Crude oil export procedure in the country is facing one of the greatest scandals in recent times. A document obtained by LEADERSHIP shows how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) allegedly exported crude oil worth $1.6 billion dollars with forged Export Clearance Permit.
The discovery of the document is causing so much unease in the NNPC and the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the issuer of Export Clearance Permits. The minister, Dr Olusegun Aganga, has written a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, promising to investigate the source of the letter and brief the president accordingly.
In the letter entitled "Investigation Into The Discovery Of A Forged Crude Oil And Gas Export Clearance Permit NO: CO/28/VOL.VIII/09, Purportedly Issued By The Federal Ministry Of Trade and Investment To NNPC For Shipment Of 24 Million Barrels Of Crude Oil And Gas In The Third Quarter ( July To September) 2012", Aganga wrote: "May I humbly inform Mr. President that on Thursday, 4th October 2012, my Office was alerted of the existence of an Export Clearance Permit No. CO/28/VOL III/09 purportedly issued by my office to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the export of crude oil and gas from Nigeria for the period covering the 1st July 2012 to the 30th September 2012.
" On a closer examination, it was discovered that one of the permits was not, in fact, issued by my office and may have been forged as it did not bear the security features that we had built into the original permit forms to prevent such forgeries. Had these security features not been in place it would have been difficult to detect the forgery. (See Annexures I [Authentic] & II [Forged])."
The minister explained, "On October 8, 2012, the matter was officially reported to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation to determine the identity of the fraudster(s), identify the fraud indicators and how the opportunity presented itself.
"Mr. President is invited to note that the measures introduced in the past 14 months by my Ministry has strengthened the regulatory environment in the oil and gas sector and most importantly on the procedures for the issuance of the export clearance permit as the discovery of the forged export clearance permit has attested to. May I humbly aver that I will personally brief Your Excellency on events regarding the investigation as they unfold. Please, accept the assurances of my highest regards and esteem."
The discovery of the document is coming at a time those conversant with developments in the nation's crude oil business contest the quantity the NNPC claims it exports.
Earlier this month the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, queried the accuracy of the country's crude oil production, which currently stands at 2.7 million barrels per day, according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The CBN boss made the observations while defending the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) forwarded to the House on September 20 by President Goodluck Jonathan, preparatory to the transmission of the 2013 Appropriation Bill.
Sanusi, who appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Finance, Legislative Budget and Research, National Planning and Aid, Loans and Debt Management, reiterated the apex bank's commitment to stability of the economy, and stressed the need to strengthen the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
He explained that oil was a commodity with price volatility and that the best way to save the budget was to increase output and block leakages, especially through oil bunkering and "bombing illegal refineries in the Niger Delta".
However, when contacted, acting group general manger, group public affairs division, NNPC, Fidel Pepple said, "We are not aware of the document; it is absolutely a forged document and it did not emanate from us. "
When asked if the alleged forgers of the permit may have exported the said quantity of crude oil with such document, Pepple said it is "absolutely impossible", citing what he called "the checks and balance mechanism in place" to detect such transaction.
But a thorough examination of the Export Clearance Permit shows data found in genuine permits with the following information: Serial No-Q33006030; Name of Exporter, NNPC; Dept. of Petroleum Resources Reference No. DPR/DS/CTO/28/VOL.V111/09, Product Description, Bonny Light Crude; Quantity 24,000,000 Barrels; FOB Value Estimate in US Dollars $1,680,000,000; Product full description and grade Bonny Light Crude, amongst other information. It has the signature of the trade and investment minister, Olusegun Aganga, and the seal of the ministry. The only feature the document does not have is an enlarged Nigerian coat of arms buried in the permit.
But according to the guidelines issued by the Commodities and Products Inspectorate Department of the Trade and Investment ministry, companies qualified to obtain the export permit from the ministry includes the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), international oil companies, Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) Ltd., indigenous oil producing companies, major oil and marketing companies, independent petroleum marketing Companies(IPMAN or DAPPMA companies) with current DPR licence for receptacles/storage facilities (i.e. jetties/depots).
A source in the Commodities and Products Directorate in the Trade and Investment ministry admitted that he was aware of the alleged fake permit, but insisted he had no idea where it came from as it was not issued by them.
The source further said that the permit issued in the period had lower crude oil quantity than in the said fake permit.
LEADERSHIP checks at the Nigeria Customs Service revealed that the signature of the authorising official and stamp were forged, as the document was never at the NCS registry on July 2, 2012, as the stamp on the document showed.
What is puzzling however is why the forger chose the NNPC as his company name and not any of the other companies that are also qualified to export crude oil as listed above.
"And why is the supposed fake document receiving the measure of attention which has necessitated a letter to the presidency?" a source who would not want his name mentioned queried.
He added that nothing was impossible in Nigeria as government officials were notorious for ignoring due process.