As recently as yesterday, thieves arriving by speedboat hit the officies of Italian giant Agip, killing nine men - seven of them soldiers - and escaping with "sacks" of cash, probably funds for payroll. In response, Agip is evacuating its workers from the Delta.
The Energy Markets Online piece does seem a little dated in light of the Platts article mentioned immediately priot to this post, but it nonetheless spells out the very real concerns for Nigeria's fragile nationhood that a series of deadly assaults in the past three weeks have created.
Here is the article, posted minutes ago to the I-Hub board:
24 January 2006
Emerging Markets Daily News
The fate of production sharing contracts (PSCs) for five offshore blocks in the Nigerian-Sao Tomean Joint Development Zone (JDZ) is still up in the air, as the signing meeting is yet again postponed, this time to mid-February according to news reports. The PSCs were supposed to have been inked last year, but were delayed due to allegations of irregularities and possible bribes paid by a competing oil company to Sao Tome officials. In addition, the president of the tiny groups of islands claimed earlier this month that the Sao Tome stood to lose close to US$60mn from the deals.
These developments have dismayed observers, who hoped the country would break Africa’s so-called “oil curse” – which plagues neighbouring energy-rich, yet corrupt and still poverty-stricken countries such as Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea – and fulfil its reserves potential. The offshore maritime JDZ, shared by Nigeria and Sao Tome on a 60:40 basis in favour of Nigeria, consists of 23 blocks in the Gulf of Guinea that are believed to hold 6-14bn barrels of oil reserves. The area has significant potential as West African oil exports meet around 12% of US crude demand, a figure which the US government expects to rise to 20% by 2010 and 25% by 2015. Just last week, US oil majors US Chevron and ExxonMobil as well as a Norwegian firm kicked off exploration activities in a deepwater block within the zone, awarded in the first licensing round.
For now, though, it seems Nigeria may have bigger problems on its plate as the four foreign oil workers taken hostage almost a week ago in the strife-stricken Niger Delta remain in captivity and security officers narrowly avoided serious clashes with protestors at an oil production facility. The high-profile attacks on Shell and government oil facilities by Niger Delta separatists calling on international oil companies to leave the country have cut Nigeria’s, Africa’s largest oil producer, output by more than 200,000 barrels per day (b/d).
Emerging Markets Online