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Communications minister asks telcos to slash data price

The Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami, has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to work with the telecommunications service providers to reduce the price of data.

According to Yusuf Abubakar, an aide of the minister, Pantami gave the directive to the regulator when he received a report on the implementation of the ministry’s short-term performance targets.

Abubakar said Pantami expressed dismay that despite the high cost of data, Nigerians do not enjoy good internet services.

“According to the report from a UK-based price comparison website – Cable, Nigeria is not among the top 10 African countries with low average price of data, a position the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami, finds worrisome considering the fact that the country has over 174 million internet users made public by the Nigerian Communications Commission,” Abubakar said in a statement.

“The minister also finds it unacceptable that with the prevailing high cost of data in Nigeria, the citizens still do not enjoy value for money as subscribers battle daily with illegal deduction of data, poor quality of service, among others.

“It is against this backdrop that the minister directed the NCC, the telecom regulators, to immediately work hand in hand with the telecom operators and ensure a downward review of the price of data in Nigeria, improved quality of service provided and check the illegal deduction of subscribers’ data.”

ICYMI: Qantas Dreamliner completes longest ever commercial flight

 

They did the Macarena 10,972 metres above Las Vegas, dined on chilli- and lime-poached prawns and spicy “Jiangxi-style” cod and watched a fair few movies, including the Elton John biopic, Rocketman. Well, they had enough time: 19 hours and 16 minutes to be precise.

Aviation history was made at 7.43am on Sunday when Qantas flight QF7879 touched down at Sydney airport, completing the world’s longest ever commercial flight. It had taken off from New York’s JFK airport at 9.27pm on Friday night. Along the way, it produced the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of burning more than 700 barrels of oil.

Just 49 people – including six pilots, six members of cabin crew including a chef, a handful of reporters, six frequent flyers and the airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce – were on board the Boeing Dreamliner flight, designed to test whether passengers can endure the physical and mental effects of extremely long aeroplane journeys.

The flight was restricted to such a small number of passengers in order to ensure that it was light enough to make it all the way to Australia on one tank of fuel. In order to reduce the weight, strict restrictions were put in place, including limiting passengers’ luggage and destocking most of the bar. All the passengers were in business class.

The plane was loaded with 101 tonnes of jet fuel, which made up almost half the total weight of the plane on takeoff. A Qantas spokesman was unable to explain how much carbon dioxide the flight created, but said all carbon emissions from the flight would be offset. The spokesman suggested that the carbon footprint of the direct flight would be less than that created by a two-leg journey because most energy used in flying is on takeoff.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is part of the United Nations, estimates that 3.15 grams of carbon dioxide are produced for every gram of jet fuel burned. This would suggest that the flight created about 310 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent to the CO2 emitted by the use of four full tankers of petrol or that of about 718 barrels of oil, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Britain’s Committee on Climate Change said any new flights that expanded the market for long-haul travel would hinder the legally binding commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The flight covered 16,200 kms (10,200 miles) – about 900km further than the current longest commercial flight between Singapore and New York.

In an onboard interview in his Qantas-branded grey pyjamas, Joyce said: “This is the last frontier in aviation, being able to fly from the east coast of the United States to the east coast of Australia.”

The flight, on a brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner named Kookaburra (a type of Australian kingfisher), was the first of three test flights exploring the practicalities of ultra-long -distance commercial aviation as part of Qantas’s Project Sunrise. Next month, Qantas will test a direct flight from Heathrow to Sydney, which will set a new distance record of 17,000km and take about 19.5 hours.

The Dreamliner has completed the non-stop test flight from New York to Sydney. The 10,066-mile (16,200km) journey lasted 19 hours and 16 minutes

New York

Los Angeles

Hawaii

Pacific Ocean

Fiji

Sydney

oyce said upon landing in Sydney: “This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.

“We know ultra-long-haul flights pose some extra challenges, but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way.”

The passengers boarding the flight at 9pm in New York were told to reset their watches to Sydney time as soon as they boarded, and were kept awake with the lights on for six hours and served a spicy soup and fish lunch designed to keep them up for longer to reduce jetlag. The chef said he had been preparing the meals on the flight for three days.

As the flight flew over Las Vegas, passengers were led from their business class seats to the empty economy cabin in a rendition of La Macarena designed to get the blood pumping around their bodies.

Pilots, passengers and crew were also subjected to a battery of health and wellbeing checks designed to test the effects of ultra-long-haul flying. All crew members wore activity monitors and completed sleep diaries and alertness logs during the flight, and in the two weeks leading up to it.

Cameras were mounted in the cockpit to “record alertness cues and operational activities” and the pilots wore EEG (electroencephalogram) brain monitoring equipment to monitor them for alertness and sleep.

With demand for air travel rapidly growing and aircraft performance improving, carriers are increasingly looking into ultra-long-haul travel. The International Air Transport Association expects the worldwide number of annual passengers to increase from 4.6 billion this year to 8.2 billion by 2037.

Qantas captain Sean Golding said flying the plane was the highlight of his career. “The flight was very successful from two components,” he said. “The first one was research. And also the feat of distance – that flight last night was 16,200 kilometres. We were airborne for 19 hours and 16 minutes, and we landed here in Sydney with a comfortable 70 minutes of fuel.”

The QF7879 flight landed in Sydney a few minutes before the airline’s regular New York to Sydney service QF12, which stops in Los Angeles. QF12 had taken off from New York three hours before QF7879.

Why FG is breaking monopoly in broadcasting — Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the Federal Government is determined to end all forms of monopoly in broadcasting because it is detrimental to the actualisation of the immense potential in the industry.

The minister stated this on Sunday at a meeting in Lagos.

Mohammed recalled that he, on October 10, inaugurated the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Reform Implementation Committee to, among others, implement reforms to end monopoly in the sector.

The committee was also mandated to implement the review of National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect stiffer penalties for violators of broadcasting regulations as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“A situation where a few people corner a chunk of the industry to the detriment of others, especially our teeming and talented youths, is totally unacceptable and untenable.

“Monopolies stunt growth, kill talents and discourage creativity.

“The clearest example of the creative energy that can be unleashed when monopoly is totally broken can be seen in the telecommunications industry.

The minister added: “Of course, the broadcast industry has also been liberalised. But any vestige of monopoly is antithetical to the liberalisation of the broadcast industry and must be dismantled.

“In the case of Nigeria, it’s the monopoly of content that breeds anti-competition practices.

“You cannot use your financial or whatever power to corner and hold on tight to a chunk of the market, preventing others from having access.

“Such monopolies are crumbling everywhere in the world and Nigeria cannot be left out.

