…As Oil majors expect first ruling in Nigeria’s $1.3b oilfield scandal***
The death toll in the Philippines from Typhoon Mangkhut has climbed to 81 and could hit triple digits as searchers dig through a landslide where dozens are presumed dead, authorities said Wednesday.
Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the nation’s agricultural north and smashed houses when it tore through at the weekend with violent winds and heavy rains.
Since then the toll has climbed mostly due to the corpses recovered from the massive landslide in the mining town of Itogon where dozens are still believed buried under the mud.
“From the list I saw 59 people are still missing (at Itogon),” Ricardo Jalad, civil defence chief, told AFP. “If you add that to those already recovered it’s possible the toll could top 100.”
The typhoon, the most powerful to strike this year, also battered Hong Kong and killed four in China’s southern province of Guangdong.
Searchers at Itogon continued their grim work on Wednesday, digging with shovels and their bare hands in the vast expanse of mud that crushed dwellings used by small-scale miners.
The area was primed for disaster before Mangkhut hit, as it came on the heels of nearly a month of continuous monsoon rains that saturated the soil of the already hazardous area.
Of the hundreds digging through the debris, many were miners themselves who were looking for friends and relatives, determined to make sure they received a proper burial.
The Philippines’s deadliest storm on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
In the meantime, international oil companies, Shell and Eni, are carefully monitoring a first ruling this week by a Milan judge in one of the energy industry’s biggest corruption scandals for clues to what might be around the corner for them.
The two firms are embroiled in a long-running graft case revolving around the purchase in 2011 of one of Nigeria’s OPL 245 for about $1.3 billion.
The case, which involves Eni’s Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi and four former Shell managers, including one-time Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded, has spawned suits spanning several countries and is expected to drag on for months.
But tomorrow, in the suit running parallel to the main trial, a judge would decide, for the first time, whether $1.1 billion of the sum was siphoned in bribes to win the oilfield licence, according to Reuters. The parties have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday said the country needs solutions that would urgently lead to expansion of pipeline infrastructure nationwide.
Delivering a keynote address at the Nigerian International Pipeline Technology and Security Conference in Abuja, NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru, stated that the Pipeline Professionals Association of Nigeria (PLAN) and other stakeholders must proffer answers that could lead to a dramatic change and expansion of pipeline business in the country.
He disclosed that the group resorted to contractor financing of its pipelines and other facilities’ development in recent times to overcome the nation’s prevalent funding challenge.
According to him, the development has enabled the corporation to aggressively build the pipeline infrastructure within the Gas Master Plan as manifest in the recent award of the Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline and all ongoing downstream pipeline infrastructure rehabilitation efforts.
The GMD, who was represented the corporation’s Chief Operating Officer, Ventures, Babatunde Adeniran, noted that pipelines remain the cheapest way of moving products across distances, adding that their operations and construction had been an expensive undertaking in Nigeria.