Shell seeks transparent sale of four oil blocks

22 April 2014, Lagos – Adherence to global Corporate Governance Principles is expected to play a key role in the selection of firms bidding for the four oil blocks put up for sale by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

Mutiu Sunmonu, Shell MD

Mutiu Sunmonu, Shell MD

Besides, global institutions, respected for their thorough approach to unearthing sleaze and hard stance on same , are poised to ensure that only persons with transparent business records with no link whatsoever to individuals and bodies believed to have benefitted from proceeds of corruption, are allotted the blocks.

The four oil wells in which Shell has a 45 per cent stake are OML-18, OML- 29, OML-25 and OML-24. Successful bidders for the four blocks may pay close to $5 billion for the stakes held by Shell in conjunction with two other international oil companies.

The Nation gathered that global agencies averse to unscrupulous and sharp business practices are working in league with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and foreign governments to probe into sources of funds of the bidding firms.

A top official of Shell admitted that the oil giant is under pressure to ensure that “ politically exposed persons or those who have corruptly enriched themselves” are not handed the blocks .

The bidders for the blocks are: Midwestern/Mart/Notore, Sahara Consortium and Dangote/Dansa for OML-18 ; Vertex/ Seplat/Maurel&Prom/VP Global, Glencore/Neconde, Transcorp, Aiteo/Taleveras for OML-29; Lekoil, Crestar, GreenAcres/CCC/Signet Petroleum, NDPR/SAPETRO, and Essar for ML-25 .

Others in the race are Sahara consortium, PanOcean/Newcross, Shoreline Aiteo/ Taleveras for OML-24.

Amongst the bidders is the word’s 23rd richest man, business mogul Aliko Dangote, who is behind Dangote/Dansa.

Midwestern/Notore has Jide Omokore and Wade Chewenko as backers. Tonye Cole, Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi are behind Sahara Consortium.

Aiteo/Taleveras has Benedict Peters and Igho Sanomi as backers, Transcorp has Tony Elumelu. Greenacres is promoted by Funsho Kupolokun and Basil Omiyi. For SAPETRO is General Theophilus Danjuma. Lekoil has Lekan Akinyanmi and some other Nigerians as promoters.

Global anti-graft bodies and their Nigerian affiliates, it was learnt, are in agreement that firms linked with individuals with tainted records and who are serving jail terms either in or out of the country, or granted reprieve following their conviction should be denied access to any of the blocks.

It was equally gathered that many of the bidding firms with hazy status are under serious scrutiny and would have their dossiers sent to Shell Nigeria, its parent company in the Netherlands , as well as the Nigerian and foreign governments.

A Shell official who spoke in confidence because he is not allowed to talk to the media, said: “One area that cannot be overlooked is the sources of funds of interested bidders and the eventual owners of these assets.” The attention of the global community is on Nigeria, with the rapacious inclination of many of its officials to milk the treasury dry, using willing and conscienceless business men and women as fronts, he said.

He drew attention to the revelations from the ongoing probe of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) crude oil swap, saying: “You see the extent to which some can go in Nigeria to make illicit gains? As a major player in the global business field, Shell cannot afford to be indifferent to the global war on corruption and the drive to enthrone ethical conduct in public office.”

He said former and serving public officers should never be allowed to corner the nation’s patrimony after corruptly enriching themselves, using proxies.

The international agencies, including Shell are also considering the antecedents of the bidding firms. They argue that submission of high bids alone should not be enough to win an oil block, but that their track record in oil exploration and their technical knowhow should be equally evaluated, an NNPC official familiar with the process and the concerns of the international community.

He cautioned against a repeat of the recently concluded sale of the unbundled firms in the power sector where competence and technical knowhow were sacrificed and the attendant worsening of the power situation in the country. Such, he cautioned, should not be allowed in the current sale of Shell’s stake in the four blocks.

Already, the sale of the blocks is well behind schedule. Billed to be concluded within eight weeks, the process has entered the 12th week, a development that has heightened tension among the bidding firms and also fuelled suspicion.

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