OPINION: Widespread optimism that Nigeria’s long-awaited oil law reform package will gain presidential assent before the end of the year has galvanised industry players desperate to see markets recover and investment return to the Niger Delta.

Claims by the Department of Petroleum Resources that 600 local suitors are seeking to prequalify for a marginal fields licensing round indicate substantial behind-the-scenes interest from potential foreign partners.

Several of these fields are far from negligible, with some nudging 50 million barrels.

If brought on stream within a year of award — as the guidelines demand — industry confidence could be bolstered ahead of the conventional licensing round planned for next year.

Despite coronavirus fears and oil price weakness, Nigeria’s indigenous E&P sector has been pushing production hard.

Supply chain disruptions notwithstanding, local companies have successfully manoeuvered to avoid stagnation, hoping to benefit when prices rebound.

Now is the time to channel militant wrath — so often evident in the oil creeks — into constructive collaboration, for the corporates and communities of the South-South Zone to secure preferential participation in the marginal field round and for law reform to extend indigenous rights into the conventional licensing process.

Even at this eleventh hour, Nigeria’s battered upstream sector can recover its mojo with a few adroit policy tweaks, assuage the fears of exposed lenders and open a path for expansion.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)