How Access Bank plans to attract trade finance with Diamond Bank merger

Access Bank Plc on Friday said it would be well positioned to attract more opportunities from international partners with its Diamond Bank merger.

Mr Herbert Wigwe, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said this in Lagos while speaking on the benefits of its merger with Diamond Bank Plc.

Wigwe said the bank, after the merger, would attract more opportunities such as trade finance from international partners.

“With the final merger of both banks and the status of the resulting entity as ‘the largest bank in Africa’s largest economy,’ this greatly bolsters the bank’s brand, opening doors of opportunity both in local and international markets,” he said.

Wigwe said the merger was expected to produce the largest banking group in Africa based on its number of customers with more than 29 million customers.

“The resulting entity which will maintain the brand name Access Bank, but with Diamond Bank colors, will have more than 29 million customers, 13 million of which are mobile customers,” he said.

Wigwe said the bank would be a continental force with presence in 12 countries, 3,100 ATMS and nearly 32, 000 Point of Sale.

“As a continental financial force, it is set to attract more opportunities such as trade finance from international partners seeking multinational lenders with local intelligence,” he stated.

Wigwe said that the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission had granted both banks approval in principle for the merger.

According to him, the final approval will come after the shareholders meeting to be convened by both banks in the first week of March.

He noted that the whole merger process was expected to be completed in the first half of 2019.

“With the final merger of both banks and the status of the resulting entity as ‘the largest bank in Africa’s largest economy,’ this greatly bolsters the bank’s brand, opening doors of opportunity both in local and international markets,” Wigwe added.

He said Diamond bank merging with, “Access Bank also means, the former’s customers can enjoy access to the latter’s strong balance sheet, ubiquitous presence and solid operational structure.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the board of Diamond Bank in December confirmed its merger with Access Bank Plc, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019.

Mr Uzoma Dozie, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said in Lagos that the board had selected Access Bank as the preferred bidder with respect to a potential merger of both banks.

Dozie said the potential merger of the two banks would create Nigeria and Africa’s largest retail bank by customers.

He said the transaction to be completed in the first half of 2019 was in the best interest of all stakeholders including, employees, customers, depositors and shareholders.

Dozie said the completion of the merger was subject to certain shareholder and regulatory approvals.

“The proposed merger would involve Access Bank acquiring the entire issued share capital of Diamond Bank in exchange for a combination of cash and shares in Access Bank via a Scheme of Merger.

“Based on the agreement reached by the boards of the two financial institutions, Diamond Bank shareholders will receive a consideration of N3.13 per share, comprising N1 per share in cash,” he said.

Dozie also said the transaction would include the allotment of two new Access Bank ordinary shares for every seven Diamond Bank ordinary shares held as at the implementation date.

“The offer represents a premium of 260 per cent to the closing market price of 87k per share of Diamond Bank on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”) as of Dec. 13, 2018, the date of the final binding offer,” Dozie said.

=Prices of diesel, kerosene rise in January – NBS

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said the average prices paid by consumers for kerosene and diesel increased in January 2019. The price of kerosene increased month-on-month (MoM) by 5.35 percent to N306.28 per litre last month from N290.74 in December 2018 while the price of diesel rose MoM by 1.59 percent to N225.09 from N221.56

=However, the average price consumers paid for petrol also known as premium motor spirit (PMS) decreased marginally by 0.1 percent MoM to N145.70 in January from N145.80 while the price of cooking gas declined by 0.63 percent MoM to N2,039.82 in January 2019 from N2,052.79 in December 2018. NBS stated

Nigeria’s Fadama III programme a success – World Bank

The World Bank has given a pass mark to Fadama III programme in Nigeria for the success recorded in the implementation of its programmes ahead of its Dec. 31, 2019 closing date.

The World Bank Fadama III AF Project Task Team Leader, Dr Adetunji Oredipe on Wednesday told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that Fadama III programme had achieved its objectives of increasing the incomes of Fadama land and water resource users.

NAN reporta that the World Bank Fadama III AF Project with a total project cost of 425 million dollar is being executed across the country.

According to him, this has gone a long way to reducing rural poverty, increase food security as well as contributing to the achievement of the SDGs Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The project had taken the Community Driven Development (CDD) approach, which placed the beneficiaries on the driver’s seat.

