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MTN Nigeria converts to public company ahead of NSE listing

MTN Nigeria has changed its status from a private company to a public liability company (PLC) ahead of its listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

This conversion is one of the requirements for listing on the exchange.

The company had previously announced that it looks to list on the NSE before July, saying it plans to enter the market by way of listing by introduction.

Speaking on the conversion, Fredi Moolman, MTN CEO, said the listing is part of its commitment to localisation in the markets in which it operates.

“Our conversion to a Plc is a major step towards listing by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in the first half of 2019,” the telecommunications company said on Wednesday.

“It is a reaffirmation of our long-term commitment to expanding investment opportunities for Nigerians, in addition to providing everyday services to them. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the SEC and NSE to take forward the listing process.”

A listing on the NSE was one of the conditions reached in the resolution of a N330 billion fine placed on the telco by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for its inability to disconnect improperly registered SIM cards.

For the year ended 2018, the company had announced the addition of 6 million new subscribers and a revenue of N965 billion.

The results, which were announced in March 2019, showed that data revenue grew by 39.3% while internet subscribers grew to 18.7 million.

NSE fines Access Bank, two others N8.12m for disclosure violations

The Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE has fined Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and First Aluminium Plc a total of N8.12m for disclosure violations.

The NSE, in its latest X-Compliance report, said the Access Bank and Diamond Bank were fined for failing to disclose the resolutions passed at the meeting of their board of directors.

Access Bank was fined N4.41m, while Diamond Bank Plc was fined N3.23m, according to the report, which brings the total amount to be paid by the resulting bank from the merger to N7.64m.

First Aluminium was fined N476,280 for non-dispatch of the notice of its Annual General Meeting and annual reports to shareholders 21 days before the date of the meeting.

The NSE said every listed company was required to provide the Exchange with timely information to enable it efficiently perform its function of maintaining an orderly market.

It stated that in accordance with the provisions of Appendix III: General undertaking (equities), the rulebook of the Exchange, 2015 (issuers’ rules) and the Exchange’s circular no. NSE/LARD/LRD/CIR3/17/05/12 on publication of announcements or press releases via the issuers’ portal, listed companies were required to obtain prior written approval from the Exchange before publications that affect shareholders’ interest were made in the media or via the issuers’ portal.

The NSE said in addition, companies were also required to disclose material information to the Exchange and publish the information in their annual reports.

The report read in part, “Access Bank, Diamond Bank and First Aluminium breached certain provisions of the listings rules and were sanctioned accordingly.”

So far in the year, Only Access Bank, Diamond Bank and First Aluminium have committed disclosure violations and have been fined accordingly.

Mega FAAC Allocations: How FG, States, LGs shared N8tr in 2018

A new report by the Economic Confidential has disclosed that the Federal Government, 36 states and the 774 local government councils in Nigeria shared a total sum of N8trillion from the Federation Account in 2018 in spite of the shut-ins in several oil installations during the period.

The allocations were made after the monthly meetings of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) in 2018. The current sources of revenue flow into the Federation Account are collected by agencies of the Federal Government with little or no contributions from state or local government council.

The current sources of revenue flow into the Federation Account are revenue collected by agencies of the Federal Government with little or no contributions from states and local government councils.

While the Federal Government and its agencies under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari received a total sum of N3.48 trillion the other tiers, States and local government councils shared a total sum of N4.5 trillion in 2018. Meanwhile, in 2017 the Federal Government and its agencies had received N2.5 trillion while the other tiers of government shared N3.3 trillion.

In its annual detailed investigative report with a table of figures, the Economic Confidential disclosed that among the state recipients, Delta is ranked first as the highest recipient of gross allocation with a total sum of N285bn in the twelve months of 2018.

It is followed by Akwa State N272bn, Lagos N260bn, Rivers N237bn and Bayelsa N192bn. The five states cornered over a quarter (25%) of the total allocation for the States and local government councils in Nigeria in 2018.

Among the 10 highest recipients from the Federation Account in 2018 included Kano State which got N183bn, Katsina N138bn, Oyo N131bn, Kaduna N131bn and Borno State N122bn.

The report further disclosed that Edo and Ondo which are oil-producing states got N112bn and N108bn respectively while another state in the South-South, Cross River State merely received N91bnbn.

The Economic Confidential, Nigeria’s intelligence economic magazine, gathered that factors that influence allocations to states and local government councils from the Federation Account include: Population, Derivation, Landmass, Terrain, Revenue Effort, School Enrolments, Health Facilities, Water Supply and Equality of the beneficiaries.

The revenue generating agencies to the Federation Account are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

The revenues come from Export Crude Sales, Domestic Crude Sales, LPG, NLNG, Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT), Company Income Tax (CIT), Withholding Tax (WHT), Import Duty, Excise Duty, Royalties, Gas Flared and miscellaneous oil revenue such as Oil Prospecting License and oil Mining Licence.

The Economic Confidential which is circulated at the monthly meeting Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) has been publishing the monthly Federation Account Allocation figures since January 2007.

It also publishes the Annual States Viability Index (ASVI) which measures the likely survival of States on their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) without relying on Federally Collected Revenues, especially from the Federation Account.

Panel recommends Gwarzo’s dismissal says he gave his company contract as SEC DG

The panel set up to investigate Mounir Gwarzo, suspended director general of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has recommended his dismissal on grounds that he awarded contracts worth N33 million to his company.

