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HomeTop NewsAngry protesters call Alison-Madueke "thief" at OPEC meet

Angry protesters call Alison-Madueke “thief” at OPEC meet

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 Nigerian oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke was heckled Wednesday just ahead of OPEC talks in Vienna by an angry protester who called for her to be fired over allegations of corruption and incompetence.
As Alison-Madueke spoke to reporters shortly before the start of the meeting at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters, a protester from a group calling itself the Gatekeepers Foundation accused the minister of the theft of $20 billion and called for her immediate suspension.
“Nigeria’s oil minister is a thief,” the group’s director, Blessing Agbomhere, shouted before being removed by security from the conference room.
Alison-Madueke rejected Agbomhere’s allegations.
 “There is no $20 billion missing and stop shouting. You can talk to us in a civilized manner,” she said.
  Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is under growing pressure to sack Alison-Madueke. Since her appointment as Nigeria’s first female oil minister in June 2011, the Nigerian oil industry has stumbled from one crisis to another, with production and reserves taking a nose-dive, promised reform yet to be implemented and NNPC, on whose board she presides, embroiled in allegations of corruption.
The minister said Wednesday there had been some “operational gaps” but denied the $20 billion loss.
“It was found that [there were] some gaps but those gaps were mainly operational expense gaps and the gaps of $200 million here and there. We are looking at this very strongly now there are areas we are looking at now,” she said.
Alison-Madueke would not confirm, meanwhile, that Nigeria was proposing her as secretary general of OPEC and that she had already held several meetings with a number of ministers in her bid to replace former Libyan oil minister Abdalla el-Badri who is due to leave the secretariat at the end of
the year.
She did say, however, that the issue would not be discussed during Wednesday’s meeting.
“It is not on the agenda, it is not for discussion,” she said.
Badri is due to leave the secretariat at the end of this year, so the question of who will replace him is likely to come up for discussion in early December.
A senior OPEC delegate said Alison-Madueke’s candidacy was still at an informal stage.
There are three official candidates: Saudi Arabia’s former OPEC governor, Majid Moneef; former Iranian minister Gholamhossein Nozari; and former Iraqi oil minister Thamer Ghadban.
But choosing an OPEC secretary general has rarely been easy because of the political undercurrents, particularly among OPEC’s Middle East members, that can delay agreement on even this largely administrative job.
Badri, a former Libyan oil minister, was himself a compromise candidate who came to the post in January 2006 and served two three-year terms that
ended in December 2012. He has remained in office since then because OPEC has
been unable to achieve unanimity on a single candidate. All three Gulf
producers have insisted that their respective candidates are best suited to
the job.
Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Naimi said he was continuing to back Moneef, an OPEC veteran.
“I have a candidate myself. I support my candidate. Anybody can be a compromise,” Naimi told reporters just ahead of the OPEC meeting.
Iraqi oil minister Abdul-Karim al-Luaibi said on Tuesday that he was “surprised” when Alison-Madueke had told him earlier in the day that she was a contender for the post.
“We didn’t receive any official notice that she had nominated herself for the position,” he told reporters.
“We pointed out that the nomination for the secretary general should be based on a professional basis or criteria,” he said.
Industry experts in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, which is facing its worst crisis in years, plagued by corruption scandals and crude oil theft, had largely negative reactions Tuesday to Alison-Madueke’s push to replace Badri.
“I expect strong opposition and condemnation from Nigerian opposition parties and civil rights groups once her appointment is officially announced by OPEC, against the background of the scandals she is surrounded with back home,” said one Lagos-based oil industry official.

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