The federal government of Nigeria is at risk of a $2.3 billion fine in arbitration over an alleged breach of contract for the $5.8 billion Mambilla power project in Taraba state.
The project, a 3,050-megawatt hydropower facility, has stalled owing to legal and funding crises after Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL), a local content partner, was reportedly sidelined in the project by the ministry of power, works and housing.
SPTCL, who claimed to have been awarded the build, operate and transfer (BOT) contract in 2003, has dragged the federal government and its Chinese partners before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, France.
A UK arbitration court recently awarded nearly $9 billion against Nigeria over a breach of contract with Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID), earlier given the green light to build a natural gas development refinery.
Meanwhile, the China Exim Bank, which is expected to provide 85 per cent of the joint funding with the federal government for the Mambilla project, has insisted on compliance with due process and terms of the November 2017 engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract signed with the partners before releasing funds.
Leno Adesanya, chief executive officer of SPTCL, in a letter dated March 31, 2017 to Babatunde Fashola, minister of power works and housing, had accused the minister of reneging on his promise to support the project.
Adesanya said between 2003 and 2009, SPTCL had spent millions of dollars with financial and legal consultants to raise about $6 billion for the execution of the project, yet the company has suffered a lot over the years “through improper administrative interruptions and interventions”.
“While we feel a deep sense of loss that Nigeria is still discussing this project when it should have been commissioned a long time ago, if the original plan was followed,” Adesanya said.
In another letter dated June 20, 2017 to the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo requesting his intervention in the matter, Adesanya accused Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, of taking the unilateral decision of directing the ministry of power to sideline the company from the contract against the advice of Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF).
In the letter dated July 24, 2017 to Osinbajo, with a copy to the chief of staff, Malami had said SPTCL should be engaged as a local content partner on the project “as a means of accommodating its prior contractual interests on the project”.
However, Malami backtracked a few weeks later.
In another letter dated August 17, 2017 to the company, the attorney-general of the federation said he issued the previous opinion on the project based on the limited materials provided at the time.
He added that there was no requisite federal executive council (FEC) approval for the project.
“The logical conclusion in the circumstances should be that there was no valid contract between Federal Government of Nigeria and SPTC in respect of the project or at all,” Malami wrote.
In his response to Malami, Gbolahan Elias, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said there was no statute as at 2003 when the contract was awarded to SPTCL requiring the consent of the FEC before a letter of award could be validly issued.
Elias added that the letter of award to SPTCL predated the enactment of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act of 2005 which requires approval of projects and contracts by FEC.
In a recent petition dated November 18, 2018 to the president and seen by TheCable, Adesanya alleged that the company was removed from the contract without due process.
“Mr. President can save the project from being enmeshed in another controversy as it occurred during the government of President Yar’Adua where a Presidential adviser allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes, and eventually led to the removal of the official and the termination of the $1.46b civil works contract,” the petition read.
“Your Excellency’s commitment to expeditiously execute the Project in June 2015 was communicated by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN (the “HAGF”) to the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing (the “HMOPWH”) Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN on the 20th of May, 2016; when the HAGF directed the HMOWPH to comply fully with all existing agreements between the Federal Government of Nigeria (the “FGN”) and Sunrise; basically the out-of-court Settlement, and the General Project Execution Agreement(s) of November 25th 2012.”
Adesanya alleged that Kyari had instructed three Chinese companies, Sinohhydro Corporation of China, China Ghezouba Group Corporation of China and China Geo-Engineering Group Corporation, to form a joint venture for the execution of the project.
“On the 22nd of May, 2017, Your Excellency’s COS instructed the HMOPWH to remove Sunrise from the Mambilla hydropower project, and instructed that CGGC, CGCOC and SINOHYDRO would execute the Project,” he said in the petition.
“Bearing in mind that Your Excellency was on medical vacation in the UK, and Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN GCON was the Acting President, we petitioned then Acting President, and the HAGF in respect of the constitutionally powers of the COS to approve N2 trillion or $5.8 billion contract in your absence, and without Due Process.”
A presidency official however told News men that Kyari is being wrongly accused by Adesanya.
