The World Bank Doing Business (DB) team has announced Nigeria as one of the top-20 improvers in doing business out of 190 countries.
Dr Jumoke Oduwole, Special Adviser to the President, Ease of Doing Business, disclosed this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
She said that the announcement came ahead of the Oct. 24 release of the 2020 World Bank Doing Business rankings.
Oduwole said that the World Bank Doing Business Report was an objective assessment of prevailing business environments based on a number of ease of doing business indicators.
According to her, in Nigeria, the report assesses doing business conditions in the two largest commercial cities of Lagos and Kano.
“The World Bank’s announcement acknowledges reforms spearheaded by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in the areas of operationalizing a new electronic platform that integrates the tax authority and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
“It also acknowledges reforms carried out in some of the World Bank Doing Business indicator areas such as starting a business, registering property, getting construction permits, getting electricity, enforcing contracts, and trading across borders.
“The CAC also upgraded its name reservation platform and, in Kano, there is now an electronic platform for registering business premises online, eliminating the need to appear in person.
“In Lagos, land administration was made more transparent following the digitisation of cadastral plans in a geographic information system; digital copies of cadastral plans are now easily obtainable.
” Nigeria also made getting electricity easier by allowing certified engineers to conduct inspections for new connections. Initiatives also made commercial litigation of smaller cases more efficient.
“The Chief Judges in Lagos and Kano issued practice directions for small claims courts introducing pre-trial conferences and limit adjournments.
“ Finally, customs integrated more agencies into its electronic data interchange system, and port authorities launched an e-payment system, speeding up both exports and imports.”
She said that over the past three years, Nigeria’s score has steadily improved in the World Bank Doing Business Report, after years of decline in both score and ranking in the years preceding 2016.
Oduwole, who is also PEBEC Secretary, said that in 2017, Nigeria moved up by an unprecedented 24 places in the Doing Business rankings.
The presidential aide said that for the first ever, Nigeria was also recognised as one of the top 10 reformers in the area of doing business that year.
Oduwole, said that the recognition being given to Nigeria was one of the top 20 most improved countries, who had implemented the most reforms in 2019 was significant.
According to her, the validation confirms that PEBEC’s strategy is working and it will continue to push even harder.
“These improvements in the standing of Nigeria trail the reform agenda being implemented at national and sub-national levels across the country since the establishment of PEBEC by President Muhammadu Buhari in July, 2016.
“The PEBEC works towards the fulfilment of the projections of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), which is striving to deliver sustainable economic growth in Nigeria by restoring growth, investing in our people, and building a competitive economy.
“PEBEC, through the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat, has carried out over 140 reforms so far in a bid to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.
“With the impending ratification of the Companies and Allied Matters Bill and the introduction of the Business Facilitation (Omnibus) Bill, 2019 in view, along with other pending regulatory, judicial and sub-national reforms, Nigeria is poised to meet its goal of being a top 100 ranked economy by 2020.
“The announcement indicates that our goal of moving into the top 70 doing business destinations by 2023 remains achievable,” she said
FG insists Shell, Mobil, Chevron, others should pay $62 billion ‘arrears’
The Federal government has insisted that it would recover over $62 billion it claims as arrears of profits due it from 1998 under the production sharing contracts (PSCs) between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its joint venture partners.
The international oil companies have taken the matter before the Federal High Court in Lagos and are denying any liability.
The six international oil companies with joint operating agreements with the NNPC include Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and Chevron Nigeria Limited.
The others are Nigeria Agip Oil Company, TotalElf Nigeria and Pan Ocean Oil Company.
Under the terms of the 1993 PSC, the NNPC and the joint venture partners would review their profits sharing formula once crude oil prices rise above $20 per barrel.
But the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said this review has not taken place since October 1998 when oil prices rose above the stated threshold.
Recently, the government decided to trigger the review and demanded huge arrears of profits. But the joint venture partners have been reluctant to pay or adjust the profit-sharing formula in their various operating agreements.
Malami was unable to say exactly how much Nigeria is claiming from the oil majors but he estimated the amount in excess of $62 billion.
Since the claim by the Nigerian government, the six JV partners with the NNPC have filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos to contest the allegations of violation of their PSCs and indebtedness.
“Regardless of the jurisdiction you look at, the case is about the rule of law and compliance with the prevailing laws; about rights and entitlements as they relate to the contract between the parties,” the minister said.
Apart from Shell, which holds 55 per cent equity in Shell/NNPC joint venture, the other five control at least 60 per cent of the interests in the shares.
In 2014, crude oil prices at the international market averaged $100 per barrel.
The minister said the IOCs told the court they were not liable to the payment because Nigeria made no formal attempt to activate the PSCs review clause after crude oil prices rose above $20 per barrel.
But Malami said government filed a counterclaim that the activation was automatic.
“The concern of the IOCs is about the establishment of their respective rights. A case has been established about the right of the government to enforce its laws. If indeed there exists such a right, then the remedy must naturally follow.
“What matters is the reconciliation of the figures. The government went to court for the purpose of ascertaining the liability and the validity of the calculations of the claims,” he said.
On the argument that government may have slept on its right by not enforcing the review of the PSCs immediately crude oil price rose above $20 per barrel, Mr Malami said it does not matter when the government decided to seek the enforcement of its laws.
He said as far as the PSC was concerned, it remained a function of law to activate the review at any time, so long as the law remained “valid, subsisting, applicable and enforceable.”
