In the fourth article in our “Turkey in Africa Series” (see “Mozambique: Turkey’s Attempt at Political Influence”, “Somalia: Turkey’s Flagship Project in East Africa”, “Ethiopia: A Mutually Beneficial Partnership?”), we examine the longstanding energy relationship between Turkey and Nigeria.


  • Over the past several decades, Nigeria has become one of Turkey’s most important providers of liquid natural gas (LNG), currently accounting for more than 20% of LNG imports.
  • This trade relationship has the potential to develop and expand as the global LNG market flourishes, and both the Turkish and Nigerian governments invest in furthering their domestic LNG sectors.
  • With the LNG industry gaining increasing prominence in both countries, this LNG trade relationship is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Relations between Turkey and Nigeria date back centuries, but were strengthened following Nigeria’s independence from British Colonial rule in 1960, after which Turkey established a consulate general in Lagos, which was upgraded to an embassy on 16th February 1961.

Since then, relations between the two countries have flourished, particularly following the successful visit of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Turkey in 2011, which resulted in the signing of several defence, trade, education and tourism agreements.

Most recently, President Recep Erdoğan visited Nigeria in March 2016, heading a large delegation of politicians and businessmen. During his visit, President Erdoğan made clear his intention to work more closely with Nigeria and promised to support Nigeria’s effort to combat Boko Haram, highlighting the fact that both countries are facing similar terror threats.

Furthermore, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was quick to offer his support to Erdoğan following the 2016 coup attempt. President Buhari said he was “deeply saddened by reports of a violent attempt to dismantle constitutional authority and disrupt the democratically elected government of Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey” (, 17.07.2016). He also congratulated Erdoğan on his success in Turkey’s referendum in April 2017, in which more than 51% of voters supported granting greater powers to the President (Premium Times, 18.04.2017).

Regardless of these political exchanges, trade, in particular, remains an integral component of Nigeria-Turkey relations. At present, Nigeria is one of Turkey’s largest trading partners in Africa.

Turkish Ambassador Hakan Cakil estimates that Turkey has over US $600 million worth of investments in Nigeria. Of these investments, US $450 million is from direct Turkish investment, while the remaining US $200 million comes from partnerships with Nigerian nationals. There are also more than 70 Turkish companies currently operating in Nigeria, and 100 Nigerian businesses operating in Turkey (Daily Trust, 25.10.2016).

In 2014, trade between the two countries reached some US $2.5 billion. However, this figure dropped to US $1.5 billion in 2015 and approximately US $1 billion in 2016, largely due to a drop in global oil and gas prices.

Over the past several decades, Nigeria has become one of Turkey’s most important providers of liquid natural gas (LNG), currently accounting for more than 20% of LNG imports. However, this trade relationship has the potential to develop and expand as the global LNG market flourishes, and both the Turkish and Nigerian governments invest in furthering their domestic LNG sectors.

Nigeria: Small but Important
Although only 3% of Turkey’s natural gas is sourced from Nigeria, Nigeria accounts for more than 20% of Turkey’s LNG imports (US Energy Information Administration, 02.02.2017). The natural gas is imported through a contract between Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) and Turkey’s state-owned BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, and since November 1999, Nigeria has delivered more than 4,000 LNG cargos to BOTAŞ’s Mamara LNG Terminal in Turkey.

Although Nigeria's oil and gas industry is the largest on the continent, attention has traditionally remained focused on oil production. However, with global oil prices having remained lower than expected for longer than expected, attention has increasingly shifted to Nigeria’s natural gas sector.

Africa’s largest oil producing country, Nigeria’s most significant natural resource is actually natural gas. Boasting the 9th largest gas reserves in the world, and the largest in Africa, Nigeria’s gas reserves are estimated at 187 trillion cubic feet (Daily Mail, 08.03.2017).

Furthermore, in 2014, Nigeria exported about 900 billion cubic feet of LNG, accounting for some 8% of LNG traded globally and ranking Nigeria as the world's fourth largest LNG exporter (Practical Law, 01.05.2017). Notably, the global LNG market is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and is set to increase by about 50% between 2015 and 2020 (Wood Mackenzie, 12.2015).

This is nothing but good news for Nigeria LNG (NLNG) – a private company in which the government holds a 49% stake.  

Since production began in 1999, NLNG has been one of the fastest growing companies in the world. With six trains currently operational, NLNG’s gas plant in Finima, Bonny Island in Rivers state, has a total processing capacity of 22 million tonnes of LNG a year, and up to 5 million tonnes of natural gas liquids (LPG and condensate) (NLNG, 24.07.2017).

It is also estimated to contribute about 4% of Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (NLNG, 24.07.2017); and with plans to add a further two trains, NLNG could unlock three times as much gas as the country’s proven reserves (Daily Mail, 08.03.2017).

NLNG currently has contracts with several buyers across the world, as well as with Turkey’s BOTAŞ. However, the Sales Purchase Agreement (SPA) between NLNG and BOTAŞ is set to end in October 2021, and no further deal has yet been agreed.

Notably, Shell, a 25.6% shareholder in NLNG, has already made clear its desire to provide more LNG for Turkey, believing that Turkey has the potential to become a regional natural gas trade hub (Hurriyet, 18.10.2016).

Turkey’s Energy Dilemma / Turkey as a Transit Point
Turkey has become one of the fastest growing energy markets in the world. Strong economic growth over the last decade has contributed to a 4.4% average annual increase in energy consumption by Turkey between 2005 and 2015 (FT, 26.06.2017). And despite a slowdown in the economy in more recent years – due to both domestic and international political tensions – Turkey’s energy demand is expected to continue rising for the foreseeable future.

