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Delaying Nigerian Marginal Field Licensing Round 2020: Abba Kyari’s Death


All things being equal, Nigerian Marginal Field Licensing Round will commence by end of this April. Department of Petroleum Resources, the nation’s regulatory body in charge of such licensing is ready, having done the mapping out of the available 45 fields and also the 11 fields which the licenses were recently revoked from the owners for lack of performance . The regulatory body has also commercially evaluated all the available marginal fields through the help of a consultancy firm on what the signature bonus fee of each field  will be on basis of economics and ease to extract .

However, if wishes were horse beggars would ride. The marginal licensing round which supposed to take off by the end of this month and the process end in July this year could suffer some delays. The licensing round which will not involve the traditional road show, could be delayed not just by the COVID-19 pandemic that crushed the oil market and caused a glut globally, but by the death of   Mallam Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff of President Muhammed Buhari who died last week Friday as a result of contamination from coronavirus after his visit with some national delegates to Germany for a deal with Siemens AG.

The late Abba Kyari wielded a strong power in the administration of  President Buhari.  According to industry analyst and intelligence, Kyari was the most trusted officer for the Nigerian leader to orchestrate and monitor the marginal field licensing on behalf of Aso Rocks. It is not surreal to Nigerians that if Mallam Aba Kyari was to be alive his footprint and colossal official presence as the gate keeper and monitor in chief of the president will be ubiquitous in the process.

Mallam Kyari was not really liked by many Nigerians and politicians, including the First Lady, Aisha Buhari who negatively described him as the leader of Aso Rocks Cabal. Nigerians who did not appreciate his bigger than life role in the government ascribed to him as the de facto President of Nigeria , who was like the wall of Jericho debarring their accessibility to the president.

While Abba Kyari represented ugly in terms of his towering role in Aso Rocks, there are those claiming that they knew  him better and dubbed him to be a saint, a disciplined and hardworking   seasoned bureaucrat whose style was suitable to protect his master and lead through the complex Nigeria political and social system.

Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria minister of foreign affairs who Abba Kyari was the best man in his wedding and God Father to his first child , in his tribute to Kyari said Abba was a Pan-Nigerian, global citizen, who recognized no boundaries between peoples, be they racial, ethnic, religious, class or political. He made friends with everyone.”

In Onyeama’s defense of the purity of late Kyari against the charcoal image painted of him by many Nigerians further stated “He knew that fighting corruption with such single mindedness and fearlessness would see him at the receiving end of the venom of very powerful forces but was undeterred and preferred to ignore all the defamation against him.”

Obadiah Mailafa, writing in Nigeria Vanguard Newspaper on the caption “What does a chief of staff really do?’, in order to place a balanced description of the personae of late Kyari against the pool of misunderstanding of his office as envisaged by many Nigerians, wrote “ the  Chief of Staff is an appointee of the president. He is the chief manager of the presidential office. He also coordinates the key agencies and the minister in implementing the government’s core programmes. He also serves as the principal channel of communication between the President and his core officials, including the Federal Executive Council. He also ensures that the engagements of the President, including the presidential fleet, operate in a flawless manner.”

Since 2003, the government of Nigeria has not conducted another licensing round. The eagerness and readiness of the government was pronounced to conduct this exercise to use it to attract fund into a depleting government coffer, give credence to the Nigerian Content which the government heavily touts and restore confidence in the declining industry.

Considering the way, the Buhari government operates; a major activity such as the marginal field licensing round may not take off without the involvement or the monitoring presence of the President’s Chief of Staff. President Buhari is about announcing a new CoS.  Even if such announcement is done before the end of this week, it will take the new officer few months to understand the way forward and get use to the players.

Moreover, beside the recent demise of Abba Kyari, whom the president described as his friend of 42 years and loyalist, President suffered another blow this week through the dead of Lawal, his personal body guard. That means that some reshuffling and restructuring would take place in Aso Rocks.


The marginal field licensing is supposed to be for indigenous companies and current operators who have performed very well. As things stand, the licensing process will be a big tussle between operators and politicians. Though, no matter who gets the fields majority of them will also seek for international partners due to funding.

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