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CBN plans digital currency launch before December

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  • Reps back bill stopping foreign accounts for bankers

The Central Bank of Nigeria has said it will launch a digital currency before the end of this year.

The Director, Information Technology, CBN, Rakiya Mohammed, disclosed this on Thursday, during a virtual media briefing at the end of a Bankers Committee meeting also held virtually.

He said, “The digital currency would be accessible to all Nigerians. Just like everybody has access to cash, everybody will have access to the central bank’s digital currency. Let me state categorically that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and the rest of them are not under the control of the central bank; they are purely private decisions that individuals make.

“We have spent over two years studying this concept of central bank’s digital currency and we have identified the risks. And it is one of the reasons why I said we are setting up a central governance structure that would involve all industry stakeholders to access all the risks as we continue on this journey.

“Very soon we would make an announcement on the date for the launch and by the end of the year we should have the digital currency.”

Meanwhile, a bill seeking to prohibit bank employees from operating foreign accounts has passed second reading at the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers voted in favour of the bill after which it was referred to the house committee on anti-corruption.

The bank employees’ declaration of assets act amendment bill also seeks to mandate the bankers to declare assets of their spouses and children less than 18 years old.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in March ordered those in the banking sector to declare their assets in accordance with the act, raising questions as to the legality of such directive.

The bank employees’ declaration of assets act requires bank board members, managing director, general managers, clerks, cashiers, messengers, cleaners, drivers, and any other category of workers — whether part‐time, casual or temporary — to declare their assets.

Leading the debate on the bill on Thursday, sponsor of the bill, Shina Peller, said it had become necessary to expand the scope of the act regarding those who should declare their assets.

He said the act was “aimed at monitoring the activities of bank employees and customs officers to ensure that their lifestyle reflects their earnings, and to discourage them from engaging in corrupt practices.”

“However, human society is very dynamic; as society changes, it becomes imperative to amend the laws to reflect the changes in the society for the laws to serve their purposes effectively and efficiently. It is for this reason that I am proposing the amendment to this Act,” he said.

Peller said the bill sought to extend the application of the act to employees of other financial institutions including pension funds agencies, insurance firms, stocks brokers among others.

He added that when passed into law, the bill would transfer the responsibility of keeping assets declaration form from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the institution’s regulatory body.

“The principal act applies to employees of the Nigerian Customs Service. With the coming into effect of the 1999 constitution (as amended) on the 29th of May 1999, all public servants, including employees of the customs service must declare their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau,” he said.

“This amendment bill addresses this anomaly by removing the employees of the customs service from employees which the principal act applies to.

“Under the principal act, it is only the assets of bank employee concerned which shall be declared in the form. The act does not apply to the spouse and unmarried children under 18 years of the declarant. This is another loophole of the Act which may be exploited.”

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African economies lost $190bn to COVID-19, says AfDB

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President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has said the economy of Africa has lost over $190 billion due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated this on Wednesday during the AfDB’s 2021 virtual Annual Meeting, adding that the pandemic had forced 30 million people into extreme poverty with “an estimated 39 million people could fall into poverty by the end of 2021.”

He however said the bank took prompt actions to African economies with the launch of a $3bn social impact bond on global capital markets, “which was at the time the largest ever US denominated social bond in world history. We announced a $10bn Crisis Response Facility. We provided $28m to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. We saved lives and livelihoods.”

With an average projected GDP growth of 3.4 percent in 2021, he said the continent was recovering.

He stated that to tackle Africa burgeoning debt, it has launched a Debt Action Plan and a new Strategy for Economic Governance in Africa and both would support countries to tackle debt, and embark on bolder economic governance reforms to forestall a debt crisis.

The Managing Director of IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, said the global economy is projected to grow by six per cent, but half of 3.2 per cent would come from Africa.

She added that public debt in sub-Saharan Africa had risen six per cent to 58 per cent of GDP in 2020 which is the highest in almost two decades.

She said interest payments reached 20 per cent of tax revenue last year in the region and exceeded one-third of revenue in some countries.

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Nigeria bleeding from rising petrol smuggling, says NNPC GMD

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About 42 million litres of petrol are being smuggled out of Nigeria daily through the borders, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has lamented.

The corporation said the country was bleeding from such huge amount of fuel smuggling, which had increased daily consumption of petrol from 60 million litres to 102 million litres.

The NNPC Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, stated this in Abuja when he met with stakeholders, adding that smuggling had gone beyond what the NNPC could handle.

