Jonathan Goes into Exile, Militants Move to Shutdown Oil Output

• Agip pipeline hit for second time in one week, vandals arrested 

• MEND calls for end of attacks as presidency considers Alaibe for Amnesty post 

• Report: Shell paid $5bn to FG in 2015

By Iyobosa Uwagiaren in Abuja, Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

There are strong indications that former President Goodluck Jonathan may have gone into temporary self exile in Cote d’Ivoire, following reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may arrest him on his arrival in Nigeria from his overseas tour on allegations of corruption and misappropriation of billions of dollars in the five years during which he was Head of State, THISDAY has learnt.

Several sources close to the ex-president, who confirmed that Jonathan had sought refuge last week in the West African country, also blamed the heightened attacks on oil and gas installations by Ijaw militants in the Niger Delta, resulting in the loss of an estimated 800,000-900,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd), to what they claimed was “the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to renege on his promise that his predecessor had ‘nothing to fear’ from him (Buhari) after he handed over the reins of power on May 29, 2015”.

Immediately after his electoral victory in 2015 and at his presidential inauguration, Buhari, in what was seen as a political gesture, had stated that he would not go after his successor, despite allegations that the former president had presided over widespread corruption during his five years in the saddle.

However, since Jonathan’s departure, anti-corruption agencies led by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have swept in on several associates of the former president on allegations of money laundering, diversion of public funds and contract scams, mostly linked to defence sector contracts and the purchase of arms used for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram in the North-east.

In recent weeks, the EFCC has in addition to arresting and prosecuting several public office holders who served under the Jonathan administration, arrested some of the closest allies of the former president including his cousin, Mr. Aziobola Robert, in connection to a $40 million pipeline surveillance contract, and his former principal secretary and confidant Mr. Hassan Tukur.

These arrests were said to have shaken the former president, given that they were the two persons closest to him during his presidency.

A source, who spoke to THISDAY on Jonathan’s decision to give Nigeria a wide berth, said the former president was reliably warned by security sources of the plan to arrest him once he stepped into the country, hence his decision to seek exile in Cote d’Ivoire.

Jonathan, the source disclosed, departed Nigeria for the United States almost two months ago travelling to several cities but stayed in New York for some two weeks. After departing the US, he travelled to London to be with his children for a few days, preparatory to his return to Nigeria.

But while in the UK, he was warned by sympathetic officials in different arms of government of the government’s decision to arrest him once he returned to Nigeria.

On getting wind of the plan,  Jonathan, THISDAY gathered, contacted a few West African leaders including the President of Cote d’Iviore, Mr. Alassane Outtara, who offered him a safe haven until the coast is clear for him to return to Nigeria.

Sources close to the president said since the information of the government’s resolve to arrest Jonathan swept through the Niger Delta, Ijaw militants have gone berserk and stepped up their attacks on oil and gas installations in the region. They are said to be hell bent on shutting down oil output completely.

One source said the militants are targeting all onshore and shallow water installations, from where Nigeria derives the bulk of 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings and may head for the deep offshore oil fields if the federal government does not back down.

“Perhaps the only installations that may not be affected in the interim by militant attacks are those in the deep offshore basin because they are more difficult to reach and would require large vessels to access,” said the source who, however, added that “during the last militant crises we went as far as shutting down the Bonga deep water oil field”.

In order to stem the renewed wave of attacks, governors in the region have scrambled and sent teams to the creeks to placate the militants, but so far their efforts appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

The governors are particularly concerned that the attacks on oil installations would hurt the Niger Delta states the most due to the attendant decline in revenue.

When contacted on the plan by the government to arrest Jonathan and his purported exile, Buhari’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said he was not aware that the former president was in exile, adding that questions on his arrest could only be addressed by the security and law enforcement agencies.

