The pipeline deal dispute between Aiteo Group, and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, has deepened as Aiteo accused the International Oil Company of allegedly planning a media smear campaign against it, and its Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Benedict Peters.
Aiteo had dragged Shell to court, demanding billions of dollars in damages over claims that the Royal Dutch company misrepresented the condition of the pipeline and under-counted the volume of crude in one of its facilities it transferred to it.
However, a ruling by a Nigerian court restricted Shell Plc’s access to its bank accounts in the Nigeria amid the legal dispute that had been ongoing for about six years ago.
Shell said Aiteo’s lawsuit is baseless and it is working to overturn the freezing order.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the Group Head, Media Operations, Mr. Ndiana Matthew, stated that participants at an event organised by some Civil Society Organisations aleged that the IOC had deployed resources to rubbish the integrity of Aiteo.
The statement read, ““The latest in the series of plots to malign the reputation of Aiteo and our Executive Vice Chairman, Benedict Peters, came to the fore as our attention was drawn to these developments following an Arise Television news coverage of a press conference on 18 March 2021, organized by the Concerned Nigerians and a number of leading civil society organizations, including the Arewa Consultative Youth Movement, African Human Rights Centre and National Association of Nigerian Students.
“In the course of this event, the speakers alerted the public of the existence of a plot by oil giant, Shell, to instigate and propagate a global smear campaign against us. It appears that this calumnious campaign is being prosecuted by, amongst other antagonists, individuals and entities running a reports-for-cash media campaign.:
“What transpired from the press conference today is that the participants confirmed that Shell has committed substantial resources towards impugning Aiteo’s corporate integrity, presumably to exert penalty and punishment on Aiteo for mustering the temerity to demand and insist on its contractual and commercial relationship rights.
“We have also become aware that the execution of this campaign will rely heavily on the dissemination and deployment – anonymously, pseudonymously, and by remunerated proxy – of deliberate misinformation and incorrect reportage aimed at discrediting and tarnishing our reputation, locally and internationally. This oblique and disingenuous campaign, which we now realize commenced a few weeks ago, appears to have been shamelessly escalated and brazenly intensified.”
According to him, “Ordinarily, it would have been apt to ignore these developments as unfounded, but recent threats and other worrisome developments, at the behest of this international oil major, have made it regretfully necessary for us to put on notice, the government, our shareholders, host communities, investors, the international community, other stakeholders, and the general public about the existence of this disgraceful, unbecoming and unacceptably inappropriate media campaign by its orchestrators against us.
He said the campaign aimed to cause distractions from the current issues of the company;s demand that Shell accounts and pays for over 16 million barrels of oil belonging to Aiteo and the Nigerian government that was missing through Shell’s actions and activities.
According to him, the unchallenged evidence of this missing crude is exemplified by the discrepancies in the production figures independently reported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).