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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Items filtered by date: October 2012
 
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AllAfrica News: Latest
All Africa, All the Time.

 

American tennis star Venus Williams arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday on the first stop of two-country African trip with her sister Serena aimed at promoting women's rights.

 

Both sisters are counted among the United States' most accomplished athletes, sharing 22 major women's singles championships between them.

 

Their trip is aimed at promoting "the role that women play in shifting perceptions and encouraging development at all levels across the African continent," said a statement from the Breaking The Mould initiative they are representing.

 

Venus Williams in Lagos NigeriaVenus Williams in Lagos credit AFP


Serena, 31, and Venus, 32, are due to meet the governor of Lagos state, hold a tennis clinic at an exclusive club, visit a puberty education class for girls and play an exhibition match before heading to South Africa on November 2.

 

"They are coming to Lagos to encourage more women to break moulds that have stood between them and their potentials," the statement said.

 

Venus Williams arrived at a hotel in Lagos's upmarket Victoria Island district on Tuesday afternoon while her younger sister is due later in the evening, said Lere Ojedokun, of Chain Reactions Nigeria, a communication firm promoting the tour.

 

Gender disparity is an acute problem in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of roughly 160 million people, with the most glaring divides existing in the mainly Muslim north.

 

Worldwide, Nigeria ranks 118 out of 134 countries on the Gender Equality Index, a British Council study released in May said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Sununu a Palestinian American of Arab descent was the 75th Governor of New Hampshire and later became US White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush.

 

Presently, John Sununu is the Top surrogate and the co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. Sununu has been displaying antagonistic shenanigans of racial animosity and undertone towards two prominent African American leaders: President Obama and lately the retired Four-Star General Colin Powell.

 

Colin Powell endorsed President Obama for second term and Sununu who was appearing at  CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," was asked to comment on the endorsement and Powell’s standing in Republican Party.  John Sununu suggested it was act of Black solidarity, recommending that the reason Powell endorsed President Obama was because they were both Black.

 

Decide for yourself, this is the exchange between Piers Morgan and John Sununu:

Sununu: Well, I'm not sure how important that is. I do like the fact that Colin Powell's boss, George Herbert Walker Bush, has endorsed Mitt Romney all along. And frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.


Morgan: What reason would that be?


Sununu: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.

 

John Sununu Racistcredit z6


Retired General Colin Powell is an American patriot who does not need John Sununu or any other person for that matter to lecture him on how to be an American.  Most Americans appreciate Powell as a statesman and All-American who has given the best to his country of birth.

 

It is an insult to every American for Sununu to make such a suggestion and to play to the worst of human instincts of racial animosity and hatred at this important election. After all, John Sununu is supporting Mitt Romney which is  his right as an American and nobody is accusing him of anything.

 

John Sununu has not stopped there; lately he has been heaping racial jokes, innuendos and silly racial stereotypes  on President Barack Obama:

 

As Igor Volsky , Deputy Editor of ThinkProgress rightly put it, “The former New Hampshire governor has repeatedly suggested that Obama or his policies are “foreign,” European, and something less than American.”  Below are some of the Sununu utterances against President Obama:

 

Obama is foreign. Obama doesn’t understand the “American system” because “he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure.” [Fox News, 7/17/2012]

 

Obama doesn’t know how to be an American. During a conference call, Sununu claimed, “The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses, their businesses, from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world. It is the American way. And I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” [Conference call, 7/17/2012]

 

Obama is a lazy idiot. Sununu described Obama’s debate performance as “babbling,” “lazy,” and “disengaged,” and dismissed the possibility that he could do better in the future. “When you’re not that bright you can’t get better prepared.” [Fox News, 10/4/2012]

 

Obama has no class, just wants to be cool. “That moment of using the B.S. word was kind of a self-defining moment for the president,” he told Sean Hannity. “No class, wants to be cool. Sacrifices the dignity of the presidency for appearing cool to a magazine that works for some of his base.” [Fox News,10/25/2012]

 

John Sununu a Middle Eastern Arab is also a minority in America and should learn how to respect every American irrespective of their color, language,religion,political affiliation or background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 29 October 2012 13:44

Investing In The Chaos Of Nigerian Oil

Nigeria's troubles are once again in the news. Oil theft (ongoing) and flooding (temporary) have driven the country's oil and gas production down over 20%. As Africa's largest producer and OPEC's 2nd largest oil exporter, Nigeria has strategic importance. It is one of the few countries not in the Middle East which has a large and readily available source of oil.

 

Royal Dutch Shell

Shell is, and has long been, the dominant oil company in Nigeria. In 1999 Shell produced more than 90% of the country's oil. Since Nigeria derives some 95% of its foreign exchange from oil, Shell and Nigeria seem inextricably bound together. It's not, however, a marriage made in heaven.

 

Nigeria is rich, very rich, in oil and gas and its high quality oil sells at a premium to Brent. The problem? Mix vast oil wealth, 389 ethnic groups, a population which is half Christian, half Muslim and you have all the ingredients for disaster. Not surprisingly, the country is beset with ethnic strife, crime, pollution, poverty, violence, and corruption. Since the U.S. is the largest importer of Nigerian crude, it too is entangled - to a degree - in the mess.

