Nigeria: Govt, IOCs in talks over $4bn debt, new investments

*NNPC Towers.

*NNPC Towers.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi,
with agency reports

16 February 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja —
The Nigerian Government has announced that it is in talks with oil majors and banks to raise capital for new drilling and to repay up to $4bn in debt that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has accumulated over years of mismanagement.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who spoke in an interview with Reuters, explained that he wanted to increase crude oil output to 2.5 million barrels per day by the end of this year. Currently, the country pumps 2.3 million bpd.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made reforming the oil sector a priority as a slump in oil prices hammers the economy. He has fired the NNPC board and appointed Kachikwu to overhaul a company whose opaque structures have allowed corruption and oil theft to flourish.

Nigeria’s oil and gas output has been relatively stagnant as big offshore projects have been held up by much-delayed government funding and uncertainty over fiscal terms.

Nigeria produces oil with foreign and local firms through production sharing contracts and joint
ventures, but investments have been held up because the NNPC has been unable to pay its part: bills have been piling up since 2012.

Kachikwu said debt as of November stood at $3.5bn-$4bn, which the NNPC wanted to cut through deals such as a $1.2bn multi-year drilling financing signed with Chevron in September.

“The target is that over 2017, we’ll begin to look at zero,” he said in an interview, referring to debt and the goal of ending the need for the JVs to depend on the NNPC cash.

Kachikwu noted that the Corporation was in talks with oil majors such as Italy’s Eni and oil traders, Vitol and Gunvor, seeking partnerships to revamp assets such as refineries after decades of neglect. Cash-strapped for years, it reported a loss of N267.14bn for 2015.

“My ideal will be to bring in third party capital, do a joint investment and management of the refineries and work out a pay-out process over five to six years basically on lifting of some portion of the finished products,” Kachikwu said.

He added that the government would advertise concessions for pipelines and depots next month.

The NNPC is also looking into revamping joint ventures with local firms to boost productivity but this will depend on the Petroleum Industry Bill, a project to revamp the sector held up in parliament for years.

Kachikwu said the NNPC was in talks with the Senate to speed up the process by splitting the PIB into three parts covering governance, taxation and business items such as oil block licensing.

The NNPC will also restructure strategic alliance agreements held by Atlantic Energy to raise funds for oil blocks sold by Royal Dutch Shell.

The controversial deals were signed under the previous minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was briefly arrested in London last year on suspicion of corruption.

Former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Lamido Sanusi, alleged that Atlantic’s deals were one route through which tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues were diverted from state finances.
Kachikwu said the Corporation expected to conclude a deal within two months for a new partner to pay up to $1.3bn to take over the Atlantic agreements. The blocks were originally sold to indigenous oil companies by Shell.

“I’m saying to Atlantic, sorry, you’re out because there’s been a breach. Whoever comes in has to give a sign-in fee almost equivalent to what I’ve lost. We’ll have a massive increase in volume out of those fields; we’re going to have 150,000 to 200,000 bpd from the current 40,000 to 50,000 bpd,” Kachikwu added.

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