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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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COVID-19: FirstBank Scores Another First, Launches Next-Generation ATM

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FirstBank has launched the FastTrack ATM, a Next Generation ATM and first of its kind in Africa, designed to promote financial activities on the ATM devoid of any form of physical interaction with the machine. The introduction of the FastTrack ATM which is done in partnership with Inlaks enables customers carry out cash withdrawals without having to touch the ATM.

With the FastTrack ATM, widely referred to as Touchless Solution, the customer carries out the transaction by using his or her mobile phone to perform the needed steps designed originally for implementation on the ATM. By using one’s phone, the transaction is carried out – in advance – through the Bank’s USSD or mobile banking option. Upon the schedule, the customer visits the FastTrack ATM to complete the transaction by tapping a contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) card on the ATM to withdraw his or her cash.

FirstBank customers can now leverage the real-time mobile banking capabilities of their cellphone to activate cash withdrawals at the FastTrack ATM. The ATM solution is the Bank’s response to control the spread of COVID-19, whilst promoting the safety of customers that carry out transactions at the ATM.

Speaking on the launch of the FastTrack ATM, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said ‘at FirstBank, we are driven to provide seamless financial solutions to ensure our customers are able to timely carry out their transactions in safe, secured and efficient ways, thereby putting them ahead in digital banking, not just in Nigeria but Africa. We are delighted to set the pace regarding the use of the Next Generation ATM in Africa which enables customers to use their mobile phones to remotely initiate ATM-based cash withdrawals via our *894# USSD banking or FirstMobile application. At the core of our strategy lies innovation which is critical to adapting to the new normal’.

According to Olufemi Adeoti, Managing Director, Inlaks, “given that consumers are more adaptable to mobile technology Inlaks – the Africa’s leading Information Technology Solutions provider together with Hyosung ATM OEM are partnering with FirstBank to introduce the first fully compliant COVID-19 FinTech ATM. This is in alignment with the ‘new normal’ desired customer experience which includes digitalization and delivering a secure contactless cash access to the bank’s FirstMobile customers for better user experience, simplicity, speed and convenience’’

In recognition of its giant strides at promoting electronic banking in the country, FirstBank’s mobile banking application – FirstMobile –  was recently awarded the Best Mobile Banking App award 2020 in the Global Finance Best Digital Bank Awards 2020 as well as 2019 Best Mobile Banking App by Global Business Outlook.

FirstBank has been at the forefront of promoting electronic banking solution in Nigeria. In 2017, the Bank was recognized as the first financial institution in Nigeria and the West-Africa sub-region to issue 10 million ATM cards to customers across the country. The bank was the second in Africa to achieve the milestone.

These feats are achieved through the trusts in its industry leading innovative banking solutions by over 10 million customers on its USSD *894# banking platform and over 4.1 million customers on its FirstMobile banking application, endearing the Bank to process about 30% of card transactions in the entire banking industry in the country.

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Airlines Hike Airfares by 100% as Operating Costs Rise

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The cost of air tickets along several routes have doubled due to the high demand for air travel in light of the rising insecurity in the country and cost of flight operations, findings by The PUNCH have shown.

Checks on several airline websites showed that even intending passengers who booked their flights days ahead of departure were also affected.

A check on Friday on the website of Max Air showed that a one-way ticket from Maiduguri to Lagos for Saturday was put at N100,000 while the same flight costs N70,000 for Monday.

A flight from Kano to Abuja on Azman Air on Friday was put at N85,000; the same route for Saturday was put at N61,000.

A flight from Lagos to Abuja via Max Air on Monday was put at N80,000 while the same flight on Aero was fixed at N107,000.

Travelling to Kano State from Lagos on Arik Air on Saturday, cost about N70,618 while the flight would cost N65,564 for the same route on Tuesday.

It was also observed that the Lagos-Port Harcourt route, which is one of the busiest in the country, had also been affected.

A check on Arik Air’s website on Friday showed that there were no available seats till Monday and the price for the four available seats was fixed at N52, 868 each for afternoon flight and at N57,045 for morning.

Overland Airways which travels less busy routes with its much smaller aircraft also hiked its ticket prices.

Ilorin to Abuja flight was put at N56,000 on Saturday and N61, 500 on Sunday; the same route was put at a cost of N56,000 on Tuesday and N52,500 on Wednesday.

The increase in the air tickets caused a debate on social media last week as several Nigerians lamented how they had to part with large sums of money to purchase tickets.

