Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), has said that he is “very optimistic” that ExxonMobil’s asset sale to Seplat Energy can move forward.
The Commission last year refused to approve the $1.28 billion sale, a deal some in the industry say is key to getting much-needed investment into Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
“We are very optimistic that parties to the transaction will go back, look at the position of the regulator and come back by abiding by the provisions of Nigerian laws and the right thing will be done,” Komolafe told Reuters on the sidelines of Africa Oil Week in Cape Town.
According to him, once Exxon had made proper agreements with its joint-venture partners in the assets, “the regulator will do what it needs to.”
Reuters reported that Roger Brown, CEO of Seplat, said he was “hopeful” the deal could be concluded this year.
“We have very good relationships with the regulator and that is why it takes time and the NNPC is a partner to us and we want to respect the partnership …Now we are starting to get to that crux point to try and resolve the issue,” he said.
NNPC, the state-owned oil firm, had contested the sale, claiming it had first rights to the assets. On whether or not it made a purchase offer for the assets, NNPC has not made any public remarks.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter, gets 90 percent of its foreign exchange and half of its budget from petroleum. However, production has dropped in recent years as a result of underinvestment and theft.
Several foreign oil companies are looking to sell onshore properties, but those transactions have hit legal and regulatory roadblocks.