Category Archives: Economy and Business

BREAKING: FG Announces Another COVID-19 Lockdown, To Begin Tuesday (Tomorrow)

The Federal Government has announced Phase IV of the COVID-19 lockdown across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This new directive is to take effect by midnight of Tuesday, a member of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Dr. Mukhtar Mohammed, declared.

Mohammed, who is the Head of Technical Secretariat of the PSC, made the announcement while briefing reporters on Monday in Abuja.

With the lockdown imposed, mass gatherings in public spaces have been restricted to 50 people at any given time.

Access to government institutions would also be denied to anyone not wearing a face mask while government meetings and travels have been limited to the virtual platform.

According to Mohammed, the government has directed that bars and nightclubs should remain closed and the nationwide curfew will be in force until further notice.

He added that only essential international travels would be encouraged, and all existing protocols must be strictly adhered to.

The PSC member, however, stated that there was no limitation to intra-state travel.

Zenith, Access Banks Express Interest to Acquire Union Bank

Obinna Chima with agency report

Two Nigerian lenders – Zenith Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc – are among the list of financial institutions from Africa and the Middle East that have indicated an interest in the acquisition of Union Bank Plc and other African assets of Atlas Mara Group, a Pan-African banking group.
Bloomberg which disclosed this quoted sources familiar with the matter to have disclosed that Atlas Mara Limited, the London Stock Exchange-listed pan-African banking group started by Mr. Bob Diamond has received a number of approaches for its 49.97 per cent holding in Lagos-based Union Bank of Nigeria.

Zenith Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc are among the suitors that have expressed interest alongside other African rivals such as Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank, the sources said.

THISDAY also confirmed the development from sources in the two tier-1 banks, who also pleaded to remain anonymous.
Middle Eastern banks and private equity suitors have also shown interest, according to the sources. Some potential buyers have indicated that they may acquire all of Atlas Mara’s remaining assets in Africa, which would include its Zimbabwe unit, they said.
Atlas Mara has been working with Rothschild & Co. to consider options for its Union Bank stake. No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said.

Representatives for Atlas Mara and Zenith Bank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Attijariwafa Bank Managing Director Ismail Douiri and a representative for Access Bank declined to comment.

A deal could bring down the curtain on Atlas Mara’s African foray after Diamond, a former Barclays Plc chief executive officer, misjudged competition on the continent and overpaid for acquisitions. The company said recently that it’s secured regulatory approval for the sales of its businesses in Botswana and Mozambique and received interest in other assets, without elaborating.

Atlas Mara also said it completed a planned restructuring process and extended a standstill agreement with its creditors to May 17 to complete the necessary documentation. It’s still in legal disputes with two creditors, TLG and Norsad, it added.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need to reposition the company, which has seen a plunge of about 96% in its stock since it started trading toward the end of 2013. The firm’s stake in UBN, Nigeria’s sixth-biggest bank by market value is its largest investment and seen as a foothold into the continent’s most populous nation.

Commenting on the matter, Frontier and Sub-saharan Africa Banks’ Analyst, Renaissance Capital, Adesoji Solanke, wrote in a note made available to THISDAY yesterday: “Good for Atlas Mara if they’re able to exit successfully, as they’ve been selling a bunch of assets over the past year, to KCB and Access Bank respectively across different markets. Whether they get a good valuation for Union Bank is another thing.
“We don’t think it’ll be a transformational deal for Access or Zenith (Return-on-Equity dilutive for both), but could be a good way for the Middle Eastern banks to get a decent foothold in the market. We suspect getting the other private equity investor block to sell will be critical as we wouldn’t expect a strategic bank investor to desire a minority shareholding.”

UK considers creating new digital currency, ‘BRITCOIN’

Britain is looking into the possibility of creating a digital currency that households and businesses could use instead of cash – an initiative the finance minister dubbed “Britcoin”.

The use of cash has fallen during the coronavirus pandemic as people try to avoid contact, and several central banks across the world are considering whether to create digital money that would allow online payments without going through banks.

The Bank of England and Treasury announced Monday the creation of a Central Bank Digital Currency Taskforce to look into a potential UK CBDC.

“A CBDC would be a new form of digital money issued by the Bank of England and for use by households and businesses,” the central bank said in a statement.

“It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them,” it added.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak replied to a tweet of the announcement with the question “Britcoin?” – a play on words on the bitcoin cryptocurrency whose value has soared in recent months.

Unlike with cryptocurrencies, which are out of the reach of state entities since they are issued in a decentralised and encrypted system, central banks would have control over digital money.

China is trying out its own digital currency in a pilot programme, while European Central Bank will decide this summer whether to move towards creating a digital euro.

The Bank of England said the CBDC task force will use a forum to look at the “practical challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC”.

It will also consider the data and privacy implications of a digital currency.

