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Energy

The plot behind Access Bank’s Mareva injunction against Seplat and Cardinal Drilling

New details emerge as Access Bank, Seplat Petroleum squabble over Cardinal Drilling Services’ loans.

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ABC Orjiako, Access Bank's Mareva injunction against Seplat and Cardinal Drilling

In a dramatic move on Friday, Access Bank sealed the offices of Seplat Petroleum Development Company (Seplat) over third party loans owed to it by Cardinal Drilling Services.

Seplat issued a press release on the website of the Nigerian Stock Exchange vowing to sue Access Bank claiming that “the action was taken by Access Bank without any prior notice to SEPLAT, as required under Nigerian law.”

READ: EFCC re-arraigns ex-NIMASA DG over alleged N156.4 million money laundering

Access Bank sources indicate the outstanding loan is about $85.8 million and is secured by a fixed and floating Debenture over Cardinal’s assets.

Access Bank obtained an Ex-Parte Order from a Federal High Court against Cardinal Drilling Services, Seplat, ABC Orjiakor, and Kalu Nwosu.  The bank also obtained a Mareva injunction freezing the accounts of Seplat in Nigeria and abroad. Reliable sources with knowledge of the matter claim Access Bank was targeting ABC Orjiakor in the Sealing of Seplat headquarters.

READ: #EndSARS: Access Bank announces N50 billion interest-free facility for businesses

The Mareva Injunction targeted the following assets;

  • 25, Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos,
  • 6, Agodogba Avenue, Parkview, Ikoyi, Lagos
  • 11, Oba Adeyin’ka Oyekan Street, Ikoyi, Lagos

Seplat claims it is neither a shareholder in Cardinal Drilling and that it has no “outstanding loan obligations or guarantees to Access Bank and did not at any time make any commitments or guarantees in respect of Cardinal Drilling’s loan obligations” to the bank.

READ: New CBN Circular: CBN confirms only Banks can pay IMTO dollars

How Seplat got roped in

According to a source, Cardinal Drilling Services obtained a loan from Diamond Bank in 2012 and used it to purchase CDS Rigs 101, 201, 202, and 203.

  • The rigs were used to provide drilling services to Seplat in a contract that helped fund Cardinal Drilling services 60% equity in a JV with Maurel & Prom.
  • Sources at Access Bank allege Cardinal Drilling Services was a vehicle setup to obtain the loan to purchase the drilling services knowing fully well that Seplat was to be the main beneficiary.
  • It is unclear if Cardinal Drilling Services drills for any other oil company beyond Seplat. The company’s website did not list who it provides services for.
  • Kalu Nwosu is the Managing Director of Cardinal Drilling and is said to have provided a personal guarantee and a statement of personal net worth as security for the loan.

READ: Nigeria loses N3.5 trillion to post harvest loss annually – Farmcrowdy boss

What Access Bank hopes to achieve

Access Bank appears to have also gone after Seplat because ABC Orjiakor, the chairman of Seplat, is an investor in Cardinal Drilling.

  • A source informed Nairametrics that by joining Seplat to the case, Access Bank believes it will pile pressure on Seplat forcing it to reach a deal that will either see the loan repaid or get some guarantees from Seplat that it will get ABC Orjiakor to allow the bank take over the assets of Cardinal Drilling without a tussle from Orjikor.
  • In a document shared with Nairametrics, the Bank explained in a court filing that its decision to go after Seplat was because there is an “intercompany relationship between SEPLAT and Cardinal Drilling”, noting that “they are jointly promoted by Orjiako” its primary target.
  • According to the document, “SEPLAT is a sister company to Cardinal, jointly promoted by Orjiako who is the alter ego of the two companies.” 
  • Seplat in its annual report disclosed Cardinal Drilling Services as a related party based on entities controlled by Key Management Personnel.
  • It revealed in the annual report that “Cardinal Drilling Services Limited (formerly Caroil Drilling Nigeria Limited): Is owned by common shareholders with the parent company. The company provides drilling rigs and drilling services to Seplat. Transactions with this related party amounted to N2.89billion, $9.44million (N621million, $2.03million). Receivables and payables were nil in the current period (receivables in 2018: N1.49billion, $4.87million).”

READ: Top U.S regulator says more crypto banks coming

Bottom Line

Access Bank is understood to be grappling with a string of bad loans issued under the defunct Diamond Bank. Sources inform Nairametrics that the bank is stepping up efforts to go after some of the debtors by obtaining several court orders to seize properties.

