Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Diezani Alison-Madueke ready to tackle Nigeria's oil industry reforms

Nigeria's Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke will take her seat as the first female oil minister in OPEC when the group meets in Vienna on 14th October. It is expected that Alison-Madueke will bring to light President Goodluck Jonathan's struggle with international oil companies and insurgent groups whose continued attacks have slowed investment in to the country for the past five years.

Among many of her challenges, one will be to see through the parliament a Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), already disparaged by international oil companies for giving too much revenue and control to the state. Another is to manage a government plan to hand over 10 per cent of petroleum income to communities in Niger Delta to appease militant groups. Alison-Madueke is also expected to argue Nigeria's case for a larger oil quota, the source of 80 per cent of government revenue.

Talking about her new role she said that it “comes with a great onus of responsibility,” which rests on her shoulders alone. She also said that although OPEC “has done very well over the last 50 years,” the energy sector is changing, particularly its effect on the environment and that it is therefore important to take note of the changes.

As regards Nigeria's OPEC quota, Alison-Madueke said it was set during a particularly turbulent time of militant attacks that had impacted on the country oil production, and added that the quota should be reviewed. Nigeria's official quota is 1.673 million b/d, although it pumped about 2 million b/d last month alone.

Another issue to tackle will be that of implementing the proposed oil and gas law without alienating international oil companies, some of whom have expressed concern that the law would increase taxes making it unprofitable to invest in Nigeria's deepwater fields. As well as that, Nigeria's plan to give a 10 per cent oil and gas stake to Niger Delta communities, in order to reduce hostility toward oil companies, may prove more difficult than initially expected. A spokesman for Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) Jomo Gbomo has said that Alison-Madueke is too “elitist” to empathise with the militant cause and that she has no clue as to what the “struggle is all about.”

However, Alison-Madueke is determined to see the plan through and vowed to work closely with the Niger Delta communities to do so. She also said that Nigeria is going to engage international oil companies in “constant discussion” until they “feel part of the bill,” although Nigeria's national interest remains her primary focus.

Source: Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

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