By Gitahi Ngunyi
In two days time, four trucks will leave Turkana oil fields carrying 600 barrels of oil to Kenya’s port of Mombasa.
The oil convoy which will be flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta will be heavily guarded by a contingent of national police and private security contractors.
But although the heavy security presence may deter highway robbers and bandits on the 1107.8 kilometer journey, it may have failed to stop a well orchestrated plot to skim billions from the oil wind fall.
Fresh information made available to this news site by independent South African investigator Dennis Morton shows that a group of politically connected businessmen hatched a plot before the oil was officially declared to have been struck in Turkana basin.
In the plot that echoes the schemes by the Russian cartels, the businessmen who are either present day or former directors of National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK)and Tullow Oil Kenya worked out a deal in which they would be guaranteed multi-billion shillings contracts in the entire crude oil export value chain.
A key target for the businessmen is in the transportation of crude where they expect to earn Sh1.5 billion during the early oil pilot scheme.
Apparently, Tullow does not mind splashing the Sh1.5 billion to the transporters because it will recover it as operational and petroleum costs as per the production sharing agreement with the Kenyan government.
Here is how the plot was hatched. In 2008, Swedish oil giant, Lundin Petroleum indicated it was looking for a way out of Turkana Basin where they had oil blocks that had the highest potential.
Almost immediately, a Canadian oil minor, Africa Oil, expressed interest in taking over the oil blocks that were held by Lundin. The deal would drag on for the next one year to close in February 2009 where Africa Oil acquired 85 percent stake in Blocks 2, 6, 7 and 8 and a 100 percent interest in Block 10A and a 30 percent interest in Block 9.
But Africa Oil was broke and could not start exploration activities and had to look a more liquid partner. In the meantime, Tullow which had acquired interests in Uganda was looking to expand its exploration activities in the rest of Eastern Africa and in January 2011 completed the process of acquiring 50 percent of the Kenyan blocks held by Africa Oil.
This is where it gets interesting.
Shepherding these acquisition deals in Kenya was then NOCK Managing Director Mwendia Nyagah and then Permanent Secretary for Energy Patrick Nyoike. It is important to note that NOCK is the custodian of all information and data on exploration activities on behalf of the Kenya government.
On the oil companies side, the name of Martin Mbogo was conspicuous in all the deals. Mbogo was the managing director Lundin Petroleum Kenya before he was inherited by Africa Oil to the same position. He is currently the managing director for Tullow Oil Kenya since 2011.
Then there is Mbogo’s wife Maryjane Mwangi who in July 2013 was appointed NOCK General Manager for Downstream Operations and moved swiftly to the position of acting Managing Director in 2016 before being confirmed for the same position in August last year.
After the Tullow-Africa Oil deal, things began moving at a break neck speed in the exploration business. In the meantime, realignments were happening in the oil and gas sector- also at the same break neck speed.
Six months after the deal between Tullow and Africa oil, Mwendia set up a company called Oil and Energy Services Limited which was later part sponsored by the World Bank and Africa Oil with the objective of “capacity building” partners, officials and communities on oil issues.
On March 26, 2012 oil was discovered by Tullow in Turkana. This immediately presented huge opportunities for local investors and service companies to benefit through their services.
Two months after the oil discovery Mwendia set up an offshore company for tax evasion purposes and financial gain called Abantu Oil and Gas Limited.
This was done through Chamberlain Heritage Services and facilitated by one Bruce McNaught who was made a director of Abantu Oil. McNaught’s job as a hedge fund manager was to use the money paid into Abantu to be gambled with at high risks and high fees. The rewards were then channelled into a trust to avoid tax.
The name McNaught may not ring a bell in Kenya. However, in Uganda he is the guy who tried to help another oil company evade a US$ 441 million capital gains tax imposed when Heritage Oil selling its Uganda assets to Tullow. He failed.
Back to Mwendia’s scheme! In October 2012, three months after the establishment of Abantu Oil and Gas Ltd – Mwendia set up OilField Movers Limited to supply oil field logistics, personnel and crude transport to Africa Oil and Tullow. To date OilField Movers has billed Tullow millions of dollars for services offered.
McNaught was made a director of Oilfield Movers to assist with the management of the new-found income.
The operation of Abantu Oil and Gas with Mwendia as director and shareholder was revealed in the Panama Papers. Associated with this discovery by Panama were the links to Oilfield Movers and Oil and Energy Services.
OilField Movers have continued to provide services to Tullow along with their partner company ROLLS (Royal Oilfield Logistics, Services & Supplies).
Oilfield Movers are one of three firms who will over a three-year period transport over two million barrels of oil from Lokichar via road with the three year contracts valued at an estimated 1.5 billion shillings.
Was it smart business sense, corruption, collusion, or coincidence that these people are the key players and beneficiaries in Turkana oil basin?