 

It's sad that in a country so rich in oil and natural gas 1/2 the population goes without electricity due to lack of infrastructure. Much of the gas is simply flared off.

 

It should be noted that Exxon-Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), Statoil (STO), Petrobas (PBR), Total (TOT), and Eni (E) have all recently increased their presence in Nigeria - mostly offshore. Chevron, for example, has a 68% interest in Nigeria's newest deep water oil field, the Agbami.


The Niger River Delta: Lots Of Oil, Lots Of Trouble

Nigeria's onshore Niger River Delta and adjacent offshore areas hold most of its considerable reserves of oil and gas. A single offshore Nigerian well can produce an amazing 10,000 barrels a day of oil. Compare that to Texas' Permian basin where 150,000 wells produce an average of 6-7 barrels of oil a day.

 

Problems for Shell in the delta run deep and span decades. They include ethnic protests, bribery charges, lawsuits, corruption, and rampant pollution. Especially problematic is oil theft. Oil theft is so entrenched an estimated 20% (150,000 barrels a day) of all Nigerian production is stolen. The Economist calls Nigeria is "The world capital of oil theft." Well organized gangs steal the stuff wherever they can, often causing spills, fire, and at times death. They then spirit it off to clandestine refineries for sale on the black market. Huffington Post has a summary of Shell's current and past problems in Nigeria.

 

One might think Shell would find refuge from its Nigerian problems offshore - where the risks of sabotage and oil theft are lower. No such luck. On December 20, 2011 Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) had a 40,000 barrel oil spill and now faces a $5 billion fine. Also, taking a cue from Somalia, pirates mounted over 50 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in 2011.

 

Shell, of course, is much more than Nigeria, but since Nigeria supplies the lion's share of Shell's oil a withdrawal would severely impact the company's reserves and profits.

 

Is Mart Resource A Viable Investment Option?

Mart Resources is an investment alternative. The company, so far, seems to have avoided most of Shell's problems and has been doing well lately. Mart has an excellent balance sheet with no debt, lots of cash, good cash flow, and an excellent return on equity. It now is paying an 11% dividend. The company has a dominant position in the newly discovered (2008) Umusadege oil field. The Umusadege, like many of Shell's fields, is located in the Niger delta.

 

Mart prides itself on working well with local, indigenous companies. Perhaps it does well because it does not have Shell's legacy of ill will, perhaps because management is more attuned to local concerns.

 

Mart, however, may not be immune to Nigeria's problems. The company is starting the process of building an alternative, second pipeline, partially to circumvent disruptions (reasons unspecified) in the original.

 

Nigeria's LNG

 

Nigeria LNG (NLNG) ships natural gas - 8% to 10% of world production - from Africa's largest LNG export facility on Bonny Island located just offshore the Niger Delta. NLNG is jointly owned by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (49%), Shell (25.6%), Total LNG Nigeria Ltd (15%) and Eni (10.4%) Europe is its largest customer. The first shipment was in 1999. The company has a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bonny Gas Transport, which provides NLNG shipping services.

 

Disruptions also affect Nigeria's LNG exports, see here and here. Allegations of bribery surfaced in the awarding of construction contracts when the export facility was built. Nigerian LNG, like the country's oil exports, is often adversely affected by instability in the Niger Delta.

 

Oil and Gas Investment Options

 

So, if you have the chutzpah for it, go ahead and consider investing in Royal Dutch Shell or Mart Resources. Any outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East will have all the world coveting Nigeria's vast reserves of readily accessible, sweet crude. Shell is the major most involved, while Mart is a more speculative "pure play."

 

Maybe the best investment in Nigerian oil is the admittedly speculative Mart Resources. Mart does not have Shell's "baggage" of ill feelings and I, at least, could find little negative commentary on Mart's relationship with either the government or ethnic groups in the area in which it operates. Nonetheless, be aware that Mart is dependent on a single field and (for now) a single pipeline. Any disruption of either will quickly drop Mart's share price.

 

Considering all Nigeria's risks, investing in Permian oil may not be such a bad idea after all.

 

Bruce Vanderveen pictureBruce Vanderveen writes at Seeking Alpha. The Federal Reserve has pegged interest rates to all time lows. This leaves fixed income investors in trouble.with very little income plus principal loss risk when rates eventually rise. Bruce looks at replacements to fixed income which have both safety and income: utilities, MLPs, Business Development Corporations,select energy companies, REITS and others. Bruce has degrees from Calvin College and the University of South Dakota

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spends N1.30tr in seven years on executive jets   • Govt plans fresh intervention fund for airlines

 

WITH Nigeria holding the record of a country with the highest private jet ownership in Africa, the aviation sector has brought into sharp relief the paradox of a nation that is endowed with huge oil resources but where only a few are wealthy.

 

In a country where the average Nigerian lives on less than $1 a day, there is a super rich class of business moguls, bankers, preachers, politicians and oil magnates whose private ownership of jets is more than that of any other country.

