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Is Nigeria missing out on higher oil prices?

Written by Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM

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Oil benchmark

Brent crude has gained roughly 57% since the start of 2022.

The global commodity remains supported by ongoing geopolitical risks and rising demand. As oil producers enjoy the rich bounties from surging commodity prices, some countries have failed to make the most of such an opportunity.

Nigeria’s sub-optimal oil production, poor infrastructure, and fuel subsidies have sapped the benefits from surging oil prices.

For other countries, the rally in oil prices means more foreign exchange reserves, higher revenues, and potential economic growth. In Nigeria’s case, this blessing could turn into a curse.

It is widely known that oil sales make a massive chunk of Nigeria’s export earnings and government revenues. Despite being Africa’s largest crude producer, the country exports the global commodity but imports all by-products amid the weak infrastructure.

So as oil prices rally, this could support earnings but also take a chunk out of foreign exchange earnings. It does not end here.

Anything that is left is devoured by petrol subsidies which are expected to cost the government almost $10 billion this year.

As FX reserves are drained this continues to worsen Nigeria’s problem of dollar shortages which has dragged the Naira lower. In January of 2022, the government postponed the planned petrol subsidy removal till further notice, citing “high inflation and economic hardship”.

Even if the government was to remove the subsidies in the future, the burning question is whether Nigeria has the ability to weather the storm such a move could create.

Focusing back on oil, the global commodity remains supported by supply concerns and prospects of higher demand after China relaxed lockdowns. Although various fundamental forces are pulling and tugging at oil, the path of least resistance remains north.

Oil benchmarks are trading near multi-year highs and have the potential to push higher in the near term. This could mean more for pain for Nigeria despite other oil producers cashing in and enjoying the commodities boom.

For more information, please visit: FXTM

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Steps to Achieve ‘The Decade of Gas’

Article By: Elvis Eromosele

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Decade of Gas Nigeria
Gas flaring (Image: DW)

Nigeria is a study in contradiction. It has the largest proven gas reserve in Africa yet faces a significant challenge in providing access to gas for a majority of its citizens and businesses.

On top of this, it occupies an unenviable position as one of the top seven gas-flaring countries in the world, according to the World Bank. The tale would be unbelievable if it was fiction. 

Sadly, the reality is grim. Oil-producing companies burn off millions of cubic litres of natural gas during oil production.

They use a fancy term, gas flaring, to describe it. It doesn’t however take remove from the fact that the action, gas flaring, is a glaring waste of a wasting resource. It also impacts negatively on the environment, human health and the cost of gas. It needs to be stopped. 

Over the last couple of years, governments have sought to curtail incidents of gas flaring, increase the use of gas and boost revenue from it, all with varying degrees of success. 

To highlight the commitment of the federal government to boost the domestic use of gas among Nigerians as the primary energy source President Muhammadu Buhari declared the ‘Decade of Gas’ (January 1, 2021, to 2030). An integral part of the process is the development of gas infrastructure, with the construction of the 614km Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline the number one starting point. 

The goal is simple, to increase the domestic utilisation of LPG and CNG, commercialise gas flares, develop industrial gas markets and increase gas-to-power. Related policies which are already in the works include the National Gas Expansion Programme and the Autogas policy. 

Experts argue, however, that despite the government’s best efforts to increase the distribution of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), also known as cooking gas, a large number of Nigerians still rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking with the attendant damage to the environment and impact on the climate.

Now one of the main reasons for this is the lack of infrastructure and distribution networks for LPG. Many areas in the country do not have access to gas pipelines, making it difficult for residents to obtain cooking gas.

We’ll require a study to explore the risk associated with the current gas tank retail marketing method. Additionally, the cost of LPG is prohibitively high for low-income households, who make up the bulk of the population.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show how deep the poverty is – 63 per cent of persons living in Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor. It’s a grim picture. 

