Nigeria and the Republic of Niger have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), for the construction of a hydrocarbon pipeline and a petroleum refinery.
The pipeline is to be constructed from Niger to Katsina state where the new refinery would be sited.
The MoU was signed on behalf of Nigeria by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, while Foumakaye Gado, the Minister of Energy for Niger Republic signed on behalf of his country.
Shortly after the signing of the MoU, Mr Buhari inaugurated a Steering Committee for the projects which is to be co-chaired by the Nigerian & Nigerien Ministers.
Mr Buhari also inaugurated a separate team to develop the implementation roadmap and strategy for both the refinery and pipeline projects.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Mr Buhari said Nigeria and Niger have excellent relations for several decades, as neighbours sharing a long border with common cultural and historical ties.
“Nigeria sees this cooperation on crude oil export from the Republic of Niger and construction of refinery facilities in Katsina State as a “win – win” for both nations,” Mr Buhari said.
He also said the initiative will not only provide a reliable market for the stranded crude from the Niger Republic but will also provide petroleum products for Nigeria, as the country “aggressively pursues its aspiration on petroleum product self-sufficiency”.
The president also expressed the hope that the current exploration efforts in the Northern part of Nigeria, including (Chad Basin, Gongola Basin, Sokoto Basin, Bida Basin and Benue trough) will also result in the provision of additional hydrocarbon inflow to the corridors of the proposed pipeline and a potential refinery around Kaduna State.
“I am happy that several productive engagements held between the Nigerian and Nigerien authorities have resulted in the positive agreements to progress with activities on this important project.
“This project will be private sector driven with the full support of the governments of both countries and I am happy to understand that several expressions of interest from prospective investors are already being received,” he said.
Mr Buhari said he expects that by December 2018, the two committees inaugurated will come up with a detailed roadmap and guideline leading to actual execution of the projects.
He said the detailed roadmap should cover “bankable feasibility studies for both the Refinery and pipeline projects; Optimal project site, pipeline routes and details; Security plan and selected consortia of investors for both the refinery and pipeline projects.”
In his remarks, the President of Niger Republic, Mahammadou Issoufou, said the signing of the memorandum is ”an important step in the consolidation of the mutually beneficial bilateral relations between the two countries.”
He said Nigeria and Niger are countries from the same empires divided only by colonialism. He said both countries’ names were driven from a River which transcends them; the River Niger.
He said the MoU signing also shows the commitment of both countries to work together and enrich their economies.
Mr Issoufou, who spoke in French, said there is a greater need for more integration among African countries.
Speaking earlier, Mr Kachikwu said Mr Buhari has personally driven the initiative to have the pipeline and the refinery.
He said Mr Buhari was propelled by ”the sole desire to create a more favourable investment opportunity in Nigeria’s downstream sector.”
He said as part of the strategy to reposition the Nigerian oil and gas industry, a roadmap of short and medium term priorities tagged “7big wins” was developed.
He said the fourth initiative in the launched roadmap is the “Refinery and Local Production Capacity”, part of which, he said, has to do with the establishment of third party financed Greenfield refineries to improve domestic petroleum products sufficiency in the country.
“Pursuant to this refinery initiative, our two presidents, guided by the existing friendly relationship between both countries initiated these projects.
“The projects would allow the export of otherwise stranded Nigerien surplus crude oil to Nigeria for the sole purpose of processing the crude oil in a new refinery in Nigeria for improved economic activities and the benefit of the two neighboring countries.
“The proposed projects for the construction of crude oil pipelines from Republic of Niger to Nigeria and establishment of new refinery at a border town in Nigeria is envisaged to be private sector financed,” he said.
Mr Kachikwu also said his ministry had already received several expressions of interest (EOI) from prospective investors.