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CBN aims to boost credit

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The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday stated that given that the inherent risks in granting loans to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) by banks are now reduced tremendously through the introduction of the National Collateral Registry (NCR), small businesses will now be able not only to access credit but also access such at reasonable rates.

This is coming as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has assured that the judiciary will on its part continue to ensure that disputes arising from moveable assets lending are resolved speedily in line with constitutional provisions.
Emefiele assured that MSMEs in the country would be able to access credit at reasonable interest rates through the implementation of the NCR, which allows them to present moveable assets as collateral, for bank loans.

Emefiele spoke at the opening of the first national workshop for judicial officers on Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets Act (STMA) and National Collateral Registry with the theme: “Leveraging Moveable Assets for Credit Delivery in Nigeria: Legal and Regulatory Framework.”
He observed that small businesses had practically been denied access to credit as well as subjected to high-interest charges by commercial banks largely as a result of their inability to provide acceptable collateral.

The governor, however, said given that the risks inherent in granting loans to MSMEs by banks had now been reduced tremendously through the introduction of the NCR, small businesses “will be able not only to access credit but also access credit at reasonable rates.”
The CBN is already moving towards the enforcement of the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets Act (STMA) across all financial entities.
Highlighting some of the achievements of the NCR since its creation in 2015, Emefiele said as at January 31, 2019, 628 financial institutions comprising 21 deposit money banks, four merchant banks, one non-interest bank, four development finance institutions, 551 microfinance banks, 13 non-bank financial institutions, and 34 finance companies had been registered on the Registry’s portal.

He said lending banks had also registered interest on movable assets worth N1.23 trillion, $1.14 billion and €6.08 million through 41,408 financing statements.
He added that within about 18 months, over 41,000 moveable assets with values of over N1.4 trillion, including those in dollar and Euro denominations had been registered in registry.
“This underscores the potential of movable assets as collateral to enhance access to credit and, hence, our resolve to drive its effective implementation,” Emefiele added.

On the rationale for the NCR, Emefiele said: “You will all recall that one of the biggest problem that the MSMEs face in Nigeria given the fact that we recognise their contribution to economic growth and development in any economy- the biggest constraints they have often gone through is their inability to provide acceptable collateral for the loans they seek to obtain from the banks.

“Banks and financial institutions themselves have often used their inability of these MSMEs to provide collateral as the reasons why they cannot lend to them.
“So, at the CBN, we thought that we must break this jinx and so we said access to finance must be a thing of the past in Nigeria for small businesses.”

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Politics

Signing N30,000 minimum wage will lead to choas

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A former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, has expressed fears that the new N30, 000 minimum wage, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18 would lead to chaos.

Momoh, who is also a chieftain of the APC party made the statement this while addressing newsmen on Friday in Abuja as part of activities to mark his 80th birthday.

According to him, while he is happy over the new wage, he holds the view that it will lead to a situation where many states will not be able to pay and this will lead to industrial unrest and strikes.

“Minimum wage is not a living wage. My prediction is that the N30, 000 minimum wage will cause chaos because many state governments that were paying N7, 500 before N18, 000 was introduced could not pay then.

“A lot of them are currently finding it difficult to pay N18, 000 now. They are already saying they can’t pay and this will lead to strikes. When that happens, the nation is in trouble.

“The N30, 000 minimum wage is not a living wage. What is the percentage of the workers in Nigeria that are entitled to the N30, 000 minimum wage? What is the percentage of the public servants compared to the percentage of the entire working population in Nigeria?”

Momoh, who is also a lawyer, also spoke on the pronouncement the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen.

He said that the argument of some lawyers that Onnoghen shouldn’t have been taken to CCT was not tenable, arguing that such lawyers didn’t know what they were talking about.

“ I don’t believe that it is a case of a witch-hunt. I advised him (Onnoghen) to resign when the case started. That would have saved him from the embarrassment,”

Momoh said that the CCT and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, established by part one of the fifth schedule of the constitution had powers to deal with sitting presidents and governors.

“Part two deals with those who are subjected to its jurisdiction, which is the President, Vice-President, CJN, down to councilors. The CCT is a disciplinary body.

“Onnoghen is a public servant before he became the CJN. His case was directed to the Code of Conduct Bureau, which transferred it to CCT,” he said.

Also speaking on the permutation about the composition of the leadership position for the 9th National Assembly, Momoh said that the reliance of the APC on party supremacy to impose its candidates would not work.

He said that claims of party supremacy could only be effective in a parliamentary, not presidential system of government because the political party with the majority would always form the government in the former.

Momoh recalled that since 1999, efforts by political parties to impose their candidates on the nation’s parliament had always been resisted by federal lawmakers.

He added that the National Assembly had its own personality that it always protected, in spite of political party differences, adding that the party’s choice could only succeed if there was cooperation and not by imposition.

“In 1999, Evans Enwerem was not the choice of the senators. They wanted Chuba Okadigbo. So, Enwerem did not last when he emerged. Also in 2015, the party wanted Femi Gbajabiamila but Yakubu Dogara got it.

“Since 1999, there have always been problems between the legislators and the party’s candidates. The legislators come together to pursue common interests and party supremacy is obviously not one of them.

“In the parliamentary system, the party with the majority will dominate leadership positions in the parliament. The prime minister is also a member of the parliament.”

