BUSI­NESS Nige­rian gov­ern­ment to meet rebels in plan to end Delta oil­field at­tacks

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ABUJA/LAGOS: Nige­ria has launched a $10 bil­lion (R138bn) in­fra­struc­ture pro­gramme in its restive Delta re­gion as part of a plan to end an in­sur­gency that has hob­bled oil pro­duc­tion.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari will meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of mil­i­tant groups and com­mu­nity lead­ers from the Niger Delta in Abuja next week in a bid to end the at­tacks, Oil Min­is­ter Em­manuel Ibe Kachikwu said.

Speak­ing to a fo­rum in Abuja on Thurs­day aimed at out­lin­ing strat­egy for the petroleum in­dus­try, Kachikwu de­scribed bring­ing the in­sur­gency to an end as the first goal of a seven-point plan.

“Our tar­get is to en­sure zero mil­i­tancy in the area,” he said. “This planned meet­ing shows the level of in­ter­est the presi- dent has to en­sure peace in the area.”

The in­vest­ment is “not nec­es­sar­ily” go­ing to come from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but rather from “oil com­pa­nies, in­vestors, in­di­vid­u­als”, he said.

Mil­i­tants fight­ing for a greater share of the Opec mem­ber’s wealth com­plain of poverty and a lack of devel­op­ment across the Delta, where most of Nige­ria’s oil is pumped.

The seven-part strat­egy also en­vis­ages pass­ing a longde­layed Petroleum In­dus­try Bill by De­cem­ber. The bill, which cov­ers ev­ery­thing from an over­haul of state oil com­pany NNPC to taxes on up­stream projects, was de­layed by vi­o­lence in the Delta, which at one point cut pro­duc­tion to 30-year lows.

The first part of the bill is al­ready pend­ing in the se­nate, and Kachikwu said the sec­ond part, which deals with fis­cal as­pects of the in­dus­try, is “al­most com­pleted” and will be pre­sented to the oil in­dus­try in the next week or two.

While the gov­ern­ment has em­pha­sised di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­omy, Buhari said it would be im­pos­si­ble to move for­ward with­out the oil in­dus­try.

“Oil and gas re­sources still re­main the most im­me­di­ate and prac­ti­cal keys out of our present eco­nomic cri­sis,” Buhari said, and the plan for the in­dus­try is “a na­tional im­per­a­tive and a core thrust of our eco­nomic pol­icy”.

To drum up fi­nanc­ing and oil in­vest­ments, Nige­ria will hold a road­show in the Gulf in Jan­uary and in the US by mid2017, Kachikwu told re­porters.

One area of in­vest­ment would be in im­prov­ing out­dated re­finer­ies to stop costly fuel im­ports, he said.

“We are go­ing to be li­cens- ing pri­vate re­finer­ies, to look at in­vest­ing in pri­vate re­finer­ies.”

Kachikwu said Nige­ria’s oil out­put stood at 1.8 mil­lion bar­rels a day, com­pared with the 1.9 mil­lion the Petroleum Min­istry an­nounced ear­lier this week. Still, he added that the gov­ern­ment hoped to get back to 2.2 mil­lion bpd next year – the level seen early in 2016.

“We have a ca­pac­ity to pro­duce three mil­lion,” he said. – Reuters

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