Nigeria – Olympians in the Making

Three women bobsledders stand on the brink of making history in the sport.

Driver Seun Adigun and brakewomen Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere have qualified for Pyeongchang 2018, ensuring an African nation will be represented in the sport at the Winter Olympics for the first time ever, CNN reports.

Despite numerous success stories in the summer Games – notably gold in the men’s football at Atlanta 1996 – no Nigerian has ever competed in a Winter Olympic event before.

“We are from a continent that would never imagine sliding down ice at 80 or 90 miles per hour,” Adigun told the BBC in March. “I find the idea of getting people to take to that inspiring in itself.”

But this is not Cool Runnings II, a sequel to the Jamaican bobsleigh team’s winter fantasy immortalised in the Hollywood hit movie.

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Akuoma Omeoga, Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere – Obi Grant

Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga don’t want to be a feel-good side story – they want a medal. For this trio of trail-blazing women, getting to the winter games is where their journey begins, not ends.

“We have goals,” Adigun, the driver and driving force behind the dream of a Nigerian team said, quoted by The Guardian. “A lot of our goals have been met just establishing this entire entity […] the bigger goal is to just be as competitive as we can and obviously shoot for the podium.”

Although the Nigerians have achieved the qualifying standard, there is still work to be done. Countries hoping to race in Pyeongchang must be in the top 40 of the global rankings on January 14th after seven World Cup races.

While they have a little further to go, they have come a long way.

Without access to proper training equipment or valuable ice time to perfect their skills, the team started their journey in Houston, Texas, in a makeshift wooden sled they nicknamed ‘The Mayflower.’

Once the team set their sights on the Winter Games, they established a crowdfunding website hoping to raise the much-needed funds to get to Pyeongchang.

Visa was inspired by their story and determination to carve out a place in history and pledged to help solidify the team’s trip, Nigeria’s Vanguard reports.

“We hope to provide this group of determined athletes with a global stage to tell their story and inspire athletes all over the world to follow their dreams and never give up,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa.

The athleticism and determination of the Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team is palpable, as they push to rewrite history in their sport:

Seun Adigun (driver): Adigun represented Nigeria in the 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Wanting to get back on the Olympic stage, she began training for bobsled in 2014. She is currently a chiropractic student.

Ngozi Onwumere (breakwoman): Onwumere, a former competitive sprinter, clinched a Silver and Gold medal at the 2015 African Games in Republic of the Congo in the 200m and 4x100m relay, respectively. Onwumere started training after being recruited by Adigun in 2016. She is a full-time student pursuing a doctoral degree.

Akuoma Omeoga (breakwoman): Omeoga is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where she was a sprinter for the university’s track and field team, competing in the 100m and 200m races. The Winter Games 2018 will be the first time she is representing Nigeria. She also works as a healthcare recruiter. (Vanguard 16/11)

Teamwork and support have been integral in giving the women of Nigeria’s bobsled team confidence as they work towards success.

“Defying odds is what we are created to do,” Adigun told She Leads Africa. “Take chances in life and maximize opportunities. Things can always appear impossible – until you successfully achieve it.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SPORT: World Athletics Championships (London)
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 8, pp. 21560B–21561C

SPORT: London Olympics
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 49, Issue 8, pp. 19400C–19401C

SPORT: Olympic Games
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 45, Issue 8, pp. 17662A–17664C

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Nigeria – Borrowing Limit

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Diversification efforts fail to bear fruit as the country can no longer afford to keep borrowing.

According to Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, who was speaking during a quarterly business forum in Abuja on July 11th, the country can no longer afford to keep borrowing and must find alternative fundraising mechanisms.

Adeosun said that the country should seek to continue to diversify its economy to generate more revenue.

“We have got to get our budget bigger and to do that we cannot borrow anymore. We simply have to generate more revenue, we have to plug the leakages, we have to improve tax collection so that we can manage our borrowing,” she said.

“The problem is that we have been relying on oil and oil gave us a big budget size,” the minister added.

Nigeria has been in talks with the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) for at least US$2bn in loans, with another $1.5bn proposed from international sources. President Muhammadu Buhari has also proposed borrowing of up to $30bn to finance major infrastructure projects across the country, although this continues to remain stalled.

The Naira (N) 7.44trn (about $24.39bn) 2017 budget has a deficit of N2.2trn, according to the Premium Times. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s external debt increased to $13.8bn in the first quarter of 2017 from $11.4bn in the fourth quarter of 2016, reported Vanguard.

The government had planned to borrow extensively from overseas to fund this record budget, aimed at enabling the country spend its way out of its first economic recession in around 25 years.

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Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun – Premium Times

However, some lawmakers, sceptical about the proposal, expressed fears that it might not be favourable in the long run, especially as the government presented no clear plans of how it will utilise the proposed loans.

When Buhari was elected in 2014 he was hailed as the saviour, a transformer of the economy, and the man to lead the country away from fossil fuel reliance and susceptibility to oil price volatility.

Since then little has changed and he has spent much of the past year being treated for a unspecified illness. According some commentators and analysts his financial and economic policies have been largely incoherent.

The push for economic diversification and boosts for manufacturing have not materialised. Many manufacturers were banned from receiving important foreign exchange and in 2016 the manufacturing sector shrank, reported the Financial Times.

However according to reports from BBC News, Buhari is now “recuperating fast” and will soon return to Nigeria from London, where he has been receiving treatment since May. His absence has led to speculation about whether he will be able to resume his position. In his place Buhari has given Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo full powers to act.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA: Emergency Aid Shortfall
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21707C–21709A

NIGERIA: Dim Light at End of Tunnel
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21675A–21676A

NIGERIA: Forex Boost
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21649A–21651C

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Uganda – Oil Refinery Project

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The government seeks to resolve tender for huge project, as they look to Nigeria for advice. 

Uganda has shortlisted four companies for the construction of the US$4.27bn (UShs 15.3 trillion) oil refinery, according to Energy Minister Irene Muloni.

Muloni made the announcement during a session of the joint Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Uganda Freight Forwarders Association and Private Sector Foundation, inaugural logistics fair in Kampala from April 25-27th.

A decision on the chosen tender is to be made within a month, said acting director of the refinery, Robert Kasande. However, others have said there are not four but eight companies in the bidding.

The companies are Canadian firm SNC Lavalin, United States (US) firms Yatra Ventures LLC and Apro, and Turkish firm IESCO. Others include Chinese-based Guangzhou Dongsong Energy, Spanish firm Profundo Bantu Energy, and Italy’s Maire Tecnimot.

Uganda had previously picked Russian firm RT Global Resources, but the Russian eventually pulled out citing failures by the Ugandan government to meet demands.

The decision needs to be made soon to allow a final investment by three oil firms, CNOOC, Total and Tullow, which revolves around the US$3.5bn East African Crude Oil Pipeline from Hoima disrict in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania. The 1445km pipeline will be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.

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Tullow Oil Refinery – CC 2010 

Another central aspect of the project is a refinery to be built at Hoima, for which financing is still yet to be ascertained, reported the Monitor.

In February the government relocated 46 families to make way for the refinery in Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima. In June 2012 the government acquired the 29 square kilometres of land, covering 13 villages and displacing 7118 people.

Francis Elungat, the Land Acquisition Officer from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development said, “each family has been promised a cow, two goats, 10 kilograms of maize seedlings, a machete, hoe and other domestic tools,” adding that these supplies are meant to sustain the families until they will be self-reliant, reported Oil in Uganda. 

According to the Deputy Commander of Operations for Wealth Creation in Uganda, Lt Gen Charles Angina, Uganda is looking to learn from Nigeria in the oil sector.

