The Nigerian Oil Industry and the Challenges of Covid-19 Pandemic

Cite this article: Aghalino, S. O. and Amos, O. O. (2022). “The Nigerian Oil Industry and the Challenges of Covid-19 Pandemic”. in Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 11. Pp. 200-216.


The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic was not only a global health challenge, but had also caused unprecedented economic crisis. The pandemic had evidently disproportionately impacted the oil industry in Nigeria as the negative externalities of the pandemic are searing for Nigeria that is a mono-cultural economy. This paper therefore is a preliminary analysis of the impacts and challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Nigerian oil industry. The study adopted content analysis of extant literature, and argued that the severity of the pandemic on the Nigerian oil industry is massive and hard-hit because the Nigerian economy is not diversified as it relies heavily on the enclave oil and gas industry. We concluded by stressing the need for diversification of the Nigerian economy, which can be achieved if the political leadership invest the rent from sale of oil on industrial manufacturing such as petrochemical and agro-allied industries in order to absorb the long term shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Oil industry, Nigeria, Covid-19 pandemic, challenge, stakeholders

DOI: 10.36349/sokotojh.2022.v11i01.008


Samuel O. Aghalino

Department of History and International Studies University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

Email: soaghalino@gmail.com


Ominigho Owem Amos

Department of History and International Studies University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

Email: omonighoowem@yahoo.com


Since the establishment of the first major United States of America oil company, the Standard Oil Company founded by John Rockefeller in 1870, the industry has unfolded over several decades (Knowles, 1990). Its impacts on world development and civilization has been profound than any single natural resource in recorded history. Suffice it to say that at the global level, there is considerable dependency on the development of the oil industry due to growth in the transportation sector as well as increasing global energy demand. This has culminated into continuous investment in petroleum-based products all over the world. Essentially therefore, oil has been and perhaps, remains a very decisive element in defining the nature and character of today‘s economy. It is equally a crucial factor in world politics and the diplomatic strategy of states. In Nigeria, the oil sector is to a very large extent, the treasure base of the country in terms of what it contributes to the national economy and its necessity for daily living.

However, over the past years, the Nigerian oil industry has been beset by a myriad of challenges, notably oil theft and pipeline vandalism, stalled economic reforms, legal and regulatory frameworks, and threat of international oil price volatility amongst others. While stakeholders are



still grabbling towards curbing these challenges, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global Pandemic in January 20201. Conceptually, Covid-19 which is an acronym for Corona Virus Disease of 2019 is an infectious disease whose symptoms includes; cough, shortness of breath, fever and loss of smell while at its complicated level could lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and kidney failure, and eventually, death2.

The public fear of the life-threatening impact of the virus created a situation as it were in many countries including Nigeria, which elicited governments with no other option than to adopt drastic strategies toward the containment of the spread of the virus. While, according to the National Geographic3 , reduction in environmental pollution and improved societal quietness are some of the positives associated with the measures taken to contain the spread of the pandemic, it is important to state that such measures as the lockdown of the global population, closure of industries and the complete shutdown of borders with heavy restrictions placed on movements and the grounding of airplanes and other means of transportation in many cities, impacted heavily on travel and trade which caused substantial disruption in several sectors and aspects of our national life and the global system. The Corona Virus like a tsunami hit heavily on the global economy such that every aspect of human society was affected by the pandemic4. In the oil industry, players reported unexpected low profitability and negative consequences on production and investment. The International and indigenous oil companies operating in Nigeria‘s Oil and Gas Industry were not insulated from this unprecedented crisis, mainly because most of the hydrocarbons produced in the country are exported.

Hence, there have been concerns among observers regarding the current and long-term effects of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) on the Nigerian oil industry and the economy. Notably, the impacts of the pandemic have been dramatic and excruciating. Informal sectors have been devastated leading to lose of many jobs to the tone of four in ten working Nigerians losing their jobs in April 2020 alone5. With particular reference to the oil industry in Nigeria, the restrictions and ban to national and international travels and other economic activities slowed and relatively brought oil businesses in Nigeria to a halt. It is much more worrisome the adverse effect that this global pandemic has had and continue to have on the petroleum sector considering how crucial revenues from the sale of crude oil is to the sustenance of the Nigerian economy. In May 2020, the Nigerian government predicted that as much as 80% of oil revenue plan for the year would not be realized. Two months into this prediction, the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning reported that due to the unhealthy circumstances created by the Corona Virus quagmire, the country



1            World Health Organization 1, Statement on second meeting of the International Health Regulation Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel corona virus. Available online at www.who.int/news-room/detail/30- 01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meetingof- Accessed 16/6/202

2            Thevarajan, I. N., Breadth of concomitant immune responses prior to patient recovery: A case report of non-severe Covid-19. Nature Medicine, 26(4), Pp.  45-55

3            National Geographic, Corona virus-is-quieting-the-world-seismic-data-shows. Available online at www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/coronavirus-is-quieting-the-world-Retrieved 27/6/2021

4            Ezeani, N., Covid-19 pandemic and the likely consequences on the oil and gas sector on Nigeria: Any feasible options?‖ The Center for Public Policy Alternatives, 2020.

5            Nafi, C., Sayne, A. and Alexandra, G., Nigeria: Updated assessment of the impact of the Corona virus pandemic on the extractive sector and resource governance. Natural Resource GovernanceInstitute.2020, Pp.23-41.


experienced a 65% decline in projected oil and gas net revenue, and by the second quarter of the year, the economy shrank by 6% 6.

