06 October 2014, Abuja – After the Sallah break, the House of Representatives will commence investigations of a Shell-operated N700 billion gas project over which allegations of tax evasion of N7 billion have been made by a former employee of the oil multinational.
Following a petition by Chidi David Adebanya, a former Interface Manager of Shell Production Development Company (SPDC), the House Committee on Public Petitions chaired by Hon. Peter Edeh (Ezzah North/Ishielu Federal Constituency, Ebonyi State), said it will conduct a probe into the allegation.
Adebanya further complained that officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) allegedly demanded for N120 million as bribe from him to quash the case.
According to him, Shell allegedly failed to pay various taxes amounting to N7 billion to the Bayelsa State Government as building permit fees on the Gbaran Ubie integrated oil and gas project in Gbarantoro Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
He said in the 280-page petition dated May 21, 2014 that things took a bad turn in June 2010 when Forstech reported SPDC for underpayments to the government of Bayelsa State wherein the then governor, Timipre Sylvia, raised an alarm on the N4.1 billion underpayment to the state government by SPDC.
“To avert international reputational damage that the Forstech allegation of fraud and tax evasion would cause, SPDC hurriedly wrote a petition against me alleging that I conspired with the Bayelsa State Government to defraud it (SPDC) of the amounts so far paid and engaged the service of EFCC to help them recover the payments so far made to the consultant.
“It is not surprising that the EFCC was a willing collaborator given the SPDC-styled cooperation with EFCC,” he alleged.
On his allegations against the EFCC, Adabanya alleged that one of the commission’s directors, Chile Okoroma, had in October 2011 demanded N120 million from me to close the charade allegations of Shell against him.
He had said it was “within his powers to swing the case whichever way he chose to, so I should choose which way it will be because he had to share the money with Olaolu Adegbite and Farida Waziri (former EFCC chairperson) and according to him, he was also to make returns to the Attorney General of the Federation, Hon Mohammed Adoke, before this matter could be closed.
“He (Okoroma) boasted that I dare not play smart by reporting it because no one would believe it.”
He revealed that the Bayelsa State House of Assembly had indicted the SPDC for fraud and tax evasion and passed a resolution to that effect but the corporation refused to comply.
However, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, dismissed the allegation against the commission as untrue.
The commission, in a letter dated July 14, 2014, with reference EFCC/EC/NA-HOR/06/51 and signed by Lamorde, said Adebanya had been charged to court over the issue.
“While we acknowledge the fact that the hearing is a good opportunity to correct the gross misinformation in the petition, there is no doubt that we would be going against all rational norms of natural justice and inviting anarchy in the criminal justice sector if we allow our Directors of Operations and Legal Departments to join issues with an accused person at a public investigative hearing in this matter without prejudicing the criminal case before the court,” Lamorde said.
However, in two seperate letters dated July 24, 2014 and 11th August 2014, Adebanya tackled Lamorde, arguing that the latter was hiding under “rationalisations”.
“Ibrahim Lamorde, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC has no tenable response to the specific issues of the illegal acts of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), EFCC’s corruption, abuse of office, official misconduct, lack of due process, executive lawlessness subversion and cover-ups under his watch, which are facts I have raised and supported with verifiable evidence.
“He seeks comfort in rationalisations, name calling, abusiveness and subjudice with the desperate hope to divert attention from the subject matter,” he wrote.
The gas project, at the center of the allegation, Adebanya wrote in the petition “is the largest Shell project in sub-Saharan Africa, costing $4.2 billion (N700 billion), occupying a land area of 2 million square metres (about half of Lagos Island) and produces 1 billion standard cubic feet (scf) of gas and 100,000 barrels of oil per day, earning about $30 million (N5 billion) daily in revenue.”
The location of the project in Bayelsa State, he alleged, contravenes the Statutory Development Permit (commonly called Building Permit) as required under the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Act CAP 138, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; the Petroleum Act of 1969 (CAP 350) First schedule section 2 (3); paragraph 35 and Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations L.N 69 of 1969; Regulation 18
– This Day