By Shola AKINGBOYE
President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that his administration has plans to extend oil and gas exploration into new fields in the Lake Chad Basin in the North East and in the coastal states, like Lagos, where oil has been discovered in commercial quantity.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the flag-off of the 6th African Petroleum Congress and Exhibition (CAPE VI) in Abuja, Buhari disclosed that, as part of strategies to reposition the Nigerian oil and gas industry, his government had commenced the process of implementing carefully conceived initiatives which would see the country hitting a production target of 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil.
The measures, he explained, would come in the form of reduction in production costs and increased efficiency in oil exploration so as to achieve a 30 per cent increase in daily production.
While noting that the event comes just before the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of African Petroleum Producers Association (APPA), which also held concurrently, the president noted that CAPE VI provides a unique opportunity for Africa to look beyond the exploitation of oil and chart a new course in the use of other natural resources to upscale national revenues.
He speaks: “Current volatility in the oil sector allows lessons to be learnt, synergies to be built and new approaches to be adopted to enable Africa expand its economy, infrastructure, manpower base, maintain domestic and regional peace and protect the environment.”
He added that the use of gas in Africa’s future energy mix has become imperative, and that if Africa must meet her future energy needs, the issue of the development of a robust gas infrastructure must be jointly addressed.
While inviting all APPA member countries to enter into natural gas business with Nigeria, which currently has the 7th largest gas deposit in the world, the president asserted that it was unacceptable statistic for Nigeria to be responsible for 23 billion cubic meters of the 40 billion cubic meters of gas flared annually in Africa, even as he declared his resolve to partner with the legislature to ensure the signing of the United Nations Agreement of ‘Zero Routine Flaring by 2030.’
He said, “In Nigeria, gas flaring amounts to about 23 billion cubic meters per annum in over 100 flare sites, constituting over 13 per cent of global gas flaring. Nigeria is a member of the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GCFR) Partnership and with the support of our legislature; we will sign the United Nations Agreement of Zero Routine Flaring by 2030, although our national target is 2020.”
Buhari, however, stressed that in processing Africa’s hydrocarbon resource, environmental issues must be accorded huge priority.
He explained that “globally, over 150 billion cubic meters of associated gas is flared annually. Of this figure, Africa flares an estimated 40 billion cubic meters annually. I urge all APPA member countries to set realistic targets for gas flare-out in the region.”
Noting that the development of domestic refining capacity in oil and gas is critical to sustainable economic growth, Buhari challenged African ministers of energy to further explore cooperation mechanisms to expand regional refining capacities in an efficient and cost effective manner.
APPA was inaugurated as a regional economic association in January, 1987, and it has grown to 18 member countries, namely, Ghana, Cameroon, Algeria, Mauritania, Gabon, Cote D’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Congo DR, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, Benin, Niger, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Angola, South Africa and Nigeria, which currently chairs the association.
On PIB and unbundling of NNPC, the president stated that African oil producers are confronted with huge challenges that require urgent changes in the managerial strategies deployed within its economies, while reiterated his administration plans to strengthen the institutional framework on policy formulation through legislation on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as a prerequisite for the development of the sector and attraction of foreign investment.
He listed the strategies to include unbundling the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into lean, efficient and profitable components that will operate as a business venture and deploy existing manpower to areas of competences without attendant job losses, develop stronger policies on local content so as to reduce capital flight in the industry and the reduction of gas flaring through Joint Venture (JV) contracts that will expand infrastructure and deploy Liquefied Natural Gas.
On the significant of the CAPE VI event and the NNPC as host, the Nigerian minister of state for petroleum and OPEC President, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, called on African governments to develop policies that will enable backward integration.
“Unity is fine, coming together is fine, what we need is opening up the space so that investment will happen. My expectation is that we further consolidate on what is happening with oil pricing at the moment, everybody has realized there is common need for consolidation in finding lasting solution to the current imbroglio in the sector
“It is a new dawn for Africa and we are excited about the development. We will continue to work collaboratively because there is a lot happening in the space but also a lot of challenges that we have to overcome.
“The major challenge is funding. Obviously skillsets are there already and technology is not an issue but funding remains key. Policies are also key because African governments have to develop policies that will enable backward integration into their own systems.” Kachukwu said.
Not few speakers at the event emphasized on the need for petroleum producers among the African countries to consider oil and gas sector as tertiary, but to think outside the box for their economic survival, saying future of the current trend in the global oil market is bleak.
This year’s event has the theme, “Positioning African Petroleum for Global Development and Value Addition.”