Lagos was an orderly urban environment 70 years ago. This was the case from the 1950s, when the city was a federal territory through to the 1960s when it became federal capital – a status it held until 1991.
The foundations of orderliness for any city are planning and management. Lagos had this in place in the early days. The city was governed by an elected Lagos City Council, Nigeria’s oldest, established in 1900. It was governed according to colonial legislation, particularly the 1948 Building Line regulations and the 1957 Public Health Law.
The city was much smaller and was made up of Lagos Island (Eko) which included Ikoyi and Obalende neighbourhoods. It was a beautiful environment that featured Portuguese, Brazilian, and British Victorian architecture. Its streets were clean and tree-lined. Urban crime was virtually non-existent.
Governance standards declined when political control of Lagos, and the rest of Nigeria, came under military rule between 1966 and 1979 and again from 1984 to 1999. Proximity of the two capitals – federal and state, respectively – in the Ikoyi and Ikeja neighbourhoods of the same conurbation, put more pressure on the city. In the 1970s the city expanded to link up previously distinct areas such as Ikeja, Mushin, Orile, Ojo, Oshodi and Agege.
The result was increased pollution, congestion and wear on infrastructure. This was particularly true between 1970 and 1991.
But things have changed. Efforts have been made to revitalise the city in terms of a cleaner and greener environment, improved road and water infrastructure, urban bus system and waste management, overhaul of security and consultation with citizens through town hall meetings.
Nevertheless, big challenges remain. The city still has far too many slums and squatter settlements, it lacks a functioning public transportation system, proper traffic management, efficient waste disposal, sanitation, adequate potable water supply and routine road maintenance.
Lagos also suffers because of problems that afflict the country. There isn’t regular electricity supply, and there are high rates of poverty and unemployment. And, as elsewhere in the country, many residents don’t comply with laws on building, traffic and sanitation.
Lagos was affected positively as well as negatively by Nigeria’s 1970s emergence as a major crude oil producer.
On the upside, there was investment in infrastructure. This included the building of the second bridge linking the Island, the Eko Bridge, and re-building of the first (colonial) Carter Bridge. The third and longest bridge was commissioned in 1990.
These bridges were aimed at improving accessibility between the two islands (Victoria and Lagos) and the mainland. But, uncontrolled commercial development on the islands has produced persistent traffic bottlenecks. This has been worsened by the lack of a public transport system.
Two developments added to pressures on the city. Its population burgeoned while infrastructure lagged behind. This period marked the beginning of the decline of planning for the city. The worst periods were the late 1980s and the 1990s. As architects Rem Koolhaas and Kunle Adeyemi noted in an interview, these were Lagos’ darkest times:
Lagos, in the 1990s, was the ultimate dysfunctional city and an example of what happens to a society where the state is absent. At that point the state had really withdrawn from Lagos; the city was left to its own devices, both in terms of money and services.
The city was being governed by the military. But it was not cut out for governance, had no accountability and couldn’t care less about planning and environmental issues. As a result it routinely disregarded existing regulations.
In the 1990s, for instance, the largest public park in Lagos – the old, colonial 10-hectare Victoria Park in Ikoyi – was sold as residential development land. The waterfront of the Lagos Cowrie Creek in Victoria Island was also sold for commercial development, effectively blocking direct public access to the waters and a picturesque view of Ikoyi.
The collapse of zoning all over Lagos also led to residential neighbourhoods such as Victoria Island and southwest Ikoyi being converted for commercial use. The military had no reasoned response to Lagos’ urban challenges. Instead, it took the decision in 1975 to establish a new capital in Abuja.
This move, which finally came to fruition in December 1991, left Lagos forlorn.
Positive changes have taken place.
For example, over the past 15 years the authorities succeeded in raising more taxes using money to restore basic infrastructure, expand public services and strengthen law enforcement.
Research shows that the commitment to reform the city was driven by electoral pressures as well as elite ambitions to construct an orderly megacity. The return to democracy helped to make these changes possible by enabling an elected government to work in the people’s interest.
Improvements includes public transport and the reclamation and greening of previously disused and misused spaces below Lagos’s many flyovers, bridges and interchanges. In addition, roads have been fixed and pavements built. In some parts of the city there is potable water supply and blighted residential and commercial areas have been rebuilt.
But, given decades of neglect, a great deal still needs to be done.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of coherent and integrated development .
Another major issue is flooding which Bongo Adi, a Lagos based environmental expert argues, hasn’t been decisively tackled.
Nor have improvements over the past decade impressed everyone. As Femi Akintunde argues, Lagos remains deplorable, rowdy, unsanitary, and a city of the urban poor. Akintunde is the managing editor and CEO of Financial Nigeria International Limited.
For these issues to be fixed, the standard of governance has to improve.
Who should run the city?
There are two potential authorities: Lagos state, sitting at the top, and the municipal authorities which interact with the grassroots.
The problem is that Lagos city isn’t really run by the city authorities. But effective urban governance should be “bottom-up”, making it possible for the people to take increasingly greater control over their lives.
In addition, being run from the top means that local capacity is being stunted. This has implications for sustainable change. As international fellow at International Institute for Environment and Development Jorgelina Hardoy says,
sustainable development in cities largely depends on the actions and capacity of local governments.
Whoever takes charge should recognise the necessity of getting residents’ buy-in before implementing modernisation policies. The city can’t develop by leaving its people behind.
Also, city planners should not plan for only the rich to the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged. While accepting that slums and informal settlements have to be tackled, my research recommends a policy rethink that should involve
enabling strategies which fully address the rights of people who are illegally settled on public land.
As Nigeria celebrates 59th Independence anniversary, an indigenous company says it is intensifying efforts to begin assembling of solar cars by 2020.
Mr Moses Onaja, Chief Executive Officer, Sun Energy Community Development Initiative (SECODI), made the disclosure last week during an exhibition of solar products in Ibadan.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the exhibition was aimed at inspiring Nigerians to have access to renewable and clean energy which is environmental friendly.
"We want to promote the use of renewable energy products in Nigeria to promote a clean and healthy environment.
"What we want to do now is to start assembling solar cars in Nigeria. Let it not just be in China.
"By the special grace of God, we want to see how we can work with the government to ensure that; we are hoping that in 2020 we should have the assembly point here," he said.
Onaja said that the company discovered that some people died from diseases caused by fossil fuel, adding that it would want to bring solutions toward minimising deaths from air pollution in Nigeria.
"For over six years, we have been into solar research, and today, we have our solar car. It is a product of an imagination that has been translated into reality.
"This car can run purely on solar battery, and you don't have the issue of monthly maintenance or any kind of repair that you have to be doing regularly because it has little movable parts inside," he said.
He described the manufacture of a solar car as a breakthrough, adding that it had no accident-prone part. Onaja said that SECODI worked in partnership with some foreign companies to bring the car into reality, saying that the vehicle was built in collaboration with various technicians.
He gave the assurance that the price of the car would go down on commencement of assembling in the country.
"Even now, it is very affordable compared to what you expect of a car that doesn't run on fuel. It is actually very affordable," he said. NAN reports that the event featured presentation of a solar car to Mr Gbenga Akintoye, the Oyo State Coordinator of SECODI.
The event also featured exhibition of SECODI solar television sets and tricycles, among other products using solar energy.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ostensibly came to South Africa to boost business ties between the two countries. But he missed a golden opportunity to drum up business by skipping a forum with business leaders because he was worried about security.
