Showing posts with label BUSINESS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BUSINESS. Show all posts

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cement Standardisation: How New Policy Will Foist Monopoly On The Industry

WITH the festering crisis occasioned by the recommendations of the House Ad-Hoc Committee on the composition and pigmentation of cement yet to abate, it is becoming increasingly clearer that the House sacrificed national interest in furtherance of powerful vested interests. The haste with which this well choreographed farce received official stamp bespeaks of a vast conspiracy to impose monopoly on the cement market at the behest of visible and invisible forces, uneasy at the healthy competition that has defined this flourishing market since 2010.

  The fulcrum of this disingenuous plot is an unknown coalition of civil society groups and professional bodies in the construction industry who without a shred of scientific evidence alleged that the use of 32.5 cement grade in construction works was responsible for incessant building collapse across the country. The group petitioned the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). Thereafter, an Ad-Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives recommended that cement manufacturers be given a reasonable time to commence production of the standard 42.5 grade only, a position adopted by the SON.

  Whereas public safety should be uppermost in the minds of stakeholders and not profit motive, there is the overriding need to enlighten the public on the issues in matter with a view to charting the right way forward. For instance, it is the public interest to find out if there is any scientific and or empirical basis for the allegation that 32.5 grade cement is responsible for the increasing incidents of collapsed buildings across the country. Or is this assertion a mere smokescreen to foist a narrow selfish agenda of powerful vested interests intent on maintaining and expanding the scope of their monopoly within the industry?

  The answer to these posers is of critical importance so as not to imperil the flourishing cement industry, with investment portfolio put at between $7 billion and $8 billion with employment capacity of about 1.6 million people.

  As regulatory watchdog, the SON set up a high-powered technical committee to look at the existing grade of cement and recommend the best grades that should be in place for the good of the country. The technical committee headed by Professor Innocent Onyeyili had members drawn from the manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN); the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC); and Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN), amongst others. There were also representatives of the Dangote Cement Company; Ibeto Cement and Lefarge WAPCO.

  Although the committee’s work is conclusive after only one meeting and failure to revert to members to agree on the report, the SON Governing Council has already approved a new standard of NIS444-2-2003 for cement production in Nigeria. On the face value, many unsuspecting Nigerians may applaud the SON’s directive as a conscionable step towards ensuring the inauguration of a new regime in the overriding interest of the nation. But in truth, the SON position is part of a vast conspiracy to maintain and expand the monopoly stranglehold of cement Czars threatened by an era of multi-billion-dollar investments since 2010. The ongoing onslaught against some cement companies, therefore, has nothing to do with standard but everything to do with vile propaganda in furtherance of a fast disappearing status quo that has hitherto held Nigerian cement consumers to ransom. Till date, there is no scientific basis for the wild allegation that 32.5 cement grade is the cause of building collapse in Nigeria. The ongoing propaganda is therefore an attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

  The activities of greedy contractors, unqualified workers and non-adherence to building code and concrete standard are responsible for the parlous state of affairs in the construction industry. Many global landmarks, which have stood the test of time, were built with 32.5 grade cement which over night have become an object of ridicule in our clime. In France, Kenya, South Africa and indeed other parts of the world, this cement grade has been in use without any controversy. If the SON and indeed other relevant stakeholders are committed to finding a lasting solution to perennial problems of building collapse, it is their vicarious responsibility   to act from an informed position rather than embark of a witch hunting expedition as it is clearly doing regarding its strange rating of cement standards without scientific evidence. The SON should encourage rather than stifle competition. All stakeholders should insist on strict adherence to building code and concrete standard as a way of stemming incessant collapse of buildings. The production of sub-standard blocks arising from the quality of the mixture of cement and other materials and how builders are regulated is responsible for much of these problems. Even the 42.5 grade cement is not immune to the nefarious activities of these shylocks and can cause building collapse if not properly mixed.

  The nation only recently attained self-sufficiency in cement production. But this feat and indeed other achievements recorded by this critical sector stand threatened by this avoidable debacle and retrogressive policy of the SON and its parent ministry. More importantly, it goes against the grain of the backward integration policy in the cement sector, which was instituted by the Obasanjo administration, and the national industrial revolution plan of the present administration. More telling, it will imperil the modest achievements of the drive for Foreign Direct Investment if the monopoly as being foisted on the nation is allowed to stand.

  In real terms, whereas the likes of Dangote cement with 60 per cent of the cement market share will enjoy greater monopoly if the SON categorisation stands, investors who have invested billions in our cement industry will be left to rue their misfortune for choosing to invest in Nigeria. The recent merger between the Nigeria unit of French cement maker Lafarge, Lafarge WAPCO, and its wholly owned South African Subsidiary is threatened by this new policy. The deal, which is worth $1.35 billion with the group renamed Lafarge Africa Plc and a market capitalisation of around $3 billion, represents a bold move for the share of our cement market. The licence it obtained is for the manufacturing of 32.5 all-purpose cement remains valid up till August 2016. Also, an investor, recently invested $500 million in Unicem and then without warning the rule of the game is changing.