GlobalData reports that by flaring, rather than utilising gas for power generation or other domestic needs, Nigeria and other nations involved in such acts, could lose up to $82 billion a year globally. Other countries in this unholy group include Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, the US and Venezuela. They accounted for over 87 per cent of all flared gas in 2020. 

Independent sources reveal that Nigeria flared an average of 11.1m3/bbl of gas in 2021. The issue here is that the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme (NGFCP), which seeks to curb the act, has loopholes along with low and weakly enforced penalties. It needs to be tightened and strengthened to make it more effective. 

Nigeria had 208.62 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas reserve as of January 2022, according to the Commission Chief Executive (CCE) of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe, an engineer. However, the development of gas, especially for domestic use, is still relatively low.

The price is still in the skies for many potential users. Right now, the concern is that with the rising cost of cooking gas, the domestic utilisation of LPG may decline. It remains to be seen how this will impact the achievement of the ‘Decade of Gas’ objectives.  

There are several steps that the government can take to increase access to cooking gas for Nigerians. As a concerned citizen and cooking gas user, here are my thoughts on five things that the government can do to improve access to natural gas:

Firstly, the government must invest in building pipelines and distribution networks to reach residential and business areas and improve access to LPG.

Secondly, while the country has significant natural gas reserves a lack of investment in the sector has led to low production of LPG. It is time for the government to encourage investment in the sector to increase domestic production and thus curb the importation of LPG.

In addition, to demonstrate the resolve to improve the use of gas among citizens, the government can look at providing subsidies for LPG to make it more affordable for low-income households. This will make it more accessible to those who currently are unable to afford it.

Furthermore, since reports indicate that Nigerians are unaware of the benefits of using LPG as a cooking fuel, the government can launch a campaign to educate citizens on the benefits of LPG and how to safely use it.

Finally, the government must create an enabling environment to encourage private sector participation and investment in the LPG industry. This will increase the availability of LPG and possibly help drive down prices.

With the implementation of these measures, Nigeria can truly increase access to cooking gas for a majority of its citizens and reduce the country’s dependence on firewood and charcoal. This will not only improve the quality of life for citizens, but it will also help the environment by reducing deforestation and air pollution caused by the burning of firewood.

Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.

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AVEVA Showcases Role of Digital Technologies in Achieving Zero-Carbon Economy at COP27

Industrial software leader returns to annual UN Climate Change Conference to show how digital technologies are driving responsible use of global resources to build net-zero economies

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AVEVA
L-r: Lisa Wee, Global Head of Sustainability, Nayef Bou Chaaya, Vice-President – Middle East, Africa & Turkey and Amish Sabharwal, Executive Vice-President – Engineering and Simulation.

AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, driving digital transformation and sustainability, will highlight how digital technologies can support public-private partnerships and unlock innovation to close the implementation gap on climate change at COP27.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference 2022 is being held on November 6-18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. A sponsor of the parallel Climate Action Innovation Zone, AVEVA believes trusted data-led technologies are essential to decarbonization, driving responsible use of the world’s resources and delivering innovative, climate-forward products in the net-zero economy. AVEVA is one of the first 50 companies in the world1 to have its net-zero commitments validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

AVEVA’s presence at COP27 will be led by some of its most prominent climate advocates: Amish Sabharwal, Executive Vice-President – Engineering and Simulation and member of AVEVA’s Executive Leadership Team; Lisa Wee, Global Head of Sustainability; and Nayef Bou Chaaya, Vice-President – Middle East, Africa & Turkey.

During a number of thought-provoking sessions at the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2022, being held alongside COP27, the AVEVA executives will use real-life examples to showcase how digital technologies are unlocking opportunities in the net-zero economy.

Global opportunities in climate change mitigation

Sabharwal will join a plenary panel on November 10. Alongside UN executives, he will seek to explain why climate change mitigation represents our biggest opportunity yet.

