15 May

Daily Watch – Thor strikes gold in Osun, ‘Awkward’ mandate hits Malabu trial

  • The trial of top executives from oil majors Eni and Shell over alleged corruption in Nigeria kicked off on Monday with a brief procedural hearing and a decision to re-adjourn next month. At the next hearing, set for 20 June, the Milan court said it would assess requests from third parties, including a series of international non-profit organisations, to join the case. At Monday’s hearing Domenico Cartoni Schittar, a lawyer representing the Nigerian government, Cartoni Schittar said he was stepping down from his role because his mandate had become “awkward”. The long-running graft case revolves around the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield for about $1.3 billion. Milan prosecutors allege bribes were paid to win the license to explore an oil block that holds an estimated 9 billion barrels of oil but which has never entered into production. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and former Shell Foundation Chairman Malcolm Brinded are standing trial along with 11 other defendants and the two companies.
  • The NCAA has indefinitely suspended the Air Operators Certificate of First Nation Airways, one of eight indigenous airlines in the country. In a letter delivered to the airline last week, the NCAA said the airline illegally operated scheduled flights. In August 2017, the airline regulator downgraded the airline during its license renewal; issuing it a license to only operate chartered flights because it had only one operational aircraft. In a statement by NCAA spokesman Sam Adurogboye said the airline defaulted on the provisional license by embarking on scheduled operations “with the continuous advertisement of its services and sold tickets at its check-in counters in Lagos and Abuja airports.” Part (ii) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation 2015 states that airlines must have a minimum of two aircraft to carry out scheduled operations.
  • Private investment firm TPG has paid $47.5 million to acquire an unspecified stake in Kenyan digital payments firm Cellulant, which operates in 11 African markets, both firms said on Monday. TPG said the deal was the largest of its kind in African financial technology firms. Cellulant, which was founded in Nigeria and Kenya in 2004, offers digital payments platforms and mobile banking services aimed at those who do not have a bank account. Cellulant co-founder and CEO Ken Njoroge said the new investment would enable the company to expand into new markets and to also invest in its existing operations. Cellulant will also introduce consumer-focused products, it said, without adding details.
  • Canada-listed miner Thor Explorations aims to bring Nigeria’s first large-scale gold mine online in early 2020, its CEO said, as the West African country seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. Projects underway include Thor Explorations’ Segilola Gold Project, located in Osun State, which CEO Segun Lawson says aims to produce gold in the first quarter of 2020 and has probable gold reserves of around 500,000 ounces. “Thor is currently developing the country’s most advanced gold mine,” Lawson told Reuters. He says he has a mining and exploration licence and is considering his options for raising $72 million to get the mine into production. Lawson bought the Segilola project in 2016 for $3.1 million in cash plus $6 million in Thor shares. Thor Exploration’s stock has climbed 50 percent this year while gold prices have only risen around 1 percent.