 

While the rich can afford such luxuries, the economic crisis in the nation is seen in a situation where the aviation sector needs financial succour from the Federal Government.

 

Indeed, worried about the critical state of the nation’s aviation industry, the Federal Government is proposing a fresh round of intervention for airlines.

 

The new intervention fund would be different from the N100 billion given to airlines three years ago to help them boost their operations.

 

While some judiciously used the funds, others reportedly diverted them.

 

Also, government has ensured that access to the funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would be on the basis of a single digit interest and it is for a long term.

 

A top official of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) told The Guardian that the ownership of the state-of-the-art jets in Nigeria had grown to over 200 in 2012 from 50 in 2008.

 

Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State had on October 7, 2012 acquired a brand new Bombardier Global 5000 (N565RS) for his exclusive use. He is said to glide all over Rivers State while holding the throttle levers himself.

 

The jet was primarily bought from Bombardier in Canada for $45.7 million through the Bank of Utah Trustee account.

 

Sources said Amaechi traded off the state’s current Embraer Legacy 600, saying it was too expensive to maintain. The sources said $5 million was added to the proceed of the traded plane that enabled the government to buy the latest airplane.

 

The oil-rich Rivers State already owns an AW139 helicopter, which it leased to a commercial airliner. The state then turned around to patronize the airline’s VIP Sikorsky S76C helicopter.

 

Last year, the state government sold its Dash 8-Q200 aircraft to Cross River State for $6 million. Cross River State then leased the plane to Aero Contractors to undertake commercial flights to and from Obudu airstrip in the state.

 

Amaechi is just one of many state chief executives that own airplanes.

 

Aircraft manufacturers like Bombardier, Gulf Stream, Embraer, Hawker Siddley and Challenger have made Nigeria their huge market because of the demand for these aircraft types by wealthy Nigerians.

 

The common brands of private jets in Nigeria are Hawker Siddley 125-800 and 900XP, Gulfstream 450, 550 and 650; Bombardier Challenger 604, 605; Global Express; Embraer Legacy and Falcons.

 

According to an official of Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer, Nigeria ranks behind the United States, United Kingdom, and China among countries that top their orders for the supply of the aircraft type; just as there are indications that N1.30 trillion may have been expended in the last seven years. Nigeria is said to top the market for private jet ownership.

 

The Managing Director of Aero Airlines, Captain Akin George, had recently spoken on the increasing number of private jets being parked at most of the aprons of Nigerian airports.

 

He was particularly piqued that most of the private jets carry foreign registration credentials rather than Nigerian registration.

 

The decision to register the jets in foreign countries, particularly in South Africa, is said to be informed by the notion that in case the owners want to resell the jets, they would warrant a bigger value from buyers.

 

He had subsequently called on the authorities concerned in the country to make registration processes in Nigeria friendly and attractive.

 

The economic downturn in Europe and the United States had made Nigeria and China to become two of the fastest growing private jet markets in the world.

 

There are many factors that have encouraged the rise of acquisition of customized jets, which cost between N2.4 billion and N9 billion.

 

Chief among these is the fact that flight schedules in the aviation industry are no longer flexible.

 

Again, the dearth of aircraft and the huge passenger traffic that is not commensurate with the capacity of the airlines has made air travel difficult for those who wish to travel by air.

 

In a situation like this, wealthy Nigerians would opt to acquire their own private jets to save time that would have been wasted waiting for flights whose times of departure are not known.

 

According to Aviation and travel expert, Olumide Ohunayo, the flight schedules of most commercial airliners that are not flexible have made it attractive for those who can afford private jets to acquire them.

 

Recurring delays and an inherent socio-political and economic system that thrive more in spontaneity rather than rigorous planning, according to Ohunayo, are other contributory factors.

 

His words: “Worldwide, they are taxed and made to pay higher charges to fund the civil aviation system and to reduce congestion, but that is not the case here.”

 

The new intervention fund of the Federal Government for the aviation sector is about a 16-year facility, which is expected to boost domestic aircraft operations.

 

This time around, the fund whose exact amount is yet to be disclosed would be paid to aircraft manufacturers or lessors for airlines to acquire newer fleet.

 

Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah-Ogiewonyi made the disclosure in Abuja at the weekend in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.

 

She said the intervention fund given to the carriers did not grow aviation, adding that, “we wanted a direct growth for a better impact than what we currently have in place and our strategy to utilising it is to have a tripartite, triangular if you like, system where the CBN with the approval of the Ministry of Finance pays directly to aircraft manufacturers of the leasing company.

 

“The leasing company would in turn bring the aircraft to our airline operators. The airline operators would now have access to brand new aircraft. If not brand new, but relatively brand new aircraft. You and the passengers will have access to functional airline that can take you to where you want to go safely and aviation remains the preferred mode of transportation,” she added.

 

She explained that a thorough audit of the airlines was carried out when she assumed office, stressing that there were airlines which were half-dead, financially weak, ineffective, inefficient and predicted that they (airlines) would collapse in six months because of their poor standards.

 

Airlines in Nigeria have shown signs of ailment, as all of them are heavily indebted to banks, aviation agencies, fuel marketers to the tune of over N250 billion.

