Over 300 pensioners sent home at PTAD’s stakeholders’ forum

Over 300 pensioners, who came for the second Interactive Stakeholders Forum, organised by the Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), for federal pensioners in the South West Zone, under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS), have cried foul over the treatment meted out to them, as they were denied access into the conference hall.

Even journalists were not spared from the bad treatment by the organisers, as The Guardian staff was visibly rough-handled and prevented from entering the hall.

The event, which held in Lagos, was meant to identify and tackle critical issues, as they affect pension administration in Nigeria under the DBS, had attracted many stakeholders in the pensions industry from different states in the South West Zone of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, many pensioners, who travelled from far and wide to attend the event, with hopes of getting solutions to their problems, got disappointed, as they were rejected and left loitering at the venue of the event.

According to an announcement by PTAD, also published in some of the dailies, pensioners, who wished to be part of the forum, were advised to register online via info@ptad.gov.ng, or to visit their Lagos office or to call 09072313176 and 07060443118.

However, lamenting his ordeal in the hands of PTAD, Comrade Oladigboye G.O., who claimed to be the Secretary, Electricity Sector Pensioners, Ibadan Chapter, when sighted sitting helplessly at a corner outside the venue, told The Guardian that he had registered online as directed, but was still denied access into the conference hall.

He said: “I came from Oyo State, lodged in a hotel close to the venue, and I came here before 8.am, only for them to say that my registration was not okay with them, and that I should go home, just like that!

“I have been to their office severally for my issues to be resolved, and nothing was done. They just came here to do a jamboree. The people outside are almost more than those inside.
“The treatment they gave to pensioners is most unfair. So many people came from outside Lagos, and yet it did not make any difference to them.”

Also, Oluwoye Olamide, who claimed he retired from the Office of Head of Service, Establishment Pensioners, said he registered through one of the phone numbers provided by PTAD.

“I was refused access to the hall on the excuse that the hall was already full after I registered through one of the phone numbers provided, but they already knew the capacity of the hall and the number of people they were expecting.

“Most of the complaints affecting pension administration and management in Nigeria is as a result of the ignorance of PTAD officers. Most of them don’t know anything about public sector pension management.”

Another visibly angry pensioner, who simply identified himself as the Chairman, the University of Ibadan Pension Union, said he was not allowed to enter the conference hall despite coming from a far distance.

Efforts by The Guardian to reach PTAD to know the reason for the large number of pensioners outside the conference hall, were futile, as security agents hired by the organisers violently denied The Guardian access into the hall.

The security agents also stooped The Guardian from speaking to more pensioners within the premises, as was directed by PTAD.

Oil prices jump as Gulf of Mexico rigs evacuated

U.S. light crude rose $1.60 a barrel from Friday’s close to a peak of $71.40, its highest since mid-July, before easing slightly to around $71.30 by 1050 GMT. U.S. markets were closed on Monday for Labor Day.

Benchmark Brent crude, which traded on Monday, was up $1.45 at $79.60 a barrel.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp said on Monday it had evacuated and shut production at two oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the approach of Gordon, which is expected to come ashore as a hurricane.

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Global oil markets have tightened over the last month, pushing up Brent prices by more than 10 percent since the middle of August. Investors anticipate less supply from Iran as U.S. sanctions on Tehran begin to bite.

“With ship-tracking data now pointing at a reduction in Iranian exports, renewed strife in Libya, and Venezuelan export availability hobbled by an accident at the key Jose terminal, the list of bullish headlines is getting longer,” said Michael Dei-Michei, head of research at Vienna consultancy JBC Energy.

Barclays bank said on Tuesday oil markets had changed since 2017, when worries about rising supply were more evident.

“U.S. producers are resisting temptation and exercising capital discipline, OPEC and Russia have convinced market participants they are managing the supply of over half of global production, the U.S. is using sanctions more actively, and several key OPEC producers are at risk of being failed states,” Barclays said.

“Prices could reach $80 and higher in the short term,” Barclays said. For 2020, it said it expected Brent to average $75 a barrel, up from its previous forecast of $55.

Harry Tchilinguirian, oil strategist at BNP Paribas, struck a similar tone, warning of “supply issues” into 2019.

“Crude oil export losses from Iran due to U.S. sanctions, production decline in Venezuela and episodic outages in Libya are unlikely to be offset entirely by corresponding rises in OPEC+ production,” Tchilinguirian said.

BNP Paribas expects Brent to average $79 in 2019.

While U.S. sanctions are forcing many Western companies to cease trading with Tehran, two of its biggest customers have said they will continue to buy Iranian crude.

India will allow state refiners to import Iranian oil if Tehran arranges and insures tankers. And Chinese buyers are shifting most of their Iranian oil imports to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker Co.

NSE indices sustain sliding profile, down by N21 billion

Transactions on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), continued on a downward note yesterday, following price losses suffered by most blue chip stocks, causing market capitalisation to dip further by N21billion.

Yesterday, the All-Share Index (NSE-ASI) was down by 67.16 absolute points, representing a dip of 0.19 per cent, closing at 36,232.66 points. Similarly, the market capitalisation decreased by N21billion, closing at N13.228trillion.

The decline was impacted by losses recorded in medium and large capitalised stocks, amongst which are; Mobil Nigeria, FBN Holdings, vitafoam Nigeria, PZ Cussons, and Zenith Bank.

Analysts at Cordros Capital Limited, said: “In the absence of a positive one-off catalyst as well as brewing political concerns, we guide investors to trade cautiously in the short to medium term. However, stable macroeconomic fundamentals remain supportive of recovery in the long-term.”

