Buhari makes a U-turn over Seplat, ExxonMobil $1.3bn deal

Sam Adeniyi
Sam Adeniyi

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in alignment with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, reversed his authorisation of the $1.3bn acquisition shares capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.

Buhari’s change of position was disclosed to newsmen by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Recall that on Monday, a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed that President Buhari consented to the acquisition of Exxon Mobil shares by Seplat Energy Offshore Ltd.

According to The Punch, the Presidency, Buhari made the move as the Minister of Petroleum, adding that it intended that it would attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.

Shehu told newsmen that Buhari had reversed the decision and the previous misunderstanding was because the “agencies involved in (the) decision had not coordinated well among themselves.”

Earlier, Shehu, who spoke to an online publication, said the President’s reversal of his earlier approval was in line with the position of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

According to him, the confusion over ExxonMobil shares was because “the various agencies involved in the decision had not coordinated well among themselves and having looked at all of the facts with all of the ramifications, the president decided the position of the regulator is to be supported.”

NUPRC had, in a statement over Buhari’s earlier approval of the asset acquisition, said, as the sole regulator, it is the one that could deal with such matters. It, therefore, said the status quo remained.

The state from the Chief Executive of the NUPRC Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, said the Commission, in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, was the sole regulator in dealing with such matters in the Nigerian upstream sector.

NUPRC said: “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 a predictable and conducive regulatory environment at all times in the Nigerian upstream sector.”

Seplat Energy Plc had, last February, announced an agreement to acquire the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from Exxon Mobil Corporation, Delaware, for $1.28bn.

The transaction involved the acquisition of ExxonMobil Nigeria’s entire offshore shallow water asset; an established, high-quality operation with a highly skilled local operating team and a track record of safe operations.

The NNPC Limited, however, has a pre-emptive right over the asset and had last month won a court decision temporarily blocking Exxon Mobil Corporation from selling assets in Nigeria to Seplat Energy Plc.

A Judge in Abuja had granted NNPC an “order of interim injunction” on July 6, 2022, barring Exxon Mobil “from completing any divestment” in a unit that ultimately operates four licenses in Nigeria.

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