The anti-granft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has begun a manhunt for culprits of multi-million dollars oil contracts’ infractions.
Already, forensic audit commissioned by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has indicated over 15 oil firms of non-remittance of statutory funds into the government’s covers.
Considered this as a breach of contract, the board, checks showed, handed over the audit to the EFCC for “necessary action.”
A correspondence exchanged between the EFCC and NCDMB, sighted by this newspaper, showed that the commission is detailed to investigate and prosecute culprits who are recalcitrant.
The forensic audit started last November and has revealed huge amounts of non-remittances from operating and service companies.
“At the moment, some companies have owned up to their indebtedness and have started addressing their infractions,” the Executive Secretary of the board, Simbi Wabote, said in a reaction to this development.
“On the other hand, a few companies have remained recalcitrant. We have concluded plans to hand over such companies to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution”.
He did not, however, name the companies indicted by the forensic audit.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government and international oil companies (IOCs) had earlier been bickering over alleged non-remittance of $20 billion tax arrears by the companies.
Shell’s Head of Upstream, Andy Brown, abhors claims by he Federal Government that some IOCs, including Shell, owe $20 billion in tax arrears. He utilized the opportunity offered by the International Petroleum Week Conference in London to air his view.
Government – through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – had last January, written the IOCs intimidating them of outstanding royalties and taxes for oil and gas production.
Specifically, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Eni, Total and Equinor were each asked to pay the Federal Government between $2.5 billion and $5 billion.
Stating that Shell, the largest IOC in Nigeria in terms of oil assets and production volume, would likely dispute the charges, Brosn said in March that the oil firm would need to resolve the issue before taken a Final Investment Decision (FID) decision on its major project.
The Federal Government had, in the letter to the companies via a debt-collection arm of government, cited what it called outstanding royalties and taxes for oil and gas production.
Industry and government sources who saw or were briefed on the letters were quoted by Reuters as saying that Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Eni, Total and Equinor were each asked to pay the Federal Government between $2.5 billion and $5 billion.
Norway’s Equinor, which produced around 45,000 barrels per day of oil in Nigeria in 2017, confirmed the request.
“Several operators have received similar claims in a case between the authorities in Nigeria and local authorities in parts of the country,” an Equinor spokesman was quoted as saying.
The decision by the Federal Government to compel IOCs to settle about $20 billion tax arrears owed states, industries and governments would in the words of the Shell boss then, delay the FID on Shell Bonga SoutWest project till 2019.
“It is something that has gone through the courts in Nigeria, which relates to an original clause within the original PSCs (production sharing contracts),” he said in an interview.
“We will have to take it seriously but we think it has no merits,” said Brown, who steps down from his role this year.