Nigeria’s oil bill on hold due to Delta unrest

*Senate chamber of Nigeria's national assembly.

*Senate chamber of Nigeria’s national assembly.

09 September 2016, Abuja — A long-awaited bill reforming Nigeria’s petroleum industry is effectively on hold until tensions ease in the restive Niger Delta region, the country’s oil hub, an influential senator said on Tuesday.

The delay is the latest setback caused by militants in the Delta region, whose actions have prevented more than 700,000 barrels per day (b/d) in oil production due to anger at the way the nation’s energy resources are split.

The petroleum industry bill (PIB) covering everything from an overhaul of state oil company NNPC to taxes on upstream projects, has been stuck in parliament for a decade, but President Muhammadu Buhari has made passing it a key part of his reform of a sector hit by corruption at NNPC.

“We have to hold it because of all the problems in the Niger Delta,” Senator Tayo Alasoadura, chairman of the committee on petroleum resources, said of bill. “As soon as things improve, then it will come to the front of the line again.”

Despite a ceasefire reached late last month with one of the most active militant groups, others have continued to attack oil and gas infrastructure in the region. Oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told journalists on Monday that talks were ongoing with various groups.

The government has split the bill in two in an effort to streamline its passage, and a draft seen by Reuters earlier this year included plans to divide NNPC into two companies and sell stakes in a portion of it.

Alasoadura said there were no plans to change the bill, which had its first reading in the Senate, but the unrest in the Delta, which produces the bulk of Nigeria’s oil output that typically tops 2 million b/d, forced lawmakers to wait.

“There is a deliberate effort to keep things waiting so we don’t accentuate what is happening there,” he said, adding he hoped the bill could move forward again within three to five months.

*Libby George; Editing by Mark Potte – Reuters

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