Monday 16 January 2017

Nigeria rejigs trade policy to align with WTO’s template

Nigeria’s trade policy is being reviewed by the Federal Government to ensure it meets the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) template on trade, Trade Adviser to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe has said.

He said the policy was last reviewed in June 2002. Though Nigeria has been involved in bilateral trade with different nations, it still does not have a detailed and recent trade policy to back up its trading, he explained.

He said: “The government is working on reviewing the trade policy for so many reasons. Nigeria and the WTO are working together on the trade policy review.

“Iam leading this process technically for the ministry. The update of the trade policy is in line with the working of the global economy and the change that comes with it. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Centre for Employment Training (CET) will come to force in 2020. Brexit has happened, the European Union (EU), one of our major traders, is minus one. The government is trying to rebalance its trading relations with the global economy.

The minister’s aide continued: “With the internet economy that has emerged, President Muhammadu Buhari has introduced Aso Demonstration Day as part of the smart digital Nigerian project to encourage young Nigerians, entrepreneurs with start-up ideas to be encouraged into joining the internet economy; provide an electronic platform for small and medium scale entrepreneurs; employ over 70 per cent of the workforce and give them a platform to express themselves.

Osakwe said two African countries Coted’Iviore and Ghana have joined the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and that Nigeria’s position was being review by the government.

‘’It is the subject of analysis and consultation with all the stakeholders. Nigeria is subjecting EPA to a thorough process of review and consultation with stakeholders. Nigeria will not rush or be stampeded into any agreement that is not consistent with Nigeria’s own priority.

Also, the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), Osakwe said was being reviewed ‘’to establish that its previous weaknesses and abuses no longer reoccur but the EEG programme will be sustained by the government through an improved and enhanced way. The reason is that producers and manufacturers will be given the support they need in an unprotective environment through incentives and packages’’.


NNPC to fast-track repairs of vandalised pipes

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has promised to fast-track the repairs of all pipelines vandalised last year to ensure stable gas supply to thermal power plants for improved power supply.

The Corporation made the commitment during a closed door meeting of operators and stakeholders in the power sector with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in Lagos.
A communiqué issued after the meeting, which was made available to The Nation, noted that the NNPC stated that work was ongoing on the repairs.

The report noted that the Okpai power plant in Delta State was the best performing thermal power plant last year while Shiroro was the best hydro power plant.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) said transmission projects in Shagamu, Ikeja West, Ajah, Ayobo, Omotosho, Agege and Ogba slated for completion between this April and end of this year, when completed, would improve power supply to Lagos State and environs.

According to TCN, the completion of outstanding works at switch station in Akwa Ibom State, which was inaugurated in November last year, is imperative to take full advantage of added generation capacity to deliver incremental power.

The TCN said the capacity of the grid is dynamic and with the inauguration of Ikot Ekpene switch yard, transmission capacity will be above 6,500megawatts (Mw) from the current capacity of 5,500Mw.
Stakeholders in the power sector, according to the communiqué, noted the need for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to pay their debts, which is well over N1trillion, to power sector operators and service providers to improve liquidity in the sector.

The operators agreed they would submit all outstanding audited accounts before their next stakeholders meeting next month to improve transparency within the sector while the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) said all service providers should pay their bills to the it as well as suppliers to service providers to ensure the sector remains functional.

Fashola directed that customer service shall be the focus of the power sector this year and urged operators and service providers to step up the user experience of their customer by increasing metering and reducing estimated billing and prioritise safety.

Against the background of incidents in the past year, all the operators agreed to prioritise safety in all their undertakings to avoid future accidents.

