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Oil sector practitioners honour Avuru on Petroleum Day, launches book

It has been over 6 decades since crude oil was first discovered in Nigeria yet the industry professionals who gathered in Lagos to celebrate National Petroleum Day on August 27, were not really sure if this was the first time the occasion was being marked in the country.

This situation underscored the importance of what followed next at the event. The official launch of a 1103 page book: Laws on oil and gas exploration and production in Nigeria- A text in honour of Austin Avuru edited by Michael Ogwezzy, that captures significant legal development in the sector.

Nigeria’s sojourn into petroleum production has been fraught with challenges. Though Africa’s biggest oil producer has earned over $400billion from sale of crude oil, it has little to show for it. The country has the most poor people in the world.

The event which was sponsored by Platform Petroleum was also an avenue to honour Austin Avuru, an industry icon and former CEO of Seplat Petroleum Development Company.

Avuru in a speech at the occasion while representing Fabian Ajogwu, a keynote speaker who was unavailable said the country’s inability to use the over $400 billion earned in the oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the last 60 years in the country to transform Nigeria and make life meaningful for the citizens was one of the tragedies of oil in Nigeria.

Read also: Nigeria losing market share to peers as oil sector troubles crimp production

Avuru also stated that oil and gas companies operating in the country spent over $40 billion on the oil-producing Niger Delta communities through the funds to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and other channels between 2001 and now, with no positive impact on those communities unlike the UAE where almost the same kind of money transformed the country.

Konyinsola Ajayi, a leading senior advocate, Professor of Law and Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, in a speech at the event wondered what good can come out of the recently passed PIA.

He queried the rationale behind allocating only three per cent of oil companies’ operating expenditure to oil-producing communities while the proceeds from their land are used to develop non-oil producing areas.

Ajayi also called into question the inability of the PIA to factor in energy transition and the threat of climate change. The PIA, he said, seemed to have been written to address the gaps of the past without taking into consideration the challenges of the future.

On his basis, he called for caution and moderation on the expectations of Nigerians from the PIA, warning that the law would be meaningless if it could not impact the lives of the citizens.

A highlight of the event was the official launch of the 1103 page book: Laws on oil and gas exploration and production in Nigeria- A text in honour of Austin Avuru. The book is a compendium of oil and gas sector laws in Nigeria, the work of 43 lecturers and edited by Michael Ogwezzy, an associate professor at the Rivers state university.

The book reviewer, Oludayo Amokaye, a professor of Law in the Faculty of Law , University of Lagos, described it as “a leading contribution to the existing body of literature on oil & gas law” and as “a compendium of writings by legal scholars and oil & gas practitioners.”

Amokaye said the book touches on the conceptual issues of sources and importance of oil & gas to the Nigerian economy and recommended the work for students, industry practitioners and the general public.

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