The Joint Development Zone (JDZ) set up by Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe will open bids next month for the awards of oil blocks in the deep waters of the Gulf of Guinea. A total of nine blocks would be put on offer in the region said to hold an estimated four billion barrels of oil. Under the JDZ arrangement, Nigeria's share of the reserves in the region is 60 percent and Sao Tome, 40 percent.
ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and Phillips have sent in their bids to compete for the blocks. There has also been bids submitted by local Nigerian companies led by Emerald Energy.
"Sao Tome holds extra-ordinarily high oil reserves, so far we are talking about four billion reserves," said a Petroleum Ministry source, adding that Nigeria and Sao Tome will undertake jointly the development of the field. The sources said that Nigeria saw Sao Tome and Principe as very critical to the safety and security of reserves in the West African region. Ministry officials said that any local firm that could secure experienced foreign technical partner, stood a good chance of being awarded some of the blocks put on offer.
Early this month, the Federal Government offered Sao Tome a $50 million loan to develop that country's oil and gas sector. The loan was the latest in the flurry of bilateral agreements between the two countries. The government actually directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to effect the payment of the loan. President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Sao Tomean counterpart Fredrique de Menezes had also held talks on the possibility of establishing a joint refinery.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969