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World Earth Day: Unity Bank, RESWAYE Clean Lagos Beach, Plant Trees

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In commemoration of this year’s World Earth Day, Unity Bank Plc in partnership with 3 non-government organisations – Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment, RESWAYE, MEDIC and KBG – has conducted a beach cleaning exercise as part of its commitments to promoting environmental sustainability.

No fewer than 200 members of staff, as well as over 100 members of RESWAYE thronged the venue of the cleaning exercise – the Lagos Kids Beach Garden within the Oba Elegushi beach environs – where they picked and removed over 100,000 plastic bottles from the beach to make the beach safer and reduce ocean pollution.

The Bank also carried out a tree planting exercise across the country, as the Staff of the Bank across the bank’s branches nationwide planted at least one tree.

Speaking at the event, the Group Head, Risk Management, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Chris Nwambu said that the World Earth Day initiatives are part of the Bank’s corporate social responsibility aimed at leading major collaborative initiatives for climate action.

Citing recent reports on ocean pollution, he decried that “of the over 300 million tons of plastic waste ends up in ocean’s yearly, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste estimated to be in our oceans. While 70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on our beaches.”

He added that such activity as the collaboration and partnership by organizations would play a vital role in reducing the threats of ocean plastics and thereby reduce the climate risks they pose to the earth.

He reiterated that Unity Bank will continue to be very aggressive in terms of environmental protection and sustainability commitments, adding that “in line with the Bank’s agribusiness strategic focus over the past couple of years, the Bank has granted access to credit to businesses in greenhouse farming and metal recycling to the tune of 3.25 billion naira”.

He said, “But beyond supporting sustainability-related business, the operations of the Bank have adopted sustainable practices in the way we carry out daily activities as a matter of corporate culture. As of today, thirty-one branches of the bank are running on Hybrid Solar Solution while 70% of our 416 ATMs Bank-wide are powered by hybrid solar solutions with a projection to migrate an additional 15% to hybrid solar solutions before the end of 2022.

“The reduction of carbon emissions by the bank since migrating branches and ATMs locations to Hybrid Solar Energy in 2018 now totals 21,631kg of Carbon Dioxide, saved monthly.”

Unity Bank has over time promoted corporate and business philosophy that encourages low paper usage, recycling and adoption of renewable energy through increased investment in solar-powered branches and ATMs.

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Access Bank Rewards 359 Customers at DiamondXtra Season 14

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In its continuous bid to promote savings culture amongst Nigerians, Access Bank Plc has said it will be rewarding customers with N270 million 359 customers in its 14th edition of DiamondXtra promo.

The bank disclosed this over the weekend at the launch of the DiamondXtra promo.

The bank disclosed this over the weekend at the launch of the DiamondXtra season 14, which has run successfully for 14 years.

This year’s promo includes Salary4life, Rent for a year, Business grant, educational support, and Digital marketing training.

The bank also noted that since its inception, it had rewarded customers with over N6 billion to over 24,000 customers and that this year’s draw would create 62 millionaires

Speaking during the launch, Senior Banking Advisor, Retail at Access Bank Plc, Rob Giles, stated that Season 14 promo was designed from a survey conducted on customers to know the changes they needed to see.

While thanking its customers, and regulators for supporting the bank through good and bad times, Giles said that the innovation from Access Bank is a solution that meets customers’ needs.

He also noted that the bank has been bringing the best features that will help the customers each year while adding that Access Bank now has 2.2 million DiamondXtra users since its inception.

Corroborating him, Group Head, Consumer Banking at the bank, Adaeze Umeh, explained that the bank sought to do things differently due to the impact of COVID-19, hence the reason for adding digital marketing classes in which 14,000 customers will be trained

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Dollar Now Sells for N600 at Parallel Market, Forex Supply Shrinks

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The dollar exchanged at N600 on Monday at the parallel market, heightening fears of a further devaluation of the nation’s currency.

The rate at the Importers and Exporters Window was, however, N415.75 on Monday, widening the exchange rate spread to N184.25.

At Zone 4 in Abuja, which is the hub of the parallel market in the Federal Capital Territory, two Bureau de Change Operators,  Mohammed Isa, and Abu Abdullahi, told The PUNCH that the rate was N599/$ at 10am and 11.14am respectively.

However, the rates for both BDCs changed to N600/$ when they were separately contacted at N3.13pm and N5pm respectively on Monday.

“If I reduce this by N1, I will not be able to make any profit,” one of the two BDCs, Abu Abdullahi, said.

