EXCLUSIVE: EFCC Writes Diezani, Intensifies Investigations on Kola Aluko, Others

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 The New Diplomat gathered that  with fresh investigations by the anti-graft agencies in both UK and Nigeria which tore down erected walls and barricades, indications are that the sordid allegations of $2 billion fraud and money laundering allegedly involving Chief Jide Omokore, Kola Aluko and others operating under the platform of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited will not go away anytime soon.he allegations of fraud and money laundering amounting to about  $2 billion against Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited and allegedly also involving seven other associated companies began as a seemingly innocuous transaction. But the horrible and baffling crisis that this shocking dramatic tragedy and transactions have left behind is a nation in pains; an energy sector struggling to restore its lost values of due process, responsibility, comprehensiveness and integrity; and a country raped to bleeding points by mindless dramatic actors. The seemingly and carefully scripted tragic play which took place under the watch of the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke , has burst  into public discourse afresh with fresh investigations launched by the British Government.

Documents available to The New Diplomat Economic Intelligence Team show that in a determined bid to clean up much of the dirty deals which characterized the oil and Gas industry during the era of Goodluck Jonathan and recover  several billions of tax payers’ monies allegedly frittered away under the watch of  Mrs Diezani  Alison-Madueke,  as Petroleum  Resources Minister,  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched massive investigations into alleged cases of  fraud and money laundering allegedly perpetrated by  promoters  of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Ltd and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd.

 It was gathered that  some global investigators and the Special anti-crime unit of the British Intelligence have also uncovered startling details of how directors and promoters of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts limited undermined the Federal government under a controversial  Strategic Alliance Agreement ,SAA, endorsed by the then Minister of Petroleum Resources  between the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited (NPDC) and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited on the first hand and NPDC and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited on the other hand. Both Companies are firms owned or promoted by Omokore and Aluko.

One of the leads followed a letter written by the EFCC to Alison-Madueke requesting the later “to provide available information on the companies, including details of all transactions they have with NNPC and related financial records. The letter entitled “Investigation Activities.  Re;  1. Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Ltd.  2. Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd.” and signed by Olaolu Adegbite, MFR, Director of Operations of EFCC, on behalf of the Executive Chairman of the Commission, disclosed that” the commission is investigating a case of fraud and money laundering involving the above companies said to be strategic partners to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)’’.

The letter added: ‘’ The promoters of the companies were also reported to have used the following associated companies operating in the Nigerian Petroleum sector to launder substantial illicit funds out of Nigeria: Fossil Resource. Exoro Energy International, Besse Oil, Seven Energy, Septa Energy, Made in Africa Foundation.’’ The letter dated 16th April 2015, a few weeks to the end of the Jonathan Administration, specifically requested the immediate past minister of Petroleum Resources  ‘’ to provide available information of the companies, including details of all transactions they have with the NNPC and related financial records.’’ The New Diplomat Economic Intelligence Team gathered that the anti-graft unit of the British Intelligence has gathered substantial details acting on the leads provided by the EFCC letter.

But a popular Lagos lawyer confided in The New Diplomat that it was indeed Diezani who initially wrote to the EFCC to investigate the role of some firms in the Oil industry in a number of issues, including the oil subsidy issue.’’ ’’I am telling you that Madam Diezani also wrote to the EFCC to investigate these issues. That was in 2015 to the best of my knowledge.”

Sources in Atlantic Drilling Energy Nigeria .Limited however, confided in The New Diplomat  at the weekend that the company is staging a strong come back following meetings between NPDC and Jide Omokore and his associates on a repayment plan which the authorities have reportedly consented to.. Said the source: ’’The stage is set for this indigenous drilling company, Altantic Drilling Energy Concepts Nigeria Limited, to get back on course, thanks to the recent submission of its plan to settle outstanding commitments to its financial and production partners to the authorities. The company has had meetings on these financial obligations and the authorities have consented to the repayment plan. We agreed it is a debt. So there is nothing wrong in that. Why do we always want to pull down indigenous firms in the Oil sector who are doing well. It should be noted that  Incorporated as Atlantic Drilling Energy Concept Limited on July 19, 2010, Atlantic Energy asserted its Nigerian character when, in October 2011, it became Atlantic Drilling Energy Concepts Nigeria Limited giving it stronger muscle to execute the Strategic Alliance Agreement it signed with the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC six months earlier.’’

