US looks to see Nigeria displace Middle East as oil supplier

Jul 07, 2002 02:00 AM

Still fretting over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the United States is working on a new energy security policy that will see Nigeria displace such Middle East countries as Saudi Arabia as major crude oil supplier to the American market. The policy shift, contained in a white paper submitted to the US Government by the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG), was based on the growing fear of insecurity that the continued supply of crude oil from the troubled Persian Gulf, posed to the US market.
According to a leading member of the group and Fellow of the American Institute of Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Dr Paul Michael Wihbey, the US is hoping to double its oil imports from Nigeria from 900,000 bpd to around 1.8 mm bpd in the next five years.

Wihbey, who spoke in Lagos at a lecture titled "African Oil: A Priority for United States Security and African Development", said one major lesson the September 11 terror attack had taught the US, was that the country neededto diversify its major source of oil away from the Persian Gulf.
"Statistics from the US Department of Energy showed African oil exports to the US will rise to 50 % of total oil supply by 2015. Nigeria is the energy super power of Africa. The private sector, small and major operators, administration and officials have come to realise that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea are of strategic importance to the US," said Wihbey.

Nigeria is currently the fifth largest exporter of crude oil to the US behind Canada (1.8 mm bpd), Saudi Arabia 1.4 mm bpd, Mexico and Venezuela at 1.4 mm bpd. But the increasing tension in the Middle East (where many of the members of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda hailed from) and the political instability in the Latin American country of Venezuela, have been giving the Americans major concern.
US security agents shot dead three people at the Los Angeles International Airport as US cities were on high alert for possible terrorist attacks. The change in global economic policy of theUS he said, had actually been developing much before September 11. "What September 11 did was to crystallise all that had been developing into a major global change," he added.

Wihbey said that though the American oil market is on the increase, security of supply remained of high paramount. "Americans will be ready to pay 3 or 4 more dollars for a barrel of oil, provided they are sure that the oil is coming from a secured source," he said.
Nigeria, he added, had in the past three years shown that level of stability and security of source required by the American investors. According to him, the US government and its Nigerian counterpart, had already begun discussions on the new initiative. Members of the AOPIG, Dr Wihbey said, held talks with President Olusegun Obasanjo on the issue.

The talks centred on planned visit by President Obasanjo to the US later in October this year, while US President George W. Bush will visit Nigeria in the first quarter of 2003, Wihbey disclosed. In an address sent to the lecture Presidential Adviser on Petroleum and Energy, Dr Rilwanu Lukman said that Nigeria looked out to benefit from US capital and technology in the quest to raise the country's oil reserves.
Represented at the occasion by the Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr Mac Ofhurie, Lukman said that he also looked forward to US companies entering into partnerships with Nigerian indigenous firms in developing the marginal fields in the country.

Source: This Day
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