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Nigel Hughes says no law prevents him from representing Exxon while leading AFC

Kaieteur News – Nigel Hughes, the recently elected leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC) and a prominent attorney, has addressed criticisms regarding a potential conflict of interest. Critics have pointed out that his law firm’s representation of ExxonMobil Guyana Limited (EMGL) could pose a conflict with his new political role. Hughes, however, has asserted that there are no legal provisions prohibiting him from maintaining EMGL as a client while leading the AFC.

During a June 27 interview just days before he was elected leader of AFC, Hughes disclosed that Exxon is a client of his law firm – Hughes, Fields and Stoby.  Hughes was asked during the interview, that if elected leader of the AFC will he urge the party to renegotiate the lopsided 2016 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) which was signed with Exxon and the previous APNU + AFC Government for the lucrative Stabroek Block.

In response the now AFC leader said, “…I will say this and I think I said it the other night…Exxon is a client of our firm, I’m making it public now so nobody can’t say that I have never made it [known]. Several oil companies are clients of our firm. I cannot comment on that.”

On Sunday, the day after being elected leader of the AFC, Hughes stated that he would not sever ties with his law firm, which represents ExxonMobil, unless he is elected to government, according to a report by Demerara Waves Online News. Hughes told Demerara Waves, “No, no! This issue really only arises if and when I become President or acquire a position of power, because, then I’m in a position to influence government policy, they can claim. Right now, I can’t influence government and, therefore, it’s a theoretical conflict.”

The renegotiation of the 2016 deal has been the topic for ongoing debates. There have been calls from locals and industry experts urging Guyana’s leaders to reopen negotiations with ExxonMobil and its partners, Hess Corporation and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), to ensure more equitable benefits from the lucrative Stabroek Block.

Former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and now General Secretary of the AFC, during his tenure under the Coalition government between 2015 and 2020, was the one who signed the deal in 2016 with Exxon. The deal Trotman signed waives all taxes from the oil companies, gives Guyana a 2% royalty on its rich resources, and agrees to the oil companies recovering 75% of investments before the remaining 25% is shared, with Guyana receiving 12.5%. The arrangement, with the lack of ring-fencing, sees Guyana paying for projects that are yet to commence production activities. Each month bills from future producing developments are added to the list of expenses to be cost-recovered by Exxon.

In response to Hughes comments to Demerara Waves, Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo posted to his Facebook page, “Nigel Hughes obviously did not read the definition of politically exposed persons in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act 2009.”

Jagdeo posted a snippet of the AML/CFT Act which explains who are considered a Politically Exposed Person (PEP).  It states, “politically exposed person means any individual who is or has been entrusted with prominent public functions on behalf of a state, including a Head of State or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of state owned corporations, important political party officials, and a person who is or has been entrusted with a prominent function by an international organisation, at the level of senior management, including directors, deputy directors and members of the board or equivalent functions including family members or close associates of the politically exposed person whether that person is resident in Guyana or not;”

Hughes also on his Facebook page responded calling the Vice President’s post “another red herring.”  He explained that he has been PEP since 2011 when his wife, Catherine Hughes became a member of the National Assembly. He noted that while his wife is still a Member of Parliament (MP), they have annually declared their assets to the Integrity Commission as PEPs.

Notably, Hughes said too that international client who seek to retain the services of his law firm usually conduct due diligence investigation of the firm and he had to declare that he is a PEP.

“Commercial Financial Institutions in Guyana have designated me as a PEP which obliges them to conduct a higher level of scrutiny on all of my financial transactions. All members of the National Assembly including the Vice President are PEPs. There is no magic to being PEP. The close relatives of all MPs are PEPs,” Hughes asserted.

To this end, he underscored that there is no law preventing him from having Exxon as a client. He said, “There is no law which prevents anyone from entering in contracts with PEPs.”

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The duty of a lawyer is to represent their clients. I know countless lawyers who have argued different positions based on circumstances. Hughes is in the best position to know if /when he is in conflict. It is strange that Jagdeo is talking about conflict of interest when he is a puppet of Exxon.


If elected to office Hughes will have to sever ties with law firm – Goolsarran

Anand Goolsarran
Anand Goolsarran

If elected to office, the new Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes will have to sever ties with his law firm that currently provides services to ExxonMobil and other oil companies, according to former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran.

