Eroton Exploration and Production Company, on Sunday, said it remained the operator of Oil Mining Licence 18 Alakiri Gas Plant and Field Logistics Base in the Niger Delta.
It stated that it was false for a section of the media to claim that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited had taken over the operatorship of OML 18.
“First, it is important to state that Eroton remains the Operator of OML 18. The issue of operatorship of OML 18 is a contractual one and is governed by the joint operating agreement among participating entities.
“We wish to inform the public and our partners that in discussing any change of the operator under the joint operating agreement, there is a clearly defined process, which has not been followed.
“Therefore, any purported change by any other party is nullity ab-initio and without any effect whatsoever,” the firm stated in a statement that was made available to journalists on Sunday.
It argued that the media publication falsely utilised incorrect information to accuse Eroton of various infractions.
“We wish to clarify and state that these allegations are baseless and unfounded and, as stated above, the due process of the law in line with the joint operating agreement and the rule of law has been breached in the futile attempt to displace the valid and subsisting operator of the joint venture.
“Furthermore, we would like to make it clear that any lack of production from OML 18 alluded to in the false reporting, has been primarily due to the unavailability of Nembe Creek Trunk Line in the last two years and not to any production issues suffered by Eroton,” the company stated.
The firm said it was also pertinent to note that this was an industry wide problem due to notorious crude theft and sabotage of pipelines in the Niger Delta, stressing that this was a notorious and widely known fact.
“Eroton categorically denies any fraudulent act as stated in the false report in the operations of OML 18, as all issues are contractual and therefore has nothing to do with the jurisdiction of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as contained in the false reporting,” it stated.
The company said it “would like to stress that Eroton remains the operator of OML 18 despite the attempts of forced displacement of some Eroton staff from our Alakiri Gas Plant on February 24, 2023, by armed and unknown men who claimed to be representatives of the other JV partner, Sahara.
“They acted without the due process of law and in total breach of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the joint operating agreement.
“Eroton remains committed to transparency, integrity and due process, and urges the general public and stakeholders to disregard any misinformation as we continue to operate in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Eroton is an indigenous oil and gas company, and is the operator of OML 18 on behalf of the NNPC/Eroton/Sahara JV. OML 18 oil field is situated in the eastern Niger Delta and covers a total area of 1,035sq.km in an onshore swamp terrain.
It was reported on Saturday that the management of NNPC Ltd had taken over the operatorship of OML 18 following months of inactivity caused by a multitude of issues thought to include the diversion of funds, governance infractions, and indebtedness to JV partners.
Other reasons given for the takeover, according to the report, were Eroton’s inability to meet contractual obligations, inability to meet work programmes, inability to deliver on its committed field development plan, prolonged debt to the Federal Government, and closure of office premises by the FIRS for over a year, among others.
The report claimed that an industry source disclosed that NNPCL had secured the operatorship of the asset with the backing of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had stepped in to investigate allegations of financial impropriety and fraud levelled against Eroton’s management.
It also said the EFCC was currently securing sensitive documents and combing through financial dealings of Eroton’s operatorship of OML 18 since its inception.