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Equities lose N144b as investors await CBN decisions

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Investors scrambled to realign their portfolios and lock in profit ahead of the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). A midweek selling spree left the equities market with a net capital depreciation of N143.9 billion last week as investors anxiously await the decisions of the MPC.

The MPC is scheduled to meet between today and tomorrow during which the apex bank will review its monetary policy tools and rates, in the light of current macro-economic and global outlook. While many analysts expected the apex bank to retain its current rates, some analysts said improving macro-economic performance, though still fragile, could encourage the apex bank to cut rates.

With more than two losers to every gainer, quoted equities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) traded largely on the negative during the week. The All Share Index (ASI)-the benchmark index that tracks share prices at the Exchange, recorded a week-on-week decline of 1.12 per cent to close the week at 36,703.58 points as against its week’s opening index of 37,120.28 points.

Aggregate market value of all quoted equities also dropped from its week’s opening value of N12.847 trillion to close at N12.774 trillion. The difference between the ASI and aggregate market value was due to the listing of new shares by two companies-Unilever Nigeria and Trans-Nationwide Express. All other sectoral indices also closed negative with the exception of the NSE Oil and Gas Index, which appreciated by 0.85 per cent. Average year-to-date return depressed to 36.57 per cent.

Total turnover stood at 2.80 billion shares worth N54.78 billion in 17,792 deals last week as against a total of 1.32 billion shares valued at N13.78 billion traded in 19,169 deals two weeks ago. Financial services sector remained atop activity chart with 2.352 billion shares valued at N8.995 billion traded in 9,364 deals; thus contributing 83.88 per cent and 16.42 per cent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively. The consumer goods sector followed with 178.982 million shares worth N16.849 billion in 4,297 deals while the third place was occupied by industrial goods sector with a turnover of 140.570 million shares worth N27.848 billion in 794 deals.

The three most active stocks were Sovereign Trust Insurance Plc, FBN Holdings Plc and Dangote Cement Plc, which altogether accounted for 1.917 billion shares worth N29.875 billion in 2,130 deals, contributing 68.37 per cent and 54.54 per cent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively.

In the sovereign debt market, a total of 5,950 units of Federal Government Bonds valued at N6.247 million were traded in two deals, compared with a total of 2,806 units valued at N2.623 million traded in 16 deals penultimate week.

Sectoral indices showed a market-wide sell pressure. The NSE 30 Index, which tracks the 30 most capitalised stocks at the NSE, recorded a week-on-week decline of 1.37 per cent. The NSE Consumer Goods Index recorded the highest loss of 2.89 per cent. The NSE Banking Index depreciated by 1.29 per cent. The NSE Insurance Index dipped by 1.98 per cent while the NSE Industrial Goods Index declined by 1.03 per cent.

There were 20 gainers against 43 losers last week as against 30 gainers and 29 losers recorded in the previous week. AG Leventis Nigeria recorded the highest gain, in percentage terms, of 27.3 per cent to close at 70 kobo. Forte Oil followed with a gain of 10.3 per cent to close at N48.62 while BOC Gases rose by 9.9 per cent to close at N4.56 per share. On the other hand, Caverton Offshore Support Group recorded the highest loss of 21.4 per cent to close at N1.32. Linkage Assurance dropped by 17.7 per cent to close at 56 kobo while C & I Leasing declined by 13.8 per cent to close at N1.44 per share.

“Despite the noticeable easing of external sector pressures and improving growth prospect, we believe that in line with outcomes of previous meetings held this year, the MPC would retain rates at current level, owing to the fragility of the economic recovery and disappointing inflation numbers witnessed so far in third quarter 2017,” Afrinvest Securities stated.

NNPC, Chevron Sign $1.7bn Gas Production Deal

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Senate queries Chevron over $7.4bn contract inflation

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) have concluded the final phase of an Alternative Financing Agreement to increase crude production by about 39,000 barrels per day.

The agreement, signed in London, is also expected to achieve an incremental peak production of about 283mmscfd of gas, NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr Maikanti Baru, made the disclosure in a statement on Sunday.

The statement was issued by Mr Ndu Ughamadu, Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division of NNPC.

Baru said the increment to be achieved by the agreement would spread “over the remaining life of the asset ( 2045).”

According to him, the project, which is about 92 per cent completed, will cost 1.7 billion dollars, with 780 million dollars and is expected to be funded by third-party.

