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Senate panel probes DPR on illegal award of OML 46 to Halkin Oil, despite Buhari’s directives

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By Yemi Itodo

The Nigerian Senate is investigating how OML 46 was illegally awarded to Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited, by the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), in contravention of Presidential directive.

The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, while interfacing with the groups involved at a public hearing on Tuesday, 22nd March, 2022, was informed that, after the revocation of the oil field, the presidency intervened, considered the numerous petitions from the various marginal owners and directed that the fields be rewarded on discretionary basis with preference to the previous owners, including the Atala Oil Field.

The public hearing followed a petition brought before the Senate dated the 5th October 2021, by Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, on behalf of Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited (HONL), against the DPR, for alleged breach of trust, corruption and illegal revocation of OML 46 and re-awarding same to Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited, in breach of due process.

During the public hearing which was the third in the series, the representative of Hardy Oil, Barr. Ike Onwuchuluba, adopted its presentation dated 24th September 2021, in addition to the annexed documents which the company submitted to the Committee.

He submitted the subject matter of the petition bothered on the OML46 – Atala Marginal Oil Field and the improper way and manner the field that was formerly managed by the trio of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited (BOCL), Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited and Century Exploration and Production (CEPL) was revoked and handed over to a company in very shady and fraudulent circumstances, ipso facto, that Halkin Exploration and Production Limited invested $60,000,000 in the Atala Marginal Field and executed a Farm-In Agreement with BOCL.

Debunking the allegation that there was an investment of $60million and acquisition of 41 percent shares of BOCL by Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited, Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited said: “The allocation of the field to Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited was done and secured under fraudulent mis-representation made by Halkin.

Barr Onwuchuluba also told the Senate that the award, which was predicated on two reasons by the defunct DPR was false, adding that, Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited was an unknown entity to the former Atala Marginal Field owners.

“They did not invest any $60m in the field, did not execute any Farm-in Agreement with BOCL and that Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited secured OML 46 under false pretense/misrepresentation”, he added.

He also informed the Committee that the man who presented himself as the Managing Director (MD) of Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited was the immediate past MD of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited as at the time the field was given to Halkin and stands conflicted by holding such dual positions.

“Which means that he was on one leg the MD of BOCL and on another leg the MD of Hakin. So it is not impossible that he may have used his position as the MD of BOCL to alter documents to the benefit of Halkin. And that the failure of DPR to verfy the claims of Halkin from the Atala JV Partners was in breach of the principle of fair hearing”, he submitted.

While emphasizing that the re-awarding of OML46 was under false pretense and to an unknown entity, Ike Onwuchuluba called the attention of the Senate to the fact that, the Atala Marginal Field was developed between 2014 to 2018 by the trio of BOCL, Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited and Century Exploration and Production Ltd whereas Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited which claimed to have invested $60m in the Atala Marginal Oil Field, was incorporated sometime on the 29th September 2019, long after the field has been developed by the parties.

He further reminded the Committee that, as the original owner of the Oil field, the trio of BOCL, Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited and Century Exploration and Production Ltd have been producing and paying royalties to the account of the federal government of Nigeria and that as at the time the field was purportedly revoked, the JV-partners have an outstanding 20,700 barrels of crude on the site.

He therefore requested that the Senate should look into the matter and urge Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to immediately reinstate Atala Marginal Oil Field OML 46 to the joint venture that owns the Oil field.

In its submissions in support, the Managing Director of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited, Mr. Bello Akpoku stated that:-

“We have availed the Committee with the Memo written to the Honorable Minister of Petroleum Resources, whereby the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) stated that the field was allocated to Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited for two principal reasons namely; that Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited claimed to have invested $60m to the Atala Marginal Oil Field and second was the alleged acquisition of 41% share of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited shares in the Atala Marginal Oil Field”.

He maintained that “BOCL owned 51% in the Atala Marginal Field and Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited claim to have acquired 41% of the 51% share thereby making it the largest partner owner of the field is false”.

When he was called to react to the allegations made against him and his company, the MD of Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited, Mr. Charles Dorgu, who could not put up a defence, claimed to be sick and urged the Committee to give him two weeks extension to come up with his defence to the weighty allegations.

The visibly infuriated Senate Committee, on its part, called on the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to interface with the groups involved and look into the matter critically and report back to them in two weeks.

The lawmakers also frowned at the refusal of Mr. Dorgu to honour their invitations for two consecutive times previously and how he made some fruitless efforts to stop the Committee from hearing the petition by resorting to litigation against the National Assembly.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, thereafter directed the MD of Halkin to provide documented evidences of how the shares were acquired and evidence of the $60million investment, if actually such were made in its submissions to NUPRC.