The administrative panel of inquiry into allegations of violations of public service rules, financial regulations and other extant rules and regulations, which was set up by the ministry of finance, also said Gwarzo admitted to the allegations.

The panel had been directed to investigate claims that Gwarzo was a director in Medusa Limited and Outbound Investment Limited while still serving as SEC DG and also used his influence to award contracts to those companies.

According to the panel’s report, he was a majority shareholder in Medusa Limited with a shareholding of N1.2 million.

“His purported letter of resignation dates 19th December 2012 was not part of CAC’s records as at the date of the inquiry.

“It was equally discovered from the account opening mandate obtained from GTBank that Gwarzo was at the date of the inquiry signatory to account No 322324264/1/110 maintained by the company with the bank.”

He was also reported to have signed letters as the company director to the bank requesting a change of account number and a credit card for the company.

Both letters were dated July 24, 2015, and August 16, 2016, respectively.

“When Gwarzo was confronted with the above letters, he admitted to having authored and signed them but claimed that it was a regrettable action” the report stated.

Outbound Investments Limited, which benefitted from SEC contacts worth N33,736,596, Gwarzo claimed the company belongs to his wife’s family and stated that he was only representing his wife on the board.

Based on the findings, the panel said Gwarzo had breached PSR 030424 and PSR 030402 which prohibits public officers from holding shares in both public and private companies operating in Nigeria or abroad except that they must not be directors in public companies and may only be directors in public companies if nominated by the government.

The panel also recommended that he be referred to the ICPC for further investigation of the allegation of using his position as DG to influence the award of contracts.

In November 2017, Kemi Adeosun, the former minister of finance, had ordered Gwarzo’s suspension saying he received a severance package upon assuming office as SEC DG.

Gwarzo was an executive commissioner in SEC before becoming DG.

In response, Gwarzo had claimed that he was because he protested Adeosun’s alleged directive to halt a forensic audit being carried out on Oando at the time.

Gwarzo had directed a forensic audit of Oando over allegations of irregularities, notably the increased trading in the company’s shares before its declaration of a N183 billion loss — said to be the biggest in Nigeria’s corporate history.

The office of the minister has denied the allegation, maintaining that Gwarzo was suspended following allegations that he was carting away documents to undermine a petition against him.

OPEC acknowledges strategic importance of Dangote Refinery

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is upbeat at the prospect of the Dangote Oil Refinery serving to drive world crude oil refining capacity increase especially in Africa by 2020.

The Organisation, in the current edition of its World Oil Outlook (WOO), said that Dangote Refinery, which is the first privately-owned and operated refinery in Nigeria, will refine as much as 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day at installed capacity.

Presently, total world oil production in 2019 averaged 80,622,000 barrels per day. Approximately 68 per cent is coming from the top ten countries, and an overlapping 44 per cent comes from the 14 current OPEC members.

OPEC said in the outlook that the world is expecting some capacity expansion coming from Nigeria by 2020, either through the rehabilitation of existing refineries – in part to raise their utilisation rates, or through grassroots projects, like the Dangote Oil Refinery.

OPEC stated: “Last year’s World Oil Outlook hinted that, in Africa, “new projects could improve the situation somewhat toward the end of the period”. This year, increasing confidence that the Dangote project in Nigeria will go ahead is indeed changing the picture.

“Allowing for some uncertainty in the project’s start-up timetable, incremental potential in Africa is expected to continue to lag incremental demand-based requirements through 2020, after which the potential is for a balance or excess requirements.

A deficit of around 0.2 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2019 to 2020 is estimated to swing to an excess of around 0.3 mb/d by 2022 to 2023. It must be borne in mind that this regional outlook is unusual in that it hinges largely on a single project”.

OPEC said the completion of the project would reduce the importation of petroleum products in West Africa. “Since the project is in West Africa, its implementation does not necessarily alter the situations in North and East/South Africa. What should happen, especially in West Africa, is a reduction in the need and opportunity for product imports,” it added.

According to OPEC, in Africa, there are some 50 listed refining projects, which, if all built, would add nearly 5mb/d of new refining capacity to the continent.

The organisation noted, however, that in recent WOOs, the proportion of projects considered firm has generally been low, for example, 0.4 mb/d for the 2017 to 2022 period in WOO 2017.

“This year, the outlook represents a significant reversal from recent history. For the first time in many years, projected firm additions at 1.1 mb/d exceed regional demand growth for 2018 to 2023 at 0.7 mb/d.

“This change relates primarily to one project in Nigeria now under construction. Recognizing that this one major project is in West Africa, the prospects for North and East/South Africa continues to be for further increases in regional net product imports.

“It must be borne in mind that this regional outlook is unusual in that it hinges largely on a single project. Moreover, since the project is in West Africa, its implementation does not necessarily alter the situations in North and East/South Africa. What should happen, especially in West Africa, is a reduction in the need and opportunity for product imports,” it stated.

Reacting to the OPEC position, Group Executive Director, Strategy, Portfolio Development and Capital Projects, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, said the Organisation was correct in its estimation and that all hands are on deck to deliver the refinery on time.

He stated that Dangote Group’s ongoing refining and petrochemicals project can meet 100 per cent of the domestic requirement of all liquid petroleum products (Gasoline, Diesel, Kerosene and Aviation Jet), leaving the surplus for export in line with the OPEC expectation.
He said that this high volume of PMS output from the Dangote Refinery would transform Nigeria from a petrol import-dependent country to an exporter of refined petroleum products.

