by Stanley Azuakola
Zambian authorities believe that a Nigerian, George Anyiam-Osigwe, has exported our brand of subsidy fraud to that country. At a time when Nigerians are still coming to terms with the extent of fraud which characterised the subsidy regime in the country, Anyiam-Osigwe has been accused in faraway Zambia of duping the government a sum of $5 million which they paid him as commission to supply crude oil.
The accusation was made in a press briefing by the permanent secretary of the Zambian Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development, George Zulu. Zulu’s account could have been made by Nigeria’s minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and one wouldn’t have been able to spot the difference.
“Not a single drop of crude oil was transported to Zambia,” Mr. Zulu said.
According to him, George Anyiam-Osigwe, a Nigerian business man claimed that he had been acting as a middleman between Zambia and Nigeria for the supply of crude oil.
“The President of the Republic Zambia recently sent me to Nigeria because he has always wanted to have cheaper or affordable prices of fuel in Zambia.
“In Nigeria, there’s a gentleman called George Anyiam-Osigwe, a Nigerian national, who claimed he was given $5 million commission from the Zambian Government over the deal.
“He claimed that he had been at the centre of negotiations between the Zambian Government and the Nigerian Government to supply crude oil. So I sought permission to go to Nigeria to speak to Anyiam-Osigwe and it is true. This man was engaged.”
In another eerie echo of the Nigerian subsidy fraud saga, Zulu reported that he was shocked with what he found in Nigeria, because even though the oil did not reach Zambia, there was documentation to prove that the Zambian Government actually paid for the supply of the commodity.
“This agreement has been in place for the past few years, except that the previous administration treated this matter in a confidential manner such that we are not sure whether the nation benefited from this arrangement.
“Due to this uncertainty, the government would engage investigative wings to look into this matter to ascertain what actually happened,” he said.
At the press conference, Zulu said if it was established that some individuals’ actions were questionable, the law would take its course.
“The nation will be kept abreast on the developments of this issue,” he said
But, in a swift reaction, the Anyiam-Osigwe Group said it was not involved in fraud. According to its media consultant, Tope Ajayi, the group neither participated in any oil transaction with the Zambian Government nor did it collect any money from them.
“At no time did any member of our Group participate in the oil transaction either as alleged or at all and not a cent came to any one of us either as alleged or at all. Consequently, should any article be written that impinges on our integrity negatively in any way, we shall not hesitate to take effective and appropriate action to defend our persons legally.”
Ajayi admitted though, that in April 2011, the Group made a representation to the Zambian President Banda for supply of crude oil to the country and also revamp its Indeni refinery with the assistance of the Group’s United States technical partner – Honeywell International. However, Ajayi said that after its presentations, the Zambian government went behind and had a government-to-government engagement with the Nigerian Government for the oil supply.
To prove it, Mr Ajayi reproduced a letter signed by Mr. Michael Anyiam-Osigwe dated April 02, 2011, stating the Group’s displeasure over how the oil supply transaction was treated by the Zambian Government. The letter entitled, “Representation to His Excellency President Banda in respect of the crude oil allocation to Zambia by Nigeria,” reads:
“With regards to our ongoing discussions with your goodselves and His Excellency President Banda in respect of the Oil and Gas and Zambian Investment opportunities, we would like to reiterate that our group is willing to strategically partner with the Government of Zambia under the leadership of President Banda.
“This was what informed the strategic meeting held in the USA and the follow up with regards to the subsequent meetings in Abuja with His Excellency President Banda.
“We were pleased to note that one of the initiatives of which we had intimated His Excellency President Banda, the application for a Bilateral Agreement for the Supply of crude oil has been approved by our Government of Nigeria for the supply of 20,000 barrels of crude oil to the Government of Zambia.
“We brought this to the attention of your Embassy officials via the Economic Secretary, Margret Kaemba and the present High Commissioner who stated that he would check and get back to us. He is yet to do so.
“However, you would imagine our surprise when we were further reliably informed that the Zambian authorities had designated another entity entirely to operate the business on behalf of the Government of Zambia. We were even shown a letter to NNPC signed by Major Kachingwe as a Special envoy of the President of Zambia .
“Whilst we are not disputing the prerogative of His Excellency President Banda to elect a company of his choice to handle the affairs of the Zambia, one would have thought that since we brought the opportunity to the attention of his Excellency through your goodself and additionally had the good fortune to discuss the Bilateral Agreement for the supply of Crude and other investments opportunities direct with his Excellecny and some of his key cabinet members at the time, the least we expect is that we would be informed when the decision was made not to go with our group; if nothing as a matter of professional courtesy, especially when it was not brought to our attention that we had acted in a manner that caused us to fall out of favour with the Government of Zambia or indeed his Excellency.
” Our interactions with his Excellency President Banda have been in our opinion very positive and cordial. We believe his Excellency welcomed our interest in doing business with the Government of Zambia. We on our part looked forward to supporting his Excellency’s development initiatives with our contacts both within and outside the country. Austin Sichinga the Chief of Staff to His Excellency President Banda will attest to the above.
“This was the basis on which we met and informed the Economic Secretary and the Zambian High Commissioner in Nigeria about the approval for the Supply of Crude. We also informed them that our group, since our meeting with his Excellency President Banda, has partnered with a fortune 100 company Honeywell International, a USD38 billion with 125,000 employees in 100 countries (please refer to www. Honeywell.com). We have offered to bring them to help you revamp your Indeni refinery and optimise her operations, including the possibility of getting the refinery to use lighter Crudes, such as those from Nigeria in addition to the Heavy (Venezuelan) crude it currently uses .
“The Honeywell team was in Nigeria on a visit to NNPC and we used the opportunity to arrange for them to meet with the Economic Secretary at the Zambian High Commission. We are also in a position to arrange for the immediate refining of Zambia’s crude allocation from Nigeria under an arrangement with one of our partner-refineries. This entails that we would deliver the crude to the said refinery in return for products based on the corresponding yield of the crude.
“The above is just by way of back ground about our commitment to the Government of Zambia under the leadership of President Banda but the current developments in terms of the Government to Government (G-G) Bilateral for Crude begs the question whether our Group’s investment initiatives is welcome.
“For the record, we are not querying His Excellency’s prerogative on how he wants things handled but it would help us if we could understand his reasons for doing so if he did give the directives to Major Kachingwe as we are not aware that we had acted knowingly or unknowingly in a manner that might not have met with his acceptance and as such been responsible for the recent developments. Even Our initial meeting with Major Kachingwe were very cordial when at your instance we met with him prior to our initial meeting with His Excellency in Nigeria.
“He received us well at the time and assured us that as friends of His Excellency the President and Friends of Zambia we would be most welcome.
“We have impressed upon Honeywell International to visit Zambia and they plan to visit the Zambia upon an invitation from the government.
“We trust the above is in order and have simply made this representation through your goodself to His Excellency President Banda for sake of good order.
“Whilst thanking you for your kind assistance in bringing this matter to the attention of His Excellency we also ask that you kindly convey to him the assurances of our highest esteem.”