Nigeria, Algeria and Niger sign accord on Trans-Saharan gas pipeline

Jul 03, 2009 02:00 AM

Nigeria, Algeria and Niger signed an agreement on a proposed Trans-Saharan pipeline that will ship natural gas from Nigeria to Europe. The accord was signed by Nigerian Petroleum Minister Rilwanu Lukman, Niger's Energy Minister Mohammed Abdullahi and his Algerian counterpart Chakib Khelil in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The project will cost an estimated $ 10 bn, he said at the signing ceremony.
The project "will facilitate the economic development of the three participating countries," Lukman said. "It will improve the living standards of the peoples and provide jobs."

African producers are increasing investments in natural-gas projects as Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian imports. Algeria is Africa's largest gas producer and Nigeria is the continent's largest oil producer.
The pipeline would run from the delta of the Niger River, in southern Nigeria, across Niger to Algeria and then across the Mediterranean to Spain, with possibly a branch going to Italy. It's scheduled to begin deliveries in 2015, Mohammed Meziane, head of the Algerian state-owned energy company Sonatrach, said on Feb. 20.

A Trans-Saharan pipeline would help diversify Europe's supplies of the fuel, Nobuo Tanaka, the head of the International Energy Agency, said on Sept. 17.
"It's an opportunity for us to monetize the supply security," Khelil said. The project should be able to get interest-free financing because it serves "the interests of the European Union."

Niger crisis
Mohammed of Niger dismissed concerns that the current political and constitutional crisis in his country may threaten the project. Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja wants to alter the constitution in order to seek a third five-year term in elections due later this year. In May, he dissolved parliament after calling for a referendum on the proposed changes. Earlier, he disbanded the Constitutional Court, which had three times ruled against his plans to extend his tenure.
The crisis threatens to destabilize the country and undermine progress toward democratic governance, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

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