A Week in Nigeria: 27 April
Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days
In this week’s round-up: Shell workers abducted, MTN converts Nigerian unit into public company, Nigeria and Saudis line up oil partnership.
- Two Royal Dutch Shell oil workers were kidnapped, and their police escorts killed, in the restive Niger Delta region, police said. The workers were in Rivers State, returning from an official trip to Bayelsa state, when they were attacked. The abductions came just days after kidnappers killed a British woman and a Nigerian man, then abducted three others in the northern city of Kaduna. The woman traveled from Lagos as a tourist and was attending a party before the incident happened, police said. The high profile flashpoints in the Bayelsa and Kaduna meant the security situation in parts of Nigeria made it into headlines globally amid a backdrop of escalating banditry in the northwestern state of Zamfara.
- South African telecoms firm MTN has converted its Nigerian unit into a public company before its planned listing on the Nigerian bourse in the first half of the year. MTN Nigeria the conversion was a legal requirement to prepare for the listing and it was engaging with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Nigerian Stock Exchange. It follows years of problems and regulatory wranglings in Nigeria, MTN’s biggest market. In December, MTN agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a four-month multi-billion dollar dividend repatriation row that hammered its share price. And the telecoms firm is still embroiled in a legal battle with Nigeria’s attorney general over a $2 billion demand for backdated taxes. Africa’s largest telecoms company had 52.3 million users in Nigeria as of 2017, and the country accounts for a third of the company’s annual core profit.
- Commodity trader Olam International said it will buy Dangote Flour Mills Plc, as it looks to bolster its position in Nigeria’s wheat market. Olam’s Nigerian unit, which holds a 0.1 percent stake in Dangote Flour Mills, will buy the rest of the company for an enterprise value of 130 billion naira ($425 million). The deal expands Olam’s reach in the pasta market in Nigeria, as it looks to cash in on the growing demand of wheat-based products in the region. Olam’s strategy has been to strengthen its portfolio by investing in proven businesses that have achieved market-leading positions.
- Aside from the Shell abductions, there were several oil-related stories this week. Nigeria and Saudi Arabia plan to draft a memorandum of understanding on an oil and gas partnership that could lead to the construction of a new refinery and investments in liquefied natural gas, Nigeria’s petroleum ministry said. Nigeria imports the bulk of its petrol, despite being Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, due to its dilapidated refineries. Nigeria’s petroleum ministry, in a statement issued days after oil minister Emmanuel Kachikwu held talks with Saudi energy officials, said an early draft of a memorandum of understanding would be ready in the first week of May. “Areas of interest will cover the existing refinery revamp, the building of a brand new refinery, LNG investments and product supply trading in crude and refined products,” the ministry said in the statement. Saudi Aramco is expanding its downstream operations such as refining and petrochemicals production as part of its drive to become the world’s largest integrated energy firm.
- Nigerian oil company Seplat said it had taken a final investment decision to develop gas fields in the country’s Imo state and would raise $700 million for the venture in partnership with state-owned NNPC. Seplat Chairman and co-founder A.B.C Orjiako told Reuters during a visit to London a decision had been taken to develop the Assa north and Ohaji south gas fields. He said the company was deepening its operations in the sector.
- Nigeria’s Nembe Creek Trunk Line, one of the two major lines transporting Bonny Light crude oil, was shut after a fire prompted a force majeure, operator Aiteo said. Two days later the operator said the fire had been extinguished, adding that the blaze was the result of sabotage.
- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has agreed to help raise $50 billion for a project to help revive drought-stricken Lake Chad, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said. The lake, which borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has lost 90 per cent of its surface area due to poor water management and climate change, and the United Nations has warned that millions of people need help to avert famine. The area is also a stronghold for militant groups including Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
- Interpol said police had rescued 216 human trafficking victims, mainly children, from forced labour and prostitution in a major operation in Benin and Nigeria. Operation Epervier II involved 100 police officers across the two countries who rescued 157 child slaves, said the global police organisation, which coordinated the raids in early April. Many of the children were working in markets peddling goods, carrying heavy loads or fetching water, while others worked as housemaids or were forced into prostitution, Interpol said. Of the minors rescued, 36 were boys and 121 were girls. Investigations are underway to dismantle the crime networks active in Benin and Nigeria, which are source, transit and destination countries for human trafficking, Interpol’s director of organised and emerging crime said.