This is contained in a statement by the corporation’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr Taiye Obateru.

He also put the subsidy on petrol being paid by the government every month at N150bn, a situation meant to keep the pump price of petrol at N162 per litre.

Those that attended the meeting were the leaderships of the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and chief executives of agencies in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Other groups that attended the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the corporation to halt fuel smuggling were the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association (DAPPMA).

Kyari said fuel smuggling was increasing the country’s subsidy payment and exacerbating the foreign exchange crisis.

He said the gathering was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari who mandated the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the NNPC, the EFCC and all other security agencies to do everything possible to stop crude oil theft and illicit truck-out of petroleum products, which he described as major economic crimes that have hindered Nigerians from enjoying the benefits of subsidised petroleum products.

He urged all industry stakeholders to collaborate with the NNPC to ensure that the daily national petroleum products consumption, which shot up to 102 million litres in May, is reduced to about 60 million litres.

He added that it was obvious that that huge volume of petrol was not consumed by Nigerians alone.

Kyari said, “We all agree that smuggling is not a business that should be condoned because even for deregulated petroleum products, it brings extra cost burden on this country both in terms of safety and security of supply and in securing of foreign exchange.

“It even constitutes more burden to this country when the product involved is a regulated product like Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).”

He noted that with the increasing price of crude oil at the global market and the OPEC+ production cuts, the country could not afford to shoulder the cost of smuggling.

“We all know that our daily consumption is not up to 60 million litres. We all know that, and that is why we have to pull it down. We will pull it down by every means necessary,” he said.

He said the NNPC would introduce advanced cargo declaration in line with global best practices to tackle crude oil theft.

Kyari stated that going after smugglers was beyond the call of the corporation, adding that with the involvement of the EFCC, the situation would improve considerably.

 “But we in the NNPC, we are not in control of that, we are not in every depot, we don’t keep products in all the depots, but when the volume goes down, it comes down to us. When there is tight supply, it comes back to the NNPC and we solve the problem,” he added.

Kyari said, with the extant directive from the President that smuggling had to be halted, all the stakeholders must begin to work together to address the problem, especially with the involvement of the security agencies.

He said Buhari had instructed that the menace must be stopped by every means necessary, and called on the stakeholders present to think outside the box since all the layers of controls that had been put in place before now seemed to have failed.

He stated that with the current exchange rate and considering other price determinants, the pump price of petrol should be N256 per litre.

“What we sell today is N162; so the difference is at a cost to the nation,” he said.

Kyari said, “I know that so much work is going on, and then we have to manage the volume that we are exposed to between this price of N162 and N256. The difference comes back to as much as N140bn to N150bn cost to the country monthly.

“And as long as the volume goes up, that money continues to increase and we have two sets of stress to face, the stress of supply and the stress of foreign exchange for the NNPC.”

Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, also said, “We brought in the big hammer, and the big hammer as you can see is the EFCC because it is economic sabotage and I believe with the EFCC in the picture, the system will work even better.”

Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, said smuggling of petroleum products was worrisome, and assured Nigerians that the EFCC was fully committed to the special operation, codenamed “Operation White” designed to check illegal exportation.

He said since part of the commission’s duty was to ensure the reduction of financial crime, the EFCC would do all it could to stop smuggling.

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13 million Nigerians face deteriorating food crisis – UN report

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  • Nigeria among six African nations with worst food insecurity

Nigeria may witness a serious deterioration in food security this year with about 13 million people falling into acute food insecurity during the season.

The 2021 Global Report on Food Crises stated this, whose latest findings also placed Nigeria among six countries in Africa with worse food crises.

The GRFC is prepared by 16 leading global and regional organisations belonging to the Global Network Against Food Crises.

It is released annually by the Food Security Information Network, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme, and International Food Policy Research Institute.

The report listed other countries with worse food crises as Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Sudan, and Zimbabwe, Republic of the Congo.

According to report, the number of people around the world facing severe food insecurity skyrocketed by 20 million in 2020.

It stated that acute food insecurity had now affected at least 155 million people across 55 countries and territories, with some regions facing famine-level hunger.

In West Africa and the Sahel, the report said market disruptions, rising food prices, and falling incomes stemming from COVID-19 containment measures also contributed to increasing hunger in the region, as did severe flooding in some areas.

It highlighted the high severity and numbers of people in crisis or worse or equivalent in 55 countries and territories, driven by persistent conflict, pre-existing and COVID-19-related economic shocks, and weather extremes.

The number identified in the 2021 edition is the highest in the report’s five-year existence.

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