Vienna — The new Nigerian government led by Muhammadu Buhari is committed to continuing with a militant amnesty program in the Niger Delta in a bid to improve the security situation in the oil-producing region, a senior Nigerian oil ministry official said late Wednesday.
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Speaking in Vienna, Jamila Shu'ara, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria, also said the new government would work hard to ensure the speedy passage of Nigeria's long-delayed oil reform legislation, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
"The Buhari administration is committed to [continuing] the amnesty program in Nigeria's Niger Delta with vigor and bring about lasting peace and stability in the area as well as other parts of Nigeria," Shu'ara said at an event during the OPEC international seminar.
She also said the new government would take a critical look at the PIB with a view to "effecting necessary changes that will facilitate its early passage."
"I would like to assure industry players that the government will work assiduously to ensure the speedy passage of this bill and speedier implementation of the programs," she added.
Buhari was sworn in last Friday as Nigeria's new president and he quickly pledged to tackle militancy in the oil-producing Niger Delta region as well as corruption that has plagued the country's oil sector.
Militant unrest in the Niger Delta in 2006-2009 cut Nigeria's oil production by more than a quarter to around 1.6 million b/d before a government amnesty helped to restore relative peace to the region and allowed output from the West African country to rebound.
However, Nigeria's oil production continues to be blighted by large-scale theft in the Niger Delta, robbing the country of over 150,000 b/d in oil production, according to industry statistics.
The long-standing PIB, meanwhile, has had a rocky road since it first came in to existence in 2008.
It has faced opposition both from within Nigeria and from international oil companies unhappy with elements of the fiscal reform.
Just last month, Nigeria's House of Representatives, the lower legislative chamber, failed again to approve the PIB after it suspended clause-by-clause debate on the bill.
It dashed any hope of getting the legislation through parliament any time soon, and with it hopes of significant renewed investment in the country's upstream.
--Staff reports, firstname.lastname@example.org
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