President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the forum for several hours, addressing the business people and taking questions. Some of the business people who had been expecting Buhari were disappointed by his no-show, sources said.
He was billed to appear with Ramaphosa but his security people checked out the venue of the forum – the sprawling convention centre of Gallagher Estate in Midrand – and decided on the morning of the event that it was not secure enough for him to attend, according to diplomatic sources.
One said there were no hard feelings from the SA government side – who found Buhari warm and friendly – just a feeling that he had missed a good opportunity to boost commercial ties between the two countries.
These took a knock during the recent eruption of xenophobic violence in South Africa, some of it directed against Nigerians and their businesses. Nigerian mobs retaliated in Nigeria by attacking the premises of South African companies such as Shoprite and MTN.
Agreeing on measures to prevent a recurrence of this violence and building up the commercial relations between the two countries were the major focal points of Buhari’s state visit and the Binational Commission between the two countries which he and Ramaphosa co-chaired on Thursday.
Buhari’s anxiety about security appears to be related more to tensions within the Nigerian diaspora rather than any fear of attack by South Africans.
While he was meeting Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on Thursday, Tshwane Metro Police reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a handful of Nigerians – calling themselves Biafran nationals – who were demonstrating in front of the building. Some carried placards calling Buhari an imposter and demanding that Ramaphosa send him home.
They claim the “real Buhari” died in 2017, when Buhari was very ill and spent most of the year receiving treatment in London.
Self-styled Biafrans are calling for a separate state in southern Nigeria, trying to revive the movement which lead to the secession of several states to form the Republic of Biafra in 1967 in a region mostly inhabited by Igbo people.
That prompted a long civil war in which between 500,000 and two million Biafran civilians died before Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.
Another grievance of some expatriate Nigerians is the arrest in August this year of Omoyele Sowore, a Nigerian journalist and human rights activist. He ran against Buhari in the February presidential elections and was arrested after rejecting the election as rigged and calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow.
When Buhari addressed the Nigerian community at a Pretoria hotel on Friday, some of his compatriots refused entry to the meeting were calling for Sowore’s release.
Rather ironically, even some members of Buhari’s own ruling APC party could not gain entry, because they were considered too radical, they told journalists.
A few Nigerians who were allowed into the meeting said Buhari spoke to them for about 10 minutes.
“Let me also call on Nigerians to be law-abiding and respect constituted authorities while you live here,” Buhari said, according to remarks tweeted by his office.
“May I also enjoin the few that sometimes give us a bad name, to desist from such misdemeanours and be our good ambassadors.”
This echoed his reply at a joint press conference with Ramaphosa after their meeting on Thursday to a South African journalist who asked him if he did not think the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa against Nigerians, among other foreign Africans, was partly prompted by the perception that they were involved in so much crime.
He said Nigerians understood the maxim that, “When in Rome do as the Romans do” and therefore obeyed the laws of their host country.
At the Pretoria hotel meeting, Buhari also assured his compatriots that he and the South African government had agreed on measures to tackle the xenophobic violence to ensure it did not recur.
Ramaphosa had told a press conference after meeting Buhari that these measures included establishing an early warning mechanism to pick up any signals of imminent xenophobic violence so steps could be taken to pre-empt it. He and Buhari also said that police and intelligence agencies in both countries would cooperate with each other, share information and raise levels of alertness to forestall such violence.
According to official sources, the Nigerian government is also concerned that Nigerian citizens in South African jails are not prevented from using their cellphones. Many of them continue to mastermind criminal activities in Nigeria from their South African cells, the Nigerians complained.
The South African government promised to look into this. It is not clear if the Nigerian government was referring, among others, to Nigerian oil militant Henry Okah who is serving a 24-year jail sentence in a South African prison after the High Court convicted him in 2013 on 13 terrorism-related charges over twin car bombings in Nigeria during the country’s Independence Day celebrations in 2010.
Ironically, given Buhari’s no-show at the business forum, he and Ramaphosa “welcomed the important role of the Business Forum which took place on the margins of the State Visit,” in a joint communiqué after their Union Building meeting.
They also welcomed the decision of the two governments to establish a Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment which is expected to be critical in boosting private sector participation in the economies of both countries.
Ramaphosa said business and investment relations between the two countries were already strong and Nigeria accounted for 64% of SA’s trade with West Africa. The two governments had agreed to further strengthen economic ties by deepening their reforms to ensure their economies were more open to business and encouraging more Nigerian investment in SA.
He and Buhari noted the “significant footprint” of SA companies in Nigeria in sectors such as telecommunications, mining, aviation, banking and finance, retail, property, entertainment and fast foods.
By contrast, they also welcomed Nigerian business in SA but noted that it was mostly “small, micro or medium sized – with the exception of the big investment of Dangote Sephaku Cement.
At the press conference after their meeting, Ramaphosa said he would like to see a better balance in the investment relationship and would seek to achieve this by improving the environment for big Nigerian companies to invest here.
“We want to welcome more and more Nigerian businesses to operate in our space,” Ramaphosa said.
He added growing relations between the two countries were evidenced by the 32 cooperation agreements signed between them, covering a wide field including trade and industry, science and technology, defence, agriculture, energy, transport, arts and culture and tourism.
The two governments identified key sectors to boost investment for economic growth and development, including roads, railways, mining, manufacturing and agro-processing.
Credit: Daily Maverick
Soft power is the opposite of coercive capability or hard power, such as the use of economic and military might. Soft power involves trying to influence other countries using culture, values and policies.
South Africa is one of the African countries that has taken advantage of the opportunity that the use of soft power presents. It’s successfully hosted international summits and sporting events such as the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the 2010 World Cup football tournament.
I would argue that Nigeria, with its impressive soft power capabilities, has surprisingly lagged behind.
There are three key ways in which Nigeria exercises some degree of soft power. These are culture, business and foreign policy programmes that send Nigerians abroad to help with peacekeeping and skills training.
Despite having remarkable soft power resources, there’s no coordination of efforts to harness their potential. Compare this to China, that has used its soft power assets to extend influence across the world. This has included building Confucius Institutes, exporting cheap products and offering development assistance. These have shaped the preferences of other states and consequently helped it to emerge a global power.
Abuja does not manage its soft power carefully.
Nigeria’s first problem is that it has a democracy deficit. The country doesn’t score well on major indices such as the Democracy Index, The Freedom House, the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index that all measure democratic governance.
This damages Nigeria’s democracy credentials and undermines its moral authority to promote effective governance across the continent.
The influence of Nollywood
One of the most potent promoters of Nigeria’s cultural soft power is arguably Nollywood. The country’ movie industry has displaced Hollywood and Bollywood as the most important movie industry on the continent. It has also overshadowed local content across Africa and its diaspora. It’s now the world’s second largest producer of films after Bollywood.
Its increasing appeal is demonstrated by its visibility in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. Among African viewers, the extent of Nollywood’s influence can be heard in mimicking the Nigerian accent, growth of Nigerian pidgin English, and Nigerian fashion.
Nigerian music has also made inroads. For example, Nigerian musicians have dominated the MTV Africa Music Awards since their inauguration in 2008. And many black British and American artists are of Nigerian origin. Some, such as Jidenna and Simon Webbe, have used their fame to promote Nigerian culture, and to challenge negative stereotypes of their ancestral home.
Both Nollywood and the music industry provide the platforms to challenge the negative portrayal of Nigeria and its 180 million citizens as purveyors of corruption, drug-trafficking, terrorism, fraud, and internet scams.
