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Senate, Executive May Clash Again Over MTN’s $8.1bn Fine



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  • Senate, Executive May Clash Again Over MTN’s $8.1bn Fine

The lingering face-off between the Senate and the executive arm of the government may soon degenerate again over alleged moves to reduce the fine imposed on MTN from $8.1bn to $800m.

Some senators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent on Tuesday, that the executive, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria, had allegedly perfected arrangements to reduce the fine through “the back door.”

The senators accused the executive of taking a unilateral action without recourse to the upper chamber, which had earlier investigated the alleged scam and exonerated the telecommunications giant.

The Senate had, on November 8, 2017, adopted the report of its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, which probed the alleged illegal repatriation of $13.9bn by MTN.

The red chamber, in its resolution, unanimously exonerated the telecoms firm and accused the CBN of laxity, which, the lawmakers claimed, led to sharp practices by the commercial banks that aided such huge repatriation.

The CBN had alleged in August 2016 that MTN and four banks – Standard Chartered Plc, Citigroup Inc, Stanbic IBTC Plc, and Diamond Bank illegally repatriated the money from Nigeria and that the company should return $8.1bn.

The apex bank also imposed a fine of $16m on the four banks.

Reacting to the decision by the executive to slash the fine on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate panel that investigated the alleged scam, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said, “The CBN failed to implement the Senate resolution before conducting another investigation into the alleged infraction by MTN.”

Ibrahim said his committee would request the CBN report on the matter in order to take a definite action on the issue.

He said that the only way Nigerians would know what transpired between the CBN and MTN on the $8.1bn fine was through a detailed report.

He said, “The last time we heard about this issue was when we had a little retreat two weeks ago in Lagos, and the CBN did a presentation on their biannual activities to the Senate committee.

“We took them (CBN officials) up on the issue, and they told us that they carried out another investigation on it but we asked them to tell us how they did the investigation.

“We’re taking them up based on the fact that we have investigated everything and we saw what happened.

“Our resolution was passed to them, and they did not even implement it before they embarked on another investigation.

“They said their investigation was based on a petition from a law firm and that their position was that the penalty was correct.

“So, it will be ridiculous for the CBN to say they’re bringing the penalty down from $8.1bn to about $800m. What they told us that day was that they were going to give us the report from when they started the investigation to date and their discussion with MTN.

“So, if that’s the case, they have to answer to Nigerians through us (committee) to the Senate what informed the penalty of $8.1bn?

“We want to know the information they now have that informed the reduction to $800m. I don’t know what percentage of reduction you can call that. Is it not up to 1,000?”

Ibrahim said the clerk of his committee would soon be directed to write the CBN and probably give ultimatum to it to submit the report.

However, the MTN Group said it was making “great progress” with Nigerian authorities in talks about $10.1bn in claims, encouraging Africa’s largest wireless network provider that it could settle the long-running dispute out of court, Bloomberg reported.

The South African company is in ongoing discussions with Nigeria’s central bank and other institutions and is “narrowing down what the key issues are,” the Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, said in an interview in Cape Town on Tuesday.

According to him, MTN’s strategy is twofold: seek legal action while simultaneously looking for an amicable resolution.

“We would like a resolution out of court and with normal engagements as that would be faster than a court process,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Shuter indicated that he had no intention of walking away from Nigeria.

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.


Nigerian Brand, JR Farms Acquires 11% Stake in Rwandan Firm




Nigerian Brand, JR Farms Acquires 11% Stake in Rwandan Firm

JR Firms, an agribusiness firm with headquarters in Nigeria, has announced partnership with Sanit Wing Rwanda through the acquisition of 11 per cent stake in the company.

The CEO of the company, Mr Rotimi Olawale, explained in a statement that the partnership was in furtherance of its goals to ensure food security, create decent jobs and raise the next generation of agrarian leaders in Africa.

The stake was acquired through Green Agribusiness Fund, an initiative of JR Farms designed to invest in youth-led agribusinesses across Africa.

Sanit Wing Rwanda is an agro-processing company that processes avocado oil and cosmetics that are natural, quality, affordable, reliable and viable.

The vision of the company is to become the leading producers of best quality avocado and avocado by-products in Africa by creating value across the avocado value chain.

With focus on bringing together over 20,000 professional Avocado farmers on board and planting of three million avocado trees by 2025 through contract farming, the company currently works with One Acre Fund in supply of avocado to its processing facility.

The products of the company which include avocado oil, skin care (SANTAVO), hair cream and soap are being sold locally and exported to regional market in Kenya.

With the new partnership with JR Farms- the products of the company will enjoy more access to markets focusing on Africa and the European Union by leveraging on partnerships and trade windows available.

Aside funding, the partnership comes with project support in areas of market exposure, capacity building, exposure and other thematic support to grow the business over the next four years.

