Tag Archives: business

Just in: India opens railway network to private investments

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India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.

The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.

In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.

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“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.

The project will require an investment of $4 billion and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatise a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.

“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.

“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady”, he added.

The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre”.

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Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.

The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.

Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.

Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.


#Newsworthy…

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News+: Stakeholders urge kogi to meet with benchmark

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Stakeholders at a one-day Consultative Meeting on Public Financing of Agriculture have called on Kogi government to ensure its annual budget for the Agriculture sector met Maputo Declaration benchmark of 10 per cent minimum.

The stakeholders made the call in a communique issued at the end of the meeting, organised by the Public Financing of Agriculture (PFA) Committee of ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) on Wednesday in Lokoja.

The communique was signed by Mathias Okpanachi, chairman of PFA; Hajiya Safiya Yahaya, State Coordinator, SWOFON and Halima Sadiq, Executive Director, PIBCID.

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They observed that budgetary allocation to the Agriculture sector had not met the Maputo Declaration benchmark since its ratification and adoption by Nigeria in 2003.

“There is need for budget developers to ensure that Kogi State Public Sector Agriculture Budget meets the Maputo Declaration benchmark of 10 per cent minimum

“There is also need for the Ministry of Agriculture to adopt innovative revenue generation strategies and block resource leakages in its bureaucratic processes, and as well, improve capacity and attitudes of public service workers on quality service delivery”, they suggested.

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The stakeholders insisted that there must be an agreed participatory public sector policy on agriculture value chain development, while emphasising the need for government to off-take Agriculture produce from farmers.

They also urged increased partnership and collaboration between government and citizens on improving public sector funding for Agriculture, just as they advocated increased transparency and accountability in the sector to engender confidence.

They noted that the top-bottom approach to Public Sector Agriculture budget development was still a major challenge in ensuring participatory development in the sector.

The meeting was attended by representatives of Civil Society, Media, Kogi House of Assembly, Smallholder Women Farmers, Agriculture Financial Institutions, the state Agriculture Development Project (ADP) and Ministry of Agriculture representatives.


#Newsworthy…

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Google admit AirDrop-like feature coming soon

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After months of rumors, Google has finally confirmed that its “Nearby Share” feature is on the way. Some Android users are already testing a beta version.

After months of rumors, Google has finally confirmed that its “Nearby Share” feature is on the way. Some Android users are already testing a beta version.

“We’re currently conducting a beta test of a new Nearby Share feature that we plan to share more information on in the future,” Google told Android Police. “Our goal is to launch the feature with support for Android 6+ devices as well as other platforms.”

The feature started showing up in Chrome OS Canary builds earlier this month, indicating that it will work on Chromebooks as well.

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Nearby Share looks to function as an Android version of Apple’s AirDrop. You can use it to quickly and wirelessly transfer files between proximate Android phones. Android Police, which got a hands-on with the feature, says it works for photos and videos as well as links and tweets.

Per Android Police, you can’t use Nearby Share to send random things to strangers. A user has to have the function set up and made their phone “visible” (done easily via a Quick Settings tile) before they can receive content, and they must manually accept a file they’re receiving before it opens.

Samsung has been working on a similar feature called Quick Share, which allows you to blast files to as many as five friends at a time. (AirDrop is one to one.) The advantage of Nearby Share, though, is that it should work with Android products across manufacturers, while Quick Share is currently only intended for Samsung devices.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Electricity tariff hike under test

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… GenCos threaten suit over delay
… DisCos, govt, discuss poor services, supply cost
… Senate urges Buhari to bear cost of deferred hike
… Operators deny lobbying NASS, putting sector in debt

Nigeria’s electricity supply industry faces yet another regulatory summersault, as the National Assembly, on Monday, toppled plans to increase cost of electricity supply by as much as 50 per cent.

This came as senators yesterday vowed to compel the executive arm of government to bear the impact of planned hike in electricity tariff, if eventually deferred to next year.

In the same vein, the nation’s power generation companies (GenCos) yesterday in Abuja said they would consider meeting the Federal Government at the court of Arbitration if planned electricity tariff increase is not implemented today (July 1).

Reacting to intervention by the National Assembly, which deferred the tariff increase, Executive Secretary of the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), Joy Ogaji, said government must increase the tariff today, (Wednesday, July 1, 2020) or GenCos would either collect their outstanding fees or head to court.

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Ogaji also said that the operators would declare a force majeure and down tools.

“We are sick and tired of this back-and-forth. We are totally in support of the service reflective tariff as path to viability and sustainability. If government does not increase the tariff tomorrow (today), it’s either we are paid all our outstanding or we meet at Arbitration. If anyone wants to show favour, not at the expense of GenCos,” she said.

Ogaji added that the GenCos were obligated to generate electricity for Nigeria, and in turn receive 100 per cent payment of their monthly market invoice as was agreed in the (PPA).

She disclosed that, while GenCos engaged in a massive capacity recovery, they have been constantly paid less than 100 per cent of their invoice monthly.

