During a telephone conversation with King Mohammed VI on January 31, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his country’s determination to materialize, “as soon as possible,” the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project.
The conversation between the two heads of state was a solid indicator that Nigeria, which was considering two similar projects — one with Morocco and another with Algeria — has made up its mind about which project is best.
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The project of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline has been competing for a few years with the Nigeria-Algeria pipeline project, known as the Trans-Saharan pipeline. From Morocco’s and Algeria’s perspectives, the contest was especially fierce because it is highly unlikely for Nigeria to materialize two projects with similar, even identical objectives.
While the Trans-Saharan pipeline came to the forefront several decades ago, the Nigeria-Morocco pipeline became the most prominent pan-African gas transport project in less than five years after it was initially proposed in late 2016.
Nigeria and Algeria first thought about creating the Trans-Saharan pipeline in the 1970s. A couple of decades later, in 2002, they signed the first Memorandum of Understanding relating to the project. Feasibility studies were completed in 2006 and an intergovernmental agreement between Nigeria, Niger, and Algeria was signed in 2009. Since then, however, the project has not made any progress.
Due to security concerns, Nigeria seemed rather unenthusiastic about the project over the past decade. The proposed route of the Trans-Saharan pipeline would have to go through northern Nigeria, Niger, and southern Algeria. The regions are known as a breeding ground for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in West Africa, known as Boko Haram.
The project of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline, meanwhile, has been progressing at a fast pace since it was proposed in December 2016. In less than five years, the project has reached the second phase of front-end engineering design.
In 2019, after Morocco’s National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) ended their feasibility study, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) spoke positively of the project and expressed its readiness to assist its implementation. The economic bloc has, by contrast, never expressed similar support for the Trans-Saharan pipeline project.
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