By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Two multinational oil companies, Agip and Total, have been sued by the Federal Government for $635million for undeclared crude oil shipped out of the country between 2011 and 2014.
Two cases have been filed at the Federal High court in Lagos by Professor Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), who had handled several cases for the FG on aviation, defence, energy, and financial services.
Hearing will begin next week before Justice Olatoregun Isola.
And there are indications that Prof Ajogwu will also be filing claims against other multinationals, such as Chevron and Exxon-Mobil.
The Nigerian Government in the two cases is claiming $490,517,280 from Total E&P Nigeria Limited and $145,848,102 from Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited.
The statements of claim filed before the court are accompanied by the sworn affidavits of three US based professionals.
The Nigerian Government contends that sometime in 2014, it realised a decline in its oil export revenue.
This necessitated an intelligent gathering of data, which showed that part of the reasons for the decline was the under-declaration of crude oil shipments made by some major oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria.
Professor David Olowokere, a US citizen who is the lead Analyst at Loumos Group LLC, a technology and oil and gas auditing firm based in United States of America, Jerome Stanley, a counsel in the law firm of Henchy & Hackenberg, a law firm based in United States of America and head of the legal team engaged by Loumo Group LLC, made the court statements.
The third deponent is Micheal Kanko a citizen and resident of the State of Arizona United States of America, who is the founder and the current Chief Executive Officer of Trade Data Services Company.
A forensic analysis of export records from Nigeria and the import records from respective ports of entry at the United States of America used by Agip and Total showed discrepancies.
The volume of crude Oil declared to have been exported from Nigeria, was less than what was declared to have been imported into United States of America via the same shipment by the same vessel on the same bill of lading.
Some other shipments were not declared by the defendants to the requisite authorities, particularly the pre-shipments inspection agents. In some instances, the crude oil shipments were completely undeclared.
The plaintiff (Nigeria Government ) alleged further that all crude oil and gas shipments /exports from Nigeria are required to be declared and inspected by pre -shipment Agents appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria of revenue due from the crude oil shipments.
The inspection records are to be deposited with ministry of finance Nigeria.
The Nigeria Government averred that high-technology information technology system including satellite tracking systems were deployed by consultants in gathering the various validated information establishing the shortfalls in the export declarations and the import declaration in the country of destination.
Court documents showed that 57 million barrels of Nigeria crude oil was illegally exported by Total E&P Nigeria Limited, Nigeria Agip Oil Company, Chevron and other companies and sold to buyers in the United States of America between January 2011 and December 2014.
The revenue due to Nigeria as a result of this under-declaration and non-declaration is $12,722,600,327 ($12.7billion) which translates to N2,493,629,664,092 (N2.5Trillion) at an official rate of 197 Naira to one US Dollar
In one of the instances cited, Total E&P Nigeria Limited shipped crude oil using a vessel by name Triathlon to Tostsa Total oil Trading SA of San Felipe Plaza-Suite 2100,5847SAN FELIPE, 770557-HOUSTON United States at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America with a bill of lading number TCVMTRIATIA 1388.
The shipment was not declared to the relevant authorities resulting in the shortfall of 968,784 barrels of crude oil in the value of $106,566240 as revenue to the Government,
Another under-declared crude oil was estimated at 491,850 barrels with a value of $54,103,500. It was shipped aboard a vessel named NORTH STAR and sold to BP Products North America of 501 Westlake Park Boulvard, Houston, TX 77079 United States, at port of Texas City, with bill of lading DROESVD23091101.
On two different occasions 768,990 barrels of crude oil, valued at $84,588,910 was loaded on a vessel named AUTHENTIC. It was shipped to Socap international limited of Cannon’s court, 22 Victoria Street, Hamilton, HM12.Bermuda at the port of Chester Pennsylvanian, United States bill of lading ALMYSVDM17041101 and17041102
The Nigerian government seeks an order of the court compelling Total E&P Nigeria Limited to pay into the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, $245,258,640 being the total value of the missing revenues from the shortfall /under-declared/undeclared crude oil shipments of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Government also wants the oil firm pay General damages of $245,258,640 and Interest on the said sum at the rate of 21 percent per annum until the entire sum is liquidated.
The case has been adjourned till next week for hearing.
In a separate suit, the Federal Government of Nigeria alleges that Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited on 16 June 2014 lifted crude oil on board the vessel named VALUE. The firm shipped the cargo to Philadelphia Energy Solutions of 1735 Market street Philadelphia, PA USA at the port of Wilmington, Delaware, United States of America with Bill of lading number SEUK9HA21304143.
Government claims that the shipment was not declared to relevant authorities resulting in the shortfall of 175,334 barrels of crude oil in the value of $38,573,561as revenue to Federal Government of Nigeria.
On 27 June,2011,Nigerian Agip Oil Company limited lifted crude oil on board a vessel named COSMIC and shipped same to ENI TRADING &SHIPPING B.V. of Strawinskylaan 1641-Tower C/16 1077C XX. Again, government claims that the shipment was not declared to the relevant authorities resulting in a shortfall of 467,614 barrels of crude oil in the value of $107,274,990 as revenue to the Federal Government
Despite letters written by the legal representative of the Federal Government for payment of the shortfall, the company had failed to make any payments to the Federal Government.
The Federal Government of Nigeria now claims against Nigeria Agip Oil Company limited:
*An order compelling the company to pay into Federal Government of Nigeria ‘so account with central bank of Nigeria the total sum of $145,848,551being the total value of the missing revenues from the shortfall/under declared/undeclared crude oil of the Federal Government
*Interest at the rate of 21percent per annum until the entire sum is liquidated.
*General damages in the sum of $145,848,551.and the cost of this legal action.
There are imminent claims against other Oil exploration companies including Chevron.