Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nigeria uncommitted in a divided OPEC

By Emma Farge

VIENNA (Reuters) - In a deeply divided OPEC, Nigeria was the only party willing to side with either camp, the head of its OPEC delegation told Reuters on Wednesday.

OPEC talks collapsed after a Saudi-led move to raise production for the first time in four years was met with strong opposition focused on Iran and Venezuela.

"Some wished for an increase and others felt there was a need to discuss further and watch the market for a couple of months," said Nigeria's delegation head Goni Musa.

"I would have accepted whatever position the organisation wanted," he said in an interview.

The dissolution of Nigeria's cabinet left it without an oil minister to head its delegation.

The failure to reach an agreement on Wednesday with Brent oil prices near $115 a barrel has been a blow to consumer countries and raised concerns about the organisation's credibility. But Goni Musa said we was not worried about OPEC's future.

"I wouldn't say it's so divided. I'm not concerned one little bit. Members will have their own views," he said. Nigeria is removed from the regional tensions between OPEC's Gulf and north African members.

Relative peace in the Niger Delta has helped boost Nigeria's output and it has reclaimed its position as top African exporter. It is currently pumping around 500,000 barrels per day above its official OPEC target, according to a Reuters survey.

Goni Musa said Nigeria would be willing to curb production in future to increase compliance with official OPEC targets, not changed since 2008.

"We have production slightly above the official target...Once the issue of infrastructure is addressed, we will come back to whatever OPEC directs us to do," he said.

Besides OPEC, future output is likely to depend on the delayed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Its delay has stalled billions of dollars of investment needed for oil projects.

Goni Musa said that this will be a priority for President Goodluck Jonathan's new government.

"The government is giving it top premium. I reckon the new Assembly will pass it as quickly as possible."

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