He said it would produce natural gas liquids and condensate extracted from the Sonam and Okan fields located in OML 90 and 91 in the Niger Delta.

Baru described the deal as a step in the right direction which would grow the nation’s daily production and support the Federal Government’s strategic domestic gas-to-power aspirations.

He said the project would include the completion of the Sonam non-associated gas (NAG) well platform and Sonam living quarters platform; drilling of seven wells in the Sonam field and the Okan 30E NAG well.

READ: Mrs Buhari appointed Grand patron of Nigeria-Morocco women

It will also include the completion of the 20” x 32Km Sonam pipeline and Okan pig receiver platform and development of the associated facilities, Baru added.

”As we speak now, the facilities are 100 per cent completed while wells are 40 per cent executed,” he said.

In carrying out the project, the NNPC/CNL Joint Venture (JV) adopted a two-stage financing approach: Stage 1 which provided 400 million dollars sourced from Nigerian Commercial Banks achieved financial close on Aug. 1, 2017.

Stage 2, (signed on Nov. 17), is set to provide 380 million dollars from International Commercial Banks (ICBs).

Out of the 780 million dollars total financing for both stages, Chevron’s co-lending totals 312 million dollars while NNPC’s portion of the total facility stands at is 468 million dollars.

Speaking further on the Alternative Financing approach, Baru explained that it was aimed at plugging NNPC’s shortfall in funding JV cash call obligations including settlement of pre-2016 cash call arrears.

”It will also enable full funding of NNPC’s JV obligations to restore investors’ confidence and stimulate further Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) as we are beginning to witness,” he noted.

The Managing Director of CNL, Mr Jeff Ewing, said his company supported the Federal Government’s aspirations to sustain oil and gas production.

”We know the important role gas supply to the domestic market plays in growing power generation.

”We also understand government’s need to seek alternative sources to fund profitable and bankable JV Projects,” Ewing added.

In August, two sets of alternative financing agreements on JV projects were executed between the NNPC/CNL JV (project Falcon) and the NNPC/SPDC JV (Project Santolina).

Both are aimed at boosting reserves and production in line with the Federal Government’s aspirations for the Oil and Gas Industry.

Former Vice President of Nigeria Dr Alex Ekwueme is dead

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Former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme who slumped few weeks ago and was admitted to a hospital for chest infection has died.

A statement from his family signed by his brother and the traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra State, Igwe Laz Ekwueme said that he died by 10:00 pm in a London clinic, Sunday.

The two-paragraph statement read: “Ekwueme family regrets to announce the peaceful passing away of their patriarch, the former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme GCON.

“The sad event occurred at the London Clinic at 10:00 pm on Sunday 19th November 2017.”

Ekwueme was flown abroad Sunday, November 12 in an air ambulance after being hospitalised at Memfys Hospital of Neurosurgery, Enugu.

Nigeria earns N69bn from solid minerals – NEITI

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Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi
Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi

The Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, (NEITI) said Nigeria exported solid minerals worth 9.733 million dollars and earned N69.2 billion from the sector in 2015.

NEITI, on its latest independent audit report of the solid minerals sector released on Sunday in Abuja said it was an increase of 24 per cent on the N55.8 billion earned from the sector in 2014.

It also disclosed that the value of solid minerals exports from Nigeria in 2015 stood at 9.733 million dollars, which was 1.45 per cent of non-oil exports.

It noted that lead and zinc dominated Nigeria’s solid minerals export with 79 per cent valued at 7.7 million dollars, while 175 ounces of gold valued at 122,000 dollars were exported during the period.

It said that the solid minerals sector contributed 0.12 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, a marginal increase of 0.01 per cent on the 0.11 per cent contribution of the sector to GDP in 2014.

The report added that the total production of solid minerals in the country stood at 39.27 million tons, representing a reduction of 17 per cent from the 47.1 million tons produced in 2014.

It attributed the drop in production in 2015 to insecurity in parts of the country and the more stringent approval process for explosives used in mining.

However, the NEITI report noted that while mineral production reduced, government revenues went up in the same year.

“This increase in revenue was due to the growth in taxes collected from the sector and review of royalty rates paid by companies which came into effect within the year under review.”

The report noted that its previous solid minerals audit reports had recommended upward review of Nigeria’s royalty rates to align with prevailing industry and present day realities.

