The , Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) Chief Operating Officer for Upstream Sector, Bello Rabiu on Monday hinted that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and ExxonMobil could sign crude-for-product deals with the corporation if ongoing discussions on deal were finalized.

The two exploration and production (E & P) companies had exited Nigeria’s downstream sector a few years ago.

Rabiu, was quoted by Reuters as making the disclosure at the African oil and gas conference in Cape Town, South Africa, said that the arrangement would offer them the benefit of getting crude and selling their products to the refineries.

He clarified: “Unfortunately, Shell and ExxonMobil exited the downstream sector in Nigeria a couple of years ago but they are coming back for this particular arrangement, because it’s an opportunity for them to get crude and sell their products to the refineries.”

Currently, the NNPC imports nearly 70 percent of Nigeria’s petroleum needs through swap contracts and has direct sale direct purchase agreements with 10 consortia including Total, Mercuria, Vitol and Trafigura.

It would be recalled that last Wednesday, the corporation hinted that it had signed such a deal with BP, even as it extended the existing contracts to June 2019.

Rabiu reportedly said that the NNPC hoped in 2019 to emulate savings of around $1 billion seen in 2016 with its crude-for-product swaps, which he said would likely end once Africa’s top crude producer revamps its refineries.

He explained: “If our refineries are back, which we want in the next 18 months, this thing will stop. So, all these things are just stop-gap measures, but the key issue is that we wanted to import at the least cost before our refineries come back on stream.”

Reuters quoted him as telling journalists at the event that the corporation is in the final stages of talks with consortiums including top traders, energy majors and oil services companies to revamp its long-neglected oil refineries in an effort to reduce its reliance on imported fuel.

Rabiu assured: “It is on track and I believe if we don’t sign a final deal (on the project to upgrade refineries) this month of November we will surely sign in December.”