Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has dismissed allegations made by the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Ajjampur R. Ghanashyam that during her tenure she “sat” on a $15 billion oil deal, and demanded that the ambassador apologize to her publicly.
In a press statement released by her lawyers, she attributed Mr. Ghanashyam’s “acrimony” towards her to the refusal of the government in which she served to allow Oil and Gas Commission Videsh Limited (OVL), an Indian company, to default on its contractual obligation to provide a $6 billion investment in an 180,000 barrels (bpd) Greenfield refinery and 2,000 megawatt power plant or railway line from East to West of Nigeria.
She described Mr. Ghanashyam’s statement that she delayed the 2006 approval of oil concession to OVL and Mittal Energy International (MITTAL), another Indian company, after receiving a $25 million signature bonus, as spurious, false and lacking in substance.
Alison-Madueke asserted that she was not the Minister of Petroleum Resources in 2006 when the said Indian companies entered into an agreement with the Federal Government. As such, she said, she would not have received any signature bonus either as citizen or minister of the Federal Republic. She also said she had no personal reason to sit on the contract and wonder why the High Commissioner would choose to malign and attack her rather than commend her having acted dispassionately in recommending refund of the said signature bonus to the Indians when the matter was brought to her attention at the twilight of her tenure as Minister.
“When the issue of the request for refund, made by OVL which was re-presented to me in May 2015, I immediately prepared and dispatched a letter dated 13th May, 2015, Ref #: PI.LM/3900/S.693/Vol.1/78b to former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) recommending for the refund of the said signature bonus in compliance with the relevant and extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which requires such approvals to be granted by the President, and implemented by the Federal Ministry of Finance,” she stated.
On the allegation by the High Commissioner that contrary to global best practices in the industry she used intermediaries to receive payment for crude oil transactions with India, the former Minister observed that the contract in question was a Government to Government crude oil sales transaction with established procedures which predated her tenure as Minister.
According to the former Minister, under those procedures, the buying country selects and presents a local company as its agent to transact on its behalf as it is never the responsibility of the selling country to select or nominate a company for the buying country.
Nigeria, she stressed, never dictated nor suggested any intermediary or marketing company for India for the purposes of the said transaction, suggesting that the Indian ambassador “mischievously obfuscated these facts to malign the former Nigerian Petroleum Minister whilst not disclosing that it was a Government to Government crude sales transaction.”
In that connection, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said the High Commissioner had also neglected to inform the Daily Trust newspapers and Nigerians that the oil concession was granted neither to OVL nor MITTAL due to the inability of their subsidiary, EMO Exploration and Production, to meet the cash obligation.
She therefore accused the diplomat of spreading false and misleading information calculated to malign Nigerian public officials,” saying that was “unbecoming of a foreign diplomat”.
Asserting that Mr. Ghanashyam’s statement was aimed at damaging her reputation “for her insistence on protecting the interests of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and for not acceding to inappropriate requests of his country to be relieved of its contractual obligations to Nigeria,” Mrs. Alison-Madueke requested “an unequivocal apology and a complete retraction of the libelous statements” against her.