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Telecommunications: The bright spot in a fragile economy

The positive momentum in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector continued into the month of October.

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Internet World Stats, Nigerian Communications Commission remittance, Network operators in Nigeria, Telecoms companies in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Airtel Africa, Globacom data, 9mobile court case, Top 10 states in Nigeria with the highest Internet subscribers , Telecommunications: The bright spot in a fragile economy, Telcos add 5.64 million voice and data subscribers in Q3 2019 - NBS , Alleged N200bn Debt: EFCC, DSS to probe telcos, Network glitch, as poor internet speed continues to impede banking services, Telecoms record 725% increase in foreign capital investment, as GDP contribution hits N6 trillion, Coronavirus: Instant messaging platforms, Telcos raking in funds from the work-from-home policy, Telecoms: Bright spot amidst the gloom, Nigerians lambast MTN, Airtel for offering free SMS, ignoring request for free data, airtime

The positive momentum in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector continued into the month of October as the latest data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the month of October showed that the number of mobile and Internet subscribers grew to 180.4 million and 123.6 million in October from 179.2 million and 123.2 million in September respectively.

Notably, broadband subscription recorded the highest expansion, growing 7.0% m/m and 27.0% y/y to 72.3m subscriptions in October. The strong growth in broadband subscriptions pushed broadband penetration to an all-time high of 37.8%, the highest level since January 2017 when NCC began compiling the data.

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In terms of the positioning of the industry players based on subscriber base, MTN remained the biggest player with a subscriber base of 65.8 million (market share; 36.6%) trailed by GLO NG with 50.3 million subscribers (27.9%) then Airtel Nigeria with 49.1 million subscribers (27.3%). Meanwhile, 9mobile sustained its seventh consecutive months of losing subscribers with its subscriber base now at 14.8 million (8.2%) from 16.4 million (9.4%) at the start of the year.

Nigeria’s telecommunications sector remains the bright spot in the non-oil sector and a major contributor to the economy, supported by a vibrant and youthful population and the growing adoption of mobile internet services. The industry players have also played their part in supporting the industry by investing heavily in network infrastructure to accelerate the 3G/4G bandwidth coverage.

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We highlight that Airtel Africa in partnership with Intercellular Nigeria recently acquired an additional 10 MHZ spectrum in the 900 MHZ band for N25.2bn (US$70m). Looking ahead, we believe the growing shift to data-driven growth model amidst rising smartphone penetration and government efforts to boost broadband penetration will support the growth of the sector in the medium to long term.

[READ MORE: 2020 Budget: An end to Nigeria’s budget cycle conundrum?]

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Tech News

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.

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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 

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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.  

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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. 

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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.  

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Financial Services

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.

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Regional Banks

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 [1] 2010 as revised on September 4, 2019.” 

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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:

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“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.”

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Economy & Politics

Nigerian and US Authorities battle former Enron Nigerian Subsidiary over $80 million Yacht

Both Nigerian and American governments have opposed Enron Nigeria’s appeal. 

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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 AlisonMadueke. 

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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 its 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. 

(READ MORE: Nigeria leads Africa combined in Q2 2020 on BTC P2P)

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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. 

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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

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