Ukraine to invest $1bn into Ajaokuta steel company

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Nigeria Mr Valeriy Aleksandruk has said that his country is ready to invest one billion dollars into Ajaokuta Steel Company in order to revive the plant.

Ukraine to invest $1bn into Ajaokuta steel company
Ukraine to invest $1bn into Ajaokuta steel company

This is according to a statement by Mr Alex Okoh, Head, Public Communications, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in Abuja on Thursday.

It said that the ambassador made the disclosure when he paid a courtesy call on the Acting Director General of the BPE, Mr Vincent Akpotaire.

It also stated that Aleksandruk said that the Ukrainian company that built the plant -Tiajpromexport (TPE) – had presented a proposal to the Federal Government to that effect.

He said that the steel company has a lot of potentials which his country wanted to take advantage of and that already, meetings were on with relevant stakeholders in Nigeria for the realisation of the planned takeover of the plant.

Aleksandruk emphasised that Nigeria has a very good relationship with Ukraine especially in areas of trade and investments adding that there was a big Nigerian community in his country.

He, however, added that Ukraine was ready to “open a new page in its relationship with Nigeria” and pledged to assist the Bureau in its training needs to become a foremost privatisation agency in Africa.

The statement said that Akpotaire in his response, said that the Bureau would review the proposal by the Ukrainian government.

He said it would also review that of Morgan Stanley, the multinational financial services firm that would provide the one billion dollar investment before taking any further steps.

He added that the Federal Government was desirous to get the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the Nigerian Iron Ore Mill Company (NIOMCO) Itakpe running.

Akpotaire urged the Ukrainian Government to invest in other sectors of the Nigerian economy, especially in developing the downstream of the steel sector that would service several sectors including the automobile sector. (NAN)

Nigerian Militants Threaten to Bomb More Oil Facilities in Three Days

In the aftermath of a militant attack on a Chevron oil platform in the Niger Delta region, the group claiming responsibility is now threatening to bomb all oil installations in the hometown of a former militant recently criminally charged by Nigeria’s new government.

Nigerian Militants Threaten to Bomb More Oil Facilities in Three Days
Nigerian Militants Threaten to Bomb More Oil Facilities in Three Days

The newly formed militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, has launched at least three attacks recently on Niger Delta oil installations, including a February attack on the Forcados export pipeline run by Shell.

As reported by Nigeria’s Vanguard media outlet, the Niger Delta Avengers are retaliating over what appears to be the assumption of a betrayal of the cause on the part of former Niger Delta militant leader Tompolo (Government Ekpemupolo).

Related: Why Iran’s Shale Oil Discovery Won’t Add To The Glut

The group is threatening to bomb Tompolo’s hometown for his statement to the affect that he is not part of the Niger Delta Avengers and his move to call on all oil companies to resume normal operations and ignore the impending threats from the group.

Niger Delta Avengers said it would launch its next wave of attacks specifically targeting installations in Tombolo’s hometown if the former militant failed to apologize publicly within three days.

In a statement on its website, carried by Vanguard, the group’s alleged spokesperson, Colonel Madoch Agbinibo, wrote: “[…] We, the Niger Delta Avengers, have only decided to pick the struggle up from where you and the former Niger Delta agitators left off. […] We hereby give you a three-day ultimatum to apologize to Niger Delta Avengers in the same national dailies, as anything other than that will mean that we shall bring the war to your doorstep by blowing up all oil installations within your back yard [Gbaramatu Kingom].

Late on Wednesday, the group blew up Chevron’s offshore Valve Platform.

“This is what we promised the Nigeria government since they refuse to listen to us,” the group said in a statement about the Chevron attack, adding that it happened shortly after 10.30 p.m. (5.30 p.m. ET) on Wednesday, according to a Reuters report.

In a statement carried by Reuters, Chevron confirmed that the attack had taken place at the Okan offshore facility in the Western Niger Delta area, but there were still no reports of casualties or details about the extent of the damage.

There are fears that this attack heralds a revival of Niger Delta militancy targeting oil facilities and installations.

Niger Delta militancy largely halted after a 2009 amnesty deal, which essentially allowed militants to join in the oil corruption game for their own personal game, thereby putting an end to military and simply redirecting it into corruption. With a new government now in place, however, and a tough anti-corruption drive under way, militancy is again surfacing.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

N350 tomato now sells for N3,500

The prices of tomatoes have gone up by 1,000 per cent in Jos and environs in Plateau, a market survey by NAN has shown.