The report also highlighted the specific contributions by companies and states to the sector revenue growth and development.

According to the report, cement manufacturing companies were the major revenue contributors to the sector, accounting for over 60 per cent, while construction companies and real mining companies contribute about 31 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

“For instance, three states- Ogun, Kogi and Cross River and the FCT accounted for about 70 per cent of the production volumes in 2015. However, Ogun state topped the table with 36 per cent,” the report noted.

The report further noted that a total of 4,305 mineral titles were valid in 2015, adding that of this figure, 204 were mining leases, 657 were for small scale mining, 1,865 were for quarrying licenses while exploration licenses accounted for the remaining 1579.

It also noted that 1,220 of the 4,305 mining titles were issued in 2015 alone.

It quoted the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio, as saying that the report showed evidence that the contribution of the solid minerals sector to government revenues and macro-economic indicators is beginning to improve.

“The sector could definitely contribute more to revenues, job and wealth creation, exports, imports substitution, industrial development and overall national growth.

“But there is a sign of progress already. What we need to do is to build on, deepen and sustain this early promise to ensure that the country returns to being a major mining destination and maximizes the abundant opportunities offered by the sector.

“Faithful and sustained implementation of the roadmap developed by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and of the recommendations in this report will be necessary.”

Adio disclosed that the NEITI 2015 Oil and Gas report will be released next month, while he also reaffirmed the commitment of the Board to ensuring that its reports were more timely.

“The just released 2015 solid minerals audit report also recognised the progress being made by the government towards repositioning the sector to be a major driver of the economic and revenue diversification agenda of the present administration,’’ he said .(NAN)

Buhari leads birthday chorus for Jonathan

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Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will be 60 tomorrow.

But ahead of the milestone, President Muhammadu Buhari has led the chorus of birthday well-wishers, praising his younger predecessor for his humble beginnings and his rise to the topmost post in Nigeria.

President Buhari in the message sent out by Special adviser on media, Femi Adesina warmly felicitated with Jonathan on his 60th birthday, November 20th, 2017.

“President Buhari joins members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), professional colleagues, associates of Dr Jonathan, and his family in celebrating the unique history of the Nigerian leader, who within a short period rose from being a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President to becoming Nigeria’s President for six years”, Adesina wrote..

“President Buhari believes Dr Jonathan’s foray into politics and ascendency to the highest political office in Nigeria from a humble riverine background testifies to the greatness and inclusiveness of Nigeria’s democracy, and serves as an invitation to all those with interest to add value to the nation.”

Nigeria issues 11,771 visas in 5 months

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The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says it issued 11,771 Visas on Arrival (VOAs) between July and the first week of November.

Spokesman of the NIS, Mr Sunday James, made this known in a statement on Sunday.

A breakdown of the figure shows that 1,604 VOAs were issued in July; 3,732 in August; 1,897 in September; 3,841 in October, and 697 in the first week of November.

James said the statement was in reaction to false claims by some stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector that Nigeria has no VOA programme.

According to him, the NIS started issuing VOAs to eligible foreigners entering the country since 2013.

“The Nigerian Visa on Arrival project, which is similar to several other countries, is subject to pre-approval by the Comptroller-General of Immigration and issued at the NIS headquarters in Abuja

“From March 2017, the Federal Government approved the introduction of online pre-approval for Visa on Arrival.

“This led to the introduction of a dedicated email address (oa@nigeriaimmigration.gov.ng) for attending to VOA requests without visiting the NIS headquarters.

“Now, VOAs are issued within 48 hours and the manual option has been virtually eliminated,” he said.

The NIS spokesman added that details of eligibility, requirements, timelines and the application method for VOA had been the subject of several statements by the agency, besides being conspicuously displayed on its website.

According to James, applicants arriving with pre-approvals with specified destinations are granted visas at six ports of entry in the country.

The ports, he said are Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Kaduna international airports.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Visa on Arrival is a category of short visit visa issued at the port of entry.

It is available to frequently travelled high net worth investors and intending visitors who may not be able to obtain visa at Nigerian missions/embassies in their countries of residence due to the absence of a Nigerian mission in those countries or exigencies of urgent business travels.

