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FG to Disburse N649.4bn Paris Club Refund Balance to States

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States yet to collect their balance of the Paris Club debts refunds would soon be paid, the Supervising Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said on Thursday.

The Minister who disclosed this in Abuja during her quarterly briefing with journalists on the activities of the Finance Ministry, said about N649.434 billion has been released for that purpose.

“For the final phase of the Paris Club debts refunds, the total sum of N649.434 billion was verified by the Ministry as the outstanding balance to be paid to the State Governments,” the Minister said.

The amount to be paid is lower than about N691.560 billion the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) paid as at March 2019 partly as a result of the exchange rate differential at the point of payment.

She assured that States with outstanding balances of the refund would be paid in due course.

‘Exit from recession’

According to the Minister, the implementation of policies under the Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP) led the economy to exit recession and currently on a path of sustainable, inclusive and diversified growth.

She, however, lamented the country’s “unsatisfactory revenue performance”, particularly in the non-oil sector, saying this has negatively impacted financing of critical sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure.

The Minister said the significant improvement in the country’s external reserves from $28.3 billion in 2015 to $44.69 billion as at May 13, 2019 has helped stabilise the currency exchange rates and economy.

On the role of domestic revenue mobilisation for continued economic success and inclusive growth in the country, Mrs Ahmed said time to act to accelerate all revenue initiatives is now.

She said she has accepted President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to action, by prioritising revenue generation, and strategic revenue growth initiatives and cost-cutting interventions aimed at boosting revenue performance.

On the progress recorded in the economy, the Minister said the country achieved “seven consecutive quarters of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth since exiting recession in the second quarter of 2017.”

“As at Q4 2018, the economy grew by 2.38 per cent in real terms (year-on-year), representing an increase of 0.27 per cent compared to Q4 2017 and, a rise of 0.55 per cent, compared with the growth rate in Q3 2018.

“Overall, GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.93 per cent in 2018 compared with 0.82 per cen in 2017, representing an overall increase of 1.11 per cent year on year,” she said.

In 2018, she said the country’s budgeted revenue was about N7.2 trillion, against the realised figure of N3.96 trillion, signifying a negative variance of 45 per cent.

Despite the shortfall, she said the government “was able to fully pay workers’ salaries and service its debts 100 per cent.”

On capital releases, the Minister said, as at May 14, 2019, “seven months overhead was released for 2018, two months for 2019, and N2.079 trillion capital expenditure.”

Strategies

“We have adopted a prudent debt management strategy which ensures we invest what we borrow in capital projects. Although our debt by international standards, at 19.09 per cent Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio, is well below the threshold of 56 per centfor countries similar to Nigeria. The government is addressing the issue of reducing the debt service to revenue through a combination of debt substitution strategies.”

On ongoing reforms by her Ministry at the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB), she said the country’s taxpayer database has been expanded to 35 million from nine million in the four years of the Buhari-led administration.

She said this figure is expected to grow to 45 million individual and corporate payers when the ongoing integration of different biometric databases is completed.

“Through reforms at the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB), we have been able to harmonise the Tax Identity Number (TIN) database to cover Federal, States and Local Governments to establish a unified identity number system for uniquely identifying tax payers,” she said.

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Unity Bank Partners RIFAN Mega Rice Pyramid Display, Pledges More Support for Farmers

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Agric-focused lender, Unity Bank Plc has partnered Nigerian rice farmers under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN to unveil a mega rice pyramid on the occasion of the National Rice Festival held in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on Tuesday.

The event, which coincided with the flag-off of the dry season farming, was used to showcase the gains produced by rice farmers in driving self-sufficiency in rice production through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP.

Speaking to newsmen at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, while going down memory lane on the support of the rice farmers by the Bank since the inception of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP commended the rice farmers for their unwavering belief and collaboration in the implementation of the intervention programme, adding that as the PFI (Preferred Financial Institution) for the ABP transactions, the Bank will continue to support the farmers and ensure that more smallholder farmers get the requisite financial support to boost rice production.

She said: “Our strategic partnership with RIFAN started in 2018 when we financed about 273,000 smallholder farmers. This was the largest single-ticket transaction in that year. This financing cut across 33 states of the Federation including the FCT.

“In 2019, the Bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers for the wet and dry season farming. This funding cut across 35 States of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Additional funding was granted to finance additional 221,450 smallholder farmers of the Association across the 32 states of the Federation including FCT for the wet season and additional 300,000 hectares was financed in sixteen states for the 2020 dry season cropping season.

“As of March 2021, the Bank has financed no fewer than 190,000 smallholder rice farmers across 35 states including the FCT, Abuja.”

Speaking further, she said: “The rice pyramids we see here today is an example of the resilience of the farmers and should be replicated in all states with a focus on the crop they have a competitive advantage.

“As we gear the programme towards deepening its penetration to reach more farmers, we encourage all beneficiaries of the Intervention Programme to always utilize the inputs judiciously in order to key into Federal Government’s goal of attaining food sufficiency, diversification of the economy from oil, job creation for the teeming youth and poverty reduction”.

