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Bank chiefs make a serious demand following CBN deduction of N499 billion 

Top executives of the banks affected by the CBN’s N499 billion deduction have met with the apex to demand a review of the sanctions. 

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CBN, Key lending rate, CBN to boost creative industry with N22 billion , CBN increases LDR to 65%, sets December deadline, External reserves drop by $3.2 billion in Q3’19 , Banks' loans to Oil and Gas, Power, other sectors drop by N411.8 billion 

One day after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) heavily “penalized” some banks in the country for disobeying a directive requiring them to lend to the real sector of the economy, top executives of the affected lenders have met with the apex to demand a review of the sanctions. 

The CBN deducted about N499.1 billion from the customer deposits held by the banks and will keep the funds for these customers at zero percent. The implication is that banks will not be able to trade with these funds, a move that is suggestive of a penalty for not lending in line with CBN’s directive.

According to sources familiar with the development, the bank chiefs were gathered in Abuja, yesterday, at the CBN headquarters where they met with top CBN officials. They demanded an immediate review of the penalty stemming from their claim that the CBN failed to stick with an earlier announced deadline before it can take effect. 

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[READ MORE: CBN grants approval for banks to debit accounts of loan defaulters]

The CBN acted faster than usual: In their argument, the aggrieved bank chiefs said that the CBN had earlier given September 30th as the deadline for compliance by all Nigerian lenders. Interestingly, the apex bank did not even wait for September to end before imposing the penalty on September 26th 

As Nairametrics reported, the CBN deducted a total of N499.1 billion, from their accounts with the CBN. The affected banks include: 

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  • Zenith Bank Plc (N135,629,337,625); 
  • Citibank Nigeria Limited (N100,743,055, 321); 
  • United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) (N99,676,181,916); 
  • First Bank of Nigeria Limited (N74,668,880,480); 
  • Standard Chartered Bank Limited (N30,027,137,984); 
  • Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (N25, 147, 933, 628); 
  • First City Monument Bank (N14, 371,064, 742); 
  • FBNQuest Merchant Bank Limited (N2, 697,456,144); 
  • Jaiz Bank Plc (N7, 525, 165,552); 
  • Keystone Bank Limited (N4, 162, 938, 879); 
  • Rand Merchant Bank Limited (N2, 823,177,399); and 
  • SunTrust Bank (N1,703,205,427). 

Prior to this time: The Central Bank of Nigeria did publicize the directive in early July, much to the dislike of many banks. According to the directive, banks must meet and maintain a minimum loan to deposit ratio of 60% by September 2019 or risk being debited. It was also noted that the ratio would be periodically reviewed on a quarterly basis.  

A dilemma for banks: Recall that the CBN issued the directive in a bid to discourage banks from merely investing in risk-free securities when they should be lending to the real sector and stimulating economic activities in the processIn other words, the directive is aimed at facilitating easier access to funds for businesses. Nigerian banks are mostly sceptical of lending to the real sector, out of fear of loan losses which ultimately impact negatively on their performances.  

[READ ALSO: Why CBN disallowed banks from investing in bonds on Thursday]

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In the meantime, the banks apparently do not have a choice than to increase their lending. Agreed, it can be argued that the CBN ought to have waited until the deadline before imposing the penalty. But then again, how much difference does five days really make! Moreover, why were the banks waiting until September 30th to adhere to the directive when they had the whole of July, August, and September?  


NB: This article has been amended to correct the wrong impression that the banks were fined. The banks were not fined. 

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CITN issues rejoinder to ICAN’s claim over court case

The rebuttal claims that there are some ‘critical misinterpretations’ contained in ICAN’s claims concerning the judgment.

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CITN

The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) has issued a rebuttal to the “critical misrepresentations” that are supposedly contained in a notice to members sent out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) over a court case, as reported by Nairametrics.

Recall that ICAN had informed its members that Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State ruled in their favour by striking out “Suit No. LD/3288GCM/19 – CITN VS ICAN” which was filed by CITN. In the suit, CITN had, among other things, prayed the court to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) unless they have a CITN license.

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CITN’s position: Now, in its rebuttal to ICAN’s claims concerning the court case, a copy of which was sent to Nairametrics, CITN clarified the following points:

