West News Wire: Following the opening of 57 fields to bids, Nigeria raised more than 200 billion naira ($482 million) from the sale of oil prospecting licenses, according to the petroleum regulator.

Two years after bids for the oil blocks were sought, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) reported on Tuesday that more than two-thirds of the awardees have paid in full for their licenses.

How many licenses were issued wasn’t specified.

Smaller offshore or onshore oil blocks known as marginal fields are typically developed by regional businesses.

The licensing comes despite a court ruling in May 2022, restraining Abuja from issuing licences for marginal oilfields in the oil-rich Niger Delta because of a pending suit by community leaders.

The NUPRC, which was established last year after Nigeria passed a new petroleum law, said 30 oil fields were awarded between 1999 to 2010, with only 17 producing. The latest round of 57 oilfields began in 2020.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, wants to boost production from the fields to bolster state finances and increase local participation in the oil sector, which provides the bulk of the country’s foreign exchange.

While local companies have become increasingly important to the industry, it remains dominated by international oil majors that are selling onshore assets to focus on deep-water drilling.

Nigeria’s oil minister said on Friday that after meeting with oil companies he expects to see improvement in security in the sector, to enable Africa’s top producer to meet its OPEC production quota by the end of August.

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