By Sam C. Oveje
Over the years we heard and read of how the North has cornered Nigeria’s oil blocs, and of recent Wikileaks has revealed that the Yorubas have monopolized and cornered most of the juicy oil industry jobs for their own while alienating other Nigerians begging the question: does Nigeria belong to only the North and South West? Is Nigeria not supposed to be a democracy? Why do I get the feeling that we are still living in the dark days of military dictatorship where cronyism and open and blatant nepotism was the order of the day? What is happening to my country Nigeria? When are we ever going to outgrow this self-destructive behaviour? It is blatant nepotism, greed, and avarice such as this that brought down the First Republic. The difference is that today’s nepotism, greed and avarice seems to be exponentially worse than was the case during the First Republic. All indications point to the fact that we have not learnt from our past as a nation. We appear to be rolling down the self-destructive slope again.
What makes this sorry situation even sadder is the fact that Nigerians have continued to suffer and smile while their commonwealth is usurped by a greedy but tiny select few. What will it take for Nigerians to realise that our country belongs to us ALL and not to the Hausas, Fulanis, Yorubas, Military/Ex Military, or any other select group? Funny enough, Nigerians were recently characterized as the happiest people on Earth. But the truth is that we must be the saddest happiest people ever. Our timorous nature allows us to accept whatever treatment is meted out to us by a narrow self-imposing minority and yet we are ‘happy’, as they say, to ‘siddon look’ – which is another one of our favorite Nigerianisms used to describe our helplessness at the sad predicament we find ourselves as a nation. Well, happy people read on and see how you have been continuously raped by your so-called countrymen and deprived of your own commonwealth. I doubt that our much-vaunted, albeit misplaced happiness, will last longer than it sadly has after recent events recounted below are unfolded.
A sad scene played out on Wednesday March 6 2013 amid a raging debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, when Chairman of the Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Senator Ita Enang, revealed that 83 per cent of oil blocks in the country are owned by Northerners.
“There should be equity and federal character in the allocation of oil blocks in this country. Eighty-three per cent of all present oil blocks are held by northerners,” Enang said on the floor of the Senate, without any of the senior lawmakers contradicting him.
The Nigerian Tribune of March 9 2012 featured an expose on how the country’s oil blocs, which should be a national resource used for the good of all, has been shared amongst some cabal of buddy buddies that can best be described as a Northern Army Arrangement. Of course our usual siddon look populace paid no attention to it. There was no outcry.
According to documents exclusively obtained by the Nigerian Tribune, most of those to whom the nation’s juicy oil reserves have been conceded are individually richer than some African oil-producers such as Ghana and Sudan. (How North Cornered Nigeria’s Oil Blocs, Nigerian Tribune, March 9 2012)
The Tribune went on to elaborate that for instance, Cavendish Petroleum, the operators of OML 110 – with good yielding OBE field was awarded to Alhaji Mai Deribe – the Borno patriarch, by General Sani Abacha on the 8th of July, 1996. OML 110 has a proven oil reserve in excess of 500 million barrels (more than the entire 300milliom barrels reserve of Sudan) with capacity to produce about 120,000 barrels of crude oil daily from its OBE 4 and OBE 5 wells. At current production levels, the Mai Deribes net an average of N4billion monthly in crude oil sales (using oil price estimates of $100 p/b). Deribe, a man known for smuggling petroleum products to neighbouring Cameroun and Chad even as there is endless scarcity of the product in Borno, will even in death remain the richest man in the history of Borno state.
Another major partaker in the oil and gas sector is Mallam (Prince) Sanusi Lamido, a cousin of the Central Bank Governor, who is a key shareholder and director in Seplat/Platform Petroleum, operators of the Asuokpu/Umutu Marginal Field with a capacity of 300,000 barrels monthly and 30mmfcsd gas plant capable of feeding 100MT of LPG.
But the oldest of all northern-annexed oil and gas concerns is South Atlantic Petroleum Limited (SAPETRO), a Nigerian Oil Exploration and Production Company established in 1995 by General T. Y. Danjuma, who is also the Chairman of ENI Nigeria Limited. General Sani Abacha awarded the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 246 to SAPETRO in February 1998. The block covers a total area of 2,590km2 (1,000 sq. miles). SAPETRO partnered with Total Upstream Nigeria Ltd (TUPNI) and Brasoil Oil Services Company Nigeria Ltd to start prospecting on OPL246. Akpo and Egina the two main fields under OPL246 export over 300,000 barrels of oil/condensate daily (three times what Ghana currently exports).