Wise Men Still Come From The East by Femi Adesina

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At his incarnation, wise men gifted in astronomy came from the East, all the way to Bethlehem, in the south of Jerusalem, to worship Jesus Christ. They are today known as the Magi, who gave the newborn gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There is a lot to say on the significance of each gift item, but that is not the purpose of the writing today. Maybe, another day, as the need arises. What we need from that nativity story is that the wise men came all the way from the East, following a star that led them to Bethlehem. In our country Nigeria, we have the geo-political zone called the South-east, and wise men still come from there. In plenty numbers. This week, it was brought out in bold relief.

President Muhammadu Buhari was in two states of the South-East on Tuesday and Wednesday, and what a delightsome, myth-shattering visit it has become. It is one visit that has torpedoed the negative narrative deliberately conjured by some mischief makers over the years, that President Buhari does not like people from the East, and neither do the people like him.

Now, that assertion is fiction, pure apocryphal, conjured and concocted by some people to serve narrow political ends. In his first shot at the presidency in 2003, who was Buhari’s running mate? Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Where did he come from? Ogbunike, town of the famous cave, in the South-East. And in 2007, candidate Buhari looked towards the East again. He picked Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, a former speaker of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, as running mate. And in 2011, I remember very clearly. Buhari was on the march again, and needed a running mate. Socio-political leadership of the South-East forbade any of its sons from being running mate to anyone. Their candidate, they said, was Goodluck Jonathan, who then was completing the term of Umaru Yar’Adua. So, Buhari looked westward, and picked the cleric, Tunde Bakare. But did he demonstrate any animus towards the East? Not at all.

In 2015, the man, easily the most colourful politician, greatest crowd puller of this season in Nigeria, threw his hat into the ring again. The East was still in bed with Jonathan, completely besotted, vowing to swim or sink with their brother, Ebele Azikiwe.

Buhari looked westward again, picked Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as running mate. A large part of the East was dug in, not minding to play what may be called ‘poor politics’ in the process. When the dust of the elections settled, Jonathan was holding the shorter end of the stick. Buhari coasted to the presidency, but the entire East had given him just about 180,000 votes, less than what some local councils gave in other parts of the country. To make matters worse, the East had refused to re-elect its own son, Dr. Chris Ngige, as senator. If Ngige had been given a mandate, he would have effortlessly emerged Senate President, and see what the region would have benefitted. But the large number opted for self-immolation, voted Ngige out, and later began to scream marginalisation. But if you ask me, it was a self-inflicted wound. The result of poor politics.

That was the background that some people twisted, and used to paint the scenario that President Buhari does not like the South-East.

But happily, there were voices of reason from the region, pre-2015 presidential election. The Ralph Obiohas, Chris Ngiges, Festus Odimegwus, Fr. Ejike Mbakas, Orji Uzor Kalus, Osita Okechukwus, J.C Ojukwus, and many others, had warned their people not to put their eggs in one basket. And they have turned out to be wise men, being joined today by thousands of other wise people

You know what the mistakes of 2015 did to Ndigbo? It consigned them to perpetual opposition politics, playing in the periphery. For such an illustrious and enterprising people, that was unfortunate, if not tragic. If they continued that way, there was no silver lining in the sky for the future. Nigeria is configured in a way that the person who builds the largest coalition is the one who can emerge president. The Igbo should naturally produce the president one day, that is what fairness demands. But how would that ever happen, if they continue to play poor politics? If you continue to swim in small pools, you stand the risk of being submerged in bigger waters. But now, things are changing. The wise men are making a difference.

Back to Ebonyi, the famed Salt of the Nation, where we arrived last Tuesday. Governor Dave Umahi is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and he is also Igbo. If he were to play narrow politics, he should have nothing to do with President Buhari. But the Ebonyi State helmsman has proven himself a wise man from the East. He has cultivated a good relationship with the president, and achieved the feat of being the first state in the South-East to host the president on a State Visit. President Buhari consented to the visit, thus showing him to be a pan-Nigerian leader, a true father of the nation. If overriding sentiments had prevailed, then the president would not have chosen a state controlled by the opposition PDP for his visit, and definitely, not a state in a ‘hostile region.’ But not President Buhari, who has always maintained that no part of the country would be treated unfairly under his watch.