“The fact that government did not take immediate steps to demand the review and payment does not invalidate its action now to make a claim of right, provided the claim of right is rooted in law.
“As far as the Nigerian government is concerned, it is a function of law as to whether the review is automatic or not. The liability and responsibility of right are mutual and operative.
“The parties are in court to interpret if the review of the PSC was automatic, or whether the Nigerian government slept on its right by not activating the right to review the sharing formula when it became due.
“That is a function of judicial interpretation. That is why the parties are in court. The existence or otherwise of liability as far as PSC agreement is concerned is a function of law and the parties are in court to determine as a function of law,” he said.
On the timing of the claims, Malami said insinuations that the government was targeting and squeezing foreign companies for funds to pull the country out of poor fiscal condition was lacking in substance.
He said apart from the IOCs, the government was still pursuing its agenda to recover looted asset from individuals and groups at home.
On the impact of the claims on investment in the country, he said the government was conscious of its obligations to promote good investment climate with regards to the prevailing laws and their enforcement.
He said despite the ongoing court action, the parties have continued to meet, engage and discuss, saying he was optimistic the engagements would eventually translate to settlement or full-blown negotiation process.
On alleged threats by the IOCs to withhold decisions on further investments in Nigeria until the matter is resolved, the Minister said the government was not worried about any backlash by way of negative business sentiment.
He said the action will instead create a win-win situation for all parties.
NNPC, NLNG seal $2.5 billion gas supply contract
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has signed a $2.5 billion pre-payment agreement with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) for upstream gas development projects to supply gas to Trains 1 to 6 of the plant.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, at the signing, urged shareholders to expedite work and expand production capacity beyond Train 7 to take advantage of the huge opportunities in the global LNG market.
The signing of the gas supply pre-payment agreement was witnessed by the Country Chairman of Shell Companies in Nigeria, Osagie Okunbor, and representatives of Total, Eni/NAOC, amongst others.
The GMD said the agreement was significant as it would help in resolving the issues around gas supplies to Trains 1 to 6 of the plant.
He said there was a need to fast-track action on the process to bring more trains on stream.
“Here at NNPC, we are thinking beyond Train 7. If your ambition is Train 7, then you have to work hard to change that,” Mr Kyari told the shareholders.
Despite being a huge success story as a company, the GMD said the NLNG must go beyond its current achievements and initiate other viable projects capable of generating better returns on investment.
He said the partners should be concerned on what other projects they can quickly deliver to take advantage of the enormous gas potential in the country.
Besides, he said there was a need for the partners to take advantage of what is happening in the global market and do things very differently.
”There are opportunities in the global market our company must move fast into those locations,” he said.
The official said the pre-payment gas supply agreement was a milestone which aligned with the Federal Government’s aspirations of monetising the nation’s enormous gas resources.
He said the agreement will protect the federation’s investment in the NLNG; ensure full capacity utilisation, consisting 22 metric tons per annum (MTPA) of LNG and 5 MTPA of NGLs of Trains 1-6 plants; generate employment, and provide new vistas of growth opportunities in the nation’s LNG sector.
Earlier in his address, the Managing Director of NLNG, Tony Attah, said the signing of the gas supply pre-payment agreement was a significant step towards ensuring the company’s business sustainability and competitiveness.
Attah called for support to ensure the Final Investment Decision on the Train 7 Project is taken this year without fail.
He said the project was no longer an ambitious one in view of recent developments in the global LNG market.
Group petitions multinationals over gas flaring, oil spillage
The Network Advancement Programme for Poverty and Disaster Risk Reduction (NAPDDRR), has petitioned International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Akwa Ibom State for gas flaring and oil spillage without commensurate measures to cushion the effects.
The National President of the group, Alhaji Al Mustapha Edoho disclosed this in an interview in Uyo, the state capital.
Edoho explained that the action became necessary following decades of gas flaring, oil spillages and environmental degradation caused by oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities by the IOCs.
He also expressed dismay at the exploration activities of the oil firms without any recourse to Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) analysis, saying “activities of the oil firms have seriously impacted negatively on people’s lives, environment and ecosystems.”
In his words, “We petitioned the oil firms demanding records of mitigation system to cushion the effects of gas flaring, oil spills and other environmental effects and what we got as responses are not satisfactory to us.
“The frontier Oil casually told us that gas flaring is a routine regime in their company operations to provide gas to ExxonMobil and others. The management of ExxonMobil just dismissed our petition as if they don’t owe anyone any obligation and that is why we are seeking redress in court.”
“ExxonMobil Unlimited has flared gas in Esit Eket and other oil-bearing communities in Akwa Ibom since 1970 till date without any remediation programme to cushion the devastating effects.
“Frontier Oil joined in such environmental unfriendly practice in 2012. So, as an environmentally-friendly organization, we have to commence action to compel these organisations to adhere strictly to internationally recognized standards in oil exploration activities to keep our environment safe.
“Our ecosystem have been destroyed, lives lost, farmlands and aquatic lives completely degraded by the activities of these firms without any commensurate compensation to assuage the feelings of the people of these communities.”
He blamed the government for being insensitive to the plight of the people of the oil-bearing communities of Onna, Ibeno, Eket and Esit Eket, alleging that, “the host government is only concerned with what it gets as tax from the IOCs without considering the negative impact of the exploration activities of the oil firms on the people and environment.
Edoho, therefore, urged the state government and other regulatory authorities to compel the IOCs to adhere to the international regulatory framework that guides operations of oil firms especially in a developing economy like Nigeria.
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