The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has stated that Nigeria no longer has any tangible trade in crude oil with the United States of America, following the shale oil boom in the country.
Alison-Madueke said this yesterday at an interactive forum on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is awaiting passage at the National Assembly. She warned that the development should spur Nigerians to impress it on the legislature to pass the PIB as soon as possible.
The minister said this just as the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Dakuku Peterside, also disclosed that the National Assembly would in its consideration of the bill expunge a certain provision that allows ministerial discretion in granting extension to the three-year deadline to end gas flaring after the PIB is passed.
Represented by the Group Coordinator, Corporate Strategy and Planning of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Timothy Okon, the minister explained at the meeting with various groups in the Nigerian labour movement led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), that the delay in the passage of the PIB had not only impeded growth of the oil and gas sector but had kept key decisions for the sector from being made. The meeting was organised by United Consult Ltd to educate Nigeria's labour unions on the content and implications of the PIB.
She said: "It is my firm belief that the PIB will put the petroleum sector on the path of robust growth. We anticipate that initiatives such as gas price reform, gas commercialisation framework and gas infrastructure are aspects of the bill that provide the basis for a vibrant economy.
"The global economy is changing and Nigeria must adopt a sustainable economic strategy. I know many of you must have heard of the shale gas and the shale oil revolution. This has literally knocked out Nigeria from the export of oil to the US."
"So Nigeria must adopt new strategies. We must change our ways and policies that we may hold dear which may cause us economic stress in the future. This market called shale oil and gas has resulted in Nigeria seeking new markets for its oil. "Nigeria needs to be economically competitive. And from the end of the petroleum sector, Nigeria needs to be energy competitive, and to be energy competitive, we must adopt policies that enhance the standing of the petroleum sector," the minister added. She equally noted that from the 1970s when the critical pipeline network that transports petroleum products in the country was built, no investment had been committed to improve on it until the present government initiated projects to upgrade and add to the network. The minister added that inasmuch as crude oil continues to account for almost 80 per cent of Nigeria's revenue earnings, the country must adopt reform strategies to keep the sector productive. "These strategies have proven to be successful in the power sector and Nigeria is on the way of accessing capital investment in that sector. This sector is one of the sectors that will restore Nigeria's industrial capacity for job opportunities for all. "So I would like to stress the importance of natural resources in economic transformation, and also it is important to diversify the economy to other important sectors," she said.
While Nigeria's export of oil to the US has significantly dropped, Argentina was reported to have recently ordered the country's Bonny Light crude, with the first cargo expected to have arrived at the country's Bahia Blanca Port in the first week of last month. Argentina's state-run oil company, YPF, had awarded a tender to buy a one million-barrel cargo of Bonny Light crude. Meanwhile, Peterside who in his remarks, decried what he called the seeming lack of interest in the PIB by Nigerians, stated that the National Assembly committees working on the bill were taking time to come out with a comprehensive bill.
He reiterated the pledge made by the leadership of the National Assembly that the PIB would be passed into law before the end of the seventh session, adding: "We earn almost 80 per cent of our revenue from the oil industry and so any bill for the sector must be thorough and handled with the greatest amount of diligence and so the question should be how this will benefit us." Peterside added that gas flaring must stop three years after the passage of the PIB, irrespective of the ministerial exemption contained in the bill.
"In fact, the National Assembly is going to expunge that aspect that says operators can seek for an extension in gas flaring from the minister," he said.