Presidency to begin town hall meetings across Nigeria – Aide

The Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media, Garba Shehu, said on Sunday that the presidency will soon begin to hold town hall meetings with Nigerians.

Mr. Shehu made this known while answering reporters’ questions in Abuja.

According to him, government decided to embark on such meetings because it has realised the importance of information communication to the people at the grassroots.

“I know that there is a plan that the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo would start town hall meetings in zones.

“It would then be broken down to the states and so on.

“Government realises that there is a need to take information to the people and there are steps that are being taken in order to ensure that is done,” he said.

Mr. Shehu criticised the National Orientation Agency, NOA, for being indifferent to the Federal Government’s change mantra.

“We have an agency like NOA with 773 offices nationwide.

“Each has not less than 5 to 7 staff and well-equipped, but you know also, sometimes democracy has its own dark side.

“The President came and he wanted to really be fair to every Chief Executive. If he wanted to fire people on assumption (of office), he would have done it and he would not have violated any rule.

“He decided to give everyone a chance to see whether they would imbibe the change mantra, to see whether they were prepared to go along (with him).

“I will say with all sincerity that NOA was a source of worry for us in government; the people and the leadership never believed in what we are doing.

“They never believed in change. They just folded their arms and watched us for the period of 8 to 9 months that they were there.

“I believe the new leadership would begin to formulate things for agencies like that,” he said.

The presidential aide praised Nigerians for steadfastly supporting the present administration especially during a period most people considered to be difficult.

Mr. Shehu congratulated Nigerians on the achievements the President had recorded fighting insurgency and explained that the military have tagged their success against Boko Haram a “technical victory” because no city is presently under curfew.

The SSA said that with the passage of the budget by the National Assembly, the next phase for the President would be to rebuild damaged facilities and infrastructure.

He said that with the Central Bank of Nigeria realising more than N3 trillion through the introduction of the Treasury Single Account and the passage of the budget, a lot of activities would pick up.

On the quest by Nigerians to know the amount of money the Federal Government had so far recovered from treasury looters, Mr. Shehu said the litigation hurdles associated with the looted funds would have to be scaled before Nigerians were availed of the figures.


Reducing MTN Fine Requires Amendment of NCC Act

The House of Representatives wednesday frowned at what it said was the unconstitutional review of the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for its failure to deregister 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network.

It noted that reducing the fine to N780 million would require an amendment of the NCC (Telephone Subscribers Registration) Regulation 2011 which stipulates a fine of N200,000 for each unregistered SIM card.

The House directed its Committee on Telecommunications to investigate the extent to which MTN’s non-compliance with the law, allegedly led to the death of over 10,000 Nigerians killed by Boko Haram, and whether MTN can be liable for criminal proceedings under the law.

The resolution of the House followed a motion sponsored as a urgent matter of national importance by Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma(Edo PDP) who also noted that the N50 billion paid by MTN into the recovery account was in violation of extant laws.

“MTN ought to have been fined under both Section 19 and Section 20 respectively with a cumulative penalty of N3.12 trillion, and not N1.04 trillion, which is a gross violation of the combined reading of the NCC Act,” he said.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the House must insist that the Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr. Ferdinand Moolman, honours the summon of the telecommunications committee.

He added that the letter written by Moolman referring the committee to other agencies mediating in the matter, was an affront to the parliament.

Moolman, on March 15, 2016 had shunned the invitation of the committee, and sent a letter referring the committee to “the appropriate government agencies, specifically the NCC, Offices of the Ministers of Communications and Justice as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which agencies are in a position to furnish your committee with relevant information on this issue.”
Gbajabiamila added that MTN which is a South African firm, would not dare write such letter to the country’s parliament.

The Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor noted that since the N200,000 fine per unregistered SIM card had been fixed, the only way to review it would be through the parliament.

He urged the committee to investigate who authorised the negotiation and reduction.
Hon. Nnanna Igbokwe (Imo PDP) queried the role of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, in taking over the negotiations and excluding the NCC.

