Agbakoba Urges President Tinubu to Relinquish Petroleum Minister Role

•Advises govt to abolish joint-venture operation in oil and gas sector  

•Calls for an end to dependency on IOCs

Sunday Ehigiator

To give deserved priority attention to the oil and gas sector, the Senior Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal and Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to relinquish his role as Minister of Petroleum Resources and implement comprehensive reforms in the oil and gas sector.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also called for the abolishment of joint-venture operation in sector between the government and International Oil Companies (IOCs), which is based on the ‘Contract Oil’ approach, and called for a paradigm shift towards a ‘Development Oil’ approach, that prioritises people-centric governance, economic growth and energy security.

Speaking during a media chat in Lagos, Agbakoba said, “This move aims to give the oil and gas sector the attention it deserves, driving Nigeria’s economic progress and development.”

According to him, “From the cornerstone of the constitution, oil and gas is something within the control of the government. To emphasise the nature of control, Section 44, sub-section 3 of the constitution says all minerals, mineral resources, oil and natural gas in and upon any land in Nigeria, exclusive, defines the scope, shall be managed by the government of the federation.

“So there’s no question that constitutionally, oil and gas falls squarely within the purview of the government in a way that ownership belongs to it.

“I can understand, say in the early 50s, 60s, as we grappled with the new find, and were inexperienced, and we brought in foreigners to assist. I can understand it. But I cannot understand why today, the federal government abandons its duty.

“What the federal government is doing in the oil and gas field is unconstitutional. And I’m going to challenge it in court. I’m going to challenge the so-called scheme by the federal government, by which they create joint ventures.

“A joint venture is simply another word for joint ownership. So these joint ventures that the federal government creates with Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, contradict what I’ve just read. It contradicts it because section 44 says, we are the ones, the government, we own it.

“So, a joint venture is between the federal government and an oil company. The federal government tells the oil company, we’re going to manage OML 00, that’s an oil well for instance. So there’s an agreement, they refer to it as a joint venture.

“So my submission here is that the nature of this joint venture or joint ownership contradicts what the constitution says. The constitution does not allow the federal government to invite private participation. And that is the source of the problem.”

Speaking further, he said there was a reason why Section 16 and Section 44 “vest natural resources in us.”

“It’s our inheritance, it’s our sovereignty. We’re giving this for a particular reason. And that’s why he spoke about developing oil, which is what Saudi Arabia uses. In Saudi Arabia, the role of the IOCs is strictly limited.

“You provide a service, you don’t own. There is no ownership. There’s no co-ownership concerning oil and gas in Saudi Arabia between the Saudi Arabian government and any IOC.

“In Nigeria, on the contrary, there is co-ownership. And please, take time to read the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). There’s not one mention, apart from the host communities, there’s not one mention of us.

“The thing is for us, but nobody refers to us. So, if a law is made, according to the constitutional provisions I’ve read that this is our natural inheritance, why are we not mentioned?

“Why is it that it mentions licences, regulations, compliance, and compliance with whom and for whom? It’s simply about how you, not Nigerians, can access an oil well, and how the government can regulate and control it.

“It’s not about how you can access the oil well for the benefit of Nigerians, which is what Ken Saro-Wiwa fought and died for in vain, as it now stands because it seems to be forgotten.

“Is it not time to dismantle the existing oil and gas legal framework? Is it not the time? Has it benefited us? If it has, how? People don’t get the feeling of the resources coming. Rather, a typical JV would say 60 per cent for you, 40 per cent for you.

“So it’s not about contract, it’s about sharing; sharing between the federal government and the IOCs. What about the people? Where are we in the scheme? It was because the federal government didn’t have money that the clever IOCs now came back with a new scheme, which they called production sharing contract.

“Say, you know what, since you have no money, don’t worry. We, in other words, the federal government have now ceded ownership. We will take over everything.

“I’m telling you, they were laughing at us. We are like monkeys in a zoo. I’m not here suggesting that the IOCs should disappear. No, they have a value. But the point is that the value must not overwhelm our interests. It must not overwhelm our interests.

“Right now, it is overwhelming our interests to our detriment. I don’t see what we’ve gotten. If you go around Nigeria, the whole country is broken down. We don’t have water, we don’t have electricity; rather, we have floods and rains. And so many other things that you begin to wonder is this a country that is supposedly the world’s number five or number six oil-producing country in the world?”

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