- Nation

Sambisa tour: BBOG joins FG’s search team

The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group has sent a delegation to join the Federal Government’s team on a day search sorties for missing Chibok girls to Sambisa Forest.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the group reviewed the conditions it earlier gave to the government to travel with the team heading for the North East to witness first-hand the military’s ongoing search for the girls.
The BBOG delegation included the convener of the group, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, the spokesperson of the Chibok community, Dr Manasseh Allen, Aisha Yusuf and Ibrahim Usman.
It will be recalled that following the invitation extended to the group by the government to participate in the search mission the BBOG had given certain conditions before its members would join.
Specifically, the group requested a  Pre-Tour Meeting with government officials and a retraction of some remarks allegedly made by the Chief of Army Staff, which it found to be slanderous.
The government in a letter signed by the Minister of Information ad Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had rejected the conditions given by the group and insisted that the team would proceed on the trip as scheduled.
Following the position of the government, NAN reports that the BBOG reviewed the conditions and indicated acceptance to participate in the exercise.
In a letter to the Minister on Sunday night, the group asked the government to “quickly provide us more details of the tour duration and detailed logistics including the names of the local and
international media on the delegation.
” We need this information to enable us to send you a more substantial letter conveying our acceptance to join the Guided Tour”.
NAN reports that the Minister responded to the request by giving details of the trip and other requests by the group.
- Nation

