For five of Nigeria’s oil tycoons, it is a final goodbye to the oil blocs which they have sat on for so many years, turning into profitless, resourced-draining, debt-ridden, unproductive ventures on their watch. After many years of losing billions of Naira to joint ventures which were yielding little or nothing into the national treasury, the federal government finally declared enough is enough.
As you read this, Summit Oil International, currently run by Kola Abiola, the eldest child of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, MKO Abiola, has lost its rights to Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 206.
The company had been groaning under heavy debt burden, rendering it incapable of developing the juicy oil field. It is currently fighting against a winding up petition instituted against it at the federal high court by Seistech Energy Company over an alleged failure to fulfil its contractual obligations.
In the same boat are four other companies whose oil mining licenses have been revoked by the Department of Petroleum Resources based on a directive from the presidency to “recover legacy debts”.
Among those who now have one less oil bloc to boast about are billionaire businessman Dr Festus Fadeyi whose company Pan Ocean Oil Corporation lost its rights to OML 98, northern oligarch Aminu Dantata whose ownership of OML 108 through Express Petroleum and Gas Company was revoked, and Borno billionaire Alhaji Zanna Mai Deribe who lost his company Cavendish Petroleum Nigeria’s OML 110. Also affected were OMLs 120 and 121 which were revoked from Allied Energy Resources Plc owned by US-based moneybag Kase Lawal.
While Kola Abiola and Summit Oil fight for their lives in court, Festus Fadeyi is embroiled in his own legal saga with the family of the late Vittorio Lecca Ducagini Fabbri, the founder of Interocean Oil Exploration Company, over ownership of Pan Ocean Oil. The court cases and myriad other challenges facing Kola and Festus have rendered them incapable of sparing whatever scant resources they have left towards developing the oil fields awarded their companies.
However, not a few people were totally caught unawares by this development. They were shocked that some people hitherto thought to belong among the untouchables could suffer such a fate. Even when the warning signs that the government would crack down on corruption and waste in the oil sector flashed bright, most chose to ignore it.
But now that the hammer has fallen, it has caused huge reverberations in the sector.
Some of the others who own non-performing blocs have been quaking in their boots wondering whether they wouldn’t be next on the firing line. A source in the presidency confided that the seizure of the oil blocs from the five companies was a last warning for the rest to put their house in order less they become sacrificial lambs