AFP

Nigeria losing over 50 million dollars as Pan Ocean workers industrial action continues

* Stakeholders urge FG, others to intervene urgentlyBy Ogba Collins, WarriThe Nigerian Government is losing an estimated crude oil production of over 420, 000, Four Hundred and Twenty Thousand Barrels Per Day and over 50 million Dollars since the two unions. NUPENGASSAN of Pan Ocean workers embarked on an industrial action against management of Pan Ocean over non payment of salaries, pension remittances, welfare of workers among others.Investigations revealed that Pan Ocean workers had issued several industrial action notices to the Top Management of the company in pursuance to their demands but to no avail until they shutdown OML 98, OML 147 fields as well as the major gas plant line supplying Egbin Power plant last December 2020 which compelled NNPC, DPR, Pan Ocean Top Management for meetings and it was resolved and they were assured of meeting up their demands by federal government.Further investigations revealed that Chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, Pan Ocean branch, Comrade Rex Aibangbee, NUPENG Branch Chairman, Comrade Aboy Udi, PENGASSAN as well as NUPENG National PRO, Comrade Cogent Ojobor and PENGASSAN, Warri Zonal Council Vice Chairman, Comrade Prince Audu Peter Oshiokhamele with NUPENGASSAN National President, Williams Eniredonana Akporehe and PENGASSAN National President comrade, Comrade Osifo Festus both unanimously declared and gave Pan Ocean and federal government as well as relevant agencies 48 hours starting from December 7, 2020 to meet up the demands of the workers or they shutdown their operations they reiterated that the two union presidents had directed that they shutdown operations if NNPC, NAPIMS, Ministry of Petroleum doesn’t resolve the issue amicably by paying the workers what’s due them.Accordingly, federal government in their joint meeting held with both NUPENGASSAN and their National leaders agreed however that the NNPC will pay the workers 60 percent, while Pan Ocean take care of their top management after it was reviewed.The federal government agreed outright payment of 100 percent in order for easy takeover of the assets by NPDC.Presently, Pan Ocean has refused signing memorandum of Understanding with federal government through the NNPC, its subsidiaries and staff of Pan Ocean in order to mandate release of fund to pay and settle the workers industrial unrest which has led to loss of almost 500 thousands barrels of crude oil per day; and almost loss of about 900 million cubic feet of gas production occasioned due to shutting down of the various production well facilities.Stakeholders in the oil and gas sectors are urging the federal government and the top management to urgently intervene in order to save the economy from such huge loss and possible economic collapse if the industrial unrest continues.They stressed the need for government to prevail on Pan Ocean Top Management to settle the issue promptly in order to encourage peaceful and industrial harmony among workers and Pan Ocean management.

We are open to collaboration with French investors – Gov Ikpeazu

The Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has sought the collaboration of the Government of France in attracting French companies to invest in the state, especially the Enyimba Economic City.

Governor Ikpeazu made the request recently when he received the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Jerome Pasquier courtesy visit.

He assured that his government will provide the necessary support needed by such French companies to invest in the state.

Governor Ikpeazu said he expects great collaboration from the French Government in the areas of Agriculture and Technical Education.

He disclosed that his government plans to build a Youth Eco-System where Abia Children could acquire skills and be citizens who can fit into the technological demands of the 21st century.

He appealed to the Ambassador to partner with the state in that regard.

The State Chief Executive who described Education as key to success in every other venture said the focus of the state is on Technical Education and solicited the French Government to do more in that regard.

Earlier, the French Ambassador to Nigeria Mr Jerome Pasquier said his country is open to any possibility of working with Abia State in the area of Education and Agriculture

He described Abia as one of the best places in Nigeria for investment and promised to make the French presence felt in the State.

Governor Ikpeazu also presented some Made in Aba items as commemorative gifts to the Ambassador.

The French Ambassador had earlier arrived at the Government House Umuahia and was received by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. ACB Agbazuere.

He was also later conducted round the National War Museum Umuahia.

Senator Mao Ohuabunwa and the Coordinator of the Education For Employment (E4E) program of the State Government, Mr. Endi Ezengwa were present at the event.

NBS ranks Abia third for 2020 capital inflow

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has ranked Abia State as the third state with top capital inflow in 2020.

According to NBS, “By destination, Lagos emerged as the top destination of capital investment in Nigeria with $8.3 billion, followed by Abuja, which received $1.3 billion.

“The others on the list are Abia State with relatively $56 million, Niger with $16.4 million, and Ogun with $13.4 million.

Anambra State recorded $10.2 million, Kaduna State recorded $4.03 million, Sokoto got $2.5 million and Kano got $2.4 million”.

It stated that the remaining 26 states received no foreign capital inflows the entire year.

The states include: Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara States.

Ikpeazu urges Security Agencies to patronize Aba shoe factory

*Says factory capable of producing world class boots

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has urged various security agencies in the country to jettison the idea of traveling abroad to acquire security boots but patronize the Enyimba Automated Shoe factory which has the sufficient capacity to produce such boots in commercial quantity and world class quality.

