Nigeria FirstBank seizes Seawolf’s rigs over N25bn debt

LAGOS— Sequel to our exclusive story earlier this month about abandoned oil rigs at the outer Marina in Lagos, Vanguard learnt that the rigs may have been seized by FirstBank of Nigeria Plc for alleged debts of about N25 billion owed by Seawolf Oil Services Limited, owners of the rigs.

As a result, the two rigs – Onome and Oritsetimeyin, may not have been abandoned after all, but kept under watch by FirstBank.

This is happening as more than 450 workers of the company demand payment of N3 billion allegedly owed them since August, 2013.

The DPR claim

The unfolding scenario is contrary to the claim by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the industry regulator, that the two rigs were undergoing repairs.

Vanguard’s Sweetcrude in its February edition had reported the unusual presence of the two rigs at the Marina, but the DPR had dismissed it as not ‘being out of place.’

Even now, the industry regulator has not the faintest idea why the rigs are at the Marina, because when contacted, a top official of the agency, who preferred anonymity insisted that the rigs were not abandoned.

“What we are saying is that as long as the rigs have no issue, they are not abandoned,” he argued.

But curiosity about the presence of the rigs at the Marina was borne out of the fact that rigs are usually found in oil producing areas.

But on further investigation, Vanguard discovered that the two rigs were seized because of mismanagement of funds by Seawolf.

Rigs were working for Total, Addax

It was learnt that while the rig named Oritsetimeyin was working for Total E&P Nigeria, Onome was working for Addax Petroleum Development Company, with each generating $130,000 daily.

Things started to fall apart when the directors of Seawolf were alleged to have been diverting the company’s funds for personal use. First was the $11 million given by Total meant to train the staff and buy equipment for the rig, which could not be accounted for, which led to cancellation of the contract. Also, the company refused to service the N25 billion loan it took from FirstBank.

These led to the gradual grinding of operations of the once flourishing oil servicing company wholly owned by Nigerians.

When the company could no longer function, it terminated the employment of its more than 450 workers in August 2013, without paying their entitlements.

AMCON takes over

Consequently, the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, was compelled to take over Seawolf and the two rigs involved. However, the workers are asking for their salary arrears, terminal benefits and other entitlements as enshrined in the Collective Bargaining agreement, CBA, they signed with Seawolf.

Some of the workers’ claims include: non-payment of outstanding salaries till date; end of contract bonus; non-payment of overtime; public holiday and weekend bonuses; non-provision of medical services which led to the alleged death of one Patrick Akpan.

Others are an unremitted pension deduction not remitted; non-payment of leave allowances and leave not spent; and non-payment of 3.5 percent yearly increment.

AMCON fails to honour agreements

In pursuit of their entitlements, the workers approached the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for intervention and to facilitate their payment.

In one of the meetings said to have held on November 10, 2014, at the NNPC towers in Abuja, it was resolved that Seawolf receiver manager (AMCON) should verify claims of the workers and effect payment.

Attendants at the meeting included officials of the Ministries of Petroleum Resources, Labour and Productivity, AMCON, and joint representatives of junior and senior workers unions— NUPENG and PENGASSAN national branches.

However, Vanguard learnt that this was not effected in the letter. In another meeting held on January 26, 2015, at the conference room of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, it was resolved that under three weeks, AMCON should verify workers’ claims, make payment and report back to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The resolution was also ignored.

Thereafter, the workers have become agitated and are set to mobilise to compel AMCON to pay them as agreed by the parties involved in the negotiations.

Contacted, a source in FirstBank, who chose to remain anonymous, said although the bank gave such a loan to Seawolf, due process was followed.

He said: “Loan to Seawolf is long standing. Due process was followed. Two years ago, it was reported in the annual general meeting of the bank. Right now, it is no longer FirstBank’s loan. It is an AMCON issue. AMCON has taken over and every other enquiry about it should be forwarded to AMCON. It is now an AMCON business.”

AMCON offers no defence        

When Vanguard sought the reaction from the spokesman of AMCON, Mr. Kayode Lambo, he said he was busy and offered to call back in about 10 minutes time.

When Vanguard called back later after waiting for his call for more than 30 minutes, he did not take his call and neither did he respond to a text message sent to him in that regard.

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