“People need to start coming up with credible lies against the chief of staff. The truth is that he is immune to lobbying and any form of pressure, be it political or material, because public interest must override any other interest regardless of who the beneficiary is. This has made him easy target for baseless attacks,” the official, who declined to be named.
The Mambilla power project, the biggest plant in the country, was conceived in 1982.
Construction was expected to take six years.
Source: The Cable
Japan is pulling out of the International Whaling Commission. Here's how it works and what it means.
Japan has decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume whaling in its coastal waters, a government spokesman confirmed. The commission, with 89 member governments, was established in 1946 to conserve whales and manage whaling around the world. It banned commercial whaling in 1986.
Although Japan is the main market for whale meat, consumption there is limited—about an ounce per person per year, or about 4,000 to 5,000 tons, according to a report by the Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to alleviate animal suffering, and the Environmental Investigation Agency, which tracks international wildlife crime.
According to Astrid Fuchs, whaling program manager for the U.K.-based nonprofit Whale and Dolphin Conservation, who spoke to National Geographic before the news was confirmed, Japan’s withdrawal would primarily be a political move, sending the message that the country can use the oceans as they please.
Because Japan is a leading voice among pro-whaling countries, she says, its withdrawal may inspire other countries, such as South Korea and Russia, to follow suit.
Under the ban, whaling for scientific purposes—biologists studying reproductive status, stomach contents, and effects of environmental change, for example—is exempt. Japan has long been accused of using that exemption as a cover, with whalers supplying some body parts to researchers and selling the rest of the meat for human consumption.
“They’ve been thumbing their nose at the moratorium and the will of international citizens for a long time,” says Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International.
In a vote this summer during the commission’s annual meeting, Japan’s proposal to allow commercial whaling was rejected.
“They put a lot of money into it,” Fuchs says. “Part of the government really expected that they might be able to swing the mood with some countries at the meeting.”
After the meeting, officials, including Masaaki Taniai, vice minister for fisheries, and Joji Morishita, Japan’s IWC commissioner, said they’d consider withdrawing from the commission—a threat Japan has made in the past.
Fuchs predicted that this time was different. “It very much [sounded] like they’re actually doing it,” she said earlier.
Block agreed. “When they don’t get their way at these international meetings, they say they’re going to leave, and they’ve been making that idle threat for many, many years now. This time [seemed] to be a little more vociferous.”
By withdrawing from the commission, Japan can no longer take advantage of the IWC’s exemption for scientific whaling in international waters and would therefore have to halt whaling on the high seas. That’s because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas requires its signatories, which include Japan, to work through “the appropriate international organizations” for marine mammal conservation. That’s widely interpreted by legal scholars to mean the IWC—even if a country is not party to the IWC. The one benefit Japan gets by withdrawing is it could likely resume whaling in its own backyard without oversight.
This would be beneficial for whales in Antarctica—where Japan killed upwards of 300 in 2016, including more than 200 pregnant females—but bad for species in Japanese waters.
There’s particular concern about the status of minke whales called the J-stock, found off the coast of Japan and frequently hunted. Minke whales are targeted because they’re relatively abundant, not having been decimated during commercial whaling’s peak years during the 1970s.
If Japan were to be more open about its intent to continue commercial whaling, it might simplify things in some ways, says Natalie Barefoot, a University of Miami law professor and expert in whale law.
“We’re having this dialogue essentially pretending that they’re performing scientific research,” she says. “If they change their position and say, ‘Hey, we are, this is what we’re doing. We are commercial whaling’—in some ways, it’s a bit of a relief, because we can have an actual honest conversation on their activities in ocean waters.”
By Japan withdrawing from the commission, it will face no formal consequences, but other countries could take matters into their own hands and impose sanctions—for example, by denying Japan access to fishing in their waters. It also means that Japan would no longer be a part of the international dialogue on whaling.
“As we become an increasingly global community, it’s better to have everyone at the table, even if you disagree, and just to continue to work,” Barefoot says. “These are global issues we’re addressing, and we need to address them together.”
According to commission spokesperson Kate Wilson, in order for Japan to bow out by the end of June 2019, it would need to send formal notification of withdrawal to the U.S. State Department, which would inform the commission secretariat, by January 1.
