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SEC Seals Firm for Illegal Fund Mgt Activities

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  • SEC Seals Firm for Illegal Fund Mgt Activities

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in its onslaught against illegal fund management, has sealed off the premises of Growing Circle, a Lagos based fund management firm, for illegal fund management.

“They do not have registration with the SEC and the Commission has powers according to Section 13 (w) of ISA 2007, to shut down any company carrying out capital market activities without due registration,” the apex regulator said.

Speaking further on this, SEC said the company was not licensed to carry out investments business of any type and as such, its closure was to end unlawful activities of the company against unsuspecting investors. The Commission, therefore, urged investors to exercise due diligence and caution by ensuring that they only deal with fund managers that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The accounts of the company have been frozen and the promoters have been arrested by the Nigeria Police Force and are undergoing interrogation.

“The commission wishes to notify the investing public that the company is not licensed to carry out investments business of any type and as such its operations are illegal.

“SEC, therefore, advises the public to exercise due diligence and caution in the course of making investment decisions. A valid licence of lawful operators can be obtained on the commission’s website by members of the public to confirm the licences of firms with which they intend to carry out investment activities,” SEC said.

It was gathered that the company carries out free seminars at its Lagos office for people to learn more about their products and money-making business, padded with unbeatable compensation plans and huge bonuses.

Growing Circles, which engages in networking business, has an entry-level registration fee of N10,000, in this plan, the entrant is not entitled to products while the second category has a registration fee of N16,000 that entitles the entrant to receive products.

SEC, however, disclosed that after registration, the members claimed that they did not get any product from the company and all efforts to retrieve their funds proved abortive.

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ExxonMobil Affirms Commitment to Nigeria Amid Divestment Speculations

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Shane Harris, the Managing Director of ExxonMobil Nigeria, has reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its operations in Nigeria.

Addressing the speculation surrounding ExxonMobil’s proposed divestment of its 100 percent interest in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to Seplat Energy Offshore Limited, Harris made it clear that ExxonMobil is not planning to exit the Nigerian market.

Harris conveyed this assurance during a meeting with Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), in Abuja.

This meeting, highlighted in a statement released by Nneamaka Okafor, the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the petroleum minister, emphasized ExxonMobil’s plans for significant new investments in Nigeria’s energy sector.

“During the meeting, Mr. Harris hinted at significant new investments that ExxonMobil is injecting into Nigeria’s energy sector,” the statement read. “He expressed confidence in the renewed relationship between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government, assuring the government that the oil giant is not planning to leave Nigeria.”

Harris underscored the importance of ExxonMobil’s partnership with the Nigerian government, stating, “We are excited about the prospects these new investments bring. Our partnership with the Nigerian government is crucial for sustainable growth, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration as we have no plan to leave.”

In response, Lokpobiri reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to enhancing production and fostering a conducive environment for investors in the energy sector.

He emphasized the ministry’s focus on creating collaborations and sharing innovative ideas with international oil companies.

“We are dedicated to ramping up production and ensuring a supportive environment for all investors by doing everything possible to maintain investor confidence in our country,” Lokpobiri said.

He also commended the ExxonMobil team for their commitment to the Nigerian oil and gas sector, noting that it aligned perfectly with the nation’s objectives.

“ExxonMobil’s planned investments are commendable and greatly appreciated. This renewed relationship is a testament to the mutual goals we share for the future of our energy sector,” the minister added.

The discussions between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government also touched on the ministry’s support for international and independent oil operators.

Lokpobiri assured Harris of the government’s support, emphasizing the importance of creating a thriving environment for all stakeholders.

“We fully support ExxonMobil and other international oil companies, just as we do with independent operators. Our collaborative efforts are key to the sustainable growth of our energy sector,” Lokpobiri stated.

This development comes after months of uncertainty surrounding ExxonMobil’s assets in Nigeria.

On May 31, 2024, it was reported that Nigeria might add 480,000 barrels to its daily crude oil output as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and ExxonMobil moved towards resolving their disagreements over the sale of ExxonMobil’s assets to Seplat Energy.

The NNPC had signed a settlement agreement with ExxonMobil regarding the proposed divestment, following intervention by President Bola Tinubu to resolve the crisis that had led to substantial production losses.

Lokpobiri previously stated that Nigeria had lost about $30 billion over the past two and a half years due to the Seplat/ExxonMobil crisis, with a daily loss of around 480,000 barrels of crude oil.

Despite the challenges, the recent affirmations from ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government signal a renewed commitment to the country’s energy sector and a positive outlook for future collaborations and investments.

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Dangote Refinery Struggles Amid Alleged IOC Sabotage, Calls for Government Support

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Devakumar Edwin, Vice President of Oil and Gas at Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), has accused International Oil Companies (IOCs) in Nigeria of undermining the operations of Dangote Oil Refinery and Petrochemicals.

Edwin claims that these IOCs are deliberately obstructing the refinery’s efforts to purchase local crude oil by inflating prices above market rates, compelling the refinery to import crude from as far afield as the United States at significant additional costs.