Our correspondents, who visited some of the markets and other selling points on Thursday, found out that the commodity had gone beyond the reach of the average Nigerian.

At the Terminus Market in Jos, a small basket of the commodity, which used to be N350, was selling for N3,500.

NAN also found that a big basket of the commodity, which sold for N1,000 about two months ago, now costs N10,000.

The story was the same at the Tudun Wada Market in Jos North Local Government, where a medium basket of the commodity, which sold for N550 in March, was sold for N5,600.

NAN reports that prospective small buyers seeking N150 worth of the commodity, were turned back by the retailers, who said that they did not have any quantity for that little amount.

Speaking to NAN, one of the retailers of the commodity, Mrs. Nanret Abimu, said, “Honestly, I do not know one specific reason why the price is this high’’.

“The price changes every day. One day a basket is N5,000. The next day, you are told it is N10,000. It is a very tough situation,” she told NAN.

Investigation by NAN showed that the price increase was caused by seasonal changes, especially at the onset of the rains.

“This is generally a dry season for vegetables.

“Ẁhen heavy rains starts, the vegetable gets rotten on the farms, which generally affects supply.

“It means that many retailers or wholesalers could go directly to the farms but will not get much and may be forced to purchase at outrageous prices out of desperation.

“When that happens, the effect is on the buyer and the eventual consumer, which is what we have now,” she said.

Some consumers, who spoke with NAN on the situation, said that they had left out stew “for now”, in their daily menu.

A housewife, Mrs Nenkwat Joseph, said that she had tried to improvise by using pepper to spice up some dishes.

Another consumer, Miss Mishrap Aro, told NAN that she envisaged the rise in the price and prepared for it by buying in large quantities when the price was good.

“I bought tomatoes a long time; I cut each piece into two, dried it up and fetch it for use now anytime I need it.

“Normally, I soaked the dried tomatoes inside water and grind it; once that is done, it comes back as fresh tomatoes,” she told NAN.

Also speaking to NAN, a student, Micheal Ali said that he had resorted to tin or sachet tomato instead of the fresh variant.

Lagos Approves Construction of N49 Billion Medical Park

The Lagos State Government on Wednesday said it has concluded plans to construct a world class medical park under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

Lagos Approves Construction of N49 Billion Medical Park
Lagos Approves Construction of N49 Billion Medical Park

“It gives me great pleasure to announce that after the receipt of a Certificate of Compliance from the State Public Procurement Agency and a final presentation today to the Executive Council of Lagos State, approval has been given to MEDIPARK International Limited Consortium which comprises of MEDIPARK International Limited, Cleveland Clinics Ohio USA, St. Barnabas Healthcare System New Jersey and American Hospital Management Company Washington DC to be the developer to construct manage and operate a medical park. It is a joint venture arrangement with Ibile Holdings Ltd,” said Jide Idris, the State’s Commissioner for Health.

Idris, who briefed journalists after the weekly State Executive Council Meeting alongside the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde and Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Wasiu Anifowose, said the project would be completed in 20 months, and that it would gulp about N49 billion, while the State Government would only provide the land and the market.

The medical park would be sited at the former Lagos State School of Nursing site, spanning on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, and will serve as a one stop shopping medical experience offering spaces to primary care physicians alongside in-house specialists as well as ancillary services providing a full range of excellent quality high technology cutting – edge medical and diagnostic services to cater for general and specialty medical services tailored to meet the medical needs of Lagosians and Nigerians at large.

Idris said the facility, when completed, would comprise of a central management area, clinic complex, theatre complex and procedure rooms, ward complex, conference and seminar complex.

It would also house medical goods and lifestyle shopping centre, stress management and lifestyle improvement unit.

Other facilities to be included at the park are data cabling/integrated IT system, structured landscaping, residential accommodation, staff quarters, hotel, emergency and ambulance service, trauma unit and a helipad.

He also said that the facility which will be built under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative was a milestone in healthcare delivery aimed at reducing medical tourism abroad.

BoI partners Amnesty on capacity building for ex Niger Delta agitators

The Bank of Industry (BoI) and the Office of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta, have agreed to provide capacity and funding support for the former agitators in the Niger Delta region.

