A’Ibom government scuttles attempt by ExxonMobil to surreptitiously sell it’s assets

Akwa Ibom State government has condemned in strong terms the recent attempt by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to sell off some of its assets, even as there is a pending court case, stressing that, such action was unbecoming of a responsible corporate citizen.

According to the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Essien Udom (SAN), it was most irresponsible that the International Oil Company did not inform the state government, which is a critical partner, of its intention to carry out such major activity on its shared assets.

Recall that ExxonMobil had recently issued a release informing the general public that it has reached an agreement to sell its equity interest in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to Seplat Energy, a Nigerian independent oil and gas company, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.

“This sale will allow us to prioritize competitively advantaged investments in our strategic assets, and it supports the Nigerian government’s efforts to grow its oil and gas operations,” said Liam Mallon, president, of ExxonMobil Upstream Oil, and Gas.

“We value the relationships we have spent decades building with the government and people of Nigeria, which will continue as we maximize the value from our deepwater operations.”

“When finalized, the sale will include the Mobil Development Nigeria and Mobil Exploration Nigeria equity ownership of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, which holds a 40% stake in four oil mining licenses, including more than 90 shallow-water and onshore platforms and 300 producing wells” The released had stated.

However, in an interaction with newsmen in Uyo at the weekend, the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Essien Udom (SAN), said the state government has filed a suit in court to prevent Mobil from proceeding with the assets sale.

Udom informed newsmen of another pending case involving ExxonMobil and the Akwa Ibom State government, initiated by the former, following the revocation of some Certificates of Occupancy from the company.

He said the attempt to sell off some of the assets, some of which were shared between the duo, and the alleged plans by the company to relocate from the state would further frustrate the outcome of the initial court case.

“Mobil has not formally informed the state government that they are selling and leaving. Everything we heard was from the press which is most irresponsible for any corporate citizen. There’s been no direct contact with us. That’s an action that may frustrate the outcome of a pending court case”.

“Akwa Ibom State Government had to enter a court case restraining Mobil from continuing with the proposed sale of its assets and that’s because there is pending litigation between Mobil and the government of Akwa Ibom State. The attempt to sell its asset, some of which may include assets belonging to Akwa Ibom State was handled in a manner that is rather upsetting.

“Mobil has been in Akwa Ibom State for several years and the relationship has been very good until recently. The fact that they’ll attempt to sell in a surreptitious manner without any discussion with the government of Akwa Ibom State is very distressing and not to be expected of a responsible corporate citizen.

Attempting to provide some insight on why ExxonMobil may have dragged the state government to court in the first instance, Udom said “All the land in Akwa Ibom belongs to the government, the government gives out a certificate of occupancy. Some of the certificates of occupancy purportedly held have been revoked. They actually sued the Akwa Ibom government challenging the revocation of some of the CofOs and the matter is pending and its continuing.

“It is therefore a big surprise to us that in the pendency of these lawsuits, they go ahead and attempt to sell some of the assets and leave. That is why we have the order, stopping them from continuing the sale and removing any asset from Akwa Ibom State. The sell-out cannot be allowed to proceed because when you have parties contesting ownership of an asset, all those things would be kept in abeyance.

“The court has the right to keep what is called “subject matter of litigation”. Any attempt by either of the parties to deplete the asset or sell or dispose of them would be resisted by the court. it is contemptuous actually”. he said

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