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Nigeria govt can't recover $62 bln sought from oil majors -minister

timipre sylva.jpg

(Reuters) - Oil minister Timipre Sylva said Nigeria knows it cannot recover $62 billion from oil majors despite ongoing cases against the companies for money the government believes it is owed.

“Nobody can bring out that kind of money,” Sylva told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting in Abuja. “I mean, we can’t get $62 billion. We can maybe get something from them but not $62 billion. It’s an opportunity we have lost.”

Nigeria has been fighting for the cash under a 1990s law that states it can revisit production-sharing contracts on oil output if crude prices exceed $20 a barrel.

Sylva said talks about recouping some money from oil majors, such as Shell, Chevron, ENI and ExxonMobil, were ongoing.

The companies received individual requests for cash in February, with one telling Reuters its bill was nearly $10 billion. Shell and Chevron are fighting the cases in court, according to scheduled cases seen by Reuters.

Sylva said the government must quickly pass amendments to the underlying law to ensure it did not miss out on more revenue.

 “We have to ensure that this bill is passed. With this bill now, there will be some adjustments in the fiscal regime and we believe that the government will get a lot from the oil companies, especially their deep shore exploration activities.”

The senate passed amendments to the bill on Tuesday. Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said the government could get an additional $500 million in 2020 and $1 billion in 2021 by revising the law.

The government in Africa’s largest oil exporter relies on oil for some 90% of foreign exchange. Oil prices rose to more than $100 a barrel in 2014 before a sharp drop that triggered a 2016 recession in Nigeria, leaving the government struggling to fund its budgets.

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