  1. The Ruling of the Hon. Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the 2/7/2020 in LD/3288GCM/19 did not invalidate the MOU and TOS because it did NOT address the issues in the substantive suit, itself. However, since ICAN has resiled from the MoU and ToS it freely entered with CITN, the CITN will not stop ICAN from walking away.
  2. The Judge only struck out the suit based on the Preliminary Objection of ICAN to the effect that the suit was an abuse of court process because the issues in it were the same as the issues in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 – ICAN VS FIRS & 1 OTHER which was earlier decided in favour of CITN.  However, the issues in the two suits are completely different and distinct as has now been explicitly admitted by ICAN in its Notice under reference when it said: “The earlier ruling at the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.”ICAN having admitted  that the judgment in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make any pronouncement on the MOU and TOS (and this is a fact), how then could issues in that suit be the same as those in LD/3288GCM/2019 (decided by Justice Onigbanjo) which only asked for judicial pronouncement on the MOU and TOS?
  3. Regulation 5 of the Tax Administration (Self-Assessment) Regulations, 2011, was categorically annulled by the Hon. Justice Liman in the judgment delivered in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 on 21/11/2019.  None of the lawyers to the parties (including ICAN) can deny hearing the annulment of Regulation 5 during delivery of the judgment. It is unfortunate that ICAN is jumping the gun in a case with a pending post-judgment application.
  4. In the judgment delivered in FHC/L/CS/1480/2018 – CHIEF IGBAROOLA & OTHERS VS FIRS & OTHERS on 21/5/2019, the Hon. Justice A. O. Faji, declared: “CITN Act is thus superior to ICAN Act on the issue of tax practice.  The Self-Assessment Regulations being in conflict with the CITN Act is null and void.  The Plaintiffs cannot practice as tax agents without first being members of the 2nd Defendant.”
  5. In the Court of Appeal judgement of 2013 between ICAN v. CITN, it was held that the power to regulate and control the tax profession, to the exclusion of any other body, in Nigeria lies with CITN.
  6. It is, therefore, now firmly settled from all the relevant judgements at the Lagos High Court, Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal, which have all upheld the primacy of the CITN Charter, that no member of ICAN can practice taxation without first being a member of CITN.
  7. For the avoidance of doubt, no ICAN member, who is not registered with CITN, has been permitted by any law or court decision to practice taxation. The law has made it clear about the professional body that can regulate tax profession in Nigeria and CITN reserves the right to invoke the relevant provisions against any person that violates the provisions of its charter.

The backstory: The disagreement between ICAN and CITN dates back to 2015 following a misinterpretation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Due to the disagreement, CITN took legal actions in a bid to basically make the MoU and ToS binding on ICAN members.


You may read CITN’s full rejoinder by clicking here and follow up on ICAN’s notice to its members here.

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UPDATED: Court rules ICAN members do not need CITN license to file tax returns

The suit, which was filed some years ago by CITN, was basically struck out for lacking merit.

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ICAN

Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State has ruled that members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) do not need to be licensed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) before they can file tax returns.

The ruling on July 2nd followed a suit filed by CITN trying to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns for their clients unless they have a practicing CITN license.

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A notice to ICAN members regarding this development, as seen by Nairametrics, noted that Justice Onigbanjo struck out the suit after describing it as “an abuse of court process and an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

The backstory: Nairametrics understands that the disagreement between ICAN and CITN stemmed from the misinterpretation of a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Consequently, CITN had filed a suit before the High Court of Lagos State, seeking the following:

  • A declaration that the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Service both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on the CITN and ICAN.
  • An injunction restraining ICAN whether by its agents, privies, assigns, or whosoever called, from repudiating, resiling from or acting in any manner or doing anything that is inconsistent with, contrary to or is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Terms of Settlement dated February 12, 2015, between the CITN and ICAN.
  • Determine whether the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Settlement both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on CITN and the ICAN.

However, last week’s ruling by Justice S. A. Onigbanjo which, by the way, was delivered virtually due to COVID-19, has made it impossible for the CITN to implement the terms of the 2015 MoU and ToS. The ruling also aligned with ICAN’s earlier objection to the MoU and ToS.

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The status quo: In view of this development, ICAN has informed its members that they do not need to obtain any license from the CITN before they can file tax returns for their clients with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

ICAN members were also informed that an earlier ruling by the Federal High Court on the case does not affect the status quo. This is because “the earlier ruling by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.” More so, regulation 5 of the FIRS Act was not reflected in the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court.

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China more willing to restructure Africa’s debt than private creditors

Agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors.

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A recent study by John Hopkins University reveals it may be easier for African Nations to raise debt and also get debt relief from China than private creditors.

The report of the study comes a day after China promised to cancel interests from loans to African nations and restructure debt to Africa. The study also revealed that China has restructured $15 billion of African debt and written off $3.4 billion in the past ten years.

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After 1,000 Chinese loans, including restructured Mozambican and Republic of Congo debt, were analysed, the researchers concluded that “the agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors”.

The Paris Club recently agreed to pause debt payment valued at $11 billion for the poorest 73 nations freeing up capital to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. However, not all eligible nations signed up citing fears of default ratings if debt obligations are not met.

The study discovers difficulties in renegotiating terms on International Bonds for African countries due to the disparate ownership structure making private creditors unwilling to grant complete debt relief, citing warnings on rating downgrades.

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China accounts for about 20% of Africa’s external debt and lent over $150 billion to the continent between 2000-2018 the study reveals. Chinese President, Xi Jinping has urged global leaders to be more pragmatic with debt suspension for Africa.

The study says much of the terms of Chinese debt to Africa has not been transparent and the relief negotiations may follow the same path.

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Patricia
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