Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe To Offer Blocks in 2003

Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria expect to hold a licensing round for blocks in the Gulf of Guinea sometime early next year. An official of the Joint Development Authority, the agency responsible for the development of resources in the area, said the two countries were holding talks and should resolve their differences before the end of the year

A geologist contracted by the tiny West African nation said last month that Sao Tome had postponed the inaugural offer earlier scheduled for October, after a change of government. President Fradique de Menezes, citing a climate of instability, fired his entire government in late September, after only six months in office. He named a government of national unity in October.

The JDZ was set up by the two countries as a buffer zone after Sao Tome and Nigeria ended a protracted maritime boundary dispute last January. There are nine exploration blocks in the offshore zone with estimated reserves of six billion barrels of crude oil.

Under the terms of the agreement, oil and gas resources recovered from the area will be shared on a 60:40 ratio in favor of Nigeria. The arrangement will last 45 years, with review after 30 years.