The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation headquarters in Abuja Photo: File

INTERNATIONAL – Nigeria’s state oil firm said on Wednesday it had suspended cash call repayments to Eni for three months, and did not plan to renew some of the Italian firm’s asset licences.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owes billions of dollars to international oil companies, including Eni, its share of operating costs for their joint ventures. Of the original $5 billion owed two years ago, repaid through a system known as cash calls, about $3 billion is now outstanding.

But NNPC has withheld 3 months’ payment to Eni over a set of disputes. Delayed payments for the cash calls have hindered development of some of the country’s oil assets.

Among the issues raised by NNPC are that Eni’s licences for some oil assets have expired, but Nigeria’s government does not plan to renew them as it wants the state oil firm to take over.

The Nigerian firm did not specify which of Eni’s licences it would not renew.

“The failure to pay cash call arrears in the last three months was deliberate and meant to ensure that the issues surrounding the agreement (are) settled,” the NNPC said in a statement, adding it has the money to pay and expects a resolution by the end of the week.

Eni did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In its statement, NNPC also urged Eni to complete the first phase of rehabilitating Nigeria’s Port Harcourt refinery by the scheduled date of October, the statement said.

The statement added that Eni’s executive vice chair for sub-Saharan Africa, Brusco Guido, said the Italian firm had various challenges and asked for NNPC’s help to resolve them and meet its 30 percent annual growth target for its joint ventures’ oil production.

Reuters