The Senate resolved that the Committee should investigate all issues relating to the ongoing lease renewal being undertaken by the Minister and report the anomalies in the ongoing lease renewal process and identify appropriate measures to correct the said anomalies.
The resolution of the Senate followed a motion titled, “Irregularities in the ongoing oil and gas lease renewal and massive loss of government revenue,” sponsored by Senator Omotayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) and three others.
Leading debate on the motion, Sen. Alasoadura, noted that the Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream has since December 2017 been inundated with a plethora of petitions and complaints, adding that there are the multiplicity of irregularities surrounding the ongoing renewal of oil and gas leases being undertaken by Kachikwu and the DPR.
The lawmaker said: “The Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is granting all manner of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of the ongoing renewal of the leases.
“The action of the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is capable of short-changing the country and denying the Federation the appropriate revenue accruable from the renewal of the said leases.
“The Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Department of Petroleum Resources is proceeding to renew leases of companies that have brazenly and illegally refused to pay royalties due to the government from oil and gas lifted by the said companies in contravention of extant laws.”
Sen. Alasoadura observed that under the provision of extant laws, failure to pay royalties is a ground for revocation of leases and a legal barrier to a renewal of applicable leases, adding that there are a subsisting legal framework and due process mandated by extant law for the renewal of leases that are due for renewal.
He said: “The Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources have deliberately, willfully and brazenly decided to depart from the subsisting legal framework and due process mandated by extant law for the renewal of all leases.
“The irregularities being perpetrated by the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources in the ongoing lease renewal process is capable of denying government revenue in excess of $10 Billion as a result of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of lease renewal.
“The Department of Petroleum Resources has willfully and deliberately refused to provide the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream with relevant information and data related to the ongoing lease renewal.”
In his contribution, Sen. Shehu Sani said that the Minister should be summoned to explain to the lawmakers what is going on in the lease.
He said that the motion is a narrative of what is happening in the oil sector, which borders on transparency, noting that the operators in the oil sector most time engage in acts that contravene the law.
The Senator said: “What the lawmakers should do is to invite the Minister to explain. It is time for us to do what we ought to do, summon the Minister of State.”
Sen. Rafiu Ibrahim, on his part, said, “The only observation I have on this motion is that, for the fact that Mr. President is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, maybe that is why this motion is not mentioning the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“But we are aware that the Minister of State ordinarily does not have the final approval for this type of case. There is a board of NNPC, the Ministry and it is out there – though it has yet to be substantiated – that the Chief of Staff to the President is a member of the board and is literally in charge of the board and the Ministry.
“It is in the rumour mill that the Chief of Staff is in charge of the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources so that the Minister cannot just say he is not the one in charge. In our law, there is no space for ‘Minister of State,’ so a minister of state cannot give a final approval.”
While ruling on the motion, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary said, “We believe that we should be able to do what is possible in the circumstance to ensure that there is transparency in this present exercise.
“All our major problems is the issue of enforcement and regulations because we have sufficient rules to guide us in almost all sectors. So, I just want to appeal to regulatory and enforcement agencies to wake up to their responsibilities in other to ensure that correct things are being done in this country irrespective of who is involved.”