“The AGF needs to justify the grounds for his intervention as it is not a matter between two governments, but a government and a business. Does he or the NCC have the power to review the fine? Does that not amount to amending the law?” he said.
Presiding, Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara also agreed that the fine can only be reviewed through an amendment.
He added that no authority can reduce a fixed fine.


Fidelity Bank Raises N30bn To Support MSMEs


Fidelity Bank Plc has said the N30 billion it is raising from the Nigerian capital market is to enable it increase its funding of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) especially those focused in non-oil exports.

Managing director/chief executive of the bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, said he   foresees an imminent growth in non-oil export as more Nigerians, governments begin to wake up to the huge prospects inherent in the Agricultural and Small Medium Enterprise (SMEs) sectors.

Okonkwo, who made this remark at a one-day workshop/training on exports organised by Koinonia Ventures Limited in conjunction with the bank, expressed high optimism that these sectors, if properly positioned could play significant roles in diversifying Nigeria’s monolithic economy.

He however pointed out that no other time is the subject of import and export substitution more important than now when the country is grappling with a revenue crisis precipitated by the steep decline in crude oil prices and widespread corruption.

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has predicted that Nigeria’s non-oil sector will generate about $100 billion in export earnings in the next 12 years. To assist export-oriented MSMEs raise their level of competitiveness in the global market, Okonkwo said the bank had raised N30 billion in corporate bonds on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

He said the capital raising exercise is expected to enable the bank fulfil its promise to increase MSME lending to 50 percent by 2017, further adding that the bank has earmarked 80 percent of the net proceed of the bond to finance MSMEs which have been peddled as the next cash cow.

Okonkwo, who was represented by Chijioke Ugochukwu, the Bank’s Executive Director, Shared Services and Products, said the lender’s renewed focus on MSMEs was driven by its growing role in the transformation of economies.

Speaking on ‘Turning Adversity to Prosperity: A Case for a Radical Repositioning of Nigeria’s Non-Oil Export Sector’, Olufemi Boyede, MD/CEO, Koinonia Ventures noted that the Nigerian economy can only make progress if local entrepreneurs become export-ready. Commenting on the country’s competitive advantage, particularly as it relates to export trade, Boyede said Nigeria currently has over 5, 000 exportable products, explaining that about 21 of such products can be quickly harnessed for the benefit of the nation’s economy. Alluding to the enormous successes of Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), the Koinonia boss urged the federal government to create the much needed environment for Nigerian exporters to thrive. “The Barack Obama Administration has made it a top priority to improve the conditions that directly affect the private sector’s ability to export”.

According to him, the Nigerian government must ensure that trade barrier abroad are completely removed, stating that government at all levels must channel their energies towards helping firms of all sizes and farmers overcome hurdles of financing and access to new markets. Boyede applauded the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the nation’s apex financial institution for establishing a N550 billion intervention fund aimed at upscaling Nigeria’s export performance, urging Fidelity Bank Plc to help exporters take advantage of the facility. In her keynote address at the training programme, Aisha Abubakar, minister of state, Industry Trade & Investment said government is more than ever dogged in its quest to revive agriculture as an alternative to crude oil through better reforms, value chain/addition and discouragement of export of raw materials.

“There are a sizeable number of agricultural commodities grown in Nigeria that are quoted in the international commodities market and these include cocoa, palm oil, groundnut, Sesame seed, Shea Nuts, cotton and even fish”. In view of foregoing, Abubakar noted that the fundamental drawback to the growth of export is standardization, explaining that Nigerian exporters are struggling to meet the quality requirements of their trading partners. “Exporters must go further to add value to produce, package properly and then they will attract higher prices”, he added. The workshop which had as its theme, ‘Key Trends & Opportunities in the Non-Oil Export Sector’, brought together subject matter experts, government agencies as well as private sector players in export business, to share knowledge and insights on the key trends and opportunities in the non-oil export sector.


