Senate begins probe of lease renewal in oil, gas sector


The Senate yesterday resolved to probe all issues connected with the ongoing lease renewal in oil and gas sector being undertaken by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
The upper legislative chamber, which disclosed that there were serious cases of monumental illegal discounts and rebates in the process of lease renewal, which it noted, was a serious factor in the revenue loss, therefore, mandated its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) to commence investigation.
The committee was directed to report to the Senate within four weeks and unravel the anomalies in the process and identify appropriate measures to correct such.This resolution was sequel to a motion moved by Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Tayo Alasoadura (APC, Ondo State) and co-sponsored by Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (APC, Borno Central), James Manager (PDP, Delta South) and Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River South).
In his lead debate, Alasoadura noted that the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) had since December 2017 been inundated with a plethora of petitions and complaints and had observed that there were multiplicity of irregularities surrounding the ongoing renewal of oil and gas leases being undertaken by the ministry and the DPR.
The lawmaker also alleged that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, was granting all manner of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of the ongoing renewal of the leases.Alasoadura further alleged that Kachikwu and the DPR were proceeding to renew leases of companies that had brazenly and illegally refused to pay royalties due to government from oil and gas lifted by them in contravention of extant laws.
According to him, “the alleged irregularities being perpetrated by the minister and the DPR in the ongoing lease renewal process was capable of denying government revenue in excess of $10 billion.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, urged regulatory agencies to wake up to their duties. In another development, the Senate has approved the payment of N348 billion as outstanding subsidy claims to 74 oil marketers.
This development followed an adopted interim report of the Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) on the promissory note programme and a bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations to petroleum marketers. Out of this amount, 55 oil marketers are to receive N275,750,415,108 while 19 others will get N73,452,639,866.
Besides recommending that the 55 oil marketers be paid 100 per cent of their claims, the committee called for the payment of 65 per cent claims to other marketers following the contentions in their figures. The upper legislative chamber also mandated the committee to continue its engagement with the Ministry of Finance, oil marketing companies, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and other stakeholders to update all the outstanding liabilities and clear all outstanding debts, interest accrued and forex differential once and for all.