BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – An anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) says anything short of transparency in the planned sale of four oil wells in the country will further dent the Federal Government’s much-touted fight against corruption.
It therefore urged President Mohammadu Buhari to immediately halt the transaction on some of the oil wells already put up for sale valued at $22.5 billion dollars.
Similarly, the organisation is threatening to “seek appropriate and available legal means to reverse any action by the government considered to be inimical to public interest and accountably transparent.”
According to HEDA, “With the recent revelations of insider dealings, compromise and contract benefit by parliamentarians, ministers accused of corruption and illicit assets beyond legitimate means, public perception is not at all in favour of this surreptitious sale of these oil fields.”
A statement by the organisation, on Tuesday asked the Federal Government to halt the sales until due process is ascertained. The oil wells in contention are: OML 24, OML 98, OML 122, OML 110, OML 88, OML 62, OML 11, OPL 292 and OPL 258
In a letter dispatched to the President, marked “Urgent Intervention” the HEDA petition stated that “the total cost of the oil wells run to about 12billion dollars. We want to know why these oil wells are being put up for sale. Who are the prospective buyers? Where will the proceeds of the oil wells go? How will Nigerians benefit from the sale of the oil wells?”
Signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the petition expressed sadness that oil wells have been used over the years for political patronage and sold to individuals by fiat, cautioning that; “This should stop. The resources belong to Nigerians and they should not be sold without prior and informed consent of the people.”
It said selling the oil wells at a time the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) is undergoing probe is even more suspicious, adding: “Nigerians have the right to determine what Federal Government is doing with the oil wells.
“The decision to sell the oil wells can only be taken after due consultation with relevant stakeholders and active participation of the civil society organisations, media and labour to understand and verify the beneficial owners of the bidding companies.”
HEDA said Nigeria is home to some 159 oil fields and 1481 wells in operation, citing statistics fromthe Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR). It said the most effective of the oil wells are located in the Niger Delta, which remains one of the poorest regions in the country. The Niger-Delta alone has 78 oil fields out of the 159 oil fields in Nigeria.
“The most productive region of the nation is the coastal Niger Delta Basin in the Niger Delta or “South-south” region which encompasses 78 of the 159 oil fields. With the recent revelations of insider dealings, compromise and contract benefit by parliamentarians, ministers accused of corruption and illicit assets beyond legitimate means, public perception is not at all in favour of this surreptitious sale of these oil fields.
“Selling national assets is not a decision to be taken by a few people. Selling of these oil wells will have longterm implications for the future of Nigeria beyond the tenure of those who wish to sell the oil wells.
“This is the reason why the Federal Government should not sell the oil wells without constructive engagement of the people but rather the employment of a Consultant as middlemen for the sale of these oil block.
“The process must be transparent and Nigerians must know who the buyers of the oil wells are and on what conditions.”
Importantly, it said Nigerians must also know when and where the bids were advertised and what is the level of competence of the bidders.