Earth Finds

Earth Finds

What Happened To Transparency?

By Simon Kolawolelive

LAGOS, Nigeria: At the annual Nigerian jamboree to the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas, Dr. IbeKachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum resources, told a “world press conference” on May 5, 2017 that Nigeria’s refineries would soon have new investors.

He said 26 investors had indicated interest in the epileptic refineries. “By September, we will unveil the investors for the refineries,” the minister said smoothly, typically. “When we came onboard, the refineries were not working but as we speak, we have sizeable investment portfolio for them to an extent that we don’t know who to partner with for the investment.” 

Let’s say I didn’t go to school at all. Or let’s say it was evening school that I attended. These would still be my takeaways from the minister’s proclamations: one, our refineries are now in a position to attract investment; two, 26 investors have indicated interest in taking over the refineries (on a repair, operate and maintain, ROM, agreement); three, we have not taken a decision yet because there are so many suitors to choose from; and four, we will announce the favoured investors by September. Without attending Harvard Business School, I would still conclude that it appeared the process was going to be competitive and transparent. 

On May 11, 2017 (six days later, right?) Mr. Wale Tinubu, the CEO of Oando Plc, told the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) that the group had received approval of the government to “repair, operate and maintain” the Port Harcourt Refinery together with “our partner” Agip, a subsidiary of ENI, the Italian company indicted in the Malabu/OPL 245 affair. Tinubu said: “We plan to increase the refinery capacity from 30 per cent to 100 per cent.” Great news, as far I am concerned. We need the refineries back as soon as possible; we have had enough of the endless TAMs gulping billions of naira and spewing out virtually no products for decades. 

Now this is where I need your help. The last time I checked, with the help of Google, May and September are different months. There are June, July and August in-between. With the help of Google, I also discovered that the gap between when Kachikwu spoke in Houston and when Tinubu spoke in Lagos was a whopping six days — or, to make it simpler, less than one week. There are usually four weeks in a month, and from May 5, when Kachikwu spoke, to September, there are 17 weeks, according to the all-knowing Google. With Tinubu’s disclosure, should we assume that May is the new September? Or that September came early for Oando, Agip and Kachikwu? 

But I think Google is overrated. There were so many questions it could not answer. For instance, I asked: “Is Oando among the 26 investors Kachikwu boasted about in Houston?” I could not make head or tail of the results. Google came up with “FOX 26 Houston KRIV”. Nonsense. But I got more gibberish for other questions: did Oando and ENI send in a bid? Was it an unsolicited bid? Was it selective tendering? If it was competitive bidding, how many bids were received for Port Harcourt? How much did Oando/ENI bid? How much did others bid? How much did the bidders promise to invest? How many years will the ROM run? Are there concessions for the new operators? 

I can understand why Google got stuck — that almighty search machine likes transparency. If you do not make your information public, it cannot make it public for you. The best, or should I say the worst, Google would do is to suggest answers that it thinks are related to your questions, even when there is no connection whatsoever. If you google most of the major concessions and major contracts awarded by this government, you will get irrelevant answers on the process. For the same reason: transparency is very scarce in these major deals. We just wake up one day and hear that one company has been awarded a job. Not a word on the process. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying Oando should not take over the Port Harcourt Refinery. I have devoted a significant part of my column-writing career to promoting the cause of Nigerian companies. I believe that one day, made-in-Nigeria will be enjoyed all over the world. I want Nigerian companies to fly our flag honourably. Even though I have been called names and subjected to sickening innuendos for promoting Dangote, Globacom, Oando and Innosons, among others, I am not about to repent. Americans are proud of their Apple, Microsoft and Chevron, and my dream is that our people and our companies will become global brands too. 