Thus, it was evident from the outset of the global pandemic that the global oil space in general and the Nigerian oil industry in particular would not be spared from the Covid-19 overwhelming impacts and challenges. In the Nigerian case, in less than two years into the existence of the pandemic in the country, it has continued to weigh heavily on oil business activities, and stakeholders are reportedly facing daunting challenges arising from travel restrictions, depressed need for refined products and chemicals as well fluctuations in oil prices among other issues. This is especially a challenge for Nigeria bearing in mind, the mono-cultural nature of the Nigerian economy which is highly dependent on the oil and gas industry. The virus and its implications on our national and individual existence are still much with us and the Nigerian state has continued to experiment with approaches in finding workable solutions to the novel virus and its impacts. It is based on the forgoing that this paper is aimed at providing a preliminary survey of evolving situation and the current and long term challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic on the Nigerian oil industry.

Evolution and Spread of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria

Covid-19 is an abbreviation of ‗Corona Virus Disease of 2019.‘ The corona virus as it were, was first discovered in Wuhan, the Chinese capital within the Hubei Province when the first known victim of the virus, on 1st December 2019 exhibited its symptoms which include; fever, cough and shortness of breath, loss of smell among others. Its complications which severity is largely dependent on the health status of the individual include; pneumonia, viral sepsis, acute respiratory distress and kidney failure among other issues (Sohrabi, 2021). At the outset, sufferers of the symptoms of the virus were taken to be a form of pneumonic cases within the Province until the Chinese office of World Health Organization (WHO) identified it as a new strain of the SARS-COV virus of 2002 (WHO, 2020)

By the end of the month of its discovery, the virus had spread to other countries in Asia. In February 2020, cases were reported throughout Europe and the United States. Since then, the virus exponentially spread globally. It has transmitted locally in countries across all six WHO regions, and on 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and a pandemic on 11th March, 2020 after the United States declared it a national emergency on March3, 20207. According to a report by Ozili8, the earliest mode of transmission of the virus was from animal to person. This was based on the argument that residents who lived in Hubei Province of China particularly the Wuhan area, had some trade link to a large seafood and live animal market, which implies that the virus was from animal to human.



6            Nafi, C., Sayne, A. and Alexandra, G., Nigeria: Updated assessment of the impact of the Corona virus pandemic…Pp.23-41.

7            Norouzi, N., PostCovid19 and Globalization Oil and Natural Gas Trade: Challenges, Opportunities, Lessons, Regulations, and Strategies. International Journal of Energy Research,45(2), 2021, Pp. 14338– 14356.

8            Ozili, P.K,, COVID-19 in Africa: Socio-economic impact, policy response and opportunities. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 7(2), 2021, Pp. 14-28



In Nigeria, available sources reveal that the corona virus entered the country through an infected Italian citizen who arrived the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on 24th February, 2020 from Milan, Italy. According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control NCDC9, the said Italian while undergoing medical check in his company clinic in Ogun state a day after he arrived Nigeria was referred by his physician to the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba, Lagos State, where the COVID-19 status was confirmed on the 27th February, 2020. Between March to May, 2020, the corona virus had infected people in Lagos and then spread to other parts of the country10. Two weeks after, a number of infected cases were for example discovered in Lagos and Abuja, which marked the beginning of the spread of the Covid-19 in Nigeria. Swiftly, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on 23 March, 2020 reacted by imposing restriction on international commercial flights into Nigeria11. However, a significant point to note during the early period of the transmission of Covi-19 in Nigeria is that within the first month, the disease distribution appeared to be elitist. The majority of those who tested positive according to NCDC, were returnees from abroad. In the second phase of its transmission however, the incidence of the disease grew steadily in Nigeria, moving from somewhat imported case and elitist pattern to community transmission thereby endangering the lives of the generality of Nigerians. The community transmission as it were, made the deadly virus to pose stronger challenge. This is so because, although Covid-19 is not airborne but can be spread in various ways primarily during close contact among people in the community.

The complexity of the community transmission of Covid-19 in Nigeria and elsewhere for that matter was compounded by the irregularity nature of the symptoms such that was humanly difficult to identify an infected person without testing. Hence, there were silent carriers of the virus such as; the asymptomatic individuals who were carriers of the active virus but never developed any symptoms to indicate illness. The pre-symptomatic people on the other hand were known infected people but who were yet to show any symptoms, while a third group were mildly symptomatic who may show little evidence of Covid-19 illness but continue to come in close contact with others12. This factor of silent carriers helped to increase the spread of the virus and thus made the community more vulnerable to the infection of the disease.

Overview of the Nigerian Oil Industry

The development of the Nigerian oil industry had a challenging but fascinating beginning. Oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria by Shell D‘Arcy Petroleum in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century of failed exploration efforts13. Pioneer production which made Nigerian join the ranks of oil producing nations began in 1958 and the volume of production at the

9            Nigeria  Centre  for  Disease  Control.  ―COVID-19  outbreak  in  Nigeria:  Situation  repot.  Available  online  at https://ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/sitreps Accessed 17/7/2021

10        Adegboye, O. A., Adekunle, A. I., and Gayawan, E. Early Transmission Dynamics of Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) in Nigeria. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020, 17(9), P. 3054.

11        Onyeyi, E.(2020), Bans on all international flights as corona virus cases rises. Available online atwww.premiumtimesng.com/news/383095-update-nigeria Accessed 17/7/2021

12        Oyeranti, O. and Sokeye, B, The evolution and spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria. University of Ibadan: Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), 2020.

