The Federal Government has not ordered international oil companies (IOCs) to relocate their head offices to Niger Delta, according to a source in the presidency.The clarification follows reports in the media that the government may have resolved to have the headquarters of the oil majors in the oil-rich region.
The top source told The Guardian yesterday that there was no such directive as widely reported in the papers.Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was recently quoted as directing the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, “to engage” the IOCs on the way forward in the wake of the repeated calls for the relocation of their head offices to the states where they explore and exploit crude.
The source, which craved anonymity, stated: “The media misconstrued the vice president’s statement. What he meant was that for operational reasons, it is important oil companies have a strong base in the Niger Delta region.“Of course, the Federal Government cannot give such directive to private companies.“The VP made a suggestion. It wasn’t a directive as it was portrayed.”He maintained that it was no longer fashionable to cite security reasons by IOCs which hitherto hinged the siting of their headquarters outside the zone on insecurity, adding that the situation had improved significantly in recent time.
The oil firms had said their external communications and business networks were more efficient in Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve.They equally argued that the sector’s regulator and investment vehicle, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), are in Lagos.
An IOC confided: “Oil companies liaise with DPR and NAPIMS almost on a daily basis (and sometimes, they meet more than once in a day).
“The financial framework of the country in terms of investment and commercial banking is very standard in Lagos compared to the Niger Delta. This is critical to our business.”A spokesperson for another oil major said: “If anyone must relocate to the Niger Delta, it should be Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which has the major stake in most of the oil mining licences in the region. But the NNPC rather has its head office in Abuja, and no one is calling for its relocation to the Niger Delta.”
The top presidency source, however, commended the IOCs that have significant presence in the Delta, noting that the move was a step in the right direction.The spokesperson for Shell Nigeria, Bamidele Odugbesan, in a telephone interview said Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) had its headquarters in Port Harcourt way back.He noted that the organisation has catchment areas in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo and Abia, hence the location of its head office to the Niger Delta some years back.
But Odugbesan added that the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), which operates 120 kilometres offshore, off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea, has its office in Lagos.He said: “For SNEPCo, the host community is the whole of Nigeria and not limited to the Niger Delta. SNEPCo’s Bonga field, for instance, is closer to Lagos than it is to Port Harcourt.”