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Nigeria’s bid to nail P&ID in $9bn case suffers setback

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Nigeria’s bid to set aside the $9bn P&ID Limited’s arbitration award has suffered a setback as VR Capital Group Limited has secured a United States’ court ruling to block the Federal Government from accessing its internal documents.

The move to access the documents was part of the government’s attempt to stop P&ID Limited, partly owned by VR, from collecting the nearly $9bn arbitration award.

US District Judge, Paul Engelmayer, in New York granted the hedge fund’s motion, overturning a ruling from May and quashing subpoenas issued by Nigeria.

Bloomberg reported that Nigeria sought the information to aid a corruption probe into P&ID Ltd., a company in which VR Capital acquired a 25 per cent interest in 2018.

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency is investigating a gas-supply contract a former minister concluded with P&ID in 2010 and subsequent arbitration proceedings that resulted in the hefty penalty against the country three years ago. The federal government alleged that the British Virgin Islands-registered company developed sham arrangements designed to fail and has accused P&ID of bribing its officials.

Nigeria is in English courts attempting to overturn both the 2017 arbitration award and a decision by a UK judge last year upholding it, claiming P&ID’s alleged fraud only recently came to light.

P&ID had denied any wrongdoing, saying Nigeria invented the accusations to evade its legal obligations.

Six months ago, Judge Lorna Schofield, also in the Southern District of New York, granted Nigeria permission to gather information from US banks concerning transactions involving companies and people affiliated with P&ID, as well as former government officials.

The Nigerian government also wanted VR Capital to hand over documents concerning its purchase of P&ID shares as well as the decade-old contract and ensuing arbitration.

But VR Capital applied to the federal court in New York to set aside the subpoenas principally on the grounds that Nigeria should have sought authorisation through its mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States. While the hedge fund is based in London, the four entities and two directors targeted by Nigeria are in New York.

Nigeria “misled” Schofield by denying any intention to use the documents in the English proceedings, according to Engelmayer’s November 6 opinion.

VR Capital claimed Nigeria would use the information provided by the hedge fund for the same goal.

Nigeria told Engelmayer that the main use of VR Capital documents would be in its domestic corruption probes. In his ruling, Engelmayer accepted Nigeria’s argument that it would be permissible for the government to present some material to support efforts to challenge the arbitration award in England.

However, a review of the request by the U.S. Justice Department under the treaty would help decide if the information sought was “genuinely intended for use in a criminal prosecution or investigation” or “the improper purpose of fortifying Nigeria’s attempt in the English courts to void the multi-billion-dollar arbitral award against it,” Engelmayer said.

It is unclear if Nigeria plans to submit a new application under the bilateral agreement.

“Delay tactics” adopted by VR Capital and P&ID are “prolonging the discovery process and preventing us from obtaining critical evidence,” a spokeswoman for Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, said.

“These evasive efforts are manifestly inconsistent with P&ID’s position that it has nothing to hide,” she said.

“Misleading the U.S. court” is part of Nigeria’s last-ditch efforts to avoid payment of the arbitration award,” said Zachary Rosenbaum, a lawyer at Kobre & Kim LLP who is representing P&ID and VR Capital.

Nigeria scored a victory in September when a London judge ruled the government had established a “strong prima facie case of fraud” against P&ID and should be permitted to test its allegations at a trial to determine the legitimacy of the arbitration award.

Following the decision, Nigeria’s lawyers wrote to Engelmayer asking him to dismiss VR Capital’s motion.

Information collected from the banks had contributed evidence to the anti-corruption agency’s probe, which in turn had been “critical” to the country’s success in the English court, they said.

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Auto finance: CBN, NADDC discuss new options for vehicle buyers

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The Director General of the National Auotomotive Design and Development Council, Jelani Aliyu, says the agency has commenced discussions with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to design workable solutions for auto financing to make vehicle purchase affordable for Nigerians.

He stated this in a presentation made at the 9th Annual Transport Lecture organized by Transport Day Newspapers, with the theme, ‘Nigeria’s Transportation For Development: Sectoral Achievements, Prospects and Challenges’, held in Abuja.

“We had a meeting with the CBN yesterday on auto financing. We want to work out a solution that would enable Nigerians to buy new vehicles and pay over a period of six years,” he said.

The NADDC boss said the move was part of the agency’s efforts geared towards promoting and enhancing value addition in the transport cum automotive sector of the economy by creating a conducive business climate to further enhance investment inflow and industrialization.

