Documents have shown how the British government protected Nigeria from trade sanctions in the interest of Shell. Britain allegedly shielded Nigeria after the late military ruler, General Sanni Abacha hanged Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of Nigeria’s Ogoni community for protesting against the company’s operation in the ’90s.
It disclosed that the UK government delayed and spoke against sanctions such as oil embargo and trade sanctions as it posed a risk to the operations of Shell if approved. Shell was considered as one of the major investments of UK that could be affected.
South Africa’s former President, late Nelson Mandela, criticised the 1995 killing of the Ogoni 9 that protested against energy firms in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Mandela suggested trade sanctions and oil embargo was the best response to the killing but the UK stood in the way until Abacha died in 1998. This recent revelation was made known by documents declassified and reported by dailymaverick.
How UK prevented sanctions: While UK government condemned the killing in public, calling for a “fundamental and lasting change in the way Nigeria is governed”, the officials of the UK government were moving in a different path that led away from actions that reflect justice for the Ogoni 9.
Britain gathered a list of UK investment which summed up their value to £5 billion. Shell at the time was producing half of Nigeria’s two million barrels per day output and was “interested in Nigeria’s gas reserves” and was close to having “the largest industrial project in Nigeria this century,” one file stated.
The UK also compiled a list of possible sanctions after the killings, listing sanctions that would affect its interest, most especially Shell’s commercial operation.
The prime minister’s office was told by the private secretary to foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind that, “We believe we should hold in reserve for the time being any measures of this kind—which would of course place a disproportionate burden on the UK because of our close ties with Nigeria.” Freezing financial assets of Nigerian leaders was also mentioned.
Part of UK’s consideration was to position the sanction as a negative impact on the poor population in Nigeria although UK was more worried about Shell’s interest than it was of Nigeria. The Prime Minister’s private secretary, Edward Oakden, considered if the same argument used to avoid boycott against South Africa’s apartheid government could be employed. The argument was, sanctions would “hit hardest the poor people least able to cope.”
In order to put pressure on the UK government to support sanctions, Mandela told the UK Prime Minister, John Major, via phone on November 18, 1995, to cut off trade with Nigeria. Although, the PM replied that, “we would consider this”, he said he “did not have a closed mind about trade sanctions.” UK kept holding off Mandela on the two occasions (including 28 November 1995) they interacted on the matter of sanctions against Nigeria.
A week after the execution, Conservative peer, Lynda Chalker had told senior Shell executive, John Jennings, that UK was “resisting pressure coming from the South Africans and some European partners for further economic sanctions” on Nigeria.
It kept close contact with Shell executive, including the then-managing director of Shell Nigeria, who stated that the company was “obviously very concerned that Ogoni hot heads could react to targets of opportunity”. A note shared with the UK High Commission said in the declassified files.
Plan to rebrand Shell’s public image: With Shell’s image under scrutiny, the UK government weighed options on how to present the company to the public in order to avoid boycott due to its involvement in the case that led to the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni members. Chalker opined that Shell should “broadcast the facts about their wider contribution in Nigeria.”
The UK government also tried to pass a letter by Shell to Mandela through a third-party in order not to be assumed it’s taking Shell’s side. The letter conveyed the importance of Shell to Nigeria. “It should be passed to him [Mandela] but not specifically by us. We don’t want to appear to be endorsing Shell’s position”
Shell refused to take the blame for the oil leaks, stating in the letter that the leaks were caused by “sabotage”, adding that it was spending $120 million on environmental, health and education projects in Nigeria that year. This revelation by Shell’s letter impressed the UK government, with Oakden stating that he was “struck by the size of Shell Nigeria’s annual expenditure on environmental projects”.
Just like Mandela, Sweden also interceded, calling for global sanction, but Britain said the Swedes were being self-righteous. Sweden’s social democratic government had called for a “package of sanctions which would make a real impact on the Nigerian regime, not just play to the domestic gallery,” demanding more than visa restrictions and an arms embargo.
