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Exclusive: Nigeria's long-awaited oil reform bill to go to president - sources

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria’s oil ministry will present a long-awaited oil and gas reform bill to the president in the coming days aimed at boosting output and attracting foreign investment, three sources close to the negotiations told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows part of Dangote oil refinery in Ibeju Lekki district, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

The reforms, 20 years in the making, are particularly urgent this year as low oil prices and a shift towards renewable energy have made competition tougher to attract investment from oil majors.

Fiscal uncertainty has delayed a decision reut.rs/3g28DoM on a multi-billion dollar expansion by Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L and its partners, while Chevron CVX.N, Total TOTF.PA and ExxonMobil reut.rs/348WfAXXOM.N are selling various Nigerian assets.

A spokesman for the Petroleum Ministry, which led the bill’s drafting, did not reply to a request for comment and the president’s office declined to comment.

Royal Dutch Shell, the largest international operator in Nigeria, said a botched reform effort would be “putting at risk and making unviable most of the planned projects.”

“We hope that the final bill would be one that would unlock potential investments that Nigeria’s rich resource base truly deserves,” a spokesman for Shell companies in Nigeria said.

A draft summary seen by Reuters included provisions that would streamline and reduce some oil and gas royalties. One of the sources described even the government’s reduced take of oil revenues, through taxes, royalties and other fees, as “aggressive” compared with other nations. Some African countries are trying to cut red tape and taxes in order to make developing their oil and gas reserves attractive to companies.

It proposes to boost the amount of money companies pay to local communities and for environmental cleanups.

It would also alter the dispute resolution process between companies and the government, though specifics of the changes were not included in the summary. The bill also included measures aimed at pushing companies to develop gas discoveries and a framework for gas tariffs and delivery.

Commercializing gas, particularly for use in local power generation, is a core government priority.

The bill will be presented in one piece with four chapters, the sources said. An effort to pass reforms by breaking them into several bills in 2018 fell flat; just one portion made it to President Buhari's desk, and he never signed it reut.rs/346RIPH.

Once Buhari signs off on the draft, it will go to the National Assembly, which is controlled by his All Progressives Congress party. The alignment of the presidency and the assembly give the measure the best chance of passage it has had in years.

The law underpinning oil, the financial lifeline for Africa’s biggest exporter, has not been updated since the 1960s.

Pumping its oil has historically been hugely profitable, but changes late last year that hiked Nigeria’s take of oil earnings, and a VAT increase, frustrated companies.

Reporting By Libby George; editing by David Evans

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