13        Umejesi, I and Akpan, W, Oil Exploration and Local Opposition in colonial Nigeria: Understanding the Roots of Contemporary State-Community Conflict in the Niger Delta. South African Review of Sociology, 44(1), 2013, Pp. 111-130


initial stage was 5,100 barrel per day (bpd). By the late sixties and early seventies, the country reached a production level of over 2 million bpd, and by 1971 Nigeria became a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and established the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) in 1977 as regulatory agency in the oil sector. Although production figures dropped in the eighties due to economic slump, by 2004 the oil industry witnessed a total rejuvenation of crude oil production to a recorded level of 2.5 million bpd, and until 2020 following the significant shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, development strategies were aimed at increasing production to 4 million bpd by the year 2010. Among other important sub-groups, the primary or key stakeholders of the Nigerian oil industry are; the Nigerian state as represented by the Federal Government, the oil producing states, regulatory bodies such as the Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency(NOSDRA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Oil Companies.14

As it were, the oil industry is usually considered to be in two distinct classes namely; the Upstream and Downstream Sectors. The Upstream sector refers to activities in oil exploration and production that are conducted within or around the oil wells. These activities include oil prospecting, production and transportation while the downstream sector involves the refining of crude oil into various products like petrol, diesel, kerosene, naphtha among other products, and the transportation and marketing of refined products to consumers by pipelines, sea, road, tankers and rail tankers. Essentially in Nigeria, the Niger Delta region harbours the country‘s oil and gas resources. Hence, oil exploration and production activities are concentrated in the onshore and offshore parts of the region.

It goes without saying that oil and gas are essential components of industrialization and economic growth of its bearer nation. In Nigeria, the Nigerian oil industry has played undeniable dominant roles in the nation‘s economy through revenue from export of petroleum resources since 1958.15 The industry accounts for about 90% of Nigeria‘s gross earnings thereby making the Niger Delta oil enclave region the treasure base of the country‘s economy. Nigeria is ranked among the major oil producing countries around the world, the largest natural gas reserve in Africa and the second largest oil reserve in Africa, and until recently when it was overtaken by Angola, Nigeria was Africa‘s primary oil producer16. The revenue accruing from the enormous oil and gas deposits of Nigeria has been huge. For instance, the report by NNPC in 2008 revealed that an estimated 29.8 Trillion Naira had accrued to Nigeria from the export of crude oil between 1958 and 2007 alone as indicated in the table below.


14        Osabajo, O. and Moore, D, Who is Who? Identifying the different subgroups of secondarystakeholders within a community: A case of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria communities, International Business Research, 10 (9), 2017, Pp.188-205.

15        Ogbogbo, C.B.N., The Niger Delta peoples and the resource control conflict, 1960-1995: An Assessment of Conflict Handling Styles. In: I. A. Olawole (ed), Perspective on Peace and Conflict in Africa. Essays in Honour of General (Dr) Abdusalam A. Abubakar. , University of Ibadan: Institute of African Studies, 2006.

16        https://energycapitalpower.com.



Table I: Estimated Crude Oil Production and Revenue in Nigeria, 1958 - 2007


Production(million barrels)

Revenue (Million Dollars)
























































































































Production(million barrels)

Revenue (Million Dollars)




































#29.8 trillion


Sources: NNPC, Report and Statement of Accounts published by the Inspectorate division, Lagos, 2008.17

In more recent foreign trade report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it is shown that Nigeria recorded N16 trillion from crude oil sales between January and September 2022.18 From the huge revenue that accrued from crude oil production, the sector has over the years served as the backbone of Nigeria‘s economy with significant impacts on the generality of the people of the country in terms of employment creation and improvements in the well-being of Nigerians. For instance, official statistical reports by the Nigerian National Assembly in 2004 show that about eight people in Nigeria gets financial support from every one oil worker in the country19. The industry has also engendered improvement in community infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, and other basic needs including skills acquisition and development amongst others arising from training programmes of oil companies as part of their corporate social responsibilities to the people. Again, as one of the leading crude oil producers in the world, the oil industry has immensely benefited Nigeria as the country has had substantial savings made into her Excess Crude Account (ECA) over the years, even though this easily depleted through unnecessary profligacy and corruption20.

However, the Nigerian petroleum industry is not immune from the myriad of challenges that may beset the oil business anywhere in the world. Oil companies operating in the Niger Delta for instance are faced with the challenge of continuous community unrest arising from the problem of environmental pollution of oil exploitation in the area, oil pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and other forms of violence against foreign oil workers arising partly from conflict over the control of oil


17        Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Report and Statement of Accounts. Lagos: Inspectorate Division, 2008.

18        National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), NBS Change Unemployment Data Methodology after criticism by Labour Ministry. Published November 28, 2022. Available online at https://www.ripplesnigeria.com/nbs-to-change- unemployment-data-methodology-after-criticism-by-labour-ministry/ Accessed 11/1/2023

19        National Assembly, Oil and gas Policy. Abuja: National Assembly, 2004.

20        Daily Trust Newspaper., How excess crude account was depleted to $71.8m in 2020. 10th March. Available online at www.dailytrust.com.ng/how-excess-crudeaccount-was-depleted-to-71-8m-in-2020-Accessed 13/8/2021



resources 21. Also, the different shades of agitations against the adverse effects of oil extraction on the socio-economic lives of the people and for environmental justice in oil bearing communities have continued to disrupt oil production in the country. Communities most times agitate and seek compensations that have sometimes involved litigation with the oil companies.

The question of deregulation has also been a challenging issue to stakeholders of the Nigerian oil industry due to swift and harsh reaction from the public. Many Nigerians view the subsidy as their only benefit from the exploitation of the natural resource. Trade Unions among other sub-groups in the country have at different times reacted with general strikes to disrupt the nation's oil business. Lack of infrastructure, regulatory issues, and security concerns have also weakened Nigeria‘s capacity to utilize its refining facilities, thereby pushing the country to become a net importer of refined petroleum products.

