Niger : une manne pétrolière très convoitée

C’est un conseil des ministres bien particulier qui aurait dû se tenir le 27 juillet dernier à Niamey. Juste avant qu’une junte ne vienne bouleverser le cours de l’histoire en renversant le président nigérien Mohamed Bazoum. Coincidence ou pas, ce jour-là, le gouvernement de ce pays sahélien aurait dû approuver un décret stratégique, qui aurait pu permettre la création d’une nouvelle société, PetroNiger, dont l’objectif aurait été de gérer les ressources pétrolières du pays.

Did this project contribute to hastening the downfall of the regime? Was it perceived by the coup plotters as the ultimate act of taking control of a lucrative sector that could have harmed them or their sponsors? In Mohamed Bazoum’s circle, this scenario leaves little doubt. “Oil is not the sole motive behind the coup, but it is one of the essential factors,” says a close advisor to the president, clearly pointing out the responsibilities of former President Mahamadou Issoufou’s camp (2011-2021).

Although he denies it, the latter is now suspected of having played a role in the coup d’état led by General Abdourahamane Tiani. It was he who appointed the current strongman of the junta as head of the presidential guard. After the election of Mohamed Bazoum, with whom he had politically aligned for thirty years, his son Sani Mahamadou Issoufou, known as Abba, was promoted to Minister of Petroleum, Mines, and Renewable Energies, before being stripped of the renewable energy portfolio in early 2022. A certain continuity remains.

During his two terms as the leader of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou had control over Sonidep, the Nigerien oil company. “It’s an open secret that Sonidep has always been the slush fund for all political parties, not just the PNDS [the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, founded in 1990 by Mahamadou Issoufou],” says a member of civil society who investigated these cases. This is evidenced by the repeated reports of massive fraud and embezzlement by the high authority for the fight against corruption. Currently, the company’s debt is said to exceed $200 million.

Ce manque de gouvernance interpelle d’autant plus que le Niger s’apprêtait au moment du putsch à changer de dimension économique, grâce à l’exportation de son or noir. Jusqu’à présent, la production pétrolière du pays était restée modeste, de l’ordre de 20 000 barils par jour, dont la moitié suffisait néanmoins depuis 2011 à la consommation domestique quand le reste était exporté vers des pays voisins dont le Nigéria. De nouvelles découvertes, en 2013 ont cependant fait miroiter un avenir différent.

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