A love letter to NLNG

Posted by Korede Yishau | 25 October 2019 | 1,236 times

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Let me confess: I love you and always will. I doubt if I can ever have enough of you. With your credit rating among international financiers better than Nigeria’s, what other choice do I have? 

It all started the first time I came into your embrace. It is going to a decade now. Your Residential Area and the industrial estate made me believe all hope was not lost for Nigeria, that we can get things right with the right people in charge. 

Even the policemen who were on the Island when I visited were like the ones I see in New York, Singapore and London. They looked good in their uniforms, which did not look like the ones on their colleagues elsewhere, though they were the same. I believe things have not changed.

On the roads on the Island were machines which control over-speeding; it was like being abroad at home!

I remember that Shell was the first to see the light on Bonny Island. Mobil saw it later. Shell and Mobil liked the place and the promise there. The Federal Government, which has an interest in all of these ventures, too knows what the country stands to gain from Bonny Island, which hosts the country’s only port of origin. So you were born and christened the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited.

Your import was captured two years ago by former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director (GMD) Dr. Maikanti Baru on an NTA programme. Baru described you as one of the biggest success stories of the oil and gas industry. He added that you generated $90 billion revenue, $30 billion dividends and contributed four per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

At the time Baru spoke, the National Assembly was trying to tamper with the model which made you a success. The lawmakers wanted to amend your enabling law for the sake of nothing tangible.

Baru said: “The review of the NLNG Act by the National Assembly is causing a challenge for the Federal Government and the IOCs, and it is sending wrong signals to the international community about how business is done in the country.”

The National Assembly wanted to end your status as dollar-denominated, which was agreed on to protect the company against Naira’s flip-flop. The National Assembly also sought to make your subsidiary, Bonny Gas Transport Company, pay tax in Nigeria. I was disturbed by what the National Assembly was trying to do because I was convinced it was not for the good of the country.

To me, you are the dearest of companies operating in Bonny. You are the indigenes’ pride. Through you, the Island enjoys uninterrupted power supply, among other dividends. For Nigeria, you are both our pride and cash-cow. I believe we make the kind of money we make from you from only a few other sources.

Let me cite this particular example: When President Muhammadu Buhari came in, the Federal Government initiated a bailout package for states owing their workers. The bulk of the money which made up the N400 billion package came from you. You saved so many states and workers.

At that time you were knocking on the door of 30 years and 20 years of your first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) cargo export. You rose so fast that you became the fourth largest supplier of LNG. Your six-train plant produces about 22 Metric Tonnes Per Annum (mtpa) of LNG for export and five mtpa of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLS). As at that time, you had made over $25 billion from a $2.6 billion investment. You had also paid over $5.5billion as Companies Income Tax, Tertiary Education Tax, WHT, VAT and PAYE. Regulators’ levies and other fees have led to you coughing out over N51 billion.

You own some 30 ships. Through your second subsidiary, the NLNG Ship Manning Limited (NSML), you are the biggest employer of Nigerian seafarers. Also, your wholly-owned subsidiary set up in 1989, Bonny Gas Transport (BGT) Limited, handles your shipping services. Another of your wholly-owned subsidiary is the NSML, which was set up in 2008 to provide, develop and manage high-calibre personnel for your maritime business.

I remember when former Coordinating Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala visited your plant on Bonny Island, Rivers State, on November 15, 2013. She described you as an asset to Nigeria, a shining example of a successful company and a beacon of hope for a better Nigeria. The minister alluded to the fact that your financial book was an enviable balance sheet.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala described you as the most successful Nigerian company with 49 per cent government ownership, which she described as a distinguishing feature among companies in the public and the private sector.

The Federal Government, represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), owns 49 per cent. Shell Gas BV (SGBV) controls 25.6 per cent. Total LNG Nigeria Limited owns 15 per cent and Eni International 10.4 per cent.

Your story could be better if your expansion plans sail through. I am happy the final investment decision on your Train Seven has been made. This will make you regain your lost pre-eminence in the global LNG market.

As a result of the delay in taking the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), you lost grounds to Qatar and Australia. Qatar moved its output from 20 million metric tonnes to 80 million metric tonnes. Australia, from its previous 20 metric tonnes, now churns out 81 metric tonnes annually. You are stuck at 22 million metric tonnes. Australia has 10 LNG projects, with 20 trains. Yet, Australia has only 60 per cent of Nigeria’s gas reserves. Nigeria has gas reserves estimated at over 160 trillion cubic feet. The United States (U.S.), formerly a major LNG export destination, is now a net LNG exporter.

With the expected FDI estimated at over $8 billion, about 10,000 jobs are expected to be created. Over 2,000 jobs are expected each construction year and 18,000 jobs at the peak of construction. The government, analysts said, will also reap an additional $2.2 billion dividend annually.

It is instructive for me that the train seven is taking shape as you mark your 30th anniversary and 20 years of LNG export.

My final take: We have all the gas it takes for us to get Australia, Qatar, United States and others to queue at our back. We have done it before and we must do it again. Nigeria must be number one in the global LNG business.

Happy anniversary and here is wishing you well as you do all possible to return to the pre-eminence position in global LNG supply.

This piece by Korede Yishau, a novelist and award-winning senior journalist, originally entitled ‘Dear NLNG’, first appeared in today’s edition of The Nation.  


Source: News Express

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