November 12, (THEWILL) – For those that have keenly followed the trajectory of Benedict Peters and his company, Aiteo, the country’s largest indigenous crude oil producer and operator of OML 29, a joint venture with the NNPCL, the announcement of its return to crude oil production and the introduction of a new Nembe Crude Oil Grade into the international market, after more than three years of non-production due to chronic crude oil theft and sabotage in the Niger Delta, was just a matter of time. Its return to production is also timely, occurring at a period when the nation urgently needs to raise production to increase foreign exchange earnings.
Like some of its contemporaries operating onshore assets in the Niger Delta, Aiteo has been at the mercy of crude oil thieves and saboteurs that illegally siphoned crude from its well heads and distribution pipelines. The unchecked criminality forced it to shut down operations and return to the drawing board to rethink and rejig its production and evacuation strategy.
After considering a couple of strategies, I recall Benedict Peters excitingly telling me several months ago that he had figured out an alternative means of production and evacuation. Today, because of this resilient businessman’s critical thinking ability, an ingenious strategy was developed and Aiteo has returned to production of around 50, 000 barrels per day with a plan to scale up to 100, 000 barrels per day in 2024. It has so far exported two cargoes of 950,000 barrels each of the Nembe Crude Oil grade with its attractive Assay of API 29 and low sulphur content to buyers in Europe.
This is no small feat by any measurement at all. The NNPCL, which co-owns OML 29 with Aiteo, in a statement on November 7, 2023, announcing the major development said, “With the NNPC-Aiteo OML 29 JV back onstream, Nigeria now boast of an additional crude oil export of 2 Cargoes at 950,000 barrels each per month and 1.2 Bcf of export gas monthly.
“This remarkable achievement signals the commencement of activities at Nigeria’s newest crude oil terminal, the Nembe Crude Oil Export Terminal (NCOET), which was licensed in line with the extant laws and Crude Oil Terminal establishment regulations.
“The terminal was conceived as a Floating Storage and Offloading Vessel (FSO) with a storage capacity of two (2) Million Barrels and the ability to offload crude oil to any export tanker from AFRAMAX to Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC).
“It has a loading capacity of 25,000 barrels per hour and will be exporting over 3.6 million barrels of Crude oil monthly at full scale of operation.
“Currently, hydrocarbon production from OML 29, which was hitherto constrained due to evacuation challenges owing to the security issues around the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) corridor, has now been debottlenecked through a collaborative and creative approach that led to the innovation of the Alternative Crude Oil Evacuation Solution.”
Other indigenous players with onshore assets can adopt similar strategies to revive their production and evacuation. Nigeria needs to regain the top spot as Africa’s largest producer.
As Aiteo continues its significant return to crude production in Nigeria and grows its solid minerals explorations opportunities in Southern and Central Africa, Nigeria will surely reap the benefits of these bold moves.
Like my Warri brothers will say, ‘Nothing do you bro, carry go’.
Congratulations to my big brother and friend, Benedict, the entire Aiteo team, the NNPCL and Nigeria for this feat. This clearly affirms my conviction that all our problems are surmountable only if we sincerely want to solve them.
Time to Rethink FG’s Social Intervention Programmes
In the quest to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and foster stability, Nigeria has witnessed a plethora of social intervention programmes over the past decade. Despite their noble objectives, these initiatives have encountered significant challenges and there is an urgent need to rethink and reevaluate their effectiveness. This imperative becomes even more pronounced when examining the global context, particularly in the West, where even with verifiable data and deterrence against corruption, social intervention programmes are often marred by malfeasance.
The trajectory of social intervention programmes in Nigeria reveals a mixed bag of successes and failures, pointing to the critical need for a strategic re-evaluation of the current approach.
I will begin by looking at the Federal Government’s social intervention programmes in the country since the 2004 National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), a medium-term development plan for Nigeria from 2003 to 2007 adopted by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The programme aimed to achieve four main goals: Wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction and value reorientation.
It had four main pillars: Reforming the way the government works, growing the private sector, implementing a social charter for the people and reorienting the values of the people.