Aliyu also said the NADDC was rapidly shifting attention to carbonless transport system in Nigeria in a bid to develop and promote advanced transport technology in the automotive industry.

He said, “This is because, vehicle electrification is inevitable, it is the future of automotive industry worldwide and we are working assiduously towards achieving its comprehensive and sustainable adoption in Nigeria.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that poor maintenance culture of vehicles in the transport sector contributes immensely to environmental pollution. The use of EVs that have advanced technology will not only curb these excesses but will also lead to more productivity in the industry.

“Currently, one of our top focus areas is scaling up production of applicable electric vehicles locally, to enable Nigeria meet its target for the Paris Accord and 2060 net zero commitment, both on reducing harmful gas emissions from vehicles” he said.

He further stated the NADDC recently set up a technical committee on electric vehicle development plan aimed at drawing up a comprehensive development programme for vehicle electrification in Nigeria.

According to the NADDC boss, this plan will also ensure that made-in Nigeria EVs are of world standards and compete favourably in the global market.

“As a pilot scheme project, the NADDC has established 100% Solar Powered EV Charging Stations at Usman Danfodio University Sokoto, University of Lagos and University of Nigeria Nsukka and also discussing with other stakeholders for collaboration in establishing more charging infrastructure all over the country.

“In conclusion, NADDC is committed to establishing and giving support to development programmes that will aid the Nigerian transport sector.

“I therefore urge all stakeholders to begin to think of a paradigm shift from the conventional vehicles to carbonless transportation system and key into the vehicle electrification projects of the Council with a view to achieving cleaner air in Nigeria.”

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Subscribers kick as FG slams N90.49bn new tax on phone calls

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…telcos meet govt this week over new tax, others

Telecommunication subscribers are kicking against a new Federal Government directive to impose a tax on telephone calls in the nation to fund free healthcare for the vulnerable.

The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is a part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the Vulnerable Group in Nigeria, according to the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), last week.

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerians made 150.83 billion minutes of calls in 2020. This translates to 9.05 trillion seconds of calls, meaning the new tax will generate 9.05 trillion kobo, which converts to N90.49bn, yearly.

This new tax is coming despite moves by telecom companies to increase the price of calls, SMS, and data by 40 per cent as a result of an unfavourable operating environment.

According to the Health Insurance Act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

It added that the Vulnerable Group Fund will subsidise the provision of healthcare to children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.

The Act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that one of the sources of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund shall include a telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

Other sources of funding outlined in the Act includes a basic healthcare provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the government; motley that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.

According to the new Act, every resident in Nigeria is expected to obtain health insurance.

However, telecom subscribers under the aegis of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have said they will reject this new move by the government.

The President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “It is quite unfortunate that the government is viewing telecoms as a cash cow. We are saying. There is a lot of corruption in the system, and rather than curb that they want to focus on the telecoms sector.

“What do they mean by vulnerable? Vulnerable people in the nation are probably about 80 per cent of the population, we are all vulnerable. What has happened to the health budget? Why should it touch telecoms again? The government should look elsewhere for money. This new action is only likely to impoverish more Nigerians and they are masquerading as helping the vulnerable. This is not right.”

Recently, telecom companies wrote to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, on the worsening conditions of the industry.

According to a source at the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, telecom companies cannot reject a directive of the government. The source said subscribers would pay more for calls once the tax is implemented.

He added that the NCC and ALTON would meet this week in order to discuss the issues disturbing the industry.

He said, “We are aware of the tax. We had been told before. It is the subscribers that would have to pay for this. This means subscribers will pay more for this service. Telcos cannot say no to this. It is a government directive; we can’t resist the government. I can’t say more about it.

“We are having a leadership summit with the NCC this week and we would discuss some of these issues with the NCC. Presently, telcos are paying more than 36 taxes. This is a law; we cannot reverse it. The president has signed it and before it can be changed, it must go back to the National Assembly.

“Also, we cannot give an implementation date, the government is to tell us that.”

Commenting on the act on his LinkedIn page, the Fiscal Policy Partner, and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said this new law would translate to a nine per cent tax on GSM calls.

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No Plan to Withdraw Naira Notes from Circulation, Says CBN

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Saturday dispelled rumours that it planned to replace the Naira notes in circulation with digital currency, otherwise known as the eNaira, in due course.
CBN Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said the statement purportedly made at  stakeholders’ engagement on eNaira adoption in Asaba, Delta was misconstrued and therefore called on the public to completely disregard it.

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