Sao Tome and Nigeria Settle Issues Related to Oil Licensing

Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria have settled some of the unresolved issues which had put a hold on the tender of oil exploration licenses in the Gulf of Guinea. The two countries were in disagreement over an annex to a treaty which allows for joint development in waters surrounding the tiny islands, which are located 160 miles west of Gabon

In a statement issued by the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority, the main dispute between the two countries had been settled during a February 6 meeting, but that there were still "outstanding third party interests to be resolved" before the treaty could be implemented.

The 2001 accord establishing the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) gave Nigeria 60 percent of future oil revenues and Sao Tome 40 percent. The annex concerned a small triangular notch in the zone, under 100 square km in size, where a previously existing Nigerian license overlaps the zone. Under the annex, Nigeria received exclusive rights to the overlapping area and in return agreed to undertake "development projects" to Sao Tome's benefit. There had been disagreement over what projects should be included under this accord.

However, Sam Dimka, the spokesman for the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority, said in the statement that the two parties had agreed on a revision to the annex.

"The two parties mutually resolved that the Special Regime Area be returned back to the JDZ and the revenue to be derived shared on the basis of 60:40, as contained in the treaty," said the statement. "Consequently, those projects listed under the Memorandum of Understanding...cease to exist." Still to be resolved, however, are the fate of contracts signed between Sao Tome and three oil firms.

Sao Tome's President Fradique de Menezes has said he wants to renegotiate contracts signed under his predecessor Miguel Trovoada with ExxonMobil, Petroleum GeoServices and Chrome Energy Corporation.