The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has taken over many tank farms and loading terminals belonging to some independent marketers and importers of petroleum products in Nigeria due to inability to pay the debts they owe banks. Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Adetunji Oyebanji, speaks on these crises and other burning issues in the downstream subsector of the petroleum industry, in this interview with Adeola Yusuf. Excerpts:
In other countries we see fuel retail outlets owned and operated by international oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, among others, why is it not the same here in Nigeria? Don’t you think it’s time the Federal Government compelled them to do so?
Most governments across the globe promote free market enterprise. People and businesses invest in different sectors out of their free will based on opportunities there. You cannot coerce people or institutions to invest in an industry when the environment is not conducive or acceptable to them.
Some Nigerians and organisations have expressed concerns about the huge amount of money being spent on fuel subsidy, what will be your advice to the government if asked to do so?
Government should put a robust plan in place to wind down their involvement in fuel importation by liberalizing and deregulating petrol. This would channel very scarce resources used in its importation to other sectors of the economy in dire need of attention, for example, Education, Health, Security, among others for true benefit of the citizenry.
What is the state of the debt owed oil marketers by the Federal Government?
Kudos to this government as two thirds of marketers’ debts, which are largely legacy debts inherited by the present government in 2015 have settled them. The instrument used for payment is promissory notes, which can be discounted for cash.
Banks, we learnt, have been directed to waive the interest that accrued on the N800 billion owed marketers, will that make marketers commence importation of fuel?
Marketers cannot compete because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is capable of accessing forex for product importation at a rate others cannot. They, alone, can take the shock of product cost landing at above pump price and every other person buys from them. It is currently not a level-playing field at all.
Over the years, the Federal Government had been advised severally to deregulate the fuel marketing arm of the oil industry, but the government is not excited to implement it because it will make the citizens to unnecessarily pay more for fuel. What do you think can be done to deregulate the sector and still keep the price of fuel (PMS) at a reasonable level?
Pump price of petrol is cheapest in Nigeria than all our neighbouring countries. This is mainly the case due to the subsidization of the product. Unfortunately we have porous land/sea borders and these fuels find their way to other countries where they do not subsidize fuel. So technically, Nigeria is subsidizing fuel for other countries and making some black marketers super rich. Government can plan deregulation in phases and put palliative measures in place to cushion any sharp or adverse effect of the process.
The major oil marketing companies have not been increasing their retail outlets in the past few years, what’s responsible for this action? Is it a collective decision by the umbrella body – MOMAN?
Personally, the downstream is not very attractive, as a lot of companies today are trying to stay afloat or survive due to the very thin margin on petrol because it is a regulated product. A lot of fuel terminals are under AMCON’s management, as they could not meet their financial obligations to banks, among others. The margins have not been reviewed since 2016 and for many years before then, it’s been the same. The subsidy payment came as a relief, but some companies had passed redemption even with the inflow and suffered the inevitable. Necessity is the mother of invention, as a lot of marketers have divested or reengineered just to remain relevant. This is the same reason why most international oil companies (IOCs) have divested from Nigeria and even people who took them over have in some cases also moved on to other more profitable ventures.
Normally, when the price of crude oil is low, the price of petroleum products should be low. Why doesn’t that apply in Nigeria?
The government is already bleeding as a result of cushioning the price of the product, as the landing price of petrol is more than the pump price. So naturally when price is low, it may at best be at breakeven point with pump price. At least, government will have some relief at those seasons.
The downstream subsector has not been attracting foreign and local investors, what’s the cause?
The answer to this question is not farfetched. With the right environment such as free enterprise and a level playing field, investors will be encouraged and participate in building capacity and infrastructure, as they will be guaranteed of a reasonable return for their investment. If this isn’t the case, as we are now currently experiencing in our polity, even the existing players will pack their bags to leave.
MOMAN is recognised as a cardinal and reputable organisation, why isn’t it helping the government to find solution to the downstream problems?
MOMAN is an association made up of member companies driven by their core values, which is primarily to provide energy solutions to Nigerians at a reasonable return. However, we also share a mandate to ensure there is fluidity in Federal Government’s plan in reaching policy solutions. Unfortunately what we find is successive governments using fuel/PMS as a political commodity and trying to solve our problems of deregulation politically as opposed to using economical approach to resolving it.
Having headed both multinational and local oil firms, what are the things that we are not doing properly or we should do differently as a country to put the downstream on a strong footing?
First and foremost as a nation, we should formulate proper policies that will entrench fair play and promote free market enterprise. One of the key reasons for this, fundamentally, is it will attract a lot of both local and foreign investment. On the area of Safety, Corporate Governance, Operational Efficiency etc, the world now is a global village and a lot of best practices are easier shared across companies and industries more now than never before.
Should the Federal Government sell Nigeria’s refineries to private investors?
It is a general rule and very popular school of thought, which says government are not very efficient in running state corporations due to the usual inherent bureaucracies and usual inherent corruption that we tend to find prevalent. Having said this, government may encourage private partnerships to run and oversee the refineries by putting proper policies and plan in place for its workability.
How should government go about it?
Partner with the right team to gradually see government’s involvement in running the refineries diminish. Right policy framework that will ensure the new managers enjoy tax exemption and other incentives before the refineries become fully operational and viable again.
Does the nation stand to benefit from selling off these refineries?
Yes to the extent that they will be more efficient and produce more molecules for the Nigerian populace. Hopefully this will put less and less pressure on the need to import refined products and also reduce the pressure on our foreign exchange reserves.
There is agitation that there will be job loss if the refineries are sold. Will this not be counter-productive?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that some of the existing jobs on the refining line currently out dated will be replaced by more modern machinery with less human intervention, but overall the economy will likely see a boom and will be freed up. This has a ripple effect of generating a robust growth and earnings potential that will exponentially create more jobs and income for Nigerians.
Will selling the refineries now not have negative impact on price of refined products for Nigerians?
