Nigeria: There will be blood… and oil

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

The stink of the OPL 245 scandal won’t go away

General Sani Abacha's son, now seeking political office with the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP), is building a coalition to obtain his part of the plunder. Middlemen are still litigating over their share and abroad, criminal investigations are under way Oil Prospecting Licence 245 represents the peak of a system of assigning Nigeria's oil wealth to its rulers and their friends and allies. The methods employed in this affair – and for other oil blocks and concessions – continue to plague the exchequer and oil industry and, far from declining, are expected to be applied with greater diligence as politicians amass their war chests for the 2015 elections.

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Nigeria: Chip off the old block

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

The children of the late dictator General Sani Abacha are making headlines. The oldest, Mohammed Sani Abacha, operates a political network based in Kano, where his father was brought up. Mohammed was a stalwart of the mainly northern Congress for Democratic Change but when it joined with others to form the All Progressives Congress, he accepted the invitation to defect to the governing People’s Democratic Party (AC Vol 54 No 14, Inside the presidential fight). He was seen in February at a PDP rally in Kaduna, according to a Nigerian press report.

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Congo-Kinshasa: Hitch for dam plan

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

The Inga III dam on the Congo River has a few more obstacles to overcome following a new World Bank report

The approval of a US$73.1 million grant by the World Bank’s Board of Directors on 20 March would suggest that all is well with Congo-Kinshasa’s 4,000-megawatt Inga III hydropower project (AC Vol 54 No 13, The real power politics). The funds, together with $33.4 mn. from the African Development Bank approved late last year, will finance the environmental and social assessments of the dam, and set up an independent Inga Development Authority. Yet the Bank’s 101-page report, obtained by Africa Confidential before the Board meeting, reveals that the project is beset by problems.

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Egypt | Saudi Arabia: Out of reach

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

The shareholders of Egypt’s Ajwa for Food Industries Company are embroiled in a long-running dispute with the former non-executive Chairman, the Saudi Arabian billionaire Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber. The regulator, the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, is ready to reach a settlement with Al Jaber, provided the 55-year-old repurchases shares in the company that he sold in an ‘irregular fashion’ three years ago. EFSA Executive Chairman Sherif Samy says this is the ‘big outstanding issue’, after the company was suspended from the Egyptian Stock Exchange over the share dealings.

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Egypt | Ethiopia: Dam leak hits Addis

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

Ethiopia risks isolation in the row with Egypt over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) now that the previously secret Independent Panel of Experts’ report on the dam has been leaked (AC Vol 55 No 4, Torpedo the dam). Egypt had appeared isolated in its opposition to the dam, which is set to be Africa’s largest.

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Morocco | Western Sahara | Norway: Kill the drill

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 7 | 4th APRIL 2014

The Norwegian-based company Aker Solutions has decided to stop providing oil services to its drilling rig in disputed waters off Western Sahara after Africa Confidential publicised the case (AC Vol 55 No 6, Testing the offshore limits). The rig is leased via a South Korean company to the United States firm Atwood Oceanics, which has a contract with Kosmos for exploration work in the Cap Boujdour block. Atwood and Kosmos are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Morocco | Western Sahara | Norway: Testing the offshore limits

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 6 | 21st MARCH 2014

Sahrwai officials are again trying to get the UN to intervene with oil companies drilling in disputed offshore areas

A legal battle may be brewing between the Polisario Front, which since 1973 has aspired to rule Western Sahara, and Norwegian oil services company Aker Solutions over offshore exploration. Emhamed Khadad, an advisor to the Polisario Secretary General and President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, says the Front intends to involve the United Nations Security Council. On 14 March, he wrote to the head of Oslo-listed Aker Solutions that the SADR plans to inform the UNSC that his company is involved in drilling off the disputed territory’s coast.

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Morocco | Western Sahara | United States: Senate for Morocco

Africa Confidential: Vol 55 N0 6 | 21st MARCH 2014

About a month after the United States Senate passed a bill that, very unusually, affects the disputed territory of Western Sahara, Washington lobbyists Gray Global Advisors revealed they had a US$25,000 per month contract with Morocco to offer it ‘strategic advice on Moroccan-American relations’.

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Egyptian land deals: plus ça change

Le Monde diplomatique English edition: 17th MARCH 2014

by Nizar Manek

As Egypt’s popular uprising broke out three years ago, the crony capitalism of Hosni Mubarak’s regime came into the crosshairs. One grievance was against the willingness of the regime to directly allocate land at undervalued prices — sometimes at a dollar a square-metre, or less — to the real estate companies of its inner circle of politically-connected businessmen and the investment funds associated with them.

“It was a real problem that a small number of businessmen were able to buy large bundles of land at a time with no scrutiny over bids and tenders,” says Shehata Mohamed Shehata of the Egyptian Centre for Integrity and Transparency, a Cairo-based lawyer who has brought several post-Mubarak cases of alleged corruption to Egypt’s courts.

One case Shehata brought to the Cairo Administrative Court in April 2011 was against Mubarak’s prime minister, tourism minister and the chairman of the board of directors of the Tourism Development Authority over a 1993 land allocation to the Egyptian Resorts Company (ERC), a real estate developer. According to his original court filing, the case alleged that ERC was awarded a direct contract for a 33m square-metre plot of prime state land in the Hurghada region along the Red Sea coast (or around 90% of the region and about 20 kilometres away from Hurghada International Airport) for US$1 per metre.

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