DailyAsset News online:
Aiteo, one of the foremost indigenous oil and gas companies, plying their trade majorly in the downstream sub-sector of the industry has refuted the on ongoing media blitz,(this medium not inclusive), alleging that the Executive Vice Chairman of the company, Mr. Benedict Peters, purchased an edifice for the former minister of petroleum Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The company in a statement refuting the allegation stated that they were baseless allegations instituted by some individuals to malign the person of the Executive Vice Chairman.
It stated in a statement signed by Senior Manager, Corporate Communications Aiteo Group, Ndiana-Abasi Matthew, that “We have become aware of a defamatory publication by an online newspaper, known for publishing stories with spurious details. This publication alleges without any foundation whatsoever, that our Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Mr Benedict Peters, bought property in England and luxury furnishings for the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke in return for contracts from the NNPC.”
It further stated; “The publication contains several untrue and malicious allegations against our Executive Vice Chairman and the Aiteo Group. It is obviously directed against the image, reputation and integrity of our EVC and the company in what we have identified as an orchestrated large-scale campaign of calumny which is sponsored and designed to tarnish our image.”
“We have responded to most of the baseless allegations in previous publications but global best practice demands that we tender this rebuttal for the sake of our shareholders, stakeholders, host communities, the many thousands directly or indirectly deriving their livelihood from the company and the public at large.”
The statement added that it is well known in the Oil, Gas and wider Energy sectors that the Aiteo Group comprises a number of separate, legal and corporate entities whose asset base includes OML 29 and NCTL upstream, and other substantial assets downstream, developed more than 16 years ago and stressed that the company became a major player in the oil and gas industry especially in importing and exporting petroleum products in Nigeria and was flourishing as a prosperous corporate entity, by any standards, long before Mrs. Alison-Madueke was appointed as Minister for Petroleum Resources.
“It is indisputable that our EVC is “experienced” in the oil and gas industry having worked in the industry in the topmost positions for more than 23 years. Similarly, Aiteo Group is neither an inexperienced or “newly minted” company and we note that while the publication impliedly recognizes this position, it does not provide express clarification as should have been done.”
“Already, Mr. Peters, through his lawyers, has challenged the veracity of the claims made in the article in court. There is a related civil case in the United States which recites matters relevant to the UK and Nigerian court cases in respect of which further comment cannot also be made for the same reason.”
“Neither our company nor EVC is a party to the US proceedings. We need hardly remind the publishers that in Nigeria, discussing facts of cases that are pending in court and making prejudicial statements pertaining thereto is a criminal offence. Section 133 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, which broadly, defines contempt of court and prescribes punishment for same, provides in Section 133(1&9) that:
“any person, who while a judicial proceeding is pending, makes use of any speech or writing, misrepresenting such proceeding, or capable of prejudicing any person in favor of or against any party to such proceeding, or calculated to lower the authority of any person before whom such proceeding is being heard or taken; or commits any other act of intentional disrespect to any judicial proceeding or to any person before whom such proceeding is being heard or taken…” is guilty of an offence,” it said.
It informed that all allegations of impropriety contained in the said publication are expressly and categorically denied while adding that, Mr. Peters has not been charged with any criminal offence in Nigeria or any other jurisdiction with respect to any of the matters stated in the publication.
“Like every major player in the oil and gas sector, including international oil companies (IOCs), Mr. Peters and the Aiteo Group’s interactions with the Minister of Petroleum Resources as with other Ministers before her, were in accordance to acceptable corporate practice in Nigeria. Other than such interaction, there is no commercial link between them and there is no basis for inferring any. We add that our Group’s contribution to the overall financial capacity of the country, over several years predating her appointment as Minister cannot be overemphasized. Aiteo has created significant direct and indirect employment, contributed billions of Naira and millions of US Dollars to the nation’s treasury and led to direct foreign investment worth more than US$4 billion. In addition, the company engages in several other corporate social investment programmes in its host communities and the nation generally.”