  The repudiation of agreements validly entered into by investors and the relevant government agencies, which is what this policy change represent, is a wrong signal to send out especially at this period when there is paucity of financiers and investors. Given the action of the SON so far, there is increasing evidence that in this instance, neither the SON nor its parent ministry acted in good faith as they did not comply with due process. The hurry with which the new policy was announced, even while the public hearing on the issue was ongoing, and the de-marketing of competition brands that has continued unabated since then are not only suspicious but expose the existence of an incestuous relationship and conspiracy to arrive at a predictable subterfuge: the imposition of a new monopoly regime in favour of Dangote cement and its co-travellers.

  If it is true that Dangote produces 32.5 cement grade under the brand name ‘Sephaku’ in South Africa as was published by a group recently, and offers the same for several construction activities including block making and mortar, then one wonders what the SON’s issue really is. Can it be lack of knowledge about what is in operation in its backyard or outright disregard of such for ulterior motives? Are Nigerians less educated than South African counterparts or why is something good for the goose being considered unacceptable for the gander? Nigerians need to be told.

  In the spirit of openness and transparency, the SON should urgently clarify the basis upon which it arrived at its grading. To impose these grades without any clear parameters is not only a grave error of judgment but exposes its preference for favoured manufacturers. Rather than stoke the embers of needles controversy by favouring cement companies as is the case, the SON should work round the clock to provide a level playing field for all players. This is the irreducible minimal requirement for this all-important sector of our economy to grow and flourish.

.Onyeachonam, a social affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Abuja.(Vanguard)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

'Nigeria loses $2bn to gas flaring’

Nigeria loses not less than two billion dollars (approximately N320 billion) to gas flaring annually, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, an environmentalist has said.

Bassey,  a delegate at the ongoing National Conference and member of the Committee on Environment, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday  in Abuja that the loss of such huge revenue to the activities of oil companies, constituted an economic crime.

The delegate also explained that the flared gas also had a negative impact on the health of people in the area.

According to him, such health hazards pose environmental challenges to the people and can lead to terminal diseases.

“Nigeria wastes gas worth about two billion dollars every year; that is criminal.

“This gas that is being flared in the oil fields equally impacts human health as it causes  acid rain, cancer, breathing difficulties, skin and other diseases such as bronchitis and asthma and acid rain.

“Communities have experienced a drop in agricultural yields when you get nearer to gas flaring fields.

“You have to be as far away as at least one km to expect to have fair yields from your crop because some of this gas is being flared in communities.’’

The delegate also said that the committee had made far-reaching recommendations aimed at protecting Nigeria’s environment from danger.

He said that the conference adopted most of the recommendations of the environment committee, which included outlawing gas flaring.

“I believe that the recommendations made by the environment committee all have far-reaching implications.

“For example, the fact that gas flaring should be outlawed and criminalised. It has been outlawed since 1984, but there has been an opening for oil companies to continue to flare and pay fines.

“We recommended a situation where there will not be an option of fine on gas flaring, but brand the activity as criminal.

“We cannot kill our people on the altar of cash; we need to have an environment where people will survive,” he said.

Bassey also said that conference adopted the committee’s recommendation to strengthen the Act establishing the Nigerian Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA).

He observed that the NESREA Act did not empower it to oversee and regulate the petroleum sector, a situation that had led to the pollution of the environment by the petroleum industry.

“Right now, we have agencies like NESREA which has the mandate to regulate the entire environment sector and oversight over the environment except the oil and gas sector.

“To add insult to injury, there sits on the board of NESREA the oil and gas industry people.

“How could you have oil and gas sector, the most polluting sector in the Nigerian environment not being regulated by the major regulatory agency and you then have same pollutants seating on the board of that agency?

“So, the committee recommended that that gap should be closed; that NESREA should be empowered to oversee and regulate the entire Nigerian environment, including the oil and gas sector.

“The conference acts in the interest of Nigerians because the participants live within the environment and the more environmental regulations we have, the better for everybody in the country.” (NAN)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

SERAP sues Jonathan, AG over withdrawal of N446.3bn corruption charges against Abacha’s son

