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South Sudan agrees three billion USD
oil exploration deal with Nigerian oil firm 

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Monday issued exploration and production rights in its hitherto dormant Block B3 oil field to Nigeria-based Oranto Petroleum Limited.

The oil field that straddles across northern region of Jonglei, Lakes and Central Equatoria will cost about 3 billion U.S. dollars within four years of exploration leading to drilling.

“What we have just signed is an Exploration Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) for Block B3. This Block (B3) is awarded today to Oranto Petroleum Limited,” The minister of petroleum Ezekiel Gatkuoth told journalists in Juba.

“They (Oranto) will immediately start exploring this Block. They are sharing this Block with our Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilpet) and the distribution of the shares of this Block, 90 percent will go to Oranto and 10 percent to Nilpet,” he revealed.

War-torn South Sudan is reeling from hyper inflation nearing 800 percent, following more than three years of violent conflict that reduced oil production capacity in northern oil fields located in Unity and Upper Nile regions.

Oil production declined from over 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) to less than 130,000 bpd due to fighting destroying oil infrastructure, and the situation was further exacerbated by the low global oil prices, hence battering South Sudan’s nascent economy which depends 98 percent on crude oil export to finance its fiscal budget.

“We believe that the petroleum resources in block B3 are vast; to reach our target in this Block we must move quickly to explore and double our current oil production,” Gatkuoth disclosed.

“The government is working hard to make sure the petroleum industry is explored so that we can have more revenues,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oranto petroleum limited Chief Executive Officer Prince Arthur Eze, downplayed probable risks surrounding the EPSA reached with the South Sudanese government, vowing to fast track the unexploited oil well despite security risks involved.

“The contract says first phase two years, and then second phase two years. We start now to better the data, process, interpret it and plan for our way to drill (oil). We are in hurry the country is changing and we want to change with the country,” he said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. The war has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than two million from their homes.

Renewed violence in July 2016 threatened to tear apart a fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict, and the UN in late February declared famine in some parts of the country leaving 100,000 people starving and 5.5 million in urgent need of humanitarian food assistance.



South Sudan IDPs accuse gov’t of blocking students from taking exams

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Displaced people living at a UN civilian camp in Juba said on Monday that the government has barred some 965 secondary school students from writing their examinations at the UN camp.

Secondary school students across conflict-hit South Sudan started their final year examinations on Monday morning after the exercise was postponed late 2016 due to inadequate resources, insecurity and logistical challenges.

Over 20,000 people are living in the Protection of Civilian Site (POC) 1 and 3 after fleeing their homes in December 2013 following deadly clashes between supporters of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar which left tens of thousands dead.

Primary and secondary school children have been taking examinations in several UN protected camps across South Sudan for the past three years.

Gideon Machar, Deputy Chairman of the Protection of Civilian Site (POC) 3 told Xinhua that the students refused a proposal by the government to do examinations outside the UN camp over safety concerns.

“We received information today that the government is not ready to give examinations to students in the POC three yet all necessary requirements were met. We tried to make inquiries but no tangible outcome. So maybe this is politically motivated,” Machar said.

He called on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and civil society organizations to intervene and ensure that the student’s concerns are addressed.

“We appeal to the stakeholders to give more pressure to the government to allow the students in the POC to take their examinations because we are all South Sudanese and it is our right to education,” he added.

Lul Ruai Dhol, Secretary General of South Sudan Examinations Secretariat, confirmed to Xinhua by phone that students at the UN missed their final examinations because they refused to travel to the government protected examination centres.

“We have decided that they (students) should come and sit the exams outside the UN camp because the government is capable of providing security. They will sit the exams if they accept to come,” Dhol said.

A total of 19,484 candidates are sitting for the examinations in 25 states. Three states of Gok, Southern Liech and Latjor in northern South Sudan were excluded from the secondary leaving examinations due to insecurity.

The boys to girls’ ratio still remains wide as only 5,905 girls females (30 percent) registered for the examination compared to the 13,579 male students.

South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world as only 15 percent women and 40 percent men of the country’s 12 million population are able to read or write, according to official data from the Ministry of Education. 


South Sudan hikes work permit fees for foreigners amid economic crunch

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan has increased work permit fees for foreign workers amid biting economic crunch to widen its revenue base, officials said in a circular seen on Monday.

The ministry of Public Services released circular listing new work permit fees for all foreign workers in the war-torn country.

It increased the work permit rates for professional/business class from 400 U.S dollars to 10,000 dollars, blue collar jobs to 2,000 dollars and casual laborers 1,000 dollars effective from the date of issue on March 2.

The decision that came after the UN declaration of famine in parts of the country in late February, has been viewed as a veiled target on foreigners working in humanitarian agencies that are helping majority of South Sudanese displaced and suffering from the more than three years of brutal conflict.

However, President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny dismissed allegations of clamping down on humanitarian workers, saying the decision was driven by national interest.

“Work permit is a routine. Any country in the world has a right to impose work permits on foreigners. If you can’t pay 10,000 dollars, then you hire a local person instead (of foreigner),” he said in Juba.

“Is there any in the world that does not have regulation for foreigners. Instead the government of South Sudan was asleep and it has now woken up,” he added.

He added the decision was not likely to have a diplomatic backlash on the landlocked country which depends entirely on it’s neighbors for her imports.

South Sudan in 2016 got admitted into the regional trade bloc East African Community (EAC) which among member countries calls for removal of non-trade barriers, harmonization of work permits and free movement of people and labor across borders.



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