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Concerned Citizens Group Accuses Nigerian Oil Investment Company, NAPIMS Boss, Bala Wunti Of Contract Fraud, Multi-billion-dollar Corruption

bala-wunti
October 3, 2022

The group in an open letter alleged that Wunti's gross misconduct was responsible for Nigeria's decline in oil production in recent times, insisting that he is notorious for frustrating oil development operations for personal gains. 

The Concerned Citizens of Nigeria group has accused the General Manager of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Bala Wunti of being involved in some contract fraud and engaging in multi-billion-dollar corruption.

The group in an open letter alleged that Wunti's gross misconduct was responsible for Nigeria's decline in oil production in recent times, insisting that he is notorious for frustrating oil development operations for personal gains. 

The group further accused Wunti of using his position as a top official to exclusively give contracts to companies he favoured, in flagrant violation of the procurement procedures.

“In our findings, the indecent activities and perpetual malpractices of the GGM of NAPIMS, Mr Bala Wunti, is a huge contributor to the continuous decline in the Nation’s oil production and poses a great threat if not properly nipped in the bud. 

“Interesting to note is that we had sent several whistle-blowing emails to the GMD of NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Company) for the past 1 year and unfortunately, no action has been taken till date to address various concerns raised which could have resulted into NNPC being a better company for the over 200 million concerned Nigerians which the cooperation is saddled with the responsibility of protecting their interest and the interest of our unborn children. 

“Past GMDs responded kindly to our whistle-blowing with swift actions taken. Some of the measures that were taken prevented us from going to the public,” the group said in the open letter made available to SaharaReporters.

The group added that they had previously notified GCEO NNPC Limited and top management staff of NNPC of the consequences of Bala Wunti's alleged actions sabotaging the development and operation of Nigeria's oil resources and his "total disregard to law to award contract for his chosen company with or without due processes of law". 

The group continued: “A major concern is the country’s participation in the Deepwater field development space, which is the major contributor to the nation’s oil production. Despite the rise in the crude oil price in the past months, with countries all over the world taking advantage of this opportunity by aggressively embarking on reserve growth and field developments, in order to ensure they derive maximum benefit (economy, job creation etc) this high prices currently present, Nigeria has only one (1) deep offshore drilling rig currently carrying out drilling operations, which is the SNEPco Bonga OML 118 drilling operation. 

“Despite this challenge in the nation’s oil development, Bala Wunti due to his greed, personal interest and inherent fraudulent character, is willing to frustrate this field (Bonga) development to the detriment of the sufferings and yelling of the nation and Nigerians in general.”

The group highlighted Wunti's alleged involvement in contract irregularities, saying: "Investigations show that on the 18th March 2022, SNEPco wrote requesting for NAPIMS approval to exercise the two (2) years optional extension of the existing NNPC approved contract with OCEAN DEEP DRILLING (ODNEL)/VALARIS by extending the contract duration for another 2 years for the Provision of Deep Offshore Drilling Rig Services. The Valaris DS-10 drillship is currently carrying out drilling operations in Bonga field of OML 118. 

"This approval request will ensure an uninterrupted drilling activity in the field. Interesting to note is that to date (that is about seven (7) months delay) NAPIMS GGM is yet to and refuses to approve the contract extension. 

"From our investigation with some SNEPco personnel, we understand that follow-up letters were sent to the GGM’s office, and various phone calls made but yielded no positive results. 

"We as Concerned Nigerian citizens in April 2022 wrote to SNEPco and informed them about Bala Wunti’s intention to deliberately delay the approval of the contract extension which might possibly result in the termination of the contract. The intention is to thereafter impose his preferred and faithful bride, TIREX Petroleum and Energy Services on SNEPco, to mobilise a drillship as a stop-gap. His impositions using TIREX always come at very high rates in order to cover the interests of all sponsors of TIREX. Our investigation also showed that TIREX contacted various drillship owners in readiness to when ODNEL will depart Nigeria if their contract is not extended. 

