By Emmanuella Anokam
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has threatened to revoke the licences of oil operators or settlors who failed to remit the three per cent statutory fees to oil communities before September ending.
The NUPRC management on Friday said its attention had been drawn to the agitation by host communities in the oil and gas producing areas of the Niger Delta region over the delay by industry settlors/operators in remitting the statutory fees.
A statement signed by the Commission’s Chief Executive, Mr Gbenga Komolafe, said the three per cent remittance was governed by Section 235 of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021.
The relevant section states that failure by any holder of a licence to comply with its obligations under this Chapter, may be grounds for revocation of the applicable licence.
“Therefore, defaulting operators (settlors) under PIA 2021 (section 235) are advised to do the needful by fulfilling their obligations and remitting the outstanding arrears without further delay.
“As the commission might be compelled by emerging circumstances to fully apply the law under section 235 of PIA 2021.
“Notice is hereby served that in a situation where defaults are not remedied by the end of September 2023, the Commission would have no option but to revoke the licence of the defaulting settler/operator,” said the statement.
The commission said it understood the sentiments of the host communities, especially as the PIA had suspended and replaced existing provisions with a new Host Community Development Trust Fund (HCDTF).
The old provisions are; Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The Commission said it was fully aware of the implications of the development if allowed to fester.
It said the agitation might frustrate the Commission’s efforts at up-scaling the drive for higher foreign exchange and attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
Incidentally, it said it was also capable of truncating efforts at stabilising the value of the Naira, attaining the much-desired rebound in the national economy and improving the country’s macro-economic status.
“The statutory provision of the PIA regarding the annual contribution of operators in the industry, under Section 240 (2) of the PIA, 2021, is very clear.
“And it states: Each settlor, where applicable through the operator, shall make an annual contribution to the applicable host communities development trust fund.
“It should be an amount equal to three per cent of its actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations affecting the host communities for which the applicable HCDT fund was established.
“Given the implications of allowing continued default on sustained peaceful operations and the eventual effect on national oil and gas output.
“The Commission will be minded to activate its regulatory powers in line with PIA’s provisions as stated above, to bring defaulting recalcitrant settlors into compliance,” said the statement.
The NUPRC management said it recently passed the Host Community Regulation and organised a sensitisation programme, emphasising the responsibility of settlors under the PIA, 2021, but those concerned had neglected this, thereby stoking avoidable agitations.
“The settlors are, therefore, required to perform their obligation to commence remittance of the statutory three per cent contribution,” it added.
It stated that remittance of the statutory contribution, which should have served as succour to the host communities, had sadly become a source of pain to the lawful beneficiaries.
This, it said, had given impetus to actions that might affect smooth upstream operations within affected host communities, a situation that could have been addressed through routine social inclusion.
It further said although the ultimate regulatory sanction, as enshrined in Section 238 of the PIA, was the revocation of assets, but it had been careful in applying it.
It said this was to avoid compounding the already low level of investment and divestment rate and further impact negatively on production levels and revenue.
It said, rather, it chose to draw a balance and be strategic in implementing the provisions of the law. (NAN)