From our experience the impact of our refined product is largely minimal overall, as we import close to 70 – 80 per cent of our premium motor spirit (PMS) or petrol consumption from foreign refineries. So, by government finding right partners and moving away from directly managing the refineries to a more efficient manager will see government concentrate on other social- economic role beneficial to all as opposed to a purely business-driven venture approach needed to run modern refineries properly.
How is 11Plc faring in the industry? Have you resolved your case with Ascon Oil on the Mobile retail outlet at Gbagada?
We are trying to compete favorably and face all of the challenges being faced by all the local players. Our edge, however, is staying within the ambit of the law and doing those things we are known for flawlessly. For the Mobil Gbagada service station, the case is still in the courts.
We gathered that 11plc sacked some workers due to inability to pay while some workers are still working as casuals; can you throw more light on these issues?
There isn’t any iota of truth in this story. Members of staff who leave are those who attained the retirement age or choose to leave based on pursuing other passions or dreams. At 11PLC, we pride ourselves as a company that develops our manpower, as we see our people as our strongest asset and like I said, the management and staff of 11PLC always stay within the ambit of the law of the land.
Last year, MOMAN engaged with some stakeholders on the need to clear the Apapa gridlock. What is your assessment of the situation?
If you look at the bridges today, you will see that most of the trucks that are on those queues are trucks for dry goods. Hardly will you see any tanker that is parked indiscriminately in Apapa. To that extent, I think we have worked hard to make sure that MOMAN members and other companies that are coming to lift from our facilities have places where they can park their trucks without being a distraction. However, the overall problem of Apapa still remains. On our own side, in our own industry, a good percentage of the imports into Nigeria come in through the Apapa ports. So that is a problem, although it has been decentralised to a certain extent so people also go to places such as Calabar and Warri to lift products.
But the vast majority comes into Apapa. So that is one problem. Secondly, the major ports here, Tin Can and Apapa ports are still here. So most of the dry goods that are imported into the country again, are coming in through the same ports that were built several years ago, despite an increase in volume. So, I would say the major problem is really lack of investment. If the country has invested in more ports’ receipt facilities, infrastructure in this area in different parts of the country then, we would not really have this problem. Until that fundamental problem is addressed, we are going to continue to see this kind of problem intermittently. In addition, the roads are bad, not only in coming into Apapa but all over the place and that has also compounded the issue.
For me, you have to decentralize this place. l do not think any new tank farm should be allowed here. We already have enough. They should take them to other places. And then if the roads are also fixed, that will improve. We have a big truck pack. Most of our MOMAN members have truck parks and we are able to park our trucks. But I think it’s something that needs to be done for not only the petrol tankers or trucks coming into Apapa.
How come most of the multinationals have left with the exception of Total? How was Total able to do this?
Well, what I would say clearly is that the downstream in Nigeria is not healthy. As you know, we operate on a fixed margin. The last time any review was done on our margins was in 2016. Inflation continues to rise, workers continue to demand a higher salary as well as an increase in all the inputs. If you want to build a mega station now, the cost is probably two or three times over what it would have cost a few years back and yet our margins remain the same. Today, NNPC is the sole importer of fuel; so all of us have to go cap in hand to NNPC to beg for allocation. So with all the stress and combination of things, regulations are not applied to all. In some cases, you will find this regulation will be applied here, for another person the same will not be applied.
So those kinds of differential ways of doing things and then, when you add to all these multiple taxations, every local government, every environmental agency, three different agencies can come requesting for the same things and charging you huge amounts of money, all coming from a fixed petrol price on a fixed margin. With that, it doesn’t take rocket science to know that things will be bad. And that’s why I think people have left. For TOTAL, I think the only reason why they are still here, I can’t speak for them, but I believe Africa is a corner piece of their own strategy. So they have been expanding significantly in Africa and maybe that is why they feel it’s important to remain in a large economy like Nigeria. But for other people, that made a business decision that this is not a sustainable economic environment that can keep their companies going and they have decided to vote with their feet.
What solutions will you proffer to these problems you mentioned?
Well, we are in a competitive industry. We believe in competition. We believe that when you allow players in the industry a free hand to go into the market and to compete effectively, it brings out the best in them and the investment that is lacking. You can see the trucks on the road, most of the trucks you see on the road are not good, many of our stations you see are not what you call state-of-the-art stations. If you go abroad, you can see much better service stations. Many of our facilities are old and getting older. We believe that the government needs to free up the industry just like it has done in so many other industries and we have seen the massive development there. I believe that we should deregulate the industry. Deregulation doesn’t mean there will be a lack of regulation. The regulation will still be there but the government will concentrate on setting standards and making sure that everybody is playing according to the rules, and that people are not creating monopolies in terms of oppressing people.
Today, even though the margins have not been touched for quite some time, they are fixed and they are known. At least you know what you are dealing with. In a deregulated environment you may not know what those margins are. In fact, your margins could go negative if possible but at the end of the day what that means is that, those who are not running the business efficiently would die and the strong will survive or there’ll be consolidation in the industry, which is part of what you see happening in the banking sector because the competition is stiff. People have to consolidate.
With all the benefits you outlined, why do you think the government is yet to sign up on deregulation?
It is from a political standpoint and it is always going to be a challenging thing. Unfortunately the longer you wait, the more difficult it is going to become. It is not going to run away. You really have to take the bull by the horns because what we keep on doing is that, when there is an attempt to deregulate and there is a lot of pushback, eventually when the government has to take a step backward what they end up doing ultimately is just to increase the price. Deregulation is not about just increasing prices periodically. What usually happens is that when the pressure on government finances becomes so much, they have no choice and they will say we want to deregulate and immediately they say that there’s outrage, people in different places carry placards, strikes and all that.