 

Piqued by the development, the apex bank in September sent a circular banning financial institutions from extending further credit to Nigerian airlines.

 

According to the CBN, this will prevent the airlines from further escalating their huge debt profiles by borrowing more money.

 

Unlike in Nigeria, the United States gives bankruptcy protection like the chapter 11 protection, just as stakeholders call for more support for the carriers.

 

They noted that the domino effect of a crisis-ridden sector would lead to pain for operators and passengers

 

Oduah-Ogiemonyi regretted that Nigeria- airlines were yet to benefit from the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with other nations.

 

The minister stated that for the country to tap into the air pact, the government would go into Joint Venture (JV) with airlines it has BASA pact with.

 

Nigeria has 85 BASA agreements that are completely unutilised and could not be utilised because none of the nation’s carriers has the capacity to reciprocate or operate into destinations as provided for in the air agreement, as they are very small and fragmented.

 

Her words: “We are not getting the commercial benefits. We have not been benefiting commercially from the relationships and we say we can do that. Now is the time to look at them so that we can empower them. We have viable routes that we cannot utilise because we lack the capacity.

 

“We proposed to have a marriage, a joint venture between the bigger airlines and us. In doing so, airline operators were given the opportunity to work with the big ones and the big ones will domesticate their activities as it applies to Nigeria; meaning they will do the Nigerian route and still have access to our international route.

 

“You can see the opportunity we are giving them access to, which ordinarily on their own, they would not have direct access to. For instance, they can do Nigeria-London; they can do Nigeria-New York and Nigeria-Dubai.”

Source: Guardian

 

Gowon hits Achebe on civil war, says: He wrote out of ignorance

 

War time Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, has criticized  renowned author, Professor Chinua Achebe, over his new book  on the Nigerian civil war, saying he{Achebe }does not know the issue he was writing about.

 

Gowon said he was ready to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague on the matter if necessary.

 

“What role did Achebe play in the secessionist plans? Achebe must  have been outside the country during the war and probably did not know what happened during the period otherwise he would not have written on what he was not sure of “, he  remarked.

 

The erstwhile Nigerian leader,  who was answering questions from journalists  courtesy, visit to Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu at the Presidential Lodge, Minna, Niger state, yesterday, said Achebe must have been talking out of ignorance, adding that he and the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo had  no regrets over their roles in the civil war, pointing out that if there was no secession, there would not have been civil war.

“In fact , if there was no secession by the south eastern part of the country, there would have been no civil war because right from the beginning of the crises,  the war would have been averted if not for the secession . It was something I believed we could have stopped,”  he stressed.

 

Gen. Gowon  credit: vanguard


Gowon  also debunked  the claim by the author that his administration embarked on the mass killing of Igbo,  adding that the federal troops did not also use hunger as a weapon to dislodge the dissidents.

 

“It  was the Igbo that objected to the creation of corridor for movements of  medical  aid  and food supplies  to the civilian population at the period; on this,  I am ready to face the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague for prosecution over  the role played by me during the war  and, fortunately,  some Nigerians are still alive to bear witness to the roles played by both the leadership of the secessionist group and the then Federal Military Government under my leadership, “the war-time leader stated.

 

He also recalled that during the war, a  ship named “Josina”  and owned by the secessionist group, which they claimed was carrying agricultural implements,  was captured by federal  troops and it was subjected to a thorough search and the cargo turned out to  be a collection of  arms and ammunition.

 

Gowon, who was in Minna for a 2-day prayer organized by Nigeria Prays, a group he leads,  said that the massive deaths recorded by the Igbo during the civil war was caused by their own propaganda machine which claimed that the northern invaders were coming to their camps and that caused panic and  pandemonium among their people because some people were trying to move from one location to the other out of fear of imaginary attacks by the so called northern invaders and without food.

Source: Vanguard Newspaper

 

Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State turned 50 in September, but he decided to mark his birthday along the 10th anniversary of the Rochas Foundation last week. On the sidelines of the activities marking the anniversaries, the All Progressives Grand Alliance governor spoke with Chuks Okocha on developments in his state and the country. Excerpts:


Why did you decide to mark your birthday and the 10th anniversary of Rochas Foundation together?

 

I want you to understand this from my pedigree. I have over 6, 000 students who will be graduating after their successful completion of their secondary education. Education is one of the major industries in the state. The graduands are my children. So as a mark of honour, it was decided to mark my birthday and the 10th anniversary of the foundation together. The schools are located in Kano, Jos, Ibadan and Owerri.


What is the idea behind your decision to forgo your statutory security votes?

 

Imo State has a security vote of less than N4 billion. It is the sacrifice I have to make to my people for the purpose of good governance for the benefit of good education and to create employment in the state. Of what value is the security vote when there are several challenges facing the state? Of what value are the security votes, when the schools are in bad shape? Today, we are building new blocks of classrooms in the 325 wards of the state. All are from the security votes. This is the sacrifice I have to make by forfeiting my security votes.

 

My decision to use the security votes for other things has not affected the security of the state. Imo State has made several donations in terms of vehicles, logistic support and other communication gadgets to the police and other security agencies.

