By Bassey Udo
Nigeria and Spain on Thursday expressed commitment to deepen their existing bilateral partnership to ensure the country’s abundant gas reserves were exploited and supplied to Europe, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva has said.
The Minister spoke when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, José Manuel Albares visited him in Abuja.
Acknowledging Spain as one of Nigeria’s most valuable trade partners and customers for the Nigeria LNG project from inception. Sylva said at a time the world was grappling with the challenges of the energy transition, the partnership between both countries would be a win-win, as it would provide the opportunity to harness the abundant gas resources in Nigeria for supply to Europe.
“As a country, Nigeria is focused on the development of its abundant gas resources. The country has proven reserves of over 200 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves that require development. We believe that with focused exploration for gas, the country can increase the reserves to about 600 trillion cubic feet.
“We need foreign investors to focus on the development of these gas reserves. We believe Spain is one of the countries Nigeria was looking towards to bring investments into the gas sector of the economy, particularly at a time of the global energy crisis that European economies require gas to develop their economies,” Sylva said.
He said the thrust of the meeting with the Spanish delegation was on the development of investments the country required to grow the oil and gas sector, which is at the core of the country’s economy.
The Spanish Minister, whom he said came into the country in the company of some major private sector investors, assured him of their interest to take advantage of the investment opportunities in Nigeria, particularly in the gas sector.
Apart from investment, Sylva said the meeting with the Spanish delegation also focused on how Spain could help Nigeria resolve the security challenges in the country’s oil and gas sector, and the provision of technology in the operations of the industry.
On the other hand, he said Spain was also looking up to Nigeria for further deepen its partnership to promote gas supply to Europe through the development and construction of the multi-billion dollar Trans Saharan gas pipeline system designed to take Nigeria’s gas to Morocco, with a supply route to the European market.
In line with Nigeria’s advocacy for energy transition to be interested in the development of gas resources amid the clamour for a speedy transition to renewables, Sylva said the rest of the world has come to agree with Nigeria that there was a need to tarry a while and ensure gas was effectively developed as part of the overall energy transition agenda.
He expressed confidence that the partnership between Nigeria and Spain would not only deepen their existing relationship,but would result in the development of projects to help grow their economies.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of the meeting, the Spanish Minister acknowledged Nigeria as the leading supplier of petroleum products and gas to Spain, and the second-highest trade partner in the world.
He commended Nigeria for being a reliable and stable supplier of these commodities, describing the country as a trustworthy trade partner.
Minister Albares said he was aware of the investment opportunities in Nigeria that Spain could take advantage of, particularly in the gas sector, expressing the hope that the meetings between the Spanish private sector and their Nigerian counterparts would be able to redeploy their full potential for the benefit of the two countries.
Nigeria, he said, was Spain’s strategic partner for some time, adding that the country has proven that the country was a friend and partner within the complex setting in the global energy market.
He said part of the reason for his visit to Nigeria was to ensure that Spain would work with Nigeria to concretize the terms of the agreement of the bilateral relationship on the different aspects of the energy sector.
Earlier, the Minister who had also visited Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his office commended Nigeria’s stabilizing role in the West African sub-region.
The VP had told his visitor that exploring investment opportunities in the energy sector offered possibilities for a more robust relationship between Nigeria and Spain, adding that apart from Spain being “a very good friend of Nigeria”, the country, from her economic connections, was the largest importer of Nigeria’s gas as well as the third-largest importer of crude oil.
“There is every good reason why we should consider that in good times and bad, Spain has remained a good friend. This is a relationship that is not just based on talk, but there is a lot of action.
“I am extremely optimistic that our relationship will become more robust in the months and years to come. Nigeria definitely feels that it has a strong partner and brother in Spain. And I hope that it stays this way and even better,” Osinbajo said.
For the next few years, he said the world would be confronted with challenging issues about energy security and energy transition, which he said required alternative arrangements to resolve them.
In Nigeria’s case, he said there was the need for a Climate Change agreement, to ensure the transition from fossil fuels and other pollutants was smooth as much as possible in the interest and development of our people.
Osinbajo said the possibilities for cooperation between Nigeria and Spain were there, noting that there were companies in the power sector interested in doing business in Nigeria.
“In our Energy Transition Plan, we have a whole menu of projects in the power sector to show companies that are interested in investing.
“We hope this would interest private companies coming from Spain. I hope that this visit will be one where they will take a look at our energy plan and some of what we are trying to do, not just the short-term but the long-term issues that we are trying to resolve,” he said.
Earlier, Albares thanked the VP for his support for Spanish business interests in Nigeria, assuring of his country’s commitment to strengthening relations with Nigeria, particularly its partnership with Spain in the energy sector.
“The relationship between our countries is mutually beneficial and we will continue to try our best,” Albares said, while pledging his country’s support for Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan, especially sharing notes on best practices and implementing (renewable energy) projects in Nigeria.
The Minister commended the role of Nigeria in maintaining stability in the West African sub-region, particularly the country’s efforts in ensuring democracy and everything concerning good governance in the region.”
He pledged Spain’s support to Nigeria in the fight against terrorism and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Spanish minister was accompanied by the country’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Juan Sell; the Director of Spanish Cooperation Agency, Anton Leis, and the Director General for Africa, Alicia Rico.