The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, on Thursday, mandated the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission to restore the Atala Marginal Oil field ( OML 46) to its former owners.
The Oil field, which was originally owned by the trio of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited, Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited and Century Exploration and Production Limited, was reallocated to Halkin Exploration and Production Company Limited, through a letter dated 7th July 2021 by the then-regulatory agency, Department of Petroleum Resources, over an alleged inability of the owners to produce.
The President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari, (Retd.), in October 2020, in response to the appeal by the Marginal Field Operators Group, directed the immediate “reinstatement of the ten revoked Marginal Fields licenses, on a discretionary basis, to qualified companies with consideration given to the previous operators of the respective fields, subject to the demonstration of technical/financial capacity and payment of applicable Good and Valuable Consideration.”
Despite the President’s directive, the DPR, (now NUPRC), reallocated the Atala Oil field to Halkin Exploration and Production Limited, which was not among the previous operators, but it returned the other nine to the original owners.
Following the refusal of NUPRC to obey the president’s directive, one of the original owners, Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited, through a petition signed by Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, urged the Nigerian Senate to intervene by prevailing on the regulatory agency to comply with Buhari’s directive.
Appearing before the Senate Committee last Friday, 30th September 2022, the Executive Commissioner, Economic Relations and Strategies of NUPRC, Dr. Kelechi Ofoegbu, made representations on behalf of both his agency and the beneficiary of the oil field, Halkin.
He was subsequently asked to appear before the committee on Thursday to show written evidence of how President Buhari, who also doubles as Minister of Petroleum, instructed that the Atala Oil field should be reallocated to Halkin.