The Federal Government’s plans to save earnings from crude oil sales are in grave danger as the price of Global Brent crude oil reduced to $39/barrel.
This consequence happened on Thursday a few days after Federal government proposed $38 per barrel as the oil benchmark price for the 2016 budget, down from $53 this year.
The Excess Crude Account, into which the country saves the difference between the market price of oil and the budget benchmark to provide a cushion when oil prices fall or extra cash is needed for spending on infrastructure, has been depleted in recent times as oil revenues are in a decline.
The account, which stood at about $4.11bn in October 2014, dropped to $2.45bn in December that year, down from about $3.11bn in November. The balance in the ECA was put at $2.1bn in July this year.
The Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper forwarded to the upper chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari decided the benchmark oil price for the year 2016 as $38 per barrel.
While some of the lawmakers called for an increase in the benchmark price, others supported the decision of the Federal Government to peg the benchmark at $38 per barrel.
Commenting on the proposed $38 per barrel benchmark for the 2016 budget, the Head of Energy Research, Ecobank Capital, Mr. Dolapo Oni, in an emailed response to questions from our correspondent, said, “I think it is a fair price. The oil market is pretty volatile and reacting to the OPEC news currently.”
He said oil price could even go lower to $38 per barrel, but added that it would recover above $40 and potentially $50.
“We have forecasted an average of $46.33 per barrel next year because we see the potential for prices above $50 as well as prices in the $20-30 range. In my opinion, therefore, I think the benchmark is satisfactory,” Oni said.
Brent, against which most of the world’s oil, including Nigeria’s is priced, has fallen by more than 60 per cent in the past 18 months, putting pressure on oil-exporting countries.
The global benchmark fell below the $40-per-barrel mark on Tuesday for the first time in almost seven years.
The steep decline in oil prices had in March forced the National Assembly to settle for $53 per barrel as the benchmark price for the 2015 budget, down from $65 proposed by the Executive.
This year the Government is planning $38 benchmark price as the price was $41/barrel a week ago. But, when the OPEC meeting held on 4 December even worsened the situation.
The oil producing countries refused to cut their production resulting in furthermore decrease in the prices. Even Nigeria too disagreed to cut its crude oil production as to stand in the competition.