Nigeria’s regulator grounds Exxon Mobil’s asset sale to Seplat

Nigeria’s petroleum regulator has again refused to approve Exxon Mobil’s $1.28 billion sale of shares in its Nigerian unit to Seplat.

Nigeria’s President and Petroleum minister Muhammadu Buhari had approved the transaction.

According to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) head, Gbenga Komolafe, said the petroleum minister can only grant consent for such an acquisition upon recommendation from the commission.

NUPRC had earlier this year declined to okay the deal without publicly giving a reason.

The sale is also opposed by state firm NNPC Limited, which argues it has pre-emptive rights to the assets.

Under the Petroleum Industry Act, which was passed last year after nearly two decades in the making, a holder of a petroleum exploration licence cannot “transfer his licence or any right, power or interest without prior written consent of the commission.”

The law also says “where the consent of the minister is granted in respect of the application for a transfer, the commission shall promptly record the transfer in the appropriate register.”

It is not clear if the petroleum minister’s consent can override an objection from the commission.

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