By Ifeanyi Izeze
When some genuinely concerned officials of the Federal Government took the decision to hold Addax Petroleum to account for its alleged misdeeds in the nation’s oil sector by revoking the operating permits of four oil blocs previously operated by the company, they were obviously oblivious that come what may, the borrower is a slave and will remain so to the creditor. And this is just the beginning of the kind of things we are going to see in this country as a result of this government’s shameless borrowing from the Chinese.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had on March 30, 2021, following a recommendation by a presidential committee of investigation on the dispute between the federal government and Addax Petroleum, revoked the licences previously held by Addax. The oil licences affected are Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 123, 124, 126, and 137.
This made Addax to write to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) threatening to utilise all government, diplomatic and legal means to seek redress, describing the revocation as an attempt to expropriate its interests in Nigeria.
Addax Petroleum Limited is a subsidiary of SINOPEC, the national oil company of the People’s Republic of China. This company was among the Chinese interests that benefited from Nigeria’s right of first refusal policy which was an outright aberration in the nation’s oil-for-infrastructure deal of the last oil bloc open bid round. Did they execute any rail or power infrastructure project they promised for getting oil blocs for almost free? The answer is No!
Does it surprise anybody that President Muhammadu Buhari, few weeks precisely April 23, 2021, after the revocation, ordered an immediate restoration of the permits back to the Chinese concern?
Without mincing words, all the reasons given by the Presidency for the restoration of the four oil blocs to the Chinese Addax were at best watery and at worst shameful.
On several fronts, methinks Nigerians have been unfair to President Buhari on the confusion at the Presidency where all decisions and issues that had to do with policy pronouncements are wrongly blamed on the man. The truth is that our President is grossly incapacitated to take any decision not to talk of articulating any policy. What we have at the Presidency today are surrogate presidents and they are several of them that most times work at cross purposes with each other.
These are pockets of power blocs of relatives of the president including Mamman Daura, the Attorney General of the Federation and his own relatives and lately, the Chief of Staff and his own crew. All these blocs freely dangle the name of the ailing President as franchise to plunder this country. How long can we continue like this as a nation of serious minded people?
Who would believe as claimed by the Presidency that the Federal Government’s decision to restore the assets back to Addax joint venture was based on the fact that the NNPC had a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) agreement with Addax and the revocation was done by the DPR without consulting the NNPC? Is this possible with what we know obtains in the administration of our oil business?
Whether the Presidency agrees to do the right thing or not, we will not shy away from defending our National interest at least by letting the citizens and the entire world hear and know the truth.
Was it not this same Presidency that set up the Presidential inter-ministerial committee made up of technocrats from several federal ministries and departments to advise the President on the plight of an indigenous engineering and technology company, Kaztec Engineering limited that’s in dispute with the Chinese Addax?
On good authourity, we have it that the committee was set up by a presidential directive conveyed by the chief of staff to the President. Is this not true?
If the President (surrogate) knew abinitio that he is not going to be bold enough to implement the recommendations of the committee because of his government’s entanglement with the culprit home Chinese government, why set up the investigation panel in the first instance?
Now, this is the real issue: Nigerians need to know that Kaztec Engineering limited a local indigenous company was awarded contracts worth over 650million dollars by Addax Petroleum to develop the oil fields operated by the Chinese company.
In 2015 the Federal Government under President Buhari (while things still looked good for the president and his government) in keeping with its anti-corruption agenda accused Addax of tax atrocities which resulted in substantial losses to the Federal Government.
Addax was asked to pay what they owed, in response the Chinese company declared a force majeure on their exploration and production activities and cancelled their investments in the oil fields.
The Nigerian company Kaztec, a company that has invested 650million dollars in the project with Addax was forced to bear the brunt of the entire dispute, which was actually between Addax petroleum and the Nigerian Government.
Nigerians must look beyond the needless sensationalism and ask the hard questions that need to be answered.
The question to ask is: who is deceiving the President? Is it the Chinese Addax the company that was accused of tax fraud, and abandoned its Nigerian investments for over 10years or the Department of Petroleum Resources that tried to hold them to account for the economic damages they were inflicting on the Nigerian oil economy withholding investments at a time when the nation is in dire need? We need to get this clear as there seems to be a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the facts and arm-twist the government and its officials.
Is it the place of NNPC to award or revoke oil mining licences or mitigate in any dispute thereof? Issues of revocation, allocation and management of oil blocks are exclusively the statutory preserve of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Has this not been the case before this time? So how come this NNPC angle? You see that the people doing these things at the Presidency don’t even understand what they delve into.
Whether the Presidency wants to hear this or not, in the light of the abandonment of the oil blocks, the lack of investment in the field, the colossal losses to the Nigerian economy by the actions of the Chinese Addax, DPR was right to recommend a revocation of the mining leases issued to Addax in the National interest.
It has been disclosed by those who should know that “the decision to return the operating permits on the four oil blocs was taken by the President (his proxies) to avoid any major face-off with the Chinese government which is assisting the Federal Government with huge loans for its various infrastructural projects across the country.
“So, it would have become an embarrassment to Nigeria even both in diplomatic terms, because China will feel slighted that we can’t even follow our own rules and considering the number of projects like the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas project they are assisting us with, they would have just messed things up.’’ And this is obvious from the body language of the presidency.
Recall that Garba Shehu, Special Assistant to the President on Media had in a recent statement issued in Abuja, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has restored the 4 oil blocs to NNPC “in line with the current administration’s commitment to the rule of law, fairness and to enable a stable business climate for investment.”
Is it not clear that the decision to return the operating license on the 4 oil blocs was taken by the President to avoid any major face-off with the Chinese government?
The problem is that this is just one case and in the near future we are going to have a plethora of such cases dealing with Chinese misdemeanour because of our huge indebtedness to them. God dey!
(IFEANYI IZEZE: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)