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Periscoping Nigeria’s Economy @ 61 

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Three days ago, Nigeria celebrated its 61st Independence Anniversary without much fanfare. Apart from the annual ritual of gathering dignitaries at the Eagle Square, Abuja and in every state capital of the country to mark the event, there was no much enthusiasm and euphoria reminiscent of the October 1, 1960 Independence Day. 
Like the governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, noted in his Independence Day broadcast, last Friday, there’s not much to be excited about this year’s independence celebration except, perhaps, the fact that “we have remained independent and managed to struggle with our existence for all these years”.
At independence, Nigeria was, no doubt, a great nation with great potential in both human and natural resources. It was a rich and the largest economy in Africa. 
Today, given several negative economic indices about the country, can Nigeria truly pride itself as the giant of Africa, again? This is a one million dollar question many Nigerians, including economists and financial experts, may find difficult to answer in the affirmative. 
Nigeria may, indeed, take its first position in terms of population, and human/natural endowments in Africa, it is doubtful if it can proudly pride itself as the most progressive economy among its peers, today. 
Indices have shown that while many countries that were either at par or trailing behind Nigeria 61 years ago such as Malaysia, Singapore and Ghana, are responding positively to the emerging trend in the global economy, Nigeria appears lethargic, growing at a pace slower than the rate of expansion of its population. 
In 1960 for instance, Nigeria’s population was 45.1 million, today, it has grown above 200 million. Yet, only a little above 10 per cent economic progression has been recorded in the last 61 years, to keep up with the population expansion. 
It is a sad irony that a country which was once the pride of Africa is, today, one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40 per cent or 83 million of its total population living below the poverty line of less than $1 per day and N137,430 ($381.75) per year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, last year. And if the World Bank’s income poverty threshold of $3.20 per day is used, Nigeria’s poverty rate is 71 per cent. 
It is also a sad commentary that 61 years after attaining independence, Nigeria’s economy which was once strong enough to feed the nation and the rest of Africa is now in tatters, gasping for breath. High inflation, massive unemployment, convulsed social infrastructure and unprecedented debt burden have continued to push more Nigerians into “dehumanising misery and abject poverty”, as Governor Wike rightly noted.
As many businesses are closing shops, many companies are relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana and South Africa, leading to massive loss of jobs by Nigerians. Twenty seven per cent of Nigeria’s labour force (over 21 million Nigerians) are currently unemployed, according to statistics. Meanwhile, the nation’s currency – the Naira, has practically lost its value as a US dollar which was at par with the Naira in the 1960s is now exchanged for N580.
The grim picture about Nigeria’s economy, inconsistent growth trajectory and poor standard of living have ended up widening the income inequality, increasing the poverty rate and fuelling social tension in the country. 
Worst, the Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened Nigeria’s economic growth. As with most other economies around the world, the sharp drop in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is largely due to the slowdown in economic activity after the country resorted to a lockdown back in April, last year, to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The accompanying steep drop in oil prices amid a drop in global demand also left Nigeria drastically shorn of earnings given its dependence on the commodity as its biggest revenue source. 
For context, the United States slashed its Nigerian crude oil imports oil by 11.67 million barrels in the first five months of 2020, compared to what it bought in the same period of 2019. In fact, in the second quarter of 2020, local oil production dropped to its lowest since 2016, when Nigeria endured a full year of negative growth.
President Muhammadu Buhari himself acknowledged this economic asphyxiation in his Independence Day broadcast when he said “the past eighteen months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period”.
Meanwhile, in spite of several assurances to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria’s economy, the latest economic data shows that the Nigerian government has continued to fall far short of projections in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, created in the aftermath of the 2016 recession. From manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals, oil and gas to service sectors such as aviation and banking, the economy has been like a motion without movement.
Although the economy is not lacking in policy statements and blueprints by successive administrations, positive attitude towards policy implementation appears to be the major albatross militating against its growth.
Save for the telecommunication sector which has emerged as a catalyst for the nation’s economic growth for the past two decades, virtually every other sector is comatose. Power supply is epileptic, aviation industry has continued to wobble with muted ambition, maritime activities are crippled by ports congestion and piracy, trade and investment sector is bitten by the bug of Nigerian factor, the banking industry is feeding fat on a bleeding economy, while the oil and gas sector which has remained the mainstay of the country’s economy for years is shrunk by steep drop in oil prices amid a drop in global demand.
Since 2005 when President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration liberalised the telecommunication sector, the sector has continued to provide a scaffolding for Nigeria’s broader economic growth. It has emerged as an unbeaten player in the nation’s economy for the past one decade, contributing geometrically to the GDP. Its contribution has almost doubled from 8.5 per cent in 2015 to 14.7 per cent, today. 
