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Uphill task for Nigeria

Nigeria needs to convince the oil and gas industry it can turn the country around in short order, out of recession and ready to offer suitors a clear run at fresh acreage under a revision of the legislative framework, writes Barry Morgan.

Adding to the gloom, March production figures revealed how national oil output had again slipped below volumes pumped by sub-Saharan rival Angola, down to 1.27 million barrels per day from 1.42 million in February, knocking Nigeria off its perch as Africa’s top oil producer.

Losses in excess of $270 million for one month alone make poor headlines in a country struggling with power outages, water shortages and now outbreaks of leprosy in the north.

Scandal stalks the sector as former oil ministers lined up with ex-justice officials and other functionaries face graft charges.

Even ex-head of state Goodluck Jonathan has been urged to honour a summons from lawmakers by the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

Petroleum Resources Minister Ibe Kachikwu has promised a new broom and a full-fledged Petroleum Industry Governance Bill this year to pave the way for a comprehensive licensing round in early 2018.

As an interim measure, he is keen to launch a marginal field licensing exercise at next month’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, but time is tight as his officials say this cannot be done until September at the earliest.

But Kachikwu is a seasoned player. If anyone can pull off such a feat, ExxonMobil’s erstwhile Africa vice chair and Harvard-educated general counsel can.