Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Adoke Debunks Allegation of Round-Tripping in Oil, Gas Industry

Abuja — The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke, has expressed the determination of the Federal Government's to put measures in place to attract investment in oil and gas.

Adoke made this known in Abuja on Friday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Transaction.

The ad-hoc committee organised an investigative hearing on transaction, involving the Federal Government, Shell/Agip and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd in respect of the oil block OPL 245.

" I wish to reiterate that government has overtime demonstrated its commitment to attracting investment in the oil and gas sector of the economy.

"The government is also encouraging genuine investors, local and foreign by creating an enabling environment for their businesses to thrive.

" The resolution of the lingering dispute over block 254 was in furtherance of that objective,"Adoke stated.

He said that Malabu and other indigenous oil and gas companies were allocated oil blocks which they were expected to develop in partnership with international oil companies as technical partners.

He, however, noted that at the time of awarding the oil block to Malabu in 2001, the company did not have the requisite financial muscle to meet the initial financial requirements.

He said that a lot of interplay occurred in considering Malabu for the allocation.

According to the submission of Adoke, Malabu was issued a licence for block 245 in April 2001, which he, said was subsequently revoked by the Federal Government on July 2001.

He said that Malabu contended that the subsequent re-awarding of OPL 245 to SNUD by the Federal Government was done under questionable circumstances.

Malabu petitioned the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum to look into the matter.

Adoke said further that Malabu also instituted a suit before the Federal High Court to enforce its claim to OPL 254.

He said that the suit was struck out by the Federal High Court, and an appeal was lodged before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

" During the appeal, an amicable settlement was entered into between Malabu and the Federal Government in compliance with the terms of settlement executed by the parties on Nov.30, 2006.

He said that SNUD was not satisfied with the terms of the agreement entered into with Malabu and the government.

Adoke said that to resolve all contending claims, a resolution agreement dated April 29, 2011 was executed where the Federal Government agreed to resolve all the issues with respect to block 245.

" A resolution agreement was dated April 29, 2001 and was executed wherein the Federal Government agreed to resolve all the issues with Malabu with respect to block 245 amicably.

" Malabu also agreed that it would settle and waive any and all claims to any interest in OPL 245," the minister said.

He said that Malabu consented to the re-allocation of block 245 to Nigerian Agip Exploration Ltd (NAE) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd (SNEPCO).

" The role played by the Federal Government and its agencies in relation to block 245 was that of facilitator of a long-standing dispute between Malabu and SNUD over ownership of right to block 245," Adoke said.

He said that the allegation of round-tripping levelled against the Federal Government in some sections of the media was without basis and cannot be substantiated.

According to him, the Federal Government's role is regarded as mere facilitator of an amicable settlement between two disputing parties.

It will be recalled that an indigenous Exploration Programme Policy was introduced by the Federal Government in the 1990s to encourage effective development of indigenous capability in the upstream sector of the industry.

In a remark, the Chairman of the Ad-Committee, Rep. Leo Ogor (PDP-Delta) , said that the investigative hearing was a fact- finding to assist in addressing salient issues regarding the transactions.

He said the House of Representatives was saddled with the responsibility to protect the interest of Nigerians.

" Our responsibility is to give a fair report and we will try to protect our local industry, local content and encourage indigenous participation in our oil and gas sector.

"We believe in our indigenous companies," he emphasised.

Ogor said that the committee would come out with a thorough report on the hearing. (NAN)

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