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The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has said that reforms initiated by the federal government to clean up years of corrupt practices in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have not completely guaranteed that the state oil firm is now transparently run.

This is coming as a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in Nigeria’s extractive industry has accused the international oil companies (IOCs) of complicity in the huge theft of crude oil recorded in the country.

Kachikwu explained that there are still a lot of works to be done to completely transform the corporation and make it accountable and its operations transparent to all Nigerians.

The minister stated this in the October edition of the monthly podcast he released to intimate Nigerians on the status of the country’s oil and gas industry. This edition was recently released in Abuja by his office and he stated in it that the government had though made some efforts in repositioning the NNPC.

“We delivered an open NNPC, we basically opened up our books, we published and tried to be as transparent as we can, but a lot of works still needs to be done there, but for the first time we delivered the kind of NNPC that has never been the sort of NNPC that you used to know,” said Kachikwu, on the results the government had recorded in the last one year.

In a related development, a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in Nigeria’s extractive industry have claimed that IOCs in the Niger Delta cannot be totally absolved of the huge theft of crude oil recorded in the country.

They said IOCs had been found culpable of stealing oil from Nigeria, and that oil theft cannot be limited to illegal refining in the Niger Delta.

Rising from a recent workshop on improving CSOs’ engagements in Nigeria’s extractive sectors which they held in Enugu, the CSOs led by Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria, also stated that it was difficult to achieve transparent contracting processes in the country’s extractive sectors.

They said in a communique signed by the National Coordinator of PWYP Nigeria, Mr. Peter Egbule, that: “It is difficult to achieve contract transparency in the extractive sector in Nigeria. Although, there are legal frameworks that regulate contracts in the industry, however, they are not always complied with.”

“Nigerians find it difficult to know the exact quantity of crude the country produces. Tax incentives are granted to companies without cost benefit analysis. Oil theft is not limited to illegal refining, IOCs have been found to be culpable of oil theft in Nigeria,” the communique stated.

It further explained: “At the moment, EITI application standards in Nigeria are faced with numerous challenges. Efforts are being often being concentrated on transparency, without adequate attention on accountability.

Experience has shown that transparency alone does not deliver good governance, it must come with accountability.”
They noted that the Land Use Act has become a legislation the states use as a justification for the exploration of minerals without adequate compensation to communities.

In their recommendations, they called on the government to ensure that citizens know the exact quantity of crude produced and lifted daily from the country’s oil fields.

“Besides transparency, environmental and human rights issues must begin to dominate discourse around EITI standards. The civil society needs to demand accountability alongside their strong demand for transparency, CSOs should make sure all facts are crosschecked and are correct before engaging in advocacy,” they added.

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BUSINESS

Heritage Bank to disburse CBN’s N100bn loan to health, sells FX to SMEs, education sectors

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As part of proactive measures to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 and revamp the nation’s dwindling economy, Heritage Bank is set to disburse the N100billion set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This is in line with the apex bank’s policy to introduce another intervention scheme directed to the health sector, which is known as the NGN100 Billion Credit Support for the Healthcare sector (the Scheme). Specifically, the scheme is to provide credit to indigenous pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare value chain players intending to build or expand capacity.

Also, the CBN resumed provision of foreign exchange to all commercial banks for onward sales to parents wishing to pay schools fees and small medium enterprises (SMEs) with plans to make essential imports needed to revamp economic activities across the country. In particular, the CBN is resuming the provision of over US$100 million per week for both categories.

Meanwhile, Heritage Bank serves as a conduit which will assess and channel the profiles of interested applicants to the CBN while using its platforms to create awareness for the scheme.

The CBN has also made complete arrangements to resume foreign exchange sales to the BDC segment of the market for business travels, personal travels, and other designated retail uses, as soon as international flights resume.

To access the N100bn loans provided by the CBN for firms in the healthcare sector, a corporate entity must submit its application to a participating financial institution (PFI) which could be either a Deposit Money Bank or a Development Finance Institution of its choice with a bankable business plan.