“Nigeria is our admired African country who have demonstrated and exhibited local content in building and running its energy sector. And they have managed to promote this particular sector to a point that Nigerians now actively involved in different segments of the nation’s oil and gas sector. We felt Nigeria is the best country to come and learn from as well as work with our brothers and sisters of Nigeria, so that we can be able to do the same in building the local content in Uganda, so that together we benefit as Africans,” he said.

“As it stands today, most of what we see in the field today, in terms of operators and operations in the sector were formerly dominated and run by foreign companies like Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, but today, Nigeria has gained substantial control of this sector,” Angina added, reported This Day.

In Uganda, at least six major oil-related engineering projects are rolling and major project milestones are set for August and December, with numerous other small deadlines.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

UGANDA: Drought Hits Hard
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21533A–21534A

UGANDA: Diversify From Oil, World Bank Advises
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21315A–21315C

UGANDA: Major Investments
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21283A–21284A

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Nigeria – ‘Astonishingly High’ Pollution

Oil giant accused of concealing data on the health effects of two major spills. 

Data gathered among the Bodo community, which was devastated by two huge oil spills in 2008 and 2009, showed levels of pollution were “astonishingly high”, according to a letter by former employee of Shell, Kay Koltzmann.

Holtzmann was the former director in charge of Shell’s project to clean up oil spills in the Bodo community, in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. He accused the company of refusing to make the findings public.

The clean-up project carried out an analysis of the environment in the Bodo creeks in August 2015 “against fierce opposition” from Shell’s subsidiary company, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). 

“The results from the laboratory were astonishingly high, actually the soil in the mangroves is literally soaked with hydrocarbons. Whoever is walking in the creeks cannot avoid contact with toxic substances… negative long term effects on their health are unpredictable,” he said.

The letter was addressed to the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative, which is sponsored by the Dutch Government and is tasked to ensure the clean up meets international standards.

Shell accepted liability for the 2008 and 2009 oil spills. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a report claiming it would take up to 30 years to clean the Niger Delta from oil spills. In 2015, Shell agreed to pay £55m to the Bodo community.

Holtzmann called for “immediate action to protect the health of the Bodo residents” and urged for “medical mass screening” to take place, warning against the risk for people exposed to toxic substances by bathing or drinking the polluted water, reported UK-based the Independent

No one could explain the decision to withhold the data from the public.

Further, on April 10th Shell and ENI were forced to deny that their staff had been involved in payments to officials. In 2010 transactions worth $1.3bn were made by Shell and ENI for exploration of the OPL 245 offshore block, but the companies reportedly knew the funds would go to a front company connected to former petroleum minister Dan Etete, reported Lagos-based, the Guardian

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA – UK: Pollution Claims Blocked
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21560C–21562C

OIL AND GAS: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21549B–21550C

OPEC TALKS: Oil Price Boost [Free to Read]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21508A–21509A

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Nigeria – Aviation Woes

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Airports close and airlines suspend flights as the aviation sector struggles in a challenging environment.

On December 21st passengers across the country were left stranded after Arik Air, the largest airline in the country, suspended services due to action by unions, including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

The protests related to arrears in salaries amounting around seven months and the perceived anti-labour direction of policymaking. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) brokered a meeting with Arik Air meeting the following day in which strike action was shelved, reported This Day.

Additional capacity was allocated afterwards from both Lagos and Abuja to destinations such as Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Uyo, Yola and others to enable many of the Arik customers to get to their destinations.

Some of the placards placed around Arik counters read: ‘ARIK owes staff seven months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalises trade unionism and union membership.”

Other airlines such as Air Peace, First Nation, Med-View, Dana Air, Overland and Azman were unable to take the spillover from Arik due to low capacity; according to Lagos-based the Guardian there was a 100% hike in ticket fares followed the strike action as passengers scrambled for available seats.

In Lagos, outside the Arik Headquarters, company officials from the Nigerian Lagos Congress (NLC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) barricaded the main entrance, causing traffic problems on the airports access road.

There were reports later on January 6th that aggrieved passengers had attacked staff at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, as a number of flights were again rescheduled and some cancelled, reported Daily Trust.

