COVID-19: Moscow Launches Digital Travel Permits Under Lockdown

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of the working group for amending the constitution in Moscow on February 26, 2020. Alexey DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of the working group for amending the constitution in Moscow on February 26, 2020. Alexey DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / AFP


Moscow authorities are launching a digital permit system to control people’s movements after warning the coronavirus outbreak has put a huge strain on hospitals.

A website to apply for the passes was working Monday for people travelling by car or public transport.

The permit system, which will be operational from Wednesday, may be expanded to monitor people going out  even within their local neighbourhood, if needed, authorities said.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Records Five New COVID-19 Cases, Total Infections Now 323

City authorities had planned to assign Muscovites scannable bar codes to check whether people adhere to strict isolation rules, but that sparked huge controversy.

People would have had to apply for a QR code from officials online each time they wanted to leave their homes.

The plan was eventually dropped in favour of the digital passes.

Muscovites are only allowed to leave their homes to walk their dogs, take out trash and visit their nearest shop or pharmacy.

Russia has declared 15,770 cases of the coronavirus and 130 fatalities, though the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

The densely populated capital with more than 12 million residents has emerged as the epicentre of the contagion with 10,158 cases and 72 deaths.

Moscow has been under lockdown since March 30, but is struggling to cope with the influx of new patients and officials said that clinics were approaching their limits.


Oil Pushes Higher, But There Are Doubts About Output Cut Deal

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 20, 2019 shows employees of Aramco oil company working in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant. Saudi Aramco shares hit the lowest level since their market debut today, as Gulf bourses were hit by a panicky sell-off amid Iranian vows of retaliation over the US killing of a top general. Fayez Nureldine / AFP


Oil prices rose Monday after top producers agreed to massive output cuts, but gains were capped as doubts grew about whether the move was enough to stabilise coronavirus-ravaged energy markets.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up about five percent at $23.94 a barrel in Asian afternoon trade, after earlier rallying almost eight percent.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, also fell slightly from an earlier strong rally to trade 4.2 percent higher at $32.83 a barrel.

READ ALSO: OPEC Members Except Mexico Agree To Output Cuts

While the rises were healthy, they were limited compared to the double-digit jumps and falls of recent weeks, with analysts concerned there will be still be massive oversupply in the market as the virus pandemic throttles demand.

OPEC producers dominated by Saudi Arabia and allies led by Russia thrashed out a compromise deal Sunday after Mexico had balked at an earlier agreement struck on Friday.

The videoconference summit agreed to a cut of 9.7 million barrels per day from May, according to Mexican Energy Minister Rocio Nahle, down slightly from 10 million barrel reduction envisioned earlier.

OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo called the cuts “historic” — and the agreement appeared to mark an end to a bitter price war between Riyadh and Moscow.

Oil markets have been in turmoil for weeks as lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed to combat the outbreak batter demand, while the Saudi-Russian row compounded the crisis.

But analysts were left disappointed at a cut that will go nowhere near to making up for the expected demand loss due to the pandemic, forecast at anywhere between 15 and 30 million barrels a day.

Storage tanks worldwide are also rapidly filling up.

“The deal is a little less than the market expected,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, told Bloomberg News.

“The hard work lies ahead given that the market is very sceptical that OPEC+ are actually going to be able to come up with their near 10 million barrels a day of production cuts.”

AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes added: “There remain concerns the agreement could be a day late and a ‘barrel short’ to prevent a decline in prices in the coming weeks as storage capacity brims”.


EFCC Arraigns 26 Suspects For Illegal Oil Deal


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned 26 suspected illegal oil dealers and three vessels before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

The first charge involves six suspects and a vessel namely MT Jonko.

The suspects include Umoh Clement, Moses Ogbodu, Ignatius Okereke, Valentine Amaegberi, Victor Egbowon, and Emmanuel Bassey.

Others are Ademola Olasode, Sule Anyebe, Oyelami Oloyede, Otuagoma Emmanuel, and Anthony Orhieoghenebruru.

They allegedly conspired on December 21, 2019, to deal in 450 metric tonnes of petroleum products without the appropriate licence.

The EFCC said the offence was contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act.

At their arraignment on Wednesday, the suspects pleaded not guilty while the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court for a trial date.

He also urged the court to remand the defendants in the Nigerian Correctional Services (NSC).

Justice Aikawa granted the requests and adjourned the case until March 17 for the commencement of trial and hearing of the bail application.

Similarly, the anti-graft agency arraigned another set of 15 suspects and two vessels before Justice Aikawa for dealing in petroleum products without the appropriate licence.

The suspects include MV Ekpere Amaka (vessel), Eliaja Agoso, Assayomo Julius, Godwin Ajimosun, Jerome Nwaobi, Ukpe Wisdom, Bayonle-Jude Olawunmi, Vincent Antai, and John Zola.

Others are MT Zeebrugge (vessel), Kapilarathana A.J, Yapa, Ramanayaka Maithripala, Labunu Silva, Shashika Palipana, Amarasinge Chaml, Kariyawasan Wijewardbana, and Joseph Fernando.

Amongst other things, the EFCC said they allegedly conspired to deal in 85 metric tonnes of petroleum products without the appropriate license, an offence for which they also pleaded “not guilty”.

Justice Aikawa also ordered the remand of the suspects and adjourned the case until March 16 for the commencement of trial and hearing of the bail applications.

Oyo State Police Command Parades Suspects

policeThe Oyo State Police Command has paraded a fake Colonel who it says has fraudulently collected 40 million Naira as part payment for an oil deal from unsuspecting investors.

Also paraded was a fake lawyer who has duped many of their valuables by also disguising as a prophet.

Others include armed robbery syndicates, vandals and a group of kidnappers and rapists.

The Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Adeleye Oyebade, said he and his men were leaving nothing to chance as the year winds down and have increased efforts to rid the state of criminals.

Total sells $2.5 billion Nigerian oil field to China’s Sinopec

Total is selling a 20 percent stake in a Nigerian offshore oil field to China’s Sinopec in a $2.5 billion deal which will help the French oil group fund its ambitious exploration plans.

Total said on Monday it had signed a deal to sell the stake in the OML 138 block, which currently produces 130,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent and contains the Usan field, which started production in February.

The French group said in September it planned to sell assets worth between $15 billion and $20 billion in the period up to 2014 as part of a bolder approach to managing its business, which has seen it buy and sell assets more frequently.

Total, which is also selling its French gas network business, is ramping up spending on exploration to take advantage of the historically high price of oil, which averaged $113.6 a barrel in the first half of 2012.

Total’s chief executive, Christophe de Margerie, said earlier this month the group did not intend to disengage from Nigeria altogether.

“It doesn’t mean we are scared and intend to start some kind of walking out of Nigeria … Total is happy to develop its projects in Nigeria,” he told reporters at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.

Chinese companies have been among the most aggressive in targeting assets around the globe to help feed oil and raw material demand in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Sinopec, Asia’s largest refiner, has also snapped up energy assets in Britain and the United States recently to boost foreign earnings, as a slowdown in China hit profits.

Other shareholders in the OML 138 oil block, located 100 kilometres off the coast of Nigeria, are Exxon and Chevron, with 30 percent each, as well as Nexen , which owns 20 percent.

Total’s shares were up 2.5 percent by 1500 GMT, outperforming a 2.1 percent rise in the European oil and gas sector