The NBS latest GDP data shows that the ICT sector grew by 6.47 per cent in Q1 2021, making it the fastest growing sector of the nation’s economy. From a subscriber base of 2, 271, 050 and GDP contributions of 0.85 per cent in 2002, today’s growth has surpassed all projections. Yet, experts say the potential for further growth is huge. 
But here appears to be the end of positive stories about Nigeria’s economy. Most other sectors are still finding it difficult to stand on a sound footing. One of such sectors is power. Despite being unbuddled more than a decade ago, the sector has been that of motion without movement over the years. Today, Nigeria’s installed generating capacity is merely 12,500 megawatts (MW) compared to South Africa’s 58, 095 MW, while the electrification rate still lags at 45 per cent, making the sector the missing link in propelling the economy of the country.
It is a sad commentary that a less endowed country like Ghana celebrated one year of uninterrupted power supply more than 10 years ago, whereas Nigeria that prides itself as the giant of Africa has not enjoyed one week of uninterrupted power supply since independence. 
Many energy experts have called for a review of the privatisation contract in the face of persistent blackout enveloping the country. For instance, an energy economist at the University of Ibadan, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, lamented that a decade after the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was unbundled and sold to 11 distribution companies (DisCos), Nigeria is still experiencing epileptic power supply amid high tariff. 
The aviation sector is not better either. It is one sector that evolves with ambitious developmental policies since independence. One of such policies under the Muhammadu Buhari administration is code-named “Aviation Roadmap”. The policy has components that include a new national carrier, airport concession, aircraft leasing companies, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aerotropolis. Till date, none of these projects has been delivered. 
The national carrier, for instance, after its launch in London in 2018, ran into a storm of public criticisms and had to be “temporarily” suspended by the Federal Government. However, there is an indication that the new airline – ‘Nigeria Air’, may hit the sky in 2022.
Similarly, about three years ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the concession of four major airports in the country namely Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. Till date, the facilities are yet to get the requisite patronage from the private sector. 
President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ben Nnabue, sometimes ago, took a swipe at the aviation sector. 
He said that whereas a state government like Akwa Ibom has since successfully launched its airline (Ibom Air) without any fanfare, “our country has woefully failed in its attempt to birth a national carrier after over 10 years of labour and colossal financial waste”.
He continued: “The proposed aircraft leasing company, national aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aerotropolis development, all flagship programmes of this federal administration, have all suffered paralysis, despite massive support from all stakeholders and informed Nigerians. 
“They all followed the same path; bitten by the bug of hidden agenda, suffered the ailment of ill-motive to death, presently in the coffins of infidelity to the national cause, and awaiting to be buried in the grave of onemarism”.
Nnabue also described the airport concession as a travesty, aimed at draining the nation’s treasury and called on the Federal Government to put a halt to it. 
Many stakeholders, however, believe that the aviation sector has retained a good measure of stability under the Buhari administration. According to a member of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Olumide Ohunayo, the sector has sustained safety standards, retained Category-One rating, got good approvals from the Federal Government and received a palliative during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
He said the only drawback was the non-implementation of the aviation roadmap components which he believes, can still be achieved before the Buhari administration winds down in 2023. 
Another sector capable of revving up the engine of the nation’s economy is trade and investment. Unfortunately, like many other sectors, it is bitten by the bug of the Nigerian factor. 
While the sector could be said to have recorded some modest achievements in recent times, many experts believe it has not done well in promoting investment inflows into the nation’s economy. 
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pan African Development Corporation, Odilim Enwagbara, said that the sector has not been business-friendly to young entrepreneurs who could have possibly impacted their God-given skills on the economy. 
According to him, “The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has failed to pursue a nationalistic economic policy, trade diplomacy that would have protected Nigeria’s trade relations interest”.
He called on the government to “invite all small scale business owners to come together with their technical notch that can promote rapid economic development”.
In the area of agriculture, while it is convenient to say that the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021, it is instructive to note that the impact of investment in the sector is yet to be felt by Nigerians, as the cost of food items in the market is currently getting out of the reach of the common man in the country. No thanks to the twin evil of insecurity and Covid-19. 
As it is usually mouthed by every successive administration at every independence anniversary since 1960, Nigeria cannot truly be said to have been stagnant without recording some economic milestones in the last 61 years. 
Under the present administration, for instance, some modest achievements have, indeed, been recorded especially in the area of oil and gas, maritime, transport and aviation, among others. The recent passage and signing of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021; the launching of the NLNG Train 7, and the Deep Blue projects; the introduction of the Electronic Call-Up System and the launching of the Digital Economy are all efforts in the right direction by the Buhari administration. 
But how these lofty initiatives intend to deepen the nation’s economy and make Nigeria go beyond a never-ending potential for becoming a great nation to a truly great one remains to be seen.

