The president of Nigeria has issued a new directive suggesting tankers banned from lifting in Nigeria may re-enter with a ‘letter of comfort’, but lawyers from Holman Fenwick Willan LLP says it may be “unenforceable”.
The letter from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of 8 September supposedly lifting the ban requires terminal operators and off-takers to issue letters of comfort.
“These letters of comfort are likely to be unenforceable but may provide assurance to the newly elected Nigerian government, who have made the crackdown on corruption in the industry a major objective,” Tunde Adesokan of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP told IHS Maritime.
The letter further suggests the ban is now lifted for all vessels on the original list.
Intertanko continues to advise its members against taking any vessel on Nigeria’s list of banned tankers either into Nigeria or into its exclusive economic zone.
“Any member who decides to trade to Nigeria should follow the practical advice we have given and make use of the INTERTANKO Nigeria Trade Clause in their fixtures,” Intertanko said in a statement on 10 September.
Intertanko’s letters to the various Nigerian authorities so far remain unanswered.
NNPC is yet to provide a reason for the ban in the first place.
“This [the ban] is likely to have been instigated by the new management of NNPC, in particular, the newly appointed NNPC managing director, Emmanuel Kachikwu, formerly of Exxon Mobil Africa,” Adesokan told IHS Maritime.
Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, appointed in May, has promised to appoint his cabinet before the end of the month.
“With the imminent appointment of a minister of petroleum, it is hoped that future directives by the government or government agencies will be more structured, such that the reasons and objectives are clear from the outset.”
In April, the Nigerian government introduced a requirement that all tankers loading crude at its terminals complete an out-turn verification exercise at discharge ports, indicating the amount of crude lifted.