Integrated energy group Aiteo has denied claims it is the subject of an inquiry by the House of Representatives over an alleged payment of $1.2billion into the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) account and involvement in questionable crude oil transactions from 2011 through 2014.
In a release made available to newsmen, Managing Director, Aiteo Downstream, Mr. Ewariazi Useh said the Group has no records of receiving any invitation from the Committee of the National Assembly relating to the inquiry that is the subject matter of a recent report by a national daily relating to the alleged export of $17billion undeclared crude and gas resources from the country.
He said: “In consequence, no statements or explanation has been provided, on this subject, in this respect, by Aiteo or any of its authorised representatives. It is common and public knowledge that Aiteo has operated extensively and transparently in the Upstream and Downstream space for several years. We have participated in and provided information to several inquiries and investigations into activities in the Oil and Gas industry conducted by the National Assembly, over several years and will continue to do so if asked as we consider this oversight function critical to the smooth functioning of this most important segment of the economy. The comments attributed to us within this publication are, quite simply, totally inaccurate and untrue.”
What is worse is that these comments were published without our being afforded an opportunity to clarify or attest to its veracity. Our view is that this, unfortunately, meant that we did not have the opportunity to demur and thus prevent information of dubious provenance to be circulated in a manner that has now caused us considerable prejudice. The lack of credibility coupled with the manner in which this publication projects Aiteo clearly offend commercial and legal sensibilities in circumstances that amount to defamation, a situation that we are referring to our lawyers for further and fuller consideration.”
According to Mr. Useh, the “discrepancies” that the article identified relating to the Federal Inland Revenue Services’ (FIRS) tax records when compared with monies remitted into the PPT account raises a disturbing dimension. “As we have stated, the National Assembly is obliged, in its oversight role, to investigate matters relating to fraud or corruption leading to adverse fiscal consequences to the country as a whole. We are aware that when this happens, industry players are usually requested to assist the relevant Committee by attendance, provision of oral explanation of role and involvement as well as tender documents. The newspaper account does not make it clear that this is what was done nor does it logically explain why it appears that Aiteo has been singled out as the arrowhead of this significant infraction and scandal. This is despite the fact that at least 10 other significant industry players were summoned by the House of Representatives for the same inquest. None of them received anywhere near the level of adverse coverage that we have now experienced, leading us to the unavoidable conclusion that this attention was deliberate and designed to cause Aiteo maximum, inexplicable embarrassment,” he said.
For the record, Aiteo and NNPC have reconciled our respective group accounts fully, completely and satisfactorily. This exercise has culminated in a position that shows that no Aiteo entity is indebted to NNPC or any of its subsidiaries. This information and position has been advised to the House of Representatives and confirmed by the press statement issued by NNPC in March 2017. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, NNPC has declared, in categorical terms that Aiteo has no outstanding debts accruing from the Crude Oil Swap, the subject of the newspaper’s quite unfortunate publication. We stand by this report and reiterate that we have conducted our business strictly within the confines of our agreements with the Federal Government as an indigenous NNPC Joint Venture Operator focused on ramping up oil production in meeting with the growing demands of our economy.
Aiteo is driven by an unwavering commitment to integrity, transparency and accountability to its shareholders throughout its areas of operation. “This commitment is the cornerstone of our resilience and accomplishments in the industry as these attributes underpin our resolve to consistently provide Nigeria with integrated energy solutions that power the future. It is our belief that this reluctant explanation has fully clarified the position which we invite the Punch Newspapers to acknowledge in due course.