FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2, 2023
Tal Harris, International Communications Coordinator at Greenpeace Africa: email@example.com
NGOs demand end to Congo oil auction after leak of secret trade-off deal
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo – A coalition of civil society groups have called for the immediate cancellation of a massive oil and gas auction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following news of a secret deal between Oil Minister Didier Budimbu, Nigerian gambling tycoon Chukwuma Ayodeji Ojuroye, and US consultancy GeoSigmoid.
According to Africa Intelligence, an agreement signed in Paris in September 2021 with Mr. Ojuroye’s Emirati-registered firm Clayhall Group reserves the company two oil blocks in exchange for the prefinancing of geological surveys by GeoSigmoid. In a letter addressed to the Minister last year, Mr. Ojuroye stressed the “necessity and urgency” of proceeding with a separate, restricted tender to concretize the deal.
The secret agreement makes a mockery of Mr. Budimbu’s global communications campaign to promote the auction as transparent, the NGOs maintain. The Minister failed to mention it in any of his numerous press conferences, media interviews or tweets.
According to official minutes, on 20 May 2022 Mr. Budimbu updated the Council of Ministers on the pre-financing agreement, without revealing the clause reserving oil blocks for Clayhall. GeoSigmoid had presented preliminary data of sixteen oil blocks to the Prime Minister earlier that month.
One of the two blocks that Mr. Ojuroye reportedly expects to be awarded, block 23, lies in the heart of the peatland-rich Cuvette Centrale, a carbon bomb at the centre of the world’s attention since its mapping in 2017.
Congolese law permits restricted oil tenders, but the public procurement law’s condition – the “specialised” nature of the services required – would hardly be propitious for the firm of an online betting tycoon.
The demand to cancel the oil auction and investigate the secret trade-off is made by Congolese NGOs AICED, Dynamique Pole, IDPE, MJPE, and REDD, as well as international NGOs 350.org, Banktrack, Greenpeace Africa, Oil Change International and Rainforest Rescue. It comes five days after Mr. Budimbu announced new deadlines for companies to file expressions of interest, officially to give them more time to prepare their bids.
The President of the National Assembly, Christophe Mboso, must:
- Put in place a parliamentary committee to investigate the Oil Minister’s secret agreement with Chukwuma Ayodeji Ojuroye.
President Félix Tshisekedi must:
- Order his Minister to publish the full agreements with all supporting companies;
- Immediately intervene to cancel the auction.
Notes to editor:
- Mr. Budimbu has repeatedly sought to conceal the fact that numerous oil blocks on tender overlap protected areas. It’s unclear on whose authority he added 14 blocks to the tender only days before the official launch. Several calls for tender falsely state they had been cleared for tender by the Council of Ministers. Mr. Budimbu told Greenpeace Africa this was “inadvertent.”
- In December, Mr. Budimbu acknowledged his intention to proceed with the restricted auction agreed with Clayhall and promised that the firm’s financing of GeoSigmoid would be deducted from its signature bonus – assuming its bid was found to be satisfactory.
- Congo’s oil and gas auction has been rejected by many local communities and scientists warn of its catastrophic consequences for biodiversity and the climate.
- For more information, interviews, or photos and footage of the Congo Basin forest, contact Tal Harris, International Communications Coordinator at Greenpeace Africa: firstname.lastname@example.org.