By Adedapo Adesanya
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called on the federal government to create an independent dispute resolution framework to manage conflicts between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the business community.
In a statement released on Sunday, the Director-General of LCCI, Mr Muda Yusuf, called for a presidential intervention especially with the onset of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Mr Yusuf said the disputes were on matters of product valuation and harmonised system of product classification as experienced and reported by investors in the Nigerian economy, warning that a major shortcoming in the nation’s international trade process was the absence of an independent, credible and prompt appeal mechanism.
According to him, the lack thereof presents a situation that is hurting investment and weakening investors’ confidence.
Mr Yusuf noted that the current realities left importers entirely at the mercies of the Customs Service in the absence of a credible, independent window for dispute settlement between the Service and the private sector.
He said that discretionary interpretations on product classification and valuation posed enormous corruption risks in Customs processes.
In his words, “The LCCI calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by setting up an Independent Appeal Mechanism to deal with issues of valuation and HS classification between the Nigeria Customs Service and the Business community.
“This could be done within the framework of an Executive Order as this is necessary to restore the confidence of investors in the international trade process.”
“There is a need to ensure a balance between regulatory controls, revenue generation, and trade facilitation functions of the Nigeria Customs Service,’’ Mr Yusuf added.
According to him, under the present arrangement, the Customs Service is the accuser and the judge and this mechanism is unfair to investors and not consistent with the principles of natural justice.
“Many companies have been compelled to pay outrageous additional charges on imports, thus distorting their investment plans and projections.
“Indeed, the biggest corruption risks in the interface between the Customs and the business community are around these two issues.
“This situation is hurting investors across all sectors – Manufacturing, Agro-allied, ICT, Construction, Services, etc.
“It is a disincentive to domestic and foreign investments; it creates uncertainty and aggravates investment risk; it undermines economic diversification prospects; depresses capacity utilisation; and limits the scope for job creation.
“It is also not consistent with the vision to make Nigeria a top investment destination,” he said.
Tough Times Await Promoters of Unregistered Investment Schemes
By Dipo Olowookere
Promoters of Ponzi schemes and unregistered investment schemes in Nigeria may soon be in big trouble if the law being proposed by the National Assembly is passed into law and signed by the President.
On Thursday, a bill to amend the Investment and Securities Act 2007, sponsored by Mr Babangida Ibrahim, representing MalumFashi/Kafur Federal Constituency in Katsina State at the House of Representatives, scaled the second reading.
The amendment is titled A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Investments and Securities Act, 2007 and Enact the Investments and Securities Bill to Establish Securities and Exchange Commission as the Apex Regulatory Authority for the Nigerian Capital Market as well as Regulation of the Market to ensure Capital Formation, the Protection of the Market to ensure Capital Formation, the Protection of Investors, Maintain Fair, Efficient and Transparent Market and Reduction of Systematic Risk; and for Related Matters.
The bill intends to combat the menace of Ponzi schemes and ensure that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is well equipped to stem the tide.
According to Mr Ibrahim, there has been a lot of complaints by Nigerians on the activities of these schemes that promise unreasonably high returns and at the end of the day, they fleece Nigerians of their hard-earned money hence the need for more regulations to monitor them.
Under the proposed law, ‘A bill to repeal the Investment and Securities Act 2007 and to enact the Investments and Securities Act, 2021’ which passed the second reading at the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, SEC will be empowered to address the challenges of Ponzi schemes.
Section 195 (1) of the Bill empowers SEC thus: “The Commission shall have the power to enter and seal up all prohibited schemes and shall obtain an Order of court to freeze and forfeit all assets of such schemes to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“(2) The cost and expenses incurred under subsection (1) above shall be a first charge from the funds and properties of the illegal scheme including assets of its owners, promoters and or managers, whether acquired legitimately or otherwise.