But neither has been able to shift the dial in Nigeria’s favour. Take Nollywood, it has failed to exert the same sort of influence as Hollywood in the US which not only showcases the US’s economic and military might but also its cultural hegemony. This is in no small part a consequence of the US government’s significant support to the industry.
Compare this with the small grants offered to Nollywood. These are clearly insignificant given the potential of the industry.
In the realm of foreign policy, Nigeria’s soft power is illustrated by its peacemaking and peacekeeping roles. This is most notable in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Sudan’s Darfur region. This is addition to contributions to regional integration in West Africa and liberation struggles in southern Africa.
Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps has served as an institutional platform to project the country’s soft power. Through this initiative, Nigeria sends volunteers to countries with a dearth of skills in fields such as architecture, engineering, law, medicine, and science.
Since its inception three decades ago, more than 4000 volunteers have been deployed to over 38 countries. Ongoing requests for these volunteers serve as proof that Nigeria’s skilled workers are in demand.
Nevertheless, the technical volunteer programme and Abuja’s overall foreign policy have failed to change anti-Nigerian sentiments fundamentally. This reflects a lack of coordinated efforts by the Nigerian government to subtly use the opportunity presented by the Technical Aid Corps.
Seizing the opportunity
Given these realities, Nigeria is, at best, a potential soft power state. While its soft power resources are greater than most other African states, its soft power influence leaves much to be desired.
To ameliorate this situation, Abuja should take advantage of the soft power resources at the country’s disposal. West Africa’s Gulliver has abundant human and material resources. Nollywood needs to reinvent itself to shape the perception of its African audiences about the country. Nigerian policymakers and academics, finally, must engage the sources and implications of Nigeria’s soft power.
During a recent Media Engagement meeting held in Abuja, Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board (NCDMB) Executive Secretary, Engr. Simbi Wabote expressed his opposition towards the creation of multiple Local Content Boards.
According to him, “the NCDMB can modify its templates to suit other sectors. In our view, this is the prudent way to expand and entrench local Content regime in Nigeria.” The National Assembly plans to develop the extant Local Content Act 2010 to include other sectors of the economy for further domiciliation of contracts.
All signs now point to Nigeria strengthening its Local Content implementation and serving as an example in Local Content Policy for other African countries. Celebrating the successes of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 9 years after its implementation, the industry now confronts new prospects of growth.
Nigeria – having just signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – is one of the latest African nations to join the entity of 54 African Union States that seek to reduce the economic barriers in pursuit of creating an Africa-wide customs union.
Engr. Wabote also perceives joining the entity as a source of benefits for local oil and gas service companies without threatening national sovereignty.
He said “if you take the population of Africa and the potential market and given the general level of development of countries, the sky is the limit for any manufacturer that makes the right investment, has the right quality and partnerships.”
A focus on shortening the contracting cycle, sectorial and market linkages and effective monitoring of local content delivery in the country has characterized Nigeria’s Local Content agenda in recent years.
Communicating the plan for further Nigerian Content development will be the priority at the 9th Practical Nigerian Content Forum. Engr. Simbi Wabote will join over 600 industry stakeholders at the four-day Practical Nigerian Content Forum on 2 – 5 December in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria.
The Forum is recognised as the leading platform to engage government and industry players from across the value chain to maximise business opportunities and increase Nigerian Content implementation. Convene with senior government representatives and the entire oil and gas value chain to discuss the keys to unlocking the industry’s potential through Nigerian Content at the 9th Practical Nigerian Content Forum.
In spite of the peace initiative, a number of travel agents told one of our correspondents that Nigerians were not buying tickets to South Africa, except for special reasons.
I haven’t sold tickets to Johannesburg for two weeks – Agent
“I have not booked a single ticket to Johannesburg in the last two weeks,” a travel agent, who did not want to be named revealed.
“Nobody is going there at the moment. It is as if there is a total boycott except it is extremely important. Since the problem between Nigeria and South Africa began, the only people travelling are those that had booked their flights long before now and students that need to return to school and have no choice but to resume,” the agent said.
Another Lagos-based agent said the situation had degenerated to the point that special travel packages that were put together for tourists to the country had either been cancelled or diverted to some other destinations as people were no longer interested.
Nigerian tourists changing destinations from SA to Dubai
According to the agent, Nigerian tourists are changing their vacation destinations to Dubai, Mauritius and other places.
“There are people with pending tickets that have requested change of airline or destination. Even people scheduled to travel; some have said they no longer want to travel to South Africa,” he said.
Findings show that South African Airways, which operates daily flights between Lagos and Johannesburg, has been affected.
South African Airways enjoys a near monopoly on the route being the only airline that offers direct flights from Lagos to Johannesburg; other airlines on that route such as Kenyan Airway and Rwandair have to get to Nairobi and Kigali respectively, before taking off to Johannesburg. The airline, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.
I left SA when attacks became frequent – Mother of two
Meanwhile, a woman who was among those evacuated on Wednesday shared her experience, saying that she decided to leave South Africa when the attacks became frequent.
The single mother of two, Ololade Atere, from Oyo State, said her nail studio was destroyed in the recent xenophobic attacks.
Atere said, “My experience was bad. I was into fixing of nails and one day I got a call that my shop had been destroyed. I decided to come home because the violence became too much and I couldn’t keep running with my two kids.
“I lived in South Africa for five years, but I have no plans of going back. I am tired of the violence. I have to be safe. I am home now. I have to find a job or business.
“I left Nigeria when I was pregnant. The intention was to have my baby, have some travel experience and return. I wanted to come back after I had my first baby but people convinced me to stay. But now, I have had enough.”
S’Africa said my children were its citizens – Mother
Atere said she was supposed to be among the first batch of Nigerians to return, but was stopped at the airport.
“They said I couldn’t travel with my kids because I gave birth to them in South Africa and they are citizens,” she said.
She added that she was made to swear an affidavit before she was allowed to bring the children with her to Nigeria.
‘I left my child in S’Africa’
Another returnee, who identified himself as Uchenbi, told the News Agency of Nigeria that South Africans harboured hostility towards Nigerians.
He stated, “South Africans are angry at Nigerians for no reason and would blame them for whatever reason they deem fit.”
Uchenbi, who was in South Africa for 12 years before he returned to Nigeria on Wednesday, said he left his child in South Africa, while she was sleeping.
The man, who is married to a South African, said his wife would have suffered, if he had been killed in South Africa.
S’African police didn’t probe my husband killing – Woman
Another returnee, Blessing Chioma, accused the South African police of inaction when her husband was killed in 2012.
Chioma said, ”I’m coming from South Africa, Johannesburg; I was married to a Nigerian, but South Africans killed him during the xenophobic attacks. I reported the case to the police, they know about it; they look for the guys, but you won’t know them because they come in groups, so nothing was done; the case is closed,” she said.
”Since then I’ve been coping with the children, but I returned them to Nigeria because I was no more meeting up in training them. So they’re here now in Nigeria; I came back to take care of them, but we came with nothing because they burnt our shops.”
Source: Nigerian Eye
Nigeria’s biggest tomato plant is counting on the government’s restriction of food imports to sustain operations after going idle again six months after it resumed operations from an almost three-year shut down.
When Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, decided to set up the plant, it was with the clear goal of supplanting imports of tomato paste mostly from China but that has suffered setbacks.
Currently, the 1,200-ton-a-day tomato-processing factory near the West African nation’s northern city of Kano is closed, unable to get its required feed stock as farmers have switched to other crops at the beginning of the rainy season in May.
