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How to halt N1t electricity subsidy, CBN’s N1.5t interventions

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Electricity stakeholders in the country, yesterday, insisted that removal of subsidy in the power sector was feasible if the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could streamline interventions in the sector to mitigate the negative impact on the masses.

Last week, the Federal Government alerted that the gap between the Cost Reflective Tariff (CRT), and Allowable Tariff (AT) peaking at N28 per unit of electricity supplied to consumers, this year stands at about N1t.

Coming at a time that it is also considering subsidy removal on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, had disclosed at the 12th edition of PwC Nigeria’s Annual Power and Utilities Roundtable, that the nation needs to optimise the potential in the power sector through a cost-reflective tariff regime.

Since the sector was privatised in 2013, perpetual interventions through the CBN have served as lifelines to the sector. They include Power and Aviation Intervention Fund (PAIF), hovering at about N300b, Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (NEMSF), which is about N213b, an N140b Solar Connection Intervention Facility, an over N600b tariff shortfall intervention, as well as a recent N120b intervention designed for mass metering among others.

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In March 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved an N701b CBN facility as Power Assurance Guarantee, just as the Federal Government, in 2019, also signed the release of another N600b to bridge the shortfall in the payment of monthly invoices by key stakeholders in the sector.

Fueled by tariff shortfall, receivable collection, technical, commercial and collection losses, financial liquidity in the power sector hovers around N4t as the apex bank, alongside the Federal Government has continued to initiate a series of interventions to douse tension and avert a collapse of the 2013 electricity privatisation exercise.

In about eight years, the CBN would have spent over N1.5t to keep the nation’s power sector afloat although the sector was privatised to survive by itself.

Although most stakeholders insisted that the interventions remained critical, especially in easing the liquidity crisis and attracting further interventions, they maintained that tweaking the interventions in manners that would ease further the masses’ burden and halt arbitrary billing of consumers was very important.

Renowned energy expert, Prof. Wunmi Iledare, noted that interventions by the CBN as a payable loan was understandable, even if it is a forgivable loan.

He insisted that the current structure of the electricity market in the country could mar the interventions, stressing that there must be a decentralised energy planning system.

According to him, while it is good that banks are targeting spending, subsidy may be a political expediency instrument, not economic efficiency hence “it should be disavowed. By the way, estimated billing now termed electronic billing is fraudulent! A quick way to bring subsidy to an end is metering and decentralisation of power management and services. Nearly everything centralised in the fashion of militarism has failed woefully, education, health, energy services road infrastructure, name it,” Iledare said.

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An energy expert, Eseosa Lloyd Onaghinon, stated that the energy sector must be rid of inefficiencies, which is usually passed on to consumers, adding that there are about 40 per cent inefficient losses between transmission and distribution.

“If we do not address such losses that occur, we might as well get into a trap where it’s an unending discussion of ‘subsidy’ even though it is continuous inefficiencies covered up as subsidies,” Onaghinon stated.

For energy lawyer, Osagie Agbonlahor, most of the woes experienced in the sector were responsible for the poor electricity situation in the country, adding that the development should be blamed on electricity operators, revenue collectors and the powers that be.

“How many army, police, air force, navy barracks in the country that their residents pay electricity bills at all? How many government ministries, army, air force, navy offices pay for the electricity that they consume? Who has ever dared to drive to the barracks and disconnect their source of public power supply the way they do to ordinary Nigerians? For how long has this been going on in this country? If you take away these huge leakages, you will see that the ordinary Nigerians have been sustaining and subsidising the electricity consumption of these people.

Agbonlahor said that the government broached the idea of deducting the huge outstanding electricity bill consumed in barracks and government offices under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He noted that “until we start to do the right things, we are just going to be beating about the bush.”

He asked the government to do a forensic audit of the N1t subsidy to check where the so-called subsidy is coming from.

The Guardian had earlier reported that the failure of federal and state governments, as well as their ministries and agencies to pay over N100b outstanding electricity bills is currently worsening the liquidity crisis in the sector.

The situation has also reportedly led to distribution companies hounding private electricity consumers who pay more through estimated bills and higher tariffs, rather than recover outstanding debts from government agencies.

Guardian

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Protect the poor from galloping inflation, World Bank advises Nigerian govt, others

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… lowers Nigeria’s economic growth forecast 

The World Bank has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria and other governments in the Sub-Saharan African region to urgently implement measures to restore macro-economic stability and protect the poor from the high inflation and current slow economic growth.

The World Bank has also lowered its economic growth forecast for Nigeria in 2023 to 3.2 per cent from 3.3 per cent due to the slowdown in global growth, the war in Ukraine and declining demand from China for commodities produced in Africa.

It projected that the Sub-Saharan African region would record a lower economic growth of 3.3 per cent in 2022 as against the 4.1 per cent recorded in 2021.

