NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited, a subsidiary of NNPC Limited, is now the new operator of OML 18. This development followed a decision by the NNPC it from the previous operator, Eroton Exploration and Production Limited.
In a statement yesterday, NNPC spokesman, Garba Muhammad, said in a statement that prior to the takeover both Eroton and NNPC owned stakes in OML 18 as a joint venture, with Eroton operating the oilfield.
However, in the last two years, the oilfield has not been producing.
On its part, Eroton absolved itself from any blames for production failing, stressing that the inactivity in the field was due the absence of Nembe Creek Trunk Line.
The company alleged that unknown armed men allegedly acting on behalf of Sahara, another oil firm, had gained access to its property, displacing some of its staff.
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Eroton insisted that it was still the lawful operator of OML 18, denying reports that the NNPC had taken over the asset. According to the company, the contract between it and the NNPC had not elapsed.
“There is a contractual obligation to conduct a takeover, and that process hasn’t been adhered to,” Eroton said yesterday.
But Muhammad said that the OML 18 was now fully under the control of the NNPC to resume production of oil and gas, as well as prevent further degradation of the oilfield.
NNPC said, “In order to protect the joint venture (JV) investment in OML 18, the non-operating partners, NNPC Limited (55 percent interest) and OML 18 Energy Limited (“OML 18 Energy” – 16.20 percent interest), jointly owning 71.20 percent equity, removed Eroton as operator of the JV in line with the provisions of the joint operating agreement (JOA).
“NNPC Limited and OML 18 Energy further appointed NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited as operator of the JV,” the statement read.
It was gathered that Eroton’s office has been on lock for more than 12 months amid Eroton’s failure to meet its fiscal obligations to the federal government.
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The NNPC spokesman said NNPC Limited in particular, as majority shareholder with a unique stewardship responsibility to the federation, is committed to assuring the energy and financial security of the country is uppermost in its business decisions.
According to him, removing an operator in these circumstances is therefore inevitable in order to protect the JV from governmental or third parties action from entities, including Eroton’s lenders and other service providers.
There are speculations that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have commenced investigations on the activities of Eroton’s management.
By Ken Okafor