What next after Milan court acquits Shell, Eni of corruption charges in Malabu scandal?
An Italian court yesterday acquitted oil companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Eni SpA, along with the latter’s chief executive, of bribery in connection with oil-drilling rights in Nigeria, ending a three-year trial that had shone a spotlight on the energy industry’s operations in Africa.
Shell’s share price climbed 0.01 percent in Amsterdam after the favourable ruling while Eni rose 0.59 percent.
Shell, Eni and individuals including current Eni CEO and company veteran Claudio Descalzi were on trial over a $1.3 billion payment made for drilling rights in Nigeria that prosecutors argued was mostly for the purpose of bribes.
Eni, Shell and their managers maintained they didn’t know the money would be paid out in bribes when they bought drilling rights off the coast of Nigeria in 2011 in an area known as OPL 245.
Both companies, Eni and Shell, welcomed the Milan court ruling.
“After almost three years of trial, the judgment by the court has finally established that the company, the CEO Claudio Descalzi and the management involved in the proceedings have all behaved in a lawful and correct manner,” Eni said in a statement.
“We work hard every day to ensure our actions not only follow the letter and spirit of the law, but also live up to society’s wider expectations of us,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said after the verdict.
The matter is unlikely to end there however as an appeal from the prosecutors seems likely to follow.
The Nigerian government has said it was surprised and disappointed by the verdict and would consider whether to appeal once its lawyers had read the written judgment.
Rulings in Italy can be appealed and only become enforceable once they are final.
The prosecutors, who were seeking eight-year jail sentences for Descalzi and Scaroni, can decide whether or not to appeal the acquittals when the three judges who ruled in the trial publish their reasoning in the coming weeks.
$1.5bn repair work for Port Harcourt refinery: The gift that keeps giving
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved the sum of $1.5 billion for the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery in Rivers state.
Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum, said the rehabilitation which has been contracted to Tecnimont SPA, an Italian company, will be done in three phases of 18, 24 and 44 months.
Although Nigeria has four refineries, which are all government-owned, it currently imports all the refined petroleum products it consumes.
Despite billions spent on the repairs and maintenance of the refineries, they are notoriously inefficient.
Notably, in June 2020, the refineries processed no crude, owing largely to on-going rehabilitation works at the refineries.
This resulted in an operating deficit of ₦10.23 billion by the refineries, according to data published by state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Warri Refining Petrochemical Company Limited recorded an operating deficit of N2.68 billion, Port-Harcourt Refining Petrochemical Company Limited recorded an operating deficit of N2.76 billion while Kaduna Refining Petrochemical Company Limited recorded the highest operating deficit of N4.79 billion.
The problem is even when there were no repair works in progress, the refineries were still operating well below capacity.
Three of Nigeria’s four refineries have recorded N1.64 trillion in cumulative losses recorded in their operations since 2014, details from the first-ever audited accounts and financial statements of the companies published by NNPC in June showed.
Analysts have called for the privatization of the money-guzzling refineries to conserve public funds.
The government insists that it is rehabilitating the refineries to prepare them for sale.
WHO to carry out safety review on AstraZeneca
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that coronavirus vaccination rollouts using the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot should continue while it carries out a safety review.
The latest guidance from the global public health body comes after a raft of European countries announced that they would suspend use of the shot over concerns that it could be linked to reported cases of blood clots in the region.
The AstraZeneca vaccines were the ones supplied to Nigeria under the COVAX arrangement.
Questions around the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine could further fan already noticeable skepticism towards usage of the vaccine in Nigeria as well as order countries where it is in use.
She was looked down on by male colleagues: Timeline of Tanzania’s first female president.
In 2000, when Samia Suluhu Hassan decided to join politics, she was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives and was appointed a minister by President Amani Karume.
She was the only high-ranking woman minister in the cabinet and was reportedly looked down on by her male colleagues because of her gender.
She was re-elected in 2005 and was re-appointed as a minister in another portfolio.
In 2010, she sought election to the National Assembly, standing in the parliamentary constituency of Makunduchi and winning by more than 80%. President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
In July 2015, CCM’s presidential nominee John Magufuli chose her as his running mate for the 2015 election, making her the first female running mate in the party’s history. She subsequently became the first female vice-president in the history of the country upon Magufuli’s victory in the election.
After Magufuli’s death on 17 March 2021, Suluhu became the 6th President of Tanzania, and the country’s first female president.
She will lead for the remainder of late Magufuli’s term until 2025. Magufuli had only just been re-elected in November last year.
She becomes the first female President in Tanzania and East Africa.
Nigeria risks Lebanon experience for shying away from reforms
Lebanon is presently facing its worst economic crisis in history; the economy is in free fall. Prices of goods and services are accelerating, poverty ravaging, and protesters are taking to streets amid a pandemic. All are pushing the country to the edge; a similar picture is gradually playing out in Africa’s biggest economy.
But Lebanon’s economic woes did not just start overnight. It is the result of several years of keeping an unsustainable subsidy that has snowballed into an unbearable weight, pushed the country into a financial crisis the pandemic has worsened.
More than half the population have been pushed into poverty and people’s savings have lost value. Public debt is crippling, and the local currency has plunged, losing nearly 80 percent of its value. The health sector is buckling under the financial strain and coronavirus pandemic.
The situation has got worse to the extent that Lebanese are back to hoarding basics, such as water and fuel like they did during the country’s 15-year civil war. That is the newest stage in the economic collapse of the country with a population of 6.8 million, which was once a regional hub for banking, real estate and medical services.
When the Lebanese government began to withdraw food subsidies and increase fuel prices, to save dwindling foreign reserves it was too sudden, too late; the people took to the streets.
Time is indeed running out for Nigeria to act decisively and embrace bold reforms to avert a Lebanon-type economic spiral.