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Nigeria Opposition Leader Promises Partial Oil Firm Privatization

A former ally of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to privatize parts of the country’s national oil company if he wins the presidential vote next February. Atiku Abubakar told Reuters a floating naira will serve to attract greater foreign investment in Africa’s biggest crude oil producer.

Abubakar did not specify which parts of NNPC he will put up for privatization, saying only that he would extend the liberalization program that he was in charge of during his time as vice president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

“I am also going to expand it [the liberalization program] to include the oil and gas sector which have not been touched at all and other major sectors of the economy like mining, solid minerals,” he said, adding, “I am a strong believer in very, very small government and also the private sector.”

Abubakar was a member of the ruling party, but he left last November and returned to the People’s Democratic Party, of whose government he was part between 1999 and 2007. He now hopes to win the hearts and minds of Africa’s most populous nation whose average age is 18, according to UN estimates.

The elections come as Nigeria struggles with a tough exit from the first recession in 25 years that struck it in 2016 following the 2014 oil price collapse, few alternatives to the domination of the oil industry, and the Boko Haram extremists.

The country was exempt from the OPEC oil production cuts as it grappled with militant activity in the Niger Delta, but beginning this year the exemption was lifted and Nigeria agreed to cap its production at 1.8 million bpd.

In April, Nigeria’s oil production, including condensates, increased to 2.07 million bpd, from 2.02 million bpd in March, a Platts report revealed, citing estimates by Nigeria’s oil ministry.

Since militant violence in the Niger Delta abated in the second half of last year, Nigeria has gradually ramped up production, but its oil and condensate output dipped in March, due to what officials attributed to illegal tapping of pipelines in the oil-producing region.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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