Nigeria has asked the international oil majors operating in the country to pay a total of almost US$20 billion in outstanding taxes and royalties that it says is owed to various Nigerian states, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing government and industry sources.
Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, Eni, and Equinor have each been asked to pay the federal Nigerian government between US$2.5 billion and US$5 billion, according to Reuters’ sources who saw letters sent to the oil majors earlier this year via a government debt-collection division.
Companies operating in Nigeria pay the government taxes and royalties and provide oil and gas to the state.
Norway’s Equinor confirmed to Reuters that there have been letters sent to the companies.
“Several operators have received similar claims in a case between the authorities in Nigeria and local authorities in parts of the country,” a spokesman for the Norwegian firm told Reuters, but noted that “Equinor sees no merit to the case.”
Nigeria’s federal government and the local states have recently agreed how to distribute the proceeds from oil and gas, and this distribution involves the central government paying the states several billion U.S. dollars.
“This looks like an internal dispute between the federal and local governments. The central government is simply trying to shift to the IOCs (international oil companies) money it owes,” a source at an oil and gas company told Reuters.
The multi-billion-dollar tax claims to oil majors add another headwind to investments in Nigeria’s oil industry, which has been plagued by oil theft, oil spills, and militant violence in recent years.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says that Nigeria’s oil production rose by 9 percent annually to 2.09 million bpd in 2018.
According to OPEC’s secondary sources, Nigeria’s crude oil production rose by 52,000 bpd from December 2018 to 1.792 million bpd in January 2019, despite Nigeria not being exempt from the OPEC cuts this time around, due to the start-up of Total’s ultra-deepwater oil field Egina.