 

What is the state of agriculture under your administration?

 

When I came as governor, I changed the name of the palm plantation from Ada Palm to Imo Palm. Today, the Imo Palm has generated for the state no less than N3.2 billion. This was a farm that was running almost at a loss. Today also the poultry in Avutu has been made productive. Both the Imo palm and Avutu poultry are employing more than 4, 000 indigenes of the state. Most of them are graduates.

 

Imo State is rich, and when I say that people wonder. But my Bible told me that my people perish for lack of vision. We are rich because we have the vision and that is what is driving the state. We were able to turn both the Imo palms and the Avutu poultry around with the help of our foreign partners.

 

What is your vision for the South-east, especially, ahead of 2015?

 

APGA is the political party of the Igbos and it is my mission that by 2015 the party would be in charge of affairs in the zone. This will give the Igbos a sense of identity and sense of collective bargaining. APGA is not part of the PDP. What we said in 2011 was that the party will not field a presidential candidate and that we will support President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

But in the new dispensation, it is expected that APGA, as the party of the Igbos, will have a domineering influence in the South-east and this will help our sense of identity and collective interest. This is my mission as the governor of the heartland of the South-east zone.

 

Would you return to PDP?

 

Even if I contested the 2011 governorship election on the platform of the PDP, I would have failed the election. I paid the first rent for the PDP to take off as a political party. Solomon Lar, the former national chairman of the PDP, and even Professor Jerry Gana can attest to this, but the PDP has not been fair to me. I won the governorship ticket in 1999, I was denied the ticket, I won the Orlu senatorial ticket, I was again denied the ticket, I wanted to be national chairman because I have the national acceptance, and I was again denied the ticket. I came second in the presidential primary election, when late President Umaru Yar'Adua was elected the presidential candidate of the party, yet there was nothing to write home about it. For me, there is no light in the tunnel for the PDP, unless the party becomes born-again.

 

How would you explain the controversy surrounding the Oguta State constituency seat?

 

The INEC chairman said that he consulted from judges, both serving and retired, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria and it was agreed that there should be a supplementary election and some local government elections were cancelled. With the cancellation of some local governments election, how come that INEC came to the conclusion that election will be conducted in only four local governments. This was what made all the political parties to boycott the election. There are still lots of explanations on the side of INEC on how it reached the conclusion to conduct the bye-election in only four wards, instead of all the local government.

 

Can you throw light on the local government chairmen's tenure saga?

 

The state House of Assembly has said their tenure expired on the 8th of August. So, if their tenure expired on the 8th of August, you cannot go into another person's tenure. It is a law gazetted. But you can see now, they are using all kinds of media campaign, trying to portray the governor as somebody who is not obeying court order. I have gone beyond obeying court order to stupidity. One, I have an appeal in the Supreme Court for a stay of execution, that is still pending. It is supposed to be heard in the month of September. These violent people went in against the court proceedings and implemented their judgement at the Court of Appeal level. I said, okay, hold your judgement, let us go with you. Now, I also offered them an olive branch and said, how can we also work together before the election is conducted, just for peace to reign.

 

But you were accused of abridging the tenure of the council chairmen.

 

I cannot grant them tenure elongation; it is not within my powers. I suggested that we should work out a way, whether it is through a sole-administrator system or a transition committee system, where they are allowed to continue before the election takes place. My idea was to conduct election as quickly as possible. But to my greatest surprise again, this gentleman's agreement that we had arrived at was abandoned. These men went to court and brought an ex parte injunction stopping the government from dissolving them on the 8th of August when the law that brought them into office talked about two years. I don't have the power to dissolve or not, the law has dissolved them.

 

What is the philosophy behind the fourth tier government introduced by your administration?

 

The states are the federating units. The essence of what we are doing is to ensure that the communities are involved in the day-to-day affairs of the people. If you embezzle money at the local government level, nobody cares, but when you take a goat that belongs to the community, they will ensure that you account for it with the public odium. Community Government Council is what has been in the tradition of our people. It is called Town Union. What we are having is a modified town union of government which is in line with the culture of our people. We believe in it and we seem to do better with it. It is the government of the people by the people and for the people, not interfered with by INEC or police or security agencies. These people come out to choose the leader they want and it is already an established system. We are only modifying this for purposes of promoting agricultural practices and to ensure security and also bring back our culture into full fledge, especially speaking of the Igbo language.

 

How would you describe your relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan?

 

Cordial, more than cordial. I knew him before he became the president. In fact, our relationship started when he was the deputy governor of Bayelsa State.

Source: ThisDay

Khaya Dlanga ponders why the face of poverty remains black, and what needs to be done to ensure a more equal and just society in South Africa.

 

Poverty is black. Under apartheid, to be born black meant to be born into poverty, injustice and inequality. Poverty was black under a white government and it remains black under a black government.

 

According to the most recent Economist, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. In fact, South Africa is even more unequal now than it was in 1980. What makes it even more disturbing is its division by race even 18 years after democracy.