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“ From available data, as recent as April 2020, DisCos remittance was as low as eight per cent. In context, an eight per cent remittance leads to a 92 per cent reduction in remittance to GenCos.

‘‘Six years after the privatisation, GenCos’ Available Generation Capacity (AGC) has been exceeded. The implication of this is that GenCos have kept to their industry agreement with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the market.’’

On the contrary, representatives of electricity distribution companies (DisCos) had maintained that they would support suspension of the planned hike only if government would bear the differences in current tariff and what was considered as appropriate.

Speaking on the issue before the Senate Press Corps yesterday, Chairman Senate Committee on power, Gabriel Suswam said: “Nigerians were heavily burdened because of COVID-19. The economy has contracted by 3.2 percent; that’s a lot. So, it makes it difficult for you and me to attend to some of our social problems.”

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He expressed the hope that the executive would agree, even though it would come at a cost.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the two Chambers had met at the National Assembly with chief executives of electricity regulatory body and DISCOs across the country.

The National Assembly leaders were emphatic that the timing of the planned hike was wrong, even though they had no objection to cost-reflective tariffs to attract the much-needed investments.

In the course of the meeting, the DISCOs also admitted that they were not well prepared for the planned hike in tariffs; even though they desired the increase.

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The meeting therefore, agreed to defer the planned hike until first quarter of next year, while the leadership of the National Assembly promised to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter.

Lawan said: “The agreement was that there was not going to be any increase in tariffs on July 1. While we are in agreement here that there is no question on justification for increase, the time is simply not right and appropriate measures need to be put in place.”

DisCos and leadership of NASS are being accused of working to delay the take off of the tariff. Owners of the companies reportedly lobbied lawmakers to delay the plan.

Though NASS only deferred the tariff increase to first quarter of 2021, providing just a temporary relief for consumers, a lot of electricity consumers and civil society groups have expressed concerns, especially given the sorry state of the industry and its impacts on economic development and standard of living.

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The industry has experienced many regulatory flops, which might continue to undermine the objective of bridging the huge electricity gap despite privatisation.

The current development is coming barely three months after the nation shelved an earlier plan to implement tariff review.
Being the second failed attempt in the last three months, stakeholders are beginning to express deep concern, especially as the sector continues to speak from both sides of the month despite huge liquidity and investment apathy.

They are also worried about a purported service-reflective tariff, which could oust the masses and prioritize well-to-do Nigerians in provision of electricity, though as much as 93 million Nigerians (about 55 per cent) still lack access to electricity.

With over four different groups or committees attempting to regulate the sector, the stakeholders are also worried over incessant interferences in the industry, stressing that the move would only worsen the precarious state of the nation’s power sector.

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Though the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) was empowered by Parliament through the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 to serve as an independent body for technical and economic regulation of the electricity industry, the persistent interfe0rence in the sector is seen as part of the failure of the body to bark and bite.

The sole regulator has been accused of being responsible for policy summersaults and gross mismanagement of customer confidence as well as creating investment apathy.

Last year, NERC moved to fully implement a Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) designed in 2015 and the Minimum Remittance Order for the Year 2019, the tariff system, which, if implemented periodically as designed, would have addressed the accumulated increase and reduce impact of the proposed tariff hike on consumers.

The commission, with headquarters in Abuja and zonal offices in the six geopolitical regions, had conducted public hearing on the proposed increase, but defied disagreements to announce that implementation of the MYTO would take effect on April 1 this year. It later deferred the implementation to July 1, following the outbreak of Coronavirus.

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Seeing that the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, had insisted before NASS members that there was no going back on the increase, as government was burdened by huge spending on the sector, the distribution companies backed the move with massive media campaign, including advertorials in national dailies to inform their customers of the new tariff plan.

But few days to the increase, NERC reportedly back-pedaled, distancing itself and the Federal Government from the tariff hike before NASS.

Recall that the DisCos are currently challenging the power of the regulator in court. The 11 utility companies, which serve as revenue collectors in the sector, have been severally criticised as being the weakest link in the sector as well as not remitting revenue accurately.

Privatised in 2013 to reverse epileptic power supply situation, the sector has been troubled by financial crises involving over N4 trillion.

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The Federal Government had spent about N2 trillion to subsidise electricity consumption in the last five years, but current economic realities are bad. Over N10.8 trillion loan has been approved in the last one year alone. This is coupled with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and crash in prices of commodities.

Consequently, government has been seeking means to exit payment of subsidy in both petroleum and power sectors.

Since the move to increase the tariff was announced, stakeholders in the sector have increased agitation against shoddy performance of the power sector, especially in respect of poor service delivery, considering that the majority of consumers are not metered despite introduction of Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) scheme, while others raised concern on need to save the market with cost-reflective tariff plan.

An associate professor of Energy Law at the University of Lagos, Yemi Oke, told The Guardian that the timing of the tariff debate was ill-conceived, insensitive and seemingly desperate, stressing that consumers should have right to adjust, opt out or determine what level of electricity consumption they could afford through proper and honest metering.

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He said that the country, as far as the power sector is concerned, left “leprosy to cure ringworm” as the problem in the sector remained unresolved.

