Fraud in Nigerian Crude Oil Selling: Authenticating The Crude Allocation and Documents by Oil Buyers
HOW DO YOU ASSURE THAT A NIGERIAN CRUDE OIL SELLER’S ALLOCATION OR DOCUMENT IS AUTHENTIC OR GENUINE?
This observation by the research report on the subject, done by the Africans in America News Watch, a New York based non-profit organization, in August 2010, sums up the issue:
“There are many genuine crude oil sellers in Nigeria but the problem is getting the real and verifiable ones. Crude Oil trade is a booming and thriving business and many people seem to want to go into it. Buyers from other countries contact sellers in Nigeria in order to buy Nigerian Crude Oil. [But the business is now full of]… scammers on the prowl.” It adds that “There are lots of crude oil sellers in Nigeria, but the challenge there is the ability to find genuine and verifiable sellers.”
In point of fact, as this author has amply documented elsewhere in another study, the assertion that in the arcane world of international crude oil buying and selling today the landscape is literally littered and crawling with fraudsters and scammers, is now a well-established, well-settled truth about which there can hardly be any serious argument or disputation in the contemporary international oil buying and selling industry.
In consequence, given that stark REALITY that “there are many genuine crude oil sellers in Nigeria but the problem is getting the real and verifiable ones,” the big million dollar question is this: AS A CRUDE BUYER, HOW THEN DO YOU GET THOSE SELLERS FROM AMONG THE WHOLE LOT WHO ARE THE “REAL AND VERIFIABLE” ONES?
THE KEY? Most experts, in the case of Nigeria, say that basically you (the crude buyer) would have to demand and insist on the purported Seller showing you AUTHENTIC documentation and other proofs of having genuine BLCO and FLCO allocation from the Nigerian NNPC, as well as proof that that product is still currently availability. (For Nigeria, the NNPC, which stands for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, is a Federal government-owned company that administers the buying and selling of petroleum, including giving allocation to genuine sellers of the crude oil in Nigeria).
THE KEY DOCUMENTS IN NIGERIAN CRUDE OIL BUYING/SELLING INDUSTRY
There are some key documents that are crucial in the purchasing of the Nigerian crude oil transactions. They will include the following documents, among others:
– Seller’s shipping documents, such as: Clean Ocean Bill of Lading; Seller’s Commercial Invoice
– Seller’s Proof of Product (will comprise the License to Export & the Approval to Export, issued by the country’s government, statement of Availability of the Product, Port Storage Agreement, etc)
– SGS/Sayboat Certificate of Quantity and Quality issued at the loading port
– Certificate of Origin issued by the NNPC
– Certificate of Authenticity issued by the NNPC
– Charter Party Agreement on the vessel, issued to the charterer of the vessel and presumably showing that the vessel is actually chartered in the designated Seller’s name
– the Q88 questionnaire, filled out by the managers of the vessel providing the relevant information and specs of the vessel;
PROOF OF PRODUCT
Probably the most important document of all that a crude buyer may need to see from the seller, is the proper Proof of Product (POP). This document, which has to be one issued by the appropriate department of the NNPC in Abuja, Nigeria, serves as a clear indication to a crude buyer that the owner of the oil commodity has true possession of the product, and also serves as an indication that, at least as at the time of the transaction (but only at that time), the seller has the commodity available for sale.
IMPORTANT: It should not just be any form of POP, however. It needs to be one that is in a format that will enable satisfactory verification to ascertain that it is valid and authentic. Based on this writer’s research, to ensure the optimum likelihood that this goal can be attained, there are basically two types of POP documents that are acceptable, and none others, and only sellers whose POP documents meet those “preferred” POP documents standards, ought to be entertained or attended to.
THE POP MUST MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS.
A). It must have the Loaded vessel documents that are CURRENT (that is, must not be more than 2 days old, otherwise the document will immediately be rejected as it may mean that the vessel is no longer available), and should include the following documents:
i. A Current Authority to Board (ATB). Seller must provide, for the buyer’s inspection, the ATB that was specifically issued to the initial buyer (consignee) of the crude in whose name the vessel was issued. The name on the ATB must match exactly with the name on the POP and other documents named here. And, here again, the ATB MUST be CURRENT – that is, it must be no more than 2 days old. (An ATB that is more than 2 days old, should be automatically be viewed as representing a vessel which is no longer available and hence not acceptable).
ii. Certificate of quality.
iii. Certificate of origin
iv. Cargo manifest
v. Vessel ullage report
vi. Certificate of quantity.
vii. Bill of lading
viii. ATS (Authority to Sell) from the NNPC
B) PROVIDE THE PARTICULARS OF THE VESSEL.
Generally, the Buyer may require (and hence the Seller must be willing and ready to release them), vessel particulars such as the following: the name of the vessel, location of the vessel, the IMO name, call sign and other vessel details. The reason this is required is so the buyer can do the tracking of the said loaded vessel, and to ascertain its current availability.
C) PROVIDE THESE DOCUMENTS, ALSO, FROM THE NNPC
As in the case of the POP which reputable buyers’ facilitating outfits like the Reliable Dealings International require from any AWR seller before they can begin to do business with them, the other things that may often be required from a seller, would include the following:
= the Lifting Lease/License from the NNPC, and
= the Letter of Authority to Sell (ATS) from the NNPC. The Letter of Authority to Sell, also called a Letter of Allocation, which should usually come from the NNPC’s Crude Oil Marketing Department, is basically the official document which shows the buyer that the seller actually has the authority from the official government agency for the crude product that he’s selling. (Must usually be in a paper format and on NNPC company letterhead; must contain the date of issue and expiration date, and be signed. Scanned copies of document are alright. All documents must be certified, valid, authentic and verifiable.)
= If, for example, the seller claims that the cargo has been cleared, then he should usually be able to provide the CPA (Charter Party Agreement), the ATL (Authority To Load), and Q88 vessel details.
ALRIGHT, BUT HOW DO YOU ASSURE THAT THESE DOCUMENTS ARE AUTHENTIC?
OK, so let’s say you’ve assembled the proper Proof of Product and the other essential documents such as those that are outlined above. There’s one key, in deed critical, question that still remains for you – how do you assure that these documents you’ve gotten from the seller are even any good? That they are real, valid, AUTHENTIC and GENUINE to warrant your taking the Seller’s offer seriously?
This question is, perhaps, often the most critical for a buyer because, as a rule, most fraudsters and con artists who operate in the Nigerian crude oil industry, are simply masterful forgers and copiers of every bit of the legitimate industry documents that are used in selling and buying operations by refineries and government agencies, and who are highly skilled at the craft. Consequently, buyers are strictly wary never, ever to accept outright at face value or be ever fooled by, any document submitted by sellers or claims made by them, however seemingly convincing or real-looking!. And what it all means, is that one crucial facility that a crude oil buyer and his aides must quickly develop and have, are some good, fool-proof, tools or skills by which they can INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY the authenticity of at least the key, most significant pieces of documents from among the tons of documents that sellers and their agents will often present them in the course of hawking their products. And, above all, that they must have the skills and the knowledge and business sophistication to be able to detect which ones among such documents are genuine and legitimate, and which ones might be plain bogus.
To be sure, making such verification and confirmation may often be problematic for a buyer. However, it is not really that difficult a task, at least for the schooled and experienced eyes. You only need to know what and what to look for, the right questions to ask, and how to counter check and cross check facts and information. And, in any case, whenever in serious doubt about the authenticity of a document, you should always take the path of caution – ask for more proof, or even reject the offer, depending on the particular facts at issue in an offer.