Nigeria's parliament orders tax payments from oil traders

•NNPC Towers, Abuja
•NNPC Towers, Abuja

(Reuters) – Nigeria’s parliament ordered three local oil traders to pay taxes it says they owe the country for crude swap deals and it asked tax authorities to assess Swiss-based trader Trafigura’s tax liability for similar deals, lawmakers said.

The House of Representatives launched a probe into crude swaps after Nigeria’s state-owned oil company NNPC cancelled several deals with other firms in August, complaining they had been “skewed in favour of the companies”.

The deals supply gasoline for crude as Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, relies on imports for the bulk of its domestic consumption.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency EFCC and domestic intelligence service DSS started a separate investigation last year into whether the government had been short-changed by a state oil company scheme to swap crude for refined products.

The probes are part of a drive by President Muhammadu Buhari to crack down on corruption in the energy sector.

Based on the probe’s findings, a special parliamentary committee concluded that three Nigerian oil traders owed a total of about 1.13 billion naira ($5.7 million) in taxes.

The committee said Taleveras owed 859.9 million naira in taxes, Aiteo 256 million naira and Ontario Oil and Gas 11.2 million naira, lawmakers said late on Wednesday.

In the case of Trafigura, the committee did not specify any amount of tax due because Trafigura is not registered with the tax authority. The Nigerian parliament now wants the tax agency to register and assess any tax liability for Trafigura.

Related News

The three Nigerian firms had pledged to pay the taxes, lawmakers said, but Trafigura denied it owed Nigeria any taxes.

“We do offshore business and offshore trading, we are not registered in Nigeria, your tax law doesn’t apply to us,” James Josling, oil trader for Trafigura Africa, told the committee.

The committee’s chair, Zakari Mohammed, rejected Trafigura’s stance. “The Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC) should immediately provide all documents on crude oil lifting by Trafigura to the tax agency for tax assessment,” he said.

“I am sure that there are aspects of our tax laws that capture the operations of firms like Trafigura,” Mohammed said.

Trafigura had no additional comment on Thursday.

Officials from the three Nigerian companies said during the committee session they would pay any taxes owed.

The parliamentary probe covered contracts that PPMC, a subsidiary of NNPC, had with several oil trading companies.

The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said there was a revenue loss of at least $600 million due to a discrepancy between the value of the crude and the products delivered. The figure was taken from its 2009-2011 and 2012 audits of the oil and gas industry.