That said, though, I am very worried about an emerging pattern in this administration. President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on the strength of correcting the mistakes and misdeeds of the previous government, but I am seeing too much repetition for it to be coincidental. There is too much secrecy in the way many important things are done, and corruption, need we say, thrives on secrecy. Take away competition, take away transparency, take away accountability, and you have a perfect recipe for corruption. We cannot be sealing deals under the table without revealing the details to Nigerians and then claim we are building an open society.

We just woke up one day to learn that GE had secured the concession to take over the railways. How did it happen? What are the details of the deal? Is this the best possible deal Nigeria can get? We were just watching TV one evening and learnt that the federal government had finally signed a renegotiated concession agreement with the Global Steel Holding Limited (GSHL) for Ajaokuta Steel. Up till today, we don’t know the details. Ask questions and what you get as answer is: who paid you to ask? As a journalist, I’m used to the blackmail. I would have quit this job the day I joined if I had to pay attention to personal attacks. 

By the way, I know a bit about the procurement options. I know of “sole sourcing”, where you go to one provider only because no other provider does it — like buying a Rolls Royce from the maker. “Selective tendering” allows you to approach a few providers who meet certain criteria. There is “repeat procurement”, where you return to earlier provider because of time constraints and because they did a previous job well. All these need strong justifications because you are restricting competition, which is a major element of procurement. And then there is “competitive bidding”, where you throw it open to all. In all, Nigerians deserve to know the process adopted. 

Get me right. I am not saying anything illegal is being done in the case of the Port Harcourt Refinery. It just lacks transparency. That’s my point. And what about other moral issues? ENI again? As I write this, many Nigerians are being prosecuted or wanted by the EFCC for their involvement in the OPL 245 deal. They are being accused of taking part in an elaborate bribery scheme. But ENI, which is at the centre of it all and is being prosecuted by an Italian prosecutor for its role in the $1.3 billion affair, is cornering more deals in Nigeria without getting as much as a slap on the wrist. The impression being created is that our anti-graft war is very narrow. 

I sympathise with the government over the limitations imposed by procurement rules, particularly the constraint of speed, but the process was designed for a purpose. More so, this government has been in power for nearly two years, which means a lot could still have been accomplished over the years in spite of the constraints. And, remember, there are many options that can shorten the process which the government has been using for a while now. The biggest headache, though, is that there is too much opaqueness for us to conclude that transparency is a guiding principle. The chaos over the concessioning of Port Harcourt Refinery is a very good example. Dissonance.

 

Equatorial Guinea, Arabian Energy Reach Bioko Oil Terminal Deal

Following the signing of an agreement between the Government of Equatorial Guinea and Arabian Energy DMCC to work together on the Bioko Oil Terminal in Saudi Arabia, the realization of the petroleum tank farm gained some important momentum.

On May 11, the two sides agreed to collaborate on the development, implementation, construction and financing of the $500 million project. Bioko Oil Terminal aims to become West Africa’s largest oil and petroleum products storage facility and will transform Equatorial Guinea into a pivotal trading and services hub in the region.

“The Bioko Oil Terminal is a first of its kind storage facility for West Africa and would bring to the region energy security and transport economies of scale and efficiencies like we have never been before,” said H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea. “We welcome the addition of Arabian Energy and look forward to working together to move this project into realization.”

Bioko Oil Terminal brings several advantages for the region. It creates an African center for the distribution of petroleum products and crude oil and would stimulate the West and Central African industry through job creation and the reduction of imports. The tank farm would attract investment, build local financial capacity and increase shipments to key exports markets.

With 22 storage tanks and a total capacity of 1.2 million cubic meters, Bioko Oil Terminal would be built in two phases, the first consisting of refined production and the second capable of storing, handling and blending middle distillates and lights ends such as diesel, jet fuel, gasoline and naphtha, as well as crude oil. The shared terminal infrastructure will be operated on a “first come, first served” basis.