Amish Sabharwal-AVEVA
Amish Sabharwal, Executive Vice-President – Engineering and Simulation and member of AVEVA’s Executive Leadership Team

“UN data shows that immediate action can halve greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) by 2030 and put us on track to achieving our goal of keeping global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. At the same time, we are facing our biggest opportunity yet. Climate change is accelerating the fourth industrial revolution and nowhere is that more obvious than in the communities and industries here in Africa.,” Sabharwal said. “The decisions we take at COP27 and beyond will put the global economy on track to building resilient net-zero economies that drive the adaptation and mitigation agenda. Digital technologies are integral to building the new industries and supply chains that will deliver sustainable growth and create new jobs.”

Sabharwal added: “Closing the implementation gap on the world’s ambitious decarbonization commitments presents a major source of economic opportunity for businesses and communities.”

Move towards sustainability handprint thinking

On November 9, broadcaster Nik Gowing will interview Wee in the context of her role as a climate leader. 

Lisa Wee, Vice-President of Sustainability, AVEVA
Lisa Wee, Vice-President of Sustainability, AVEVA

She will share insights from the frontline of climate change mitigation and offer real-life examples of how AVEVA and its partners are paying it forward by co-innovating climate-responsive technological solutions to help usher in a zero-carbon economy.

“At AVEVA we recognize that we can drive exponential impact through the products we bring to market while supporting our customers on their decarbonization journey,” Wee said. “Now, our thinking has moved beyond measuring and managing our carbon footprint to considering our sustainability handprint. This positive contribution to sustainability through business activities and partnerships is a way of paying it forward to secure a better future for humanity and our planet.”

Role of partnerships in decarbonization

Also on November 9, Bou Chaaya will amplify the discussion around innovation in the face of climate change in a high-level spotlight session, with case studies of how global organizations are responding to – and taking advantage of – the opportunities arising from the focus on net-zero targets.

Nayef Bou Chaaya Vice President Middle East and Africa AVEVA
Nayef Bou Chaaya Vice President Middle East and Africa AVEVA

“Public-private partnerships can speed up delivery of the next-generation of low-carbon technologies by 2030 and break down silos in the development of new low-emission products to meet the world’s net-zero goals,” Bou Chaaya said. “AVEVA’s expertise has already demonstrated the role of digital technology in developing and scaling green grids and accelerating sustainable development through smart cities and smart water applications. We are convinced of the importance of driving private-sector collaboration on scope 3 upstream and downstream mitigation activities. We believe an open and connected industrial economy based on free-flowing data networks will be essential to hasten and scale up those sectors that are hardest to decarbonize.”

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ExxonMobil-Seplat Deal: When a Regulator Misinterprets the Law

Article by Josiah Adewale

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ExxonMobil-Seplat

To say that the mixed news coming from the federal government of Nigeria over President Muhammadu Buhari’s consent to the acquisition of the entire ExxonMobil, Delaware, USA’s shares in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) by Seplat Energy Offshores Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seplat Energ​​y Plc., is a serious cause for worry for the global business community is to state obvious.

Nigeria is probably the only country in the world that could allow this game by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Plc. (NNPC) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) over a $1.3 billion transaction, which also includes up to $300 million contingent consideration.

A statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adeshina, said the approval was predicated on the deal’s extensive benefits to the Nigerian energy sector.

It read: “In his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, and in consonance with the country’s drive for Foreign Direct Investment in the energy sector, President Muhammadu Buhari has consented to the acquisition of Exxon Mobil shares in the United States of America by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.

“ExxonMobil had entered into a landmark Sale and Purchase Agreement with Seplat Energy to acquire the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from ExxonMobil Corporation, Mobil Development Nigeria Inc., and Mobil Exploration Nigeria Inc., both registered in Delaware, USA.

“Considering the extensive benefits of the transaction to the Nigerian Energy sector and the larger economy, President Buhari has given Ministerial Consent to the deal.

