Tag Archives: Financial Times

The Victims of Halliburton and TSKJ Scandals

 

Just as there is confusion over the name of the major oil company involved in the bribery scam for a gas plant in Nigeria, so also are the different lists of alleged beneficiaries. The story of bribery scandals by a consortium of foreign oil firms operating in Nigeria has resurfaced again with names of the main culprits who were actually involved lumped with alleged victims whose only offense is that they held sensitive offices at the period when the projects were awarded.

Sometimes between 2004 and 2005, this writer while working as a PR person at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was inundated with various enquiries from the foreign media on the alleged bribery. They sought to verify if the Chairman of the Commission, Engr. Hamman Tukur was aware of his name, allegedly featured in a handwritten note by an official of one of the oil companies.

As at that time the US Securities and Exchange Commission had subpoenaed documents from several multinational companies in an attempt to probe into the $170m alleged bribery for a gas plant on Bonny Island in Nigeria. The companies involved in the project including Shell of UK which was the largest private shareholder on the project, Total of France, Eni of Italy, Halliburton of US, NNPC of Nigeria and Marubeni conglomerate of Japan which acted as a subcontractor on the project.

The scandal in the first instance was leaked by a former executive of one of the foreign companies who was sidelined in the deal. The subsequent investigations largely centred on the conducts of TSKJ, the major contractor for structures of the gas plant which was said to have ‘picked up about $7bn worth of building contracts between 1995 and 2004.’ TSKJ is a global consortium that includes a subsidiary of Halliburton, which was claimed to be owned by a former Vice-President Dick Cheney of the US.

Precisely on September 19, 2005, one of the emails received by this writer came from Michael Peel an award-winning journalist with the Financial Times of UK. He has reported the oil sector and financial crimes in Africa which expose corporate corruption especially in multinational oil companies and the effect on the environment. Though I had refused to respond to his first email which came through yahoo address, thinking it was from those notorious 419ners. A Google search indicated that Peel had published a profile interview with former GMD of NNPC Mr. Gaius Obaseki. Before then, I had advised my Chairman to ignore the early questionnaire.

Subsequent enquiries from him and others provided insights into the alleged scandals. The award of the first railway contract was made to TSKJ in 1994 when Engr. Tukur was a board member of NLNG by virtue of being the Director General in the Ministry of Petroleum, a tradition in various ministries where senior officers are directors in related institutions and parastatals. Surprisingly Engr. Hamman Tukur did not last long when the former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha relieved him of his appointment.

Tukur’s name in the imbroglio stemmed from some notes by one William Chaudan, an employee of the TSKJ consortium, made of its meetings in the run-up to the 1994 contract award. The Peel’s email stated that: “A section of the notes, taken at an alleged ‘cultural meeting’ of consortium members in December 1993, is entitled ‘Marubeni suggestions.’ The section lists some people, next to the words ‘cover directly.’ Beneath, four other names of NLNG directors are listed next the words ‘already covered’. A note was said to be below that that says: ‘M requested approval and commitment for $30[m] for the above. Excludes Abacha, extra for Etiebet.’”

The Financial Times actually wanted to know whether the people named as “already covered” were offered or received bribes. Therefore the question by the reporter is to confirm “if any representative from TSKJ offer or give (gave) out money? If not, to confirm what the phrase “already covered” might mean?”

It was discovered that a number of notes suggest that the TSKJ partners were keen on hiding what they were doing. Notes of several so-called cultural meetings record discussions between TSKJ partners of “secret” and “open” commission payments. It was further revealed that at one point, another company Technip rejected a proposal as possibly opening up an opportunity for blackmail.

In my response to Peel’s enquiry on October 6, 2005, after speaking to Engr. Tukur on phone (who was then on a break in his hometown) I stated that “Engr. Tukur did not attend any nocturnal meeting for ulterior motives and was not aware of those coded messages and what they stood for in the notes.” I went on to clarify that “It might not be strange for individuals to impersonate others for extortions, in the name of fronting as link-person, a fraudulent practice that still exists.”

While some of the foreign media refused to mention names in their reports because of the risk and implications of indicting innocent victims from the main culprits, Financial Times was magnanimous enough in balancing the story even when it named names.

It is suspected that either the names of some innocent persons were featured to give the deal a semblance of legitimacy or some crooks were cunningly using other people’s name without authorisation, for fraudulent activities in the name of commission charges.

