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Abuja fuel queues persist as oil hits $66 ahead of OPEC meeting

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The price of crude oil (Brent) itched close to $66 a barrel at the close of business on Monday, the highest since its biggest slump last November.

This is coming ahead of a meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday.

But fuel queues have persisted in Abuja and there are fears that it may spread to other parts of the country as many filling stations are not selling the product, following continued increase in crude price at the international market.

The situation has continued to cause traffic snarls in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including Olusegun Obasanjo Way and Sultan Abubakar Way.

The seeming scarcity of the product in parts of the country is based on the fact that pump price of petrol is tied to the price of crude oil in the international market under the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

While the US oil price rose by 2.2 per cent to $62.90 a barrel, after opening at $61.53, and hitting a low of $61.53, the Brent crude rose by 2.2 per cent to $65.90 a barrel, after opening at $64.50, and hitting a low of $64.50.

The US crude lost 3.0 per cent on Friday while Brent crude futures fell 3.9 per cent, in their second straight daily loss on profit-taking from a 13-month high.

However, the crude oil rebound came after the commodity took a pause on Friday on profit-taking from a 13-month high, partly due to hopes about the United States stimulus measures and the latest positive updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.

Oil prices gained around 17.5 per cent in the fourth consecutive monthly gain, as the oversupply concerns receded after OPEC+ compliance with the agreed supply cuts and Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut.

The fuel queues may spread to other parts of the country despite assurances by the NNPC that it is not planning any increase in the pump price of petrol this month.

Amid fears that the NNPC may hike the pump price of petrol, retailers have tightened sales on the grounds of supply scarcity from depots where they alleged that ex-depot price has gone up, despite assurances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of no price adjustment.

The corporation, in a statement, had said that contrary to speculations of an imminent increase in the price of petrol in the country, the ex-depot price of petrol in March would remain unchanged.

It is not clear how OPEC will act when members gather on Thursday, with the Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, Abdulaziz Bin Salman, calling for producers to remain “extremely cautious.”

Oil’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic has been driven by Asian demand, as well as fiscal and monetary stimulus as data showed most key manufacturing economies gained ground last month, with China staying in expansionary territory.

Positive sentiment in equity markets also aided crude, while President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan moved closer to realisation after passage at the House of Representatives.

Saudi Arabia’s output curbs, the improving demand outlook as vaccines are rolled out, and the growing popularity of commodities as a hedge against inflation have pushed oil higher this year.

There have been indications in recent weeks that the rally will continue as the producer response trails consumption, while maintenance in North Sea fields is set to reduce supply.

At stake in Thursday’s meeting is how much OPEC+ output gets restored and at what pace, with current reductions amounting to just over seven million barrels a day, or 7 per cent of global supply.

The 23-nation coalition will decide whether to revive a 500,000-barrel tranche in April, and in addition, whether the Saudis confirm an extra one million barrels they have taken offline will return as scheduled.

The freeze-driven shuttering of core sections of the US refining system isn’t all good news for rival plants in Europe because down at the bottom of the barrel, losses are deepening.

Kazakhstan relaxed its oil production restraint in February, allowing output to jump to its highest since the current OPEC+ supply pact came into effect at the start of May.

Reacting to the fuel queues, the Group General Manager of the Public Affairs Division at the NNPC, Dr Kennie Obateru, said the corporation had no plan to raise the price of petrol in March in order not to jeopardise ongoing engagements with organised labour.

It warned petroleum products marketers not to engage in an arbitrary price increase or hoarding of petrol so as not to create artificial scarcity and panic buying.

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Lamborghini pushes out final Aventador, Ultimae, ends V12 supercar

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Supercar manufacturer, Lamborghini, has announced the production of the last Aventador. You can call it Avantador’s last dance. The final Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae was rolled off the production line in Sant’Agata, Italy, and kissing goodbye to V12-powered supercar that shaped an era. The Lamborghini V12 will be hybridised going forward.

This Ultimae Roadster marks the 11,465th Aventador to reach customers worldwide. First launched in 2011, the Aventador is not exactly modern, but when it debuted, it was described by CEO Stephan Winkelmann as “a jump of two generations in terms of design and technology,” with “performance that is simply overwhelming.”

A plug-in hybrid replacement is expected to be revealed later this year, having been spied testing.

Lamborghini made sure the final model was the most powerful, with the 6.5-litre unit producing 10bhp more than in the previous range-topping Aventador, the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, sending 769bhp (780PS, hence the name) to both axles. The Aventador-based Essenza SCV12 produces 819bhp but is limited to track use.

