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‘North needs seriousness to explore its oil’

What is your take on the non-passage of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly?PIB is an essential document that the government has…

What is your take on the non-passage of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly?
PIB is an essential document that the government has decided to use in driving the petroleum sector through the process of commercialisation and privatisation, that is the essence and that is what all is about. Business for the private sector has to be profitable but for the government, the welfare opinion is there. For the government, it is like ‘we need to do something to help the people,’ but the private sector would be after profit where the government would probably subsidise it. The industry is going through deregulation, commercialisation and privatisation down to the hands of those who know how to do business and one of the key examples of what we are saying is the GSM in the telecommunication sector. We all saw how fast they all grew because they did not rely on the old structure and infrastructure the government had with NITEL and some of the agencies. The issues are very clear. There are issues to be cleared and this involves processes. The PIB is essential, it is an important document. It has passed through different stages and we are all awaiting the passage of it by the National Assembly. But I can tell you that there are so many things that are happening, the delay has given the private sector the opportunity to look at the investment opportunities and options. I can tell you that they are ready. Once the whistle is blown, you will see how things will pick up.
 There have been torrents of divestment of assets by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) in Nigeria. Where does this lead us to?
It is part of the process. I know you are talking about the marginal fields. Some of them have been shut down for some time and some of them have been low in production. It is a part of what I am saying, the private sector is being drawn to take possession and it is primarily being driven by the local content policy which seeks to make Nigerian companies and Nigerian people to participate, to operate oil blocks or in partnership with people of their own choice, to fund it and perform on the blocks.  To make commercial sense of the acquisition that they made and that has been on for some time. Though some of them have their licenses but they have not been able to operate. Let me tell you, that is a good sign, but I do not want to agree with the argument that some of them are divesting to leave the industry in the country. I believe it is the pressure from Niger Delta. The top professional from there, they have been in Shell, Chevron, Agip and everywhere. These men are good. They know what they are doing. They are the people that sold the idea to the government and you can see them performing.
What do you have to say about the opposition of some IOCs like Chevron and Shell to the PIB due to its fiscal regime?
This is what I want to say, I want to see it as a tacit approval of the process. I think the oil majors are positively looking at the good side. These are organisations that have been in the trade for long and have contributed to the drawing up of the bill. This issue of the IOCs leaving or not leaving does not hold water. There is no any statement from the oil majors that this is their position. They know how to study situations and what to make out of the situation. To them it is not that they are offloading their assets or that they are trying to get away, but they are giving opportunities for the local companies to own part of these things.  They are not running away. They study policies even before they become law; they are giving to the local companies chance to own a part of these fields. With the ways the local companies are running their companies, you will know that these companies are competent and are performing.
What is your take on the oil exploration at Chad Basin, the Northern Nigeria?
One of the things that could play against the investment in exploration and production in the Chad Basin is the political factor. We understand that a lot of exploration has taken place and it is taking place. They are looking at all the facts. They are gathering all the seismic information and you can only wait to interpret that information to determine what you have and what you do not have. But if these things are mere assumptions, I do not think anybody can invest there, this is my take. I believe that the states surrounding these areas, if there are possibilities of discovery, they should stand up to that responsibility, they should take it up more seriously. The states in close proximity to where you have these deposits not just Chad Basin, but any of those areas whereby it has been reported that there are likely huge commercially viable deposits of crude oil, need to take it up as a serious issue, work with the government, NNPC and NPDC to invest in the business such that they would be able to get good value for their investments. It is an important thing that they need to look at. It is like all of the Niger delta states, if the government is veering away from investment from the oil deposits in Niger delta, the states would be ready to step in and take care of the oil deposits and whatever that is in their environment. So such an investment is not a waste, you need to look at it clearly. The North can come together and really do some good investment in these things.
What are the prospects of meeting these aspirations?
It is based on the information you have from essential organisations like the federal ministry of petroleum, the DPR and the rest of them, if they give the information that says that there is likely prospects, then, you can start with all seriousness, get some experts and establish a ministry, a state ministry of petroleum and begin to look ahead at the possibility that this thing might be true and share with the government the information you have. It is like you are jointly looking at the possibilities and the investment opportunities.

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