- Senate Vows to Reject Proposal to Punish People for Holding FX
The Senate has expressed shock at a recommendation by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission for a review of the Foreign Exchange Act in order to empower the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to jail people for up to two years or fine them 20 per cent of the amount of the foreign currency in their possession for more than 30 days.
The Senate, in a statement monday in Abuja by its spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, stated that with its focus on boosting investors’ confidence in the nation’s economy, such move as proposed by the commission that would deter investors from making free entry and free exit from the economy would be rejected by its members.
“The measure is disruptive and counter-productive, threatening to undermine many of the reform efforts already underway in the legislature and by government ministries intended to boost investors’ confidence.
“The Senate would never pass such a punitive and regressive proposal. Overall, some of the commission’s recommendations have many sound attributes and could help Nigeria’s investment climate.
“We believe the CBN should have the authority to regulate the forex market and determine the exchange rate policy as already enshrined in its enabling Act.
“A market-oriented exchange rate policy is the best recipe for guiding the operations of the foreign exchange market. This will ensure the supremacy of market mechanisms in efficiently allocating the scarce forex resources,” the Senate stated.
It said it would continue to work with the executive to halt the worsening recession and return to economic growth.
A draft published on the website of the commission revealed that the government is seeking to amend the Foreign Exchange Act.
According to the draft, the central bank will gain more power to control in and outflow of foreign currencies, especially the dollar in the wake of a foreign currency crisis.
It also proposes up to a two-year jail term or a fine of up to 20 per cent of the amount being held for up to 30 days.
In addition to the proposed amendment, in recent weeks, there has been a major clampdown on dealers of forex in the black market.
Last week, officials of Department of State Services (DSS) arrested hawkers of foreign currency in Kano and Anambra. Prior to that, DSS officials raided and arrested currency dealers in Lagos and Abuja.
The proposed changes by the commission are intended to help control capital flows and prevent forex from being taken out of the country.
The proposed changes that were posted on the commission’s website, state that “the amendments are necessary for effective monitoring and control, and to ensure probity in foreign-exchange transactions in Nigeria”, as the existing law on foreign exchange is currently “narrow in scope”.
Last September, the Senate spearheaded an economic agenda to pass key reform legislations to promote economic growth through greater public sector participation, boost investor confidence and create jobs.
Also in June, the CBN was cheered for loosening its control over the exchange rate policy in a bid to encourage investors to return to Nigeria and prevent capital flight.
Hopes were high after the Nigerian government finally allowed the naira to float, as recommended by domestic and international investment advisors.
Currently, however, the markets do not reflect a loosening of CBN control over the forex market, leading to the emergence of multiple exchange rates, the Senate said in the statement.
However, the central bank said monday that it had nothing to do with “rumours” of a planned amendment to the Foreign-Exchange Act to allow for imprisonment of anyone who holds foreign currencies, particularly dollars for more than 30 days.
CBN, in a statement by its acting Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okoroafor, said in line with its mandate, it was committed to safeguarding the international value of the country’s legal tender currency, the naira.
The central bank also expressed ignorance of the proposed clause recommending a jail term for or a fine of 20 per cent of the amount for any holder of foreign exchange in cash.
Okoroafor said: “To the best of my knowledge, the Central Bank of Nigeria has not proposed any bill seeking to arrest and jail persons holding foreign exchange for more than 30 days.”
The CBN further denied suggestions that it was planning to confiscate funds in domiciliary accounts of individuals, maintaining that any such claim was false.
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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