The plant was idle for more than two years until March this year over a supply disruption partly caused by a price dispute with farmers. Even after the disagreement was resolved, the factory was unable to ramp up production beyond 20% of its capacity due to inadequate supply of tomatoes, as most of the farmers lacked the needed credit to expand production.
The company is losing at least 30 million naira every month with employees idle, according to the managing director of Dangote Farms, Abdulkareem Kaita.
Nigeria consume an average of 2.3 million tons of tomatoes a year and produce just about the same amount, according to a 2017 report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Without adequate storage facilities and an efficient means of transporting them to the markets, about 45% of harvested tomatoes go to waste. Africa’s most populous country imports about 1.3 million tons of the red vegetable to fill the gap, mostly from China and other parts of Asia. Nigeria is the third largest importer of the commodity in Africa.
“We knew tomato is a seasonal crop before we started as it’s the case in China and Europe,” Kaita said. “What we set out to do was reduce the post harvest loss yearly to feed the factory.”
Unfazed by the problems, Dangote Farms is pushing ahead with its original objective of replacing tomato-paste imports. With President Muhammadu Buhari making the reduction of food imports a key objective of his administration, the Nigerian central bank is implementing a new credit plan intended to help the farmers grow tomatoes all year round.
Dangote Farms has also acquired a 5,000-hectare farm to grow a high-yield variety of tomatoes to meet its factory’s requirements, while introducing the same strain to other farms to increase their productivity.
“With this, the output of the farmers would tremendously improve and the processing factory would record ample supply,” Kaita said.
Kaita also wants the government to enforce its decision to curtail tomato-paste imports to reduce incidents of dumping of subsidized paste on the Nigerian market.
“The effective implementation of the government’s policy in restricting tomato paste importation will guarantee more investment in the tomato value chain, which will eventually lead to self-sufficiency in few years to come,” Kaita said.
The latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa have ignited the long-standing tensions between the country and Nigeria. These are captured in the retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria and the diplomatic outrage by Nigerian authorities.
Nigeria also boycotted the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Cape Town. More critical was the temporary closure of South African missions in Abuja and Lagos and Nigeria’s decision to recall its ambassador.
But in the larger scheme of things, xenophobia is a distraction from the leadership role that Nigeria and South Africa should play on the continent on fundamental issues of immigration and economic integration.
A constant irritant
Accurate figures are hard to get. But Statistics South Africa put the number of Nigerian migrants at about 30,000 in 2016, far below Zimbabweans and Mozambicans.
Xenophobia has remained a constant irritant in Nigeria-South Africa relations since the major attacks on African migrants in poor neighbourhoods in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg in 2008 and 2015. But, contrary to popular perception, xenophobic attacks do not disproportionately target Nigerians. Nigerians often exaggerate the effect of violence on their citizens. That is probably because Nigeria has a better organised, savvy, and loud diaspora constituency in South Africa.
Unfortunately, the loudness of the Nigerian diaspora transforms victimhood into foreign policy, generating the reactions that have been witnessed recently. It also plays into the naïve narrative of the “liberation dividend”. This entails Nigerians seeking to be treated uniquely because of their contribution to the struggle for majority rule in South Africa. There were no such expectations from the other countries that supported South Africa’s liberation struggle.
This narrative has taken on an equally economic tinge. South African companies are heavily invested in Nigeria. So, they often become targets of Nigerian ire in times of xenophobia.
The accurate picture is that xenophobia affects all African migrants. These are mostly migrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and, increasingly Ethiopians, Kenyans and Somalis. Nigerians are affected. But they’re not on top of the list.
What drives xenophobia?
Migrants are easy targets. That’s because they are seen as being better off by the locals. They therefore become targets of people who feel their circumstances have not been addressed by government. It is no surprise that xenophobic attacks have typically occurred in poor neighbourhoods that have been affected by service delivery protests since the mid-2000s.
Second, xenophobia thrives on ineffective policing in South Africa. Barely two days after the Johannesburg attacks started, the national police spokesman admitted that the police were running out of resources to manage the violence. This prompted the Premier of Gauteng, the country’s economic hub, to threaten to also deploy the army if the violence continued.
But the police are sometimes complicit in stoking anti-foreign sentiments. The July 2019 raids on foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg in apparent efforts to stamp out illicit goods added to the current climate of xenophobia. When some business owners retaliated against the police, some local leaders appropriated the language of “threats on South Africa’s sovereignty” to justify the police response.
Reforms are urgently needed to create a competent, less corrupt, better-resourced, and civic-minded police service.
Xenophobia is also an outcome of a rickety migration and border control regime. Efficient border controls are one of the hallmarks of sovereignty and the first line of defence against xenophobia. Broken borders breed criminality. These include human and drug trafficking. Human and drug trafficking feature prominently in the discourse on xenophobia in South Africa.
How, then, does xenophobia distract South Africa and Nigeria from what should be their leadership on core African issues?
The weighty issues of creating a humane and just society for South Africans and migrants alike will ultimately be led by the South African government. Outsiders can make some diplomatic noises and occasionally boycott South Africa. But these actions are unlikely to drive vital change.
In fact, the overreactions by Nigeria and other African countries simply undercut the South African constituencies that have a crucial stake in wide-ranging reforms that address the multiplicity of problems around xenophobia.
In the previous instances of xenophobic violence, Nigeria urged the African Union (AU) to force South Africa to take action. But such unhelpful statements only inflame passions and prevent civil diplomatic discourse.
Instead, the best policy would be for Nigeria to engage South Africa through their existing binational commission. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to visit South Africa next month.
Taking the lead
Rather than the perennial relapse into shouting matches and hardening of rhetoric, it is essential for Pretoria and Abuja to take decisive leadership at the continental level. The two nations must articulate immigration policies.
The newly-inaugurated AU Free Movement of Persons Protocol will not be implemented if South Africa and Nigeria do not join hands to make it a reality. More ominously, migration to South Africa as the premier African economy will only get worse in the coming years. This, as Europe and the United States tighten their borders against African migrants.
Also, without the leadership of its two major economies, Africa is not going to make any traction on the new treaty establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Ironically, the WEF meeting in Cape Town addressed ways to boost intra-African trade. Nigeria should not have boycotted it because of xenophobia.
The oilfield fires of the Niger Delta burn day and night. Metal pipes snake through the swampland, spewing flames so vast they cast the sky in apocalyptic orange. Southern Nigeria sits atop a bubbling stew of oil and gas. Companies want only the former, so they incinerate the latter. The industry calls it “flaring.”
For millions of Nigerians, flaring is a curse. It fills the air with toxic fumes that cause respiratory disease and cancer and later fall as acid rain, which damages homes and crops. It also wastes vast amounts of energy in a region where many villages lack electricity and cities suffer daily blackouts.
In 2008 the Nigerian government said it would end flaring by using oilfield gas to generate electricity. The minister of petroleum resources acknowledged that the challenge would be “enormous.” Converting gas requires it to be captured, transported, refined, and piped back to power plants and onto the grid.
Officials struggled to persuade big multinationals to invest in the required infrastructure, so concessions were granted to 13 smaller companies, some virtually unknown. One was Process and Industrial Developments Ltd., or P&ID, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands but had no website or track record. Its chairman was Michael “Mick” Quinn, a 68-year-old Irishman with a rakish mustache and decades of experience in Nigeria, mostly as a military contractor.
