Chairman of Seplat Oil, Dr. A.B.C. Orjiakor used two phoney companies to
secure a $150 million loan from the now defunct Diamond Bank, and is now
using several legal tricks to evade repaying the loan despite several
court orders, Pointblanknews.com investigations have revealed.
This comes on the heels of Seplat’s refusal to pay $1.8 billion and
another N8,825,778,039.61 it owes the Federal Government of Nigeria in
underpaid assets from its joint venture with Nigerian Petroleum
Development Company (NPDC).
Seplat is not new to tax evasion and and non-performing loans. In April
2015, the then Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala queried the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission
(NIPC) for granting dubious tax waivers to Seplat, resulting in the loss
of over 150 US dollars to the Nigerian government.
Seplat Petroleum, as an oil exploration company, is not eligible for tax
exemption called pioneer status. However, bribing top NIPC officials,
Seplat was able to get a tax waiver of over $150 million, which prompted
the then Finance Minister to raise the query.
When a major newspaper broke the scandalous story on Seplat’s tax
evasion, Orjiakor pulled several powerful strings, culminating in the
firing of the NIPC boss, Ms. Saratu Umar, a week to President Goodluck
Jonathan handing over to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari.
Curiously, after the story broke, Jonathan’s Minister of Trade and
Investment, Olusegun Aganga literally turned Seplat’s spokesman,
addressing a chain of press conferences to exonerate the oil company. He
even published the text of his press conferences in several national
newspapers. NIPC sources claimed Seplat heavily compromised the
Orjiakor’s $150million loan, sources close to the deal disclosed,
largely contributed to the liquidation of Diamond Bank, and ultimately,
to the bankruptcy of it’s founder, Mr. Pascal Dozie.
The loan was secured by a fixed and floating debenture over the assets
of one of the phoney companies, Cardinal Drilling.
Checks revealed that Cardinal Drilling was unable to service the
outstanding part of the facility, prompting Access Bank Plc, which
absorbed all the assets and liabilities of the now defunct Diamond Bank
Plc, to pursue a recovery of the outstanding of the loan and accrued
Pointblanknews.com investigations revealed that in November 2010,
Orjiakor, using some fronts, registered Cardinal Drilling ostensibly to
provide drilling services for Seplat Petroleum. He had registered Shebah
Exploration and Production Company Limited seven years earlier, in
Orjiakor used Cardinal Drilling and Shebah Exploration, his two special
purpose vehicles, SPV, to obtain the $150million loan facility from the
defunct Diamond Bank to purchase Casing Drive System (CDS) Rigs 101,
201, 202 and 203 models.
Pointblanknews.com further gathered that when Access bank took over
Diamond Bank, they approached Orjiakor’s fronts – Cardinal and Shebah
Exploration – to honor the terms of the loan facility agreement and
Both parties ended up in the High Court of justice, Queen’s bench
Division, London. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ordered
Orjiakor, Shebah Exploration and Seplat Oil to pay $144.2million being
the outstanding and accrued interests on the loan facility granted in
2011 by Diamond Bank and others.
Orjiakor again went into his play book, refusing to pay. Access Bank
which had taken over the ownership of Diamond Bank, approached a Federal
High Court, sitting in Lagos. The Court once again, upheld the same
judgement of the High and Supreme Courts of the United Kingdom.
interestingly, Orjiakor is now maintaining that Cardinal Drilling and
Shebah Exploration are not part of Seplat, relying on the fact that the
two companies do not have his name or that of Seplat as directors.
Unknown to Orjiakor, Cardinal Drilling on their website -which they have
since fraudulently disabled – stated they were “midwifed” by Orjiakor’s
Prior to the disabling, Cardinal Drilling, in indicating that it was
mid-wifed by SEPLAT Plc, remarked: “The above innovative commercial
arrangement of SEPLAT mid-wifing CARDINAL DRILLING Nigeria Limited
enabled CARDINAL DRILLING Nigeria funding to be realized as Maurel &
Prom through CARDINAL DRILLING SAS will contribute 40%.”
Seplat has also consistently disclosed in both its interim and annual
reports that Cardinal Drilling is a related party. This is at total
variance with the oil company’s position elsewhere.
On it’s indebtedness to the Nigerian government, a federal government
report recommended that the $1.8 billion and N8.8 billion Seplat owed
in unpaid royalties be “recovered”. However, this appears a tall order
as Seplat is known to have prominent members of government on it’s pay
However, joined in the suit filed by Access Bank is Kalu Nwosu, who
reportedly issued a personal guarantee and a statement of personal net
worth as security to the facilities availed to SEPLAT.
Access Bank noted that SEPLAT had solely enjoyed all the benefits of the
facilities granted Cardinal Drilling to its advantage and wholly for the
promotion and advancement of its businesses.
It described Seplat as the “real debtor” with Cardinal is merely a
“vehicle smokescreen” for the purposes of the subtle obtainment of
credit facilities by Seplat.
According to court documents filed by Access bank, Clause 6 of the Deed
of Debenture allows it to appoint a Receiver/Manager over Cardinal’s
assets should Cardinal fail to liquidate the facility. On 12th October
2020, Access Bank appointed Kunle Ogunba & Associates to act as the
Access Bank asked the Court to validate the appointment of Kunle Ogunba
& Associates as the Receiver/Manager; validate the Receiver/Manager’s
authority to take possession of Cardinal four rigs and other assets of
persons and companies presumably connected to Cardinal drilling.
It also prayed the court to restrain all defendants from disposing or
dealing with the assets, and declare that the defendants have no right
to enter into, or deal with any of the assets.