With the implementation of the committee’s mandate, television viewers, especially lovers of sports may witness an end to MultiChoice’s monopoly on the live airing of high-profile sporting events.

High-profile sporting events, especially for well-loved sports, particularly soccer, are currently only available to subscribers of DSTV.

Specifically, DSTV has the monopoly on live airing of English Premier League and UEFA Champions League in Nigeria.

A reliable source in the ministry said that the era of liberalisation is, therefore, expected to witness the sporting events being accessible to other pay-TVs and free to air platforms in the country.

It will be recalled that Independent Communications Authority Of South Africa (ICASA) had taken similar step by unveiling Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations 2018.

The bill is aim at making big sporting events accessible for free to all citizens of South Africa.

Passengers scared as Boeing wants 737 Max back flying

On September 12, Boeing started putting out 30-second videos in which employees tout its planes’ safety, hoping to reassure travelers about the 737 MAX that was grounded after two fatal crashes.

“Safety is at the core of our business. We have put hundreds of engineers to work to ensure that this airplane is 100 percent ready,” says Jennifer Henderson, chief test pilot for the 737, in one of the clips.

“When the 737 MAX returns to service I will absolutely put my family on this airplane,” she stressed. But on a Facebook page for Boeing enthusiasts where the clip was posted, the response is negative.

“Well, I think she could not say it would be unsafe,” one member quipped, as Boeing faces the Herculean task of trying to regain the confidence of civil aviation authorities and the public, seven months after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines MAX that killed 157 people.

That came after the downing of a Lion Air MAX in Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189, with the plane’s MCAS anti-stall system being blamed in both accidents.

It’s not known when the MAX will return to service. Boeing, which still has not submitted a modified version of the MCAS system to regulators, hopes it will be before the end of the year.

“The 737 Max is, for now, an ‘airplane non grata’ — a plane passengers do not want to fly,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco.

“Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 MAX, they’re terrified of it.”

Just 19 percent of business travellers and 14 percent of leisure travellers would willingly take the 737 MAX within six months of returning to the sky, according to an Atmosphere survey.

Nearly half of the 2,000 respondents said they would pay more to avoid the MAX.

Faced with this distrust, airlines are adapting.

“We will be transparent — and communicate in advance — with our customers who are booked to fly on a MAX aircraft, will rebook those who do not want to fly on a MAX at no charge, and for some time will not swap aircraft to a MAX if a change of aircraft is required,” said a spokesperson at United Airlines, which owns 14 MAX aircraft.

American Airlines, which has 24 MAX planes, has said its company brass and employees will be the first to fly on the aircraft once it’s cleared to return to the sky.

The MAX’s setbacks have cast a shadow over a century of history at Boeing, a highlight of which was the success of its 747 jumbo jet, nicknamed the “Queen of the skies.”

According to Harteveldt, half of business passengers and 55 percent of leisure passengers consider Boeing to be “irresponsible,” “arrogant” and “unsafe.”

Boeing’s management has addressed the trust issue.

“We know that trust has been damaged over the last few months and we own that and we are working hard to re-earn that trust going forward,” CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in August.

The trust may have been tested again on Friday, when it emerged that some potentially significant documents at Boeing were held back from investigators for months.

Boeing says it has conducted 1,447 flight test hours as of October 13 with the modified MCAS, and Muilenburg personally took part in two tests.

From late September to mid-October, the company also invited airline pilots to simulator training and information sessions in Miami, London, Istanbul, Shanghai and Singapore.

 

Again, Royal Air Maroc plane suffers cargo door incident in Lagos

Less than two weeks after an aircraft used by Air Maroc to operate a flight inward Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos had problem with the door of its cargo compartment, another aircraft used by the same airline to operate an outward flight from the same airport experienced similar incident on Sunday.

Confirming the incident, the management of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in a release by its spokesperson, Mrs Yakubu Henrientta noted the pilot of the aircraft discovered the the light of the cargo door flickered on after it has been visually certified locked and cleared for take off by concerned security operatives at the airport.
Not ready to take any risk, the pilot alerted the control tower to request return to the apron.

“The pilot flying a B737-700 belonging to Royal Air Maroc with registration number CN-RNQ discovered that the cargo door light was flickering on, despite the Aviation security escort visual observation that the Cargo door was closed. he alerted the control tower, requesting to return back to the apron, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, at about 05.30 hours today, October 20, 2019,” FAAN said.

According to the statement, “The Aviation Security escort team remained with the aircraft as it taxied back to the apron. At the apron, all concerned officers of FAAN and other agencies were on ground for thorough inspection.

“In line with standard and recommended practices, all parties concerned supervised the offloading and the re-screening of all the luggage belonging to all passengers on board the aircraft”.

Yakubu cleared that, every luggage on board the flight was certified intact in the presence of the airport manager and other top brass security personnel at the Lagos airport before the aircraft departed later this morning to Morocco.

“All the luggage belonging to the passengers were intact as certified by the team on ground before the flight eventually took-off at 10.06 hours in the presence of the Airport Manager and Chief Security Officer of the Airport.,” she said.

Auto dealers ask Buhari to call Customs boss to order

STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AUTOMOBILE MARKETERS (NAAM)

On Saturday the 28th day of September, 2019, men of the Nigeria Customs Service carried out a wholesale clamp down on automobile dealerships nationwide with the sealing of all our members’ Premises.
It is very important to note that before the said sealing, no Court Order was obtained, neither was any Notice issued to us nor did we receive any communication or correspondence from the said Customs Service informing us of the reasons behind the said sealing of our members premises.

When some of our members engaged the Customs Services, they were informed that the exercise was carried out with a view to ascertain if smuggled vehicles were in the respective premises and that within a few days, the issue would be resolved after the verification of the importation documents of the automobiles in the sealed premises.
As we speak, the siege has entered its fourth week, thereby occasioning untold financial losses and severe hardship for not just us, the auto dealers but for the thousands of Nigerians employed in our businesses.

We have noted over time that the Comptroller-General of Customs appears to be zealously committed to improving the revenue generating capacity of the service.
We, however, have grave reservations as to the legality of this present action. While we have in the last three weeks been engaged in dialogue with the Customs service authorities, we have noted that our reputation as responsible corporate citizens of this country is being impugned and scandalised, no thanks to the prolonged closure of our business premises.
Thus, the public is left with the impression that we are all economic saboteurs and smugglers.

We are, therefore, constrained to make our position known to the public and emphatically state as follows: -.

1. None of our members is involved in the act of smuggling nor do we stock in our premises any smuggled vehicles whatsoever.