Quinn knew powerful people, including the petroleum minister, who guaranteed P&ID a 20-year supply of “wet,” or unrefined, gas for a plant the company would build. The raw material would be supplied for free, to be treated and returned at no cost. P&ID would instead profit from the byproducts, butane and propane. Everyone stood to benefit, not least the villagers whose homes would be lit by electricity rather than the wan glow of flaming methane.
Then the plan fell apart. The government failed to secure any waste gas from oil companies, let alone link up the necessary pipeline, and the plant was never built. In 2012, P&ID notified the oil ministry that it was suing for breach of contract in a London arbitration forum. After a set of closed legal proceedings, judges awarded P&ID $6.6 billion, one of the biggest amounts a company has won from a sovereign state. When Nigeria dragged its feet on payment, P&ID teamed up with a hedge fund and moved the case to public courts, where it could ask judges to seize state assets, including bank accounts and cargo ships.
In the summer of 2018, a man who’d worked for Quinn contacted Joseph Pizzurro, a veteran New York lawyer hired by Nigeria to lead its defense in the U.S. The caller wanted to talk about the P&ID case. “I don’t think it’s genuine,” the man said, according to an account he gave Bloomberg Businessweek on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety. He told Pizzurro that Quinn had conspired with officials to profit from government projects that were doomed from the start and that P&ID was one of at least three such lawsuits involving Quinn. The caller couldn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate his claims, though, and he didn’t contact Pizzurro again.
This August, P&ID won a ruling from a London judge allowing the firm to start seizing Nigerian assets. Hailed as a vindication by Quinn’s company, it caused an outcry in Nigeria. The country’s finance minister said at a press conference that the size of the award, which has risen above $9 billion with interest, meant all Nigerians would pay a price. The chair of the central bank said that the case has affected monetary policy. Toward the end of the month, the justice ministry opened a corruption investigation into how the gas plant deal was struck. “The contract was designed to fail right from inception,” attorney general Abubakar Malami told reporters. If the Nigerian government is right, P&ID was an audacious scheme that had made unwitting accomplices of legal professionals, financial institutions, and politicians around the world.
The company and its founders remain elusive. A Nigerian newspaper recently published a list of unanswered questions about the firm: Where are its offices? How many people does it employ? How did such a tiny company win such a large concession? Quinn isn’t around to answer them; he died of cancer in 2015. But a close examination of his career, drawn from public records, leaked documents, and interviews with friends and former associates, shows that P&ID wasn’t the only Quinn project to end in disappointment, lawsuits, and corruption allegations. It was just the largest—the one that was supposed to provide his biggest payday.
Man in Mohair
Quinn grew up in Drimnagh, a tough neighborhood in Dublin. After leaving school as a teenager in the 1950s, he trained as a mechanic. An ordinary blue-collar life might have beckoned had one of his neighbors not started a show band, the Royal Olympics. These groups were unique to ’60s and ’70s Ireland: shiny-suited young men playing rock ’n’ roll or jazz, perpetually touring church halls and farm sheds to earn shoeboxes full of cash.
The Olympics needed a manager, and soon Quinn had a new career as one of the natty, ruthless handlers a BBC documentary labeled “men in mohair suits.” He ran some top acts: Daddy Cool & the Lollipops, Twink, Dickie Rock. An old friend recalls that he’d approach a singer and say, “How much are you earning? One hundred pounds a gig? I can get you 1,000.”
Quinn stuck with the industry for a while after the show bands’ popularity declined—newspaper reports suggest he arranged an Irish tour by Diana Ross and the Supremes—but there was more money to be made elsewhere. At some point in the ’70s he started working in Nigeria, either as an oil trader or a financier of cement deals, depending on which of the scattered accounts of his life you believe. He began profiting from a construction boom taking place in Lagos, which was then expanding with such chaotic abandon that hundreds of cement-bearing cargo ships were lined up at port waiting to dock.
He kept working in Ireland, too. In 1979 he and a partner, Brendan Cahill, formed an umbrella company with the resolutely dull name Industrial Consultants (International) to oversee their interests. They began working with the government, for example getting a public grant worth $450,000 to start a videocassette factory near Dublin. The project went bust within two years.
Quinn’s business drew on some powerful allies dating to his show band days. One of the closest was Albert Reynolds, a former music hall impresario who was elected to Parliament in 1977 and became prime minister in 1992. Two years after being elected PM, Reynolds was promoting Kent Steel, one of Quinn’s companies, as a potential savior of Irish industry. Kent had recently won 3 million Irish pounds (about $4.3 million at the time) from the European Union to explore cleaner technology for making steel—potentially a huge boon. Instead, the project produced nothing but some sketches and a bunch of debris.
Joe McCartin, then a member of the European Parliament, says he raised concerns with an EU official that the deal was a scam and was told, “Don’t worry. Your prime minister, Albert Reynolds, knows all about the project.” The EU did eventually start a probe into the grant, and McCartin, who’s now retired, says its investigators showed him a letter from Irish prosecutors relaying that a fraud had been committed but that they couldn’t identify the perpetrators. The probe was eventually closed without penalty; the EU refused to fulfill a freedom of information request about the case, citing privacy rules. Reynolds passed away in 2014.
Quinn’s name came up again during a nationwide corruption inquiry in Ireland. The Mahon Tribunal, as it was eventually known, lasted for 14 years, compiling evidence of graft on an epic scale. Quinn was called as a witness in June 2007, one of the few times he ever spoke on the record. The tribunal wanted to know more about relationships Industrial Consultants had with Frank Dunlop, a shady lobbyist, and Liam Lawlor, a corrupt Republican MP who’d resigned in disgrace before being killed in a 2005 car crash outside Moscow.
Quinn denied knowledge of invoices that bore his company’s name—payments for golf fundraisers, he guessed—and said he thought his signature had been forged on checks. He had no recollection of many of his dealings with Dunlop. “You are a singularly unhelpful witness,” Alan Mahon, the presiding judge, told him. “What you are telling us is nothing, absolutely nothing.” The tribunal later found that tens of thousands of pounds had flowed from Quinn’s companies to Lawlor, but Quinn wasn’t recalled to the stand, and neither he nor Industrial Consultants faced any action.
By then, Quinn had developed a fearsome reputation. Several former associates told Businessweek they were scared to speak on the record about him, because they believed he had ties to Irish paramilitaries; one said Quinn told him his father had been in the original Irish Republican Army in the 1920s. Employees introduced him as “the chairman,” and he employed a man with a pugilist’s squashed nose to drive guests around Dublin, apparently without great regard for red lights. A former Quinn associate says that when Quinn’s daughter ended a brief marriage to David Boreanaz, an American actor best known for roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Boreanaz called Quinn to make sure there was no bad blood between them. Boreanaz’s manager didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Trouble With Nigeria
Throughout the 2000s, Quinn lived a kind of double life, divided between Nigeria and a comfortable suburban house near Dublin. At home he was Mick from Drimnagh, living with his wife, Anita, who’d been his childhood sweetheart, and their two Doberman pinschers. On Tuesday nights he’d drop Anita off at bingo, then pick up fish and chips for dinner.
Life in Nigeria was very different. The country’s freewheeling capitalism was fraught with risk and opportunity. The writer Chinua Achebe detailed the climate in his 1983 polemic The Trouble With Nigeria: Contracts with the military government were currency, doled out by senior politicians to allies and friends as the public bore the burden of hidden kickbacks, inflated prices, and stolen materials. Military rule ended in 1999, but democratic Nigeria was proving just as restive and complex. There were tribal uprisings in the Niger Delta and kidnappings and religious conflict elsewhere.
