Nigerian Oranto Petroleum’s license to explore natural gas and oil in Barotseland: Could it be payback for 'financing’ Lungu’s 2015 election?

20 July 2018
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post

In 2015, then as a presidential candidate without campaign money or access to government resources after Acting President Guy Scott vowed not to use government resources for the ruling party’s campaigns, Edgar Chagwa Lungu was reported by the popular online publication, Zambian Watchdog, to have sought some campaign financing from a Nigerian oil firm in exchange for concessions in mineral rights, oil and gas explorations in Barotseland.

This was in a highly contested presidential election following the untimely demise of the sitting President Michael Sata in which Edgar Lungu emerged, after much controversy, as the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) presidential candidate.

However, because of the ensuing internal party controversy which resulted in Edgar Lungu emerging as the unpopular party candidate, he had no campaign funds until former Republican President Rupiah Bwezani Banda allegedly introduced him to some Nigerian Oil firm where a deal to offer Barotse oil and gas exploration rights in exchange for campaign funds was concluded.

So, when Lungu, who had no campaign money, suddenly started flying in chartered planes to campaign across the country, the popular website reported that the ruling Patriotic Front candidate had sourced ‘suspicious’ electoral funding from some foreign oil firm in Nigeria, among others, in exchange for Barotse mineral and oil exploration licenses.

Recently, however, ZCCM-Investment Holdings Chief Executive Officer, Dr Pius Kasolo, was reportedly at pains to defend the decision by the Zambian government to offer the oil exploration license to the Nigerian oil firm, Oranto Petroleum, after some sections of the Zambian society questioned the rationale behind ZCCM-Investment Holdings’ decision to give up its oil and gas exploration license to Oranto in which the Nigerian firm will hold a 90% stake in the project while ZCCM-Investment Holdings will only retain a meager 10% on behalf of the Zambian government.

In this entire deal, however, the Barotse people will have no shares whatsoever, making it an outright mortgaging of Barotseland’s natural resources, as feared by most Barotse people, who have often accused the Zambian government of only holding on to Barotseland for its abundant natural resources which they wish to plunder at will without any benefit to the indigenous people of Barotseland.

Meanwhile, a local Barotse oil firm, Barotse Petroleum Limited’s license to explore for oil and natural gas in Barotseland has since been effectively revoked by the Zambian government for alleged failure to pay ‘annual area charges’, causing the Barotse oil firm to sue the Zambian Minister of Mines and Zambia’s Attorney General following this notice to cancel their petroleum and exploration licenses.

In a statement of claim filed in the Zambian high court, Barotse Petroleum Limited has demanded that the court should, among other things, issue a declaratory order for the minister to duly renew their petroleum exploration licenses, claiming further that he had no authority to cancel their licenses purely because annual area charges had not been paid.

In defense of the deal with the Nigerian oil firm, however, Dr. Kasolo argued that the decision to partner with Oranto was strategic as it would allow ZCCM-Investment Holdings to acquire technical skills from their Nigerian counterparts.

He said Oranto will also provide funding and technical support for the project.

Dr. Kasolo stated that technical support will include the provision of training to ZCCM-Investment Holdings Technical Staff in oil and gas exploration and production.

He confirmed that in order to undertake exploration works on the licensed area, ZCCM-Investment Holdings had partnered with Oranto, the Nigerian based and largest privately-owned oil exploration and production company in Africa.

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  • Mamado Mamado Friday, 20 July 2018

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The Barotseland Post, also known as The Barotsepost, is an online media platform, for now, that is dedicated to reporting stories and news around Barotseland and beyond, giving exclusive coverage and access to the people and the nation of Barotseland to fully express themselves in their aspirations for self- determination.