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Okutepa, Ananaba Differ on NFIU Ban on Cash Withdrawals from Govt Accounts

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Okutepa Ananaba ban on cash withdrawals

By Adedapo Adesanya, Dipo Olowookere

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr Jibrin Okutepa and Mr Paul Ananaba, have expressed different opinions on the recent ban on cash withdrawals from government accounts by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

While speaking on the flagship breakfast show on Channels Television, Sunrise Daily, monitored by Business Post on Friday, Mr Okutepa said he supports the ban because it would help in tracking government spending.

However, in his opinion, Mr Ananaba argued that the NFIU does not have the power to restrict the state and local governments from having access to their funds, either through cashless or otherwise.

“The NFIU does not have the powers to enforce such except it works with other agencies; standing alone, NFIU ought not to have made that statement; it should have been a joint statement [with other agencies like the EFCC, CBN],” the legal luminary said.

On Thursday, while addressing reporters, the chief executive of NFIU, Mr Moddibo Tukur, explained that from March 1, 2023, the new policy would become effective, noting that it was to curb the rate at which monies were withdrawn from public accounts in total disregard to the money laundering laws, and also to reduce corruption in public service.

He warned that any government official that withdraws cash from public accounts would risk investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police Force, in collaboration with the NFIU.

“The NFIU had told banks and government agencies at all levels to go fully digital by moving online, as all transactions involving public money must be routed through the banks for the purpose of accountability and transparency.

“This is not reversible as we are only enforcing the law. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria will become a full non-cash economy by March 1, 2023, this year.

“As a consequence, any government official that withdraws even one naira cash from any public account from March 1 will be investigated and prosecuted in collaboration with relevant agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Nigeria Police Force (NPF),” he declared.

Mr Okutepa, while commenting, said the organisation has the power to carry out this function.

“I support the position and enforcement of the provisions of the Act that set them up in order to prevent money laundering.

“I agree that no government officials should be allowed, including Governors, Ministers, presidential aides, the President himself should not be allowed to withdraw huge amounts of money,” the legal practitioner submitted.

Mr Okutepa noted that if this policy is religiously enforced, it will curb corruption, especially funds withdrawn by state governors through security votes.

“For instance, you talk about this particular thing called security votes; there is a lot of money being withdrawn under the guise of security votes, and yet, we are in a state where [we have serious security threats], and people are afraid to go to their villages,” he said.

“My fear about this law is not the intention but the ability to follow through.

“From the point of law, looking at the provisions of the law that set up the NFIU, particularly Section 1 that talked about its aims and objectives, Section 2 that created the act and Section 3 that set out the functions, [it has the power to carry out this policy].

But Mr Ananaba said, putting sentiment aside, the NFIU cannot enforce the policy alone because it has limited powers to do so.

“You want to go cashless, but does NFIU have the capacity or guarantee that the country has the technology for a totally cashless society from March 1?” he queried.

“I would have expected that the CBN and other financial institutions would be part of a coalition that will bring this to pass,” he submitted.

Speaking further, he asked, “On what basis will the NFIU give directives to states? What happens when things go wrong [and the states challenge or go against the policy]?”

“My point is that NFIU cannot go outside the laws setting it up in 20218; it does not give it the powers to regulate cash withdraw,” he emphasised

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Economy

Oil Climbs 3% as US Fed Reserve Eases Rate Hike Fears

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oil climb

By Adedapo Adesanya

Oil climbed more than 3 per cent on Tuesday after the head of the US central bank eased market concerns over interest rate hikes.

Brent crude futures were up $2.52 or 3.1 per cent to $83.51 a barrel, as the US West Texas Intermediate rose by $2.77 or 3.7 per cent to $76.88 per barrel.

The Federal Reserve Chairman, Mr Jerome Powell, said Tuesday very strong jobs data released last week simply affirms that the central bank has some way to go on raising rates.

Speaking about Friday’s release of the January jobs data, he said that the body “didn’t expect it to be this strong.”

Mr Powell said the data “shows you why this will be a process that takes a significant period of time” when it comes to tightening monetary policy.

He, however, declined to say whether knowing about the strength of the data would have affected last week’s 25 basis point rate rise.

