Nigeria investigates 2007 oil auction

Nigeria has suspended Tony Chukwueke from his role as head of the nation's oil industry regulator while it investigates oil licenses awarded last year under a former president.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, June 18 -- Nigeria has suspended Tony Chukwueke from his role as head of the nation's oil industry regulator while it investigates oil licenses awarded last year under a former president. Chukwueke will take forced leave.

Although the oil ministry said its decision was not due to "specific findings of impropriety" by Chukwueke, it plans to carry out an "in-depth audit relating to the 2007 oil prospecting bid round."

Analysts have interpreted the move as a commitment to weeding out corruption, which current President Umaru Yar'Adua pledged to do when he came into power.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo struck lucrative exploration deals with various companies before leaving office and was accused of awarding political sponsors.

The investigation will examine an auction held in May 2007 shortly before Obasanjo departed.

Despite extensive promotion of the auction to bring in multinationals and preferential bidding on certain blocks, many shunned it because of worries that a new government would change agreed terms.

The ministry had suspended Chukwueke in December 2006 just 2 weeks before the controversial 2007 Bid Round, but he later was reinstated.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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