“We remain optimistic that RIFAN under the able leadership of the National President, Aminu Goronyo, will continue to engage its members to drive higher performance under the ABP.”

Through the strategic initiative of the ABP, Nigeria has made incredible gains in rice production over the past six years raising production to significant levels.

Official reports show that from an average yield of 1.8 metric tonnes per hectare in the pre-ABP era, the initiative has increased the country’s average yield per hectare for rice paddy and maize to about five metric tonnes per hectare.

Similarly, the average capacity utilisation per annum of domestic integrated rice mills has jumped to 90 per cent, from the 30 per cent that was the case in the era preceding the advent of the ABP.

Statistics show that there has been a significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill, from a monstrous $1.05 billion prior to November 2015, to the current figure of $18.50 million, annually. The programme has also created an estimated 12.3 million direct and indirect jobs across the different value chains and food belts of the country.

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Wema Bank Affirms Adherence to Best-in-Class Governance Processes

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Nigeria’s leading digital bank, Wema Bank Plc, has reassured its stakeholders that it continues to operate with best-in-class governance processes.

The bank also faulted the premise on which a non-governmental organisation, Transparency Nigeria Group, asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to remove its Managing Director/CEO, describing the call as baseless.

The bank reassured its customers and stakeholders that it has and would continue to operate with the highest level of corporate governance, following all rules, policies, and procedures.

“We have no links to any political party and neither are we agents, allies or proxies of any politicians in the country. We are a financial institution solely committed to financial intermediation to enable and fast track the socio-economic development of the country,” the bank said.

The statement further explains that Wema Bank’s observance and strict adherence to due diligence and extant rules and regulations is why it is the oldest surviving indigenous bank in Nigeria.

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FirstBank Holds Nigeria Economic Outlook Webinar for 2022

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider has announced its “Nigerian Economic Outlook Webinar” convened to reflect national and global economic trends that shaped 2021, whilst forecasting the economic outlook of 2022. 

The virtual event themed “A rearview look at 2021, lessons learnt-Outlook 2022” is scheduled by 1 pm on Thursday, 13th January 2022 via Zoom meeting. Click on the link  https://firstbanknigeria.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_zrF8VViyTp6wnzED_3IpWw    to register and participate in the event. Registration is Free!!!

The webinar aims to set the tone for the year by providing an opportunity for participants to learn directly from economic experts to stay informed and knowledgeably empowered to make the right decisions in their socio-economic activities in 2022 which will be impacted by the micro and macro-economic activities of the country.

With Nigeria’s economy projected to grow by 2.7% in 2022 as predicted by The International Monetary Fund (IMF) based on an expected recovery in crude oil prices and production, Nigeria will see economic activities normalizing. Key economic activities to watch out for in 2022 include the Global Market trends, removal of subsidies, and floatation of the Naira. However, recoveries in the oil sector and maximization of the e-Naira could help keep the parallel market in check. 

Bismarck Rewane, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company Limited and the event’s keynote speaker will lead deliberations at the event. Other speakers are Ini Ebong, Executive Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited Treasury and International Banking; Opeyemi Agbaje, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RTC Advisory Services Limited, Olaitan Martins, Group Executive, Transaction Banking and Augustine Uddin, the Chief Economist, FirstBank.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 over two years ago, the global economy has witnessed viral economic shocks that adversely affected socio-economic activities. These have left many individuals and businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the economic downturn. As a leading financial inclusion services provider in the country, FirstBank has remained committed to providing products, services and initiatives that have been crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of Covid-19 on individuals and households.  

Speaking on the event, the Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications of FirstBank, Ms. Folake Ani-Mumuney said ‘being woven into fabric of the society for over 127 years means that we provide value, support and innovation-driven solutions for our stakeholders regardless of the challenges of the pandemic. Our commitment to nation-building is anchored partly on our thought leadership role designed to relentlessly drive growth and scale for all through engagements that showcase versatile subject matter experts endowed with expertise, knowledge and valuable insights. The webinar provides a platform for cross fertilization of ideas and opportunities to learn and grow.  Nigeria is a country rich in human and natural resources and these have helped in the reforms and resilience reflected in the economy in 2021’.  

The COVID 19 pandemic brought disruption and challenges and largely Nigeria adopted measures to contain it. The pandemic also provided opportunities for rebuilding and facilitating economic transformation to close the gap with the rest of the world. These include innovations in information technologies (IT) which have been critical to ensuring business continuity and productivity among firms that have re-designed their work processes as well as telecommunications and payment systems in the e-commerce sub-sector. 

Whilst many of the current government policies are aimed at absorbing the shocks induced by the pandemic, it is important to note that an economy that seeks to recover and build resilience should be one that focuses on innovation and creativity in driving its goal.

The event is for everyone as discussants will have the economic outlook for 2022 dissected so participants are knowledgeably equipped to make the right decisions thereby better planning their business and financial activities.

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