These challenges and other forms of limitations have remained entrenched as clogs in the wheel of the progress of the Nigerian oil industry, and while stakeholders are still grabbling to cope or perhaps to resolve the lingering consequences of these challenges, the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic stamped an overwhelming deadly shock on the industry. The effects of the pandemic across various sectors in Nigeria continue to evolve with far reaching developments that are impacting negatively on the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. Hence, this survey of the challenging developments of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Nigerian oil industry and the conclusions on appropriate mitigation strategies is a worthwhile engagement.

Challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Nigerian Oil Industry

Under the new global realities created by the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, the oil industries all over the world are dealing with a plethora of challenges. As stated earlier, the oil sector in the country is extremely important to the general well-being of the citizens. Thus, a critical survey of any development such as the Covid-19 pandemic that negatively affected the sector is an effort aimed at saving the Nigerian nation from plunging into a disastrous state. Within the Nigerian oil industry, one major aspect of the impact of Covid-19 was in the area of oil field operations within the upstream sector. At the outset of the pandemic, a key challenge before the oil industry was on how to maintain the safety of its workforce as well as the continued operational functionality of its assets in an environment where everyone felt unsafe. As part of measures therefore to mitigate the spread and impact of Covid-19, there were a number of regulatory directives by agencies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) especially on the need for reduction of personnel during oil business operations. A case in point was the directive of the DPR on March 23, 2020, in which the agency through a circular, directed oil and gas companies to reduce their workforce on offshore platforms as part of the measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19. Only staffs who were engaged in essential duties were by the directive allowed to be nominated and permitted to travel to offshore and remote locations while non-essential staffs at those locations were withdrawn with immediate effect22.



21        Fajana, S., Industrial relations in the oil industry in Nigeria. The Sectoral Activities Programme, Geneva: International Labour Office, 2005.

22        Department of Petroleum Resources), Covid-19: DPR expresses concern, admonishes oil companies. Available at https://www.dpr.gov.ng/covid-19-dpr-expresses-concern-admonishes-Accessed 51/9/2021


In addition, the DPR directed that permitted-to-work staffs were to work only for a period of twenty-eight days on rotational basis. While agencies were required to monitor this arrangement on oil business offshore operations, they were directed to have only one personnel per rotation period. In a similar development, while asserting that the evolving situation caused by the outbreak of the Covid-19 is tantamount to ―force majeure,‖ the DPR directed that all oil and gas contractors and service providers in the industry be demobilized and were required to comply with the directives of lockdown, curfew, and where it was mandatory to be at work, the rule of physical distancing and limiting the number of personnel on construction and other project sites were strictly applied23.Within the context of the life-threatening situation occasioned by the pandemic, the above steps taken by the DPR are understandable in view of the need to ensure the welfare and safety of oil industry workers and to contain the spread of the virus. However, it is important to note that activities within the oil sector were largely sustained by several contractual arrangements especially with regards to oil field operations such as drilling contracts, joint operating agreements, construction contracts, production sharing agreements/contracts and maintenance contracts amongst others. Hence, the Covid-19- driven measures as applied, affected all operators and their contractors in the oil industry, and no doubt had effect on the performance of parties under these contracts as it became an excuse for non performance of contractual obligations and meting of deadlines.

Essentially therefore, the dwindling of operations would result in reduced production targets across all production and supply chain of crude oil business. For instance, prior to the advent of the pandemic, Nigerian crude oil production rose to the highest level in more than ten years to 2.4 million barrels per day. However, the obvious challenges of covid-19 aided Nigeria‘s decision to participate in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) crude output cut agreement, which according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was necessary to usher in a re-balancing of the oil market in the face of covid-19 havocs in the global oil sector24. According to the OPEC+ oil production cuts agreement, which commenced in early 2020, countries were to adjust downward, their overall oil production by 10 million bpd, which represented about 23 percent of their production levels for the initial two months. This was followed by 8 million bpd for six months and another 6 million bpd reduction for subsequent sixteen months.

Notably, this deal coupled with the dwindling production operations resulted into significant reduction in oil production in Nigeria. For instance, according to Premium Statistics25, from April 2020, Nigeria's daily oil production was 1.7 million barrels against the pre-Covid-19 era of 2.1 million barrels. Corroborating the preceding viewpoint, George26 reveals that from January 2021 within the Covid-19 circumstances, the country‘s crude production dwindled between 1.579 and

1.81 million bpd while condensate production fluctuated between 250,000 and 280,000 bpd, which represents a remarkable production reduction from the over 400,000 barrels during the pre-covid-19 era. Consequently, the National Bureau of Statics notes that before the Corona virus pandemic,

23        Department of Petroleum Resources, Covid-19: DPR expresses concern, admonishes oil companies…

24        Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (2021), NNPC Remains Committed to OPEC+ Agreement, Gmd Tells Global Forum. Premium Times, 13 January, 2021.

25        Premium Statistics 2021, Impact of Corona virus on oil production in Nigeria 2020. Available online atfile:///C:/Users/User/Desktop/•%20Nigeria%20impact%20of%20coronavirus%20on%20oil%20production%2020 20%20Statista.html Accessed 13/7/2022

26        George, L, Nigeria's oil output could fall 35% without reforms. Available online at www.reuters.com/article/nigeria-oil/nigerias-oil-output-Accessed 19/7/2021



Nigeria‘s oil sector generated about nine percent of the country‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but that between October and December 2020, the oil industry contributed 5.9 percent to the total GDP, a decrease of roughly three percentage points compared to the previous quarter.