“Those issues that make tariffs increment desirable by DisCos are still there. Issues that make consumers resist further increase in tariffs are still there. Those fundamental issues that drag the power sector down in Nigeria have remained potent.”

An energy lawyer, Madaki Ameh, did not see any justification to increase tariffs and asked the general public to rise up against the attempt, which he described as “fraudulent.”

Ameh said: “There was a comprehensive review of the tariff issue and a number of town hall meetings were held across the country, where tariff increases were roundly rejected by consumers. At the end of that exercise, NERC issued guidelines rejecting the request of DisCos to review tariffs to the so-called ‘cost-reflective’ levels. So, what has changed between April 1 and now? What happened to all those townhall meetings? Were they just for show? What is so urgent about the tariff increase now, especially as there has been no meaningful improvement in service delivery by the DisCos?

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While the DisCos were accused of trying to get the government heavily indebted to the sector so as to cripple its control of the industry, knowing that ministries and agencies currently owe the utility companies over N100 billion, as revenue shortfall hits N1.2 trillion, spokesperson of the DisCos, Sunday Oduntan, denied the allegations.

He also denied that the DisCos did lobby NASS to halt the tariff increase, adding that the companies were ready to effect the tariff review until NASS convinced them to defer the decision.

Oduntan stated that executives of the utility companies, where government own 40 per cent share and represented at the board were in Abuja, courtesy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) before being invited by the lawmakers.

“We are very prepared, but we are mindful of the challenges faced by Nigerians. Timing is very important, but the regulator chooses the timing and the mode, including the actual level of tariff,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Profitability threat hit Banks in Nigeria

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The profitability of Nigerian Banks in the medium term may be under threat following rising inflation and increased government borrowing that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Report gathered exclusively by Noble Reporters Media released recently by Fitch Solutions that the banks are expected to grow in the medium term, but the rate of growth would be determined by the effects of inflation and government’s borrowing from the banks.

The report stated that due to COVID-19 pandemic and a weakened oil sector, there would be a deceleration of client loan growth from 14.0 per cent y-o-y in 2019 to 2.5 per cent in 2020, before a small pickup to 4.3 per cent in 2021.

Similarly, the demand for credit would weaken amid reduced economic activity and elevated uncertainty among consumers and businesses while deteriorating asset quality will make banks more cautious in issuing loans.

In the meantime, Fitch Solutions has revised its earlier 2020 growth forecast for Nigerian banks, including their total banking asset growth. The decision to change the earlier forecast was made out of consideration for the economic shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

Recall that Nigeria’s adoption of the IFRS 9 accounting standards for bad loans had considerably helped to improve asset quality in the banking sector. As a matter of fact, the ratio of non-performing loans had declined by as much as 40.7 per cent between Q4 2018 and Q4 2019.

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Unfortunately, the pandemic and the dramatic fall in oil prices earlier this year, all combined to negate the recent recorded success. This is why banks’ asset quality is projected to deteriorate this year, according to Fitch Solutions. This will also make banks become more cautious about lending.

“We continue to expect the changed minimum loan requirement to help drive client loan growth over the medium term. We have revised our growth forecast from the previous quarter and expect client loans to reach NGN14.9trn in 2020 with growth of 2.5 per cent from 2019.

“Due to economic headwinds caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we have revised our forecast for total banking asset growth to 5.3 per cent to NGN44.2trn. Over the medium term, we see average annual asset growth of 12.0 per cent to NGN63.8trn by 2024.

“Nigeria’s ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) tied to the oil sector declined by 40.7 per cent from Q418 to Q419 as oil exports rose by 16.1 per cent in 2019. In turn, the total NPL ratio fell from 11.7 per cent to 6.0 per cent over this period. However, due to the combined economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lower oil price, we expect asset quality to deteriorate this year, making banks more cautious about lending.”


#Newsworthy…

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AIICO Insurance reveal reason for divesting shares in Pension Managers

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AIICO Insurance Plc on Tuesday said the move to divest its 70 per cent stake in AIICO Pension Managers Limited to FCMB Pensions Limited had nothing to do with its recapitalisation plans.

The company said this in a statement by Mr Segun Olalandu, Head, Strategic Marketing and Communications Department, made available to Media in Lagos.

He quoted Mr Babatunde Fajemirokun, the Managing Director /CEO of AIICO, as saying that the proposal was for two reasons.

“The first is to unlock the value that is greater than holding the asset as a subsidiary now and in the future.

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“The second is to deploy the ensuing capital in other assets where AIICO has a stronger competitive advantage, thereby maximising long-term value for its stakeholders,” Fajemirokun was quoted in the statement.

According to the managing director, the move is not driven by the company’s recapitalisation plans which, on its own, is nearly completed.

The statement reiterated that AIICO was in discussions with FCMB Pensions Limited for the divestment of its 70 per cent stake in AIICO Pension Managers Limited.

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It explained that the proposed transaction was subject to the approval of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

AIICO Insurance is a leading composite insurer in Nigeria with a record of accomplishment of serving its clients for over 50 years.