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READ: Covid-19: First world nations oppose waiving intellectual rights for vaccine development

  • From what we know Seplat does not owe Access Bank any loan and is only being joined in this matter because of ABC Orjiakor its Chairman and co-founder.
  • The Bank is doing all it can to recover its debt from Cardinal Drilling Services even if it means dragging Seplat into the mess.
  • We are also surprised the bank was able to get an Ex-Parte Order from a Federal High Court against Seplat even though it was not the company that borrowed the money and neither did it guarantee it.
  • The transaction once again highlights controversies surrounding the murky waters of loans to companies in the oil and gas sector most of which end up going bad and written off by banks.
  • According to CBN data, Oil and Gas loans (upstream) makes up N3.6 trillion or 19% of total banking sector credit to the private sector. This is the highest of any sector.
  • About N268 billion of oil sector loans are said to be non-performing.

READ: Japual Gold & Ventures Plc partner with Chinese firm to mine gold

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Seplat share price closed flat at N402.3 on Friday while Access Bank shares closed lower by 0.58% to N8.55 per share.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dayyabu ibrahim

    February 23, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Dayyabu Ibrahim .gmil.com

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Energy

NERC issues order to DisCos on replacement of faulty, obsolete meters

NERC has issued a directive to DisCos on the structured replacement of faulty and obsolete meters for their customers.

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Electricity, Buhari moves against Discos and agents that collect money for prepaid meters

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has issued a directive to the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) on the structured replacement of faulty and obsolete meters for their customers with effect from March 4, 2021.

This is to remove the bottlenecks that had previously impeded the rapid deployment of meters to unmetered customers and the receipt of complaints from metered customers in fourth-quarter 2020, that they had been served meter replacement notices by DisCos when all stakeholders were preparing for the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP).

The directive from NERC is contained in Order No. NERC/246/2021, Titled, “In the matter of the order on structured replacement of faulty and obsolete end-user customer meter in Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI),” issued on March 4, 2021.

The commission noted that over 7 million customers are currently unmetered as indicated by the customer enumeration data. It also estimates that an additional 3 million meters are currently obsolete and due for replacement.

NERC pointed out that the existence of unmetered customers contributes to the threat affecting the financial viability of the NESI as unmetered customers expressed their displeasure with the estimated billing methodology.

The statement from NERC partly reads, “The Commission notes that over 7 million customers are currently unmetered as indicated by customer enumeration data. It is also estimated that an additional 3 million meters are currently obsolete and due for replacement.

“The existence of a large population of unmetered customers contributed to threats affecting the financial viability of NESI as unmetered end-use customers expressed deep dissatisfaction with the estimated billing methodology.

“The revenue assurance objectives of DisCos have also been challenged by being unable to properly account for the utilisation of electricity by end-use customers”.

Following the review from both the metered and unmetered customers, NERC issued the following order;

  1. DisCos shall grant priority to the metering of unmetered customers under the National Mass Metering Program.
  2. DisCos may replace faulty/obsolete meters under the National Mass Metering Program but these replacements must be done in strict compliance with the Metering Code and other regulatory instruments of the Commission.
  3. DisCos shall inspect meters of metered end-use customers and the replacement notice shall contain the following –
  • The date of the inspection
  • Name, designation and signature of the officer that inspected the meter.
  • The fault identified in the meter.
  • The date for the installation of the replacement meter
  1. The Commission shall be copied on all replacement notices issued to end-use customers for the purpose of conducting random reviews of the replacement
  2. New meters must be installed upon the removal of the faulty/obsolete meter and under no circumstances shall the customer be placed on estimated billing on account of the DisCo’s failure to install a replacement meter after the removal of the faulty/obsolete meter.
  3. The customer and DisCo representative shall jointly note the units on the meter being replaced and the customer must be credited with these units within 48 hours after the installation of the meter.
  4. Customers shall only be billed for loss of revenue where the DisCo establishes meter tampering, by-pass or unauthorised access as contained in NERC Order/REG/ 41/2017 on Unauthorised Access, Meter Tampering and Bypass.
  5. Activation tokens shall be issued to customers immediately after replacement of the faulty/obsolete meter.
  6. DisCos shall file monthly returns with the Commission on the replacement of faulty/obsolete meters along with their proposal for the decommissioned meters.

This Order may be cited as the Order on the Structured Replacement of Faulty/Obsolete Meters of End-Use Customers.”

