Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja
…as FG turns down renewal of IOCs’ expired oil leases
Hopes of Royal Dutch Shell to return to Ogoniland has been finally dashed by the Federal Government with the pronouncement yesterday that there is no immediate plan by the Nigerian government to renew the expired oil block licences, particularly those belonging to international oil companies operating in the country.
Officials of Shell had said early this week that the company was in talks with the Nigerian authorities regarding the renewal of its licence to Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 for the next 20 years.
OML 11 is one of the most important oil blocks in Nigeria, in terms of oil and gas production. The oil mining lease lies mainly in Ogoniland, in the southeastern Niger Delta and contains 33 oil and gas fields, including Bodo, Bodo West and Yorla fields.
Playing host to a delegation from Eni/Agip in Abuja on Thursday, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, said there was no immediate plan to renew the licences. He said the FG is interested in having the exploration and production arm of the NNPC, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) operate them.
The NNPC, however, promised to work closely with Eni/Agip to speedily resolve all pending issues that led to the suspension of cash-call repayment.
Reacting to the rumour hitherto making the rounds in the oil and gas circuit in Nigeria that the FG may use the opportunity of the expiration of the subsisting lease over OML 11 on June 2019, to finally send Shell packing from Ogoniland, Shell media relations manager, Bamidele Odugbesan said on Wednesday that the international oil company (IOC) was hopeful to return to Ogoni, and was actually discussing with the Federal Government.
Shell had in 2018 applied for the renewal of the licence for another 20 years but the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) proposed to split the acreage into three because of its large size.
Without naming the companies involved, the NNPC boss confirmed that a number of IOCs are making a spirited attempt to get the FG to renew their leases. OER gathered that some IOCs are currently operating some oil blocks with expired licences in various locations in the Niger Delta, and are apprehensive when the government would renew the licences.
Kyari said the status of the expired leases on some OMLs, and the position of the government is that the Corporation, through is exploration and production arm, taken over OMLs which leases have expired.
The delegation from Eni/Agip was led to the NNPC by the Executive Vice Chairman, Sub-Saharan African Region and Chairman, Eni Exploration and Production in Nigeria, Brusco Guido.