Oil Subsidy Beneficiaries Revealed

The senate committee probing the controversial petroleum subsidy hasreleased the names of over 100 companies benefiting from the N1.426 trillion (about $8.8 billion) fund between January and August this year. Chairman of the committee Senator Magnus Abe questioned how companies not involved in oil - namely construction firms such as Pinnacle Construction – are benefiting from the fund, arguing that the discovery puts doubt on the "participatory process" used for disbursement of funds. The list of companies included recognisable names such as the Wale Tinubu-owned Oando Plc (which received N228.506 billion, about $1.4 billion), Conoil, owned by renowned businessman Mike Adenuga (which receives N37.960 billion, about $230 million) and MRS, owned by Sayyu Dantata (which receives N224.818bn, about $1.3 billion). A further disagreement developed over two different amounts both put forward as the real amount of subsidy paid by government, with the committee providing the figure of N1.426 trillion and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) claiming N1.348 trillion (about $8.3 billion). Since the public hearing started PPPRA has shut down its website, which includes a list of subsidy beneficiaries. The government has committed to remove the subsidy in early 2012.

Sanusi Named "African Person of the Year"

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the outspoken Governor of the Central Bank of Nigerian (CBN), has won the Forbes African Person of the Year 2011 award. The list of nominees included Liberian president and recent Nobel Prize-winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Perdo Veron Pires, former president of Cape Verde, and Nigerian cement mogul Aliko Dangote. Sanusi was praised by Forbes his "determination" and "courage" in carrying out reforms in Nigeria's banking sector, which included the creation of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria to buy up bad loans from deposit banks. Local and foreign observers credit Sanusi for saving the banking industry from imminent collapse. In his acceptance speech Sanusi attributed his success to the hard work and collective efforts of his 5,000 CBN staff.

Indonesian Consortium Signs $960 Million Investment Deal

The Nigerian government signed off on a $960 million investment deal yesterday – Monday - with Indonesian consortium, the Bakrie Group. A government statement outlined that the memorandum of understanding for the deal involved the mining, oil and rubber sectors in Ogun and Akwa Ibom states in southern Nigeria. The investment, which will be made in the next five years, will be managed by Bakrie's Nigerian affiliate, Bakrie Delano Africa Nigeria Limited. "Nigeria is an emerging market country. Based on World Bank's report, the country is categorized as a middle income status supported by its abundant supply of natural resources, well-developed financial and legal system, communications, transport sectors and stock exchange, which is the second largest in Africa," said Bakrie Group chief Indra Bakrie.

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Bill Passed by Senate

The controversial bill aimed at banning same-sex marriage in Nigeria has been passed by the senate, in spite of British threats to withdraw aid. The bill outlaws the practice of same-sex unions, legislating a 14-year sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality and 10 years in prison for anyone who "abets" a same-sex union. The bill was not objected to by any senators. Last month, British prime minister David Cameron threatened to withdraw financial aid to countries which pass anti-gay laws. Homosexuality laws were introduced during the British colonial period and have remained to date.

University Lecturers Embark on Indefinite Strike

An indefinite strike has been called by university lecturers around the country after what has been described as the federal government's non-implementation of the core components of a 2009 agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie said the strike would be "total and comprehensive" and there would be no grading of scripts during the strike. The agreement signed included promises of a yearly increase in budgetary appropriation of 26% between 2011 and 2020 in education and the transfer of federal government property to universities. "The ruling class has failed. It cannot provide jobs, education, healthcare, affordable transportation, roads and so on," Professor Awuzie said.

PDP Wins Kogi, ACN Cries Foul Play

The People's Democratic Party candidate in the Kogi State gubernatorial elections has emergedvictorious after Saturday's election. Captain Idris Wada defeated his closest rival, former governor Prince Abubaker Audu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, with 300,372 votes against Audu's 159,913. In the keenly contested election a total of 484,100 valid votes were cast with 34,781 were invalid. The PDP national publicity secretary Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali described Wada's victory as a clear indication of the PDP's strength in national politics. But the ACN candidate's chief strategist Dino Malaye accused the independent national electoral commission of colluding with the PDP to perpetuate electoral fraud.

This Week: Politics

The senate committee investigating the fuel subsidy has surprised many by naming the companies involved in the subsidy and the amount each has received. But when the names were read out, the surprise factor was replaced with a familiar sinking feeling. Companies including MRS, Oando and Conoil were mentioned, and we are all aware of who these people are - they are woven into the political fabric of Nigeria and are at times referred to as "the untouchables". I initially believed that the cartel was so strong that the senate would not dare name them. But maybe it has got to the point that the companies are so strong that naming them will not change anything anyway. These names have become a recurring fixture since the years of Olusegun Obasanjo and have formed a mafia of sorts, and those at the helm of Nigeria were and are to blame. They are not an outwardly violent mafia, rather they cement their links through deals and kickbacks, and they all had a part to play in the election of Goodluck Jonathan. The political elite have made these people and continues to feed them. Civil society groups are threatening mass protests over the subsidy, moneyed elites will be loathe to lose an easy source of income: how the Jonathan administration handles the subsidy removal - from appeasing financial backers, to appeasing the poor paying more at the pump and building the refining capacity Nigeria so desperately needs - will be the litmus test of its success or failure in government.

Nigeria has embarked on a mass international public relations and investment drive. Last month's Commonwealth Heads of State meeting was an opportunity for Nigeria to showcase its potential. The business world is slowly waking up to the numerous opportunities that abound in the country, and although some would complain that Nigeria's infrastructure cannot handle local business, let alone international big business, what the government must focus on is an effective, reliable power supply. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria has demonstrated it is not capable of this; deregulation of the sector is the logical next step. Nigeria must be able to attract deals such as the above mentioned Indonesian investment.

Writers of the Week:

‘When Customs Surpassed Revenue Target', Juliet Alohan writes for Leadership newspaper. The title speaks for itself, and Alohan gives a descriptive breakdown of the progress made by one of the most consistent revenue earners for government. An enlightening read.

Kola Tobuson writes ‘The Nigerian Prince' for Written in a humorous and satirical manner, Tobuson detailing the rise of the email scam in the early 90's and the varied forms of underhand tactics used by scammers.

Website of the Week:

Naija Careerist is a website created by American-Nigerian Chika Uwazie. Uwazie is a human resources professional and consistent blogger who uses her website to provide career tips and advice to young Nigerian professionals. The website includes interviews, job openings and general advice on the world of employment. Definitely worth a look.

Lagun Akinloye

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