Founded in 1963, AIICO provides life, health and general insurance, and investment and pension management services as a means to create and protect wealth of individuals, families and corporate customers.

Recall that FCMB Group and AIICO Insurance had on Friday notified the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and the investing public of discussions for sale of 96 per cent stake of AIICO Pensions Managers to FCMB Pensions.

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This is disclosed in separate statements by FCMB Group and AIICO Insurance posted on the Exchange website.

FCMB Group in a statement signed by Mr Kayode Adewuyi, Chief Financial Officer and Mr Ladi Balogun, its Group Chief Executive Officer, said the proposed acquisition would make AIICO Pensions an indirect subsidiary of FCMB Group.

They said both organisations had entered into discussions with shareholders of AIICO Pension Managers to acquire the 70 per cent stake held by AIICO Insurance and 26 per cent held by some other shareholders in AIICO Pensions.

According to the statement, the proposed transaction is subject to the approvals of the National Pension Commission and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

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“We shall notify the NSE and the investing public once the relevant approvals for the transaction are received,” it said.

In the same vein, AIICO, in a statement signed by the Company Secretary, Mr Donald Kanu, said at the conclusion of the proposed sale, AIICO Pensions shall cease to be a subsidiary of AIICO Insurance Plc.

“The proposed sale is AIICO’s stake of 70 per cent and other shareholders stakes of 26 per cent thus bringing the cumulative sale of 96 per cent stake to be purchased by FCMB Pensions,” Kanu said.

He said that the company would notify NSE once the relevant approvals for the transaction were received.


#Newsworthy ..

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Cross Rivers: NLC begins indefinite strike.

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Government activities were paralysed in offices in Cross River State Monday following the indefinite strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress.

The state chapter of the NLC led by Comrade Benedict Ukpepi had declared an indefinite strike over nonpayment of pension, gratuities, removal of names of civil servants from payroll implementation of promotion, among others.

Some agencies and offices rendered skeletal services and their workers closed early.

At the new secretariat on Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar, a team of NLC officials, policemen, and other security agencies were seen enforcing compliance.

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The NLC chairman said, “The strike is successful. The few staff at the New Secretariat are mostly members of Trade Union Congress who cannot work without our members.”

Some offices were also shut at the Old Secretariat when newsmen visited the place in the morning.

There was confusion initially over the strike as the TUC pulled out of the industrial action, citing wrong timing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


#Newsworthy

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DisCos agree with NASS to halt tariff increase.

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The leadership of the National Assembly on Monday succeeded in persuading the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to defer the planned tariff hike till the first quarter of 2021.

The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Ola Awoniyi, who disclosed this in a statement, said the NASS leadership would meet President Muhammadu Buhari later on the matter.

Many of the electricity distribution companies had announced last week that the implementation of the new tariff regime would begin on July 1.

The Ikeja Electricity had said in a statement issued by its Head of Corporate Communications, Mr. Felix Ofulue, that the new tariffs, which are service reflective, are end-user rates to be paid for electricity based on the level of service.

Monday’s meeting between the NASS leadership and the electricity distribution companies was attended by the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the parliament.

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Also at the meeting were the chief executives of the electricity regulatory agencies and the DisCos.

The statement read: “The National Assembly leaders were emphatic at the meeting that the timing of the planned hike was wrong even though there is the need to introduce cost-reflective tariffs for the power sector to attract the much-needed investment.

“In the course of the meeting, the DisCos too admitted that they were not well prepared for the planned hike in tariffs even though they so much desired the increase.

“The meeting agreed to defer the planned hike till the first quarter of next year while the leadership of the National Assembly promised to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue.”


#Newsworthy…

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Access Bank set to refund customers charged of Stamp Duty

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After hours of heavy dragging and insults by Nigerians, Access Bank has bowed to pressure and has promised to refund the money they cut from their customers’ account in the name of Stamp Duty Charge.

According to a statement released by the bank, the charges were accumulated after months of not deducting the charges from the customers’ account.

Read below:


#Newsworthy…

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Amazon, Jeff to acquire autonomous start-up

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Amazon announced Friday that it will acquire Zoox, a self-driving startup founded in 2014 that has raised nearly $1 billion in funding and which aims to develop autonomous driving technology, including vehicles, for the purposes of providing a full-stack solution for ride-hailing.

Zoox will continue to exist as a standalone business, according to Amazon’s announcement, with current CEO Aicha Evans continuing in her role, as well as CTO and co-founder Jesse Levinson. Their overall company mission will also remain the same, the release notes. The Financial Time reports that the deal is worth $1.2 billion.

The Wall Street Journal had reported at the end of May that Amazon was looking at Zoox as a potential acquisition target, and that the deal had reached the advanced stages.

Zoox has chosen one of the most expensive possible paths in the autonomous driving industry, seeking to build a fit-for-purpose self-driving passenger vehicle from the ground up, along with the software and AI end to provide its autonomous driving capabilities. Zoox has done some notable cost-cutting in the past year, and it brought in CEO Evans in early 2019 from Intel, likely with an eye toward leveraging her experience to help the company move toward commercialization.

