One year after the government held a ceremonial signing for the contentious $5.5 billion Oban Energies deal, there has been no significant movement on the project.
The project proposes an oil refinery and storage facility to be built in East Grand Bahama.
Since the signing, the entire project has been shrouded in controversy and unanswered questions.
On February 19, 2018, the government held a press conference to sign the heads of agreement with Oban.
Then Oban Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger, who sat next to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, signed the agreement.
However, zoomed-in video footage confirmed that it was not, in fact, his own name that Krieger signed; the signature appeared to read “Satpal Dhunna”, the name of the then president of the company.
When the agreement was tabled in Parliament, it was purportedly signed by Dhunna, but the signature was different from the one signed by Krieger during the press conference.
That agreement was also dated February 19, the same date as the press conference with Krieger.
A government spokesperson said that the press conference with Krieger was a ceremonial signing and that the actual deal had been signed on February 10.
Concerns were raised regarding the background of Krieger, who had been accused of violating federal securities laws in the United States and had pleaded guilty to the first-degree felony of organized fraud in 2006.
Krieger subsequently left the company.
But one of the major points of contention was that the government signed the agreement without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place.
The current heads of agreement with Oban states that the government does not have an option to kill the deal based on anything the EIA concludes, but must work with Oban to address any concerns raised by the study.
Several environmentalists and others chastised the government over this critical clause. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) said there was no scenario where it would support the deal, noting the overall risk is too great, particularly to the neighboring national parks.
Following weeks of being lambasted and a firestorm of headlines on the matter, Minnis admitted that the government made a series of missteps regarding the deal, in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, and as a result ordered a subcommittee and technical advisory group to examine the agreement in hopes of renegotiation.
Oban Energies has since announced that Alexander Grikitis has replaced Dhunna as president of the company.
In a statement last month, Grikitis announced that the company is “here for the long haul”.
The government’s renegotiating team was expected to meet with Oban’s principals last month, but that meeting has not yet taken place.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who heads that subcommittee, said yesterday, “We have about eight persons from our side that comprise the negotiation team.
“On the Oban side, there’s about seven or eight also.
“The itineraries for all of us, we are trying to work that out.
“As soon as we can, I can get back to you.
“I should have an announcement to make on Oban very, very soon, but I do not want to give a specific time because I know all of you will be calling me when that time expires.”
Asked whether the government has submitted its amendments to the heads of agreement to Oban’s principals, Foulkes said, “We have not submitted them, but we will do that soon.”
Pressed on why, he continued, “We had a glitch with our computer. It is very comprehensive. It’s about 50 pages in total, and we had a glitch with our computer system. We are trying to get that sorted out but there’s nothing really new to report on Oban at this stage.”
Police are also still investigating the disappearance of a file on the project that reportedly went missing from the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission last April, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said yesterday.
“That investigation is still going on,” said Ferguson.
“Again, let me say, I think some time what people have got to know, some investigations take a long time, some take a short time. And, so, we have to be thorough in whatever we are doing. And so, as soon as we reach a conclusion, the outcome will be made public.”
Police and government officials have been tight-lipped on the matter.
To this day, the contents of the file have not been revealed.
BEST is charged with the review of environmental impact assessments and environmental management plans (EMP) for development projects within The Bahamas.
Responsibility for BEST was transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister several months after the general election.