BoI partners Amnesty on capacity building for ex Niger Delta agitators
BoI partners Amnesty on capacity building for ex Niger Delta agitators

This is coming ahead of preparations towards the plan of the federal government to wind down the amnesty programme by 2018.

Speaking during the meeting which took place at the head office of BoI in Abuja, the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta, Brig-Gen. Paul Boro (rtd), said the programme office would need the support of the development finance institution in the areas of capacity building to enable the ex-militants channel their energies into productive ventures.

Boro, who is also the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, noted that apart from the provision of adequate funding support, the ex-militants require training in the various Small and Medium Enterprises value chain.

According to him, the programme has no exit plan on his assumption of office, noting that he needed to draw up a two-year exit plan for the ex-agitators to enable them acquire relevant skills that would enable them contribute their own quota to the economic development of the country.

He explained that 5,000 ex-militants would exit the programme in each quarter for the next two years after receiving requisite capacity building and skills acquisition trainings.

Export Rubber, Cocoa, Palm Oil to U.S., EU Tells Nigeria

The European Union (EU), has urged Nigeria Government to increase export of agricultural produces like rubber, cocoa and palm oil to the EU countries.

 Export Rubber, Cocoa, Palm Oil to U.S., EU Tells Nigeria
Export Rubber, Cocoa, Palm Oil to U.S., EU Tells Nigeria

The Head of EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Michel Arrion, stated this at a press conference on commemorate the 40 years of EU-Nigeria partnership on Wednesday, in Abuja. Arrion said there were potential exports, which Nigeria could develop in commercial quantities for export, lamenting that such exports to the EU were currently in low quantities.

“There are potential exports like rubber for instance for tiles that you could certainly develop. We will be delighted to import and to buy more rubber from Nigeria; the problem is that the production is very small. We will be delighted to buy more cocoa from Nigeria. We are buying most of our cocoa from Ivory Coast and Ghana, while not from Nigeria?” he said.

He challenged Nigeria to think of what it could produce in addition to its own consumption adding, Nigeria must meet its local demands before exporting.

He explained that Nigeria has a lot of possibilities in agricultural products but that it would take several years to really have an export-oriented commercial farming policy.

He also said that there was the need for the price of Nigerian products to be competitive.

“You (Nigeria) have to be competitive, I mentioned palm oil; I see a potential market for palm oil exportation from Nigeria to EU if the prices are competitive.

“Today, they are not. Malaysia for instance, offers more competitive price, so Nigeria has also to work on the competitiveness of the country’s products. He said there were several factors that contributed to competitiveness which included the costs of production, labour, land and energy, among others.

“When your refineries of palm oil have to produce their own energy instead of being connected to the grid, you are less competitive than others,”he said.

Arrion added that the competitiveness of Nigeria products is also being affected because the rate of exchange of naira vis-a-vis the dollar or euro is not reflecting the reality of the situation.

Saraki Applauds Senate’s Intervention in Agriculture

The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, today applauded the Senate’s passage of 2nd reading of A Bill for an Act to establish the National Agricultural Credit Fund to Promote Commercial Agriculture in Nigeria.’

Saraki, in a statement on his social media pages, commended the effort by the Senate to establish the credit fund, saying that once established, the Agricultural Credit Fund would address the current lack of legal frameworks that limit funds meant for farming going to actual farmers.

The Senate President, further stated that the credit fund will also help ensure that local farmers are provided with implementable business plans, and systems that will guarantee that their products are purchased.

“This Credit Fund will also help ensure that local farmers are provided with business plans” Saraki said. “It will also help to ensure that agricultural products from our farmers get to larger companies that will purchase their products.

“Furthermore, the Agricultural Credit Fund will also help in our nation’s diversification plan and transition to seeing agriculture as a business, not just a social development program, as there will be clearly spelt out criteria for benefits, and fund administrators to guide the disbursement of the loans.”

It will be recalled that as the former Governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, Dr. Saraki established the Shonga Farms scheme, which has been hailed as a revolutionary approach to addressing agriculture in Nigeria to promote job creation, improve efficiency, and enhancing food security.

Over 15 lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill, reiterated the essentiality of agriculture in economic development. They are: Senators Ibrahim Gobir, Ahmed Lawan, Aliyu Wammako, Emmanuel Bwacha , Abdullahi Adamu, Abubakar.

Others include: Bukar Ibrahim, Abubakar kyari, Jibrin Barau, Dino Melaye, Abubakar Gemade, Buka Ibrahim and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremmadu .

At Tuesday’s plenary, A Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for Freedom from Hunger was also passed for Second Reading. This bill is envisioned to make adequate food of acceptable quality the right of every Nigerian child’s basic nutrition passed its second reading. Working in-sync, the agricultural lending fund bill and the Freedom from Hunger bill will be two critical pieces of legislation that address hunger and agricultural production, and will have significant positive impacts on commercial agriculture, food production and wealth generation.

Signed

Bamikole Omishore

Special Assistant New Media to President of the Senate

OPEC’s $14b upstream investment plan hangs in the balance

The fate of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC’s $14 billion upstream investment plan for this year may be hanging in the balance with crude oil price resuming a downward trend yesterday. The Brent crude benchmark dropped from $45.63 per barrel on Monday to $44.97, while WTI crude dropped from $44.42 per barrel to $43.68 per barrel. This situation, according to analysts may jeopardise the $14 billion investment plan by the 13-member OPEC nations. Besides, concerns have continued to trail the delay in publishing the NNPC monthly report for the March edition.

The cartel’s investment plan showed that about 23 major upstream projects are due for implementation in 2016, while $30 billion and $45 billion were projected for 2017 and 2018 respectively. It stated: “Regardless of all the challenges and uncertainties, OPEC member countries continue to invest in additional upstream capacities.

On top of the huge capacity maintenance costs that member countries are faced with, they continue to invest in new projects and reinforce their commitment to the oil and gas market and as well as to the security of supply for all consumers. Needless to say, this is only a reflection of OPEC’s well-known policy that is clearly stated in its long-term strategy and its statute”.

It noted that in the medium term, about 117 projects, with an overall estimated cost of some $270 billion, are being undertaken by OPEC member countries. The investment plan showed that the cartel recorded a peak investment of $120 billion in 2014 on 45 major upstream projects undertaken during the period. The crude prices have largely impacted on the price modulation strategy of the Federal Government, as the margin between the landing cost of refined product (petrol) and the regulated pump price widens.

The crude prices had risen from $38 per barrel last month to peak at $47 last week before resuming the downward trend. This situation, according to the new template by the Petroleum Product Price Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, has increased the fuel subsidy to N12.62 per litre on NNPC products and N12.88 per litre for other oil marketers.

FG Sets 3-year Deadline to End Fuel Importation

The federal executive council (FEC) has approved a three-year target to achieve self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.

FG Sets 3-year Deadline to End Fuel Importation
FG Sets 3-year Deadline to End Fuel Importation

Briefing state house correspondents at the end of its meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Zainab Ahmed, minister of state for budget and national  planning, said the objective of the three-year deadline is to ensure availability of refined products, reduce demand on foreign exchange as well as export refined products.

‎”We are setting a three-year deadline to achieve self-sufficiency in  refined petroleum products‎ and to become a net exporter of petroleum products,” she said.

“The objective of this is to increase domestic supply of refined products and to reduce demand on foreign exchange for importing refined products in our country. The ministry of petroleum is pushing this. There is also a plan to push for the passage of the petroleum industry Bill (PIB) in conjunction with the national assembly.”

Ahmed also said FEC had listed 34 projects that will be executed in 2016.

She explained that the 34 priority projects were evolved with clear deliverable targets and were grouped into four broad objectives – security/policy governance, diversification of economy, succour for vulnerable‎ Nigerians, and relating the economy through investments.

“Our ministry’s presentation was introducing to council for discussion priority economic activities that we need to undertake to ensure that the purpose for which the 2016 budget was made, which is to stimulate the economy, to create jobs for our teeming youths and to extend support to the poor and very vulnerable‎ is realised,” she said.

“We presented 34 strategic priority programmes that need to be realised within 2016. Each of these projects programmes has very clear deliverables and targets and indicators which will be measured to ensure that the respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) deliver on what we committed to implement.

“These 34 specific areas are grouped into four major objectives. The first is policy, governance and security, second diversification of the economy, the third‎ is creating support for the poor and the vulnerable and the forth is reflecting our economy through  investment.

“The paper was well received by council, we got some very positive comments and the 34 priority projects were approved‎ for implementation. The ministry of budget and national planning has been given responsibility to track and report on quarterly basis to the  council on the performance of these key prority areas.”