Edwin disclosed that Dangote is also constructing the largest fertilizer Plant in West Africa with capacity to produce 3.0 million tonnes of Urea per year as part of the gigantic economic transformation project.

He explained that the Dangote Fertilizer complex consists of Ammonia and Urea plants with associated facilities and infrastructure.

FG to sell 60% stake in Bank of Agriculture

The  Federal Government yesterday said it will divest 60 per cent of its stakes in the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) as part of plans to restructure the lender.

The Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Alex A. Okoh, who spoke at the meeting for the recapitalisation of the bank in Abuja, said the bank has been performing sub-optimally due to the myriad of challenges it faced since inception in 1972.

He said: “The process will lead to the privatisation of equity of the bank.We envisage that the Central Bank equity will be reduced to 20 per cent, Federal Ministry of Finance (incorporated) will be reduced to 20 per cent.The government agencies equity in the new bank will be a minority of 40 per cent. We will then invite private sector investors who will own 20 per cent and the remaining 40 per cent equity will be owned by farmers and farmers’ cooperatives,” he said in a statement endorsed by Head, Public Communications, BPE, Amina  Tukur Othman.

Okoh said the new strategy envisages that bank will be transformed into a truly agriculture finance bank modeled along the lines of Agriculture Bank of China and Rabobank of the Netherlands. He said upon its establishment in 1972 to serve as an agricultural and cooperative bank to provide services of a development finance institution, it was vested with the responsibility of providing low cost credit to small holder and commercial farmers.

He, however, lamented that the bank had been unable to realise its  responsibilities due to its current structure, stressing that the proposed restructuring and recapitalisation of the bank seek to transform it strictly into an agricultural finance bank with functional branches in all the local government areas and major towns in the country.

The Director-General said the model was sure to  encourage farmers to form clusters of cooperatives and thrift societies throughout the six geo-political zones for the purpose of participating in the ownership of the Bank.

Okoh  added that the model would fundamentally ensure that the BoA becomes a farmers’ bank owned by farmers.

On the sustainability of the strategy and attracting investment, Okoh said measures would be put in place to take non-performing credit facilities off the balance sheet and books of the bank and possibly sold off to a factor agent. He said the measure was  to make the bank attractive to investors and attract cheap funding from multilateral development institutions and other institutional investors with a focus on agricultural financing.

 

Fraud charges: Court frees suspended SEC DG for lack of evidence

A federal capital territory (FCT) high court has discharged Mounir Gwarzo, suspended director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in the N115 million fraud charge filed against him.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Hussein Baba-Yusuf, the judge, held that the prosecution could not establish any prima facie case against the defendants.

Zakwanu Garba, the co-defendant and executive commissioner of the commission, was also freed.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had filed a five-count charge against Gwarzo and Garuba bordering on alleged misappropriation of funds and conferment of corrupt advantage on a public officer .

Gwarzo was said to have received N104,851,154.94 as severance benefits and N10,983,488.88 in excess of car grant when he served as the director-general of the commission.

Garba was accused of conniving with Gwarzo to commit the fraud but the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In 2017, Kemi Adeosun, former minister of finance, had suspended Gwarzo and constituted a panel to probe the allegations.

Baba-Yusuf said the prosecution team was unable to establish beyond reasonable doubt the essential elements of the offence for which the defendants were charged.

The judge maintained that the prosecution, by its admission, through witnesses and evidence proved that the offences the defendants were accused of were products of decisions of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the commission.

“Furthermore, exhibit 19, which is a memo from the governing board of SEC, has clearly demonstrated that the decisions of the board of SEC as the highest decision and policy-making body of commission is legal,” the judge ruled.

“As a result of this, the first defendant is acquitted on the first charge.

“The burden of proof was on the prosecution but through its own exhibit, which includes a board resolution which approved the car benefit for an executive director who had spent more than two years in office, the charge against Mister Gwarzo has not been established.”

France’s richest families lead $700 million fundraising effort for Notre Dame

France’s three wealthiest families are coming to the rescue of a national icon, spearheading a fundraising drive to rebuild Notre Dame that has topped $700 million.

The billionaires behind luxury giants LVMH Group, Kering and L’Oreal on Tuesday pledged a combined €500 million ($565 million) after a massive fire ripped through the Paris cathedral.

LVMH and its CEO Bernard Arnault have promised €200 million ($226 million). The donation has been matched by the Bettencourt Meyers family, which controls L’Oreal.

The Pinault family, which operates luxury conglomerate Kering has pledged €100 million ($113 million).

The three fashion dynasties have invoked patriotism and shared cultural identity in explaining their generosity following the devastating fire.

Other French companies have also written big checks: The oil and gas company Total has promised €100 million ($113 million), while tech and consulting firm Capgemini will give €1 million ($1.1 million).

Combined with other donations from companies including French bank Crédit Agricole, the total amount pledged by business and wealthy donors has reached $700 million.

Luxury giving

LVMH  which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy, said in a statement that its donation showed “solidarity with this national tragedy” and that funds would be used to rebuild this “extraordinary cathedral.”

The fashion house went on to describe Notre Dame as a “symbol of French heritage and unity.” LVMH said it would make its creative and financial teams available to help with rebuilding and soliciting donations.

Arnault, its CEO, is the third richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His net worth comes in at $90.4 billion, more than that of Warren Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg.

