By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Presidency of Nigeria has offered reason for the reversal of an earlier authorisation granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, permitting the acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina had on Monday in a statement, revealed that President Buhari consented to acquisition of Exxon Mobil shares by Seplat Energy Offshore Ltd.
Adesina said the authorisation is in President’s capacity as the Minister in charge of Petroleum Resources and as a way to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.
In a fresh update on Wednesday invalidating the previous, President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said the decision has been reversed, and the earlier misunderstanding set aside because the “agencies involved in (the) decision had not coordinated well among themselves.”
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) had in reaction to Buhari’s earlier approval of the assets acquisition on Tuesday said, as the sole regulator, it is the one that could deal with such matters in line with relevant laws including the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, maintaining that the status quo remained.
Earlier, Shehu, who spoke to an online publication, said the President’s reversal of his earlier approval was in line with the position of the NUPRC. The commission had insisted on its refusal of assent to the ExxonMobil/Seplat Energy share acquisition worth $1.28 billion.
According to him, the confusion over ExxonMobil shares was because “the various agencies involved in the decision had not coordinated well among themselves and having looked at all of the facts with all of the ramifications, the president decided the position of the regulator is to be supported.”
The statement from the Chief Executive of the NUPRC Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, said the Commission, in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, was the sole regulator in dealing with such matters in the Nigerian upstream sector.
NUPRC said: “As it were, the issue at stake is purely a regulatory matter and the Commission had earlier communicated the decline of Ministerial assent to ExxonMobil in this regard. As such the Commission further affirms that the status quo remains.
“The Commission is committed to ensuring predictable and conducive regulatory environment at all times in the Nigerian upstream sector.”
Seplat Energy Plc had, last February, announced an agreement to acquire the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from Exxon Mobil Corporation, Delaware, for $1.28bn.
The transaction involved the acquisition of ExxonMobil Nigeria’s entire offshore shallow water asset; an established, high-quality operation with a highly skilled local operating team and a track record of safe operations.
The NNPC Limited, however, has a pre-emptive right over the asset and had last month won a court decision temporarily blocking Exxon Mobil Corporation from selling assets in Nigeria to Seplat Energy Plc.
A Judge in Abuja had granted NNPC an “order of interim injunction” on July 6, 2022, barring Exxon Mobil “from completing any divestment” in a unit that ultimately operates four licenses in Nigeria.
Analysts had also criticised President Muhammadu for overriding the regulator on the Seplat/ExxonMobil deal, saying it’s a clear abuse of power.