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Federal Government to court over the withdrawal of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha.
Joined in the suit are President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney General of the Federation, Muhammed Adoke.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1007/2014 filed yesterday before the Federal High Court, Lagos, by Adetokunbo Mumuni and Oyindamola Musa on behalf of the organization, SERAP argued that, “Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.” This means that the Defendants are to prevent the
Jonathan hands to late Gen Sani Abacha's widow, Mariam Abacha. Source: Goodluck Jonathan FB wall
Jonathan hands to late Gen Sani Abacha’s widow, Mariam Abacha. Source: Goodluck Jonathan FB wall
exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community. It also means that in cases of corruption the Defendants will ensure diligent and effective prosecution of suspected perpetrators.”
“The philosophical foundation for the inclusion of the Fundamental objectives in the Constitution is government’s powers are not exercised to disregard the very institution and citizens they ought to protect,” the organization said.
The organization also said that, “By Section 13 of the 1999 Constitution persons exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers in Nigeria are bound to observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of our constitution. Because those persons are so duty-bound, it follows that they have a responsibility to do those acts or else be accountable for their failure to act.”
According to the organization, “Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “In exercising his powers under this section, the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process. The constitution provides that public interest, the interest of justice and abuse of the legal process be protected. This provision should be interpreted within the other broader principles and values in the administration of justice. Justice is open, transparent and should be responsive and accountable. These are not fashionable terms any more, but a reality under the 1999 Constitution.”
“If the Defendants want to exercise the power of withdrawing corruption charges/suit, it is mandatory that they meet the threshold of public interest, interest of justice and ensure non abuse of the court process. Thus, justice is required to be done in any case regardless of the status of anyone involved. It is submitted that the Defendants in this case over overstep on the powers contained in Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution,” the organization also argued.
SERAP also argued that, “The overarching objective in the administration of justice that is to do justice to all, irrespective of status, is a cardinal value of any civilized nation. The Defendants have a constitutional responsibility to adhere to the principles set out in the constitution. In other words, the exercise of this power is not absolute. And this cannot be especially in corruption cases, and given the debilitating effects of corruption on the rule of law, good governance and the entire fabric of the Nigerian society.”
The organization also argued that, “Nigeria has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, which in several of its provisions obligate the country to effectively prosecute allegations of corruption, recover stolen assets, and end the impunity of perpetrators. Several articles of the convention emphasise the importance of promoting, facilitating, and supporting international cooperation to effectively combat corruption. This good faith obligation requires the Defendants to submit cases of corruption to a State’s competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.”
The organization is asking the court for the following reliefs:
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal and unconstitutional having regard to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal and unconstitutional having regard to Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that the Second Defendant in the exercise of his power to undertake criminal proceedings shall have regard to the public interest, interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal having regard to Nigeria’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, which requires Nigeria to apply in good faith its domestic law and in manner that does not frustrate or defeat the object and purpose of the Convention to end impunity for large-scale corruptionabacha
AN ORDER directing the Defendants to reinstate the corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha forthwith
“The good faith nature of the obligations assumed by Nigeria under the UN convention does not grant discretion to the Defendants to refuse to prosecute, recover stolen assets and end the impunity of perpetrators. It is submitted that there are no exceptional circumstances warranting the withdrawal of the corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha by the Defendants.
It is further submitted that by withdrawing the charges/suit, the Defendants have denied the appropriate authorities the opportunity to hear evidence and decide whether or not a case of corruption is established against Muhammed Abacha,” the organization further argued.
“The exercise of withdrawal power is not compatible with the need to avoid impunity for corruption prohibited under the UN Convention against Corruption.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.(Vanguard)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

FG to create 1.8m jobs annually,Trade Minister

Lagos – The Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Olusegun Aganga, said in Lagos on Thursday that the Federal Government would generate at least 1.8 million jobs annually to tackle unemployment. Aganga said this at the inauguration of a printing press owned by Dr Doyin Abiola, wife of the late Chief MKO Abiola. “We need to create a minimum of 1.8 million jobs annually to fight the problem of unemployment. “To achieve this, we need to provide the needed platform to create jobs for the teeming youths in the country. “We need to attract foreign investments and support our local industry through patronage. “With all of these, we can sustain the companies, retain jobs and create more jobs. “The Federal Government is conscious of all these and it initiating policies and programmes to address the problem of unemployment,’’ he said. The minister said as part of strategies to boost employment, the Federal Government had attracted investments worth 14 billion dollars in the petrochemical sector, saying 9 billion dollars of the investments will be in Lagos. Aganga commended the setting up of the printing press, saying it will provide employment. Also speaking on the occasion, Gov. Babatunde Fashola, stressed the need for Nigerians to patronise Made-in-Nigeria goods to enable local factories to keep people on their jobs. He said patronising imported goods had a deleterious effect on the economy as it aided the creation of jobs in other countries. The governor said there was also the need to improve power supply in the country in a bid to make industries more competitive and to create jobs. “The missing infrastructure that we must get right is power supply. We can imagine how many of those jobs we have shipped out of the country because there was no power supply for the industries to operate effectively. “There are many establishments that could change life in the country that were kept abroad. Therefore, we need to create more jobs to ensure that we keep the youths in the country engaged,’’ Fashola said. He promised that the state government would continue to boost industrialisation. (NAN)

Monday, 23 June 2014

ATM Fraudster withdraws N1.9m through Terminal

In apparent reflection of the rising incidence of electronic payment fraud, a fraudster withdrew N1.9 million from  the bank account of a customer through ATM in one week.

This was disclosed by  Tam Tamunokonbia, Head, Consumer Protection Council, Lagos Office.  Speaking at the maiden summit of Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) in Lagos last week, he said that ATM fraud is one of the commonest complaints received by the Council  from bank customers.
He said in addition to this are: Illegal bank charges as against the minimum re-discount rate; Non-disclosure of terms and conditions by Banks and financial service providers; Mobile Payment Systems – online trading and Improper cheque verification.

