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Nigerian Banks and Entrepreneurs

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Olaseni Durojaiye in this report examines the relationship between banks and private businesses in Nigeria, regretting that the way some banks go about their businesses may dampen entrepreneurship spirit and stifle the economy.

The world over, entrepreneurs occupy a central position in any market economy. They serve as the spark plug in the economy’s engine, activating and stimulating a greater percentage of economic activities. The economic success of nations worldwide is the result of encouraging and rewarding the entrepreneurial instinct. A society is prosperous only to the degree to which it rewards and encourages entrepreneurial activities because the entrepreneurs and their activities (form the two legs of the tripod that are the critical determinant of the level of success, prosperity, growth and opportunities in any economy. The critical third being inter-related issue of regulations and compliance

This explains why an analyst posited that “The most dynamic societies in the world are the ones that have the most entrepreneurs, plus the economic and legal structure to encourage and motivate entrepreneurs to greater activities.”

Managers of great economies go to great length to promote entrepreneurship because they recognize that the story of competiveness of their business environment is best told by using the same entrepreneurs to tell the story.

Between Banks and the Economy

Economists argued that banks and financial institutions on the other hand contribute to economic development and the improvement in living standards by providing various services to the rest of the economy. Some of these services are offered through clearing and settlement systems to facilitate trade, channeling financial resources between savers and borrowers, and various products to deal with risk and uncertainty.(The role of the banks as financial intermediaries has a major bearing on how efficiently the economy allocates its resources between competing uses.

According to a Research Analyst with Frigate Consult, a Lagos based financial advisory firm, Soji Ibiwoye, “commercial bank is basically a collection of investment capital in search of a good return by granting loans and extending credit to people who can pay it back on the bank’s terms.

This is why banks specialise in assessing the credit worthiness of borrowers and providing an ongoing monitoring function to ensure borrowers meet their obligations. They are rewarded for these services by the spread between the rates they offer to the accumulated pool of savers, and the rates they offer to potential borrowers. This process is at the heart of modern banking,” Ibiwoye explained. He however added that “Whether the structure of Nigeria’s financial system is optimal for the economic growth outcomes the country would like to achieve is another topic entirely.”

It is somewhat difficult to measure the impact of banks financing in providing support for entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

However, there have been some success stories and leading lights that signpost Nigeria’s entrepreneurial spirit. Aliko Dangote owns the Dangote group, a conglomerate with interests that cover food processing, cement manufacturing and freight. The company operates in Nigeria and other African countries, including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia. The Dangote Group employs over 11,000 people.

Astute and highly successful investor and entrepreneur, Otudeko’s Honeywell Group invests in diverse sectors of the economy since its inception in 1972 and has grown to become one of Nigeria’s leading indigenous conglomerates.

The Honeywell Group is now a major diversified group engaged in select businesses in key sectors of the Nigerian economy, namely; foods and agro-allied, energy (oil, gas and power), infrastructure, services and real estate, and through other portfolio investments the group is also a significant provider of capital to other sectors of Nigeria’s economy. Honeywell Group employs over 10,000 people.

In the services sectors, Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu stand out. Ovia is the promoter and founder of Visafone and was a co-Founder of Zenith Bank Plc while Tony Elumelu is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa amongst other interests.

Check also revealed that these entrepreneurs through their businesses have at certain times enjoyed and continue to enjoy the support of the Nigerian banking and financial system through loans and credits with which the businesses are funded for growth and expansion. It is fair therefore to conclude that the Nigerian economy is fueled by entrepreneurship and funded by the banks.

Ibiwoye insisted that these two must work hand in hand and argued that no one can exist without the other adding that the relationship banks have with their customers and businesses must therefore be maintained with a degree of professionalism as expected from a well-regulated sector.

Between Banks and Entrepreneurs

Due to the numerous risks that are inherent in commercial/contractual transactions, disputes are often times inevitable.

The banker – customer relationship being contractual in nature is not exempted. With the pivotal role of banks in the growth of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, analysts argue that it is essential that there is a strict adherence to professional and ethical standards within the industry and also a framework for the resolution of disputes arising from a departure from established standards and practices.

