Transparency: CSOs seek inclusion in oil block bid round process

By Obas Esiedesa

A group made up of Civil Society Organisations working in the extractive sector has called for the inclusion of at least two CSOs as observers in the 2020 marginal oil fields bid round process.

The group, made up 12 CSOs, in a statement on Wednesday said it has sent a letter to the Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Sarki Auwalu expressing concern about the exclusion of CSOs from the process.

The group harped on the need to ensure that process is transparent and officials involved are accountable to the Nigerian public.

Recall that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) recently opened the bid process for the award of 57 new oil licenses to prospective Nigerian companies and investors interested in participating in the exploration and production business in the country.

But, the group said the published bid guidelines by the DPR did not involve civil society among agencies that would monitor the exercise.

They demanded for immediate inclusion of about two civil society representatives in the bidders screening team as observers to build public trust and investors’ confidence in the bid process.

Besides, the group called for a strong legislative oversight by the National Assembly, and involvement of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) before, during and after the exercise to avoid the experience of the past.

The group expressed concern the published guidelines were fraught with provisions that may hamper the interest of genuine bidders in the oil fields and deny the country the benefits of set objectives.

“After reviewing the Guidelines, and putting into perspective past experiences and pitfalls of similar processes, we deem it important to draw your attention to some of the points that could hinder the success of the process, or limit Nigeria from deriving optimal financial and socio-economic benefits from the exercise.

“We are prepared to play our roles as Civil Society in support of this very important national exercise, with the understanding that it is intended and designed to deliver the overriding interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” the group said.

The letter was signed National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria, Peter Egbule; Executive Director Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi; Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Rafsanjani Auwal Musa; Chairman, Human and environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olanrewaju Suraj and National President, Green Alliance Nigeria (GAN), Chima Williams.

Others include, Chief Executive Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal; National Coordinator, Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industry (MITEI), Bassey Udo; Programmes Manager, Selemati Foundation, Rita Kigbara; Executive Director, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Yemi Ademolokun; Principal Lead, BudgIT Foundation, Gabriel Okeowo, Director Civic Media Lab, Akinfolarin Oluwaseun, and Programmes Officer, West African NGO Network (WANGONeT), Sandra Dike.

The bid round expected to be completed over the next six months is coming more than 18 years since the last exercise in 2002.

Identifying licensing as one of the weakest links for value realization from Nigeria’s petroleum industry, the group said previous exercises between 2000 and 2007 not only fell below global best practices, it failed to secure maximum value for the country’s assets.

Emphasizing strict adherence to globally accepted best-practices, the group expressed doubts the current exercise would bring a different result from the past if government does not make the process more transparent.

To deliver the expected increase in revenue and proven crude oil reserves as well as increase in daily crude oil production the group said the government must ensure the set goals conformed to the country’s long-term planning objectives in the sector.

Previous licensing rounds in the country, the group noted, were not tied to any comprehensive asset development strategy or broader economic development plans.

Each licensing round objectives, the group said, must align with the country’s strategy for managing natural resource base for current and future generations.

Also, the group called on the government to strengthen the National Data Repository Geological system by making authenticated and certified data easily accessible to bidders to attract capable investors to the oil assets on auction.

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