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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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Price of Cooking Gas Hits N7,000 As NLNG Rues Poor Facilities

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The management of the Nigeria LNG Limited has said that marketers do not have enough infrastructure to take up its Liquefied Petroleum Gas supply.

In an earlier PUNCH report, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association had said that the major cause of the rising cost of cooking gas was lack of adequate supply.

The marketers claimed that foreign investors underestimated demand in the Nigerian market resulting in marketers venturing into importation of the product.

They advocated that the government should let NLNG supply more gas to the market to reduce the costs.

Reports from consumers revealed that the cost of refilling a 12.5-kilogramme cylinder of LPG had risen to as high as N7000 in some states.

The marketers had also urged the government to remove cooking gas from the list of commodities subject to the payment of value added tax.

The marketing manager of NLNG, Austin Ogbogbo, in a response to the claim made by the IPMAN said that the marketers did not have enough infrastructure to take up the gas the company supplied.

He said, “NLNG has grown its capacity from 50,000 metric tonnes per annum to 450,000 metric tonnes per annum of LPG in the past 14 years.

“Nigeria needs 1.2 million metric tonnes per annum, but even the 450,000 we produce cannot be absorbed by the market’s current infrastructure.

“We only operate in the midstream sub sector of the industry so we are only responsible for supplying to the market.

“The downstream players are responsible for the distribution to the end users, and also building the infrastructure to ensure it is done efficiently. It is out of our scope.”

He assured the public that the company would grow its LPG capacity if it confirmed that distributors could take up additional supply.

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FirstBank Expands International Money Transfer Network, Reinforces Commitment to Customer Service

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In furtherance of the need to expand diaspora remittance inflow into the country, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has increased its network of International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs), targeted at easing the accessibility of its customers to receive money from close to 100 countries across the world in a safe and secured manner. With over 750 branches across the country, customers can receive money from the nearest FirstBank branch closest to them.

Over the years, FirstBank has been in partnership with Western UnionMoneyGram, Ria, Transfast, and WorldRemit. The bank is also in partnership with other IMTOs which include Wari, Smallworld, Sendwave, Flutherwave, Funtech, Thunes and Venture Garden Group to promote remittance inflow into the country, thereby putting Nigerians and residents at an advantage in receiving money from their families, friends and loved ones across the world.

Beneficiaries can receive remittance in US dollars in any of our over 750 branches spread across the country. Customers without an existing domiciliary account can have dollar account automatically created for their remittances. You can also receive inflow directly into your account through Western Union.

In addition, FirstBank has launched its wholly owned remittance platform named First Global Transfer product to promote the international transfer of funds across its subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa. These subsidiaries include FBNBank DRC, FBNBank Ghana, FBNBank Gambia, FBNBank Guinea, FBNBank Sierra-Leone, FBNBank Senegal.

Reiterating the Bank’s resolve in promoting diaspora remittances, regardless of where one is across the globe, the Deputy Managing Director, Mr Gbenga Shobo said “at FirstBank, expanding our network of International Money Transfer Operators is in recognition of the significant roles diaspora remittances play in driving economic growth such as helping recipients meet basic needs, fund cash and non-cash investments, finance education, foster new businesses and debt servicing.

We are excited about these partnerships, as it is essential to ensure our customers are at an advantage to receive money from their loved ones and business associates, anywhere they are, across the world.”

FirstBank pioneered international funds transfer and remittances over 25 years ago and has been at the forefront of promoting cross border payments in the country, having started the journey with Western Union Money Transfer. The Bank’s wealth of experience and operation in over 750 locations nationwide gives it the edge in the market.

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Unity Bank Collaborate to Fund N15.5bn Equipment for Julius Berger

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Unity Bank Plc, in company of other banks has facilitated a credit facility of N15.5bn for the acquisition of trucks and equipment to Julius Berger Plc.

The group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of SCOA Nigeria Plc, Dr Massad Boulos, has appreciated the gesture.

A statement from SCOA said that SCOA presented 33 MAN platform trucks and equipment to Julius Berger to be deployed for the construction of the 380 kilometre Abuja-Kaduna-Kano roads.

The banks that funded the acquisition were Unity Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Limited, Zenith Bank Plc, Providus Bank Limited, Wema Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Union Bank Plc and Coronation Merchant Bank Limited.

Boulos said, “I commend Unity Bank, their MD and the members of the executive management; and the entire team of banks who have worked closely with us on this project.”

Mr Ralph Brendicke, the representative of the MD of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr Lars Richter, said the trucks and other equipment would help the company expand its field capacity and increase the speed of execution leading to timely completion of the highly anticipated project.

The MD/CEO of Unity Bank Plc, Mrs Tomi Somefun, represented by the Directorate Head, Lagos and South West Zone, Mr Wale Ogunride, was quoted as saying, “We looked at the strategic importance of this project and how such infrastructure could contribute to stimulating economic activity and decided that Unity Bank must play its part.

“Unity Bank will continue to provide support to such projects as we have been doing in other critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture.”

In a separate statement, the Executive Director of Wema Bank, Mr Oluwole Ajimisinmi, was quoted as saying that his bank was delighted to be one of the institutions to support SCOA in the project.

He also encouraged and solicited for more local content in order to create more jobs.

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