It is necessary to point out that as much as we keep accusing some of our leaders of corrupt practices, we must realise that there are many Nigerians that are honest, sincere and fighting corruption in various ways. Engr. Hamman Tukur has been a single individual that has stake his life to expose misdeed in the oil sectors, campaigned against misuse of revenues by the custodians at the federal and states levels and does not spare the Presidency and National Assembly in his acts and deed.

There are many honourable and distinguished Nigerians that are indeed very clean but not celebrated. One can even cite Tukur’s deputy at the commission, Alhaji Abu Gidado who is popularly referred to as an Incorruptible Minister during General Sani Abacha’s administration who could neither be bribed nor tempted as Chairman of Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) during the military era.

While it is agreeable that corrupt practices like bad news make the headlines, the media should be cautious in lumping innocents with criminals as the fifth columnists are presently out in full force to achieve hidden agenda towards their 2011 election. The government must also immediately investigate and prosecute those found wanting in the scam. It must also take further steps to blacklist the foreign collaborators and revoke the licenses of the foreign firms involved in this monumental scandal rubbishing the image of our country.

Apart from the victims whose names where wrongly or mischievously added to the list of Halliburton TSKJ Scandals, all citizens of Nigeria are victims of the damaging campaigns to the reputation of this great African nation. We are not all corrupt Source

 


Shell,Chevron,the Nigerian Bribery and guess who…IMF!

The involvement of energy companies such as Shell and Chevron in oil-rich Nigeria has been a very contentious corporate social responsibility matter. Criticisms leveled against them include being complicit in environmental degradation and human rights violations. That the Ogoni people whose lands have created so much oil revenue continue to see little to no benefit from these proceeds has been a cause celebre for the longest time. Meanwhile, the state execution of Ogoni environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 reinforced perceptions that energy companies were indifferent to environmental and human rights abuses in Nigeria. Have these companies learned to tread more carefully given the bad press they have gotten from Nigeria? Unfortunately, the Financial Times notes that Shell and Chevron have once again been implicated, this time with bribing a powerful Nigerian politician. Same old, same old…

Anti-corruption investigators are probing payments by ChevronTexaco and Royal Dutch Shell to a company owned by a powerful Nigerian politician they suspect has laundered tens of millions of dollars in British banks, property and cars.

James Ibori, who was governor of Delta State until last May, is being investigated by British and Nigerian authorities over sums he is alleged to have accumulated during his years in office.

A UK court affidavit seen by the Financial Times says there is reasonable cause to believe Mr Ibori bled money from his oil-rich state and bought assets including a $20m jet, houses in London and Dorset, and a €406,000 ($595,460) armour-plated Mercedes-Benz from a Mayfair dealership.

The affidavit was drawn up in July by British police investigating corruption by foreign officials in the UK as part of a successful legal effort to restrain Mr Ibori’s assets. On Thursday, the High Court threw out an attempt by Mr Ibori to have the freezing order quashed.

The affidavit highlights a number of British bank accounts, including some at Barclays and one at Abbey National, suspected of being used by Mr Ibori or associates involved in money laundering. Barclays and Abbey declined to comment.

The document says police are examining £2.3m ($4.7m) of payments made over the past three years by ChevronTexaco and the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation into a dollar-denominated Barclays account in London held on behalf of MER Engineering, a company owned by Mr Ibori.

The affidavit says the “purportedly legitimate” payments were for the rental of two houseboats for oil workers, although it suspects the transfers were “corrupt payments rather than in exchange for legitimate services”.

Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which has worked closely with the British investigators, told the FT he was “investigating huge payments made by Shell and Chevron to MER Engineering” over the hiring of the houseboats.

Chevron confirmed it had hired two houseboats from MER, but declined to give more details. It said it believed it had complied with anti-corruption laws.

Shell said MER was on its register of approved contractors. It declined to elaborate on the amount and type of work done by MER.

NNPC said it never paid bribes. Mr Ibori and his London lawyer could not be reached for ­comment.

As Nigeria spirals into instability, historian and economic researcher Frederick William Engdahl argues a recent government decision to lift subsidies on imported fuel in the oil-rich nation bears the mark of Washington Consensus shock therapy.

In the article below, Engdahl explains his view.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, is from all evidence being systematically thrown into chaos and a state of civil war. The recent surprise decision by the government of Goodluck Jonathan to abruptly lift subsidies on imported gasoline and other fuel has a far more sinister background than mere corruption, and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is playing a key role. China appears to be the likely loser along with Nigeria’s population.

