National Assembly to pass 2018 budget April 24 – The Senate and the House of Representatives have taken a decision to pass the 2018 budget on April 24. Ahead of the date, the joint Committees on Appropriations will lay the report on the budget in the two chambers on April 19. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, disclosed this in Abuja during Wednesday’s plenary. “The consideration and passage of the budget will be on April 24. The committees will submit their report on April 19. This will be a harmonised report,” Dogara announced. The N8.612tn budget has been held up at the National Assembly since November 7, 2017, when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the estimates to a joint session of the Senate and the House. However, the National Assembly and the Executive have engaged each other in a blame game in the past over the delay in passing the budget. The heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government said they had furnished the legislature with all the documents on the budget. But the lawmakers said that to pass the budget, ministers and heads of the agencies must appear before the relevant committees to defend their proposals.
Gas shortage: 12 power plants suffer setback, 2000MW idle – The challenge of gas supply in the nation’s power sector left nearly 2,000 megawatts capacity idle at 12 power plants on Wednesday. The nation’s unutilised electricity generation capacity due to gas constraints stood at to 1,987.5MW as of 6am on Wednesday, down from 2,482MW on Tuesday, data obtained from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing showed. The affected plants are Egbin Thermal Power Station, Geregu I and II, Olorunsogo I and II, Omotosho I, Odukpani, Ihovbor, Alaoji II, Trans-Amadi and Rivers IPPs. Unutilised capacity due to gas constraint at Egbin stood at 150MW; Alaoji (360MW); Geregu I (237MW) and II (145MW; Omotosho I (120MW); Odukpani (54.5MW); Ihovbor (225MW); Trans-Amadi (40MW), and Rivers (30MW). Total power generation stood at 4,290.80MW as of 6am on Wednesday, up from 4,187.30MW on Tuesday. The country generates the bulk of its electricity from gas-fired power plants, while output from hydro-power plants makes up about 30 per cent of total generation. One of the hydro power plants, Shiroro, did not generate any megawatts of electricity on Wednesday as the station was said to be out due to turbine pit flooding. Electricity distribution companies have said their inability to pay for gas due to non-payment of a debt of nearly N1tn owed them by the distribution companies will lead to the shutdown of power plants.
Teleology beats deadline, pays $50m non-refundable deposit for 9mobile – Teleology Holdings wednesday beat the deadline stipulated under the bid process for the acquisition of 9mobile by paying a $50 million non-refundable deposit for Nigeria’s fourth largest network operator. Teleology, which emerged the preferred bidder for the 9mobile transaction on February 21, was given till today to pay the non-refundable deposit, failing which Barclays Africa, the transaction adviser, would have invited the reserve bidder, Smile Telecoms Holdings, to takeover 9mobile. Having successfully paid the $50 million, Teleology is expected to pay the balance of its $500 million bid for 9mobile in the next 90 days, in order to take full possession of the telecoms firm. Teleology was said to have paid the $50 million from Keystone Bank, with United Capital Trustees Ltd and United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc as beneficiaries. Teleology, which floored telecommunications giants like Globacom, Bharti Airtel and Dangote’s Alheri to win the bid for 9Mobile, also on Tuesday moved a step closer to taking over the troubled telecoms company, when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 9mobile to take full possession of the firm.
Dangote Cement to sell N300bn bonds – Dangote Cement Plc wednesday disclosed that it has gotten approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators to raise N300 billion ($833 million) in local-currency bonds. The company, which is the most capitalised stock on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) intends to utilise the fund on its expansion as well as to refinance its debt. Africa’s largest producer of the building material plans issue the debt over three years, Bloomberg quoted its Chief Financial Officer, Brian Egan, to have said during an investor conference call on Tuesday. The bond will be issued in tranches of N50 billion at a time whenever interest rates are favourable, Egan added. The company, controlled by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is also considering to sell Eurobonds to boost its funding, Egan said. Dangote is planning to spend $350 million on capital projects this year, including the building of export facilities at Nigeria’s seaports, which will see it begin shipments of clinker and cement to neighbouring West African countries. The company said revenue for the year through December rose 31 per cent to N806 billion while net income rose 43 per cent to N204 billion.
