Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) yesterday said all the companies it awarded marginal fields in the last round were eminently qualified and paid all their signature bonuses before they were awarded.
A report by a national newspaper had alleged that the commission did not adhere to its own regulations while implementing the 2020/2021 marginal fields award, quoting a document from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
According to the report, the initiative alleged that the NUPRC awarded marginal fields to some companies prior to payment of signature bonus by the firms.
It also quoted the NEITI report as stating that the upstream regulator of the oil sector accepted payment of signature bonus by companies that did not participate in the marginal fields award process.
But in a statement, the Gbenga Komolafe-led NUPRC said the report was incorrect and a misrepresentation of both the process and outcome of the 2020 marginal field award exercise.
It stated that it was surprised that NEITI could be associated with such a narrative, stressing that it reached across to NEITI which promptly disclaimed the newspaper report, insisting that the report by the newspaper did not reflect the position in the said report.
It recalled that at the end of the exercise and in line with existing government policy to encourage as many qualified Nigerian companies to participate in the upstream business, 161 entities from the 482 pre-qualified bids were offered marginal fields and given a deadline to make signature bonus payments.
“A number of these entities were offered fields on a joint basis. The commission, upon inception, had to embark on extensive stakeholder engagements with the successful bidders to resolve the many issues arising from the policy of jointly awarding some of the fields to several awardees. These engagements were held in both Lagos and Abuja.
“ In the event where those offered fields in the exercise were unable to fulfil their obligation to pay the signature bonus within the time frame specified, the commission sought and obtained the approval of the presidency to re-award those not paid for to other entities who participated in the bid exercise but who were not offered any fields during the initial stage.
“These later awards were premised on the condition that considered companies present clear evidence of both financial and technical capability,” it stated.
At the end of the exercise, the upstream regulator stated that a total of 55 fields were successfully awarded and paid for.
“Other than the provisional award letters issued to qualified bidders (which contain the terms and conditions of the award including the signature bonus payable), in all cases, final letters of award were only issued upon payment of 100 per cent of the signature bonus by or on behalf of the awardee.
“It is worth restating that as a regulatory body governed by laws under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) of 2021, the commission neither awarded marginal fields to entities that did not participate in the 2020 marginal bid round nor awarded a field to any company that did not meet the obligation of paying the statutory signature bonus.
“As the upstream oil and gas regulator, the NUPRC will remain transparent and predictable in its mandate to reposition the upstream sector of our economy to attract credible investors for the shared prosperity of the nation,” it said.