“The President, in commitment to investment drive in light of the Petroleum Industry Act, granted consent to the Share Sales Agreement, as requested by the parties to the transaction, and directed that the approval be conveyed to all the parties involved.

Seplat, buhari
President Buhari

“ExxonMobil/Seplat are expected to carry out operatorship of all the oil mining licenses in the related shallow water assets towards production optimisation to support Nigeria’s OPEC quota in the short term as well as ensure accelerated development and monetisation of the gas resources in the assets for the Nigerian economy.

“President Buhari also directed that all environmental and abandonment liabilities be adequately mitigated by ExxonMobil and Seplat”.

Misinterpreting the law

Surprisingly, hardly had the President’s ink dried than the NUPRC openly countermand his assent in a bizarre move that has discomfited global business community and set tongues wagging.

In insisting that the earlier veto by the NNPC remained, Buhari’s consent notwithstanding, NUPRC Chief Executive, Gbenga Komolafe, cited provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, which he claomed, conferred on the Commission powers of sole regulator of the upstream subsector.

“As it were, the issue at stake is purely a regulatory matter and the Commission had earlier communicated the decline of Ministerial assent to ExxonMobil in this regard. As such, the Commission further affirms that the status quo remains.

“The Commission is committed to ensuring predictable and conducive regulatory environment at all times in the Nigerian upstream sector.

“Let me just put it simply, as a Commission, we work strictly in line with the position of the law, and basically we don’t react on the basis of news making the rounds, but we work strictly in line with the law.

“And by virtue of the provisions of the petroleum industry act, under section 95, subsection 10, 14 and 15, the commission’s powers in these regards are clearly stated.

“So, regarding the issue, my clarification will just be an affirmation that the position of the Commission stands in respect of the decline of the assets (sale), without prejudice to any other position.

“So, the position of the Commission as the authority involved in the regulation of the upstream, which had earlier been communicated to Mobil, stands. As far as the commission is concerned, nothing has changed. The status quo remains as far as we are concerned,” he insisted.

But NUPRC referencing to Section 95 of the PIA as guiding ministerial consent is wrong because the PIA does not apply to the MPNU assets, which are OML assets. OMLs are still guided by the Petroleum Act (PA), and the MPNU’s OML assets are yet to be converted to PIA regime and Buhari exercised the powers of the Minister under the PA. Section 303 (1) of the PIA unambiguously provides that the PIA does not apply to unconverted OPLs and OMLs until the OPLs and OMLs come up for renewal.

Even at that, whereas Section 95 (15) of the PIA 2021, which NUPRC gleefully quotes provides that “A holder of a petroleum exploration licence shall not assign, novate or transfer his licence or any right, power or interest without prior written consent of the commission”, Section 95 (8) expressly provides that “Where the consent of the minister is granted in respect of the application for a transfer, the Commission shall promptly record the transfer in the appropriate register.”

So, industry stakeholders are understandably at a loss as to where NUPRC derives its powers to override the Minister’s consent.

Playing NNPC’s script

Obviously NUPRC is acting NNPC’s scripts. It is recalled that the NNPC had in a May 2022 letter to ExxonMobil by its Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, said the transaction could not be consummated as it wanted to exercise its right of first refusal in the June 28, 1990 Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with ExxonMobil.

To make good its threat, the NNPC in July dragged ExxonMobil to a Federal high Court in Abuja, asking the Court to order that a dispute had occurred between the parties over pre-emption rights, or to order them to take the matter to arbitration, quoting a statement from Seplat. It obtained an order of interim injunction baring ExxonMobil “from completing any divestment”.

However, a cursory look at the JOA in question shows that right of first refusal applied only to divestment of Participating Interest, not in a case where a company wants to sale its shares to a third party.

Article 19.4 of the JOA provides: “Subject to sub-clauses 19.1 and 19.2, if any Party has received an offer from a third Party, which it desires to accept, for the assignment or transfer of its participating hereunder (the “Transferring Party”), it shall give the other Party prior right and option in writing to purchase such Participating Interest as provided in sub-clauses 19. 4.1 to 19 .4.2”.

