The journey to the historic signing of NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquid (EGTL) Agreement, which is bound to revolutionize Nigeria’s energy sector, was a long and tedious one. The 6th and 7th Senate battled to resolve the dispute arising from this joint venture sharing contract between the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) to no avail. At the heart of the dispute was the prohibitive and scandalous cost of the project, which from all intents and purposes, was a grand design to rip off Nigeria.
It was not for fun that the leadership of the 8th Senate led by Senator Bukola Saraki laid on the shoulder of Distinguished Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, Senator Bassey Albert the huge task of overseeing a committee saddled with the responsibility of over-sighting the country’s gas sector. The leadership of the Senate was fully aware of his pedigree and ability to carry out this task having made his mark as one of Nigeria’s most successful banking executives before venturing into public service. That he was a major driver of the transformative government of Akwa Ibom State from 2007 to 2015 as the longest serving Commissioner for Finance in the State must have given the leadership of the Senate the confidence to appoint him as Chairman of the all important Senate Committee on Gas even as a rookie Senator.
Senator Albert was naturally cut out for the task of breathing life into the country’s joint venture sharing agreement with international oil companies (IOCs). In most of those agreements, Nigeria was at the receiving end of such agreements. She had always been shortchanged. There was therefore the urgent imperative to change the narratives.
The confidence the leadership of the Senate reposed in Senator Bassey Albert was not misplaced as he sponsored a motion in 2016 that called for the urgent need to comprehensively review the implementation of joint venture cash Call obligations entered into by the Federal Government of Nigeria through NNPC. It was that motion that eventually opened the pandora box, and called to question the sincerity of the various joint venture agreements including the long disputed NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquid Project.
The motion titled, “The Urgent need for effective implementation of the Joint Venture Cash Calls Obligations by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in accordance with Appropriation Acts Of National Assembly” sponsored by Senator Bassey Albert was deliberated upon by the Senate at its Sitting on Wednesday 13th April, 2016. The motion observed that the persistent constraint by NNPC to meet its cash call obligations have taken a turn for the worse on the country’s crude oil production output and sundry activities in the oil and gas industry. The motion noted that although the National Assembly has been appropriating for the NNPC Joint Venture cash calls obligations in the past, it disclosed that the current outstanding cash call obligations in the oil and gas sector stood at over $6 billion.
Consequent upon the motion, the Senate set up a joint committee headed by Senator Albert to conduct investigations into the operations of the NNPC Joint Venture Cash Call Obligations. The Committee comprised of Committees on Gas, Petroleum Upstream, Finance and Appropriations.
The committee was formally inaugurated by the then Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki on Wednesday, 20th July 2016. As a result of the motion, investments in the country’s oil and gas picked up following renewed commitments by joint venture partners – the NNPC and the IOCs – to honour their cash call obligations.
COMMENCEMENT OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENTS
As the then Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas Resources, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan presided over the inaugural meeting of the joint committees of the Senate mandated by the plenary session of the Senate to conduct investigations into the over $6 billion joint venture cash call arrears owed partners by NNPC.
In his opening remarks at the meeting attended by chairmen and members of Senate Committees on Petroleum Upstream, Petroleum Downstream, Appropriation, Public Accounts , Finance and Niger Delta, Senator Albert said the meeting was called to map out the scope and framework for the investigations. He said that the investigations will be guided by the provisions of the annual budgets passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President.
According to Senator Albert, the issue of joint venture cash call is as a result of an appropriation of the National Assembly. He noted that any bill passed by the National Assembly and passed into law by the president becomes the law of the Federation. “So an infraction of such law is a serious serious issue”, he said, adding : “the framework and scope for the investigations into the cash call operations will be taken from the point of view of annual budgets approved.
Senator Albert informed the committees chairmen and members that “we need to come up with a recommendations that will lead to a better management of cash calls by NNPC”.
Speaking at the meeting, the then Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Senator Tayo Alaosaodura (now Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs) described the cash call arrears as a “mystery that must be unraveled”. The then Chairman, Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje said this is the right time for government to get to the root of the matter knowing the turbulence in the oil market. He called on other stakeholders to cooperate to solve this problem facing the country’s oil and gas sector.
THE NNPC/ CHEVRON EGTL PROJECT DEAL: HOW IT STARTED
It was the startling discoveries made in the course of investigations into the cash call operations by NNPC sponsored by Senator Albert that prompted the Senator Albert led Committee on Gas to seek the leave of the Senate to investigate the NNPC/Chevron Escravos to Liquid Project, which the 6th and 7th Senate attempted to resolve but failed. The committee eventually got the mandate of the plenary to go on with the investigations.
The Senate Committee on Gas Resources chaired by Senator Albert on 6th June, 2016 commenced investigations into NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquid (GTL) project and queried the rationale behind the escalation of project cost from the approved cost of $2.95 billion to a whopping amount of $10.3 billion, showing almost 300 % increase. The committee also frowned at the Joint Venture Shareholding of 25% to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and 75% to Chevron Nigeria Limited. It also insisted that it must be reversed to the ration of 60% for NNPC and 40% for CNL.
