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Business

Senate instructs FRC to refund N94 million spent on unoccupied building, vouchers

FRC allegedly spent N66 million on unoccupied building and N28 million on 64 payment vouchers.

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The Nigerian Senate has instructed the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria to refund the sum of N94 million spent on an unoccupied building, and 64 vouchers to the Federation account.

This was disclosed by the Senate Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday. According to the committee, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria had paid N66 million as a two-year rent to secure an accommodation which it did not occupy throughout the period.

The Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Mathew Urhoghide, also faulted the agency’s use of 64 payment vouchers to allegedly divert N28 million.

READ: SERAP asks NASS leadership to probe missing N4.4 billion, threaten legal action

However, the FRC in its written response claimed that it was carrying out repairs and partitioning of the building while the rent was running.

The FRC response reads, “Management’s response was that, upon the acquisition of the office accommodation at the Japaul House, there was a need to give the property a face-lift including partitioning befitting of an office.

“However, there was a change of Executive Secretary in 2017, which slowed the process of award of contract. Secondly, the Landlord was not willing to renew the tenancy agreement after the expiration of the current agreement. The Management further remarked that the Council is taking steps to utilize the building and secure a further lease from the Landlord.”

READ: N10.4 billion, N32.5 million disbursed by Ministry of Justice without approval – Auditor-General 

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What you should know

The panel is currently scrutinising the 2015 to 2018 report of the Auditor-General for the Federation.

The AuGF had in its report, queried the FRC for investing N66m on accommodation it never occupied.

It stated, “It was observed that on 21/11/16 the sum of N42m was paid as rent to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services for office space at Japaul Building. N23.4m was paid to Sola Oluseyi & Co, as legal and agency fee for the office space, making a total of N66m for two years ending 1/1/2019.

READ: FRC orders banks not to lend money to states without approval

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“The Council is yet to move into the building, 20 months running with 4 months to its expiration. (as of 2019). This anomaly was due to the failure of the Executive Secretary (of the FRC during the period) to exercise due diligence in the application of public funds by ensuring that value is received for money expended.

“The Council carried out the expenditure of such magnitude and yet fail to receive value. A huge sum of money was paid for rent by the Council but failed to occupy the building; this amounts to a waste of government resources.”

READ: FRC orders the Big Four to separate auditing from consulting services

Another query raised by the AuGF against the FRC reads, “During the audit, it was observed that sixty-four (64) payment vouchers for the sum of N28,765,842.11 was raised and paid without the Internal Audit stamps and dates, in contravention to the provisions of extant laws and regulations.

“This infraction was due to the failure of the Executive Secretary to strictly comply with the provisions of law and laid down procedures aimed at strengthening the internal control system in government agencies. Payments arising from vouchers not pre audited cannot be accepted as a judicious charge against public funds.”

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Abiola has spent about 14 years in journalism. His career has covered some top local print media like TELL Magazine, Broad Street Journal, The Point Newspaper.The Bloomberg MEI alumni has interviewed some of the most influential figures of the IMF, G-20 Summit, Pre-G20 Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers, Critical Communication World Conference.The multiple award winner is variously trained in business and markets journalism at Lagos Business School, and Pan-Atlantic University. You may contact him via email - [email protected]

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Business

Lagos agricultural sector to generate $10 billion in the next 5 years

The agricultural sector in Lagos state is projected to generate as much as $10 billion within the next 5 years.

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The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has projected that the agricultural sector in the state could generate as much as $10 billion within the next 5 years.

This is as the governor noted that Lagos could no longer afford to rely exclusively on other states for its food, adding that it was time to unlock its immeasurable agricultural potential through the implementation of the 5-year roadmap.

This disclosure was made by the Governor at the formal launch of the state’s 5-year Agricultural and Food Systems Roadmap, on Thursday, adding that most of the investments would be private sector-driven while the government acts as the catalyst and enabler.

Governor Sanwo-Olu opined that the Roadmap would also lead to wealth generation, value creation, food security, the industrialisation of the agricultural sector and the entrenchment of inclusive socio-economic development of the state.

He said that the roadmap essentially focuses on 3 pillars, which are: growth of the upstream sector, growth of the midstream and downstream sectors as well as improvement of private sector participation.