But in response, British diplomats said, “Bloody cheek, Swedish – Nigerian trade = 0”, while another claimed it was “The Swedes at their sanctimonious worst. They used to behave like this over South Africa.” Another UK official said, “Unbelievable. On second thoughts, all too believable. I constantly underestimate the Nordic capacity to posture, while others bear the practical consequences.”
The talk for decisive sanctions like oil embargo continued to be tossed around until General Abacha died in June 1998 before the international community could reach agreement on oil sanctions. It was disclosed that days before Abacha died, European Union was deliberated on the matter again.
Shoprite lays off 115 workers, shuts down second branch in 5 months
The company has been reviewing its long-term options in Africa after currency devaluations.
Barely three days after announcing a planned divestment from of its Nigerian operation, Shoprite Holdings has informed workers’ union in Kenya that it will be laying off 115 staff effective August 31, 2020.
The job cuts follow the closure of City Mall branch in Nyali, Mombasa, the second branch to be closed in Kenya within a period of five months. Shoprite has cited reduced patronage for its decision to close down the outlets.
According to a report, Shoprite sent a notice to the Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers (KUCFW). Part of the notice said:
“Endeavour to continue trading at the Nyali branch is no longer viable. Financial and other data will be provided and discussed at a proposed meeting. It is contemplated that the intended date of termination on account of redundancy will be August 31, 2020. There are currently 115 persons employed at the branch of which 92 are members of KUCFW.”
More details: Earlier in April, Shoprite had also closed Karen Branch, Nairobi, laying off no less than 104 workers in the process. These closures will most likely constrain Shoprite’s expansion efforts across the East African country.
Nairametrics understands that Shoprite opened operations in Kenya back in 2018, with hopes of taking advantage of the country’s disorganised retail sector. Unfortunately for Shoprite, it has recently had to combat increased competition from cash-rich retailers such as Naivas and Carrefour.
Note that other smaller competitors in the country have also had to close branches due to lack of profitability.
Meanwhile, Shoprite recently had to deal with a lawsuit from the billionaire Muguku family, which owns Waterfront Mall. The Muguku family was seeking Sh520 million in lost rent after the retail chain cut short its tenancy at the mall.
The Backstory: The retail giant announced on Monday that it will divest from its business operations in countries outside South Africa, due to low profitability. An internal memo sent to its staff in Nigeria on July 31, 2020, disclosed that the new owners of the Nigerian subsidiary will work with the management to drive the expansion plans in Nigeria.
The company has been reviewing its long-term options in Africa after currency devaluations, supply issues, and low consumer spending in Angola, Nigeria, and Zambia began to weigh on earnings.
There are speculations and fears that this new move in Nigeria could result in job cuts, especially if the new owners decide to make adjustments to the business model.
COVID-19: Virgin Atlantic files for bankruptcy
The airline is seeking protection under chapter 15 of the US bankruptcy code.
The British airline, Virgin Atlantic, has filed for bankruptcy as the global aviation industry continues to grapple with the devastating effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
According to a report by Daily Mirror, this recent action is coming after Virgin Australia filed for voluntary administration, a type of bankruptcy, in April.
An earlier appeal by the airline for a bailout from the British Government was turned down by ministers, leaving the airline in a race against time to secure new investment.
The airline’s boss, Sir Richard Branson, even offered to pledge his Caribbean holiday island Necker in exchange for investment.
In the meantime, the airline said it will most likely run out of cash by September.
David Allison QC, for Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited, previously said: “The group’s financial position has been severely affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused unprecedented disruption to the global aviation industry.’’
‘’Passenger demand has plummeted to a level that would, until recently, have been unthinkable. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group is now undergoing a liquidity crisis.’’
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic disclosed that the airline attended a court session on Tuesday as part of a solvent recapitalization process under 26(A) of the UK Companies Act 2006. That process would be going ahead with the support of the company’s majority creditors.
The airline’s official said, “Following the UK hearing held earlier today, ancillary proceedings in support of the solvent recapitalization were also filed in the US under their Chapter 15 process. These ancillary US proceedings have been commenced under provisions that allow US courts to recognize foreign restructuring processes.’’
‘’In the case of Virgin Atlantic, the process we have asked to be recognized is a solvent restructuring of an English company under Part 26A of the English Companies Act 2006.”
