Oil workers’ planned strike could cost Nigeria N150bn daily – LCCI

Image result for President, LCCI, Dr. Nike Akande

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has estimated that Nigeria will lose about N150bn daily if the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Senior Staff Association of Nigeria should embark on a nationwide strike.

Both PENGASSAN and NUPENG had recently vowed to go on a strike if the Federal Government delayed the payment of N800bn subsidy arrears owed to oil marketers.

The LCCI blamed the Federal Government for the threat by the unions, which according to it, arises from its encouragement of fuel subsidy and control of the petroleum downstream sector.

In a statement signed by the Director-General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, the chamber noted that the fuel subsidy phenomenon had become a recurring distraction in Nigeria’s economic management space.

“It is one of the biggest burdens on the finances of government and a major impediment to the progress of the Nigerian economy. It is regrettable that the government has over the years got itself entangled in a problem, which should not have arisen in the first place,” Yusuf stated.

He recalled that the economy had suffered serial scandals and monumental corruption in the oil and gas sector due to the phenomenon of petrol subsidy.

He said, “We have consistently argued that the government should completely decouple itself from the business of importation, refining, transportation and retailing of petroleum products.

“This arrangement has created considerable distortions and stagnated private investment in the downstream sector. These are enterprises that the private sector is best suited to manage.

“Government has no business fixing prices and subsidising the players. This model has failed several times over. If anything, it has created a major platform for bleeding the economy.”

The LCCI DG warned that the consequences of the proposed strike by the unions would be severe because of the strategic and critical nature of the oil and gas sector.

He added, “It could cause a total shutdown of the economy. It would paralyse the chain of logistics in the economy as economic activities are driven largely by road transportation, both for commuting and freight.

“It would impact revenue as the upstream sector would be affected as well. It would impact the power sector, which is largely powered by gas. Many manufacturing firms and other businesses depend on petroleum products as sources of energy and thus the consequences for all the players in the economy would be very grave.

“The economy would suffer an estimated N150bn loss daily if the strike goes ahead.”

For an economy that is just emerging from recession, this is not a good scenario to contemplate, Yusuf said, adding that everything possible should be done to avert the planned strike.

He added, “The government should therefore engage the unions and propose a credible payment plan to settle the arrears.

“Going forward, the oil and gas sector reforms need to be accelerated to avoid the recurring distraction, which the current model of managing the sector has been creating. It is imperative to speed up the process for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill. This would help to normalise the environment in the oil and gas and sector.

“It is regrettable that despite the monumental bleeding that the economy has suffered from the subsidy regime, we have not been able to muster the courage to undertake the necessary reforms, especially the very urgent need to put an end to price fixing for PMS. The economy cannot sustain this arrangement.

TEF to empower 1,000 African entrepreneurs in Lagos

Image result for TEF to empower 1,000 African entrepreneurs in LagosThe Tony Elumelu Foundation has said over 1,000 African entrepreneurs will converge on Lagos this month for this year’s edition of its entrepreneurship programme aimed at empowering the next generation of African business leaders.

The TEF, in a statement on Wednesday, described the third annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum as the most diverse annual gathering of African entrepreneurs and Small and Medium-scale Enterprises.

It said the forum, scheduled to take place on October 13 and 14, would be attended by 1,300 African entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policymakers from 54 countries.

According to the statement, this is the first year that invitation to the forum is extended beyond the 1,000 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs from the 2017 cohort to include selected SMEs, media, hubs, incubators, academia and investors from diverse nations across Africa.

It said the assembled SMEs would build networks, share knowledge, connect with investors and link with corporate supply chains.

The TEF Founder, Tony Elumelu, said, “Since launching the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme – and committing $100m to empowering 10,000 African entrepreneurs in a decade – we have unleashed our continent’s most potent development force, its entrepreneurs.

“In just three years, our first 3,000 entrepreneurs have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated considerable wealth.  On October 13 and 14, the global entrepreneurship community will gather in Lagos to build a New Africa, a thriving, self-reliant continent capable of replicating the results of our ground-breaking programme.”