2. The sealing up of our premises was not sanctioned or backed by an order of Court.

3. The Customs and Excise Management Act does not empower the Customs Service to seal a business premises without first identifying contraband goods within the premises.

4. We as bona fide businessmen and corporate citizens lawfully engaged in the business of importation, sales and service of automobiles do not have the licence and or authority to personally clear automobiles directly from the ports as that duty statutorily belongs to Customs Licensed Clearing Agents. Therefore, any discrepancy in the documentation of any automobile imported through a Nigerian Sea Port should be placed at the doorsteps of the Customs Licensed Clearing Agents and the Customs Service.

Consequently, we are at a loss as to why we should bear the brunt of this draconian, ill-conceived and drastic blanket action. Even though we have been groaning under a cocktail of duties, multiple levies, taxes and terminal charges that have made the landing cost of automobiles into Nigeria the most expensive in the world.
We are particularly burdened by the 35% automotive industry levy payable after the stipulated 35% import duty. A fact not lost on the Comptroller General of Customs who has had cause to complain about it recently.

As patriotic Nigerians, we stand with Nigerian Customs Service in their drive for increased revenue and their determination to curb smuggling. Even as we commend the determination of Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), the Comptroller General of Customs to introduce international best practices in the process of clearing goods at our ports in the face of the chaotic state of affairs, we believe that due process should be followed without jeopardising the businesses of thousands of law abiding automobile dealers by this brazen and blanket clampdown.

To be sure, the effect of this unfortunate action on the part of the Customs Service has far reaching negative consequences on the reputation of Nigeria as a safe haven for investors and corresponding effect on Foreign Direct Investments. It stifles economic growth and negates this administration’s stated resolve to create employment because at the moment this unlawful action is threatening the job security of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians employed by us.

By this statement, we are making an urgent appeal to the President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Nigerian Customs Service to rescind and desist from carrying out such unlawful and draconian actions in the future.

We are also conscious and well aware of our rights at law and should our premises continue to remain shut, we shall be constrained to enforce our rights and seek legal redress by commencing legal proceedings against the Nigeria Customs Services which would naturally come with damages for the huge amount of losses we have suffered.

In conclusion, we make a clarion call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the distinguished President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to prevail on the Nigeria Customs Service to cause an immediate unsealing of the premises of all the automobile dealers without any further delay.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria

JOSEPH IRIAH Esq.
(Secretary)

Falana writes Lawan: No need for loans if we recover $103bn oil sale loss

Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has asked the National Assembly to work with anti-graft agencies for the recovery of “$103.7 billion lost on oil sale”.

In a letter to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, the senior lawyer said if Nigeria can recover the money lost to oil sale, there would be no need to seek foreign loans.

Nigeria is currently planning to secure the first tranche of a $3 billion loan from World Bank in April. According to Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, who disclosed this, the facility is meant to improve the power sector.

But Falana said Nigeria lost a larger part of the proceeds from oil as a result of the non-implementation of the deep offshore and inland basin production contracts act.

In the letter dated October 18, Falana said in 2015, he had raised the alarm that both government and international oil companies in the country failed to stick to the agreement for an upward review of loyalties whenever crude oil was sold beyond $20 per barrel in the international market.

“In his reaction to our allegation of economic sabotage by the public officers who deliberately refused to implement the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act the immediate past Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu admitted that the non implementation of the law by some unnamed public officers had led to a loss of oil revenue of over $60 billion,” he wrote.

“But due to the reluctance of the federal government to enforce the law the governments of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers States instituted an action at the Supreme Court in 2016 to compel the Federal government to recover the accrued royalties.

“In the judgment delivered in the case on October 18, 2018 the Supreme Court directed the Federal government to recover the royalties that had not been collected from the International Oil Companies for the past 18 years. Based on the judgment of the apex court the Federal government has demanded for the immediate payment of the sum of the sum of $62 billion by the defaulting oil companies.

“But the affected oil companies have filed fresh suits in the federal high court challenging the claim of the federal government. It is hoped that the federal high court will speed up the hearing of the new cases in view of the categorical pronouncement of the Supreme Court on the right of the federal government to recover the outstanding royalties.

“The National Extractive Industry and Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has disclosed that sum of $22 billion and N481 billion has been withheld from the Federation Account by the NNPC and some oil companies. Without any justification whatsoever the federal government has ignored the findings of the NEITI.

“If the National Assembly, under your able leadership, is prepared to resist pressures from vested interests and muster the political will to recover the said fund Nigeria will have no business begging for foreign loans from China, African Development Bank and the World Bank. Therefore, the National Assembly may wish to collaborate with the anti graft agencies in the recovery of the said sum of $103.7 billion without any delay.”

Falana alleged that in the course of their work on leakages in the national economy, they also discovered that sometime in 2006, the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) illegally withdrew $7 billion from the nation’s foreign reserves and fixed same in 14 commercial banks.

He said Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, had also ignored their demand for the recovery of $7 billion and the accrued interests from the 14 commercial banks.

Apart from the expected revenue of $1.5 billion from the implementation of the amended deep offshore and inland basin production contracts act, Falana said the outstanding royalties, fixed deposit and other funds withheld or diverted from the federation account are not less than $103.7 billion.

IMF supports Nigeria’s border closure —Minister

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, says the International Monetary Fund supports Nigeria’s closure of its land borders because it understands that the action is not punitive.

Addressing newsmen in Washington on Sunday, Ahmed explained that the measure was intended to restore Nigeria’s relationship with its neighbours, based on commitments made.

She said that President Muhammadu Buhari did not want to approve the closure because he was mindful of the adverse effect it would have on the economies of neighbours.

According to her, there were several engagements between Nigeria and the neighbouring countries toward securing compliance to the rules, “but things got worse”.

“Of course, there will be economic impact on the side of our neighbours due to the border closure, that is a consequence of it.

“In a manner of speaking, IMF supports the border closure that we have done because they understand that the closure was not meant to be punitive.

“It was meant for us to restore our relationship with our neighbours back to the commitments that we made.

“The commitment that we have among these countries is that goods can come through their ports to Nigeria.

“They are supposed to come in sealed containers escorted to Nigeria for the Nigeria Customs Service to inspect the goods and charge them.

“But that is not what is happening. They allow containers to be opened, and also allow goods to be smuggled beyond the formal borders through several illegal routes,’’ she fumed.

The minister reiterated that Nigeria would ensure that rules were obeyed now that it had committed itself to the African Continental Free Trade Area,“ otherwise local industries will suffer.”

She said that a lot of discussions were ongoing between Nigeria and the affected countries toward securing their re-commitment to the rules governing cross-border trade.

