83% of Nigeria oil blocs owned by Northerners — Senate Committee chair

Niger delta pollution
Niger delta pollution

The senate is currently debating the Petroleum Industry Bill.

The various oil blocs that were awarded to Nigerians in the past should be revoked, and a new oil bloc allocation that would ensure federal character principle carried out, a senator has said.

The senator insinuated that many of the oil blocs allocated in the past were done to favour persons from Northern Nigeria, many of whom have now become richer than their states and geo-political zones.

Oil blocs are awarded at the discretion of the president through the Petroleum Minister largely without any transparent process. Many past public officials, particularly those that served during the military era are today proud owners of oil blocs, with some of them selling the blocks for billions of dollars.

Ita Enang, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, on Wednesday in Abuja, advocated equitable distribution of oil bloc licences in the country.

Mr Enang claimed 83 percent of the nation’s oil blocs are owned by people from the North of Nigeria.

The senator made the call during the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB on the floor of the Senate.

He was reacting to the Northern Senators’ stance that the oil producing areas receive too much money from the Federation Accounts.

He said the oil blocs should be revoked and re-awarded to ensure that the federal character principle was applied in distribution of oil blocs, marginal fields and prospecting licences.

The rich oil bloc owners

Mr. Enang, who spoke with journalists after the plenary, alleged that most of the owners of the oil blocs were richer than their geo-political zone.

“Some people who own oil blocs in the North East are richer than their States. At least one person is richer than the entire six or seven states of the North East.

“Now it is still said that the Niger Delta is taking too much when one person is taking from the profit he makes from each of the oil blocs more than what even the derivation that the totality of the states are taking.

“Most of these oil blocs were awarded long ago. Most of the owners are so rich that the country becomes the poorer for it.

“We should revoke all the oil blocs, re-allocate them either through this bill (PIB) or an Act of the Executive. This is the wealth of the nation.

He accused most of the wealthy operators in the oil sector as being responsible for the theft of oil and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta.

Mr. Enang said: “we talk about people stealing oil. Oil is not stolen with teacup.

“It is stolen with ships and it is these big persons who have these facilities that are capable of facilitating it, not the ordinary persons branded militants,” he explained.

The Senator advised his colleagues to carry out thorough review of the inconsistencies in the PIB to ensure its prompt passage.

The northern senators’ stance

The Northern Senators, while supporting the general principles of the PIB, insisted that certain aspects of the bill had to be amended.

They demanded a review of the 10 per cent meant for host community fund and called for the independence of the National Frontiers Exploration Agency with specific source of funding.

The senators also noted that the powers vested in the Minister of Petroleum Resources were excessive, saying “it is capable of undermining transparency and accountability in the oil sector.”

They stressed the need for such powers to be whittled down before the passage of the PIB.

The debates on the PIB, which started on Tuesday at the floor of the Senate, is scheduled to continue on Thursday.



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