Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days
In this week’s round-up: lawmakers pass revised 10.8 trillion naira ($30bn) budget, 60% of “mysterious” Kano state deaths were likely due to coronavirus, and minister urges action on “alarming” rape increase.
- Lawmakers in both chambers of Nigeria’s parliament passed an increased budget for 2020, as Africa’s biggest economy tackles the new coronavirus pandemic and a sharp fall in the price of oil, the country’s most valuable export. The government had planned to reduce its initial record 2020 budget, but the revised 10.8 trillion naira ($30 billion) plan approved by the Senate and passed by the lower house a day earlier, is now above the amount President Muhammadu Buhari had agreed to in December. It is also 300 billion naira larger than the revised budget plan Buhari had submitted to parliament, and it increases the projected oil price by $3 per barrel. The spending plan must now be sent back to the president to pass into law after he has agreed to any changes. The budget assumes oil production at 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd). Oil prices have recovered from a 20-year low of just under $16 per barrel hit in March. However, Nigeria has also agreed to limit its oil output to 1.412 million bpd as part of a deal with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers. That agreement was extended to the end of July.
- Still on the OPEC deal, the head of Nigeria’s state oil company NNPC, Mele Kyari, said Africa’s largest oil exporter had not complied completely with its promised cuts in past months, but current reductions would ensure that it had made up for that by July. Kyari also said during a conference call that if all countries that are part of the OPEC+ deal complied, there would be no need to extend the agreement into August. “Our actual daily production indicates we’re in an overconforming situation,” he said. Kyari said NNPC is also working to ensure that Nigeria can stop importing fuels within three years. The government is aiming to make a final investment decision on building a condensate splitter, a simple refinery that can process extra-light crude, by July. It will have a capacity of 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) initially, rising to 200,000 bpd. He also said that they are taking a new approach to fixing the nation’s ailing refineries, and would seek partnerships with private companies to finance, fix and run them. Kyari added that Nigeria is in conversations with U.S. companies including Bechtel and KBR regarding potential projects including oil refineries, pipelines and gas projects.
- Nigeria has postponed its long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will pass it before the end of the year, the head of state oil company NNPC said. The government was aiming to pass the sprawling legislation overhaul by the end of July, but NNPC boss Kyari said that lockdowns across Nigeria had pushed back the timetable. “We have lost time because of COVID-19,” he said on a webinar. “But I know within this year we will be able to deliver on this.” In the works for nearly two decades, the bill governs everything from oilfield licensing rounds to the share of oil wealth that stays in the Niger Delta region which produces most of Nigeria’s crude. Companies have said they cannot invest significantly in Nigeria until the bill has passed citing regulatory uncertainty as a hurdle along with low oil prices and an increase in government’s take of deepwater oil revenue passed last year.
- As many as 60% of the “mysterious” deaths in Nigeria’s northern Kano state were likely due to the new coronavirus, the health minister said. Nigeria’s task force on COVID-19 sent a team to the northern economic hub in late April to investigate and conduct “verbal autopsies” after local newspaper the Daily Trust reported a spike in deaths to around 150 people in Kano city. Government Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire said the investigation found a total of 979 deaths were recorded in eight municipal local government areas in Kano state at a rate of 43 deaths per day, compared with the typical death rate of roughly 11 deaths per day. “With circumstantial evidence as all to go by, investigation suggests that between 50–60% of the deaths may have been triggered by or due to COVID-19, in the face of pre-existing ailments,” Ehanire said. He said the peak in deaths occurred in the second week of April, and that by the beginning of May, the death rate had gone back down to the normal rate. The Kano state government had said the deaths were caused by complications from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria and not the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Suspected Islamist militant gunman killed at least 69 people and razed a village to the ground in northeastern Borno state on Tuesday afternoon. The men attacked the village of Faduma Koloram, in Gubio local government area of Borno state, starting about noon. They arrived in vehicles and on motorcycles, shooting with AK-47s, razing the village and stealing 1,200 cattle and camels. A resident, a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) member and a soldier each confirmed the same account. They said the men attacked because they suspected residents of sharing information on Boko Haram’s movements with security authorities. Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria.
- In a separate incident, gunmen killed at least 20 people in attacks in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina, police and residents said. Hundreds of people have been killed in the last year by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings in northwest Nigeria. In May, the United Nations said the violence had forced about 23,000 refugees to across the border to the north into Niger. Around 200 attackers travelled on motorcycles to the village of Kadisau, in Katsina, on Tuesday, a police spokesman said, adding that 20 people were killed after the attackers opened fire on locals who tried to resist their attempts to loot the village. Three locals told Reuters 30 people were buried following the attack. Such attacks have added to security challenges in Africa’s most populous country, which is already struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.
- Minister of Women Affairs Pauline Tallen called on law enforcement to expedite rape cases as they spiked during lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus. Her call followed protests in recent days over sexual violence in the country and a series of high-profile rapes. Tallen said rapes had reached an “alarming rate” three times the typical level as women and children were locked down with their abusers. Every state in Nigeria was affected, she said. “We are calling for legal intervention,” she said. “From details that we have, there are hundreds of cases that are within our courts that have not been addressed and out of each one case, be sure that there are 10 that have not been reported.” She also called on judges and the police to treat reported rapes with gravity.
- The deadline to register to bid for Nigeria’s marginal oilfields has been extended by a week, the Department of Petroleum Resources said. The DPR launched the first marginal field award round in nearly 20 years on June 1. Applicants initially had until June 14 to register, but the timeline has been moved to June 21. The DPR, the nation’s petroleum regulator, did not give a reason for the extension.
- And the Nigerian naira for five-year settlement was quoted at 578.37 to the U.S. dollar on Wednesday, just off a record low of 584.11 last week, as a shortage of dollars piled on pressure, while the central bank seeks to bolster the Nigerian currency. Introduced in February, 5-year naira futures traded above 550 last month on the derivatives market as dollars ran short on the spot market. The naira has been hitting new lows on the black and over-the-counter spot markets since March after the central bank adjusted its official rate, implying a 15% devaluation. Bankers say the central bank has been intervening in liquidity on the interbank market around the time when the bank plans currency auctions.