Woman behind Sh17b fuel saga now resurfaces

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 05:30 | By
Woman behind Sh17b fuel saga now resurfaces
Business woman Anne Njoroge accompanied by her lawyer Cliff Ombeta when she appeared at the Mombasa Law Courts, yesterday. PHOTO/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Ann Njoroge, the businesswoman behind the Sh17 billion oil importation saga, who had gone missing resurfaced in Mombasa yesterday, claiming she had been abducted.

However, her narrative raised more questions than answers.

In what sounded like a scene from an Olivier Megaton action film, Njoroge narrated her two-day ordeal in the hands of her abductors, whom she claimed to have been police officers.

Narrating her ordeal to journalists outside the Mombasa Law Courts where she had turned up for the hearing of her case, Njoroge also reiterated that the Sh17-billion diesel consignment belongs to her even as various Government agencies disowned her claims, arguing that the diesel rightfully belongs to a different importer, a company that Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir later identified as Galana Energies Limited.

Njoroge said that it was her first such import but the government was trying to dispossess her of her property. She insisted that she had genuine documents to prove ownership of the cargo. The Kenya Ports Authority has dismissed her papers as “fake”.

Njoroge went missing moments after recording a statement at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters on Thursday last week.

She alleged that she was abducted inside the DCI headquarters, blindfolded and transported to a location she was not familiar with. She remained under the custody of her abductors — who grilled her at length — before dumping her in Embakasi.

Njoroge claimed her troubles started when she went to record a statement at the DCI headquarters. While there, she was separated from her lawyers before being dragged into an office where she was asked to surrender her phone.

She claimed that the officers who recorded her statement informed her that she was being transferred to a different “office to record another statement.”

Another car

The men — whom she could not identify — asked her whether she was under any medication or whether she required any medicine.

“After we left the DCI office, they bundled me into a car that left towards Kiambu as I continued to plead with them not to kill me. They blindfolded me and drove me to a place where I did not know, from where they bundled me into another car, covered my face with a piece of clothing and drove off on a rough road to a place I didn’t know,” she said.

She said the abductors took her into a cold room, chained her and asked her to speak the truth about the deal. She was left inside the room under the watch of two guards who were covered from head to toe.

The next morning, two more people arrived and questioned her about the oil import. She claims to have stuck to her original statement that she was the legal owner of the consignment that had been sourced from Turkey, although government sources say the consignment was from Saudi Arabia.

Narrating her ordeal to journalists outside the Mombasa Law Courts where she had turned up for the hearing of her case, Njoroge said she was questioned on why she was involved in the business of importing cheaper fuel to compete with the government’s G2G programme.

“I had been waiting for the import permit from Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) to no avail, and then I decided to go and see Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir. But when I went there he told me that the fuel belongs to another company,” she claimed.

Local companies

Chirchir had on Monday confirmed that Njoroge had visited his office seeking his intervention over the refusal by KPA to release the cargo to her.

“She came to my office over the fuel issue, but I told her the matter was in court and that from the documents in our possession, the cargo belonged to Galana Energies Limited.

Galana is one of the three local companies handpicked by the government to receive fuel imports from the Gulf States under the Government-to-Government deal. It is not clear whether this particular cargo was part of that arrangement.

“I have never dealt in any forged documents. In my business all documents are legit, my fuel came from Europe,” said Njoroge, who was flanked by Cliff Ombeta and another lawyer identified as David Chumo.

According to Njoroge, on October 5, she applied for an importation license from EPRA, but the application was rejected. She now believes that the documents she used in the application changed hands.

Ombetta claimed that upon her release, Njeri was directed to travel out of the country and never speak about the deal.

Chumo said that on 8 October, he obtained orders directing the ship carrying the fuel to stop offloading but Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) went ahead and offloaded the consignment in disregard of a court order.

“We got orders on October 8 to arrest the ship from offloading the cargo at Kipevu oil terminal. On the 9th of the same month, our client was arrested and a day later she disappeared. They went ahead and offloaded the fuel. Where is justice? Her life is in danger,” Chumo said.

Muslim for Human Rights (Muhuri) accused the government of impunity.

“We want court orders to be followed. If anything happens to this woman, just know it’s the government directly involved,” said MUHURI’s rapid response officer Francia Auma.

On Monday, KPA dismissed Njoroge’s narrative and denied any knowledge of her alleged involvement in the importation of the consignment.

KPA also denied reports that MT Haigui, a Liberia vessel that was reportedly loaded with diesel, had been detained at the port of Mombasa.

In a press briefing, KPA Board Chairman Benjamin Tayari and Managing Director Captain William Ruto gave a blow-by-blow account of details tracking the vessel in question all the way from Yanbu Samref terminal in Saudi Arabia where she loaded 93,460 metric tons of Gasoil between September 25 and 28, before departing for Mombasa on September 30.

They provided documents, including a vessel tracker complete with dates, tracking the ship’s movements from its last port of call before it arrived at the Port of Mombasa. KPA denied any knowledge of the alleged involvement of one Ann Njoroge whose name has featured prominently in a widely circulated document purported to be the Bill of Lading.

The port bosses dismissed the said Bill of Lading as a “cock and bull story”, saying “it is practically impossible” for the purported owner on the consignment to append her signature as both the importer and exporter.

“On October 11, 2023, MT Haigui tendered her notice of readiness and called the Port of Mombasa under the Agency of Sturrock Shipping Limited. The agent requested for the ship to be brought alongside and KPA piloted the vessel into the terminal where she berthed on November 4, 2023, at 0840 hours,” Tayari told journalists at the KPA headquarters in Mombasa.

Out of the 93,460 metric tons of Gasoil captured in the manifest, 49,091 metric tons were destined for Kenya with the exporter being Aramco Trading Fujairah FZE as nominated by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

The remaining consignment of 44,368.736 metric tons, according to Tayari, was transit cargo for neighbouring countries including Uganda, South Sudan and DRC.

Poke holes

“The consignees and their respective portions of the bulk cargo are listed in the manifest submitted by the ship’s agent and KPA confirms that M/s Ann’s Import and Export Enterprises Limited is not one of the manifested consignees… KPA has noted circulation of a purported Original Bill of Lading of Ann’s Import and Export Enterprises Limited claims to be the shipper of all the cargo described as Diesel EN590, Consignee of all the cargo described as Diesel EN590 in MT Haigui and it is stated that Cargo was loaded on the vessel in Jeddah Islamic Port, Saudi Arabia on October 9, 2023,” Captain Ruto said.

He poked holes in the said Bill of Lading, saying unlike a normal document, Njoroge’s purported to be original and signed by the stated shipper and not the Master of the Vessel.

“The Cargo said to be manifested as the purported Bill of Lading is 100,000 Kilogrammes (equivalent of 84 metric tons) only, which is approximately only 0.09 per cent of the total product carried on board MT Haigui,” the MD said: “The voyage duration from Jeddah anchorage to Mombasa was 10 days and therefore it is impracticable for the vessel to have been loaded in Jeddah on October 9, yet she arrived in Mombasa October 11, taking only two days.”

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