By Odunewu Segun
The Gatekeepers Foundation has faulted the decision of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to hand over OML 13 total asset Otakpate oil field in Akwa-Ibom state, which contains a blend of light and heavy sweet crude oil and natural gas completely to Sterling Energy and Exploration Production Limited, an Indian group.
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, made available to National Daily, Executive Secretary to the Foundation, Dr. Blessing Agbomhere, said the decision is against the principles of local content law which provides for development in localizing management and control of the oil and gas industry.
According to the group, the conspiracy is another corruption to deprive local oil firms of creating employment and empowering employees of local companies who are dying of unpaid salaries, poverty and disease as a result of compromise in government policies and projects that are unfavorable to our local companies.
While the group said it is not against foreign direct investment capable of developing Nigeria’s local economy, it argued that Nigeria’s total asset cannot be handed over to foreign companies where there are indigenous companies with requisite expertise, technology and capacity.
Dr. Agbomhere in the letter stated that while the petroleum industry accounts for over 40 per cent of Nigeria gross domestic product with billions of dollars investments worth, it is disheartening that there have been a conspicuous absence of indigenous players in these transactions, where about 90 percent of the equipment and personnel used in the industry are imported, causing capital flight from our economy.
“This administration must promote and enforce the local content law which promotes local participation in the exploration of our natural resources by ensuring the patronage of qualified indigenous companies in the oil and gas sector of the economy.
“This law expressly specifies that Nigerian independent operators should be accorded “first consideration” in the award of oil and gas related contracts and that Nigerian service companies should also be given “exclusive consideration” for contracts and services where Nigerian companies compete with international oil companies,” Dr. Agbomhere stated.
He wondered why local companies are being shot out of OML 13 when in other oil mining leases such as OML 34 and 111 in Delta and Edo states respectively both local and foreign companies participated fully in the operations.
“In OML 13, SEEPCO should be made to choose between gas and crude oil; as the local content law prohibits SEEPCO from hijacking all total asset of OML 13, and any qualified Nigerian local company should be given the license to extract for the other.”
The group therefore urged President Buhari and other relevant authorities to as a matter of urgency stop the conspiracy to deprive the participation of qualified local companies in OML 13 Otakpati Oil Field, stressing that local companies must be patronized to develop Nigeria’s local economy.