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. Analysis: Nigeria mulls oil-deal review

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by Carmen Gentile
Miami (UPI) Oct 25, 2007
A former senior Nigerian official has called for Nigeria to review all deals with foreign petroleum companies.

Speaking with media earlier this week in the capital, Abuja, Rilwanu Lukman said deals with foreign oil giants operating in the Niger Delta should be more mutually beneficial.

"We have to look at what is on (the) ground now and see which way we can improve the conditions so that our relationship will be even more beneficial to both sides," said Lukman, who called agreements between the government and energy companies "generous."

"When the time comes, they (agreements with foreign energy companies) will be renegotiated and reconsider some of our generous terms to ensure we get value in what ever form of restructuring we carry out," he said.

Although Lukman does not have an official role in the Nigerian government, his opinion carries some weight as he is a former secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (1995-2000) and is on the board of Afren Plc, a leading independent exploration and production company with operations in Nigeria and several other African oil-producing nations.

He is a former Nigerian minister of petroleum resources from 1986-1989 and is from Kaduna, one of the eight oil-producing states that are part of the Niger Delta.

In his remarks to reporters, Lukman also called for a reduction of world oil prices, saying current levels could prompt consumers to cut back consumption.

"We don't want prices too high so that consumers don't cut down on their rate of consumption. We want healthy growth for the international economy," he said.

While he appeared to be posturing on the behalf of the Nigerian government, with whom he maintains close ties, some suggest his opinions are not a reflection of those of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

"While Rilwanu Lukman is regarded as an elder statesman within the Nigerian political establishment, he has no official role and has very little sway on the country's politics," said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, a Middle East and Africa analyst for the Eurasia Group.

"His comments to journalists yesterday in Abuja suggesting that Nigeria was considering plans to unilaterally alter the country's joint venture and product-sharing agreements with energy majors should therefore be heavily discounted."

Despite his lack of official credentials, Lukman's remarks will likely resonate with the Niger Delta's militant groups that have been blamed for the estimated 20-percent reduction in oil output over the past few years.

Since the 1970s, Nigeria, Africa's No. 1 oil producer, has pumped more than $300 billion worth of crude from the southern delta states, according to estimates. High unemployment in the delta, environmental degradation due to oil and gas extraction, and a lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity have angered the region's youth, who have taken up arms, many times supplied by political leaders, and formed militant groups and local gangs.

Militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta have been blamed for hundreds of kidnappings since violence in the delta began in 2005.

Increased violence against oil operations in the delta has caused a significant drop in the country's oil output, according to the Nigerian government and independent accounts. Before stepped-up hostilities by militant and other armed groups in the Niger Delta began in late 2005, Nigeria claimed to be producing about 2.5 million barrels per day.

The militants have called for a more equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth.

(e-mail: energy@upi.com)

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Sarkozy backs 'carbon tax' to fight climate change
Paris (AFP) Oct 25, 2007
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday came out in support of a "carbon tax" on fossil fuels and other pollutants, as well as a possible levy on imports from countries outside the Kyoto Protocol.

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