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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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Seplat Denies ExxonMobil Deal Cancellation

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Seplat Energy, on Thursday, said it had not received any official notification from the Federal Government reversing its proposed acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.

The company also said it was seeking clarification from relevant authorities regarding the claims that President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubles as Minister of Petroleum Resources, had withdrawn his ministerial approval for the deal.

“Seplat Energy has become aware of a news report claiming that ministerial approval of the company’s proposed acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited has been withdrawn,” the oil firm stated in a statement issued by its Chief Financial Officer, Emeka Onwuka.

It added, “Seplat Energy has received no official notification of such a decision and is seeking clarification from the relevant authorities.”

Buhari had, on Wednesday, reversed his authorisation of the acquisition of the entire share capital of MPNU by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.

The move puts the Presidency on the side of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited which had earlier declined the $1.3bn transaction.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had announced on Monday that Buhari consented to the acquisition of Exxon Mobil shares by Seplat Energy.

According to the Presidency, Buhari authorised the move in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources as a way to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.

This was, however, contested by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, as the Chief Executive, NUPRC, Gbenga Komolafe, said the regulator would not and did not endorse the transaction.

Reacting to the development on Wednesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated that Buhari had reversed the decision and that the misunderstanding was because the “agencies involved in (the) decision had not coordinated well among themselves.”

Responding to claims on the reversal of ministerial approval, Seplat stated on Thursday that it had not received any official notification on the decision.

The oil firm, however, noted that it “will continue to work with all parties to achieve a successful outcome to the proposed acquisition and will provide an update in due course.”

It said the “announcement is made pursuant to Rule 17.10 of the Rulebook of the Nigerian Exchange, 2015 (Issuer’s Rule).”

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Wema Bank: Why We Are Delivering Value and Growing Our Numbers – Adebise

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The Managing Director/CEO of Wema Bank Plc, Mr. Ademola Adebise, has explained the facts behind the bank’s growing numbers during the half year ended June 30, 2022.

Wema Bank recently released its second quarter unaudited financial result for the period ended June 30, 2022, showing a 50 percent increase in its Gross Earnings from N39.82 billion recorded in 2021 to N59.59 billion H1 2022. The bank also grew its deposit by 43 percent from N968.17 billion reported in FY 2021 to N1.09 trillion in H1 2022.

Similarly, Wema Bank recorded a 43 percent increase in Profit before tax (PBT) from N4.30 billion over the same period last year to N6.13 billion for the period under review.

Speaking at the analyst’s conference and Investors’ call, Mr Adebise said: “Our digital channels remain a priority in meeting customer needs and closing the financial inclusion gap.

‘With a transaction value of N131.5 billion, USSD recorded over 58.6 million in transaction count (+55%), reaffirming our focus to grow channel usage.

“Mobile banking users completed over 42.8 million transactions within the review period, further driving the financial inclusion initiative.

“With over 50% growth in agent acquisition, our agency banking base increased to 140k accounts, at the end of the six months review period (H1 2021: >102k). This helps to further enhance performance across our financial inclusion initiatives. The value of agency funds transfer closed at N7.59bn in H1 2022, a 34% y-o-y growth. The stellar growth in agency transfer volume by 550k% was driven by signing-on of new partners”, he said.

According to the Wema Bank MD, the bank’s agency banking solutions will continue to provide support to customers mostly in the rural areas and hard-to-reach regions of the country.

“So far, we have over 21,000 agents attending to the financial service needs of these customers,” Mr Adebise added.

The bank’s Chief Finance Officer, Mr. Tunde Mabawonku, said the results point to the resilience and growth trajectory of the bank during the review period.

According to him, the bank has achieved efficiency in its balance sheet by managing growing deposits and rising interest rate. He also disclosed the bank has achieved an efficient mix of its deposit portfolio by bringing down the cost of funds.

Mabawonku hinted the bank’s N40 billion rights issue would open and be concluded during the year, a development he said would deliver more value to shareholders.

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Nigeria Makes List of Four Top World Bank Debtors

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Rising debt has pushed Nigeria up the World Bank’s top 10 International Development Association borrowers’ list.

The World Bank Fiscal Year 2021 audited financial statements, known as the IDA financial statement, showed that Nigeria was rated fifth on the list with $11.7bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2021.

However, the newly released World Bank Fiscal Year 2022 audited financial statements for IDA showed that Nigeria has moved to the fourth position on the list, with $13bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2022.

This shows that Nigeria accumulated about $1.3bn IDA debt within a fiscal year, with the country taking over the fourth top debtor position from Vietnam.

This debt is different from the outstanding loan of $486m from World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The top five countries on the list slightly reduced their IDA debt stock except Nigeria.

India, which is still the first on the list reduced its IDA debt stock from $22bn in the previous fiscal year to $19.7bn, followed by Bangladesh from $18.1bn to $18bn.

It is followed by Pakistan which cut its debt from $16.4bn to $15.8bn, and lastly, Vietnam, which went down the list to fifth position, from $14.1bn to $12.9bn.

Nigeria has the highest IDA debt in Africa, as the top three IDA borrowers (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) are from Asia. The World Bank disclosed recently that Nigeria’s debt, which may be considered sustainable for now, is vulnerable and costly.

The bank said, “Nigeria’s debt remains sustainable, albeit vulnerable and costly, especially due to large and growing financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

However, the Washington-based global financial institution added that the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.

The bank further expressed concerns over the nation’s cost of debt servicing, which according to it, disrupted public investments and critical service delivery spending.

Economists have also raised concerns over the rising debt profile of the Federal Government.

The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader of PwC, Mr Taiwo Oyedele, expressed his agreement with the World Bank on the high cost of debt servicing.

He said, “I agree with the World Bank. Although the debt to GDP ratio is not too high, if you think about the debt service cost to revenue ratio, it is already over 70 per cent. That’s when you know it’s costly.

“Nigeria borrows at double-digit, and even when we borrow in dollars, the rates are very high and then you devalue the naira and the cost of servicing the debt in naira goes up because it is dollar-dominated debt.

“Put all of that together, and you can easily say to yourself that even though our debt to GDP ratio is very low, our cost of borrowing is unsustainable because it is very high, and therefore, make it very costly.”

A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, also criticised the increasing borrowing tendency of the government, urging the officials to re-consider other ways of generating revenue for the country.

According to Moghalu, it was also not reasonable to borrow for infrastructural development as the government could expand the public-private partnership options for such development.

In a document by the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.

According to the DMO DG, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”

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