Allison-Madueke Reaffirms Oil Tender to Hold This Year

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Allison-Madueke Reaffirms Oil Tender to Hold This Year

Post  nex on Sat Jul 31, 2010 7:56 am

The Federal Gove-rnment has reaffirmed plans to conduct a new oil licensing round this year, during which at least 40 blocks ranging from deepwater oil blocks to marginal fields will be concessioned to prospective investors.

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, who disclosed this yesterday, said Nigeria expects interest from countries ranging from China and the United States of America.

Although, she was silent on the total number of oil blocks to be put up for tender and when exactly the licensing round would hold, industry sources said last night that most of the blocks will come from the onshore and offshore fields.

“There will be a licensing round before the end of the year. There will be at least 40 blocks in the marginal bid round. China is always interested but there are a wide variety of interested parties, including America," Reuters quoted the Minister as saying.

She also said most of the joint venture oil companies are expected to offer up marginal leases for sale in the bid round, in line with federal government’s bid to encourage greater participation by indigenous companies in the oil and gas sector.

The delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill has been blamed for the inability by the petroleum ministry to conduct a bid round.Its delay has also slowed down investment in several oil and gas projects and has impacted on the renewal of expired leases held by international oil companies.
But the minister had on assumption of office disclosed that the bill, which is yet to be passed into law more than one year after the National Assembly conducted a public hearing on the bill, will be signed into law by August ending.

Her eagerness in getting it passed speedily stemmed from fears that a delay could see the bill getting caught up in the politics of the forthcoming elections.Allison-Madueke had noted that her enthusiasm for the speedy passage of the PIB was borne out of the fact that the law, when passed, has the capacity to galvanise Nigeria into the league of gas producing nations through the implementation of the Nigerian gas master plan.
Also featuring as a guest on CNN’s Business Quest anc-hored by Richard Quest, on Thursday, the minister reassured that the bill will be passed in the next four to five weeks, rekindling hopes that the bid round would hold this years as earlier planned.

Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Matters, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah had in February disclosed that oil blocks holding an estimated two billion barrels of reserves would be made available to prospective investors in a bid round this year. Egbogah, however, said government was yet to reach a decision on the number of oil blocks that will be made available.

“There will definitely be a bid round this year with both onshore and offshore fields,” Egbogah said. "It will be something not less than 2 billion barrels." In a related development, the Senate has diclosed that one of the first issues it would address on resumption from it two-month recess is the PIB.Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Senator Lee Maeba said it was finalizing deliberations on the draft bill and may submit its report to plenary “within the next few days.”

It was impossible to confirm yesterday whether the committee submitted the report before the close of work on Thursday, the last legislative day before the Senate went on recess.
Maeba told newsmen that the bill, which was sent to the committee last year, is ready. He said: “We are fine-tuning the clauses of the bill and it will be ready for submission to plenary within the next few days.”

Explaining the delay in completing work on the bill, Maeba along with Senator Osita Izunaso, chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Paulker, chairman Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), as well as other members, acknowledged that the responsibility was daunting.
He explained that the committee received a document of over 700 pages, and 57 memoranda at the public hearing conducted by the committees, which meant that they had to take their time sieving through the volume of information.

Apart from this, he said, members of the committee had other challenging responsibilities like the Constitution Review Committee.“So the insinuation by the public that we have delayed the bill is not correct, we have been working on this bill, we are working on it,” he said, adding, “We have received our consultants’ recommendations, with the three committees coming together.

“We have received the final document and all I can assure the Nigerian public, the international community and the international oil companies is that the PIB is almost ready.”
He said that all that is left for the three committees is to fine tuning the clauses of the bill preparatory for submission at plenary.On the allegation in certain quarters that the delay in the committee’s work was a deliberate attempt by the legislature to scuttle the bill as a result of pressure from the IOCs which have not hidden their displeasure with certain aspects of the bill, Maeba dismissed the notion.

“There is nothing like that; and since there is nothing like that, I dismiss it as rumours,” he stated.He pointed out that those who made the allegations do not know the challenges faced by the committee members. “Anybody can throw up accusations, but we are sure that as you sit across this table, you cannot find any face (person) that can be compromised, so we treat it as rumours.”
Maeba stated that the committees are working at a very fast pace unmindful of the vacation. “We will get the document ready for plenary and once we submit it, it is the duty of the leadership of the Senate to table it,” he stated.

The PIB, which runs into hundreds of pages, is designed to reverse the mismanagement and underinvestment that has left Nigeria pumping only half of its potential of 4m barrels a day.
Among an array of changes, it would see the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation broken up into commercially driven entities, and introduce a steep rise in royalties and taxes payable by the oil majors in deep offshore waters.

The NNPC, which is frequently unable to pay its own share of costs in joint ventures, would meet future spending commitments from its own earnings, supplemented by borrowing on international capital markets.
The bill has been long in the making, delayed by lobbying by the IOCs, wrangling in parliament and the political turmoil surrounding the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

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