The Senate on Wednesday asked its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) to investigate alleged irregularities in the oil and gas sector lease renewal.
The upper chamber said that the oil and gas lease renewal being undertaken by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and the Department of Petroleum Resources, has led to massive loss of government revenue.
It said that the Committee should particularly submit its findings within four weeks as well as and identify appropriate measures to correct the alleged anomalies.
The resolution followed the consideration of a motion entitled, “Irregularities in the ongoing Oil and Gas lease renewal and massive loss of government revenue,” sponsored by Senator Omotayo Alasoadura ( Ondo Central) and co-sponsored by senators Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (Borno Central), James Manager (Delta South) and Gershom Bassey (Cross River South).
Senator Alasoadura in his lead debate 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 Minister of State for Petroleum and Department of Petroleum Resources.
The Ondo central lawmaker alleged that the Minister of State for Petroleum was “granting all manner of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of the ongoing renewal of the leases.”
He expressed worry that the action of Kachikwu was capable of short-changing the country and denying the Federation the appropriate revenue accruable from the renewal of the said leases.
Alasoadura further said that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources 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 the said companies in contravention of extant laws.”
He observed that “under the provision of extant laws, failure to pay royalties is a ground for revocation of leases and a legal barrier to renewal of applicable leases.”
He noted that there was a subsisting legal framework and due process mandated by extant law for the renewal of leases that were due for renewal.
The All Progressives Congress lawmaker accused the minister and the Department of Petroleum Resources of having “deliberately, willfully and brazenly decided to depart from the subsisting legal framework and due process mandated by extant law for the renewal of all leases.”
The alleged irregularities being perpetrated by the minister and the Department of Petroleum Resources in the lease renewal process, he said, was capable of denying government revenue in excess of $10 billion as a result of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of lease renewal
He also alleged that the Department of Petroleum Resources “willfully and deliberately refused to provide the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream with relevant information and data related to the ongoing lease renewal.”
He insisted that “there was need to thoroughly investigate the ongoing lease renewal being undertaken by the Minister of State for Petroleum and the Department of Petroleum Resources, in view of the potential alarming impact this would have on government in terms of loss of revenue accruable to the federation.”
Other senators who contributed to the motion supported the prayer that the Senate should empower the committee to investigation the allegations with a view to finding out the truth about them.