What the Lagos State Governor is saying

Sanwo-Olu, in his words, said, “Our strategies for sustainable Agricultural Development shall focus on three pillars. First, we will grow the upstream sector through interventions by leveraging technologies that are capable of lowering the cost of production of value chains; Focus on growing the midstream and downstream sectors that are of value and lastly, we will improve on private sector participation by developing and initiating policies that will encourage more private investments in agriculture.”

The projection is that the total investment in the Agricultural Sector from the government, private sector, donor agencies and development partners will run into over $10 billion in the next five years. While we expect most of the investment to be private sector-driven, the government will continue to provide the needed infrastructure while the private sector will be encouraged to lead the key projects.’

The governor pointed out that the state had already started the revamping of its Agricultural Land Holding Authority (ALHA) to support investment in agriculture, giving assurance that the coconut belt would also be strengthened with increased private sector involvement.

Sanwo-Olu listed some State’s landmark investments that will aid smooth delivery of the Roadmap to include the Lagos State Aquatic Centre of Excellence (LACE) that would boost fish production from 20% to 80%, the Imota Rice Mill, the Lagos Food Production Centre Avia, Igborosu-Badagry as well as other statewide agriculture-focused initiatives.

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He said, “I am greatly encouraged by the interest already generated in the Five-Year Agricultural Roadmap and I hope it will be sustained and backed with concrete action on the part of our development partners and the international community. I assure you that the Lagos State Government is putting in place deliberate incentives to make your investment safe, secure and profitable.’

Sanwo-Olu, therefore, urged potential and established stakeholders in the agricultural sector to partner with the state in order to transform the agricultural sector for food security, wealth generation, poverty eradication, economic diversification, rapid industrialisation and accelerated socio-economic growth.

Bottom line

This is a very laudable initiative from the Lagos State Government especially at a time the country is looking at diversifying its economy. The successful implementation of this programme with the expected benefits from the value chain will contribute significantly to the economic development of the state and the country in general.

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The investment in the transformation of agriculture to agribusiness is one way of achieving the dream of attaining self-sufficiency in food production and creating more wealth.

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Bank needs to humanise customers – Aladdin CEO

Every customer needs a unique page where their details go beyond the account numbers.

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Nigerian banks have been tasked to humanise all customers and not only treat them as just an account number. This is to say that banks should treat each customer uniquely and not assume a  one-size-fits-all.

These are the comments of the Chief Executive Officer, Aladdin Digital Bank, Darlington Onyeagoro. According to him, the continent, especially Nigeria needs a marketplace Digital Bank to humanise customers, a vacuum he said Aladdin will occupy.

He said, “By humanizing customers, we are putting a face to the name. You are not just an account number, you are a human being, and as humans, you need to eat, make money and other things.

“Each customer is unique; that is why for the first time, we are breaking barriers so we can reach each one personally. We run a platform structure where every customer has a unique page where their details go beyond the account numbers.”

He added that Aladdin Finance App, which is powered by PurpleMoney Microfinance Bank, will also be offering its customers free banking with no charge rates, where customers can carry out their transfers and transactions to other banks for free.

“Traditional banks charge N25 per transfer, but we are charging Zero Naira for now. We bear the cost for now. So, we offer free banking for at least between one to three months of our operation to encourage them. All transactions are free for now,” Onyeagoro added.

The app also has several features that will cater to each customer, including seamless customer service, rewards on savings, high-interest rates up to 16% (subject to money market reality), and access to different types of loans for emergencies.

To encourage savings for customers to meet their business and personal needs, Aladdin Bank will also be rewarding its customers through a weekly raffle draw on its online platform, where amounts saved from N5,000 and above with the bank will give each customer a virtual ticket for a raffle draw.

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“In that way, we are encouraging our customers to save towards their goals. For example, if you want to travel, pay your rent, children’s school fees, etc., whatever you want to do, you can set targets for yourself and save towards it. So, while you are saving towards your target, we are also paying you a competitive interest rate,” he added.

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What you should know

The co-founders and chief promoters of this project are Onyeagoro, Olayemi Nasiru and Avi Umukoro. Nasiru is a seasoned banker with over a decade of experience. He once held a Senior Management Position in one of the top commercial banks in Nigeria.

Umukoro, another top-flight banker, has over 12 years of consumer banking experience in one of the top-performing banks.

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