One other major challenge for the oil industry occasioned by the new circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic was the unavoidable sharp decline in the demand for crude oil by countries around the world. In the wake of the Covid-19, the increasing rate of infected persons necessitated most countries to place restrictions and lockdown on vehicular movement, air travel and economic activities as approaches toward suppressing the spread and impact of the pandemic. The effects of these measures have been overwhelming on industrial slow-downs. This, to a large extent has resulted in reduced need of, and depressed demand for oil, refined products and other petro- chemicals nationally and internationally leading to an excess supply over demand in the crude oil market.

For Nigeria as an oil dependent nation, most of its exports trading partners were similarly severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic forcing them to shut down their economies. For instance, major oil export destinations of Nigeria‘s crude oil in 2019, such as India, Spain, Netherlands, France, South Africa and the US were all battling the pandemic and were under both partial and total lockdowns at different times. This, in the first place, largely reduced economic activities between Nigeria and its trading partners with expected negative externalities for all parties involved. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), while watching the trend of the ugly events forecasted that Nigeria‘s total oil and gas exports will decline by at least $26.5 billion by the end of year 202027. Expectedly, during the 2020 when the pandemic had taken a drastic toll on almost all nations of the world, the export of crude oil from Nigeria experienced a huge fall due to sharp reduction in oil demand from countries especially those of Europe and Asia who are major buyers of Nigeria‘s crude.

Table II:  Crude Oil Export Value of Nigeria (1st quarter of 2020 to the 2nd quarter of 2021)

Destination Regions

Q1, 2020

Q2, 2020

Q3, 2020

Q4, 2020

Q1, 2021

Q2, 2021




































Source: Nigeria‟s oil export statistics. Accessed from https://www.statistica.com/statistics/1166636/export-value-of-crude-oil-from-nigeria Accessed 20/9/2021

Table II above indicates that the export of crude oil experienced a sharp fall in the second quarter of 2020, and by December, marking the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, crude oil export recorded the lowest amount, going far below one million barrels per day. In Africa and American regions also, the fall in the demand for Nigeria‘s crude were consistent even up to the second quarter of

27        Shola, A, Nigeria Oil and Gas Export to Dwindle by $26.5 Billion, International Monetary Fund IMF) Financial Energy Review. Available Online, https://Financialenergyreview.Com/2020/04/30/ Nigeria-Oil- And-Gas-Export-To-Dwindle- Accessed19/7/2021


2021 which indicate much less values than it was in the first quarter of 2020. It goes without saying, that these crude oil export reductions have taken drastic negative toll on the country‘s oil business with grave consequences for the oil-rich nation‘s income. However, the value of crude oil export from Nigeria to Europe and Asian regions experienced increase in the second quarter of 2021 possibly due to the relaxation of lock down restrictions imposed in several countries as measures to curb the spread of the corona virus and the resuscitation of global economic activities.

On April 16, 2020, World Oil Magazine analysis of oil glut, reported that ―… In West Africa, about 20 million barrels of April-loaded crude oil remained unsold, and particularly in the Nigerian case, oil tankers were being stranded at sea with unsold Nigerian crude due to lack of willing purchasers‖28. The NNPC for instance, revealed that Nigeria had 50 cargos of oil and 12 of liquefied natural gas that could not find buyers as at March 2020 due to the prevailing circumstances created by the pandemic. Sources revealed that this seller-buyer dichotomy resulted in Nigeria losing 35 million dollars per day, as a result of the huge decline in oil purchase and prices occasioned by the novel Corona virus pandemic29. Consequently, the short as well as medium-term outlook for the Nigerian oil business in these circumstances was so challenging than ever. For one, there were weak prospects for new investment in the sector as investors were weary of investing their capital due to the prevailing business climate. Olumuyiwa and Ibrahim30, acknowledge that in the past 10 years, investors have considered the oil sector increasingly unattractive due to a number of issues. The conventional oil business models became much riskier and less financially viable due to the business situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic. The attendant effect of this was that investors diverted their resources elsewhere and evidences abound that existing oil companies and other critical stakeholders of the industry pushed back investment decisions31. The crisis affected job security within the oil industry. In October 2020 for instance, Chevron announced that in order to remain competitive in business in the light of the Covid-19 impact on oil demand, the company was to lay-off its Nigerian staff to the tune of 25 percent across its operations, and available evidence indicates that this action was implemented although the actual number of job lose was uncertain32.

Bearing in mind the economic principle that fall in demand leads to reduced price, the fall in demand of crude oil resulted in a nose-dive in crude oil prices. The pandemic brought a consistent and volatile period in the price of oil. Few months into the Covid-19 era, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned poorer crude oil production countries such as Ecuador and Iraq of the likely economic hit saying that their revenues from oil and gas sales could fall as much as 85 per cent 33. In the same development, it was revealed that countries like Nigeria that are dependent on oil sales to fund government budgets, would experience a collapse in revenue that would undermine

28        World Oil, It‘s already too late for OPEC+ cuts to save the physical oil market. Available online from www.worldoil.com Accessed 19/7/2021

29        Nwachukwu, O., NNPC Boss admits 50 Cargoes of Unsold Oil, prepares Nigerians for Tough Times Ahead.

Business Day News Paper, 11 March, 2020

30        Olumuyiwa, A. J and Ibrahim, S. M,, Effects of Covid-19 on the Economy of Oil Dependent Nigeria. Journal of Energy Technologies and Policy, 11 (1),2021, Pp. 11-21

31        George,     L.,     Nigeria's     Oil      Output    could     Fall     35%     without     Reforms.    Available    online     at www.reuters.com/article/nigeria-oil/nigerias-oil-output-Accessed 19/7/2021

32        Owolabi, T., Chevron Nigeria plans to cut 25% of staff after oil price drop. Available online at www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-chevron-Accessed 19/7/2021

