Incoming OPEC leader says Nigeria returning to normal

Jun 22, 2016 12:00 AM

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Nigerian crude oil production may be on the verge of recovery despite uncertainty surrounding a truce with Niger Delta militants, an official said.

Mohammed Barkindo, the incoming secretary-general for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and one-time managing director for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., said the government was advancing a carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with militants waging war on national and international oil companies working in the Niger Delta.

"I remain confident that through these negotiations, stable and permanent solutions will be found to this problem ‎because the Niger Delta region is a very important part of our country and whatever we can do to address the challenges of development I think is the way forward," he was quoted by the Daily Post (Nigeria) as saying.

A group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers surfaced early this year, saying in a manifesto its campaign was aimed at drawing attention to the region. The militant group accused the administration of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari of favoring oil interests over those of the people living in the Niger Delta.

The group issued a statement late Tuesday through Twitter saying it never agreed to a 30-day truce with the government.

The NDA High Command never remember having any agreement on ceasefire with the Nigeria Government.— Niger Delta Avengers (@NDAvengers) June 21, 2016

Barkindo, however, said that, as far as he understands, the government is negotiating through back channels. Lower crude oil prices are already eating away at Nigeria's revenue stream, with the International Monetary Fund warning of major challenges ahead. In early June, the government said efforts were under way to minimize the losses in the Niger Delta and the incoming OPEC leader said results were imminent.

"We are beginning to see positive results," he was quoted as saying. "I think things are beginning to come back to normalcy."

By OPEC's estimates, militant activity has pushed Nigerian crude oil production to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Nigeria announced it pumped only 1.4 million barrels a day in May, compared to the almost 2 million barrels per day it pumped in May of 2014, according to OPEC.

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