"We raised this concern at the time with the GMD and as usual no action was taken till date. 

"SNEPco in ensuring an uninterrupted drilling program, and not constrained by the deliberate delay in the approval, extended the contract without NAPIMS endorsement. An action is taken to avoid losing the rig and causing delays in her field development. 

"Realising the possible implications of this development and in a bid to not completely lose out, the GGM NAPIMS in his usual character is enforcing on the rig contract (ODENL/Valaris) to request from SNEPco a variation in the contract price. The variation which he insisted must cover his kickback of $50,000 per day of the rig rate otherwise the contract will be cancelled, he threatened. 

"ODNEL/Valaris refusing to yield as they consider it an inappropriate act is resulting in Bala Wunti's continuous threat of cancelling the contract. His actions from the recent past show it is not just a threat but an action he can conveniently take without bothering on the negative impact his actions are having on the country’s oil production and economy. The threat is based on his flimsy excuses that he had not approved the contract extension before SNEPco decided to extend it.

"There are no serious intricacies in the approval of the request to exercise the optional periods in an already approved contract. A question is, why did the GGM NAPIMS refuse to give approval for a request he received since 18th March 2022? How does this act translate to being efficient as claimed in his curriculum vitae that was published on 1st October 2022?

"Bala’s (Wunti) intention had always been to cancel the contract and award to TIREX as a stop-gap at a more expensive daily rate.  

"Had SNEPco not taken the initiative of extending the contract, the DS10 drillship would have left Nigeria in May 2022 putting oil production on hold until a time when he finally succeeds in his ploy to award the contract to TIREX. This is clearly an act of economic sabotage which should not be handled with kid gloves. 

"Pertinent to note is that, based on the signed contract, over US$100 million would be paid in compensation as termination fee should SNEPco cancel the contract at convenience. However, an applicable termination fee will still be paid if NAPIMS cancels the contract as threatened.

"Bala’s (Wunti) ploy is to frustrate SNEPco, give directive for the contract termination if the drilling contractor refuses not to yield to the kickback of $50,000 per day from the contract extension and then impose on SNEPco to engage TIREX as a stop-gap and mobilise a drillship and as usual at a higher rate. This plan if implemented will obviously result in interruption of the drilling campaign with a resultant effect in production increase as it will take months for mobilising and contract endorsement to be completed. Bala Wunti of course is not moved by all this but would rather satisfy his sheer greed to achieve the country’s goal. 

"An independent investigation can be conducted to ascertain this claim. Are there no technical or commercial justifications on to why Bala Wunti decided to delay an approval to exercise the optional period of an already approved and existing contract, Is this action for the interest or benefit of the Nation or NNPC or solely for his personal greed and display of his inherent corrupt character? 

"SNEPco a multinational company is willing to invest in Nigeria's Deep offshore space, but Bala Wunti in his fraudulent nature and continuous display of sheer greed is frustrating her activities making it unnecessarily difficult to do business. 

"It is obvious from the above development, that the GGM NAPIMS poses a grave threat in the development of the country’s reserve and increase in production."

The group also expressed worry that similar frustrations are being felt regarding other deep offshore and onshore projects in Nigeria and how such ugly situations have been affecting Nigerian revenue generation. 

“Why has Bala Wunti transformed the office of the GGM NAPIMS into a toll gate, where any contract won by contractors, there must be kickbacks, otherwise the award of contract is frustrated or if possible, awarded to contractor of choice (as always, his preferred bride TIREX). We are aware lots of contracts have been frustrated in this regard.

“Why is Bala Wunti preaching and advocating for cost reduction, production increment but on the contrary, he is frustrating activities that would ensure field development and production increase and forcefully subjecting contractors to continually push for contract price variations by requesting for a price increase that must cover his kickback? We were informed that he bullies contractors while his demands usually erode contractor profits,” the group added.