The UK based airline is seeking for protection under chapter 15 of the US bankruptcy code, which allows a foreign debtor to shield assets in the country.
This move is coming less than a month after the airline disclosed that it had agreed a rescue deal worth $1.6 billion to secure its future beyond the Coronavirus crisis. Under the arrangement, Virgin’s boss, Richard Branson, would inject $200 million, with additional funds provided by investors and creditors.
This proposal needed to secure approval from creditors under a court-sanction process.
Mr Allison told Justice Trower that the Virgin Atlantic Group has sound business model during a high court hearing on Tuesday.
It can be recalled that Virgin Atlantic, who have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic had put in some measures to ensure the future of the airline is safeguarded. Some of these measures include the reduction of its schedule to prioritize core routes based on demand, cut over 3,000 jobs and so on.
Sim cards are now virtual and here’s why we like it
Telcos have moved from macro Sims to micro and nano Sims, now we have the eSims.
MTN announced on July 15, 2020, that its virtual sim cards are now available in Nigeria. This eSim (embedded sim) is built into the smart device and provides the same function as the physical Sim cards; the difference is they cannot be damaged or lost like the physical ones. In cases where there is a damaged phone, the user will need to visit an MTN store to have it deactivated. Also, the MTN eSim can have more than the limited 200 contacts the physical cards normally carry.
However, not everyone can use the eSim just yet as it is compatible with a limited number of phone brands, some of which include: Google, Apple and Samsung, and even then, there are only a few models of these named brands the eSim can be integrated into.
How does it work?
The eSim has to be activated onto a user’s device. This activation will be done in an MTN store by a customer service agent, this process according to MTN comes at no cost to the user. As soon as the device is confirmed to be compatible, a profile of the subscriber is created and the agent completes the integration process.
Reportedly, MTN will be testing the virtual sim cards over the next 1 year and will only be available to 5000 people during this test run. Also, current phone numbers cannot be linked to the eSim cards at the moment.
Nonetheless, this is yet another first for MTN, Nigeria’s’ biggest telecom company. The telco is no stranger to firsts in these parts; since 2001, the company has been credited with many firsts when it came to mobile communication and internet penetration. With the launch of the eSim, MTN has become the pioneer in West Africa.
Why are we liking the Idea of eSims in Nigeria?
It is rather early to say whether or not the eSim will in time completely phase out the physical cards Nigerians are used to but the many upsides that come with it, give room for us to want the eSim to thrive.
Sims have had one of the most exciting evolutions- Telcos have moved from macro Sims to micro and nano Sims, now we have the eSims, very soon, we’ll probably go simless all together.
- Using eSims means no more need for a sim card slot in newer model devices- so in case of a damaged slot, you can still use your device. Most devices that are compatible still have the sim card slot but just like the head phone jacks, the slots will probably disappear too.
- It is much easier to have multiple telephone numbers on one phone- no need to spend so much on a phone that supports two sim cards and no need to swap out sim cards any longer.
- It’ll be much easier to buy one off data plans and phone services when travelling abroad.
- Phones with the eSim feature have much more internal space, so they can fit in more components like bigger batteries, not just phones.
- eSims can be used in smart watches without having to link it to your phone.
- With the eSim comes locks to prevent anyone other than the user from using the embedded device, making it almost useless for anyone who intends to steal.
- The process when a user wants to switch phones can be a bit of a hassle- they would have to log on to your carriers system to inform on the number change for the new phone/device.
- User can be tracked easily seeing as you cannot fully disconnect from the network.
- Can only work on expensive devices- this relatively new technology can only work on new and expensive phone and devices, hence, the chance it will go mainstream in Nigeria where there is still a large market for the older model phones that are not even internet compatible is rather unlikely.
- Could cause a slow in business for telecom companies as the eSim allows consumers to purchase data connectivity from whoever they choose online.
From all the offerings of the eSim, it seems the most beneficial to a user who travels a lot rather than the next door mobile phone user. Regardless, the eSim has a lot of potential and eventually it could take the place of physical cards, but for now they will have to exist alongside the physical cards.