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Free Zones Create 200,000 Jobs, Attract $20bn Investments



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  • Free Zones Create 200,000 Jobs, Attract $20bn Investments

The federal government has said oil and gas free zones have created more than 200,000 jobs and attracted more than $20 billion in investments to the country.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, made the declaration yesterday at a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) at Onne, Rivers State.

He also said the zones have also facilitated the transfer of skills and technology in the oil and gas sector to Nigerians over the years, the Oil and Alex Enumah in Abuja.

The trial of a Supreme Court judge, Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta, for corruption-related offences suffered a setback yesterday when Charles Adeogun-Philips, the counsel engaged from International Criminal Court (ICC) by the federal government to conduct the prosecution withdrew unceremoniously.

Ngwuta is being prosecuted by the federal government on a 16-count charge of alleged corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes.

Adeogun-Philips was engaged for the high profile corruption case due to his wide experience in criminal matters at the ICC.

He, however, gave no reason for his withdrawal.

But a source however, said the anger of the lawyer might have been provoked by an alleged uncooperative attitude of the federal government which brought the complain of corruption against the apex court judge.

At the resumed trial yesterday, the lawyer informed the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, that he was withdrawing his appearance in the matter for his client.

Subsequently, Hajara Yusuf, informed the court that she would be appearing for the government pending the constitution of a new prosecution team.

She told the court that the prosecution was prepared for the day’s business which is the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness and which the court obliged.

Although Justice Tsoho did not inquire into what informed the action of the counsel, he however showered encomiums on him for having the courtesy to physically come before the court to announce his withdrawal.

Similarly, defence counsel commended Adeogun-Philips on how he had conducted himself so far in the matter, describing him as a gentleman and wish him well in his future endeavours.

However, under cross-examination by Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to the defendant, the prosecution witness, Chukwuebuka Linus, informed the court that he believed the job he was contracted to do by the defendant was legitimate.

He also said he would not have accepted payment for his services if he had suspected the money were proceeds of crime, adding that he went ahead with the job after the defendant explained the sources of his money.

When asked if he reported Ngwuta to the police or any security agency he said no.

Also, when asked if anyone had complained about the vehicles and monies he claimed to have moved out of Ngwuta’s residence, he answered in the negative.

While he told the court that he was arrested and detained for seven days, he however, stated that he has not been charged with any offence, adding that he did not considered his detention justified.

When asked if he made statement during his detention and how many, he said he only remembered making statements in the first and second day of his detention.

When put before him that the job he undertook for Justice Ngwuta was done in the open and that Ngwuta did not attempt to hide his wealth, he said yes, adding that even his own document on the transaction were in the open and there was nothing illegal in them. He also admitted to having trust and respect for the defendant, particularly throughout the period of his engagement.

At this stage, Agabi told the court he had no further questions for the witness.

However, when the prosecution was called upon to re-examine the witness, she however requested for a short adjournment to enable the prosecution constitute a new team.

The matter has been adjourned to February 13.

Gas Free Zones have attracted more than $20 billion in investments and created about 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.

He said the free zones have proven to be beneficial to the country due to their contributions to national development and pledged that the federal government would continue to support the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority and investors.

He restated that the federal government had set aside the sum of N51.4 billion for the establishment of six additional special economic zones in the country.

He explained that the step was taken as a result of the recognition of free zones as veritable engines of growth for the economy.

He said: “In order to underscore the critical role of the free zones as drivers of economic growth, the federal government in the 2017 budget estimates made a strong policy statement in support of the concept of the free zones by setting aside a special provision of N51.4 billion for the establishment of six Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the country having recognised free zones as veritable engines of growth for the economy.

“For this reason, the Federal Government will continue to support OGFZA and investors in the oil and gas free zones because of their important contributions to national economic development.

“Over the years, the oil and gas free zones have attracted more than $20 billion in investments and created about 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. They have also facilitated the transfer of skills and technology in the oil and gas sector to Nigerians.”

Enelamah, who was represented by the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investments, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, described the stakeholders’ forum as significant to the ministry and the current administration and commended the leadership of OGZFA for working out a detailed roadmap and an information-rich marketing brochure, adding that the agency would strengthen investors’ confidence and give impetus to businesses.

“The roadmap we are unveiling today is a critical work tool for OGFZA. It will help to measure economic and social progress in the oil and gas free zones.

“The steps outlined by OGFZA to enhance service delivery, improve on the ease of doing business and automate its operations will help in creating the enabling environment to create and sustain investments.”

In his welcome address, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of OGFZA, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, explained that the forum would show the way in which the authority and stakeholders intended to work together.

Umana assured federal agencies operating within various oil and gas free zones of OGFZA’s preparedness to embrace constructive dialogue and partnership that would deliver a win-win collaboration.

He said: “The path of the new OGFZA is well laid out in our roadmap, which we are unveiling today, along with our marketing brochure to guide existing and potential investors to the array of incentives available in the free zones.

