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Alleged $6bn Mambilla power fraud: Court adjourns hearing in Agunloye’s application

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An FCT High Court in Apo adjourned hearing in the preliminary objection filed by a former minister of Power and Steel, Olu  Agunloye until March 4.

The application is challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him regarding certain infractions in the $6billion Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station in Taraba.

Agunloye, who served as a minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is charged with  seven counts of forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.

He was alleged to have among others, on May 22, 2003 awarded a contract titled “Construction of 3,960 megawatt Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station” on build, operate and transfer basis to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

The prosecution also alleged that it traced some suspicious payments made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.

Justice Onwuegbuzie had on Feb. 12 declined to hear the preliminary objection, filed by counsel to the former minister, Adeola Adedipe SAN, on the ground that it was not ripe for hearing.

However, hearing did not hold because the judge was attending a conference.

In the preliminary objection challenging EFCC’s powers to try the former minister, Adedipe had sought an order of the court prohibiting the anti-graft agency from prosecuting or further prosecuting the instant charge against the defendant.

He argued that the commission lacked both investigative and prosecutorial powers under Sections 6, 7 and 46 of EFCC Act, 2004.

He argued that the offences allegedly committed by Agunloye were based on his (Agunloye) activities as a public officer.

He added that the former minister was alleged to have awarded the contract for the power plant without budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

Adedipe further argued that the defendant was accused of an alleged disobedience to the directives of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as a forgery of a letter dated May 22, 2003.

The senior advocate submitted that the allegations against the former minister did not constitute financial crimes and as such could not be investigated and prosecuted by EFCC.

“These allegations do not constitute financial crimes which can be lawfully investigated and prosecuted by EFCC, pursuant to its powers under Section 6,7 and 46 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act in consonance with the supreme Court’s decision in Nwokobi vs Federal Republic of Nigeria (2002) 6 NWLR (Part 1.1826)293.”

He further argued: “not having the mandatory statutory powers to investigate the allegations in the charge ab initio, I know that the purported investigation and current prosecution of this charge by the EFCC is ultra vires.”

He further submitted that it would be most unjust and unfair to subject the 76-year-old Agunloye to criminal trial or prosecution before determining whether the prosecuting body has the requisite statutory powers to do so.

While urging the court to annul the charge against Agunloye, Adedipe submitted that, “it will be fair and just for this honourable court to first determine and render a decision on this threshold issue of EFCC’s competence to investigate and prosecute this case.”

He then stated that it was in the interest of justice to grant the application.

Energy

Alleged $500m wasteful investments: Oil Minister dares Former NCDMB ES, vows to recoup investments

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The Minister Of State For Petroleum Resources(Oil), Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri has vowed to recoup alleged investments worth over $500m made by the Nigerian Content Monitoring and Development Board (NCDMB).

The Minister made this vow in defence of his allegation that the NCDMB wasted over $500 million of the industry’s fund in equity investments in private establishments and in loans that are now non-performing.

The erstwhile Executive Secretary of the NCDMB, Engr.Simbi Wabote had earlier debunked the Minister’s statement describing it as reckless.

Wabote challenged the Minister to visit the sites of the projects the agency invested in while accusing the Minister of playing politics.

“The HMSPR-Oil is implored to visit the construction sites to avail himself of facts on ground. He should also check the MPR archives of the stategic plan to diversify oil and gas development clusters in the NigerDelta using Bonny Island, Brass Island, Onne, Ogidigben, Ibom, etc. Perhaps, this will cure his aversion to
any developmental initiative in Brass
Island and the Niger Delta in general.” Wabote said.

Reacting to Wabote’s statement, the Minister through his SA Media and Communication, Nneamaka Okafor, described Wabote’s claims as blatant lies from the pit of hell.

The Minister’s response reads: ‘’Our position is that he who alleges must prove same. So, if Mr. Wabote has proof of such conversation, he is challenged to provide same.”

‘’Secondly the Minister has no aide called Blackson. All his aides were duly selected in line with extant laws and have documents to that effect.”

‘’The Minister in his capacity as chairman of the Governing Council stands by his statement at The Petroleum Club’s quarterly event in Lagos, and as journalists I welcome you to visit the places mentioned to verify the allegations for yourself.”

‘’Thirdly, the said Atlantic Refinery was supposed to be built in Mr Wabote’s home town, he should show Nigerians where that refinery is.”

‘’Fourthly, the Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical company was also paid for, you are welcomed to also visit the site to verify the facts for yourself.”

‘’Let me add that these revelations are not new, they were first made during an investigative hearing of the House of representative committee on local content. Again the records are there and you are welcome to verify these facts.”

‘’The Minister has never been part of any budgeting process of any parastatal under the Ministry, you are welcomed to visit these agencies to verify for yourself.”

‘’Finally, the Minister’s office is run with a budget superintended by the permanent secretary and so one will wonder, how the Minister will ask another entity to make provisions for the budget of his Office. The Minister has an impeccable record from his time as Minister of Agric and will continue to stand for the truth.”

‘’I have had course to read Mr Wabote’s release and every one can see that he is still nursing the wounds of being replaced even after spending seven years at the Board.At best, this is a clear case of when you fight corruption, corruption will fight back.” The response read.