The statement said the forum would feature plenary panels, masterclasses, sector-specific networking opportunities and policy-led forums focused on enabling African business growth.

TEF Chief Executive Officer, Parminder Vir, said, “This is the first year we have opened the forum up to include the full pan-African entrepreneurship ecosystem. In doing so, we are enabling African SME communities to come together and expand the possibilities for intra-African partnerships.”

According to the statement, speakers will include Wale Ayeni of the International Finance Corporation; Stephen Kauma, Afrexim Bank; Andre Hue, African Development Bank; Stephen Haykin, USAID Nigeria; Heikke Reugger, European Investment Bank; Abdoulaye Dieye, United Nations Development Programme.

Kachikwu’s leaked memo rekindles scandal around NNPC

Image result for Kachikwu leaked memo rekindles scandal around NNPCA leaked memo from Nigeria’s minister of state for Petroleum Resources has shown that irregularities in the state-owned oil giant remain entrenched, despite official vows to root out the “cancer” of graft.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari to report on questionable practices in the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Five NNPC contracts, with a total value of $25bn, “were never reviewed by or discussed with the board,” according to the letter published in local media.

“There are many more, your excellency,” it added.

The NNPC is saddled with the reputation of being the historical slush fund of the country’s governments, whether democratically elected or military.

The company, working in joint ventures with foreign oil majors, accounts for more than half of Nigeria’s daily oil production of about two million barrels per day, estimates Benjamin Auge, a researcher associated with a French think-tank, the French Institute of International Relations.

– Massive corruption –
One of the biggest graft scandals in Nigerian history came to light in 2014, when central bank governor Lamido Sanusi revealed that the equivalent of $18bn had disappeared from state coffers between 2012 and 2013.

Sanusi was removed from office, but the scandal and disclosures of large-scale looting of national assets were instrumental in the electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, in favour of Buhari, who fought on a clean-hands ticket.

Buhari’s critics say his anti-corruption campaign is targeting only opposition figures – a charge that is likely to carry weight in the light of the leaked letter.

The letter appears to point to Kachikwu’s deepening frustration.

“I have been unable to secure an appointment to see you despite very many attempts,” Kachikwu wrote to Buhari, who is oil minister as well as president.

His missive was dated from late August, though until now the public was unaware of its existence.

No visible action has been taken, and the NNPC’s Group Managing Director, Maikanti Kacalla Baru, whose governance of the oil giant is clearly in the memo’s firing line, remains in office.

Auge suggested that Baru was appointed in 2016 in order to “isolate” Kachikwu.

Baru, an NNPC insider, is a complete contrast in personality and career profile to the outsider Kachikwu – a Harvard-educated southerner who came to the NNPC through the private sector, where he was ExxonMobil’s deputy chief for Africa, Auge said.

“The machinery which enabled corruption in the NNPC has not been switched off,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is the networks of influence.”

– Factional divide? –

Kachikwu was given a dual appointment in 2015 as minister of state and NNPC’s group managing director in the declared aim of making the company’s business less murky and corrupt.

At the time, investors in the oil sector cheered his appointment as a potential sign of changing times.

Today, though, suspicions are deepening of a factionalist divide within the government along regional lines, and of little appetite to cleanse the NNPC of the taint of corruption.

Baru through his long career at NNPC had built a network of political contacts, said a Nigerian financial analyst specialising in the oil sector.

The 58-year-old was named in 2016 “just because he was from the north,” the analyst said. “Buhari has a northern agenda, you can’t rule that out.”

Jonathan’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is now in opposition, on Thursday called for Baru to be suspended, adding that a “loud silence” weighed on Buhari for the implications of sleaze hanging over the NNPC.

Kachikwu met with Buhari on Friday, offering only a terse “no comment” after the talks.

“I don’t think Kachikwu will be fired, it would be a very bad move for the investors, but he might not be part of the government after the 2018 cabinet reshuffle,” said the analyst, who requested anonymity in order to be able to speak freely.

“We are still sitting on the same corrupt system that existed before Buhari came into power,” the analyst said. “Nothing has changed.”