Oil swap deals: Aiteo, Ontario CEOs risk arrests

*Nigeria's House of Representatives.

*Nigeria’s House of Representatives.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

22 January 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja — The House of Representatives has threatened to issue bench warrant of arrest against the chief executives of two trading companies involved in crude oil swap arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, following their refusal to appear at an investigative hearing.

Aiteo Nigeria Ltd and Ontario Nigeria Ltd were in contract with the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC, to return refined products in exchange for 30,000 barrels of crude oil from PPMC through Duke oil, a subsidiary of NNPC.

Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Crude Oil Swap Deals, Mr. Zakari Mohammed told a news conference in Abuja that the firms had so far shunned invitations to appear before the committee, thus necessitating the summons.

The Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, in its submission to the committee on Wednesday, had revealed how Duke Oil got a contract to lift 33.7 million metric tonnes of crude oil.

However, Duke Oil contracted Aiteo, Ontario and Taleveras to execute the contract on its behalf.

Mohammed stated that while Taleveras sent officials to answer questions on its role in the deal, Aiteo and Ontario had shunned the committee’s invitation.The chief executives of the two however failed to appear before the Zakari Mohammed-led Ad hoc committee investigating it yesterday.

Instead, a counsel, Chika Onyebuchi Uko was sent to represent Aiteo.

She told the committee that her clients would not appear because there was a case against the sitting of the Committee and their appearance would amount to prejudice.

“My clients will not come until that case is dispensed with,” she had told the committee.

When the Committee asked her to present a copy of a restraining order against the investigation, Uko could not.
Mohammed told her the futility of that move saying that the House was constitutionally empowered to embark on such investigations.

According to him, “It is clear that you are misleading your clients from your presentation. Is it because of the money you want to make by jettisoning due process. As a legal practitioner you know these steps you are taking is wrong.

“Ask your chief executives to appear within 48 hours and if they fail to appear, bench warrant of arrest would be used against them,” he said and banged the gavel.

The PPMC had informed the committee that while Ontario still had $98m worth of refined products to deliver to the country, Aiteo was owing Nigeria $37m worth of products.

Mohammed explained that the committee was following due process in getting the chief executive officers of the firms to appear by first inviting them.

“After sending them invitations and they have failed to turn up, the next step is to summon them. They have been summoned and they have to appear before us on Tuesday next week without fail,” he added.

Mohammed stated that a bench warrant for their arrest had also been signed by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, for execution by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, should they fail to appear on Tuesday.

He stated, “If they are not here on Tuesday next week, the IG will be asked to arrest and bring them here on Wednesday. We have said that legal representation has no locus standi before us in the parliament.

“Section 89 (1d) of the 1999 Constitution is very clear on the powers of the legislature to issue a warrant of arrest to compel attendance at a parliamentary proceeding.”

“We have formally summoned them to appear by next Tuesday and if they fail to do that, by Wednesday we will inform the IGP to effect the bench warrant of arrest them.

“We have the bench warrant already. This is a national assignment and we can not allow it to be derailed, we are serious with the assignment given us by the House.”

On the fate of the third trading firm, Taleveras Nigeria Ltd, Mohammed said the company complied with invitations.

He added, “Taleveras have been coming since the commencement of the hearing. They were here today. They will be taken on Tuesday.”

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