The relative peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, which enabled Nigeria to produce about 2 million barrels of crude oil per day in recent months is seriously being threatened, following the cancellation of three oil blocks won by indigenes of the region in the 2007 bid round by the Federal Government.
The three oil blocks had for eight years been stalled by litigation until it was resolved in 2015.
It was learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari was proded into the revocations of the oil blocks by the leadership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
A source within the NNPC management confided in Daily Sun that top NNPC officials had secretly advised the president to revoke the oil blocks, namely, Oil Prospecting Licences (OPLs) 2001, 2002 and 2003 by hoarding vital information and distorting facts presented to him.
It was also learnt that to ensure the conspiracy succeeded, officials of the two government oil companies blacked out the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, from the move. Also left out were the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as well as the leadership of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the industry regulator.
In a memo dated December 20, 2016, obtained by Daily Sun, the NNPC top brass claimed repeatedly that the oil blocks, which are covered under Oil Mining Licence 13 were recovered from the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and “inadvertently revoked”, saying that they were “back-converted to green field OPL and resized into OPLs 2001, 2002 and 2003 and offered under the 2007 Licensing Round.”
The memo impressed on Buhari that the oil blocks belong to the NPDC. It, however, failed to disclose to the President that the NPDC, which is an NNPC subsidiary, bidded for one of the blocks but lost because its bid was very low.
The NNPC chief “is using his high office to corner, through the back door, oil blocks won by Niger Delta investors in a competitive and transparent bidding process,” said a commercial lawyer who has been following the case closely.
The lawyer who did not want his name in print said, “he deliberately did not tell the president, who is a fair minded person, how the three OPLs came up for grabs in the 2007 bid round.”
In 2013 when the NPDC asked the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, to transfer ownership of the three oil blocks to it, she referred the request to the DPR, which promptly alerted her of the grave legal implications.
Noting that OML 13 no longer existed in the eyes of the law, the petroleum industry regulator advised her thus: “You do not give what you do not have.” Recalled a former aide of the erstwhile minister who was involved in the matter: “She dropped the request like a hot potato because of the tremendous legal costs and because the owners are from the Niger Delta who won in a competitive licensing round. She recognised immediately the hot political consequences of not allowing justice to prevail in this matter.”
Meanwhile, tension is mounting in the Niger Delta over the oil block cancellations, as the promoters of the three companies are determined to go all the way to retrieve their oil blocks. (The Sun)