In a not-so-surprising move, the Nigerian Federal Government, yesterday, instituted legal action against the Royal Dutch Shell and ENI in a London commercial court.
This move is in connection with a 2011 Nigerian oil contract which went awry and is now the focus of an even bigger lawsuit in Italy, involving former employees of both oil companies.
The controversial oil deal — the OPL 245 oilfield — was said to have been signed off to Shell and ENI after both companies allegedly paid bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion.
The man who is alleged to have received the bribe is former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, who used his company to receive kickbacks from the deal.
“It is alleged that purchase monies purportedly paid to the Federal Republic of Nigeria were in fact immediately paid through to a company controlled by Dan Etete, formerly the Nigerian minister of petroleum, and used for, amongst other things, bribes and kickbacks.
“Accordingly, it is alleged that Shell and Eni engaged in bribery and unlawful conspiracy to harm the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that they dishonestly assisted corrupt Nigerian government officials.” – Nigeria Government
It is on the basis of this alleged bribery that the Nigerian Government is suing both Shell and ENI.
Already, the Nigerian Government has already instituted a separate legal action against America’s JPMorgan for allegedly transferring the sum of $800 million to Mr Dan Etete; money that originally belonged to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, both Shell and ENI have continued to maintain innocence
According to Reuters, ENI said in an emailed statement that the 2011 transaction was a legal one, even as it refuted “any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with this transaction.”
“Eni signed a commercial agreement in 2011 for a new licence for OPL 245 with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and the consideration for the license was paid directly to the Nigerian government.”
Similarly, the Royal Dutch Shell stated that in 2011, it legally settled a “long-standing legal dispute related to OPL 245” with the help of the Federal Government of Nigeria. According to the company, it never committed any wrongdoing.
It should be noted that the 2011 oil deal has since been embroiled in serious controversies, so much so that neither ENI nor Shell have been able to operate the OPL 245 oilfield.
Hedge funds, institutional investors rush to own stakes in Bitcoin
Hedge funds are firms that offer alternative investments to a specific type of investors (high net worth individuals), in a bid to protect their investment portfolios from market uncertainty, while generating positive returns regardless of market sentiments.
With global economic uncertainty gradually becoming a daily norm, institutional and hedge funds around the world have been rushing to have a stake in crypto assets which all have been outperforming other financial assets in 2020).
Just recently, a popular hedge fund based in New York –Grayscale Investments –caught the investment world by surprise by buying up Bitcoin (BTC) at a great rate in recent months.
Lennard Neo, the head of research at Stack Funds, told Cointelegraph that institutional investors have been seeking for other options, not just to provide returns, but also to hedge their existing portfolio from downside risks. Neo said:
“Similar to Grayscale, Stack has seen an uptick in investors’ interest — almost double that figures of pre-crash in March — in Bitcoin. I would not say they are ‘gobbling up BTC’ blindly but cautiously seeking traditional structured solutions that they are familiar with before making an investment.”
In addition, Paul Cappelli, a portfolio manager at Galaxy Fund Management, explained in detail the reasons for this demand. According to him, “we’re seeing increased interest from multiple levels of investors’ wealth channels, independent RIAs, and institutions.
“The recent BTC halving came at an interesting time amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the growing unease about quantitative easing. He noted: “It clearly demonstrated BTC’s scarcity and future supply reduction as concerns deepened around unprecedented stimulus by the Fed with the CARES Act.”
Also, Michael Sonnenshein, the Managing Director of Grayscale Investments, explained briefly why his firm uses Bitcoin as an option in hedging its firm’s portfolio position.
“All three are facing issues this time around. Bitcoin has emerged as an alternative hedge, operating independently of the dramatic monetary policies enacted by central banks,” he said.
What you need to know about Hedge Funds
They are firms that offer alternative investments to a specific type of investors (high net worth individuals), in a bid to protect their investment portfolios from market uncertainty, while generating positive returns regardless of market sentiments.
Measures introduced by Nigeria to ensure transparent use of the $3.4 billion IMF loan
Most of the critics of the government’s borrowing pattern have often expressed serious doubt about the judicious use of these funds, as they believe most of them might end up being embezzled.
Following the approval and disbursement of $3.4 billion Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to Nigeria, which is the largest COVID-19 emergency financing package so far released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the multilateral financial institution now expects transparent and accountable use of the funds.
The IMF’s financial assistance to Nigeria is meant to support the healthcare sector, stabilise the economy, and protect jobs and businesses that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
The Bretton wood institution has been disbursing funds to work closely with member countries to ensure transparent and judicious use of the financial support, while making sure they are used for the intended purpose.
The IMF’s mission chief for Nigeria, Amine Mati, during a conversation, pointed out the measures to be taken by Nigeria in order to enhance transparency and governance in the use of the $3.4 billion IMF emergency financing.
According to the IMF chief, the Nigerian Government had committed to undertake an independent audit of crisis mitigation spending and related procurement processes, as well as to publish procurement plans and notices for all emergency response activities which include the names of companies that were awarded the contracts and the beneficial owners.
Mr. Mati also disclosed that special budget lines are to be created to record all crisis emergency response measures, which are published daily on Nigeria’s treasury online portal. These measures will not only ensure that financial assistance received as part of the COVID-19 response is used for its intended purposes, but will also significantly strengthen the oversight of the entire budget used for the government’s crisis response.
— IMF (@IMFNews) May 31, 2020
Implementing these measures will help to drastically reduce the governance and transparency challenges as well as corruption vulnerabilities of a country like Nigeria. Most of the critics of the government’s borrowing pattern have often expressed serious doubt about the judicious use of these funds, as they believe most of them might end up being embezzled.
Brent crude drops, as traders focus on OPEC+ meeting
OPEC+ agreed in April to reduce output by an unprecedented 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June after the deadly COVID-19 pandemic weakened demand.
Brent crude price dropped by around 0.77%, to $37.55 a barrel, on the first trading session of June.
The slump in the price comes after it posted its strongest monthly gains since 1999.
“The focus is very much on OPEC+,” OCBC economist, Howie Lee, told Reuters referring to OPEC and its allies including Russia. OPEC+ agreed in April to reduce output by an unprecedented 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June after the deadly COVID-19 pandemic weakened demand.
“We might see a cautious pullback in (crude) prices given that downstream prices haven’t caught up … but if OPEC+ does come up with a three-month extension, there’s a possibility that prices may hit the $40 level,” Howie Lee added.
Algeria, which presently holds the OPEC presidency, has started a move that an OPEC+ meeting scheduled for June 9-10 be brought forward to ease oil purchases for countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Russia, who raised no objection.
“It’s been widely interpreted as likely to lead to an extension of the current production cuts,” CMC Markets’ chief market strategist, Michael McCarthy, said.
“Oil prices have come down slightly in our session but they’re still at elevated levels. I suspect that’s the key driver of prices on Friday night and should keep prices reasonably well supported today,” McCarthy added.