‘’Under the agreement, Atlantic took charge of four oil blocks- OML 26 FHN, OML 30 Shoreline, OML 34 Niger-Delta Oil and OML 42 Neconde. It was to provide funds, technical services, drill and sell crude oil. To demonstrate seriousness, it launched a massive search for the best brains in the industry poaching the key personnel of its indigenous and foreign competitors’’.

He added: ‘’There is no crime there. We agreed we are owing now. And we are talking to our partners on a repayment plan. So where is the crime? It is enough of this writing about Atlantic Energy please.’’

However,  top sources in EFCC who said they do not want to comment openly on the issues raised earlier by Alison-Madueke because it is already being’’ investigated in London’’ stressed that the former Minister never wrote to them on the issues contained in the Commission’s letter at any point in time. ‘’It was when we wrote that she replied a few days to the end of the last administration. So it is not true. They want to do Public Relations for her.” The former Minister had in reactions to these allegations and others in an interview where she sought to cast a slur on the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, published by in a national newspaper said : ‘’I chose to empower mostly Nigerians, especially the young ones who had the brains and the guts to dare…I chose to empower mostly Nigerians and took the power away from foreigners who used to dominate the sector. That was why we pushed for the Nigerian Content Bill, which we got through. So you cannot expect some forces not to hate me but I was shocked that Nigerians themselves were ready to crucify me mostly on rumours and not verifiable facts.”

Commenting on this, radical Lagos lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Mr Femi Falana told The New Diplomat that ‘’both the British Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria should take these people to court if they can establish cases of financial crimes against them.  Madam Diezani has continued to insist that she didn’t steal Nigeria’s money. The UK government has requested Aluko’s extradition. Let them be taken to court if they can establish cases against them. It should be clear that none of these financial institutions and countries will release these alleged funds to the Nigerian Government if there is no established case. That is why the government itself has to speed up its work on the subject.’’

But the Omokore and Aluko saga is just one case in which Nigeria allegedly lost well about $2 billion . There have been several tales or narratives to present a heart-wrenching picture of subjects being vilified to stir public sympathy.  But here is the real story. Regardless of whatever stories are being put up, The New Diplomat Economic Team, guided by the fact that the journalist’s duty remains that of unearthing the truth and telling the real-time story carried out investigations in Abuja, Lagos and London. In Lagos, some of the companies which EFCC alleged were used by the actors to perpetrate’’ fraud and illicit fund transfers’’ such as  Fossil Resources , Exoro Energy International, Besse Oil,  have their addresses linked to 27A Lady Oyinkan  Abayomi Street, Ikoyi, Lagos while Atlantic Drilling Energy Concept Ltd and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd have both offices on 32A Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos respectively.

Another company mentioned by the EFCC in its letter to Alison-Diezani, is Seven Energy. But Seven Energy in its reaction said, it was never involved in any money laundering ‘’ cases of illicit oil deals with Jide Omokore  and Gbenga Aluko’’

Speaking with The New Diplomat on phone from its London base, the company’s Head of Public Relations, Mr Joe Kaye said: ‘’ clearly we are  not’’.  We were never involved with that sort of thing’’.  Seven Energy has a couple of high-profile persons on its board. But sources disclosed to The New Diplomat on Seven Energy: ‘’ We are not involved in that. Gbenga Aluko left Seven Energy a long time ago to join Omokore to float Atlantic Energy and was not really with the organisation at the time those deals were sealed.  Aluko left Seven Energy a long ago. Some of us didn’t even meet him on the board and his exit was because of these sorts of deals. But clearly Seven Energy was not part of the deals.’’

 

Sad Tales of Indebtedness to FG, Others..

As at last count, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, was according to reports indebted to the Federal Government to well about $2 billion which the Buhari administration, known for its no-nonsense posture, has vowed to recover.

Several agencies including NPDC, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and banks including First Bank, contractors and workers of the affected companies are on the neck of the company  for payments statutorily due them. It was an interesting  SAA, Strategic Alliance Agreement authorised by Diezani with the NPDC that paved the way for Omokore and Aluko to smile away to the banks – an action which has cost Nigeria, a nation in economic recession well about $2billion dollars. Interestingly, the anti-graft agencies  have revved up their investigations trying to figure out  how NPDC and Atlantic Energy handled some of these oil blocks under the controversial SAA including – OMLs 26, 30, 34, 42, 60, 61, 62 and 63. Analysts and Energy sector experts believe that not even half of the proceeds of the crude oil lifted in the four years have been paid for by Omokore and Aluko’s companies.