Oil slips as concerns over US-China trade talks drag on
U.S. oil prices fell for the second straight day on Tuesday amid market jitters over limited progress between China and the United States on rolling back trade tariffs, while expectations of a rise in U.S. inventories also jangled nerves.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 dropped 32 cents or 0.56% to $56.73 a barrel by 0803 GMT, slipping further away from an eight-week high hit last Friday when hopes for the trade deal rose.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 were down 26 cents, or 0.42%, at $62.18 a barrel, reports Reuters.
A Chinese government source was quoted by broadcaster CNBC on Monday as saying there was gloom in Beijing about prospects for a trade deal, with Chinese officials troubled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment that there was no agreement on phasing out tariffs.
“We had reports overnight that the mood in Beijing was pessimistic,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney. “The lack of announcement is really concerning for the demand outlook … the market is very nervous about the trade talks.”
The lingering trade battle that has seen the world’s two biggest economies impose tit-for-tat tariffs on each other has hit global growth prospects and clouded the outlook for future oil demand.
Meanwhile, a preliminary Reuters poll on Monday that showed U.S. crude oil stockpile are expected to rise for a fourth straight week also squeezed prices. [EIA/S]
The American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to release its data for the latest week at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Tuesday, while the Energy Information Administration’s official weekly report is due on Wednesday.
“Unless we get further concrete signs of global growth rally or an extension in production cuts by OPEC+ (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and associated producers including Russia), WTI will struggle to attempt to recapture the $60-a-barrel mark,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.
One possible factor supporting prices going forward was a renewal in geopolitical tensions, with news from Dubai that armed members of Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement had seized a vessel towing a South Korean rig at the southern end of the Red Sea over the weekend.
Kylie Jenner sells stake in cosmetics company for $600m
Kylie Jenner will sell the majority of her cosmetics company for $600 million (£463 million).
The 22-year-old’s brand, including Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin, will be controlled by beauty giant Coty.
Kylie says she is building the brand into an “international beauty powerhouse”.
Forbes reported that she made $360 million in sales in 2018, making her the youngest self-made billionaire ever, reports the BBC.
The chairman of Coty’s board called Kylie a “modern-day icon, with an incredible sense of the beauty consumer”.
Her online influence is so powerful that she reduced Snapchat’s stock market value by $1.3bn (£1bn) when she tweeted that she does not use the app anymore.
The reality TV star launched her brand in 2015 with a line of lipsticks, and has since then branched out into face make-up and skincare.
Although she’s the youngest, Kylie is the highest earner in the Kardashian family.
She faced backlash after being named a “self-made” billionaire, but defended herself saying that none of her money has come from inheritance.
She has more than 151 million followers on her personal Instagram account, as well as 22 million on her Kylie cosmetics account.
Coty, which owns brands like Burberry and Hugo Boss, will have a 51% stake in the company.
It said the deal will be completed in 2020.
NSE opens week negative, loses N190bn
The equities market closed yesterday on a negative note, to commence the weekly trading activities on the downswing after the market closed last Friday positive.
The market performance indices, NSE ASI depreciated by 0.59 per cent.
The downswing according to market watchers was due to profit takings by investors.
Consequently, the All-Share Index dropped by 160.59 basis points or 0.59 per cent from 26,851.68 index points last Friday to 26,691.09 while the market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N190 billion to close at N12.882 trillion from N13.071 trillion.
On the activity chart, premium sub-sector dominated in volume terms with 88.6 million shares exchanged in 2,058 deals. The sub sector was enhanced by the activities in the shares of Zenith Bank Plc and UBA Plc.
Banking sub-sector boosted by the activities on the shares of Fidelity Plc and Wema Bank Plc followed with 32.3 million units traded in 649 deals.
In all, investors exchanged a total of 307.9 million shares exchanged in 4,609 deals.
Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc led the gainers chart with 10 per cent to close at 44 kobo per share while Jaiz Bank Plc followed with 9.89 per cent to close at 78 kobo per share and Ikeja Hotel Plc with a gain of 9.47per cent to close at N1.04 per share.
On the flip side, Wema Bank Plc led the losers’ chart with a drop of 7.89 per cent to close at 70 kobo per share. FCMB Plc followed with a loss of 7.50 per cent to close at N1.85 per share while Caverton Nigeria Plc dropped by 7.41 per cent to close at N2.50 per share.
Waning hope for national carrier
Nigeria has tried unsuccessfully to set up a national airline and is ready to pour money into the project. How realistic is the agenda for the a new national airline for Nigeria? WOLE SHADARE writes
In 2014 before he was elected, President Muhammadu Buhari made the setting up of national carrier one of his priorities if he got to be elected as Nigeria’s president.
Five years has gone past and the country is yet to be bequeathed with one of the promises of Mr. President.
The President did not forget he made such promise.
Since he assumed office, his ministers in charge of aviation and transportation have pursued the project vigorously but it has been described as one step forward, many steps backward not for wont of not taking steps but they have not been clear cut.
It is heartbroken that one of the few countries that started the race with Nigeria has progressed better than Nigeria and has actually set up its own national airlines because of the huge gaps domestic airlines have not been able to fill.
Amid slow pace of action on setting up national carrier for Nigeria, some stakeholders even suggested that Arik and Aero Contractors, two airlines that technically belong to the Federal Government, be merged to make it easier if government is in a conundrum on what to do after boxing itself into a corner.
Minister expresses hope
But the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, would not even discuss that because of the huge liability of the two airlines.
Sirika looks more determined to match his words with actions. He looks committed to delivering on this huge project and has not hidden his determination to achieve this.
The buzz around what people described as a wonderful idea if the government pulls it through is waning as this may end up as another failed project considering the fact that the governments before now had tried unsuccessfully to give the country a national airline, which has divided opinion among those who believe in the idea and others who see it as an unprofitable venture.
State airlines boom
Uganda is the latest African country to pour money into a national carrier. But the aviation industry faces some particularly tough conditions on the continent before it can turn a profit.
Just over three months, a plane belonging to the newly revived Uganda Airlines lifted off from Entebbe for its maiden flight. Fifty minutes later, the jet full of dignitaries landed safely in Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya.