Writing in his `Accountability Watch’ column in yesterday’s Stabroek News, Goolsarran addressed the question of the conflict of interest which has arisen since Hughes was  elected as the new leader of the AFC.

“Avoiding conflicts of interest is essential to the practice of good governance, especially in the public sector which exists to provide various services to the public. It is the quality of those services and putting the public interest above all other interests that are of paramount importance. While there are various ways of mitigating the effects of conflict of interest, eliminating conflict of interest in its entirety is perhaps the best course of action in order to win the confidence of the public.


Hughes’ presence in the local political milieu and Jagdeo’s changing modus operandi

I have never seen Bharrat Jagdeo running so scared. Indeed, any leader that has so many clouds and shadows hanging over him would be running scared as the impact of Nigel Hughess’ leadership presence registers. Jagdeo is vulnerable on so many fronts that scratches only the surface: he is transfixed by dark fears and terrified by the record that he can’t shake, no matter how hard he tries. Though intended kindly to Jagdeo, I think he is more than running sacred. Jagdeo is running mad.

Jagdeo has never been charged up on a development in Guyana, as this Nigel Hughes one. Not even the PPP’s return to power, for he knew where things stood (Yanks), and the groundswell of Guyanese support. Not even PPP Congress results, which were subject to his dictates, and a foregone conclusion, anyhow. Not even oil money and loan money flooding into Guyana, have made Jagdeo so much like a tightly coiled jack-in-the box figure. What his insatiable lust for power, his peculiar joys with money, his passionate rages against the PNC, couldn’t do, Hughes did. Nothing and no one like Nigel Hughes have sent such a jolt of high voltage electricity into Bharrat Jagdeo’s sensitive nerve ends and has his lips trembling, his words tumbling out in a torrent.

When the AFC leadership results came out, Jagdeo ran out immediately to deliver his verdict: politicians making a comeback. Recycled, he said. This from a politician who recycled himself from elected president to self-selected president (Ramotar reign), to self-appointed president (Ali regime). Jagdeo was so distraught about the appearance of Hughes that he reduced his weekly tirades against KN and his tormentor, Glenn Lall, pushed those assaults onto the backburner of his volcanic rage. Jagdeo went on a rampage against Hughes to mask his fears. He turns and there is Hughes – an existential threat. He listens and there is Hughes again, haunting his

existence. What is it that Hughes represents that makes Jagdeo hangs himself in full public view? Jagdeo, the once all-conquering is now Jagdeo the blustering when the name Hughes makes the rounds. Jagdeo the haughty is now Jagdeo the hollow when Hughes is held high by many potential Guyanese voters, including that growing section of disillusioned in his own camp.

But there is another development of major significance that confirms the petrified state of Jagdeo. Exxon’s Alistair Routledge came out publicly and laid down Exxon’s judgment: the Nigel Hughes-Exxon relationship does not represent a conflict of interest (more on this in Part II).  Who tell he fuh seh suh!  Fire and brimstone poured out of a rattled Jagdeo. Though he should have seen that one coming, being the slick-as-a-stick character that he is, Jagdeo immediately donned armour. Exxon has it wrong. It is the first time that Jagdeo has said a negative word, took an opposing posture, against Exxon, and it had to do with Nigel Hughes. Clearly, the presence of Hughes in the political equation is causing Jagdeo to have fits, even expelling bodily fluids excessively, if not uncontrollably. It is not so much what Routledge said, but on whose behalf, he said it. All Guyanese should know by now that when Alistair Routledge speaks, he did not do that on his own. Routledge speaks for more than CEO Darren Woods: he speaks for Exxon’s board of directors, possibly their heavyweight shareholders, to make a thorough job of this. I am asking myself if Mr. Routledge (see how dutiful I can be) did not also speak for America.

Jagdeo is in a world of trouble with Hughes in the political milieu. Nigel Hughes is Bharrat Jagdeo’s worst nightmare. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving Guyanese. Despite my differences with Mr. Hughes, when Jagdeo is reduced to this quivering, sputtering, defensive state, he [Hughes] and I are on the same page.


GHK Lall



AFC has replaced the position that the United Force had. Many of their activists came out of the UF and were once supporters of Nadira.

Jagdeo used Ali as his puppet to lure back the Muslim voters who supported the AFC in the previous elections. Money talks bullshit walks.

Hughes seems to be held high by many potential Guyanese voters.


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