In addition to its fashion lines, LVMH controls high-end alcohol brands such as Dom Pérignon, Hennessy and Veuve Clicquot, as well as popular beauty retailer Sephora.

LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault pictured in 2018.LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault pictured in 2018.

Kering, which is the home for brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, was first out of the gate Tuesday with its donation.

“This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values,” François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering, said in a statement.

“Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible,” added Pinault, who is the son of the billionaire businessman François Pinault.

The Pinault family is worth an estimated $37.3 billion, per Bloomberg.

François-Henri Pinault, who manages the family’s businesses, is married to actress Salma Hayek. Kering also owns fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga.

The Bettencourt family owns a 33% stake in L’Oreal, which controls brands like Maybelline, Lancome, Garnier and Kiehl’s.

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the richest woman in the world, is worth $53.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.

She inherited the stake from her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, who died in 2017. Bettencourt Meyers is the granddaughter of the company’s founder, Eugene Schueller.

The rebuilding process

The blaze at Notre Dame on Monday devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church, including its iconic spire. The fire was extinguished after nine hours.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild the site, saying Monday that France will launch an international fundraising campaign to assist with the effort.

The process will be expensive and lengthy, and it could take time to begin in earnest. Immediate steps will need to be taken to prevent further damage, since the structure is now particularly vulnerable to water damage.

It’s tough to estimate the total time and cost of the restoration.

The Venice Opera House, which was gutted by a blaze in 1996, reportedly reopened eight years later after €60 million ($68 million) was spent.

When Windsor Castle, one of Britain’s royal residences, was severely damaged in a fire in 1992, it reopened nearly five years later at a cost of £36.5 million ($47.8 million).

CNN

Oil slips to $71, hit by talk of higher OPEC+ production

Brent oil slipped to around $71 a barrel on Tuesday, pressured by expectations of higher U.S. inventories and concern about Russia’s willingness to stick with OPEC-led supply cuts.

Analysts on average expect U.S. crude stockpiles to have risen by 1.9 million barrels last week, the fourth straight increase.

The first of this week’s stockpile reports is due at 2030 GMT from the American Petroleum Institute.

“We have already seen these inventories going higher in the last week’s print,” said Naeem Aslam, Chief Market Analyst at TF Global Markets in London.

“The rising inventory data has raised many questions for investors – no one wants to see the oil glut again.”

Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 12 cents at $71.06 a barrel at 0801 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained six cents to $63.46.

While OPEC-led supply cuts have boosted Brent by more than 30 per cent this year, gains have been limited by worries that slowing economic growth could weaken demand for fuel.

Oil also fell on Monday after comments from Russia raised concern that the OPEC-led supply-cutting pact may not be renewed.

Russia and the producer group may decide to boost output to fight for market share with the U.S., TASS news agency сited Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as saying.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries   and other producers including Russia, an alliance known as OPEC+, have been cutting output since January 1.

They will decide in June whether to continue the arrangement.

“There is a growing concern that Russia will not agree on extending production cuts and we could see them officially abandon it in the coming months,” said Edward Moya, Senior Market Analyst at OANDA.

For the first time ever, a woman’s signature appears on the naira

For the very first time in Nigeria’s 59-year history, the signature of a woman, Priscilla Ekwere Eleje, has appeared on the naira note.

Eleje, who has been acting director of currency and operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been confirmed, substantive director of the apex bank.

She is the first female director of currency in the history of the bank, and her signature has been appended on the naira — breaking another glass ceiling.

Ladi Kwali, Nigeria’s foremost potter, is the only woman who’s image appears on the naira, taking a spot at the back of the N20 note.

Every naira note in the country’s history — save the N20 note — has had the face, name, and signature of a man, up until now.

Insiders at CBN said that the Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the bank, has been working to ensure more women come to the table at the bank.

It was also learnt that she was confirmed on August 30, 2018, and currencies printed afterwards would carry her signature.

Sarah Alade has been the closest woman to this feat, rising to become the deputy governor of the CBN after as she was appointed the head, fiscal analysis division of the CBN at the turn of the millenium.

Alade, who — though in acting capacity — became the very first female governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), retired on March 22, 2017, after leading at the bank in various capacities.

Aishah Ahmed was appointed to replace Alade in 2018.

Photo credit: Wimbiz

Aviation unions suspend picketing of Caverton Helicopters

The unions in the aviation sector on Monday suspended their plan to picket Caverton Helicopters Limited, following successful deliberations with the airline’s management.

The unions, however, picketed the offices of in-flight service providers, Newrest Aviation Services Limited and Serv Air, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, for alleged anti-labour practices.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the unions are: The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).

Others are the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP).

Mr Aba Ocheme, General Secretary, NUATE, told NAN that the picketing of Caverton Helicopters was suspended following the agreement by the management to pay all the sacked workers their entitlements.

“This morning, we held a meeting with the management of Caverton and they have agreed to pay the severance benefits of all the sacked workers within five weeks.

“They have also agreed to look into other pending issues concerning staff welfare, and have promised to give us feedback soon,” Ocheme said.

On the picketing of the in-flight service providers, he said both organisations had prevented their members from joining unions in the aviation industry.

“We have a court case with Newrest ASL at the National Industrial Court, Lagos, over this issue, but there is no court order that we cannot picket the company.

“We have some persons who have indicated interest to join us and are even paying check up dues, but the management is preventing them from doing so.