Sub-clause 19. 4.1 states: “The Transferring Party shall first give notices to the other Party, specifying therein the name and address of the aforementioned third Party and the terms and conditions (including monetary and other consideration) of the proposed assignment and transfer”. 

Also, sub-clause 19 .4.2 provides: “Upon receipt of the notice referred to in Sub-clause 19. 2.1, the other Party may within thirty (30) days thereafter, request in writing the assignment and transfer of such Participating Interests to it, in which event the assignment or transfer shall be made to it on the same or equivalent terms”.

However, the JOA, in Article 1 (24), defines Participating Interest as “the undivided percentage interest from time to time held by the parties in the concession (s), the joint property and rights and obligations under this agreement…” 

The question is: did NUPRC or NNPC make any efforts to ascertain from the Presidency the reasons Buhari overruled them on the matter? This becomes pertinent as findings show that the Attorney General of the Federal and the Legal Department of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (NUPRC’s and NNPC’s supervising ministry) were of the view that the transaction followed the law and consequently advised the President to consent to the deal, as manifestly, MPNU’s Participating Interest in the respective OMLs and the JOA were not offered for sale.

The deal was for the acquisition of shares owned by third parties that are shareholders in MPNU.

It is either the NNPC and NUPRC do not understand the law or they are being mischievous with the law, for It is a given in law that the shareholders of a company are distinct from the company, just as the company is a distinct or separate person in the eyes of the law?

Precedents, implications to Nigeria


Meanwhile, precedence and propriety do not support the NNPC and NUPRC’s position and actions. They are also worried about its grave implications to Nigeria’s already gloomy investment environment.

On Tuesday, an oil and gas industry analyst and publisher of Africa Oil and Gas Report, Toyin Akinosho, decried the impropriety of NUPRC’s public spat with the Presidency, saying it was needless, spoke of poor organisation, and was definitely sending wrong signals to the investment world.

“ExxonMobil simply wants to leave the shallow waters; and other companies have left. So, there have been precedents in terms of how companies have left by handing over their entire shareholding in that particular country.

“ExxonMobil is not selling its segment in the OMLs. They are basically selling MPNU the way Ashaland sold Ashland, the way ConocoPhillips sold its entire shares to Oando, the same way Eland Oil and Gas sold to Seplat and this same government approved it.

“As far as I know, the President Buhari has signed off on ExxonMobil-Seplat transaction, the Attorney General has signed off on it. So, when NUPRC says it is not in compliance with Nigerian laws, I really don’t understand where that is coming from”, he stated.

In May, an Energy Law expert, Bloomfield, Ayodele Oni, warned that truncating the ExxonMobil-Seplat deal could cause the likes of TotalEnergies looking to also divest some of its assets to be discouraged from going into negotiations.

Likewise, the Group Chairman/CEO at International Energy Services Limited, Dr. Diran Fawibe, had warned that “the cancellation will give the wrong signal to the international community”. 

Chasing rats while the house burns

As the controversy rages, Nigerians on social media have wondered why NUPRC and NNPC fiddles when the industry is going south under their watch. Oil theft has worsened to 400,000 barrels per day. Fuel consumption per day has spiked from about 30 million litres per day in 2015 to a bogus 100 million litres amid long cues and sometimes adulterated supplies. Resource-gobbling subsidy has virtually rendered Nigeria bankrupt. NNPC’s has been unable to remit a dime to the Federation Account for months.

Yet both NNPC and NUPRC have been so preoccupied with scuttling a deal they should actually promote and find it difficult to encourage prolific indigenous oil and gas firms to boast Nigeria’s sagging production.

It is high time Mr. President calls them to order and salvage the ExxonMobil-Seplat transaction to save the nation further pains, embarrassments and loss of investors’ confidence.

Adewale, an energy analyst writes from Lagos

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