07 Feb

Daily Watch – SAA won’t fly to Kaduna, Ghosts cost Bayelsa ₦2.61 billion

  • The naira could face additional pressure as the federal government prepares to announce its final decision on the 41 items the CBN has restricted from assessing foreign exchange at the interbank market for more than a year. President Muhammadu Buhari and his Economic Management Team have reportedly come under pressure from the organised private sector, international community and even within government circles to commence a review of the list. “The review of the list is part of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the details will be unfolded by the President while launching the plan. That will be as soon as he returns,” unnamed Aso Rock officials told BusinessDay. Some organised private sector groups including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries, have consistently called for government to review the policy, saying it is hurting the manufacturing sector in a way that could not be easily ignored. The group stated that 16 of the 41 items in the list were critical raw materials for intermediate goods produced in Nigeria, especially as the country lacked the capacity to optimally produce the items. The policy led to many company closures and the relocation of some major blue-chip companies from Nigeria to neighbouring countries, culminating in the loss of jobs.
  • The FG says the change of leadership in the Transmission Company of Nigeria is not a condition for the grant of a $174 million to Nigeria by the African Development Bank. The appointment of Isman Gur Mohammed as the TCN managing director had caused a ruckus as the electricity workers’ union petitioned the National Assembly, seeking a reversal of the decision. However, at a meeting with the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Power on Monday, power minister, Babatunde Fashola explained that the appointment of Mohammed in place of Atiku Abubakar did not breach any law because, according to him, the position had been vacant. Mohammed’s appointment cannot be reversed because it was done in compliance with a presidential directive, Fashola said, adding that the President had the prerogative of making any political appointment. Last week, the AfDB said it had no plans of taking over the TCN. The bank also indicated that Nigeria was not discussing a fresh $174 million loan with it, contrary to recent reports. In a statement by Fatimah Abubakar Alkali, its senior communications officer, Nigeria country office, AfDB Nigeria denied the allegations, adding that: “The African Development Bank approved a $155 million loan for the Economic and Power Sector Reform Programme which became effective on 19th October 2012.
  • The FG will this week begin another round of negotiations with all African countries on the Continental Free Trade Agreement. The Strategic Communications Adviser to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Constance Ikokwu, who confirmed the development, said the Nigerian negotiation team, consisting of eight members, would be led by the Minister Okechukwu Enelamah. She said the team had the mandate to engage colleagues from 53 other African nations on the emerging draft text of the CFTA being reviewed by six technical working groups. The meetings, to be held in Rwanda would last for 11 days, adding that the team was expected to report back the proceedings to the Federal Government. The Nigerian trade team would continue to argue for flexibility that would allow it to safeguard the economy from a flood of imports, even as it remained an open economy, according to a statement from the ministry. The statement quoted Enelamah to have said, “These negotiations are a geostrategic imperative because of Nigeria’s standing, position and leadership. Nigeria has a duty to provide leadership, inter alia, because the CFTA negotiations are based on a mandate from the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.”
  • An ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives on Monday summoned CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to explain how international oil companies got involved in the sale of foreign exchange to importers and marketers of petroleum products in 2016. The committee, which is chaired by a member from Imo State, Nnanna Igbokwe, is conducting a public hearing on the review of the pump price of petrol from ₦145 to ₦70.04. The House had on November 29, 2016 passed a resolution asking the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency to review the pump price of PMS, otherwise known as petrol, to ₦70.04 per litre, because some charges in the current template were not justifiable. It also ordered a public hearing on the matter to guage the views of major stakeholders with a view to reviewing the pump price. The IOCs are said to have sold over $1 billion worth of forex to the fuel importers. The committee said at a point last year, even the CBN was buying forex from the IOCs. Lawmakers said Emefiele must tell Nigerians how the IOCs assumed the role of financial houses in the country. Members were concerned to learn that in some months last year, the apex bank exceeded its monthly sale of forex by five times and resorted to buying from the IOCs. The Director, Financial Markets Department, CBN, Alvan Ikoku, defended the apex bank before the committee, claiming that there was nothing new in the IOCs selling hard currencies to both the CBN and importers.
  • The Bayelsa State government is losing about ₦2.61 billion to unauthorized employment, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the state’s payroll alleges. Presenting the first volume of its reports in Yenagoa, the Commission also discovered 6,280 unauthorized employments at the eight constitutionally recognized local council areas and the 32 Rural Development Authorities. The commission’s chairperson, Hon. Justice Doris Adokeme, blamed the over bloated wage bills on fraudsters. The commission, in its findings, discovered 3,243 unauthorized employees at the Rural Development Authorities and 3,037 in the state’s eight LGAs. Ekeremor topped the chat with 1,162 employees followed by Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa, Ogbia and Brass.
  • South African Airways has said that its last flight into Abuja would be on March 6 just two days before the FG closes the airport on March 8. They have now joined Lufthansa in refusing to fly through the make shift Kaduna Airport. Airline operators have asked the government to allow airlines fly through Lagos instead and the allow local carriers carry passengers to Abuja.