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Fuel Queues Return, NNPC, Marketers Allay Scarcity Fears

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Filling stations in some parts of Lagos experienced queues on Friday amid a supply hitch that slowed down the distribution of the Premium Motor Spirit (petrol).

Our correspondent learnt on Friday that the hitch was resolved on Thursday, with more vessels expected to arrive in Apapa and discharge the product over the weekend.

The pockets of fuel queues in Lagos emerged a day after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation restated its commitment to the sustenance of the seamless supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country.

The NNPC, on Friday, appealed to Nigerians to disregard trending social media report of an impending fuel scarcity due to purported refusal by some oil marketers to lift products from depots.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, explained that the tale was fabricated by mischief makers with intent to create undue panic in the prevailing sanity in the fuel supply and distribution matrix across the country.

According to the statement, the corporation has over one billion litres of petrol in stock, and there was no need for panic buying or hoarding of petroleum products in anticipation of a phantom scarcity.

The Chief Executive Officer, Mr Clement Isong, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said the hitch led to the loss of a couple of hours in the transition of products between a vessel and the stations.

“But that hitch was resolved yesterday (Thursday), and we are pumping out as much as possible. Hopefully, the queues should have been cleared by tomorrow (Saturday) morning,” he said.

According to him, major markets have products in their tanks in Apapa and are loading out.

He said, “A vessel is currently offloading and we are expecting two vessels tomorrow. So, we will have three vessels pumping fuel into our tanks, and we will work throughout tonight to supply to the stations. So, if the public just live their lives as normal and there is no panic buying, there will be no queues.

“There is no problem in the supply chain; we just have got to focus to make sure that all the stations have products at the same time, and that the public do not resort to panic buying.”

The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, on Thursday, stated that “the present zero queues in the country would be sustained, especially as Easter approaches,” adding that no fewer than 55 depots across the country were fully stocked with petrol.

He explained that 23 depots in Lagos, seven in Port Harcourt, 11 in Warri, six in Calabar and eight in Kaduna, were stocked with petrol.

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CBN Declares No Going Back on Cashless Policy, Says only 10% of Customers to Be Affected

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The Central Bank of Nigeria on Friday said it would continue to implement the cashless policy in line with its mandate to ensure an efficient payment system.

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said this while briefing journalists shortly after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

He said that contrary to claims in some quarters that many Nigerians would suffer the negative impact of the policy, only about five to 10 per of bank customers would be affected.

The apex bank had in a circular to Deposit Money Banks stated that from Wednesday, September 18, it would impose three per cent processing fees on withdrawals and two per cent processing fees on lodgements of amounts above N500, 000 for individual accounts.

For corporate accounts, the apex bank in the circular said that DMBs would charge five per cent processing fees on withdrawals and three processing fee on lodgements of amounts above N3m.

The House of Representatives had on Thursday through a resolution directed the apex bank to suspend the policy.

But responding to the development, Emefiele said if the Nigerian economy was to compete effectively with those of developed countries, a payment system that encourages the use of non-cash channels was desirable.

He said that before the cashless policy was first inaugurated in 2012, a lot of stakeholder engagements were done to sensitise Nigerians on its benefits.

He said the policy was suspended in 2014 to allow more payment channels to be developed by Deposit Money Banks.

The governor said that since the policy was suspended, currency management cost had continued to increase year-on-year at an average annual growth rate of 33 per cent.

However, he said the bank had continued to provide alternative channels, adding that people had embraced it.

He said Point of Sale transactions had moved from N48bn in 2012 to N2.2tn while electronic transfer had moved from N3.8tn in 2012 to N80.46tn in 2018.

Emefiele said, “Since the policy was first launched, currency management costs have continued to increase year-on-year at an average annual growth rate of 33 per cent.

“Notwithstanding, electronic transactions have increased within the economy. We have provided alternative channels and people have embraced it.

“This is a strategic timing of these actions because on Monday, September 23rd, the mutual evaluation by GIABA (Inter-governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa) on the country’s anti-money laundry and CFT (Combating Financing of Terrorism) regime will begin.

“Passing the mutual evaluation positions Nigeria as a safe and credible destination for financial transactions across the world.

“GIABA will be in Nigeria to access the rate at which Nigeria has embraced anti-money laundry and CFT regime. It is important that we display and show to them that Nigeria is indeed in conformity with their practices as enshrined in their anti-money laundry and CFA laws.”