A representative from the U.S. embassy in Japan was not immediately available for comment.
The timing of this latest intimation by Japan of its withdrawal from the commission may not be coincidental, Fuchs says. With the holidays season, they may expect less opposition.
- National Geographic
Global streaming service Netflix set its eyes a few years ago on Nigeria’s film industry, better known as Nollywood. Distribution of Nigerian movies on Netflix started around 2015. At the time the American giant bought the rights of blockbusters such as Kunle Afolayan’s October 1st, Biyi Bandele’s Fifty and several others, after they had already been distributed in Nigerian cinemas.
During the Toronto International Film Festival 2018, Netflix announced the acquisition of worldwide exclusive distribution rights for Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji’s debut film as director, the comedy Lionheart. The film marked the first Netflix original film from Nigeria. Many saw this as the beginning of a new era in the relationship between one of the world largest streaming platforms and Africa’s most prolific film industry.
But, is this actually true? Is Netflix going to transform Nollywood? And how significant will its impact on the Nigerian film industry be?
These are not easy questions to answer. Nollywood’s economy and modes of production are unlike those of most other film industries. Over the past 20 years Nigerian films have circulated mostly on videotapes and Video Compact Discs (VCDs).
This distribution system made the industry widely popular across Africa and its diaspora. But it prevented Nollywood from consolidating its economy and raising the quality of film production. Piracy dramatically eroded distribution revenues and producers had trouble monetising the distribution of their films. Nollywood prioritised straight-to-video distribution because cinema theatres had almost disappeared in the country (as in most other parts of Africa) as a result of the catastrophic economic crisis that affected Nigeria in the 1980s.
New multiplexes have emerged since the beginning of the 2000s. However, today there are only about 150 widescreens for a population of almost two hundred million people. The cinemas that exist are often too expensive for most of the population that used to buy and watch Nollywood films when they were distributed on tapes.
Within this context, many in the industry thought that streaming could be the best solution to the industry’s problems with distribution. However, a closer look to the history of what has been labelled the “Nigerian Netflix” (iROKO.tv, the leading streaming platform for Nigerian contents) shows that the reality is more complicated.
When the company decided to move its headquarters from Manhattan to Lagos it encountered countless difficulties. They were mainly connected to the costs of infrastructure development in Nigeria and to the hostility of local distributors who controlled Nollywood’s economy since its creation.
Internet connection in Nigeria is still too weak and expensive to guarantee easy access to streaming platforms. As a result, Nollywood content distributed by iROKO.tv and Netflix circulates mostly in the diaspora. Netflix is aware of this problem and is investing in infrastructures to secure a better connection for its Nigerian audiences.
But larger investments seem to be necessary to produce a significant impact on audiences’ behaviour. Accessing Nollywood films via piracy or local screening venues will continue to be, at least in my view, the key strategy adopted by the largest percentage of Nigerian viewers.
Netflix could have better chances in penetrating the country’s elite market, as richer people in Nigeria and across Africa have easier access to reliable power supply and internet.
This might be the reason why MultiChoice, the South African telecommunication giant controlling much of Nollywood distribution across Africa through its Africa Magic channels, has reacted nervously to Netflix’s increased interest in African markets. MultiChoice wants Netflix to be more closely regulated.
These two aren’t the only telecommunication “superpowers” in the field. France’s Canal Plus and the Chinese StarTimes have also made a few investments in Nollywood over the past few years. The competition among all these actors will probably have a positive impact for viewers across Nigeria and the continent. It could bring lower subscription fees for streaming and TV content packages.
There are also likely to be new investments in content production and infrastructures. And there’s larger continental and global exposure for Nollywood films in the offing.
It remains to be seen how good these developments will be for Nollywood producers. Until now, foreign investments in Nollywood have mostly translated into “more of the same” content. Working conditions for crews and actors have remained the same – basically, low budgets and quick shooting schedules.
In fact, big investors seem to be mainly interested in Nollywood’s already established popularity with African audiences. Making Nollywood more palatable for international audiences doesn’t seem to feature.