Alaibe Considered for Amnesty Post

On its part, the presidency, THISDAY learnt, is seriously considering reaching out to the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and first Presidential Adviser on the Amnesty Programme, Mr. Timi Alaibe, to return to run the affairs of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

A source in the presidency told THISDAY that Buhari who is very disturbed by the incessant attacks on oil installations in the region and its impact on the country’s finances, is mulling the advise of a senior security and intelligence chief, who has recommended that Alaibe be brought back to manage the amnesty office.

The goal, the presidency source explained, is to get Alaibe, who was the architect of the reconciliation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme for ex-militants who laid down their arms in 2009, to use his links with the former and current militants to arrest the bombings in the Niger Delta.

The source added that the current occupier of the office, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd), may be eased out of the job, just as two key ministers from the Niger Delta region have reportedly received verbal queries from Buhari over the security breaches in the region.

“Even though the nation’s security agencies are on top of the situation in the region, the affected officials have been accused of not doing enough to solve the problem.

“The perception in the presidency is that the amnesty man (Boroh) is far detached from the people, he does not know the militants well, and we cannot just go into a military operation that will take innocent lives in the name of looking for the boys when there is an easier way to reach the militants and rebuild confidence.

“I think at our level, we have done our bit by suggesting to the political leadership to bring Timi Alaibe on board so that we can avoid some of these military operations.

“I can bet you that once we engage in any operation, it will take a minimum of 16 months to complete because times have changed.

“It is now very clear to the president that some of the ministers from the Niger Delta are not on ground,” the source in the presidency said.

Since the resurgence of attacks in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil output has fallen to a 22-year low of 1.4 million barrels per day (mbpd), against the budgetary target of 2.2mbpd.

The attacks, which have also targeted gas infrastructure in the region, have also impacted negatively on electricity output from thermal power stations that are reliant on gas to power their turbines. This has led to constant system failures and prolonged blackouts nationwide.

Agip Pipeline Bombed Again

Despite the government’s efforts to stem the bombings in the region, suspected Niger Delta militants early yesterday morning bombed the Tebidaba to Brass pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) at Ikienghenbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State for the second time in one week.

Last Tuesday, militants blew up a gas pipeline belonging to the Italian oil giant that supplies crude oil through Tumor community in Bomadi, Delta State to Ogbuasiri in Ekeremor and Ogbembiri in Southern Ijaw, both in Bayelsa State.

Yesterday’s attack made it a dozen times this year that various oil installations operated by the company have been destroyed by the armed youths suspected to be militants in the state.

Before the two attacks in one week, armed militants breached a pipeline located at Brass Local Government Area (LGA) of Bayelsa State, leading to an oil spill in the area.

Earlier in the year, there was an attack at Kpongbokiri, which came on the heels of two attacks at Orukari and Golubokiri. That was just before a suspect, Seimghale Perekeyi, was apprehended for planting and detonating the dynamite that killed three oil workers in an oil platform belonging to Agip.

During yesterday’s attack, the gunmen suspected to have been led by persons identified as Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fynboy, believed to be residing within the community  were said to have vandalised the pipeline and setting it ablaze.

It wasn’t clear what the motive for the latest bombing was, however, sources from the community claimed that a bloody clash between rival pipeline contractors over a surveillance contract led to the attack of the trunkline.

A resident of Ikienghenbiri who preferred to remain anonymous, disclosed that the groups were struggling for control of the Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba crude trunkline which passes through the area, revealing that the latest bombing was meant to sabotage the group that had been awarded the surveillance contract.

“We understand it is a conflict between two armed groups for access to the crude pipeline. One group claimed to be working to safeguard the pipeline and said the other group were vandals; they were shooting at one another,” he said.

It was gathered that the pipeline was set ablaze when the two groups engaged one another in a gun battle even as a thick cloud of smoke billowed from the scene.

But operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who stormed the community shortly after the incident reportedly apprehended one of the suspects.

Confirming the incident, the state Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, said one of the militants identified as Peregbakumo was arrested through the help of the community leaders in the area.