The apex bank boss said if the CBN did not implement the cashless policy, credit cards owned by Nigerians might not be used abroad.

On the Value Added Tax, he said the MPC supported the decision of the Federal Government to increase the rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.

He said with Nigeria having one of the lowest VAT rate in the world, and faced with fiscal challenge, the best way to shore up revenue was to increase tax.

He said, “The MPC endorsed the increase in the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent. The government has the responsibility to fend for everybody.

“In fending for everybody means that it has to spend money to provide infrastructure – roads, airports, different things that will improve the lives of its people.

“There are two ways through which government can fund these expenditures. It’s either it raises revenue or goes for debt. You all know that the government has been criticised that the debt stock is too high.

“You all know that government debt service ratios are too high. What that means is that your revenue is small because if your revenue is large, then your debt service ratios will be lower.”

He added, “If we say government should not borrow; then, government must raise revenue. If government must raise revenue and we think this is one way government can raise revenue to meet its obligation.”

Emefiele said while the decision to increase VAT might be painful to Nigerians, the benefit of such move far outweighed the cost.

On the Monetary Policy Rate, Emefiele said this was left unchanged at 13.5 per cent.

He explained that nine out of the 11 members that attended the meeting unanimously agreed to hold the monetary policy stance.

The governor said apart from the MPR that was retained at 13.5 per cent, the committee decided to hold the Cash Reserves Ratio at 22.5 per cent.

Also retained are the Liquidity Ratio, which was left at 30 per cent; and the Asymmetric Window which was left at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

Explaining the rationale for the decision, he said the MPC felt compelled to review the options of whether to tighten, hold or loosen.

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CBN Introduces Charges on Deposits, Withdrawals Above N500, 000

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The Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday said that the nationwide implementation of the cashless policy will begin by March 2020.

The apex bank said this in a circular to all Deposit Money Banks in the country.

It said that implementation of the policy would signal the imposition of charges on deposits in addition to already existing charges on withdrawals.

According to the circular, the charges, which take effect from Wednesday (today) will attract three per cent processing fees for withdrawals and two per cent processing fees for lodgments of amounts above N500, 000 for individual accounts.

For corporate accounts, the apex bank in the circular said that DMBs would charge five per cent processing fees for withdrawals and three per cent processing fee for lodgments of amounts above N3, 000, 000.

The statement, however, disclosed that the charge on deposits would apply in Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Abia, Anambra, and Rivers States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

It added that the implementation of the cashless policy would take effect from March 31, 2020.

To further promote the cashless policy and enhance the collection of applicable government revenues, the CBN also announced a review of the process for merchant settlement.

It added that with effect from Tuesday, September 17, the CBN had given approval for banks to unbundle merchant settlement amounts and charge applicable taxes and duties on individual transactions as stipulated by regulations.

A statement signed by the Director, Payments System Management Department, CBN, Sam Okojere, said a downward review of the Merchant Service Charge had been approved.

It said henceforth, the charges had been reduced from 0.75 per cent capped at N1, 200 to 0.50 per cent capped at N1, 000.

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Buhari Sacks Osinbajo’s Team, Appoints Soludo, Others in New Economic Team

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday replaced the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC).

The new EAC, which reports directly to the president, will be chaired by an economist, Prof. Doyin Salami.

Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina in a statement said the EAC would advise the president on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues, working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.

He said the council, which is expected to assist the president in the development of critical policies, would hold monthly sessions.

Other members of the council are: Dr. Mohammed Sagagi (vice chairman), Prof. Ode Ojowu (member), Dr. Shehu Yahaya (member), Dr. Iyabo Masha (member), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo (member), Mr. Bismark Rewane (member), and Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu (secretary).

Adesina said: “This advisory council will replace the current EMT and will be reporting directly to the president. The EAC will have monthly technical sessions as well as scheduled quarterly meetings with the president. The chairman may, however, request unscheduled meetings if the need arises.”

Membership of the disbanded EMT, chaired by Osinbajo, had the following members: Minister of Finance; Minister of Budget and National Planning; Minister of State for Budget and National Planning; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Minister of Agriculture; Minister of Information and Culture; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters; Director-General of the Budget Office; Director-General of the Debt Management Office; and Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics.

The team met weekly at the State House.

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