This means that in most cases they are not ready to invest bigger money in production budgets. Rather, they invest in better structuring distribution networks to extract as much profit as possible from the Nigerian industry.
And most African audiences are indeed happy with how Nollywood is, even if they tend to complain regularly about the low quality and the repetition of film contents and aesthetics. The fact that Nollywood as it is keeps on attracting audiences makes investors reluctant to change the scale of their production budgets.
There are a few bigger productions, with higher production standards, that have emerged over the past few years in Nollywood. But they have hardly been the result of investments made by foreign firms like Netflix, Canal Plus or MultiChoice.
Nigerian producers are those who are mostly concerned about raising the quality of Nollywood films. They want to give better content to their audiences and reach global screens. In most cases, the people investing money in these kinds of projects have been independent producers or groups of investors related to the new business of multiplexes in Nigeria.
In my view, the question is: will these people benefit from Netflix, so as to continue investing in higher quality content? Or will Netflix and other international companies end up taking over the industry to make it only a bit more of the same?
The Democratic Republic of Congo counted ballot papers on Monday after an election that the opposition described as chaotic and flawed, with problems ranging from broken voting machines to delays and vote-buying.
Congolese went to the polls Sunday to find a successor to long-serving President Joseph Kabila in a vote that was already two years overdue, with Kabila’s protege Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary running for the ruling coalition. He’s challenged by two major opposition alliances headed by Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu.
While the vote was mostly peaceful, both opposition groups said their colleagues had registered irregularities across the country, suggesting that some of the disorder was deliberately created by the electoral commission to favor Shadary.
“It was chaos at an organizational level,” Vital Kamerhe, the campaign director of Tshisekedi’s alliance, said by phone Monday. “We weren’t surprised -- we knew there was chaos and disorder being prepared. Despite all this, the opposition is still winning.”
Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer and a key source of minerals essential to the smartphone and electric-vehicle industries, is heading toward its first transition of power through the ballot box since independence in 1960. Despite the presence of more than 16,000 United Nations peacekeepers in the vast central African country, the government refused logistical support from the UN and financial assistance from international donors to organize the vote. It also barred some foreign observers, including the European Union.
“We committed to financing our electoral process entirely ourselves for the very first time in our history,” Kabila said on state TV late Saturday. “For us, it’s an effort to shield our country from foreign interference liable to thwart the will of self-determination of our people.”
Internet services were disrupted in the capital, Kinshasa, on Monday. On voting day, numerous problems were reported by the local Catholic Church, which deployed tens of thousands of observers. Witnesses were barred from entering polling stations or expelled, hundreds of voting machines didn’t work properly and observers found cases of vote-buying and intimidation.
“All these irregularities will for sure have a negative impact on the process,” Fayulu told reporters late Sunday. Still, the people backing Shadary are “dreaming” if they think he’s won, he said.
Electoral commission chief Corneille Nangaa rejected criticism of the vote, saying late Sunday that most polling stations opened on time and voting machines had worked well.
Kabila, in power for almost 18 years, is barred by the constitution from running for a third term, having won elections in 2006 and 2011.
“There is absolutely no way that Shadary can lose,” Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, Kabila’s chief diplomatic adviser and member of the campaign team, said in an interview.
The opposition has repeatedly accused the electoral commission of preparing an election that’ll be neither free nor fair, but has insisted the vote be held. The commission pushed back the polls by another seven days from Dec. 23, blaming a fire at one of its warehouses in Kinshasa, and also suspended campaigning three days early in the city as Fayulu was planning a mass meeting.
The authority then postponed elections in three parts of the country until March, citing an Ebola outbreak, militia attacks and inter-communal violence. That effectively disenfranchised 1.2 million voters in regions known as strongholds of Kabila’s critics.
Tshisekedi, the leader of Congo’s largest opposition party, has teamed up with Kamerhe, who heads another major party and came third in 2011’s election, while Fayulu is boosted by the support of heavyweights Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi.
Two recent polls published by New York University’s Congo Research Group record Shadary as trailing the opposition by a large margin, with Tshisekedi topping a survey in October and Fayulu leading a second published Dec. 28.