Prices also gained support as the US Dollar index fell after the data, raising oil prices. Interest rate hikes typically strengthen the dollar, which could make crude more expensive for holders of other currencies.

On the supply side, oil export disruptions have created a stir in the market following major earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000.

The 1 million barrel per day Ceyhan oil terminal in southern Turkey stopped operations on Monday, according to Tribeca Shipping Agency, who added that, as a whole, the ports in southern Turkey had been affected by the earthquake. Oil loadings were expected to resume today, but inclement weather caused a disruption in berthing.

Also, Norway’s shutdown of its Phase 1 535,000 barrels per day Johan Sverdrup oilfield due to a technical fault in a cooling system supported prices.

China’s reopening progress is also pressuring prices upward as the market eyes a demand boost from its zero-Covid transition.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects half of this year’s global oil demand growth to come from China, Mr Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief, said on Sunday, adding that jet fuel demand was surging.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release US crude oil and product inventory figures later on Wednesday, just as all eyes will be on the Federal Reserve Chair Mr Powell’s speech on Wednesday.

The EIA also said that US crude production would rise in 2023 even as demand flattens, according to its Short-Term Energy Outlook. EIA’s latest forecast calls for crude oil production to rise by 590,000 barrels per day to 12.49 million barrels per day in 2023 and by another 160,000 barrels to 12.65 million barrels per day next year.

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Economy

Blue-Chip Stocks Pull Back Market by 0.13% as Investors Lose N33bn

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blue-chip stocks

By Dipo Olowookere

The Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited was pulled back by 0.13 per cent on Tuesday by some blue-chip stocks on the platform, which succumbed to profit-taking.

This shrank the All-Share Index (ASI) by 67.98 points to 54,299.76 points from 54,367.74 points, as the market capitalisation moderated by N33 billion to N29.576 trillion from N29.609 trillion.

The stock market came under selling pressure yesterday as investors offloaded some equities in their portfolios. This was across the major sectors of the bourse.

At the close of business, the insurance counter lost 0.80 per cent, the banking index fell by 0.61 per cent, the industrial goods space depreciated by 0.31 per cent, and the consumer goods sector declined by 0.02 per cent.

However, the energy stood tall during the session as it went up by 0.54 per cent on the back of renewed interest in shares in the ecosystem due to the rise in the prices of crude oil in the international market influenced by earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Business Post reports that investor sentiment was weak on Tuesday due to a negative market breadth triggered by the losses printed by 27 stocks, which outweighed the 20 price gainers.

Top stocks like Dangote Cement, Cadbury Nigeria, Zenith Bank, FBN Holdings and Access Holdings depreciated during the session, but the worst-performing equity was Japaul, which fell by 9.38 per cent to 29 Kobo.

FCMB went down by 7.82 per cent to trade at N4.60, Royal Exchange declined by 7.32 per cent to 76 Kobo, UAC Nigeria crashed by 6.12 per cent to N9.20, and Linkage Assurance deflated by 6.12 per cent to 46 Kobo.

On the other side, Conoil ended the trading day as the best-performing stock after it chalked up 10.00 per cent to close at N29.15, as MRS Oil followed with a 9.82 per cent growth to finish at N21.25. International Energy Insurance rose by 9.35 per cent to N1.17, GlaxoSmithKline went up by 6.92 per cent to N6.95, and Coronation Insurance grew by 4.65 per cent to 45 Kobo.

On the activity chart, investors traded 200.0 million shares worth N7.6 billion in 4,380 deals on Tuesday compared with the 191.6 million shares worth N4.8 billion traded in 4,359 deals on Monday, representing an increase in the trading volume, value and the number of deals by 4.38 per cent, 58.33 per cent, and 0.48 per cent, respectively.

FCMB sold 28.0 million units, Geregu Power transacted 21.1 million units, Sterling Bank exchanged 18.8 million units, Transcorp traded 15.8 million units, and Zenith Bank executed 14.7 million units.

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Economy

Court Remands Fund Managers Over N891m Capital Market Investment

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Vektr Capital Global Group fund managers

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Two fund managers, Mr Solomon Edet Solomon and Mr Zakari Haruna, have been remanded in Suleija Correctional Centre after they were arraigned for collecting about N891 million from members of the public through an unregistered investment company, Vektr Capital Global Group, contrary to the laws of Nigeria.