 

It is shameless and in your face. It is so blatantly clear by the juxtapositioning of Sandton and Alexandra township. The one rich and white and the other poor and black. A few rich black people do not make South Africans any more equal, nor blacks any more equal to whites. We may be equal on the paper upon which the Constitution is written but not where it matters – wealth ownership. There is no dignity or romance in poverty. Yet the poor can be dignified and are not precluded from romanticism. Those who say the poor are happy have never experienced poverty.

 

We are told of course not to talk about poverty and inequality in terms of black and white. When we do, some ask why everything must be about race. The ones who say that are of course not affected by poverty and inequality. We would love to not talk about poverty by race if it were not so blatant and in your face. To deny what we see is to deny ourselves progress.

 

Thabo Mbeki angered many when he was state president with his Two Nations speech, where he said: "We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.

 

"The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.

 

"This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure."

 

But it is true, and the two nations continued to be so even under his presidency. The rich stayed white and the poor stayed black. The country got richer but the haves got more and the have nots' continued to own less in comparison to the rich.

 

Nowhere is the gap between the haves and have nots more obvious than the mining sector, where the extremely rich bosses are white and the extremely poor are black. Naturally some will say Patrice Motsepe is black and extremely rich and he owns mines. Rich blacks are like the chocolate sprinkle on top of white cream, to paraphrase Gwede Mantashe. It should be no wonder then that we see those who are striking in the mines poor, uneducated, and black. The rich miners appear to be entitled the their wealth and give no pause to think of the poor beneath them.

 

The face of poverty was black because of the historical injustices of the past, and it remains black because the current government has not done enough to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor decreases. And asking executives to curb their pay is not a way to ensure income equality – well-executed implementation of well-thought out policies will get people out of poverty and on to the road towards equality.

 

According to Bill Freundman in his book, Developmental Dilemmas in Post-Apartheid South Africa, "government grants are the main source of income amongst the poorest 50% of the population, not salaries, not the informal sector and certainly not peasant livelihood activities". We should aim to be a society where we will no longer have to have people living mont to month from one government grant to another. We need to create opportunities for them.

 

Inequality breeds inequality. The poor get fewer opportunities and barely get a chance to make it out of their situation. One of the ways we keep excelling at inequality is the quality of education – or lack thereof – we keep providing the poor with. We all know of the textbook saga as case in point. When we give our children an education (not just any education, but a great quality one) we also give them opportunity. Denying them an opportunity is a crime – it is stealing a whole future from them.

 

Our politicians, who are something of celebrities to many of our people, have to be careful how they spend their own money in the face of poverty. When they splurge, it is as if they are out of touch with the realities many South Africans live in. Nkandla is a case in point. The cost is difficult to fathom, and even harder to justify. Whether or not the building of Nkandla is justifiable, one still has to question the wisdom of it.

 

We need to invest in the poor and provide them with the skills and ability so that they can help others out of poverty. This alone won't be enough without rooting the evil of corruption and maladministration. Corruption is shamelessly taking from the poor. The poor are rarely corrupt, it is those who have opportunity who often deal in corruption, and continue to take from the poor the little they have – f we can call what they already have "having". If we do these two simple things: give more opportunities to the poor by equipping them with education; and rooting out corruption and maladministration, we will be well on our way to a more equal and just society.

 

Khaya Dlanga writes for Mail and Guardian, South Africa

Friday, 26 October 2012 14:33

Prayer Will Not Change Nigeria

"As President Jonathan inaugurates one-year prayer project for Nigeria"

 

In their famously controversial book, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, described religion as the opium of the people which, when taken in right dosage, benumbs the body and soul to suffering, shame and sin. The church, especially in Nigeria, has been so emblematic of the Marxian prognostication and turned otherwise educated men and women into robotic wimps, manipulated by pastor, prophets and prophetesses and recounting sometimes meaningless supplications to a creator, whose methods they hardly comprehend. The same goes for other religions, which have tended to follow a certain pattern that thoroughly negates all the principles of mutual and peaceful co-existence.

 

Just a few days ago, a friend complained that Nigeria is one of those third world countries where people worship all kinds of supernatural personalities and pray harder than they work yet criminals pervade the land and people perpetrate all kinds of heinous crimes even in the most sanctimonious of places and the country is retarded in growth. Meanwhile, some European countries, where less than 15% of the population recognise the existence of any gods and never bother to go to any place of worship, be it Sunday or Friday, are doing good, showing love and prospering as a people. It is this conundrum, which got so flagrantly played up in some of the media reports credited to President Goodluck Jonathan this week that has prompted this intervention.

 

Among all the stuff he was said to have said during the Independence Day celebrations, Mr. President reportedly declared a one year prayer session upon which we must now hinge the future and prosperity of Nigeria. First of all, I don’t understand why the president would make such a proposition to the hapless and long-suffering people of Nigeria on such an occasion. Some of us were dying to know how he intends to deal with some of the more pressing challenges facing the country, but not much came through.

 

Take the example of power. Paradoxically, most people were unable to watch the president’s Independence Day speech due to power outage and those who did paid dearly for it, literally, as the light was gone soon after never to return till the next day, if at all. For power, it’s all contracts, contracts and more contracts-even as we hope the water levels do not recede ultimately to show PHCN for what it truly is.

