CONDEMNATIONS are inadequate for the unholy alliance between Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC that resulted in the cloudy sale of Oil Mining Lease, OML, 30. Indiscriminate disposal of our oil resources as if there are no implications is condemnable.
OML 30 is easily rated one of Nigeria’s most prolific fields. It has been in operation since 1963 and can still produce for more than 30 years. Shell and its partners, with the connivance of NNPC sold their 45 per cent stake in the venture to Heritage Oil, a British company, listed in the London Stock Exchange since 1998.
NNPC ruled out Nigerian bids for the stake, claiming the field’s gas component was too strategic to the country’s electricity project to be left in the hands of Nigerians. Another reason it gave was that it would exercise its legal option to operate the field.
Some details about Heritage are worrisome. Anthony Leslie Rowland Tony Buckingham, its founder, chief executive, highest shareholder was linked with mercenary outfit, Executive Outcomes, whose partners, Sandlines International,
Strategic Resource Corporation, work for access to mineral resources.
Executive Outcomes, with the bulk of its men from retired South African officers and British intelligence, was in Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda. It was notorious for violating United Nation’s arms embargo on Sierra Leone.
Buckingham is a former associate of Simon Mann — the mercenary arrested in Zimbabwe, where he served a four-year jail term from 2008, before being jailed for more than 34 years in Equatorial Guinea, for leading an attempt to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Mann was granted a presidential pardon in November 2009.
The coup was to hand power to exiled opposition leader, Severo Moto who had promised the plotters a chunk of Equatorial Guinea’s oil and gas.
“Mr Buckingham has had no substantive business contact with Simon Mann since 1998 and no contact of any nature with him since 2000,” a Heritage spokesman said in 2010.
Executive Outcomes dissolved in 1999 following the UN’s pressure on South Africa, but Mr. Buckingham’s profile admits that he was its “security consultant and partner.”
In 2011, Heritage Oil had a £175 million (N43.75 billion) tax dispute with partner, Tullow Oil and the Ugandan government that required intervention of British Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
President of the Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele, in condemning the OML 30 deal wondered if NNPC conducted checks before approving Buckingham. He wants the deal cancelled.
The National Assembly should pay more attention to oil and gas resources. Its oversight functions include supervening in matters like this. The secrecy under which NNPC operates is long overdue for removal.