“(3) For the purposes of this Bill, “prohibited scheme” including those commonly known as a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme means: (a) Any investment scheme that pays existing contributors with funds collected from new contributors to the scheme promising high returns with little or no risk: i) Whether or not the scheme limits the number of persons who may participate therein, either expressly or by the application of conditions affecting the eligibility of a person to enter into, or receive compensation under the scheme; or ii) Whether the scheme is operated at a physical address or through the internet or other electronic means. (b) Any scheme where participants attempt to make money by recruiting new participants usually where: (i) the promoter promises a high return in a short period of time, and (ii) no genuine product or service is actually sold; or (iii) the primary emphasis is on recruiting new participants
“(4) The promoter(s) and operator(s) of any entity engaged in a prohibited scheme commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of ten (10) years or a fine of N5,000,000 or both”.
According to Mr Ibrahim, “The current ISA 2007 is old and we all know a lot has happened between that time and now like technological advancements. The capital market has to be dynamic in today’s world in a bid to contribute its quota to national development and that is one of the reasons why we are pushing this.”
“A lot of things have happened between that time and now hence the need for an amendment. When that law came into existence we did not have derivatives and commodities markets as we do now, these are some of the issues that are necessitating this amendment.
“The plan is to make this Bill a little bit flexible so some national government can be able to approach the capital market to source for fund either for developmental projects,” he added.
Another part of the amendment is to increase the period within which a claim for compensation could be made for the Investor Protection Fund to six years from the date of occurrence of the defalcation, revocation, cancellation, insolvency or bankruptcy of the dealing firm. The period in the current Act is six months.
The objectives of an Investor Protection Fund is to compensate investors who suffer pecuniary loss arising from the insolvency, bankruptcy or negligence of a dealing member firm of a securities exchange; defalcation committed by a dealing member firm or any of its directors, officers, employees or representatives in relation to securities, money or any property entrusted to, or received or deemed received by the dealing member firm in the course of its business as a capital market operator; and revocation or cancellation of the registration of a dealing member firm.
According to the proposed amendment, two new subsections have been introduced to complement the existing provisions on the manner in which a claim to the investor protection fund can be made.
This is a departure from Section 213 (2) of the 2007 Act, which requires a claim for compensation to be made in the first instance to the securities exchange.
In addition, subsection (4) of the Act has been modified to take care of such preconditions for compensation as may have been prescribed by the Board of Trustees.
Specifically, it added that a verified claim must be paid by the investor protection fund to an investor within 14 days of such verification by the securities exchange.
It said, “A claim for compensation under this part of the Bill shall be made in writing to the board of trustees within 6 years from the date of occurrence of the defalcation, revocation or cancellation of the registration of the dealing member firm and insolvency or bankruptcy of the dealing member firm, and any claim which is not so made shall be barred unless the Commission otherwise determines.
“No action for damages shall lie against a securities exchange or against any member or employee of a securities exchange or of a board of trustees or management sub-committee by reason of any notice published in good faith and without malice for the purposes of this section.”
Mr Ibrahim expressed the optimism that when the Bill is passed into law, it would empower the SEC with the necessary backing to effectively regulate the capital market and emphasize the independence of the agency in line with the requirements of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
NCDMB, Navy Collaborate to Enforce Oil and Gas Act
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and the Nigerian Navy have reached an agreement to collaborate closely to enforce the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act in maritime operations.
The partnership will help curb the use of non–compliant and non–categorized vessels and intercept illegal vessels and non–compliant crew members on oil and gas locations.
The two organisations would set up a high-level committee that would work out detailed modalities for the collaboration and enable both organizations to accomplish their respective mandates.
These decisions were reached during the visit of the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr Simbi Kesiye Wabote to the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo in Abuja.
According to the Executive Secretary, the board receives alerts regularly via its whistle-blowing portal and would like to investigate such information and recommend genuine cases to the Navy.
Other possible areas of collaboration include support to the board in assessment visits to vessels and provision of information to the board on vessels and tankers plying the Nigerian waters and oil and gas locations.
