The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr Mohammed Barkindo, has commended Nigeria for exiting the Joint Venture Cash Call debt (JVC).
Barkindo gave the commendation in Abuja on Monday at a World press briefing he jointly held with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.
Cash calls is the counterpart funding which the Federal Government, represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), annually pays as its 60 per cent equity shareholding in various oil and gas fields.
It is operated by international oil companies in the country for more than four decades and indigenous oil firms and Nigeria owe arrears of $6.8 billion.
Kachikwu had said an outstanding debt of $5.1 billion would be paid over five years through incremental oil production volumes.
Barkindo commended Kachikwu for securing the feat on behalf of government.
He said: “I must single out the frontal approach on the lingering issue of funding our exploration as well as production, the JVC.
“Many of my colleagues, here that we served together, will testify that government after government, regime after regime we have battled with this issue continuously without solution.
“This is a confession: the day you overcame this issue that had beleaguered this industry as well as government, you made my day.
‘’Same for the day of all participants who knew what the government had battled to stay afloat on the issue of cash-call.
“The approach has been innovative, the solution is very practical.
“You are clearing an overhaul of debt too high, yet maintaining the level of production.
‘’You also focusing on an incremental level of growth that will continue to sustain not only the industry but also the domestic economy’’.
He also commended government for embracing diversification, disclosing that it was a topical issue that arose during his member-visits to other OPEC countries.
“I am just coming from Saudi Arabia, the largest producer who depends solely on oil and gas but it came up with a programme to diversify its economy within the context of the vision 2030.
“Therefore, I urge all colleagues and industry chieftains to rally round the honourable minister to march forward.
“Despite all reform programmes on diversification which we support, we should support farming. Diversification for now remains the music for the future.
“Our economies will continue to determine what you do, and with what we have seen, the future is brighter than what we have hitherto expected.’’
On his visit to Nigeria, he said he had to insist on reducing his entourage to Nigeria, because everyone was willing to come to Nigeria and see firsthand Kachikwu’s “giant strides’’.
He commended Kachikwu for building the confidence of OPEC members and earning their respect saying, “the minister was able to convince OPEC member countries to drop their candidates for his candidate.
“That shows the level of respect they have for him, for him to have persuaded sovereign nations and say I have a better candidate.
“With those words, history was made in June in Vienna. It says a lot about who you are, your character.
“Continue with this tradition of maintaining stability, continue to remain focused, we have a lot to achieve’’.