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Refund N14.3bn, Senate Orders Minister, NEPZA MD

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The Senate has directed the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah; and the acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Terhemba Nongo, to return N14.3bn to the purse of the Federal Government.

It claimed that the money was diverted from the 2017 budget of NEPZA.

The directive was contained in a letter written by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Sabo.

Sabo, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress representing Jigawa South-West, in the letter warned the minister and the NEPZA boss to either refund the money immediately or be prepared to face dire consequences.

The senator, while addressing journalists on Monday in Abuja, alleged that the money was transferred from  NEPZA’s account into the account of a private company, the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company.

He said the money was hurriedly transferred between April 8 and 10, despite an earlier warning not to do so.

Sabo claimed that the money was first lodged in  NEPZA’s account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria  from 2017 budget allocations.

He said the money was thereafter moved into the private firm’s account.

The senator said, “To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on April 8, asking him not to release the money.

“But we have confirmed that the money has been released and transfered by NEPZA, in collaboration with the minister, into a private company’s account.

“This is unacceptable to us. Hence, we have directed that money be returned.”

Copies of the Senate committee’s letter, addressed to the minister, were made available to journalists.

The letter dated April 25 was tilted “Re: Transfer of N14.3bn from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company.”

It read, “Pursuant to Section 80(2)(3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Financial Regulation, sections 313 and 314 and Senate Standing Order 98, 14(a-s) of 2015 as amended, we hereby write to you on the above matter.

“That you should return the N14.3bn that was transferred from NEPZA’s account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company’s account.

“That the transferred money must be returned to the treasury within one week from the date of receipt of this letter.

“The available information shows that the said money is in the account of the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company unappropriated for.

“That failure to comply with this directive will be visited with appropriate legislative action against your ministry as well as the company.”

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FirstBank Boosts Education Sector, Supports Schools with N10bn Loan

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Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced that within the last year, it has supported educational institutions in the country with loans to the tune of over N10 billion.

The Bank’s support is carried out through its FirstEdu product, an educational solution created to enhance the educational facilities in schools with a view to improving the quality of education across the country.

FirstEdu loan is targeted at private Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in the medium and long-term. The product provides funding to replace old furniture and equipment, pay staff salaries, purchase brand new or fairly-used buses as well as refurbish dilapidated buildings and classroom blocks. With this product, school owners/proprietors can stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.

The product enables the schools to access facilities with no tangible collateral, apart from domiciliation of school fees account with the Bank.

On the other hand, FirstEdu portal is a modular and robust web-based enterprise portal that enables tertiary educational institutions manage academic, administrative, professional, logistics and payment challenges.

The product features and benefits include; e-Learning, virtual library and facilitation of exchange programmes with foreign educational institutions; academic & student events/time-table/calendar management; school fees payment via the internet; online information and result checking; interactive community forum between students and teachers. It also affords applicants the opportunity of enrolling from the comfort of their homes or any location around the world; no licensing, installation and maintenance cost and plugs avenues for revenue leakages amongst others.

According to Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, “With FirstEdu, private schools across the various tiers of education in Nigeria; elementary, secondary and tertiary, have the right tool to boost their business to the level they desire. We are pleased to have already disbursed over N10 billion loans to schools in one year and we would continue to support growth in this key sector of our economy.”

“At FirstBank, we identify with the impact of the educational sector on the socio-economic activities of the country and importantly the lives of everyone. We remain committed to supporting schools as education is the core and root factor at enabling growth of our economy” he concluded.

In need of the right educational solutions to give your school a boost, visit the FirstBank branch nearest to you or contact us on our social media channels; @firstbanknigeria on Instagram; @firstbankngr on twitter and FirstBankofNigeriaLimited on Facebook.

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ECO Crisis: Nigeria, Other Countries Demand ECOWAS Meeting

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Nigeria and six other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday demanded a crucial extraordinary meeting to discuss the controversial renaming of the CFA Franc as ECO by eight of their counterparts.

The demand was contained in a communique issued at the end of a meeting by the countries, namely Nigeria, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

On December 21, 2019, the eight French-speaking West African countries announced their decision to dump the French CFA Franc for the ECO single currency scheduled to take off this year.

ECO is the name adopted for the common currency of the ECOWAS by the Authority of the Community’s Heads of State and Government at their 55th Ordinary Session in Abuja.