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With a deep-pocketed parent like Amazon, Zoox should gain the runway it needs to keep up with its primary rival — Waymo, which originated as Google’s self-driving car project, and which counts Google owner Alphabet as its corporate owner.

Amazon has been working on its own autonomous vehicle technology projects, including its last-mile delivery robots, which are six-wheeled sidewalk-treading bots designed to carry small packages to customer homes. The company has also invested in autonomous driving startup Aurora, and it has tested self-driving trucks powered by self-driving freight startup Embark.

The Zoox acquisition is specifically aimed at helping the startup “bring their vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality,” according to Amazon, so this doesn’t look to be immediately focused on Amazon’s logistics operations for package delivery. But Zoox’s ground-up technology, which includes developing zero-emission vehicles built specifically for autonomous use, could easily translate to that side of Amazon’s operations.

Meanwhile, if Zoox really does remain on course for passenger ride-hailing, that could open up a whole new market for Amazon — one which would put it head-to-head with Uber and Lyft once the autonomous driving technology matures.


#Newsworthy...

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KEDCO set to rule out implementation of new electricity tariff

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The Management of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) says it has concluded arrangements for the implementation of the revised electricity tariff from July 1, 2020


Mr. Ibrahim Shawai, Head, Corporate Communications of the company, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday in Kano.

Shawai said the new tariff regime would guarantee quality customer oriented services, improvement in power supply, enhance availability and reliability in its franchise areas.

He said: “The Service Reflective Tariff is based on guaranteed hours of power supply, that will eventually deliver higher hours of quality service delivery, to ensure that customers get maximum satisfaction from KEDCO.

“Similarly, those currently enjoying higher hours of supply are expected to pay more, however, commensurate with the hours of supply.

“With the new initiative, customers would be categorised into five bands based on clusters for effective service delivery.

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He listed the Service Band (A) to include customers expected to enjoy minimum of 20-hours and 24-hours maximum supply; while Service Band (B) targeted customers expected to enjoy minimum of 16-hours and maximum of 20-hours power supply.

Others were Service Band (C, D and E) designed for customers expected to enjoyed power supply between four hours and maximum 16-hours daily consumption, respectively.

“It should be noted that the actual tariff categorisation is not yet approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as these proposals are before NERC and as soon as approvals are given, we will relate the same to our customers.”

Noble Reporters Media reports that KEDCO franchise areas comprise of Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States.


#Newsworthy…

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Ikeja to begin implementation of New Electricity tariff come July 1st

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Ikeja Electric Plc on Friday said it would begin implementation of its revised electricity tariff from July 1.

The electricity distribution company made the announcement in a statement signed by its Head of Corporate Communications, Mr Felix Ofulue.

Ofulue said the Ikeja Electric Plc’s new tariffs, which are service reflective, are end-user rates to be paid for electricity based on the level of service (including availability and reliability) provided to a cluster of customers.

He said: “This is in line with our Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) across the entire network in the coming months and years.

“The different service levels to all categories of electricity consumers will also be accompanied by a change in tariff which has taken into cognisance changes in macroeconomic indices in the country.

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”This will enable all the market players (Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and gas suppliers) in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry cover cost of their operations and ensure improved service delivery.”

According to him, the plan is for the sector to gradually make a transition to a full cost-recovery market where the cost of services provided will be fully recovered.

Ofulue said services were also expected to improve within a very short time in customer service delivery, infrastructural upgrade, metering and technological solutions.

He, however, said that this would be based on the level of investments that will be attracted, going forward.

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“For the purpose of customer classification, customers will now be categorised into maximum demand customers (MD) and non-maximum demand (Non-MD) customers, and will no longer be the usual residential, commercial and industrial customer classes.

“All customers have now been clustered into different bands depending on the level of service currently being enjoyed.

”Customers who are in the higher band currently being provided with good electricity supply will be expected to pay the true costs of the services being enjoyed.

“Customers who are within the lower band and are not receiving optimal services will be expected to pay a much lower tariff pending improvements in services and the movement to a higher tariff band reflecting improved service delivery, ” he said.

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Ofulue said that IE remained committed to bridging the metering gap and reducing the incidence of estimated bills.

“In recent times, we have doubled our efforts to realise our objective of metering our unmetered customers within the shortest possible time.

“We also note that complaints resolution by customers have been a concern in the past but this is set to improve as we move forward with this new tariff regime

“Lastly, this tariff implementation is subject to the approval of the regulator but it is necessary for performance improvement expected by customers,” the IE spokesman said.


#Newsworthy…

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Storyline: FAAN raises fare charge by 100%

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The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said on Friday it would increase the passenger service charges on domestic and international flight tickets by 100 percent from August 1.

FAAN’s Managing Director, Rabiu Yadudu, stated this in a letter dated June 22, 2020, with reference FAAN/HQ/MD/18E/VOL.86/72, to airlines.

With this development, the PSC on domestic flights has been increased from the current N1,000 to N2,000.

