Nigerian civil society groups have protested alleged exclusion from the forthcoming 2020 marginal oil fields bid round processes.
Consequently, they have sent a protest letter to the government to demand their immediate inclusion in the process.
Recently, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) opened the bid process for the award of 57 new oil licences to prospective Nigerian companies and investors interested in participating in the exploration and production business in the country.
But, the group said the published bid guidelines by the DPR did not involve civil society among agencies that would monitor the exercise.
In a letter dated June 15 to the DPR Director, Sarki Auwalu, the group demanded immediate inclusion of about two civil society representatives in the bidders screening team as observers to build public trust and investors’ confidence in the bid process.
Besides, the group called for a strong legislative oversight by the National Assembly, and involvement of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) before, during and after the exercise to avoid the experience of the past.
The group expressed concern the published guidelines were fraught with provisions that may hamper the interest of genuine bidders in the oil fields and deny the country the benefits of set objectives.
“After reviewing the guidelines, and putting into perspective past experiences and pitfalls of similar processes, we deem it important to draw your attention to some of the points that could hinder the success of the process, or limit Nigeria from deriving optimal financial and socio-economic benefits from the exercise.
“We are prepared to play our roles as civil society in support of this very important national exercise, with the understanding that it is intended and designed to deliver the overriding interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” the group said.
The letter was signed National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria, Peter Egbule; Executive Director Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi; Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Rafsanjani Auwal Musa; Chairman, Human and environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olanrewaju Suraj and National President, Green Alliance Nigeria (GAN), Chima Williams.
Others include, Chief Executive Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal; National Coordinator, Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industry (MITEI), Bassey Udo; Programmes Manager, Selemati Foundation, Rita Kigbara; Executive Director, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Yemi Ademolokun; Principal Lead, BudgIT Foundation, Gabriel Okeowo, Director Civic Media Lab, Akinfolarin Oluwaseun, and Programmes Officer, West African NGO Network (WANGONeT), Sandra Dike.
Call for transparency
The bid round expected to be completed over the next six months is coming more than 18 years since the last exercise in 2002.
Identifying licensing as one of the weakest links for value realisation from Nigeria’s petroleum industry, the group said previous exercises between 2000 and 2007 not only fell below global best practices, it failed to secure maximum value for the country’s assets.
The group expressed doubts the current exercise would bring a different result from the past if government does not make the process more transparent.
To deliver the expected increase in oil revenue and as well as increase daily crude oil production, the group said the government must ensure the set goals conformed to the country’s long-term planning objectives in the sector.
Previous licensing rounds in the country, the group noted, “were not tied to any comprehensive asset development strategy or broader economic development plans.”
Each licensing round objectives, the group said, must align with the country’s strategy for managing natural resource base for current and future generations.
Also, the group called on the government to strengthen the National Data Repository Geological system by making authenticated and certified data easily accessible to bidders to attract capable investors to the oil assets on auction.
Adherence to published bid criteria
The group urged the DPR to adhere to the published guidelines and criteria on the bid to avoid confusion and ensure due process.
The group said a ‘depoliticised’ criteria must be developed to support local content without compromising the sector’s development potential or returns.
“Nigeria must resist the tendency to extend preferential treatment to companies solely because they are local and well-connected,” the group said.
The group urged the DPR to amend the guidelines to accommodate the disclosure by all bidders of “sworn declaration, complete, comprehensive and accurate information on their ultimate beneficial owner(s)”.
This, the group said, would show that Nigeria was fully compliant with her obligations under the EITI and Open Government Partnership (OGP) principles, transparency and a level-playing-field that would not allow ‘business as usual’ by vested interests.