Nigeria sells marginal oilfield licenses for $482m, ignores court

The licensing comes despite a court ruling in May, restraining Abuja from issuing licences pending the determination of a suit by community elders.

Gas flaring operations in the Niger Delta
The world's largest gas flaring operations are in the Niger Delta where communities are complaining of chronic health problems and pollution (Al Jazeera)

Nigeria has raised more than 200 billion naira ($482m) from the issuance of oil prospecting licences after it offered 57 fields for bidding, the petroleum regulator has said.

The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said on Tuesday that more than two-thirds of the awardees have fully paid for their licences, two years after bids were sought for the oil blocks.

It did not say how many licences were issued.

Marginal fields are smaller oil blocks located onshore or in shallow waters and are typically developed by local companies.

The licensing comes despite a court ruling in May 2022, restraining Abuja from issuing licences for marginal oilfields in the oil-rich Niger Delta because of a pending suit by community leaders.

The NUPRC, which was established last year after Nigeria passed a new petroleum law, said 30 oil fields were awarded between 1999 to 2010, with only 17 producing. The latest round of 57 oilfields began in 2020.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, wants to boost production from the fields to bolster state finances and increase local participation in the oil sector, which provides the bulk of the country’s foreign exchange.

While local companies have become increasingly important to the industry, it remains dominated by international oil majors that are selling onshore assets to focus on deep-water drilling.

Nigeria’s oil minister said on Friday that after meeting with oil companies he expects to see improvement in security in the sector, to enable Africa’s top producer to meet its OPEC production quota by the end of August.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies