The Abuja-Kaduna train breakdown that happened last week presents a good illustration of the age-old adage that says: the taste of the pudding is in the eating. From all indications, the taste of the pudding which China is cooking for Nigeria is beginning to emerge already.
For over ten hours, some Nigerians were stranded in the middle of no-where, abandoned in the bush as a result of a failed locomotive. The train ride with all the luxury it purports to offer left a very sour taste in the mouths of the passengers, as they were buffeted by hunger and thirst for several hours, not to talk of failed appointments and the deep fear of being kidnapped due to high level of insecurity around that corridor.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that the breakdown of the locomotive is a foretaste of what is to come. The incident seems to tell Nigerians what the situation will be in the next five to ten years. Unfortunately, a taste of it couldn’t wait. As the transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the embarrassing incident is so early in the day, and is quite unexpected. We quite agree with him. If this can happen at this time, less than one year of operation, one can imagine what the case will be in the next ten years.
True, the breakdown of the locomotives was not expected at this time by Amaechi and the government of the day. This is because the Nigerian government officials either trust the Chinese so much or have chosen to underestimate or ignore the famed craftiness and propensity of the Chinese to cut corners. On the other hand, it could be because Nigeria has become a beggar before China, and as the saying goes, a beggar has no choice. In that light, she must take whatever China throws her way.
Indeed, one cannot talk about the train breakdown incident without talking about how the contract that gave birth to it was procured, same with other ongoing rail projects across the country.
These rail projects are being executed with loans from China. The loans are tied to projects and disbursed by the China EXIM Bank, with the interest said to be subsidized by the country’s Ministry of Commerce. The commerce ministry assigns Chinese contractors to execute projects.
With such an arrangement, the project becomes entirely Chinese affair. The money barely gets into the hands of Nigeria since the loans are offered in the form of projects. Thus, most of the funds given out actually go back to China by way of supplies, salaries, allowances and housing of top and middle-level manpower, construction contracts and the whole equipment which are brought in from China.
With all the equipment, including the locomotives coming from China as part of the loan deal, Nigeria is not in a position to know or determine the competitive cost and quality of the equipment. Nigerian negotiators will not know if the shiny locomotive is new or refurbished. All they do is to celebrate the arrival of the locomotives from China, and when everything is put together, they assemble to commission it with fun fare. How long the locomotive or equipment will last is another issue as there is no performance bond signed.
With what has begun to emerge so early in the day, one is afraid how Nigeria will be able to repay the loans, given envisaged breakdowns which might impact on the operation of the railways. The breakdowns, if they become frequent and severe, may render some rail lines unviable, and therefore, disposed to take-over by the Chinese. The story of China loan/infrastructure projects in the developing countries especially, Africa presents a frightening scenario.
Across the African continent, in most of the transactions with China, corruption or kickbacks by government officials have been alleged. The loans are largely concessionary with lots of suspected undercover dealings and perks in favour of African government officials. These come in form of huge kickbacks, which largely do not go through the banking system.
The presence of the kickbacks indicates that the actual cost of investments in the projects will actually fall far short of negotiated loan amounts. This is a cause of worry concerning future default on these Chinese loans.
Another source of worry is the opaqueness of the Chinese projects and loans across all jurisdictions. In every country that China has shown its ‘magnanimity’, all the infrastructure of roads, ports, highways, railways and airports financed with these loans all connect to China in what has been aptly described as the “new silk road.” This means, perhaps, that these infrastructures are forever tied to China.
One curious thing is while China can give Nigeria refurbished locomotives or inferior equipment without batting an eyelid, it is willing to ‘donate’ to her a transport university said to worth $50 million. The amount even a kindergarten pupil knew that might have conveniently built into the inflated cost of the railway projects.
This is similar to its donation of a mighty Secretariat to the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – a gesture which has provided it a good launching pad to gain easy access to virtually all African countries, offering them irresistible loans that are tied to projects. The secretariat was also rumoured to be a mine of classified information for Chinese as they allegedly installed high tech spying gadgets all over the building during its construction.
While the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the managing director of NRC Fidet Okhiria, have apologized to Nigerians, with the NRC MD promising that the breakdown will not occur again, Nigerians remain skeptical of what the future holds for all the Chinese largesse for Nigeria.
* Business & Maritime West Africa Saturday Editorial
GTB takes over Stallion assets in Lagos over N13bn debt
Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) says it has taken over the assets of Nigeria Limited in Lagos and its sister firms after the firm reportedly failed to pay a debt of N13bn.
The Receiver/Manager appointed by Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Mr. Temilolu Adamolekun, disclosed this as the fallout of the N13 billion judgment debt in suit FHC/L/CS/2/47/2019 of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The Receiver/Manager’s officials and court bailiffs, protected by policemen, took over the firm’s Victoria Island office and showroom containing several exotic automobiles.
The brands of vehicles recovered from the premises included Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Hyundai and Hyundai among others.
The court on December 2, 2019 granted the Receiver/Manager leave to take possession of the assets of Stallion and the landed properties of its sister firms in line with the Deed of All Assets Debenture and several Deeds of Legal Mortgage.
According to the court documents, this followed Stallion Nigeria’s default in meeting its repayment obligations to GTB.
Fuel Scarcity: Lingering crisis not deliberate attempt to influence, scuttle elections – NNPC
In a veiled response to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) yesterday said it stands to benefit nothing by wanting to create artificial fuel scarcity to influence the oncoming general election.
But as Nigerians continue to groan over the lingering petrol scarcity and queues at filling stations, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) has said NNPC lacks the capacity to supply and distribute the volume of petrol that would serve all Nigerians.Tinubu had in an outburst during his campaign trail, insinuated that the current problems besetting the country, including petrol scarcity and naira shortages were done to hobble his chances of winning the presidential poll.
But the Group Executive Officer of the NNPC, who spoke on the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), argued that the nationwide petrol scarcity was not new and wasn’t targeted at anyone.
According to him, the shortage of the product began in 2022 and had continued intermittently despite efforts to curb it.
He reiterated there was no supply problem in the system, but said the market dynamics in terms of logistics and handling charges have changed, thereby affecting prices.
He explained that to deliver Nigeria’s daily 60 million litres consumption, there has to be at least 1,800 tankers on the road daily which may take up to seven days to get to their destinations. Kyari stated that there’s no scarcity of fuel, stressing that the situation has been further compounded by consumer behaviour and panic buying.
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He highlighted the current attempts to end the fuel queues, stressing that prices would soon crash at the depots to ensure normalcy.
According to him, Nigeria’s current fuel consumption accounts for about 70 per cent of the entire West African sub-region.
The GCEO said while the West African region would have been a huge market, the arbitrage being created by differences in prices was making things difficult for the industry.
“There’s greed across the value chain,” he stated.
Kyari stated that the initial design of the petrol pipelines was such that no truck would move beyond 400km, but that the Jesse fire in Delta made it impossible to pump petrol from Warri to Benin and then Ore.
As for the atlas cove, he said the NNPC was losing 24 per cent of its products due to activities of vandals and had to be shut down, while Port Harcourt to Aba was also losing much before it was shut down.
He added that due to the age of the pipeline and the shallowness of the facilities, it was important to rebuild them under the Build, Operate and Transfer method.“I do not think anybody sits down to orchestrate that there should be scarcity so that it will impact elections and so on. I don’t think it happens that way if it is so. But it is not true because the reality is that these glitches actually started early in 2022.
“It has nothing to do with this election period. Once you have a challenge of this nature, it is a cyclical thing. Once you have this challenge, they continue to come up, and then once you have arbitrage issues, you have this glitch.“Today, our redundancy in terms of petroleum products supply is just three days in this country. Once you have a glitch that extends longer than three days, you need another three weeks to stabilise it. So irrespective of who does what, whatever causes the three-day glitch, it is a nightmare waiting to happen.
“Once we see this glitch, that is why we do everything possible to avoid the glitches from happening. I do not think anyone will sit down and say let us create this so that there will be an impact on the elections and so on.“There is no benefit in it. No one would do this and I can tell you this very clearly that there is no one issue that bothers the president like this. There is no briefing that I do to the president that he does not mention this,” Kyari stated.
He explained said it was impossible to link petrol shortage to the elections, noting that NNPC was doing everything in its power to control the situation.
“Yes, there are a lot of glitches. There are a lot of logistics and nightmares. Greed has come into play. There are cross-border issues that we have to deal with. There are international market situations that you have to deal with,” he said.
Kyari maintained that Nigeria has enough stock in-country, but added that distribution was a major challenge.
“We do not have a supply problem because as we speak now, we have over 28 days of supply even if we evacuate up to 60 million litres of PMS every day. We have a distribution problem that comes up as a result of the shift in the cost of logistics in our business taking fuel from the mother vessels to the terminals into trucks to the fuel stations.
“Several things have changed and we do not have an automatic adjustment system that will resolve this as a result of the fuel subsidy regime we are currently operating in the country. However, fuel subsidy payments are understandable to protect consumers from the vagaries of market forces,” he noted.
In his remarks, the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed, stated that there’s about 28 days offshore capacity while there’s 12 days onshore, stressing that there has been an increase in charges to move vessels from offshore to onshore from about $19,000 to $60,000 per day in some locations.
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He stated that there have been glitches on the road, including accidents which created huge gaps and by extension, arbitrage. He noted that tens of filling stations that flouted the rules had been shut down.
MOMAN: NNPC Alone Cannot Supply All Petrol Needed by Nigerians
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of MOMAN, Mr. Clement Isong, during a phone chat with THISDAY, explained that the NNPC was challenged by insufficient storage and distribution facilities that would enable it supply products to marketers.
Isong, who pointed out that entrepreneurs needed incentives to participate in the downstream oil and gas supply chain in the country and help address the disruption in supply and distribution, however, assured that the fuel scarcity and queues might ease in few weeks’ time if all the players comply with the rules agreed at the stakeholder meeting held on Tuesday at the instance of the NNPC.
At the meeting held in Abuja, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, had told the participants that the government was not handicapped in halting the fuel crisis, threatening to use military sanctions on marketers causing the artificial scarcity and pains on Nigerians.
Also, Kyari had equally stated at the meeting that the challenge was monumental and was taking unanticipated dimensions, maintaining that the issue was not a supply problem.
But speaking with THISDAY, the MOMAN Executive Secretary noted that NNPC had brought all the products the country needs but that most them were offshore, adding that solving the fuel crisis need the cooperation from many operators in the system, with right incentives and right business environment.
Isong said, “The truth of the matter is that NNPC by itself cannot supply the entire Nigerian market. They have brought all the products the country needs, most of it is offshore. It is challenged. Distribution in the country is such that NNPC cannot bring all of it onshore by itself –use its own facilities and distribute to the Nigeria public. They need cooperation from very many operators in the system.
“So, it needs the entrepreneurs –people who will go and buy the product, pay for it, hire daughter vessels to go and pick it from the mother vessels and bring them onshore. It needs operators in the market who own depot facilities. Many of the NNPC depot facilities which were connected to the pipelines are either non-functional or insufficient.
“The Atlascove which is connected only by a pipeline system is not functional because people along the pipeline have made holes along the pipelines. The Warri Refinery, Port Harcourt Refinery are not functional but they have depots there, but those facilities are not sufficient. So, it needs to then hire facilities from depot owners along the coast, or depot owners will go and buy from the NNPC vessels and put in their facilities to distribute.”
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He further said the situation also required transporters and entrepreneurs to buy trucks, maintain those trucks and take the products to the filling stations for distribution to Nigerians, maintaining that the situation also requires the filling stations to cooperate and sell the product at the right prices to Nigerians.
Unlike the threats of military sanctions on marketers by Irabor and the Department of State Security (DSS), the MOMAN CEO said, “these are not things you can force people to do. People will only do them if the incentive is right; if the business environment is right, if the return on investment is right. It’s not something you do buy force.”
Currently, according to him, the legal structure in operation in the downstream sector was the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) but that the downstream market was not operating under that legal structure as petrol prices were still being set by government in breach of the law.
Arguing that if marketers bring the product and were not recovering their costs and that their money served them better elsewhere, there would not be entrepreneurs that would be incentivized to participate in the business.
Isong, who called for a level of volunteerism and incentivisation in the downstream business, added that all stakeholders must come to the table and agree to play their part in the business.
That, he explained, was what the stakeholders’ meeting was about, “it was arriving at what was reasonable for all the players in the supply chain to participate and play their role in the supply chain and to agree the level of incentives that would make them play that role fairly. So, at the end of the meeting, everybody pretty much agreed to abide by the rules as we agreed.”
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According to him, “if those rules are sufficiently incentivising, what we expect is that over the next few days, people will go and start hiring vessels again, which they had stopped hiring, to go and start collecting products from the outside storage to put it through their depots. The trucks that had stop coming or that had gone to other places, will start coming back to do business.
“And then, it will make sense to sell petrol through filling stations again, rather than selling in jerry cans. Everybody will come to the business and the price will come down because people are properly incentivised to do the marketing in the correct way.”
He explained that the rules established at the Tuesday stakeholders’ meeting were rules about handling of the product and about maximum cost that could be borne along the supply chain.
Isong further said, “The vessel cost is much, so we agreed that the vessels must not cost much. The transport cost must not cost much. It’s just an agreement as to the handshake in the supply chain to make sure that everybody plays his role efficiently and properly incentivise or motivate us.”
He, however, assured that if all players cooperate, the petrol scarcity and queues would ease in the next few weeks.
On whether the body language of the federal government was telling them that the government was seriously preparing to achieve the June target for subsidy removal, the MOMAN CEO, said the industry stakeholders and government were basically trying to keep the system going until subsidy removal.
“We are trying to put together a regime that will survive until subsidy is removed. So, to me, the meeting was all positive, positive. It was agreed that if anybody misbehaves, then he is on his own. What happens to him is his fault. Everybody should play by the rules that were freely and openly negotiated on Tuesday,” he added.
I have sacks of new naira notes, says bandit, displays some in viral video
As many Nigerians groan over inability to access funds from banks, a bandit kingpin terrorising communities in Kaduna has released a video clip showing off the redesigned naira notes.
In the video, Kachalla Baleri could be seen alongside some armed men displaying N1000 and N200 notes.
This is coming just as videos of some party goers spraying new naira notes are still trending.
The bandit kingpin who claimed to have used some of the new notes to buy ammunition said only God knows the amount of the new naira notes he has stored in sacks.
“We want to send a message to Nigerians, their leaders, and the masses, to be fair and just because of God and his holy prophet,” Baleri said.
“All the tribalism that is happening in the country will not solve anything unless things are done because of God.
“They (government) redesigned the naira, poor people who are innocent don’t even know about it. Some don’t even own up to N10,000. He has to wake up early in the morning to go and hustle.
“What of those who have millions in the cities? You see, it is between them. The money they are saying people are changing, we that are in the bush are changing it, some people who are in the cities haven’t even received it.
“But you see, the people they are referring to as terrorists have hold of the money. This is the new N1000 note, this is the new N200 note.
“We are just showing them a little out of what we have. We have plenty sacks of the new money and Only God knows the amount of the new notes that we have.”
A voice could be in the background of the video saying “I have N10 million at home”.
“We have bought ammunition that we will fight them (government), and we are waiting for what they will say next on the new naira notes,” Baleri added.
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