Nigeria president proposes Lukman as oil minister

Nigeria's Rilwanu Lukman, former president of OPEC, has been nominated to lead Nigeria's Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Nov. 19 -- Nigeria's Rilwanu Lukman, former president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has been nominated to lead Nigeria's Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Lukman previously also has served as petroleum minister.

Nigeria's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, submitted Lukman's name to the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament, for approval following his sacking of 20 cabinet ministers last month to revamp his administration.

Some analysts have questioned whether Lukman can bring fresh ideas to Nigeria's petroleum sector, particularly as it undergoes major reform. Others have said his experience and knowledge will be crucial in reviving relationships with oil companies.

Yar'Adua assured oil companies in Nigeria that the administration will take their views into consideration as it restructures personnel.

Presently Odein Ajumogobia is the petroleum minister, but Nigerian newspapers said Lukman is widely tipped to take on the role. If he succeeds, Ajumogobia may take on the new Niger Delta ministry, according to local media.

The ministry was established in September to lead on the area's development, and since early 2006, activists, including the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta have damaged oil pipelines and kidnapped workers in an attempt to increase their share of oil revenues and have social facilities built.

Speaking in Abuja on Nov. 18 at an industry conference, Ajumogobia urged companies to continue with oil investment in Nigeria despite market volatility and to carry out exploration in its other six basins Anambra, Benue, Bida, Chad, Dahomey, and Sokoto. Currently the Niger Delta basin is the most active.

Nigeria plans to declare oil reserves of 40 billion bbl by 2010. "There has been no appreciable growth in Nigeria's oil and gas reserves in the last 5 years despite the known potential both onshore and in the deep offshore," the minister added.

He said investment decisions in Nigeria were difficult with OPEC production cuts and low oil prices. "For us in Nigeria, similar to other OPEC members, we are now faced with the double impact of reduced production quota and low crude oil price. This has created a climate of uncertainty and directly impacts global crude oil demand and supply dynamics. In particular, the questions of how much future production capacity will be required and what levels of investment will be ideal?"

Ajumogobia was upbeat about the future outlook for fossil fuels, stressing rising global demand in the long term and the need to invest in technologies to access unconventional oil and gas resources.

Yar'Adua will announce the new ministers after the Senate has approved the list of 13 nominees.

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