Also, analysts at APT Securities and Funds Limited, said the market has recorded four consecutive losing streaks, saying: “We anticipate the bourse to end the trading week bearish week-on-week.”

Market breadth closed negative, with 12 gainers versus 22 losers. Courtville Business Solution recorded the highest price gain of 10 per cent to close at 22kobo per share. Sterling Bank gained 9.56 per cent to close at N1.49, while Niger Insurance appreciated by 8.33 per cent to close at 39kobo per share.

Mutual Benefit Assurance appreciated by 7.14 per cent to close at 30kobo, while Sovereign Trust Insurance gained four per cent to close at 26kobo per share.

On the other hand, Linkage Assurance, Law Union and Rock Insurance, Vitafoam Nigeria, Japaul Oil and Maritime Services, and Veritas Kapital Assurance were the worst performing stocks with 10 per cent loss each to close at 72kobo, 90kobo, N3.24, 27kobo and 27kobo per share, respectively.

However, the total volume traded rose by 65.09 per cent to 188.26 million shares, worth N1.29billion, traded in 2,795 deals. Transactions in the shares of United Bank for Africa topped the activity chart with 27.22 million shares valued at N260.24million.

Law Union & Rocks Insurance followed with 25 million shares worth N22.5million, while Zenith Bank traded 19.69 million shares valued at N471.39million.

Courtville Business Solution traded 19.69 million shares valued at N4.13million, while Regency Alliance Insurance transacted 13.13 million shares worth N3.05million.

Dangote refinery to save $7.5bn through import substitution

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The construction of the 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day Dangote Refinery is expected to help Nigeria save over $7.5 billion through import substitution.The project, will put Nigeria on the global map as major oil and gas hub in Africa, the Group Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin, has hinted.
Nigeria currently imports large amount of its petroleum products due to the inability of refineries to utilize their full capacity.

For example, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) latest data showed that the downstream of the Nigeria oil and gas sector imported N812billion of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) during the first quarter of 2018.

According to NBS, the country imported N349.45 billion worth of PMS in March 2018, representing the highest volume of petroleum product import during the quarter under review.

Specifically, the petroleum products importation statistics for first quarter 2018 reflected that 5.67 billion litres of PMS, 954.47 million litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO); 66.914 million litres of Household Kerosene (HHK); and 5122.067 million litres of Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK) were imported into the country in first quarter of 2018.

According to NBS, the months of March 2018 recorded the highest volumes of PMS imported into the country at 2.41 billion litres while the highest volume of AGO and HHK were imported in February and January 2018 respectively.

This continuous importation of petroleum products has exerted undue pressure on the nation’s external reserves and induced depreciation of the naira.

Edwin said that the Dangote Refinery therefore would help the Federal Government create a robust domestic refining sector that could reduce petroleum products imports and save the country from capital flight.

He stated: “The refinery is going to save a huge amount of foreign exchange out flow because, today, forex is being used in the importation of petroleum products and our foreign reserves are being heavily depleted.

And whatever little forex we are earning from the sale of crude oil, is being used to import petroleum products.

Our petroleum refinery is going to have a major beneficial impact on the economy in terms of foreign exchange savings.

“Secondly, the demand for Nigeria’s crude oil has reduced with the introduction of shale oil into the market.

Shale oil is equally as good as the Nigerian crude and it is available in substantial volumes.

Our biggest consumers like China and India have reduced their demand because they could get similar products.

Even earlier, they had started focusing on heavier crudes because they believed that they could make more money.

Our refinery will give an assured market for the Nigerian crude.

Speaking on the refinery update, he said: “We are currently building the world’s largest single line Refinery, Petrochemical Complex and the world’s second largest Urea Fertiliser plant.

“The Refinery will have the capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

The petrochemical plant will produce 780 KTPA Polypropylene, 500 KTPA of Polyethylene while the Fertiliser project will produce 3.0 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) of Urea.

“In addition, we are also building the largest sub-sea pipeline infrastructure in any country in the world, with a length of 1,100km, to handle 3 billion SCF of gas per day. We also plan to construct a 570 MW power plant in this complex.

As a matter of fact, gas from our gas pipeline will augment the natural domestic gas supply and we estimate an additional 12,000MW of power generation can be added to the grid with the additional gas from our system.”

Adeosun implores Nigerians to embrace insurance

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The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has urged Nigerians to embrace insurance to protect themselves against the eventualities of life and also enhance the sector’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Represented at the event, she made the appeal at the 2018 National Conference of the National Association of Insurance and Pension Correspondents (NAIPCO) held in Lagos on Thursday.

Mrs Adeosun, at the conference, said insurance, which remained the greatest panacea to poverty alleviation, had been neglected by many Nigerians.

She, however, said life without insurance was equal to building a house on a shallow ground.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of 2018 conference is: “The Role of Stakeholders in Developing Insurance & Pension Sectors”.

According to the finance minister, insurance also remained the key to wise financial planning among all Nigerians, including grassroot dwellers.

She urged citizens to key into the various economic developmental initiatives of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to develop a solid financial plan.

Mrs Adeosun, who was represented by the Deputy Commissioner for Insurance, Finance and Administration, NAICOM, George Onekhena, said excuses of non-payment of claims used by Nigerians to avoid insurance policies amounted to “self deceit.”

The minister advised citizens to make enquiries on insurance policies before subscribing to them.

She said anyone in doubt could engage the services of insurance brokers for professional advise.

