First, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) alleged that oil multinational, ExxonMobil was illegally lifting butane, a petroleum product, from Nigeria.
But now, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has countered and dismissed the allegation of the lifting at Bonny River Offshore Terminal (BRT).
According to NMDPRA in letters to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, and titled “Economic sabotage, criminal damage and theft through illegal petroleum lifting operations at Bonny River Terminal”, Chief Executive, Mr Farouk Ahmed, alleged that Exxon Mobil was lifting the product at the Bonny terminal with the vessel, marked Barumk Gas without the authorisation or participation of NMDPRA.
He stated that NMDPRA was the agency of Government statutorily responsible for regulating operations at the Terminal.
“This unlawful action is being facilitated with the active connivance of Exxon Mobil who have illegally destroyed the locks on the sea-line valve whose keys are in the custody of the Authority.
“The actions of Exxon Mobil and Barumk Gas constitute economic sabotage, criminal damage and theft of Nigeria’s national resources.
“You are by this letter kindly requested to urgently prevent the sailing out of Barumk Gas until investigations into the matter are concluded.”
But now, NUPRC Commission Chief Executive, Mr Gbenga Komolafe, in a statement on Wednesday, clarified NMDPRA allegations, insisting that ExxonMobil’s operations at BRT was duly approved by the upstream regulator.
“Our attention has been drawn to some ublications in the media between June 12 and 13, 2023, alleging illegal lifting of Butane at the Bonny River Offshore Terminal by ExxonMobil.
“The publications quoted a sister regulatory agency, the NMDPRA, as the source of the allegation.
“Being the regulator statutorily entrusted with the technical and commercial regulation of the upstream sector in Nigeria, it has become necessary for NUPRC to state the true position regarding the transaction referred to.
“It is important to state that Exxonmobil formally applied to NUPRC for approval of its operations as an integrated operation, in line with Sections 8(d) and 318 of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021.
Following a careful evaluation of the request, NUPRC granted approval accordingly.
“Consequently, Exxonmobil applied and obtained necessary clearance from NUPRC for the lifting of 12,600 metric tonnes of Butane aboard a vessel named Barumk Gas on May 26, 2023,” he said.
Komolafe said Barumk Gas berthed at the loading jetty at BRT on June 7, 2023 while loading operation commenced and ended on June 8, 2023.
He said later an official of NUPRC on site (at the BRT) issued Certificate of Quantity and Quality (CoQ), as statutorily required for the fulfillment of requirements of accurate hydrocarbon accounting, reporting and ability of the vessel to sail to its delivery destination.
This, he said was in line with global best practice.
“NUPRC wishes to state categorically that the said operation was legitimate and in line with the statutory mandate of the Commission as the technical and commercial regulator of the petroleum upstream sector in Nigeria, as stipulated by law.
“The Commission is not aware of any illegality in the said transaction and none was committed by either ExxonMobil Nigeria and its affiliates or the NUPRC as an agency of government,” Komolafe stated.
The CCE recalled that the ninth Senate had set up an ad hoc committee to investigate oil lifting, theft and the impact on petroleum production and revenues on the heels of the growing spate of crude oil theft in the upstream petroleum sector.
He said following the conclusion of its investigation and presentation of its findings on the floor of the Senate on the Nov. 7, 2022, the Committee passed far-reaching resolutions amongst which was the need for streamlining operations of MDAs at the crude oil export terminals in Nigeria.
“In line with section 7(ee) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021, the Senate resolved that the NUPRC should assume full regulatory oversight of all existing crude oil export terminals.
“The resolution was sent to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, NUPRC, NMDPRA and all relevant stakeholders in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
“The President sought the opinion of the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who after a review, concurred with the Senate resolution and reaffirmed that the said resolution is in line with the letter and spirit of the PIA, 2021 which seeks to promote ease of doing business and investments.
“Subsequently, the former President, Muhammadu Buhari, approved the Senate resolution and explicitly directed immediate compliance with the resolution.
“Insisting that NUPRC is the sole and only regulatory entity to regulate and monitor activities of all existing crude oil export terminals in Nigeria, in line with the relevant section of the PIA, 2021.
“The directive was sent to all relevant MDAs and stakeholders for compliance,” he said.
He said arising from the above, the NUPRC also notified industry operators and relevant stakeholders of the Presidential directive and its readiness to immediately assume full regulatory oversight.
He assured industry players of regulatory certainty and commitment of NUPRC to discharging its responsibilities towards enhancing ease of doing business, facilitating investments, stability and predictability in the Nigerian upstream petroleum industry.
▪︎ Additional report by NAN