“The roadmap is a product of our vision to be the premier investment promotion agency of government by facilitating the establishment of businesses in the oil and gas free zones with the creation of an enabling environment for investment.”

Umana, however, added that the roadmap would usher in a new era for the oil and gas free zones and improve the ease of doing business.

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


FBNQuest Mutual Funds returns 104%



FBNQuest Asset Management, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings, has held yearly general meetings for five mutual funds managed by the firm.

The funds are the FBN Balanced Fund, FBN Smart Beta Equity Fund, FBN Eurobond Fund, FBN Bond Fund and the FBN Money Market Fund.

The Fund Manager continues to deliver commendable results, as demonstrated by strong performance across all its funds.

The FBN Bond Fund was the best performing of the mutual funds, returning 104.20 per cent over five-year while its US Dollar fund, the FBN Eurobond, returned 48.43 per cent in US dollars over the same period.

The Managing Director of FBNQuest Asset Management, Ike Onyia, said: “Our strong performance track record is premised on the research capabilities, insights and experience of our portfolio management and research teams. Our mutual funds serve as useful investment options useful in formulating unique and value-adding investment strategies for various client segments. This is because our range of mutual funds cut across various asset classes including equities, bonds and money markets.”

“Our funds remain easily accessible, as our goal is to continue to drive financial inclusion and democratise wealth creation, by supporting the financiainclusion and democratise wealth creation, by supporting the financial security aspiration of investors” he added.

Increasingly, financial markets are becoming complex to navigate and as a result, it will not be out of place for investors to actively seek the inclusion of mutual funds in their investment portfolio, which will serve as the structured gateway to such markets. Seeking the help of experienced financial planners to assist you in establishing your risk tolerance levels and advise on suitable options is highly recommended.

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SEC Warns Against Proliferation of Unregistered Investment Platforms



The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned the investing public to be wary of the proliferation of unregistered online investment and trading platforms facilitating access to trading in securities listed in foreign markets.

SEC’s warning was conveyed via a circular issued in Abuja, Thursday to capital market operators.

It advised the investing public to seek clarification as may be required via its established channels of communication on investment products.

The circular read: “The attention of the SEC has been drawn to the existence of several providers of online investment and trading platforms which purportedly facilitate direct access of the investing public in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to securities of foreign companies listed on securities exchanges registered in other jurisdictions.

“These platforms also claim to be operating in partnership with capital market operators (CMOs) registered with the Commission.”

The Commission categorically stated that by the provisions of Sections 67-70 of the Investments and Securities Act (ISA), 2007 and Rules 414 & 415 of the SEC Rules and Regulations, only foreign securities listed on any exchange registered in Nigeria may be issued, sold or offered for sale or subscription to the Nigerian public.

Accordingly, the SEC notified CMOs who work in concert with the referenced online platforms of the Commission’s position and advised them to desist henceforth.

Public to seek clarification as may be required via its established channels of communication on investment products advertised through conventional or online mediums.

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SoftBank Reaps $33 Billion Coupang Windfall



SoftBank Group Corp on Thursday racked up a roughly $33 billion gain on paper through the public market debut of South Korea’s largest e-commerce company, Coupang Inc, the latest sign of a dramatic turnaround for its $100 billion Vision Fund.

Shares of Coupang opened 81% above their offer price on Thursday, after the company raised $4.6 billion in the U.S. stock market’s biggest initial public offering this year.

SoftBank paid around $3 billion for a 37% stake in the company, according to sources familiar with earlier fund-raising, giving it a roughly $33 billion headline profit if prices hold.

Coupang’s hugely successful stock market launch is welcome news for SoftBank, which is grappling with the collapse of billions of dollars worth of funds linked to Britain’s Greensill Capital, a supply chain finance start-up.

Vision Fund is Greensill’s biggest backer.

The Japanese conglomerate last month reported third-quarter net profit ballooned more than 20 times thanks to a recovery at the Vision Fund, a huge venture capital operation famous for investing early in Uber and other tech industry startup successes.

Only a year ago, SoftBank had been smarting from the flopped IPO and collapse in value of office sharing firm WeWork, raising questions over whether Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son had lost his midas touch and threatening plans to establish a successor to Vision.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced Son to sell assets but a second deal reported by Reuters on Thursday bodes well for VF II, a second, smaller fund.

The $225 million late-stage funding round for healthcare startup Forward Health was its first major investment this year, following a pickup in activity and the group’s fortunes in the second half of 2020.

The Vision Fund also made $11 billion on a blockbuster market launch of DoorDash Inc in December, which valued the food delivery company at more than $70 billion.

It also made gains on home seller Opendoor Technologies Inc’s initial offering in December.

The fund still holds large stakes in China’s biggest ride-hailing firm Didi, as well as Uber’s Southeast Asian rival Grab.

SoftBank is also trying to ride the mania for special purpose acquisition companies, launching a handful of blank-check firms this year, although none of them have found investment targets yet.

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