Mr Wabote indicated that the Navy is well situated to drive the security aspect of the industry’s operations, particularly in securing the nation’s shores against piracy and illegal oil bunkering.
He said the Navy’s role was critical because the bulk of Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves lie along with the coastal areas of the country including major infrastructure and plants for hydrocarbon processing and exports.
He also commended the Navy for its efforts in promoting Nigerian content, notably by engaging the services of indigenous engineers and service companies in the fabrication and maintenance of Navy boats, thereby boosting local content in the industry.
He highlighted the need for closer ties particularly because of the Board’s long-term vision to increase Nigerian Content levels in the oil and gas sector from the current level of about 40 per cent to 70 per cent by the year 2027 as part of the Nigerian Content 10-Year Strategic Roadmap.
He identified the board’s marine vessels development and categorization strategy as one of the core initiatives that would support the actualisation of the 10-year roadmap.
The goals of the marine vessel initiative are to promote the construction and maintain vessels in Nigerian yards, stimulate ownership of marine vessels by Nigerian entities, grow flagging & registration of vessels in Nigeria, deepen Nigerian manning of marine vessels, and develop world-class ship repairs and shipbuilding yard.
He reported that the board had made progress in the various aspects of these objectives such as support for the acquisition of marine vessels by Nigerians via the Nigerian Content Intervention Fund managed by the Bank of Industry (BoI), provision of sea-time training for marine cadets, patronage of in-country dry-docks, and the completion of the feasibility study and site selection for the proposed development of shipyard.
Listing some of the achievements of the board in the past five years, Wabote stated that it had begun the first phase of developing the Brass Island Terminal in Bayelsa State.
The facility will carry out repair and maintenance of large ships and vessels such as LNG LNG carriers, VLCCs and maritime equipment such as jack-up rig vessels.
In his comments, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu lauded the Board for the numerous achievements it had recorded in implementing the NOGICD Act and pledged the support of the Nany in deepening stakeholders’ compliance with the NOGICD Act.
He also sought the assistance of the Board in upgrading the Naval shipyard in Lagos, particularly the slipway.
While highlighting the Navy’s milestones in research and development, the Naval chief sought the board’s collaboration in improving the Navy’s R&D capabilities as well as creating a market for their products in the oil and gas industry.
Stanbic IBTC Begins Sale of N20bn Series 3 Commercial Paper
By Dipo Olowookere
Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc has commenced the sale of its series 3 commercial paper under its N100 billion multicurrency commercial paper programme.
The financial institution intends to sell N20 billion worth of the corporate debt instrument to interested investors in a period of one week.
Subscription for the commercial paper commenced on Thursday, January 20, 2022, and will end on Thursday, January 27, 2022, according to details of the exercise obtained by Business Post.
It was gathered that the tenor of the commercial paper is 269 days, maturing on Thursday, October 27, 2022, and it is with a discount rate of 9.00 per cent and an implied yield of 9.64 per cent.
Subscription for the Stanbic IBTC series 3 commercial paper is a minimum of N5 million and subsequent addition of N1 million.
According to the programme memorandum, the net proceeds from the paper would be used solely to support the company’s short-term funding requirements, as part of its asset and liability management strategy for its banking operations.
As for the payment at maturity, the issuer said only noteholders named in the register as at the close of business on the relevant last day “shall be entitled to payment of amounts due and payable in respect of notes.”
Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC emerged from the merger of Stanbic Bank Nigeria Limited with IBTC Chartered Bank Plc in September 2007.
IBTC Chartered Bank Plc was itself a merger of three institutions (Investment Banking &Trust Company Plc (IBTC Bank), Chartered Bank Plc. and Regent Bank Plc.).
Stanbic IBTC Bank offers its clients a wide range of commercial banking products through its 180 branches spread across every state in Nigeria, and via a range of self-service channels powered by sophisticated technology to bring convenient banking to clients.
The lender is also a key player in financial inclusion and is poised to take banking to the doorsteps of its clients in different personal and business categories who desire bespoke banking services.
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