The Minister also diaclosed that investigations are ongoing while making a vow to recover the resourced expended.

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NNPC Ltd, partner unlock 12,000bpd production at Awoba Unit Field

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd.) and its Joint Venture (JV) partner, Newcross Exploration and Production Ltd., have restarted production at Awoba field, Port Harcourt, Rivers.

The NNPC Ltd. said the field last contributed to the Bonny Terminal in 2021 and was finally shut down in February 2022 due to evacuation issues and crude oil theft.

Speaking on the development, the Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Ltd. Malam Mele Kyari, in a statement on Tuesday, said since the restart on April 13, production at the field had averaged 8,000 barrels per day.

According to the GCEO, the production is expected to reach 12,000 per day within 30 days.

He said Awoba was also expected to significantly boost gas supply to the power sector and other gas-based industries.

He said the NNPC Ltd. was keen on optimising production from the nation’s hydrocarbon assets to boost revenue.

Kyari said it would also help to meet the nation’s Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production quota.

He ascribed the achievement to the President Bola Tinubu administration’s success in providing the enabling operating environment for businesses to thrive.

He expressed appreciation to all stakeholders, including staff, operators, host communities, government security agencies, and private security contractors who played a pivotal role in achieving the feat.

The Awoba Unit, which straddles OMLs 18 and 24 is located in the mangrove swamp south of Port Harcourt, Rivers.

Both OML 18 and OML 24 assets are under the management of the NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services (NUIMS).

NNPC Ltd. has been recording a string of production successes from the JV portfolio which have significantly lifted overall national production.

Besides the recent start of production at the Madu Field by the NNPC Ltd/First E&P JV, the company has achieved the restart of production at OMLs 29 and OML 18 in late 2023.

These contributed an average of 60,000bpd to the nation’s production output since their restart.

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NIPCO Gas to accelerate AutoCNG to foster eco-friendly, sustainable future

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…Bags industry award as Innovative Gas Company

In its bid to prioritise innovation and ecological stewardship in Nigeria, NIPCO Gas Limited has affirmed its determination to drive positive transformation in the country’s energy industry by advocating for cleaner options like AutoCNG to foster a more eco-friendly and sustainable future.

Managing Director of NIPCO Gas Limited, Nagendra Verma, stated this in his acceptance speech on the occasion of conferment of Innovative Gas Company of the Year on the company by Energy Times Newspaper in Lagos over the weekend.

Verma explained that the company has done remarkably well in its efforts to deep deeping gas utilisation as an alternative automotive fuel, and at the same time, focusing on expanding the country’s gas infrastructure.

While speaking on the award bestowed on his company, the Managing Director said that this reflected NIPCO Gas’ humble contributions to the nation’s gas sector within the hydrocarbon industry.

Verma stated, “The accolade of Most Innovative Gas Company of the Year aptly acknowledges our endeavours in the gas sector, marked by the launch of our inaugural Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station in Benin City, Edo State, in 2009.

“The honour serves as recognition of our steadfast commitment to deepen  gas utilisation as an alternative automotive fuel.

“The distinguished award also underscores NIPCO Gas’s firm unwavering focus to expanding the country’s gas infrastructure.”

NIPCO Gas Limited’s managing director however, opined that the gas company stands as a prominent energy enterprise, devoted to providing dependable and sustainable energy solutions to Nigerian communities.

According to him, “Reflecting our commitment to capitalising on the nation’s gas potential, we have consistently invested substantial human and material resources in developing infrastructures that bolster viable energy alternatives for both motorists and industrial applications.”

While highlighting the recent partnership between NNPC Limited and NIPCO Gas Limited, Verma noted that it was aimed at establishing more CNG stations nationwide. He added that this significant venture would enhance Nigeria’s CNG framework, broaden CNG availability, and foster the transition to a more affordable and eco-friendly fuel alternative for various vehicles.

To him, “The initiative, introduced by NNPC Limited’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, is set to offer diverse fuel choices to Nigerians in the wake of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) subsidy removal.”

The goal is to create a network of CNG stations throughout the country. “Under the partnership NIPCO Gas has committed construction of 35 CNG Stations initially across states of Nigeria. “Presently, NIPCO Gas Limited has 16 CNG outlets and has successfully converted over 8,000 vehicles to CNG.”

While receiving the award, Verma said, “Receiving this award motivates us to further contribute to the industry’s expansion in every aspect. Our commitment to the nation’s progress, particularly in the gas segment of the hydrocarbon industry, remains steadfast.

“This accolade is a tribute to the dedication of my colleagues at NIPCO Gas Limited, whose relentless pursuit of excellence has significantly shaped our company’s impressive growth over time.”

In his welcome address at the event,  the Chairman Editorial Board, Energy Times, Alhaji Yakubu Lawal, said the award is meant to appreciate and recognise those individuals and companies whose works have in one way or the other impacted on the nation’s development  coting  NIPCO as pioneers  in the  Auto CNG sector.

While speaking on NIPCO Gas Limited’s award prize, Lawal said, “NIPCO has performed excellently which led to NNPC & Federal Government partnering with her to grow gas infrastructure to enable motorists and industries alike to have access to gas as auto fuel.

“The company’s expertise would add value to the nation’s efforts  to harness the abundant gas resources  in the country as alternative fuel to petrol,” he alluded.

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