Ugandans took to Twitter and Facebook to celebrate the successful flight of the Bombardier CRJ-900, one of two such planes currently flying for the relaunched national carrier.
“In some ways this airline is beginning to feel like we are sending someone on the moon if you look at the reactions online,” Angelo Izama, a Ugandan journalist, said.
It’s taken Uganda nearly two decades to get its national carrier back in the skies – the airline was grounded in 2001 after years of losses.
Its relaunch has sparked national pride, with President Museveni describing the inaugural flight as a “historic moment” for all Ugandans.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda hopes the new carrier will also contribute to the economy.
Ugandans spend $450 million ($405 million) flying with foreign airlines, he said at the inaugural ceremony. That money could rather flow to Uganda.
African countries resurrect airlines
Like Uganda, a number of African countries are championing the idea of a national carrier and are either planning to resurrect their state airlines or pouring money into expanding their fleet and routes.
Ghana, which has been without a state airline since the collapse of Ghana International Airways in 2010, is planning a new national carrier in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines.
In a similar deal, Zambia plans to relaunch its state carrier in late 2019 more than two decades after it was shut down.
Senegal commenced domestic flights with its newly revived national carrier, Air Senegal, in 2018 while Tanzania has announced plans to buy new Airbus jets in order to increase the routes of its state-owned national carrier.
On the one hand, the air passenger market in Africa shows great potential. More Africans are flying than ever before and the numbers are expected to grow by five per cent annually in the next 20 years.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the continent will see 274 million air passengers by 2036.
People are flying for tourism and also for education or for medical treatment. And a large part is for business reasons.
It’s also an underserved market. It can be necessary to fly from one African country to a neighbouring nation via hubs such Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Nairobi – or even via Europe or Dubai – because there are no direct flights. African carriers could help fill these connection gaps.
Industry experts also say for African carriers to succeed, the continent needs an open-skies agreement to free up the aviation sector from protectionism.
But so far only 28 African countries have signed the Single African Air Transport Market and only ten of these have begun changing their own laws to implement the deal.
Costly national carriers
National carriers are also costly to run. According to IATA projections, African airlines will lose $100 million this year and most state-owned flag carriers in the region are losing money.
Ethiopian Airlines is sub-Saharan Africa’s only profitable large state-owned airline. Carrying 11 million passengers in 2017, it serves over a hundred destinations on all five continents.
South African Airways, one of the continent’s biggest airlines, has been making massive losses since 2011 and has only survived thanks to huge government bailouts.
The airline is also without a permanent chief executive and has yet to file annual results for the two most recent financial years because of concerns about its viability as a business, reports Reuters.
Anxiety mixed with palpable joy could best describe plan by the Federal Government to put in motion process that would help to establish a national carrier for the country. Apparently worried by loss of huge revenue from the aviation industry, the government had concluded plans to regain some grounds by floating a national carrier before the end of 2018.
It was unpleasant revelation recently that Nigeria has been losing more than $1.5bilion yearly from the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) because of non-utilisation of its international flights allotments. Such a report is a call to duty for any responsive government to find the best way to recover such losses or reduce it. And since from the onset, he (Buhari) has shown the zeal in the possibility of returning the national carrier, the BASA report and others like it, have made it ideal and created appropriate time for something to be done.
First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that the majority of countries in Africa and possibly in the world have national carriers with ownership ranging from private entities to a majority or minority state ownership shareholding.
It remains to be seen if the proposed national carrier will bring the hope for return on Nigeria’s investment.
Seplat, stakeholders harp on pitfalls for FCCP Act
Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc has drawn the attention to critical factors necessary for the successful implementation of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) in oil and gas industry.
The oil firm, according to a statement, made this known in partnership with legal firms, Olaniwun Ajayi LP and London-based, White & Case Law LLP.
The Act, which is a codified set of rules signed into law in January 2019, established the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal.
It was enacted for the promotion of competition in the Nigerian markets at all levels to eliminate monopolies, prohibit abuse of a dominant market position and to penalise other unethical restrictive trade and business practices.
The Chief Executive Officer, Seplat, Mr. Austin Avuru, the statement read, stressed Seplat’s strong regard for compliance and strict adherence to corporate governance ethos in the industry.
Avuru said Seplat remained very concerned about its current and future business environment in Nigeria and will continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to advocate for good laws that will positively impact businesses, especially in the oil and gas industry.
“As an organisation, Seplat is at the forefront of understanding, practicing and advocating proper compliance and corporate governance principles. In these areas, we lead from the front line.
“We have put together this event to draw attention to the gaps in this Act, with a view to getting stakeholders to accommodate the peculiarities of the oil and gas industry in future reviews of the Act,” he said.
The General Counsel at Seplat, Dr. Mirian Kachikwu, expressed optimism that continuous engagement with relevant stakeholders would not only address grey areas in the FCCPA, but also inform possible amendments as may be relevant for businesses in Nigeria, especially in the oil and gas space.
Speaking on the event, Kachikwu said: “Seplat organised this policy dialogue to create ample awareness and enlighten key stakeholders in the oil and gas sector about the challenges that the new law could have on the smooth operation of the industry. The goal is to work with the regulator and government to shed light on grey areas.
“Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Babatunde Irukera, noted that “it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work together to effect the necessary change identified by a stakeholder.”
The oil and gas industry in Nigeria, Irukera was quoted to have said,”is peculiar in many respects, both in terms of the legal and regulatory framework. The industry is particularly sensitive therefore if players in the industry notify of the need to make changes to a clause in the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work together to effect the necessary change.”
In the oil and gas industry, the FCCPA provides guidelines on the maximum amount of funds that can be raised by oil and gas companies; how collaborative bidding should be done and other important matters that directly affect the oil and gas industry.
In particular, the Act stipulates that the FCCP Commission’s oversight over mergers extends to Joint Ventures, which are critical to the oil and gas sector.
