By Theophilus Abbah
The former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke, failed to sign a long-term agreement with New Delhi, Nigeria’s Number One oil buyer, but rather used intermediaries in the annual $14 billion deal, the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ajjampur R. Ghanashyam, has revealed.
Speaking in an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday at the weekend, the High Commissioner stated that Nigeria is the only country who uses intermediaries in its oil deals with India, saying, “From other countries, when we buy oil, whatever we want to pay, we pay to the Ministry of Finance of that country. In Nigeria, we pay to intermediaries. We would like to be dealing directly with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It’s not a good thing. Why should we go through intermediaries? Secondly, we would also like to have long term agreement, which we have with many countries: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other countries from where we buy oil. Nigeria is the only country with whom we don’t have an agreement. .. When we write a letter to NNPC, we don’t get a response.”
The NNPC 2014 Annual Statistical Bulletin indicated that India bought 136,419,844 barrels of crude oil, at a time when the United States’ own purchases from Nigeria was 24,047,758. China’s oil purchases from Nigeria also went as low as 11,412,275, despite the fact that it is one of Nigeria’s major trading partners. Next to India in oil purchases from Nigeria is the Netherlands, which imported 101,953,572 barrels of crude oil in 2014. Spain is next with 79,647,587 barrels, then South Africa comes fifth with the purchase of 51,148,821 barrels of crude oil from Nigeria.
The Indian High Commissioner added that apart from the lack of long-term agreement between the two countries on crude oil purchases, in 2006, an Indian company, Oil & Natural Gas Commission Videsh Limited (OVL) and Mittal Energy International, which is a joint venture between OVL, an Indian government company, and Mittal Energy a private firm, applied for oil concession. The Signature bonus sum of $25 million was paid, but neither was the oil concession granted nor the money paid returned to the Indian companies.
He lamented the situation thus, “How many years is it? Nine years. Even to get the concession is not possible, and the money is not refunded to us. For nine years your country has been sitting on this, and they make us go round and round and round. We buy $15 billion worth of crude oil per year and we have the potential of importing $50 billion worth of crude oil from Nigeria. We can buy more because our requirement is going up. But if you continue to make us to pay through agents, and continue to ask us to buy from the swap market, it means you don’t trust us, and if you don’t trust us, we have to look for those who trust us more. We are making concessions to Nigeria by buying your crude oil because you’re our old friends and we’ve been friends for a long time, and your crude oil is better quality. But you must take our interest into account.”
Checks by our reporter at the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Abuja at the weekend revealed that the letter for the signature bonus was prepared by the department, but the former minister failed to sign it until the end of the tenure of the Jonathan administration.
Recently, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United Arab Emirate (UAE) and signed a deal to deepen Indian trade with the Gulf State, and it is feared that the agreement could mean more oil export from UAE to India, which could affect Nigeria’s share of the oil trade.
Though Mr. Ghanashyam said India’s trade with UAE may not threaten India’s oil import from Nigeria, he revealed that there are other overtures from oil producing states.
According to him, “Today, oil is the buyers’ market, not the sellers’ market. You can’t sit on your high horse and dictate to the buyer. From Iran we used to buy 11 million metric tonnes. They want us to raise it to 22 million metric tonnes because the sanction is being lifted. They want to come back in full force. The last time our prime minister went to Iran, they said they wanted to invest between $8 billion and $10 billion in India. Saudi Arabia has offered to use their own oil fleet to supply crude oil to India. That means we get transportation at Saudi’s cost, that is a difference of 50 cents per barrel. Countries are trying to woo India because we are the third largest consumer of oil in the world, after the United States and China, .. and we need more. Every year we need between $6 billion and $8 billion additional worth of crude oil. We will go everywhere to buy crude oil.”
Already, Nigeria has lost oil deals with both the United States and China in the last few years. China, which used to import crude oil from Nigeria has shifted its loyalty to Angola, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered. Though no official of the Chinese Embassy could be reached for an explanation to the decline of the Asian country’s oil deal with Nigeria, Mr Charles Onunaiju, who is the Director of the Center from China Studies in Abuja attributed it to the instability in Nigeria’s oil sector.
According to Mr Onunaiju, “China imports more from Angola because of the instability in the oil industry. Also, they are reaching out to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela. There’s also a huge deal with Russia which is being struck for the supply of some $400 billion worth of crude oil over the next 30 years.”
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commissioner told our reporter that the attempt by two Nigerians to cross the Indian border with Pakistan to join ISIS came as a surprise to the mission in Nigeria.
According to him, “The students came from Kano and went to Bangalore to study. We’ve been liberal about granting students visas to Nigerians. With what has happened they have broken the visa rule, so when students apply to us for visa we have to do more checks. It’s quite unfortunate.