Fresh battle to save Naira begins

BUREAU de Change (BDC) operators have been looking up to this week with high hopes.  They will be receiving the first batch of dollar sales for the year from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with the cash expected to boost dollar liquidity and strengthen the naira against the greenback.
Besides, the BDC operators, under the aegis of Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), will today begin the implementation of the newly launched Uniform Weekly Exchange Rate for Licensed Bureaux De Change Portal.
The portal is being launched to promote exchange rate convergence and achieve uniform exchange rate for the naira against the greenback across all licensed BDCs. It was created with the understanding that the Foreign Exchange (forex) market is driven by information flow. The positive information flow, it is believed, will translate to better pricing for the naira and improved investment sentiments among others.
Having recognised these facts, the ABCON, the umbrella body for all CBN-licensed BDCs, last Tuesday, lunched the Uniform Weekly Exchange Rate for Licensed Bureaux De Change Portal.
ABCON President Aminu Gwadabe, who launched the portal at a media forum in Lagos, said the technology will bring exchange rate convergence, eradicate currency speculation and ensure the naira’s speedy recovery against the dollar.
According to him, such feats are in line with CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele’s plan to stabilise the naira and boost investors’ confidence in the local economy. The CBN chief told BDCs at a meeting that he was looking at ways to boost dollar liquidity and eliminate the spread at the parallel market.
The apex bank’s chief also promised not to devalue the naira again.
The decline in the prices of oil since mid-2014, cut government revenue and triggered currency controls that crippled industries and contributed to contraction of the nation’s economy.
Last June, the authorities removed a 15-month currency peg to attract inflow. Although the naira has plummeted almost 40 per cent since the unit was floated, traders said it is still being managed by the government. The rebound in oil prices has helped the country in boosting its forex reserves to $26.7 billion as of January 10.
According to Gwadabe, the BDCs Weekly Rate was launched to make it a reference point for realistic rates in the market that will boost foreign investment inflows, displacing the damaging effect of foreign media platform like to the economy.
Gwadabe was confident that with the gradual recovery in crude oil prices, enhanced commitment of the CBN to economy diversification which has led to rising production of local rice and drop in import bills, as well as President Muhammadu Buhari’s political will to implement key economic reforms, the task of achieving a single determined exchange rate will be achieved.
He urged the media and general public to adopt a single rate in their reporting and forex dealings, and also always quote rate on the ABCON website- for consistency and uniformity of reporting.
The ABCON chief reiterated the need for the public to deal with CBN-licensed BDCs only and urged the public to report errant operators for necessary sanction.
“ABCON wishes to reiterate its willingness to embark on a comprehensive media campaign on the roles, activities and location of members nation-wide so as to provide a guide to the public in dealing with only CBN-licensed BDCs and for the public to report any errant operator for necessary sanction”, he said.
Gwadabe informed that the CBN will impose between N500, 000 to N2 million fines on any BDC operator that violate regulatory policies and while such operators may also face license suspension.
He called for public support for ABCON’s determination to highlight positive rates development in the market through the BDCs Weekly Rate for media coverage which was launched at the event.
“We also seek your support and partnership to assist the CBN and government to eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum, activities of parallel market operators. We also want to, through our partnership with you, give visibility to registered BDCs in the market and create more awareness on the role of operators in selling forex to the retail end of the market,” he stated.
The ABCON chief spoke of the need for the CBN and Federal Government to harmonise the multiple official exchange rates in the country and adopt a unified rate for transactions.
Calling for the adoption of a single forex market rate system, Gwadabe said that licensed BDCs will post an exchange rate every Monday on its website from January 16 to “highlight positive rate development in the market” and counter domains such as, which publishes ‘high’ unofficial prices daily.
Trading in the parallel market became more regular since 2014 after the CBN strengthened capital controls as crude oil prices tumbled at the global market. Dollar trades for about N490, compared with the official rate of about N315.
Gwadabe, who said that the BDCs will initially quote a rate of N399/$, added that the parallel market rates will be disregarded as they were not recognised by law, raising the hope that exchange rate will continue to improve in the course of the year, despite the challenges being faced in the forex market.
Stakeholders seek transparent price discovery
Associate Research, Eczellon Capital Limited, Mustapha Suberu, said there was need to allow a transparent price discovery in the market, which he believed would stimulate dollar inflows into the economy and subsequently, lead to local currency stability.
He called for more transparent forex market that would allow foreign investors to invest in the economy and bring about positive market-determined rate.
Managing Director, Afrinvest West Africa, Ike Chioke, said the incorporation of a long-term diversified strategy in fiscal policy is required to cushion shocks in various segments of the economy and revive the naira.
To him, the persistent pressure on the naira could have been minimised if a counter fiscal policy had been developed, as the CBN cannot continue to defend the naira with foreign reserves.
Chioke said: “To reduce this pressure, an inward looking policy (tax incentives, infrastructure development and production subsidy) should be emphasised to reduce the dependence on imported goods.”
Apart from oil receipts, the development of the agricultural sector will in the short-term reduce the forex burden of food imports and on the long run, enhance foreign receipts if its comparative advantage in the sector is efficiently deployed.
A BDC Operator and Managing Director, E.M Consolidated Investment Limited, Emeka Moses, said the BDCs always make returns to the CBN which monitors and sanctions defaulters.