“They have even gone further to make the job difficult for these persons by victimising them,” the general secretary said.

He disclosed that the picketing of both companies would continue on Tuesday, as other affiliate trade unions from outside the aviation sector had indicated interest to join the protest.

PenCom bars PFAs from investing in bonds issued by nine states

The National Pension Commission has barred pension fund administrators from investing in the bonds of nine states that have yet to amend their state pension laws and join the Contributory Pension Scheme.

Findings also revealed that this restriction might be extended to 15 other states that had joined the CPS, but were not showing full commitment to funding the Retirement Savings Accounts of their workers.

Latest figures from the commission showed that as of March 2019, the number of states that had enacted laws on the CPS stood at 27.

Yobe State is still operating the old Defined Benefits Scheme and has taken no action towards adopting the CPS.

Six states, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kwara and Pateau have drafted bills, while in Akwa Ibom and Cross River, the bills are still in the houses of assembly.

The commission stated that the states that had commenced remittance of pensions to workers’ Retirement Savings Accounts and were funding their accrued rights were Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Niger, Delta, Osun and Rivers.

The CPS was established under the Pension Reform Act to replace the DBS.

This was because the DBS had huge liabilities, which were not being funded, leading to situations where retirees endured long waits to get their entitlements, while many of them died without being paid.

Unfortunately, the same scenario, which was prevalent in states operating the DBS, is now happening in the states operating the CPS due to poor funding of the scheme.

The Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, said the commission could not impose the CPS on the states, but could only use moral suasion.

He said, “The states have to enact the laws to do the CPS because they are going to operate based on the provisions of the laws. We can only encourage them because of the benefits in the scheme.”

According to him, if any state plans to raise funds through pension bonds, it must have met the CPS criteria before it could have access to such.

For now, he said, those that had not enacted the laws were being encouraged to do so. “We don’t invest in bonds of states that have not enacted their laws. We have some that are not complying properly, some are complying partially. I believe we will review some of those things again. But for now, if you have not even enacted any law, don’t think we will start investing in your bonds.”

No plan to remove fuel subsidy now, FG insists

Nigeria’s Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has reiterated government’s resolve not to remove fuel subsidy. She made the emphasis against the backdrop of long queues emerging at some filling stations amid the fear that a removal was imminent.

Mrs. Ahmed spoke during a joint briefing with Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele and Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma on the sidelines of the 2019 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

“There is no plan to remove subsidy now because we have not yet found an alternative package to subsidy. We will not remove subsidy without another social safety net package,” the minister said.

She noted: “One of the issues that always comes up in the report, especially by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a corporate body, is how we handle fuel subsidy. In principle, the IMF is saying fuel subsidies are better removed, so that you can use the resources for other important sectors. In principle, that is a fact. But in Nigeria, we don’t have plans to remove fuel subsidy at this time because we have not yet designed buffers that can enable us to remove fuel subsidy and provide cushions for our people.

“So, there is no plan to remove subsidy. We will be discussing with various groups. If we have to, what are the alternatives? We have not yet found viable alternatives. So, we are not yet at the point of removing fuel subsidy. Therefore, every rumour on plans to remove subsidy should be discarded.”

The minister revealed that part of the takeaways from the Spring Meetings was the discussion of additional financing assistance on climate change and power.

In his remarks, Emefiele expressed hope that Nigeria’s economy would lead growth in the African sub-region from the current 1.8 per cent to three per cent, and attain the CBN’s single digit inflation target of between six and nine per cent.

According to him, significant gains have been recorded in terms of financial inclusion, which today is around 64 per cent, close to the 80 per cent target by 2020.

He further allayed the fear of adverse consequences on Nigeria’s economy arising from Brexit discussions. Britain’s trade relationship with Nigeria was not as high as that of China and the United States, he explained.

Udoma said that during talks with officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), he asked support for Nigeria’s efforts at leveraging private sector capital to fund critical infrastructure.

“At the State of the African Region, discussions centered on the role of regional cooperation in tackling fragility in Africa. A major takeaway was the need to pay attention to women empowerment and education of the girl child, as these have positive implications in dealing with fragility and reducing conflicts. As you know, investing in our people and the issue of girl-child education are some of the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” said Udoma.

Ahmed’s reassurances came as the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) warned that the advice by the IMF to remove subsidy would destabilise the nation.

The oil workers described a statement on boosting Nigeria’s economy credited to IMF’s media chief for Africa as injurious to the citizenry. It created panic buying, hoarding of petroleum products, and pushed up the prices of goods and services, they said.

The general secretaries of NUPENG Olawale Afolabi and PENGASSAN Okugbawa Lumumba said Sunday that the statement was poisonous and wondered why IMF was still advising the government to inflict more hardship on the people.

“We empathise with them (Nigerian workers) and will not turn blind eyes to any further attempt to increase their pains and impoverish them further. It is quite bewildering and baffling that IMF is not considering the pains and agonies Nigerians went through, even to achieve the acknowledged gains of 2018, with almost two-thirds of the world’s hungriest people among Nigerians,” the secretaries said in a statement.

The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA) meanwhile has allayed the fear of Nigerians of any scarcity of fuel.

In a statement by PPRA Executive Secretary Abdulkadir Saidu, the agency insisted the country has sufficient deposit of petrol to meet demands.

“The agency wishes to assure Nigerians to disregard panic buying as there is adequate product supply in the system to meet the demands of consumers,” it said.