FAAN would also hike the charges on international flights from $50 to $100, a development that would warrant a rise in airfares on local and international tickets.

Yadudu told the airlines that the decision had been approved by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

He added that FAAN planned to improve and upgrade airports’ infrastructure across the country, among others.


#Newsworthy….

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World Bank yes $750M loan to Nigeria’s power sector

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The World Bank on Wednesday says it has approved $750 million International Development Association (IDA) credit for Nigeria’s Power Sector Recovery Operation (PSRO), to improve electricity supply.

The Bank, in a statement in Abuja, said the facility is intended to help Nigeria achieve financial and fiscal sustainability and enhance accountability in the power sector.

According to the bank, the economic cost of power shortages in Nigeria is estimated at around $28 billion, which is equivalent to two per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It stated that getting access to electricity is one of the major constraints for the private sector according to the Ease of Doing Business report.

It added that improving power sector performance, particularly in the non-oil sectors of manufacturing and services, would be central to unlocking economic growth post COVID-19.

Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said “lack of reliable power has stifled economic activity and private investment and job creation.

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”This is ultimately what is needed to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

“The objective of this operation is to help turn around the power sector and set it on a fiscally sustainable path. This is particularly urgent at a time when the government needs all the fiscal resources it can marshal to help protect lives and livelihoods amid the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The bank said that PSRO would provide results-based financing to support the implementation of the Government’s Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP).

It further explained that the PSRP was a comprehensive programme to restore the power sector’s financial viability, improve service delivery and reduce its fiscal burden.

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“The PSRO is expected to increase annual electricity supplied to the distribution grid, enhance power sector financial viability while reducing annual tariff shortfalls and protecting the poor from the impact of tariff adjustments.

“This will enable the turnaround of power sector while helping the Federal Government to redirect large fiscal resources from highly regressive tariff shortfall financing towards critical crisis-responsive and pro-poor expenditures. It will also increase public awareness about ongoing power sector reforms and performance.

“Specifically, the PSRO will ensure that 4,500 mwh/hour of electricity is supplied to the distribution grid by 2022 by strengthening the regulatory, policy and financing framework.

“It will also enhance the accountability and financial viability of the sector, helping the sector create a track record of sustainable operation necessary for unlocking much needed private investments in the future,” the Bank explained


#Newsworthy…

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AIICO Insurance set to Recapitalize

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AIICO Insurance on Wednesday said it was way ahead with its recapitalisation plans, as it unveiled another phase of its strategy.

The company said it had submitted application to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on June 15, for the approval and listing of 4,357,770,954 ordinary shares of fifty kobo each at eighty kobo per share.

The shares presented for listing was on the basis of five new ordinary shares for every 13 ordinary shares held.

A statement by the firm’s Head, Strategic Marketing and Communications, Segun Olalandu, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos noted that listing of its shares was another phase of its recapitalistion strategy.

Also, NSE All-Share rebounds by 0.17%.

He said the firm’s shareholders had the opportunity to increase their stake and position themselves for higher returns in a company with excellent prospects.

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” AIICO’s recapitalisation journey started in earnest when the insurance regulator, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) set a strategic plan to increase the capacity of the industry to take on more risks.

” Responding to this, AIICO quickly articulated a clear path to meet the new minimum regulatory capital requirement.

“The company followed through with regular communications at all stages in the execution of the strategy with its shareholders, who have been supportive of the efforts, ” he said.

According to him, the firm, in February, completed its private placement successfully with 38.83 per cent of its shares snapped up by two strategic investors; LeapFrog Nigeria Insurance Holdings Limited (28.24 per cent) and AIICO Bahamas Nigeria Limited (10.59 per cent), raising the share capital from N6.1billion to N11.3billion.

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He said that the Rights Issue was expected to generate N3.5billion, bringing the company closer to meeting the required minimum paid-up capital of N18 billion.

The company’s spokesman said the exercise would be followed subsequently with a capitalisation (bonus) issue, which has a qualification date of September 23, 2020.

” The industry, as with others, is facing daunting challenges as a result of the pandemic.

” As a result, NAICOM recently revised its recapitalization guidelines; 50 per cent of the new minimum capital to be achieved by December 31, 2020, while the deadline for overall completion has been extended till September 30, 2021.

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“AIICO has, however, maintained an unbroken focus on its journey to its recapitalisation.

“The company also provided updates on the convertible loan instrument with the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

“It obtained a loan of US$7million from the IFC on June 30, 2015, at an interest rate of 6.5 per cent plus six month LIBOR for seven years with a moratorium period of four years on the principal, ” he said.

According to him, the loan had an embedded derivative (a conversion option) whereby IFC had the right to convert all or a portion of the outstanding principal amount into the equivalent number of shares of the company.

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Olalandu, noted that the loan repayment is in six equal instalments starting in March 2020 and is expected to end in September 2022 except if prepaid before then.

He said this convertible option, however, expired in December 2019 without the IFC exercising its option. Hence, the loan is now a straight loan without a conversion option till maturity.

