By Sufuyan Ojeifo
On September 16, 2015, an online news platform -Premium Times- published an exclusive report regarding the domestic transportation of crude oil contract of PPP Fluid Mechanics (PPPFM) and Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). But in a swift riposte, the management of PPPFM attacked the report on the grounds that it contained, “largely in all material facts, false assertions, misinformation and outright misrepresentation of facts.”
To be clear, the report had sensationally linked some of the promoters of the two companies, including Captain Idahosa Okunbo and Dr Olatunde Ayeni with the former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke in what the online newspaper mischievously described as “fraudulent oil contracts that cost Nigeria billions.”
Whereas, the activities of PPPFM and OMS saved Nigeria billions of naira as would shortly be highlighted, it was clear that the motive behind the publication was to harm the reputations of the companies and their promoters. But the malicious enterprise had collapsed in the face of verifiable and incontrovertible facts contained in a counter narrative by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of PPPFM, Mr. Kunle Oyelakun, published in a number of newspapers on Friday, September 18, 2015.
About three years after the ill-fated voyage of malicious attacks on PPPFM and OMS as well as their promoters, there seem, presently, to be an attempt by some desperate forces to resurrect the dead issue and, more precisely, reinvent the false narrative in their bid to promote some Machiavellian agenda.
The objective of the agenda, according to feelers, is to discount, in particular, the integrity of OMS in the light of the recent award to it by the NNPC of a surveillance contract for the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP). It is common knowledge that OMS has been at the receiving end of sustained domestic and international smear campaign by the former contractor, Eraskorp Nigeria Limited and its promoters, following the decision by the NNPC to cancel the previous contract.
In fact, the NNPC proposed a new surveillance contract to OMS, which is entirely different in deployment structure, scope, terms and conditions from the former contract executed by Eraskorp Nigeria Limited. The NNPC approached OMS to come to its rescue in curbing the monumental revenue losses and breaches on the TFP right under the watch of Eraskorp Nigeria Limited by replicating its (OMS) success story on the Bonny-Port Harcourt and Warri-Escravos evacuation lines.
Understandably, such a big loss of NNPC’s patronage by Eraskorp Nigeria Limited could not have gone without a whimper. In fact, the company is making a heavy weather out of the contract loss. It is in this context that it becomes expedient to situate the desperate attempt to delve into the past to reinvent the false narrative about OMS that could not stand the test of superior facts and figures when it was first published.
That such attempt to revisit a feeble and ill-fated voyage of discovery is being made is indicative of the degree of desperation and frustration by competitors who have lost out in the consideration by the NNPC for the TFP surveillance contract. Indeed, in situations of competition in business, deployment of underhand tactics and malice in the process of consummating deals in order to gain advantage is a common negative feature.
But, quite significantly, the cookie crumbled so effortlessly when PPPFM, putting up a lucid defence for itself and on behalf of OMS, attacked the salacious report with the magnitude of the facts and figures that exposed the impotence, as claimed, of the largely erroneous and misleading Premium Times report.
As it was three years ago, so it is now: the report had, for instance, alleged that the contract for domestic crude transportation to PPPFM and OMS by the NNPC did not follow due process. The same gravamen has been the lot of the proposed TFP surveillance contract to OMS. But on both contracts, the NNPC said it followed the due process and acted in line with the relevant provisions of the Public Procurement Act.
The management of PPPFM had further put out some facts and figures on the issue. For instance, it said in the rejoinder signed by Oyelakun that the company was originally owned by some Israelis before it was acquired through share purchase agreement, contrary to the news report that PPPFM was a victim of hostile acquisition.
It also said that the contract for the transportation of crude through marine vessels was $2.79 per barrel, contrary to the news report that it was awarded at $15.4 per barrel. PPPFM confirmed that the cost was later negotiated and reviewed to $3.87 per barrel.
In addition, the management disclosed that “at this time, the dedicated security surveillance for the provision of six security boats awarded to OMS was running at an average cost of $1.5 per barrel.” It pointed out that “as at the time of Premium Times report, the contract between our company and NNPC, which now includes the provision of dedicated security patrol boats, was at a cost of $5.68 per barrel contrary to the $15.4 per barrel alleged in the publication.”
For those who think that NNPC’s contracts are always sweet, read PPPFM’s tale of woes: “In the course of our operations during the pendency of these contracts, PPPFM has had cause to incur operational losses of US$ 5,790,482.74 and NGN 207, 230,168.10 in 2011 and another loss of about $32 million in 2012. In spite of these losses, the company has soldiered on because of the positive impacts of the company’s initiatives and services to the nation. From 2011 till date, a total of 65,597,698 barrels of crude oil have been delivered to the refineries by our company under the contract without any loss.”
According to PPPFM, “It is important to state that with our company’s intervention as stated above, it is estimated that the nation has been saved about $1.6 billion based on NNPC’s admittance of an average of about 40 percent of crude oil pumped through the Escravos-Warri pipeline due to vandalisation and crude oil theft. This saving is definitely more if the analysis were to be based on the 70-80percent estimated loss of crude oil pumped through the Port Harcourt –Bonny-Okrika pipeline.”
By all reasonable standards, PPPFM and OMS’ performance in the crude movement contract must have excited and impressed the NNPC to no end to necessitate the oil corporation calling on the company to help resuscitate the once decrepit Bonny-Port Harcourt and Warri-Escravos pipelines that could not be used for crude oil transportation. The success recorded in the crude movement contract was under the Jonathan administration while the successful resuscitation of the decrepit pipelines took place under President Muhamamdu Buhari administration.
It is quite significant that PPPFM and OMS have continued to keep fidelity with their fortes which include crude movement and security of pipelines; and have not been involved in oil trade let alone oil swap arrangement. Having not traded a barrel of crude oil or product, it becomes improbable to link the leading promoter of PPPFM and OMS, Captain Hosa Okunbo with Alison-Madueke. Those who have been linked with the former petroleum minister have all been listed with her in court both in and outside Nigeria. Besides, all brief case companies that were owned by her cronies, according to feelers, have been interdicted by the NNPC.
In fact, Okunbo has consistently defended his integrity by stating that he has never, in the last 30 years of his dealings in the oil and gas sector, been invited, interrogated or indicted by any of the security or anti-graft agencies. This clearly explicates his honest and patriotic participation in the relevant NNPC’s contracts where OMS is delivering uncommon values.
The oil industry is sensitive, delicate and volatile. It is one environment where the stakes are always high. It takes commitment, discipline, honesty, integrity and capacity to deliver uncommon values to survive in the matrix. These are the essential elements that have seen OMS through the machinations and orchestrated campaigns of calumny and blackmail to tarnish the hard-earned reputations of its promoters.
Regardless, OMS has clarified the relationship between it and Olatunde Ayeni as that of shareholder, who bought shares in the company just as he bought in other businesses. Consequently, his issues with Skye Bank, when he was chairman, were not connected to the company’s operations.
As it is, there is a whiff of confidence in the OMS quarters that just as past effort to damage its credibility and discredit it failed; the current effort too will fall through. Is this self-belief surefooted or misplaced? Time shall tell.
*Ojeifo contributed this piece via email@example.com