80% Of Nigeria’s Oil Blocks Are Owned by Foreigners, Not Northerners – Femi Falana
Human Rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana has described the celebrated claim made by Senator Ita Enang on the floor of the Senate chambers last week that 80 percent of Nigeria’s oil blocks is owned by Northerners as totally false and misleading.
Senator Enang while speaking during a debate on the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Bill, particularly on the 10% revenue fund proposed to be remitted to communities hosting oil well, especially in the Niger Delta had argued the north is benefitting more than the Niger Delta where the oil wells are located with over 80% of the allocated oil wells owned by northerners, but the lawyer in a statement released today and obtained by Abusidiqu.com said majority of the nation’s oil blocks are owned by foreigners and foreign companies.
According to Falana:
“During the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill last week on the floor of the Senate at Abuja the names of a few Nigerians to whom the Federal Government had allocated oil blocks were revealed. It was specifically alleged that 83 per cent of all oil blocks in the country are owned by northerners. Not unexpectedly, those who are won’t to complain of neglect and maginalisation of their geo-political zones have been demanding for equitable distribution of oil blocks among the comprador bourgeoisie of the various ethnic groups. Embarrassed by the disclosure and the diversionary furore it is generating the Arewa Consultative Forum has called for a public inquiry into the allegation that northerners are the largest beneficiaries of the oil block largesse in the country.
While I have never supported the policy of allocating the oil blocks owned exclusively by the Federal Government to selected individuals and foreign oil companies it is pertinent to point out that the list published by the media last week is totally outdated and grossly misleading. The list contained only the names of those who were allocated oil blocks under the defunct military junta. In other words, the list did not contain the names of the other traders who have been allocated oil blocks by the ruling party since 1999. Equally missing from the list are the names of multinational companies otherwise called “Oil majors” which control and manage the lion share of the oil and gas industry. For instance, I have a suit pending at the Federal High Court against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources over the renewal of the expired 40-year old licences of three oil blocks (which produce 580,000 barrels of crude oil per day) for Mobil Producing last year for the sum of $600 million notwithstanding that a Chinese oil company had offered to pay $5.8 billion for the same oil blocks !
Apart from Mobil there are about 17 other foreign oil companies which are the major key players in the oil industry while Nigerians are forced to operate in the marginal fields .The said foreign companies or Oil Majors own 80 % of the oil blocks and as such they are completely in charge of the oil and gas industry. They produce the oil and gas, and declare the figures they like. They smile to the banks daily while Nigerians fight over the crumbs from the Master’s Table. In spite of the indictment by the National Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) some of the companies have continued to withhold billions of dollars from the Federation Account. The joint venture agreements between some oil producing countries and oil companies are in the ratio of 80/20 percent in favour of the owners of the oil. But in Nigeria it is 60/40 percent in favour of the Federal Government of whatever is declared by the oil companies. It is common knowledge that some of the foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria have, with the connivance of the Federal Government, been leasing oil blocks allocated to them to other persons or companies.
Incidentally, the disclosure in the Senate last week coincided with the death of President Hugo Rafael Chavez of Venezuela who nationalised the oil industry which enabled his government to generate enough revenue to fund a comprehensive welfare programme for the hitherto improverished people of the Latin American country. But the enomous commonwealth of the Nigerian people have been cornered by a few rent collectors and other members of the parasitic ruling class. A few of them who raked billions of dollars from the illegal sale of the oil blocks have openly confessed that they do not know what to do with the huge fund! Because such wealth has been privatised Nigeria cannot, like Venezuela, meet the eight Millenium Development Goals by 2015.
In view of the confusion caused by the partial information released by the Senate last week the Ministry of Petroleum Resources should, without any further delay, publish an up-to-date list of all local individuals and foreigners who have been allocated oil blocks by the Federal Government. After the publication the Goodluck Jonathan Administration should proceed to cancel all oil blocks allocated to a few interest groups and vest them in the Federal Government in line with section 44 of the Constitution. In other words the oil and gas should be nationalised in the interest of the Nigerian people. Instead of empowering either the President of the Republic or the Minister of Petroleum Resources to dole out oil blocks to serving ministers, party members, personal friends and business partners the National Assembly should ensure that all blocks are owned by the Federal Government in trust for the Nigerian people. This demand accords with section 16(1)(c ) of the Constitution which states that the State shall “manage and operate the major sectors of the economy”.
Femi Falana SAN.
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