Nigeria’s online shopping potential higher than global purchasing rates -Nielsen survey

Nigeria’s online shopping potential higher than global purchasing rates -Nielsen survey

Amidst the challenges of limited Internet connectivity and unreliable connections, a new Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey has found that Nigerians use of mobile devices to make online retail purchases is significantly higher than global purchasing rates across several categories. This points to the fact that an e-commerce experience is the new retail reality, as digital devices enable Nigerian consumers to shop wherever and whenever they choose.

These insights stem from the Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey which polled more than 13 000 consumers in 26 countries including Nigeria; based only on the behavior of respondents with online access.

Nielsen Africa Retailer Services and E-Commerce MD Harsh Sarda comments; “The shift towards mobile purchasing reflects a larger trend that isoccurring in retail: proximity shopping. Across all regions,smaller format stores that are close to work or home are growingfastest, and nothing offers greater convenience or proximity than themobile device in consumers’ pockets.

“As more consumers adopt an ‘on-demand lifestyle’ and turn to mobile devices to shop, the most successful retailers will be those that optimise and differentiate their mobile experience to enhance the in-store experience of shoppers, using ‘personalisation’ to adapt to the specific realitiesof each market.”

Higher than average mobile shopping

Based on these findings, it’s no surprise that the survey found that three quarters of Nigerian respondents (77%), who are online or connected have used their laptop and 46% their smartphone, to purchase packaged grocery food; 69% and 48% respectively to buy beauty and personal care products, 67% and 42% for fashion-related products and 52% and 46% for restaurant deliveries or meal delivery services.

Of the categories they have ever purchased online, 60% of Nigerians said Fashion (e.g. Clothing, Bags, Jewellery) with the same number citing IT & Mobile (e.g. Cell Phones, Computer, Tablets, IT Accessories etc.). This was followed by Travel (e.g. Hotels, Flights, Car Rental, Travel Deals) at 39% and Books/Music/Stationary at 38%.

In terms of the types of activities potential shoppers engage in online, 50% of Nigerian respondents said they looked up product information, followed by 32% who said they used it to compare prices and 31% for product reviews.

Credit cards aren’t the only way to pay for online purchases

When engaging in this prolific online shopping behaviour, cash on delivery and debit card payments are the most common form of payment methods (76% and 59%) for Nigerian online shoppers, with direct debit from a bank accounting for the third highest at 38%. Cash on delivery is normally popular where credit card penetration and trust are low. This is borne out in Nigeria where 19% of online respondents do not have a credit/debit card to buy online and more so by the 63% who said they do not trust giving credit card information out online.

Sarda comments; “An ideal payment gateway has two core characteristics: It is secure, and it allows consumers to pay with whatever method fits their needs (and wallets) best. Not every payment method works everywhere. However, for e-commerce to really take off, it has to migrate towards cashless delivery. To build trust in online and mobile transactions, retailers need to educate consumers about the means they’re taking to protect their personal information, and they must find ways to deliver a better experience than what consumers get from cash.”

Cross border e-commerce driving by technology, choice and a growing middle class

Consumers are also increasingly expanding their shopping to online retailers outside their geographic region. More than half of Nigerian respondents who shopped online in the past six months say they purchased items from an out-of-country or foreign retailer (61%).

Sarda comments; “Retail has been one of the last globalisation holdouts, but technology is giving consumers access to a world of products that were previously unavailable and is one of the key drivers of online shopping

“In many developing markets, the growing upper and middle class is demanding greater assortment not found at their domestic retailers. Consequently, these consumers are looking abroad to purchase authentic foreign brands, often at lower prices than they can find in their home country.”

Product assortment and deals provide an online advantage

Product assortment is a key area where online retailing has a unique advantage over the physical store because product ranging is not limited by square-footage space. This is particularly true in Nigeria where informal retail formats are the norm. Given that product availability is a strong motivator for online shopping in many developing countries, 59% of Nigerian respondents said they shop online for products they cannot find in physical stores and 63% said they shop online to access stores not available in their area or local stores.

