The newly appointed leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes, has addressed concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest related to his law firm’s dealings with ExxonMobil. The leader firmly denied any conflict, emphasizing that his role within the party does not grant him the power to influence government policy in favor of the oil giant.

The press conference he spoke at today comes on the heels of growing scrutiny over his connection to the law firm Hughes, Fields & Stoby, where he serves as a partner. Critics have raised questions about the firm’s long-standing relationship with ExxonMobil and whether this could affect his impartiality in political decisions, particularly concerning oil and gas policy.

Addressing these concerns head-on, the leader explained, “A conflict of interest typically arises in situations where the aims of two parties are incompatible or where a person stands to benefit personally from decisions made in an official capacity. However, as the leader of the AFC, I do not have the capacity to influence government policy on behalf of ExxonMobil or any other entity. My role within the party is distinct and separate from any governmental authority.”

He further elaborated that while he may influence AFC policy on oil and gas, the party has proactively established an independent oil and gas advisory committee led by Dr. Vincent Adams and Mr. David Patterson. This committee is tasked with guiding the AFC’s policy on these matters and includes experts from both local and international backgrounds. Hughes assured that he would have no input in or involvement with this committee until the AFC attains governmental power.

The leader also committed to severing all ties with Hughes, Fields & Stoby if elected to office, ensuring that there would be no conflicts of interest once in a position to influence government policy. “Hughes, Fields & Stoby is a 52-year-old law firm and the largest in Guyana, with a history of advising international oil clients. However, I have never been involved in advising ExxonMobil or any other client in matters relating to the Government of Guyana,” he stated.

Reflecting on the firm’s legacy, he mentioned, “My father and other senior partners were involved in advising oil clients during the exploratory drilling rounds of the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. More recently, our focus shifted towards the oil industry as a strategic growth area. Andrew Pollard and I decided to concentrate our efforts in this sector, anticipating its importance for the future.”

Hughes also addressed concerns about his status as a politically exposed person (PEP), a term used to describe individuals in positions of public trust who may be at higher risk for potential involvement in corrupt activities. “I have been a politically exposed person since 2011, when my wife became a member of the National Assembly and later a minister. We have always declared our assets to the Integrity Commission as required by law,” he clarified.

He emphasized that being a PEP is not inherently problematic, saying, “There is no magic in being a politically exposed person. It is simply a matter of transparency and accountability, which I fully support.”

### Future Plans and Policies

In outlining his future plans, the leader reiterated his commitment to establishing a joint commission within the first 100 days if elected to office, aimed at overseeing and managing the country’s petroleum sector. This initiative is part of his broader vision to ensure that the oil and gas industry operates transparently and in the best interests of the Guyanese people.

Hughes also pointed out that the situation of potential conflicts of interest is not unprecedented and cited historical examples where similar issues were navigated successfully without compromising integrity. He expressed confidence that with proper measures and a commitment to transparency, any concerns could be addressed effectively.

The AFC leader reiterated his commitment to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and transparency both in his role within the AFC and any future government positions. “I have never held any governmental office nor advised the Government of Guyana on matters related to ExxonMobil or any other entity. My focus remains on serving the people of Guyana and ensuring that our policies reflect their best interests,” he concluded.


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