(NAN)

FIRS establishes tax office for non-resident taxpayers

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has established a tax office, dedicated solely to the administration of taxes for Non-Resident Persons.

This is contained in a Public Notice signed by the Executive Chairman, FIRS,
Tunde Fowler.

Designated Non-Resident Persons Tax Office (NRPTO), the notice clarified that a non-resident person refers to a foreign company as defined in the Companies Income Tax Act (Cap C2, LFN 2004 as amended) or an individual (who is resident outside Nigeria and derives income or profit from Nigeria) as defined in the
Personal Income Tax Act (Cap P8, LFN 2004as amended).

The notice said that FIRS has identified Non-resident taxpayers as very important segment of the tax-paying public for the purposes of devoting to them specialised
attention.

“The devotion of attention to this segment of taxpayers, Fowler said “is to
enhance tax certainty, promote voluntary compliance, reduce tax disputes and
avoid incidence of double taxation.

“In view of the foregoing, the FIRS hereby notify all non-resident persons
operating in Nigeria and the general public that: Non-Resident Persons’ Tax
Office (NRPTO) which will handle all tax affairs of non-resident persons
(individuals or corporate) has been established; The NRPTO is located within
the International Tax Department at 3rd Floor, FIRS Building, 17B Awolowo Road,
Ikoyi, Lagos.

“As from 1st January 2020, all non-resident persons liable to tax in Nigeria shall submit every return, correspondence or enquiry relating to all the taxes
administered by the Service to the Non-Resident Persons’ Tax Office; and Tax
files of non-resident persons shall thenceforth be domiciled at the NRPTO”, the notice said.

Fowler further enquiries should be directed to: The Executive
Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, or Revenue House, 20 Sokode
Crescent, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja or email enquiries@firs.gov.ng .

Such non-resident taxpayers are also free to contact the Director,
International Tax Department, 3rd Floor, FIRS Building, 17B, Awolowo Road,
Ikoyi – Lagos, or email nrptax.itd@firs.gov.ng

NRPTO will be devoted solely to international taxation to serve non-resident persons, including all tax treaty operational issues, cross-border transactions,

inter-company transactions and income derived by non-resident individuals.in
Nigeria.

Fowler noted that the “devotion of attention to this segment of taxpayers is to enhance tax certainty, promote voluntary compliance, reduce tax disputes and
avoid incidence of double taxation”

CBN opposes MTN’s planned charges for USSD transactions

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has opposed plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access to banking services from October 21.

The Governor of CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, gave the bank’s position at a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington on Sunday.

MTN, in an SMS message to its subscribers, had said the decision was on the request of the banks and would take effect from October 21.

“Yello, as requested by your bank, from October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info(rmation),’’ the message said.
Responding to a question seeking his reaction to the announcement, the CBN governor said the bank would not allow that to happen.

“About five, four months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria at Central Bank, Lagos.

“At that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company.

“But the telecom companies disagreed with us, they said it is an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason, they needed to impose it.
“I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.

“I have told the banks that they have to move their business, move their traffic to a telecom company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible, if not zero cost.

“And that is where we stand, and we must achieve it,’’ he said.
The transactions to be affected by the charges include intra- and inter-bank money transfers, through USSD, among others.

FG sets aside $1.61bn for 24-hour power supply

The Managing Director, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Alhaji Usman Gur, says the Federal Government, in collaboration with international donor agencies, has set aside over $1.61 billion to ensure constant power supply in the country.

Gur, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the TCN revealed this on Sunday in Kano while briefing newsmen at the Kumbotso power sub-station.

According to him, the project will be carried out under the Transmission Rehabilitation Expansion Programme.
“We are rehabilitating and expanding to degree 20, 000 Mega Watts by 2022 across the country,” he said.

He noted that, the federal government has already earmarked about N32 billion to compensate Nigerians whose lands, houses and farms could be affected by the Righ-Of-Way to create Power Lines for the execution of the project.

“The total amount that we are going to pay for compensation across the country is about N32 billion. And the total project cost is 1.61 billion dollars. The project will be supported by various international donors.

“The compensation for right-of-way from Kumbotso sub-station to Rimi Zagara will cost about N3 billion. We have not completely validated it. The total cost for compensation across the country being provided by the Federal Government, ” he said.

Gur who is also the chairman of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) Committee Executive Board stated that he led the TCN team to Kano to validate and look at the route that ran from the Kumbotso Transmission sub-station to Rimi Zakara.

“You know we are going to connect Rimi Zakara to this sub-station (Kumbotso). Rimi Zakara is the place we are putting another 330 KV Sub-station, just like this one in Kumbotso.”

“The mistake that happened in the past is that we normally award contract for line without doing the study. You know the study will establish who are the people under the right-of-way; and who are those people that are going to be affected by the lines.

“So, we are supposed to have come up with those people and pay them their compensation.

“Unfortunately, this contract was awarded many years, even before I came. It is not only this one, many of them are like that. They awarded the contracts without the payment of compensation.

“That is why now, we are trying to pay the compensation, we are validating it, but we also need to tell people that this takes time, because right now, we have over 1000 people who need to be compensated within Kano alone.

“That is why I am here, I will go through the routes and see exactly what are in the right-of-way. We are actually collaborating with Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje because some people who have land on the right-of-way are seeking for relocation.

“We are going to request to the governor to relocate them and give them land in some other places so that we can build the line,” he said.

According to him, “what we are doing for Kano state, actually is that we are trying to change the game. It is what you call game changer. Right now, the only line that supplies Kano is the 330 Single-Sighted Line that run from Kaduna to Kano.

“We are bringing a Code Line from Kaduna to Kano. Now, you know we need to get a source of supply to transport the line from Kaduna to Kano. When I came newly in February, 2017, the line between Jos and Kaduna was funded only 10 per cent, but today the line is 98 per cent completed.

“That means we have bulk power at the double-sighted line apart from the Single-sighted line from Jos to Kaduna. Then from Shiroro to Kaduna, we have two Single-sighted lines; none of them can carry more than 300 Mega Watts.

“We are taking one of them and we are going to construct it into a Code Line, ” he said.

He further explained that those projects, particularly, the one from Shiroro to Kaduna, the procurement of that line is about 80 Per Cent completed and it is funded by French Development Agency.

Gur added that from Kaduna to Kano, TCN is building a Code Line, adding that the public information, this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that TCN is doing 330 Code Line.

He said this mean it is going to carry, four Conductors per pair, which is expected to bring 2,400 Mega Watts of power.

“Now, I will also want to tell you that we want to change the game here completely. So, there is a line we are building from Kainji to Birnin Kebbi, Benin Kebbi to Sokoto; and also from Katsina to Daura, Daura to Gwiwa and from Gwiwa to Jogana. That line is also funded by AFD that is French Development Agency.