He said the introduction of Bank Verification Number (BVN) has made it easier for the CBN to detect and monitor BDCs for compliance.  “I want the CBN to continue to carry out spot checks on BDCs and ensure that those that violate regulatory guidelines are sanctioned”, he said.
Moses said the portal will enables the public to know the prevailing rate at each day and demand adherence to such rate during transactions.
“If the public knows the rate, it will be easier to detect and spot BDCs that sell above such rate, and get them reported to regulators,” he said.
A former Executive Director with Keystone Bank, Richard Obire, said that the implementation unified rate across all CBN- registered BDCs by ABCON will bring sanity to the forex market. Obire said: “I do not know how the group wants to achieve this but if well implemented, it will bring orderliness to the market. It is easier to achieve such feats Personal Travel Allowance and Business Travel Allowance transactions.  It is really a good initiative that will reduce the level of uncertainty in the market.”
Revenue leakages on Diaspora funds lingers
The Federal Government has been losing billions of dollars as Nigerians in Diaspora avoid official transactions when remitting dollars home.
Going by the figures released by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Nigerians in the Diaspora sent home $21 billion in 2015, which boosted the local forex market last year.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa said: “In 2016, they remitted $35 billion which is higher than what was remitted in 2015. This remittance by Nigerians living abroad is the highest in Africa and the third largest in the world.”
But Gwadabe disclosed that less than five per cent of the $35 billion remitted in 2016 was officially captured by the CBN because of exchange rate divergence, which discourage Nigerians in Diaspora from sending their funds home through official channels.
He said that harmonisation of the multiple exchange rates in the country, will make the rate for Diaspora remittances more attractive to Nigerians in Diaspora.
His words:  “The single forex rate has succeeded in Egypt. Nigeria should block all forex leakages to make it work in the country. Forex market is an information-driven market. The type of information you release helps to swing rates and would also help the CBN’s plan to achieve single exchange rate,” he said.
Gwadabe said the ABCON has been working very hard to build public confidence in registered BDCs because the forex market is driven by perception adding that the ideal rate for the naira is N400/$ even as speculation is hurting the local currency.
He urged the CBN to stop banks from selling Personal Travel Allowances (PTAs) and Business Travel Allowances (BTAs) to travellers and assign the role to BDCs.
Will economic buffers save the naira?
Gwadabe urged the Federal Government to build strong buffers for the naira to withstand headwinds that come during economic crisis like in other climes.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) for instance, has more than $400 billion in their reserves. The buffer is big enough for UAE to protect its local currency at any given time.
“But the Federal Government and the CBN have stood their ground for a very long time by not allowing naira to float freely. The advantage of the flexible forex regime is that the volatility you see, whereby naira everyday is getting weaker, once it goes up, another thing will bring it down,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “The fact is that when you talk of BDCs, there are parallel market operators and black market operators. The parallel market is the opposite of official market.
“So, the BDCs are not parallel market operators. There are over one million parallel market operators in this country and they have been here even before the coming of the CBN. They have been here even before the CBN licensing the BDCs in Nigeria”.
Noting the big difference between a parallel market operator and his BDCs counterpart, he said:  “And if you look at it, last year, we were branded the black sheep in the industry. In India, the BDCs generate over $30 billion from the Diaspora remittances.
“In United Arab Emirates, the entire banking needs of banks are met by the BDCs. The working of the Lebanon economy is highly dependent on the activities of BDCs in that country. I want stakeholders to support Nigeria BDCs in building the economy.”
BDCs embrace automation of processes
On the ongoing automation of BDCs’ operations that will help online real-time operations and enhancement of compliance among operators, Gwadabe said the facility would boost operational transparency, ease of public accessibility of BDCs’ procedures, returns rendition and regulatory supervision.
Gwadabe said: “We want to introduce certification for registered BDCs. The ABCON is also coming up with schools that will train and retrain members and encourage record keeping. We believe that once we are able to introduce measures that make the operations of parallel market irrelevant, they will be eradicated.”
He said that ABCON members have been pushing to become sole handlers of PTA and BTA and also raising their operational modalities to ensure they become agents of International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs).
Gwadabe said that despite the challenges facing the economy, the CBN and BDCs will continue to work together and find sustainable solutions that can help the country wriggle out of the ongoing forex crisis and achieve full economic recovery.
He said: “We have continuously assured the CBN and taken appropriate measures to ensure that purchased funds are disbursed to end users and for eligible transactions only. We also render weekly returns on purchases from the banks to Trade and Exchange Department of the apex bank. We also ensure strict compliance to the provisions of the anti-money laundering laws observance of appropriate Know-Your-Customer principles in the handling of forex transactions.”
The CBN, last week, confirmed the operating licenses of 3,147 BDCs that met its N35 million mandatory capital base. The reviewed list was the first since May 29, last year, when the apex bank approved 2,998 operators to meet customers’ forex needs at the retail-end of the market.
The CBN said the new approvals in BDCs were in line with its plan to deepen the forex market by getting more operators involved in the retail-end of the market.
Gwadabe said that the licensing of new BDCs was a positive development that is expected to deepen dollar liquidity in the system.
Disclosing that the apex bank has a mandate to review the list of operators on quarterly basis, Gwadabe added that the list grew to 2,998 from 1,400.
“There are more approvals expected. It is a welcome development,” he said.
- The Nation