33        International Energy Agency, Monthly oil Price Statistics. Available online at www.iea.org Accessed 22/7/2021



developments including the health systems set to be burdened by the corona virus‘s spread. These predictions were not unconnected with the observed steady negative oil price reaction to the Covid - 19 especially after the release of the first corona virus monitoring report by the World Health Organization (WHO) up to the first quarter of 2020. During this period, international oil prices witnessed the sharpest drops in history from a peak of $60.94/barrels in December 2019 to

$18.84/barrels in April 202034. According to the 2020 International Energy Agency report, the Corona Virus - induced drastic fall in oil price has never been experienced in more than 17 years.35

In addition to the impacts of the pandemic that limited energy usage all over the word, a major catalyst to the oil price collapse was the production and price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. Saudi Arabia produces 12.9% of the world‘s oil supply while Russia produces 12.7% and they are followed by the United States which produces 8.6 %36. As the two biggest oil producers in the world, both Saudi Arabia and Russia in a bid to reduce the impact of covid-19 pandemic on the oil sector had previously co-operated and agreed on crude output (Quinn, 2020). The reality however was that both countries have taken steps to maintain their market dominance, and have yielded to pressures for greater production in order to cushion the effects of the collapsing oil price. The result of flooding the market with oil was the greater challenge of oil glut thereby plunging oil price further such that between December 2019 and April 9th 2020 for instance, there was a sharp dwindling of oil price from 67 dollars per barrel to less than 20 dollars per barrel. On the global scale, the table below indicates the monthly price trend of oil volatility in 2020 as a result of the occurrence of oil price collapse occasioned partly by the global pandemic and by the oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

For nations and stakeholders in the oil industry, the implications of the dwindling oil prices were far reaching. In Nigeria, the fall in oil price was devastating and unhealthy for the economy. Although Nigeria is reputed as the 49th largest exporter in the world but oil and gas dominate her export market with 2.7% of the world‘s oil supply37. The crash in oil price therefore in no small measure exposed the unsustainability and uncertainty of an oil dependent economy. Oil analysts have argued that even if the oil production cut deal with Russia, Saudi Arabia and a few other oil producing countries was maintained, it would not have been enough to balance the market in face of a deep economic recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (IEA, 2020), As it were, in less than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigeria‘s Finance Ministry in the closing months of 2020 stated that as Africa‘s biggest crude exporter, Nigeria sought $7billion in emergency funds to cushion the effect of covid-19 induced oil price shock in the face of imminent recession38. Earlier in July 2020, reports revealed that Nigeria recorded a 65% decline in expected net revenues from the sales of oil and gas in the first half of the year as a result of Covid-19 related challenges to the petroleum industry,

34        Chibuzor, A,, The Twin Shocks and the Nigerian Energy and Natural Resources Industry: An Analysis of the Challenges, Consequences and Cure. Available online at www.file://the-twin-shocks-and-the-nigerian-energy-and- natural-resources-industry.pdf. Accessed 3/8/2021

35        International Energy Agency, Monthly oil Price Statistics. Available online at www.iea.org  Accessed 22/7/2021

36        Olumuyiwa, A. J and Ibrahim, S. M, (2021), Effects of Covid-19 on the economy of oil dependent Nigeria… Pp. 11-21

37        Nafi, C., Sayne, A. and Alexandra, G. (2020), Nigeria: Updated Assessment of the Impact of the Corona Virus Pandemic on the Extractive Sector and Resource Governance…Pp.23-41

38        Ukpe, W., Covid-19: Nigeria To Seek $750 Million From World Bank. Available Online At Https://Nairametrics.Com/2020/11/14/Covid-19-Nigeria-To-Seek-750-Million- Accessed 15/7/2021


which were not unconnected with unsold vessels of crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as well as the sharp drop in the price of crude oil in the market, that resulted into 6 percent shrinking of the economy.

As at July, 2020, Uzoho39 notes that the crude oil production cost in Nigeria ranges between 15 to 17 dollars per barrel, while earlier in the month of May of the same year, the plummeting price of oil landed the Nigerian Bonny Light crude for 10 dollars, and slightly higher to between 12 to 13 dollars thereafter and yet without buyers. The implication of this is that oil operators were technically subsidizing the production cost of crude oil in Nigeria with resultant effects of cutting down on contracts and other production engagements to reduce cost. In these circumstances, suffice it to say that oil production is increasingly becoming unviable for Nigeria as operators are daily confronted with production challenges that could lead to liquidity problem. The direct impact of production cut, lack of buyers and slump in oil prices among other issues, was the challenge of reduced income and capital flow. This no doubt impacted heavily on the ability of oil industry players to meet their operational and financing obligations. It is worthwhile to note that the operational and financial models upon which most of the pre-Covid-19 credit facilities and investment decisions had been structured were based on oil business fundamentals and average market prices that were more profitable and attractive than the now Covid-19 prevailing market situation.

Given the downturn and uncertainties in the oil industry, a drop in investment in especially in the upstream sector was inevitable. In fact, it is only normal for players to delay or suspend investment decisions in these circumstances. This implies shrinking or impeded patronage of investment in the oil fields due to uncertainty about the duration of the outbreak, the effectiveness of policy measures, and the reaction of economic agents to these measures—as well as negative investor sentiments, which were causing turbulence in capital markets around the world. Globally, over 20% decline was recorded in the upstream investment in 202040. It is therefore understandable to extrapolate that the dwindling of investment costs in the upstream oil and gas industry occasioned by the corona virus crisis will directly impact production over the next few years.

