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SERAP Frowns at Secrecy, Sues Buhari to Disclose Spending Details of $25B Overdraft Obtained From CBN

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SERAP- Investors King

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit, asking the court “to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to disclose spending details of the overdrafts and loans obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since May 29, 2015, including the projects on which the overdrafts have been spent, and repayments of all overdrafts to date.”

SERAP is also seeking an order to compel the president to “explain and clarify whether the $25bn (N9.7trn) overdraft reportedly obtained from the CBN is within the five-percent limit of the actual revenue of the government for 2020.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to President Buhari, stating that: “Disclosing details of overdrafts and repayments would enable Nigerians to hold the government to account for its fiscal management and ensure that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/559/2021 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is also seeking: “an order directing and compelling President Buhari to disclose details of overdrafts taken from the CBN by successive governments between 1999 and 2015.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “Secrecy and the lack of public scrutiny of the details of CBN overdrafts and repayments are antithetical to the public interest, the common good, the country’s international legal obligations, and a fundamental breach of constitutional oath of office.”

Joined in the suit as respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele.

SERAP is also arguing that: “Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts and loans would promote prudence in debt management, reduce any risks of corruption and mismanagement, and help the government to avoid the pitfalls of excessive debt.”

According to SERAP: “By the combined reading of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act, the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there are transparency obligations imposed on the government to disclose information to the public concerning details of CBN overdrafts, loans and repayments to date.”

SERAP is also arguing that: “The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and these treaties rest on the basic principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts would also ensure that public funds are properly spent, reduce the level of public debt, and improve the ability of the government to invest in essential public goods and services, such as quality education, healthcare, and clean water.”

“It is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure public access to these services in order to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

“Transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts and loans would also improve the ability of the government to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the government would not have to choose between saving lives or making debt payments.”

“The recent overdraft of $25.6bn (about N9.7trn) reportedly obtained from the CBN would appear to be above the five-percent limit of the actual revenue of the Federal Government for 2020, that is, N3.9trn, prescribed by Section 38(2) of the CBN Act 2007. SERAP notes that 5 percent of N3.9trn is N197bn.”

“While Section 38(1) of the CBN Act allows the Bank to grant overdrafts to the Federal Government to address any temporary deficiency of budget revenue, sub-section 2 provides that any outstanding overdraft ‘shall not exceed 5 percent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government.’”

“Similarly, Section 38(3) requires all overdrafts to ‘be repaid as soon as possible and by the end of the financial year in which the overdrafts are granted.’”

“The CBN is prohibited from granting any further overdrafts until all outstanding overdrafts have been fully repaid. Under the CBN Act, ‘no repayment shall take the form of a promising note or such other promise to pay at a future date, treasury bills, bonds or other forms of security which is required to be underwritten by the Bank.’”

“Similarly, the Fiscal Responsibility Act provides in section 41 that the government ‘shall only borrow for capital expenditure and human development.’ Under the Act, the government ‘shall ensure that the level of public debt as a proportion of national income is held at a sustainable level.’”

“Section 44 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act requires the government to specify the purpose of any borrowing, which must be applied towards capital expenditures, and to carry out a cost-benefit analysis, including the economic and social benefits of any borrowing. Any borrowing should serve the public good, and be guided by human rights principles.”

“SERAP has consistently recommended to the Federal Government to reduce its level of borrowing and to look at other options of how to finance its budget, such as reducing the costs of governance, and addressing systemic and widespread corruption in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that have been documented by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution; the Freedom of Information Act; the Fiscal Responsibility Act; the Central Bank Act; the Debt Management Office Act; and the country’s international legal obligations.”

“There is a statutory obligation on the respondents, being public officers in their respective public offices, to proactively keep, organize and maintain all information or records about CBN overdrafts, loans, and repayments in a manner that facilitates public access to such information or records.”

“Mandamus lies to secure the performance of a public duty in the performance in which the applicant has a sufficient legal interest.”

“Unless the reliefs sought by SERAP are granted, the respondents will not provide SERAP with the information requested and will continue to be in breach of their constitutional responsibilities and the country’s international legal obligations and commitments.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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Banking Sector

Unity Bank Grows Profit by 34 Percent But Net Trading Income Dips 443% in H1 2021

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Unity bank - Investors King

Unity Bank Plc, a community-oriented commercial bank, extended its positive momentum in the first half (H1) of 2021 as gross income grew by 3 percent to N23.609 billion, up from N22.863 billion filed in the first half of 2020.

The bank disclosed in its unaudited financial statement released on Friday.

Net interest income rose to N9.868 billion in the period under review, representing an increase of 9 percent from N9.059 billion filed in the corresponding period of 2020. Unity Bank increased net fee and commission income by 21 to N3.073 billion, up from N2.545 billion achieved in H1 2020.

However, net trading income dipped by 443 percent from N30.342 million recorded in H1 2020 to -N104.108 million. Other operating income also decreased by 27 percent to N366.067 million when compared to N500.721 million filed in H1 2020.

The bank’s net operating income expanded by 18 percent to N13.923 billion in H1 2021 from N11.824 billion in H1 2020. Profit before tax increased to N1.502 billion in the period under review, an increase of 34 percent from N1.120 billion filed in H1 2020.

Profit after tax rose to N1.382 billion in H1 2021, an increase of 34 percent from N1.031 billion recorded in H1 2020.

Speaking on the performance, the Managing Director/CEO of Unity Bank Plc, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, said “the bank is beginning to reflect greater consistency, steady outlook and resilience that places it on a performance pedestal ahead of the volatilities in the operating environment occasioned partly by the prevailing global pandemic and other market shocks that have far-reaching implications in the local and foreign economies.