Governor Ikpeazu who stated this at the Abia Social media Converge with the theme, “Social media For Good Governance” held at the Dr Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, said that Made in Aba shoes can compete favourably with any other brand globally.

He disclosed that the Enyimba Automated Shoe factory just concluded the supply of industrial shoes to the Nigerian Railway Corperation and has become the official supplier of shoes to the Nigerian Correctional Services. He therefore beckoned on other Agencies in the country yet to identify with the Enyimba Automated Shoe factory to do the needful for the growth of the nation’s economy.

The Governor expressed joy that his campaigns for the Made in Aba products and its standardization has paid off as artisans in Aba are now proudly inscribing Made in Aba on their products as a brand.

Governor Ikpeazu who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the Executive Order on compulsory patronage of locally made goods, added that such has started yielding results for the economic prosperity of Nigeria.

BREAKING: Okonjo-Iweala confirmed as 1st female & 1st African Director-General of the World Trade Organisation

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was selected by consensus to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization at a closed-door meeting on Monday, according to two sources attending the meeting.

All members of the WTO’s top decision-making body, the General Council, agreed on her appointment in a virtual meeting which had just one agenda item, they said. The WTO subsequently confirmed the choice.

She becomes the first woman director general, as well as the first African to hold this position.

Nigerians Can Now Sue Shell In The UK For Oil Pollution

Nigerians can sue Shell in English courts for damage to communities caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta, the UK’s Supreme Court said on Friday, allowing the communities to bring their claims for compensation and clean-up in UK courts.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Ogale and Bille communities who have contended that Shell should be held liable for the oil spills under the supervision of its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC.

The UK Supreme Court overturned a split decision of the Court of Appeal and held that the two cases brought by the Ogale and Bille communities are arguable and can proceed in the English courts.

The Supreme Court ruling adds another precedent for oil companies who can be sued in their domicile for oil spills and other harm to communities in other countries.

Last month, The Hague Court of Appeal ordered Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers for two oil spills in the country 13 years ago, in the first lawsuit in which a company has been held liable in the Netherlands for its actions abroad.

Shell hasn’t argued that the oil spills did not happen, but has always said that the spills happened in communities with rampant oil theft and infrastructure sabotage.

“Regardless of the cause of a spill, SPDC cleans up and remediates. It also works hard to prevent these sabotage spills, by using technology, increasing surveillance and by promoting alternative livelihoods for those who might damage pipes and equipment. Unfortunately, such criminal acts remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta today,” a spokesperson for Shell said, as carried by Sky News.

Persistent issues with theft and sabotage in the Niger Delta could prompt Shell to take a hard look at its operations onshore Nigeria, the supermajor’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said last week.

Daniel Leader, a partner with law firm Leigh Day representing the Nigerian communities, said, commenting on Friday’s ruling:

“This Supreme Court judgment gives real hope to the people of Ogale and Bille who have been asking Shell to clean up their oil for years. We hope that now, finally, Shell will act. But it also represents a watershed moment in the accountability of multinational companies.”

CBN bans cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria, orders closure of cryptocurreny accounts

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions to close accounts of persons who are using their systems for cryptocurrency trading.

A cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital currency that appreciates or depreciates on the whims of market forces.

Trading with Bitcoin–a cryptocurrency type–has gained traction globally and in Nigeria lately; and most young people have been investing in the cryptocurrency world, buying and selling bitcoin and making profit for themselves.

But the apex ban is clearly not a fan of digital currencies.
In a statement signed by Bello Hassan, Director of Banking Supervision; and Musa Jimoh, Director of Payments System Management Department, the CBN said:

“Further to earlier regulatory directives on the subject, the bank hereby wishes to remind regulated institutions that dealing in crypto currencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchange is prohibited.

“Accordingly, all DMBs, NBFIs and OFIs are directed to identify persons and/or entities transacting in or operating crypto currency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts are closed immediately.”

The CBN also declared that breaches of its directive will attract severe regulatory sanctions.

CBN has never liked cryptocurrency

It is not the first time that the CBN would be showing its disdain for cryptocurrency. In 2018, the apex bank issued a circular to say cryptocurrencies are not legal tenders in Nigeria.

“For the avoidance of doubt, dealers and investors in any kind of cryptocurrency in Nigeria are not protected by law. Virtual currencies are traded in exchange platforms that are unregulated, all over the world.

“Consumers may therefore lose their money without any legal redress in the event these exchangers collapse or close business.

“Members of the public are hereby warned that virtual currencies are not legal tender in Nigeria. Accordingly, we wish to caution all and sundry on the risks inherent in such activities,” the 2018 statement had read.

Other types of cryptocurrencies are Ethereum, Litecoin, Polkadot, Chainlink, Binance coin, Tether, Gadecoin, etc.