Tinubu’s ending of 28 year-long OPL 245 controversy ‘ll attract investors – Policy group

The Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI) has described the decision taken by President Bola Tinubu on the long-drawn dispute over the controversial Oil Prospecting Licence  OPL 245 as a welcome intervention in government-corporate entanglements.

It said in a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, Tuesday in Abuja that the President acted in the national interest based on the potential economic benefits of developing the oil block.

This according to the policy group is because OPL 245 holds a total estimated value of 9 billion barrels of crude which Nigeria has not been able to exploit or benefit from since 1998 when it was first sold in controversial manner to Malabu Oil and Gas.

“Like many Nigerians, we are familiar with the history of its controversial sale in August 1998 on the watch of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by the then former Petroleum Resources Minister, Dan Etete.

“Since that sale, the transaction has remained the subject of various litigations starting with the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2001,  who terminated the sale and, in turn, handed it to Shell without a public bid.

“This, rather than resolve the matter, triggered a deluge of criticism and calls to redeem the transaction that now extended to Malabu on one hand, and Shell and the Italian firm, ENI on the other hand when the President Goodluck Jonathan administration facilitated a $1.3billion settlement among the different claimants to the ownership of the oil fields. 

“The matter remained unresolved from the sovereign point of view upon which the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari initiated a legal challenge against the sale based on the suspicion of corruption in the $1.3bn settlement by Shell and ENI which was facilitated by the Nigerian Government. We, however, observed that beginning in 2023, there had been moves to terminate the case in court.” IMPI added.

The group was emphatic that a negotiated settlement is the best option opened to the country after suffering huge losses in legal disputes across the world.

“It is against this backdrop that we welcome the President’s approval of a negotiated settlement in order to pave way for oil prospecting in the lucrative oil block that has been described as one of Africa’s juiciest but which had been idle for nearly 30 years despite holding billions of barrels of crude oil. 

“This will go a long way in boosting the country’s daily crude and gas production output, meaning more revenue at a time the country has, for years, been struggling to meet its OPEC quota.

 “It is our considered opinion that a negotiated settlement is a far better option than continuing with long drawn legal disputes which the country spent huge resources on without success.

“What the President has approved is cost effective, and the benefits of crude and associated gas deposits estimated at nine billion barrels is massive in a country yearning for more foreign investors.

“The earlier Nigeria begins to exploit OPL 245, the better in view of the country’s commitment to Net zero emissions based on the 2050 Global Energy Transition Plan timeline.

The policy group advised President Bola Tinubu to speed up the process of issuing an Oil Mining Licence (OML) to either of the two international oil companies or both in view of their reported interest in further developing the oil block.

It also urged the government to take concrete steps to ensure that licensing processes for oil blocks are done in a manner devoid of controversy.