Judge refuses out-of-court meeting with Fani-Kayode

Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Monday refused an application by former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, to hold a private meeting in his chambers.
Fani-Kayode, through his lawyer Norrisson Quakers (SAN), had sought to meet with the judge in private to discuss certain issues pertaining to the case, which he said were not meant for the public.
Quakers, while arguing the application, said the “facts” he has could “embarrass” the judge should he say them openly.
He said the prosecution counsel should also be allowed to be present during the private meeting.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Fani-Kayode and former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The charges border on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and corruption and money laundering.
They were charge along with former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko local government area of Kaduna State, Mr. Yusuf Danjuma and a company said to belong to him, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
Quakers, who said he was just briefed by Fani-Kayode on Sunday evening, said he needed some time to study the case-file so as prepare adequately for his client’s defence.
He is taking over from Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), who represented Fani-Kayode when he was arraigned.
Quakers said: “I’m coming into this matter for the first time. I was briefed yesterday (Sunday) evening. I need time to study the case.
“That aside, I had applied to enable I and the prosecution counsel to see the judge in chambers. It’s imperative that parties approach the court in chambers.
“It is our duty to protect the dignity of the court. The rules allow the court to hear certain applications in chambers. We owe it a duty to protect the court from embarrassment.
“I have at my possession facts that will assist the court to determine whether to proceed or not,” he said.
Usman’s lawyer, Chief Ferdinand Orbih and Danjuma’s lawyer, S. I. Ameh (SAN), did not oppose the application.
They also urged court to give Quakers time to prepare for the case having just been briefed.
But, EFCC’s lawyer, Nkereuwem Anana, said while Fani-Kayode reserved the right to change counsel at any time, it should not impede trial.
- The Nation

Alleged N23b bribe: 200 INEC officials face panel

No fewer than 200 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials have been queried for allegedly collecting bribe during the 2015 elections.
About N23.29billion was allegedly paid out to INEC officials in a desperate bid to change the results of the election, which President Muhammadu Buhari won. The cash, according to investigators, came from former Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.
A panel headed by National Commissioner Baba Shetiima Arfo is investigating the alleged involvement of some INEC employees in the scam.
Apart from internal sanctions by INEC, those found wanting after the probe  are to be released to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.
One of those under interrogation for the scam, former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Gesil Khan, has applied to travel abroad for medical care.
Khan is under investigation by the EFCC for allegedly collecting  N185, 842,000 out of a N681million bribe.
The anti-graft agency is weighing whether to release her seized travel document or not, because some suspects have hidden under medical trips to escape trial.
Alison-Madueke is under EFCC probe over her  alleged involvement in the $115m (N23, 299,705, 000 billion) scandal.
Four oil firms, 14 directors of oil companies, two banks, two RECs, more than 16 INEC directors and 82 others are also under investigation.
INEC is considering a report sent to it by the EFCC.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “About 200 INEC employees who have been implicated in one way or the other in the poll bribery scandal have so far been queried.
“The queries were based on the report of the investigation, which was conducted by the EFCC.”
Besides, a panel headed by a National Commissioner, Alh. Baba Shetiima Arfo, is grilling  all the affected employees – in line with the extant public service rules.
“It is after the panel has concluded its work that a disciplinary action will be taken against the guilty ones. Thereafter, the EFCC will proceed with the trial of those with cases to answer,” the source said, adding:
“It is too early to conclude that all the 200 employees will face trial. They are only going through an internal fact-finding process in INEC.”
The source added: “The panel is actually taking on the implicated employees based on the six geopolitical zones.
“These employees, after answering queries, have been coming to the INEC headquarters to appear before the panel.”
An EFCC source said the agency was ready for the trial of some of the suspects, but “it needs to allow INEC to conclude its internal process”.
“Some suspects acted in connivance with INEC employees and you cannot isolate the cases at hand,” the source said, pleading not to be named so as not to jeopardise the investigation.
INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Wole Osaze-Uzzi said: “A panel is sitting but I cannot confirm the total number of people involved. But all those involved will be dealt with administratively without prejudice to what the law enforcement agencies will do.”
But the fate of a serving Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sylvester Ezeani, may be determined by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Neither INEC chairman nor the panel can take any disciplinary action against a REC.
Section 3 of INEC Establishment Act says:
(1)    “ The chairman and members of the Commission shall each hold office for a period of five years and on such terms and conditions as may be specified in their letters of appointment.
(2)    “ A member may at any time be removed from office by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for any act of misconduct but shall not be removed from office except in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.
(3)     ”A member may resign his membership by notice in writing addressed to the President and that member shall, on the date of the receipt of the notice by the President, cease to be a member.”
Khan’s application to EFCC to travel abroad for medical care came when her investigation was said to have reached “an  advanced stage for trial”.
The EFCC source added: “At a time we are set for ex-REC Gesil Khan’s trial, we got an application from her to travel abroad for medical care. She wanted the commission to release her passport.
“Our medical team will go through her records and make appropriate recommendations upon which the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, will exercise his discretion.
“We may also give her conditions, including being on surveillance by collaborating agencies in whichever country she is travelling to. We have had instances where some suspects who were allowed to travel abroad did not come back.”
Some INEC officers already grilled by EFCC are the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Abia State, Sylvester Ezeani, who has refunded N20million credited to him from the poll cash;  Khan for collecting  N185, 842,000 out of a N681million bribe deal; Fidelia Omoile( Electoral Officer in Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State)—N112,480,000 ; Uluochi Obi Brown( INEC’s Administrative Secretary in Delta State)—N111,500,000; a former Deputy Director  of INEC in Cross River state, Edem Okon Effanga—N241,127,000 and the Head of Voter Education in INEC in Akwa Ibom, Immaculata Asuquo—N214,127,000.
Also, a retired INEC official, Sani Isa  was grilled over alleged N 406,206,000 bribe allegedly collected on behalf of the deceased Resident Electoral Commissioner  (REC), in Kano State, Alhaji Mukaila Abdullahi.
Those grilled in Gombe are: Godwin Maiyaki Gambo Balanga, Bukar Alone Benisheik, Dukku, Jibril. B. Muhammed,Billiri, Dunguma Musa Dogona, Funakaye, Mohammed. A. Wanka, Kaltungo, Ishaku Yusuf, Kwami, Suleiman Isawa, Nafada, Babagana Malami, Shongom, and Nuhu Samuel, Y/Deba.
- The Nation