 

“Moreover, nobody knows the day of his or her death and it woukd be disastrous for anyone to leave dependents without benefits.

“Insurance is the foundation for every wise financial planning,” she said.

She also said the greatest challenge facing the insurance sector, which was common to the pension sector, was that many people hardly inform others when they benefited from the sector.

“A clear example is the quantum of retirement benefits paid on monthly basis by Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to retirees and the quantum of claims paid yearly by insurance firms.

“For instance over N76 billion insurance claims were paid in 2014, close to N90 billion claims were paid in 2015 and over N105 billion claims paid in 2016.

“Rather people react when claims or benefits are not paid,” she said. (NAN)

May & Baker posts N601.37 million half-year profit

For the six-month period ended June 30, 2018, May & Baker Nigeria Plc posted a profit after tax and extra ordinary income of N601.37million against N94.86million recorded in the corresponding period of 2017.

A statement from the company attributed the improved performance to strong growth trend that also saw it increasing dividend payout by 233 per cent for the 2017 business year.

Analysts said the increase in gross margin, operating margin, and pre-tax profit margin showed that May & Baker’s performance in the first half was driven by improved business operations, increased efficiency, and better cost management.

Also, the half-year report showed a well-rounded improvement in the bottom-line of the healthcare company, as key underlying profitability margins improved considerably during the period.

Pre-tax profit margin, which measures average pre-tax profit per unit of sale and serves as benchmark for profitability, tripled from 3.13 per cent in first half 2017 to 8.44 per cent in first half 2018.

Gross profit margin had increased from 30 per cent in H1 2017 to 33 per cent year-on-year, while operating margin also grew to 12.7 per cent in 2018, against 10.11 per cent recorded a year earlier.

The report showed that group’s profit before tax rose by 178.76 per cent to N388.90million in H1 2018 against N139.51million recorded in comparable period of 2017.

Earnings per share also increased from 9.68 kobo in H1 2017 to 26.98 kobo year-on-year.

With the addition of N336.92million gain from discontinued operations of its food business, total net earnings jumped to N601.37million in the review period compared with N94.86million recorded a year ago.

Business segmentation analysis showed the company’s performance was driven by its core pharmaceuticals business, which saw 22 per cent growth in sales during the period.

The Managing Director, Nnamdi Okafor, said the higher turnover in 2018 was achieved despite the discontinuation of a significant arm of its business responsible for about 20 per cent of turnover in 2017.

He said the result demonstrated the long-term sustainability of the growth strategy, and the continuing efficiency of its world-class pharmaceutical manufacturing complex in Ota, Ogun State, while exploring additional opportunities for expansion of the core healthcare business in Nigeria and beyond.

“Our many growth initiatives are paying off and we are happy that the results have proved us right. With improvement in macroeconomic environment, we will continue to improve on our performance with a view to creating greater value for our shareholders,” Okafor said.

He noted that the imminent commencement of operations of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, and ongoing efforts to turn the company’s world-class manufacturing facility in Ota, into a hub of pharmaceutical manufacturing in West Africa, hold great prospects for the group.

Okomu Oil donates projects to host community in Edo

In line with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and to improve community welfare, the Management of Okomu Oil Palm Company has donated projects to its host community in plantation extension II, located in Ovia North East Local Government Council Area of Edo State.

The Managing Director, Dr. Graham Hefer, accompanied by the Edo State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Erimona Edorodion, said the gesture is to uplift the lives of local residents in the company’s host community.

He spoke during the inauguration and hand over of the semi-industrial water borehole, and renovation of the Traditional Head (Odionwere) House Projects in Odiguetue Community.

Hefer, who disclosed that the provision of infrastructure to the local community is part of the company’s way of improving its working relationship with the host communities. He also urged residents to judiciously utilise and protect the projects from vandals, adding that more of such projects will be attracted to the communities to bring about rapid development to the people.

Edorodion while inaugurating the projects, commended Okomu Oil for complimenting the effort of the State Government in job creation, saying it is the largest employer of labour in the state, and demonstrated commitment to international best practices and welfare of its workers.

Secretary, Working Committee, Odiguetue Community, Joseph Abuede Obuele, expressed gratitude to the management of Okomu for its CSR programmes.

Credit Bureaus seek single unique identification for improved access

To further bridge the financing gap for more than 74 per cent of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the Credit Bureau Association of Nigeria (CBAN), has said a single unique identifier would aid improved access to credit to fund small businesses in the country.

Indeed, the Bureau emphasised the need for investment in infrastructure for Nigeria to attain financial inclusion, stressing that the present administration must prioritise developmental efforts to implement an aggressive means of identification, otherwise, not much would be achieved.

The Chairman, CBAN, Tunde Popoola, at its 5th National Credit Reporting Conference, said access to credit by Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and consumers in Nigeria is still very low, stressing that despite the country’s huge population of over 190 million people, less than 15 million persons/entities have enjoyed at least one form of credit from banking institutions.

Popoola pointed out that the country has multiple forms of government issued identifiers for individuals, including National Identity Card, Bank Verification Number (BVN), Driver’s Licence, Voter’s Card, and International Passport.

He added that in most countries of the world with successful credit bureau infrastructure, there is always one single means of identification, which Nigeria has to adopt.

Meanwhile, quoting the World Bank access to credit report, he said Nigeria has moved from 37th position in 2017 to 6th in 2018, a feat he said was possible courtesy of Federal Government’s different initiatives aimed at fostering the ease of doing business.

He said the major responsibilities of credit bureaus are data collection, matching and dissemination, maintaining that the value of having a unique identifier cannot be overemphasized in performing these tasks.