AIICO Insurance is a leading composite insurer in Nigeria with a record of accomplishment of serving its clients that dates back over 50 years.

Founded in 1963, AIICO provides life and health insurance, general insurance, investment management and pension management services as a means to create and protect wealth for individuals, families and corporate customers.


#Newsworthy…

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Why Oil Price could increase – Energy Minister speak up

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UAE Energy Minister Suheil al-Mazrouei said on Monday current low oil and gas prices are unsustainable and warned that if they last longer, it could lead to energy shocks.

Mazrouei said that “very good signs” of rising demand for oil have been seen in China and India, two of the world’s biggest crude consumers, and to some degree in Europe.

“This environment of low oil and gas prices, I don’t think it’s sustainable,” the minister said in a virtual interview hosted by the US-UAE Business Council.

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Mazrouei said that if low oil prices persist for a long period, some of the current high-cost producers will drop out leaving a supply gap, pushing prices higher.

“We need someone to fill in that gap, otherwise we are going to have shocks in… prices and the last thing we want is to have shocks,” he said.

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“We need to have stability and to have a reasonable and fair price.”

Brent crude crashed to multi-year lows under $20 a barrel and WTI (for May delivery) sank into negative territory in April for the first time in history as demand slumped due to coronavirus lockdowns and a global supply glut.

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The two benchmarks have recovered to around $40 a barrel after the OPEC+ producers alliance agreed to record production cuts of 9.7 million barrels per day in April, effective for two months starting May.

Earlier this month, the alliance extended the historic cuts through July as governments around the world ease unprecedented lockdowns in many countries.

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Mazrouei said that although oil consumption has dropped to 2013 levels “we think things will go back to normal within one or two years.”

“Unless we have a second wave of Covid-19, I think we will see a demand recovery at a pace that is adequate to the cut we have done as… OPEC+, provided other producers do not rush and over-produce,” Mazrouei said.


#Newsworthy…

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Price of Gold rise to Rs1,700 – touch Rs105,400 per tola

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The gold prices shot up in Pakistan on Wednesday with an increase of Rs 1,700 it touched Rs105,400 per tola. While per 10-gram gold price is Rs90,400.

Earlier on 09 June the gold rate per 10 gram in Pakistan was Rs88,900 and the price of gold was Rs103,700 per tola.


#Newsworthy…

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FG approve Hazard Allowance for Health Workers.

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Two months of hazard allowance has been approved by the Federal Government for health workers battling COVID-19.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, during a meeting with health professionals.

The decision is part of an agreement between the Federal Government and health professionals.

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Ngige revealed that the allowance was a form of appreciation to the health workers for the effort in the fight against COVID-19.

Ngige said, “We reviewed all, and also reviewed all the emoluments that we are to give these gallant workers who are at the frontline taking the risk for all of us and the Federal government side has given them the financial implication of what they have done.

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He said, “We have fixed a timeline for ourselves that before the end of this week, the health workers captured in that particular COVID-19 net and frontline workers should get all their hazard and inducement allowances for the month of April and May before the close of the week.”

He also revealed that the decision was reached in agreement with the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Foreign reserves rise Incredibly


The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Tuesday, announced a new rise of the nation’s foreign reserves by $2.7bn after long-witnessing major decline for several months.

According to figures from the apex bank, the country’s foreign reserves had earlier stood at $33.52bn as of April 30, 2020. Despite the plague of the pandemic, it has witnessed a growth, rising to $36.59bn as of May 29, 2020.

For nearly a calendar year, the figures have been depreciating until this, perhaps, unexpected rise in May 2020. Commenting on the development, CBN Governor Mr Godwin Emefiele confirmed that the country’s reserves had plunged to a record low after hitting a high of $45.17bn on June 11, 2019, losing over $11bn in almost 11 months.

According to the governor, international oil price benchmark, Brent crude, which rose to as high as $70 per barrel in January, slumped to as low as $15.98 per barrel in April. And, since Nigeria’s main export commodity is crude oil, representing around 90 per cent of its exports, the characterised downward trend in its net balance, as witnessed, was expected.

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However, in what rather seemed like a shift from the usual, the CBN Governor noted that there was an improvement in crude oil price, standing at about $34.8 per barrel as of May 28, 2020, thereby, leading to a positive growth in the month under review.

While reiterating the need for government to shift its reliance on while, Emefiele further acknowledged the boost from recovery of the oil price on the economy.

He said: “The moderate recovery in crude oil prices would reduce the pressure on the external reserves and government revenue.”


#Newsworthy…

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In: 5G to meet One Billion connections come 2022.


The long-term impact of Coronavirus on 5G adoption will be limited, according to new forecasts from analysts at CCS Insight that predict there will be more than one billion connections by 2022.

The pandemic has resulted in some short term disruption. Lockdown measures have restricted the ability of operators to build 5G infrastructure, caused regulators to delay auctions of new spectrum, and have lowered demand for new smartphones.

Accordingly, CCS’s forecasts for 2020 and 2021 are lower than they were pre-pandemic. However the easing of restrictions in China, coupled with strong 5G momentum in the country and more affordable handsets means the overall forecast is still optimistic.