It stated in its latest guidelines that the PFI must appraise and conduct due diligence on the application; and upon approval by the PFI’s credit committee, the application would be submitted to the apex bank with relevant documents attached.

The CBN would process and disburse funds to the PFI for onward release to the project, it added.

The CBN stated that the PFI must receive and review applications submitted by its customers; undertake due diligence based on normal business considerations, and bear the credit risk.

They must also issue offer letters and forward qualified applications to the CBN; disburse the released funds to successful applicants; monitor the project and recover the loans from the beneficiaries, and maintain adequate records of all beneficiaries and facilities.

It requires the PFIs to register all movable assets with the National Collateral Registry; forward periodic returns in the prescribed format on the scheme to the CBN; comply with the guidelines, and carry out any other duties as the CBN may prescribe from time to time.

According to the CBN, eligible participants under the scheme comprise healthcare product manufacturers – pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment; and healthcare service providers/medical facilities – hospitals/clinics, diagnostic centres/laboratories, fitness and wellness centres, rehabilitation centres, dialysis centres and blood banks, among others.

Others include pharmaceutical/medical products distribution and logistics services; and other human healthcare service providers as may be determined by the CBN from time to time.

Eligible activities under the scheme would include manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment; establishment/expansion/upgrade of basic and specialised healthcare facilities; and medical/pharmaceutical supplies.

Others are medical/pharmaceutical research and development; distribution of medical/pharmaceutical drugs and supplies; Manufacturing of medical/pharmaceutical drugs distribution technology; and any other healthcare value chain activity as may be prescribed by the CBN.

The CBN said the term loan had a maximum of N2billion per obligor; and the interest rate under the intervention would not be more than five per cent per annum up until February 28, 2021; and that interest on the facility would revert to nine percent as from March 2021.

To access further details on the modalities, interested persons and institutions can logon Heritage Bank’s website (www.hbng.com).

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Banking

COVID 19 Rebound: We are building Entrepreneurs and supporting financial Inclusion through Xpress Point Agents – Ecobank

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Ecobank Nigeria has reiterated that its agency banking scheme, also known as Xpress Points, is building entrepreneurs and pushing financial inclusion to the large unbanked and under-banked population in Nigeria. The Ecobank Xpress Point enables eligible Agents to carry out financial transactions on behalf of Ecobank (www.Ecobank.com) and earn commission on every transaction processed. The consumer experience is very good as customers can do simple deposit, payment and transfers in their own neighbourhood rather than travel for hours to a bank branch. Ecobank Xpress Points is also a channel that can be used for the deployment of national social intervention programmes of the Government.

The aim of the Xpress Point is to let every Nigerian and household have access to Ecobank services within their neoghbourhood to provide easy banking services.

Speaking in Lagos, Nike Kolawole, Head, Agency Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, said unemployed and retired persons should avail themselves the opportunity to earn extra income by keying into services offered by the bank as Xpress point agents. According to her, the Ecobank Xpress point which are in various neighbourhoods across the country, are well positioned to facilitate basic financial transactions, with the process and services simplified to attend to a broad spectrum of the society.

She further disclosed that agency banking in general, brings about economic and youth empowerment by way of job creation and earning extra income, adding that small savers can easily do their savings at home or near their home. This leads to financial inclusion of the underbanked in the country.

For now, Ecobank has over 43,000 agents across Africa. The agents carry out financial transactions on behalf of Ecobank and earn commission per transaction processed. Xpress Points can also be used as a channel for the deployment of national social intervention programmes, especially at this time that we are fighting the impact of lockdowns due to the COVID-19.”

Kolawole listed the services offered by the Xpress point agents as; cash in, cash out, fund transfer, bills payment, airtime recharge, remittance and account opening, among others. She added that the services are available for “sole proprietors, partnerships, co-operative societies, microfinance banks, companies with large distribution network – like petrol stations, FMCGs, telecommunication companies, super agents, aggregators and unregistered businesses such as petty traders, hair saloon and others.”

