Allison-Madueke, Ajumogobia at Daggers drawn over ExxonMobil Licenses

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As the restive Nigerian public awaits the announcement of the new Federal Executive Council (FEC), President Goodluck Jonathan is facing an unexpected battle from within his own ranks as two influential members of his defunct cabinet; the almighty Oil Minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke and Foreign Affairs Minister, Henry Odein Ajumogobia; both of Ijaw extraction like President Jonathan are at each other's throat over the spoils from oil contracts and licenses.      

  The 'cold war' dates back to 2009, when Ajumogobia as Junior Oil Minister, negotiated the renewal of ExxonMobil licenses on three blocks - OML 67, 68 and 70 in the Niger Delta, but upon becoming Oil Minister, Allison-Madueke unilaterally cancelled Exxon's rights on the three blocks. In a terse and laconic missive, six days before the licenses expired on March 4, 2011 , Allison-Madueke informed Exxon that it had lost all rights on the three blocks, which pump 580,000 bpd and 950 MMCFD of gas. The three fields form a crucial production center for Exxon and supply the Qua Iboe terminal. can authoritatively report that the American oil giant is planning to sue the Federal government, should Allison-Madueke retain her portfolio as Oil Minister and continue her anti-Exxon crusade. The decision by ExxonMobil to sue the government followed abortive attempts by the oil major to resolve the issue through negotiations. On May 21, Allison Madueke announced at a press conference in Abuja that negotiations with the American major had begun on renewing its rights on OML 67, 68 and 70.But learnt from Exxon sources that Mark Ward, who runs ExxonMobil Nigeria made several unsuccessful attempts to meet Allison-Madueke but the Minister always claimed she was busy.      

  An Oil Ministry source told that Exxon renewed its licenses in 2009, but Alison-Madueke declared the negotiations with Henry Ajumogobia,   null and void claiming they resulted in an agreement that was not countersigned by then Oil Minister, Rilwanu Lukman, who was Ajumgobia's boss at the time. Allison-Madueke's decision to renege on the 2009 agreement was because of the apparent 'conflict of interests' wherein Ajumogobia Obeke, the law firm of the former junior minister which took part in the negotiations that led to the renewal of the Exxon licenses in 2009, was Exxon's official legal representative in Nigeria .      

Allison-Madueke was also quoted as saying the agreement with Ajumogobia was merely the renewal of an initial contract that was signed in 1971. And she deems the amount that Exxon paid for the renewal of its rights - $600 million USD - too insignificant compared to the huge profits the company makes from its operations in Nigeria .