Quinn nevertheless thrived, befriending presidents and civil servants alike. He and Cahill used a company called Marshpearl to bid for lucrative military contracts, initially registering the name in Ireland, then in 1999 using the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. to create Marshpearl Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands. To the outside world, the BVI company was practically untraceable. Mossack Fonseca documents leaked to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and made available to Businessweek by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show that Marshpearl Ltd.’s directors were nominees, paper executives whose sole job was to sign documents. (Reached by phone, one of them, Nigel John Carter, a Geneva-based trusts specialist who was also a director of another Quinn BVI vehicle called Kristholm Ltd., said, “I’ve never heard of those two companies.”)
Marshpearl sponsored a local polo team, giving Quinn an excuse to mix with the Nigerian ruling classes. His sons attended elite private schools with the sons of politicians and generals, who asked Quinn to help them acquire helicopters, Japanese motorcycles, and more. On the golf course back in Ireland, friends recall, Quinn would pick up the phone to talk to various officials or military leaders. “Did you get them guns?” one friend remembers him asking in his distinctive Drimnagh drawl. His golf buddies were never sure if he was joking. His contacts included Theophilus Danjuma, who’d risen to prominence in the ’60s by leading a bloody coup against Nigeria’s military ruler. Danjuma went on to become a general, then entered business and eventually politics, ascending to defense minister in 1999. He later sold a stake in a Nigerian oil field to a Chinese state company, helping make him a billionaire.
One of the few people who would speak on the record about Quinn’s life in Nigeria is Neil Murray, a friend of 30 years who was involved in several Quinn projects there. Sitting one night at the Abuja Hilton piano bar, a favorite haunt, Murray wasn’t hard to spot: a gray-haired figure so hunched over he was bent almost double, puffing cigarettes and chatting with businessmen and prostitutes, who called him Papa. After initially accusing a Businessweek reporter of being a spy for the Nigerian government, he agreed to talk. “Mick knew Obasanjo. He knew Yar’Adua,” Murray said, referring to former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. “He knew everyone.”
Among the projects Murray was involved in was a contract to repair and upgrade 36 British-made Scorpion tanks at an abandoned plant at Bauchi, in the dusty heart of Nigeria. It had all the hallmarks of Quinn’s deals in the country: complexity, misdirection, and a substantial payday for the middleman. “There was a subsequent contract, and a subsequent contract, and a subsequent contract,” Murray said. “It was an ongoing process.” Quinn personally recruited military experts to manage the work and find replacement parts. At one point, Danjuma visited the site.
Several people involved in the venture described each vehicle as an opportunity for profit. Petrol engines were replaced with diesel engines. New radios were installed. When faulty valves needed replacing, one former employee said, he found a British supplier for a few pounds a unit. “Too cheap,” he remembered Quinn telling him. They found costlier valves elsewhere. The more expensive the new part, the bigger Marshpearl’s cut.
A memo viewed by Businessweek that circulated among Quinn’s team noted that Marshpearl had charged the Nigerian army for undelivered tank parts, making his organization “vulnerable.” But the company kept winning contracts, in spite of this hitch and others. It’s not clear how many millions of dollars Nigeria spent on the Bauchi project, but the relationship likely made Quinn a fortune.
For one contract, a spinoff from the main deal, his company sought to supply about 4,000 rounds of tank ammunition made by Belgian defense company Mecar SA. A January 2005 memo outlining Marshpearl’s plan says Quinn’s staff told Mecar they would handle bidding, contracts, and billing. Mecar’s managers “do not want to know the details as they would be embarrassed with Belgian authorities and U.S. owners,” the memo said.
The blueprint called for Marshpearl to establish a company called Mecar SA, register it in Cyprus, and open a bank account for the new offshore entity to avoid Nigerian taxes on the income. The original Mecar would write up a bid for the contract and send it to Marshpearl, where the document would be scanned and altered to increase its value by 20%—commission for Quinn and his friends. Payment to the original Mecar would be routed through the offshore one. All documentation was to be delivered by hand.
The “paper trail” was Marshpearl’s greatest area of concern, the memo’s author wrote, without explaining why. Broadly speaking, while offshore companies have legitimate purposes, they’re also favored by those trying to avoid tax or government scrutiny or hide illicit income. In some jurisdictions, secrecy laws make it virtually impossible to find out who owns them. Registering a company with a virtually identical name to a separate, legitimate business would have the effect of further obscuring the real beneficiaries.
To a watchdog or another outside observer, the Mecar arrangement would look like a simple transaction between a respected manufacturer and the army, with the middleman getting its cut. A tender bid document sent by the offshore Mecar to the Ministry of Defense a few months after the memo’s date placed the contract’s ultimate value at €4.9 million ($5.6 million), meaning Marshpearl would have made almost a million euros.
Shown the memo at the Hilton bar, Murray said, “Very clever.” He didn’t see anything improper in the deal’s structure but added, “I wasn’t directly involved.” A spokesman for Mecar’s current owner, Nexter Group, said the Marshpearl deal took place before it acquired the company in 2014 and that it complies with rules and regulations.
The Art of the Failed Deal
It’s said that in Nigeria you can go from pauper to millionaire overnight and back again just as quickly. Even old hands could be caught out by a sudden shift in the political climate, as Quinn was in October 2006. That month, he was charged with espionage and handling secret military materials, alongside his son Adam, a close associate from Ireland named James Nolan, three Nigerian officials, and three individuals from Israel, Romania, and Russia.
Details are sketchy, but one of the Nigerian officials submitted an affidavit saying the indictment was over a “large scale of contract scam which involves very senior officers of the Ministry.” Nolan and Adam Quinn didn’t respond to requests from Businessweek for comment, but they denied the charges at the time. The prosecution appears to have been dropped within a year. A defense lawyer involved with the case recalls that the government intervened.”
That same year, Quinn formed P&ID and began exploring opportunities in gas power. He also branched out into medical technology. In 2006, more people were living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria than in any country but South Africa or India. The Nigerian health ministry’s efforts to tackle the crisis included a multimillion-dollar partnership with Dublin-based Trinity Biotech Plc to supply HIV testing kits and help set up a factory at the Sheda Science & Technology Complex, which was being constructed outside Abuja. The contract for the factory went to an entity called Trinitron, which local media assumed was a subsidiary of the similarly named Irish company. In fact, it had no formal connection to Trinity Biotech of Dublin and was jointly owned by the health ministry and a group of Irish and Nigerian businessmen. Trinitron’s Irish directors included Adam Quinn and James Nolan, according to three people familiar with the deal. Quinn’s firm Industrial Consultants became a shareholder.
A few years into the contract, Trinity discovered that Trinitron had registered a company called Trinity Biotech Nigeria domestically and another called Trinity Biotech Joint Venture in the British Virgin Islands. Executives from the original Trinity were furious when they learned of the clones. In 2008 and 2009, they pulled out of the project entirely.
“Trinity Biotech had no ownership stake in Trinitron or the Sheda project or in any entity or assets within Nigeria,” the Dublin company said in a statement to Businessweek. “Our role in the project was the provision of HIV test kits, which we did, although we were left with a significant unpaid debt when the project ended.” Eventually, government funding dried up, and, according to two sources, Trinitron was reported to local police for allegedly misspending state funds, though no one was charged.