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CC – 2014

It is reported that Arik Air owes in the region of Naira (N) 13bn to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and N6bn to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The airline is also reportedly indebted to fuel supplies and ground handlers.

The Spokesman for Arik Air, Banji Ola, in his response to the allegations said the organisation was “disappointed” by the actions of the unions to “ambush and disrupt the operations.”

Meanwhile, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is to close for six weeks from February to March 2017 for repairs, which will involve almost total reconstruction of the badly damaged runway. The full construction works are expected to take six months, but the middle section of runway will be unusable for 6 weeks, reported the Premium Times.

President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly commenced the work through an emergency procurement procedure, due to the centrality of Abuja to the country. Passengers have been directed to use Kaduna airport as an alternative during this period.

Passengers will travel in bus shuttles, guarded by security provided by the government; the stretch of road from Kaduna airport to Abuja has seen a number of kidnapping incidents over the last few years.

A number of foreign airlines, however, have considered suspending services after the decision to close the Abuja airport, as the alternative in Kaduna was deemed unsafe for foreigners. However, Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika said that Kaduna was preferable to alternatives such as Ilorin or Minna as it was able to cater for larger aircraft. Sirikia assured that the safety of passengers would be the top priority.

Additionally the oldest domestic carrier in the country, Aero Contractors, has resumed operations after a suspension of four months, according to a report from the Daily Trust. Operations started again on December 23rd with flights to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

NIGERIA: Darker Days
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21418B–21420A

AIRPORTS AND SERVICES: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21432A–21433C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21384C–21386C

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Nigeria – Cocoa Crop in Decline

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Many claim that the once central industry is now the most neglected, while others eye the opportunities.

The decline in the cultivation of the crop is reportedly to due with long growing periods and impatience among the younger generation, according to President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), Victor Iyama, who was speaking at the 2nd Daily Trust Agricultural Conference in Abuja on December 15th.

“It’s not four to six months, it is up to five years minimum but the beauty is that it can last for 70 years,” he said, adding that chocolate production generated large sums of money; out of a $120bn cocoa economy only around $15bn goes to products other than chocolate.

Iyama noted that cocoa was the second largest foreign exchange earner, next only to oil, adding that 29 states in the country can produce the crop, reported the Daily Trust.

According to Lagos-based the Guardian, a number of stakeholders in the Nigerian industry have said that it has remained the most neglected sector of the economy despite at the same time being one of the most viable industries in the world. Setbacks include the high cost of borrowing, deregulation and inconsistent government policy.

CEO of FTN Cocoa Processors Plc, Akin Laoye, explained that the deregulated environment is impeding the growth of the processing sector, adding that the cocoa sector needs some degree of regulation.

“To deepen Nigeria’s industrial base, it is counter productive to allow agricultural raw materials to be exported without adding value. Value addition will grow the industrial sector, generate employment, and enhance value of the revenue from export.” Laoye also urged government to find a lasting solution to tackle the ongoing recession, reported the Guardian.

The Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, on December 15th said that Nigeria used to be a leading cocoa exported but has since fallen to seventh among exporting countries exporting 27.5m tonnes annually, in comparison to first place Cote D’Ivoire with an annual export volume of 1.75bn tonnes, reported This Day.

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CC 2015.

On December 7th AgWeb reported that the Nigerian government was preparing to capitalise the state owned Bank of Agriculture with Naira (N) 1trn (US$3.2bn) to boost the agricultural sector. “We are looking at 25 million farmers” as stakeholders or depositors, Minister Ogbeh said.

From November 8-10th a regional symposium focusing on the next generation of cocoa research for West and Central Africa was held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The symposium drew leaders from across the southwestern part of the country, the predominant area for the cultivation of cocoa, such as Ife, Oyo, Osum, Ogun, Cross River and Ondo states. The symposium drew leaders alongside academics and industry representatives to discuss research priorities and alliances to take advantage of the potential of cocoa.