In a presentation facilitated by Kadijah Yusuf and Folashade Oluyadi (both senior associates at Olaniwun Ajayi), Jonathan Aluju, Managing Associate at Olaniwun Ajayi and Marc Israel, Partner White & Case LLP, discussants at the event drew attention to the need to amend sections of the FCCPA, which hamper the growth of the oil and gas industry or restrict expansion plans of participants in the industry.
The event brought together dignitaries from the oil and industry, legal community, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and other arms of government.
It was attended by Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, President Nigerian Gas Association (NGA), representatives of companies including Shell Petroleum Exploration and Production Company, Platform Petroleum, Oando, First E&P, Petrobras Nigeria, among others.
Mixed grill over fuel supply to border communities
The NNPC trucked out N2.5 trillion worth of petrol in 10 months despite stoppage of supply to filling stations in border communities, and the closure of border in three out of the 10 months. Adeola Yusuf reports
What started with outright closure of land borders that link Nigeria with its neighbouring countries climaxed with a memo dated November 6th 2019.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali [rtd], directed, according to the memo, that henceforth no petroleum product, no matter the tank size, is permitted to be discharged in any filling station within 20 kilometers to the borders.
Expectedly, the marketers of petroleum products kicked and the dust raised by this has figuratively mixed with the fresh air that originally pervaded smooth supply of fuel to millions of Nigerians in border communities.
Order from above
In a circular to zonal and sector coordinators, Operation Swift Response and area controllers, and others, entitled: E11/2019 circular No.027: SUSPENSION OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS SUPPLY TO FILLING STATIONS WITHIN 20 KILOMETERS TO ALL BORDERS, dated November 6, 2019, the Comptroller-General of Customs directed that henceforth, no petroleum product, no matter the tank size, is permitted to be discharged in any filling station within 20 kilometers to the borders, stressing that “Consequently, you are all to ensure strict and immediate compliance, please.”
The circular was signed by Chidi A. Deputy Comptroller – General (E I & I) for: C-G.
Product load rises
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), it was gathered, trucked out N2.517 trillion worth of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol in 526,000 trucks across the country in the last 10 months.
The corporation noted that 17.36 billion litres of PMS were trucked out between January and October, 2019.
Releasing this data as a part of measures to ensure safety and smooth operation in the petroleum products distribution value chain, the NNPC, in collaboration with other stakeholders in the petroleum industry and the Federal Government, said on Wednesday that it had activated the Safe-to-Load initiative to mitigate incessant petroleum products tanker accidents and ensuing fire outbreaks across the country.
The meeting of the stakeholders, which held Wednesday at the corporation’s Towers, Abuja, was sequel to the initiative of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Haulage Operations in Nigeria.
It was aimed at ensuring safety in the whole gamut of bridging process across the country.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, said proffering a lasting solution to the challenge had become imperative given the frequent fire incidents from petroleum tankers with attendant loss of lives and properties.
Safety, digital loading facilities
Mallam Kyari stated that the corporation as a socially responsible entity placed high premium on the lives of workers and citizens, noting that safety was one of the core values of the organisation.
“As an organisation founded on operational excellence, NNPC has a safety checklist for loading of petroleum products from its terminals and is interested in ensuring harmonization of the Safe-to-Load checklists being used by all terminals across the country,” he said.
He stated that the corporation had commenced digitising all its analogue-loading facilities to ensure that all trucks leaving the NNPC depots comply with the required axle limits, emphasizing that the corporation has kick-started installation of weigh-bridges and sprinklers across all loading gantries to forestall incidents.
The NNPC boss said that the corporation currently relied much on the land transportation system to get its products across various locations in Nigeria, stating that a total of 19.23billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was moved by 583,000 trucks in 2018, while 526,000 trucks transported 17.36billion litres of PMS between January and October 2019.
Using a N145 litre modulated price, the 17.36 billion litres of petrol stood at N2.5172 trillion.
He hinted that efforts were on to fix the corporation’s pipelines to efficiently move petroleum products across the nation.
Kyari, who recognised the support of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, in the Safe-to-Load project, stressed that NNPC as a player in the hydrocarbon business in the country would continue to champion any cause geared towards efficient products distribution for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Speaking at the event, Mustapha, who was represented by a staff of the SGF office, Mr. Ademola Ali, said his office remained committed to ensuring safe roads for petroleum products distribution in the country.
Making a contribution at the event, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) President, Alh. Kassim Bataiya, solicited the intervention of government in funding the subsector, saying safety on the road was the responsibility of all stakeholders, drivers, law enforcement agencies, among others.
He called for local manufacturing of vehicle components to curtail costs being incurred by transporters.
In his remark, the President, Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), Mr. Otunba Oladiti, commended the management of NNPC for its consistent interventions in cushioning the hardships faced by tanker drivers in their task of distributing products across the country.
He expressed the view that fixing the roads should not be the sole responsibility of the government.
Earlier in his presentation, the President of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Akporeha Williams, lauded the corporation for always complying with all safety standards in all its depots and restated the union’s commitment to work with the NNPC management in ensuring the success of the Safe-to-Load initiative.
The event had representatives from the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Federal Road Safety Corps, Federal Fire Service, the Nigerian Police, National Association of Road Transport Workers, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria.
Others were Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Equalization Fund, Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
The dissenting voice
The fuel marketers, however, kicked against the suspension by Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) of fuel supply to filling stations within the border communities.
The Lagos State Chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), which stated this, expressed displeasure against the directive of the comptroller-general of customs, to suspend supply of petroleum products to fuel stations, within 20 kilometers to all the borders.
In a statement issued at the weekend in Lagos and signed by the state Chairman, Mr. Akin Akinrinade, and Secretary, Mr. Akeem Balogun, IPMAN described the decision as punitive and uncalled for, “because the fuel stations are not serving people outside the borders.”
The IPMAN therefore called for the immediate reversal of the order so as not to punish the border communities, the fuel stations owners and the staff working at these stations.
