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Eni: FG has not approved conversion of OPL 245 to mining licence

Eni: FG has not approved conversion of OPL 245 to mining licence
May 26
23:08 2021

Eni, an Italian oil and gas company, says the federal government has not approved the conversion of oil prospecting licence (OPL) 245 to an oil mining asset.

The OPL licence for the block, estimated to hold 482 million barrels of economically recoverable oil, expires in May 2021, ten years after Shell and Eni paid $1.3 billion for the licence in a scandal plagued deal that sparked numerous criminal investigations and trials.

Recently, a Milan court acquitted Shell and Eni of corruption charges in the $1.1 billion OPL 245 deal in Nigeria after more than three years of court appearances.

In a statement sent to TheCable, on Wednesday, Eni said it had (through its subsidiary NAE) submitted application for the conversion of the OPL to an oil mining licence (OML), noting that the federal government confirmed its support to the conversion and the exercise on the back of rights included in the 2011 agreement

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“With regards to the statement issued by some NGOs on Nigerian OPL 245, Eni would like to point out that the Nigerian Government’s position on the licence is currently subject to an arbitration proceeding in Washington at International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), commenced in 2020,” the statement read.

“In fact, Eni (through its subsidiary NAE) submitted its application for conversion of the OPL (Oil prospecting Licence) into an OML (Oil Mining Licence), and the Nigerian Government confirmed its support to the conversion and the exercise of the back in rights included in the 2011 agreement: in this regard, we confirm that there are no legal impediments to the completion of the conversion process.

“However, to date, the Government has neither granted nor rejected, NAE’s application for conversion. Please note that the investments made by Eni and Shell to date in OPL 245 amount to $2.5 billion.

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“Furthermore, the Milan and London Court proceedings on OPL 245 have been concluded without ascertaining any international corruption activity, while neither in the OPL 245 trial in Milan, nor in other proceedings, the Government of Nigeria has challenged the validity of the licence.”

Eni noted that if OPL 245 is not converted into an OML, the $2.5 billion in investments already made by Eni and Shell to win the exploratory licence and carry out research will have been for nothing.

Meanwhile, Anti-corruption campaigners HEDA, Re:Common, Corner House and Global Witness have commended  President Muhammadu Buhari over the stance.

Noting that it would have been totally egregious to convert the license while the companies are still on trial for corruption in Nigeria and proceedings in Milan may not be concluded.

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