The government of Gambia last week stripped three oil firms of their exploration and production licenses, according to a statement by the country’s president’s office, which accused the firms of failing to meet their contractual obligations.
The statement said West Africa-focused African Petroleum and its partner Buried Hill Energy had lost offshore blocks A1 and A4. Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum also lost its Lower River onshore block, it said.
“These licences have been terminated with immediate effect. The Gambia government will not allow any institution to acquire licences only to keep them for speculation,” the statement said.
“In our bid to harness our natural resources for the benefit of Gambians, we are not going to deal with speculators,” it added.
Oranto Petroleum is a Nigerian subsidiary of Oranto International, a UK based petroleum company with interests in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.
Sao Tome’s National Petroleum Agency has awarded oil blocks to Oranto Petroleum three other companies.
The block Sao Tome awarded to the Nigerian company covers an area of 4,228 km2 and is situated in Zone A of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) whilst the three other companies are Energy; Afex Global and Angola’s Grupo Gema.
Sao Tome had in 2010 put out seven of its 19 oil blocks to tender locally and in London as the country had hoped to have oil by 2011, but economic and diplomatic sources believe that the first barrels are likely to flow by 2014.
Chairman of the company, Dr Arthur Eze had been quoted to have said that the company would establish its presence in the oil industry in major countries in Africa and beyond. “The presence of Oranto Petroleum Company will in no distant future be felt in countries around the globe. We have built integrity and capacity for onshore and offshore and we have proved that Oranto is not an oil firm to be ignored.”
Oranto Petroleum is an active operator in 14 blocks in West Africa and Gulf of Guinea.
[Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, This Day]