President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the withdrawal of Oil Prospecting Licences 2001, 2002 and 2003 in the Utapate Field won by indigenes of the Niger Delta is not only being tackled by the investors but may lead to chaos in the oil-rich region if not properly addressed, The Punch reports.

According to the investors, about N44.6bn signature bonuses paid for the licences is also under threat following the approval of the President to withdraw the OPLs from the winners who emerged after the Federal Government opened up the oil blocks to bidders in the 2007 bid rounds.

After winning the bids for the blocks, the bid round was stalled for eight years by litigation until it was resolved amicably in 2015, before the Department of Petroleum Resources handed OPLs 2001, 2002 and 2003 to Jahcon International Limited, Hi Rev Exploration and Production Limited and Oil and Industrial Services Limited, respectively.

The DPR confirmed the three investors as successful bidders for the blocks and directed them to make the required payments as signature bonuses for the licences. But despite these payments, the President approved the request by the NNPC demanding the withdrawal of the licences from the investors and handing over the oil blocks to NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC.

The approval, according to the investors in the oil blocks, has raised tension in the Niger Delta region, particularly in Akwa Ibom communities where the oil field is located, as youths in the area have vowed to resist attempts by the government to deny indigenes of the area the right to the OPLs.