One of the initiatives set up to address customer complaints and disputes arising from banking practices was the establishment of a sub-committee on “ethics and professionalism” by the Bankers’ Committee. The Bankers’ Committee is an umbrella body comprising the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks.

Whilst the Sub-committee on Ethics and Professionalism has resolved over 1000 cases or petitions since it was established in December 2000, the Sub-committee’s ability to ensure compliance by the banks with its decisions remains a critical issue. This has led some of the often asked questions among industry insiders: Can entrepreneurs rely on the Sub-committee to ensure that all banks adhere to the code of ethics and professionalism? Can the decision of the Sub-Committee compel a bank to honour its commitments/responsibilities to a customer?

The ongoing situation between Honeywell and Ecobank highlights these issues and the impact they can have on the growth of entrepreneurship and the economy. “This may turn out to be a litmus test for the bankers’ Committee,” stated a branch manager with one of the third generation banks. “How the saga plays out will mark a watershed in entrepreneur and bank relationship in the country,” added the banker who wished not to be identified.

Between Honeywell and Ecobank

According to media reports based on facts from ongoing court proceedings as instituted by both parties, Honeywell Group through three of its companies (Anchorage Leisure’s Limited, Siloam Global Services and Honeywell Flour Mills) obtained various banking facilities from Oceanic Bank. These facilities were subsequently inherited by Ecobank Nigeria Limited upon its acquisition of Oceanic Bank.

Due to various factors and within established norms of banker/customer relationships, Honeywell Group, in 2012, reportedly commenced discussions with Ecobank for a full and final settlement of its obligations to the bank. At a meeting in July 2013 between the two organisations which was led by the Chairman of Honeywell Group on one hand and the MD/CEO of Ecobank on the other hand, an agreement was reached for the payment of N3.5 billion in full and final settlement of Honeywell’s indebtedness to Ecobank.

Reports further indicated that an initial and immediate good faith payment of N500 million was made and a balance of N3 billion paid subsequently, making a total of N3.5billion paid in accordance with the agreements reached.

Ecobank reportedly duly acknowledged the cumulative payment of N3.5 billion in a letter dated February 2014 and agreed to update its records with the credit registry. However, nine months after payment was effected, Ecobank informed Honeywell that its representatives at the meeting did not obtain board approval before entering into the agreement.

Honeywell reportedly kicked against the feedback from the bank arguing an agreement entered into with the bank’s managing director who ordinarily should be able to bind the bank on agreements of such nature and further documented in numerous correspondence.

Knowledgeable insiders disclosed that this thus became a basis of dispute between Honeywell Group and Ecobank as it was clear to Honeywell that it had fulfilled its obligations to Ecobank based on agreements reached.

The dispute was submitted to the Bankers Committee, Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism and a ruling was issued by the committee in July, 2015 to the effect that “the agreement between Honeywell Group and Ecobank to pay N3.5 billion as full and final payment of the borrowers’ indebtedness is valid and should be complied with”.

Ecobank till date has not adhered to this ruling. Both parties have filed suits at the Federal High Court with respect to the matter.

When contacted, the Head, Legal and Regulatory affairs of Honeywell Group, Yemisi Busari, said “We are surprised by the actions of Ecobank, which have been very inconsistent and short of the standards expected of a bank of its standing. In our opinion, there was a valid agreement to pay a sum in full and final settlement of our obligations and we have met our part.

“Independent third parties have also attested to this fact. Are Managing Directors of banks no longer recognised agents, able to commit their organizations to agreements? Why did it take the bank nine months to realize they didn’t have board approval for their Managing Director’s actions? Does Ecobank, which subjected itself to the hearing by the Bankers Committee, Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism, not believe it is accountable to the Bankers Committee, because the ruling was not in their favour? What is the objective of the bank in making multiple filings before different judges in the same Federal High Court? she asked.

Many banking industry insiders whose comments were sought, though familiar with facts of the matter asked not to be quoted. However, they opined that the dispute will raise serious concerns in the minds of most entrepreneurs in Nigeria as funding from banks is critical to the running of most businesses.