“The case in the United Kingdom is a civil case. An application has already been made to discharge the restraint order which is a mirror order of, and largely relies for its authority on, interim forfeiture orders granted by a Nigerian Court with respect to the same properties. There is incontrovertible evidence in the form of provenance of funds utilized to acquire the property or properties concerned; legal documents of title and documentary proof of rights of ownership from purchase to date that completely confirm that the material purchases were transacted solely by our EVC and his companies; that he irrefutably owns the material property or properties. It is therefore ridiculous, false and highly defamatory to suggest or infer that properties were “bought for Mrs. Alison-Madueke”. The matters in Nigeria and United Kingdom remain active and extant.”
“The US proceedings which refer to United Kingdom properties do not substantiate any wrongdoing on our EVC part. He purchased furniture for one of his United Kingdom properties. This furniture was delivered to and placed in that property. The furniture was for his own use and not purchased for Mrs. Alison-Madueke as stated in the publication; and is entirely consistent with his status, stature and financial compass as well as the value and location of the property for which the furniture was bought.”
“Finally, we are aware that a certain group has committed considerable resources to this global campaign of hate and denigration. The reason for this mindless and incomprehensible offensive is unclear, but we are confident that sooner than later, our investigations shall reveal the irrepressible truth.”
“Regardless of the stories being brandied around by detractors, the facts of this matter are in the public domain and accessible in the courts of law for everyone to see. However, given the potential consequences of this publication, we are considering all options to protect the personal and professional integrity of our company and our Executive Vice Chairman,” it said.
In another statement made available to this publication by the Aiteo Group, it expressed the desire to bring to the notice of its shareholders, stakeholders, host communities, investors and general public about what it described as a faceless, cowardly campaign clandestinely contrived and executed by a number of entities that have committed substantial financial and human resources aimed at impugning the company’s corporate integrity.
These it added were nefarious and reprehensible efforts aimed at discrediting and tarnishing the company’s reputation locally and internationally which have now been unveiled as a large- scale orchestrated smear operation.
It said that “This subtle campaign, which commenced a few months ago, had been clandestinely sustained but now appears to have shamelessly escalated. Nevertheless, Aiteo has continued, unperturbed, to undertake and accomplish its identified objectives in its resolve to remain one of the foremost indigenous Oil and Gas companies in Nigeria. Whilst we have previously raised alarm that this media-driven campaign of denigration has been at the behest of at least one major commercial entity, what we were not aware of is the scale and magnitude of this operation.”
“What has now become clear to us is that this campaign now appears to be on the increase and that its instigators will stop at nothing to escalate the nefarious drive to whip up negative public sentiments aimed at soiling the astonishing and remarkable growth that Aiteo as a corporate entity and its Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Benedict Peters, have attained in the Oil and Gas Sector of the Nigerian economy.”
“In what started as a laborious but futile struggle to present Aiteo as a commercial concern with questionable credentials and poor track record in the industry, on the back of the on-going investigation involving the former Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria, this campaign has degenerated into a reprehensible “cash-for-report” drive to incentivize disreputable journalism through plainly false as well inaccurate publications and online blogs, all with incomprehensibly low thresholds for truth and professionalism, to join their campaign of disparagement.”
It added; “The latest in the series of plans to malign the reputation of Aiteo and our Executive Vice Chairman, Benedict Peters, came to the fore today. Our attention was drawn to the fact that this group and their representative have started to distribute large amounts of cash to unleash a fresh campaign attacking our noble and altruistic sponsorship of the Nigerian Senior National Team, Nigerian Football Federation and the competition previously known as the Federation Cup. Ordinarily, we would have ignored this inglorious exertion as the result of our intervention in Nigerian football is evident to all, but for another alarm raised by a London-based journalist of international repute that she was offered a huge amount of cash in London today with directives to write and syndicate damning reports to undermining the reputation of Aiteo,” the company informed.