He decried that currently, the identifier for corporate entities such as company registration number (RC number) is not readily provided by data furnishers.

“The current situation makes data matching very tedious, cumbersome, and expensive for the bureaus. This is because the bureau relies on identification of data subjects to be able to match and merge data, and develop innovative products for the markets. We, therefore, urge the government to speedily implement a unique identifier for every Nigerian.

“In addition, the entire bank loans to consumers at any given time in a month are less than N1trillion. To underscore the challenge of loan concentration, available data indicate that the total value of credits in the financial sector as of June 2018, corporate entities which represented about 10 per cent of the credit subjects assessed 94 per cent of the loan value. This clearly shows the very low rate of credits to MSMEs and consumers.”

According to him, the credit bureau coverage remains low in Nigeria at eight per cent compared with 64 per cent in South Africa, 25 per cent in Egypt, and 17 per cent in Ghana, and underscores the need to urgently change the narrative of credit concentration and increase access to credit.

Also, the Director, Banking Supervision Department, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ahmed Abdulahi, said both the financial and non-financial sectors have a crucial role to play to attain more financial inclusion in the country.
He noted that Nigeria’s credit bureau industry has been promoting the use of credit information to make financial decisions, to enable businesses achieve their financial goals thus promoting financial inclusion in the country.

He added that access to credit is crucial to economic growth and has continued to be the catalyst for driving private sector development.

Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, added that credit information would enable Nigerian businesses particularly SMEs to thrive to create jobs.

“It would also impact positively on the Nigerian citizenry by way of identity, where Nigerians can access all financial services in the country. We have put some efforts in achieving milestone in our current drive for financial inclusion and improve the Nigerian economy. It is also noteworthy that the efforts of credit information should not be restricted to financial institutions alone but also non financial institutions.

“Today it is our hope that this forum would proffer innovative ways on how data exchange or sharing to encourage more financial inclusion in Nigeria,” she added.

Sea pirates attack on crude oil tankers rise

The upswing in crude oil prices in the global market may have triggered sharp rise in pirates’ attacks on crude oil tankers in the Gulf of Guinea.

As at yesterday, Bonny light was $73, Brent crude was $72.50. This marks a significant increase from about $55 same period last year.

Latest report from security services company, EOS Risk Group, showed that Nigerian pirates kidnapped 35 seafarers from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea between January and June 2018.

The number of sailors removed from vessels and held for ransom was the same as witnessed during the first half (H1) of 2017, but the report indicated that the spate of attacks on tanker vessels had increased drastically.

According to the report: “Petro-piracy had been dormant for the past two years with only two attempted hijack for oil theft cases reported, but it seems to have returned to the area with the hijacking of the UK-flagged, MT Barrett in Cotonou Anchorage, Benin, on January 10, 2018. The attack, which played out over seven days, saw the pirates siphon off around 2,000MT of gasoline from the tanker via a ship-to-ship transfer (STS) within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Ghana. Following the hijacking of the MT Barrett, pirates attacked three other tankers in Cotonou anchorage in February 2018,”

After a lull in piracy activity off Benin since 2012, EOS recorded seven pirate attacks in the waters of Nigeria’s western neighbour in H1 2018.

The attacks involved several successful tanker hijackings, one of which resulted in the loss of 2,000 tonnes of product. Nigerian pirates also allegedly operated in Ghanaian waters in April, kidnapping five seafarers from two vessels.

Senior Intelligence Analyst at EOS Risk, Jake Longworth, said: “Most concerning this year has been the resurgence of ‘petro-piracy,’ involving the hijacking of tankers for oil theft. The return of petro-piracy has been accompanied by an associated increase in the geographical reach of Nigerian pirate gangs, leading to attacks in the waters of Benin, and Ghana. 95 per cent of attacks we recorded in Nigerian waters occurred near Bonny Island, within 60 nautical miles of the shore. Pirates operating in these waters are focused on the kidnap of seafarers for ransom.”

Longworth said the main threat is still found off the restive Niger Delta, specifically on the approaches to ports and oil terminals in the vicinity of Port Harcourt. It was in this area that heavily armed pirates kidnapped 11 seafarers from the Dutch general cargo vessel, FWN Rapidein, April. This is the highest number of hostages taken by a Nigerian pirate group in a single attack.

Head of Special Risks at EOS, Steven Harwood, who covers kidnap for ransom response, said there are two main pirate gangs in Nigeria, both employing around 16 full time pirates.

He continued: “One is located in the creeks near Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and the other around Abonnema, Rivers State. Both gangs are in communication, and sometimes subcontract the physical hostage taking to other criminal groups. Since the turn of the Century, this pattern has been visible in Nigeria, ahead of major election periods, evidence of the complex links between piracy and political conflict in the Niger Delta.”

EOS warned that instability in the Niger Delta is likely to increase in the run up to Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, which could result in a spike in piracy activity.

To mitigate the risk of attack, EOS recommended Masters implement Global Counter Piracy Guidance (GCPG) measures, and familiarise themselves with the Guidelines for Owners,
Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region – version 3, June 2018.”

NCC offers N3b subsidy initiative for InfraCos

• Operators to lose license after one year
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said it has made available N3 billion subsidy budget to assist Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) in the deployment of services in the country.

The N3 billion has been approved by the National Assembly, and would be executed on a yearly basis.

This was disclosed by the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, during an interaction with journalists in Abuja.

Although, the NCC said none of the licensed InfraCos have accessed the subsidy, The Guardian however gathered that most of the licensed operators are facing serious challenges in their regions of operations.