NIMASA ready to increase GDP, says Peterside

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-GeneralDr. Dakuku Petersidehas said the agency was positioned to contribute substantially to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Peterside told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that if the potentials of the sector were optimised, they would lead to the growth of the economy.
“We are looking at the entire gamut of mix that is necessary to unleash our potential in the industry.
“All I can say is that going forward, maritime is positioned to contribute substantially to our GDP and by extension the growth of our economy,’’ he said.
Peterside said many countries had optimised advantages of their maritime sub-sector to grow their GDP and it had yielded results and urged Nigeria to replicate same.
“If you look at the economy of the Philippians, seafarers contribute more than 11 per cent to their GDP.
“If you look at Bangladesh, it is called the graveyard of ships, in terms of ship breaking, ship recycling; that small sector in the maritime industry contributes substantially to their economy.
”Now, if you  look at India, again seafarers contribute substantially to the economy of India. If you look at Korea, ship building contributes to the economy of Korea.
”‘If you look at China, the officer cadre that boards vessel or that ply vessels, or that mounts vessels everywhere in the world, most of them are Chinese.
”If you look at Singapore, by simply being a trans-shipment hub, it is the mainstay of the economy of Singapore.
“So, if you look at all these countries, they have optimised advantage of one sub-sector or the other in the maritime sector. Why can’t we replicate same in Nigeria?”
- The Nation

Foreign reserve hits $26.9bn, as value of open contracts rises

NIGERIA’S foreign exchangereserves increased week-on-week by 2.51 per cent toUSD26.88billion, according to latest update from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, last weekend. 

The latest uptick in the reserves came against the backdrop of a week-on-week decline in global crude oil price, a factor that had stoked the upswing in reserves in the past one month. Brent crude oil price and OPEC’s reference basket price moderated lower week-on-week by 1.39 per cent and1.36 per cent toUSD56.11per barrel and USD52.30 a barrel, respectively, at the weekend.

But activities at the interbank foreign exchange market remained minimal even as more pressures came on the parallel market segment of the foreign exchange market, sending Naira value, at N497/ USD1, closer to the dreaded N500 mark. 

This was despite indications by the Association of Bureau De Change operators to adopt N400.00/USD1 as BDC rate during a meeting with CBN a day before the latest depreciation. However, in the Foreign Exchange Futures Market, the value of open contracts rose to US$3.8 billion from US$3.7 billion recorded in the first week of the year. 