At the Lagos airport on Monday, a BDC operator, Adamu Haruna, told The PUNCH that the rate was “N600/$, no more, no less.”

A BDC operator at Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos, Bala Usman, gave an initial rate of N598/$ in the morning but changed to N599 at 2.53pm when contacted.

“The demand is increasing and the dollar is very scarce now,” he said.

Naira has weakened in the parallel market due to increased speculations, falling external reserves, and low foreign exchange inflows into Africa’s biggest oil producer.

The country’s external reserves fell by $313m in March, according to figures obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Politics is also a key factor, as experts see politicians mopping up dollars for election primaries this month.

The President, Association of Bureaux de Change Operators of Nigeria, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, told The PUNCH that the situation was caused by several factors, including elections, loss of confidence, and demand/ supply.

“It is a market where demand and supply determine the price. Do not forget that election years are associated with foreign exchange volatility, coupled with supply squeeze. External reserves, inflation, cost of inputs, and the Russia-Ukraine war are also key issues,” he said, arguing that there was indeed a loss of confidence, saying that “once people see the exchange rate rising, the confidence will also fall.”

The Director of Research and Strategy, Chapel Hill Denham, Mr Tajudeen Ibrahim, told The PUNCH that the issue in the foreign exchange market could be attributed to falling external reserves and uncertainty in the economy.

“The parallel market is speculative. One of the causes is the foreign exchange reserves. Secondly, there is no indication that Nigeria is going to see an inflow of foreign exchange that can underpin the FX reserves any time soon,” he said.

“There is nothing like Eurobond. There are no indications for other borrowings, so there is no clear indication of inflows. This is also one of the reasons for what we see in the market,” he said.

He explained that it was possible that the market was seeing an election-related demand.

He urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to devalue the naira to match the parallel market rate, while also managing the market to ensure that unforeseen circumstances did not happen.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of the Private Sector, Dr Muda Yusuf, urged the CBN to float the exchange rate market to provide clarity for investors and allow the market to be determined by the forces of demand and supply.

Yusuf said the CBN’s current approach would continue to deepen distortions in the economy,  perpetuate round-tripping,  fuel speculation, and suppress forex supply.

On the other hand, Nigeria is a deeply import-dependent economy, relying on crude oil for over 80 per cent of the foreign exchange.

The non-oil sector inflows are still 10-20 per cent and most of the export products are raw materials and agricultural commodities.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria said only a strong manufacturing sector could raise the productive capacity of the country, reduce importation and increase FX inflows from non-oil exports.

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Consumers Condemn Power Sector Privatisation As FG Hikes Electricity Tariff

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The Federal Government through its Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Thursday officially released different documents indicating the approved power tariff increase payable by consumers to various electricity distribution companies in Nigeria.

In different orders to the 11 Discos operating in Nigeria, the commission stated that the tariff hike was based on the extraordinary review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order, as it explained that the order took effect from January 1, 2022.

It further noted that the order shall only be subordinated to a new tariff review order as might be issued periodically by the NERC, but this hike in tariff by NERC was kicked against by different power consumer groups, as they called for the complete reversal of the sector’s privatisation.

The NERC provided myriads of reasons why it had to effect an upward review of the tariff payable to Discos, as figures from the individual approvals for each Disco showed that the commission hiked the amount to be paid by consumers for electricity beginning from February 2022.

In the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, for instance, non-Maximum Demand power users in Band A had their tariff increased from N51.75/kWh in January this year to N56.28/kWh from February to December 2022.

Also, non-MD consumers in Band B had their tariff increased from N49.72/kWh to N54.13kWh, while the non-MD power users in Bands C and D had their tariff raised from N45.65/kWh to N50.65/kWh, and N29.70/kWh to N33.20/kWh respectively, under Abuja Disco.

For non-MD customers of AEDC in Band E, their tariff was raised from N29.38/kWh to N32.88/kWh.

In the service bands, the NERC explained that customers in Band A were those receiving a minimum of 20 hours of electricity daily, while those in Bands B, C, D and E include power users receiving 16 hours, 12 hours, eight hours, and four hours of power supply daily, respectively.

The documents for each Disco also showed that aside from non-MD customers, there were other categories of maximum demand power users classified as MD1 and MD2, but most of the tariffs of these categories of power users were also raised.

It was observed that aside from the AEDC, the tariff hike played out in other Discos, as the regulator raised the tariffs payable by consumers in the various franchise areas of the power distribution companies.

For Eko Electricity Distribution Company, it was observed that there was a marginal decrease in the amount payable by non-MD consumers in Band A, those in Band B had their tariff unchanged, while others in Bands C, D and E had their tariffs hiked.

