There have been fevered speculation that the root of the oil and gas exploration messes that is causing Lilongwe serious headaches can be traced to corruption and the licensed investors are behaving larger-than-life with latest published reports indicating they snubbed officials at Capital Hill who had called for a meeting with them.
According to Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Principal Secretary Ben Botolo wanted to communicate a legal opinion by Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and Capital Hill’s position regarding exploration of oil on Lake Malawi.
But three companies Hamra Oil Company, Rak Gas and Pacific Oil who are directly dealing with State House, snubbed the meeting.
Few months after Peter Mutharika ascended to the Malawi Presidency, his government issued a moratorium which is basically a delay or a suspension of all oil exploration activities on Lake Malawi after discovering that there were massive irregularities in the way licenses were obtained by the companies doing the work.
The controversial Lake Malawi oil exploration project is divided into six blocks for the exploration and production of Petroleum. Exploration licence for blocks 2 and 3 were issued to a British Company called Surestream Limited. RAK gas MB45 Limited—a state owned oil company for the Ras Al Khaima Emirate in the United Arab Emirates—was given licence for blocks 4 and 5. Block 6’s exploration licence was issued out to Pacific Oil Limited whereas Block 1 was licensed to SacOil, a South African company.
Hamra Oil Malawi Limited was also in operation as Surestream later farmed its blocks to this Company in a joint operating agreement as Surestream had no enough capacity to carry out the work. Hamra Oil Malawi Limited is a Company controlled by the Emir of Ras Al Khaima.
The mess which government has discovered is that three licences were issued to this Emir of Ras Al Khaima controlled companies as the Mutharika administration learnt that Rak gas MB45 Limited, Pacific Oil Limited and Hamra Oil Limited are companies controlled by one group designed to get a Lions share of the oil blocks by using any trick in or outside the book.
Authorities noted that one Kamal Ataya (Arab), who happens to be the Chief Executive Officer for Rak Gas also signed an application for an exploration license for Pacific Oil Limited on 1stJune, 2013 and the same guy was also behind the licence for Hamra Oil Malawi Limited.
In November last year, government ordered all companies licensed to explore for oil and gas to “immediately cease all operations in relation to the granted oil and gas exploration licences until a review that is currently underway, regarding the manner and procedures that were followed [in issuance of licences], is finalised.”
Botolo said the meeting was arranged to give the oil firms “ the Attorney General and the stance of the Malawi Government.”
He said officials will be consulting legal experts for guidance, saying by not attending the meeting, the firms show that “maybe they are not interested in the business.”
Rak Gas general manager for its Malawi operations Chimwemwe Chikusa however told The Nation that the company asked the ministry to shift the meeting to the end of this month because key officials had pre-arranged engagements they could not suddenly cancel but that they afre “ eager to meet government” and conclude the matter.
Malawi suspended oil and gas exploration licences pending a review of some issues government was concerned with. The review was initially planned to take a month from November 2014. It is now seven months—and counting.
The exploration of oil on Lake a Malawi is still a contentious issue as locals from the lake shore districts protest the move claiming the project has the potential to kill fish which they depend for a living while on the other side, there is still a heated argument which has not been resolved with neighbouring Tanzania which claims that half of the Lake is hers contrary to Malawi claims that she wholly own the Lake.
Social commentators also argue that even if the oil explorations can continue, the proceeds from such an activity can obviously not going to benefit the people of this impoverished southern African nation but few elites as evidenced by the raw deal Malawians have been given by their ever greedy politicians since time immemorial.
For example, commentators cite the example of Kayerekera Uranium mine in Karonga which has only benefited those from the corridors of power, leaving even the district itself poorer than it was in 1964 when Malawi got independent from her colonizer, Britain.
Rak Gas—owned by the Government of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the UAE emirates—has carried out Full Tensor Gravity Gradiometry (FTG) with all the processes duly approved by the Malawi Government.
Hamra—a Cayman Island Origin private company which bought 51 percent into Blocks Two and Three from Surestream, also concluded its FTG.
Pacific Oil, which is part of Vega Petroleum Limited—the privately owned oil and gas entity that has oil producing and exploration concessions in Egypt—is yet to launch an FTG on Block Six.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :