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Nigeria’s oil sector practitioners honour Avuru on Petroleum Day, launch 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 1,103-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 the sale of crude oil, it has little to show for it. The country has the poorest 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.

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.

‘An uncommon law textbook’, Justice Nweze recommends a new book on oil and gas laws.

The endorsement by Chima Nwezu, one of Nigeria’s Supreme court justices, of a textbook recommended for students, practitioners and policymakers in the oil and gas sector speaks volumes about the value this work holds for the public after all Supreme court justices do not often go out of their way to recommend books.

The 1,103-page textbook, Laws on Oil and Gas exploration and production in Nigeria – A text in honour of Austin Avuru – is itself an unusual work. It is both a book about oil and gas laws and the practice of exploring crude oil and its environmental impacts.

The text is a collection of academic works, mainly, in the area of Oil and Gas Law and related subjects. It is a 41 chapter textbook written by 43 contributors who are mainly university academics and practising lawyers in Nigeria. It was edited by Michael Ogwezzy, an associate professor of law at the Faculty of Law, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

The impressive work covers substantive and practical issues of topical nature in the oil and gas law in Nigeria, Africa and International legal issues on the subject. It espouses the position of law as expressed by judges of local courts and international courts.

“The logical arrangement and flow of the various chapters are rare, scholarly, endeavour not common in available textbooks on oil and gas law in Nigeria at present,” said Nweze.

The justice said he recommends the book to all and sundry including not just in the academia or legal practitioners, but to policymakers, oil industry practitioners, university libraries and the general public.

Why it matters

In his review at the launch of the book in Lagos on August 27, Oludayo Amokaye, a professor of Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, said the book is a compendium of writing by legal scholars and oil and gas practitioners, and a veritable contribution to the existing body of legal literature in Nigeria on oil and gas law.

Beyond the technical subjects covered in this book, one of the most astounding aspects is the use of simple and free-flowing English language to express complex ideas, thoughts and legal precedents.

Read also: Experts organise symposium on new oil law, honour Austin Avuru

He said the juicy and captivating style of writing to the analysis and synthesis of conventions, statutes and case laws adopted by the various contributors clearly demonstrate the outstanding qualities, maturity, depth and scholarship of the various contributors and editorial resilience and acumen of the authors.

The book is written primarily for the consumption of present and future generations of undergraduate and postgraduate law students in Nigeria and other climes, legal practitioners and oil and gas industry practitioners.

Thematically, it is divided into eight parts with 41 chapters though each chapter is intended to be self-contained allowing the reader to dip into it in any other.

The first part focuses on preliminary issues in oil and gas law in Nigeria. Part two focuses on Nigerian participation in the sector while the third part highlights the types of investment contracts, taxation and revenue.

Part four on licences and pipelines focuses on the question of who owns the resources and the power to grant permits. Part five takes on the issue of environmental degradation and compensation issues in oil and gas exploration and production in Nigeria.

Part 6 explores human rights, access to justice and public participation in Nigeria’s petroleum industry. Part seven is on the local content, community issues and consumer protection in Nigeria’s petroleum sector. The last part is on the international aspects of oil and gas law.

The book is an invaluable research guide for students keen to understand oil and gas laws. The historical context it provides for these laws aids understanding and the inclusion of international laws provides a global outlook on issues affecting the Nigerian oil gas industry.

While noting the positive aspects of the content of the book, Amokaye said a future review should include provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act which was passed after the book had been published.

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