War of words! NNPC, Ifeanyi Ubah meet Reps, clash over diverted N11.1bn petrol

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Ifeanyi Ubah

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Retail and the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, traded words on Thursday over the diversion of N11.1bn petrol from the facilities of Capital Oil.

The House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) is investigating the diversion of the product, which NNPC-Retail stored in Ubah’s facilities under a “throughput  agreement” the two signed in December, 2016.

The committee, which is chaired by Mr. Akinlaja Joseph, had summoned Ubah earlier on Wednesday to appear before it on Thursday.

But, as the testimonies were being taken by the committee, Ubah and officials of the NNPC-Retail disagreed on several issues, including the quantity of fuel diverted and the procedure the NNPC adopted in trying to recover the product.

For instance, while the NNPC-Retail put the total quantity of petrol diverted by Capital Oil at 84 million litres, or N11.1bn at N131 per litre, Ubah told the committee that his verified figure was 82 million litres.

An Executive Director, Mr. I.B. Dansure, who represented the NNPC-Retail, informed the committee that it started noticing a shortfall in product records when the first drop of 21 million litres was discovered in the last week of December.

He added that by February 18 this year, the shortfall rose to 70.5 million litres.

The official added, “By the ending of February when we did a total dipping, the total shortfall now stood at 84.89 million litres.

“An internal investigation panel was set up to look into the matter. We found out that some of our (members of) staff were involved and disciplinary measures were taken against them.

“We later reported to the Department of State Services, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for assistance. We met with Capital Oil and in the course of the meetings with the DSS, that was how Capital Oil paid us N2bn.

“The N2bn was paid in April and there was a balance of N9.1bn after the DSS intervention. We are still meeting with the DSS and there is another meeting fixed for 10.am on Friday (today).

“Capital Oil acknowledged the fact that it diverted NNPC’s product without its knowledge. The accumulated interest on the sum now stands at N1.3bn.”

However, Ubah replied that his firm committed no crime, but merely carried out transactions in line with the best practices in the industry.

He explained that by the nature of throughput operations, products could be moved around since the service provider (Capital Oil) was dealing with so many clients.

Ubah argued that what had been portrayed as stealing of NNPC’s product could easily have been resolved through the conventional method of reconciliation of records.

He said he had evidence that the real intention of the NNPC was to get at “certain personalities.”

He declined to mention the personalities or divulge more information citing security reasons.

“We wish to state unequivocally that we did not commit any crime, while affirming in clear terms that everything we have done to this point is within the purview of the dynamics of throughput storage management worldwide, which has been in existence over the nine years of our business relationship with the NNPC,” Ubah stated.

Ubah, who said his facilities had been shut for months and 2,000 employees rendered redundant as a result of the dispute, disclosed that the same NNPC owed Capital Oil N16bn, but it was not discussing that issue.

“While we called for reconciliation of these issues, NNPC decided to present this issue to the public and other government agencies and in the process deliberately left out important information.

“NNPC, for example, claimed we owe N11bn, but failed to reveal that they owe us N16bn, with a key portion of the debt spanning over two years,” Uba told lawmakers.

However, members insisted that Ubah should restrict his case to the N11.1bn petrol issue and not the total commercial transactions it had entered into with the NNPC, especially that NNPC-Retail was the arm in question and not the entire organisation.

But, Ubah maintained that Capital Oil never stole the N11.1bn petrol as portrayed by the NNPC-Retail.

“It was not made known to the public that the throughput contract allow us to use stock in our tanks, so long as we are able to return to our customers within seven days of their demand.

“Such activity cannot under any stretch of imagination, constitute stealing or any crime whatsoever,” he insisted.

The committee later directed that the copy of the throughput agreement and the report of the investigation by the NNPC should be submitted to it.Punch

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