The Ultimae’s 531lb ft torque peak matches the SVJ’s, with which it shares its power- to-weight ratio. But with a 0-62mph time of just 2.8sec and a top speed of 221mph, the Ultimae is the fastest road-going Aventador.

The 350 coupés and 250 roadsters – each sold with a numbered plaque – were offered in a range of unique colour schemes, including a new grey-on-grey option with contrasting red trim elements, while the roadster could be specified with an exposed carbonfibre roof panel. It was also subtly marked out from other Aventadors by way of a unique styling package that “took the best components” of the S and SVJ.

The Aventador’s plug-in hybrid replacement will serve as a bridge to pure-electric Lamborghini models in the future.

This electrified future will see the Hurácan and Lamborghini Urus also go down the same route, and an all-electric 2+2 introduced in the second half of the decade.

Importantly, however, while its replacement will use an electrified drivetrain, it will take the bulk of its power from a large-capacity V12, in line with company boss Stephan Winkelmann’s commitment to the emotional value of its supercars.

He told Autocar last year that there is “a lot of emotion attached” to the 12-cylinder engine, which he is particularly aware of, having been involved in the launch of the Aventador in his first stint as the boss of Lamborghini in 2011.

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How to use your pensions for mortgage

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The National Pension Commission recently approved the guidelines to access Retirement Savings Account balance for payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by RSA holders.

The approval was in line with Section 89 (2) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, which allows RSA holders to use a portion of their RSA balance towards payment of equity for residential mortgage.

PenCom however specified conditions to access the funds. A major condition is that the applicant must be in active employment, either as a salaried employee or as a self-employed person.

It stated that application for equity contribution for residential mortgage must be in person and not by proxy.

How to apply

Anybody who is interested can approach his PFA to get explanation on the process. The PFA will print the statement of account and determine the 25 per cent.

Speaking with our correspondent, the Spokesperson, PenCom, Abdulqadir Dahiru, said, “Then when you have that, you can now go back to your mortgage lender, get a letter of offer of your property, go through their own due diligence to agree for them to finance because the pension is only giving you 25 per cent; 75 per cent will still be financed by somebody.

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“That person must give you an offer letter for a loan that he is ready to finance you, and this is the equity contribution you are required to bring. So if you have that equity contribution with that letter of offer, which has been validated by the mortgage lender, that is when you can approach your PFA to request for your 25 per cent.”

Maximum amount allowed

PenCom stated that the maximum amount to be withdrawn is 25 per cent of the total mandatory RSA balance as of the date of application, irrespective of the value of equity contribution required by the mortgage lender.

Where 25 per cent of a contributor’s RSA balance is not sufficient for payment as equity contribution, the RSA holders may utilise the contingency portion of their voluntary contributions (if any).

Consent form

If a person had accessed part of the funds before either for leaving paid employment before retirement age, he will still get lump sum at retirement. He can still get part of the funds for mortgage after meeting specific conditions stated in the guidelines, but he must sign a consent form to get it.

Aisha Dahir-Umar, DG National Pension Commission

Dahiru said, “If you have taken 25 per cent for temporary loss of job and then you get employment again, and you continue contributing and you come to collect for a mortgage, you will sign a consent to say that I’m fully aware that this money I want to withdraw to finance a house will affect the amount I may likely take when I retire, I understand and whatever.

“So, basically you are indemnifying the PFA that you understand so that at the point of retirement, if your benefit is lower compared to your colleagues you will not complain.”

Mortgage lender

To qualify as a mortgage lender for the purpose, the company must be licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, comply with the Contributory Pension Scheme and have valid Pension Clearance Certificate, according to PenCom’s guidelines.

Eligibility

According to PenCom, a worker must have an offer letter for the property duly signed by the property owner and verified by the mortgage lender. The RSA of the applicant must have both employer and employee’s mandatory contributions for a cumulative minimum period of 60 months (five years). A contributor under the Micro Pension Plan is also eligible, provided he/she has made contributions for at least 60 months (five years) prior to the date of his/her application.

Age limit

RSA holders that have less than three years to retirement are not eligible.

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Dahiru explained, “If I am an employee and working in an organisation where the retirement age is 55 years, if I am 50, or 51 years, I can access because I have five years or more than three years to retire. But once I get to 52 that, means I have three years which I cannot access.”

According to PenCom’s guidelines, married couples, who are RSA holders, are eligible to make a joint application, subject to individually satisfying the eligibility requirements.

Data recapturing

RSA holders, if registered before 1 July 2019, must have their records updated through the RSA data recapture exercise.

Dahiru said, “But it’s very important that RSA holders have done their recapture. When you have not done your data recapturing, we can’t process it.”

