Uganda is set to sign a petroleum exploration licence and oil production sharing agreements with a Nigerian firm, Oranto Petroleum owned by a Nigerian prince, Arthur Eze.
Oranto boasts of being Nigeria’s largest privately-held, Africa-focused oil exploration and production group. The energy ministry in June had scheduled the signing of the agreement with the firm, but called it off at the last minute. Ministry officials said the government decided to do more due diligence on the firm.
Civil society groups received Oranto’s plans to get into Uganda’s oil sector with suspicion. They claimed Oranto’s past in countries such as Liberia was dogged by corruption allegations.
Energy minister, Eng. Irene Muloni, said they were now set to sign agreements with Oranto next week..
“Agreement was reached with Oranto and will be signed next week for the Ngassa area covering 410 square kilometers near Lake Albert in Hoima district,” Muloni said. On signing the deal, the Government expects to get a signature bonus of about $316,000 (sh1.1 trillion) to be paid into the Petroleum Fund according to experts.
Oranto boasts of holding 21 oil and gas licences in 10 jurisdictions including Namibia, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Gambia, Sudan, Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Known for his shrewd business acumen, Eze acquires acreages with significant value and farms out portions of those oil blocks to international oil companies for higher amounts when the values of those blocks increase.
Oranto was among companies that bid in Uganda’s first competitive oil exploration licensing launched in 2015. The first batch of exploration licences that Uganda awarded in the early 2000s were given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A forth night ago, the Government granted a similar license to Australia’s Armour Energy to explore oil in Ntoroko district. After the discovery of commercially quantities of oil in 2006, the country enacted new laws to manage the sector. Under these laws exploration licences must be granted on a competitive basis.