“In fact, the line from Katsina to Daura, Daura to Gwiwa, Gwiwa to Jogana is going to evacuate the Solar IPP in Gwiwa which is going to be the like of the Marrakech Solar IPP in Morocco”, Gur assured.

According to him, on that line, the European Union gave the TCN a grant, which is free money for the Nigerian government, worth about 25 million Euros.

“Now we are working to close the link between Sokoto to Kaura Namoda, and Kaura Namoda to Katsina. Now, if you complete this line from Kumbotso Sub-station to Rimi Zakara, that line also went to Katsina; which means from Kainji, you can feed Kano through Sokoto, Katsina, Daura and Gwiwa.

“We also have another line that is coming from Kaduna to Kano. I also want to tell you that we sent a proposal to the West African Power Pool, and it was approved by the Committee of Heads of State and Government on Dec. 22, 2018 where President Muhammadu Buhari chaired that meeting.

“We have approved another line that will come from Calabar. It will come from Ikon to Ogoja to Kasimbula, to Mambilla,bto Jalingo, down to Yola, and move to Hong, to Biu, to Damaturu, Potiskum, Azare, to Dutse, and then to Jogana in Kano.

“This is another 330 Double-sighted line. This very line is under what we call multi-national project. This project is under the ECOWAS project.

He explained that government is working towards launching the study.
“This is what I have pre-planned before I left Abuja to Kumbotso sub-station here in Kano.

“This means we are going to have another Double-sighted line that will come to Kano, which means Kano will be supplied from three sources: through Sokoto, through Kaduna, and then through Calabar.

“When this is done, it then means that we have solved the problem of bulk electricity supply to Kano, and this is what we are doing. And that will place Kano on a status we call MNS2, meaning if 2, 330KV Double-sighted line goes out, Kano will still receive supply of electricity,” he said.

He added:“however, I will require the support of the people of Kano because all these things we are doing need some level of sacrifices from the good people of Kano state, because definitely, those lines will pass through people’s houses, lands, and farms.

“Therefore, people have to make sacrifice. When you don’t make sacrifice, there is no way we can solve the problem of electricity.

“I can tell you that the difference between development and lack of development or the difference between poverty and prosperity in any part of the world is actually electricity; and that is why we are doing all these so that we can solve the problem of electricity in Kano,” he said.

We have difficulty servicing debts, says FG

Barely 24 hours after the International Monetary Fund advised Nigeria to increase tax to raise more revenue, the Federal Government on Thursday said its low revenue was affecting its ability to service debts and fund day-to-day recurrent expenditure.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington DC, United States, noted that although Nigeria did not have a debt problem, she said, “underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt.”

She also justified the $3bn loan the country was seeking from the World Bank, saying the money would be used to finance the power sector.

A quarter (N2.5trn)of N10.3trn budget President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly on October 8 would be spent on debt servicing.

While the Federal Government voted N4.88trn for non-debt recurrent expenditure, only N2.14trn was allocated to capital projects in spite of the huge infrastructural deficit in the country.

The finance minister, Ahmed, however, said the fresh $3bn loan Nigeria was seeking from the World Bank would be spent on reforms in the power sector.

The Debt Management Office had said that the nation’s total public debt rose by N3.32tn in one year to N25.7tn as of the end of June 2019.

The Federal Government owed N20.42tn as of June 30, 2019 while the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory had a total debt portfolio of N5.28tn.

In 2017, the revenue target was N5.08tn out of which N2.7tn was realised. The Federal Government’s revenue projection for 2018 was N7.16tn out of which only N3.96tn was achieved. In 2019, the Federal Government’s projected revenue was put at N6.98tn. As of June this year, about N2.04tn had been realised.

The Deputy Chief , Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Evan Papageorgiou, had at a press conference during the meeting in the United States on Wednesday said, “While Nigeria has a large exposure to domestic debt, it is important to effectively manage those risks associated with debts incurred in local currency.

He said, “Local currency borrowing could be preferred in some cases but it is not a panacea. The guiding principle is prudent debt management. Local currency flows have been more volatile ad Nigeria was not an exception to that. Nigeria has a large exposure to domestic debt particularly from Central Bank bills.

“And then as we understand the Central Bank bills, there are a lot of higher redemption and more roll-overs going forward. So managing those risks, particularly with respect to local currency debt managing debts and behaviour of non-resident debt is very important.”

Also at the press conference, the Assistant Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF, Mrs Cathy Pattillo, had said Nigeria needed a comprehensive reform to increase non-oil tax so as to get funds to build infrastructure and human development.

Justifying the $3bn loan from the World Bank, Ahmed who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting, said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the power project.

The World Bank had in September disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria was seeking a loan in the region of $2.5bn.

The Vice President for Africa, Hafez Ghanem, disclosed this in an interview with Bloomberg in Abuja. He added that in the past year, Nigeria received $2.4 bn.

On Thursday, the minister said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance delivery of electricity.

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country was facing in the power sector.

She said, “There is a proposed $2.5bn to $3bn facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have in the electricity sector.

“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.

“So we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”

The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing that the $3bn facility be disbursed in two tranches of $1.5bn each.

When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7tn, the finance minister insisted that Nigeria did not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do was to increase its revenue generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to the GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, its underperformance is significantly straining government’s ability to service its debt obligation.

The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem. Our revenue to the GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It is about 19 per cent of the GDP and what the World Bank and the IMF recommend is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.

“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9tn at a time when government revenue performance was less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures were being put in place to correct the problem.

For instance, in expanding the revenue base, Ahmed said VAT increase had been proposed, adding that other streams of revenue such as excise duties on carbonated drinks were being introduced.

The minister said, “The fact that our revenue is underperforming is not an excuse to bring down our revenue that is required to fund the national budget.

“In 2018, our revenue performed at the level of 58 per cent. Half year 2019, our performance moved up slightly to 58 per cent. But that is not an excuse to reduce the revenue. Because it means we are all sanctioning underperformance.

“So we have to push the agencies. We have to push ourselves to meet those targets. Those targets are not designed by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the agencies proposed those targets.

“But we sit down with them and interrogate them. For example, the NNPC has a production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day.

“In 2019, they wanted a target of 2.5 million barrels per day but we insisted to be prudent and scaled it down to 2.3 million. And the performance is 1.98 million effectively including 100,000 per day that is used to settle cash call earnings but the capacity is there.

She added, “So why should we not be looking at what do we have to do to make sure the capacity utilisation is attained.