The approved SAA which the former Minister said was to empower Nigerians in the Oil Sector  covered  four oil blocks: OML 26 – FHN; OML 30 Shoreline; OML 34 – Niger Delta Oil, and OML 42 Neconde — all sold by Shell /Agip and Total. Investigations at the Office of the Bureau for Public Procurement revealed that the NPDC signed the SAA without due process or recourse to the BPC as stipulated by extant rules and laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

With the sale of the four oil blocks in which the Federal Government owns 55 per cent, the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), which oversees national investments in Joint Venture Companies (JVCs), Production Sharing Companies (PSCs) and Services Contract Companies (SCs),  consequently transferred the ownership to NPDC as the upstream producing arm of the NNPC without hesitation at that time.

Said an insider in NNPC: ‘’People ran the Oil industry especially the ministry and NNPC in very questionable ways during that era. But who are we to say anything to the contrary at that time when Jonathan was in power…Now the Chicken has come home to roast and the ugly events of the past are haunting all of us now.”

An analysts added: ‘’ In serious and law abiding environment, the regulations simply say that NPDC should pay  NAPIMS a signature bonus, but was anything called signature bonus ever paid? The answer is capital no as no  payment was made, leading to a loss of asset by the government of Nigeria and the Nigerian people on whose behalf  those in authority merely manage the Commonwealth of the federation. That singular action led to massive  loss of revenue that should have accrued to the nation’s coffers and this was a fact corroborated by the PwC report on the audit of  remittances from NNPC to the federation account after series of  shouting and vocal  allegations by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to the effect  that no less than $20million oil money was missing..”.

Investigations showed that although Atlantic Energy going by the terms ought  to pay a signature bonus of $245 million to NPDC, but it reportedly paid far less than that amount.Now, NPDC has started making moves under the Buhari administration to exonerate itself of any wrong doing by writing to both companies promoted by Omokore and Aluko to pay up its outstanding commitments. Atlantic Energy is also said to be indebted to First Bank and Skye Bank respectively as  the company allegedly  took loans of $490million. First Bank alone reportedly granted it a whopping $370million and Skye Bank $120million.  Investigations reveal that under the deal which was sealed at high-levels  Atlantic Energy paid some insignificant amount to NPDC as signature bonus from the loan. Thereafter, the promoters of Atlantic Energy wired the bulk of the funds abroad through bank transfers and payments to offshore companies. The rest is history. A sad story indeed.

For illustrative purpose, by  2011, NPDC reportedly lifted crude oil  amounting to (947,096 barrrels) on behalf of Atlantic Energy and remitted $102m into the coffers of its strategic partner; instead of Atlantic Energy to lift oil and remit proceeds as agreed in the SAA procedural rules and guidelines.

This continued throughout the Jonathan era. Again  in 2012 and 2013 respectively  Atlantic Energy allegedly paid cash calls worth $168m, but lifted crude oil of well over 3million barrels, estimated at roughly  over $350 million.

Interestingly at the tail end of the Jonathan era, Atlantic Energy paid zero cash calls and reportedly lifted about 500,000 barrels of crude oil, valued at $54 million.

The funds were transferred overseas as payments for vendors. Now to Atlantic Brass Development Company Limited. It was granted another set of SAA. The new SAA covered four blocks: OML – 60; OML – 61; OML – 62; OML – 63. In this new case, Omokore and Aluko’s promoted companies went crazy as they simply received funds from NPDC and allegedly  never paid even s dime to NPDC as signature bonus. The new firm reportedly took all monies notwithstanding the fact that it lifted about 8 million barrels of crude oil valued at $800 million at the time.

 Meanwhile, following media reports and oil workers protests against the controversial transfer of OML 42 operatorship to Neconde Energy during the last days of the Jonathan’s administration, it was gathered that the Federal Government has reviewed the deal from a JVA to IJV.

Said a trade unionist: “It has been reviewed by the new administration of President Buhari. All those things that were done in the oil sector under the last administration are being reviewed. They cannot fly. What has happened is that it has been reviewed to IJV. Now everything is at peace.”

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Hamilton Nwosa is an experienced, and committed communication, business, administrative, data and research specialist . His deep knowledge of the intersection between communication, business, data, and journalism are quite profound. His passion for professional excellence remains the guiding principle of his work, and in the course of his career spanning sectors such as administration, tourism, business management, communication and journalism, Hamilton has won key awards. He is a delightful writer, researcher and data analyst. He loves team-work, problem-solving, organizational management, communication strategy, and enjoys travelling. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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