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FG Sues Oil Firm Over $3bn Unpaid Taxes

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The Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, has commenced legal proceedings against Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Ltd, a Chinese-owned oil firm, over the company’s alleged under-remittance of $3billion in taxes and royalties.
Documents before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun showed that the funds are outstanding claims against the company under the Petroleum Profit Tax Act and Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Amendment Regulation 2003 over Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 123, 124, 126, and 137.
Joined as respondents are Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Ltd, Addax Petroleum Exploration Nigeria Ltd, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Department of Petroleum Resources, and the National Petroleum Investment and Management Services (NAPIMS).
D.A. Awosika and Partners, counsel representing the Federal Government, stated that the $3billion unremitted funds came as a result of the oil multinational’s illegal and irregular reliance on side letters dated November 21, 2001, December 20, 2001, and August 24, 2004, that were never gazetted.
The government moved to recover the funds from Addax after report on how the Chinese firm allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials to secure juicy contracts in the oil industry.
In 1998, Addax Petroleum, a subsidiary of China’s Sinopec Group, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, entered into a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with the NNPC (as concessionaire) in respect of OPL 98/118 and OPL 90/225.
Four years later, the company discovered oil in commercial quantities and the OPLs were converted into Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 123/124 and 126/137.
The PSC entered by the two parties required Addax Petroleum to pay royalties on any oil produced from the relevant oil blocks at the rate of 20 per cent as stipulated by law. It also provided that the Petroleum Profit Tax Act (PPTA) applicable to the contract areas shall be 65.75 per cent for the first five years, starting from the first day of the month of the first sale of the oil, and 85 per cent thereafter.
D.A Awosika & Partners are insisting that Addax Petroleum fraudulently obtained a side letters in 2001 and 2004 that were “never gazetted” and which they used in calculating their taxes and royalties.
The calculations in the side letters fixed the PPT payable by the company at 60 per cent, and rather than the 20 per cent flat rate of royalty, provided for a graduated rate depending on the volume of oil produced from the oil blocks.
The said letters were signed by then Special Assistant on Petroleum and Energy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Funsho Kupolokun, in 2001 and the then Director General/Special Adviser on Budget to the President in 2004, Mr. Olabode Agusto.
“Several objections and protests were raised by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), NNPC, and DPR to the reliance on these side letters by the defendants to bypass, supplant, and subvert the process,” the government’s lawyers stated.
“In 2003, in order to give effect to the graduated royalty regime stated in the side letters, the Minister of Petroleum Resources (Obasanjo) issued the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Amendment Regulations, which provided for graduated royalty rates for onshore and shallow offshore PSC which did not account for royalty by tranches.
effect from the first day of January, 2000, which was the same date of commencement of the graduated royalty rates contained in the side letters.”
Several meetings between Nigerian government officials – represented by the FIRS, DPR, and NNPC – and representatives of Addax Petroleum reassess and resolve the latter’s “colossal underpayment” to the government between 2007 and 2012 yielded no results.
But Addax Petroleum maintained its right to the use of the side letters for computing the taxes on its operations and dragged the government over accusations of a breach of their 1998 PSC on the oil blocks.
In suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1099/2014 filed before former Chief Judge of Federal High Court Ibrahim Auta, the company sought a judicial approval towards their continued use of the side letters to compute its financial obligations to the Nigerian government.
However, on May 26, 2015, three days before the administration of the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, handed over to his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, the government negotiated a controversial out-of-court settlement with Addax Petroleum, agreeing to pay the company $3.4billion (about N1trillion).
Court papers filed by the Nigerian government’s lawyers stated that Addax Petroleum “surreptitiously teamed up” with some officials of DPR, FIRS, and NNPC to execute certain terms of settlement that were eventually made the Consent Judgment of court, notwithstanding the pendency of several applications yet to be heard by the same court.
“In executing the said terms of settlement, the authorities were not sought, no approval at Federal Executive Council level was given, the governing boards of the FIRS, NNPC and DPR did not authorise those officers that executed the bogus terms of settlement to so act,” the lawyers argued.
However, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s assumed office, the NNPC in a letter to Addax Petroleum endorsed by the president and dated September 7, 2015, reversed the agreement entered into by the previous administration.
In the ongoing suit before Justice Olatoregun, the federal government is seeking an order directing the NNPC, Ministry of Petroleum/DPR, and NAPIMS from further allocation of crude oil explored from OMLs 123, 124, 126, and 137 to Addax Petroleum pending when the company furnishes the court verifiable Bank Guarantee from Nigerian banks to cover the monetary claims of the plaintiff.
Other prayers sought by the Nigerian government include an order restraining the NNPC, Petroleum Ministry, and NAPIMS from dealing with Addax Petroleum, as well as stopping them from transferring or assigning their interest in the OMLs to another person.
Also, an order compelling the Nigerian agencies to file an affidavit of fact detailing the company’s assets, properties, and funds.
On Friday, Justice Olatoregun granted an order for the government’s lawyers to serve court papers to the NNPC, the third respondent in the suit, whose office is situated in Abuja, outside the court’s jurisdiction.
She thereafter adjourned the suit till May 3, 2018.

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Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion

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The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.

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FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer

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The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.

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Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media

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The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.

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