In its bid to ensure that Nigeria as a country is not expelled from the Egmont Group, the Senate has considered and passed the conference committee report on a bill to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) as an independent agency from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Nigeria is currently serving a suspension from Egmont Group, a body of 154 financial intelligence units (FIUs) across the world, which provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The group had also threatened to expel the country if the Nigerian Government failed to grant the unit the autonomy required to become its member.
As a result of Nigeria’s failure to grant operational autonomy to the financial intelligence unit, a situation which the group has objected to for years, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit which represents Nigeria in the Egmont Group, was suspended at its July 2017 meeting in China.
If expelled, Nigeria will suffer a blacklist in the global finance sector and Nigerian banks will be unable to issue Mastercard and Visa credit/debit cards while card transactions with Nigerian originated cards will be blocked, meaning that Nigerians would not be able to carry out foreign transactions.
E-commerce firms will also be affected since their business models are largely online. They would be forced to rely on cash for transactions, which comes with higher processing costs.
The expulsion could also throw a spanner in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s bid to improve financial inclusion.
Manufacturers in the country will also be affected as a large proportion of their raw materials are imported.
With the passage, the bill is now ready for onward transmission to the President for assent and if signed, the bill is expected to act as the central body in Nigeria responsible for requesting, receiving, analysing and disseminating financial and other information to all law enforcement and security agencies and other relevant authorities in the country.
3 startups to get N3 million grant each in the COVID-19 virtual hackathon
The hackathon hopes to identify accessible and cost-effective E-Learning solutions for public schools.
The Nigerian Communications Commission has announced that 3 finalist startups will get a grant of N3 million each at the end of the COVID-19 virtual hackathon.
These three startups will be selected from submitted entries that meet all the criteria and provide adaptable digital solutions for addressing the present and future impacts of pandemic and epidemic diseases.
The solutions must be novel, clearly explained, with proof of concept
NCC announced this through a statement published on its Twitter handle.
The grant, it said, will enable the three startups with the most promising digital solutions to produce a prototype within 2 months of receipt.
According to the statement, submitted entries are expected to provide solutions in sectors such as health, digital communications, education, transportation.
For those in health, the solutions should find a way to empower frontline healthcare workers or prevent, trace, and contain the spread in Nigeria.
Solutions in digital communications are expected to aid the sustenance of economic activities and people-to-people communication while encouraging social distancing without compromising productivity.
The hackathon also hopes to identify accessible and cost-effective E-Learning solutions for public schools, as well as improved safety measures in public transportation in Nigeria.
Interested tech hubs, startups and innovative digital SMEs can still submit entries on or before July 17, 2020.
CBN expands scope of regional banks in Nigeria, gives compliance timeframe
The aim of this directive is to expand the reach of the regional banks across the country, the CBN said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expanded the scope of regional banks in the country, by requiring them to open branches in at least one additional geopolitical zone outside of the existing geopolitical zones where their operating licenses cover.
A circular that was issued earlier this week by the apex bank said this new directive is in accordance with “section 8 (g) of the CBN Scope, Conditions & Minimum Standards for Commercial Banks Regulations no  2010 as revised on September 4, 2019.”
The new directive took effect on Friday, June 26, 2020. In other words, all the regional banks are expected to have become aware of this development since then. They now have a timeframe of six months to establish their presence in the geopolitical zones outside of where they currently operate.
It should be noted that prior to this time, regional banks in the country typically operated in at least two geopolitical zones of the federation. However, in line with the new expansion, the CBN shall now prescribe an additional geopolitical zone for each of these regional banks, thereby making the coverage area three geopolitical zones per regional bank.
Meanwhile, the CBN said the aim of this directive is to expand the reach of the regional banks across the country, whilst ultimately promoting financial inclusion. Note also that the new directive affects all regional banks, both the ones engaged in commercial banking and non-interest banking. Some part of the circular said:
“Effective the date of this circular, all banks with regional authorisation shall be required to operate from one additional geopolitical zone as may be prescribed for each institution by the CBN, without prejudice to the existing requirement of the minimum of two (2) geopolitical zones of the federation. The essence is to promote spread and balance of the regional banks across the country.
“The compliance timeline to establish operational footprint at the advised zone shall not exceed six (6) months from the issuance of the regulatory advice to each regional bank by the CBN.”
Nigerian and US Authorities battle former Enron Nigerian Subsidiary over $80 million Yacht
Both Nigerian and American governments have opposed Enron Nigeria’s appeal.
19 years after the bankruptcy of Enron Corporation, one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in American history, a former subsidiary of the company is battling Nigerian and American Authorities over the sale of a yacht valued at over $80 million acquired by Nigerian businessman Kolawole Aluko.
The yacht was seized by the US Government in 2018 after prosecutors say it was bought with the proceeds of bribes paid to Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison–Madueke.
The yacht was later auctioned for $37 million in 2019. The Nigerian government also dropped claims to the proceeds of the sale recently and a Texas Court ordered all proceeds should be retained by the US Government.
However, a former unit of the Bankrupt Enron, Enron Nigeria Power Holdings claims it’s entitled to the proceeds and demands $22 million in a bid to get an arbitration awarded to them against the Nigerian government for suspending a contract signed with Enron in 1999 to build and operate a Power plant.
Enron Nigeria claims the Nigerian government dropped claims to the proceeds of the yacht’s auction in an attempt to fraudulently transfer assets to stop creditors from accessing them. Saying Nigeria dropping its claims was “a recognition of the factual and legal basis” in a DOJ court filing.
Both Nigerian and American governments have opposed Enron Nigeria’s appeal.
Enron Nigeria Power Holdings Ltd is owned by ex-Enron staff involved in the negotiations for the Power Plant contract in Nigeria and was bought out of bankruptcy for $750,000 in 2004 by a Cayman Islands registered company.
An arbitration ruling in 2012 awarded Enron Nigeria Power Holdings $11.2 million including interest in damages against the Nigerian government.
The DOJ says Mr. Aluko bought the yacht for $82 million in 2013 and funded a lavish lifestyle for Alison Madueke in exchange for NNPC contracts valued at over $1.5 billion.
Aluko and his business partner, Olajide Omokore are also accused of laundering illicit revenues into and through the United States