INEC: 2019 elections may gulp N250bn – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the budget estimates for the 2019 general election will most likely double the amount voted for the 2015 exercise. Speaking at an event organised by the coalition of civil society groups under the auspices of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Wednesday in Abuja the National Commissioner representing Anambra State, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, who represented the Chairman of the commission, said the 2019 election budget would take into consideration the present realities including the exchange rates. According to Ibeanu, the commission spent between N115 billion and N120 billion to organise the 2015 general election, adding that the amount is likely to double in 2019. “If you look at the last budgetary estimates we do not need any science around it at all. My estimate is that about 50 per cent of the INEC cost involves spending money abroad that means that it will be affected by the exchange rates. Now you can do a computation of 40-50 per cent at N150 per a dollar in 2015 and N360 to a dollar right now. You can imagine what the present the picture will be like and this will enable us have an idea of what the present estimate will be. “But I can assure you that INEC has done everything possible to keep the budget for the 2019 elections consistent with the existing realities in the country.”
Oil marketers sack workers over N650bn FG debt – Oil marketers have commenced a reduction of their workforce due to their inability to pay staff salaries, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has reported. Some of the marketers, who preferred anonymity, confirmed wednesday in Lagos that they resorted to adopt a massive sack of their workers as the federal government had yet to pay an outstanding N650 billion debts owed them. They said they did not have any other option to control their increasing debt burden of borrowing to pay salaries than to embark on staff disengagement. According to them, the majority of marketers are indebted to banks because for funds they borrowed to pay workers’ salaries. “Retrenchment became necessary as some marketers have already closed their depots, while others have also reduced workers’ salaries by 75 per cent due to their inability to sustain the payments. “It is a difficult time for the oil marketers because we are currently facing the headwinds in the oil market. “Some of our members are finding it difficult to pay salaries and other overhead costs,’’ one of the marketers said. They, therefore, urged the federal government to expedite action on the payment of outstanding debts owed to marketers, in order to help them to sustain their businesses.
Fed Govt releases N1.248tr for capital projects – Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun yesterday said N1.248 trillion had been released for capital projects under the 2017 Budget. She spoke with State House reporters at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. She was with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. She said: “The final update I gave was the level of capital releases till date from 2017 and l gave details of the big four areas and then others. So, power, works and housing got N301.89 billion, defence N151.2 billion, agriculture N119.9 billion, transport N127.9 billion and other ares combined is N545.6 billion. So, the total capital budget release for 2017 so far is N1.248,310 trillion. “We haven’t closed yet. We are confident we will close the year roughly around where we closed last year. We will close around N1.3 trillion mark. “So, our commitment to infrastructure spending remains very strong. That is what is going to drive growth of the economy. That is what is going to drive jobs.” Adeosun, who briefed Council on the scorecard of her ministry, also disclosed that the Federal Government has recovered N7.8 billion, $378 million, and 27,800 pounds through whistle blower policy.
NSIA okays $20m for three healthcare facilities – The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) has set aside $20 million to develop three healthcare facilities in three states. The NSIA Healthcare Development and Investment Company (NHDIC), an NSIA company, in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Health yesterday announced the execution of joint venture and other project agreements for investments in three federal healthcare institutions in Nigeria. The benefiting healthcare institutions are, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH, Lagos), the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH, Kano) and the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia (FMCU, Abia). Following from these agreements, funds will be deployed to build, equip, maintain and operate a private cancer centre for advanced radiotherapy treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and to also build, equip, maintain and operate private modern medical diagnostic centres at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia (FMCU). Under the agreements, the cancer centre at LUTH will be upgraded to provide specialist care for cancer treatment while AKTH and FMCU will focus on diagnostics providing medical microbiology services, routine chemical pathology, haematology tests and advanced radiography including MRI and CT services. The investment is expected to upgrade these institutions to modern medical centres and significantly enhance Nigeria’s ability to treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
MAN supports Buhari on refusal to sign African trade agreement – The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) on Wednesday strongly supported the move by the federal government on its refusal to sign the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The association frowned at the contents of the agreement, noting that it will lead to gross unemployment in the country as most manufacturing companies in the country will be made to die a quicker death. The Association President, Frank Jacobs said his association would not support federal government’s adoption and ratification of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) until issues of market access and enforcement of rules of origin are addressed. According to MAN, the agitation from the private sector was a result of lack of consultation and inclusion of inputs of key stakeholders before Nigeria’s position was presented at the meetings of the African Union-Technical Working Group on CFTA in the build-up to AfCFTA negotiation by Nigeria. The AfCTA is expected to create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion. The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 per cent of goods and to liberalise services.