The programme also had a state-level counterpart, the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS), and a local-level counterpart, the Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LEEDS), to ensure alignment and coordination among the three tiers of government.
According to the World Bank, the programme achieved some notable results, such as macroeconomic stability, debt relief, improved governance and transparency, increased foreign direct investment and enhanced human development indicators.
However, the programme also had some challenges and gaps, such as weak institutional capacity, poor infrastructure, low agricultural productivity, high inequality and regional disparities, as well as persistent insecurity and conflict. The major plank that affected the performance of these programmes was a lack of accurate statistics on poverty, especially income poverty.
Subsequent administrations, including those led by Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, introduced various social protection programmes. These initiatives targeted areas, such as universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, improving maternal healthcare and youth empowerment.
While some progress was made, disruptions due to changes in government leadership and, in some cases, poor programme design hindered sustained success.
The Community and Social Development Project (CSDP), adopting a bottom-up approach, emerged as a notable success. Operating in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states and benefiting 23 million Nigerians, CSDP empowered communities to drive decision-making, supporting marginalised groups in implementing micro-social infrastructure projects.
However, under the Muhammadu Buhari Administration, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme was introduced as part of the 2016 Social Intervention Scheme, aiming to lift vulnerable households out of poverty. Among all these social intervention programmes, this promised to herald a new regime of direct government-to-people relief. It was designed to be an expansion on the previous “Care of the People” (COPE) programme started in 2007. But it wasn’t or was it? You be the judge.
The government committed $1.3 billion in funding and received a $500 million World Bank credit for the CCT programme. The programme was aimed at providing monthly cash transfers of N5,000 to poor households identified through a national social register, with additional funds for priority cases. Over 297,000 households were supposed to be benefiting as of 2018, based on the programme’s objective of reducing intergenerational poverty through the cash transfers coupled with skills and business training.
It was not long before the selection process and cash transfer amounts became subjects of government criticism. Accusations of selective patronage favouring one section of the country were followed by allegations of corruption, stealing and mismanagement of funds. Till date, I don’t know anyone nor have I seen someone who knows a beneficiary.
The way forward requires a holistic and coordinated approach, learning from both successes and failures of past programmes. The current administration under President Bola Tinubu has launched new programmes without as much as careful considerations and a rethinking of the past failures.
The Renewed Hope Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, National Social Safety Net Expansion Programme, Renewed Hope Shelter Programme for the Poor, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, Renewed Hope Business Grants and Loans for Vulnerable Market Women, Farmers and Traders should present an opportunity to refine and improve existing strategies, but after a careful rethinking of strategies.
The Renewed Hope Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, with its ambitious goal of delivering financial intervention to 15 million households, marks a significant step. I don’t support any state funded programme that doles out money to the supposed poor and vulnerable in the society. The bulk of the monies are siphoned and don’t go to those they were designed to help.
There are more efficient and credible means of helping the very poor and vulnerable in our country that limits the theft and mismanagement of state funds. Free or subsidised transportation is a major programme that can be used. Free fertiliser to rural dwellers to help improve farm yields, free education through secondary school, free skill acquisition training and free start up kits, as well as free healthcare and feeding programmes are more effective than purported cash distribution.
As we do this, we will need a comprehensive data infrastructure. Establishing a robust data infrastructure is fundamental to the success of any social intervention programme. The government should invest in gathering accurate and up-to-date data on poverty, vulnerability and demographic information to ensure targeted and effective interventions.
Furthermore, clear policy frameworks are essential to drive social protection agendas. Coordination between different intervention programmes is crucial to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure a unified approach towards poverty reduction. In addition, social intervention programmes should be designed with long-term stability in mind.
As the landscape of social intervention programmes in Nigeria evolves, it is essential to critically assess past experiences and incorporate lessons learned into future initiatives.
The challenges are immense, but with a commitment to transparency, data-driven decision-making and community empowerment, Nigeria can forge a path towards social interventions that truly transform lives.
As President Tinubu’s government embarks on this journey, the nation has a unique opportunity to build a legacy of impactful and lasting change for its citizens.