Nigeria wants steady benchmark for oil

Nov. 19, 2012 at 8:37 AM

ABUJA, Nigeria, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- If Nigerian lawmakers raise the benchmark price of oil without increasing national savings, the country's credit rating could be downgraded, the president said.

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's gave Nigeria a BB-, three tiers below investment grade, while Moody's Investor's Service gave a similar rating Nov. 7, reports Bloomberg News.

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned the country's currency could depreciate if lawmakers supported a higher oil price benchmark without adequate savings. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the credit rating was at risk, Bloomberg News said.

Jonathan's administration is advocating a price of $75 per barrel for next year's budget, while lawmakers are debating a benchmark as high as $80 per barrel. The $75 market, however, shows the country is "managing the economy and thinking of tomorrow," Jonathan said.

Last week, an unnamed spokesman from the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources was quoted by the Platts news service as saying exploration work in the country "started dropping a long time ago."

Oil reserves estimated in the third quarter, the spokesman said, declined from 37.1 billion barrels from last year to 36.5 billion barrels.

Nigeria relies on oil for about 75 percent of its revenues.

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