BY ADAKU ADINDU in Abuja•
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said that there were no misdeeds whatsoever in the renewal of 22 oil blocks undertaken by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
The minister added that the ministry and the DPR followed due process, which culminated in the final approval granted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He made the clarification in a statement the Director of Press, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Idang Alibi issued yesterday, debunking claims of irregularities in the process of the renewal of the oil blocks.
The statement came against the backdrop of reports that the House of Representatives had resolved to probe the minister over alleged infractions in the ongoing oil and gas leases renewal.
The reports said the lower chamber would also probe the involvement of the DPR in the exercise. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the renewal of 22 expired and expiring oil blocks, from which the DPR realised about $1 billion for the government.
The renewal was done under an accelerated lease renewal programme initiated by the DPR to raise money for the government and incentivise operations in the country’s upstream oil and gas sector.
But in its statement yesterday, the ministry said it would like “to affirm most definitely that there are no irregularities associated with any lease renewal undertaken by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and particularly, the Department of Petroleum Resources.
“It will be of essence to note that the early lease renewal programme is a process ingeniously developed to expand and speed up earning potential from the renewal programme for the Federal Government and to also create security of title to leaseholders so as to allow them continue the massive investments needed to improve production from their fields.
“The process would start with an application from a lease holder, an evaluation from Department of Petroleum Resources, followed by a review by the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and culminating in a recommendation to the President for final approval.”
The statement said the early renewal was exclusive to oil leases and does not involve issuance of new oil licenses for oil fields adding that both the ministry and the DPR are ready to appear before the House of Representatives to make clear any misunderstanding that the House of Representatives may have on the exercise as part of its oversight function.
According to the statement, the Ministry would also use this opportunity to clarify that the early renewal programme applies only to renewal of existing leases and does not involve issuance of any new licenses for oil fields.
Based on the report, the statement said the minister and the DPR “await the advertised invitation from the House of Representatives, and as always, will clarify any misunderstandings the lower chamber may have on the renewed leases as part of its normal oversight functions.
“Kachikwu and the DPR are proud of the work done on early renewals, the unprecedented revenue raised under the programme, and the effect it has had on investment.”