HC Deb 08 October 1909 vol 11 cc2460-1W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies what concessions for working oil have been granted in Southern Nigeria, and what are the terms of the grant?

Colonel SEELY

As far as can be ascertained without reference to the Colony, the only licences to drill for and work mineral oils in Southern Nigeria which have been approved and issued in accordance with the law of the Colony were those issued to the Nigeria Bitumen Corporation and to the British Colonial Petroleum Corporation. The period of the licence issued to the latter corporation has now expired, but they have applied (with others) for the grant of fresh licences. It is necessary to explain that under Section 4 of Southern Nigeria Ordinance No. XII. of 1907 it is not lawful to drill for or work mineral oils within or under any lands in the Colony or Protectorate of Southern Nigeria other than such lands as may from time to time be notified by the governor by proclamation in the "Gazette." At the present time the only lands so notified are those mentioned in the "Gazette" notice of 3rd July, 1907, which are confined to the Western (Lagos) Province of the Colony. It has been held by the law officers of the Crown that oil has already been "raised, won, or gotten" within the meaning of Section 7 (4) of the Ordinance. In accordance, therefore, with that Section, no further licences can be issued under the Ordinance, but only leases (which are granted for smaller areas and on more onerous terms than licences). Such leases would, of course, be confined to the portion of the lands at present notified over which no licences are at present held. The governor has, however, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, now under his con- sideration the enactment of a new Ordinance, which is to legalise the issue of licences and leases in respect of fresh lands lying outside those notified in the Notice of 3rd July, 1907. He has been instructed to give careful consideration to the claims of all applicants for either licences or leases under the new Ordinance, and especially to those applicants who had already applied for licences before the introduction of the new Ordinance. As regards the terms on which licences or leases are granted, I am prepared to lay the Ordinance before the House if my hon. Friend so desires.