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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.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Investment

Lagos State Government Set to Demolish $200 Million Landmark Beach Resort

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Landmark Beach

The Lagos State Government has issued a demolition warning to the proprietor of the $200 million Landmark Beach Resort, a renowned tourist destination in the region.

The resort nestled along the picturesque coastline faces imminent destruction to make way for the construction of a 700-kilometer coastal road linking Lagos with Calabar.

Paul Onwuanibe, the 58-year-old owner of the Landmark Beach Resort, revealed that he received a notice in late March instructing him to vacate the premises within seven days to facilitate the impending demolition.

The resort, which spans a vast expanse of land and hosts over 80 businesses, is a hub of economic activity, sustaining over 4,000 jobs directly. Also, it contributes more than N2 billion in taxes annually.

The news of the resort’s potential demolition has sparked concerns among investors and stakeholders in the tourism sector. Onwuanibe expressed dismay at the government’s decision, highlighting the substantial investments made in developing the resort’s infrastructure.

He explained that the planned demolition would not only lead to significant financial losses but also jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of employees and businesses associated with the resort.

The Landmark Beach Resort is a popular tourist destination, attracting approximately one million visitors annually, both local and international. Its unique amenities, including a mini-golf course, beach soccer field, and volleyball and basketball courts, make it a favorite among tourists seeking leisure and recreation.

The prospect of the resort’s demolition has triggered widespread panic among international and domestic investors associated with the Landmark Group. Many are now considering withdrawing their investments, citing concerns about the viability of the business without its flagship beach resort.

The Lagos State Government’s decision to proceed with the demolition is part of its broader plan to construct the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, a 700-kilometer roadway connecting Lagos to Calabar.

The government had earlier announced its intention to remove all “illegal” constructions along the planned route of the highway, including the Landmark Beach Resort.

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Investment

Investors Petition EFCC as Over N3 Billion Trapped in Agrorite Investment Scheme

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Agriculture - Investors King

Investors in one of Nigeria’s agritech crowdfunding platforms, Agrorite, have lodged a petition with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to recover more than N3 billion trapped in the company’s investment scheme.

Agrorite, which touted itself as a premier digital agricultural platform connecting smallholder farmers with finance and markets, is now at the center of a financial debacle.

The investment scheme operated by Agrorite attracted funding from eager investors who were promised returns on investments within a fixed timeframe.

However, the situation took a turn for the worse late last year when investors found themselves unable to access their funds as promised.

Despite repeated assurances from Agrorite’s founder and CEO, Toyosi Ayodele, the repayment deadlines were continually postponed until it became evident that the company had no intention of honoring its commitments.

The magnitude of the crisis became apparent as copies of the petition submitted to the EFCC revealed that investments totaling over N3 billion were trapped in Agrorite’s schemes.

Investors, including one individual who had invested N482 million in a Naira-denominated project and $100,000 in a dollar project, are now pinning their hopes on the EFCC to facilitate the recovery of their funds.

The dire consequences of the situation were tragically highlighted by the case of an elderly woman who had invested her entire pension benefit of N40 million in Agrorite.

Upon realizing that her savings might never be recovered, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, underscoring the devastating impact on individual investors’ lives.

Efforts to reach Agrorite’s CEO for comments proved futile, with reports indicating that he had been arrested by the EFCC in connection with the investment debacle.

While some staff members confirmed the CEO’s arrest, they claimed ignorance regarding the reasons behind the company’s inability to fulfill its financial obligations to investors.

According to them, the EFCC’s investigation revealed a severe lack of funds in Agrorite’s accounts, leading to the arrest of key management personnel.

As the EFCC intensifies its efforts to recover investors’ funds, Agrorite’s website, agrorite.com, has mysteriously disappeared from the web, further fueling suspicions of financial mismanagement within the company.

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Treasury Bills Yields Reach 17.67% Amidst Central Bank’s Tightening Policy

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FG Borrows

The Treasury Bills yields rose to 17.67% amidst the Central Bank’s rigorous tightening of monetary policy.

This sharp surge in yields reflects the profound impact of the Central Bank’s efforts to rein in inflation and stabilize the foreign exchange market, though at the expense of investors and borrowers alike.

The surge in Treasury Bills yields from a modest 6.29% at the beginning of the year to 17.67% as of March 26, 2024 underscores the magnitude of the Central Bank’s tightening measures.

This unprecedented rise comes in tandem with a series of aggressive interest rate hikes with the monetary policy rate soaring by 600 basis points to 24.75% since the start of the year. Such a drastic increase in borrowing costs has sent shockwaves through the financial sector and prompted investors to reassess their portfolios and risk appetite.

Analysts attribute this surge in Treasury Bills yields to the Central Bank’s unwavering commitment to curbing inflation and stabilizing the foreign exchange market.

By raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy, the Central Bank aims to stem the tide of rising prices and restore confidence in the Nigerian economy.

However, these measures come with significant repercussions for investors and businesses, as borrowing costs escalate and investment returns diminish.

The Central Bank’s decision to issue a total of N1.64 trillion in Treasury Bills in the second quarter of 2024 further underscores its commitment to tightening liquidity and reducing inflationary pressures.

This substantial issuance of Treasury Bills is expected to absorb excess liquidity from the financial system, thereby exerting downward pressure on inflation and supporting the stability of the Nigerian currency.

While the Central Bank’s tightening policy may yield benefits in terms of price stability and exchange rate management, it poses challenges for investors and borrowers alike.

High borrowing costs and elevated Treasury Bills yields have the potential to dampen investment activity and constrain economic growth, particularly in sectors reliant on credit and financing.

As the Treasury Bills market grapples with soaring yields and heightened volatility, investors are advised to exercise caution and adopt a prudent approach to risk management.

In an environment characterized by uncertainty and policy tightening, navigating the financial markets requires a keen understanding of macroeconomic dynamics and a proactive strategy to mitigate potential risks.

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