The Namibian shrugsoff xenophobic accusations from African Energy Chamber

NJ Ayuk

AMID claims by the African Energy Chamber (AEC) that The Namibian is pushing an agenda of xenophobia and personal attack against AEC chairman, controversial Cameroon lawyer NJ Ayuk, the newspaper has defended its reports by asserting that it will continue to honour its role of holding the government accountable.

This comes as the AEC yesterday issued a statement criticising the newspaper’s articles questioning the governments dealings with Ayuk, despite his 2007 fraud conviction in the United States (US).

Reacting to the statement, The Namibian’s editor, Tangeni Amupadhi, said the newspaper has written about and exposed questionable and non-transparent dealings of many people, including white, black, male and female, for decades.

“The least we can do is to keep Namibian government leaders accountable and explain why they choose to work with some characters.”

Amupadhi said when it was founded, apartheid leaders and their apologists demonised The Namibian, while latter-day looters of public money and other resources have trained their wrath on the publication for exposing their shenanigans in the name of an independent Namibia.

He said the Fishrot scandal is a reminder of how things go awry, and independent journalism is one of the strongest antidotes to the theft of public resources.

“We are now again being vilified for scrutinising why the government is in bed with characters with blemishes like NJ Ayuk, James Jay Parker of Canada and our own homegrown Knowledge Katti, who has long been reported as having paid people in regulatory institutions,” Amupadhi said.

A 2019 article in the Mail & Guardian reported that Ayuk was convicted of fraud in the US in 2007 and investigated in Ghana for money laundering in 2015, allegations his spokesperson strongly denied.

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported in 2021 that Ayuk (also known as Njock Ayuk Eyong) was identified as a key player in the network of Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima, Equatorial Guinea’s former oil minister and son of its president.

The OCCRP report quoted anti-corruption expert Lucas Oló saying that Ayuk, the chief executive officer of the Centurion Law Group – a law firm which has offices that span across seven African countries – represents an important channel for winning oil-related contracts in Equatorial Guinea.

In yesterday’s statement, the AEC said The Namibian has hate-filled rhetoric and pushes a xenophobic agenda against Ayuk, adding that the newspaper does not represent the views Namibians have of Africans in the oil and gas industry.

“This hate and the xenophobia from The Namibian is abhorrent, detestable, beyond humanity and must be condemned by all. We all need to come together in solidarity in standing up to the evils of white supremacy, xenophobia and intolerance of all forms. Such bigotry should have no place in our society. History will not judge them well,” the AEC said.

The Namibian has also been reporting about how the Ministry of Mines and Energy has reached out to Ayuk and the AEC to advise on and review Namibian petroleum contracts.

This decision is seen as the ministry bypassing the Office of the Attorney General.

Recently, Reuters quoted Ayuk saying that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) would like to see Namibia become a full member.

In the interview, Ayuk said his organisation had been involved in facilitating talks between the two sides.

Opec has begun its “charm offensive”, he said in the interview, adding that the outcome of the talks were unclear at this stage.

However, when the issue was raised in parliament by the leader of the official opposition Popular Democratic Movement, McHenry Venaani, on Thursday, mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo denied that Ayuk or the AEC was facilitating talks with Opec on behalf of Namibia.

“That Mr Ayuk is negotiating on our behalf with Opec, we have not seen it and even if that was the case, we have not asked anyone to negotiate on our behalf with Opec,” Alweendo said.

Ayuk was also a key invited guest and moderator at the Namibia International Energy Conference held in Windhoek last week.

Namibia’s continued fraternising with Ayuk has received criticism from civil society.

Institute for Public Policy Research executive director Graham Hopwood has warned against this, saying Namibia needs to ensure corrupt elements do not enter the country’s emerging upstream petroleum industry, wherever they come from.

“Unfortunately, we have a class of politicians and senior officials who talk about opposing corruption but their actions do not demonstrate such a commitment,” Hopwood said.

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