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EFCC, CBN collaborate on anti-graft

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Officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and their counterparts from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday met with the aim of strengthening the fight against economic crimes.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had a few weeks ago revealed that both institutions would be collaborating to expose banks, importers or organizations that collude with corrupt individuals to flout its policy on the restriction of foreign exchange (forex) to 43 items.

The meeting, which took place in Abuja, according to a statement issued yesterday by the apex bank’s Director of Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, provided an opportunity for the two entities to share experiences and peculiar challenges in the fight against economic-related crimes.

It said: “The two agencies adopted strategies aimed at curtailing the unwholesome activities of economic saboteurs, which include smuggling of commodities like rice, textile materials, fertilizer, wheat and other items on the prohibition list for accessing foreign exchange through an official window, as well as tracking illicit financial flows.

“Other areas which the two agencies are collaborating include anti-money laundry and the monitoring of politically exposed persons in the country.”

According to the statement, the inter-agency meeting, chaired by the Director, Governors’ Department of the CBN, Mr. Jeremiah Abue, also agreed to improve the level of information-sharing and surveillance of the financial sector.

Emefiele had pointed out that given the remarkable success that had been achieved in stimulating domestic production of goods such as rice, cassava and maize, as a result of the restrictions placed on access to forex for the 43 items, the central bank intends to vigorously ensure that the policy remains in place.

He said additional efforts would be made to block any attempts by unscrupulous parties (both individuals and corporate) that intend to find other avenues of accessing forex, in order to import these items into Nigeria.
He warned: “The CBN’s Economic intelligence and Banking Supervision Departments will work very closely with the EFCC to expose and sanction any bank, company and or its directors or forex operator who colludes with unscrupulous individuals/companies to undermine the policy on 41 items.

“Such sanctions will include, but not limited to prohibiting all the banks in Nigeria from maintaining any bank accounts for any such institutions or persons in Nigeria.

“If you are caught as an individual or a company, we are saying that, that bank, that company and the individuals, that the central bank would prohibit all the Nigerian banks at the same time, from maintaining any bank account for you.”

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Intel denies owing Ports authority

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Intels Nigeria Limited has denied that it is indebted to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to the tune of $145.8 million, insisting that NPA owes it over $750 million.

Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Usman

The company, which issued a statement yesterday in response to the termination of its boat pilotage monitoring and supervision agreement by NPA, said it was open to an amicable resolution of the contract dispute with NPA.

It added that it was willing to proceed in all appropriate directions to protect its interests and its 5,000 employees.
The statement added that the company had not breached or violated the agreement with NPA.

“Intels further confirms the correctness of its actions, in line with the agreement signed on August 24, 2018, according to the terms and timing established therein, in compliance with the principle of reciprocity of rights and obligations thereby provided for.

“The same agreement supplements the original agreement and reinforced the understanding of the parties that the agency service was entrusted to Intels, in order to guarantee a repayment plan for the significant investments made.

“Intels reiterates that, overall, it is not in any way indebted to NPA, but it is instead a creditor of NPA for an amount exceeding $750 million against the financing granted by Intels and associated entities to NPA over time.

“Intels hopes that the undergoing amicable procedure with NPA may result in clarifications between the parties and a return to normal operations, but it also reaffirms its willingness to proceed in all appropriate directions to protect its own interests, in line with the contractual agreement, and all valid receivable claims against NPA, for the protection of its corporate interests, its 5,000 Nigerian employees and shareholders and those who have been operating in the Country for over 40 years.”

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CBN issues new directives to banks on Treasury bills

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to limit Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) access to government securities to redirect their lending focus to the private sector. CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said yesterday in Abuja that the intention was to stimulate growth in the economy.

The CBN unfolded its new policy direction on banks’ access to investing in treasury bills and bonds just as the apex bank further resolved to hold all parameters of monetary policy constant by retaining the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), otherwise known as interest rate, at 13.5 percent.

The MPR is the rate at which the CBN lends to commercial banks and often determines the cost of borrowing in the economy.

It also retained the asymmetric corridor of +200/-500 basis points around the MPR; left both the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 22.5 percent and Liquidity Ratio at 30 percent.

Emefiele, who read the committee’s communiqué at the end of the two-day Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, said in arriving at the decision to hold all rates at current levels, nine members out of 11, voted to hold all parameters of monetary policy constant. Two members voted, however, to reduce the MPR by 25 basis points.

He said: “As in the past, the committee considered the options of whether to be more accommodative, tighten or hold its position. The committee felt that although the slight inflation uptick should result in tightening, it felt that doing this will limit the ability of DMBs to increase credit at this time, given the need to support or redirect the focus of DMBs to new credit in support of consumer, mortgage and other priority sectors of the economy, including, SMEs, agriculture and manufacturing.