The civil defence chief said he had summoned an emergency meeting of senior officers of the command and given them marching orders to secure all pipelines, oil installations and other critical national assets in the affected areas.

He identified the facility attacked by the militants as a pipeline along the Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass trunkline, adding that the facility was attacked with dynamites at about 12.30 am yesterday.

The commandant said after the attack, the armed youths laid ambush in the community and shot a civilian member of the Oil and Gas Task Force in the leg.

He said the youths took off on sighting the gunboat of NSCDC, adding that his operatives later arrested Peregbakumo following the assistance of the community.

“At about 0300hrs, a gang of armed youths allegedly led by one Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fyneboy, all of Ikienghenbiri community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, vandalised the pipeline along Azuzuama axis of the Tebidaba-Brass pipeline with dynamites and ignited fire on the line.

“Through community help, we were able to arrest one of the suspects and he was used to identify some of the fleeing suspects. There was a lot of community collaboration and we are grateful to the community because they don’t like what the armed youths are doing,” Agu said.

Later yesterday, a statement issued in Yenagoa by the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, said the leaders of the pipeline vandals – Suoyou, Iyelawei and Fyneboy – were apprehended by youths of Azuzuama community, who got wind of the planned action.

They were arrested with the support of operatives of the NSCDC and one of them was shot in the leg while trying to escape.

Obuebite expressed delight that the arrests were coming on the heels of Governor Seriake Dickson’s meeting with traditional rulers and Chairmen of Community Development Communities (CDC), during which the governor directly placed the responsibility of maintaining peace and safeguarding oil facilities in their domains on their shoulders.

The commissioner praised the youths of Azuzuama community “for their galantry, patriotic disposition and commitment to the peace and economic well being of the state and Nigeria as a whole”.

According to him, Dickson would “invite them and reward them for responding positively to his clarion call when it mattered most”.

MEND Calls for End of Attacks

Reacting to the rising waves of militant attacks on oil installation in the oil-rich region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group of ex-militants, yesterday resolved to continue to respect the unilateral ceasefire of hostilities which it declared on May 30, 2014.

The group urged those behind the attacks to stop the bombing of oil and gas installations and allow President Mohammad Buhari to fulfill his electoral promises.

In a statement issued in Yenagoa, Reuben Wilson, also known as General Pastor, MEND called on the aggrieved youths from the region to shun the temptation of resorting to violence and destruction of oil installations.

“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to condemn and dissociate itself from the recent activities carried out by a group known as the ‘Niger Delta Avengers’.

“Their sudden emergence has absolutely nothing to do with the Niger Delta struggle, but is rather a tool by certain elements to destabilise the current government.

“Going by their actions and subsequent statements, it has become very apparent on who the sponsors of these group are.

“MEND serves notice to the international community that the Niger Delta region shall not be part of a secessionist Biafran State.

“Rather, the group believes in one strong united Nigerian federation where the principles and ideals of resource control; true federalism; the rule of law/respect for human rights; democracy; free enterprise; and a vibrant civil society are well entrenched in the grund norm and put to practice,” the group said.

MEND reiterated its call for the release of the Okah brothers – Henry and Charles – who were arrested in 2010 on what it called “trumped-up charges”.

Shell Paid FG $5bn in 2015

Meanwhile, a new report by Royal Dutch Shell Plc has revealed that Shell Nigeria paid a total of $4,951,993,936 to the federal government from its operations in the country in 2015, making Nigeria the highest recipient among the 24 countries that received $21.8 billion in payments from the oil multinational during the year under review.

According to a summary of the “Report on Payments to Governments 2015”, which was prepared by Shell and obtained exclusively by THISDAY, the company paid a total of $21,840,825,287 to 24 countries in 2015.

The report showed that the highest payment of $4.95 billion was made to the Nigerian government in the form of taxes, royalties, fees and production entitlements.

The release of the Shell report is coming ahead of the 2013 audit report to be released by the Nigerian Extractives Transparency Industry Initiative (NEITI) today in Abuja.

