“The award of these licences to unknown British Virgin Islands registered companies does nothing to help Africa build any sort of reputation for transparency,” a Tullow spokesperson told Upstream.

He confirmed earlier Reuters reports that a presidential decree had effectively stripped Tullow and Divine of the licences, awarding them to Caprikat and Foxwhelp.

“Furthermore, no legitimate company will farm in to blocks with an unknown company so I fail to see how these blocks are going to be developed for the benefit of the people of DR Congo,” he said.