JR Farms has agribusiness operations in Nigeria, Rwanda, United States and Zambia respectively.

In Nigeria, the company deals in cassava value chain processing cassava to national staple “garri” which is consumed by over 80 million Nigerians on daily basis, while in Rwanda, it works in the coffee value chain with over 4,000 coffee farmers spread across the East Central African country.

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Shut Down Depots Selling Petrol Above Approved Price – Marketers




Shut Down Depots Selling Petrol Above Approved Price – Marketers

The Federal Government should close down depots that are selling petrol above the approved price, oil marketers said on Thursday.

National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Sanusi Fari, said the sale of petrol above government approved price by depot owners would soon lead to a hike in the commodity’s pump price.

Fari told journalists in Abuja that the government through its agencies such as the Department of State Services and the Department of Petroleum Resources should curb the development to avoid crisis in the downstream oil sector.

He said some private depot owners were selling at N165 per litre to independent marketers, way above the government stipulated price of N148 per litre.

Fari said, “Our challenge is the inconsistency in the pricing of petrol. Up till a week ago, government was still insisting that the February price for petrol remained unchanged.

“And most of the private depot owners are selling above the government stipulated price. As at today ( February 25, 2021) private depot owners are selling at N165 per litre to independent marketers.”

He added, “In the last six years, only NNPC imports refined products into this country and these tank farms buy their products from NNPC under a controlled price.

“This has affected our businesses seriously because government is insisting that we sell at the rate of N165, which is not going to work.”

The IPMAN president said filling station owners buy the product at N165 per litre from the private depots and incur other expenses such as transportation, rent, etc.

“So government cannot expect us to sell less than what we buy,” he said.

Fari added, “This is why we are calling on government and agencies that are saddled with the responsibility to control petrol pricing to urgently clamp down on depots that are selling above the stipulated price.”

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s sole importer of patrol, recently stated that it never hiked the cost of petrol to depots.

It also enjoined the depot owners to sell the product at the approved rate and called on the DPR to enforce the stipulated price across the depots.

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Nigeria Will Benefit Less From African Trade Deal – NESG



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Nigeria Will Benefit Less From African Trade Deal – NESG

Nigeria and other resource-based countries will benefit less from the African Continental Free Trade Area than economies that are more diversified, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group has said.

The NESG, a private sector-led think-tank, said in its 2021 Macroeconomic Outlook that Nigeria could reap more gains through export diversification away from crude oil.

It said trade in Africa remained dominated by raw materials and less processed products, adding that on average, minerals and agriculture accounted for 44 per cent and 16 per cent of intra-African trade respectively between 2007 and 2017.

The NESG said, “Evidence has shown that African economies that are more diversified and have improved transport infrastructure, would benefit more from the trade pact than others that are resource-based and agricultural dependent.

“Putting this in context, South Africa currently accounts for 40 per cent of intra-African manufacturing imports. On the other hand, resource-based countries, such as, Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria – which collectively account for approximately 50 per cent of Africa’s GDP – contribute only 11 per cent to intra-African trade.”

“Another bone of contention is the issue of ‘rules of origin’, which constitutes a significant risk factor. This implies that protectionism practices by some countries could constitute a setback for the establishment of the ambitious single market for Africa. But there are several reasons to be optimistic,” it added.

The group said the World Bank estimates revealed that the AfCFTA would promote manufacturing exports over natural resources, agricultural and services exports, and that manufacturing exports would account for one-third of the projected total exports of $2.5tn by 2035.

It said, “Nigeria could reap more gains through export diversification away from crude oil, as manufacturing exports currently account for an average of nine per cent of the country’s total exports.

“This suggests that efforts should be directed at strengthening domestic value chains, particularly the agro-allied industrial base.

“To achieve this, there is a need to attract private capital, most especially, FDI, that would allow for knowledge and technological transfers.”

According to the NESG, for Nigeria to maximally benefit from the trade deal, there is an urgent need to also address transport infrastructure bottlenecks and provide improved logistics.

It said, “Finding a lasting solution to the Apapa gridlock by creating similar ports in other regions of the country, so as to ensure speedy clearance of consignments needs to be prioritised.

“Nigeria also needs to set standards for locally-made goods to enhance their attractiveness in the regional market.

“The Nigerian government as a matter of urgency needs to operate an efficient and corruption-free land border system, so as to guide against the importation of low-cost sub-standard products into the country.

“It is only when these and many more reforms are implemented that Nigeria can begin to reap the benefits of the trade deal.”

The group noted that owing to the outbreak of COVID-19, the implementation of the AfCFTA was postponed from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021.

It said, “The key goal of the free trade pact is to expand the volume of intra-African trade, which stood at 16 per cent in 2018 .“Till date, 36 countries, including Nigeria, have ratified the agreement. The trade deal is expected to create a single market with a combined GDP of $2.5tn and total population or market size of 1.2 billion.”

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