Nigeria to Auction Off Exploration Blocks

Nigeria will auction off 45 oil blocks today, just weeks before Nigerian President-Elect Umaru Yar'Adua takes office.

Officials said the auction, the third of its kind since 2005, will hopefully raise $500 million in down-payment signature fees.

While the auction comes just weeks before May 29, when President Olusegun Obasanjo is set to step down, oil ministry officials said there is nothing nefarious about the timing of the auction, assuring that it has been planned for some time.

Rather, they said, the auction is part of an overall strategy to boost the country's oil production to 4 million bpd after 2010 (Dino Mahtani, Financial Times [subscription required]).

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