A human rights group, representing erstwhile managers of four oil wells in Nigeria has signaled to enter into legal battle with the Nigerian government as the country engages battle gear to auction the oil wells hitherto in the hands of politicians and past leaders of the country.

The group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) is asking the President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the processes leading to auctioning of the oil wells already put up for sale, and said to be worth about $22.5 billion dollars.

The oil wells are ) OML 24, OML 98, OML 122, OML 110, OML 88, OML 62, OML 11, OPL 292 and OPL 258.

In a petition to Aso Rock, the HEDA Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju stated that “the total cost of the oil wells run to about $12 billion. We want to know why these oil wells are being put up for sale. Who are the prospective buyers? Where will the proceeds of the oil wells go? How will Nigerians benefit from the sale of the oil wells?”

Suraju linked political undertones to the proposed sales of the oil well. According to him, oil wells have been used over the years for political patronage and sold to individuals by fiat. “This should stop. The resources belong to Nigerians and they should not be sold without prior and informed consent of the people.”

The group said the timing of the sale of the oil well is suspicious given the current scrutiny going on in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). “Nigerians have the right to determine what the Federal Government is doing with the oil wells.

“The decision to sell the oil wells can only be taken after due consultation with relevant stakeholders and active participation of the civil society organisations, media and labour to understand and verify the beneficial owners of the bidding companies.”

Nigeria is home to some 159 oil fields and 1481 wells in operation, and all are under the authority of the Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR). Most effective of the oil wells are located in the Niger Delta, which remains one of the poorest regions in the country. The Niger-Delta alone has 78 oil fields out of the 159 oil fields in Nigeria.

The most productive region of the nation is the coastal Niger Delta Basin in the Niger Delta or “South-south” region which encompasses 78 of the 159 oil fields. With the recent revelations of insider dealings, compromise and contract benefit by parliamentarians, ministers accused of corruption and illicit assets beyond legitimate means, public perception is not at all in favour of this surreptitious sale of these oil fields.

“Selling national assets is not a decision to be taken by a few people. Selling of these oil wells will have longterm implications for the future of Nigeria beyond the tenure of those who wish to sell the oil wells. This is the reason why the Federal Government should not sell the oil wells without constructive engagement of the people but rather the employment of a Consultant as middlemen for the sale of these oil blocks, the group argued.

HEDA urged the President to seek from the DPR who the buyers of the oil wells are and on what conditions they are being auctioned; where the bids were advertised and what were the level of competence of the bidders. The organisation signaled the intention to seek legal redress if the final outcome is not satisfactory to them.

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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