Reacting to the circular issued by the customs, IPMAN reminded the customs that the affected fuel stations were established legally and licensed to serve the communities at the border towns and their environs.
The IPMAN pointed out that apart from jeopardizing the business interest of the fuel station owners, there are thousands of staff and other stake holders that will lose their jobs, thus compounding unemployment problem in the country.
The association noted that what the customs circular showed was that the customs only exhibited their inefficiency and negligence in their duties which the law saddled them with. Fuel station owners are not the problem at the borders.
It said: “Our position at the IPMAN is that we are not and cannot support any act of smuggling of any petroleum products. Our members are entitled to decent living which cannot be taken away from them.”
IPMAN therefore called upon the comptroller-General to rescind the order immediately and called on their staff to be more efficient in the discharge of their duties to the nation.
If it is a Federal Government policy, the government should not inflict hardship on the citizens in the name of policing the borders, the IPMAN said.
The Federal Government border closure policy has enjoyed tremendous support from Nigerians and citizens of other countries, who are development economists.
However, the citizens of Nigeria, who have found themselves out of fate at border communities, should not be denied access to petroleum products simply because of where they have found themselves.
Government, through the Nigerian Customs Services, has the constitutional responsibility to safeguard the borders. Its inability to efficiently discharge this responsibility should not be blamed on hapless individuals.
CBN seeks speedy passage of mortgage bill by states
In order to promote virile mortgage and easy access to land for housing development, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is seeking speedy passage of Mortgage Model and Foreclosure Act by states, New Telegraph has learnt.
According to CBN’s Deputy Director and Head of Nigeria Housing Finance Programme, Adedeji Adesemoye, the apex bank will be working with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to see that the legislative process is scaled up.
He pointed out that for mortgage to thrive in Nigeria, there was need for enabling legal framework that everybody would recognise.
For this purpose, the deputy director said CBN was collaborating with the industry players including the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) in developing the mortgage model and foreclosure act that focuses on providing enabling legal framework for states to use the opportunity.
This, he added, would enable developers have access to land and enable mortgages created to be foreclosed if it is not performing, adding that it would also provide title for people, who want to build their homes and use the particular land as a security to get mortgage in financial institutions.
Adesemoye at a forum with estate developers in Abuja had explained that the model mortgage foreclosure law was already active in states like Lagos, Kaduna and Ogun, while “it is on the way in many other states including Cross River and Plateau.”
He said: “We want the mortgage model and foreclosure act to go through legislative processes in the states to be passed into law.”
Passage of model mortgage foreclosure, he said, would enable states have electronic land registry system and a working mortgage system for easy conduct of searches and timely realisation of collateral of non-performing loans by banks.
‘’We need to streamline all these approval processes, and the fee that is being spent needs to be at the rate than you can do business with,’’ he said.
Apart from this, the CBN’s deputy director also revealed several interventions by the apex financial institution in increasing home ownership in Nigeria through regulations, funding, mortgages, policy frameworks and partnerships.
Adesemoye said the bank was currently addressing the country’s high level of inflation, which has direct effect on mortgages.
He said the National Bureau of Statistics had given an inflation figure of about 11.2, adding that in order to encourage real investment, there was need to have a rate that is above the inflation.
“That floor rate is already set by monetary policy statutory committee responsible for this,” he noted.
CBN and the Bankers’ Committee, Adesemoye said, had been able to put money together from the profit of the bank in order to be able to set up mortgage interest drawback.
He said: “So if you get mortgage loan at 16.5 in the bank today, that loan can actually be drawn back by 40 per cent so that you will be paying 9.9 per cent or below. So it comes back to single digit.
‘’That is to make those who want to raise money particularly in the area where we have the gap, that is the people who want to raise just about N5 million and below where we have the deficit, they can raise money today and be able to pay at that single digit of less than nine per cent.’’
He stated that the contributions of CBN to ensuring affordable housing in Nigeria have been growing over the years.
The CBN’s deputy director restated that the apex bank was partnering with key partners in the industry for the creation of Nigeria Mortgage Guarantee Company.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing, Senator Sam Egwu, has pledged commitment to housing sector bills, while tasking estate developers on affordable housing.
Egwu restated the commitment of the National Assembly to enacting and amending bills necessary for Nigeria housing sector development.
He said that as legislators, the National Assembly was prepared to work with all stakeholders in the housing sector by providing the legislative support required to move the sector forward.
NLPGA mulls surge in cooking gas market
●Osinbajo, Sylva lead policy, innovation discourse
The highest body of all stakeholders in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) sector in Nigeria, the Nigeria LP Gas Association (NLPGA), is condering increase in market share for Nigeria’s multi-billion dollar cooking gas industry.
The association, which declared this at the weekend, noted that it had rallied the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), for a summit where experts from South East Asia and other international gas communities are billed for an industry discourse on issues, developments, policies and innovations around LPG markets.
Themed: ‘Harmonising Development and Growth in Nigeria and Africa,’ the Nigeria LPG Summit 2019, the NLPGA said in a statement, had been scheduled to be peopled by Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva; Managing Director of the Nigeria LNG Limited, Mr Tony Attah; Executive Director, Commercial Operations of Falcon Corporation Limited, Mrs Audrey Joe-Ezigbo; and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote.
“Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has confirmed to be the Special Guest of Honour at the forthcoming Nigeria LPG Summit 2019,” the statement made available to New Telegraph at the weekend read.
“Hosted by the Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (NLPGA) in partnership with Singapore’s LPG Summit, the Nigeria LPG Summit 2019, which will represent the 9th NLPGA Annual Conference & Exhibition of the Association, is scheduled to hold in Lagos.
The Summit will host stakeholders, experts, exhibitors from South East Asia, and the international gas community to an industry discourse on issues, developments, policies and innovations around LPG markets, the statement added.
Commenting on the summit, the President, NLPGA, Mr Nuhu Yakuba, said the event provided the needed platform for stakeholders and experts to discuss issues surrounding deepening of LPG adoption on the continent.