“The project had contributed to the agricultural transformation and development in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), food security, youth and women employment and rural development and World Bank is happy for this,’’ he said.

Oredipe said the local community members under the umbrella of Fadama Community Associations (FCAs) and Fadama User Groups (FUGs) were in charge of overseeing the design and implementation of the project.

This had gone a long way to empower their skills and capacity-building as well as improving their livelihoods through income generating activities.

The team leader said as at the last count in June 2018, the programme had recorded 309,164 direct beneficiaries and the bank was still counting because there were updates at every mission.

Accordingly, he said in addition to food security, the programme had improved some of the root, tuber and grains in the country.

Oredipe said that in terms of the Addition to Food Security (AFS) the yields of cassava before the programme was 5.27 tonnes per hectare.

He said that added to the National Food Security programme with an increase to 24.8 tonnes per hectare.

He said that rice had also moved from 2.83 tonnes per hectare to 5.11 tonnes per hectare, sorghum 1.54 tonnes per hectare to 2.12 tonnes per hectare.

“Tomato has recorded a drastic change, leaping from 1.6 tonnes per hectare to 29.69 tonnes per hectare due to availability of improved technology, preparation of lands and other additional support.’’

According to him, in terms of coverage, the programme has covered hectares of land more than 19,431 hectares of cassava, 131,210 hectares of rice, sorghum, 38,887 hectares, and 15,793 hectares of tomatoes.

The team leader said at full circle of harvesting in 2018, high increase was recorded on food production which includes addition of 841, 53 tonnes of cassava, 1.5million tonnes of rice, 184,978 tonnes sorghum and 1.2million tonnes tomatoes were added to the production.

He said that for the bank, it was also a success story, adding that the farmers were also supported on the field with consultants in all areas of farming.

Oredipe said that as a further step, Fadama 111 applied N9 billion of the proceeds as credit support to over 6000 graduate youths, under the Youths Unemployment Scheme of the project and women to become agro-preneurs.

“Many of them have undergone agric entrepreneurship training of the project and have been supported with financial grant to set up small agric business in the area of the choices.’’

Oredipe said the North East food Security and Livelihood Emergency Support Project which commenced in 2016 with the disbursement of 50 million dollars projects fund to benefiting states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe had exceeded its targets.

FEC approves contracts for Calabar, Kano trade zones

While awaiting the completion of the process of bringing in more investors, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the award of contracts of more than N19.45 billion for the needed investment in Calabar and Kano Free Trade Zones where work is currently ongoing.

In a bid to consolidate more investors, Nigeria signed investment agreements with Afreximbank, Bank of Industry and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) for the development of special economic zones.

And with the signing, President Muhammadu Buhari, who presided over the ceremony at the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Villa, declared the investment company in the special economic zones will become operational.

According to a statement by Bisi Daniels, the Strategy and Communications Adviser to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, the approval for Calabar and Kano is the highest amount of capital investment ever in the history of these zones.

He quoted President Buhari as saying: “We have allocated substantial funds to upgrade the capabilities of our people and the systems in the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to strengthen it as a regulator of our Special Economic Zones; and

“We are allocating substantial resources to the provision of “outside the fence” infrastructure to ensure that our Special Economic Zones are connected to global, regional and domestic markets.

“We are reviewing our incentive framework to ensure competitiveness relative to the other countries with whom we are in the race to attract export oriented global manufacturing investment.”

He added that the Federal Government will extend the early successes achieved in Ease of Doing Business to the areas critical to globally competitive export-oriented manufacturing operations.

He thanked the investment partners for their “strong demonstrations of support for the important initiative.”

President Buhari who presided over the signing of the new agreement said: “Today, we are here to witness the signing of investment agreements, following which the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited will become fully operational.”

The Federal Government set up NSEZCO Limited as a vehicle for participating in Public-Private Partnerships involving Federal and State governments and local and foreign private investors.

They are to develop new Special Economic Zones all over the country, offering world class infrastructure and facilities at competitive costs.

The projects in the pilot phase include Enyimba Economic City, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Model Industrial Park.

The three DFIs are among the five to partner with NSEZCO and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. NSEZCO intends to raise at least US$500million in equity over the first five years in order to execute its ambitious strategy of becoming a leading investor in special economic zones in the country.

