Promoters of the oil firms that have submitted bids for the four oil blocks, from which oil giant Shell is divesting its holdings, have come under the searchlight of global anti- graft institutions and foreign governments.
The anti-graft agencies, respected for their thorough approach to unearthing sleaze, and hard stance on same, are poised to ensure that only persons with transparent business records with no link whatsoever to individuals and bodies believed to have benefitted from proceeds of corruption are allotted the blocks.
The four oil wells in which Shell has a 45 percent stake are Oil Mining Lease, OML, 18; OML- 29; OML-25 and OML-24.
Successful bidders for the four blocks may pay close to $5 billion (N800 billion) for the stakes held by Shell in conjunction with two other international oil companies.
Some of the bidders for OML-18, Midwestern/Mart/Notore, and Sahara Consortium for Vertex/ Seplat/Maurel&Prom/VP Global, Glencore/Neconde, Transcorp, Aiteo/Taleveras for OML-29; Lekoil, Crestar, GreenAcres/CCC/Signet petroleum, NDPR/SAPETRO, and Essar for OML-25 .
Others are Sahara consortium, PanOcean/Newcross, Shoreline, Aiteo/ Taleveras for OML-24.
Behind Midwestern/Notore is Jide Omokore and Wade Chewenko as backers. Tonye Cole, Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi are behind Sahara Consortium.
Aiteo/Taleveras has Benedict Peters, and Igho Sanomi as backers, Transcorp has Tony Elumelu; Greenacres, Basil Omiyi; Lekoil has Lekan Akinyanmi and some other Nigerians as promoters.
Sources told Vanguard that the agencies are said to be working in league with the Economic and Financial Crimes Cimmission, EFCC; Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and foreign governments looking into sources of funds of the bidding firms.
A top official of Shell admitted that the oil giant was under serious pressure to ensure that “politically-exposed persons or those who have corruptly enriched themselves” are not handed the blocks.
The official further stated that firms linked to such individuals who are serving jail terms, either in or out of the country or granted reprieve, following their conviction are under serious scrutiny and will have their dossiers sent to Shell Nigeria, its parent company in the Netherlands, the Nigerian authorities and foreign governments.
The official said: “One area that cannot be overlooked is the sources of funds of bidders and the eventual owners of these assets.”
He said the attention of the global community was on Nigeria with the inclination of many of its officials to milk the treasury dry, using willing and conscienceless businessmen and women as fronts.
He said: “Imagine the revelations from the ongoing probe of the NNPC crude oil swap and you see the extent to which some can go in Nigeria to make illicit gains.
“As a major player in the global business field, Shell cannot afford to be indifferent to the global war on corruption and the drive to enthrone ethical conduct in public office.
“Former and serving public officers should never be allowed to corner the nation’s patrimony after corruptly enriching themselves using proxies.”
Also being considered by Shell is the antecedents of the bidding firms.
“That they have submitted high bids is not enough. Their track record in oil exploration and technical know-how are equally important,” an NNPC official said.
He cautioned against a repeat of the recently-concluded sale of the unbundled firms in the power sector where competence and technical know-how were sacrificed with the attendant worsening of the power situation in the country.
Such, he advised, should not be allowed in the current sale of Shell’s stake in the four blocks.
Already, the sale of the blocks is well behind schedule.
Billed to be concluded within eight weeks, the sale has entered the 12th week, a development that has heightened tension among the bidding firms and also fueled suspicion about the process.