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Finance Minister Clears Air On N424bn Budget Padding

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has cleared the air over the N424bn that was said to have been padded by the minister into the 2023 Appropriation Bill.

Ahmed has been accused by the Humanitarian, Health, Power and Education to have inserted, N206bn, N8.6bn, N195.468bn, and N2.250bn respectively.

The Finance Minister, however, got a clean slate before the senate when she appeared to defend herself over cases of puddings in the proposed N20.51 trillion 2023 budget from the Senate Committee on Appropriation when she made clarifications on them.

She explained to the committee that the various sums were sent to the ministries for perusal before approval by the Federal Executive Council, before the budget presentation itself by the President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari, ( Retd.) on Friday, October 7, 2022.

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She stated, “This project in question under the Humanitarian Affairs ministry is a project that was called National Social Safety Net project.

“This is a total sum of $473.5m which translates to N296bn. This project was correctly described by the IR departments that collated the report but in the –process of collating the at the budget office, the wrong code was selected. This code that was selected resulted in the description showing as purchase and security weapons.

“The same project was correctly captured in the MTEF because it was also presented in the MTEF.

“She noted that the amount was correct and “it is correctly provided for in the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs disaster management, and social development because they are the agency implementing this national social safety net scale-up the programme.”

She added, “This project is also described as refurbishment and procurement of Harris RF 578 100 military communications equipment in the sum of N8.6 billion.

“The Honourable Minister of Defence wrote to his Excellency Mr President, requesting the immediate release of $1.36 3m, and N158.92 8m for the implementation of phase one of this project.

“The Honourable Minister of Defence also requested the sum of $2.27 8m and N11.9 4 billion to implement phases two and three of the project, all of which Mr President graciously approved and was conveyed to us.”

Ahmed added, “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, etc, were all captured before the presentation by Mr President.

“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency.

“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.

“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinisation of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all, a realisation of which made the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6 billion in his Ministry’s budget during an interface with Senate Committee on Defence,” she said.

Ahmed noted that it was evident that there were internal coordination issues between the project of implementation units in some ministries, departments and agencies, with their CEOs and their accounting officers of the implementing ministry.

She stressed, “And also there’s also a gap of coordination even with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. We will be taking necessary measures to make sure that going forward these gaps are addressed on our site and also work with the ministers to make sure that the gaps that they have between the Project Implementation units on the CEOs are also bridged.

“Specifically for multilateral bilateral funded projects, the PIUs are domiciled in the designated implementing MDS and the lenders will not deal with any other agency but that beneficiary agency including the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on procurements and as well as on several other aspects of the project implementation.”

Satisfied by her submission, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), said the clarifications made by the Minister were well understood by all the committee members and commended her for ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.

Earlier at an interface with the Senate Ad-hoc committee on uneven disbursement of a N500 billion Development fund by the Development Bank of Nigeria, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, failed to supply the committee with verifiable evidence of beneficiaries.

She said about 9.8 million pupils nationwide are already benefiting from the school feeding programme at the rate of N100 per meal, aside from beneficiaries of other clusters of the programme.

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But the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sani Musa and other members like Ayo Akinyekure, Uche Ekwunife, Mathew Urhoghide, etc, told the Minister that her presentation and that of the Coordinator of the program, Dr Umar Bindir, were beautiful on paper but lacked substance.

The implementation of the program according to them is a nullity.

Consequently, the Committee directed her to furnish it with the names of beneficiaries of different clusters of the program, their contact address, and telephone numbers on the basis of states, local governments and wards within the week.
PUNCH

 

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Nigeria’s Oil Production Drops Again, Now 1.23mbpd – OPEC

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Nigeria’s crude oil production witnessed the second consecutive monthly decline since the beginning of this year, as it dropped to 1.231 million barrels per day in March, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries stated on Thursday.

OPEC disclosed this in its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for April 2024, stating that crude oil production details which it got through direct communication from Nigeria showed that the country pumped less oil in March when compared to what was produced in February.

Data from the report indicated that Nigeria produced 1.322 million barrels per day of crude in February this year, but this dropped to 1.231mbpd in March, representing a plunge of 91mbpd.

The report further stated that the country had produced 1.427mbpd of crude in January, but this was not sustained in February as it dropped in that month, while the southward oil production continued in March.

OPEC data, however, showed that the country’s average crude oil production in the first quarter of 2024 was 1.327mbpd, higher than the 1.313mbpd average oil production in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Nigeria’s first quarter oil output in 2024 was also higher than the 1.201mbpd average production in the third quarter of last year.