They were brought before Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Court 4, Abuja, after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sealed up the Wuse Zone 5 office of Vektr Capital in March 2022 on suspicions of illegally collecting money from the investing public.

At the court, after the four-count charge was read to the suspects, Justice Abubakar fixed March 16, 2023, for the commencement of the trial.

In the charges, the defendants were alleged to have, on or between the years 2021 and 2022 within the jurisdiction of the court with intent to defraud, conspired amongst themselves together with one Kayode Sal Viktor and other staff to obtain the sum of over N891,729,000 from investing public, including Cordelia Ukomaka Ducke Eze and others under the false pretence that they were fund managers which you are not and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.

“That you, M/s Vektr Capital Global Nigeria Ltd, on or between the year 2021 and 2022 within the jurisdiction of this court, did commit a felony to wit. Conspired among yourselves together with Kayode Sal Viktor and your other staff to do an illegal act- to lure and offer a subscription to an unregistered collective investment scheme valued over N891,000,000 to investing public, including Cordelia Ukomaka Ducke Eze and others and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 516 of Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

“That you, M/s Vektr Capital Global Nigeria Ltd, on or between the year 2021 and 2022 within the jurisdiction of this court, did commit a felony to wit. Conspired among yourselves together with Kayode Sal Viktor and your other staff to do an illegal act- to lure and offer a subscription to an unregistered collective investment scheme valued over N891,000,000 to investing public, including Cordelia Ukomaka Ducke Eze and others and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 54 of the Investments and Securities Act, 2007,” the charge stated.

When the bail application came up for determination, the Justice said she had not been convinced, going by the affidavit that the accused will attend court to attend the trial and not jump bail.

Earlier, counsel to Mr Solomon urged the court to grant the defendant bail, stating that the defendant is only an employee of the company and not the owner.

However, Justice Abubakar declined to say that being an employee of the company is not enough for her to grant him bail but told the counsel that she needs to be convinced that if the defendant is granted bail, he will be available to attend the hearing and not jump bail.

“You know the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice on bail applications. He must meet those considerations. Show me in your affidavit of support where all these conditions have been listed as met to give me the assurance that the second defendant will at all times attend this trial in person. If I grant him bail based on what you have submitted, will I not be seen to be reckless as a judge?

“Granting bail is a discretionary power, and you must earn it; you must convince me. So many people jump bail cases will come up, and it cannot go on because the person has jumped bail. If you convince me because your conviction is on oath, I believe you. My concern is what you depose in your affidavit. I cannot, on the basis of this deposition, grant this person bail, and I cannot.

“According to Section 160, paragraph 8F, the applicant must have these facts in his affidavit to convince the court to grant him bail. If I grant bail and he decides to jump bail tomorrow, anyone that sees this application will say he did not commit himself,” she said.

Justice Abubakar stated that there are no vital assurances to convince the court to grant the defendant bail as contained in Section 160 of the Criminal Administrative Justice Act 2013 and enumerated in Paragraph 8f of the said Act, emphasising that It is important that the deposition must contain that vital information to convince and assure the court to grant the second defendant bail.

She subsequently ruled saying, “In the absence of this, this court cannot grant the second defendant bail. Accordingly, bail is refused”.

On the third defendant Mr Haruna, the judge stated that based on the propositions contained in the application submitted to the court for bail, particularly paragraphs 12-17, the court is inclined to grant bail to him.

“Accordingly, bail is granted to the third applicant in the sum of N100 million and one surety in the like sum. The surety must be a responsible, reputable person in the society as deposed to in the affidavit; the surety must own a landed property within the jurisdiction of this court whose title documents must be deposited with the Deputy Chief Registrar Litigation of this court after due verification.

“Both the third defendant and the surety must deposit two copies of their recent passport photographs with the Deputy Chief Registrar Litigation of this honourable court. The defendant must also deposit his international Passport with the Deputy Chief Registrar Litigation of this court. Bail is granted; those are the only conditions imposed”.

“Both the Second and Third defendants are to be remanded in Suleija Correctional Centre. A remand of the third defendant at the Suleija Correctional Centre is pending when he fulfils his bail conditions. Anytime he fulfils his bail conditions, he is free to go and enjoy his day,” Justice Abubakar stated.

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