As one of them asked rhetorically “Will the banks respect the sanctity of agreements reached with their customers going forward? What recourse is available to entrepreneurs when banking standards and decisions are not adhered to? How is compliance to standards and codes enforced in the banking industry? Without a resolution of the issues highlighted above, entrepreneurship will gradually become stifled and the impact on the budding Nigerian economy may be colossal,” he concluded.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Elon Musk Net Worth Jumps by $100 Billion this Year to Topple Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Others 

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Elon Musk, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Tesla, is now the world’s second-richest person following another surge in the price of Tesla share.

Musk total net worth jumped by $7.6 billion to $110 billion between November 16 and 17 to dethrone Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, from the third position.

Since then, Tesla stock has been on a bullish run and in the last 24 hours added $7.24 billion to Elon Musk’s total net worth, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index. Bringing the billionaire’s total net worth to $128 billion.

Elon Musk’s net worth rose from just $28 billion in January 2020 to $128 billion on November 24, 2020, representing an increase of $100 billion, the highest by any billionaire.

Musk has finally toppled Bill Gates as the second richest person and for the first time, Bill Gates is the third richest man in the world. This is the first time in almost 40 years that Gates will be in the third position.

Billionaires listed on Bloomberg Index have collectively gained $1.3 trillion this year.

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An Average of 48% Global Consumers to Significantly Cut 2020 Holiday Spending

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Data presented by Buy Shares indicates that an average of 48% of global consumers plans to significantly reduce their 2020 compared to 2019. The research sampled consumer feedback from 13 countries.

Pandemic triggers reduced spending 

The data also highlights that an average of 13.46% of global consumers plans to spend more on 2020 holidays than last year. Consumers from Indonesia at 71% plan to shrink their budget in 2020 while 16% will spend more.

About 69% of Mexican consumers will spend less, while 12% plan for more spending. In Brazil, about 65% of consumers will cut their budget while 11% plan to spend more than last year. At 63%, South African consumers will cut back on holiday spending while 12% plan to increase their budgets from last year.

In Spain, 55% of consumers will reduce their spending while 7% plan an increase from a year ago. Italian consumers spending less will be at 54%, with 6% planning to increase their budget.

In India, about 47% of people will cut back on the holiday budget, while 36% plan to increase spending. French consumers at 44% have intentions of reducing holiday spending while 6% will raise the spending from a year ago. 43% of UK consumers will spend less, while 9% have plans to spend more.

In the United States, 42% of consumers will spend less, while 17% will increase the budget. For Germany, about 29% of consumers will spend less than 7% planing to pay more. It is only in China where more people plan to spend more at 29% than 25% planning to spend less at 25%.

Elsewhere, 21% of Japanese consumers plan to spend less, while 7% will pay more. The research highlighted some of the reasons behind the massive slash in this year’s holiday spending. According to the research report:

“The less spending comes as most consumers lost their jobs and faced pay cuts as employers struggled to remain afloat in the course of the health crisis. Some consumers have been saving more to pay debts, while those on stimulus paychecks cannot sustain daily needs and holiday spending.”

The research also notes that most Americans at 30% look forward to the Christmas holiday while 23% anticipate Amazon Prime Day. Only 7% of Americans look forward to Fathers Day.

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President Buhari to Inaugurate Waltersmith 5,000bpd Modular Refinery Today

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oil refinery

President Muhammadu Buhari will inaugurate the 5,000 barrels per day modular refinery built by Waltersmith Group in Imo State.

According to Waltersmith Group, the President will lead a team of other top government officials, oil regulators and stakeholders to Imo State today for the inauguration, the Group stated in a statement released on Monday.

It said the modular refinery has a storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is expected to deliver over 271 million litres per annum of refined petroleum products, including kerosene, diesel, naphtha and heavy fuel oils, to the domestic market.

Mr. Abdulrazaq Isa, the Chairman, Waltersmith Group, said the first of 50,000 bpd modular refinery to be inaugurated today would process 5,000bpd of crude oil.

We are looking at 50,000bpd refining capacity that will come with the planned additional two modules; 25,000bpd and 20,000bpd refining capacity respectively which will then add PMS, aviation fuel and LPG to the product slates,” he added.

The statement added that Waltersmith obtained the ‘Licence to Establish’ the refinery from the Department of Petroleum Resources in June 2015 and got the ‘Authority to Construct’ in March 2017.

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