Chief of these challenges relate to the issue of Right of Way (RoW), where state governments are demanding huge fees from operators before they can be allowed to roll out their services.

Already, iConnect, a subsidiary of IHS Nigeria, has returned its operating licence for the North Central region, owing also to delays in getting approval for RoW, and cut throat roll out charges by state agencies.

Danbatta revealed that apart from the challenge of RoW for iConnect, “the firm wanted a national licence instead of the regional, but we see that distorting the whole plan if given. That licence will be reissued to another operator that is ready.”

According to him, the InfraCo initiative was targeted at helping Nigeria meet the 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of the year.
He urged operators to roll out, warning that the one-year grace handed InfraCo licensees may be reduced to six months, saying: “the Commission doesn’t want the operators to become idle with the licence. Any operator, which failed to roll out within one year, may have the licence withdrawn.”

Meanwhile, the EVC has assured that quality of service would improve soon, adding that some infrastructure must be in place for this to happen, as Nigeria needed more Base Transceiver Stations and fibre cables to ensure services become optimal.

Danbatta further said lack of redundancy, erratic power supply, vandalism, lack of required capacity, amidst other technical factors would need to be resolved before services can be optimal.

“That is not to say we are not monitoring the operators, or putting them on their toes to ensure improved services, but we also understand their challenges. The assurance is that NCC would continue to monitor QoS, especially the Key Performance Index (KPI), and when it is necessary to wield the big stick against any erring operator on QoS, we shall not hesitate,” he stressed.

Nigerians decry circulation of mutilated naira notes

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Some Nigerians have decried the widespread circulation of mutilated naira notes in the country and called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reverse the trend and ensure better management of the nation’s currencies.

In interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos, they noted that several cases of misunderstandings had occurred among citizens while carrying out business transactions with the tattered and dirty notes.

They also decried the use of the polymer banknotes, which are easily defaced, and suggested a return to the paper currency for all denominations.

NAN reports that the CBN on Feb. 28, 2007 announced the introduction of polymer versions of N5, N10, N20 and N50 notes.

However, 11 years after, many Nigerians now reject the polymer notes citing its poor quality and short life span that make it difficult to carry out transactions with them.

Mr Tunde Okeowo, a financial expert, said the CBN should consider bringing back the coins, and that its absence had resulted in the negative impact on transactions, which had a multiplier effect on the economy.

Okeowo identified inflation as part of the negative effects of the absence of coins, especially as people were no longer bothered about collecting balance after paying for products.

“On this recurring issue of scarcity of clean notes, especially N100, I advise the CBN to look into issuing some new naira notes in densely populated states like Lagos in order to make it more acceptable for use.

He also called for continuous enlightenment to educate traders on reasons and ways of preserving the notes.

Mrs Tolu Ajibade, a civil servant, said the prevalence of dirty and mutilated naira notes was appalling, and that the N200 note was gradually becoming unfit like the N100 notes.

She said many Nigerians have resigned themselves to the reality of possessing and transacting business with dirty naira notes.

HP Nigeria hosts interactive business workshop in Abuja

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Hewlett Packard Nigeria Limited a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise has continued to deepen its strides in innovative solutions in the Information Technology sector in Nigeria. From its numerous customer-related activities, training and workshops providing support and enabling businesses to thrive in various sectors, the firm has proven that it is indeed here for the growth of the IT industry in Nigeria.

Over the years, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has remained a key information technology infrastructure advisor and provider to establishments/businesses within Nigeria and across the world by leveraging cutting-edge solutions. HPE has been at the forefront of development and innovative solutions to better address the infrastructure needs of clients within different facets of ICT requirements.

Speaking with the Public Sector & SMB Manager for HPE Nigeria – Mr. Valentine Okoh at the event, he stated “Our goal is to help improve efficiency in the workplace and beyond by creating innovative technology and platforms companies can leverage on in order to transform processes qualitatively, which reduces turnaround time and increasing return on investment.

He also communicated that Hewlett Packard Nigeria as a company is willing to collaborate with every facet of the industry to help customers by using technology to turn ideas into the value which enables positive transformation and ultimately, lives” Recently in Nigeria, the firm hosted some strategic business leaders in IT businesses to a Workshop.

The Exclusive Business Interactive Workshop was well attended by key stakeholders in business and public sector segment and it provided a rich opportunity for communication, feedback and learning for all who attended and gave both HPE and Clients opportunity to discuss on challenges in the customer’s environment, while also strategizing on how to achieve acceleration in this Era of Hybrid Computing to optimize performance in the workplace.

Some of the solutions discussed were Artificial intelligence on Infrastructure, Composable infrastructure, Aruba Solution and more. In totality this was a robust experience for all and business had the opportunity to sign up for innovative solutions and consulting which will transform business environments and workplace for more productivity within the sector.

The Information technology sector is a constantly evolving one all over the world and HPE has been at the forefront of innovation and change in this space for over 75years globally. Its research and solutions in Nigerian IT Sector are poised to deliver breakthrough technologies for businesses at all levels.

Apple and Samsung end patent fight after seven long years

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Apple and Samsung have finally settled a seven-year-long patent dispute, bringing to an end the long-running battle over the design of their rival smartphones.

The terms were not disclosed.

But it comes weeks after a US jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $539m(£403m) in damages for copying features of the original iPhone.

The fight started in 2011, when Apple sued its South Korean competitor, seeking more than $2bn in damages.

The suit was the first of many that saw the two companies square off in courts around the world.