Despite this increasing demand for energy, only around 25% of Turkey’s total energy demand is being met by domestic energy resources, leaving the country extremely reliant on external sources. Notably, 98% of Turkey’s natural gas – which has become Turkey’s main source of energy in recent years – comes from external sources (The University of Oxford, 04.2017), imported through pipelines from Russia (60%), Iran (20%) and Azerbaijan (10%), and increasingly from LNG sources (Nigeria and Algeria) (Forbes, 07.02.2016).

This dependence on foreign imports has become a point of concern for the government in Ankara, particularly following a deterioration in relations with Russia, Turkey’s biggest natural gas importer. Ensuring its current and future energy security is a top priority.

Notably, any interruption in gas flows – from Russia in particular – could not only severely damage Turkey’s growing economy, but also increase domestic political tensions. Furthermore, Turkey’s gas consumption remains limited by import capacity and, with imports already operating at close to maximum capacity, natural gas shortages - particularly during peak winter months - are not uncommon (McKinsey Energy Insights, 04.2017).

This increase in domestic demand is actually helping drive the development of energy infrastructure.

Furthermore, despite having no meaningful natural gas reserves of its own, the Turkish government has made no secrets about its desire to establish Turkey as a regional natural gas hub – receiving natural gas from sources from the Middle East, Africa and Asia and distributing it throughout Europe.

In order for this ambitious goal to be realised, the government has already begun investing in expanding its natural gas infrastructure.

Two of the main projects currently in development are the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), designed to transport Azeri gas to Europe and Turkey, as well as the TurkStream natural gas pipeline which will transport Russian gas across the Black Sea to Turkey.

As well as developing its gas pipeline infrastructure, the government is also investing in expanding its LNG infrastructure, and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has pledged to almost double Turkey’s annual natural gas storage capacity to 11 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2023 – making its total storage capacity one of the biggest in the region.

In an apparent contradiction, although the Turkish government appears keen to transit natural gas across the country through pipelines, it has discouraged LNG transit through pipelines. Furthermore, the government also does not allow LNG vessels to transit through the Turkish Straits for safety reasons, essentially making itself a gateway to Europe and Russia for LNG (Hellenic Shipping News, 14.03.2017).

In this context, Nigeria could play a major role in Turkey’s energy sector.

Turkey already possesses an offshore storage facility in Değirmenköy (Silivri) (operated by the Turkish state-owned energy company TPAO), and three LNG land terminals: Marmara Ereğlisi (operated by BOTAŞ), Aliağa – İzmir (operated by the Azeri SOCAR and the Turkish energy company Ege Gaz), and the Lake Tuz storage facility (operated by BOTAŞ). In December 2016, Turkey's first LNG storage and re-gasification facility (FSRU) was launched in İzmir's Aliağa district (operated by Etki Liman, a joint venture between Kolin and Kalyon groups, two companies with reported close ties to the Turkish government) (ICIS, 17.08.2016).

Furthermore, the Turkish government has announced several projects that will complement the country’s already existing infrastructure. The most imminent one is likely to be the commissioning of a second FSRU, which would be owned and operated by BOTAŞ. Further plans are in place to increase the storage capacity of both the Değirmenköy and Lake Tuz natural gas storage facilities. Most of these projects are to be completed by 2020-22 (Daily Sabah, 16.02.2017).

While BOTAŞ is clearly one of the most important actors in Turkey’s natural gas sector, accounting for about 80% of natural gas imports, it is also the only institution that deals directly with NLNG, and the Nigerian government. Therefore, as both institutions are under some degree of political influence, it is likely that the relations between the Turkish and Nigerian governments could play a part in the signing of a new contract between BOTAŞ and NLNG – as the current one expires in 2021.

Notably, on the Turkish side, the main players are BOTAŞ and the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EMRA), two key institutions that play a role in President Erdoğan’s ability to exert informal influence over the energy sector (see more in the SG Report Store: “Turkey’s Oil & Natural Gas Markets: Political Centrality & Key Actors”). As the chairmen of these two entities are strongly believed to be under the indirect control of President Erdoğan, the contracts reached with the NLNG would have to be pre-approved by him.

However, with both Turkey hoping to increase LNG imports, and Nigeria hoping to increase both the production and export capacity of its natural gas, an extension – or even an expansion – of the current contract could serve to benefit both countries.

Will Nigeria Help Turkey Become a Regional Gas Transit Hub?
As a resource-poor country, Turkey’s reliance on imported energy, and high domestic demand, is leaving little natural gas for export. In this sense, Turkey is still primarily considered a consuming country, not a transit country.

However, significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in terms of developing pipelines and increased LNG storage and processing facilities, suggests that Turkey is serious about establishing itself as a regional natural gas transit hub.

And with Turkey aiming to become a regional energy hub, Nigeria – and its nascent LNG sector – will want to retain a foothold in the country.

Furthermore, by investing in the LNG sector, Turkey will be able to reduce its dependency on Russia for natural gas if needed. And if future circumstances mean that this does indeed occur, Turkey’s requirement for LNG will merely increase. A continued relationship between Nigeria and Turkey therefore remains firmly in the cards.

As Nigeria’s economy shifts away from oil, investment opportunities for Turkish companies will increase in sectors including power, manufacturing, mining, construction, agriculture, aviation and security (The Nation, 11.03.2016). Ties between Nigeria and Turkey are thus set to expand; a relationship that would inevitably benefit the perceived business culture of both – where political exposure and questionable business practices are often regarded as a fundamental of commercial success.