Nigeria’s Senate launches Brass LNG corruption investigation

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ABUJA, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Nigeria will hold an investigation
into alleged corruption involving the state oil firm’s
long-awaited Brass LNG project, including questions over the
use of government funds.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC)
liquefied natural gas project has been stuck in the planning
stages for more than a decade, with some Western partners having
pulled out because of tough operating conditions and an
unfavourable investment environment.

Nigeria’s Senate, the West African nation’s upper
legislative house, voted on Wednesday to launch the
investigation of Brass LNG and its banking records, the Senate
motion document showed.

A spokesman for NNPC said the company has not received an
invitation from the Senate regarding the investigation,
declining to provide further comment.

The Brass LNG company was originally set up in 2003, with
NNPC owning 49 percent and affiliates of Conoco Phillips
, ENI and Chevron each holding 17
percent, according to the Senate motion, citing corporate
records.

Chevron pulled out of the project in 2006 and no longer has
an interest, a company spokeswoman said. Conoco Phillips has
also dropped out of the project.

In 2008 Total said that it had taken a stake in
Brass LNG, without specifying the size.

A spokeswoman for ENI declined to provide immediate comment.
Total and Conoco Phillips did not respond immediately to emails
seeking comment.

According to the Senate motion, while Brass LNG’s bank
account was intended to be held by the Central Bank of Nigeria,
corporate records show it is with Keystone Bank.

The Senate documents said that the most recent deposit into
the account was $648 million in September 2016 and that it
currently holds $137 million. It did not provide detail on the
discrepancy between the September 2016 deposit and the current
balance.

A Senate committee will examine investments into Brass LNG,
returns for the federal government, whether due process was
followed and the signatories to the bank account. It is due to
report back in four weeks.

Adding to challenges faced by investors, the Brass LNG
project, which was to have annual capacity of 10 million tonnes,
also suffered from a lack of dedicated gas reserves to underpin
20-year supply deals.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Oleg
Vukmanovic in London; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by David
Goodman)