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NCC Writes AGF, Demands N50bn Paid by MTN

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The Nigerian Communications Commission has written the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, demanding the transfer of the initial N50bn paid by MTN Nigeria Communications to the regulator’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, disclosed this in Abuja on Monday while answering questions from journalists at a press conference to mark the one year anniversary of his coming on board.

The NCC boss, who said the money had been lodged in a recovery account opened by the OAGF with the CBN, added that it needed to be transferred to the NCC account before it could be moved to the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.

The commission had imposed a fine of N1.04tn on MTN Nigeria Communications Limited in October 2015 for failing to disconnect 5.2 million improperly registered subscribers from its network. After initial negotiations, MTN went to court.

However, in a twist, it withdrew the case out of the court and paid N50bn through the OAGF to show the government that it was ready to embark on full negotiation in a bid to settle the matter out of court.

There appeared to be crack in the government’s handling of the matter when the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, denied that his ministry and its agencies took part in the negotiation and subsequent receipt of the money.

When the government and the NCC eventually entered into fresh negotiations with MTN, the fine was reduced to N330bn spread over a period of three years. The initial N50bn paid by the company was regarded as the first instalment.

Danbatta said MTN had since paid another N30bn, which means that the company has so far paid N80bn, with an outstanding balance of N250bn.

The NCC helmsman also said that the regulator declined a request by MTN to acquire the spectrum being used by Visafone even though it approved the acquisition of 100 per cent shareholding in the company by MTN.

The nation’s chief telecom regulatory officer argued that the acquisition of Visafone’s frequency could perpetuate MTN’s dominant position in the Nigerian telecommunications market, adding that the NCC would subject the request to a public inquest.

Danbatta also said that MTN would roll out services on the 2.6MHz spectrum acquired through a bidding process.

He said, “In the recent wireless broadband frequency bidding process for the 2.6MHz spectrum by the commission, MTN Nigeria Limited emerged the winner of six slots. The licensing of frequency in this slot has suffered several setbacks until recently when six slots out of 14 made available by the commission were allocated for immediate deployment of 4G-LTE services.

“By the rollout plans for this service as provided by the winner, broadband services on this frequency spectrum will be available in the last quarter of 2016.”

He added, “We have initiated processes for licensing of more broadband services on the 5.4GHz spectrum band. We have opened the process for the allocation of frequencies in the 70/80GHz band (e-band).

“Approval has been given for the deployment of 4G Long Term Evolution Technology by NATCOM Development and Investment Limited, which has launched the first Voice over LTE call on February 25.”

Danbatta also announced that the country’s broadband penetration had reached 20.95 per cent.

“Equally, on the percentage of Internet penetration, the country has reached a milestone of 47.44 per cent, second to South Africa on the continent,” he said.

On unsolicited text messages, Danbatta said the NCC had constituted a task force to verify the compliance of telecoms operators with the directives issued to them.

He said the regulatory agency would not shy away from sanctioning operators found wanting.

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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Nigeria’s Rigid Forex Policy Discouraging Investors, Fueling Inflation – World Bank

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The World Bank has blamed the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rigid forex policy for the drop in Nigeria’s capital importation and rising inflation rate.

The bank disclosed in its November report, Nigeria Development Update.

Explaining modalities for its position, the World Bank stated that there had been constant pressure on the Nigerian Naira with the current forex policy, forcing the central bank to consistently increase its nominal official exchange rate in an effort to ease some of the pressure.

This, it blamed on the rigid foreign exchange management system of the Central Bank of Nigeria, saying the system has also been responsible for the rising inflation rate in Nigeria.

The report read in part, “The government’s exchange rate management policies continue to discourage investment and fuel inflation. Exchange rate stability is a key CBN policy objective, and to preserve its external reserves the CBN continues to manage FX demand and limit the supply of FX to the market.

“Pressure on the naira remains intense, and while the CBN has raised the nominal official exchange rate three times since the start of the pandemic (by 15 per cent in March 2020, five per cent in August 2020, and seven per cent in May 2021), FX management remains too rigid to respond to external shocks. Meanwhile, exchange-rate management has emerged as one of the key drivers of inflation.”

The World Bank further stated that the central bank foreign exchange system needs to be more flexible to withstand external shocks, especially given Nigeria’s mono-product nature. It added that the NAFEX rate does not reflect the true market rate but the central bank managed rate.

It read in part, “While the CBN supplied an average of $2.5bn to the Investors and Exporters forex window in the months just prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it only supplied an average of $0.5bn in the months thereafter.

“The NAFEX rate, which is now the guiding exchange rate for the economy, continues to be managed and is not fully reflective of market conditions. The parallel market premium over the NAFEX rate reached 29 per cent in August 2021 after the CBN cut off its weekly supply of $20,000 per bureau de change. The CBN has intermittently supplied forex to BDCs since 2005, providing ample opportunities for currency round-tripping.”

