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Stakeholders Allege Diversion of $100m BASA Fund

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Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

There are fears that the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) fund, which accruals had risen to over $100 million (N38.1 billion) may have been diverted to fund projects outside the aviation sector, aviation industry sources have said.

Investigations revealed that the funds, which are paid by foreign airlines operating into Nigeria, stem from the commercial agreement between Nigeria and host countries of the international carriers may have been depleted without definite projects executed with the funds.

The fund is domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but managed by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), with the Director General as signatory.

In 2014, the then Ministry of Aviation hinted that Nigeria may abolish commercial agreement, an offshoot of BASA, which defines the amount of money an airline should pay for each passenger, but indications show that this was not carried through.

So while there was a belief that Nigeria was transiting to slot allocation, which is an alternative to commercial agreement, the fund has continued to accrue.

An NCAA source hinted that since the funds were utilised for airport remodeling, which was not completed as planned, the fund has continued to accumulate and may have been diverted to fund projects outside the industry.

Industry observers noted government is in dire need of money to fund landing aids, runway lighting, perimeter fencing of most airports and improve facilities and equipment at the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Zaria, but the BASA fund, which ought to be used to carry out these projects has been left in CBN.

They also suggested that the money should also be used to complete some of the perishable terminals now government is emphasising on export of agro-allied produce and as it planned to concession four international airports in the country.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika travelled to Singapore few days ago with top official of the industry to negotiate BASA for effective resumption of flight by Singapore Airlines to Nigeria.

It is the view of industry stakeholders that BASA fund be accounted for and what it is used for clearly stated projects to ensure that the money is not being diverted for personal use by individuals who have access to the funds.

“So much money has accumulated in the BASA fund. The only time the money from there was used was during the airport remodeling project; since them we don’t know what is happening to the fund. Government may have taken money from the fund when some parastatals in the industry failed to remit their 25 percent allocation of their revenue to the federation account and their money was drawn at source, but we are not sure that the money is being utilised now,” said a source.

BASA is a reciprocal agreement between two countries whose airlines ought to fly to both countries but as Nigeria does not have a national carrier, foreign carriers pay government for their frequencies into the country and over time there has been criticisms that Nigeria is being shortchanged because while other airlines fly to Nigeria, most of those destinations are not being reciprocated by Nigerian carriers, which fly to few international routes.

“These international airlines pay us a lot of money. Recently Air France paid us $8million and Emirates pays us a lot of money; the same with other foreign airlines but no one is talking about the fund,” industry source told THISDAY.

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.

Crude Oil

Oil Posts 2% Gain for the Week Despite India Virus Surge

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil prices steadied on Friday and were set for a weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery, though the COVID-19 crisis in India capped prices.

Brent crude futures settled 0.28% higher at $68.28 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude advanced 0.29% to $64.90 per barrel.

Both Brent and WTI are on track for second consecutive weekly gains as easing restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.

In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.

However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.

In the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, jobless claims have dropped, signalling the labour market recovery has entered a new phase as the economy recovers.

The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.

“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.

The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.

“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.

“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”

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Commodities

Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange to Commence Gold Trading

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gold bars

With the admission of Dukia Gold’s diversified financial instruments backed by gold as the underlying asset, Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange is set to commence gold trading.

According to Dukia Gold, the instruments will be in form of exchange-traded notes, commercial papers and other gold-backed securities, adding that it will enable the company to deepen the commodities market in Nigeria, increase capacity, generate foreign exchange for the Nigerian government to better diversify foreign reserves and create jobs across the metal production value chain.

Tunde Fagbemi, the Chairman, Dukia Gold, disclosed this while addressing journalists at Pre-Listing Media Interactive Session in Lagos on Thursday.

He said, “We are proud to be the first gold company whose products would be listed on the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange. The listing shall enable us facilitate our infrastructure development, expand capacity and create fungible products.

“This has potential to shore up Nigeria’s foreign reserve and create an alternative window for preservation of pension funds. A gold-backed security is a hedge against inflation and convenient preservation of capital.”

“As a global player, we comply with the practices and procedures of London Bullion Market Association and many other international bodies. Our refinery will also have multiplier effects on the development of rural areas anywhere it is located,” he added.

Mr Olusegun Akanji, the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Heritage Bank, said the lender had created a buying centre for verification of quality and quantity of gold and reference price to ensure price discovery in line with the global standard.

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Crude Oil

Oil Nears $70 as Easing Western Lockdowns Boost Summer Demand Outlook

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Crude oil

Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as easing of lockdowns in the United States and parts of Europe heralded a boost in fuel demand in summer season and offset concerns about the rise of COVID-19 infections in India and Japan.

Brent crude rose 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $69.81 a barrel at 1008 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.54 a barrel.

Both contracts hit the highest level since mid-March in intra-day trade.

“A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high,” he said.

Crude prices were also supported by a large fall in U.S. inventories.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group reported crude stockpiles fell by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30, according to two market sources. That was more than triple the drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Gasoline stockpiles fell by 5.3 million barrels.

Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday to see if official data shows such a large fall.

“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

The rise in oil prices to nearly two-month highs has been supported by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States and Europe.

Euro zone business activity accelerated last month as the bloc’s dominant services industry shrugged off renewed lockdowns and returned to growth.

“The partial lifting of mobility restrictions, the expectation that tourism will return in the near future, and the lure of the psychologically important $70 mark are all likely to have contributed to the price rise,” Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.

This has offset a drop in fuel demand in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in India.

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