By Tope Adeboboye
In spite of a string of domestic security and economic challenges, Nigeria’s influence within international organisations appears undiminished.
From time to time, global bodies with which the country is involved have exhibited confidence in the capacity of Nigerian officials to deliver on tasks assigned to the country.
In the United Nations (UN), for instance, Nigeria has been one of the most reliable members participating actively in UN peace operations around the world. Since the 1960s, Nigerian troops have served in dozens of UN peace operations. Between 2003 and 2018, Nigerian troops were described as the military backbone of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) that stopped the anarchy that had been reigning in that country for long.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, is president of the African Development Bank, just as the secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is Nigeria’s Mohammed Barkindo.
Also, last week, Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, crossed the final hurdle in her bid to become the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with the withdrawal of South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, from the race. Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to occupy the prestigious position.
And at the weekend, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the African Union, Bankole Adeoye, was unanimously elected Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union.
Within OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC-Plus, Nigeria was again in the spotlight. The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) of OPEC assigned the country the task of persuading some African oil producers to improve their compliance with the alliance’s supply curbs and deliver catch-up cuts to compensate for overproduction over the past nine months.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, was appointed special envoy to some participating African countries in the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ (DoC). The countries are Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and South Sudan.
A statement from OPEC said the decision was taken at the 26th meeting of the JMMC, which was held on February 3.
OPEC-Plus refers to non-OPEC members exporting crude oil. The 10 countries are Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan and Sudan.
OPEC noted, though, that none of the four African countries was a major oil producer, adding that the countries’ overshoots have rarely exceeded 60,000 barrels per day. “But every participant, however small, is under the spotlight in line with the principles of fairness, transparency and equity,” said the JMMC.
At the meeting last week, Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, who chairs the committee, as well as the co-chair, Alexander Novak, deputy prime minister of Russia, applauded the positive efforts of all countries participating in the DoC for the monumental strides they have taken towards attaining full conformity with their voluntary adjustments in output.
The body asserted that participating countries have been proactive and pre-emptive in measures taken to mitigate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil market.
OPEC further stated that: “While progress has been achieved in introducing a greater degree of stability in the oil market since the historic decisions taken in April 2020, participating countries will not rest on their laurels. Sustainable oil market stability necessitates a continual renewal of effort, engagement and responsiveness to factors affecting the market.”
The body stated that the major purpose of Sylva’s mission would be to hold consultations with the leaders of the four countries on the DoC market rebalancing efforts.
“In particular, the special envoy will discuss matters pertaining to conformity levels with the voluntary production adjustments and explore how participating countries can collectively support and assist each other in achieving full conformity with their supply adjustments.”
It was gathered also that Sylva would discuss with relevant authorities about the compensation mechanism in accommodating underperformed volumes as agreed at the June ministerial meeting, which was later amended in September last year. The mission will also solidify the dialogue channels between participating countries and enhance transparency and information exchange, it was gathered.
OPEC leaders agreed that, since the countries were all in Africa, the mission would provide an opportunity for Nigeria’s minister, Sylva, to meet with the leaders in person, following months of virtual meetings as a result of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
OPEC applauded Nigeria, noting that it was one of the major oil producers that had tightened up their production discipline in recent months after exceeding their limits in June and July last year. Indeed, in recent months, the country’s output has been slipping below 1.3 million barrels a day.
Some analysts expressed confidence that Sylva would make a success of the assignment, citing his public relations skills and his capacity for brokering deals. But what are the complaints against the four countries that Nigeria, through Sylva, would be engaging? The performance of the individual countries has been mixed, it was gathered.
Congo (Brazzaville) has improved in recent months after producing below its quota in December and January, at just over 253,000 barrels per day. Gabon, on the other hand, has been overproducing between 30,000 and 60,000 barrels per day in the past four months. Equatorial Guinea, on its part, has sometimes complied while overproducing at other times.
The DoC, it was gathered, was the outcome of a collaboration between OPEC member states and some non-members, following a joint OPEC and non-OPEC countries’ ministerial meeting held on December 10, 2016. It was effective for an initial period of six months. At the time, the non-OPEC oil-producing countries were 11, but Equatorial Guinea has since joined OPEC in May 2017. The success achieved through the collaboration has led to the extension of the DoC many times after the initial six months.
Also, as a result of the success achieved with the DoC, the countries resolved that establishing a more permanent platform that would focus on longer-term cooperation would bring in more accomplishments for participating countries. And, at the sixth OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting, on July 2, 2019, OPEC member countries and the non-OPEC oil-producing countries in attendance all endorsed what is known as the ‘Charter of Cooperation.’ The charter provides a platform to facilitate dialogue and exchange views regarding conditions and developments in the global oil and energy markets.
The goal, the charter said, is to contribute to a secure energy supply and lasting stability for the benefit of producers, consumers, investors and the global economy.
In Nigeria, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, with Sylva as minister of state, says it has been working hard to boost Nigeria’s economy and provide succour to Nigerians through its priority projects.
Among the ministry’s plans, it was gathered, is to eradicate smuggling of premium motor spirit (petrol) across Nigerian borders; complete gas flare commercialisation programme; increase crude oil production to three million barrels per day; reduce the cost of crude oil extraction by at least 5 per cent; aggressively promote passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill; aggressively promote passage of Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment Bill; increase domestic refining capacity; create a large number of well-paying jobs; and implement strategy towards lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.