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The Department of Petroleum Resources has dissociated itself from an alleged Federal Government’s deal with Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (ExxonMobil), clearing the company to pay $665m instead of $2.5bn, for the renewal fees for three oil blocs in 2009.

The DPR denied knowledge of the deal concerning the Oil Mining Leases 67, 68 and 70 in a letter dated July 23, 2019. The letter addressed to the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel, on the Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP), which has been investigating the transaction since 2018, rather referred the investigative body to approach the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation for information concerning the deal.

It had been reported that the SPIPRPP, led by Okoi Obono-Obla, was investigating a petition by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), who accused Mobil of only paying about $600m, out of the payable renewal fees of $2.5bn, for the renewal of the three OMLs in 2009.

The DPR’s position on the transaction contradicts the earlier claim by ExxonMobil that the $665m it paid for the OMLs 67, 68 and 70 was the full payable renewal fees in line with the agreement it reached with the DPR and the NNPC.

The DPR’s July 23, 2019 letter with reference number, PI.LM/3900/S.650/31, is titled, ‘Re: Investigation activity, request for certified true copy of agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, concerning purchase of three oil blocs.’

The letter responding to SPIPRPP’s inquiries concerning the deal was signed on behalf of the director of the department by one S. Hassan.

It read in part, “We refer to your letter dated October 26, 2018, on the above subject matter.

“Kindly be informed that the Department of Petroleum Resources was not involved in the negotiation of the renewal bonus of the three blocks.

“In view of the above, we advise that you request from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to provide the required information on the issue.”

Meanwhile, it had being reported that the SPIPRPP had summoned the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, to appear before it on Tuesday the 30th of July for questioning over the alleged $1.8bn owed the Federal Government by Mobil.

ExxonMobil had denied the indebtedness in a series of correspondence addressed to the panel, including its reply dated July 5, 2018.

Officials of Mobil had also appeared before the panel which insisted that the explanations offered by the company were unsatisfactory.

The SPIPRPP had also called for documents covering the transaction.

Mobil in a July 15, 2019 letter which was signed by the company’s Vice Chairman, Udom Inoyo, stated that it forwarded DPR’s and NNPC’s documents in respect of the transactions to the SPIPRPP.

Further denying the alleged indebtedness in the said letter, the company stated that the $665m it paid for the renewal of the OMLs was based on the assessment by both NNPC and the DPR.

The letter titled, ‘Re: OML 67, 68 and 70 – Renewal Fee and Payment’, read in part, “We have again searched our records on this matter and wish to provide some additional information that supports our position that the renewal fees required of MPN related to the renewal of OMLs 67, 68 and 70 have been paid in full.”

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