“Why do we want to reduce it because we are underperforming? We are lucky that crude oil in 2018, out-performed the budget because we budgeted $60 per barrel and we ended up with an average of $67 per barrel.

“Otherwise, if we had lower prices, the 55 per cent performance wouldn’t have been achieved.”

She said going forward, what the government would do was to make sure the agencies that have responsibility to generate revenue actually generated the revenues.

On the issue of border closure, she said the action was taken because the Federal Government was not getting the right cooperation with neigbouring countries.

She said going by the fact the Nigeria had signed onto the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, there was the need for government to ensure that those bilateral agreements with other countries were respected.

She added, “We have over the years committed to some alliances and bilateral agreements but our neigbours are not respecting those bilateral agreements and at this time when the President has signed Nigeria up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“It becomes more importantly for us to make sure everybody complies with the commitments that are made.”

She said over the years, the practice where goods were smuggled into Nigeria from neigbouring countries had done lots of damage to the Nigerian economy.

Also in Washington, the minister said the Federal Government would be implementing what she described as a “bold and audacious” reform to increase revenue to finance developmental programmes.

Ahmed, who spoke on the topic “Strengthening domestic revenue mobilization,” explained that with numerous complex issues at hand, Nigeria must do things differently “which requires robust, tough, well-coordinated and multi-faceted reforms.”

She said Nigeria when compared with its peers was lagging behind on most revenue streams including VAT and excise revenues.

The minister said the country did not only have one of the lowest VAT rates in the world but weak collection method.

She added that there were a lot of incentives and deductions that further constrained the fiscal space and reduced the hope of stimulating growth of industries.

She said, “The key question is why do we keep performing poorly? And what can we do differently this time to effectively turn around without any relapse even in successive governments?

“Simply put, we have very low effective tax rates, archaic tax laws that are not evolving at commensurate pace with businesses, leakages in our revenue collection systems, low tax compliance rates and poor tax morale to mention a few.

“With numerous complex issues at hand, Nigeria must do things differently which requires robust, tough, well-coordinated and multi-faceted reforms.”

Speaking on some of the reforms that would be implemented to grow revenue, she said the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative which was launched last year would be reviewed

On what would be different this time with the SRGI, she said, “This time round, there are performance targets with consequences for non-performance including the members of the cabinet.

“For example, I have signed to deliver the 15 per cent revenue to the GDP in a performance contract and this will be cascaded down to heads of revenue generating entities to align them with our mission of turning around revenues. We are in the process of developing a second version of the SRGI.”

“The SRGI 2.0 will be informed by data so we are able to better allocate resources and focus on the high impact initiatives as revealed by analysis.

“In tune with the fourth industrial revolution, we want a technological led reform. For example, in a bid to leverage available big data in our public sector domain, Project Light House is driven centrally at the Ministry of Finance to provide intelligence to the FIRS, state tax authorities and other revenue collecting agencies.”

“On the customs front, we are in the process of developing our national single window.” On tax laws, she said the Federal Government had submitted a finance bill alongside the 2020 budget proposal to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.

The finance bill, according to her, will promote fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation; reform domestic tax laws to align with global best practices; and introduce tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and capital markets.

She added, “The draft Finance Bill proposes an increase of the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent. As such, the 2020 Appropriation Bill is based on this new VAT rate. The additional revenues will be used to fund health, education and infrastructure programmes.

“As the states and local governments are allocated 85 per cent of all VAT revenues, we expect to see greater quality and efficiency in their spending in these areas as well.

“Additionally, our proposals also raise the threshold for VAT registration to N25m in turnover per annum, such that the revenue authorities can focus their compliance efforts on larger businesses thereby bringing relief for our Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses.

“The VAT reform is meant to improve Nigeria’s VAT as a share of the GDP in Nigeria which has declined from one per cent in 2010-2013 to 0.8 per cent in the last four years (2015 – 2018).”

She put the country’s efficiency of VAT collection, at 0.2 per cent adding that this was well below the African regional average of 0.33 per cent.

The inefficiency in VAT collection, the finance minister stated was partly due to challenges in tax administration system.

She also said this reflected the high level of items currently exempted from VAT, including the consumption of basic food, pharmaceuticals and educational items.

She also said, “Our objective is to be able to harness the existing revenue streams that we have by ensuring that enforcement is effective to expand the tax base and also to identify new revenue streams that we can add to expand the revenue base,” she said.

“So in expanding the revenue base, we have proposed the increase of VAT but there are also other revenue streams that we are looking at and some of them include the introduction of excise duties on carbonated drinks but there is a process to doing these things.”

FAAC: FG, States, LGAs share N693.529bn for September

The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) on Thursday in Abuja, shared a total of N693.529 billion to the three tiers of government for the month of September, 2019.

The N693.529 billion comprised revenue from Value Added Tax(VAT), Exchange Gain and Gross Statutory Revenue in the month.

A communiqué read by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris, confirmed that the gross statutory revenue for the month of September was N599.701billion.

The amount was less than the N631.796 billion received in the previous month by N32.095 billion.

For the month, gross revenue of N92.874 billion was generated from VAT as against N88.082 billion distributed in the previous month, indicating an increase of N4.792 billion.

According to the communique, N0.954 billion was also realised from Exchange Gain for the month.

A breakdown of the allocation showed that from the total revenue of N693.529 billion shared, the Federal Government received N293.801 billion, the States received N186.816 billion, and the Local Government Council received N140.864 billion.

The Oil Producing States shared N51.532 billion as 13 per cent derivation, while the Revenue Generating Agencies received N20.517 billion as cost of revenue collection.

The communique also stated that in September 2019, revenue from Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) and Company Income Tax (CIT) decreased while Royalties, Import and Excise Duties and Value Added Tax increased considerably.

However, the AGF said that as at Oct. 17, the balance in the Excess Crude Account was $323.692million.

CBN to continue to apply monetary policy tools to control Inflation

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it will continue to apply monetary policy tools to control the rising inflation.

The CBN made the promise in its 2018 financial stability report signed by its Governor, Godwin Emefiele which was released on Thursday.

Inflation increased to 11.24 per cent in September 2019, according to the latest inflation report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

According to the NBS  report , inflation rose by 0.22 per cent points, higher than the 11.02 per cent recorded in August and 11.08 per cent for July 2019.

The bank explained that its commitment was necessary following anticipation of increase in inflation in the coming months.

The report indicated that the apex bank would continue to intensify efforts at strengthening the existing synergy between the fiscal and monetary authorities.

According to the report, this will help to ensure policies are complementary in engendering growth and development.

The bank said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate sustained its upward trend, largely driven by strong performance in the non oil sector.

