Is Mahama Dashing Oil Blocks To Nigerian Sponsors?

The international media are raising serious concerns over the sudden rush by the John Mahama government to be awarding oil blocks.

The latest to raise concerns is the highly influential African Energy, which in their latest edition questioned the propriety of the Ghanaian Parliament approving blocks to two Nigerian firms under a bizarre certificate of urgency just two weeks ago.

Striking about these deals is not only the speed with which they have been approved, but the fact that the beneficiary owners of these multi-billion dollar lucrative oil blocks are not clear, with fingers pointing to the President and his close associates.

Since the President appointed Alexander Mould as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Company in October 2013, the records show that the new GNPC boss has given out more oil blocks than his predecessor, Nana Asafo-Agyei, managed to do in all the four years of the late President John Atta Mills’ administration.

The Expanded Shallow Water Tano Block, which some industry experts estimate to contain some $7 billion worth of oil, was on March 21, 2014, awarded Camac Energy of Nigeria and a newly formed Ghanaian company sponsored by close associates of the President, Base Energy.

Again, the Central Tano Block Offshore was also on March 21, 2014, awarded to Niegria’s Amni International. Amni is run by Tunde Afolabi, and has been producing crude oil in Nigeria’s prolific south east offshore since 1996, grossing some 21,000 barrels per day from its two fields, Okoro and Ima.

Camac Energy Ghana Limited holds 60% of the interest; GNPC Explorco holds 25%, and Base Energy holds 15%.

According to the African Energy, “records show that Base Energy is owned by Energy West Ltd (75%) and African Soft Ltd (24%), while Amni Ghana is owned by Amni Nigeria (70%) and an indigenous Ghanaian company, WCW International Company Ltd (30%), but the beneficial owners are not clear.”

Industry players have questioned the speed with which the Mahama administration approved the oil deals. The two blocks were approved less than six hours after notice of the motion of approval was given to parliamentarians.

Amin Adam’s Africa Centre for Energy Policy (Acep) has raised similar concerns but neither Parliament nor the Executive has taken any notice.

“Acep is worried at the rate at which Ghana is throwing out promising oil blocks to relatively inexperienced oil companies. Unfortunately, these contracts are being awarded at the blind side of Ghanaians, who are the primary owners of Ghana’s oil and gas resources.”

Shortly after Alex Mould was appointed, two new contracts were awarded late last year without parliamentary scrutiny, again questioning why the haste and disregard for transparency.

Those deals involved the granting of the South Deepwater Tano to AGM Petroleum and a subsidiary of GNPC, GNPC Exploration and Production Limited and awarding East Cape Three Points to Ghana’s Cola Natural Resources and Giuseppe Ciccarelli’s Swiss-based Medea Development.

AGM is owned by known persons in the NDC, who have formed the MED Songhai Developers, in conjunction with Norway’s AGR Energy and Minexco.

Another little known company has been given the right of first refusal to negotiate a new contract over the Offshore Cape Three Points South Block in the Tano Basin, close to the Jubilee Field.

Camac Energy, a struggling Houston-based company, is controlled by controversial Nigerian oil magnate, Kase Lawal. The Tano Block deal was mainly struck by his Lagos-based brother, Mukaila Lawal, and a close friend to the Mahamas.

Camac Energy is undergoing some financial difficulties. The US-listed company reported a net loss of $16 million last year.