It added: “PPPRA, in line with its mandate to regulate petroleum products supply and distribution as well as establish an industry data bank, has continued to monitor products supply in the sector in line with best practices.

“Thus, PMS average daily supply for the year 2017, 2018 and 2019 are about 46 million, 54 million and 56 million litres respectively. These indicate an improved level of supply in 2019.

“Based on the available data, there is adequate supply of PMS with over 21 days sufficiency. PPPRA therefore urges fuel consumers across the country to desist from panic buying as the agency would continue to monitor the supply situation and take every step required to ensure that there is no disruption in the supply chain.”

NOVA Merchant Bank receives Investment Grade Rating from Agusto, Global Credit

In furtherance of its plans to scale its operation this year, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited, in yet another milestone, has received an investment grade rating from both Agusto & Co (Bbb) and Global Credit Ratings (BBB-).

The reasons given for the Bank’s rating include the strength of the Board and management team, robust capitalisation, prudent risk profile, good asset quality and strong liquidity.

This achievement follows the recent publication of the Bank’s financial results where it declared a profit after tax of N1.15bn for the year ended 31st of December 2018, an increase from N510.6m in 2017.

Anya Duroha, the Managing Director/CEO, commented: “The award of investment grade ratings by two leading rating agencies is another significant milestone in the history of the Bank. It further assists us in our plans to scale up our operations this year and deliver value to our customers and all other stakeholders”.

Mr. Phillips Oduoza, the Chairman of NOVA Merchant Bank, further noted “These ratings are further validation of the strength of the foundation which has been laid for the continued future success of the Bank. On behalf of the Board, I will like to commend the management team for all their effort in achieving this milestone debut rating record.”

NOVA Merchant Bank will continue to focus on delivering on its overarching philosophy of “New Thinking, New Opportunities” to sustainably grow its business as it seeks to assist its clients achieve their strategic objectives and re-establish merchant banking as a key economic driver in the country.

NNPC has sufficient fuel, Kachikwu assures Nigerians

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, on Sunday assured Nigerians that there is sufficient petrol in the country.

Mr Kachikwu in an Interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, said that the country had gone past the era of fuel scarcity and urged motorists to desist from panic buying.

“I can say that there shouldn’t be any reason for fuel scarcity, we have gone past the era of fuel scarcity.

“NNPC informed me when I made inquiries that they imported enough.

“Yesterday, I saw a few pockets of scarcity in Abuja, but I was told that it was Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) related distribution issues, and it will be sorted out as soon as possible.

“So, it is not an issue of lack of sufficiency, I am told they have about 28 day’s sufficiency, two weeks ago, they presently have between 14 and 15 days product sufficiency,’’ he said.

The minister noted that the 28 days sufficiency was okay based on 50 million litres daily utilisation in the country.

“ I don’t expect to see a scarcity, I just expect them to work hard over the next few days to deal with whatever logistic issue they have. I will be working with NNPC on that,’’ he added

On queues building up in some filling stations in Lagos and Abuja, he maintained that the country was wet enough to serve the needs of motorists.

“ I haven’t visited Lagos cities, but the information I have is that there is enough product on ground and we should be able to deal with whatever it is.

“The problem with fuel scarcity is that if you allow it to last for three days, then it builds up a life of its own.

“That is what I have enforced NNPC to do to make sure that it is resolved,’’ he said.

Mr Kachikwu noted that it would have been a major issue for the country if there was an insufficient product on the ground but assured that NNPC would be able to resolve whatever the situation was in a few days.

A check by NAN on Sunday in Abuja revealed that there were no queues in most filling stations along Airport road and Kubwa expressway.

NAN reports that at NNPC outlet, Conoil and NIPPCO filling stations along the airport road, motorists were buying fuel with ease, except at the NNPC mega station at the Central business district, which a short queue.

A taxi driver, Johnson Adio, said “this is not a serious queue, I spent just 20 minutes before buying, it is normal with this station because a lot of people like buying from them.

“It was on Friday that we had a little problem, but it is okay now,” he said.

Also, along the Kubwa Expressway, there was no queue at AA Rano filling station, Shema, Mobil and NNPC stations.

NAN also reports that only a few filling stations like DAN oil along the airport and the Kubwa expressway were closed. (NAN)

Falana writes Kachikwu, demands explanation for ‘$60bn oil revenue loss’

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has written a letter to Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, demanding information on the “loss of $60 billion oil revenue under the freedom of information (FOI) act.”

In the letter dated April 10, the human rights lawyer requested Kachikwu to provide details on how Nigeria lost $60 billion oil revenue from non-implementation of production sharing contract (PSC) terms between the federal government and international oil companies (IOCs).

Falana also disclosed that he had previously alerted the minister, who was then the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), of the non-implementation of the PSC terms.

The PSC terms between government and IOCs clearly spell out the amount of money that the country receives in signature bonuses, taxes and royalties and how much oil or gas the companies must share with the government during production and contributes largely to government revenue.

Giving more reasons for his request, Falana said even Kachikwu himself had confirmed the huge oil revenue loss, blaming it on “public officials,” with a more recent confirmation made by the acting chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

The human rights lawyer gave the minister a seven-day ultimatum to provide the requested information, saying that he will be forced to seek a court order if Kachikwu fails to do so.

