The Senegalese parliament has approved a law authorizing the President of the Republic to ratify the intergovernmental cooperation agreement for the Grand Tortue/Ahmeyim gas field, which straddles Senegal maritime border with Mauritania.
The agreement between the two West African nations was approved in Dakar by MPs amid a fierce debate.
The gas field is estimated to hold 450 billion cubic meters of gas.
Senegal, announcing its discovery in January 2016, described it as the biggest offshore gas deposit in West Africa.
The National Assembly of Senegal, despite issues raised by the opposition, validated by an overwhelming majority vote the draft law, authorizing the President of Senegal to ratify the cooperation agreement signed with Mauritania in February.
The law was adopted in a stormy atmosphere, under fierce opposition from MPs of the minority, which once again denounced the servile behavior of a “mechanical” parliamentary majority obeying the orders of the Executive.
According to Ousmane Sonko, leader of the party, Patriote du Sénégal pour le travail, l’éthique et la fraternité (Pastef-Les Patriotes), the agreement between Dakar and Nouakchott is “a real powder keg”.
The government needs to consider the environmental impact of the project as it represents a treat to a fishing zone, he said. He advised the government to take the population as a criterion for determining the shares.
Thousands of Senegalese are employed in fishing. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, marine artisanal fishing is a major contributor to gross domestic product of the West African nation. Most people in the coastal regions depend on fish and marine food for their protein consumption.
Mamadou Lamine Diallo, an elected representative of the opposition has also argued that “the gas reserves are in Senegal and not in Mauritania. Wells in Mauritanian Territory are dry”.
The inter-government cooperation agreement (ICA) between the two countries provides for development of the Tortue/Ahmeyim gas field through cross-border unitization, with a 50-50 initial split of resources and revenue and a mechanism for future equity redeterminations based on actual production and other technical data.
The World Bank last year lent Senegal $29m to help strengthen its institutional capabilities to negotiate with energy companies and regulate the nascent industry.