The largest oil and gas field financing transaction of about $1.1bn – Oil Mining License 17, owned by billionaire business tycoon, Tony Elumelu, is currently under investigation following the uncovering of an illegal oil bunkering facility connected to it, The PUNCH has learnt.
The PUNCH gathered that the investigation was necessitated after the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps on Thursday, uncovered an illegal local refinery at Otamiri-Etche, Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The illegal refinery, The PUNCH gathered, steals crude from OML17 fields operated by Heirs Holding Oil and Gas Limited.
In 2021, Heirs Holdings acquired 45 per cent of OML 17 from Shell Total and Eni. At the point of acquisition, the field located at the north Port Harcourt, produced just 27, 000 barrels per day, however, production rose to 40, 000 barrels per day seven months after acquisition.
The PUNCH gathered that the NSCDC was able to burst the oil bunkering gang following intelligence reports from local informants.
The perpetrators were said to have tapped into Heir Holding Oil and Gas facility through the pipeline bulk delivery and stole crude oil through carefully constructed pipes to their illegal local refinery.
Further findings revealed that some insider involvement connected to the bunkering had been uncovered, and the NSCDC is currently interrogating workers both inside and outside the facility with the full support of Elumelu himself.
Sources close to the matter told The PUNCH that Elumelu was disturbed by the report, as the menace had been ongoing for years, even before the field was acquired by Heirs Holdings.
“Suspected persons workings in the facility, locals, including the owner of the land being used for the illegal activities have been picked up for questioning”, sources who claimed anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter told The PUNCH.
The NSCDC Commandant in Rivers State, Michael Besong Ogar, confirmed the development.
He said it was the first time of witnessing a new strategy of operations by illegal oil thieves in the country.
The PUNCH also gathered that sponsors of the illegal refinery are currently being investigated and would be charged to court.
“I must confess that this is the first time of witnessing a well fabricated illegal refinery with such a wide range of pipes laid across the area, as you can see how big the land is, you can also imagine how unscrupulous people can be despite the continuous fight against illegal dealings in petroleum products.
“We have commenced intense investigation into the matter, and we will unravel the mystery behind this economic sabotage.
“The NSCDC has a clear statutory mandate to safeguard critical national assets and Infrastructures across the federation, we will not be deterred or distracted by the activities of oil thieves in the State. Without compromise we will go after them and ensure that the illegal dealings in petroleum products are reduced drastically in order to boost the nation’s economy again”, he said.
OML 17 contains fields such as Agbada, Obigbo, Obigbo North, as well as Otamini and Umuchem. It also hosts facilities that can output 150, 000 barrels per day. Gas production on the field is less than 50 million standard cubic feet per day, with estimated 2P reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil.