No Approval For Acquisition Of Exxon Mobil Shares By Seplat–Presidency Sources

Contrary to claims in some media reports about the purported approval of President Muhammadu Buhari of the acquisition of the shares of Exxon Mobil by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited, competent sources in the Presidency have told THE WHISTLER that there is no such approval.

There had been reports (Not THE WHISTLER) that the President had given approval for the deal to be consummated by the two companies.

Seplat Energy Plc had in February this year announced an agreement to acquire the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from Exxon Mobil Corporation, Delaware for $1.28bn.

The transaction entails the acquisition of ExxonMobil Nigeria’s entire offshore shallow water business.

According to the deal, ExxonMobil Nigeria’s shallow water business is an established, high-quality operation with a highly skilled local operating team and a track record of safe operations.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has a pre-emptive right over the asset and had last month won a court decision temporarily blocking Exxon Mobil Corporation from selling assets in Nigeria to Seplat Energy Plc.

A judge in Abuja had granted NNPC an “order of interim injunction” on July 6, 2022, barring Exxon “from completing any divestment” in a unit that ultimately operates four licenses in Nigeria.

Despite the verdict of the Court, reports emerged on Monday that the President had approved that the deal be consummated by Mobil and Seplat.

But sources within the Presidency told THE WHISTLER that there are extant laws governing such transactions, arguing that this statutory mandate lies within the purview of the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

One of the Presidency sources with knowledge of the transaction told this website that the President had on July 5 issued a directive to the NNPC Limited to proceed with the acquisition of 40 per cent interest of ExxonMobil.

The source who said the approval by President Buhari still subsists, argued that that the President cannot suddenly reverse himself for a transaction of such magnitude.

The top government official said, “This must have been an unauthorised statement as there are extant laws governing such transactions and this statutory lies within the purview of the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. President’s directive to NNPC Limited to acquire 40 per cent interest of ExxonMobil still subsists and this was further reinforced by Mr. President on Friday, 5th July 2022.”

Another competent source with knowledge of the deal told THE WHISTLER that based on the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act, any announcement about an industry transaction can only be made by the regulator, which in this case is the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

“This (purported statement) is at variance with the PIA. The Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission should be the one to announce. As such the General public is advised to disregard the purported statement.”

It was gathered from another top government official that following a request by the NNPC Ltd, the President had approved that NNPC should proceed with the pursuit of its rights under the Joint Operating Agreement of the NNPC/MPNU Joint Venture through the legal processes available to NNPC Limited.

“Mr. President as Minister of Petroleum Resources sustains his earlier approval for the decline of the share transfer request by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited. It will be doubtful if something else was announced after the approval,” another source said.

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