Graham Hopwood, the excutive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), says unless Namibia takes measures to safeguard the upstream petroleum sector from corrupt influences, the country risks following in the footsteps of Angola and Nigeria.
He said this in response to a statement presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari released on Sunday, rejecting concerns over president Hage Geingob’s reputation due to his association with convicted fraudster AJ Ayuk.
“We want to ring-fence the upstream petroleum sector from corrupt influences. We have to do that now, otherwise we will end up going down the same road as Angola and Nigeria,” Hopwood says.
The concern is that Namibia runs the risk of experiencing the ‘oil curse’, which Angola and Nigeria are suffering, he says.
Despite being the two largest oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, both countries still grapple with substantial social, economic and political challenges – largely due to corruption and poor governance.
Hopwood says Hengari failed to address this in his statement in which he criticised Hopwood and various analysts cautioning that Geingob’s acceptance of a recent lifetime achievement award from the African Energy Chamber (AEC), led by Ayuk, could open the door to corruption in Namibia’s oil industry.
Ayuk was convicted of fraud in 2007 for impersonating a United States (US) congressman, whom he worked for at the time.
Ayuk denies all allegations against him.
“These allegations are false and have been debunked many times,” Ayuk has said through African Energy Chamber (AEC) spokesperson Gradie Mbono previously.
This comes amid Namibia’s emergence as an attractive oil and gas investment hub, propelled by five significant oil and gas field discoveries between 2022 and this year.
Concerns over Geingob’s association with Ayuk and the AEC deepend when a recent report by The Namibian disclosed that the Ministry of Mines and Energy had sought Ayuk’s counsel in the assessment and revision of Namibian petroleum contracts.
“My argument remains that it’s not advisable to take legal advice or accept awards from people with fraud convictions. It would seem obvious,” Hopwood says.
Concerns regarding Geingob’s connections with Ayuk were exacerbated by his prior associations with contentious figures, including Ernest Adjovi, who has been linked to N$23 million related to the controversial Kora Awards, and Jack Huang, who is entangled in N$1 billion worth of tax evasion charges.
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“The Presidency is of the conviction that there is nothing that should concern Mr Hopwood about the legacy of president Geingob. Therefore, he can store his futile concerns in a box somewhere,” Hengari said.
He said Geingob’s legacy as a freedom fighter and as a post-independence leader is solid.
“That in itself is a result of wisdom and leadership pedigree. Therefore, the concerns of Mr Hopwood are mislaid, and the president does not need lectures from Mr Hopwood on which awards to accept,” Hengari said.
He said while there will be criticism from Hopwood and other experts, the majority of Namibians can witness a resurgent country, which “is the poster child of processes, systems and institutions that promote and facilitate investments in key sectors of the economy, including energy”.
“The facts of the African Energy Week speak for themselves, where president Hage Geingob was conferred an award in recognition of his stellar contributions to the energy sector through the development of a world-class energy mix, which include green hydrogen and the discovery of oil and gas,” Hengari said.