Confirming the increments on Friday, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told The Punch that airlines could not access foreign exchange at the official rate while the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria had increased its fees.

Sanusi said except airlines were given special concessions, the prices would continue to rise and could hit an average of N100,000 for even the Lagos/Abuja route.

He said, “We were buying dollars at N360 and it went to N380 but you can’t get it for less than N480.

“We are paying VAT at 7.5 per cent. We are paying 15 per cent duty on our spare parts. The boarding passes, we pay 15 per cent duty on it.

“The passenger service charge has increased by FAAN. So, don’t look at one component but look at the total reason for the increase.

“Yes, there is an increase in demand but it is caused by the lack of aircraft and this lack of aircraft is caused by unavailability of spare parts which is also caused by dollar scarcity.”

Also speaking, the General Secretary, Aviation Roundtable, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said there was a connection between the rising airfares and the insecurity in the country.

Lagos based travel agent, Mr Ndudim Nwaoma, said, his encounter with several passengers showed that many were desperate to fly because of the high level of insecurity in the country.

The Punch

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Nigeria Joins League of Nations with Professional Association for CSR and Sustainability

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The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) will host an industry conversation to discuss the urgent need for attaining an inclusive economy in Nigeria and the roles that Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals can play in this regard on Thursday, November 26, 2020.

The dialogue, which doubles as the formal launch of the professional group, will explore the need for synergy among sustainability experts, subject-matter specialists, and advocates to support the efforts of government and drive private sector leadership for social inclusion as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) in line with the beginning of the Decade of Action. After many years of mainstreaming CSR and Sustainability through various initiatives, milestones, and adoption of all major international conventions on Business Sustainability, Climate Change, Environmental Standards, and other development agendas; Nigeria formally joins the league of nations with professional associations specially set up for the practice of CSR and Sustainability.

ASPN is a non-profit organisation founded in August 2019 to redefine and improve the practice and profession of Sustainability and CSR in Nigeria. Through various strategic partnerships, policy formulation & advocacy activities, ASPN seeks to set standards for professional ethics, best practices and long-term systems thinking amongst individuals and businesses to foster the sustainable development of Nigeria.

To formally unveil the ASPN, the event will feature discussions on the theme: Professionalising Sustainability for an Inclusive Development and has been slated to hold on Thursday, November 26, 2020. Professor Wayne Visser, Founder, CSR International will participate as the Guest Speaker whilst other speakers will include: Professor Chris Ogbeche, Deputy Dean, Lagos Business School; Solape Hammond, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on SDGs; and Dr. Aisha Mamood, Sustainability Director, Central Bank of Nigeria. Also, in attendance at the event will be government and regulatory agencies, sustainability experts, corporate organisations, and industry experts, non-governmental organisations and the public.

Nigeria, like most present-day societies, has adopted various measures to minimize pollution and promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability as a fundamental component of socio-economic development. For example, the last decades of the century witnessed increased concerns – with the private sector at the forefront, about climate change. Therefore, the need to develop, implement and drive cohesive policy, that would go a long way in meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs is paramount. Consequently, a need to have a body that drives cohesive policies seeking sustainable development and growth in the country in a more coordinated manner is essential.

According to the ASPN President, Prof. Kenneth Amaeshi, “We are excited about the formal launch of the ASPN because we have existed for so many years as a community of passionate and committed advocates. We look forward to strengthening our alliances and contributing significantly to Nigeria’s active role in the Decade of Action”. The ASPN is led by passionate and renowned professionals with many years of experience committed to practicing advocating teaching and mentoring on sustainability-related issues within Nigeria and internationally. These professionals are Ini Abimbola, Founder, ThistlePraxis Consulting. Ismail Omamegbe, Head, Media & External Relations; Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, FirstBank; Bekeme-Masade Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action; Ken Egbas, CEO, TruContact CSR Nigeria; Eunice Sampson, Head, Sustainability, Dangote Cement Plc; Ibrahim Salau, Managing Director, Environmental Accord; Bolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head, Sustainability, Access Bank and Kenneth Amaeshi who serves as Chair in Business and Sustainable Development and Director of the Sustainable Business Initiative at the University of Edinburgh.

To join the conversation and participate in this event, please visit: https://bit.ly/ASPNUnveiling or follow ASPN on social media on @ASPNigeria on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For more information, please visit the ASPN Website: https://aspn.org.ng  or email, info@aspn.org.ng or call: 0706 752 3702.

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