Rehabilitation of Sonara: a network of senators and deputies are trying to put pressure on Activa Assurances

Nothing filtered from the hearing on July 28, of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Activa Insurance group before the specialized corps of judicial police officers of the Special Criminal Court (TCS). Richard Lowe was heard there as a suspect in the “misappropriation of public property and systematic negligence which led to the incident of May 31, 2019 at Sonara [Société nationale de raffinage, Ndlr]”. This is, in fact, the compensation file opposing the State of Cameroon to this insurer, following the fire which ravaged, more than three years ago, 4 of the 13 production units of the only refinery in the country. Activa, which was bound by an insurance contract to this company, never agreed to compensate the owner, that is to say, the State of Cameroon, following this incident. Sometimes, because the destroyed segment was not part of the guarantees contained in the contract – a reason probably given by the reinsurers for not taking charge of the compensation, sometimes because the insurance premium had not been paid in full by Sonara at the time of the fire.

Read also: Sonara fire: the CEO of Activa Assurances expected in front of the TCS on July 28

If these two hypotheses, moreover, which are widely held in public opinion, have never been confirmed or invalidated by the parties to this insurance contract, which is becoming more nebulous every day, the investigations opened before the TCS should undoubtedly make it possible to untangle the skein. But, in the meantime, the subject was the subject, on August 17, of a long debate between deputies and senators who are members of the Parliamentary Network for the Promotion of Insurance (Reppas), in the presence of the Minister of Finance (Minfi), Louis Paul Motaze. This group of elected officials of the Nation who are offended that the Sonara rehabilitation file has remained at a standstill since 2019 are asking to see it clearly.

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The State has undertaken to repay the company’s bank debt to the tune of 284 billion CFA francs over a period of 10 years, thanks to an agreement signed in November 2021 with a pool of local banks. From the point of view of these parliamentarians and subject to the explanations they ask to have both from Sonara and from the insurer, Activa must pay back 200 billion CFA francs to the State of Cameroon as compensation for the society.

Hydrocracking unit

The sum mentioned above represents more than ¾ of the total amount to be mobilized, ie 250 billion CFA francs according to the Minister of Water and Energy (Minee), to rehabilitate the damaged Sonara units. It is true that this figure put forward during the budget session of November and December 2020 by the Minister of Water and Energy (Minee), Gaston Eloundou Essomba, precedes the suggestions of the Technical Committee for the rehabilitation of public sector enterprises (CTR), in a report published in early 2022. This entity proposed, before the rehabilitation, the prior performance of an in-depth technical, economic and financial study of the option relating to a complex refinery with a hydrocracking unit , along with the plans and design of the new refinery, the finalization and signing of debt repayment agreements with banks and traders and the continued reduction of wage costs. In short, the CTR suggests a rehabilitation under the model of the project Sonara 2010. On April 22, 2022, the Presidency of the Republic instructed the Director General of Sonara, Jean Paul Njonou, to seek partners for the realization of this project under the model of a public-private partnership.

Read also : Sonara, SNH, CNPS, Camtel…: these companies that the State will put under performance contract in 2022

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