The bank also attributed the GDP’s growth to government’s efforts at diversifying the economy and boosting alternative revenue sources.

“The CBN will continue to implement programmes towards supporting the real sector to ensure that the economy remains on a steady trajectory of recovery towards the achievement of its growth projections.

“The report recalls that the bank maintained its non-expansionary monetary policy stance in the second half of 2018 to rein in inflationary pressure,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the bank noted that the potential risks to the stability of the banking system was as a result of high exposure to the oil and gas sector.

The CBN added that though cyber-crime and trade tensions remained.

The report stated that the apex bank had implemented appropriate policies and regulatory measures to significantly minimise the impact of such risks on the Nigerian financial system.

GenCos failed to generate 2,352.5mw due to distribution infrastructure deficit

Electricity Generation Companies (GenCos), comprising gas-fired and hydro stations said that they could not generate 2,352.5 megawatts of electricity on Wednesday due to unavailability of distribution infrastructure.

This is contained in a daily energy report by the Advisory Power Team, office of the Vice President, a copy of which was obtained in Abuja on Thursday.

The report also attributed the 2,352 .5 megawatts not generated to high frequency.

It also noted that 1.55 megawatts of electricity was not generated due to unavailability of transmission infrastructure during the period.

Similarly, it said that 1,551 megawatts was not generated due to unavailability of gas.

The report, however, said that the GenCos released an average of 3,500 MegaWatts-Hour of electricity into the national grid.

It said that the electricity sent out by the GenCos was up by 98.87 megawatts from the 3,401 released on Tuesday.

The report said zero megawatts was recorded as losses due to water management procedures.

The report revealed that the power sector lost an estimated over N1.94 billion due to insufficient gas supply, distribution and transmission infrastructure.

On sector reform/activities, it said that the dominant constraint for Wednesday was high frequency resulting from unavailability of distribution infrastructure.

The report said that the peak generation attained on Monday was 4, 140 megawatts.

Seven banks fail CBN’s stress test

The funding positions of seven commercial banks are inadequate, the result of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stress test released on Thursday, has shown.

The financial stability report signed by CBN Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Kelvin Amugo, showed that in the less than 30-day period analysis, seven banks were not adequately funded, while in the 31 to 90-day period, nine banks had funding gaps.

The report, however, said the cumulative position for the industry showed an excess of N4.8 trillion assets over liabilities.

The seven banks were, however, not named by the apex bank. Nigeria has 24 banks.

The report, which covered the period ended December 2018, showed that six banks accounted for 82 per cent (N252.00 billion) of total placements and 86 per cent (N 266 billion) of total takings, of which 71 per cent (N190 billion) was provided by the top four placers of funds.

The stress test result revealed that, after a one-day run scenario, the liquidity ratio for the industry declined to 34.69 per cent from the 51.87 per cent pre-shock position and to 17.55 and 13.48 per cent after a five-day and cumulative 30-day scenarios.

The result also revealed that, under five-day and cumulative 30-day run scenarios on the banking industry, liquidity shortfalls declined to N1.58 trillion and N1.98 trillion.

The results of the stress test of default in exposure to the oil and gas sector showed that the banking industry could withstand up to 50.00 per cent default as the post-shock Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) remained at 10.24 per cent.

The results of the stress tests on the net position of interest sensitive instruments showed that the banking industry would maintain a stable solvency position to interest rate shock of up to 1000 basis points downward shift in yield curve as the post-shock CAR declined marginally from 15.26 to 13.41 per cent.

The industry pre-shock assets and liabilities maturity profile at end-December 2018 revealed that the shorter end of the market less than 90 day buckets were adequately funded.

Contagion risk from the unsecured transactions in the interbank market was moderate at end- December 2018. The results of simulated conditional counter-party default from unsecured interbank loans indicated low risk as the banks, except two, maintained post-shock CAR above 10 per cent.

The Implied Cash Flow Analysis (ICFA) assessed the ability of the banking system to withstand unanticipated substantial withdrawals of deposits, short-term wholesale and long-term funding over five days and cumulative 30 days, with specific assumptions on fire sale of assets.

The test assumed gradual average outflows of 3.8, 5.0 and 1.5 per cent of total deposits, short-term funding and long-term funding respectively, over a 5-day period and a cumulative average outflow of 22.0, 11.0 and 1.5 per cent of total deposits, short-term funding and long-term funding respectively, on a 30-day balance. It also assumed that the assets in Table 3.10 would remain unencumbered after a fire sale.

Also, reported cases of fraud and forgeries by banks increased to 25,029 at end-December 2018 from 20, 774 at end-June 2018. However, the total amount involved decreased to N18.94 billion at end- December 2018 from N19.77 billion at end-June 2018.

Similarly, actual losses declined to N2.21 billion at end-December 2018 from N12.10 billion in the first half of 2018.The total number of reported fraud cases in OFIs stood at 754 at end-December 2018, while the actual loss of N120.98 million was recorded during the same period.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and mobile channels recorded the highest incidence of fraud. To tackle this trend, bank customers were continually sensitised on safe banking practices while banks were encouraged to implement strong authentication controls and carry out comprehensive infrastructure risk assessments.

A total of 1,612 complaints from consumers of financial services were received in the period under review, indicating an increase of 173 complaints or 12.02 per cent over the 1,439 received in the first half of 2018. Of this number, 1,602 complaints or 99.38 per cent were against banks, while 10 complaints or 0.62 per cent were against OFIs. The complaints were in various categories, such as Excess/Unauthorised charges, Frauds, Guarantees, Dispense errors, Funds Transfers.

A total of 1,496 complaints were successfully resolved or closed in the period under review, compared with 4,723 in the first half of 2018, indicating a decrease of 3,227 or 215.71 per cent. Total claims made by complainants during the period amounted to N7.995 billion and US$1.767 million, while the sums of N3.093 billion and US$1.724 million were refunded to customers.

Amugo said the banking industry’s outlook is positive, given the expected enhanced capital base for most banks arising from the capitalisation of year 2018 profits in the first half of 2019.

However, banks’ exposure to the oil and gas sector as well as the implementation of International Financial Reporting Standard 9 (IFRS 9) remains a threat to overall profitability.

“The CBN will continue to collaborate with the fiscal authority and other financial services regulators to address the observed challenges towards ensuring that the gains made are sustained to reinforce financial system stability,” he said.

During the review period, seven banks were categorised as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs). The banks were selected based on the D-SIB supervisory framework, given their size, interconnectedness, substitutability and complexity. The D-SIBs accounted for 63.80 per cent of the industry total assets of N35.10 trillion and 65.23 per cent of the industry total deposit of N21.73 trillion as well as 66.00 per cent of the industry total loans of N15.34 trillion.