The former minister also stressed the need for restructuring of Nigeria as a way of ensuring good governance in the country, arguing that Nigeria was too top heavy in administering governance.

Momoh said that the country needed to decongest the political space, saying that the National Assembly made law in 93 areas comprising the exclusive and concurrence lists.

“In federations worldwide, we don’t need more than 18. The rest should go to regions. They know what to do with it.

“The Senate will become the only law-making arm of the federation while the House of Representatives should go to the regions and be making laws for their people.

“When this happens, economic deregulation is automatic because everybody will contribute to run the center,’’

Momoh advised media practitioners to acquire necessary knowledge from the constitution of the country for them to effectively perform their roles as watchdogs to government and to enlighten the citizens.

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EFCC

Fraud: 9 FIRS senior official detained by EFCC

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Nine senior officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are currently in detention over alleged multi-billion naira fraud.

The officials, who are being detained by the anti-graft agency (EFCC) in Abuja, include the Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) of the FIRS, Mohammed Auta.

Apart from Auta, another director of the agency, Peter Hena, is also alleged to be involved in the scandal.

Hena, the Coordinating Director, Support Services Group of the FIRS, is currently out of Nigeria and will be arrested as soon as he returns to the country, EFCC sources told this newspaper.

A top official of the FIRS, however, said Hena is on official medical leave outside the country and did not flee.

Hena is believed to be one of the closest officials to the FIRS chairman, Babatunde Fowler.

It is still unclear to EFCC officials, whether or not Fowler is involved in the scandal.

Details of the scandal are still sketchy as at the time of this report. However, Auta and Hena are being investigated for allegedly diverting about N6 billion tax funds that should have gone to the Nigerian government, anti-corruption officials said.

Our reporter learnt that most of the other affected officials are from the finance and account department of the FIRS.

All the officials have been in the EFCC detention since April 1.

It was learnt the EFCC is closing in on several other senior officials of the revenue collection service in a widening investigation to uncover other fraudulent activities involving several billions of government tax revenues.

When contacted on the detention, the EFCC spokesperson, Orilade Tony, promised to get back with more information. He was yet to do so at the time of this report.

The FIRS is saddled with collecting taxes and revenues of the federal government.

The agency under Mr Fowler has seen its revenue generation improve, setting new records. The agency said it collected about N5.32 trillion as revenue in 2018, the highest in Nigeria’s history.

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Money

Oil prices drop again

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Oil prices fell yesterday, after rising to five-month highs earlier this week on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)-led production cuts and free-falling Venezuelan output.

International benchmark Brent futures were down $1, or 1.4 per cent, at $70.73 a barrel. Brent hit a more than five-month high at $71.78 on Wednesday.

United States (U.S.) West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell $1.11, or 1.7 per cent, to $63.50 per barrel. WTI whit a high of $64.79 going back to Nov. 1 earlier this week.

Selling accelerated yesterday morning as U.S. crude dropped below $63.71 a barrel, a technically-significant level at which some funds had stops in place, triggering automatic sales, said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.

U.S. crude inventories surged by 7 million barrels to a 17-month high of 456.6 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. However, U.S. gasoline stocks fell by a whopping 7.7 million barrels, sending U.S. gasoline futures higher by 3.5 per cent on their close on Wednesday.

U.S. crude oil production remained at a record 12.2 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The surging production and regional refinery outages have depressed prices of cash grades, putting more pressure on U.S. crude, said Yawger.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude at Midland yesterday traded at the biggest discount to futures in almost four months after Phillips 66 closed a unit for maintenance at its Borger, Texas refinery, adding to a backlog of barrels as production climbs.

Oil markets are tightening amid the increasing effectiveness of U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, the International Energy Agency said yesterday.

U.S. sanctions and power outages pushed OPEC member Venezuela’s crude output to a long-term low of 870,000 bpd, IEA says. Two days ago, OPEC reported Venezuela’s March output sank to 732,000 bpd, citing independent sources, while figures provided by the country put production at 960,000 bpd.

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Money

Obi supports Tinubu on VAT

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Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Peter Obi has hailed National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on his position on the proposed increment in Value Added Tax (VAT).

PDP VP candidate, Peter Obi

Tinubu, last Thursday, advised the Federal Government against increasing VAT rate as being canvassed by the Minister of National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma and the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler.

In a statement yesterday by his media office, Obi described Tinubu’s advice as gratifying and making economic sense given the situation in the country.

According to him, Tinubu’s position was clearly at variance with that of his party, saying it goes to underscore the uncoordinated campaign the APC dished out to Nigerians.
Obi, who said tax must be relaxed to act as incentive to local and foreign investors, insisted that the right way to shape up the economy in the face of mass unemployment is to have attractive economic policies to encourage entrepreneurs and investors.
According to him, the call for an increase in VAT or other taxes in the present economic situation amounted to insensitivity on the part of the government.

He, however, noted that Tinubu’s advice was in tandem with the position of the PDP, stressing that tax reduction was one of the main electioneering campaign messages of the PDP presidential campaign.

“It is extremely unrealistic for anybody to think of growing the economy and creating jobs by increasing tax. It’s too simplistic an approach,” Obi reiterated.

The former vice presidential candidate enjoined Tinubu to also advise the All Progressives Congress (APC) to embrace restructuring, saying it is the only option left to move the country forward.

“Anybody thinking this country will work without tinkering with the political and economic structure is deceiving himself because no nation grows on injustice,” he noted.

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