Furore escalates over ExxonMobil-Seplat deal, as NUPRC says Presidency does not have powers to reverse decision

Oredola Adeola
The obvious lethargy of President Muhammadu Buhari who doubles as Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources to firmly direct the affairs of the country’s petroleum industry has surfaced more vividly, as a contradictory statement has been issued by the Nigeria Upstream Regulatory Agency (NUPRC) over the last twenty-four hour on the controversial ExxonMobil – Seplat deal.
In a statement contradicting  President Buhari’s approval of Seplat Energy’s acquisition of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) on Monday, said, the matter was a regulatory one and nothing had changed after it had earlier notified ExxonMobil the transaction had been declined.
The most recent was the reversal by the Presidency, of a decision made by disapproving the sale and purchase of assets by Seplat Energy and ExxonMobil.
The statement by Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive, NUPRC said, “NUPRC affirms that status quo remains in respect of ExxonMobil/Seplat Energy share acquisition.
Engr. Komolafe in the statement which was issued in response to media enquiries on the latest development about the transaction disclosed that the Commission in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act(PIA) is the sole regulator in dealing with such matters in the Nigerian upstream sector.
He said, “As it were, the issue at stake is purely a regulatory matter and the Commission had earlier communicated the decline of Ministerial assent to ExxonMobil in this regard. As such the Commission further affirms that the status quo remains.”
Recall that in February 2021, Seplat Energy Plc agreed to acquire the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) from ExxonMobil for $1.3 billion.
In May, the NNPC declined to consent to the proposed acquisition claiming “overriding national interest”.
The Corporation had made several attempts to block the sales deal by exercising its right of pre-emption on ExxonMobil’s planned sale of the MPNU assets in Nigeria and to take over the ownership of some divesting partnerships.

It then obtained an order of interim injunction restraining ExxonMobil “from completing any divestment” in Oil Mining Lease(OML) 68, 69, 70 and 104, and sealing such to Seplat Energy.

Seplat Energy had, following that injunction, insisted that it is not going back on its deal with ExxonMobil, adding that it was valid and subsisting.