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Confusion Trails Seplat’s Purported Acquisition Of Mobil

…….As NUPRC counters President Buhari’s order on deal

 Less than 24 hours after Seplat Energy Plc announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved its  cash acquisition of the share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU), emerging developments at the highest level of government have indicated that the purported approval may not have passed through all stages of regulatory process for the deal.

Seplat Energy in a statement on Monday had confirmed that it received a letter from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dipriye Sylva, notifying it of President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the Ministerial Consent request on the acquisition of the MPNU.

The Nigerian oil company, listed on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE), stated that the approval was given by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources (HMPR), with the granting of Ministerial Consent pursuant to the powers of the Minister under Paragraphs 14-16 of the First Schedule of the Petroleum Act, 1969.

The oil company clarified: “In the letter, the President as HMPR directed that the HMSPR shall convey Ministerial Consent to all relevant parties, including but not limited to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (“NUPRC”), the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), the ExxonMobil companies, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), and Seplat Energy/Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.

“The President further directed that the HMSPR shall ensure that the ExxonMobil/Seplat Energy operating entity (being MPNU) carries out operatorship of all the OMLs in the related shallow water assets to optimise production in support of Nigeria’s OPEC quota in the short term as well as ensure accelerated development and monetisation of the gas resources in the assets for the Nigerian economy”, Seplat Energy added.

However, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), in a statement on Tuesday, maintained that the status of the transaction remained unchanged as the President was yet to rescind its earlier decision denying his consent to the transaction.

The commission in a statement by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, reiterated that the position of the Commission was that the status quo should remain, as nothing has changed.

Komolafe clarified Status quo to be the decline of the ministerial consent by the President to the share acquisition of ExxonMobil by Seplat Energy.

He stated: “This position has been communicated by the Commission to ExxonMobil. So, as things stand, nothing has changed as far as the Commission is concerned, in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act.”

The statement, titled ‘Status Quo Remains on Share Sale By ExxonMobil to Seplat Energy’, read: “The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) affirms that status quo remains in respect of ExxonMobil/Seplat Energy share acquisition.

“The Commission, in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, is the sole regulator in dealing with such matters in the Nigerian upstream sector.

“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”, the NUPRC boss stressed.

However, Sylva, while reacting to media enquiries on the NUPRC’s latest position on the deal, maintained he was not aware of the NUPRC counter-order over an issue the President has already given approval.

The minister said: “If the President has already approved a transaction in his capacity as the Minister of Petroleum Resources as stipulated by law, it is not the place of the NUPRC to go to the press in whatever capacity to issue a counter statement without clearance.

“If the NUPRC has a counter approval from the President, it will be understandable. But at this moment, there is no such approval.

“It is very sad that the NUPRC would be issuing a statement on the issue without asking questions with supervising ministry. This is unbecoming and embarrassing to controvert the President in that way over a matter he has already given approval”, Sylva added.

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