The other investment partners are African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

Assets in CBN’s National Collateral Registry Hits N1.561tn

A cumulative of 154,827 micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) have used movable assets valued at N1.561 trillion to obtain loans from financial institutions since the National Collateral Register (NCR) was passed into law, BENGBENRO investigation has revealed.

The latest NCR report obtained by THISDAY showed that a breakdown of the amount recorded between January 1, 2017 and December 19, 2018, put the value of the assets at N1.209 trillion; $1,142, 389,799.12 (N349,571,278,530.72) and €6,080,004.36 (N2,121,921,521.64).

In pursuant of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) mandate on sustainable economic inclusive growth and financial inclusion, the apex bank in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) had established the NCR.

The NCR is a financial infrastructure that seeks to deepen credit delivery to MSMEs through enhanced acceptability of movable assets – equipment, machinery, vehicles, Keke – NAPEP, crops, livestock, account receivables, inventories, and jewelry – as collateral for loans by financial institutions.

It is a registry where security interests in moveable assets are registered after being used as collateral to obtain facilities from financial institutions.

NCR allows lenders to assess their priority interest in potential claims against particular collateral.

The objective, it was learnt, is to enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria, stimulate responsible lending to MSMEs, facilitate access to credit secured with movable assets, perfect security interests in movable assets, facilitate realisation of security interests in movable asset.

The key deliverable of the registry is to promote the acceptance of movable asset as collaterals for loans and contribute to economic growth and development of the country.

It was signed into law in 2017 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during the period he acted as president.

Continuing, the report revealed that of the 154,827 MSMEs that used their movable assets to obtain loans from financial institutions, 22,251 were female-owned MSMEs.

It said, “Considerable number of borrowers secured credit from financial institutions in 2018 using their movable assets as collateral. The high number of borrowers that secured credit in 2017 is attributable to the high participation of smallholder farmers under the CBN Anchor Borrower’s Programme using cross-guarantee as collateral.

“During the year under review, there was an upsurge of lending using movable assets as collateral. This is attributable to the increase in the number of microfinance banks on the NCR portal as well as increased participation of deposit money banks and non-bank financial institutions. Out of the total amount of N1,209,381,006,933. 90, a sum of N43,618,262,792.17 went to female MSMEs.”

In addition, the report showed that a cumulative of 16,349 searches were conducted by both financial institutions and the public on the NCR portal.

Also, there was an upsurge of searches conducted by financial institutions in 2018 due to their increased participation in the movable asset lending regime and continuous sensitisation to the users to ensure they conduct searches to determine the level of encumbrances before undertaking any financial transaction.

Commenting on the milestone recorded in 2018, the report pointed out that during the year, 411 microfinance banks registered on the NCR portal as a result of intensive sensitisation campaign on the operations of the register carried out across the six geo-political zones of the country as well as other collaborative strategic enlightenment programmes.

“During the period under review, the number of financial institutions that registered on the National Collateral Registry portal increased by 343 per cent, when compared with the 2017 figure which was 103 financial institutions. This was the result of the various aggressive education and awareness campaign on secured transactions in moveable assets conducted under the National Action Plan.

“Also, during the period under review, the number of registered financial institutions that registered financing statements on the NCR portal increased by 89 per cent when compared with the 2017 figure which was 36 financial institutions. This was the result of the various aggressive education and awareness campaign on secured transactions in moveable assets conducted under the National Action Plan,” it stated.

Some of the challenges faced included paucity of funds for sensitising the judiciary and Nigeria police on the legal implications of the STMA Act, 2017; the need for a driver to move NCR staff to strategic meetings and answer to financial institutions complaints where necessary considering the present location of the office; and low usage of the Collateral Registry System especially bank and reluctance of financial service providers to appreciate the benefits of Asset-Based Lending, among others.

AfCFTA: Boosting industrial revolution through intra-Africa trade

AfCFTA: Boosting industrial revolution through intra-Africa trade

The shelves of many supermarkets in Nigeria boast of a large amount imported products, including toothpicks from China, toilet paper and milk from Holland, sugar from France, chocolates from Switzerland and matchboxes from Sweden.

Yet many of these products can be produced in Nigeria or found in much closer African countries with industrial bases.