Ecobank boasts of a bouquet of digital channels comprising solutions aimed at delivering convenient, accessible and reliable financial services. For instance, users of the bank’s USSD code, *326# carry out transactions without paying session charges. The USSD platform, *326#, makes it possible to open an Xpress account and Xpress Save account instantly. The bank’s mobile banking app, Ecobank Mobile offers the option of generating a virtual card; this comes in handy as customers are continually turning to web payments for their shopping and payments. The Ecobank virtual card offers the flexibility and convenience of creating a shopping card that is not linked to a customer’s account but is fully capable of carrying out online payments. The virtual card can also be shared with loved ones as a gift card for their own shopping.

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BUSINESS

Mastercard Builds on COVID-19 Response with Commitment to Connect 1 Billion People

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Extends effort beyond 500 million financially included over the past five years; Maximizes technology, partnerships to deliver aid, insights and access to businesses and communities; Programs like the Mastercard Farmer Network and Kasha are connecting people across East Africa.

The health and economic consequences of COVID-19 have highlighted the critical need to support vulnerable populations, many of whom are disproportionately impacted. In this time of global crisis, Mastercard (www.Mastercard.com) has expanded its worldwide commitment to financial inclusion, pledging to bring a total of 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, there will be a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses.

The extended commitment builds on Mastercard’s ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 related health and economic challenges facing individuals all over the world, including in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Financial inclusion remains key to unlocking the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa, and will become crucial as we support Governments in driving long-term, sustainable economic recovery. Digital transactions are both safe and efficient and giving access to these for as many people as possible, is an important part of supporting the most vulnerable parts of the population through the current situation. Our focus right now – beyond philanthropy – is to steadfastly continue collaborating  with governments and private sector partners on solutions that are safe, viable, and most importantly, socially impactful for communities across the region,” said Raghav Prasad, Mastercard’s Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the 2015 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, Mastercard committed to bring 500 million excluded individuals into the financial system. It achieved that goal through more than 350 innovative programs across 80 countries.

The Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion (www.Mastercard.us) – the technology company’s first lab focused on financial inclusion – is committed to empowering millions of Africans through the use of public-private partnerships, and the innovation of locally relevant technology solutions. One such solution is the Mastercard Farmer Network, a mobile platform that improves market access, increases price transparency and digitizes payments to connect small farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

East Africa is also served by Kasha, an e-commerce platform optimized for women’s health and personal care. It offers confidential and convenient service, online/offline digital ordering and delivery to both urban and low-income rural areas. In Uganda, Mastercard launched Kupaa in partnership with UNICEF Uganda and the country’s Ministry of Education. It enables parents and caregivers to pay school fees and other school expenses with their mobile phones securely, easily, and in small payments when they are able, easing the burden of lump sum payments.

Mastercard also expanded its partnership with Unilever to create Jaza Duka (fill up your store) – a digital program for micro-merchants in Kenya with more than 18,000 duka owners already registered. The program provides a micro-credit eligibility recommendation to Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), which can then assess a retailer’s credit worthiness and extend credit for stock purchases.

Additional efforts include ongoing work on government disbursement solutions, wage digitization of private sector workers, solutions for gig workers, scaling efforts with fintechs, digital platforms and digital wallets/apps, solutions addressing needs of the financially vulnerable and the expansion of CityKey and Community Pass programs.

This announcement builds on Mastercard’s ongoing efforts to support an inclusive recovery by leveraging the company’s technology, capabilities and reach. That work includes:

  • In the first weeks of the global health crisis, Mastercard committed up to $25 million in seed funding to establish the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (www.TherapeuticsAccelerator.org) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and others to help speed up the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by discovering, developing and scaling-up treatments for deployment around the world.
  • Mastercard has committed $250 million in financial, technology, product and services support over the next five years to small businesses in many markets where it operates, supporting the vitality of businesses and the financial security of their workers.
  • Mastercard is leveraging its network to provide support to governments around the world in a range of areas. This includes providing data insights to inform policymakers about the economic impact of the pandemic; increasing the speed and efficacy of aid disbursements to communities and business segments that need it most; developing donation platforms to enable emergency fundraising; and working with governments to assist business owners and consumers with cyber vulnerability assessments.
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