Sao Tome faces alleged wrongdoing in license awards

Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Maria do Carmo Silveira has said that her government will make public its reaction "very soon" to an official probe into alleged wrongdoing in the award of licenses to operate offshore oil blocks.

Offshore staff

Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Maria do Carmo Silveira has said that her government will make public its reaction "very soon" to an official probe into alleged wrongdoing in the award of licenses to operate offshore oil blocks, according to local reports.

Speaking recently after a meeting with a parliamentary oil commission, she said, "The government still doesn't have a definitive position on the matter. We are carefully studying the question and will very shortly make public our position."

The cross-party commission of lawmakers has been analyzing a report from the attorney general's office on possible corruption in the licensing round for the five blocks in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) shared with Nigeria.

The commission requested the official report, which uncovered strong evidence of "serious faults" in the May 31 awarding of the JDZ blocks and took two months to prepare.

Details of the probe have yet to be officially disclosed, but media have reported that the document fingers the US-registered but Nigerian-controlled ERHC oil firm as having possibly made irregular payments or provided other benefits to officials in Sao Tome before the awards were made.

The ERHC was awarded control of two of the five blocks, in partnership with another company, and gained significant shares in the other three JDZ blocks.

Production sharing contracts for these blocks were scheduled to have been signed this month by Sao Tome, Nigeria, and the international energy firms involved.

The archipelago is rich in oil resources and two US oil companies, Chevron Texaco and ExxonMobil, in May this year signed oil exploration contracts for an offshore block in waters shared by Sao Tome and Nigeria.

01/04/06

More in Regional Reports