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Legislature

Kogi Assembly, CSO partner on HIV/AIDS anti-stigma legislation

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By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja

Kogi State House of Assembly has assured that the bill for a Law to provide for the prevention of HIV and AIDS Based Discrimination and stigmatization will be accorded smooth and accelerated passage for full implementation in the state.

Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rt Hon. Comfort Nwuchiola Egwaba, disclosed this at a One-day Capacity Building And Media Round Table on the Proposed Anti-stigma Bill For HIV With Kogi State Assembly members.

She said that the partnership between the House and Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), a Civil Society Organization (CSO,) had yielded fruits with the resounding support of members for the bill.

The meeting aimed at building capacity of Kogi State Assembly members and Media personalities on the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination among others, was organized by INGRA with support from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Lokoja.

The Deputy Speaker said that the private member Bill before the House had had its first and second readings and was being primed for Public Hearing and Third Reading by the House Committees on Health and Judiciary.

Nwuchiola-Egwaba said, “We have done more than justice to the Bill. This bill will scale through and will see the light of day. We are not living any stone unturned. We are doing this for our people.”

Also speaking, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Bin Ebaiya Shehu-Tijjani (APC-Lokoja I) thanked his colleagues for the fervour with which they rallied support round him for the Bill to scale through the legislative mills and urged them to sustain the tempo until it is finally assented to by the governor.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Ochidi Usman (APC-Idah) decried the spate of discrimination and stigmatization against people living with the virus saying that they did not bargain for it.

He described them as victims of circumstances as he thanked the sponsor of the Bill and pledged to stand by him to provide support for the Bill to have accelerated passage.

Speaking earlier, Mr Hamza Aliyu Executive Director of INGRA who described the bill as a “Policy Bill” said it was not just for HIV/AIDS alone but against every form of discrimination and stigmatization against affected persons in the state.

He hinted that available statistics showed that over 28,000 persons are living with the virus in the state adding that they could be more as many are not aware of their status and are quite unwilling to get tested for fear of discrimination and stigmatization.

Aliyu said the Bill had been passed in 16 states of the Federation and would only be fair for the Act to be domesticated in Kogi through the legislation to ensure that affected persons are not unnecessarily discriminated against.

Executive Secretary, Kogi State Agency for Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Dr Sheidu Yunusa, who explained some of the provisions of the law, the offences and punishment said stigmatization and discrimination had the potency to destroy all the efforts being made to end the HIV scourge.

Dr Yunusa gave examples of stigmatization and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PL-HIV) to include health care professionals refusing to provide care or services to an affected person, Refusing casual contact with someone living with HIV.

It also include among others, socially isolating a member of a community on account of HIV positive status, referring to people as HiVers or Positives, Unlawful disclosure of an affected person’s status.

Amb. Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairman, Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET) said, “we should not see this law as draconian but an attempt to squelch discrimination against out affected brothers and sisters.”

Comrade Jimoh Audu, Kogi State Coordinator of Persons Living With HIV AIDS (PLWHA) commended INGRA and the House of Assembly for their determination to get the Bill passed.

“We appreciate the meeting of our leaders, we believe in you. All we are asking it to reduce to the barest minimum the issue of discrimination against us. The medical practitioners should be more professional in their conduct”, he said.

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Legislature

Senate moves to probe 11, 856 abandoned projects across Nigeria

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***sets up ad-hoc panel

The Senate has pun in place an ad-panel to investigate the number of viable projects abandoned across Nigeria in all sectors.

The committee is also to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to reduce project abandonment in Nigeria and how most of the projects can be recovered.

The member Ad-hoc committee comprised Senators Lola Shiru (chairman), Jimoh Ibrahim, Mpigi Barinada, Abdullahi Yahaya, Victor Umeh and Isah Jibrin, members.

This came following the adoption of a motion on “Urgent need to look into the 11, 856 mega projects abandoned by the Federal Government” sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South).

The Senate noted that in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Presidential committee on federal government- abandoned projects in Nigeria and the committee visited the 36 states in Nigeria and identified 11,866 projects abandoned by the Federal Government since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
According to Senator Ibrahim, reports have it that about 63% of the entire projects since independence were abandoned, adding that the 63% of projects abandoned in Nigeria is worse than any country under comparison”.

“The abandonment of the project is of significant concern because of project costs which constitute a significant part of the GDP. While spending on a public project in the UK is now about one trillion British pounds Nigeria has no idea of the total amount spent on public projects either successful or unsuccessful since independence,

He observed, for instance that in the investigation carried out at the University of Cambridge doctorate in management science between 2018 and 2022, the value of the 38 projects investigated cost Nigeria over $40 billion”.

“What is now key to this investigation is the need to look inward at our infrastructural development as Foreign Direct investment declined from$8.8b in 2011 to $3.3 billion in 2019, and the current account balances in that year from $10.6 billion to 5-17 billion, while the population was growing around 5% about 86% of the citizen, were living under $2 between 2011 and 2019. Public debt increased from 17% of the GDP in 2011 to 29% in 2019.