By: Boye Salau 

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US Plans To Reduce Gasoline Prices

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The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices
Selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly
·If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil
·The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices in America that have hit a seven-year high this year.
However, selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly, traders and analysts say.
A sale from the SPR could be one of “tools in the arsenal”—as U.S. President Joe Biden said this weekend – which the Administration could use to relieve the burden on households who have been paying in recent months the highest prices at the pump since 2014.
Yet, the U.S. may be able to release up to a tenth of the current stockpile in the SPR, traders have told Bloomberg. That wouldn’t be enough to bring down gasoline prices as much as the Administration possibly hopes, they warn.
Moreover, most of a potential sale could consist of sour crude grades, which currently are not the favorite of refiners because they need more natural gas—whose prices are much higher now—to process those sour grades into fuels.
SPR Release On The Table After OPEC+ Snub
“The SPR is certainly on the table as an option. The president will have more to say about that,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Friday when asked what America can do now to reduce gasoline prices.
President Biden is considering a release from the SPR as a possible move to reduce gasoline prices in the United States, after OPEC+ ignored on Thursday calls for putting extra barrels on the market, Secretary Granholm told Bloomberg last Friday.
The President could announce measures to address high gasoline prices as soon as this week, Granholm told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.
“Hopefully there will be an announcement or so this week,” Granholm told MSNBC, referring to the President’s possible moves.
“He’s certainly looking at what options he has in the limited range of tools a president might have to address the cost of gasoline at the pump, because it is a global market,” the energy secretary added.
Gasoline Prices Highest Since September 2014
Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline prices continued to climb despite the end of driving season two months ago.
In the week to November 8, “The price at the pump continued its slow climb, rising two cents on the week, with the national average for a gallon of gas hitting $3.42,” AAA said on Monday. That’s the highest since September 2014.
“The latest decision by OPEC and its oil-producing allies to maintain their planned gradual increase in output will not help lessen supply constraints, so any relief will most likely have to come from the demand side,” according to AAA.
Shorter days with the end of the daylight saving time could decrease demand for gasoline in coming weeks, AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said.
SPR Sale Will Likely Be Up To Three Days Of U.S. Petroleum Consumption
If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil, after accounting for mandatory sales pre-approved by Congress and the minimum volumes needed at the storage sites, a source at one of the world’s top oil trading houses told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.
As of November 5, the SPR held 609.4 million barrels of crude oil, of which 252.5 million sweet crude and 356.9 million sour crude.
A release of up to 60 million barrels in theory would cover around three days worth of total U.S. petroleum consumption, which was 20.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the pre-pandemic 2019, per EIA data.
According to analysts, an SPR sale wouldn’t do much to reduce prices at the pump and relieve the burden on households amid inflationary pressure for all other goods.
“Other Tools In The Arsenal”
President Biden hinted during the weekend of “other tools in the arsenal” to tame rallying gasoline prices.
“There are other tools in the arsenal that we have to deal — and I’m dealing with other countries; at an appropriate time, I will talk about it — that we can get more energy in the — in the pipeline, figuratively and literally speaking,” President Biden said, referring to the oil market after OPEC+ snubbed the U.S. Administration’s call for extra supply.
On Monday, eleven Democratic Senators wrote a letter to President Biden “to express our support for your efforts to help families and businesses across the nation who are struggling to cope with soaring gasoline prices.”
“Continued U.S. exports and overseas supply collusion could be devastating to many in our states, contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses,” the Senators, including Elizabeth Warren, said.
“In light of these pressing concerns, we ask that you consider all tools available at your disposal to lower U.S. gasoline prices. This includes a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a ban on crude oil exports. We hope you will consider these tools and others to make gasoline more affordable for all Americans,” the Senators wrote.
Faced with the highest gasoline prices in seven years and one of the worst fears of every American president—high prices at the pump, the U.S. Administration with the long-term clean energy agenda is now scrambling to provide immediate relief to people’s gasoline and energy bills.

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FG Increases Prices Of Electricity Meters

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The Federal Government has raised the cost of both single-phase and three-phase electricity meters.
In a circular dated November 11, 2021, issued by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, price of a single-phase meter has been increased from the current cost of N44,896.17 to a revised price of N58,661.69.
It also increased the price of a three-phase meter from the current cost of N82,855.19 to a revised rate of N109,684.36.
The memo with reference number NERC/REG/MAP/GEN/751/2, entitled ‘Review of the unit price of end-use meters under the Meter Asset Provider and National Mass Metering Regulations’; managing directors, all electricity distribution companies and all meter asset providers are to effect the increment from November 15, 2021.

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Seplat Energy Distances Self From Chairman

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Seplat Energy Plc has said that an ex parte order granted by the Federal High Court in Lagos has barred it from doing business with its Chairman, Dr. ABC Orjiako, and two energy firms.
A statement from the company on Tuesday, signed by its Director, Legal and Company Secretary, Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa, said: “Seplat Energy has been made aware of the ex parte Interim Orders of Mareva Injunctions which were granted by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Nigeria in a court action instituted by Zenith Bank Plc against Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited and eight others, with an additional 29 cited parties.
“The Interim Orders give an administrative mandate to Seplat Energy Plc and others not to deal with the assets of (or transfer funds to) Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited, Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited and Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako.
“The order has no impact on the operations of Seplat Energy. We understand the injunction relates to loans made by Zenith Bank Plc to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited in 2014.”

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