The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said on Monday it had reached a final settlement with AITEO Group over an outstanding $202.4 million (about N62 billion) debt in respect of under-delivery of petroleum products under the crude swap contract between 2012 and 2014.
Under the crude swap deal by the NNPC during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the NNPC allocated crude oil to trading companies in exchange for processed petroleum products. That deal was criticised by several analysts who argued that the oil firms were, in collusion with top public officials, cheating the Nigerian government. The government had said it embarked on the deal because, among others, the local refineries were not working optimally and so as to reduce cash payment for imported petrol.
On Monday, the NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu said following extensive reconciliation of records between their business transactions and subsequent agreement, AITEO Group paid in full all its outstanding indebtedness to all NNPC downstream entities totalling about $202.35 million.
Mr. Ughamadu said the amount included AITEO’s share of the total $184 million indebtedness by three companies on crude swap obligations, which included Televeras Group of Companies and Ontario Oil Gas Ltd.
Although Televeras Group, at the end of negotiations with the NNPC, agreed pay an initial $17.2 million and $10 million subsequently, there was no earlier information on the offer by AITEO, which also agreed to settle its debt.
The NNPC spokesperson said on Monday that AITEO’s agreement to settle the $202.4 million debt following its engagement with the NNPC on the issue was a demonstration of its cooperation and commitment towards a successful recovery process.
AITEO Energy owned by Benedict Peter and Francis Peter was one of the seven major Nigerian fuel importers identified by the Swiss non-governmental advocacy organization, the Berne Declaration, as the worst culprits in schemes employed by Nigerian and foreign fuel importers to swindle the country.
The report, published in November 2013 titled Swiss Traders’ Opaque Deals in Nigeria, described the schemes employed by Nigerian and foreign fuel importers, such as creating offshore subsidiaries referred to as “letterbox companies”, ship-to-ship transfer to create untraceable paperwork, payment of subsidy money to phantom and non-existing importers, and partnering with politically exposed fraudsters to defraud the country over $6.8 billion from 2009 and 2011.
The Lagos-based AITEO Energy, which is a subsidiary of Geneva-based Aiteo Suisse AG, was asked by the then Technical Committee on Payment of Fuel Subsidy to reimburse the Nigerian government over N578 million in subsidy fund it falsely collected.
The company was one of the three oil marketing firms whose offshore processing agreements were terminated on August 26, 2015 after the contract was found to have been ridden with corruption.
Mr. Ughamadu said as part of the debt recovery process, negotiations were still ongoing with the management of Ontario Oil & Gas Limited to make a formal commitment to settle all its outstanding debts under a crude oil swap contract that existed between 2012 and 2014.
Although Mr. Ughamadu told PREMIUM TIMES, Saturday, that the company, which was convicted recently for subsidy fraud, had offered its tank farm at Oghara in Delta state in lieu of the debt, he said the amount arrived at after the valuation of the facility was said to be far below an acceptable figure.
The NNPC spokesperson said the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Maikanti Baru, has vowed to ensure that the ongoing recovery process was completed and all debts settled.
“The Management of the Corporation under the leadership of Dr. Maikanti Baru is committed to ensuring transparency and adequate public information on the ongoing recovery effort. The Corporation shall continue to provide further update on the recovery process,” he said.