READ ALSO: Oil Production Rises 26.57m Bpd In February — OPEC

Oil theft and pipeline vandalism have dealt severe blows on Nigeria’s oil production, limiting the country’s output and making it fall below the volume approved for Nigeria by OPEC.

The PUNCH reported on Wednesday that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited recorded 155 oil theft incidents in one week.

The report that stated the company revealed that during the review period, 53 illegal pipeline connections and 36 illegal refineries were uncovered in the Niger Delta.

“Between March 30 and April 5, 2024, a total of 155 incidents were recorded across several locations in the Niger Delta region from various incident sources,” the firm stated.

In a summary of the incidents, NNPCL stated that it recorded 53 illegal connections, discovered 36 illegal refineries and 32 wooden fibre boats, identified 14 pipeline vandalism cases, eight vessel infractions and four oil spills, as well as made seven vehicle and one vessel arrests.

Some of the incident sources include the Nigeria Agip Oil Company, Tantita Security Services Ltd, NNPCL Command and Control Centre, Shell Petroleum Development Company, NNPCL 18 Operating Ltd, among others.

READ ALSO: Oil Drops Further After OPEC Delay With Asian Stocks Mixed

Providing additional details, the company said, “In the past week, 32 wooden boats conveying stolen crude and illegally refined products were seized and confiscated in Rivers and Delta states.

“On land, seven vehicles loaded with stolen crude were arrested in Imo, Delta and Rivers states. 53 illegal connections were uncovered between March 30 and April 5, 2024 in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states.

“14 cases of vandalism were also recorded in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states, while illegal storage sites where stolen crude and illegally refined products are kept were uncovered in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states.”

The national oil company also stated there were clusters of illegal refineries in Abia State, as activities of oil thieves had devastated the effected environments in the state.

It said 36 clusters of the illegal refineries were discovered in the past week across several locations in Rivers and Abia states.

“Four cases of oil spills due to activities of vandals were recorded in the past week,” NNPCL stated, adding that in Rivers State, oil leaks from a wellhead is destroying aquatic lives.

NNPCL stated that 38 suspects were arrested during the week under review, stressing that the national oil company would not back down on the war against crude oil theft until the menace is eradicated.

READ ALSO: OPEC Cuts Nigeria’s Oil Output By 20.7% To 1.38 mb/d

Nigeria has been losing trillions of naira to crude oil theft, a development that has made some international oil companies to divest from onshore to deep offshore oil fields, while others have exited the country.

In November 2023, for instance, The PUNCH reported that the Federal Government revealed that more than N4.3tn worth of crude oil was stolen in 7,143 pipeline vandalism cases within a period of five years.

The report stated that the government disclosed this at the Nigeria International Pipeline Technology and Security Conference in Abuja, with the theme, ‘Bolstering Regulations, Technology and Security for Growth.’ The conference was organised by the Pipeline Professionals Association of Nigeria.

In a presentation at the conference by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a Federal Government agency, the organisation revealed that oil theft and losses in Nigeria had become a national emergency.

The Executive Secretary, NEITI, Ogbonnaya Orji, said oil theft was an emergency that posed serious threat to oil exploration and exploitation with huge negative consequences on economic growth, business prospects and profit earnings by oil companies.

Providing data from the agency’s reports to back his claims, he said, “NEITI disclosed that in the last five years, 2017 to 2021, Nigeria recorded 7,143 cases of pipeline breakages and deliberate vandalism resulting in crude theft and product losses of 208.639 million barrels valued at $12.74m or N4.325tn.

“NEITI reports also disclosed that during the same period Nigeria spent N471.493bn to either repair or maintain pipelines.”
PUNCH

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Banks Get Three-month Deadline To Stop Forex-backed Loans

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The Central Bank of Nigeria on Monday stepped up its fight to boost foreign exchange liquidity in the economy with a new circular mandating Deposit Money Banks to stop the use of foreign currencies as collateral for naira loans within 90 days.

The development happened as the naira rose against the greenback at both the official and parallel markets on Monday.

The CBN has continued to deepen its battle to free dollar liquidity stocked up in the financial system by deploying various measures aimed at shoring up the naira against the United States dollar.

On Monday, the Olayemi Cardoso-led CBN issued a new circular, expressing concerns over the use of foreign currencies as collateral for naira loans.

