By Clara Nwachukwu
Total SA could be forced to quit Nigeria if the security situation deteriorates further, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Christophe de Margerie, said weekend.
“If it gets worse, we may have to leave,” he told an investor conference in Paris, according to Bloomberg news.
Three Total workers who were kidnapped in Nigeria have since been freed. “We don’t have many employees kidnapped” in Nigeria, the CEO said.
The resumption of militant activities in the Niger Delta, leading to disruptions in oil and gas activities as well as a spate of kidnapping of oil workers are sending the wrong signals to the investing community, thereby, undermining Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme. However, a top management staff of Total E&P Nigeria Limited, the Nigerian unit of the French oil giant, in a telephone chat with Vanguard on Sunday, said, “it’s not possible.”
The senior manager who refused to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue further argued: “There is no way Total can leave Nigeria. We have too much investment here to just pack up and leave.”
He noted that the French oil company is operating even “in more dangerous places than Nigeria,” adding that the situation in the Niger Delta is now much better, although not yet perfect.
“Some of our workers, who fled the country in the heat of the militancy are now coming back with their families,” he asserted.
Also reacting immediately to the development, the Group General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Public Relations, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, in a telephone interview said, the recent outbreaks of violence and militancy in the oil-rich region have been fully check-mated.
According to Ajuonuma, whose corporation, NNPC is the principal partner in the NNPC/Total Joint Venture operations, “There is no reason to panic. The recent minor incidents in the Niger Delta are now under control. Government at both the Federal and state levels have taken measures to ensure that we do not degenerate to the dark darks, when militancy boomed.”
He further argued that the Total CEO, Margerie, may have been quoted out of contest because, “Total recently commissioned a new 168,000 barrels per day Floating Production Storage and Offloading, FPSO, in South Korea, for its Usan Field.”
In spite of the recent spate of militant attacks, Ajuonuma reiterated that “Nigeria is still the safest place for investment and our long term partners know about government’s commitment to their safety and security.”
Divestment in Nigeria’s oil and gas
In the aftermath of over three-year militancy leading to the shut in of almost three-quarter of Nigeria’s production, many of the international oil companies began to slowly divest from Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
The Shell Group, the biggest operator apart from embarking on huge restructuring and sacking of workers, has also continued to sell off its assets in the Niger Delta, on the excuse of better portfolio management.
Chevron, also divested fully from its downstream operations and sold its assets to indigenous firm, MRS Group, while Swiss-Canadian operator, Addax, sold its assets to an arm of the Chinese Group, SINOPEC. And there have been other quiet assets divestments by the multinationals ever since.
It’s criminality not militancy
Presidential Adviser on Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, in a chat with journalists on the sidelines of a conference in Abuja last week, described the recent attacks as “pure criminal activities”.
The presidential adviser, who spoke against the backdrop of the feasibility of Nigeria achieving new crude oil production targets of 40billion barrels reserves and 4million barrels daily production argued that “Militancy has not resumed”, even as he admitted that “Yes, there are a few incidents have happened.”
He added, “you know very well that by the amnesty programme that the President offered, we have achieved a lot of improvements, because at the time the amnesty was offered, we were hovering around 1 and 1.2m bpd, but thereafter, we have been steady at 2.6 and 2.7m, so the recent incidents, one or two off cases, are not enough or a signal that militancy has resumed.”