The institution however advised that Nigeria adopt a more predictable, transparent and flexible foreign exchange management system in order to attract and sustain private investment flows.

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Nigeria’s Non-oil Revenue Now N1.15 Trillion – Minister of Finance

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Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, has said that Nigeria’s non-oil revenue is now N1.15 trillion, representing 15.7 percent above the country’s target. This, she claimed, was a result of the federal government’s efforts at diversifying the nation’s economy.

Mrs. Ahmed disclosed this at the Institute of Directors (IoD) 2021 Annual Directors Conference which was held on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the event with the theme: “Creating the Future: Deepening the Corporate Governance Practice through Multi-Sectoral and Multi-Generational Collaborations,” was meant to discuss economic development.

Mrs Ahmed added that the recent development was in line with President’s commitment to further diversifying the Nigerian economy which is heavily dependent on oil. She observed that Nigeria was showing resilience in recovery from recession from coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which intensely affected global economies.

The minister said the federal government alongside the private sector had implemented a wide range of monetary measures to stimulate economic recovery, growth and development, job creation and improved standards of living.

She also explained that the government was doing everything to improve and diversify Nigeria’s revenue generation.

Nigeria was quickly able to exit recession and is on her way to path of sustainable growth and we are intensifying efforts to grow and diversify our revenue sources to grow revenue from the current 8 per cent.”

“Our non-oil revenues have grown to N1.15 trillion, representing 15.7 per cent above set target. We are working on the 2021 finance bill and it’s nearing completion. Also, the recent approval of the medium-term national development plan is an important milestone of Buhari’s commitment to delivering sustainable growth and we require strong support and monitoring during implementation,” she said.

Mrs Ahmed reinforced the government’s decision to do something about infrastructure and reduce the cost of production for businesses in the country.

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Intra-Regional Trade Potential a Key Focus in New Report

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A new focus report, produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with the African Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO), shines a spotlight on the continent’s rapidly developing industrial sector, which is poised to become a key driver of broader economic growth as regional integration increases.

Titled ”Economic Zones in Africa – Focus Report”, the report was launched at the AEZO’s 6th Annual Meeting II, which took place on November 25 at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat office in Ghana, with participants also able to attend remotely. The meeting was held under the banner “Connecting African Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to Global Value Chains at the era of the AfCFTA” and explored a range of topical issues relating to SEZs, from their potential to boost trade to the impact of Covid-19 on the continent’s supply chains.

The focus report examines the wealth of benefits that the AfCFTA is expected to deliver to both Africa’s economic zones and the businesses located in them, which range from greater market access to a reduction in trade barriers and lower production costs.

The disruption that the pandemic brought to supply chains and the opportunities emerging from the health crisis for businesses to become part of nascent regional value chains across a more closely connected continent are a key focus.

The report also charts the digital transformation taking place in many of Africa’s economic zones, as businesses make the move away from traditional segments to high-tech processes and digital services, adding value to their offerings in the process.

In addition, it provides in-depth analysis of the drive evident among many SEZs to put environmental, social and governance principles and sustainable business practices at the heart of their strategies, at a time when ethical investment and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals are high on the global agenda.

The report includes in-depth case studies and viewpoints by representatives from key industry players namely: Tanger Med; Polaris Parks; Lagos Free Zones; Ghana Free Zones Authority; Misurata Free Zone; and Sebore Farms.

It also includes a contribution from Ahmed Bennis, Secretary General, AEZO, in which he highlights the role that SEZs are playing in the continent’s industrial transformation and the importance of supporting their development.

“Economic zones can play a game-changing role in Africa’s diversification and inclusion by providing end-to-end solutions and services that support industrial upgrades and increase countries’ attractiveness for investment,” he said. “With the implementation of AfCFTA and the post-Covid-19 recovery that the world is beginning to experience, we believe that real investment opportunities exist in Africa at this moment, which can translate into job creation and social and economic development. Africa has resources that need to be developed and economic zones can play a key role in this.”

Bernardo Bruzzone, OBG’s Regional Editor for Africa, added that while African economic zones had experienced production problems during the pandemic due to global supply chain disruptions, ongoing remedial action, including new infrastructure and human capital development, would help provide resilience against future external shocks.

“Africa’s real GDP growth is forecast to reach 3.4% in 2021, with an increase in intra-regional trade and improved connectivity among the facilitators of economic recovery,” Bruzzone said. “Looking ahead, we see economic zones as having a key role to play in helping the AfCFTA achieve its potential through the development of new strategies that will lead to a more diverse, higher-value range of exports.”

The study forms part of a series of tailored reports that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.

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