Ex petrol minister, Diezani Madueke insists Ben Peters and his fellow investors are not fronts for her in the acquisition of Ol Mining Lease 29.
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In an exclusive interview with ThisDay newspaper, Diezani was asked if she is the owner of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 and the Nembe trunk line. But she insists.
According to her, “I really wish I did, but not at all. But I must say this again and I find this very strange because OML 29, just like all the other divested Shell blocks, we gave all our support from the ministry during their acquisition. We gave our support to the first tranche of oil assets that were sold – those were OMLs 30, 40, 42 and 34. We gave these groups support and we were not involved in the commercial transactions because by law, we cannot be. Our role was simply to ensure that the indigenous operators who were going in to buy were actually treated fairly. We did that in the first divestment. Accordingly, under the second tranche, which included OML 29, since everyone had learnt their lessons, this set of transactions went quite seamlessly. All we had to do was at the end of the day when it finally came back to the ministry, was to append our signature.
Again, I think it is very unfortunate, because certain individuals, their names have always been linked to mine. But there is virtually nobody who at one time or the other had not come to me as minister for approvals. There are some people who came around more often than others, but we have been completely open in terms of giving support to indigenous operators in the sector. Perhaps, because these two people you mentioned happened to come from the Niger Delta, so their names were suddenly affixed to mine. But I know for a fact the number of forays that some of these people made to gather the requisite financial backing for these transactions. These were not small amounts of money. So those making these allegations should go and check the bank records because all of the operators/bidders got their monies from banking entities to acquire the assets from Shell. So I don’t know how I came into the issue. Everybody involved in these transactions came to us at one point or the other. In fact, on a number of occasions, they were not sure they would be able to raise the money.
These were Nigerians dealing with foreign multinationals and every step of the way, they would come and weep and tell us the problems they were facing. I recall those who acquired OML 29 (Peters and Sanomi), came to me weeping at a particular point because there were encountering challenges raising the money, but there was nothing we could do. But eventually, they overcame the hurdles and were able to finally make the payments. However, I could not go to a bank to ask for assistance for anybody, because I could not put up a surety for that person and it was not my business as a minister to do so. For anyone to raise over $2 billion to acquire a producing block from a foreign multinational was a major thing and for us, it was a proud moment to support Nigerian companies. And for supporting and encouraging them, we started hearing stories all over the place. But they need to go and ask the banks because they have all the records.
The Nigerian banks, the foreign banks and other financial entities that they moved with should be asked to open up their books so that they can look at all their papers because it is very clear how and where they got the funds to actually buy the assets, and I am sure many of them will be paying back to the banks in many years to come. Even at one point, I raised concerns that those assets were highly priced. But for them to have been able to raise the funding and acquire the assets, was actually something that Nigeria should be proud of”