Recently, a Nigerian blog-Sahara Reporters devoted virtual space to a piece titled: Oil Swap Fraud: Aiteo, alleged Front for GEJ and Diezani, in Buhari’s Cross-hairs. In the piece, Aiteo is alleged to be a front for some “corrupt” activities of President Jonathan and the Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Quoting a leaked Energy Compass report, the blog opined that “the energy company, Aiteo could be headed for a major investigation.”

It alluded that “Aiteo signed a two-year Offshore Processing Agreement- OPA in November that took effect in January, to deliver products against roughly 950,000 barrel cargoes a month. A general rule of thumb equates approximately 120,000 tons of gasoline or kerosene to each standard cargo of crude. Contracts seen by Energy Compass outside a process requiring the counterparty to specify products and parcel sizes, delivery date range and discharge port within a week of loading the crude. Aiteo’s contract requires products to be supplied within two months of crude loading.”

The report further alleged that by late March, Aiteo was more than 20 cargoes in arrears on the new deal.

In what appears like speaking from the both sides of the mouth, it acknowledged that “analyzing these complex arrangements is not easy”, but merely suspected that Aiteo was casual in following contract process.

Reacting to the development, Aiteo’s Executive Consultant, Corporate Communications, Dr. Peter Esuh described the report as baseless, insisting that the company is a good corporate citizen, whose antecedents speak for.

Esuh, an Associate Professor of communication described the report as “a sponsored unprofessional conjecture by mischief makers.”

He frowned at what he further described as the absence of professionalism and accuracy in the report and urged relevant public institutions to rise to the challenge of promoting professional conducts by media practitioners.

“Unfortunately, the absence of a control mechanism to check the irresponsibility of online journalism in Nigeria has not helped matters, as the platforms have become veritable tools for blackmail and deceit; little wonder many refer to them as rumour mills. The earlier, the Federal government steps up its actions against this gross irresponsibility, the better,” Esuh stressed.

In an earlier press statement, signed by Aiteo’s Vice President, Mr. Francis Peters, Aiteo described the assumptions by the online newspaper as lacking in substance.

Also clearing the air on another similar publication, Aiteo Energy Resources Limited refuted a news story that it was indicted by a report of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on crude oil swaps during the company’s presentation to the Joint House Committee on Petroleum Upstream and Downstream and Justice.

In a statement by the company’s Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Francis Peters, Aiteo said no report had ever indicted it in its history, adding it had always been found above board by any panel of the federal government or report.

“Despite the intensity of the probe by the Hon. Farouk Lawan Committee on Subsidy and the Aig-Imokhuede Committee, we were never indicted by anyone of them. We see this as a deliberate attempt to smear the good image of our company.”

“In addition, in no way can our presentation before the House committee be deemed as confirming the NEITI report.”

Peters added that the company “strongly contested the values communicated by NEITI as being the value of the over/under deliveries of refined products to NNPC, and went ahead to report what the true and fair values should be as per past reconciliation exercises with NNPC. At no time did Aiteo accept an under-delivery of 193,046,590 litres of product.”

He said that as part of its ongoing commercial relationship with NNPC, it had different moving balances, reiterating that none of these balances represented a past due obligation.

“Furthermore, it is imperative that NEITI issues a corrected report centred on the contract guiding the operations of this swap agreement and reflecting global best trade practices.

“Aiteo remains a responsible company which has continued its operations in line with international best practices and remains highly committed to growing the Nigerian energy sector, creating employment and adding great value to the Nigerian economy.”

“Any implication that Aiteo has failed to fulfill its contract obligations in these or any other manner is false. Aiteo has met all obligations and administers these agreements in total compliance with contract terms, Nigerian law, and best industry practice. To suggest otherwise betrays a lack of understanding of the complex nature of procuring and delivering petroleum products.”

“Aiteo is committed to developing Nigerian-owned energy resources using the highest global standards in full compliance with all laws and regulations. We have earned global reputation and will protect it from defamatory actions in court if necessary,” the deputy managing director stressed.

The company had earlier explained that the differences observed in the audit report of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) were due to a 30-day lag in the delivery of the petroleum products.

Findings however revealed that the company lifted a total of 10,231,122 barrels of crude oil valued at $1.170,732,027.62 and supplied refined products worth $1,111,972,698.18.18 in year 2011.

At the last reconciliation exercise with PPMC, Duke Oil/Aiteo Energy Resources Ltd had lifted 26,425,738 barrels of crude oil from 2011; valued at $3,010,308,113.08 and supplied refined products valued at $2,976,663,203.01” as at June 2013.”

In the light of the above, it is obvious that two basic elements, which are accuracy and balance, are missing in the reports under review. It is either that those peddling the rumour of fraud in Aiteo’s transactions are ignorant or mischievous. Organisations are sanctioned if found wanting and not by wishful thinking and/or spreading of outright falsehood.

If, as at today, the company has not been indicted by any government agency or committee, one now wonders the source of the tale of fraud in the company’s transactions.

However, Nigerians and corporate organisations must always take advantage of the Nigerian Press Council to seek redress for such malicious publications.

The laws establishing the Council should also be strengthened, to effectively check online journalism. The Judiciary is also at our service towards tackling the problem.

Most importantly, media practitioners must desist from allowing ‘brown envelopes’ to influence their reportage; but always be guided by professional ethics and conducts in the interest of the society.

This irresponsibility in Journalism practice must stop!

To be continued!

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Articles by Chike Duru