The recent strikes protesting the government’s abrupt elimination of gasoline and other fuel subsidies, that brought Nigeria briefly to a standstill, came as a surprise to most in the country. Months earlier, President Jonathan had promised the major trade union organizations that he would conduct a gradual four-stage lifting of the subsidy to ease the economic burden. Instead, without warning he announced an immediate full removal of subsidies effective January 1, 2012. It was “shock therapy” to put it mildly.

Nigeria today is one of the world’s most important producers of light, sweet crude oil—the same high-quality crude oil that Libya and the British North Sea produce. The country is showing every indication of spiraling downward into deep disorder. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States and twelfth largest oil producer in the world on a par with Kuwait and just behind Venezuela with production exceeding two million barrels a day.
­The curious timing of IMF subsidy demand

Despite its oil riches, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s poorest countries. The known oilfields are concentrated around the vast Niger Delta roughly between Port Harcourt and extending in the direction of Lagos, with large new finds being developed all along the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.Nigeria’s oil is exploited and largely exported by the Anglo-American giants—Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco. Italy’s Agip also has a presence and most recently, to no one’s surprise, the Chinese state oil companies began seeking major exploration and oil infrastructure agreements with the Abuja government.

Ironically, despite the fact that Nigeria has abundant oil to earn dollar export revenue to build its domestic infrastructure, government policy has deliberately let its domestic oil refining capacity fall into ruin. The consequence has been that most of the gasoline and other refined petroleum products used to drive transportation and industry, has to be imported, despite the country’s abundant oil. In order to shield the population from the high import costs of gasoline and other refined fuels, the central government has subsidized prices.

Until January 1, 2012, that is. That was the day when, without advance warning President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan announced immediate removal of all fuel subsidies. Prices for gasoline shot up almost threefold in hours from 65 naira (35 cents of a dollar) a liter to 150 naira (93 cents). The impact rippled across the economy to everything including prices of grains and vegetables.

In justifying the move, Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi insisted that “The monies will be used in provision of social amenities and infrastructural development that will benefit Nigerians more and save the country from economic rift.”President Goodluck Jonathan says he is phasing out the subsidy as a part of a move to “clean up the Nigerian government.” If so, how he plans to proceed is anything but apparent.

The huge unexpected price hike for domestic fuel triggered nationwide protests that threatened to bring the economy to a halt by mid-January. The president deftly took the wind out of protester sails by announcing a partial rollback in prices, still leaving prices effectively double that of December. The trade union federation immediately called off the protests. Then, revealingly, Goodluck Jonathan’s government ordered the military to take to the streets to “keep order” and de facto prevent new protests. All that took place during one of the bloodiest waves of bombings and murder rampages by the terrorist Boko Haram sect creating a climate of extreme chaos.
­The smoking gun of the IMF

What has been buried from international accounts of the unrest is the explicit role the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) played in the situation. With suspicious timing IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was in Nigeria days before the abrupt subsidy decision of President Jonathan. By all accounts, the IMF and the Nigerian government have been careful this time not to be blatant about openly announcing demands to ends subsidies as they were in Tunisia before food protests became the trigger for that country’s Twitter putsch in 2011.

During her visit to Nigeria Lagarde said President Jonathan’s ‘Transformation Agenda’ for deregulation “is an agenda for Nigeria, driven by Nigerians. The IMF is here to support you and be a better partner for you.” Few Nigerians were convinced.On December 29 Reuters wrote, “The IMF has urged countries across West and Central Africa to cut fuel subsidies, which they say are not effective in directly aiding the poor, but do promote corruption and smuggling. The past months have seen governments in Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon and Chad moving to cut state subsidies on fuel.”

Further confirming the role US and IMF pressure on the Nigerian government played, Jeffery Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, during a meeting with President Jonathan in Nigeria in early January days after the subsidy decision, declared Jonathan’s decision to withdraw petroleum subsidy “a bold and correct policy.”

Sachs, a former Harvard economics professor, became notorious during the early 1990s for prescribing IMF “shock therapy” for Poland, Russia, Ukraine and other former communist states, which opened invaluable state assets for de facto plundering by dollar-rich western multinationals.