Citing example of these complaints, he said, “A lady’s N1.9 million withdrawn in one week without alert – case in Enugu High Court. A Company was charged in excess of N1, 984,662.40, another in excess of N592, 681 .61, and  another in excess of N552,597.01.”
He said the general responses of banks to complaints against ATM fraud are:  “Customer compromised PIN numbers. Camera footage could not be generated.We are investigating and will get back.” On complaints of excess bank charges,he said banks’ responses are: The customer signed an agreement; The customer was given the form;  It is an error etc.”

Consequently,Tamunokonbia advised that: “Banks should respect the customer’s rights to disclosure; Banks should provide written terms and conditions in simple language and legible words; Charges and fees should be made known to customers before opening their accounts – no hidden charges;  change in terms and conditions should be adequately disclosed to customers – prior notice; Statement of Accounts to be provided to customers at regular intervals; applicable interest rates, how it is calculated and when to apply the rates should be made known to consumers; terms and conditions to be in line with prevailing laws; avoid Council’s summons and prosecution – Section 12, 18 and 21 of the CPC Act, CAP C25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Financial Intelligence Centre bill,Senate divided

Senator, Ike
Senators were, on Tuesday, divided over the bill seeking the establishment of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre, distinct from the Economic and  Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).

Though senators had unanimously voted in support of the proposal for the bill last year, there was a twist on Tuesday,

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

stop internal recruitment by CEOs into federal Government jobs, Federal Character Commission warns

Abuja – The Federal Character Commission (FCC) has warned that it would not permit internal recruitment of staff into Federal Government parastatal agencies by their chief executives officers.
The FCC Commissioner for Ekiti State, Mr Ojo Christopher, stated this in an interview  on Tuesday in Abuja.

What made Aliko Dangote African Richest Man and Entrepreneur extraordinaire

Aliko Dangote

Alot is reported about Nigeria in the news every day.  However, much of this is bad.  Nigerians are people the world seems to love to hate.  When you read about Nigeria, corruption is often the preferred topic.  Then there are the kidnappings and the Boko Haram terrorism.

But alongside all the bad press, there is a quiet revolution going on in Nigeria.  Indeed, it could be argued that all the turmoil currently going on represent the birth-pangs of a nascent Nigeria.  A new Nigeria that is vibrant, progressive and industrious.  A new Nigeria that President Barack Obama of the United States proclaimed is a strategic centre of gravity in Africa and perhaps the world’s next economic giant.
Indeed, within the last three years, Nigeria has emerged as the preferred destination for foreign investments in Africa, driven by successful government policies to attract foreign investors. For the second year running, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, has ranked Nigeria as the number one destination for investments in Africa, and as having the fourth highest returns in the world.

Aliko Dangote

Friday, 16 May 2014

Nigeria: Inflation rate rise to 7.9 per cent in April

Abuja – A release by National Bureau of Statistics, NBS yesterday showed that the Consumer Price Index, CPI which measures inflation rose by 7.9 percent in April as against 7.8 per cent recorded in March.
The 0.1 per cent increase according to NBS was traceable to the higher food prices as well as divisions which contribute to the Core sub-index.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Transcorp Hilton set to host World Economic Forum

With few days to go to the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF), the management of the Official Host Hotel, Transcorp Hilton Abuja has assured the public of its preparedness to host a hitch-free event and provide a world class hospitality experience for all the visiting delegates. Valentine Ozigbo, the MD/CEO of Transnational Hotels in a statement assured all the delegate of comfortable and hassle-free experience during their stay at the hotel, “We are proud to be the first hosts of WEF in the West African sub-region and we are set to create a refreshing hospitality experience for all the WEF delegates.” Speaking on the preparation for the event, Etienne Gailliez, the General Manager said ’Transcorp Hilton Abuja has a long history of hosting large high profile International events, “we are known for being leaders in our field and for delivering customer-focused service to all our guests. We will surely bring this cherished history of service excellence and experience to bear on hosting the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa’ He disclosed that in the past week, the hotel’s team of over 1000 employees has attended special WEF orientation training sessions where the peculiar demands of the event and the delegates were highlighted with a view to meeting and exceeding the expectations of the delegates. Etienne Gailliez added that in order to ease the flow of traffic in and out of the hotel, work is being completed on the modification of the former exit gate to serve the guests for both entrance and exit into the hotel. “A VIP car park has also been completed on time to give the guests a better experience at the entrance foyer. The accreditation process for the event started weeks ago as only duly accredited delegates of WEF and personnel needed to manage the event would be allowed access to specific zones of the hotel. He said “The hotel management is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that delegates to the WEF on Africa get a world class experience while showcasing the very best of Hilton quality service delivery and vintage Nigerian hospitality.” On security concerns in the wake of recent happenings in Abuja, the hotel’s Public Relations Manager, Shola Adeyemo, said ‘the well-being, safety and security of our guests are of paramount importance and we continue to make every effort to ensure that all practices and standards are in line with strict safety and security regulations.(VANGUARD)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Alleged,how Sanusi spent N1.3bn on planes in 2013

