problems, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, may have been caused by Mr Adenuga’s slowness in taking advantage of potential money earners for the company.

For instance, in 2005, ConOil was granted exploration licence for OPL 257 by the federal government, but the company surprisingly left the block fallow until its licence expired. Now it is asking the government for a two-year extension of its expired licence to enable it explore the field.

On January 22, 2016, Taiwo Olushina, the managing director of ConOil, wrote a letter to the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) blaming insecurity, high cost of drilling and technical hitches for its failure to explore the field before the expiration of the licence.

“Having attended to technical and financial challenges peculiar to ultra -deep offshore blocks, this approval will provide us with ample time in drilling three identified prospective locations in preparation for further development towards boosting national oil and gas reserves and production,” the letter read in part.

The spokesperson for Mr. Adenuga, Bode Opeseitan, could not be reached to comment for this story. He did not answer or return calls seeking comment.

Another spokesperson ducked when approached by this reporter to comment for this story.

Despite being identified by Truecaller app, Mike Oduniyi told PREMIUM TIMES that we had reached a wrong number and promptly terminated the call.

Tax palaver and bad loan

Mr Adenuga’s companies have also had tax issues in the recent past. In 2009, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) sealed the Lagos offices of ConOil, and Continental Oil and Gas, another company owned by the businessman, over the non-remittance of $610 million tax to government.

Last month, seven years after his companies were first sealed, the FIRS shut the Lagos offices of Globacom, the second largest mobile telephone company in the country, owned by the billionaire, for allegedly failing to remit Value Added Tax worth N24.3 billion.

Earlier in February this year, the Osun State Internal Revenue Service (OIRS) sealed the offices of the telecommunication firm in the state for failing to pay outstanding taxes and other levies in respect of mast/base stations and laying of fibre optics.

The state said several meetings were held with the company’s representatives in the past three years to resolve the issue, but that the company failed to comply.

The Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) also listed Mr. Adenuga as one of the country’s biggest debtors for a N2.4billion loan his real estate company, Convenant Apartments Complex Limited, took from Wema Bank.

AMCON acquired the loan from the bank in 2010, after Convenant Apartments failed to pay up, authorities said.


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