Nigeria says it is suffering substantial revenue losses in the wake of ongoing attacks on the oil industry. The government is worried about continued violence in the Niger Delta and its implications for the economy.
Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru, says Nigeria had lost about $1 billion since February when militants in the Niger Delta launched attacks on oil facilities and workers.
Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer had benefited tremendously from recent high crude oil prices. Its oil revenue reached a record $15 billion in 2005 and estimates for 2006 were even higher.
Daukuro says projected revenue for this year would be adversely affected by problems in the delta. It is estimated Nigeria had earned more than $400 billion since production commenced about 40 years ago.
But most Nigerians live on less than $1 a day and the people of the delta are some of the most impoverished.
Wunmi Bewaji, an opposition member of the House of Representatives, says corrupt officials benefit most from Nigeria's oil revenue and therefore any shortfall will not make a difference to ordinary Nigerians.
"I am not bothered by how many barrels of oil we are losing per day because the fact remains that the entire process of budgeting in Nigeria has been bastardized," he noted. "For seven years, Nigeria has never had any budget, no budget had been implemented. For seven years all our revenues, no Nigerian knows how much we are earning. We make a budget on the basis of $28 per barrel, $30 per barrel, $32 per barrel. At the end of the day we end up selling at $60, $68 per barrel and you say the money should go into what you call excess crude and at the end of the day, the presidents sits down with governors and the money is shared. Without necessary due process, the money is spent."
Leaders in the Niger Delta are responding positively to the government's call for a truce. A group known as the Niger Delta Peace Foundation on Friday launched an ambitious program to ease the tension in the area and make their leaders more accountable for the huge oil revenue accruable to oil producing communities.
"The way forward, first of all, is for the militants to release those three remaining hostages and a ceasefire should be put in place in the Niger Delta," said Daniel Ebahor, the president of the group. "We are planning to sponsor a bill to the national assembly, which already is in process, so that all the state governors, council chairmen, they will be accountable for the money, for the derivation they are collecting. And those money should be used for infrastructure projects in the Niger Delta."
The ongoing violence in the delta has also affected electric power generation in Nigeria, leading to prolonged outages in several parts of the country.
A quarter of Nigeria's 2.4 million barrels per day output is currently shut down, because of militant attacks on oil infrastructure. Three foreign oil workers including two U.S. citizens are being held hostage in the delta region.