 

As far as I know, the Roman Catholic Church has been saying the “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress” for over two decades. Yet, neither the leaders nor the followers have changed. Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has led a prayer project called “Nigeria Prays” for over 10 years and nothing seems to have changed.  It is possible that quite a few of the new fangled churches take some time off their busy schedule (of praying for prosperity and such matters) to say a prayer or two for the country.

 

There are several hours of video footage and tonnes of press clippings showing several politicians, especially the Christians, visiting one religious leader or another seeking divine guidance or so it seems. Others have also been known to have visited some notorious shrines in the more seedy and dingy enclaves. But even so, and in spite of all of these, things haven’t got any better.

 

My second point is the rather wrong impression created by the president (by the way I didn’t say our president lied) by claiming that the United States of America made it to greatness through prayers. I reckon Mrs. Hilary Clinton didn’t bother to listen to the speeches, otherwise the Americans would have been protesting such glaring misinformation. Brothers and sisters, the US was built on hard work, passion, vision and an overwhelming quest to be the best. If at all, they must have prayed for longer days than nights so they could get more nation-building work done!

 

At this point, I pause to remember an anecdote about a protest by world leaders to God over His seeming preferential treatment of Nigerians by blessing them with good weather conditions and abundant natural resources. As the story goes, God smiled at the angry protesters and asked them to go back home and wait to see the kind of leaders He would send to Nigeria.  Fabulous as this story may sound, Nigeria has had a rough ride with leadership since independence, but for one exception (Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s era) but even so, not much was achieved while seeking to correct past mistakes.

 

As a country, we have so much natural resources and brilliant and hardworking people, but we don’t seem capable of  feeding ourselves (less than 20% of the population of India) much less maintain a 100km road leading from Lagos to Ibadan! And the president wants us to pray?

 

Today, Nigerians are wracked by the menace of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and now flooding. What exactly has the government done to deal with these core aspects of their Key Results Areas, aside inexplicable budgetary allocations and platitudes in the media? Yes, these may be inevitable with the gripping high unemployment figures, but what is the government doing to complement the effort of the few surviving private sector companies? Flooding may be a natural disaster, but didn’t we get warned by the Meteorological Agencies even as we all rue Global Warming? Yet, we allow the floods to wreak so much havoc, with the death toll rising from across the affected parts of the country and billions of naira worth of property damaged.

 

President Jonathan says we should pray, yet he’s not even been to any of the flooded zones, like George Bush of the same US did during Katrina and Obama has been doing all through the year as the elements ravaged the US.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t said that Nigerians should not pray. As a matter of fact, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of prayers. The only difference between me and some folks is that they believe that prayer answereth all problems. Hell no! For goodness sakes, pray if you want to pray, but do something. So, those who want to pray for 10 years can get on with it, if that’s what they have elected to do but they must realize that there are at least two clear risks in going that route. One, if we sheepishly get down on our knees and pray with our eyes closed, in a manner of speaking, those we have sent to represent us will prey on us (pardon the pun). Secondly, the natural resources we have were fortuitously granted by divine providence. I can admit so much.

 

However, we have to turn those raw materials into finished, profitably marketable goods, to make good sense of them. There is no amount of prayer that can turn water to wine in Nigeria of today. Even that was then, and in far away Galilee. If we can’t build or maintain our refineries, we will continue to export cheap crude and import expensive by-products, regardless of how long and how hard we pray.

 

So, I am totally not on this one with the president. I suggest he says just a little prayer to God for dependable, serious-minded and effective lieutenants who will help him take the country out of the dark woods where it is currently languishing clueless. In the meantime, I will say a prayer to God to grant our president the wisdom to see through the sycophancy of many of his assistants and acolytes and immediately appoint men and women of knowledge and passion who will help him make the difference rather than worry about their personal comfort and 2015.

 

I believe there are too many people telling the president only what he wants to hear and playing politics with the lives of Nigerians and the future of the country. President Jonathan can still make history, for all the right reasons, if he can hearken to the voices crying so bitterly and loudly in the Nigerian wilderness. Prayers won’t change Nigeria; affirmative and honest actions will.

 

Oparah writes from Lagos

Afren Plc (AFR), a U.K. oil and gas explorer, plans to spend as much as $120 million in two years drilling wells in East Africa as the region’s untapped resources lure competitors from Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) to Total SA.

 

Afren intends to drill four exploration wells, Associate Director Galib Virani said today in an interview in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The company has licenses in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Ethiopia and the Seychelles, he said, without specifying where each well will be located.

 

East Africa has become one of the world’s most active exploration areas since Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) made the decade’s biggest gas discovery off Mozambique. The growing interest in the region was evident in the bidding war this year between Shell and Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production Pcl (PTTEP) for Anadarko’s London-listed partner Cove Energy Plc.

 

East Africa is set to become the “jewel in Afren’s exploration portfolio,” Virani said. “We have always been attracted to the geology in East Africa. The upside is very significant.”

