A damning picture of the effect of the sustained militancy in the Niger Delta was unfolded last week when the minister of petroleum resources, Dr Rilwan Lukman disclosed that Nigeria is losing an average of one million barrels of crude oil per day owing to the crisis.
In what is arguably, one of government’s rare official confirmations of losses in daily crude oil production as a result of activities of Niger Delta militants, he minister told members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja that oil production had dropped to between 1.4mbpd and 1.5mbpd, against the budget benchmark of 2.2mbpd.
He pointedly attributed the drop to activities of militants, but assured that government ism already working on how to get back on the production track by ensuring an increase in production to a target of 4mbpd.
“We have production capacity of 2.3mbpd but because of problems in the Niger Delta, we cannot meet our target. This year’s budget is based on having 2.2mbpd. So, we are in short of a million barrels,” he said.
“Our target is 4 million barrels in 2010; presently we have 37 billion barrels in our reserve. The target for next year’s production is 4mbpd.”
The minister also seized the opportunity of the meeting to argue that here could not be any going back on government’s policy of deregulating the downstream sector, because according to him, what government expends on subsidy of petroleum products is “far above the budget for capital projects every year”.
Confirming that government has been able to secure the endorsement of the two house union in the petroleum industry, Lukman told the PDP bigwigs that there is “still have a bit of challenge with the NLC, but we believe when they see the facts and realise what is happening, they will come on board. They are already more or less on board.