In 2012, a US jury awarded California-based Apple $1.05bn in damages for the copied features, which included design elements like the screen that displays icons in a grid.

Samsung appealed part of that award, taking its case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that damages should be limited since patent infringement involved only certain features.

In 2016, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court agreed, handing a victory to Samsung.

But the justices did not rule on the patents themselves, leaving that decision to a lower court.

That battle went to trial in May, ending in defeat for Samsung, which had argued that it owed only $28m. Instead the jury set the award at $539m – about $140m more than the figure it had appealed.

How banks outsmart the market, making profits despite bad loans

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BUSINESS environment in Nigeria worsened in 2016 when the economy plunged into recession. So, for most of 2017, Nigeria struggled to exit the bad economic condition. “If the economy is doing very well, some of those businesses that are defaulting on their loan obligations will also be doing well. If the economy is not doing well, then those underlying businesses would also not be doing well, thereby finding it difficult to pay back their loans,” Managing Director of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru said while giving a clear picture of the situation.

Incidentally, lenders needs to extend new loans for greater development and provision of faster stimulants for economic recovery, but most of them  got their fingers burnt as those who borrowed money from them could not pay back.

When a borrower stops paying back money borrowed, it is regarded by the lender as a Non-performing Loan (NPL). An NPL by definition is the sum of borrowed money of which a debtor has not been able to meet up in scheduled payments for at least 90 days, and is either in default or close to being in default. Once a loan is non-performing, the odds that it will be repaid in full are considered to be substantially lower, while the NPL ratio is the amount of NPLs over total loans, usually expressed as a percentage. Such loan in effect reduces current profits because the banks will account for expected losses known as impairment charges. These are basically money that is put aside by a bank in case its customers cannot make the required loan repayments, but which will leave a huge dent in a company’s profits.

Historically, bad loan kills banking business across the world, yet banks exist to give loans. For decades, the Nigerian banking industry has suffered so much under the yoke of NPLs.

Incidentally, they cannot stop lending because the business of banking is the business of taking money from those who have, and making it available at a cost, to those who don’t have, but need it for investment and other purposes.

However, when banks go out of this intermediation role to make money from other sources, it becomes a subject of argument whether the banks are being innovative or compromising professional ethics and standards.

The central bank is aware of this when it set a rule that says lenders with “NPL ratios above 10per cent shall not be allowed to pay dividend.”

Apparently, the apex banking regulator is aware that it is a misnomer to have huge hole dug by NPLs in the books of a bank while the same lender claims to be recording jumbo profits and giving out dividends to shareholders.  This reality was captured by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) Ibrahim Magu during a session with the Association of Chief Compliance Officers of Banks in Nigeria, May 2018.

His words:“We must work together to save this country. Most of the banks are sitting on the water. In fact, some of these banks are almost collapsing.”

So, it is interesting to have a good number of banks with huge NPLs declaring impressive profits in 2017 and first quarter of 2018.

Some stakeholders see this as innovative, arguing that thinking outside the box in this case is when a lender discovers other possible ways of delivering value to shareholders in periods when traditional methods fail. Others argue that these banks are cutting corners, and violating credit management and professional banking rules. This view is supported by Kuru when he explained that at the point when some transactions that resulted in bad loans were entered into, some of the banks did financial engineering. “They raised the interest payable and instead of the obligor paying N4billion, it becomes N7billion.  So there are some loans that are unrecoverable.”

To this end, “There must be due diligence, even in this practice of private banking. There must be accountability; there must be transparency in our transactions. You don’t have to wait until anything goes awry before you begin to find a solution to it,” Magu on his part warns.

 

The Dollar-Yuan superiority war

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China has never veiled its intention to have its currency, the Yuan, take the centre stage in shaping global economy because of its belief that this would enable it have a better control of its domestic economy as many of the countries and companies that trade with China usually go through a third currency, especially dollar. As far back as 2009, former Governor of China’s  central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, while delivering a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “The desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations.” So, having the Yuan as a major player on the global scene is a strong state policy for the communist country.

The dream inched close to becoming a reality on November 30, 2015 when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave the Yuan the status of a reserve currency. A major success was also recorded on October 1, 2016 when the Bretton Wood institution included it in its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, which determines currencies that countries can receive as part of IMF loans. The basket is also a collection of reserve currencies that serve as an alternative to the US dollar. The inclusion of Yuan marked the first time a new currency had been added to the basket since the Euro was launched in 1999. The basket already includes the Euro, Japanese yen, British pound, and U.S. dollar.

According to Bloomberg, one major benefit of being a reserve currency is that the Renminbi, another name for Yuan, would be used to price more international contracts. Most of the commodities exported by China are priced in the U.S. dollars which means that the wellness of the Chinese economy cannot be divorced from the value of its currency vis-à-vis the dollar. Another benefit is that the currency would be in higher demand as many central banks would have to hold it as part of their foreign exchange reserves. This would result in the lowering of interest rates for bonds denominated in the currency.

Speaking on the decision to include the Chinese currency in the SDR basket, Siddharth Tiwari, former IMF’s Director of Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, said “The Renminbi’s inclusion is an important milestone in the integration of the Chinese economy into the global financial system. The IMF’s determination that the Renminbi (RMB) is freely usable reflects China’s expanding role in global trade and the substantial increase in the international use and trading of the RMB. It also recognizes the progress made in reforms to China’s monetary, foreign exchange, and financial systems and acknowledges the advances made in liberalizing, integrating, and improving the infrastructure of its financial markets. We expect that the inclusion of the RMB in the SDR basket will further support the already increasing use and trading of the RMB internationally.”

