Nigeria and OPEC: 50 years together

OPEC Bulletin Commentary – June-July 2021

The histories of OPEC and Nigeria have been entwined for the past 50 years. It was on July 12, 1971, that Nigeria became the 11th Member of OPEC, with the OPEC Conference unanimously agreeing to accept the country’s application for Membership.

Looking back on that historic day in Vienna, it was a seminal moment for the country and for OPEC, the first sub-Saharan African nation to join the Organization. The ‘Giant of Africa’ and a country at the heart of the continent joined OPEC Member Countries as they embarked on ensuring their sovereign rights over their natural resources, through various negotiations and landmark agreements.

For Nigeria and OPEC, it has at times been a rollercoaster journey, with various market cycles being negotiated, and unexpected events, such as macroeconomic uncertainty, natural catastrophes, geopolitics, technological innovations and especially in 2020/21, global health pandemics, threatening to throw OPEC off course.

The links and symbiosis between Nigeria and OPEC are too numerous to mention in their entirety now, but I often think part of the explanation of the successful partnership goes back to the creation of OPEC. The Organization was born on September 14, 1960, in the Al-Shaab Hall in Bab Al-Muaadham in Baghdad. A mere 17 days later, on October 1, 1960, Nigeria proclaimed its independence and a new era was entered into. The destiny of the two were inter-linked from this point in time.

Since joining OPEC just over a decade later, Nigeria has played a major role in driving the Organization’s focus on cooperation, goodwill, a sense of belonging and unity, and in working towards achieving oil market stability, conscious of the benefits this brings to both producers and consumers.

A leader in this regard, is Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. At OPEC, we very much consider President Buhari as ‘one of our own.’ An OPEC veteran, he has been heavily involved in the Organization’s affairs for decades and is currently the only serving Head of State in the world who made his career by being intensely involved in the OPEC family.

President Buhari has maintained his avid interest in our Organization and we all draw inspiration from his commitment. This has been evident through his invaluable contributions to the ongoing successful implementation of the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ (DoC), and his continued support over the past year or so as participants in the DoC have navigated the stormy waters swirling the oil market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a tremendous credit to Nigeria as a voice of reason, and through his integrity and patriotic dedication.

The OPEC Bulletin talks to President Buhari (see page 4) about Nigeria, OPEC and the 50-year anniversary. His comments underscore the importance of OPEC to the development of Nigeria’s oil industry, and the value created from fostering closer relationships.

Nigeria enjoys world renown as a consensus builder and deal maker, and this has been clearly on display throughout its five decades in OPEC. One other person unmistakably stands out from this perspective: the late, great Dr Rilwanu Lukman. For many decades, Dr Lukman was integral to OPEC: they went hand-in-hand. He served as President of the OPEC Conference between 1986 and 1989, and then again in 2002, and was Secretary General from 1986–88 and between 1995 and 2000.

He was a true visionary. He was central to the evolution of OPEC and non-OPEC relations; helped develop the producer-consumer dialogue; and managed OPEC’s participation with Member Countries in the very early United Nations COP meetings on the environment, to name just a few of his achievements. Dr Lukman of blessed memory was easily the most decent soul I ever met. He was the embodiment of integrity and humility, yet the most successful oil technocrat of his generation. He is a Nigerian and an OPEC legend; a leader, but at the same time a great listener who was humble, kind and fair. The OPEC Bulletin looks back at Dr Lukman’s history (see page 52).

Other key stakeholders also offer their thoughts in interviews with the OPEC Bulletin, including Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (see page 18), whose tireless work with the industry, and his active engagement with fellow ministers and other stakeholders, have seen him become a voice for consensual solutions in helping the Organization and the DoC reach key decisions.

Looking back at the story of Nigeria’s 50-year association with OPEC makes me feel both proud and humble. I am tremendously proud of how far the relationship has come, and how important the two have been to each other. I have Nigeria in my heart, it is where I am from, but OPEC has also become part of my DNA. And I am extremely humbled to follow in the footsteps of the giants of the Nigerian oil industry and OPEC.

There are two Nigerian proverbs that seem apt at this 50-year juncture:

“A single man cannot build a house,” and

“A single tree cannot make a forest.”

It is the people that have served Nigeria and OPEC that have been vital to the relationship that has been forged, and the strength and solidarity of its Members make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Inclusiveness and working together has wrought great mutual respect among OPEC Member Countries, and now through the DoC. Nigeria has been an integral bridge builder over its first 50 years of Membership; here is to 50 more years to come!

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo
OPEC Secretary General

OPEC Bulletin June-July 2021

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