Nigeria to tackle reforms,unrest at oil conference


Stalled oil reform, domestic gas supply shortages and stability in the Niger Delta will be discussed at a key Nigerian oil summit in Abuja this week.

The annual Nigeria Oil & Gas Conference, which begins on Monday, offers the opportunity for the major players in Africa’s biggest energy industry to give updates on current operations and contact potential investors.

Investors will be looking for reassurance on the outlook for oil and gas production at a time when Africa’s most populous nation is suffering political uncertainty over the health of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua and who will succeed him.

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan — who took full executive powers two weeks ago, over two months after Yar’Adua left for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia — has put peace in the Niger Delta high on his priority list.

Yar’Adua was the driving force behind an amnesty programme in the delta last year under which thousands of gunmen laid down weapons, an initiative which has brought more than six months without any major militant attacks on oil installations.

But Yar’Adua’s absence has raised concerns about delays to the programme and militants have threatened to resume attacks unless the government demonstrates it can quickly get the amnesty programme back on track.

“On the one hand (Jonathan) wants to show he has militants’ grievances in mind but of course he has to appease the oil majors and assure the security of oil production,” said Kissy Agyeman-Togobo, West African analyst at IHS Global Insight.

Attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta in recent years have prevented the OPEC member from pumping much above two thirds of its 3 million barrels per day (bpd) installed capacity, costing it an estimated $1 billion a month in lost revenues, according to the central bank.

Nigerian crude is favoured by refiners in the United States and Europe because it is light and easy to process into fuel products. The instability helped push world oil prices to record highs near $150 a barrel in 2008.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

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