OrderPaperToday – Twenty-one Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on the Federal Government (FG) to ensure that the highest standards of transparency, fairness, competition and accountability are observed across the entire process of re-awarding licenses for expired blocks in the country.
The 21 CSOs include: Policy Alert; Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA); OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative; Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria; Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ); Women Environmental Programme (WEP); National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND); and Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF); Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); ONE Campaign; and Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA).
Others are: Partnership for Community Empowerment (PACE); Women Resource and Development Centre; Citizens Connect; Youth for Change Initiative (YOFCI); Accountability Lab; Centre for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI); Paradigm Development Support Initiative (PLSI); Konyelum Imalah Foundation (KIF); Connected Development (CODE); and Connected Advocacy.
According to the 2017 Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Oil and Gas Industry Annual Report, a total of 42 licenses, involving 35 Oil Mining Licenses (OMLs) and seven Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPLs), held by international and indigenous oil companies are due for renewal this year.
In a joint statement released in Abuja, the CSOs lamented that that in the past, keenness to boost investment had led the Federal Government to negotiate lower rates for taxes and royalties which shortchanged Nigeria of enormous revenues.
According to the statement, “Nigeria has lost billions of dollars in potential revenue due to the continued refusal of government to conduct an open and competitive bid round for oil blocs in the country. The country especially missed the opportunity of conducting a licensing round during the oil boom years of 2010 to 2014. In the last 12 years, no competitive oil licensing round has been held for Nigeria’s oil blocs, and even those before that period were riddled with controversy.
“The executive discretion, cronyism and lack of openness that have characterized decision-making around the award of blocks over the years have driven down competition, fuelled massive corruption and adversely affected returns to Nigeria from the sector.”
Ahead of the next renewal of licenses, the CSOs demanded that the FG should:
- Publish overall rules for the various licence award processes including timelines and application requirements, and clear technical and financial criteria against which companies are being assessed, and information about appeal processes
- Publish the names of all the companies applying for the oil and gas prospecting and mining licences, including during prequalification
- Request and publicly disclose information on the Beneficial Owners of bidding companies and use this information to screen applicants for conflicts of interest and corruption risks at the point of prequalification or prior to license award
- Insist on and disclose information about consultative processes with communities (including Free Prior and Informed Consent processes) around the awarding of oil and gas prospecting and mining licences, especially on matters that directly concern the community, including community development agreements, and make publicly available all documents on Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) and Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMPs) for all future licences
- Publish the current and historic owners and operators of all oil blocks, including marginal fields and transferred licences, and the total reserves of oil and gas, including total amounts recovered thus far and total revenues outstanding
- Disclose for each oil block licence awarded, the full text of the main agreements/contracts, as well as annexes and amendments in user-friendly and machine readable formats in line with Nigeria’s open contracting commitments within the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the 2016 UK Anti-Corruption Summit and via the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
“We remain committed to the demand for legally mandated processes and oversight mechanisms for the allocation of blocks and marginal fields as this is an absolute necessity for sanitizing the sector, stemming illicit flows from oil deals and boosting revenues accruable to government and citizens.
“We also believe that the above measures will in the near term improve competition, deter fraud and corruption, build confidence among investors and citizens, promote a more competitive and enabling business environment, ensure that Nigeria obtains a better deal for its oil and enable stakeholder oversight towards the translation of resource wealth into prosperity for its citizens,” the statement concluded.