Crisis rocks Delta community over new oil discovery

By Obas Esiedesa, Abuja

Eight months after the Nigerian government conducted a bid round for 57 marginal oil fields, civil society group, Policy Alert, has urged the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to disclose, in full, the result of the exercise conducted last year.

The oil bid round was conducted by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in May 2021 with 160 Nigerian companies shortlisted to acquire 57 marginal oil fields. The DPR said then that it was expecting about 100 million barrels of oil from the fields.

The NUPRC, the successor regulator for the upstream sector, had three weeks ago disclosed that it was working to close out the bid round process.

Policy Alert, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan called on NUPRC to be more transparent in its management of the 2020 marginal field bid rounds, currently being brought to a close by the Commission.

Bolton-Akpan said: “As the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) moves to close the 2020 marginal field bid rounds, we are concerned over the opacity that has marked the implementation of the round up until now. We therefore call on the Commission to promptly release to the public the identity of successful awardees, and details of the corresponding fields, fees and signature bonuses collected so far.

“The Government of Nigeria has made serious commitments on anti-corruption and extractive sector transparency at the level of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). It is crucial that the bid round is made to conform with these global standards as well as with the transparency and accountability provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021. We are particularly keen on seeing how the Commission will align its work on the bid round with recent contract transparency and beneficial ownership reforms.”

On the delays to the bid round, the statement noted: “We see the protracted 2020 Marginal Field Bid Rounds as a blessing in disguise since it has provided the opportunity for aligning the round with the PIA 2021”.

He observed that in 2020, Policy Alert had highlighted some of the weaknesses in the Bid Round Guidelines.

“But with the PIA 2021, the regulators and companies have now come under relatively more progressive obligations as it relates to contract disclosure, beneficial ownership transparency, community development and environmental management.”

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