Two years after it was slammed with a $9m claim for breaching contract by a US Court, Greenville LNG company is on the brink of another lawsuit in its supply dealings with Nigerian-based manufacturing giant, BUA Group.
Owned by Eddy Van Den Broeke, a Belgian cement magnate, Greenville is the pioneer Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production and distribution company in Nigeria with three liquefaction trains and a total capacity to produce 2250 MT of LNG per day.
The company, which was incorporated in 2013, prides itself for producing and marketing Liquefied Natural Gas to customers across Nigeria since April 2019.
It should be noted that the company is a Nigerian subsidiary of the International Engineering & Construction (IEC), a Luxembourg-based construction company.
However, in 2018, there are reports of how Broeke was struggling to get his LNG project off the ground in Nigeria and also facing a $9m claim from his subcontractor Baker Hughes.
How it started
In 2014, IEC through Greenville LNG entered into an agreement with Baker Hughes Energy Services LLC, formerly known as GE Oil & Gas (GEOG), for the purchase and installation of two small-scale liquified natural gas plants in Rumuji, Rivers State, Nigeria.
According to the documents obtained by POLITICS NIGERIA, GEOG agreed to supply IEC with two small-scale liquified natural gas production plants — the first by June 24, 2015, and the second by September 24, 2015— for use at the Rumuji Site.
In exchange, IEC agreed to pay GEOG $95 million. Both parties also agreed on a payment schedule, which would require IEC to pay various percentages of the $95 million at specific milestones.
It was stated that the agreement would be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the state of New York.
Unfortunately, GEOG failed to deliver the gas plants by their contractual delivery deadlines and this stalled installation, commissioning, and start-up of the Plants.
On July 31, 2018, IEC filed a Notice of Demand for and Commencement of Arbitration under the Contracts on behalf of itself and Greenville.
IEC initially sought approximately $75 million in damages but its demand increased to $700 million by the end of the arbitration.
The $700m claims included the liquidated damages for delayed delivery and damages associated with the delayed entry into operation of the gas plants.
But GEOG also filed counterclaims against IEC for breach of the contracts, asking for damages up to $40.1 million.
In 2020, the American Tribunal gave its verdict, ordering IEC and Greenville to pay GEOG over $9.5m for breaching contracts.
The Tribunal held that IEC had breached the Equipment Contract by failing to make two Milestone payments.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, On January 27, 2021, IEC filed a petition to vacate the Award in New York state court but the court rejected IEC’s arguments.
“In short, due to the strong deference owed to the decisions of arbitrators, the Court is compelled to reject IEC’s arguments and confirm the Award,” the court ruled.
Poor Ethics/Underhand Business Practices
It is believed that the posture of the company and record of breaching contract is owing to its owner’s secretive and shady business activities. Prior to setting up Greenville, Eddy Van Den Broeke ran ASCA bitumen from 1996 and grew the company into becoming a giant monopoly with over 90% of the Nigerian market by 2015.
Through this position, he was famed to hold everyone to ransom through alleged arbitrary price increases, artificial scarcity, amongst others. Eddy Broeke’s families were one of six of Belgium’s wealthiest families that featured on the Panama Papers, a cross-border investigation that revealed a list of thousands of people who channelled funds to tax havens.
“The family of Eddy Van Den Broeke, who turned the Eres company into an international player, is also mentioned. Eddy Van Den Broeke is identified as the sole beneficiary of at least five offshore companies in the BVI,” the ICIJ report read.
Eddy was named in the Panama Papers having had an extensive network of shell companies to hide his funds and avoid government oversight.
Another multi-million dollar breach of contract suit looming
According to media reports, investigations also revealed that recently, BUA, which is one of Greenville’s largest clients, is set to allegedly sue Greenville for 50 billion Naira for a possible breach in contract and reneging on its obligation to supply gas to its businesses in the far north.
Sources say this dispute is a result of Greenville LNG reneging on their contract with BUA to supply gas and also increasing prices arbitrarily despite the contractually agreed oil-indexed pricing for any changes in price.
Industry watchers have claimed that Greenville is trying to take advantage of its near monopoly in the domestic trucked LNG market hence their habit of entering into contracts and reneging on it after starting.
With Eddy and his companies’ history of reneging on contracts entered into with the Federal Government, partners, suppliers, communities and clients, it is unlikely that Greenville LNG or its billionaire owner Eddy and Managing Director Ritu Sahajwalla would stop such behaviour anytime soon.
Experts familiar with BUA’s history of ensuring its rights are enforced, believe BUA will pursue this issue to a logical conclusion at the courts and till their rights are enforced.