FIRS records four million new taxpayers, N700 billion revenue increase in 2017 – Fowler – The Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, said the Service recorded four million new taxpayers, including companies and individuals, resulting in N700 billion increase in revenue in 2017. Mr. Fowler said this at the 13th General Assembly of the West African Tax Administration Forum (WATAF) with the theme: “Enhancing the Revenue Potential of West Africa” held on Wednesday in Abuja. The chairman said in the past two years, the service had increased its use of ICT to facilitate taxpayers’ compliance. He also said the service introduced initiatives to improve inter-agency collaboration with a view to enhancing tax administration and reducing tax revenue leakages. “Our efforts in this regard have made an impact and contributed to an increase in the number of taxpayers by an additional four million, including companies and individuals. “We recorded an increase of over N700 billion in tax revenues in 2017, above the taxes collected in 2016,” Mr. Fowler said. He said the launch of WATAF marked its formal entry into the ranks of similar organisations focused on international collaboration in tax matters, having attained the statutory requirements spelt out in the WATAF Agreement.
Buhari: Why Nigeria opted out of deal – President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday told the Federal Executive Council why he cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, for the signing of the agreement framework for the African Union Continental Free Trade Area. Buhari said the AfCTA agreement has the capacity to hinder local entrepreneurship and encourage the dumping of finished goods in Nigeria. The president also stated that Nigeria was yet to fully understand the economic and security implications of the agreement. He, therefore, constituted a committee comprising the Ministers of Finance, Budget, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Science and Technology as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Customs Service and the Nigerian Immigration Service to review the content of the AfCFTA proposals and look at its security implications. Addressing State House reporters after the council meeting, presidential spokesman Mr Femi Adesina said: “The committee which has two weeks to submit its report will be expected to look at the security implications of the agreement.” Last week, the FEC had last at a meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had resolved that Buhari should sign the AfCFTA agreement framework. The president, however, cancelled his scheduled trip on Sunday after some of his advance team members had arrived Kigali.
US threatens new trade curbs on China over IP abuse – The Trump administration plans to use new targeted tariffs to apply “maximum pressure” on China to stop it stealing the intellectual property of American business, according to the top US trade official. Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, also offered an olive branch to the EU and other allies, indicating they would not face immediate US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports while they were negotiating possible exemptions. Washington is keen to enlist Europe, Japan and other trading partners in its fight against alleged Chinese trade abuses. The White House said Mr Trump would sign a memorandum targeting “China’s economic aggression” around lunchtime in Washington on Thursday. According to people familiar with its deliberations, the White House is expected to announce a plan to apply tariffs on imports from China worth at least $30bn, although US officials said the proposals remained in flux. The plan is also likely to involve a process for consultations with US business that may delay their implementation. The Trump administration is also likely flag up new restrictions on Chinese investment in the US and tighter visa requirements for Chinese nationals, although the immediate actions are likely to take the form of an order to draft regulations rather than final actions.
Dollar Down, Stocks Swing as Fed Sticks at Three: Markets Wrap – The dollar extended losses, Treasuries rose and Asian stocks fluctuated as traders assessed the implications of higher borrowing costs in the U.S. and China alongside global trade tensions, with President Donald Trump set to announce tariffs against Asia’s largest economy on Thursday. Japanese and Korean stocks pared early gains while Hong Kong and Chinese shares retreated after China’s central bank also lifted market interest rates. The greenback sank as the Fed did not suggest that it was leaning toward four rate hikes this year, as some had expected. The yen was the strongest of the Group-of-10 currencies and the ringgit led gains in Asia’s emerging-market currencies. The U.S. 10-year yield retreated while yields on two-year U.S. Treasuries, which are more sensitive to changes in Fed policy than longer debt, extended its drop. Federal Reserve officials, meeting for the first time under Chairman Jerome Powell, raised the benchmark lending rate a quarter point and forecast a steeper path of hikes in 2019 and 2020, citing an improving economic outlook. Investor focus now switches to trade, with Trump set to announce about $50 billion of tariffs against China over intellectual-property violations on Thursday, according a person familiar with the matter.
Oil firm on surprise U.S. crude inventory draw, OPEC-led cuts – Oil prices were firm on Thursday, buoyed by a surprise decline in U.S. crude inventories as well as ongoing supply cuts led by OPEC, although a relentless rise in U.S. oil output threatens to undermine efforts to tighten the market. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $65.20 a barrel, at 0408 GMT, up 3 cents from their previous settlement. Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $69.44 per barrel, down 3 cents from their last close. Both benchmarks are hovering just below their highest since early February, having risen around 10 percent from March lows. Some support for crude futures came from currency markets, where the dollar .DXY fell as Federal Reserve officials stuck to their view of three rate increases for 2018, even as they delivered an expected quarter point rate hike. In oil markets, U.S. crude inventories C-STK-T-EIA fell 2.6 million barrels in the week ended March 16 to 428.31 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said late on Wednesday. “Oil… had a big session overnight although this wasn’t just a function of the interest rate move. Inventory data for last week showed a surprise crude draw as well as significant drawdowns in both gasoline and distillates inventories,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.