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Oil prices near $80 on mild Omicron variant

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Oil prices rose over three per cent yesterday on hopes that the Omicron COVID-19 variant would have limited impact on global demand in 2022, even as surging cases caused flight cancellations in some countries.

Global benchmark Brent crude rose $2.59, or 3.40 per cent, to $78.73 a barrel yesterday, while the United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose $2.01, or 2.7 per cent, to $75.80 a barrel.

Prices of oil which had plunged by more than 10 per cent on November 26, when reports of a new variant first appeared, started to gain last week after early data suggested that Omicron could cause a milder level of illness.

Although the variant had been spreading faster than any COVID-19 variant yet, there’s been some relatively relieving news that most people infected with Omicron showed mild symptoms so far.

However, more than 1,300 flights were cancelled by US airlines on Sunday as COVID-19 reduced the number of available crews while several cruise ships had to cancel stops.

This caused disruption to the supply of goods and services from isolating workers, notably air travel, although the global recovery story for 2022 still remains on track.

Brent has risen by more than 45 per cent this year, supported by recovering demand and supply cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+.

On January 4, the producer alliance would decide whether to go ahead with a planned 400,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) production increase in February, but the cartel has so far stuck to its plans at its last meeting to boost output for January despite Omicron.

OPEC has been struggling to meet existing targets under its agreement to gradually increase production by the 400,000 bpd each month, with Nigeria lagging behind for months.

But the country, a very active OPEC member had said even if prices fell to between $50 to $60, it won’t be much of an issue, with the country’s oil benchmark for the 2021 budget being $40.

Nigeria has failed for months to meet its allocation, due largely to waning investment, ageing upstream infrastructure and disruptions by some local host communities.

But the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last week assured that by the year’s end, Nigeria should be able to produce about 1.7 million bpd. That target now looks almost impossible.

On December 22, Nigeria’s federal lawmakers approved a N17.126 trillion ($38 billion) budget for 2022, anchored on an oil price benchmark of $62 per barrel.

The approved oil price assumption was higher than the $57 per barrel price that President Muhammadu Buhari had proposed to the parliament on October 7, and also higher than the oil price benchmark of $40 per barrel adopted by the government for the 2021 budget.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the increase in oil price was to reflect the current market values of the oil barrel in the international market and to generate more funds for critical sectors of the economy.

However, the parliament retained the oil production target of 1.88 million bpd, including condensate production of between 300,000-400,000 bpd, for the purpose of its revenue calculation in 2022.

This compared to the output target of 1.86 million bpd the government had set for the 2021 fiscal year.

In all, oil exports account for around 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange revenue, although the country has battled with a sharp drop in revenue amid a drop in production.

Nigeria has the capacity to pump around 2.2 million b/d of crude and condensate, but in recent months its output has been languishing below 1.55 million bpd.

In November, the NNPC was only able to contribute about N10.5 billion of its projected N122 billion to the federation account jointly run by the federal, state and local governments in the country.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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Omicron: Govts may shut down schools; 647m children yet to fully resume

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THE World Bank has said that the new wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has seen a variant of the virus, Omicron, ravaging the world, may lead to governments across the globe being tempted to shut down schools again.

The World Bank has said this in a report titled: “Reversing the pandemic’s education losses”, recently released.

In the said report, the bank also said no fewer than 647 million school children are yet to fully resume for either physical or online learning.

It added that school children in developing nations are the hardest hit regarding the negative effects the pandemic has had on education globally.

“When schools around the world moved online due to COVID-19, children in developing countries suffered the most.

“Even though digital learning does not produce the same outcomes as in-person education, technology used effectively can close educational gaps and prevent learning loss.

“As the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches, classrooms remain fully or partially closed for as many as 647 million schoolchildren around the world.

“Even where schools have reopened, many students continue to lag behind. It is now abundantly and painfully clear that children have learned less during the pandemic.”

