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The federal government of

  • Nigeria has suspended the much awaited licensing round for oil blocs in the Gulf of Guinea, throwing preparations by multinational companies to compete in the exercise into jeopardy.

    The government may equally revoke nearly 4,000 mining leases after the lease-holders failed to meet laid down guidelines for exploitation of the country’s solid minerals.

    The latest development in the Gulf of Guinea was the climax of the uncertainties surrounding exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the region, in which Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe had entered into a treaty. The treaty set up the Joint Development Authority (JDA) to administer the zone.

    Rumours claim that the federal government officially indicated its interest to put on hold the oil bloc licensing, in a letter delivered to Sao Tome president Fradique de Menezes recently.

    No new date has been agreed upon, for the exercise earlier billed to commence by end of October.

    A spokesman for the JDA, Sam Dimka, says that the suspension was to allow the two countries straighten out some contentious issues.

    “The whole idea is to ensure that when the licensing round begins there will be no hiccups,” says Dimka, adding that Nigerian officials were already in talks with their Sao Tome counterparts.

    Officials said six billion barrels of crude oil await discovery in the zone, while first oil was initially billed to flow by the fourth quarter of 2004 based on the first licensing round earlier planned for last month.

    Under a Joint Development Zone (JDZ) arrangement signed in late 2000, Nigeria’s share of the reserves in the region is 60% and Sao Tome, 40%. The treaty will last for 45 years and renewable after 30 years.

    Sources further disclosed that top on the main issues Nigeria wanted Sao Tome to clarify its purported deal with US companies namely ExxonMobil, Environment Remediation Holdings Corporation and Petroleum Geo-Services, for a preferential acreage and revenue-sharing rights.