There is no end to the secrecy and controversy that continue to cloud the allocation and ownership of the Nigerian oil blocks and gas assets. The business is not only second to none in Nigeria, but also the most lucrative. That explains why it is difficult to determine who owns what block in the oil rich Niger Delta region of the country. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the watchdog of the extractive industry re-echoed that controversy recently when it said that it is difficult to trace the owners of the oil blocks and gas assets because of records manipulations at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, during registration.
The Acting Executive Secretary, Ogbonnaya Orji, told a delegation of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI and civil society organisations that the owners falsified their records to hide their true identity. The issue of beneficial ownership as contained in EITI’s standards, requires the identity of the true owners of oil blocks.
Orji told the team led by the incoming Chairman of EITI, Fredrik Reinfeldt that records of the companies at the CAC are shrouded in secrecy and do not provide correct information about the true owners, a development he said that has been a challenge in implementing the specific requirement of EITI, while appealing to EITI to understand the peculiarities in the Nigerian oil and gas environment. “Beneficial ownership requires us to explain or provide information on the owners of certain oil blocks. But Nigeria is one kind of a country; that is why I say nobody is going to suspend us. When you think we are going down, we tend to rise up and surpass expectations,” Orji said.
Orji’s statement is a testimonial to the corruption endemic in the Nigerian system. It is difficult to rid the sector of corrupt practices or even carry out successful investigation into the controversial issues in the industry. Former Senator Ita Enang had claimed that 83 per cent of the nation’s oil blocks are in the hands of northerners. But that was quickly disputed. Many people including Mr Toyin Akinosho, a petroleum geologist said that the assertion of Enang and his likes was hysterical, tendentious and designed to mislead the public. Despite the heated debate that ensued, Nigerians, are yet to know who actually owns the oil wells.
In the wake of the controversies generated over which region controlled more of the country’s oil assets, the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, had said that oil blocks were awarded based on bids offered for them globally. The industry regulator claimed that when such bid rounds are being conducted, the region of the bidders is not one of the prequalification for winning such oil blocks. “The Federal Government does not allocate oil blocks and marginal fields to individuals and corporations based on regions or where they come from. So, DPR does not ask if an individual is from the North or South when allocating the fields,” the Director, DPR, Osten Olorunshola had said.