On the 2016 budget, she said: “I must say the executive and legislature have worked very hard putting things together, reviewing the details of the budget and is at its final stage, so maybe between today and tomorrow, the  national assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the president.”

Nigerian President Buhari’s promise to ‘sweep government clean’ hasn’t even come close to happening

Pledging to wipe out corruption starts an intriguing conversation in Washington D.C.

Nigerian President Buhari's promise to 'sweep government clean' hasn't even come close to happening
Nigerian President Buhari’s promise to ‘sweep government clean’ hasn’t even come close to happening

The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President in the United States, Donald Trump, rails against a “crooked system.”  Brazilians are calling for the resignation of their President, Dilma Rousseff, amid allegations of sweetheart deals with state-owned companies and Latin America’s major contribution to the recent global corruption discussion has been temping down the release last month of the Panama Papers, which revealed how many heads of state shelter their wealth.

Looking at headlines today, it seems the zeal to unveil and defeat the abuse of public trust has never been greater.

But when it comes to tackling corruption, it is important to recognize the difference between talk and action. Nigeria provides an excellent illustration.

Last year, President Goodluck Jonathan conceded electoral defeat to General Muhammadu Buhari in a refreshingly peaceful and lawful transfer of power to a nation that has experienced more than its fair share of coup d’états in the last forty years (ironically, Buhari both initially came to and left power as the results of coups in the mid-1980s).

By wielding brooms in mass rallies throughout the country in 2015, Buhari won a mandate to tackle corruption. But what has happened since?

With more than a year in office, Buhari has yet to jail a single former official.  This is a radical departure from his tenure as military head of Nigeria in the ’80s when he jailed thousands, often without trial, and publicly horsewhipped government workers he believed were not doing their jobs.  And so in 2016, we see a more subdued Buhari, and one who hopefully lays greater faith in the rule of law.  But to date, there are very few tangible outputs for all of the promises to “sweep government clean”.

Instead, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has directed its attention solely on former officials from the Jonathan administration in what appears to be more of a political witch-hunt than a systemic effort to root out and eliminate corruption in Nigeria.

Regardless of what is decided in the cases of those who are targeted, can this explain why millions still struggle beneath the poverty line in what should be Africa’s richest nation?

Systemic corruption has long plagued Nigeria, like so many oil rich countries, such as my own Venezuela.  When Buhari’s predecessor came into office in 2010, he too carried great hopes of change. International media praised his efforts to crack down on bribe taking, and he instituted new transparency requirements for state officials and institutions.  But questions linger about whether Buhari, by the force of his own personality, can himself overcome ingrained practices that have hobbled Nigeria’s greatness for too long.

A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt.
A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria’s oil hub city of Port Harcourt.

Settling political scores is not the same as restoring the people’s trust.  

Many of the figures surrounding Buhari have themselves been suspected of high-level corruption, and were the ‘shoe on the other foot’, another political party in power could do precisely the same thing Buhari is doing now – to the same de minimus effect.

Making progress in the fight against corruption thusly requires several things:

First, there must be an independent judiciary that fairly applies the law.  At any given time in the United States, Britain or a dozen other countries with long-standing rule of law traditions, we may find former public officials sitting in prison and serving the terms to which they were convicted, based on facts; in a system where the accused had all the benefits of a qualified defense.

Second, the corruption seekers must themselves be independent.  Currently, the chair of the EFCC is dependent on the President for his job and can be removed at any moment.  This allows politics to pervert the process.  Romania’s state anti-corruption agency, for example, provides a better depiction of what the kind of truly independent body ought to look like.

Fighting corruption must be a fully national enterprise, with buy-in from all sectors, not a partisan crusade.

And finally, there needs to be a mechanism for recovering those public funds that were stolen through corrupt practices and returning them to a public purpose.  The people must have confidence that winning the war on corruption will improve their quality of life.

As Nigeria teeters on the brink of a financial downturn, the Heritage Foundation still grades its economy “Mostly Unfree.”  On this global ranking, Nigeria is only one place ahead of Moldova where, in recent months, citizens have surrounded the government, demanding it return their stolen funds to legitimate public purposes.

Buhari may still have time to deliver, at least partially, on his electoral promises.  But doing so will require a perhaps impossible about-face in strategy.

A famous African proverb tells us that it takes a village to educate a child.  True enough.  And in the same spirit, it takes a nation – not one man, nor one political party – to overcome corruption.

Nigeria deserves a government that understands this.