Gerry Nash, Trinitron’s former project director, said in a statement that test kit production at the factory in Nigeria hadn’t progressed because the health ministry wouldn’t buy the kits locally. “People in the Nigerian Ministries were more interested in picking up commissions on imported products,” he wrote. He said that Trinitron had succeeded in developing an IT system and in training HIV specialists, and he denied that the venture was a failure overall, even though the Sheda factory wound down after a few years.
Today, the Sheda site outside Abuja is overgrown with weeds. A pockmarked sign outside the front gate attests that Trinitron once operated there, but none of the buildings look functional. Gravel piles dot the parking lots. The handful of bored security guards and administrative staff on-site say only that Trinitron is no longer there.
When it wasn’t possible to squeeze profit directly from a floundering project, Quinn could enlist the law for the purpose. In 2010, Industrial Consultants brokered a $5 million deal with the Nigerian Air Force to repair ejector seats in six Alpha Jets, small fighter craft often used to train pilots. A British company called North Wales Military Aviation Services Ltd. would do the fixing.
A few months into the contract, the air force terminated it for no apparent reason. The ensuing dispute ended up before a Nigerian arbitration panel, which found that the military had pulled out for “flimsy, untenable, and unacceptable reasons.” It awarded NWMAS about $2.3 million for work allegedly done, plus interest, according to a copy of the private judgment seen by Businessweek.
The case was straightforward enough, apart from one detail: NWMAS didn’t know about any of it. In a statement, the company said its executives had hosted Nigerian officials but never got word it had won the job. Instead, a few months after the visit, it received a letter saying the air force was suing for nonperformance. NWMAS managers forwarded the letter to Quinn’s team and heard nothing further on the matter until being contacted by Businessweek earlier this year.
If NWMAS didn’t participate in the lawsuit, who did? Individuals from the Quinn organization. Long before the ejector seat contract was finalized, unbeknownst to the original company, Quinn’s team had registered a local entity called NWMAS Nigeria Ltd.—another clone.
Murray testified at the arbitration on behalf of NWMAS. “They never f---king paid,” he told Businessweek, referring to the Nigerian air force. He said the British NWMAS had been fully aware of the case and that NWMAS Nigeria had been created to comply with local regulations.
Quinn’s organization apparently had trouble collecting the award. In 2013, Cahill sent a message to colleagues about the struggle to enforce the judgment in Nigeria’s chaotic courts. “The moral of the story is that ideally the ‘seat’ of arbitration should be outside of Nigeria and preferably in London,” he wrote.
Quinn and Cahill already had a stake in at least two lawsuits against Nigeria before the British courts. One of the cases relates to IPCO (Nigeria) Ltd., formerly part of Singapore-based construction group IPCO International Ltd. The parent company sold most of its stake in 2003, leaving behind a shell company whose sole activity seems to have been to engage in lawsuits—notably a $150 million case against the Nigerian petroleum ministry over delays to the construction of an oil terminal.
There were familiar allegations of overcharging, and the suit went all the way to the U.K. Supreme Court before being settled on confidential terms last year. How much IPCO Nigeria’s owners received and who benefited remains a mystery. You won’t find Quinn’s or Cahill’s name in the countless claims, counterclaims, and rulings produced since the case began more than a decade ago, but according to three people familiar with Cahill’s role, he helped manage the U.K. lawsuit for IPCO Nigeria in return for a share of the proceeds. The company’s director, Olu Adewunmi, declined to comment on whether Cahill was involved in the lawsuit.
The Big One
The other case, of course, was P&ID. Nigeria’s desire to end flaring and provide power to the troubled Niger Delta had offered Quinn, almost 70 and in poor health, an opportunity to secure his legacy. “Mick was sick,” Murray said. “He wanted to go out on a big one.”
In 2012, once it had grown obvious the gas project wouldn’t come off, P&ID invoked its right to take Nigeria to arbitration in London. Three judges, two Brits and a Nigerian, oversaw the proceedings. From the start, Nigeria’s government seemed reluctant to participate. Its lawyers in Lagos didn’t provide a list of preliminary arguments until January 2014. Later that year, a few weeks before the first scheduled hearing, they told the tribunal they might not be able to set out the government’s case in writing or attend, “due to the inability of our client to provide us with complete instructions.”
P&ID’s submissions included a lengthy witness statement from Quinn, one of his last public declarations before he died. He described spending two years and an estimated $40 million on preparatory work for the gas plant, including a 3D digital model. “I cannot say with any certainty why the government failed to honour the GSPA,” Quinn wrote of the gas sale and purchase agreement.
He suspected pressure from international oil companies was to blame. “In any event, I very much regret that we were prevented from implementing the GSPA, which I firmly believe would have been of significant benefit to the nation.” In outlining his history in Nigeria, he didn’t mention any of his military deals, the espionage charge, or the two other lawsuits against the country.
On the basis of largely unchallenged evidence provided by P&ID, the judges dismissed Nigeria’s objections and proceeded to the next stage: damages. According to the Abuja-based Premium Times, Quinn’s company agreed to settle for $850 million, but the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who’d taken office in May 2015, rejected the deal. When the tribunal convened a hearing on the matter, Nigeria called only one witness—a lawyer who, in the words of the judges, didn’t “claim firsthand knowledge of any of the relevant events.” In January 2017 they awarded P&ID the profits they calculated it had missed out on because the plant wasn’t built: $6.6 billion, more than three times its original estimate of losses.
A ruling in London didn’t guarantee payment, though. P&ID’s lawyers took the judgment to several hedge funds that specialize in wringing cash from bad debts, according to someone familiar with the conversations. Records show they found at least one taker: VR Capital Group Ltd., a fund manager with offices in London, New York, and Moscow.
VR acquired one quarter of P&ID—which really meant, because the only thing of value P&ID possesses is a favorable legal ruling, that it was buying a share of the suit’s proceeds, presumably in return for helping finance the legal action. (Reached by phone, VR Capital President Richard Deitz said, “No. Can’t talk. I’m busy,” then hung up. The company didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.) The remainder of P&ID is held by Cayman Islands-based Lismore Capital Ltd., whose ultimate owners are unknown. If the Nigerian government ever pays up, it will be impossible to know who benefits.
Last October law firm Kobre & Kim and public-relations specialist DCI Group registered with the U.S. Senate to lobby on behalf of P&ID. Op-eds critical of Nigeria soon appeared in Forbes and the Daily Telegraph, urging its government to honor the judgment; another, authored in London’s City A.M. newspaper by Priti Patel, a former British secretary of state for international development, accused the country of flouting international law. Journalists also began receiving messages from a group called P&ID Facts, whose emails list the same address as that of DCI Group. “The founders of P&ID have a track record of delivering in Nigeria and for Nigerians,” the organization’s website says. “The P&ID project was to be their swan song project after over three decades of public works projects in the country.”
Nigeria’s president thus far appears unmoved. A former general who styles himself as a simple cattle farmer and anticorruption crusader, Buhari has a relatively clean reputation. He responded angrily to Patel, issuing a statement through his spokesman that echoed what Pizzurro’s whistleblower had said: The P&ID lawsuit wasn’t what it appeared to be. “Before the coming of the Buhari administration, there existed in the country a racket encompassing elements in the three arms of government, the executive, legislature, and the judiciary through the activities of which artificial, engineered, and factored breaches of contract are made, judgments are obtained, appeals are delayed, and the penalty imposed is paid and shared,” the statement read. “Nigerians need to pity their own country for the way things were done in the past.”
