The Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva, has said the federal government lost revenues in taxes, royalties and other payments on the Atala oilfield located in Bayelsa and about 10 others revoked in April 2020.
Sylva, who spoke while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, noted that there are conditions attached to the ownership of any licence, including optimal utilisation of the asset, insisting that for 17 years, that condition was not met by the Bayelsa government and the owners of the 10 other facilities.
He noted that all the procedures for cancelling any licence granted to an oilfield licence holders were thoroughly complied with and wondered why the former holders should be interested in whoever the new owners of the assets are.
He said: “About 11 marginal fields were revoked for non-performance and the holders of these fields held them for 17 years without producing these fields, and as a country, we lose money (when that happens).
“Because if we are producing these fields, the country too will be getting royalties and other payments, and taxes from your production. But when you hold an asset and you just keep it and you are not producing that asset, the country is losing money ultimately.
“So after 17 years, the president in his wisdom decided to revoke those assets and revoking it means it is no longer your asset. So, if it is no longer your asset, what is your business whether it has been given to somebody else?”
Sylva added that the Bayelsa state government which formerly owned the oilfield has not refuted the allegation of non-performance, explaining that licence owners do not just hold them for the sake of it, but to put them to maximum use which will invariably earn more revenue for the government.
“Bayelsa state government, are they denying that they ran the asset sub-optimally? They are not, and I am sure they are not arguing with that, they are not arguing with the revocation.
“So, I don’t want to go into all the details. So, just know that this asset was not singled out. It was revoked along with a lot of other assets for the same reason.
“I don’t want to now single out one of those assets and discuss it. If you are talking about all the assets, then we’ll discuss it, but I don’t want to single any one of those assets and discuss it, because I happen to come from Bayelsa state too,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa state government has called for the reversal of the revocation of the Atala oil marginal field (OML 46), saying the oilfield remained a “prized asset” of the state to which it is sentimentally attached.
A statement the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted Governor Douye Diri, as calling on all concerned parties, including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the minister to consider returning the oilfield to the state.
“Part of what I have done in the last one week of my absence was to state the position of the Bayelsa state government, which I did very clearly to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, our position on Atala oilfield is that it is a prized asset of Bayelsa state and that revocation should be cancelled.
“Bayelsa State government might not have the financial capacity or the technical know-how. But the government is ready to partner financial and technical experts to ensure that the field goes into full production.
“I call on all who are concerned on the Atala oilfield, namely DPR, the petroleum ministry, NNPC and indeed our own son, the minister of state for petroleum resources, to do all within their powers to ensure that the Atala oilfield is returned to Bayelsa state,” he said.