According to Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), O. Olubamiwa, the Regional Cocoa Symposium is the first of its kind in Africa. “It is happening in West Africa—the hub of global cocoa production. It will highlight the diverse roles of cocoa in improving farmers’ livelihood. It is also a forum for stakeholders to synthesise ideas on sustainable cocoa production,” reported the Guardian.

However, other reports have suggested that cocoa cultivation in Ondo state appears to be waning, despite having what could mildly be described as comparative advantage. Farmers in the state accused the state government of failing to implement practical policies and programmes.

One of the cocoa farmers in Akure, the state capital, Olorunfemi Ashagi asserted that one major problem facing the growth of cocoa is finance. Another farmer expressed fear that cocoa farming in the state may soon go into extinction, as many of the young men engaged in it are increasingly to alternative livelihood opportunities, reported Leadership.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

COCOA: Côte d’Ivoire
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21366A–21366C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp.21384C–21386C

COCOA: Ghana
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp. 21184A–21184B

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Nigeria – Delta Region Infrastructure Targeted

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A newly formed rebel group has repeatedly targeted oil and gas installations in Niger Delta State.

On June 1st the latest in a string of attacks on oil and gas facilities hit two Chevron oil wells in Dibi, Warri North Local Government Area, claimed by a newly formed group the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), occurring a few days before President Muhammadu Buhari‘s planned visit to the area.

Speculation is that the NDA is made up of powerful ‘unpatriotic’ individuals and the military Joint Task Force is specifically pursuing ex-militant leader Government Ekpemupolo.

NDA on its twitter handle @NDAvengers, said: “With the heavy presence of 100 gunboats, 4 warships and jet bombers, NDA blew up Chevron oil well RMP 23 and RMP 24 at 3. 44 am this (yesterday) morning, ” reported Vanguard.

It marks the third such attack on Chevron facilities in a month. The group has also targeted other Chevron and Shell facilities. In April Shell had to break contractual agreements after an attack on a truck line, and a few days later Chevron shut its Valve Platform following another attack.

The damage to infrastructure, along with a global fall in prices, have brought oil production in the country to a 22 year low, alongside impacting the already strained power network, as the power plants rely on gas supply from the damaged pipelines.

Residents in Oporoza area fled to neighbouring Azama community and have been homeless for a number of days. Chairman of Kokodiagbene community Sheriff Mulade said, “the invasion by soldiers affected the ongoing school certificate examinations…hundreds of students, who ran into the bush because of the invasion, are yet to be accounted for, while the academic session has been disrupted.”

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Oil Spill Ogoniland – CC 2015.

Elders in the region, speaking under the auspices of ‘Concerned Niger Delta Elders’, said that the perpetrators of the attacks were against the pro-development and anti-corruption stance of the Buhari administration, reported Vanguard.

The NDA first appeared in February 2016 after claiming responsibility for an attack on a Shell underwater pipeline, which forced company to halt its 250,000 barrels per day Forcados terminal for weeks. Experts noted the high level of technical expertise present in the attacks.

There has been speculation that the NDA consists of members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Another group, the Red Egbesu Water Lions, also recently emerged and has pledged to join with the NDA, reported ABCNews.

In a statement earlier in April the NDA, on their website, said, “we are a group of educated and well-travelled individuals that are poised to take the Niger Delta struggle to new heights that has never been seen in this nation before,” reported BBC News.

The NDA is the first armed group to emerge in the Niger Delta since ex President Umar Musa Yar’Adua granted an amnesty to militants in the region seven years ago. There were agreements for compensation and security following severe environmental degradation and displacement by oil firms, but the NDA claims these have not been upheld and such trends have continued.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA: Military Industrial Complex
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.4, Pp.20979C–20980C

NIGERIA: Chibok Second Anniversary
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.4, Pp.20972C–20974B

NIGERIA: Army ‘Has the Measure’ of Boko Haram
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20938A–20939B

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