Senators were miffed that the same project, which cost $1.1 billion in Qatar could escalate to such a level. They sought to know from the management of the company why there was such a scandalous increase. The management of CNL led by its Chairman/Managing Director, Mr. Clay Neff and Director, NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, Monday Ovuede laboured to adduce reasons for such incredible variation in the cost of the project. Giving reasons for the variation, the company representatives said community crises, militancy, soil texture, cost of equipment, among others, were responsible for the increase.
The committee also discovered that NNPC, a joint venture partner to the project did not make any investment to the project and has consistently failed to attend joint venture agreement meetings with Chevron. It will be recalled that the reports of the 6th and 7th Senate on the controversies surrounding the project had indicted Chevron for various illegalities.
Investigations into the controversies surrounding the escalated cost of NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquids (EGTL) Plant eventually recorded a major breakthrough following the intervention of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through its Committee on Gas chaired by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. After several meetings with the parties and subsequent analysis of all submissions made by both parties to the Committee in addition to the on-the-spot assessment of the EGTL Plant at Escravos in Delta State, the Committee resolved to midwife and guide a negotiation between NNPC and CNL to ensure maximum returns to the Federation.
The intervention of the Senate through its Committee on Gas resulted in the reversion of the equity shareholding on the Plant to 60% to NNPC (Nigeria) and 40% to CNL.
The Committee further directed the immediate execution of the relevant agreed terms sheet and final settlement agreement between NNPC and CNL to reflect the new equity shareholding on the Plant in favour of Nigeria and thank all parties for their resilience during the negotiations. A formal Report of the Committee on this investigation was laid at the Plenary upon resumption of the Senate in September 2018. “It must however be stated that what this Senate has saved the country cannot be quantified in monetary terms”, Senator Albert Bassey said after the meeting.
Following this breakthrough, on the 23rd December 2019, the management of NNPC received the approval and directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to conclude the settlement and execute the relevant agreements. To this end, on the 24th December 2019, NNPC and CNL executed a suit of agreements signaling the final settlement of the EGTL cost dispute.
The EGTL plant is a facility designed to convert rich natural gas into petroleum product of which approximately 70 % is premium quality diesel. According to the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari, the cost of the project has been under dispute between NNPC and Chevron for almost a decade which has led to the total stalling of the project to the detriment of the country’s economic interest.
…. Petroleum Minister, NNPC shower encomiums on Sen. OBA for historic role
Stakeholders in oil and gas sector in Nigeria had on Thursday January 9, 2020 at the prestigious Fraser Suites located in the Central Business District of Abuja, joined the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari to honour the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Senator Bassey Albert for his historic legislative role in ensuring the resolution of the decade old dispute between the NNPC and Chevron Nigeria Limited over the EGTL Project.
The GMD, NNPC, Mr. Kyari eulogized Senator Bassey for leading the campaign for the resolution of the dispute when he was the Chairman of Senate Committee on Gas in the 8th Senate. Nigerians, he said, were proud of him for playing a lead role in resolving issues that hindered the EGTL project. He disclosed that with the resolution of the dispute, the country is now in a position to build a condensate refinery. “We are proud of him and other stakeholders who worked for the signing of the deal”, he said.
Referring to Senator Albert and others who contributed to the dispute resolution, Mr. Kyari said: “This people are great. They have helped our country; they have helped our companies. And not only that, they have created a future for all of us”.
Also speaking before presenting the award to Senator Albert, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva stated that the EGTL was one of our earliest efforts at stopping gas flaring. “The project for me is very significant”, he said. While presenting the award of excellence to Senator Albert, he said: “This Award is given to you in recognition of your contributions to the Escravos Gas to Liquid Project dispute settlement towards enhancing energy security for Nigeria. Congratulations”.
Delivering his speech after receiving the award, Senator Albert spoke of several table banging sessions he had with the management of CNL to ensure that the country gets a fair deal from the joint venture agreement, but at a time what was supposed to be an investigation became like a town hall meeting.
While thanking his colleagues in the Senate and its leadership for the breakthrough in negotiations, Senator Albert also thanked the GMD of NNPC whom he called “the game” changer for his consistency. He equally thanked both the Honourable Minister and the GMD under whose tenures the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act was also amended.
“I think looking at all these activities, it gives me great hope that our dear country still remains a competitive market in the oil and gas industry globally. The stage is now set for the almighty Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). We will deliver PIB before the end of this year”, he promised, basing his hope on the improved executive-legislative relations. “For the first time there is an effective executive-legislative cooperation. We are all working for the good of Nigeria. We have only one project, and that project is Nigeria”, Senator Albert declared, amidst thunderous applause from industry players.