A Week in Nigeria: 10 November

Lawmakers in the upper chamber of Nigeria’s parliament voted to launch the latest in a number of probes into revenue allocation

In this week’s round-up: Lawmakers to probe gas revenue allocation, a royal visit and Nigeria’s ‘Mona Lisa’ returns home.

  • Nigeria’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, voted to investigate the alleged withdrawal of $1.05 billion by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria LNG (NLNG), a venture owned by the state oil firm and foreign energy companies. NLNG, which produces liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export, is owned by NNPC and foreign energy firms Royal Dutch Shell, Total and ENI. The probe could undermine plans by the partners in NLNG to decide by the end of December on a major expansion. New LNG production facilities are expected to benefit from a tightening global market. NLNG operates six LNG processing units, known as trains, on Bonny Island that produced 20 million tonnes of LNG last year.
  • Members of Britain’s royal family, Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, visited Nigeria for a series of events in Abuja and Lagos as part of a west African tour that also took them to Ghana and the Gambia. Charles met President Muhammadu Buhari and, in the days preceding the centenary of the end of World War I, paid tribute to fallen soldiers.
  • For many, the apex of pomp and ceremony occurred when Charles, heir to the British throne, met some of Nigeria’s traditional rulers in the capital, Abuja.
  • The leader of Nigeria’s minority Shi’ite Muslims was denied bail by a judge in northern Kaduna state, just days after the group said more than 40 of its members were killed by security forces shooting at protesters calling for his release. Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been held in detention since December 2015 when the army killed hundreds of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground in northern Kaduna state. The treatment of IMN and Zakzaky’s detention for nearly three years have drawn criticism from human rights groups and raised fears that the group may become radicalised — just as the Sunni Muslim militant group Boko Haram turned into a violent insurgency in 2009 after police killed its leader.
  • Nigeria’s military named its fifth commander in less than 2 years to lead the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, a move military sources say was related to continued attacks by Islamists. Major General Abba Dikko, who in July took over command of Operation Lafiya Dole, has been replaced as the head of that operation by Major General Benson Akinroluyo. Since July, dozens of Nigerian troops have been killed in battles with militants and Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) killed two abducted aid workers. Such attacks could hurt President Muhammadu Buhari’s chances of re-election in February 2019 because his vow to end the insurgency was a central plank in his successful 2015 election campaign.
  • The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) warned that billions of dollars in fines owed by South African companies MTN and Standard Bank to Nigerian regulators could increase the risk to South Africa’s financial system. The Nigerian central bank in August accused telecoms firm MTN and its lender Stanbic, a Standard Bank subsidiary, of illegally sending $8.1 billion abroad. The Nigerian government has also demanded $2 billion in related taxes from MTN. The South African mobile operator makes about a third of its annual core profit in the West African country. “Any potential impact on the South African financial system arising from this event will depend on the eventual resolution of the matters raised and MTN Group’s ability to continue meeting its debt obligations,” said the SARB in its semi-annual review of financial stability.
  • We reported that Nigerian officials will go on a roadshow to London ahead of a planned $2.8 billion Eurobond sale this month. The roadshow, which is being organised by Citi and Standard Chartered, will run from 12 November for three days and be attended by Nigerian Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed. The Senate last month approved the Eurobond issue but advised the government to limit foreign borrowing and boost revenue. Lawmakers said the new bond issue will raise foreign borrowing to 32 percent of Nigeria’s total debt, up from 30 percent at June 2018.
  • Nigeria will break a 4-year drought for stock market listings when Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) starts the process for making its debut on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. SIFAX Group, which wholly owns SAHCO, will sell 406,074,000 shares in the aviation services firm via the stock exchange from 12 November to 19 December, the Bureau of Public Enterprises said in a statement. Initial public offerings dried up in Nigeria during the 2008 global financial crisis, when more than 60 percent of the stock market’s capitalisation was wiped out.
  • Tutu, dubbed Nigeria’s ‘Mona Lisa’ - a painting lost for more than 40 years and found in a London flat in February - is being exhibited in Nigeria for the first time since it disappeared.
  • The artwork, whose return to home soil came about when it was loaned to the Art X Lagos fair, is by Nigeria’s best-known modern artist, Ben Enwonwu. It was painted in 1974 and appeared at an art show in Lagos the following year, but its whereabouts after that were unknown until it re-surfaced in north London earlier this year. How it got there remains a mystery, according to Giles Peppiatt, an expert in modern and contemporary African art at the London auction house Bonhams who was called in to identify the painting.

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Nigeria bureau chief for Reuters. Ghanaian family, British accent. Ex-BBC, before that newspapers.

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