Provisional results of the presidential contest are due to be announced Jan. 6 and the final decision on Jan. 15. The next head of state is scheduled to be sworn in three days later. Voters also selected national and provincial lawmakers.
Affectionately known as big brother to various countries of the world (especially the third world), the voice of the International Monetary Fund speaks loudest in times of dire distress.
Their mission of offering help to countries in an economic crisis (protracted talks are still on-going with Zambia) has given rise to this name. But is the IMF really the good big brother?
Well, this is a question that invokes so much debate. To many politicians and other mainstream thinkers especially in the Washington corridors of power, its formation together with its twin brother institution the World Bank down Bretton Woods was a stroke of genius and its work is highly noble. According to the protagonists, the IMF clean up the mess of a little child who cannot think for himself and to dare question the nobility of the IMF is sheer foolishness on the part of the critics. When a child messes up, he shouldn’t dare say anything; he should just let the elders do the necessary clean-up, they have argued.
As a result of such perspective, the IMF always see themselves as the clean-up guys, coming with as much force and authority to the negotiating table. Sit back and let us handle your mess is the unspoken rule of the game for the men in black suits from Washington DC.
Critics on the other hand are highly vocal of their detest for the IMF. The sound of the name IMF itself is like a sharp knife slowly being driven down through their bowels. It’s painful to say the least. To them, the IMF is an angel of death bent on bringing nothing but suffering to the common man and creating an illusion of nobility that only benefits their paymasters and a few elites in host countries. The voting structure has especially been one grey area that has been subject to much ridicule by the critics.
Under the IMF, voting structure is based on a quota system assigned to each country based on its relative position in the world economy. Under this system, it is basic votes (same for all countries) plus one vote for every SDR100, 000 held. In layman language, the more financial contribution a country makes, the greater the voting power. The USA alone has an 18 percent voting rights and the only nation with power of veto, this further grows to 38 percent when you add Germany, Japan, France and Britain as of 2016 data.
This quota based voting system has in a way divided countries into two broad groups, that is, creditors and debtors and has effectively put them on a collision course with differing interests. This according to the critics has been the root of all the “silent evil” associated with the institution as it endeavors to pursue the interests of its largest shareholders in most of its dealings, after all, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. The verdict for this group is very clear, anything but the IMF. Former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere had some misgivings about the IMF as he was fearful that debt-ridden African states were ceding sovereignty to the institution and once famously asked “who elected the IMF to be the ministry of finance for every country in the world?
As a result, there have been calls for an “alternative” financier of the last resort that would work within the dynamic and context of emerging markets economies proposed by this group. An idea that has given birth to regional or block financial institutions like the New Development Bank by the BRICS nations. However, this initiative has not yet gained traction to challenge the mighty IMF, needless to say, it’s a step in the right direction.
The author’s perspective? Well, it’s not so much of a perspective as it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery. A riddle that I haven’t yet solved. On the one hand, a good grounding in Economics gives me some insight into their way of thinking. A country in dire economic stress needs committed and disciplined fiscal and monetary reforms coupled with other structural reforms to put it on the road to recovery.
However, what puzzles me the most is how the IMF since time immemorial has relied on what I call the “Red pill” to cure “all” its patients. The proverbial red pill is simply the neoclassical reforms that the IMF imposes on every other country that comes knocking on its doors. To treat countries as diverse as Ghana, Greece, Bolivia, Zambia and Argentina just to mention a few as the same simply puzzles me. I believe Economics and economies in general are dynamic, always to be interpreted within a certain context. Any chance of successful reform in my view should take into consideration the unique context of a particular economy. The red pill in my view is not some magic wand that will observe the law of gravity in any part of the world it is used. This is misguided thinking. In some cases, it has to be taken whole, in others, half a tablet and in still other cases with a pinch of salt.
For now, however, the IMF puzzle is one am yet to solve. However the case, it’s a puzzle in which something somewhere is amiss. What is your verdict on big brother?
The author of this article is an Economist, Writer and Business Executive. The views expressed herein are solely my views and do not in any way represent the views of my employer, church and any other organization I am affiliated to.