Landing at Enugu airport, before proceeding to Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State, by chopper, was the first breath of fresh air. The airport was gaily decorated, with banners, billboards and posters of the president and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, who was also on hand to receive the president. He is also of the PDP, but a wise man from the East. You don’t play the politics that shuts you out of the national grid, lest you get sentenced to perpetual half current, or no current at all. The reception at Enugu airport, and, indeed, in all the places we visited, in Abakaliki and Awka, would make you relish and savour the aroma of brotherhood and national cohesion.

Before the visit, there had been attempts by those behind negative narratives, to frighten the president away. They forgot he was a General, and such people don’t scare easily. However, the reception and applause all round gave a true picture of what subsists in the country. This is a president widely and massively loved-in the North, the South, East and West.

Not only is Govenor Dave Umahi a wise man from the East, the royal fathers in his state are of the same mind. They gave President Buhari the traditional title of Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi, meaning Trustworthy Friend of Ebonyis. Commendable.

Also joining the train of wisdom, are the traditional rulers of South-East, as a body. They gave the president the title Ochioha Ndigbo, meaning Leader of Igbo People. I tell you, this is the way to build a cohesive nation, promote brotherliness, and guarantee fairness and equity, rather than the poor politics of the past. More than at any other time, the wise men from the East have given a handshake across the Niger, and only the future will show the positive impact of that initiative.

Former Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu, immediate past governor, Martin Elechi, former Senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, former culture minister, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, former senator, Julius Ucha, and many others, were part of the healing process in the East. Ogbuewu said President Buhari, by the visit, had proven that he was not truly for some people, but for all Nigerians. Egwu, on his part, disclosed that Gov. Umahi had charged those of them currently in the National Assembly from Ebonyi, to always give support to policies of the federal government, despite belonging to different political parties. That’s the way to go.

The traditional rulers of the South-East, through their leader, Eze Eberechi Dick, commended the president for fighting insecurity, for fighting corruption, promoting agriculture, and generally bringing hope of a better future.

“You are a great leader. We love you so much. We are solidly behind you,” the monarch said.

Trust the president to throw in a wisecrack. After being decorated with the paraphernalia of chieftaincy, he said:”I will tell my personal photographer to frame the picture, and I will put it in my sitting room in Daura, where I will eventually end up.” That’s a man who knows the transience of power and official positions. East or West, home is the best. Daura would always be home.

When the president entered the township stadium in Abakaliki, the applause was inspiring. One was tempted to ask, is this not in the South-East, where they say they don’t like Buhari? The same thing was to repeat itself in Awka, when the president entered the Alex Ekwueme Square, where the campaign for Anambra governorship, holding this Saturday, was being concluded. It was applause all the way, signposting the fact that the East was ready to jettison poor politics, and return to the mainstream. It was a roll call of who is who in Nigerian politics from the South-East, who have now teamed up with the All Progressives Congress (APC). Emeka Ojukwu junior, son of Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who used the occasion to publicly join the APC, summed it all up, by pointing out that when his father came back from exile in the early 1980s, he did not join a regional party, but opted for a national one. He concluded: “It is time to stop operating in the periphery. It is time to leave the shadows for light.” Home truth for all Nigerians, and for Ndigbo particularly, if you ask me.

There is no way you can tell the Igbos not to aspire for presidency of Nigeria at a time in future. It will be contrary to fairness and justice. But then, the region must start playing astute politics. It must leave the shadows for light. It must sustain the hand of fellowship it has extended to the rest of the country, as shown in the warm reception for the president in Ebonyi and Anambra states. Wise men abound in that region, I say again.

During the reception in Ebonyi, Govenor Umahi announced a gift of 2,000 bags of rice, 2,000 tubers of yam, and a white horse to the president. I saw the Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi open his mouth in amazement. While thanking his host for the gift, he promised to send the cargo to Daura, his hometown, for the people to share. Trust me, I told Mohammed Sarki Abba, the president’s senior aide, seated beside me: “I’ll ask Mr. President for 50 of those bags of rice, before you send them to Daura. I’ll then distribute them to my own friends in the name of Ochioha Ndigbo.”

And that’s exactly what I’ll do. The Enyioma 1 would surely oblige. Lol.

Femi Adesina is special adviser on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari.

British envoy lauds Unilever’s sustainability plan

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The British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria, John Howell, has commended Unilever Nigeria Plc. for building its business on principles of sustainability.
Speaking during his courtesy visit to the company’s head office in Lagos, Howell described Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan as worthy of emulation, because it cuts across the environment, health and job satisfaction for workers.