One of the biggest barriers when it comes to online shopping in Nigeria for consumable categories includes: the inability to inspect goods with 78% of Nigerians citing it as a deterrent. This is undoubtedly tied to Nigerians uncertainty about product quality (78%) and concerns about freshness and produce/expiration dates of products when shopping for groceries online (79%)

Sarda says that while branded, modern-trade retail penetration is still low in Nigeria, e-commerce retailers have the opportunity to leapfrog the challenges of the physical store environment, enabled by the growth in smartphone penetration. “The challenge is, however, that current online shopping growth is primarily driven from new, standalone e-commerce retailers, rather than the physical offline channels expanding into an online environment, where their advantage lies in bringing products and assortment previously unavailable.”

To download a copy of the full report, click here.

Presidency Commends National Assembly for Passing 2016 Budget

Presidency Commends National Assembly for Passing 2016 Budget

The Presidency on Wednesday commended the National Assembly for passing the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

The Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, told journalists at a press briefing in Abuja that the expeditious consideration and passage of the bill were laudable.

He further commended the Senate and House committees on appropriation as well as the sub-committees for working hard in ensuring that the budget was passed.

“I followed the entire process and I have seen the industry that has been exhibited by the senators.

“I want to say that we appreciate particularly the fact that in the course of consideration, the committee chairmen, the committee members and the chairmen of appropriation committees were in constant touch,” he said.

The special adviser further commended the legislature for approving the “harmonised version of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework(MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper(FSP)”, adding that they were the parameter for passing the budget.

Mr. Enang also extolled the media for extensive coverage of the process leading to the passage of the budget.

President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2016 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22, 2015.

Nigeria Revenues in February Drops -MoF

kemi adeosun

Revenues generated by the Federal Government for the month of February dropped to 345.095 billion naira from 370.388 billion naira it recorded the previous month, January, due to fall in global prices of crude oil.

A statement released on Tuesday by the Federal Ministry of Finance (MoF), “There was revenue loss of $45.9 million as a result of a drop in average prices of crude oil from $39.04 in December 2015 to $29.02 in January 2016.”, it read.

“Also a substantial drop in income was recorded from oil and gas royalty, company income tax and import duties,” it added.

The MoF statement further read that the revenues which also included: VAT, refunds from NNPC and exchange gains would be distributed among the three tiers of government – the federal, state and local government authorities.

President Mohammed Buhari had expressed his determination to seek end to the nation’s absolute dependence on sales and export of crude oil and explore new frontiers such as the agricultural sector, solid minerals mining etc.

Nigeria had been in a state of flux since the global crude prices started its steep descend June 2014 and this had put most of the state governments into an had corners, most of whom were still owing the civil servants salary arrears and have had to suspend several projects embarked upon.

Finance Ministry Confirms Suspension of PTAD Boss

The Federal Ministry of Finance says the indefinite suspension of the Executive Secretary/Director General of The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Mrs. Nellie Mayshak and three other senior staff of the directorate remains valid..
Mayshak was suspended by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun who also appointed a director from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation as acting Executive Secretary/Director General.
The suspension, which is a normal civil service procedure, is to pave way for an unimpeded investigation into the activities of the directorate under the watch of Mrs Mayshak.
While the Ministry assures pensioners that the suspension will not affect pension payment and services, it promises to make public, the findings of the investigative panel on the issues leading to the suspension.
PTAD was established in August 2013 under the Pension Reform Act of 2004 to oversee the management of pensions under the defined benefit scheme for pensioners not transiting to the defined contributory scheme.
Ecobank sacks 50 top managers

Ecobank Nigeria has sacked about 50 senior managers as part of its cost-cutting measures amid a challenging business environment.

The top officials laid off by the pan-African lender include general managers, deputy general managers and assistant general managers, sources within the bank told our correspondent on Wednesday.