The examination revealed that the D-SIBs were largely in compliance with the regulatory requirements, including capital adequacy and liquidity ratios. The average CAR for the D-SIBs stood at 19.82 per cent, while liquidity ratio stood at 46.29 per cent. There was an improvement in non-performing loans ratio from 11.31 per cent at end-June 2018 to 9.82 per cent at end- December 2018.

Senate kicks as NDDC allegedly ups water hyacinth clearing from N2.5bn to N65bn

The Senate says it is probing the award of Water Hyacinth Emergency and Desilting Contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2017 to 2019.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, made this known when the Director, Special Duties of the NDDC, Nosakhare Agbongiasede, appeared before the committee in Abuja on Thursday.

Urhoghide said investigation became imperative because the initial cost of the contract at N2.5bn was allegedly increased to N65bn.

“Of course, that is a very serious offence. What we are hearing or what we know is that N2.5bn was budgeted for this activity, that is, desilting and clearing of water hyacinths.

“We are hearing that the Commission has spent N65bn, so, we want to know if it is true.

“We had invited the acting Managing Director and Management of the NDDC to come and testify before this committee of the Senate on Public Accounts on an issue that has become of national importance.

“That is, the award of contracts that has to do with the clearing of water hyacinth in the Niger Delta region, and of course the desilting contracts that were awarded by the NDDC under its emergency programme.

“We want to be able to ascertain if due processes were followed in the award of these contracts, particularly with the information we have at our disposal that they exceeded budget limits.

“It is an allegation. It is still an assumption until they come to clear the air surrounding this.

“This is why the senate is particularly interested and has mandated this committee to carry out full investigation.

“So, we want the Acting MD to come. We are aware that the acting MD assumed duties a few weeks ago but government is a continuum.

“It is not a case of whether she is the one that was in office or not, and again we are very clear that this committee is not out to witch hunt anybody,” he said.

FG mulls new tax on soft drinks

Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, says the Federal Government is considering introducing excise duty on carbonated drinks.

The minister made this known while addressing the media on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.

Excise duty is a levy placed on the manufacture of locally produced goods.

Information on the Nigeria Customs Service website shows that excise is currently placed on non-alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, beer, stout and alcoholic beverages.

According to Ahmed, the government is working on maximising existing revenue streams while trying to identify new revenue streams.

“Our objective is to be able to harness the existing revenue streams that we have by ensuring that enforcement is effective to expand the tax base and also to identify new revenue streams that we can add to expand the revenue base,” she said.

“So in expanding the revenue base, we have proposed the increase of VAT but there are also other revenue streams that we are looking at and some of them include the introduction of excise duties on carbonated drinks but there is a process to doing these things.

“Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations.

“There are several cost-cutting measures also in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRGI) and also a number of cost-cutting initiatives such as innovation and automation as well as capacity building of our people.”

The minister described it as an anomaly that Nigeria’s previous budgets have been funded largely with oil revenue.

“The budget of countries is supposed to be based on taxes that the country is able to generate. It is an anomaly for us in Nigeria that our budgets have not been focusing on revenue,” she said.

“We can only develop in a manner that is sustainable when we are using tax revenues to fund our national and sub-national budgets. It is an anomaly that we are depending largely on oil and gas revenue, which is a resource that is finite. It is going to go out of existence before you know it. So we have to develop the domestic tax base. The main focus will be on expanding the tax base ensuring enforcement of the existing laws and then blocking leakages.

“What we are trying to do in 2020 is to harness the full potential of revenue mobilisation. The only increase in taxes in 2020 budget is just VAT. Everything else is just maximizing the potentials of existing tax streams that we have and we hope that we will be able to do this to be able to move our tax to GDP ratio from the current seven to eight per cent of GDP to 15 per cent.”

Ahmed also expressed hopes that the finance bill will be passed along with the 2020 budget so that the government’s capacity to finance the budget is enhanced.

 

 

Why Nigeria is borrowing fresh $3bn from World Bank —Ahmed

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has said the $3bn loan being sought by the Federal Government from the World Bank would be deployed for reforms in the power sector.

She said this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings holding in Washington DC, United States.

Ahmed, who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the Bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the project.

She said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance the delivery of electricity.

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country is currently facing in the power sector.

She said, “There is a proposed $2.5bn to $3bn facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have now in the electricity sector.

“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.

“So we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”

The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing for the disbursement of the $3bn facility in two tranches of $1.5bn each.

When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7tn the finance minister insists that Nigeria does not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do is to increase its revenue-generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, it’s underperformance is significantly straining the government’s ability to service its debt obligation.

The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem.

“Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.

“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9tn at a time when government revenue performance is less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures are being put in place to correct the anomaly.

N500, N1000 denominations most commonly counterfeited banknotes – CBN report

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday, said that a total of 119,663 pieces of counterfeit notes with a nominal value of N98.82 million was recorded in 2018.

The bank said this in the Currency Operations 2018 Annual Report, posted on its website.

The CBN said the figure indicated a decline of 1.30 percent in volume terms and an increase of 5.77 Per cent in value terms, when compared with 118,126 pieces with a nominal value of N93.43 million recorded in the corresponding period of 2017.

The regulator said that the ratio of counterfeit notes to volume of banknotes in circulation was 18 pieces per million, compared to 16 pieces per million banknotes discovered in 2017.

It said that the N500 and N1000 denominations remained the most commonly counterfeited banknotes, which accounted for 65.29 percent and 34.49 per cent respectively of the total counterfeit notes discovered.

The bank said that to preserve the integrity of the banknotes in circulation, it partnered with Bankers Warehouse PLC and security agencies, to intensify efforts at mitigating the incidences of counterfeiting during the period under review.

The apex bank also said that the Currency- in-Circulation (CIC), grew by 0.8 percent to N2, 329.7 billion as at December 2018 ending.

The report noted that the growth in CIC reflected the high dominance of cash in the economy and increase in economic activities.

“A breakdown of the CIC indicated that in terms of volume and value, the proportion of higher denomination banknotes (N100, N200, N500 and N1000) in total, rose from 41.9 to 44.3 percent and 96.9 to 97.6 percent, respectively.

“The lower denomination currency notes continued to be preponderant in terms of volume, constituting 55.7 percent of the total.

“In value terms, it constituted 2.4 percent of the total banknotes. The ratio of CIC to nominal GDP, which measures the moneyness of the economy, fell slightly by 0.1 percentage point, to 1.8 percent in 2018.”

It said that the decline in the CIC/GDP ratio reflected increased usage of e-payment products such as electronic payments card.