Even more suspicious is the manner in which Washington and the IMF are putting pressure on only select countries to end subsidies. Nigeria, whose oil today sells for the equivalent of $1 a liter or roughly $3.78 a US gallon, is far from cheap. Brunei, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia all offer their petrol very cheap to their people. The Saudis sell their oil at 17 cents, Kuwait at 22 cents. In the US gasoline averages 89 cents a liter.

That means the IMF and Washington have forced one of the poorest economies in Africa to impose a huge tax on its citizens on the implausible argument it will help eliminate corruption in the state petroleum sector. The IMF knows well that the elimination of subsidies will do nothing about corruption in high places.

Were the IMF and World Bank genuinely concerned with the health of the domestic Nigerian economy, they would have provided support for rebuilding and expanding a domestic oil refinery industry that has been allowed to rot, so that the country need no longer import refined fuels using precious state budget resources.The easiest way to do that would be to expedite a two-year-old deal between China and the Nigerian government to invest some $28 billion in massive expansion of the oil refinery sector, to eliminate need for importing foreign gasoline and other refined products.

Quite the opposite—the criminal cabal inside the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Government making huge profits on the old subsidy system are suddenly making double and potentially triple more to maintain the old corrupt import system, and, of course, to sabotage Chinese refinery construction that could put an end to their gravy train.
­Cutting their nose to spite the face…

Rather than benefit ordinary Nigerians as the IMF proclaims to want, the elimination of the subsidies has further pauperized the 90 per cent living on less than $2 a day, according to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Nigerian Central Bank governor. An estimated 40 million Nigerians are unemployed in the country of 148 million.

Because transport costs are a significant factor in delivery of food to the cities, food price inflation has soared along with costs of public transportation for the majority of poorer Nigerians. According to the Nigerian Leadership Sunday, “prices of commodities which shot up as a fallout of the fuel pump price increase have refused to come down.” Everything from street vegetable sellers to carwashes to roadside photographers are feeling the shock of the rise in fuel prices. Unemployment is rising as small businesses fold.

The argument of the IMF and the Jonathan administration is that by freeing fuel prices, funds would be available to more social services and rebuilding Nigeria’s “infrastructure.” Both the IMF and the government know it would have been far more economically viable to replace the current corrupt system of importing refined gasoline and fuels with investing in rebuilding Nigeria’s domestic refining capacity.

Son Gyoh of the Nigerian Awareness for Development organization asks, “Would it not be more expedient to pressure government to service the refineries to full production capacity, given the implications on overhead and competitiveness for local industries?”

Gyoh pointed to the source of the problem: “Why have successive governments left the refineries in a state of disrepair while spending huge on subsidy? Is there any chance that the savings from subsidy withdrawal will go directly into rehabilitating the refineries? Does deregulation imply NNPC will no longer operate a monopoly in importation of refined petroleum product, or is this lobby a self-serving lifeline to continue its monopoly? ” He concludes, “In any case, there is good reason to doubt subsidy removal will solve the fuel scarcity problem as the cabal will only regroup to change tactics, a fact Nigerians are only too aware of.”

After Nigeria partly nationalized its oil sector in the late 1970s, it also took control of Shell Oil’s Port Harcourt I refinery. In 1989, Port Harcourt II refinery was built. Both refineries fell into serious disrepair after 1994, when the Abacha military dictatorship cut the “take” of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company NNPC from domestic sale of refined oil products such as gasoline from 84% to 22%. That caused a cash crisis for NNPC and a halt to refinery maintenance. Today only one of four refineries operates at all.

What developed since was a system of NNPC importing foreign gasoline and other refined products for Nigeria’s domestic needs, naturally at a far more expensive cost. The price subsidies were to relieve that higher import cost, hardly a sensible solution but a very lucrative one for those corrupt elements in the state and private sector making a killing, literally, off the import process.
­NNPC criminal enterprise

The IMF is well aware of the real cause of Nigeria’s fuel industry problems. A Nigerian legislative committee examining the sources of the industry’s problems recently released a report documenting that at least $4 billion annually is taken from taxpayers in fuel industry corruption with the state Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) at the center. According to the commission, “every day, fuel importers drop off 59 million liters of fuel. The country consumes 35 million liters daily. That leaves 24 million liters of oil available for smugglers to export, paid for by government fuel subsidies. This costs the Nigerian people roughly $4 billion yearly, according to Reuters.”

