Nigeria: Creditors chase after ConOil for $140.5m debt

*Chief Mike Adenuga.

*Chief Mike Adenuga.

28 June 2016, Abuja — ConOil, owned by Nigeria’s second richest man, is being pursued over a combined debt of over $140.5 million by two foreign and one local companies.

Despite making several pledges to pay, ConOil and other companies owned by Mr. Adenuga have reneged on paying the debts, multiple sources in the oil and gas sector have disclosed.

Things have got so bad that some of the creditor companies have either commenced or are considering commencing legal actions to force the billionaire businessman to pay up having exhausted all options to make him honour promises and agreement to pay.

In fact, one company has successfully secured an interim order from a federal court to place one of Mr. Adenuga’s companies under receivership.

The increasing debt profile of the telecom and oil mogul, who increased his net worth by almost $5 billion in the last year, according to luxury lifestyle magazine, Forbes, has hit some of his creditors so hard that they had to shut down some of their operations.

One of such companies is Depthwize, a local oil servicing company, which is owed $40 million by ConOil.

The refusal of the management of ConOil to pay Depthwize, a small drilling contractor, has forced the company to lay off workers and shut down services on two of ConOil’s rigs until the money is paid, those familiar with the matter said.

“Depthwize says it can no longer afford the day to day running cost of working on the rigs,” one source said.

Similarly, American oil and gas firm, Baker Hughes, was forced to lodge a court petition to wind up one of Mr. Adenuga’s companies, Belbop Nigeria Limited, over a USD $12.09 million bill they had been unsuccessfully trying to get the company to pay.

Baker Hughes argued that in 2009, Belbop awarded it a contract for the provision of directional drilling, MWD/LWD services and supply of drilling fluids and drilling bits, logging cabin and surface acquisition system.

The company told the court that after it duly discharged its obligation and rendered all requisite services, Belbop refused to pay. Baker Hughes said it incurred a liability of $9.4 million in the course of executing the contract.

On April 12, 2016, Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos placed an interim injunction on the accounts of Belbop. pending the determination of the suit.

The Judge, therefore, appointed the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court as the receiver/manager of Belbop until the substantive suit is determined.

Mr. Adenuga has also been giving multinational oil firm, Total, the runaround over a $28.5 million debt it owed the French oil giant since 2009.

Although Total has been trying to resolve the debt without litigation, the refusal of Mr. Adenuga to pay the debt has forced the company to stop work at OML 136 gas field. Total is ConOil’s technical partner in the project.

At a meeting held with Total in November 2015, it was agreed that ConOil would pay the $28.5 million dollars owed before January 31, 2016.

That meeting, which minutes is in the possession of PREMIUM TIMES, was chaired by Mr. Adenuga and attended by four executives from Total.

But those familiar with the matter told this newspaper Mr. Adenuga’s company is yet to pay up. All attempts by Total to make him release the money have also failed, insiders said.
Some said they are baffled by Mr Adenuga’s refusal to pay Total the $28.5 million, which would have seen work commence on the lucrative oil field.

The OML 136 asset is considered one of the largest gas fields in Nigeria, with a proven reserve of 11 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas. The exploration of the oil assets would have boosted Nigeria’s economy by creating jobs and would have yielded a massive return to Total and ConOil, they explained.

When contacted, Total’s spokesperson, Charles Ogan, in an email to PREMIUM TIMES, said the matter is an “obvious internal administrative subject.”

Also, ConOil is engaged in a decade-long dispute with British oil firm, Vitol, over its alleged failure to pay a $60 million debt incurred from the lifting of cargoes of refined petroleum products.

Vitol secured a court judgement in the UK in respect of the debt but has been unable to enforce it in Nigeria because ConOil got a stay of execution from a Nigerian court.
ConOil’s financial problems, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, may have been caused by Mr Adenuga’s slowness in taking advantage of potential money earners for the company.

For instance, in 2005, ConOil was granted exploration licence for OPL 257 by the federal government, but the company surprisingly left the block fallow until its licence expired. Now it is frantically asking the government for a two-year extension of its expired licence to enable it explore the field.

On January 22, 2016, Taiwo Olushina, the managing director of ConOil, wrote a letter to the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) blaming insecurity, high cost of drilling and technical hitches for its failure to explore the field before the expiration of the licence.

“Having attended to technical and financial challenges peculiar to ultra -deep offshore blocks, this approval will provide us with ample time in drilling three identified prospective locations in preparation for further development towards boosting national oil and gas reserves and production,” the letter read in part.

The spokesperson for Mr. Adenuga, Bode Opeseitan, could not be reached to comment for this story. He did not answer or return calls seeking comment.

Another spokesperson ducked when approached by this reporter to comment for this story.
Despite being identified by Truecaller app, Mike Oduniyi told PREMIUM TIMES that we had reached a wrong number and promptly terminated the call.
Tax palaver and bad loan

Mr. Adenuga’s companies have also had tax issues in the recent past. In 2009, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) sealed the Lagos office of ConOil, and Continental Oil and Gas, another company owned by the businessman, over the non-remittance of $610 million tax to the government.

Last month, seven years after his companies were first sealed, the FIRS shut the Lagos office of Globacom, the second largest mobile telephone company in the country, owned by the billionaire, for allegedly failing to remit Value Added Tax worth N24.3 billion.

Earlier in February this year, the Osun State Internal Revenue Service (OIRS) sealed the offices of the telecommunication firm in the state for failing to pay outstanding taxes and other levies in respect of mast/base stations and laying of fibre optics.

The state said several meetings were held with the company’s representatives in the past three years to resolve the issue, but that the company failed to comply.

The Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) also listed Mr. Adenuga as one of the country’s biggest debtors for N2.4 billion loan his real estate company, Convenant Apartments Complex Limited, took from Wema Bank.

AMCON acquired the loan from the bank in 2010, after Convenant Apartments failed to pay up, authorities said.
*Nicholas Ibekwe – Premium Times

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