10 May

Daily Watch – Malabu legal body count rises, NASS makes yet another PIB promise

  • The National Assembly aims to pass a long-delayed bill to overhaul the oil sector by the end of July. The Petroleum Industry Bill, which aims to improve transparency, attract investors and stimulate growth, has been debated for more than a decade and was broken into sections to help it pass into law. The PIB was discussed for some 17 years before the governance bill was passed by both houses of parliament in January, following the decision to break up the unwieldy PIB into smaller bills. Senate President Bukola Saraki told Reuters that the aim was to ensure all three remaining parts of the legislation — the fiscal, administrative and host community bills — were passed by parliament before it went on holiday in July. The governance bill, passed in January, is awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval.
  • A Nigerian civil rights group launched a legal case on Tuesday aimed at forcing the government to revoke a disputed 2011 oilfield deal at the centre of a string of international corruption investigations. The case, heard by a Lagos court, relates to the purchase of the offshore OPL 245 oilfield by oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in 2011. The field has estimated reserves of 9 billion barrels. At the core of the case is a $1.3 billion payment from Shell and Eni to secure the block from Malabu Oil and Gas, allegedly controlled by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete. Rasheed Adegoke, legal counsel to Human & Environmental Development Agenda, said the rights group decided to go to court after it became aware of a trial in Milan relating to corruption allegations over the oilfield purchase. In December, Shell and Eni were ordered to stand trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria. Both Eni and Shell have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the deal, which is also being investigated in Italy and the Netherlands, where Eni and Shell are respectively based.
  • The naira eased to 362 to the dollar for investors on Tuesday as funds repatriate dividends abroad following the end of the earnings season and as forward currency contracts mature amid tight dollar liquidity, Reuters reports. The naira traded at 360 for over six months after the CBN in April 2017 liberalised the currency for investors in the wake of a currency crisis brought on by low oil prices that also slashed government revenues. Traders said the currency started to weaken last week as demand piled up especially from companies seeking to repatriate dividends and investors booking profits from local assets. Importers buying goods from abroad were also exerting pressure on the naira.
  • West Africa’s crude oil loadings for Asia are expected to bounce back in May from a five-month low, a Reuters survey of shipping fixtures and traders showed on Tuesday, but traders warned that shaky demand in China could signal a tough road for some of the cargoes. Loadings for Asia are set to rise by more than 9 percent in May, to roughly 2.1 million barrels per day, from April’s five-month low of 1.9 million bpd. A backlog of cargoes outside Chinese ports in early April had limited shipments loading in that month, and refinery maintenance at several key units in the world’s largest oil importer also cut demand. Indian refiners showed renewed interest in West African oil, with private company Reliance joining state-controlled IOC in booking cargoes. Reliance took at least two cargoes of Nigerian Agbami, while IOC bought a mix of Nigerian, Angolan and Congolese crude. Two cargoes, an Agbami and one Angolan grade, were also booked to sail for Australia, while Thailand’s PTT also booked one cargo.
  • Abubakar Jimoh, CEO of Coronation Merchant Bank, said bank loans may not be enough to “substantially” finance businesses. “Owing to the recent strong liquidity in the market, largely driven by the reduction in domestic borrowing and the consequent downward trend in rates, we expect to see an increase in corporate bond issuance in 2018,” he said in a Bloomberg interview. He said the bank is planning to issue the first tranche of a ₦100 billion debt program in 2018 adding that at least four of his peers are going to take similar steps to increase their lending capacity. The Nigerian bond market is big enough “to accommodate the size of the offers” expected this year, Jimoh said. Besides, there is “very massive” demand from local pension, insurance and asset-management companies as well as foreign investors for Nigerian assets, he added.