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By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, May 30 (Reuters) - Nigeria's upper chamber of parliament voted on Tuesday to halt a concession agreement with the local division of Italian oil company Eni to repair, operate and maintain Port Harcourt refinery, saying the deal lacked transparency.
Nigeria, an OPEC oil producer, has been seeking investment in its energy sector to reduce reliance on imported oil products that consume a large part of the country's foreign currency reserves.
It has a refining capacity on paper of 445,000 barrels per day (bpd), but imports most of its gasoline needs because its refineries have been shut or running at reduced capacity for years due to neglect.
Eni said in May it was in talks to work with Nigerian energy company Oando on the deal as part of an effort to increase refining levels.
Members of the Senate voted to back the motion brought by Senator Sabo Mohammed. The motion was titled: "Non-transparent transaction relating to the planned concession of the Port Harcourt refinery to Agip and Oando by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources." Agip is a subsidiary of Eni.
The Senate will now set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the concession award.
"We are willing and available to provide as much clarification on the issue as the Senate requires," Oando spokesman Ainoije Irune said.
Officials at Eni could not immediately be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Paul Carsten and Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jane Merriman