(Business in Cameroon) - After the Chadian government's harsh accusations against his company, Yacine Wafy came out to set the record straight and explain the situation.
Yacine Wafy (pictured), Savannah Energy’s Vice President for Africa, granted an interview last April 26 to Le Jour to address the multiple controversies related to the recent deal between his company and the Cameroonian hydrocarbons corporation SNH.
This interview is a response to the Chadian government's recent move expressing anger at its neighbor's decision to enter into an agreement with Savannah Energy. N'Djamena is fighting Savannah to acquire ExxonMobil's shares in Chad and does not want its pipeline partner to get closer to its "enemy”.
"The way Chad is trying to portray us is the opposite of the values we share within our company (…) we are listed on the London Stock Exchange, and respect the specifications in terms of responsibilities, regulatory obligations, and standards... Our company is a member of the EITI, with which we collaborate in good understanding. We have raised $1.8 billion on the international financial markets since our inception," said Yacine Wafy.
Regarding accusations that “many African and Cameroonian public figures are members of the company,” Wafy said, "No Cameroonian authority is, directly or indirectly, a shareholder of Savannah. You can check our records". Indeed, rumors have it that Franck Emmanuel Biya, son of President Paul Biya, is the shadow man that opened the doors for Savannah Energy in the deal with SNH. About this, Yacine Wafy replied that "Savannah Energy, its managers, employees, and advisers have never had any contact with Mr. Franck Biya regarding our transaction with SNH. This Cameroonian personality has never been involved in our interactions with the Chadian and Cameroonian authorities”.
He, however, noted that two official delegations from the Republic of Cameroon led respectively by the late Ahmadou Ali, former Deputy Prime Minister, and Paul Elung Che, Minister, Deputy Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, went to N'Djamena in connection with this affair. They went to negotiate with the authorities to get them to agree to cede to Cameroon part of the assets then controlled by ExxonMobil and Petronas. The negotiations were not successful, we learned.
Joseph Pagop Noupoué
As a reminder, the Cameroonian Joseph Pagop Noupoué was appointed Non-Executive Director and Chair Designate of Savannah on April 21; a move that comforted rumors that Savannah has the support of Cameroonian authorities. Yet, Yacine Wafy made it clear that the Cameroon branch of Ernst & Young, headed by this 54-year-old lawyer, has been assisting Savannah Energy on all legal issues since 2014.
"This assistance has been valuable and decisive in the negotiation of our production sharing contracts with Niger and the acquisition of Seven Energy in Nigeria in 2019 for $737 million," he said. And "It is as a token of recognition of this brilliant track record and because Savannah is driven by a true African fiber that our board of directors has proposed to Joseph Pagop Noupoué to join it as an independent director in November 2022 and to become its chairman next June," Yacine Wafy explained.
The newly appointed chairman has however been requested to subscribe to 6,095,726 new shares of the capital for 1.6 million pounds sterling or about CFA1.187 billion before joining the Board, we learn. This acquisition allows him to hold 0.46% of the total voting rights of the company. No detail was given on how this money was raised.
In its press release, the Chadian presidency said the agreement between SNH and Savannah goes against the conventions and statutes of Cotco. Indeed Article 10 of the statutes prohibits the private operators of the consortium (ExxonMobil and Petronas) from selling shares to one of the involved states.
In response, Yacine Wafy explained that the transfer of 10% of Savannah's shares to SNH is subject to a condition precedent, which is the modification of Cotco's statutes. "That is to say that the transfer of Savannah's shares to SNH will only be effective after the modification of the statutes, the current state of which prohibit it (...) the signing of the deal last April 20 was therefore perfectly legal,” he said.
Translated by Firmine AIZAN
Written in French by Cédrick Jiongo