Fresh trouble appears to be brewing for the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as the Federal Government has discovered how he spent the sum of N1.3 billion for personal aircraft charter in 2013 alone. Indeed, investigations revealed that the budget for the CBN governor’s aircraft charter was adjusted twice in the year with a proviso for further expenses which are being investigated. Documents already in the possession of government investigators confirmed that while the sum of N800 million was initially approved in the CBN Governor’s Department Travels vote head for 2013, it was adjusted with additional N400 million in August and another N74 million in December of that year. While the aircraft charter bill at a stage stood at N1.2 billion, further adjustment was said to have been made to take the bill to N1.344 billion. A memo dated November 27, 2013, which originated from the Director, Governor’s Department of the CBN, had indicated that a single aircraft charter was to cost the CBN governor the sum of $25, 500. The memo indicated that the CBN governor was to attend an urgent meeting with the president in Abuja on November 28, 2013 and that the sum would defray the cost of aircraft charter for that trip. Also on December 27, 2013, the Management of CBN approved the sum of N74,768,479.05 (seventy four million, seven hundred and sixty eight thousand, four hundred and seventy nine naira and five kobo only) as additional payment for outstanding aircraft charter bills for the year 2013. It was confirmed that the aircraft charter charges were different from the general costs incurred by the CBN on movement of cash by aircraft from one section of the country to the other. A source stated that the CBN governor’s department deal mainly with issues that affect the CBN governor directly. It was also confirmed that the CBN had estimated a monthly budget of N95 million for aircraft charter for the governor in 2013, based on past trends. A memo from the Director, Governor’s Department dated December 24, 2013 explains the bills on chartered aircraft. The memo, addressed to Deputy Governor (CS),with the subject “request for payment of outstanding bills: Chartered aircraft-N74,768,479.05 from General Provisions Account,” explained that while the Bank had estimated that the CBN governor would spend N95 million monthly on aircraft charter, the trend towards the end of 2013 changed as a result of frequent local and international trips by the governor.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

FG to cut tariff on rice importation

ABUJA— Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday, said the Federal Government was contemplating a downward review of tariff on imported rice. Okonjo-Iweala, who disclosed this while answering questions at the ‘Budget 2014 Jam’, in Abuja said that the drop in the tariff would reduce smuggling of the commodity into the country. Budget 2014 Jam is a youth online programme, where the minister answers questions on the Federal Government’s 2014 budget from youths across the nation. The three-day programme, which began on Tuesday is organised by the Ministry of Finance in Collaboration with IBM Technology, a telecommunication firm. The minister said that the existing 110 per cent duty on the importation of rice was encouraging smuggling of the commodity into the country. “We increased the tariff to110 per cent, and it encouraged some people to go and grow rice and we grew 1.1 million metric tonnes of the product. But it also encouraged smuggling by neighboring countries because they immediately dropped their own tariffs to 10 per cent,” she said. She added that the rice issue was similar to tariff on importation of used vehicles, saying “we are watching it now to see what the appropriate tariff to be paid on it will be. “For rice, we decided to bring it down because we see that it is not working.” Okonjo-Iweala explained that the government had decided to encourage the automobile industry to ensure that vehicles were manufactured in the country. She said that the government spent a lot of money on importation of cars, adding that such expenditure had to be halted to encourage indigenous production of vehicles. “We have our own indigenous Innoson, who has been manufacturing cars. First, it started with assembling of the cars but now 50 per cent of his car parts are manufactured from scratch here in this country. “And, we said that if we can do this, why can’t we invite other people to manufacture cars here and sell. For that, we are giving them some incentives to bring in some parts that they will need, free of duty. We are also increasing the tariff but that’s a very tricky area. We are watching it to see what the appropriate tariff should be,” she said. Okonjo-Iweala called on Nigerians to be patient with government as it was being cautious with the vehicle importation tariff, saying that the government would not want to record smuggling of vehicles as being done for rice.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Govt gives reasons for drop in 2014 budget estimates

ICPC arrests PENCOM official with 50 bank accounts

THE Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu, disclosed yesterday that the drop in the 2014 budget estimate of N4.642 trillion from the 2013 N4.95 trillion appropriation was deliberate and intended to attain a realistic performance.

   Okogu, who spoke before the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, also disclosed that N2.3 billion is proposed for entitlements of former Heads of State and Presidents from the Service Wide Votes in the 2014 budget.

   According to him, government was worried about the incidents of abandoned projects across the country and despite the continued plea by his office to different sectors, the spate of abandonment by government MDAs leaves much to be desired from the yearly level of budget implementation.

   He noted that out of the expected revenue size of N4.1 trillion, only 80 per cent of the amount, representing N3.3 trillion, came to the Federation Account in 2013. Okogu explained that the shortfall was due to the drop in crude oil production occasioned by pipeline vandalism and the Federal Government’s policy of empowering local production of rice in the non-oil sector.

   He added that N1.01 trillion out of the budgeted N1.59 trillion was released to MDAs for the execution of capital projects, with 99 per cent release of recurrent expenditure for the 2013 fiscal year.

   Meanwhile, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, yesterday assured that the 10,000 megawatts of electricity promised by the Federal Government could be achieved before the end of the year if more fund was made available to the ministry.