Why businessmen still prefer to source their goods from halfway around the world still remain of concern. The answers are however not far-fetched. It is because of the complexity of trade regulations and high tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time wasting and cumbersome.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), so far signed by 49 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018 tends to provide a solution to this unnecessary capital flight from Africa.

The AfCFTA is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, rev up industrialisation and create jobs.

The agreement will create a single continental market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and businesses.

Countries joining AfCFTA must commit to removing tariffs on at least 90 per cent of the goods they produce.

“If all 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars”, says the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Speaking at a workshop of the Network of Economic Journalists for West Africa, in Monrovia, Liberia, the acting Director, ECA West Africa Office, Mr Bakary Dosso, said the workshop aims to equip newsmen to properly understand the stakes of the AfCFTA.

Dosso said that the largest number of countries that have ratified the AfCFTA where from the ECOWAS region, showing its relevance to the further development of the region.

“The general objective is to improve the quality of media coverage of AfCFTA related activities in West Africa so they can produce fact based reports on the agreement for the benefit of the public and other stakeholders,” he said.

Also, the Liberian Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr Wilfred Bangura, said the training workshop will boost the development of a responsible and stronger partnership with sub-regional media organisations.

He said that the training would further improve visibility and wider dissemination of information relevant to the sub-region for economic and social development of its member states.

Also, Mr  Konzi Tei, the ECOWAS Commissioner in Charge of Trade and Free Movement said the implementation of the AfCFTA would lead to massive industrial revolution on the continent.

He said that ECOWAS was poised to benefit the most from the agreement as it was already an expert in pursuing the free movement of its people and goods across borders since 1979.

It will be recalled that Nigeria despite playing a role in drafting the AfCFTA, refused to sign the agreement on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

Nigeria said it was delaying its signature to the agreement to widen and deepen domestic consultations, to ensure all concerns were addressed, as it would not sign any agreement that would not fairly and equitably represent the interest of Nigeria and indeed, her neighbours.

Some of the concerns have to do with the likelihood that it may impact on government revenue and social welfare, as elimination of all tariffs among African countries would erode the trading states’ treasury by up to 4.1billion dollars annually and deepen poverty, with millions of Africans potentially exposed to starvation and death.

Others, particularly among the poorer economies are afraid the benefits in the free trade area may not be equitably distributed among economies.

Naira closes at N362.19 to dollar

The Naira on Tuesday’s closed at N363.19 to the dollar at the investors window, just as market turnover stood at 441.38 million dollars.

At the parallel market, the Naira sustained gains, closing at N358 to the dollar, while the Pound Sterling and the Euro traded at N472 and N411, respectively.

Trading at the Bureau De Change (BDC) segment saw the naira closing at N360 to the dollar, while the Pound Sterling and the Euro traded at N472 and N411, respectively.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the naira had remained stable at the parallel market due largely to the aggressive interventions by the CBN and the collaborations of BDCs.(NAN)

Akwa Ibom governor announces discovery of crude oil in Uruan

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has disclosed that the state would soon begin the exploration of crude oil discovered in Urua Local Council area of the state.
The governor disclosed this during his campaign yesterday at the council’s headquarters.

According to him, the state is now awaiting the conclusion of some paper formalities, adding that when completed, it would go a long way in expanding the state’s status and income from the federation account.

Emmanuel said the commencement of oil exploration would further boost the state’s economy and create employment for the people.

He said: “Uruan is at the verge of becoming one of the oil producing communities in the state. That is why you see a new oil rig in the area, and once we are done with signing of papers, we will begin exploration.”

The governor said his administration had established a green house agriculture farm project along airport road for the cultivation of special crops in the area.

“We are not playing politics of development, because campaigns should be issue based. I can assure the people of Uruan that everything ongoing in the area will be completed and commissioned before the end of this administration.

The greenhouse in Uruan will be commissioned by our presidential candidate,” he said.

The governor disclosed that about 2000 cattle had been purchased to reproduce in their natural habitat, before they are transported to the state for the production of milk and yoghurt.

He reiterated his committed to improved healthcare delivery, noting that such has made him to work towards massive turnaround for the Ituk Mbang General Hospital, which he said, has been in a serious state of disrepair.

