*Insists SPDC siphoned 16 million barrels of oil in three years
Lagos — Aiteo Eastern E&P Company Limited has accused Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, SPDC of plotting to finance a smear campaign against its vice chairman, Benedict Peters following allegations of crude theft and diversion against the international oil and gas firm.
A document obtained by SweetcrudeReports on Friday disclosed the alleged plan was due to the ongoing court case where it demanded and insisted on its contractual and commercial relationship rights from the oil giant.
“The latest in the series of plots to malign the reputation of Aiteo and our Executive Vice Chairman, Benedict Peters, came to the fore as our attention was drawn to these developments following an Arise Television news coverage of a press conference on 18 March 2021, organised by the Concerned Nigerians and a number of leading civil society organisations, including the Arewa Consultative Youth Movement, African Human Rights Centre and National Association of Nigerian Students. In the course of this event, the speakers alerted the public of the existence of a plot by oil giant, Shell, to instigate and propagate a global smear campaign against us. It appears that this calumnious campaign is being prosecuted by, amongst other antagonists, individuals and entities running a reports-for-cash media campaign.
“What transpired from the press conference today is that the participants confirmed that Shell has committed substantial resources towards impugning Aiteo’s corporate integrity, presumably to exert penalty and punishment on Aiteo for mustering the temerity to demand and insist on its contractual and commercial relationship rights. We have also become aware that the execution of this campaign will rely heavily on the dissemination and deployment – anonymously, pseudonymously and by remunerated proxy – of deliberate misinformation and incorrect reportage aimed at discrediting and tarnishing our reputation, locally and internationally. This oblique and disingenuous campaign, which we now realise commenced a few weeks ago, appears to have been shamelessly escalated and brazenly intensified.
“Ordinarily, it would have been apt to ignore these developments as unfounded, but recent threats and other worrisome developments, at the behest of this international oil major, have made it regretfully necessary for us to put on notice, the government, our shareholders, host communities, investors, international community, other stakeholders, and the general public about the existence of this disgraceful, unbecoming and unacceptably inappropriate media campaign by its orchestrators against us”, the document reads.
This latest allegation by Aiteo comes following its demand that Shell accounts and pays for over 16 million barrels of missing oil belonging to it and the Nigerian government.
“Hitherto unchallenged evidence of this missing crude is exemplified by the discrepancies in the production figures independently reported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)”.
As is standard in the industry, DPR reports actual reconciled production volumes from the wells that flow to the terminal, while NNPC reports crude measured at the tanks in the terminal exclusively managed, operated and controlled by the IOC.
Aiteo insisted that SPDC had cheated the company from its share of crude oil for three years.
“Their records and statistics align with Aiteo’s reconciled production figures. NNPC, on the other hand, reports crude measured at the tanks in the terminal exclusively managed, operated and controlled by the IOC. It is the analysis of these independent reports that demonstrates the glaring discrepancies”
“2016 barrels: NNPC 16 million v DPR 22 million· 2017 barrels: NNPC 13.5 million v DPR 21 million· 2018 barrels: NNPC 15 million v DPR 25 million”.
“Critically, clear indication that buttresses the fact that millions of barrels remain unaccounted for is the oil giant’s deployment of unapproved metering equipment at its terminal. Complaints by Local Oil Companies, LOCs, including Aiteo, had led to an investigation by DPR culminating in the regulatory agency releasing a report that identified irregularities in that respect and deprecated the methodology used by the IOC. The DPR had also issued further directions affirming its non-approval of the equipment used by the IOC. As a result, it imposed a sanction in the sum of N250,000 on the oil giant for violation of Part 1, Section 2(d) of the Mineral Oil Safety Regulations and the provisions of section 51 of the Petroleum Act 1969.
“Despite this, the IOC has continued to use the unapproved metering equipment, continually understating the crude oil due to certain LOCs, including Aiteo”.
While dispute resolution between Aiteo and the IOC continues, Aiteo said the “ploy” by the IOC to incentivise certain sections of the media to publish false and damning reports targeted at maligning the reputation of the company and Benedict Peters, is being “shamelessly deployed as a means of muddying the waters and diverting the public’s attention from the pertinent current issues.
“The premises of this diversionary tactics have been ventilated and adequately addressed in the distant past, by clarification provided and, most significantly, judicial pronouncements by several courts in Nigeria that have effectively disposed of the allegations comprehensively. It seems inescapably obvious that the purport of this new, inherently malicious, undisguisedly fallacious campaign is a surreptitious attempt to distract the public from the recent revelations about its atrocities against the Nigerian people and the many reparations it will be inevitably made to pay.
“Nevertheless, Aiteo has continued, unperturbed, to undertake and accomplish its identified objectives in its resolve to remain one of the foremost indigenous oil and gas companies in Nigeria. As an indigenous company providing jobs for thousands of Nigerians directly and tens of thousands indirectly, in addition to substantial contributions to the economy, we see ourselves as being one with Nigeria, the country where we have our roots. Oil assets do not exclusively belong to any oil company, but are the collective entitlement and commonwealth of the people of Nigeria, who give companies like ours the assets in trust and social license to operate. This is why issues such as pollution and oil theft have deep impacts on the Nigerian people especially where its effects directly result in degraded environments and loss of public revenue. This also explains the motivation for groups of non-governmental, non-profits organisations would come out as they have done to openly challenge such a powerful entity as Shell”.
The indigenous oil and gas firm urged its stakeholders to disregard the distraction from SPDC.
The SPDC had in an earlier reaction denied the allegations.
“The crude theft/diversion allegation is also factually incorrect. This is a distinct issue that relates to the directive by the Department of Petroleum Resources to SPDC as operator of the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal, an asset belonging to the SPDC Joint Venture, to implement a crude re-allocation programme between injectors into the SPDC JV’s Trans Niger Pipeline and injectors into the NCTL.
“Crude allocation review and re-allocation is a normal industry practice to re-allocate previous provisional allocated volumes under the directive and supervision of DPR, and this is not an exercise resulting from crude diversion, underreporting or theft at the terminal. This industry practice is not peculiar to the SPDC-operated Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal alone and does not translate into any loss of volumes to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The re-allocation in issue was initiated by SPDC as operator of the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal, while the DPR validated and confirmed it for implementation for the concerned oil producers.
“Crude oil production metering and allocation are subject to specific guidelines issued by the industry regulator, DPR. SPDC strictly adheres to these guidelines and the implementation is regularly verified by the regulator.
“SPDC and all Shell companies in Nigeria are responsible Corporate citizens who conduct their operations in accordance with applicable laws and industry best practices”, SPDC said in a statement.
Spokesperson for SPDC, Bamidele Odugbesan declined responding to SweetcrudeReports enquiry on Aiteo’s allegation of the IOC sponsoring a smear campaign against its chairman.