“The double digits growth recorded in both earnings and profits, she further added, was the result of a portfolio plan which the Bank set out in the beginning of the year to diversify its portfolio whilst incrementally pursuing asset creation in petrochemical downstream, consumer, healthcare and general commerce with agribusiness providing the bulwark for identified business and brand benefits.”

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FCMB Empowers Agribusiness, Healthcare and Others With AFDB’s $50 Million Credit

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Mrs Yemisi Edun - Investors King

Women empowered businesses and local enterprises involved in agribusiness, manufacturing, health care, and renewable energy will have access to long term funding from First City Monument Bank (FCMB), courtesy of a $50m credit facility from the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

The $50m credit line will narrow the lending gap to underserved segments and complement FCMB’s lending efforts and operations in the Nigerian market. AfDB will disburse the funds to FCMB before the end of this year.

Mrs Yemisi Edun, Managing Director, FCMB, thanked the African Development Bank for having confidence in the Bank, saying the credit line would help it increase lending to high impact sectors of the Nigerian economy.

She said, “The $50m credit line will increase access to finance for women empowered businesses and enterprises involved in agribusiness, manufacturing, renewable energy and healthcare, enabling them to build back better post-COVID.

“We are delighted that a minimum of 30 per cent of the funds will go specifically to women empowered businesses, which would, in turn, contribute to stimulating gender equality and empowerment. Remarkably, it aligns with FCMB’s transformative agenda of boosting household economic resilience by improving women’s access to credit and work opportunities.”

In addition to the $50m, the AfDB will provide a technical assistance grant of $200,000 to FCMB through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA). The Women Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative, an international partnership supporting women entrepreneurs in developing countries, supports AFAWA. The assistance grant complements the loan and will further strengthen training, monitoring and reporting by the Bank.

In a statement, AfDB’s Director of Financial Sector Development, Mr Stefan Nalletamby, said, “We are pleased to support FCMB’s strategy to become a dominant player in addressing the funding needs of women-empowered and local enterprises. This project will extend valuable resources to critical but underserved segments during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with its adverse macroeconomic impact”.

AfDB added that the project also advances its ten-year strategy and is consistent with three of its high-five strategic priorities. These are industrialise Africa, Feed Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. This also aligns with the Nigeria Country Strategy Paper 2020-2024.

Recently, FCMB secured a $10 million facility from Oikocredit, a major global social impact investor and co-operative institution based in The Netherlands, to upscale its impressive financial support to SMEs and the agribusiness sectors in Nigeria.

FCMB is a member of FCMB Group Plc, Nigeria’s leading and most diversified financial holding company with subsidiaries that are market leaders in their respective segments. The Bank has built a strong base in various sectors of the nation’s economy by consistently offering cutting-edge solutions to its customers across segments.

Having successfully transformed into a retail banking and wealth management-led group, FCMB expects to continue to distinguish itself through innovation and the delivery of exceptional services.

To find out more about FCMB, please visit www.fcmb.com.

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Banking Sector

Fidelity Bank Doles Out N39 Million to 15 Lucky Customers

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Fidelity Bank Promo - Investors King

In yet another show of its commitment to reward loyal customers for maintaining a savings habit, leading financial institution, Fidelity Bank PLC has presented cash gifts worth N39million to lucky customers at the closing ceremony of the Fidelity Bank’s Get Alert in Millions (GAIM) Promo.

Held at Fidelity Bank’s head office in Lagos on Thursday, 29 July 2021, the well-attended event was conducted in the presence of relevant regulatory bodies including the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSLB), and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

Speaking at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, ably represented by the bank’s Executive Director -Lagos and SouthWest, Dr. Ken Opara, reiterated the bank’s devotion to supporting initiatives that enrich the lives of its loyal customers even in times of economic uncertainties. She said “Encouraging savings and financially empowering our loyal customers have been a long-standing heritage at Fidelity Bank. We are elated at yet another opportunity to dole out up to N39Million to 15 Nigerians even in this time of economic uncertainty”. She further stressed the bank’s intentional drive towards enhancing CBN’s financial inclusion goal. “As a bank, we continuously position ourselves as key drivers for financial inclusion. Beyond encouraging savings, we believe that our GAIM campaign is a suitable initiative to attract the unbanked to the banking side of life”, Nneka added.

At the event, the duo of Mr. Sunday Okechukwu and Mr. Justine Nwaozor, who won the star prize of N10 million each were credited with their winnings. 13 other winners were credited with N3 million, N2 million, and N1 million accordingly; while 18 lucky customers walked home with consolation prizes including TV sets, refrigerators and generators.

Expressing his delight, a star prize winner, Mr. Sunday Okechukwu said, “I am grateful for this reward and most especially, the initiative. It’s common knowledge that having a healthy savings culture is good for one’s financial wellbeing, however, staying true to savings is sometimes difficult given the times we are in. However, with initiatives like this, savings become easier as we stand a chance to win big. I am glad to have won big, so big enough to turn my life and business around. Truly, Fidelity Bank keeps their word”.

Launched in 2019, Fidelity Bank’s GAIM Season 4 promo is a savings initiative of the bank specifically aimed at promoting a savings culture among Nigerians. Through this campaign, a total of N120 million has been seeded to several Fidelity Bank customers.

As a bank, we are pleased with the outcome of this initiative so far. Having wound up the fourth season of this campaign, it is exciting to see the number of people whose fortunes have changed. Although GAIM Season 4 is over, we will continue to drive initiatives that will, directly and indirectly impact the lives of our customers and Nigerians at large”, disclosed the Head of Savings and Sales, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Ukpai Ibe.

Over the years, the leading tier two Bank has continued to intensify its efforts and innovate ways towards ensuring customer and stakeholder satisfaction. Through this promo, Fidelity Bank has promoted financial inclusion through digital channels and enriched the lives of its customers.

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