5G forecasts

Analysts note that 5G networks have launched in 17 countries and believe the global mobile phone market will have made a full recovery by 2022 – exceeding sales figures in 2019.

By 2023, is its predicted there will be 3.2 billion 5G connections – a quarter of the overall figure globally. China will reach the 100 million milestone this year and the 1 billion mark in 2024.

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“The arrival of new chipsets and fierce competition in the shrinking global mobile phone market will lead to a quick introduction of 5G in more moderately priced smartphones in 2020,” said Marina Koytcheva, CCS Insight’s vice president of forecasting.

“We’re going to see prices of supporting devices tumble below $400 faster than previously expected, a trend that will be instrumental in 5G becoming more accessible to a much wider demographic.”

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“Strong desire from local operators to make up for delays caused by Covid-19 in the first quarter, combined with enthusiastic support from the government, wide availability of more-affordable 5G handsets and the unrelenting ambition of local network equipment and handset manufacturer Huawei, will spur demand,” added Kester Mann, head of CCS Insight’s consumer and connectivity research.”

The forecasts come with the caveat that there is still ongoing uncertainty and that an economic slowdown could impact both adoption and rollout.


#Newsworthy

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NNPC clash with Senate over oil price.


The Senate Committee on Finance on Monday rejected the revenue targets projected for the various revenue-generating agencies in the country to fund the Revised 2020 Budget, describing their proposed sums as grossly inadequate.

Members of the Senate panel also condemned in strong terms the explanation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that it spent $21 to produce a barrel of oil.

They spoke when the heads of the various revenue-generating agencies including the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the NNPC, and the Nigeria Customs Service, led by the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, appeared before the Senate panel to defend their proposals in the revised budget.

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Trouble started when the Chief Operating Officer of the NNPC (Upstream), Mr Yemi Adetunji, told the panel that the agency reduced the production cost per barrel of crude oil from $25 proposed in the approved 2020 budget to $21 in the revised budget in line with the current realities.

The Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Solomon Adeola, had asked the NNPC to explain why it was proposing $21 as production cost per barrel of crude when the new oil benchmark proposed in the revised budget was $25 per barrel.

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Adeola said, “We want you (NNPC) to take us through why Nigeria’s cost of production per barrel of crude oil is the most expensive in the world by giving us the breakdown of what constitute those costs in to the variables and the technical cost and we want to know what you are doing as an agency of government to bring down this cost.”

In his response, Adetunji told the panel that security challenges in the Niger Delta region, oil theft, vandalism and the huge administrative costs were responsible for the high cost of oil production in the country.

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He, however, said the NNPC was working with relevant stakeholders to reduce the administrative cost through a multi-disciplinary approach in terms of planning and engagement of various partners.

Obviously dissatisfied with Adetunji’s submission, the panel chairman asked him who determined the production cost, especially when the benchmark of $25 as proposed in the revised budget would mean that Nigeria would earn just $4 as its own return on investment.

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He said, “I begin to look at the oil revenue and the mineral revenue as proposed in the MTEF/FSP that has dropped from almost N8.86tn to N3.33tn. Are you saying that it is worthwhile investment for us as a nation?

“Going by the fact that the cost of producing one barrel is $21 and the benchmark is $25 for over 180 million Nigerians and all these cost you have listed, who determines them? How do you ensure that Nigeria is being charged the right cost on each barrel of oil?

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“In Saudi Arabia, it is $4 per barrel cost of production. In Russia, it is about $3 per barrel. Nigeria is $21. We are beginning to be afraid as to why we are channeling all our efforts to this oil and gas if the return on investment is nothing to write home about.”

The chairman’s position was re-echoed by Senators James Manager, Shaibu Gumau and Jibrin Issa, who rejected Adetunji’s explanation on the grounds that he dwelt more on fixed costs while still talking about administrative cost, and security challenges as variables for the high cost of production.

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When given the opportunity to react again, Adetunji said, “We are working hard to bring down this fixed cost. Historically, our total cost has been $30 per barrel. So the objective of the new GMD, Mr Mele Kyari, is that we have to reduce the cost to $21 this year.

“We know that these costs are high that is why we have decided to go from even the initial approved $25 per barrel in the earlier approved budget to $21 per barrel.

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“We believe that once we have the new framework in place going forward, we should even see lower cost of production.”

He added that security challenges were peculiar to Nigeria.

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The panel also hit hard at the FIRS and the NCS, saying that their various revenue projections were unacceptable because they were too low.

The panel said it would not support the proposal of FIRS to reduce revenue from stamp duty from N463bn to N200bn judging from the fact that the number of transactions from the day-to-day basis ran into several billions.

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The Executive Chairman of the agency, Muhammad Nami, pledged to work with his team to shore up its target by deploying technology for the purpose of increasing the tax base, having a seamless process of accessing, collecting and accounting for the taxes collectable by FIRS.

He, however, said accessing, collecting and accounting would depend largely on the performance of the economy of the country.


#Newsworthy…

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