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Atala Oil Field: Probe Dickson now, Bayelsans cry out to Diri….State loses N5bn monthly, 2,000 job opportunities

By John Ovie

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Controversy has continued to rage over the circumstances surrounding the purported revocation and reallocation of the Bayelsa state owned Oil Well otherwise known as Atala Oil Field, Oil Mining Lease (OML 46).

There is a strong belief by concerned Bayelsans that the immediate past governor of Bayelsa state, Senator Seriake Dickson may have manipulated the sales of the only Bayelsa state owned Oil Well to himself just before he left office.

One of the concerned Bayelsans  who wants the return of ownership of the Oil Well to the state government due to its economic importance to the state is a young rights activist and lawyer,  Ebikebuna Aluzu, Esq.

In an open letter he personally signed and addressed to all Bayelsans and entitled: “Why Governor Douye Diri should probe Atala Oil Field and how BOCL lost its right to manage same for Bayelsans,” Aluzu called on Bayelsans not to fold their hands but rise to the occasion of retrieving their lost treasure.

It could be recalled that in 2003, former President Olusegun Obasanjo allocated one oil block each to all oil-producing states in Nigeria following the regional call for resource control spearheaded by now late Chief Alamieyesiegha, then Governor of Bayelsa State as well as his co-governors in the neighbouring south-south states and Bayelsa was a beneficiary.

Alamieyeseigha and his Deputy, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in their wisdom, incorporated the Bayelsa Oil Company Limited as the first state-owned oil company in Nigeria to manage the Atala Oil Field.

Upon its incorporation, BOCL entered into a partnership with Hardy Oil Nigeria Limited (HONL) and Century Exploration and Production Limited (CEPL) with BOCL controlling 51% interest of Atala Oil Field while its partners HONL and CEPL both sharing the remaining 49%.

Aluzu, in the letter, recalled that sometimes in April 2020, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) by a notice did revoke the Atala Marginal Field and returned same to the Marginal Field Basket.

He said the reason cited for the revocation was the failure of BOCL to develop the field and bring the same to its full production.

He said another letter dated 28th February 2021, DPR purportedly assign Atala Oil Field to a new company, Halkin Exploration and Production Limited (Halkin) which is the parent company of Halkin Global Investment Limited (HGIL) citing a purported farm-in agreement of 41% BOCL right in Atala Oil Field to Halkin in 2019.

“Halkin also went on to represent to DPR that it had invested sixty million dollars ($60,000,000) in reviving the assets of Atala Oil Field sequel to the said agreement. Thus, the reason why DPR should assign the Atala Oil field to Halkin in lieu of BOCL.

“However, the management of BOCL had in a publication in Daily Sun Newspaper, on Friday, July 2, 2021, denied any purported farm-in agreement entered into with Halkin in 2019.

“BOCL also denied the alleged investment of sixty million dollars ($60,000,000) in reviving the assets of Atala Oil Field and also challenged Halkin to show proof of such investments.

“Remember, in 2019, the legal adviser of BOCL had in a letter dated September 8, 2019, raised concerns and accused the former Managing Director of BOCL, Messrs Ebikabowei Charles Dorgu over an attempt to shoddily sell 41% of BOCL’s 51% controlling interest over Atala Oil Field to HGIL.

“That is to say, Halkin, whether as a parent company or a subsidiary company (HGIL) only started nursing interest in Atala Oil Field in 2019. Halkin itself was registered or incorporated as a company in the same 2019.

“At least, that is what its Incorporation document with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) says. Meanwhile, the test crude production of Atala Oil Field by BOCL was done sometime in 2017. So if after the production of crude oil on Atala Oil Field in 2017, before Halkin was birthed as a company, what exactly did Halkin revive in 2019?,” Aluzu queried.

He also noted that BOCL was hell-bent on terminating its partnership agreement with HONL and CEPL in favour of Halkin. Thereby, making Halkin the sole controller of Atala Oil Field.

The letter revealed that the current Managing Director of Halkin, Messrs Ebikabowei Charles Dorgu, was the Managing Director of BOCL at the time BOCL wanted to purportedly sell its controlling interest to Halkin and when the purported farm-in agreement between BOCL and Halkin was allegedly executed under the government of Seriake Dickson.