According to him, government has the responsibility to set up a professional system that will deliver the critical value from major infrastructure development for its citizens, adding that for 66% of projects to be abandoned since 1960 is “nothing less than a calamity that reduces our pride as a ‘Giant of Africa’ if we are still one”.

He said three abandoned projects out of the 11,886 projects such as Ajaokuta Steel Company, where billion of dollars was spent without any production, Second Niger Bridge, etc are over 30% of the national debt.

In his contribution, Senator Orji Kalu (Abia North) said Nigeria cannot industrialize without steel production.

The former Abia governor said “we should face steel production. If we don’t face it, we are wasting our time. If you check our debt repayment, it is coming on this project.

“Why would Nigeria be suffering on what ought to have been done? We supposed to convert that our money and build these industries for debt repayment on them and save the interest we pay?

“We should appeal to President Bola Tinubu, may be 2026, 2027 budget we dedicate all these industries. They are our own. If we do not do it we will not move forward”, he said.

Senator Isah Jibrin said the abandoned projects should be properly profiled and the viable ones be sold to bring return on investment.

In his remarks, the Senate President Godswill Akpabio said Nigeria cannot be using over 90% of its resources to pay interest on loans.

The committee was given one month to report back to the Senate.

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Legislature

Convert Oloibiri Shell Airstrip to Airforce Base, Senate tells Aviation Ministry, Airforce

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Senate has urged Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Airforce to take possession and convert the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri oil well in Bayelsa state to modern Airforce base.

This followed adoption of a motion on urgent need for transformation of the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri Oil Well 1 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to an Air Force Base.
The senator representing Bayelsa East SundayAgadaga (PDP) who sponsored the motion said Shell airstrip was constructed in 1958 following the first discovery of crude oil in 1956 at Oloibiri Oil well one.
According to him the airstrip, sitting on over 25 hecters of land has long been abandoned.
Agadaga said that the airstrip, while in effective operation, was a very valuable asset in the company’s oil exploration and exploitation activities in airlifting of personnel and equipment.
He said during the years of its functionality, heavy duty equipment, company workers, captains of Industry, top government functionaries and diplomats resorted to the route for easy access to the Niger Delta region.

He expressed regret that since the gradual decline of Shell’s operations in the area and final departure from Oloibiri oil field, the airstrip and the land where it operated has been abandoned and left desolate.

“The land itself appears to have been sentenced to perpetual condemnation as no agricultural activity which is the economic mainstay of the local dwellers can be carried out anymore due to the concretized topography of the soil.”

According to him, the abandoned airstrip poses environmental challenges and serious ecological complications to the Host Community as Shell has left the people in deprivation, squalor and lamentation after decades of operation.

He observed that upgrading the abandoned airstrip to an airforce base would bring renewed hope to the people, restore life to the area and attract the following benefits to the country:

“It will strengthen the security architecture of Nigeria as the creeks of Bayelsa up to Brass Island and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the gulf of guinea where the oil export terminal is located will be easily monitored and protected.”
Agadaga
said its evental upgrade would reduce the rate of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

This, he said would enhance surveillance activities in the numerous oil producing communities that constitute hub of oil industry activities in Nigeria.

He said the airstrip ,if converted to an airforce base would attract more business opportunities in the area thereby creating additional jobs to boost economic growth of Nigeriaa and ease the cost of living of the people.

Senator representing Kogi East Isah Jibrin (APC) said he was neither in support or against the motion pointing out that the cost implications of converting the airstrip to an airforce base would be huge, adding that government may not be dispose to consider the cost involved.

He said government may decide to confine the project on a long term basis, saying that he do not see the urgency in converting the airstrip to an airforce base at this period.

Sen. Adams Oshiomole (APC-Edo) said the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base holds great benefits for Nigerians and people of the region especially on quick intervention on insecurity issues.

Sen. Maidoki Garuba (PDP-Kebbi) said the conversion would help strengthen security of the nation, check crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

Sen.Victor Umeh (LP-Anambra) said there was need to preserve certain historical monuments like Oloibiri, adding that the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base would make Oloibiri a national monument, given its contribution as the first oil well in Nigeria.

He said the conversion would also ensure further economic prosperity for the nation.

President of Senate, Godswill Akpabio said efforts should be made to preserve historical monuments, like the Oloibiri Shell airstrip via its conversion to an airforce base.

He also said the conversion to an airforce base would also ensure improved security in terms of emergency, given its closeness to the golf of guinea.

Akpabio expressed hope that the government would see the need for the reconstruction of the airstrip to an airforce base to forestall challenges in the event of any mishaps.

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