Marginal oilfields licensing: Ijaw leaders write Buhari, vow to resist breach of court order

By Aherhoke Okioma, Yenagoa

Some Ijaw leaders have urged the Minister of Petroleum Resources to respect a substituting order of the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, on the ongoing Marginal Oilfields Licensing rounds. The Court sitting in Yenagoa had restrained the Federal Government from issuing licences on marginal oilfields in the Niger Delta pending the determination of a pending suit.

The Ijaw leaders in a letter to the Minister of Petroleum Resources through the Minister of State for Petroleum by their counsel, Mr Enie Otrofaniwei, said the letter was to draw the federal government’s attention to the subsisting order. The letter noted that as parties with legal representation in the suit, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was expected to show examples of promoting the rule of law and abide by the court order. They vowed to take legal steps to oppose violation of the court order.

Marginal fields are shallow fields with less than 10 million barrels reserve which may not produce crude oil in commercial quantities immediately and would require further development to boost volume. Some Ijaw leaders approached the court in 2020 seeking to halt licensing on marginal oilfields located in their domains.

Following setbacks and delays in the suit, however, the Federal Government announced bid winners on the fields on June 1, 2021. The Federal Government was scheduled to hand over the Marginal Fields Licences to the winners within the week. Presiding Justice Isa Dashen granted the restraining order in favour of the Ijaw leaders.

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Ijaw leaders who filed the suit are Chief Brown Agu (Opu Agu VIII), Mrs Rosemary John-Oduone, President Ijaw Women Connect and Mr Femowei Friend on behalf of themselves and the Ijaw ethnic nationality. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources are defendants in the suit.

The Ijaw leaders asked the court to restrain the Federal Government from further advertising and receiving bids in respect of the marginal fields. They also asked the court to restrain the Federal Government from approving licences in respect of the marginal fields.

Justice Dashen inherited the case from Justice Abimbola Awogboro following the latter’s transfer to the Lagos Division of the Court.

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