“Over the years, we advocated the adoption of LPG as an enabler of quality living for Nigerians and citizens across the continent.
“This year’s summit in partnership with Singapore’s LPG Summit will host the largest number of international delegates, critical stakeholders, experts and exhibitors in West Africa.
“The robust representation of participants promises to provide a crosscurrent of ideas and learnings from different markets and climes. Having the Vice President to join in these rich conversations further bolster the confidence that this will shape the policy environment on harnessing LPG opportunities for the benefits of our people,” Yakubu said.
In her remarks, the Director of LPG Summit, Mrs. Neasa Hapiak, noted that the summit provided a platform for the LPG industry and organisations both in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors in the developing world to connect and seek new ways to grow the LPG industry.
“Blessed with a vast gas resource, every stakeholder must seek innovative ways to harness the tremendous endowment of this very clean domestic fuel for use in Africa.
“We have partnered with the Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (NLPGA) to host this world-class event that is not only gathering the brightest minds in the gas industry globally but also to collaborate to find solutions to the LPG challenges that are unique to the global markets.
“I look forward to welcoming participants to this event as I am confident of a very positive and impactful outcome,” she said.
The primary objective of the NLPGA, the association said, was to promote the use of LP Gas in Nigeria at affordable costs. It also aims at protecting the interests of the LP Gas industry and the entire Nigerian socio-economic environment at large, through public policy advocacy, creation and facilitation of commercial and industrial opportunities, provision of business development services and observance of the highest standard of operational and business ethics.
The association aims to promote and encourage the highest standard of professionalism and sound ethics in the LP gas sector as well as empower all stakeholders through information, education and networking.
Other leading experts scheduled to speak at the annual onference &m and exhibition include the Chief Information Officer, Manufacturing, Sub-Saharan Africa, Agri-Business and Service Dept, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group, Mr Kalim Shah; Deputy Managing Director, World LPG Association, Mr Michael Kelly; Chief Operating Officer, Downstream Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr Adeyemi Adetunji and Chief Executive Officer, Forte Oil Plc, Mr Olumide Adeosun, among several other local and international speakers.
How British oil firm acquired Seven Energy
British independent oil and gas company, Savannah Petroleum PLC, focused around activities in Niger and Nigeria, announced the completion of the Seven Energy Transaction, which it said, refers to the acquisition by Savannah of the Seven Assets and the restructuring of Seven Energy’s existing indebtedness.
The transaction, the company said in a statement, “is as more fully described in the Company’s Admission Document dated 22 December 2017.”
At a court hearing on 13 November, administrators, the statement read, were appointed to Seven Energy International Limited and effected the transfer of the Seven Assets to group companies controlled by Savannah and AIIM.
Following this step, final long-form documentation with respect to the transaction was executed in accordance with the agreed steps as set out in the implementation agreement, and the transaction has now been completed.
Following completion of the transaction, Savannah now owns the Seven Assets, which comprise an 80 per cent interest in Seven Uquo Gas Limited (“SUGL”), which in turn holds a 40 per cent participating interest in the Uquo field located in South East Nigeria (with SUGL assuming responsibility for all operations of the gas project at the Uquo field following the occurrence of the Frontier Transaction).
It also involves a 51 per cent interest in the Stubb Creek field located in South East Nigeria (through 100 per cent ownership of Universal Energy Resources Limited); and an 80 per cent interest in the Accugas midstream business, comprising the 200 mmscfd Uquo gas processing facility, a c.260km pipeline network and long-term gas sales agreements with downstream customers.
One of Savannah’s partners in the transaction is African Infrastructure Investment Managers (“AIIM”) who, as part of the transaction completion, acquired 20 per cent interests in SUGL and Accugas in return for cash consideration to Savannah of $54m which has now been received.
The transaction, the statement read, gives Savannah a material producing asset base, which is expected to generate significant asset-level free cash flows, complementing the company’s prolific Niger exploration and development assets; exposure to significant upside potential, through both volume and margin uplift, via the utilisation of additional capacity within Accugas’ infrastructure; and a strong platform in the well-established and high potential Nigerian oil and gas.
Nigeria’s sprawling malls with empty spaces
Since 2005 when the first shopping mall was commissioned, Nigeria has witnessed growth in the retail sector going by the number of shopping malls adorning the cities. However, the success recorded is gradually being eroded due to rising empty stores in some of the retail malls. DAYO AYEYEMI reports
There is no doubt that the emergence of retail malls has changed the face of shopping in most Nigerian cities since 2005 and 2011 when the foremost Palm Shopping Mall and Ikeja Shopping Mall were launched in Lagos respectively.
Since then, there has been no dull moment as more retail malls came up in Nigeria’s capital – Abuja and other city centres across the federation, revealing new generation of consumers.
However, apart from aesthetics and some fun seekers around, a visit to some of the new malls, especially in Lagos and Ogun states, has shown that all is not well with the economy as many of the stores have been empty for some period.
New Telegraph’s investigation showed that empty stores are evident in The Palm, Ota Ogun State and Novare Mall, Sangotedo, Lekki -Ajah, Lagos.
No empty space was found in the Palms Shopping Mall, Victoria Island and Ikeja Shopping Mall, Lagos as they are full of activities.
According to a report, retailing in Nigeria posted slow growth in value terms at constant 2018 prices.
Reasons such as gloomy economic climate and fluctuations in exchange rate were adduced to the slow growth.
Besides, economic uncertainties serve to limit the budget of most consumers, who focuse on buying basics goods and rein in their spending on non-essential products.
According to the Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company, Mr Bismarck Rewane, in his latest report on the real estate sector, there is rising vacancy factor in Nigerian mall business.
Analysts from the company pointed out that empty stores in Nigerian malls were on the rise.These, they noted, had reflected dwindling consumer purchasing power and deteriorating state of the economy.
According to the analysts, service charge appears to be eroding profitability of retailers in the malls.
