The House of Representatives has commenced an investigation into the acquisition of OVH Energy by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
This was contained in a letter dated 28th August, addressed to the managing director of NNPC Retail Limited and signed by the chairman of the ad hoc committee, Hassan Nalaraba.
The letter read in part: “Aware that the House of Representatives at its sitting on Thursday 27th July 2023 considered the Motion titled: Need to Investigate the Irregularities and Alleged Corruption in the Nigerian Energy Security Provider, NNPC Retail Limited (HR. 171/07/2023).
“The House resolved to set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the allegations raised in the Motion and subsequently constituted the Ad-hoc Committee.”
Consequent to the resolution of the meeting, the Ad-hoc committee requested the NNPCL to furnish it with information about “registration documents/history from CAC for OVH, Nueoil, and NNPC Retail Limited (NRL), Board Resolution of NNPCL on purchase of OVH, Audited Financial Statement and Management Accounts from 2015 to Date OVH, Nueoil, NRL and NNPCL” and the “payroll from 2015 to date for NRL and OVH, Board Resolution of NRL/CHQ for movement of head office to Lagos and evidence of Tax Payments for NRL and OVH from 2015 to date.”
The committee also requested documents on all financial transactions associated with the acquisition, including payment records and fund transfers.
It requested acquisition approvals and clearance by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service and other regulatory provisions; evidence of Due Diligence carried out prior to the acquisition, Organizational Structure of OVH and NRL pre-acquisition and current; Curriculum Vitae (CV) of top management of NRL, placement rationale (Evidence of Test/interviews or any selection method used for current placement) and any other relevant document pertaining to the acquisition transaction.
It added that the information is to be submitted in soft copies in a flash drive at Suite 0.09, House of Representatives New Wing, National Assembly on or before 12 p.m. Wednesday 30 August.
There is no indication that the NNPCL, which has kept details of the OVH acquisition secret, has provided the required information. The oil firm refused to respond to several enquiries by PREMIUM TIMES on the matter.
In October last year, the NNPCL acquired OVH Energy Marketing Limited’s downstream assets to add what it said was over 380 filling stations to its portfolio.
The assets acquired from the company, which operates Oando filling stations, also include a reception jetty with 240,000 metric tonnes monthly capacity and eight liquefied petroleum gas plants, three lube blending plants, three aviation depots, and 12 warehouses.
But in June, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation on the acquisition exposed the secret deals and the complicated ownership structure that left managerial control of NNPC Retail in the hands of OVH Energy Marketing.
The report also exposed how OVH Energy Marketing only had about 94 stations and how over 100 stations were leased.
In addition, the report highlighted how Huub Stoksman, an expatriate and former Chief Executive Officer of OVH Energy, emerged as the new Managing Director of NNPC Retail, a development that further compounded the structure of NNPC Retail.
PREMIUM TIMES also found that the acquisition of OVH Energy had turned NNPC Retail into a toxic workspace, with officials of the former taking over the latter’s running.
But despite a Freedom Of Information request, NNPCL kept details of the acquisition under wraps, with many alleging shadiness.
However, in July, the House of Representatives directed the NNPCL to suspend the OVH acquisition.
This call was a sequel to deliberation on a motion tagged “Need to Investigate the Irregularities and Alleged Corruption in the Nigerian Energy Security Provider, NNPC Retail Limited and the Acquisition of OVH Energy Marketing,” moved by Miriam Onuoha (APC, Imo) and six others during plenary.
The suspension directive comes against the backdrop of the secret deals surrounding the acquisition of the company.
Moving the motion, Ms Onuoha highlighted some of the findings of the report by PREMIUM TIMES, particularly the issues around ownership structure.
“If a firm buys more than 50 per cent of a target company’s shares, it effectively gained control of that company, but in this case, it appears that the NNPC has taken over OVH Energy, but in operational terms, it is OVH Energy that has taken over the affairs of NNPC Retail,” Ms Onuoha said.
She explained that before the acquisition, OVH Energy claimed to have about 380 company-owned stations, a jetty (ASPM) WITH240,000 MT, Eight (8) LPG plants, three Lubricants blending plants, three aviation and fuel depots and 12 warehouses, whereas they had owned only 72 stations as others were leased or owned by third parties, all eight LPG plants were leased, 12 lubricant warehouses listed were leased.
Following the presentation of her motion, the House resolved to set up an ‘Ad-hoc Committee’ to investigate the allegations raised in the motion.
In a separate letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES dated 1 August, the House said it had constituted an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the allegations.
“The Ad-hoc committee has commenced activities leading to the investigations. For this reason, the Committee hereby directs that the NNPCL and its subsidiaries should immediately halt further transactions in this respect, including the deployment of staff to Lagos and the planned transfer of benefits.
“You are also to halt the promotion and integration of OVH and NNPC Retail Limited (NRL) staff and other operations, pending the outcome of the investigation,” the letter reads.
It is not clear if the House has the power to give an order to the NNPCL, however, PREMIUM TIMES findings show that the NNPCL ignored the directive and has proceeded with the integration and even transfer of staff.
Sources familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES that scores of staff members of the NNPC Retail headquartered in Abuja have been issued letters of deployment to Lagos despite the House of Reps’ directive.
This newspaper will, in subsequent reports, provide details of the transfer and how it is affecting the morale of NNPCL staff who wonder how their profit-making company was handed over to a loss-making OVH.
For several days, PREMIUM TIMEs via phone calls and text messages tried to get official reactions from spokespersons of the NNPCL. However, they refused to speak on the matter or be quoted, saying all questions should be directed to Garba-Deen Muhammad, the chief corporate communications officer of NNPCL.
On Tuesday, PREMIUM TIMES sent an email and a text message to Mr Muhammad with specific questions.
When this newspaper contacted Mr Muhammad via a phone call afterwards, he promised to respond to the questions sent to him on Tuesday but is yet to do so as of press time Sunday morning.
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