It was observed that the value of the “soon-to-mature” Naira/USD January 25, 2017 dated contracts rose by US$58.3 million during the week. Meanwhile exchange rates at the spot market for one month, three months, six months and 12 months forward contracts were stable at N305/USD, N305.25, N320.18/USD, N330.537/USD, N346.07/USD and N378/USD respectively But analysts noted that despite the attractive prices of the contracts on offer, most of the contracts in the Futures market remained largely undersubscribed due to overhanging liquidity crisis in the currency market. There was USD7.5 million intervention sales by CBN to banks during the week. 

In the current week, CBN will resume selling USD to BDCs for the first time this year; hence, we expect moderation of the Naira/USD exchange rate Analysts expect exchange rate at the interbank to remain stable this week as the CBN continues daily intervention. Meanwhile, plans by the CBN to resume dollar sales to BDC operators may offset some of the pressure on exchange rates at the parallel market. With last week’s depreciation amidst major moves by Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to assuage Bureau de Change, BDC, operators with improved availability of foreign exchange resources, some market operators believe the latest depreciation may be speculative, expecting a reversal this week. 

Weekly foreign exchange supply However, Financial Vanguard learnt that dealers are not confident in the arrangements under the International Money Transfer Agency system which the apex bank has been working out for some months now. They said they are yet to receive foreign exchange supply under the arrangement this year, a situation which may have worsened the liquidity crises in the foreign exchange market while heightening speculations. This situation was coming at the backdrop of the reduction in the volume of weekly foreign exchange supply to the interbank market by the CBN previous week.

EFCC investigates alleged missing N500m Chibok safe school funds

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is looking into the petition requesting the anticorruption body to “urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into allegation that N500 million Safe School funds for Chibok girls, commissioned by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to rebuild the Government Girls School in Chibok, is missing and cannot be accounted for.” 

The petition 27 December 2016 was sent to the EFCC Chair Ibrahim Mustafa Magu by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). This development was disclosed Monday by SERAP’s senior staff attorney Timothy Adewale. Adewale said: 

“We have received confirmation from the EFCC that the body is looking into our petition. The EFCC has also expressed its determination to diligently investigate the allegation of the missing N500 million Safe School funds for Chibok girls, and sought additional information from SERAP.” “SERAP appreciates the prompt attention the EFCC has given to the matter, and our organization is committed to sending to the EFCC additional information including any available documentary evidence in our possession in order to enable the anticorruption body to get to the root of the matter, identify suspected perpetrators and bring them to justice, as well as recover any missing funds.” 

It would be recalled that SERAP had in its petition urged the EFCC to “invite for questioning, and name and shame anyone suspected to be involved in the alleged diversion, including the contractors allegedly handling the project.” The petition reads in part: “The allegation that N500m has been lost to corruption has resulted in denying the girls access to education, and shows the failure of the former President Goodluck Jonathan government to live up to Nigeria’s commitments under the global Safe School Declaration.” 

“SERAP believes that the diversion of the funds will expose the school to attacks in the future. This is a fundamental breach of the country’s obligations including guarantees of non-repetition, which contribute to prevention and deterrence of future attacks.” “SERAP urges the EFCC to work with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to set up a mechanism to monitor government’s spending of the safe school funds in order to ensure that the funds are spent exactly to prevent and deter future attacks, and to allow the girls to go back to school as soon as possible.” 

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the school has remained in a state of disrepair since the abduction of the girls, and students have remained at home.” “SERAP is concerned that the alleged diversion of N500m meant for reconstruction of Government Girls School in Chibok has directly violated the right to education of the girls, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.” 

“The diversion has undermined the obligation of the government to take step to the maximum of its available resources to achieve the right to education. The alleged diversion also shows a serious breach of anticorruption legislation including the EFCC Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption both of which the country has ratified.” 

“The EFCC should ensure full accountability and bring to justice anyone found to be responsible for corruption and diversion of safe school funds. The EFCC should also ensure that all proceeds of corruption are recovered and returned back to the treasury.” 

“This request is based on allegation by Governor Kashim Shettima that N500 million set aside by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is missing and cannot be accounted for. The funds were released for rebuilding of the Government Girls School in Chibok under the Safe School Initiative programme, which was commissioned former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”

- Vanguard

Bribery charge: FG tenders evidence against Justice Ademola, SAN

ABUJA – The Federal Government, Monday, adduced evidence to prove its allegation that Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Abuja received gratification from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, in the discharge of his judicial function. 

