A group of investors and indigenes of the Niger Delta, yesterday, condemned the Federal Government’s cancellation of Oil Prospecting Licences, OPL 2001, 2002 and 2003 in the Utapate field, stating that it was capable of re-igniting chaos in the Niger Delta region.
The investors affected by the cancellation are Jahcon International Limited, Hi Rev Exploration, Production Limited and Oil and Industrial Services Limited. Addressing newsmen in Abuja, representatives of some of the investors, said that after they won the bids for the blocs in 2007, the bid round was stalled for eight years by litigation until it was resolved amicably in 2015. After the resolution, the representatives who chose not to be named for fear of victimisation, said the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, handed offers of OPLs 2001, 2002 and 2003 to Jahcon International Limited, Hi Rev Exploration and Production Limited and Oil and Industrial Services Limited, respectively.
The representative of one of the major investors in OPL 2001, stated that many Niger Delta indigenes were pained by the action of the president in revoking the licences of citizens from the oil-rich region without carrying out thorough consultations. The investor stated that angry youths were already threatening to stop any attempt by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, to commence work on the oil field. For investors in OPL 2002, they noted that although the court had directed all parties to stay action with respect to working on the field, officials of the NPDC recently made moves to commence activities on the field.
However, in his reaction, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, confirmed the development, saying that the case was in court and that the NNPC and its subsidiary, NPDC, would abide by the rulings of the court. Ughamadu said, “I don’t want to comment on what they are dishing out because we are already in court. We have made two appearances in court on this matter. It is only the court that resolves issues like this and if it rules tomorrow that the decision taken on Party A is wrong, then we will abide by the ruling of the court.”
Meanwhile, copies of the letters which were issued to the investors on June 16, 2015 by the DPR, were made available to journalists, in which the DPR confirmed the three investors as successful bidders for the blocs and directed them to make the required payments as signature bonuses for the licences. The representatives said two of the firms, Jahcon International Limited and Oil and Industrial Services Limited made complete payments, while Hi Rev Exploration and Production Limited made part payment and is still in the process of completing its transaction with the DPR.
The representatives stated that regardless of all these, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a request by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation demanding the withdrawal of the licences from the investors and handing over the oil blocs to the NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC. In the NNPC’s letter of request to Buhari, dated December 20, 2016, shown to newsmen, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru acknowledged that OPLs 2001, 2002 and 2003 in OML 13, which were recovered from Shell by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, were “inadvertently revoked” by Obasanjo’s administration and “back-converted to greenfield OPL before being resized into OPLs 2001, 2002 and 2003 and offered under the 2007 Licensing Round.”
However, the investors argued that Maikanti’s letter, which insisted that the OPLs belong to NPDC, did not disclose that NPDC also submitted a bid for one of the blocks in the 2007 open licensing round but lost as a result of low bid.