A spokeswoman for P&ID said the panel of arbitrators had heard evidence from both sides and ruled unanimously that Nigeria failed to uphold its contractual commitments and was liable to P&ID. “It is unfortunate that instead of accepting the tribunal judgment and engaging in good-faith discussions to bring about a solution, President Buhari’s government has resorted to spreading unfounded allegations,” she said. She described the justice department’s corruption probe as a “sham” and said the government’s allegations were “entirely fictional,” adding, “The Nigerian people would be better served if the government made a serious offer to resolve this dispute rather than only blaming others, which will not make the legal obligation to pay go away.”
The list of Nigerians skeptical of P&ID’s position includes Danjuma, the 81-year-old billionaire and former general. In an interview with Businessweek, he said the gas flaring project was originally his idea, and that one of his companies, Tita-Kuru Petrochemicals Ltd., had spent the $40 million preparing it, not Quinn. The Irishman had been a consultant, using Danjuma’s funds and office space, the general said. When Quinn applied for the contract himself, Danjuma was upset.
The realization dawned, he said, that “my consultant was going to steal my project.” He recalled being promised a share of P&ID in return for his initial investment, but added that he hadn’t heard from the company in years and that Cahill hadn’t replied to letters about the lawsuit. At one point, Danjuma dusted off his hands to emphasize the relationship’s end. P&ID’s spokesperson declined to comment on Danjuma’s involvement or any other matters raised in this story. Cahill didn’t respond to attempts to contact him directly.
At Quinn’s funeral in February 2015, they played The Lonesome Boatman, a flute ballad by the Fureys, one of the bands he’d managed in his youth. His obituary in the Irish Independent traced his love of Nigeria to those days, saying he’d found doing business there much like running show bands in the ’60s. “He was a clever guy, an honorable guy,” Murray said of his longtime friend. “He was trusted. How much money he made I don’t know. His house is a hell of a lot bigger than mine.”
In spite of Buhari’s comments and the criminal probe, Nigeria hasn’t made any formal allegations of misconduct, and it isn’t clear whether the country will challenge the deal’s legitimacy in court. Meanwhile, the $9 billion debt is growing by more than $1 million a day, because of interest. P&ID is now owed enough to fund Nigeria’s school system for seven years.
Or perhaps enough to eliminate flaring for good. In May an Abuja TV news program aired a segment about villagers who were using flames from the Niger Delta’s gas pipes to dry their fish, seemingly unaware of the health risks. “Communities don’t know the difference between day and night because they go to bed with active gas flare sites,” said Faith Nwadishi, a local activist. The show’s host was just beginning a sermon about electricity’s importance for economic development when a power outage struck, plunging central Abuja into darkness.
—With Tope Alake, Matthew Campbell, Gavin Finch, Daryna Krasnolutska, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and Süddeutsche Zeitung
Read More: Bloomberg
Nigeria’s government stands accused of letting down its 201 million residents by failing to complete a gas supply and production agreement that would have transformed their lives. Instead, the country will now have to pay $9bn (£7.4bn) in penalties or risk having its assets seized.
The accusation is being levied at the federal republic by lawyers representing Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID), a gas supply and engineering company, following a UK court ruling that paves the way for the seizure of assets belonging to Africa’s richest country. The extraordinary figure represents one-fifth of the country’s declared foreign reserves of $45bn.
“Completely wrong and obviously unjustifiable”, were the words used by Nigerian government officials to describe the ruling by a judge in London last week.
But yesterday, lawyers for P&ID vigorously defended their client’s position. A spokesman said: “Nigeria failed to live up to its contractual commitments … The project would have generated 2,000 MW of power for the national grid and could have been transformative for millions of Nigerians. At present, the World Bank estimates that in 2017, only 59% of the country had access to a reliable supply of electricity.”
The decision, at the commercial court, converted a 2017 arbitration tribunal award into a high court judgment, and gives British Virgin Islands-registered P&ID the right to seize $9bn in assets, following the failed gas supply and processing agreement.
The Nigerian government continues to dispute the UK’s jurisdiction to hear the matter, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the country’s Central Bank (CBN), said in an interview with Africa’s Premium Times: “We know that the implication of that judgment has some impact on monetary policy and that is why the CBN is going to step forward and strongly defend the country and the reserves of the federal republic of Nigeria.”
But unless the Nigerian government can reach a last-minute agreement, its assets are at risk. P&ID’s barrister Andrew Stafford QC said: “P&ID is committed to vigorously enforcing its rights, and we intend to begin the process of seizing Nigerian assets in order to satisfy this award as soon as possible.”
The dispute arose in 2010. Brendan Cahill, founder of P&ID, and his late business partner, Michael Quinn, signed a contract with Nigerian ministry officials in which it was agreed that the government would install pipelines and supply the gas that would connect to P&ID’s “state-of-the-art gas processing plant” in Calabar, south-east Nigeria, to be built free of charge to the state.
The intention was to convert wet natural gas to dry gas to power the country’s national electric grid, improving supply. P&ID would sell 15% of the propane, ethane and butane by-products on the international market, with an expectation of generating “$5bn to $6bn in profit over a 20-year period”. In return, Nigeria would receive 85% of the gas at no cost for generating electricity.
In 2012, however, the deal fell through after the Nigerian government allegedly failed to install pipelines or supply the gas. At the heart of the matter, said the government, was the fact that the company did not build the promised processing plants. P&ID claimed it was the government’s conduct that prevented them from fulfilling their side of the agreement.
In a statement to the tribunal, Cahill explained that he had conceived the idea of processing gas from the Calabar region in 2006, after which P&ID “set about the necessary preparatory engineering work”. He alleges that over two years the company invested more than $40m on feasibility studies, licences, drawings and project management costs, before approaching the Nigerians.
Following several years of negotiations, the parties signed the contract in 2010, during the presidency of Umaru Yar’adua. Cahill alleges that the government failed to provide the necessary technical specifications for him to meet his contract and the parties fell into dispute after he discovered the government was engaging with a third party to process the gas.
During the 2015 tribunal, the Nigerian government argued that P&ID’s failure to build the gas processing plant was a fundamental breach of contract, as no gas could be delivered until this was done. The tribunal dismissed their arguments, finding them in breach of contract.
In January 2017, P&ID were awarded $6.6bn and claimed interest at the rate of $1.2m a day, which increased their claim to more than $9bn.
At the commercial court last week, P&ID sought to convert the tribunal’s award to a high court judgment. The Nigerian government contested the hearing, arguing that as the original contract had been signed in Nigeria, an English court had no jurisdiction, describing the tribunal’s award as “manifestly excessive”. Justice Christopher Butcher found in favour of P&ID, enforcing the $9bn award.
The Nigerian government is considering its next move. Emefiele said: “There are sufficient and strong grounds on the basis of which we could file a stay of execution and also an appeal against that judgment. There are certain anomalies in the process leading to the award of that contract which are currently being looked into by the economic and financial crimes commission.”
Responding to comments by Emefiele, lawyers for P&ID told the Guardian the high court judgment was “clear, decisive and consistent with prior legal findings”.
“It determined that compensation must be paid as it failed to uphold its contractual commitments. The tribunal, which included a former attorney-general of Nigeria, unanimously determined that the FRN was at fault for the project’s failure. Their arguments have been comprehensively rejected.”
The matter is still to be settled in the US, where P&ID are seeking permission to enforce the arbitration award. Nigeria’s defence in the US is the same as those just rejected by the English court.
Credit: The Guardian