Nigeria defends oil reforms after industry backlash

Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:34pm GMT

By Joe Brock

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria launched a robust defence of planned reforms to the oil and gas sector on Wednesday, dismissing industry claims that the legislation could deter billions of dollars of investment.

Oil firms including Royal Dutch Shell told an industry conference on Tuesday the plans could slow development of key deep water reserves and help Angola eclipse Nigeria as Africa's biggest oil producer.

Under the current version of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the government would be allowed to renegotiate old contracts, impose higher costs on oil companies and retake acreage that firms have yet to explore.

But Pedro Van Meurs, a consultant to the government on the planned reforms, fought back against industry concerns that the new framework would make Nigeria an exceptionally costly investment destination for deepwater projects.

"Someone said here that the government is 'killing the goose that laid the golden egg.' Nothing could be further from the truth," he told the Nigeria Oil & Gas conference, attended by industry and government officials, in the capital Abuja.

"We heard a presentation from Shell on deepwater that said investment would disappear. Again, nothing could be further from the truth ... In fact the terms to be proposed are internationally competitive," Van Meurs said.

The legislation has been stalled by the dispute between government and the industry, which already complains of funding difficulties and has suffered years of unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.


<p>Customers fuel up at a Shell gas station in Westminster, Colorado October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>
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