Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Despite assurance by the federal government that there were no irregularities in the ongoing renewal of over 42 oil licences, a group of Niger Delta activists led by Chief Sunny Onuesoke have raised the alarm over the exercise.
Onuesoke, who spoke to newsmen in Asaba, Delta State said even though the Petroleum Act of 1969, as well as the Petroleum (Drilling Production) Regulation of 1969 (as amended in 2001) authorised the Minister of Petroleum Resources to renew oil licences once statutory payments in terms of applicable royalty, concession rentals and fees were paid, he insisted that renewing the licences without passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would make the oil producing communities have a sense of neglect and exclusion.
He argued that with the PIB Bill, fiscal terms in the renewal processes would have been highly improved, while the country would negotiate from a position of strength in an atmosphere that provides confidence for investors.
He lamented that the failure to secure presidential assent on the PIB indicated that significant uncertainty remains on the legal framework governing the petroleum sector in the country.
Onuesoke, said although the move to renew the licenses could be in the right direction, he, however, stated that the exercise could have been compromised by lack of transparency, accountability and due process, which were basic barriers inherent in the extant regulations.
According to him, “The chief concern is the need for due process and transparency in the renewal process, most especially providing accessible information and data as to whether and how oil companies that have applied for renewal have met the prescribed legal requirements.
“For example, how many oil companies have remitted royalties as at when due, what is their production and compliance track record, and to what extent can the Department of Petroleum Resources grant discounts, rebates and waivers in case of record of non-compliance by an applicant company.”