The announcement was made by the Ivorien President, Alassane Ouattara, on behalf of the eight countries, namely Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo Republic.

The adoption of the common currency, expected to be issued in June 2020, is part of efforts by ECOWAS to realise its over 30 years’ aspiration to establish a single currency among its members and ensure regional economic integration in the region.

Ghana had applauded the decision of its Francophone counterparts to break from the shackles of the French colonialism to team up with their ECOWAS colleagues.

Many analysts described the French President, Emmanuel Macron’s role in the eight former colonial territories as an attempt to hijack the ECO single currency project.

But, at the end of the extra-ordinary meeting, the Ministers of Finance and the Governors of the Central Banks of the West African Monetary Zone ((WAMZ) on the ECOWAS single currency programme condemned the eight countries for taking a unilateral decision over the issue.

The meeting held at the CBN headquarters in Abuja under the chairmanship of the Minister of Finance and Economy of the Republic of Guinea, Mamadi Camara. The six countries frowned at the conduct of their counterparts.

In the communique issued at the end of the meeting, the finance ministers and Central Bank governors of the six countries said they noted the declaration by the Chairman of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) on December 21, 2019.

The representatives of the affected countries described the “unilateral renaming of the CFA Franc as ECO by 2020 as inconsistent with the decision of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS for the adoption of the ECO as the name of an independent ECOWAS single currency.”

“WAMZ Convergence Council would be recommending an extraordinary summit of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of the WAMZ member states will be convened soon to discuss this matter and other related issues,” the communique read.

The English version of the communique was read by the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while the Minister of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Guinea, Mamadi Camara, read the French version.

Other representatives present at the meeting include the Minister of finance and Economic Affairs of the Republic of Gambia, Mambury Njie; Minister of Finance of Ghana, Ofori Atta; Minister of Finance and Development Planning of Republic of Liberai, Samuel Tweah and Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone, Jacob Saffa.

Also, present were Senior Adviser, Central Bank of Gambia, Buah Saidy; Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Ernest Addison; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.

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FG Confirms Implementation of 7.5% VAT Begins February 1

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The Federal Government will from February 1 begin the implementation of 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax espoused by the finance law.

The law, according to the government, will take effect after all the necessary administrative procedures must have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, confirmed the development on Thursday in Abuja at the inauguration of the board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

She said the February 1 commencement date had put to rest every speculation regarding the take-off date of the new VAT regime.

The minister said once a bill is signed into law, it takes effect immediately, but noted that there were certain administrative procedures and formalities to be finalised before commencement.

The VAT increase which is meant to help government achieve its revenue projections for the 2020 budget is a part of the tax reforms included in the 2019 Finance Act.

She said with the Act, there would be more revenue to finance key government projects especially in the areas of health, education and critical infrastructure.

She said, “The implementation of the Value Added Tax is to take effect from February 1, 2020, after all the necessary administrative procedures have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”

The minister’s remark contradicts an earlier claim by the Accountant General of the Federal, Ahmed Idris, who said the new VAT increment took effect from January 13 when the 2020 Finance Act was signed.

She told the members of the FIRS board that the responsibility bestowed on them was critical to the smooth operation of the various tiers and arms of government in Nigeria and, by implication, the well-being of the Nigerian people.

The newly appointed Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami, vowed to reposition the service for improved performance.

Nami said he would implement policies that would ensure maximum increase in tax revenue.

As tax administrators and custodians of the Nigerian tax system, he said the FIRS had a responsibility to the nation to implement all tax policies and laws in a manner that would ensure optimal benefits to the nation.

In achieving these objectives, he said his agenda to reposition the FIRS for better service to taxpayers would be anchored on four cardinal pillars.

They are rebuilding FIRS’ institutional framework by strengthening the capacity of departments and units to deliver on their mandates and robust collaboration with stakeholders to eliminate critical bottlenecks in the tax system.

Others are to build the FIRS into an institution that supports Nigeria’s longing to become an investment destination and to make the FIRS an agency in which its people, processes, and technologies are all geared towards a clear goal.

In order to achieve these agenda, he said within the next three months, a lot of initiatives would be implemented.

Some of these initiatives are to build staff capacities for service delivery; closing of all lien cases in order to build new enforcement strategies; and restructuring and repositioning of audit function.

Others are review of structures for optimal performance; capacity building on the finance law and other tax programmes; review of Tax Clearance Certificate administration process and revamping of the Integrated Tax Administration System.

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