Among exhibits FG tendered before an Abuja High Court at Maitama, included invoice and receipt of a BMW Saloon 320i valued at N8.5 Million, which Agi, SAN, purchased from Coscharis Motors Limited on January 5, 2015 and handed over to the judge through his son, Ademide. 

Trial Justice Jude Okeke admitted the documents into evidence and marked them as Exhibit A. Justice Ademola who is a grandson to a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, is answering to a 16-count corruption charge alongside his wife, Olabowale and Agi, SAN. 

FG alleged that the Judge had in the discharge of his duties, received bribe from Agi to the tune of N38.5million and perverted the course of Justice. Ademola was alleged to have received the bribe money from the SAN through a Guarantee Trust Bank, GTB, account number 201/110160/1/1/0, operated by his wife who was the former Head of Service in Lagos State.

 FG said its investigations revealed that the illicit deal occurred between March 11 and 26, 2015, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the FCT High Court.

FG to restructure, recapitalise BoA with N500bn

The Federal Government has set up a 21-man steering committee to restructure and recapitalise the Bank of Agriculture.
The committee would commence the restructuring with N500bn and work within the next three to one month to actualise its goal.
Inaugurating the committee in Abuja on Monday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, urged the committee to work within a record time to actualise the goal.
He said the restructuring was aimed at revitalising the operations of the Bank to make it more responsive to its mandate.
Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the restructuring, would strengthen the bank as a platform for providing loans to Small and Medium Enterprise farmers and cooperatives among others.
He said the approach was a pre-privatisation strategy preferred by the Federal Government to pave way for the injection of financial and other requisite resources into the Bank.
He said, “It is noteworthy that in its over 20 years of existence, the BoA has faced myriad of challenges which include, poor funding, poor stakeholder buy in, particularly Federal Government agencies and erosion of stakeholders funds.”
Ogbeh, also the Chairman of the committee, said the committee would commence the restructuring with N500bn and work within the next three to one month to actualise its goal.
The minister said the committee was expected to give the Bank a face-lift, look into the issues of staffing, electronic improvement, work in every community nationwide, provide credits to SMEs and to farmers small or big.
Ogbeh said the Central Bank of Nigeria would hand over the Anchor Borrowers Scheme to the Bank after the restructuring to effectively finance agricultural projects.
He said, “There will be a better run financed BOA so that the interest rate will be easily accommodated by farmers. We will recover some of the credits owed by farmers because some of them have offered to pay.”
The CBN Governor and a member of the committee, Mr Godwin Emefiele, described its Anchor Borrowers Programme which started in 2016 as `a success’.
He expressed optimism that the committee would work to ensure that the BOA achieved its aims and objectives in a very short time.
According to him, the loans that are currently given to farmers through the Anchor Borrowers Scheme is in a single digit
“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture is asking us to reduce the interest rate to about nine per cent to enable farmers buy inputs, go to the farm, make a living and feed the country,’’ Emefiele said.
The Managing Director of BOA, Prof. Danbala Danju, commended the Federal Government for its initiative to restructure the Bank.
He expressed regret over the bad and non- repayment attitude of farmers after collecting funds from the Bank.
Danju said the Bank was targeting single digit interest rate on loans to farmers by the end of the restructuring.
The managing director said the Bank would work with the private sector and the international development agencies to actualise their set target
He said, “The Bank needs to be recapitalised to energise the agriculture sector in line with best practices all over the world.
“We expect a restructuring plan that will look at our operating model, human resources and the entire business plan so that agriculture will be properly financed in Nigeria.
“Agriculture has been under-funded and the key challenge is how to source the fund so that we can assist farmers.
“The key challenge now is how we can reconstitute ourselves to properly identify farmers and ensure that when farmers are given loans and support, they pay back.”
The committee is made up of the Ministers of Finance, Industry, Trade and Investment, Planning and representatives from the BOA, ministry of Justice, Bureau of Public Enterprise, among others.
The nine members known as Project Delivery Team, would also assist the committee to deliver on the restructuring mandate.

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