Operators of OML 112 and OML 117, AMNI International Petroleum and Development Company, is owned by Alhaji (Colonel) Sani Bello from Kontagora, Niger State. OML 112 was awarded on 12 February, 1998 and OML 117 on 4 August, 1999 by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar whose eldest daughter is married to Bello’s son, Abu. AMNI produces twice as much as Cavendish Petroleum.
Furthermore, a former Petroleum minister, Rilwanu Lukman, another Fulani multi-millionaire with fronted controlling holdings in Afren Resources, a UK based Oil Prospecting Company, manages AMNI oil blocks and with very key interest in the NNPC/Vitol trading deal. Vitol is a London based oil trading company. Vitol, which lifts 350,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Nigeria, is owned by the former minister who has since gone on self-imposed exile to Switzerland. The Okoro and Setu fields in OML 112 which has about 50 million barrels in reserve is operated by Afren Resources.
Similarly, there is Oriental Energy Resources Limited, a company owned by Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, a close friend of General Ibrahim Babangida. Both are in-laws (IBB’s first son, Mohammed is married to Yakolo, Indimi’s daughter). Yakolo is a director in Oriental. Oriental Energy Resources Limited runs three oil blocks: OML 115, the Okwok field and the Ebok field. OML 115 and Okwo are OML PSC, while Ebok is an OML JV. All of them are crown offshore oil blocks.
Alhaji Aminu Dantata’s Express Petroleum and Gas Limited floated for the purpose of winning oil block(s) on November 1, 1995, got General Abacha’s approval to operate OML 108.
The Alhaji Saleh Mohammed Jambo-owned NorthEast Petroleum Limited, registered as NorEast Petroleum, is the holder of OPL215 license, covering an area of 2,564 square kilometres in water depths between 200 to 1600 metres. NorEast, which is the parent company of Rayflosh Petroleum, was awarded the blocks OPLs 276 & 283.The license was awarded to him by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in 1991 and then renewed in 2004 by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Intels, owned by the three families of Yar’Adua , Ado Bayero and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is another major northern concern in the oil and gas sector. The Oil and Gas Free Zone and Oil Services Centres, as well as Support Bases operated from government-owned facilities, are leased to Intels under long-term agreements. Intels thus, runs a ‘private port’, as a counter venture to the Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt ports. At the Port Harcourt’s facility of the company for instance, there are over one hundred major companies.
Does this story of how a section of Nigerians have stolen our commonwealth still make the impoverished majority a happy lot? Now let us turn to the situation in the local oil industry sector.
According to a wikileaks report – http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/09/06ABUJA2423.html – a 2006 US Embassy cable with the subject title ‘A Yoruba Plot To Control Nigeria’s Economy?’ reveals the concerns of the Niger Deltans voiced by Chief David Serena-Dokubo Spiff, an attorney for the Halliburtonia’s Economy subsidiary contracted for the Bonny Island LNG cuss Bonny issues and the Delta situation in general. According to the cable Spiff said that much of the problem (Niger Delta) is the result of a “Yoruba plot.” He echoed the longstanding complaints that the Yorubas (from the southwest of Nigeria) control most of the workforce of the oil industry and much of Nigeria’s economy. Spiff blamed the Yoruba for scuttling an attempt to require more local content in oil services, a plan that should have put more business into the Niger delta and its indigenes. He also noted that while indigenes “know that the Yorubas are behind this,” the international companies are much more visible and provide the rallying point for the wide range of complaints from the region. The cable goes on to add that “Spiff’s analysis of the situation tracks with the general comments floating around the area for many years, particularly the accusations against the Yoruba tribe. The difference appears to be that the complaints are becoming much more public.”
In essence, the goose that lays the golden egg, the Niger Delta, has been marginalized both in oil well allocation and employment within the oil industry. So much for Nigeria’s style democracy.
If we are indeed a happy people, are we still happy? Or are we still going to prefer to ‘siddon look’? I have my doubts.