Detailing the retail vacancy rate in a report, analysts from Tayo Odunsi-led Northcourt Real Estate, said the Palms Ota and Atlantic Mall, Lagos led the pack with 77 per cent and 75 per cent vacancy rate respectively.
These are closely followed by Jabi Lake, Abuja- 40 per cent; Apapa Mall, Lagos- 38 per cent;Gateway Mall, Abuja -38 per cent and Silverbird Entertainment – 28 per cent.
The vacancy rates are Port Harcourt Mall -eight per cent; Genesis Centre, Port Harcourt – 25 per cent; Big Treat, Port Harcourt -15 per cent; The palm , Lagos -zero per cent; The Lagoon Shopping Centre – 13 per cent; Silver Bird Mall, laygos – eight per cent; Novare Mall, Lagos – 28 per cent; Maryland Mall, Lagos- eight per cent; Leisure Mall, laygos -12 per cent; Ikeja City Mall, Lagos – two per cent; Festival Mall, Lagos – 14 per cent; E-Centre Lagos – seven per cent; Circle Mall, Lagos -12 per cent ; Atlantic Mall, Lagos- 75 per cent; Apapa Mall, Lagos- -38 per cent; Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall, Lagos – nine per cent ; Silverbird Entertainment – 28 per cent; Jabi Lake, Abuja- 40 per cent; Grand Towers, Abuja- 15 per cent; Gateway Mall, Abuja -38 per cent; Ceddi playza,Abuja- 21 per cent; they Palms, Ibadan -25 per cent; and The Palms,Ota, Ogun – 77 per cent.
In a report, analysts from McKensey and Company estimated that between 2008 and 2020, there would be a $40 billion growth opportunity in food and consumer goods in Nigeria, the highest of any African nation.
According to a shopper at the Palm, Ota, Ogun State, Mr. Simeon Adelanke, who lived in Agbado Area of Lagos, unlike when the mall was newly opened for business, traffic to the mall has reduced tremendously.
Trying to figure out what was responsible for the low patronage, he said new mini retail stores in inner streets could be a major factor. saying these served as alternative to the big retail malls.
He also attributed traffic gridlock and people’s low income to low patronage of malls.
According to him, except it is compulsory, people do not want to travel long distance to Ikeja or Ota malls before shopping.
Another shopper in Ogba, who identified himself simply as Chris, said the high rent of lettable space in some of the malls was responsible for the rising vacancy rate.
He pointed out that rent for a space per square metre (sqm) in newly completed Ogba retail mall was put at N720,000 per annum.
“What is the person going to sell there? Who will buy the items? How is the owner going to sell and make profit with such exorbitant rent,” he said.
Others also blamed low income, traffic gridlock and emergence of mini stores within neibourghoods for rising vacancy rate.
An immpecable source at The Palms, Ota, said many of the stores had been rented out, but owners were yet to open.
According to him, some of the tenants have not opened to business due to reasons best known to them.
Further investigation by New Telegraph revealed that the amount of money for space per square metre in the mall was beyond what people around can cope with.
According to the source, the least lettable space in the mall is 30 sqm, while the highest is 60,000 sqm, adding that per square metre of space costs N30,000 each.
By implication, intending tenant seeking lettable space in the mall should be ready to cough out N900,000 minimum aside from service charge.
Except Shoprite store that people besiege to buy loaves of bread and household items, other stores in the mall experience low sale.
A Lagos-based estate surveyor and valuer, Mr. Stephen Jagun, adduced low purchasing power and poor economy as reasons for rising vacancy rate in some of the new retail malls.
“The purchasing power of the citizens is very low; hence patronage is poor. The shops can come up with ways of driving traffic to their shops. Because if they don’t sell, they’ll not be able to pay their rent,” he said.
Jagun, who is the Principal Partner, Stephen Jagun and Associates, also blamed long distance for low patronage and higher percentage of vacant stores in Novare Palm, Lekki and The Palms, Ota.
He said: “For Novare and Ota Palms, distance is a great factor to their performance. Road to Otta is horrible and those around the shop are not really buoyant.
“For Novare, you have to be in long traffic to visit.”
He, however, expressed hope of a better performance in the malls when various estates around them are fully occupied.
Another estate surveyor and valuer, Mr. Richard Olodu, stated that the advent of value of reality, affordability problem due to economic reality, and competition due to property market penetration by the available alternatives were responsible for rising vacancy rate in most of the retail malls.
Besides, Olodu added that wrong location, inaccurate demographics, assumptive development appraisals, expensive construction rates and wrong lifestyle focus, among others could be responsible.
Chairman, H.O.B. Estates Limited, Chief Olusegun Bamgbade, also blamed serious economic crisis, which has squeezed cash from pockets of low and middle income Nigerians for the rising vacancy rate.
He emphasised that the rising vacancy rate in the malls was a reflection of serious economic crisis in the country, adding that people do not have enough money to patronise retail malls.
He said: “There is a serious economic crisis in Nigeria. People don’t know yet. You’ll only know when you listen to people of varying categories.
“You’ll hear people complain of no money; no shelter; no job; no one to run to; no one to help; etc. That’s why the suicide rate in Nigeria is now endemic. It wasn’t so before.”
Bamgbade pointed out that retail malls created veritable quantum of job opportunities, but their operators did not usually have enough funds to run it.
“Where there’s is fund, they don’t have ready staff for obvious reasons earlier stated. Where there’s fund, and ready staff, the purchasing power of the people is not available,” the HOB chairman said.
He explained that If there had been concerted efforts to improve money supply in circulation, things would have faired better.
According to him, if housing and construction sector have benefited immensely from government policies and actions, there would have been money in circulation.
New Telegraph also gathered that due to unfriendly economy climate, Nigeria did not record any deliveries of new space in the formal retail market as at the end third quarter of 2019
Until the nation’ s economy improves, rising vacancy rate in the retail sector will continue.
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