Nigerian businessman, Onajite Okoloko reportedly owes his estranged wife, Salma Okoloko, and her company, Techtonic Oil $37 million and N5.3 billion respectively through his company, Eroton Exploration.
The duo are currently enmeshed in a messy divorce following allegations of extra-marital affairs.
Okoloko is currently the Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Notore Chemical Industries Plc (“Notore”).
The oil mogul is a founding partner of the Ocean & Oil/Oando Group and a former member of the Board of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
He is also the Chairman of Midwestern Oil & Gas Limited (“Midwestern”) and the Chairman of Eroton Exploration & Production Limited (“Eroton”).
Eroton admitted to owing $14 million and N2.9 billion for the said contract executed. But his estranged wife’s company put the amount at $37,147,654.25 and N5,308,689,150.84, saying the “said amount is all-inclusive of the disputed and reconciled sums”.
Despite a US court ordering the Nigerian billionaire to pay his debt, family members of Salma claimed he filed for a divorce in 2020 and threatened to kick the wife out of their Florida home with their two kids.
“The funny part is, instead of filing for a divorce in Florida in the U.S. where they got married and where he confirmed as his place of residence, he went to Badagry, Lagos, paid a judge to assume jurisdiction and take the divorce case,” Salma’s relation alleged.
“The divorce case is now at the Appeal Court where Okoloko is also planning to pay judges to give him a favourable judgement.
“Okoloko and his Eroton Exploration have been in and out of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission office (EFCC) after he is accused of mismanaging OML18, under-reporting production of the oil field which under him, fell from 30,000 barrels per day to 1,000 barrels per day.”
In March 2023, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited took over Eroton Exploration and Production Company Limited as the new operator of the oil mining lease (OML) 18.
According to Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Garba-Deen Muhammad, in a statement, Eroton was removed to curtail further degradation of the asset and revamp the production of oil and gas on it.
It was however gathered that while NNPCL has duly paid Eroton all its dues, the company was yet to pay off TOTL the balance of $14 million and N2.9 billion for the said contract executed.
“In order to protect the joint venture investment in OML 18, the non-operating partners, NNPC Limited (55 per cent interest) and OML18 Energy Limited (16.20 per cent interest), jointly owning 71.2 per cent equity, removed Eroton as operator of the JV in line with the provisions of the Joint Operating Agreement.
“NNPC Limited and OML 18 Energy further appointed NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited as operator of the JV. The change in operatorship has been notified to the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and communicated to Eroton,” the statement read in part.
NNPCL also pointed out that while the key business reasons that made the change in operatorship were compelling, it was publicly available information that production had declined from 30,000 barrels per day to zero.
It said the persisting inability of Eroton to meet the financial obligations of the Federal Government led to the sealing of Eroton’s head office in Lagos by the Federal Inland Revenue Service for more than 12 months due to non-payment of outstanding taxes to the government.
The national oil firm further said Eroton was also not able to remit to the JV parties the proceeds of gas supplied to its affiliate, Notore, adding that a number of audits and investigations, including by the EFCC, NURPC’s work programme audit and others, had been undertaken or were ongoing.
“Some of these audits are regulatory steps that may lead to licence revocation under the relevant laws if drastic steps are not taken by non-operating partners,” NNPCL stated.
It added, “NNPC Limited in particular, as majority shareholder with a unique stewardship responsibility to the federation, is committed to ensuring that the energy and financial security of the country is uppermost in its business decisions.
“Removing an operator in these circumstances is therefore inevitable in order to protect the JV from governmental or third parties action from entities, including Eroton’s lenders and other service providers.”
NNPCL said it was important to highlight that OML 18 was an oil-producing block covering 1,035 square kilometres located south of Port Harcourt and contained 11 oil and gas fields with about 714 million stock tank barrels of oil and condensate and 4.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
According to a letter from Tectonic dated April 6, 2023, and addressed to the Group Managing Director of NNPCL, the said the money was for a contract awarded to the company by Eroton dated May 1, 2016, for the provision of Coiled Tubings, Pumping, and Nitrogen Lift Services with contract No. EEP 16-0125.
The letter said Tectonic had since executed the contract but had yet to be fully paid by Okoloko’s Eroton.
Also, Eroton in a letter dated July 2, 2021, addressed to the Vice President Operations, Tectonic Oil Tools Limited, Lagos, Nigeria, admitted to owing the company a balance “sums (net of taxes) of NGN 2,969,754,531.07 (Two Billion, Nine Hundred and Sixty-Nine Million, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty One Naira, Seven Kobo Only) and USD 14,030,212.87 (Fourteen Million, Thirty Thousand, Two Hundred and Twelve United States Dollars and Eighty Seven Cents Only) due and payable to your company.”
The letter which detailed a payment plan to liquidate the debt owed to the wife’s company by Eroton read in part: “We also recognize that some other claims have been submitted and confirm that same are currently undergoing verification and reconciliation. These additional claims would be included in the outstanding sums detailed above upon completion of the reconciliation exercise. The payment plan will be amended accordingly to include the additional claims and paid within the same time frame.”
“In respect of the reconciled outstanding sums referenced above, please find below our payment plan,” the letter said.
While the letter listed how the outstanding debt will be paid between Q3 2021 and Q3 2022 for the N2.9 billion, it also listed how the outstanding $14 million will be liquidated between Q4 2021 and Q3 2022.
The letter signed by Ibironke Olaniyi, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Eroton Exploration & Production Company, ended with: “Please be advised that we would notify you of the payments as they are made in line with the specified timelines and assure you of our highest regard.”
However, despite the admission made in the letter, Eroton has reneged on the payment terms and agreement.
Meanwhile, Onajite and his wife, Salma, have been locked in a divorce drama.
Onajite filed for a divorce in 2020 and the case is currently at the Appeal Court.
A media consultant to Okoloko denied the accusations.
“It is ridiculous. I may have to get back to you because I’m yet to talk to him but all the allegations are not true,” he told SaharaReporters.
In 2022, the EFCC linked the oil mogul, his companies and others to a multi-billion-naira corruption case involving a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC in a document filed with a motion ex-parte, sought to question Alison-Madueke about her business relationships with Okoloko’s Midwestern Oil & Gas Company Limited, Mr. Tonye Cole’s Sahara Energy Group, Chief lkpea Leemon of Lee Engineering Group, Mr Donald Amamgbo, and Mr Afam Nwokedi.
Miss Olatimbo Bukola Ayinde, Christopher Aire, Harcourt Adukeh, Julian Osula, Dauda Lawal, Mr Leno Laithan, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, both owned by Jide Omokore, Septa Energy Limited, and others were among those named.