According to industry sources, the NEITI report will among others, highlight the non-remittance to the Federation Account of dividends running into billions of dollars paid by Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In the Shell report, Malaysia received the second-largest payment of $4,410,549.595, followed by Norway, which got $4,156,888,087; Oman –  $2,112,924,584; Iraq – $1,359,249,519; Qatar – $989,657,810; Australia -$878,133,272; Denmark – $576,148,422; Philippines- $486,917,661; China – $459,242,357; Gabon – $353,033,264; and United States – $352,073,695.

Others included Italy – $207,038,856; Egypt – $185,566,882; Canada – $150,648,725; New Zealand – $123,893,867; Brunei Darussalam – $103,937,853; Brazil – $69,477,599; Argentina – $23,067,771; Ireland – $4,877,756; Germany – $4,404,123; Jordan – $3,000,000; Indonesia – $1,000,000; and the United Kingdom, which the report showed paid back $122,900,344 to Shell.

Of the $4.95 billion paid to the Nigerian government, $378,551,263 and $200,638,000 were paid to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) as royalties and fees, respectively, bringing the total payment made to the regulatory agency to $579,189,263.

Other payments that constituted the $4.95 billion included $717,920,620 paid to the Federal Inland Revenue service (FIRS) as taxes; $291,115 paid into the Federation Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); $46,946,550 paid to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as three per cent levy; and $3,607,646,387 paid to NNPC as production entitlement.

The $717,920,620 paid to the FIRS included payment in kind of $457,824,860 for 8,996,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

A further breakdown of the $4.95 billion payment to the Nigerian government showed that the $3,607,646,387 paid to the NNPC included payment in kind for 114,069,000 barrels of oil equivalent at market value.

Under what Shell referred to as payments for projects in the 1993 Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs), $799,332,160 was paid as production entitlement, $368,870,290 as taxes, and $37,424,320 as royalties on Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 212, now Oil Mining Lease (OML) 118 and OPL 219, now OML 135.

The Bonga field, which is operated by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd (SNEPCo) under a PSC for NNPC, which holds the lease, is in OML 118 (formerly OPL 212).

The massive Bonga field consists of Bonga Main, Bonga South West/Aparo and Bonga North West.

SNEPCo holds a 55 per cent contractor interest in OML 118. The other co-venturers are Esso Exploration & Production Nigeria Ltd (20 per cent), Total E&P Nigeria Ltd (12.5 per cent) and Nigerian Agip Exploration Ltd (12.5 per cent).

OML 135 contains the Bolia and Doro fields, where SNEPCo also holds a 55 per cent contractor interest.

The sum of $368,870,290 included payment in kind of the said amount for 6,996,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

Also the $799,332,160 included payment in kind of the said amount for 14,732,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

The royalties of $37,424,320 also included payment in kind of the said amount for 703,000 barrels of oil equivalent at market price.

The report also showed that $88,954,570 was paid as taxes for OML 209 under a 1993 PSC, which included payment in kind of the said amount for 2,000,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

The federal government also received $1,592,115,125 as production entitlement from Shell Petroleum Development Company’s (SPDC) eastern operation, and this included payment in kind of the said amount for 76,215,000 barrels of oil equivalent value at market price.

SPDC West also paid $798,332,523 as production entitlement and this included payment in kind of the said amount for 15,054,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

The sum of $417,866,579 was paid by SPDC shallow water as production entitlement and this included payment in kind of the said amount for 8,068,000 barrels of oil equivalent valued at market price.

Under what Shell also described as entity level payment, SPDC paid $260,095,760 as taxes, $341,126,943 as royalties and $247,875,666 as fees, making a total of $849,098,369.

Shell said it made the payments to the various countries in the form of production entitlements, taxes, royalties, dividends, bonuses, as well as licence fees, rental fees, entry fees and other considerations for licences and/or concessions.

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