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NNPC: How we stopped $125m payment to syndicate

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in collaboration with officials of the Federal Government has saved Nigeria from losing a whooping sum of $125 million to an international crime syndicate led by one Messrs. Ramirez and Mr. Jose Salazar Tinajero and their company, Samano SA DE CV. The refusal of the NNPC to stop FG from paying the huge sum was contained in a letter by counsel to the NNPC, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) of Afe Babalola and Co., to Messrs. Lords & Temple. The letter was also a rebuttal to several publications on the alleged sale of 48 million barrels of stolen crude oil by government officials in China.

“The NNPC is also aware of several television broadcasts and commentaries in respect of the same subject. These publications replicate the content of a recent letter forwarded to NNPC on behalf of SAMANO SA DE CV by its Solicitors, Messrs. Lords & Temple.

“The Management of the Corporation states emphatically that these publications are replete with falsehoods, offensive, golddigging and a calculated attempt by the said SAMANO SA DE CV (SAMANO) working in concert with its local and international agents to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC. Given the attention which these publications have generated, NNPC deems it necessary to make the following clarifications.”

In the letter dated July 30 and addressed to Lord’s & Temple and “attentioned” Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), the NNPC denied the claim that information was provided to the Corporation or the FG which information led to the identification and recovery of 48 million barrels of stolen Nigerian Bonny Light Crude Oil stored in Peoples Republic of China. Stating the background, Ogunwumiju noted that Samano had contacted officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria sometime in 2015 with information in respect of 48 million barrels of Nigerian Bonny Light Crude Oil allegedly stolen from Nigeria and stored in various ports and terminals in the People’s Republic of China. SAMANO offered to purchase the alleged stolen crude upon its recovery. “SAMANO requested that it be allowed to purchase the stolen crude after its recovery by the Federal Government.

“Shortly thereafter, SAMANO indicated that it was not interested in buying the said stolen crude as it only obliged the Federal Government with the information to assist the President Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption.

“Even though its claim was difficult to believe given the stern procedures underpinning crude oil handling and export operations, the Federal Government in collaboration with the NNPC set out to verify these claims and requested for evidence to that effect, which was never provided by SOMANO. “Notwithstanding the failure to provide evidence to support its claims, relevant officials of the government were mandated to proceed to China to verify the claims of the existence of the said stolen Nigerian crude oil.”

He, however, added that the said delegation discovered that the SAMANO’s claim was false and baseless. “Consequently, the government severed communications with the syndicate. “Miffed by this, Messrs. Ramirez and Mr. Jose Salazar Tinajero, acting as agents of SAMANO, resorted to the blackmail and intimidation of key officials of the government and the NNPC threatening to make public the fact that the said 48 million barrels of stolen Nigerian crude oil in China had been recovered, sold and the proceeds therefrom looted by some government officials and the NNPC when it was aware that this was untrue.

“They also demanded $125 million from said government officials, which was conveniently and rightfully ignored. “Thereafter, NNPC reported this case of attempted blackmail to the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force. “They, upon investigation, discovered that SAMANO and its agents were international fraudsters.” Ogunwumiju stated that: “Accordingly, it is our client’s position that your client is not entitled to the payment of five per cent of the value of the allegedly stolen crude or any amount whatsoever as compensation for information it purportedly gave to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in respect of the said stolen crude stored in the People’s Republic of China. “Our clients further posit that your clients’ claims are not only unfounded but frivolous and of no consequence.

“With utmost respect, your clients’ claims are a contribution of gold digging scheme involving local and cross border fraudsters aimed at blackmailing and extorting money from our client and Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Based on the foregoing, our client is unable to accede to and hereby rejects your clients demand that the NNPC and Federal Government pay to its five per cent of the value of the purported stolen crude or any amount whatsoever as compensation for the false information it gave to the Federal Government in this matter.

“While denying your clients’ claims in its entirety, we have our client firm instruction to demand that your clients issue within seven days of the date of your receipt of this correspondence, a written unequivocal retraction of these allegations which your clients know to be false, baseless and unfounded, failing which we will explore all legal remedies to enforce our client right to seek redress against your clients in both civil and criminal actions arising from its attempt at harassing, intimidating, blackmailing and defrauding out clients and officials.”

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