According to World Bank estimates, pandemic-related school closures could drive up “learning poverty” – the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read a basic text – to around 70% in low- and middle-income countries.

This learning loss could cost an entire generation of schoolchildren $17 trillion in lifetime earnings.

“As the Omicron variant takes hold, more governments may be tempted to close schools. Without the online infrastructure in place to support learning, doing so would extend the educational losses and deny children many other benefits of daily school attendance, like the possibility to connect with classmates and develop social skills for personal growth.

“Interactions with teachers and peers are essential to develop the abilities necessary to work collaboratively. Being part of a class promotes a sense of belonging and helps build self-esteem and empathy.

“Throughout the pandemic, marginalised children have struggled the most. When classrooms around the world reopened this fall, it became clear that these children had fallen even further behind their peers.

“Before the pandemic, gender parity in education was improving. But school closures placed an estimated 10 million more girls at risk of early marriage, which practically guarantees the end of their schooling.

“Unless this regression is reversed, learning poverty and the associated human capital loss will hold economies and societies back for decades. Children must be given a chance to recover the education they have lost.

“They need access to well-designed reading materials, digital learning opportunities, and transformed education systems that help prepare them for future challenges. Well qualified teachers and effective use of technology are fundamental to this process.

“Many countries have deployed massive stimulus packages in response to the health crisis. But, as of June 2021, less than three per cent of these funds was devoted to the education and training sector.

“And most of these resources were spent in advanced economies. For many low-income countries, elevated debt-service payments crowd out essential social spending – including for education.

“The resulting weakness in investments to support education and training threatens to deepen the disparities in learning outcomes that existed prior to the pandemic.

“And while narrowing the education gap will require using resources more efficiently, the bottom line is that more resources are needed.

“For the world’s poorest countries, in particular, an acceleration in debt relief under the G20’s Common Framework, would provide fiscal space to increase support for human capital.

Investment in education must include funding for educational technology, taking into account what has worked well in different contexts around the world,” the report said.

The Bank called for improved investment in infrastructure to move education to the digital level and commended countries such as Uruguay and India for making giant strides in that direction.

“By investing in learning recovery and using technology wisely, it is possible to use the pandemic experience as a catalyst to improve education for all children.

“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank Group are working together to ensure that all education systems use technology effectively to close gaps and help reverse learning losses.

“Embedding the use of technology within an overall strategy for ending learning poverty can help improve foundational skills, increase instructional time, and make the most efficient use of resources.

“This is particularly critical in low-income countries, where technology can provide teachers with the support they need quickly.

“Digital access can serve as a great equalizer. Resources must be invested wisely, taking into account countries’ electricity infrastructure, internet connectivity, digitally enabled devices for the most disadvantaged students, and data-management and implementation capacity.

“Without a carefully considered process to increase the use of technology, good intentions and well-designed policies will fail to achieve the recovery and acceleration of learning that developing countries need.

Access to quality education was uneven before the pandemic, and now it is even more so.

“By investing in learning recovery and using technology wisely, it is possible to use the pandemic experience as a catalyst to improve education for all children,” the report added

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Police nabs notorious bandit, Maiyammata during kidnap attempt

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Police Tactical Operatives in Zamfara arrested a notorious bandit popularly known as Maiyammata on Wednesday.

The wanted criminal, who hails from Mayasa village, was apprehended within Zurmi Local Government Area during a patrol.

Commissioner of Police, Ayuba Elkanah, said he was arrested while trying to kidnap passengers at Koliya.

Maiyammata, formerly of the Bello Turji gang, is now believed to be working for another wanted kingpin, Kachalla Sani-Black.

Sani-Black operates along Zurmi, Shinkafi and Birnin Magaji Local Government Areas.

“One AK-47 rifle, double magazines with three rounds of live ammunition and one Boxer motorcycle was recovered from him”, the CP told newsmen.

Elkanah added that efforts are on to catch Maiyammata’s partners before charges will be filed in court.

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