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Economy & Politics

Nigeria’s ratings risk downgrade over rising debt and lower revenue

The Federal Government has been under increasing pressure to reduce its debt and stimulate growth.

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Nigeria’s ratings risk downgrade over rising debt and lower revenue, Godwin Emefiele, CBN, Textile, CBN

One of the biggest credit rating agencies, Fitch Ratings, in its latest report, said that Nigeria’s global rating is at risk, following a sharp rise in its sovereign debt and a growing finance gap.

The rating agency has disclosed that these could trigger a rating downgrade, as policymakers in Nigeria struggle to deal with the impact of the low oil prices and sharp drop in revenue, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fitch, had in April downgraded Nigeria’s Long Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘B’ from ‘B+’ with a negative outlook. The downgrade and negative outlook in April, reflects the aggravation of ongoing pressures on Nigeria’s external finances following the recent crash of oil prices and the shock due to the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: S&P Global affirms AfDB’s AAA rating, projects stable outlook

According to Director at Fitch, Mahmoud Harb, “We have two elements that could lead us to take a negative rating action/downgrade on Nigeria. Aggravation of external liquidity pressures and a sharp rise in government debt to revenue ratio.”

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The Federal Government has been under increasing pressure to reduce its debt and stimulate growth after its first quarter current account turned negative, with an overvalued local currency.

The report notes that Nigeria’s external reserve is larger than the funding needs, however, external liquidity strains could increase if foreign investors sell down their portfolio investments in the country, putting pressure on ratings.

Harb said that the debt to revenue ratio for Nigeria is set to deteriorate further to 538% by the end of 2020, from 348% that it was a year earlier before improving slightly next year. The medium debt ratio of ‘B’ rated countries is 350%. He also pointed out that the country’s external reserve could drop to $23.3 billion from $36 billion this year if access to foreign exchange is normalized.

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READ MORE: CBN extends timeframe for submission of banks’ audited financial statements

The CBN had restricted access to the foreign exchange since the crash of oil prices and the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, in order to protect and strengthen the naira.

Fitch, had estimated that Nigeria would need $23 billion to meet its external financing needs this year. This might take the country’s external reserve lower, especially following the stopping of the plans for the country to issue Eurobonds.

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Harb said that Nigeria could avoid a ratings downgrade if it improves its finances, reforms its foreign exchange policy and reduce its deficit by boosting non-oil revenues.

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However, the borrowing trend by the country seems to continue, with plans by the Federal Government to borrow another $3 billion from the World Bank.

The Federal Government had announced its plan to unify the exchange rate in order to generate more revenue and manage the rate in a sustainable manner. The IMF had always stated that unifying the exchange rate would impact the economy more positively than the multiple exchange rates, which give rise to arbitrage.

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Patricia

Chike Olisah is a graduate of accountancy with over 15 years working experience in the financial service sector. He has worked in research and marketing departments of three top commercial banks. Chike is a senior member of the Nairametrics Editorial Team. You may contact him via his email- [email protected]

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Economy & Politics

Nigeria 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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READ ALSO: N2trillion Mambila project: FG starts disbursement of compensation funds

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. 

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Aluko and his business partner, Olajide Omokore are also accused of laundering illicit revenues into and through the United States

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Economy & Politics

Apapa Command’s revenue rises 10.59% to N227.3 billion in the first half of 2020 – Customs 

Abba-Kura also praised the Customs Service for its achievements in spite of multiple challenges.

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Nigerian Customs: Apapa Command recorded N40.6 billion FoB in 2019

The Nigerian Customs Service announced on Thursday that its revenue for the Apapa Command rose by 10.59% from the previous year as it has generated N227.3 billion during the first half of 2020. 

While disclosing this, the Customs Area Controller, Mohammed Abba-Kura said, “There has been a steady improvement in revenue collection all through the half-year except for the month of May which recorded a decline of about 3.531 billion, when compared between year 2019 and 2020. The command in the half-year of 2019 collected a total sum of N203.264 billion as customs duty and other charges like seven percent surcharge, Value Added Tax, one percent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) among others. 

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 “From January to June this year, the command collected a huge sum of N227,347,046,233.53, which represents an increase of N24,082,991,550.84 or 10.59 percent increase from the previous year.” 

READ MORE: Court slams N5 million fine on Nigeria Customs Service for collecting duty on personal effects

According to NAN, Abba-Kura also praised the Customs Service for its achievements in spite of multiple challenges they have faced this year. 