Under Eko Disco, non-MD customers in Band A had their tariff reduced from N56.08/kWh in January to N55.55/kWh from February to December, while non-MD customers in Band B had theirs unchanged at N51.81/kWh.

For non-MD customers in Band C, D and E, their tariffs were raised from N42.44/kWh to N47.44/kWh, N28.63/kWh to N31.75/kWh, and N28.63/kWh to N31.71/kWh, respectively.

Taking the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company as another example, it was observed that the approved end-user tariffs for all the bands for non-MD customers from A to E were hiked by the NERC.

Non-MD Band A customers of PHED had their tariff raised from N57.16/kWh in January to N60.67/kWh from February to December 2022, while the tariff of non-MD Band B customers was increased from N56.79/kWh to N59.64/kWh.

Non-MD customers in Bands C, D and E had their tariffs raised from N50.15/kWh to N55.15/kWh, N35.31/kWh to N38.81/kWh, and N35.08/kWh to N38.58/kWh, respectively.

It was also observed that customers in MD1 and MD2 in the various bands under the PHED had their tariffs also raised by the NERC, as similar scenarios played out in other Discos.

This came as power consumer groups condemned the hike in tariff by the NERC, describing it as unfortunate considering the fact that power supply had failed to improve across the country amidst the hardship nationwide.

An industry expert and legal practitioner, who doubles as President of the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, stated that the increase should be resisted and the privatisation of the sector reversed.

He said, “They did it in January and gave the licensees permission to surreptitiously increase the tariff and do mechanical configurations such that we are being shortchanged.

“The key performance indicators that they put forward which have to do with supply being contractual and service-based have not been met, they have failed on that. Yes, if they say inflation is high, do we get commensurate service as per what we pay?

“I was at Aso Drive on Monday here in the capital city of Abuja, they get supply for just three hours in a day. The supply to areas outside the city centre has been bad too. So if we can’t get power and there is a lot of blame game, what is the justification for tariff increase?”

Olubiyo stated that many customers on estimated billing had received up to 300 per cent hike in their electricity bills, as the capping methodology approved by the NERC had not been effective.

He wondered why the commission would be bold enough to release documents showing the approved tariff hike payable by customers to the Discos, as he called for the complete reversal of the power sector privatisation.

He said, “The NERC we have today is NERC for the Discos. We’ve reached a crossroads now and the next thing we expect from the Federal Government is to go for all the credit lines and clean up their books, those who are owing Nigerian banks or so, and make sure that this privatisation exercise is reversed.

“This is because this is not the end of it. Their new MYTO under the service-based tariff has given the Discos an open cheque to continue to increase tariffs without the basic principles of equity. We have two parties to this contract, the demand, and the supply sides.

“But NERC that we have is on the side of the market. They are not taking the demand side, but you must have demand for you to maintain supply. So for us what we want is an outright reversal of the privatisation, we are not saying review.”

Also speaking on the development, the National Secretary, Network of Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria, Uket Obonga, regretted that the tariff hike was approved by NERC despite the hardship in Nigeria.

“We are going to bombard them. It is official now that they have increased the electricity tariff even in this hardship. This is unacceptable. We cannot continue like this,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the NERC explained that pursuant to the Extraordinary Tariff Review Application and Performance Improvement Plan filed by Discos, the commission approved the MYTO 2020 Serviced Based Tariff effective from September 1, 2020.

It said this was to ensure that rates paid by customers were in alignment with the quality of service to customer clusters as measured by the daily average availability of power supply.

It said the objectives of the latest order on tariff hike were to reflect the impact of changes in the projected minor review variables for the period January to December 2021 for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs, adjust the Discos’ capital expenditure for the years 2021 to 2026 in consideration of the approved PIP.

The commission said it was to ensure sustained improvement in reliability and quality of supply in line with Discos’ capital expenditures proposal and PIP commitment.

It said the order would ensure that tariffs payable by customers were commensurate and aligned with the quality and availability of power supply committed to customer clusters by Discos.

The NERC said the tariff order would ensure that prices charged by Discos were fair to customers and were sufficient to allow Discos to fully recover the efficient cost of operation, including a reasonable return on the capital invested in the business, pursuant to the provisions of sections 32(d) and 76 2(a) of Electric Power Sector Reform Act.

It further said the order would provide appropriate incentives to ensure continuous improvement in the performance of the Transmission Company of Nigeria Plc in reducing its network technical losses, among others.

The Punch

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