By Favour Nnabugwu
Sao Tome’s National Petroleum Agency has awarded oil blocks to Nigerian company, Oranto Petroleum three other companies.
The block Sao Tome awarded to the Nigerian company covers an area of 4,228 km2 and is situated in Zone A of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) whilst the three other companies are Energy; Afex Global and Angola’s Grupo Gema.
Sao Tome had early last year put out seven of its 19 oil blocks to tender locally and in London as the country has nursed the hope to have oil by 2011, but economic and diplomatic sources believe that the first barrels are likely to flow by 2014.
Dr Arthur Eze, Chairman of the company told Vanguard that the company would establish its presence in the oil industry in major countries in Africa and beyond. “The presence of Oranto Petroleum Company will in no distant future be felt in countries around the globe. We have built integrity and capacity for onshore and offshore and we have proved that Oranto is not an oil firm to be ignored.”
Sao Tome is situated in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea region, which Washington estimates will supply about a quarter of US oil by 2015 but exploration results from a separate joint development zone with Nigeria were disappointing because Majors initially interested in the exclusive zone did not bid in the end, apparently dimming the tiny island nation’s oil prospects.
Oranto Petroleum is an independent Nigerian company with operations since 1991 and the company is an active operator in 14 blocks in West Africa and Gulf of Guinea.
Also, the Nigerian oil firm has stamped its feet in the Gambia where it had signed onshore exploration and production licence Block Lower River.
The Gambian leader, His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, who doubles as the minister of petroleum, signed on behalf of the government of The Gambia, while Prince Dr Arthur Eze, the group chairman and chief executive officer of Oranto Petroleum Limited signed on behalf of his company.
President Jammeh thanked the Oranto boss and his group for their interest in oil exploration in the country, saying he is grateful for the trust bestowed on him. He disclosed that the negotiation took them almost three years, but was quick to stress that what is important at the end of the day is coming up with an agreement that ensures both sides become winners.
He said: “I want to thank you for trusting me, and I want to assure you that we will never let you down. We are a very independent country; our decisions are final and they are not influenced at any material time by external forces.”
The Gambian leader, who described petroleum business as a high-risk venture, stressed the importance of working together as a team, while stressing that they always want a relationship that will be mutually beneficial to all the parties.
“This is a venture where we should work together as a team because that is like working as a family. As far as I am concerned, we have passed the most difficult test – that is negotiating and coming to a common agreement,” he stated.
He went further to describe the partnership as one that will be beneficial to Gambians, Oranto and the people of the world. “So wherever we have differences, let us sit on the same table, discuss it and solve it in a family atmosphere. I want to assure you that The Gambia Government will give you all the support and we will adhere to the letter and spirit of the agreement,” he stated.
The Gambian leader remarked that his government is a very transparent one, thus everything with regards to the agreement must be transparent. “So I want us to make sure that this is something that will benefit generations of Gambians and Africans; and I want to make sure that this is the best,” he concluded.