“I am impressed with the fruitful and impactful collaborations that Unilever is building, particularly with Freedom Foundation NGO. The British Prime Minister is also aligned with partnerships of this nature. She spoke about it at the U.N. and called for the organised private sectors’ participation to complement government’s drive to end trafficking around the world,” he said.

Responding, the Vice President, Supply Chain, Unilever West Africa, Sid Ramaswamy, described the visit as timely. He explained that the Sustainability Plan, as a model, had influenced the company’s mode of operation,

“In every area of our business, we are concerned about the environment we operate in and keen on making positive impacts through our social missions.”

The Executive Director, Freedom Foundation, Uzoma Dania, expressed gratitude to the company, adding that the foundation had been able to achieve many of its objectives due to support by Unilever Nigeria Plc.

Summit unveils ways to boost textile industry

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FG Promises to Rescue Textile industry

The Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) has advised the Federal Government to be strategic in its relationship with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It said trade liberalisation policies by the WTO had not revamped the country’s textile sector.

At its monthly research seminar themed: ‘Competitiveness of the Nigeria Textile Industry’, in Ibadan, Oyo State, NISER said the textile industry should be protected and given incentives to satisfy local demands and compete globally.

NISER attributed decline in the number of firms in the modern textile sector partly to inconsistent policies of various governments including the WTO agreement.

It also stated that ineffective monetary policies and exchange rate volatility often affected negatively the importation of raw materials used in the production of textile products.

A senior research fellow from the NISER group, Mr. Bashir Adelowo Wahab, recalled that there were about 128 modern textile firms in Nigeria in the 1980s. These decreased to less than 45 in 2008, with only 33 active in 2015.

Also, the Nigerian Textile Manufacturing Association (MTMA) has canvassed immediate ban on exportation of cotton from the country. MTMA’s Acting Director General, Mr. Hamman Kwajaffa, maintained that such restriction was required, since locally produced cotton was not enough for manufacturers of textile materials in the country.

Kwajaffa spoke during a public hearing on a bill for an act to establish the National Cotton, Textile and Garment Development Council. He described move to establish the council as a step in the right direction.

The founder, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Mrs. Adenike Ogunlesi, and other stakeholders in the garments industry also welcomed the idea, arguing it would boost the production of cotton in the country.

Secretary General, the National Union of Textile and Garment Workers of Nigeria, Comrade Issa Aremu, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria, once a major producer of textile materials in Africa, had been relegated to the background due to policy somersault by successive administrations.

Jonathan denies receiving N5b from pension fund

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Metuh Received N400M On Jonathan’s Order – Witness Testifies

FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan has denied ever receiving any money from the controversial Pension Fund.

Media adviser to the former president, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze dissociated the former President from allegations which accused an ‘Ex-President’ of being paid N5 billion monthly from the Pension Fund.

The claim credited to the Attorney General of the Federation and

Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had alleged that the chief legal officer to the federation had told a Senate ad-hoc committee that an “Ex-President was taking N5 billion monthly from the Pension Fund.”

In debunking the claim, Eze dismissed it as “a blatant lie hurriedly cooked up to divert the attention of the general public from the raging ‘Mainagate’ and other embarrassing scandals.”

According to Eze, “we believe that the story was concocted as part of the unfolding grand design to always dodge responsibility and blame every evil act taking place in the present dispensation on the past Jonathan administration.”

Jaiz Bank: Non-interest banking open to all

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CBN Grants Jaiz Bank License

Hassan Usman is Managing Director/Chief Executive, Jaiz Bank Plc, the first and only non-interest financial institution listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. He spoke with a cross-section of journalists on the prospects and opportunities available in the different financial windows the institution has on offer among other issues. Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf was there. Excerpts:

Getting listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)