Nigeria to drive youth entrepreneurship with technology

As BoI restates commitment to support SMEs
In a bid to achieve a knowledge-based economy in the near future, the federal government has unveiled plans to drive and support youth entrepreneurs in the country deploying the use of technology.

The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, stated that the federal government has concluded plans to build technological hubs in the six geopolitical zones, pointing out that it is the way to shape the future of the country.

The Vice President at the Student Innovation Challenge (SIC) South West regional demo day held at the University of Lagos, said “The best of technological companies started from the universities and this is why we have decided to build technology hubs in the six geopolitical zones starting at the University of Lagos.

“Everybody knows where the smart money is looking and we all know that the universities are the best place to get the very best talents because we believe it is what is needed to shape the future of the country.”

Meanwhile, the Bank of Industry (BoI) has reaffirmed its commitment to provide financial assistance and support for the establishment of large, medium, small and micro enterprises in the country.

According to Osinbajo, “We have partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the BOI, MTN and other agencies to organise the student challenge to find the best of students’ innovation, technology ideas, creative ideas from students across Nigeria. We want to gather many of the great ideas as much as possible for them to get a chance to be supported or tested commercially. It is absolutely the exciting time to be alive. The best days are here and the future is here.”
Earlier, the Managing Director, BOI, Olukayode Pitan, noted that the gathering was a reflection of the changing attitude in Nigeria towards innovation and galvanizing support for start-ups, pointing out that these are the choices Nigeria must make if economic development is to yield real dividends for the Nigerian masses and address the social and economic challenges.

“It is laudable that this platform allows the younger generation to showcase entrepreneurial insight, talent and innovation. The Bank of Industry (BOI) is Nigeria’s oldest, largest and most successful development financing institution. Our vision is to transform Nigeria’s industrial sector by providing financial and business support services to enterprises,” he said.

He noted that the technology sector is a budding industry that shows a significant amount of promise, harnessing the innovation and ingenuity of the nation’s vastly young population while also solving local and global problems at scale.

“I am elated that BOI is associated with the Student Innovation Challenge (SIC) because the initiative is a testament of the current paradigm shift being witnessed in Nigeria’s technology and business ecosystem. The challenge is particularly worthy of commendation because it is focused on students in tertiary institutions and creates access that allows the youth brainstorm on entrepreneurial and innovative ideas,” he added.

H explained the mandate of the bank, saying the DFI seeks to provide financial assistance and support for the establishment of large, medium, small and micro enterprise.

“The Students Innovation Challenge provides a medium in line with executing this mandate. I would like to encourage all participants who have been selected to pitch their ideas today to put their best foot forward.

“This platform creates access to actualize your ideas, do not misuse it. In every competitive contest, there would be one “victor” but many winners. To those of you whose ideas are not selected, do not be dismayed, go back and strategize. Do not give up or lose hope. You are already a winner for being here”, he added.

Vconnect introduces platform to support SMEs

A service marketplace company, Vconnect has introduced an online platform, aimed at connecting small and medium scale businesses with customers as part of efforts to promote effective marketing.The platform, market.vconnect.com, is an online mall of customers, where qualified service professionals can find and connect with real customers at any given time.

Specifically, with the use of Internet, businesses can now leverage the power of having an online presence by increasing sales, saving money on advert and getting more customers as compared to getting customers on an offline store.

Speaking at a business summit to launch the platform in Lagos, Chief Executive Officer, Vconnect, Deepankar Rustagi, said the company is poised to solve the issue of finding a reliable service provider in the industry.

Hence, it has created a way of ensuring trust between service professionals and customers on the platform with providing national identity documents and taking a pledge to provide quality services.

Rustagi noted that professionals find it hard to acquire new customers because there is a deficit of trust in our markets. “We are trying to bridge that gap bringing the right profile and qualified service professionals so people can hire them seamlessly with the help of Internet,” he said.

He revealed that there is a breakage insurance cover for customers who deal with fracture equipment, stating that what we have as target is that every individual seeking a service professional should get three quotations seamlessly within two hours on our platform.

According to him, the service is currently restricted to customers and businesses within Lagos with intent to expand by mid August to Abuja and Port Harcourt.

‘How to curb delisting of firms in stock market’

To reduce the persistent delisting of firms’ on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to the barest minimum, investors have stressed the need for government to fast-track the acceleration of its industrialization plan.This will help to resuscitate the ailing manufacturing industries and other services sector.

Delisting is the process of removing a company from the official list of the stock market, either voluntarily or by compulsion.

The exchange, however, listed only five new companies- The Initiatives, in 2016 and Transcorp Hotels, Global Spectrum Energy Service, Jaiz Bank and Med-View Airline in 2017.

The investors, who spoke in an interview with The Guardian, argued that for Nigeria to become a strategic economic frontier in Sub-Saharan Africa and across the globe, it must have vibrant manufacturing sector that would help spur activities in the stock market.

According to them, if the manufacturing sector of any economy were not recording a significant improvement, the companies operating in the environment would find it difficult to grow and make profit.

This, according to him would continue to reflect on the company’s financials and share prices in the stock market.

Specifically, an independent investor, Tony Ibeh, said: “If the manufacturing sector of any economy were not recording a significant improvement, the share price will drop in the stock market and nobody would come to such market to raise capital because the market cannot support it.

“Regulators must seek to provoke more domestic demand in the economy so that the demand can drive supply for consumer companies to make profit and make it cheap for people to borrow and companies can employ more people, hire and train more workforces.” He added.