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In spite of all challenges, the Apapa Area Command has maintained its tempo at ensuring that maximum revenue is collected in addition to trade facilitation and suppression of smuggling, he said.  

The Area Controller further disclosed that the Command seized 142 containers of various items during the period. The seizures were related to smuggling and were seized pursuant to sections 46 and 48 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) which enforces laws related to forfeiture of goods that are illegally imported. 

The seized goods ranged from luxury cars like Rolls Royce 2018 and a 2019 Lamborghini Hurricane. Others include pharmaceuticalsriceclothes, assorted foodstuffand other materials. 

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Meanwhile, in terms of exports, the value of exported products so far is about N52,369,506,770.90 – Free on Board Value, mainly Agricultural produce and Mineral resources. 

READ MORE: Even with a 939% jump in H1 Profit, Neimeth still needs to build consistency

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has inevitably affected the operations of the Command this year.

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According to Abba-Kura, “ten of our men in Apapa command got infected with COVID-19 and were sent to the isolation centre and as at today, they are all well now and we appreciate the Lagos State government and doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for their help.”  

Note that the Customs revenue growth comes at a time of declining revenue for Nigeria, even as the Federal Government’s debt service as a percentage of revenue rose to 99% in the first quarter of 2020. Therefore, it is a good development. 

Nairametrics reported the country earned N950.5 billion in revenue compared to a prorated budget of N1.9 trillion, representing a whopping shortfall of 52%.  Oil revenue was N464 million representing a shortfall of 30% when compared to budget while non-oil revenue was N269 billion representing a shortfall of 40% in the first quarter of 2020. 

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Economy & Politics

Buhari suspends NSITF MD and other top management officials, appoints acting MD  

The minister disclosed that the suspension of these officials became imperative after the preliminary investigation.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the indefinite suspension of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mr Adebayo Somefun and three Executive Directors of the Government agency over corruption allegations. 

Also suspended are some other top management staff of the agency.  

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This was disclosed in a press statement by Charles Akpan of the Press and Public Relations of the ministry on behalf of the Minister for Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, on Thursday, July 2, 2020.  

The suspended Executive Directors are Jasper Ikedi-Azuatalam, Executive Director (ED), Finance and Investment, Mrs Olukemi Nelson, ED, Operations and Alhaji Tijani Darazo Sulaiman, ED, Administration. 

Also suspended are Mr Olusegun Olumide-Bashorun, General Manager, Administration/Human Resources/Maintenance, Mr Lawan Tahir, General Manager, Finance, Mr Chris Esedebe, General Manager, Claims and Compensation, Mr Olodotun Adegbite, Deputy General Manager, Investment and Treasury Management, and Mr Emmanuel Enyinnaya-Sike, Deputy General Manager, Finance and Accounts. 

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The press statement also mentioned Mrs Olutoyin Arokoyo, Deputy General Manager/Acting Head, Legal, Ms Dorathy Zajeme-Tukura, Deputy General Manager, Administration, and Mrs Victoria Ayantuga, Assistant General Manager, Internal Audit as part of the management team that was suspended. 

The minister disclosed that the suspension of these officials became imperative after the preliminary investigation established prima facie infractions on the extant Financial Regulations and Procurement Act. and other acts of gross misconduct. 

According to the statement, ‘’During the period of their suspension, the officers will face a Joint Board and Audit Investigative Panel that had been set up to look into the financial and procurement breaches, as well as gross misconduct in the NSITF from 2016 to date. 

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“The gross misconduct has invariably put the contributions of stakeholders in a perilous state. The affected officers have also been directed to hand over to the most senior officers in their respective departments.” 

The statement also quoted the Minister, Chris Ngige, as directing the most senior General ManagerDr Kelly Nwagha, to take over as the Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive with effect from Monday, July 6, 2020. 

The Labour Minister also charged the Chairman of the Board, Mr Austin Enajemo Isire, to ensure that the investigative panel commenced work as soon as possible. 

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The NSITF has not been new to controversies as the Federal Government had alleged that N48 billion out of the N62 billion contributions to the agency was mismanaged by the former board and management between 2012 and 2015. 

Some of the former officials of NSITF including the former Chairman, Ngozi Olejeme, were charged to court for corrupt practices and embezzlement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). 

Also, sometime last year, Ngige, had a running battle with the Nigerian Labour Congress over the non-inauguration of the board of the government agency.

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