Daily Watch – Buhari commissions world’s 2nd-largest urea plant, Sudan denies Russian military presence

23rd March 2022

Nigeria plans to become a net exporter of fertiliser after commissioning the world’s second-biggest urea plant. The 3 million-ton facility near Lagos, the commercial hub, adds to the existing output of 3.1 million tons in the West African country, according to the central bank. The biggest plant of its kind in Africa, owned by billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote, is already shipping to the U.S., India, and Brazil. “This fertiliser plant is expected to further advance our administration’s drive toward achieving self-sufficiency in food production in the country,” President Muhammadu Buhari said at a ceremony in Lagos on Tuesday. “The nation also stands to gain extensively in earnings of foreign exchange from the excess production and exports from the plant.” The commissioning of the plant comes as prices for crop nutrients surge because Russia’s war with Ukraine has put a massive portion of the world’s fertiliser supply at risk. The urea plant supports Nigeria’s efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its vulnerability to the price and output of oil that accounts for the bulk of the nation’s exports. The project, according to the company, cost about $2.5 billion (₦1.04 trillion). While Nigeria is estimated to have the capacity to consume as much as 7 million tons of fertiliser a year, current consumption is only about 1.5 million tons. The plant is owned by Dangote, Africa’s richest person, who is investing $19 billion (₦7.89 trillion) in projects on the continent including the fertiliser plant and a 650,000 barrel-per-day oil refinery outside Lagos. The refinery, which is expected to be completed in September, will supply domestic consumers and markets elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

MultiChoice Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of Naspers’ MultiChoice Africa, has increased the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages. “In light of the rising costs of inflation and business operations, we have had to review the price of our packages to keep delighting our customers with great entertainment, anytime and anywhere,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday. “Therefore, from April 1, 2022, a new pricing regime for both our DStv and GOtv packages will be in effect.” Multichoice said its DStv package will now cost: Premium (₦21,000), Compact + (₦14,250), Compact (₦9,000), Confam (₦5,300), Yanga (₦2,950), Padi (₦2,150), Business (₦2,669), Xtraview + a PVR access fee (₦2,900). The new prices for the GOtv package are GOtv Max for ₦4,150, GOtv Jolli for ₦2,800, GOtv Jinja for ₦1,900, GOtv Lite for ₦900. To cushion the price adjustments, Multichoice said customers who pay on or before their due date (before 1 April 2022) would be eligible to pay the old price. Also, customers who pay consistently on time (before their due dates) for a period of 12 months would also be eligible to pay the old price. “Customers who pay for 10 months upfront on the new price will get the 11th and 12th month free,” the company added.

The House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill to establish a regulatory framework for tech startups in Nigeria. The bill, an executive bill sent to the House of Representatives on March 3 by President Muhammadu Buhari, seeks to provide the legal framework for the operation of tech startups in the country. Section 31(1) of the bill proposes a 35 percent tax holiday for eligible employees of start-ups in Nigeria for a period of two years from the day of engagement. “An eligible employee of a labelled startup shall be entitled to a personal income tax exemption of 35% on the income of the employee for a period of two years from the date of engagement by a labelled startup,” the section reads. The bill was considered on Tuesday by the lawmakers and passed for second reading. The bill is coming amidst the revelation of abuse of workers by some major startups in Nigeria. On Monday, African tech site, Tech Cabal published a story on the working conditions at a leading fintech, Benzo Africa. The story sparked outrage on Twitter, as employees of some of the major tech companies revealed their experiences in those companies. #Toxicworkplace trended on Nigerian Twitter on Monday. However, this bill is silent on working conditions in the tech sector. The bill seeks to create National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the mandate to provide the policy direction for the council, which includes the creation of the Startup Support and Engagement Portal. The bill also proposes tax incentives for employing graduates without work experience and access to loans and grants by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Sudan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday denied the presence of Russian private military contractor Wagner Group in the country, in response to a statement by Western diplomats. Representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and Norway wrote in a piece published in a Sudanese newspaper on Monday that the mercenary group with ties to Moscow “spreads disinformation on social media and engages in illicit activities connected to gold mining.” The Sudanese statement comes after one of Sudan’s military leaders paid a high-profile visit to Russia on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sudan’s foreign ministry accused the diplomats of trying to interfere in Sudanese affairs and of dragging the country “arbitrarily” into the Ukraine conflict. “They alleged that the Russian Wagner security company was present in Sudan and carrying out training, mining, and other illegal activities… which the government of Sudan denies completely,” the statement said. Wagner Group has been tied by U.S. authorities to Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who denies links to the company. In 2020, the United States sanctioned M Invest and its subsidiary Meroe Gold which it said were controlled by Prigozhin and operating in Sudan. A U.S. Treasury announcement at the time alleged that M Invest was a cover for Wagner forces in the country, helped develop plans to suppress protesters including through social media disinformation, and was awarded gold concessions. In December 2020 and May 2021, Facebook took down accounts it linked to the officially defunct Internet Research Agency, also linked by U.S. authorities to Prigozhin, that researchers say spread content supportive of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Dagalo, who helped lead an October coup that ended a civilian-military power-sharing arrangement, met high-level Russian officials in Moscow on a trip that began on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine. The following week, he said that Sudan was open to an agreement on a naval base with Russia or any other country.