Insufficient 25 per cent contribution

The PenCom spokesperson said, “Where the 25 per cent the mortgage lender is asking for is equal to the 25 per cent of your RSA, definitely we will process. But if what mortgage lender is asking for is higher than what you can get from your PFA, you will have to look for the difference and pay and show evidence to your PFA.

“For instance, if your mortgage lender is looking for N2.5m and the mortgage is N10m, and the mortgage lender says bring 25 per cent as equity contribution, and your own 25 per cent in your RSA is only N1.5m, you will have to look for that difference of N1m and pay; then come with it with your offer letter for the property and the evidence that I have paid, then your PFA will give you the balance of N1.5m which is your 25 per cent.”

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NNPC denies operating secret account, says fuel subsidy gulps N2.6tn

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) has not remitted any amount to the federation account since the beginning of this year as the company’s deduction for petrol subsidy rose to N2.565 trillion at the end of August 2022.

A new report by the NNPC revealed this even as the company denied any involvement in the operation of any secret bank account, stating that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) was aware of its financial transactions.

An analysis of NNPC’s monthly presentation to the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) at the weekend, further showed that the NNPCL has so far spent N2.565 trillion on the controversial subsidy this year.

Information from the FAAC meeting had earlier revealed that the money available for distribution among the three tiers of government for the month slumped by N280.948 billion to N673.137 billion when put aside the N954.085 shared in July.

Of the amount, the Federal Government received N259.641 billion; the states received N222.949 billion, while the local governments got N164.247 billion.

“The sum of N525,714,373,874.60 being federation account share was used to defray value shortfall/subsidy for the month,” the NNPCL stated in a document quoted by TheCable.

According to the national oil firm, in January, February, March, and April 2022, the petrol subsidy gulped N210.38 billion, N219.78 billion, N245.77 billion and N271.13 billion respectively.

Furthermore, in May, June, and July, the country spent N327.07 billion, N319.18 billion and N448.78 billion respectively before the hugest deduction of N525.71 billion in the latest instance.

The NNPCL also on Saturday said it was not involved in the operation of any secret bank account.

It said that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) was aware of its financial transactions.

In a thread on its verified Twitter handle last night, signed by the spokesman for the national oil company, Mr Garba Muhammad, the company explained that it was unaware of the existence of any such account.

The House of Representatives a few days ago said it was probing the structure and accountability of the joint venture businesses and Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) of the NNPCL in the last 32 years.

The lawmakers had alleged that they had uncovered a secret account owned by the NNPCL allegedly in breach of due process.

The report stated that an official of the OAGF, Mr Chize Peters, disclosed to the Abubakar Fulata-led Adhoc committee probing the matter.

The committee was said to have directed the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, to appear before it to offer explanations on the issue.

But in a series of tweets, the spokesman of NNPCL said, “The NNPCL, directly or through its upstream arm, the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), does not operate secret accounts at all.

“The joint venture cash call accounts denominated in US Dollars and Nigerian Naira are all domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria in line with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.

“The Joint Venture Cash Call (JVCC) NGN and USD accounts were created to cater for the funding of cash calls for the various Joint Ventures managed by NNPCL on behalf of the Federal Government,” the company said.

The statement added that the ‘Joint Venture Proceeds Accounts’ were opened for the individual JVs to implement the self-funding strategy which aims at making them be self-reliant.

“The Office of the Accountant-Gen. of the Federation (OAGF) is fully aware of the JVCC accounts as the OAGF regularly sanctions & approves the updates/change of signatories to the accounts.

The NNPCL has documents where these correspondences with the OAGF were acknowledged.

“The NNPC/NAPIMS books of accounts in respect of the federations upstream petroleum activities are audited annually by independent external auditors,” the national oil company said.

According to the NNPCL, a critical part of the independent statutory audit is sending ‘circularisation’ to banks to confirm balances and bank accounts belonging to NNPC/NAPIMS.

It stressed that Audited Financial Statements (AFS) are submitted to all stakeholders including the National Assembly.

In addition, the company stated that the OAGF conducts periodic (yearly) checks on the activities of NNPC/NAPIMS, maintaining that the activities of the NNPCL and NAPIMS are audited yearly by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“NNPCL has documented evidence of the correspondences between the company and the OAGF before the accounts were opened with the @cenbank, in line with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.

“We also have evidence of reconciliations carried out with the @cenbank for the year ended 31-12-2021 in respect to the JV Cash Call Accounts.

“Thus, with such multiple layers of checks and balances, it is impossible for @nnpclimited to operate secret accounts until the ad hoc Committee, with due respect to its competencies, discovers it.

“If such ‘secret account’ does exist, then @nnpclimited certainly is not aware of, and has absolutely nothing to do with it,” the statement concluded.

 

 

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