Criticisms have continued to trail claims by Senator Eta Enang that northerners own 83 per cent of oil blocks in Nigeria.
Faulting Enang's position, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), while describing the claims as "grossly misleading", saying that Enang's list contained only names of those who were allocated oil blocks under the defunct military junta.
Falana stated this in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday.
He said: "In other words, the list did not contain the names of the other traders who have been allocated oil blocks by the ruling party since 1999."
Equally missing from the list, he said, are the names of multinational companies otherwise called oil majors which, he maintained, control and manage the lion's share of the oil and gas industry.
"The said foreign companies or oil majors own 80 per cent of the oil blocks and as such they are completely in charge of the oil and gas industry. They produce the oil and gas and declare the figures they like. They smile to the banks daily while Nigerians fight over the crumbs from the master's table," Falana said in a statement to LEADERSHIP.
He noted that there are about 17 foreign oil companies which are the major key players in the oil industry operating the juicy fields, while Nigerians are forced to operate in the marginal fields.
Falana pointed out that in spite of the indictment by the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), some of the oil majors have continued to withhold billions of dollars from the federation account despite the fact that the joint venture agreements between the federal government and the companies is 60/40 in Nigeria compared to some countries where it is 80/20.
He also alleged that some of the foreign oil companies have, with the connivance of the federal government, been leasing oil blocks allocated to them to other persons or companies.
"Incidentally, the disclosure in the Senate last week coincided with the death of President Hugo Rafael Chavez of Venezuela who nationalised the oil industry that enabled his government to generate enough revenue to fund a comprehensive welfare programme for the hitherto impoverished people of the Latin American country.
"But the enormous common wealth of the Nigerian people has been cornered by a few rent collectors and other members of the parasitic ruling class. A few of them who raked billions of dollars from the illegal sale of the oil blocks have openly confessed that they do not know what to do with the huge fund! Because such wealth has been privatised Nigeria cannot, like Venezuela, meet the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015," Falana said.
He further challenged the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to, without any delay, publish an up-to-date list of all local individuals and foreigners who have been allocated oil blocks by the government, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan should thereafter proceed to cancel all oil blocks allocated to a few interest groups and vest them in the federal government in line with section 44 of the constitution.
LEADERSHIP gathered at the weekend that some northern leaders who were infuriated by the allegation have claimed that oil blocks' acquisition has become more of political patronage from 1999 to date with southern presidents more in charge than in the past.
A source told LEADERSHIP in Minna that some oil blocks which genuinely belonged to some northern businessmen were collected from them during the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo even as the blocks were given out then for patronage.
It was further learnt that the leaders are putting their record together to ensure that the truth of oil block ownership is laid bare before Nigerians.
Col Sani Bello denies owning ANMI Oil
Meanwhile, former Kano State governor Col. Sani Bello (rtd), who was mentioned as the owner of ANMI International Petroleum and Development Company, operators of OML 112 and OML 117, has also debunked the claim of Enang.
Bello has refuted the claim of sole ownership of the company or oil block contrary to the claim made by Enang.
In an interview in Kontagora, Bello explained that he was only one of the three principal shareholders of ANMI; he listed the other shareholders as Professor Emma Idozian from Asaba (south-south) and Chief Tunde Afolabi from Ibadan (south-west). He himself hails from Kotangora, Niger State (north-central).
According to him, the company has a joint ownership of three principal shareholders with 15 others as nominal shareholders and foreign technical partners own 40 per cent shares of the company.
He said though he is the chairman of the company, his shares in the company are not up to 20 per cent and he could therefore not be seen as the sole owner of the company or oil blocks.
Bello said, "The fact that I am the chairman of the company does not mean I own it. I don't own AMNI. I don't have up to 20 per cent in the company."
The elder statesman explained further that the management of the company was entirely in the hands of the foreign technical partners and therefore advised Senator Ita Enang to always verify his facts before making a straight-jacket claim.
He challenged the senator to go to the appropriate bodies like the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to ascertain the ownership of the said company in order to be sure of the true positions of the company, adding that it was unfortunate the claim was made without adequate verifications.
Enang had also claimed the former petroleum minister Rilwanu Lukeman was the major stakeholder in Afren Oil when in fact, Egbert Imomoh had as muck stake and the largest shareholders were foreigners Ethelbert Cooper and Osman Shanenshah.
Mark to IOCs, regions: PIB not a witch-hunt
Meanwhile, Senate President David Mark has said that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly is neither aimed at discouraging the multinational oil and gas prospecting corporations nor against any section of the country but geared towards promoting international best practices in Nigeria's petroleum industry.
Mark made the clarification in Abuja at the weekend.
According to him, the PIB is to correct some grey areas in the operation of the country's oil industry in a manner that would bring peace and yield positive dividends to all stakeholders -- the operators, the government, the host communities and all the citizens of Nigeria.
The Senate president stated, at an interactive session with the Netherlands' ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ronhaar drs Berend Jan, that there is nothing to hide or fear about the PIB just as he assured that dialogue towards a better operation of the oil sector is open and not foreclosed.
He told the Dutch ambassador that Nigeria is worried about the conspiracy or connivance by illegal oil bunkering and some foreign corporations who have continued to steal the nation's crude oil.
Mark said, "You should help us stop oil thieves because if there is no market for them abroad, they will not continue to steal.
"Their market is outside Nigeria. Help us discourage them. If there is no market, there will be no bunkering. The international community helped to stop stealing of gold in Liberia; they can help us stop oil thieves by refusing to patronise them."
Senator Mark also requested the oil prospecting companies to respect the local and international laws on the operation of the industry, pointing out that a situation where some oil companies flagrantly refuse to clean up oil spill or pay compensation to victims amounts to abuse.
Earlier, the Netherlands ambassador expressed grave concern about the non-abating activities of oil thieves, saying that Nigeria loses huge revenue on account of that.
Berend Jan added that the unfavourable security situation in the country was discouraging prospective investors while existing ones are contemplating quitting the shores of Nigeria.
He therefore tasked the federal government to have the political will to address the situation, even as he promised Netherlands' readiness to help Nigeria out of the quagmire.