By CHIKA IZUORA, Lagos
The House of Representatives Committee on Oil and Gas has issued a two-week ultimatum to 10 indigenous oil companies to remit $250 million oil royalty to the coffers of the federal government.
The companies include Aiteo Group, Dubri Oil Ltd Atlas Energy,Oriental Energy Ltd, Express Petroleum, WalterSmith Oil Ltd and Neconde Group.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Jerigbe Agom, said at ongoing probe of unremitted funds in the industry that Nigeria can no longer condone unbecoming acts of the operators which are capable of strangulating the nation’s oil and gas industry.
He said that, as part of its mandate to ensure sanity in the nation’s oil and gas industry, his committee would have no other choice than to wield the big stick on the companies that refuse to meet the deadline.
Meanwhile, members of the committee berated the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), saying the agency was not proactive enough to ensure that indigenous oil companies comply with rules in the nation’s oil and gas sector.
They wondered why the regulatory body could not take punitive action on oil companies that failed to pay their oil royalties when evidence abound that they owed the federal government.
They also accused gas companies in the country of not revealing the accurate figures of the quantity of gas produced and flared, resolving to pay on-site visit to the gas companies at a later date to cross-check claims of their gas production and flaring.
However, the managing directors of the companies said they received the invitation very late.
They also complained of harsh business environment like high cost of production and high interest rates. According to them, that is why owners of marginal fields in the country cannot operate the fields.
The oil firms contended that the federal government ought to grant them tax holidays to help boost their operations and open up the nation’s oil and gas sector to wider investment prospects.