The United Bank of Africa (UBA) incurred ₦4.94 billion as travel expenses in 2020, a sizeable chunk of the ₦12.2 billion incurred by ten banks quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as travel expenses in 2020. At the top was UBA which incurred ₦4.94 billion as against ₦7.06 billion in 2019, followed by FBN with ₦3.67 billion as against ₦6.78 billion in 2019. FBN is the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd. The third on the highest travel list is Zenith Bank with ₦1.882 billion in 2020 as against ₦2.751 billion in 2019. While on the other hand, Fidelity Bank spent the least on travels in 2020, compared with all of its competitors. The financial institution spent ₦217 million in 2020. It also recorded the lowest in 2019 when it spent ₦317 million on travels.
Africa’s largest crude producer says it’s spending up to ₦120 billion ($294 million) monthly on gasoline subsidies, setting up the stage for policy reforms. While Nigeria produces 1.6 million barrels of crude a day, the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. imports virtually all its fuel from abroad due to the country’s low refining capacity, reselling it locally at a subsidised price. “Our current consumption and evacuation from the depots is about 60 million litres a day,” NNPC Group Managing Director Mele Kyari said at a briefing Thursday. “We are selling at ₦162 ($0.40) a litre, compared to the actual market price of around ₦234,” he said. That amounts to a subsidy of about ₦100 billion to ₦120 billion a month, according to Kyari. Raising pump prices, let alone allowing them to move in line with international crude markets, is a risky proposition for Nigerian politicians. Many in Africa’s largest economy, which also hosts the highest number of people living in extreme poverty globally, regard cheap fuel as their single dependable benefit from the country’s misspent oil wealth. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is considering ways to cushion the impact of fuel subsidy cuts. The policy change would lead to a deregulation of the downstream sector, opening up the fuel-import business to private companies. The NNPC is in talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide foreign exchange to gasoline importers after deregulation, Kyari said. “We expect all oil marketing companies to commence import so that the burden will be taken away from the NNPC,” he said.
Days after Berlin’s Humboldt Forum museum said it was pursuing the return of its Benin Bronzes, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland said it would repatriate to Nigeria a sculpture from that same cache of artworks, which was looted by British troops during the 19th Century and dispersed across Europe. The work is one of thousands that were taken in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, now part of Nigeria, and other similar works have ended up in the collections of august European institutions such as the British Museum in London and the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris. No other institution has committed to repatriating any of its Benin Bronzes, making the University of Aberdeen the first to do so. The University of Aberdeen is sending back a single artwork, whereas the Humboldt Forum, the British Museum, and others own hundreds of objects each from the Benin Bronzes group. In a release, the university said it had acquired the sculpture in 1957 at an auction—a means that Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections at the school, characterised as “extremely immoral.” The University of Aberdeen’s sculpture depicts the ruler of Benin, known as the Oba. The news comes days after the newly inaugurated Humboldt Forum, a consortium of various German institutions, said it would not show any of 530 Benin Bronzes owned by Berlin’s Ethnological Museum in its displays. In their places, there will be replicas or blank spaces. The museum has begun pursuing the process of returning the Benin Bronzes, though the final decision on whether the objects can be returned to Nigeria will be in the hands of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages the Ethnological Museum’s collection. When the university sends its work back, the sculpture could appear at the Edo Museum of West African Art, a new institution that will house the Benin Bronzes upon their return. It is currently slated to open in 2025 in Benin City.
A huge container ship blocking the Suez Canal like a “beached whale” may take weeks to free, the salvage company said, as officials stopped all ships entering the channel on Thursday in a new setback for global trade. The 400 metres (430 yards) Ever Given, almost as long as the Empire State Building is high, is blocking transit in both directions through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels for oil and grain and other trade linking Asia and Europe. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said nine tugs were working to move the vessel, which got stuck diagonally across the single-lane southern stretch of the canal on Tuesday morning amid high winds and a dust storm. “We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis, one of two rescue teams trying to free the ship, told the Dutch television programme “Nieuwsuur”. A total of 206 large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal, according to tracking data, creating one of the worst shipping jams seen for years. The blockage comes on top of the disruption to world trade already caused in the past year by COVID-19, with trade volumes hit by high rates of ship cancellations, shortages of containers and slower handling speeds at ports. The world’s number one line A.P. Moller Maersk said it was considering diverting vessels around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, adding five to six days to the journey between Asia and Europe. It said time-sensitive cargo could be sent on trains and airplanes, although no decisions had yet been made. The SCA, which had allowed some vessels to enter the canal in the hope the blockage could be cleared, said it had temporarily suspended all traffic on Thursday. Maersk said in a customer advisory it had seven vessels affected. Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily, and about 12% of total global trade of all goods. “Every port in Western Europe is going to feel this,” Leon Willems, a spokesman for Rotterdam port, Europe’s largest, said. “We hope for both companies and consumers that it will be resolved soon.”