Indeed, the challenges of business non-viability in the oil industry created by the Covid-19 pandemic pushed a number of the oil industry players in Nigeria to defer Final Investment Decisions (FID) on a number of intended projects in the oil and gas sector. For instance, an International Oil Company in Nigeria noted that, the collapse in oil prices was potentially capable of reducing up to US$800 Million from its finances for the first quarter of the year 2020 and, hence decided to put a pause on significant investment decisions. Similarly, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc and other independent oil companies in Nigeria embraced drastic budgetary and other costs-cutting measures by at least 30% to counter the crash in crude prices in order to remain in business41.



39        Uzoho, B., COVID-19: Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) Supports Lagos with N150 million,

Thisday Newspaper, Lagos, 4 July, 2020.

40        International Energy Agency (2020), Monthly oil Price Statistics. Available online at www.iea.org Accessed 22/7/2021

41        International Energy Agency (2020), Monthly oil Price Statistics. Available online at www.iea.org Accessed 22/7/2021



Also, the lack of appetite for investment in the petroleum sector within the Covid-19 circumstances was not only in the realm of oil business operators but also among financial institutions which were unwilling to engage in significant commitment of funds to the oil sector during the unprecedented and unstable business climate of the industry due to fear of expected inability on the part of oil operators to meet their repayment and other financial obligations to their financiers in the face of the Covid-19 malady that afflicted the oil industry. In effect, these measures no doubt affected the ability of oil and gas companies to acquire oil assets and to engage in meaningful investments thereby slowing down economic activities in the oil sector due to the inability of significant projects to start-off. There were indications that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was hindered from fulfilling its contractual financial obligations across the various joint venture agreements that it is a party to42. It is along this line of thought and given the peculiarity of the circumstances that companies were likely to default on their financial obligations, that the Central Bank of Nigeria in the circular of March 16, 2020 directed financial institutions to consider temporary and time limited restructuring of the tenor and loan terms for business in some critical sectors in the country including the oil and gas sector43. Howbeit temporary and within a limited scope, the CBN intervention and approach prepared oil companies to manage the outcome of their inability to fulfill their repayment and other contractual obligations in order to limit the impact of the hostile business environment on their operations.

Furthermore, the oil sector in Nigeria also manifested unstable price movements of petroleum energy products ranging from crude oil to other refined petroleum products such as diesel, heating oil and gasoline. Specifically, the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol underwent different reviews depending on the prevailing oil market condition at the material time. The outset of the corona virus led to an initial fall in prices of petroleum-based products. In order therefore to reflect the global reality of falling oil prices in the face of the Covi-19 pandemic and consequent price of fuel imports, the Nigerian government through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) reviewed the pump price of premium motor spirit downward from N145 to N125 per litre effective from March 19, 2020 44. As the price of oil continued to slump at the global oil market, a further reduction was made to N123 per litre effective from April 1, 2020 45.

Bearing in mind the plummeting condition of oil, the PPRA also informed Nigerians of its plan to start a new pricing modulation that would reflect global oil markets fundamentals. Thus, the public expected that the pump price of petrol may further reduce depending on the fluctuation of global oil price. Given this price fall situation coupled with declining demand and excess supply, Nigeria entered a more crisis situation of huge fiscal deficits, inflation, exchange rate instability and foreign reserve depletion amongst other economic uncertainties. The government was left with the choice of revising the 2019 budget to reflect the current economic reality since the budget was priced at a higher oil price from 2019. Expectedly, the 2020 reconsidered budget had a capital expenditure cut

42        Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (2020), Nigeria Loses N1.06trn Oil Revenue Target To Covid -19.

Vanguard News, 20 October.

43        Central Bank of Nigeria (2020), Policy measures in response to covid-19 outbreaks and spillovers. Available online at https://www.cbn.gov.ng/Out/2020/FPRD/CBN%20POLICY% Accessed /08/2021

44        Central Bank of Nigeria (2020), Policy measures in response to covid-19 outbreaks and spillovers. Available online at https://www.cbn.gov.ng/Out/2020/FPRD/CBN%20POLICY% Accessed 10/08/2021

45        Guardian Newspaper, (2021), NNPC to reduce cost of crude oil production from $17. Available online at https://guardian.ng/business-services/nnpc-to-reduce-cost-of-crude-oil-productionAccessed 11/7/2021


down by 20% and recurrent expenditure by 25%. The expediency of this budget scale down is understandable especially with the crude oil benchmark crash, in which of 57 dollars per barrel was being revised to as low as 30 dollars per barrel at the global market. The impact of the covid-19 continued to hit hard on the oil dependent economy of Nigeria, falling oil prices continued to rob the country of a major chunk of her revenues.

Consequently, the government was forced to abandon in part, and says that it can no longer afford to continue with the existing but controversial petrol subsidy system as the corona virus pandemic crunches on the national budget and battered the economy. Thus, the cost of fuel at the pump was reviewed upward with a phenomenal rise by about 15% hitting as high as 162 naira per litre. President Muhammadu Buhari while defending the increase in a statement asserted that the pump price of fuel was a "crucial decision because of dwindling revenues…there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services," As the global oil business environment continued to experience and respond to the Covid-19 oil market shifts, there were indications   that the Nigerian government would finally attempt to remove the petrol subsidy in order to absorb funds to sustain the economy.

The public outcry that followed the fuel pump price increment was an obvious indication that the action had only exacerbated the ongoing high level of hardship in the country. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned the government against the abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services in the country, adding that that there was a limit to what the citizens could tolerate if the situation persist unabated. In response, the Federal Government through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, explained that, apart from the need of garnering fund to service the budget and the economy, there was a reactionary increment in the price of crude oil at the international market which was triggered by the announcement by an American pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, of its breakthrough in the discovery of a vaccine against Covid-1946. Since petrol is a derivative of crude oil, the pump price of petrol instantly reflected the increment. This was in tandem with the argument that the pump price of petrol is directly proportional to the price of crude oil in the global market.

