Nigeria names new head for state-run oil company

Nigeria is looking to revive its search for oil in the country's conflict-riven northeast (AFP Photo/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI)

Abuja (AFP) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a new head of the country's under-performing oil company on Thursday, amid plans to resume searching for oil in Lake Chad, an area wracked by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Mele Kolo Kyari, a geologist from the volatile northeastern Borno state, will take over as group managing director of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Maikanti Baru, who was appointed in 2016, the company said in a statement.

Seven other senior officials were also appointed to head NNPC's subsidiaries.

Until his new appointment Kyari, 54, was group general manager of the NNPC's crude oil marketing division and has represented Nigeria in the OPEC oil cartel since May 2018.

Buhari, who was re-elected for another four year-term in February, has vowed to reform the NNPC, which has for years been beset by inefficiency and corruption.

Proposed legislation to overhaul the company has been stuck in parliament since 2012 because of disagreements with some of its provisions by stakeholders.

Kyari's appointment comes the country looks to revive its search for oil in the conflict-riven Lake Chad region, which comprises Nigeria's northeast, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

"We will go back there as soon as we receive security clearance," outgoing NNPC chief Baru was quoted in the local media on Thursday as saying.

"There seems to be some prospects there because Niger Republic drilled over 600 wells and now they are producing while we have only drilled 23," he said.

Nigeria is Africa's largest crude producer, accounting for a daily output of two million barrels -- much of which lies in the southern Niger delta and offshore.

The country halted its oil search in the Lake Chad area in July 2017 following a Boko Haram attack on an NNPC exploration team in which at least 69 people were killed.

Four oil exploration workers were abducted, one of whom was among the dead.

Boko Haram, which seeks to impose a hardline Islamic law in Nigeria's mainly-Muslim north, has killed 27,000 people and forced some two million others to flee their homes since 2009.