If you recall when we did the listing, I said we made a promise. We have to look at the history. Jaiz Bank has been a project prior to starting the business of banking in 2012. The first Initial Public Offering (IPO) we did was in 2003. That is almost 15 years. This was before the banking consolidation. It was a time when we had more shareholders than many banks because we had more than 20,000 shareholders then. You also have to know that many of those shareholders were people who were just yearning for investments. Some of them were investing in shares for the very first time in their lives and we said look, once we start the bank and the platform gets stablised, we will list so that we can create avenue for them to buy or sell as the case may be. That is one of the strong reasons for us to list because we have to keep our promise. Secondly, we believe that listing has a number of advantages. It creates not just liquidity for the shares but also a platform to discover the price based on the interaction of demand and supply. It also enables Jaiz Bank to reach out to as many investing public as possible in and outside because the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) is internationalised. The shares that are traded are also going international. In fact, what I hear is that those who own shares from outside, that is foreign portfolio investors, in terms of volume and value, they have much more stake than local. So that creates an opportunity for anybody who would like to buy the shares and also an opportunity for us to be more transparent. And because of listing requirements, it will ensure that we are more discipline in-house. The pressure to meet those requirements will make us to raise the bar of our efficiency level, governance and general compliance more so creating visibility. These were the reasons, even though the market was tough. We are looking at the long run not the short run. We also know that there were pent up demand for people to get cash, there is the likelihood that they will come to the market and because they have been holding this shares for many years, they will look for the opportunity to sell.

Prospects of Islamic banking

Yes, non-interest or Islamic banking is open to all irrespective of their religious persuasions. The concept is informed by religion but the operation is not religious. It is not only Islam that propagates non-interest banking; it is equally informed by Christianity and Judaism. All the three religions talk about impermissibility of charging interest on loan from their roots. The operations and activities of Islamic Banking do not discriminate against any religion. The criteria are those for banking. The contract on Islamic banking is tilted towards trading and partnership, while the concept in conventional banking is on loans (Giving out money and creating debt which can be traded in). In Islamic financing, you have to deal with real commodities for you to make a return. You can’t just give money to someone and earn a profit on it. You must partake in a commercial and entrepreneur risk to be able to earn income. This is the major significant difference. Of course Islamic finance tends to be more ethical in terms of choice of the type of business to finance. If you take these two differences that is all you have. That is for non-interest banking, we trade with our partners, we lease asset to them. We can also jointly finance and share profit or loss as the case may be. In conventional banking, you just give the loan and then you charge a pre-defined rate of interest. In Islamic banking we take initially business risk and not financial risk. The financial risk follows subsequently but firstly, you have to take a business risk of buying the commodity and selling it on credit or buying a commodity, or an asset and leasing it. Or if you are very comfortable with a customer, you can invest in his business as a partner and then you share whatever profit or loss.

Unique selling points of Islamic banking

Individuals, have their lifestyles to finance. So we finance their lifestyle and this can be household equipment or motor vehicle among others. There is also the need for medical services, education services etc. All of these range of things that an individual needs, we can finance them. But we come in not by giving you the money but by providing the service or providing the commodity on a trade basis with deferred payment. That is the kind of financing that we do – we provide the services. If it is medical for instance, we hire the service of the specialist to provide the surgery and pay for it. We get the service from the specialist and make it available to the patient who is the customer and then he pays us later. Instead of him going to the hospital and there is no money and the doctor will turn him down, we come in between, buy the service from doctor, add our mark-up, which is what we get for coming in between our customer and the doctor so that he can get his surgery or whatever treatment now, rather than later when he gets the money. So after the treatment, which was facilitated by our coming in, he pays us the money later on agreed term. And similarly, if it is education for the child, we buy the credit hours and he goes through the education now, and then pays us later. And because we are selling a service to him, we earn a profit on it.

Awareness creation

Part of the awareness creation is what we are doing now through this interview. You are the channel through which information is disseminated. We engage as much as possible with the media both print and electronic. We are also, now looking at our strategy for the social media as well. Also, anywhere we go, we engage the locals and tell them how this differs and how advantageous this way of banking is to them and the benefits they stand to gain and the fact that anybody, anywhere is welcome. As you can see, in our bank, we have staff members of different religions. In our customer base also, we have Muslims and Christians. So we do not discriminate. What we look at is what you can bring on the table and we deal with that.