The letter further reads: “the external Solicitor to Halkin interfacing and negotiating the sale of BOCL equity right was Moses Oruanze Dickson. At the same time, his law firm had a retainer with BOCL.

“He is the younger brother to the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson who at the time BOCL’s controlling interest over Atala Oil Field was divested from it was the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State.

This is a confirmed case of in-house trading.

“Let me say this at this point. BOCL does not lack the competence to manage Atala Oil Field. BOCL did not initially lose its concession to manage Atala Oil Field because of its inability to meet production demand. It lost it because people played politics with it.”

Aluzu called on the legal advisers of both Ijaw National Council and Ijaw Youth Council to file lawsuits challenging the actions of Ebikabowei Charles Dorgu.

He argued that the idea was to make BOCL lose it knowing fully well that DPR does not have the powers to withdraw BOCL’s concession or license since it was the President (Obasanjo) that used executive powers to grant the said license to Bayelsa state and in conjunction with multi-nationals signing the agreement to that effect for states to manage at least one oil well and that Atala Oil Field does not come under the supervision of DPR.

He pointed out that Halkin, which is believed to be owned by Seriake Dickson, made the plan so that when that issue is resolved and the concession was to be issued again, Halkin will approach the presidency for it to be issued to her to manage the well on behalf of Bayelsans instead of BOCL.

“This should be of concern to all Bayelsans. It is the heist of the century. Corporate stealing of a people’s commonwealth. Diri should as a matter of concern look into this,” he added.

Since the above development, the media, both social and conventional, have been awash with concerns being raised by Bayelsans over the current state of the state owned Oil Well, known as Atala Mining Lease (OML 46).

Stakeholders of the Bayelsa project have been raising pertinent questions.

Some of the puzzles are: why did the Department of Petroleum Resources revoke the Bayelsa state operating license of the oil field?

Why the reallocation of the oil well and to who and whose interest? If the Atala Oil Field was revoked because the state government could not maintain its production status, where did an individual or group of individuals get a whopping N24 billion (sixty million dollars) to revive the asset of the Oil Well at the time the government of Seriake Dickson was winding up?

Why is it that Charles Dorgu, who was chairman of the Bayelsa Oil Company at the time plans were perfected to revoke and reallocate the contentious Oil Field to Halkin, is now the Managing Director of Halkin which now purportedly owns Atala Oil Field?

Meanwhile, the Management of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited has called on the  Governor of Bayelsa state, Senator Douye  Diri to probe the case of fraud, criminal breach of trust, fraudulent misrepresentation, forgery, corruption, obtaining by false pretense and criminal conversion of Atala marginal field (OML 46)  by some group of individuals.

A statement signed by Mr. Bello Akpoku, Acting Managing Director of Bayelsa Oil Company Limited, says the Atala Oil Field has been plagued by serious uncertainties ever since its revocation by the Federal Ministry of Mineral Resources.

Bello stated that some individuals in Bayelsa State are trying to fraudulently convert the state owned asset to their private asset.

 

According to him, the Bayelsa Oil Company Limited has on several occasions written to all stakeholders and other  principal officers of the state pleading for their intervention on the current circumstances surrounding the Atala field as well as the pathetic situation and challenges faced by the management and staff who have not been paid salaries for two years now.

He said , as management, despite the concurrent threats to their lives from all corners, they have not relented in challenging every criminal act against the oil field.

He said they have written letters to the president, the Minister of state for Petroleum Resources, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and a written petition to the lnspector General of Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant security agencies to correct the false narrative of the individuals and to carry out thorough investigations into the fraudulent and criminal activities of the individuals.

He further noted that the Atala field is capable of generating an estimated internal revenue of a minimum of five billion naira monthly as well as employment opportunities for over 2,000 Bayelsans and a potential magnet for mega investors in the oil and gas industry and other sectors.

According to Bello, it would be of utmost benefits to the government and Bayelsans that the governor salvages the asset from being lost to selfish individuals considering the enormous potential the Atala field posseses.

They  Commended the efforts of some Bayelsans who have approached the Federal High Court regarding the issues rocking the Oil field and further called on stakeholders of Izon nation to rally round the Governor of Bayelsa state to retrieve the oil block to the state.

 

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