ABUJA – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will meet leaders of the restive Niger Delta in Abuja next week in an attempt to end an insurgency in the oil-producing region, the oil minister said.
Ending unrest in the region that accounts for most of Nigeria’s oil production was the first goal of an energy industry roadmap unveiled on Thursday, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said.
“Our target is to ensure zero militancy in the area,” he told a forum in Abuja aimed at outlining strategy for the petroleum industry. “This planned meeting shows the level of interest the president has to ensure peace in the area.”
The strategy included a goal of passing the long-delayed Petroleum Industry Bill by December. The bill itself, which covers everything from an overhaul of state oil company NNPC to taxes on upstream projects, was delayed by violence in the Delta, which briefly brought production to 30-year lows.
Kachikwu said Nigeria was also considering asset sales and wanted to improve the investment climate and enable development of the nation’s gas assets.
The seven elements of the plan are: solving the Niger Delta development and security problem, policy and regulations reforms, business environment and investment drive, transparency and efficiency, stakeholders management and international coordination, gas revolution and finally refineries and local production capacity, Kachikwu said.
There has been a push from some senior figures in Nigeria to sell assets in order to fund blockbuster spending plans, but it is not clear whether these plans have support from all the nation’s leaders.
In a speech at the same event, Buhari said the government was committed to engaging with all stakeholders in the southern region to find a lasting peaceful solution. He gave no details.
Militants have been fighting for a greater share of the OPEC member’s wealth to go to the Niger Delta, where many complain of poverty.
Government sources had told Reuters on Monday that the government would hold a meeting with community leaders and militant representatives in Abuja next week.
Nigeria has been holding talks for months to end the attacks on energy facilities, but no lasting ceasefire has been agreed.
Kachikwu told the event that Nigeria’s oil output stood at 1.8 million barrels a day, compared with the 1.9 million bpd the Petroleum Ministry announced earlier this week. Still, he added that the government hoped to get back to 2.2 million bpd next year – the level seen at the start of 2016.
“We have a capacity to produce 3 million,” he said.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah and Ulf Laessing, writing by Libby George; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Giles Elgood)
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