   He gave the assurance while defending the ministry’s 2014 budgetary proposal. He noted that areas of priority in the current year included the completion of 215MW Kaduna power project, completion of bankable feasibility studies on 17 small/medium hydropower sites and coal-fired power plants at Enugu/Gombe axis.

   Others include to fast track the development of 70MW Zenguru hydropower projects, fast track Operation Electrify Nigeria Project, development of the power component of 40MW Kashimbilla multiple purpose dam, and completion of the power component of 34MW Dandinkowa Dam in Gombe State.

   In another development, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta, disclosed yesterday that the commission had nabbed a junior officer with the Pension Commission (PENCOM) who operated 50 different bank accounts under 50 different names with several millions on naira lodged in them.

   Nta revealed this yesterday when he appeared before the Abiodun Faleke-led House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption, National Ethics and Values for the 2014 budget defence session and the 2013 budget performance.

   The ICPC boss explained that the officer successfully operated the 50 different bank accounts as he kept a diary containing them, names allocated to each of them and their signatures for easy transactions.

   He lamented that the junior officers in PENCOM had perpetrated monumental fraud in the commission running into several billions of naira while attentions were only focused on the top officials.

   Also, Nta disclosed that the commission discovered N1.2 billion stocked in the accounts of four MDAs based on court orders and that the amounts were yet to be remitted to the Federation Account due to litigation.(Guardian)

Monday, 3 March 2014

CBN Introduces Uniform Account Opening Forms for Customers

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the banking industry, has developed uniform account opening forms for customers.

The central bank explained that the move was to ensure that depositors in banks and other financial institutions provide necessary background information for effective Know-Your-Customers’ (KYC) due diligence in the industry.

The CBN disclosed this in a circular to all banks and other financial institutions, titled: “Uniform Account Opening Forms and Minimum Information Requirement for Three-tiered KYC for Customers of Banks and Other Financial Institutions in Nigeria,” posted on its website.

The circular signed by the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Kevin N. Amugo, the uniformity in account opening forms is to ensure that Customer Due Diligence (CDD) is consistently and uniformly practiced in account opening process for prospective customers of financial institutions.

It explained: “Individual prospective customers are required to complete account opening Form A(1), Form A(2) and Form A for accounts in tier one, two and three respectively, while legal entities are to complete Form B.

“Whereas prospective customers are required to provide the relevant information applicable to them as prescribed, existing customers are to regularly update their records in line with the formats.”

The CBN had set new deposit limits for all categories of account holders when it introduced three-tier KYC requirements for banks.

The policy pegs a maximum single deposit amount of N20,000 and maximum cumulative balance of N200,000 at any point in time on the Low Value Account. The policy also categorised bank customers into Low Value Accounts (Level One); Medium Value Accounts (Level two) and High Value Accounts (Level three).

The central bank had explained that the policy became necessary after it recognised that access to basic banking facilities and other financial services was necessary in achieving financial inclusion.(THISDAY)

NAICOM Denies Involvement in Diversion of N3.54bn Premium


The insurance regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), has denied allegations of conniving with the Accountant General of the Federation in the fraudulent diversion of the N3.54 billion premium paid by the Nigerian Police for the group life assurance of its staffs.

Aiico Insurance Plc and Standard Insurance Consultants Limited accused the commission of conniving with the office of the accountant general to divert the insurance premium for the police group life assurance payable to them to Custodian Life Assurance Company Limited and Hogg Robinson Nigeria Limited.
The Assistant Director in charge of Corporate Communications at the commission, Mr. Salami Rasaaq, said NAICOM was “not involved in the pre-qualification and selection process of awarding the group life insurance policy of the Nigeria Police or any other agency or organ to insurance brokers or underwriters.”

He said the commission had no powers to direct the accountant general to pay premium for any cover to any insurer or broker and did not do anything of such at any time.
“From available records, there is nothing to suggest that NAICOM was involved in the transactions,” Rasaaq stressed.

He therefore called on the general public and stakeholders to disregard any misinformation by the aggrieved parties and asked them to go back and readdress their grievances to appropriate quarters.

The assistant director noted that Section 291 of the Pension Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2011 exempted members of the armed forces, police and intelligence and secret services from being part of the pension and group life assurance arranged by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHOSF).

He recalled that the National Pension Commission (PenCom) advised the Inspector General of Police on August 07, 2012 to solely/entirely handle the Nigeria Police Force group life assurance programme from 2013 and to make necessary arrangements to submit the 2013 budget proposal for this transaction to the Budget Office of the Federation.

He further recalled that the police on August 16, 2012 informed  the Director General of the Budget Office of its autonomy to manage the insurance programme separate from those of the civilians and other forces, adding “we are making arrangements for the submission of 2013 budget proposal for the Nigeria Police Group Life Assurance.”

Rasaaq also said the police advertised for insurers to bid to supply the group life assurance for its members wherein 20 insurance companies and 46 brokers participated in the pre-qualification process conducted by the police in February 2013.

