The Central Bank of Nigeria fired back at the NESG following a Businessday report that accused the bank of seeking immunity for CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele in the proposed Banking and Other Financial Institution (BOFIA) Bill.
In a press release published on the website of the central bank, it addressed wide-ranging claims made against it by the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) which purportedly leaked to Business Day, a newspaper in Nigeria. In the article published on Tuesday, the newspaper alleged “business leaders opposed bill to give CBN Governor immunity” according to section 51 of the proposed bill.
“Section 51 of the Bill which grants immunity from judicial intervention to the Federal Government, the CBN, or any officer of the Federal Government or the CBN from any action, claim or liability to any person in respect of anything done in the exercise of their duties under the Bill.”
What section 51 actually says
“neither the Federal Government nor the Bank nor any officer of the Federal Government or the Bank, shall be subject to any action, claim or demand by or liability to any person in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in good faith in pursuance or in execution of, or in connection with the execution or intended execution of any power conferred upon that Government, the Bank or such officer, by or under this Bill or the CBN Act or any rules, regulations, guidelines or directives issued thereunder or pursuant to any other relevant laws,”
CBN fires back
The CBN retorted that the section claimed to be granting immunity to the Governor of the Central Bank already exists as Section 53 in the old Act long before Emefiele became Governor.
“On the revisions to the BOFIA Act, there are many reasons why we see a total ignorance or malicious intent on the part of the NESG. First, the provision they refer to as being currently conceived as part of the new BOFIA already exists as Section 53 in the old Act, which is now Section 51 in the amended Act passed by the National Assembly. The current bill has not proposed any changes to that section at all.”
The CBN also explained that the provisions in section 51 do not provide any immunity to the CBN Governor as it would for elected Governors of States of the Federation but rather it protects the apex bank and their officials against litigations brought forward against it for actions it may have taken in good faith.
“Second, contrary to their misleading anxiety and associated reportage, the provision of Section 51 does not purport to confer immunity on the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria like that which obtains for State Governors. Rather, this provision protects the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria and their respective officials against adverse claims for actions or omission in good faith exercise of powers under BOFIA and other specified statutes including the Central Bank of Nigeria Act and regulations made thereunder.”
In the Businessday report, it cited a quote from an unnamed CBN Governor who wondered why the bill would include such a provision alleging it was to provide immunity for the Governor.
“What would a governor of the central bank need this immunity for?”, asked a former governor of the apex bank who spoke to our reporter….you already have in BOFIA a section that requires anyone to first write the governor before he or she can sue the governor. The governor does not need the kind of immunity we are talking about and I do not think there is any sensible country in the world with a provision like this. What do we do if it happens that a governor contravenes the very law establishing the bank”?
It also quoted the NESG reporting that it “also kicked against granting immunity to the CBN and its officers from judicial review of acts undertaken in the exercise of their administrative duties.”
Who is on the right track
Reading between the lines, one does not need a lawyer to explain that the provision in the passed bill is not new and surely was not introduced by the current governor to protect himself from immunity. The provision has been in BOFIA (the existing law) and is also included in other laws setting up regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), AMCON, NDIC, and even the CBN.
The provision basically protects regulatory bodies from being sued indiscriminately by parties to whom they may have carried out action against. For example, in the case of sacking the board of a failed bank, the directors may sue to get an injunction against the central bank curtailing its powers to take swift action where necessary.
It appears critics are now throwing the kitchen sink at the CBN Governor for actions they deem “unpopular” even if it means raising false alarms. Since 2015 when Nigeria’s economic crisis begun, Godwin Emefiele has come under severe criticisms in his handling of monetary policy and management of the exchange rate.
Thus, no matter his intent, critics view his actions with skepticism and caution suggesting a lack of trust between them and his leadership of the CBN. Despite a deluge of criticisms, he remains in favour of the current government after his second term was renewed. He is the first CBN Governor to serve two terms since Abdulkadir Ahmed whose term ended after 10 years in September 1993.
Zenith Bank GMD explains why its difficult for SMEs to get loans from banks
Onyeagwu has highlighted the regulatory challenges that SMEs are faced in trying to secure bank lending.
The Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has discussed the impressive positive returns recorded this year by the bank. He also shared some insights on the relationship between commercial banks in Nigeria and Small/Medium Enterprise business owners.
Onyeagwu gave all these insights while speaking in an interview with Arise TV.
On why Nigerian banks charge high-interest loans, making it difficult for small business owners to get single-digit loans for their business, the Zenith Bank GMD explained that the operational costs and regulatory costs involved in running a bank usually sets the pace for every other thing. He listed examples of operational costs involved in running a single bank branch and how all that adds to the bottom line at the end of the day.
He also highlighted regulatory costs which are not particularly known by people outside the banking sector as one of the costs of doing business banks face. These two factors mainly contribute to the high-interest rates banks charge on loans.