The circular made available on its website and titled “The use of foreign-currency-denominated collaterals for naira loans”, was referenced BSD/DIR/PUB/LAB/017/004.

Although this is not the first time the bank has prohibited the use of FCY, it said it had observed the use of foreign currency by bank customers as collateral for naira loans. Hence, the decision to prohibit its use.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: CBN Sells FX To BDCs At N1,101/$1

In 2023, in a confidential letter to commercial lenders, the apex bank issued a stern directive against naira overdrafts backed by foreign currency deposits.

In the leaked letter dated August 17, 2023, and signed by the Director of Banking Supervision, Mr. Haruna B. Mustafa, the CBN said the development followed its findings from a recent supervisory review.

It was uncovered that the banks had been offering naira overdraft facilities secured with foreign currency deposits.

Despite this warning, the new directive indicates that banks have continued to engage in such practices.

In the latest circular signed by the acting Director, Banking Supervision Department, Adetona Adedeji, the apex bank said it observed the use of foreign currency by bank customers as collateral for naira loans.

As such, the regulator directed banks to trim all existing loans with foreign currency collaterals to 90 days or attract a 150 per cent capital adequacy ratio computation as part of the bank’s risk.

The new directive means a borrower may no longer use dollar deposits in their domiciliary bank accounts as collateral to obtain naira loans.

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According to stakeholders, the practice is partly due to the need to hedge against foreign currency spikes which can be costlier than interest rates.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria has observed the prevailing situation where bank customers use foreign currency as collaterals for Naira loans.

“Consequently, the current practice of using foreign currency-denominated collaterals for Naira loans is hereby prohibited except where the foreign currency collateral is Eurobonds issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria or guarantees of foreign banks, including standby letters of credit.

“In this regard, all loans currently secured with dollar-denominated collaterals other than as mentioned above should be wound down within 90 days, failing which such exposures shall be risk-weighted 150% for Capital Adequacy Ratio computation, in addition to other regulatory sanctions,” the circular read.

The CBN’s stance against such practices arises from concerns of currency mismatch, which could introduce substantial financial risks for banks.

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Rather than convert their dollars to naira, some borrowers will rather borrow in naira as the cost of buying the dollars back might be higher than the interest rate they pay for borrowing in naira.

However, this can have a ripple effect on the exchange rate due to its speculative tendencies.

The CBN maintained that it was on a mission to ensure adequate foreign exchange in the market even as the naira gains strength.

Eurobonds, according to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, are bonds issued offshore by governments or corporations denominated in a currency other than that of the issuer’s country.

Eurobonds are usually long-term debt instruments and are typically denominated in US dollars.

READ ALSO: Top 10 Richest Women In The World 2024

Letters of Credit, according to the International Trade Administration, are contractual commitments by the foreign buyer’s bank to pay once the exporter ships the goods and presents the required documentation to the exporter’s bank as proof.

As a trade finance tool, Letters of Credit are designed to protect both exporters and importers.

The PUNCH reports that in the apex bank’s previous circular to all the banks signed by its former Director, Corporate Communications Department, Ibrahim Mu’azu, the bank said its attention was drawn to the increasing use of foreign currencies in the domestic economy as a medium of payment for goods and services by individuals and corporates.

It also observed that some institutions price their goods and services in foreign currencies and demand payments in foreign currencies rather than the domestic currency (the Naira), which is the legal tender in Nigeria.

The CBN stated, “For the avoidance of doubt, the attention of the general public is hereby drawn to the provisions of the CBN Act of 2007, which states inter-alia that “the currency notes issued by the Bank shall be legal tender in Nigeria…for the payment of any amount.”

Furthermore, the Act stipulates that any person who contravenes this provision is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a prescribed fine or six months imprisonment.

 

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JUST IN: CBN Sells FX To BDCs At N1,101/$1

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued a circular to Bureau De Change operators informing them of the sale of $10,000 to each BDC at a rate of N1,101/$1.

This was contained in a post on the CBN X platform , on Monday, 8th April, 2024.

The apex bank directed each BDC to sell the dollars to eligible customers at a rate not exceeding 1.5 per cent above the purchase price, implying that each BDC is not expected to sell above N1,101/$1.

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All eligible BDCs are therefore directed to commence payment of the Naira deposit to the underlisted CBN Naira Deposit Account Numbers from Today Monday April 05, 2024, and submit confirmation of payment with other necessary documentation for disbursement at the appropriate CBN Branches

 

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