Despite what is perceived as an orchestrated campaign to smear its corporate image, integrated energy group, Aiteo has remained resilient, catapulting itself to one of Africaâ€™s fastest-growing conglomerates. Ejiofor Alike reports
A few months ago, Aiteo Group achieved a peak production of 90,000 barrels of crude oil from Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 exactly one year after the company acquired the sub-Saharan Africaâ€™s reputedly largest onshore oil block.
The integrated energy group acquired the plum asset from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which fully exited the facility in September 2015.
Data showed that at the time of the divestment, average production from the asset was 23,000 barrels per day.
But leveraging on the diversity and skills of its workforce as a dynamic international energy conglomerate, the company tripled the production capacity of the acreage within one year.
As the company was celebrating this feat, its Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman, Mr. Benedict Peters, highlighted several existing and developing projects that could potentially grow the assetâ€™s production to over 150, 000 barrels of oil per day and 200 million standard cubic feet per day of gas (mmscf/d).
According to him, the companyâ€™s outlook is bright with three oil-producing fields and viable crude exports via Bonny terminal.
Apart from its feat in growing its crude oil production, Aiteo has an ambitious five-year target of tackling the power challenges in Nigeria through its legacy investments in the gas-to-power value chain.
In the interim, the company plans to develop power generation projects across Nigeria.
The companyâ€™s main subsidiary, Aiteo Eastern E&P, is also a major infrastructure provider for Nigeriaâ€™s oil industry as the operator of the 97km Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL).
The pipeline, which is an industry-wide evacuation facility for produced fluids covering much of the countryâ€™s Eastern Delta region, is one of the two major pipelines used by Shell and other producing companies operating in eastern Niger Delta to evacuate crude to export terminals.
Aiteoâ€™s resolve is to provide Nigeria consistently with integrated energy solutions that power the future.
Efforts on sports development
In line with the global trend where developed countries and big national brands invest heavily in sports as a tool to engender unity, discipline and healthy living among the citizens, the company has contributed significantly to Nigeriaâ€™s sport development.
Having carved a niche in the oil and gas industry, Aiteo as a big Nigerian brand, did not wait for the government to develop sports.
The Women Challenge Cup, Federations Cup and Nigeria Women Premier League are competition organised by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).
Indeed, the Women Challenge Cup and the Nigerian Women Premier League are organised for women football and played at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
However, in June 2017, the NFF sealed a five-year deal with the Aiteo Group for the naming rights of the competition.
Recently, Akwa United defeated Niger Tornadoes in the presence of the new Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Ahmad, in the final of the maiden Aiteo Cup at the Agege Stadium in Lagos.
At the end of a drab 90 minutes, Akwa United won the ensuing penalty kicks 3-2 to pocket the sponsorâ€™s N25million while Tornadoes got N10million.
Also recently, the company, which is the sponsor of the Federation Cup, took over the sponsorship of the annual CAF Awards organised by the CAF.
Before this development, Globacom had been sponsoring the awards since 2005.
Sustained campaign of calumny
It is, however, strange that despite the companyâ€™s impressive records in the oil and gas sector, as well as in sports, it is has been subjected to sustained smear campaigns.
First, there was an allegation that the company maintained a corrupt relationship with the erstwhile Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, principally to tarnish the image and reputation of the company as well as its executive vice chairman.
Nobody has yet produced any evidence to prove that there was any time in Aiteoâ€™s history when its chairman or any of its directors or employees was involved in any form of criminal or immoral activity with the former minister.
There is no record to show that the company ever benefitted from the Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) in the industry during the former ministerâ€™s tenure, which was subject of several legislative probes.
The company was already a major player in the Nigerian oil sector, importing petroleum products for NNPC and exporting naphtha, fuel oil and condensates and already a flourishing and prosperous group by any standards long before Mrs Alison-Maduekeâ€™s appointment as petroleum minister.
Aiteo was also linked to the alleged 2015 INEC bribery scheme but the peddlers of the rumour failed to state how Aiteo was involved.
False inferences have also been made concerning OML 29 when it is on records that the sale of OML 29 to the Aiteo Consortium by Shell was conducted under international best practices, with Aiteo emerging as the preferred bidder due to its superior technical and commercial competence. The rigor and transparency under which the bid was conducted by the owners of the purchased interest -Shell, Total and Agip, made it unnecessary and impossible for anyone to influence the outcomes inordinately.
As the campaigns contrived against Aiteoâ€™s corporate integrity has continues to escalate, the company has remained resilient.
It has continued, unperturbed, to undertake and accomplish its objectives in its resolve to remain one of the foremost indigenous oil and gas companies in Nigeria.
The companyâ€™s noble and altruistic sponsorship of the Nigerian senior national team, Nigerian Football Federation and the competition previously known as the Federation Cup has also been targeted for smear campaign.
The companyâ€™s sponsorship of the NFF and the Federation Cup, a corporate social responsibility initiative that has brought considerable delight to Nigerians, is being questioned.
But the recent successes recorded in Nigerian football are pointers to the fact that Aiteo is untainted.
The mischief makers have also suggested that the company planned to divest part of its stake in OML 29.
They insisted that the recent appointment of Bruce Burrows as its Chief Financial Officer was aimed at finding a buyer for part of its assets.
However, the company has come out to describe the peddlers of the fake news as fraudsters running reports-for-cash syndicate, who mislead the public.
Aiteoâ€™s Senior Manager in charge of Corporate Communications, Mr. Ndiana Matthew, had said in a statement that the company did not consider, initiate, or announce the commencement of any plans to sell off any of its stakes in OML 29.
â€œThe reasons are patently clear. First, since the takeover of the asset we have successfully quadrupled production that it would be commercially inept to consider a disposal of any sort, now. Second, there are several legitimate entities that constitute ownership of the oil block, such that it would be practically impossible for us to unilaterally consider disposing of the asset. As such, we urge the public to summarily disregard these unsavoury and fabricated reports in their entirety,â€ the statement said.
The statement added that the claim that Burrowsâ€™ recent appointment as the companyâ€™s chief financial officer was aimed at finding a buyer for part of Aiteoâ€™s assets was spurious.
â€œAll of our stakeholders familiar with our strategic vision can attest that Aiteo continues to invest in the right people to deliver on that vision. Mr. Burrowsâ€™ appointment is simply to further strengthen our financial discipline as one of the most innovative, reliable and diverse oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria today. Burrows joins a team of highly trained, experienced and world-class talent that currently guide the day to day activities of Aiteo,â€ said the company.
Despite campaigns of calumny, Aiteo has remained resilient, positioning itself as one of Africaâ€™s biggest energy leaders, tackling local challenges with local manpower and giving back to the communities where it operates.
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