The letter sent to TheCable Petrobarometer on Sunday, read in part: “In my letter addressed to you in your capacity as the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), I called your attention to the refusal of the regulatory agencies in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to enforce the Production Sharing Contracts signed with the International Oil Companies by the Federal government.

“In a public statement credited to you sometime in August 2017, you did disclose to the media that Nigeria had lost not less than $60 Billion due to the refusal of some public officials to implement the terms of the Production Sharing Contracts between the Federal Government and the International Oil Companies.

“In another public statement made on January 19, 2019 by the Acting Chairman of the Revenue, Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Mr. Shetima Bana confirmed the loss of oil revenue of $60 billion arising from the non-implementation of the said production sharing contracts.

“In view of the foregoing, I am compelled to request you to furnish me with information on the revenue of $60 billion which the Federal government has refused to collect from the International Oil Companies as at August 2017. As this request is made pursuant to section the provision of the Freedom of Information Act you are required to supply the requested information not later than 7 days from the date of the receipt of this letter.

TAKE NOTICE that if you fail or refuse to accede to my request, I shall be compelled to apply to the Federal High Court to direct you to avail me with the information on the loss of the oil revenue of $60 billion.”

KACHIKWU RESPONDS

Responding to Falana, a letter signed by Oge Modie, chief of staff of the petroleum ministry, acknowledged receipt of the FOI request on April 11.

“On behalf of the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, this is to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 10th April, 2019 and received 11th April, 2019 on the above subject matter,” the letter read.

“Please accept the assurances of the Honourable Minister’s best regards.”

Don’t remove fuel subsidy, NUPENG, PENGASSAN urge Buhari

Workers in the oil and gas sector on Sunday advised President Muhammadu Buhari to shun any counsel that would destabilise or cause chaos in the economy.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) gave the advice in a statement in Lagos.

The statement was signed by Mr Okugbawa Lumumba, PENGASSAN General Secretary and Afolabi Olawale, NUPENG’s General Secretary.

The Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde had on April  12 called on the Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy because of low revenue mobilisation that existed  in terms of tax to Gross Domestic Product.

They said that the IMF advice on how to recover Nigerian economy was worrisome as it had become counter productive.

“Any economic policy that is devoid of human feelings can lead to more social dislocations and upheavals, which will later become counterproductive as currently experienced,’’ it said.

The unions said that IMF had created panic in the country with associated hoarding of petroleum products, panic buying, skyrocketed increases in prices of goods and services in the country.

It said that earlier, the IMF chief praised the significant progress the nation had made in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that increased by 1.9 per cent in 2018 from 0.8 per cent in 2017.

It said that the IMF was not considering the pains and agonies the people went through to achieve the  gains of 2018, with almost two-thirds of the world’s hungriest people among Nigerians.

The unions also cautioned that imposing more stringent reforms in domestic revenue mobilisation including increase in VAT and securing more domestic oil revenues through subsidy removal was an attempt to destabilise the nation.

The unions in the statement appealed to President Buhari to put in mind the current hardship the people were going through in their collective journey to economic recovery.

Tony Elumelu Foundation host EU, DFI’s, think tanks in Brussels

 

At a time when Europe’s relationship with Africa is high on foreign policy and developmental agendas and with the European Union beginning to deliver on its 2017 External Investment Plan, targeted at attracting investment and job creation in Africa, the Tony Elumelu Foundation brought together leading stakeholders in the development finance sector, at a case study session in the EU capital, Belgium.

The convening demonstrated that Africa also had solutions to bring to the table and platformed the Foundation’s unique approach to catalysing entrepreneurship in scale across the continent.

Themed “A Convening on Africa’s Economic Transformation: A Case Study of the Tony Elumelu Foundation”, the event presented the results of the first five years of the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme a unique programme, which has trained, mentored and seeded 4,470 African entrepreneurs with 3,050 newly announced to receive seed funding, and drawn over 200,000 applications to its 2019 cycle. Tony Elumelu’s $100m investment in entrepreneurial philanthropy was held up as an example of how vital capital could be targeted efficiently and effectively, at African businesses best able to create significant economic and developmental impact.

Opening the event, Mr. Koen Doens, Deputy Director General, DEVCO, EU, said: “Africa needs to create jobs by the millions to match the needs of its exponentially growing population. It will achieve this only if it unleashes a generation of empowered entrepreneurs. The Tony Elumelu Foundation contributes to this massively. The European Union wants to play its part and contribute to this endeavour.” 

During an indepth question and answer session with EU-Africa relations expert, Annie Mutamba, Founder, Mr. Tony Elumelu CON, highlighted the growing interest in the Tony Elumelu Foundation and its unique approach, while welcoming a new type of intervention in Africa. “We very much believe in collaboration, mutual respect and a shared commitment to transform Africa. Africa is ready but we need to do this through the right sustainable manner, that enables our people to become self-reliant, and independent, instead of perpetuating dependency. We need to implement practical solutions on ground through entrepreneurship, which empower people economically and addresses issues of extremism, migration, and insecurity.”

Minister Phillippe De Backer, Minister for Digital Agenda, Telecommunications and Post, Belgium, also commented: “There is an increasing desire in Europe to engage Africa, including its grassroots in a structure and targeted approach with the right processes. The Tony Elumelu Foundation offers this platform.”

The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which last month in March announced 3,050 selected entrepreneurs for its 2019 cycle, continues to grow in scale, ambition and impact, and now actively leverages technology to support entrepreneurs through TEF Connect – a digital hub designed to link entrepreneurs across Africa, and which already has 500,000 users.