He noted that in May 2013 Hogg Robinson was appointed as Lead broker to handle the scheme for 2013, which in turn received quotes from insurance companies after which it advised the police to pick Custodian Life Assurance Company as the lead insurer.
“As requested in your letter, we are pleased to forward herewith the various costs and benefits submitted by the Assures for your consideration. In this circumstance, we hereby recommend Custodian Life Assurance Company’s submission for Leadership,” Rasaaq said quoting Hogg Robinson.

He also recalled that the police on June 5, 2013 informed the OHOSF that “we have now placed the 2013 group life insurance programme with our underwriters and brokers and have approached the Budget Office to release the money to our lead underwriters/lead brokers.”

Also, PenCom was said to have told the director general of the budget office that it was not opposed to the payment of premium for the police cover to their preferred insurer and broker to enable them manage the scheme.
Rasaaq said that from the start to finish, NAICOM did not come into the picture and never instructed the accountant general to pay any insurer.(THISDAY)

Sanusi must be probed by ICPC, EFCC — Kashamu

Former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi

ABEOKUTA — Chairman of Organisation  and  Mobilisation Committee of  the People’s Democratic Party in South-West geopolitical zone,  Prince Buruji Kashamu, yesterday, insisted that the suspended  Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, should  be probed by anti‑graft agencies.

Kashamu in an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan entitled: “Why Sanusi  must be probed” accused Sanusi of cowing and blackmailing many bank chiefs into silence while holding sway as the governor of the apex bank.
According  to  Kashamu, “I am worried by the attempt by the opposition to  make it look as if they own Sanusi more than the government that appointed him, and thereby politicising the whole issue.
“From the comments of the opposition and some of its leading lights, especially those he favoured with questionable waiver and contracts, it is obvious that while he was appointed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP‑led Federal Government, Sanusi was therefore acting their script.
“Now that he has been told to step aside for proper investigation into the allegations against him, all hell is let loose  as if some people want him to sit in judgment over his own case. Is it not said that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands?
“It is clear that many who had been cowed or blackmailed into silence will find the  suspension of the CBN governor re-assuring of their belief that the Nigeria judicial  system will deliver justice. However, there are still issues which the courts alone can resolve.
“In summary, the CBN Governor, based on secret reports, declared “selected banks in grave situation,” removed the management and some non‑executive directors of those banks, infused billions of public funds into those banks and proceeded to nationalise some of them and sold the others to mainly inscrutable consortia.
“The Farida Waziri‑led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was conscripted  with a mandate to arraign some of the officers of the banks before the  criminal courts on various allegations of misconduct and harass some of the customers of the banks into making.”


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

House Rep. Commends CBN on Remittances to federation account

Sanusi Lamido

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has again been commended by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance for its unequalled record of timely remittances to the Federation Account.

Speaking at the resumed session of the 2014 Budget Defence Tuesday, the chairman, Finance Committee, Dr. Abdul Mumin Jibril, stated that the apex bank, over the years, had been very consistent in its remittances to the Federation Account as and when due.

Jibril noted that “the National Assembly will continue  to commend the CBN for the fiscal discipline, which it has been demonstrating and for the good work it has been doing for this country.”

He further noted that the apex bank had not only been timely in its rendition, but also ensured that the amount it remitted into the Federation Account had been on the increase in the last four years.

Also speaking, the Deputy Governor in charge of Corporate Services, Alhaji Suleiman Barau, noted that the bank had been able to increase its remittances to Federation Account from about N64.122 billion in 2011 to well over N80.0 billion in 2012. (THIS DAY)

Sanusi files new suit, challenges suspension

SUSPENDED Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has filed another suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, seeking to restrain President Goodluck Jonathan, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General (IG) of Police from giving effect to his suspension from office as the apex bank chief pending the determination of his suit.

  Sanusi also prayed the court to make an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the trio from obstructing, disturbing, stopping or preventing him in any manner whatsoever from performing the functions of his office as the governor of the CBN and enjoying in full the statutory powers and privileges attached to the office of the governor of CBN.

  In the suit filed by his counsel, Chief Kola Awodein (SAN), Sanusi contends that his interlocutory application was expedient because of the issues raised in the suit, arguing that delay might cause irreparable damage and mischief to him in the exercise of his statutory duties as the CBN governor.

  He prayed the court to exercise its discretion in his favour by granting the interlocutory injunctions, saying that the President’s continuing unlawful interference with the management of the apex bank, unless arrested, posed grave danger for Nigeria’s economy and justified the court granting his application which would result in maintaining status quo ante bellum, that is, for his return to his office as the governor of the CBN.

  In the affidavit deposed to in support of his application, Sanusi averred that in the course of his duties as the CBN governor, he discovered certain discrepancies in respect of amounts repatriated to the Federation Account from the proceed of crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013 and that he expressed concern in respect of the said discrepancies and had cause to inform the National Assembly of the said discrepancies because they affected the revenue of the federation and the national economy.

  He averred that the action of President Jonathan, in purporting to suspend him from office, was aimed at punishing him for these disclosures.

