Nigerian lawmakers to probe state oil firm deals without tenders

Fri May 3, 2013 2:54pm EDT
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* Activists say contracts given to firms with no experience

* Say transparent bidding process lacking

* State oil firm denies any wrongdoing

By Tim Cocks

LAGOS, May 3 (Reuters) - Nigerian lawmakers said that next week they will investigate deals in which the state-oil firm gave two local firms with no previous operating experience the rights to make potentially billions of dollars from oilfields without competitive bidding.

Local activists raised the issue with the parliament last week, while Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has denied any wrongdoing.

"We have invited them (the activists) to come and table the matter and substantiate their claims ... We have also invited NNPC to get their side," Senator Emmanuel Paulker, the head of the Senate committee on upstream oil and gas, told Reuters.

The lower house passed a motion late on Thursday to investigate the deals, which activists say cast doubt on pledges by President Goodluck Jonathan's government to improve transparency and end an era of backroom deals that have characterised Africa's biggest energy industry for decades.

Activists say multi-layered deals on oil blocks through secretive local companies, often lacking technical expertise, are at best inefficient and at worst an avenue for corruption.   Continued...