Mitigating the Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Nigerian Oil Industry

The covid-19 pandemic could be likened to nothing less than an economic war with multi-faceted implications. Hence, Nigeria like the rest of the world was in a war with an unseen but a common enemy. This establishes that Nigeria was equally in a race with the rest of the world to undo the impacts of the novel corona virus pandemic. What therefore were the feasible mitigating options of oil stakeholders to bail out the oil sector? Indeed, there were some immediate and long terms strategies that the Nigerian state may pursue to protect the oil industry against the ravaging impacts of the covid-19 pandemic, and to enable the sector still maintain its contributions to the country‘s economic development.

It is important to recall that as it stands today, the contribution of oil to Nigeria‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is abysmally as low as 10% for many reasons. Majorly, is the export nature of Nigeria‘s oil business in which only 15-20% is traded and used locally thereby leading to

46        Agbakwuru, J. (2020), FG links Petrol Price increase to Pfizer‘s Discovery of COVID-19 vaccine. Vanguard News, 17 November.



overbearing external influence on the domestic utility of oil resource. In addition, majority of the top oil producers in Nigeria such as Shell, Chevron, Agip and others, are all International Oil Companies (IOCs) hence an average of 40% of the revenues and proceeds from the oil business is externally based. In this context, the government through its appropriate agencies must push the drive towards increased domestic oil and gas market expansion and utilization by strengthening the enforcement of regulatory provisions such as the Local Content Act of 2010 that encourages domestication of some oil services. More critically however, it is important for the Nigerian state in the current economic environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic, to vigorously pursue and put in proper perspective the priorities of the present regime on the expansion and diversification of the economy. By this, the country could move away from almost total dependence on crude oil production and sales, and would focus on alternative sectors such as agriculture, solid minerals, manufacturing and service sectors for revenue generation to the state. The challenge of economic diversification has remained seemingly intractable for successive political regimes in Nigeria. A lot have been said about Nigeria without or beyond crude oil, yet lots more are being done to ensure that achieving the country‘s survival outside oil would not follow.

It is instructive to note that with the present realities, economic diversification is imperative as a pragmatic and viable way to mitigate the shocks, uncertainties and negative impacts on the Nigeria economy occasioned by the corona virus pandemic. With economic diversification, future risks and pending economic breakdown could be averted, which will restore confidence in the system through promotion and sustenance of economic security and stability. In doing this, the oil and gas sector can still be the catalyst for the growth of other sectors. Hence, the government should place premium on utilizing the rent from the sale of oil on industrial manufacturing particularly petrochemical industries, agro-allied industries and power generation in order to absorb the long term shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A critical review of the cost of oil production in Nigeria is essential to tackling the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on the industry. Putting actions in place to bring down the production costs that will have oil export advantage is an immediate challenge for the Nigerian state. Over the years, huge security expenditure and unclear taxation structure at various stages and levels have all greatly contributed toward increased cost of oil production in Nigeria. Although some of these issues that would remove uncertainties and encourage investment in the oil sector are expectedly to be addressed by the Petroleum Industry Governance Act (PIGA), critical oil business stakeholders must avoid hasty decisions that could plunge the sector into further crisis. Rather, taking practical steps to addressing the Niger Delta environmental and developmental issues is critical at this time in order to mitigate the threat to oil field security often experienced in the region thereby reducing the huge security expenditure of the oil industry. Production cost reduction is also possible by reviewing existing contracts including service contracts, and joint venture agreements among others, with a view to terminating, suspending or renegotiating such contracts where necessary. In addition, there is need for tactical and technical selection of projects for execution. Avoidable errors, leakages and wastes must indeed be avoided. Again, oil fields that require minimal intervention and cost to operate should be targeted at this critical period with the use of highly competent skills and tight oil industry governance system.

Given the challenges and changes in oil field operating fundamentals due to the Covid-19 crisis, oil company operators, especially the indigenous operators who are highly geared, are facing increasing burn in servicing debt obligation. The directives by the Central Bank of Nigeria to financial


institutions and the public to consider the restructuring of the tenor and loan terms for businesses mostly impacted by the pandemic, with particular reference to the oil and gas sector is a welcomed development. Howbeit temporary, oil companies in Nigeria should in the meantime, leverage on this opportunity provided by the CBN, to initiate meaningful engagement with lenders to explore debt restructuring alternatives favourable to their oil business sustainability.


Going by its antecedent, the Nigerian oil industry has been plagued over the years by uncompetitive production costs, market price instability, corruption, vandalism and sabotage among other challenges. This paper has revealed that these challenges that have militated against the industry‘s functionality, have been exacerbated by the new challenges of decline in demand and sharp falling prices of oil due to economic slowdown occasioned by the measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 at the global and local levels. Expectedly, the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 is inevitable as a necessary effect of market forces interplay. It is only sad that the Nigerian oil industry has been forced to transit into deeper state of crises thereby making the oil revenue- dependent country one of the worst hit by the global pandemic.

The extents of impacts reveal the inherent weaknesses in Nigerian oil and gas industry operations. With Nigeria‘s crude oil exports accounting for over 80%of the nation‘s total exports and foreign exchange revenue, the Covid-19 challenges reflected poorly on strategic savings from oil revenue of pre-Covid-19 years, which has inevitably led to large borrowings that threatens the sustainability of the industry and by extension, the Nigerian economy. This provides sufficient cause for concern. Hence, it is imperative that the Nigerian oil industry exercises pragmatism, consistency and transparency in order to build public trust in addition to being creative and strategic in planning in order to weather the storm and aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic.

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