“It also felt that given the fragile state of the economy, increasing the cost of credit would further diminish investment flow and impact negatively on output growth.

“As regards loosening, some members felt that it was desirable to aggressively stimulate growth, restart the capital market activities and increase lending at lower rates; which would ultimately stimulate domestic aggregate demand.

“Those against loosening felt that given that there was a marginal increase in headline inflation for April 2019, there is a need to restrain from loosening in order not to exacerbate inflationary pressures.

“They also felt the economy would experience liquidity surfeit and without a corresponding increase in real sector output, inflationary pressures could be elevated; resulting in likely exchange rate pressures.

“As for members who favored a hold position, maintaining the monetary policy rate at its present level was essential for better understanding of the momentum of growth before determining any possible modifications.

“They also felt that retaining the current policy stance provides an avenue for evaluating the impact of the Bank’s intervention policies to support lending to the priority sectors of the economy.”

The CBN urged the government to ensure an increase in tax revenue to enable it to fund its budget adequately.

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SEC probes MTN listing on NSE

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the process that led to the listing of MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) last Thursday. A source said the application of the telecom firm was initially turned down by the NSE Council before it was later reconsidered, without the authorization of SEC.

The source spoke amid allegations of unapproved waivers that the NSE granted MTN Nigeria to enable it to be listed on the stock exchange.

The source said: “The application was turned down when MTN brought it to the council due to grey areas and requests for certain waivers made by the company.”
According to the source, the investigation will cover all aspects of the listing, the share crossing, the activities of the preference shares, all the transactions on MTN Nigeria shares so far and the entire listing to see if it is in compliance with the listing rules.

“I can assure you that SEC will conclude this investigation as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, the shares of MTN continued on the upswing, chalking up 9.9 percent or N10.85 to close at N119.75. This showed that the stock has gained 33 percent in three days of its listing on the NSE.

Investors yesterday traded 51.406 million shares of the stock valued at N6.155 billion in 61 deals.
It was gathered that there was induced scarcity of the listed MTN shares in order to drive up the value.
Analysts had told newsmen that the intention of the pent-up demand on MTN Nigeria’s shares was to drive the price of the stock very high before any share offering through an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

In addition, an analyst had said the IPO might take a longer time to come, as the MTN was said to be hiding under the alleged $2 billion tax liabilities the Office of the Attorney General (AGF) imposed on it, instead of the Federal Inland Revenue Service( FIRS), to delay the public share offering.

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Nigeria’s GDP grows by 2.01% in Q1 2019

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Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 2.01 percent at the end of the first quarter of 2019, according to a report released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The NBS, in its “Nigeria GDP Report for First Quarter 2019’’, said the figure is 0.12 percent higher than the growth rate of 1.89 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2018. However, when the figure is compared with the fourth quarter of 2018, the real GDP growth rate declined by -0.38% points. Aggregate GDP stood at N31,794,085.85 million in nominal terms.

“This aggregate was higher than in the first quarter of 2018, which recorded N28,438,604.23 million, representing a year on- year nominal growth rate of 11.80%. “The aggregate was, however, lower than in the preceding quarter of N35,230,607.63 million, by -9.75%. The nominal GDP growth rate in Q1 2019 was higher than the rate recorded in Q1 2018 by 2.54% points,” the report stated. The agency said in the first quarter of 2019, average daily oil production stood at 1.96 million barrels per day (mbpd), lower than the average daily production of 1.98mbpd recorded in the same quarter of 2018 by -0.02mbpd, but higher than the fourth quarter 2018 production volume by 0.05mbpd.
The level of oil output during the quarter was the highest recorded over the past one year and the second highest since mid-2017. The real GDP growth in the oil sector was -2.40% (year-on-year) in Q1 2019 indicating a decrease by -16.43% points relative to the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2018. Growth decreased by -0.79% points when compared to Q4 2018 which was -1.62%. Quarter-on-quarter, the oil sector recorded a growth rate of 11.60% in Q1 2019. The oil sector contributed 9.14% to total real GDP in Q1 2019, down from figures recorded in the corresponding period of 2018, but up compared to the preceding quarter, where it contributed 9.55% and 7.06% respectively. The bureau noted that the non-oil sector grew by 2.47% in real terms during the reference quarter. “This was 1.72% points higher compared to the rate recorded in the same quarter of 2018 but -0.23% points lower than the fourth quarter of 2018. “During the quarter, the sector was driven mainly by information and communication technology. Other drivers were Agriculture, Transportation and Storage, Trade and Construction. In real terms, the non-oil sector contributed 90.86% to the nation’s GDP, higher than recorded in the first quarter of 2018 (90.45%) but lower than the fourth quarter of 2018 (92.94%).”

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