IRENA Commits To Drive Sustainable Energy Revolution

More than 300 high-level government representatives from 110 countries and the European Union — the largest number ever represented at an IRENA Council meeting — gathered Tuesday in Abu Dhabi to attend the 13th Council of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

At the outset of the meeting, the Council elected H.E. Mr. Li Fanrong, Deputy Administrator of the National Energy Administration of China as Chair of the meeting and Colombia as Vice-Chair.

“In our efforts to meet growing energy demand with cleaner, low-carbon and sustainable sources of energy sources, China has become one of the fast-growing renewable energy markets in the world.

It has now become evident in China that renewables can not only contribute to the on-going energy transition, but also drive sustainable economic growth,” said Mr. Li.

“China is open to cooperating with all countries across the globe on renewable energy development and deployment, and honored to be part of the IRENA’s invaluable efforts at the centre of international cooperation for greater renewable energy deployment.”

In the opening session, IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, presented the Progress Report of IRENA’s work. “We are in the midst of a major energy transition and renewables are at the centre stage of it experiencing continuous growth and development in more and more countries around the world,” said Mr. Amin.

“This transition has multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment. We look forward to working closely with our Members and stakeholders to further accelerate the global energy transition through strengthened international cooperation and innovative partnerships.”

For the remainder of the Council, participants will discuss the Agency’s future work as part of IRENA’s Work Programme and Budget for 2018-2019, and its Medium-term Strategy for 2018-2022.

Programmatic discussions will cover the investment needs for a low-carbon energy system, renewable energy jobs, and adapting electricity market design to high shares of variable renewable energy.

Events covering battery storage, renewable energy project development and facilitation, and the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility, is also planned.

Composed of 21 IRENA Members, the Council meets twice annually to facilitate cooperation among Members, oversee implementation of the IRENA work programme and complete substantive preparations for the Agency’s annual Assembly.

Investment Increases Renewable Energy Jobs – IRENA Report

More than 9.8 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2016, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017, released at IRENA’s 13th Council meeting, provides the latest employment figures of the renewable energy sector and insight into the factors affecting the renewable labour market.

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when just over five million people were working in the sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled.

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition. As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world,” Mr. Amin added.

The Annual review shows that global renewable-energy employment, excluding large hydropower, reached 8.3 million in 2016. When accounting for direct employment in large hydropower, the total number of renewable-energy jobs globally climbs to 9.8 million. China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable-energy jobs. In China for example, 3.64 million people worked in renewables in 2016, a rise of 3.4 per cent.

IRENA’s report shows that solar photovoltaic (PV) was the largest employer in 2016, with 3.1 million jobs — up 12 per cent from 2015 — mainly in China, the United States and India. In the United States, jobs in the solar industry increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from the previous year to over 260,000.

New wind installations contributed to a 7 per cent increase in global wind employment, raising it up to 1.2 million jobs. Brazil, China, the United States and India also proved to be key bioenergy job markets, with biofuels accounting for 1.7 million jobs, biomass 0.7 million, and biogas 0.3 million.

“IRENA has provided this year a more complete picture on the state of employment in the renewables sector, by including large hydropower data. It is important to recognise these additional 1.5 million working people, as they represent the largest renewable energy technology by installed capacity,” said Dr. Rabia Ferroukhi, Head of IRENA’s Policy Unit and Deputy Director of Knowledge, Policy and Finance.

The report finds that globally, 62 per cent of the jobs are located in Asia. Installation and manufacturing jobs continue to shift to the region, particularly Malaysia and Thailand, which has become global centre for solar PV fabrication.

In Africa, utility-scale renewable energy developments have made great strides, with South Africa and North Africa accounting for three-quarters of the continent’s 62,000 renewable jobs.

“In some African countries, with the right resources and infrastructure, we are seeing jobs emerge in manufacturing and installation for utility-scale projects. For much of the continent however, distributed renewables, like off-grid solar, are bringing energy access and economic development.

These off-grid mini-grid solutions are giving communities the chance to leap-frog traditional electricity infrastructure development and create new jobs in the process,” Dr. Ferroukhi said.

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