Speaking at a one-day training programme for Energy Editors organized by the Dangote Group, Edwin expressed his frustration over the challenges faced by the refinery.

“While the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) is trying their best to allocate crude to us, the IOCs are deliberately frustrating our efforts to buy local crude. They are either asking for an excessive premium or claiming crude is unavailable. At one point, we paid $6 above the market price, forcing us to reduce output and import crude, increasing our production costs,” Edwin lamented.

The refinery, which began production recently, has exported over 3.5 billion liters of fuel, representing 90% of its output.

However, Edwin warned that the IOCs seem intent on ensuring that Nigeria remains dependent on imported refined petroleum products by exporting raw materials to their home countries and re-importing the refined products, thereby creating employment and wealth abroad while Nigeria grapples with unemployment and economic challenges.

Edwin also criticized the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) for indiscriminately issuing licenses to importers, leading to an influx of substandard, high-sulfur diesel and other refined products into Nigeria.

“Despite our compliance with ECOWAS regulations and standards, dirty diesel from Russia is being dumped into the Nigerian market. This has serious health implications for Nigerians,” he stated.

In recent months, reports from Agence-France Presse highlighted the detrimental impact of these imports, with high-sulfur fuels linked to carcinogenic effects.

European countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have already banned the export of such fuels to West Africa, citing their harmful impact on air quality and public health.

Edwin urged the Nigerian government and regulators to provide necessary support to ensure the refinery’s success.

“The Federal Government issued 25 licenses to build refineries, and we are the only one that delivered on our promise. We deserve every support from the government to create jobs and prosperity for the nation,” he asserted.

He also appealed to the National Assembly to expedite the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to safeguard Nigeria’s interests and ensure that the country’s refining capacity is fully utilized.

“Ghana has banned the importation of highly contaminated diesel and petrol into their country through legislation. It is regrettable that, in Nigeria, import licenses are granted despite knowing that we have the capacity to produce nearly double the amount of products needed domestically and export the surplus,” Edwin concluded.

The Dangote Refinery’s predicament underscores the broader challenges facing Nigeria’s energy sector, where regulatory and market dynamics continue to pose significant hurdles for local enterprises striving to boost domestic production and reduce dependence on imports.

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Experts Predict Nigeria’s Free Trade Zones Could Generate More Than N11.11tn

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Economic experts are optimistic about the potential of Nigeria’s Free Trade Zones (FTZs) to boost the nation’s economy significantly.

According to recent analysis, these zones could generate more than the N11.11 trillion they have already remitted to the Federation Account as of October 2023.

The Director of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Muda Yusuf, said the FTZs will help facilitate forex.

“Nigeria’s urgent need for foreign exchange necessitates leveraging our free zones to enhance non-oil export revenue and reduce dependency on crude oil earnings,” Yusuf stated.

He pointed out the success stories of other countries, notably Dubai, which has effectively utilized its free zones to generate foreign exchange and attract significant investments.

“Our free zones must strive to do more, as we are still heavily reliant on oil and gas for our foreign exchange earnings. Increased investment in these areas is crucial,” he added.

Supporting this perspective, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Olufemi Ogunyemi, recently highlighted the economic contributions of the FTZs while addressing the Senate Committee on Industry, Trade, and Investment.

Ogunyemi noted that these zones have created substantial wealth for the states hosting them and generated significant revenue for various agencies.

“Agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, the Immigration Services, and the Nigerian Ports Authority have seen revenues of N59.38 billion, N828.7 million, and N8.738 billion, respectively, while states have received N998 million in Pay As You Earn (PAYE) remittances,” Ogunyemi reported.

He also highlighted the broader impact of the FTZs, noting that as of the end of 2023, the 46 licensed zones had provided 38,429 direct jobs and an additional 172,930 indirect jobs.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) worth $491.8 million and local direct investment amounting to N1.15 trillion have flowed into these zones, with N1.62 trillion worth of cargo imported from 2019 to 2023, saving scarce foreign exchange.

David Adonri, Vice President of Highcap Securities Limited, praised NEPZA’s achievements, suggesting that the government use these successes to encourage more Nigerians to start manufacturing businesses within the FTZs.

“The remittances from the free trade zones are commendable and should be a marketing tool to attract more investments,” Adonri said.

However, some experts believe there is room for improvement. Professor Olusegun Ajibola of Babcock University argued that while the remittances are noteworthy, they are not yet at a level worth celebrating.

“The government needs to intensify efforts in revenue generation from these zones as they were established at a significant cost to the host states,” Ajibola remarked.

He called for a review of the 32-year-old NEPZA Act to address any challenges and enhance the performance of the FTZs.

As Nigeria continues to seek ways to diversify its economy and reduce reliance on oil, the FTZs present a promising avenue. With strategic investments and robust management, these zones could indeed surpass their current contributions, fostering economic growth and stability for the nation.

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