What you should know

  • NERC was mandated in the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act to maximize access to electricity services, by promoting and facilitating customer connections to distribution systems in both rural and urban areas and establish appropriate consumer rights and obligations regarding the provision and use of electricity services.
  • Meters serve as a revenue assurance tool for NESI service providers and a resource management tool for consumers that receive services with the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations coming into force on April 3, 2018.

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Columnists

Why NNPC should be commercialised

A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations.

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NNPC reports explosion at OML 40 facility

The Nigerian government is seeking efficient ways of positioning the country on its path to recovery and the petroleum industry which contributes about 90% of its exchange earnings would undoubtedly be critical on this journey.

The long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which seeks to regulate the entire Nigerian Petroleum Industry and repeal a host of existing legislation is paramount in transforming the industry and introducing more efficiency particularly in its government-owned parastatals. The PIB has gained more traction in the current administration and is now awaiting deliberations by legislators.

A key highlight of the PIB is commercializing the State-run behemoth, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This move would see the NNPC incorporated as a Limited Liability Company and be known as NNPC Limited. This company would conduct its affairs on a commercial basis without resorting to using government funds.

While this might seem like a bold move by the government, it still should not come off as a surprise…

Owing to the fall in crude oil prices from over $100/barrel to below $50/barrel levels in 2020, Nigeria’s exciting story with crude oil slowed down but has picked up in recent months. The country’s heavy dependence on the volatile crude oil market and its ineptitude in diversifying during its “oil-rich” days have now thrown its growth story in jeopardy. The once 3rd-fastest growing economy with foreign reserves in excess of $40bn now wallows in rising inflation complemented and a weakened currency.

Why do we need to commercialize NNPC?

A core theme with a number of government-owned parastatals is the plague of inefficiency and obscurity in the way they are run. To give an idea of the NNPC’s lack of transparency, the corporation only published the group’s audited financial statements for the first time in its 43 years of operation in 2020. It’ll be right to commend this administration is pushing for transparency but you can go on to imagine what went on during those opaque years of operation.

As expected, the results were not impressive. The corporation reported a recurring loss, albeit 70% lower in 2019. The significant reduction in losses may prove the government’s will in improving the operations of the NNPC, however, comments on the report noted that “material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Group and Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Moving down to the State-owned refineries with a combined capacity of 445,000 bpd, capacity utilization well below 20%, and recurring annual losses in excess of ₦150bn, we can agree that the condition of these refineries is utterly worrisome. Despite the government’s annual budget for Turn Around Maintenance of these refineries, they have now been shut down with plans to undergo a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) model.

Chief among the NNPC’s problems is corruption. A number of investigative reports have explained how subsidy payments, domestic crude allocation, revenue retention practices, and oil-for-product swap agreements are smeared with corruption. The Senate has initiated countless probes and new management seeking transparency has been introduced by the President, however, it just seems like the rot has eaten too deep into the system.

What does commercializing NNPC mean for the country?

The government-managed NNPC has proved to be inefficient and riddled with corruption. A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations. The possible introduction of more shareholders would strengthen the amount of funding available to the NNPC and further shift the burden of being the sole-financier away from the government.

Exploring an NNPC IPO

An Initial Public Offering (IPO) would see the NNPC’s shares traded on Stock Exchanges and position the corporation to raise much more funding, build trust and endear to the international community. While this might seem like a daunting task, Nigeria can perhaps take a cue from Saudi Arabia whose National Oil corporation; Saudi Aramco began raising capital for its IPO in December 2019.

The Saudi Crown Prince; Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) announced a valuation of $2trn enticing the world’s largest investment banks, appointed a new set of leaders on the board of the corporation, and executed a highly engaging local marketing strategy. Although the valuation figure was brought down to $1.5 – $1.7 trillion by financial advisors, Saudi Aramco successfully achieved its IPO raising nearly $26 billion for 1.5% of Aramco’s value.

NNPC’s fundamentals might not support an IPO currently as investors might be wary of the high level of risks involved but we can’t deny the immense opportunities an IPO would present not just for NNPC’s transparency and performance but Nigeria’s economic reform.

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In Conclusion

The recurring performance of the corporation with several corruption allegations, inefficiency, and unclarity is indeed worrisome. It is time to have the NNPC turn over a new leaf and operate on a commercial basis. This would afford the government the ability to deploy funds into other segments of the economy and have the NNPC focus on being a commercially viable entity.

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