The banking industry has been battered by the nation’s lingering foreign exchange crisis occasioned by the plunge in the global crude oil prices.

Nigeria derives over 90 per cent of its forex from the sale of crude oil. And the banking sector and the economy have taken a beating from the sharp decline in the oil prices.

Banks’ 2015 full year results are expected to show a major decline in earnings.

A top official of Ecobank said the move was part of a “corporate alignment strategy of the bank.”

The lender recently got a new group managing director and a chairman of board of directors.

“We are top heavy and this decision is just part of the bank’s corporate realignment strategy,” the bank official told our correspondent.

A statement by Ecobank confirming the layoff said the affected officials had performed below the company’s expectation.

The lender said while over 300 staff members were promoted, a few officials that had low performance were “exited.”

The statement quoted the Deputy Managing Director, Ecobank, Mr. Anthony Okpanachi, as saying, “The management of Ecobank Nigeria Limited has announced the recent promotion of about 300 top performing workers.

“The promotion exercise, which affected about 10 per cent of the employees, is in line with the bank’s commitment to recognising and rewarding excellence and exceptional performance. The promoted workers cut across all cadres of the workforce. Also, few staff members that performed below expectation have been exited.”

Okpanachi said the affected staff members were selected through an appraisal exercise conducted using an in-house performance management system, which used both financial and non-financial metrics to categorise workers.

He noted that “the performance parameter used to determine the performance of those promoted also revealed the underperformance of the disengaged workers.”

Ecobank Nigeria is part of the Ecobank Group represented in 36 African countries. The group employs nearly 19,000 people from 40 different countries in over 1,200 branches and offices.


MTN has paid N50bn – FG

Adebayo-Shittu (2)

Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, Thursday confirmed that MTN has paid N50 billion out of the N780bn fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for regulatory infractions.

MTN on Wednesday confirmed the payment, adding that it had also withdrawn the suit it brought against NCC.

The agency, however, responded that it was yet to receive the money.

But in a statement by Shittu’s Special Assistant on media, Victor Oluwadamilare, the minister said officials had communicated to him the receipt of N50bn payment by MTN.

“It has been confirmed that MTN Nigeria had indeed paid the said N50bn as a down payment of the N780bn fine, and had also withdrawn the court case against NCC.

“It made the payment pending further negotiation on the fine issue. We shall further inform Nigerians as the negotiation progresses,” the statement said.

MTN was fined N1.04 trillion last October by NCC for failure to disconnect 5.1 million improperly registered lines within the prescribed deadline.


FG confirms MTN’s N50bn payment, says negotiations continue

The Federal Government on Thursday confirmed that MTN Nigeria had made a payment of N50bn towards resolving its protracted dispute with the Nigeria Communications Commission over a fine of N1.04tn.

The Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamidare, made the confirmation in a statement made available to our correspondent.

Oluwadamidare described the N50bn as part payment, adding that the withdrawal of the case against the NCC and the payment had opened the door for further negotiations with MTN as requested by the company.

He said, “They have withdrawn the court case instituted against the Federal Government and the NCC and requested for further negotiations. This, the government, is willing to grant. You cannot stop listening to people.

“This clarification became necessary in view of the promise we made to keep Nigerians aware of what is happening as soon the information is available.”

MTN was slammed with the penalty in October 2015 after it missed a deadline to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards from its network

The regulation guiding SIM card registration in the country had spelt that allowing an unregistered subscriber on a telecommunications network in the country would attract a penalty of N200, 000.

It imposed a $5.2bn fine that was later reduced to $3.9bn following an appeal and negotiation by the hierarchy of MTN.

Not satisfied with the level of reduction, MTN had approached the court to deter the government and the regulatory authority from taking any action by the end of the deadline for the payment of the fine.

Answering questions from journalists at the recent unveiling of the Communications Sector Road map for the period 2016 – 2019 in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, had ruled out the possibility of out of court settlement until MTN had withdrawn the suit it instituted.