“Ituk Mbang hospital was overgrown with weeds without maintenance and we turned its fortunes around by equipping it with modern facilities,” he said.

Emmanuel lamented that previous administrations did not even give a kilometer of road to the area, adding that the first ever range in the state is at Adadia, all of which he set up to boost the economy and create jobs.

A political leader in the area, Obong Peter Ekpe Atakpo, commended Emmanuel for being the first governor to fulfill a promise to develop the area.

He listed the projects to include: Akwa Prime Hatchery, Anua-Mbak-Issiet road, Mbiaya Uruan road and Mbiatok Itam-Mbiaya Uruan road.

Others are Mbiaya-Ita-Ikpa-Mbiakong- Idu road, Ituk Mbang General Hospital, Adadia/Use Cattle Range, the Housing Estate-Ibiaku Ishiet, and Greenhouse Agriculture farm project.

PENGASSAN flays local oil firms over abuse of labour laws

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), has decried abuse of labour laws by some indigenous oil companies.
It indicted Forte Oil, Seplat, AITEO and NIPCO as firms among violators of the nation’s labour laws.

Condemning the act, PENGASSAN, which described the firms’ anti-labour stance against their employees as unacceptable, said the union would resist their nefarious acts on workers, who are also citizens of the country.

According to PENGASSAN, these oil and gas companies are notorious for casualisation, contract staffing, outsourcing and off-shoring of jobs, as well as other unfair labour practices, and under-hand tactics in their Labour relations.

A statement signed by its President, Francis Johnson and General Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, the association sought stiffer sanctions against the oil firms.

However, when contacted, spokesman of NIPCO, Lawal Abiodun said he could not comment on the issue, as he was driving, but did not get back to BENGBENRO as at the time of filing this report.

Also, spokesman of AITEO, Matthew Ndiana, who said he was in a meeting, could not reply to an e-mail sent to him, just as Seplat’s spokesperson, Chioma Nwachukwu, did not reply to a text message to her phone.

While advising government to initiate workable and sustainable intervention by incorporating more investors into local refining, PENGASSAN rejected the current operating model of the nation’s refineries, describing it as unsustainable.

It, therefore, advocated adoption of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) business model after the refineries must have been rehabilitated for maximum productivity.

The association urged government to increase local refining capacity and remove all encumbrances to full rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries.

The union also frowned on conflicting pronouncements over inadequate funding and crude supplies, as well as staff attrition challenges, currently hindering smooth operations of the refineries.

As a way out, it advocated increase in crude supplies, funding and employing more qualified manpower.

PENGASSAN, however, commended the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), for ensuring adequate and consistent supply of petrol throughout the Christmas and New Year festive period.

On modular and private refineries, the association urged government to revoke the licenses issued to non-practicing companies and individuals, adding that government should reissue them to operators with technical and financial capacity, as well as establish modular refineries as earlier promised.

FG creating new class of bizmen in power sector, says Fashola

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has said that the federal government remains committed to creating a new set of businessmen in the country’s electricity value chain.
He said the businesses would be concentrated mainly in the metering segment of the industry, which he noted was currently challenged. Fashola said this yesterday at Alaka area of Lagos, where he addressed residents in a town hall meeting.

According to him, 108 firms have registered with government to take over electricity metering supply to customers and ensure that Nigerians are adequately metered.

More developmental projects initiated by the government would be pursued to logical conclusion given their importance, he said, adding that Nigerians should endeavour to pursue the same aspiration by ensuring continuity.He said: “Most of the difficulties we are facing today are products of our past decisions. But the government remains committed to prospering the common man.

“The path to prosperity is tough; but those who persevere will benefit.”Fashola said the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) would be introducing the new metering companies to customers on their networks.

For him, the development would create more jobs for Nigerians and further ensure accountability in the power sector, especially at the distribution end.On another vein, the minister expressed optimism that petroleum products would be distributed through the railway when the rail projects were completed, as against the use of tankers.

He also intimated the residents of a new power substation at Ijora area Lagos, which will ensure uninterrupted supply.The minister stressed: “Infrastructure development is key to ending youth unemployment. Government can only do the little it can to employ citizens, but the private sector will do more leveraging on available infrastructure.”He urged Nigerians to give the government the opportunity to do more, describing the coming polls as an opportunity to realise the aspiration.