06 Feb

Daily Watch – Nigerian finance risks global blacklisting, Gwarzo explains ‘golden handshake’

  • Suspended SEC director-general, Mounir Gwarzo has explained why ₦1.7 billion was paid as severance package under a “Golden Handshake” scheme to workers of the commission under his leadership. Gwarzo was an executive commissioner at SEC when former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him to lead the commission in May 2015. On assuming office, he got a severance package of over ₦104 million as benefits of his former position, while some staffers were also rewarded. A panel set up by the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, indicted Gwarzo for paying himself and other staff of the commission the severance pay. Gwarzo denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the board of the commission approved the pay and he was involved in extra-budgetary spending. According to a March 2015 memo, “the rationale for this exercise is the fact that management found the workforce top heavy and one way to address the issue was to come up with incentives for early retirement for certain categories of staff of the commission.”
  • Nigerians may no longer be able to carry out international transactions as the Egmont Group is considering expelling the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit because of governance issues. A major consequence of the expulsion will be the blacklisting of Nigeria in international finance, affecting the use of MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards by Nigerians, as well as the international standing of Nigerian financial institutions and preventing Nigeria from benefiting from financial intelligence shared by the other member countries, including the US and the UK. The Cable reports that the expulsion is part of the agenda of Egmont’ working group and heads of FIU meeting between 2 and 7 March in Buenos Aires. Of concern is Nigeria’s suspension from the group in July 2017, citing interference by the EFCC in the workings of the NFIU. The body had asked Nigeria to amend the law establishing the NFIU to make it autonomous while accusing the NFIU of failing to protect “confidential information, specifically related to the status of suspicious transaction report details and information derived from international exchanges” despite reassurances from the National Assembly and the EFCC to address these concerns.
  • An oil tanker with a crew of 22 Indian nationals is missing in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of the Republic of Benin. There has been no contact with the Panama-registered Marine Express since Thursday. The incident occurred less than a month after another vessel was taken by pirates in the same area. The International Maritime Bureau said the Benin navy was searching for the Marine Express, which is carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline. In January, a ship was hijacked in the same area but was released six days later when a ransom was paid. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said her government was working with Beniniose and Nigerian authorities to trace the missing tanker and a Nigerian hotline has been set up to coordinate responses. The ship is managed by Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern.
  • The Lagos State Public Procurement Agency says it has approved over 1000 procurement requests valued at ₦320 billion in 2017 and registered 1,900 contractors in the state. General Manager Fatai Onafowote, who made the disclosure at the state’s first Procurement Summit, expressed optimism that it will surpass the record this year. He, however, said the agency would intensify its project monitoring activities to ensure that no government development is abandoned or and all are delivered in record time.
  • Ecobank plans to prioritise expanding the customer base in its existing markets by tapping into Africa’s growing use of mobile phones, rather than pushing into new countries, its chief executive said. The Togo-based pan-African bank operates in 36 African countries, but a slump in commodity prices in recent years and unfavourable currency swings have prompted it to shift its focus to the booming retail market, where latent demand is being unleashed by mobile technology. For years the lender focused on rapid expansion into new nations across Africa but has tapered this off to focus on the markets that are most profitable, like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. “Our intention is not just to grow in terms of more countries, our intention is to now utilise what we have, the assets we have on the ground, and be able to connect people,” Ecobank CEO Ade Ayeyemi told Reuters.