About three years after downstream oil sector magnate, Mr Femi Otedola made a surprising offer of US$20Million for the then-Nigerian Unity Line (NUL), the business mogul has beaten an equally surprising retreat from the highly controversial deal.
Impeccable sources close to both the business mogul’s shipping outfit, Seaforce Shipping which was used to bid for the national carrier and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) told Shipping Position Weekly that Otedola has actually collected a refund of the $20Million he paid in 2005 for theoutright acquisition of the national carrier.
Our sources confirmed that between Otedola may have beaten a retreat following the inability of Seaforce to use the acquisition of NUL to enter into the big league of crude oil carriers contrary to an agreement that was reached with the BPE.
It was learnt that both Seaforce and BPE had reached an agreement based on alleged directives form the presidency that Seaforce would use the NUL statusas a national carrier to lift 40 per cent of the nation’s crude oil.
Spokesman for the BPE, Mr Chigbo Anichebe who confirmed the refund last week equally disclosed that the bureau is already shopping for a new buyer for the national carrier.
He explained further that even though there was a presidential approval, it was difficult to get the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to implement the directive.
Anichebe who confirmed NNPC’s position also confirmed that Otedola actually got the refund a few weeks back. He added that the battle to secure the refund had been ongoing for a while.
It was confirmed that even though Otedola’s company won the bid for NUL on December 1, 2005, he only paid in February, 2006, but failed to take advantageof the company as a national carrier until September, 2007, by which time, anew President had been sworn in.
Our sources at the BPE and some former employees of NUL confirmed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had given Otedola a blanket directive to commencethe lifting of crude oil once the BPE hurdle had been crossed. In fact, Shipping Position Weekly confirmed that the petroleum product business magnate’s emergence as the preferred bidder was on the directive of the presidency and that the agreement was that the company would be given the license to lift Nigeria’s crude oil; which hitherto had been the exclusive preserve of the multinationals. “Why do you think he paid $20Million to buy NUL which is not worth more than its certificate of incorporation; it had no ship, it only had about 500 empty containers, it was operating from a rented apartment”, our source who was a staff of the NUL stated when he was asked to educate us on why so much money was paid for the national carrier. “The only ship, MV Abuja which NUL would have had was sold in 2002 under very controversial circumstances and one wonders why the government decided to sell the certificate of NUL which is a government-owned company and which is national carrier to an individual”, the source wondered. It was also learnt that Otedola’s decision to beat a retreat form the deal was invigorated when it became difficult for the company to participate in the highly lucrative business of crude oil carriage which he had allegedly been promised by ex-president Obasanjo. Shipping Position Weekly learnt that Otedola took the option when he became frustrated in spite of intense efforts to get the NNPC and the present government to honour ex-President Obasanjo’s directive. Several calls that were made to the general manager, Seaforce Shipping, Engineer J.W Wasa were unanswered.