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Crude oil lifting: Firms deny being ghost contractors

Indigenous companies, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited and AMG Petroenergy Limited, said their companies were duly registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

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The companies were reacting to a Daily Trust on Sunday’s report on December 17, 2017, which tagged them as ghost companies.

Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, through its lawyers, Darlington Ozurumba and Ochai J. Otokpa, said the allegations in the report that the companies were not registered were untrue.

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“Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited is duly registered, genuine and law abiding corporate organisation, while its owner, Mr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, is an honest responsible businessman and politician, whose excellent achievement in public life has received a remarkable recognition,” the solicitors wrote to Daily Trust on Sunday. 

Also reacting to the report in a letter, the group chief executive officer of AMG Petroenergy Limited, Mr. Riqua Murtala Muhammed, said the publication about the company was false.

“Our company, AMG Petroenergy Limited was incorporated at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on Wednesday, March 18, 1992, with registration number: RC 191430,” he stated.

According to Mr. Muhammed, a letter of good standing dated January 3, 2018, with reference no: RGO/SU/VOL.1/2018/0044, was issued to the company by the CAC, stating that the company was duly registered and has complied with all regulatory requirements.

The CAC, in the letter, signed by Auwal Sani Ibrahim for the registrar-general and made available to Daily Trust by the company, partly read: “This is to confirm that AMG Petroenergy Limited was duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a private company limited by shares.”

Companies duly registered – NNPC, CAC 

Earlier, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), while reacting to the report, said that all the companies, including Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited and AMG Petroenergy Limited, given approval to lift 2017/2018 crude oil term contracts, were duly registered.

The NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu,  gave the full names and registration number of the seven companies as follows: AMG Petroenergy Limited-191430; Brittania-U Nigeria Ltd-28448; Cassiva Ltd-1091598; Hyde Energy Ltd-1051332; Masters Energy Oil & Gas Ltd-616872; Bono Energy Ltd¬-609822 and Sahara Energy Resources Ltd-318527.

The NNPC, in December 21, 2017, also stated that the seven companies, based on their records, lifted a total of 8.8 million barrels of crude oil valued at $436.35 million as at October 30, 2017, contrary to the 67.2 million barrels claimed.

Also, the CAC, in its reaction through a sponsored advert dated December 19, 2017, said they could not issue report on the seven companies because the names submitted to them didn’t exactly match the registered names in their database.

On January 3, 2017, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced the list of successful bidders for its 2017/2018 annual crude oil lifting contract.

Following the publication of the names of the companies that won the contract on its (NNPC) website(http://nnpcgroup.com/ PublicRelations/NNPCinthenews/ tabid/92/articleType/ ArticleView/articleId/699/ NNPC-Announces-Winners-of- 20172018-Crude-Term-Contract.aspx), our reporter commissioned an inquiry into the  full registered names of the indigenous companies.  

The investigation was borne out of public interest that the companies’ names announced by the NNPC might be just trade names capable of creating confusion. It was also based on public interest that since the oil market was usually marred by allegations of fraud and lack of transparency around crude sales, precision around the identity of the companies the NNPC awards crude contract is important.

To ascertain the originality of the companies listed, we wrote to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on July 5, 2017, requesting for the legal status of the companies involved. 

The CAC, in their reply on August 4, with ref: RGO/SU/VOL.4/2017.0448, confirmed 11 out of the 18 companies sent to them and said that based on their records, there was no evidence of the registration of seven companies listing Masters Energy and AMG Petroenergy Limited among them.

The CAC, in their letter said, “If you have any document to support their registration you may wish to forward them to us to enable us investigate further.”

We, therefore, wrote on August 9, 2017 to the Group Managing Director of the NNPC for the full names of companies currently holding the 2017/2018 crude oil term contract and daily crude oil volume entitlements for each company. However, our request was not replied by the NNPC despite several reminders by our reporter from the date of the request.

Specifically, on November 7, our reporter also reminded the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu about questions contained in the FOI earlier sent. He followed up with a phone call to Mr. Ughamadu on November 9. On all occasions since August that our reporter asked for reply to the information contained in the FOI sent to the NNPC, including Mr. Ughamadu, they did promise to respond, but did not eventually do so before press time.

Again, our reporter contacted the seven companies through either their spokespersons, chief executive officers, and in cases where we could not get the contact of any official related the company, we sent emails through the main contact address on the website that matched the company’s name. Our reporter asked them questions pertaining to the full names of the entity or subsidiary awarded the NNPC contract, including volumes of Nigerian crude involved.

Specifically, in November, our reporter contacted the spokesman of Masters Energy, Emmanuel Iheanacho, who said in a November 9 text that he could not answer questions pertaining to the full registered name of the company and other questions because he was “out of office for the next three to four weeks.”

Our reporter, who made unsuccessful efforts to identify any contact person for AMG Petroenergy Limited, however, on November 9, 2017, wrote through info@amgpetroenergy.com, the main contact address on the company’s website. 

The Daily Trust on Sunday report was anchored on all the above efforts, in addition to other narratives which centred on findings made through web-based searches for the identity of the companies. For example, a web-based search for ‘Cassiva Energy,’ one of the companies given by the NNPC as oil lifting contract beneficiary, showed that no entity exists as ‘Cassiva Energy,’ but Casiva Limited was found. In its reaction to the story, NNPC said it awarded the contract to Cassiva Limited, which is duly registered, indicating that it made an error listing Cassiva Energy instead of Cassiva Limited on its website.

Knowing full well that these seven companies have been operating in the industry for quite some time with those trade names, however, without the confirmation of the exact registered names from the NNPC, we couldn’t do anything otherwise but to conclude our report, using exactly what we officially obtained from the NNPC website and the CAC.

On the total amount lifted, our reporter used the figure contained in the NNPC announcement on its website, which stated that, “All the contracts are for 32,000 barrels per day, except Duke Oil Ltd, an oil trading arm of the NNPC, which shall be for 90,000 barrels per day.”

Although we are quite aware  that the companies did not eventually lift up to the volume as stated, since the NNPC did not provide information about the daily lifting as requested through the FOI and verbal reminders, we were constrained to arrive at the $3.5bn (N1.1tr) figure after multiplying the daily 32,000 barrels lifting by the seven companies for a period of 10 months at an oil price of $52.49.


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