The forecasts were contained in the October edition of the World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term regional macroeconomic outlook, and economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Highlighting the growth factors for Nigeria’s economy, the World Bank said, “The Nigerian economy is projected to slow in 2023, down to 3.2 per cent (from 3.3 per cent) and persist at this level the following year. Growth will be supported mainly by the rebound in private consumption prompted mostly by accommodative monetary policy as inflationary pressures subside.

“Private consumption expenditure is forecast to decrease this year and grow next year. This performance will likely continue in 2024. On the production side, growth in 2023 will be supported by industry (with the growth of 5.1 per cent) with the mega-refinery project.”

On its growth forecast for the Sub-Saharan African region, the World Bank said: “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is set to decelerate from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022, a downward revision of 0.3 percentage points since April’s Pulse forecast, mainly as a result of a slowdown in global growth, including flagging demand from China for commodities produced in Africa.

On the factors undermining economic growth in SSA, the World Bank said, “The war in Ukraine is exacerbating already high inflation and weighing on economic activity by depressing both business investments and household consumption. As of July 2022, 29 of 33 countries in SSA with available information had inflation rates over 5% while 17 countries had double-digit inflation.

“Elevated food prices are causing hardships with severe consequences in one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. Hunger has sharply increased in SSA in recent years driven by economic shocks, violence and conflict, and extreme weather. More than one in five people in Africa suffer from hunger and an estimated 140 million people faced acute food insecurity in 2022, up from 120 million people in 2021, according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022 Mid-Year Update.

“The interconnected crises come at a time when the fiscal space required to mount effective government responses is all but gone. In many countries, public savings have been depleted by earlier programs to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, though resource-rich countries in some cases have benefited from high commodity prices and managed to improve their balance sheet.”

“Debt is projected to stay elevated at 58.6% of GDP in 2022 in SSA. African governments spent 16.5% of their revenues servicing external debt in 2021, up from less than 5% in 2010. Eight out of 38 IDA-eligible countries in the region are in debt distress, and 14 are at high risk of joining them. At the same time, high commercial borrowing costs make it difficult for countries to borrow on national and international markets while tightening global financial conditions are weakening currencies and increasing African countries’ external borrowing costs.”

Stressing the need for governments to improve the efficiency of existing resources and to optimize taxes in response to the above challenges, the World Bank added that, “In the agriculture and food sector, for example, governments have the opportunity to protect human capital and climate-proof food production by re-orienting their public spending away from poorly targeted subsidies toward nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes, irrigation works, and research and development are known to have high returns.”

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FG sues Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta over adverts, demands N30bn

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Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has said it filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Abuja against Meta Platforms Incorporated (owners of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) and its agent AT3 Resources Limited.

The country’s apex advertising governing agency revealed on Tuesday that the advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in the Nigerian markets are not vetted and approved by the federal government.

ARCON then asserted that such continued unscrutinised adverts and other publications emanating from Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta-owned social media platforms are illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising Law in Nigeria, thus seeking N30 billion for punitive damages.

It revealed this in a statement titled “ARCON sues Meta platforms incorporated, seeks N30b in sanction and penalties.”

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The statement read:  “The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has instituted a suit against Meta Platforms Incorporated (owners of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms) and its agent AT3 Resources Limited at the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.

“ARCON is seeking declaration among others that the continued publication and exposure of various advertisements directed at the Nigerian market through Facebook and Instagram platforms by Meta Platforms Incorporated without ensuring same is vetted and approved before exposure is illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising Law in Nigeria.

“ARCON stated that Meta Platforms Incorporated’s continued exposure of unvetted adverts has also led to a loss of revenue to the Federal Government.

“ARCON is seeking N30b in sanction for the violation of the advertising laws and for loss of revenue as a result of Meta Incorporated’s continued exposure of unapproved adverts on its platforms.

“ARCON reiterate that it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on the Nigeria’s advertising space.

“ARCON further stated that it’s not regulating the online media space but rather advertisement, advertising and marketing communications on the online platforms in line with its establishment Act.”

Vanguard

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NNPC declares over 100% profit in one year, with N674bn for 2021

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited recorded a profit after tax (PAT) of N674 billion for the year ended 2021.
This is more than 100 per cent profit over the N287bn declared in the previous year (2020).

The Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari,  disclosed this at a briefing on Tuesday.

He said, “Today, I’m happy to announce that the Board of NNPC has approved 2021 audited financial statements & NNPC has progressed to a new performance level, from N287bn profit in 2020 to N674bn profit after tax in 2021, climbing higher by 134.8% YoY profit growth.”

The 2021 financial year made it the fourth consecutive year that the NNPC will be opening its book for public scrutiny.

In 2018, when the NNPC first made account statement public, it reported a loss of N803.9bn.

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