By Tordue Salem
LONDONâ€”Peace is being restored in the Niger Delta oil producing region where attacks by militants have led to a sharp fall in exports, Nigeria’s oil Minister, Dr Rilwan Lukman said yesterday.
â€œPeace is coming back in the oil producing areas,â€ Lukman said during an oil conference in London sponsored by the International Herald Tribune. â€œI am confident (the peace process) is in a good way and I hope it will hold and is implemented properly.â€
He cited an offer of amnesty from President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to militants in the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, (MEND), who have been demanding that local communities benefit from the regionâ€™s oil wealth.Reports on Monday said Nigeria planned to offer inhabitants of the oil-producing Niger Delta region 10 percent of oil and gas ventures in a bid to end the rebellion.
MENDâ€™s three-year campaign has slashed oil output in Nigeria, the worldâ€™s eighth largest producer, by a third. â€œWe hope operations will come up (in the Delta) and that we will be able to embark on the path of developing our ressources in a more business-like fashion,â€ Lukman said. â€œI hope MEND doesnâ€™t resume attacks on our facilities,â€ he added.
Yarâ€™ Adua on Monday held meeting with MEND leader, Henry Okah in Abuja, with the Presidency describing the session as â€œvery fruitful.â€
Lukman said Nigeria was currenly producing 1.6-1.7 million barrels of oil a day, consistent with its quota set by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Lukman, who said Nigeria enjoyed good relations with international oil companies, said his government was looking for prices of between 60 and 70 dollars a barrel. But he stressed: â€œWe are not complaining.â€ The price of a barrel of oil rose above 80 dollars on Monday for the first time in a year.