Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, says Nigeria is in huge financial trouble. Obaseki said the FG printed ₦60 billion as part of federal allocation for March. Speaking at the Edo state transition committee stakeholders engagement on Thursday, the governor said the economy is no longer what it used to be. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s total public debt stock as of the third quarter of 2020 (Q3 2020) rose by ₦6.01 trillion within a year. The agency’s report noted that Nigeria’s total public debt stock constituting external and domestic debts stood at ₦32.22 trillion ($84.57 billion) as of September 30, 2020. Obaseki said the rising debt profile is worrisome as dependence on crude oil is no longer sustainable. “Nigeria has changed. The economy of Nigeria is not the same again whether we like it or not. Since the civil war, we have been managing, saying money is not our problem as long as we are pumping crude oil every day,” he said. “So we have run a very strange economy and a presidential system where the local, state and federal government, at the end of the month, go and earn a salary. We are the only country in the world that does that. “Everywhere else, the government relies on the people to produce taxes and that is what they use to run the local government, state and the federation. “But with the way we run Nigeria, the country can go to sleep. At the end of the month, we just go to Abuja, collect money and we come back to spend. We are in trouble, huge financial trouble. “The current price of crude oil is only a mirage. The major oil companies who are the ones producing are no longer investing much in oil. Shell is pulling out of Nigeria and Chevron is now one of the world’s largest investors in alternative fuel, so in another year or so, where will we find this money that we go to share in Abuja?” He expressed worry that the country has continued to borrow despite unclear means of refunding payments. The governor said the government must live up to its social contract with citizens. “When we got FAAC for March, the federal government printed additional ₦50-₦60 billion to top-up for us to share,” he said. “This April, we will go to Abuja and share. By the end of this year, our total borrowings are going to be within ₦15-₦16 trillion. Imagine a family that is just borrowing without any means to pay back and nobody is looking at that, everybody is looking at 2023, everybody is blaming Mr. President as if he is a magician.” 

Indications have emerged that the FG will retain a subsidy on petrol for the next six months, and the deferred removal may cost the country an astonishing ₦720 billion. According to a report in The Guardian, President Buhari ordered that the petrol subsidy should remain in place for the next five to six months to enable the government to carry out wide consultations before reaching a final decision on the issue. The paper quoted a top government official that is familiar with the issue described the impending widespread discussion with stakeholders as a departure from previous practice, stressing that there will be no decision to remove the subsidy until the last quarter of the year. “Specifically, President Buhari has asked the NNPC to suspend any idea on subsidy removal for five to six months so that a plan that does not harm ordinary Nigerians is evolved if the deregulation must go on,” the source explained. The plan, which is being coordinated by the Vice President, has three legs — continuing consultation within the government at federal and state levels, labour and civil society; provision of alternative energy sources, especially gas and fast-tracking infrastructure for that across the country; and development of effective relief and palliative options that must cushion the effect of subsidy removal if that choice becomes inevitable.

Governors in Nigeria’s South-East have announced the setup of a joint security outfit, codenamed Ebube Agu. The governors announced this in a communique issued after a meeting held in Owerri, the Imo state capital on Sunday. “The meeting resolved to maintain a joint security vigilante for the South East otherwise known as Ebube Agu,” the communique reads. “The meeting appreciated the formation of South-East joint security outfit code-named Ebubeagu. Headquarters in Enugu to coordinate our vigilante in the South East,” it said further. Ebonyi Governor Dave Umahi told journalists after the meeting that the establishment of the outfit is part of efforts to tackle insecurity in the region. The governors condemned the recent attacks on residents and security facilities in the region, and urged the inspector-general of police to meet with stakeholders to address the situation. “The political leadership in the south-east has resolved to bring together all the arsenals at their command, as one united zone, to fight and flush out criminals and terrorists from the zone,” Umahi said. “The summit resolved that to achieve this, there is a need to galvanise all the relevant stakeholders in the South-East, the political class, the business community, the bureaucrats and the intelligentsia to provide all necessary support to security operatives in the five south-east states to ensure total success in the fight against criminality in the zone. The heads of all the security agencies in the South-East have resolved to exchange intelligence in a seamless, effective new order that will help to checkmate crime in the zone. To fast track crime-busting in the South-East, the heads of security agencies have been mandated to draw up a comprehensive list of their logistics and material needs for sustainable success in the fight against criminality, for the immediate provision by the leadership of the South-East,” he added.

Uganda, Tanzania and oil firms Total and CNOOC Sunday signed agreements that will kickstart the construction of a $3.5 billion crude pipeline to help ship crude from fields in western Uganda to international markets. France’s Total and China’s CNOOC own Uganda’s oilfields after Britain’s Tullow exited the country last year. The signatories have now agreed to “to start investment in the construction of infrastructure that will produce and transport the crude oil,” said Robert Kasande, permanent secretary at Uganda’s ministry of energy. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Tanzania’s new leader Samia Suluhu Hassan, on her first official visit, attended the signing of the three accords that included: a host government agreement for the pipeline, a tariff and transportation agreement and a shareholding agreement. Uganda discovered crude reserves in the Albertine rift basin in the west of the country near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. Government geologists estimated total reserves at 6 billion barrels. However, the landlocked East African country needs a pipeline to transport the crude to international markets. The planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), with a length of 1,445 kilometres (898 miles), will run from the oilfields to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean seaport of Tanga. Uganda’s crude is highly viscous, which means it needs to be heated to be kept liquid enough to flow. Total has said EACOP could potentially be the longest electrically heated crude oil pipeline in the world. “It’s a very large project, one of the largest we should develop on this continent,” Total’s CEO, Patrick Pouyanné said, adding they expected oil production to commence in early 2025. To get the Ugandan crude flowing, Pouyanné said investments of more than $10 billion were required. The pipeline has met resistance from environmentalists who argue it will threaten ecologically sensitive areas along its route, including wildlife reserves and water catchment areas for Lake Victoria.