The Nigerian government has said that the 7.5 billion dollars spent yearly on fuel subsidies could be used to provide desperately needed infrastructure. But they omit any mention of the rampant siphoning off of $4 billion of oil by black market smugglers, reportedly with connivance of high NNPC government officials, to sell to neighboring countries at a hefty profit. The refined imported fuel is reportedly smuggled into neighboring countries like Cameroon, Chad and Niger where petrol prices are far higher, according to Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Deputy Governor of Kano State.
­China as IMF target?

One major geopolitical factor that is generally ignored in recent discussion of Nigerian oil politics is the growing role of China in the country. In May 2010, only days after President Jonathan was sworn in, China signed an impressive $28.5 billion deal with his government to build three new refineries, something that in no way fits into the plans of either the IMF, or of Washington, or of the Anglo-American oil majors.

China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCEC) signed the deal to build three oil refineries with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in the biggest deal China has made with Africa. Shehu Ladan, head of NNPC, said at the signing ceremony that the added refineries would reduce the $10 billion spent annually on imported refined products. As of January 2012, the three Chinese refinery projects were still in the planning stage, reportedly blocked by the powerful vested interests gaining from the existing corrupt import system.

A report in China Daily last November quoted Nigeria’s Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, the minister of trade and investment, that Nigeria was seeking added Chinese investors for its energy, mining and agribusiness industries. Last September on a visit to Beijing, Nigeria central bank governor Lamido Sanusiannounced his country planned to invest 5 per cent to 10 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves in China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB) or yuan, noting that he sees the yuan becoming reserve currency. In 2010 China’s loans and exports to Nigeria exceeded $7 billion, while Nigeria exported $1 billion of crude oil, Sanusi stated.

Until now Nigeria has held some 79% of her foreign currency reserves in dollars, the rest in Euro or Sterling, all of which look dicey given their financial and debt problems. The move of a major oil producer away from dollars, added to similar moves recently by India, Japan, Russia, Iran and others, augurs bad news for the continued role of the dollar as dominant world reserve currency. Clearly some in Washington would not be happy with that.

The Chinese are also bidding to get a direct stake in Nigeria’s rich oil reserves, until now an Anglo-American domain. In July 2010, China’s CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation) won four prospective oil blocks – two in the Niger Delta and two in the frontier Chad Basin, with plans to become core investor in the Kaduna refinery, and construction of a double track Lagos-Kano railway. China’s oil company, CNOOC Ltd also has a major offshore production area in Nigeria.

The IMF and Washington pressure to lift subsidies on imported fuels is at this point in question, as is the future of China in Nigeria’s energy industry. Clear is that lifting subsidies in no way will benefit Nigerians. More alarming in this context is the orchestration of a major new wave of terror killings and bombings by the mysterious and suspiciously well-armed Boko Haram. This we will look at next in the context of Nigeria’s recent transformation into a major narcotics hub.

Source


Morgan Stanley encourages staff to tweet… pre-written messages

Morgan Stanley is to allow its 17,000 financial advisers to join the army of Twitter and LinkedIn users, but there is a catch: they are to select from “a library of pre-written messages.”

­The decision comes in an effort to promote the bank’s services, which was downgraded two notches by Moody’s. The posts are to transmit news to clients and show the employees “generally exist as human beings in the 21st century”, according to the Financial Times.

There is one “but” though: the employees are not allowed to write anything personal, but rather draw from a prewritten library of Twitter messages and submit all LinkedIn postings for approval.

The tweets have been approved by the firm’s in-house social media experts.

These constraints have drawn online mockery with some laughing that Twitter now will be full of boring financial posts. With New York Magazine even giving some examples:

“Heading to ‪#MSSB‬ HQ as part of my service on our firm’s ‪#diversity‬ committee. I ‘m proud of MSSB’s great work on diversity. Way to go MSSB,” says a cheerful post of financial adviser Fay DeBellis.

Critics say the pre-written strictures hinder the spontaneity of social media.

But the defenders of the program argue that Morgan Stanley is going where its rivals on Wall Street have not yet ventured, tiptoeing into a world full of possible risks.

“It’s a lot harder to approve 140 characters than one might think it would be,” Lauren W. Boyman, the firm’s head of social media said to The New York Times. “Pretty much every tweet has a link to a report or an article or a Web site, and all that has to get read and approved.”

The risky experiment of expanding the list of social media users comes after over a year of trials and risk analysis, where 600 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney advisors first tried out twitter and LinkedIn.

Source


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