The former Secretary General of the Independence Shareholders Association, Adebayo Adeleke explained that one of the two biggest socio-economic challenges facing the nation is the issue of job creation.

He argued that Nigeria cannot create jobs without having a strong manufacturing base and industrialised economy.

He wondered why government would subsidize dollar for pilgrimage, while manufacturing sector that creates job and stimulate economic growth is neglected.

He added that if the processes and procedures involved in the implementation of the industrialisation plan is strengthened, it would spur economic growth, facilitate job creation and repositioning Nigeria at a competitive level in international trade.

Furthermore, Adeleke pointed out that manufactures are facing untold hardship due to harsh operating environment, noting that if government fails to revive the sector, more firms’ would be delisted from exchange .

“We need to get our priorities right in this country, it is true that we are highly religious, a situation where government is subsidizing the rate if dollar for people who wants to go on pilgrimage selling dollar to them at N197 per dollar and then giving about N316-N320 rate to manufacturers.

“These are people that who keep the engine of business running, employ other people and make them productive, get more products in to the system, make life more affordable for every body. Don’t you think we are getting things essentially wrong?

“Some of these companies cannot just cope, probably the volume of business they are doing is not that large and that is why some of them are delisting, even though some are voluntary, they are facing difficulties and challenges.”

MAN kicks against Nigeria’s ratification of African free trade agreement

Nigeria’s’ possibility of ratifying the free trade agreement –African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – before the end of the 180 days deadline set by African Union (AU) member-countries, after the deal was signed on March 21, may suffer another setback as local manufacturers have dissociated themselves from the outcome of the consultations being presented for Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval.With Nigeria’s Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe and technical drafting group set up by the Federal Government expected to submit the outcome of the consultations for presidential approval this week, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said the issues raised by major stakeholders, including those expressed by manufacturers, still remained unattended to.

The manufacturers are, therefore, asking government to provide details of how concerns bordering on the tariff lines and product lines (categorised using HS codes) that have been agreed for liberalisation, as well as the exclusion and sensitive lists, implementation of market access without negotiating the rules of origin and other safeguard measures, would be addressed once the AfCFTA is ratified.

President Muhammadu Buhari had declared that his administration was not disposed to entering into any agreement that would make the country a dumping ground and jeopardise its security architecture following concerns expressed by MAN and other private sector players.

Specifically, MAN noted that the draft of the consultations, held with the private sector, remains shrouded in secrecy as no technical paper was presented for validation by the affected stakeholders before presentation to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval and ratification of the trade agreement.

The presidential committee on AfCFTA had last week met to discuss findings from the consultations held with stakeholders across the country’s six geo-political zones, with a draft report expected to be presented this week.

MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, who addressed journalists yesterday in Lagos, said the Nigerian Office of Trade Negotiations’ (NOTN) version of the outcome of the stakeholders’ engagements and sensitisation did not adequately reflect the overall proceedings and factual expressions at those meetings.

According to him, local producers are worried that rather than squarely addressing those critical issues, all efforts were geared towards extolling the laudable objectives of the AfCFTA.

Jacobs noted that Nigeria should lead the process of ensuring that concerns of the private sector are addressed.

However, the Director-General of MAN, Olusegun Ajayi-Kadir, said the people needed to know what is being signed by the government and trade.

Fayose vows to defeat federal might, win election for party

Governor Ayodele Fayose has vowed to defeat the federal might of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the poll.The governor, who made the declaration at the 23rd Convocation of Ekiti State University (EKSU) in Ado-Ekiti, which he attended as visitor, explained that he had succeeded in giving Ekiti the party’s candidate, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, who is a scholar.

He described Olusola as a “level-headed, humble man, a pastor and man of God,” who Ekiti people needs at this critical point of its history.The governor credited Olusola with the “giant strides recorded by the state in the field of education,” especially its coming tops back-to-back in the National Examinations Council (NECO) among the 36 states of the federation.

He said there was the need for continuity of policies and projects, which are being carried out by his administration.He said: “People will always remember that it was Fayose who constructed the first dual carriageway, as well as the first flyover in Ado-Ekiti.”

The governor explained that it was during his time that Ekiti State quit number 35th position in WAEC and NECO, and came first, back-to-back in NECO. He added: “We did all these within the limited resources available to us. We have the people’s strength behind us, since power not only belongs to God, but also that God is with me.”

Also, Fayose, who yesterday congratulated the Adams Oshiomhole-led APC, urged the presidency to be prepared for defeat.The governor, who stated this through his Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, said the defeat would be a shocker to the presidency.He spoke in reaction to the quit notice given by the presidency to his party, during the APC’s national convention in Abuja at the weekend.

Meanwhile, a group loyal to the Director General of the Kayode Fayemi campaign organisation, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, has launched an aggressive evangelism campaign to mosques and churches.The group, under the aegis of MOB Progressive Youth Vanguard (MPYV), said it took the strategic step to boost the APC’s campaigns.

Led by its Coordinator, Ahmed Salami and Director of Operations, Isiaka Adedipe, they campaigned in some communities in the area, including Odo-Iro, a farmstead in Iyin Ekiti.
Adedipe said the group embarked on the campaign to fill the vacuum left by their principal, Bamidele.He added that the strategy was aimed at drawing the attention of Ekiti people to the evil inherent in allowing Fayose to plant his successor.According to him the independent-minded position of the Ekiti people led to the Kiriji War of 1877 and 1886, which it fought with the Ajeles from Ibadan in Oyo State.