What Sukuk is all about

Yes, we have been in the forefront. We have been trying to make the government to understand that this form of financing is attractive to the public sector. It provides us an avenue to diversify the way the public infrastructure is developed. And the specific instrument, which is the Sukuk is used world over. In West Africa before now, Senegal had issued it, Gambia has done that, Togo and Ivory Coast have all issued sovereign Sukuk. The beauty of a Sukuk is that unlike a conventional bond that you takeout byways and means, spend it anyhow, the proceeds of Sukuk has to be dedicated to specific projects. For instance, the just concluded N100billion Federal Government Sukuk was to construct and build roads across the country. If those projects are not identified, you cannot raise money for Sukuk because Sukuk investors cannot realize any benefit without an underlying asset. They are investing to earn and for them to earn, those projects have to be identified and financed. If it is construction of railway or airport, they have to be established. It is the services that those infrastructure will provide that is being sold by the Sukuk holders. So they now get in return the profit that is distributed or the rental that the government has to pay or whoever is using those services or infrastructure. So the return to Sukuk holder is not interest but it is the rent or profit that is generated from those projects or from leasing of those assets. So Sukuk gives an excellent way to ensure that projects are managed properly and there is no diversion, which is very rampant in this part of the world leading to so many abandoned projects. So, we are part of this from the inception.

Expansionist drive

We started in 2012 with only three branches including: one each in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano. Today, we have about 30 branches and these branches cut across at least five out of the six geo-political zones of the country. We have almost covered every zone of the country with our branch expansion and we are continuing to do so because we believe that we should be in all major commercial centres to start with across the country.

Our communication strategy is to make use of all model of communication to reach out to a community of people who are interested in this mode of banking. They still need to understand what this product is all about. At the beginning we concentrated using radio programmes that are aired regularly around the areas we are operating as a regional bank, which is the North west and North east. As we are now a national bank, we have to spread our activities and communication as well. What we are trying to do is to use a mix of radio, television viewing commercial (TVC), social media, and of cause print media. Anywhere we go, we make sure that we meet with the media community to have interaction with them and they help us to convey the message.

Growth trajectory over the years

The year 2016 was a very difficult year for everybody. But let me say that in the Islamic banking world, Jaiz Bank has done excellently well. We set a record time for break-even. We broke even in 2014 and since then, we have been making profit. We made profit in 2015 and even in 2016 in spite of the difficulty witnessed in the economy. This year, 2017, looks better because fundamentals have started to improve and so our performance will follow the trend of improved fundamentals. We hope and believe that based on 2017 financials, we will be able to pay some dividend.

Final word

I believe that non-interest financing is the fastest growing sub-sector of the financial system globally. It is growing at an average of 15 to 20 per cent per annum. It is a strong growth area and it is being adopted in major financial centres around the world. It is a more disciplined way of financing and more conservative. It is more realistic. It is a system that tries to avoid the creation of paper assets rather it create assets that are supported by reality. It is profitable and it is growing fast. The evidence can be seen from Jaiz Bank. We have been growing at about 30 per cent per annum over the last five years. So to all our stakeholders, we assure them of the fact that Jaiz Bank is here to stay and also going to be adding greater value to the economy and to all our counter parties. The system is quite sustainable. It is supported by the reality of the economy and the specific situation of our commercial transactions. I believe we will achieve our plans and vision, which is to be a clear leader in this sector and to be a very serious contender in the rank and file of financial institutions especially banks in Nigeria and sub-Sahara Africa. To those who want to be associated with growth in profitability and sustainability, Jaiz Bank is the way to go.

Senate urges Immigration to enforce law on expatriate quota

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The Senate Committee on Local Content on Friday decried the “unnecessary depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves’’ through engagement of expatriates.

The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Solomon Adeola, made the remark during an oversight visit to the headquarters of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Abuja.

Spokesman of the NIS, Mr Sunday James, said in a statement that the lawmaker urged the agency to address the issue by enforcing the country’s relevant local content laws.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that companies seeking business permit and expatriate quota are required to employ Nigerians to understudy their foreign experts for the purpose of training them.

This is to enable the trainees to acquire the requisite skills for the eventual takeover of the expatriate quota positions.

“It is sad that our qualified graduates in oil and gas-related disciplines are roaming the streets without jobs, whereas expatriates are collecting huge salaries for jobs that our people can conveniently undertake.

“This can no longer be tolerated”, Adeola was quoted as saying.

Responding, the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mr Muhammad Babadende, said the NIS was committed to enforcing the local content law as it affected the understudy programme.

Babadende said the agency would ensure that companies complied with the conditions for granting expatriate quota to companies with foreign experts in their employ.

He also assured the committee of a “robust partnership” in enforcement of the local content law as requested by the lawmakers.

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