  He further averred that he was contesting the President’s power to suspend him from office, noting that the President neither approached nor obtained the support of the Senate based on his discussions with several senators, including Senator Bukola Saraki.

  He said: “I have been informed, and I verily believe the information given to me by Senator Saraki to be true and correct that the Senate did not give the President any support for my purported suspension and removal from office as the CBN Governor.”

  Sanusi further stated that the action of the President in suspending him from office was contrary to provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act relating to the appointment and removal of the CBN governor and that his purported suspension amounted to unlawful interference in the administration of the apex bank and therefore is illegal, null and void.

  He urged the court, in the interest of justice, to grant his reliefs.

  The suit has not been assigned to any judge.(GUARDIAN)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Dangote Sugar Group gets $35m equipment sale from Pan African Group.

The PanAfrican Equipment Group, a recognized leader in providing mining, construction grade equipment has announced the sale of USD$35 million worth of Komatsu construction equipment to the Dangote Sugar Group.

The equipment was handed over to the Dangote Sugar Group during a handover ceremony which took place at Tin Can Island Port Complex, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. This landmark sale is PanAfrican’s largest within the agricultural sector and in Nigeria and is in line with the Nigerian 2010 transformation agenda to drive growth in the agricultural sector.

Commenting on the sale, Scott McCaw, Group Managing Director, Panafrican Equipment stated, “We are delighted to have been chosen by Dangote Sugar as a major supplier for their agricultural expansion project in sugar production in Nigeria.”

He further stated “We look forward to building on this relationship and being their partner for development in Nigeria now and in the future. As the sale includes a long-term maintenance support and parts supply contract, we fully expect to maintain a critical role in helping Dangote achieve their goals”


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Chad basin oil exploration suffers setback

The Federal Government’s desire to achieve commercial oil production in the Chad Basin this year may not come to fruition, due to insecurity caused mostly by Islamic insurgency under the code name, Boko Haram.
Vanguard learnt that the various technical personnel who provided support services for exploration activities have left the region from fear of being killed, while geologists in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), also shunned the volatile Basin in Borno State for fear of losing their lives.

With this insecurity situation, the over N27.7 billion investments may not be realised as scheduled. Vice President Namadi Sambo said last year that oil prospecting in the Chad Basin was yielding promising results, and may lead to commercial exploration of oil and gas this year.

The Vice President, who visited the region, disclosed that the project had gulped about $75 million (about N11.9 billion) in 2012, while another $100 million (or N15.8 billion) was earmarked for it in 2013.
“I want to inform you that government is committed to the oil and gas search in the Lake Chad basin,” he said at the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Garbai.
Sambo also said three blocks have been identified in the area after series of research.

“These blocks have great potential for oil and gas exploration. Our plan is that by the fourth quarter of 2013, or first quarter of 2014, commercial oil and gas exploration will commence in the basin,” he added.
But the raging Boko Haram insurgency has however punctured government’s optimism. The Government had in a bid to douse the insurgency deployed soldiers to the site, while a state of emergency had since been declared in Borno State.

But industry sources argued that these measures are not enough to guarantee security of lives and property.
“The Joint Task Force (JTF) is having a clamp down on the Boko Haram terrorists, while those terrorists too have retreated to launch guerrilla warfare on the military. In all of these, do you think as a geologist one will be able to think straight?

“Even those on site are not finding it funny. It is true that some of us do not want to be anywhere near that place. Do not forget that we lost three of our staff to the insurgency in 2012,” one of the workers deployed to the region said.
Oil workers under the auspices of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), had late last year warned of possible abandonment of the northern region on account of the increasing activities of the sect.

In a statement entitled: “The Road to Yugoslavia,” PENGASSAN said, “the Boko Haram insurgency represents a dangerous descent into anomie, reminiscent of the horrific inter-ethnic and religious war that marked the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia.”
The association reiterated that it would not hesitate to call out its members, starting from its Kaduna zone, if government did not arrest the violence against innocent Nigerians in the northern part of the country.

In the statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Deji Kolawole, PENGASSAN said: “Nigeria cannot afford to take this road to self-destruction, for when the rich makes war, it is the poor that suffers. We, therefore, appeal to Nigerians to exercise great restraint in the face of the constant provocation and violence perpetrated on other innocent Nigerians by terrorists under the hood of religionists whose aim is, obviously, to precipitate an ethnic cum religious war in the country. We must note that an eye for an eye would only make us all blind.

“PENGASSAN expresses grave concern on the deteriorating security situation in the country resulting in the loss of innocent lives and which has led, lately, to the declaration of a 24-hour curfew in two states — Kaduna and Yobe — with the attendant impact on the socio-economic lives of the citizens of those states and other neighbouring states.

“We further call on the Federal Government of Nigeria, which has all the coercive powers of state to wake up to its primary responsibility, i.e. the security and welfare of the people as enunciated in section 14 of the 1999 Constitution.

“We, and indeed all Nigerians, are tired of the President’s usual swan song of expressing heartfelt condolences, condemning the dastardly act and promising to bring perpetrators to book whenever attacks like these happen.” (VANGUARD)