On the Foundation’s future plans, he stated: “We want to make sure that we impact more, reach more, touch more lives and get more women involved. We want to see more Northern Africa participation. We would like to reach 10,000 a year, with support from partners to empower additional entrepreneurs. We want to eradicate poverty and create wealth in a sustainable way. Ultimately, we want a larger and broader entrepreneurship ecosystem, that supports young Africans, and we want to deepen our engagement with government to create the enabling environment to support these Africans to succeed – the right investment climate, training, education, access to capital and most importantly creating the right investment culture.”

Other dignitaries at the event included: Carl Michiels, Director, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM); Bruno Wenn, Former CEO/Chairman at DEG-German Investment and Development Company, and Advisory Board Member, Tony Elumelu Foundation; Mr Viwanou Gnanssougou, Assistant Secretary General, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) at the European Council of the European Union, and Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Zenith Bank shareholders task incoming MD on corporate governance

Zenith International Bank Plc shareholders on Wednesday urged the incoming Managing Director, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, to improve on the bank’s corporate governance for sustainable growth and development.

Mr Moses Igbrude, Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), said in Lagos that the bank had set some positive standards that needed to be improved upon.
Igbrude said that the bank had maintained leadership as the first financial institution to release results and conduct Annual General Meeting (AGM).

He said that the new Managing Director must maintain the trend, noting that shareholders would not expect anything less.

“Zenith Bank as a bank has set certain standards of being the first to release its results, being the first to do its AGM and pay dividend, as well as the first to declare interim dividends.

Shareholders do not expect anything less than that, this culture must be sustained, the new Managing Director must and should improve on the standards he met on ground,” Igbrude said.

He said that the shareholders would not accept anything less from Onyeagwu, urging the board to give the incoming Managing Director the needed support.
Mr Ambrose Omordion, the Chief Operating Officer, InvestData Ltd., said that the bank had set the record of growing its earnings on quarterly and yearly basis.

Omordion said that the trend would likely continue with the appointment of Onyeagwu who had been in the bank.
He said that the new Managing Director had been part of the bank for over two decades and he understood the vision and operations to drive profit and create more value for investors.

Zenith Bank on April 8 appointed Onyeagwu as it new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.
The bank, which stated this in a notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said the appointment was subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and would become effective from June 1.

According to the notice, Onyeagwu will replace Mr Peter Amangbo, whose tenure will expire on May 31, 2019.
Onyeagwu has been Zenith Bank’s Deputy Managing Director since October, 2016 and has spent 17 years working with the bank.

The bank said that the appointment was consistent with its tradition and succession strategy of grooming leaders from within.

Onyeagwu, who is a graduate of accounting from Auchi Polytechnic, began his career at the defunct Financial Merchant Bank in 1991 and later held several management positions in the erstwhile Citizens International Bank Limited until 2002 when he joined Zenith Bank.

He obtained a postgraduate diploma in Financial Strategy and a certificate in Macroeconomics from the University of Oxford.

Alleged fraud: EFCC opens case against Ecobank, staff

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday opened its case against Ecobank Plc and one of its employees Anieka Udoh at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

It accused the bank and Udoh of “negligently” failing to exercise due diligence in relation to conduct of financial transactions with Major-General Umaru Mohammed.

The prosecution called its first witness, Jones Oboh, in the alleged $50,000 and N9.2million fraud case.

The commission said the defendants fraudulently converted the army chief’s Ecobank MasterCard account numbered 0015052989 from debit card to credit card.

It said they debited the account of over USD 50,000 “without the knowledge and authority of Major-General Umaru Mohammed.”

Oboh, a former Loan Recovery and Collection Officer with the bank, said the bank operated the account for five years without the customer’s knowledge.

Led in evidence by prosecution counsel Bilikisu Buhari, the witness said it reflected on his system that Mohammed owed the bank N9.2million.

“After checking the records of those owing the bank, I discovered that Mohammed was one of those granted loans by Ecobank Plc.

“Sometime in March 2018, I called Mohammed on the phone to find out when he was going to pay back his loan.

“But to my surprise, he said he did not owe the bank and that there was no time he applied for any form of loan from the bank. Thereafter, a meeting was set up between the bank and Mohammed through me.

“It was in the meeting that Mohammed was told that his account was in the debit of N9.2million, showing that he utilised his Master Credit Card over a period of time.

“Mohammed informed the bank that there was no time he applied for a Master Credit Card from Ecobank and that the only transaction he had with the bank was that he applied to open a domiciliary account in which a debit card was issued to him so as to use it whenever he travels out of the country,” Oboh said.

The witness said found out that in April 2013, the sum of $38,725 was recorded against the complainant.

“In July 2014, a reversal of $32,887 was made on the account of Mohammed, leaving a debit of $6,125 in 2014.

“Afterwards, the bank opened a naira account in Mohammed’s name without his knowledge and dollars were converted to N261 to a dollar from his domiciliary account, leaving a debit balance of N3.1million on the Naira account.”

The witness said the bank never wrote or invited the complainant to bring to his notice all the “eventualities” on his accounts for five years until he took a step to do that.

“The bank left the account to grow in debit from N3.1million to N9.2million without informing the account owner.

“The second defendant, Anieka Udoh, was the account officer of the complainant,” the witness said.

Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned until April 18 for continuation of trial.