 

3 Month closing prices

3 month graph

 

The five nations targeted by Afren hold an estimated 5.8 billion barrels of resources, mainly oil, according to seismic and aero-magnetic data collected by the company at a cost of $125 million, Virani said. Afren started building its East African portfolio in mid-2010, and plans to use cash from its Nigerian operations to finance work in the region, he said.

 

The London-based company and its partners already began drilling the Paipai-1 well in Kenya’s Block 10A, where the U.K. explorer has a 20 percent stake. The block is operated by Tullow Oil Plc. (TLW)

 

Elsewhere in Africa, Afren holds licenses in Nigeria, Ghana, the Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, Virani said. It also has producing assets in Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigeria lost out on tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over the last decade from cut price deals struck between multinational oil companies and government officials, a confidential report seen by Reuters says.

 

A team headed by the former head of the anti-corruption agency Nuhu Ribadu produced the 146-page study on an oil ministry request. It covers the year 2002 to the present.

 

Nigeria is Africa's largest crude oil exporter, shipping more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd), and is also home to the world's ninth biggest gas reserves and one of its largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals.

 

The report provides new details on Nigeria's long history of corruption in the oil sector, which has enriched its elite and provided the oil majors with hefty profits while two thirds of people live in poverty.

 

Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke told Reuters on Tuesday she had received the report last month but that it was a draft and the government was still supposed to give input. The one seen by Reuters was labeled "Final Report."

 

The report concluded that oil majors Shell, Total and Eni made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while Nigerian oil ministers handed out licenses at their own discretion. This, while not illegal, did not follow best practice of using open bids. Hundreds of millions of dollars in signature bonuses on those deals were also missing, it said.

 

"We have not seen this report and are, therefore, unable to comment on the content, but we will study it if and when it is published," a Shell spokesman said.

 

The report alleges international oil traders sometimes buy crude without any formal contracts, and the state oil firm had short-changed the Nigerian treasury billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates.

 

There was no suggestion that the oil majors or traders had done anything illegal, but the report highlighted a lack of transparency in their dealings in a nation rife with graft.

 

"It is a draft," Alison-Madueke said. "There will be some areas where the government ... may have a slightly different opinion ... (and) will put its point of view to the committee."

She said she expects the final report to be with President Goodluck Jonathan within two weeks.

 

MISSING BILLIONS

 

Ribadu's probe was among several set up following a week of nationwide strikes against a rise in fuel prices in January, which morphed into a campaign against oil corruption.

 

Billions of dollars of revenue was missing in unpaid debts from signature bonuses and royalties, the report found.

 

Nigeria LNG, a company jointly owned by the NNPC, Shell, Total and Eni had paid the country for gas at cut-down prices before exporting it to international markets, the report said.

 

Total and Eni declined to comment because they invest in but do not operate Nigeria LNG, the role played by Shell.

 

"The estimated cumulative of the deficit between value obtainable on the international market and what is currently being obtained from NLNG, over the 10 year period, amounts to approximately $29 billion," the report said.

 

It also said foreign oil firms had outstanding debts.

 

Addax, now a unit of China's state-owned Sinopec, owes Nigeria $1.5 billion in unpaid royalties, part of a $3 billion black hole of unpaid bonuses and royalties owed by oil firms.

 

Addax did not respond to requests for comment, but the report noted it disputes owing the signature bonuses.

 

Shell owes Nigeria's government 137.57 billion naira ($874 million) for gas sold from its Bonga deep offshore field, the report said, while oil majors owed $58 million between them for gas flaring penalties. They were also not adhering to newer higher fines.

 

The probe also said Nigeria was the only nation to sell all its crude through international oil traders rather than directly to refineries, adding that such trades were often opaque.

 

INFORMAL TRADING

 

It said some international oil traders who were not "on the approved master list of customers" had been sold crude oil "without a formal contract" so little could be obtained about the details of these deals, which can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

"This logically will serve to reduce margins obtainable on sale of crude oil," the report said.

 

But Alison-Madueke disputed this, saying there are no informal contracts and there is "an official tender put out every year", which can be seen by the public in newspapers.

 

The state oil firm gets an allocation of 445,000 bpd of crude oil to refine locally but it has been selling itself this oil at cut-down prices, a practice which cost Nigeria $5 billion in potential revenue between 2002-2011, the report said.

 

"NNPC buys at international rates," Alison-Madueke retorted.

 

The report said the NNPC made 86.6 billion naira over the 10-year period by using overly generous exchange rates in its declarations to the government. There was no sign of the money.

 

Nigerian oil ministers between 2008-2011 handed out seven discretionary licenses but there is $183 million in signature bonuses missing from the deals, the report said. Three of these oil licenses were awarded since Alison-Madueke took up her position in 2010, according to the report.

 

"I have not given any discretionary awards during this administration," Alison-Madueke told Reuters, although she added that the president had the right to do so instead of using bids if he saw fit. "That is entirely up to him," she said.

 

Among the report's recommendations were that parts of NNPC be reorganized or scrapped, an independent review of the use of traders be set up and a transparency law be passed requiring oil companies to disclose all payments made to Nigeria.

 

U.S. regulators put new rules in place in August that will require U.S.-listed oil and gas companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments like Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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