Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oil minister, her jeweller, and their sweetheart deal

234Next
26 June 2011

By Musikilu Mojeed

On April 7, 2010, a day after her appointment as minister for petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke flew to Beverley Hills in Los Angeles to revel in a lavish party and fashion show put together by Christopher Aire, a United States-based Nigerian celebrity jewellry designer and merchant, whom she met during her 15-month tenure as minister for solid minerals and steel development.

By the time the bejewelled Mrs Alison-Madueke returned home a few days later to assume duties as Nigeria's first female oil minister, she had achieved three clear objectives from the trip - she had unlimited fun, acquired some of Aire's exotic gold and gemstones, and handed Mr Aire an invitation to become one of Nigeria's biggest crude oil lifters.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

At the time, the 47-year-old Mr Aire had nothing whatever to do with the oil business. His company, Solid 21 Incorporated, dealt strictly in jewellery and timepieces.

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According to a stringent guideline released by the NNPC in early 2010, companies which wish to lift Nigerian crude must prove that they are bona fide end users and that they are established and globally recognised large volume traders with evidence of their global network, their activities, and volumes of crude oil handled in the last three years.

Such companies must also provide evidence that they are registered Nigerian companies with operations in Nigeria's oil and gas industry, and must have a minimum annual turnover of at least $100 million and net worth of not less than $40 million.

Applicants are also required to show commitment to the development of the Nigerian economy by investing in any number of opportunities that abound either in the oil industry or gas sector.

Besides, successful companies are expected to post a $1 million performance bond through a first class Nigerian bank in addition to the regular crude oil contract provisions.

In the same guideline, the corporation promises transparency, fairness and equity in the contract award processes.

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