“Our cost profile depicts the operating environment. Within the year we saw an upward review in fuel price, which accounted for the increase in our fuel cost. Again, when you are looking at cost of doing business, you also need to look in total, how businesses are being conducted. If I set up a branch today, I would need to provide my infrastructure, I need to provide power, water and in some cases, we even construct the road to provide access to the branch location. So, as a result of the poor state of infrastructure, you see that businesses would now have to contend with providing these resources to get their operations running. So, if we have more available and cheaper utility services and infrastructure to support businesses, of course, the cost would go down.
Then, looking at cost of doing business in banking, it goes beyond those operational costs. We also have things like regulatory cost. A bank like Zenith, given our size, the burden of regulatory cost on us is heavy. By regulatory cost here, I am referring to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation premium and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria fee. So, because of our size, if you look at the numbers, you will see that these regulatory costs account for a whopping 28 percent of our overhead. So, all of them come together to add to the cost of doing business for us as a banking institution in the country,” Onyeagwu said.
On why it is difficult to get single-digit loans from Nigerian banks, Onyeagwu highlighted 3 key reasons why single-digit loans are very difficult to obtain in Nigeria. He listed the following:
- Fiscal deficit
- Government Borrowing
- Money supply and demand
The Zenith GMD stated that it is nearly impossible to issue an interest rate by fiat. He stated that the interest rate will always be determined by market forces.
He said, “First of all, if you are looking at the interest rate, you have to look at it in terms of the theoretical framework and issues around money supply, demand for money, issues around government borrowing, and the fiscal deficits. So, when you put all that together, you will see that you cannot have a situation where you decree interest rate by fiat. Interest rates would always be set by the dynamics and realities in the market. In this case, if you are looking at the interest rate in Nigeria, you have to index it to the risk-free rate. The one-year risk-free rate in Nigeria is like 10 percent. So, it will be difficult to have a single-digit rate in Nigeria.”
Onyeagwu highlighted the various ways the Central Bank of Nigeria has intervened in a bid it provides single-digit loans to entrepreneurs in certain sectors. Sectors like cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing have been enjoying single-digit loans courtesy of various CBN initiatives.
He said, “We have intervention funds such as the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, where banks in the country provide long-term single-digit funding for entrepreneurs who are in cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing. We also have what is called the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme. It is also a pool of funds available for businesses in that space. You can as well access these loans. Apart from these, the CBN also has different intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, and others, and all these loans are single-digit and they provide long-term financing. The big problem we have is that when you see an SME approaching you for the loan, the SME may not have a track record; he walks up to you and tells you that he needs a single-digit loan and needs N20 million.
“But I can’t give you N20 million without looking where you are coming from. So, we cannot decree the interest rate by fiat. But the regulators have done good work by providing funding schemes and whoever is eligible would get such single-digit long-term loans once they meet the criteria. So, the funding is there, but the SMEs when they approach the banks don’t often meet the eligibility criteria.”
Jim Ovia is set to earn N9.58 billion in dividend for FY 2020
The highly revered banker is the single majority shareholder of Zenith Bank as he directly owns 3,546,199,395 units of the fast-rising bank stock.
The founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia is expected to earn a massive sum of N9.575 billion in dividend for the financial year ended December 2020
The highly revered banker is the single majority shareholder of Zenith Bank as he directly owns 3,546,199,395 units of the fast-rising bank stock out of the 31,396,493,787 ordinary shares available. This gives him an 11.29% direct interest in the Tier -1 bank.
It’s however important to note that such dividend is subject to a 10% withholding tax in Nigeria.
Recall that about a day ago, the Board of Directors of the bank in a statement released via the Nigerian Stock Exchange proposed a final dividend of N2.70, amounting to a total payout of N3.00 per share for the financial year 2020 (interim: N0.30).
This proposal reflects the past year’s robust performance and appears to signal that Zenith bank remains well-positioned to perform in the current financial year. However, there was a lower payout ratio at 40.9% compared to FY’19 (42.1%).
- Key earnings drivers to the financial year performance under review were a 90 basis points drop in the cost of funds to 2.1%, which propelled net interest income (+12.2% YoY) and a 3.8x jump in revaluation gains to N43.4 billion.
- These offset pressures from operating costs (the cost to income ratio rose 1.2ppts to 50.0%) and impairment charges (cost of risk rose 40basis points to 1.5%)
Described as the ‘Godfather of banking in Nigeria’ by Forbes Africa, Jim Ovia is quite popular for his business dexterity and leadership skills, especially in the banking sector.
His early interest in technology was the reason Zenith Bank became the first Nigerian company to have a functional website in 1995 and was able to smoothly migrate its operations from analog times to a digital era.
From a single branch in a residential building, Zenith Bank now has hundreds of branches all over Nigeria and several subsidiaries in other countries. The bank became a Public Limited Company in 2001 and was listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE), and later on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
On the 27th of April 2007, Zenith Bank Plc became the first Nigerian bank in 25 years to be licensed by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), giving rise to Zenith Bank UK Limited.
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