Any attempt to analyze Nigeria’s national oil company (NOC), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), must first confront the question of what it really is. Despite its formal organization as a vertically integrated oil company, NNPC is neither a real commercial entity nor a meaningful oil operator. It lacks control over the revenue it generates and thus is unable to set its own strategy. It relies on other firms to perform essentially all the most complex functions that are hallmarks of operating oil companies. Yet unlike some NOCs it also fails to fit the profile of a government agency: its portfolio of activities is too diverse, incoherent, and beyond the reach of government control for it to function as a government policymaking instrument.
Nigeria depends heavily on oil and gas. Hydrocarbon activities provide around 65 percent of total government revenue and 95 percent of export revenues (Nigerian Ministry of Finance and Budget Office of the Federation 2008; EIA 2010a). While Nigeria supplies some LNG to world markets and is starting to export a small amount of gas to Ghana via pipeline, the great majority of the country’s hydrocarbon earnings come from oil. In 2008, Nigeria was the fifth-largest oil exporter and tenth-largest holder of proved oil reserves in the world (EIA 2010b).
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