Nigeria’s downstream oil regulator has alleged ExxonMobil Corp. was involved in the illegal lifting of petroleum products from an offshore terminal, according to a letter of complaint to the petroleum ministry seen by Reuters.
Exxon denied the accusation, saying in an emailed response that its “operations are carried out in full compliance with the law”.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said in the letter that Barumk Gas, a shipping vessel, was lifting butane from the ExxonMobil-controlled Bonny River Terminal without its “authorization or participation”.
According to the law, the regulator is the only one allowed to have a key to the oil valve, and companies need to be accompanied by a member of the regulatory staff to tap the oil.
“The actions of ExxonMobil and Barumk Gas constitute economic sabotage, criminal damage, and theft of Nigeria’s national resources,” NMDPRA Chief Executive Farouk Ahmed said in the letter dated June 8.
He said Barumk Gas should be stopped from sailing out until an investigation was conducted.
Refinitiv data showed Barumk Gas was fully loaded at the Bonny Terminal.
The Petroleum Ministry and NMDPRA did not respond to requests for comment.
In November last year, a Nigerian court charged 26 men with conspiracy to commit a maritime offense and attempting to illegally deal in crude oil after authorities accused their supertanker of sailing in Nigerian waters without authority.
Oil majors in Nigeria have in the past been forced to halt output following the illegal tapping of pipelines.
President Bola Tinubu met with executives of ExxonMobil Company and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) on Thursday, the day the regulator wrote the letter of complaint against the oil firm to the petroleum ministry.
Tinubu, in a tweet, said the team’s visit was a continuation of efforts by his government to bring stability to the oil sector.
That was the second meeting the president is having with business executives in the country’s energy sector within 24 hours.
In a tweet on Thursday, the president said his administration was ready to work with industry players in a bid to create a competitive market.
“It was a pleasure to play host to ExxonMobil executives, Mallon and Dozie, at the state house earlier today. The meeting marks the continuation of this administration’s efforts to secure the collaboration of critical players in the oil sector towards ensuring stability, transparency, and fair competition in the sector,” the president tweeted.
Liam Mallon, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Company; Richard Laing, chairman and managing director, ExxonMobil Companies in Nigeria; and Adesua Dozie, general counsel, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU), were the representatives of the energy conglomerate present at the meeting.