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Economy

SERAP to Block FG’s Access to Unclaimed Dividends, Dormant Funds

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Unclaimed Dividends

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, calling for the federal government to halt plans to borrow about N895 billion worth of unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts.

In a letter signed by its deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the group tackled the decision which was contained in the Finance Act, signed into law by Mr Buhari last month.

The act would allow the government to borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country.

SERAP wrote that borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amount “to an illegal expropriation, and would hurt poor and vulnerable Nigerians who continue to suffer under reduced public services and ultimately lead to unsustainable levels of public debt.”

It continued, “The right to property extends to all forms of property, including unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts. Borrowing these dividends and funds without due process of law, and the explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary, and as such, legally and morally unjustifiable.

“The borrowing is neither proportionate nor necessary, especially given the unwillingness or inability of the government to stop systemic corruption in ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), cut waste, and stop all leakages in public expenditures. The borrowing is also clearly not in pursuit of public or social interest.

“The security of property, next to personal security against the exertions of government, is of the essence of liberty. It is next in degree to the protection of personal liberty and freedom from undue interference or molestation. Our constitutional jurisprudence rests largely upon its sanctity.”

The body challenged the President, noting that rather than pushing to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, “your government ought to move swiftly to cut the cost of governance, ensure review of jumbo salaries and allowances of all high-ranking political office holders, and address the systemic corruption in MDAs, as well as improve transparency and accountability in public spending.

“The borrowing also seems to be discriminatory, as it excludes government’s owned official bank accounts and may exclude the bank accounts of high-ranking government officials and politicians, thereby violating the constitutional and international prohibition of discrimination against vulnerable groups, to allow everyone to fully enjoy their right to property and associated rights on equal terms.

“SERAP is concerned that the government has also repeatedly failed and/or refused to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of recovered stolen assets, and the loans so far obtained, which according to the Debt Management Office, currently stands at $31.98 billion.

“SERAP notes growing allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of these loans and recovered stolen assets.

“We would be grateful if your government would drop the decision to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, and to indicate the measures being taken to send back the Finance Act to the National Assembly to repeal the legislation and remove its unconstitutional and unlawful provisions, including Sections 60 and 77, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest and to promote transparency and accountability in public spending.

“The government cannot lawfully enforce the provisions on Crisis Intervention Fund and Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund under the guise of a trust arrangement, as Section 44(2)[h] of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] is inapplicable, and cannot justify the establishment of these funds.”

SERAP noted that while targeting the accounts of ordinary Nigerians, the Finance Act exempts official bank accounts owned by the federal government, state government or local governments or any of their ministries, departments or agencies.

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, and which has been domesticated as part of the country’s domestic legislation.

“According to our information, your government has reportedly completed plans to borrow an estimated N895 billion of unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the Finance Act 2020 you recently signed into law.

“Under the law, the government will be able to access and take without consent unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts in any bank, on the basis of the vague and undefined ‘Crisis Intervention Fund,’ and patently unlawful ‘Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund’.

“The government is justifying the borrowing on the ground that it would improve access of the Federal Government to much-needed funds, and remove the burdens of foreign exchange and punitive loan conditions imposed by multilateral lenders.

“According to the Finance Act, the operation of the trust fund is to be supervised by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and governed by a governing council chaired by the finance minister and a co-chairperson from the private sector appointed by you.

“The Nigerian Constitution in Section 44(1) provides that, ‘no moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by law.

“Similarly, Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right to property and prohibit the arbitrary deprivation of the right. Thus, everyone is entitled to own property alone as well as in association with others.

“Respect for the right to property is important to improve the enjoyment of other basic human rights and to lift Nigerians out of poverty. The Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law limit the ability of any government to interfere with private property without any legal justifications.”

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

Nigerian Breweries Lists Additional Shares on Stock Exchange

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Nigerian Breweries shares

By Dipo Olowookere

The Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited has admitted additional shares of Nigerian Breweries Plc on its trading platform, a notice from the exchange has confirmed.

The new stocks were issued to shareholders of the brewery giant as part of their dividend payment. They are those who opted to exchange their cash payment for shares of the firm.

According to the disclosure from the NGX on Monday, Nigerian Breweries listed a total of 78,929,849 ordinary shares of 50 kobo on the platform, increasing its total issued and fully paid-up equities to 8,075,831,900 ordinary shares from 7,996,902,051 ordinary shares.

“Additional 78,929,849 ordinary shares of 50 kobo each of Nigerian Breweries Plc were today, Monday, January 24, 2022, listed on the daily official list of the Nigerian Exchange Limited.

“The additional shares listed on NGX arose from Nigerian Breweries scrip dividend election scheme.

“With this listing of the additional 78,929,849 ordinary shares, the total issued and fully paid-up shares of Nigerian Breweries Plc has now increased from 7,996,902,051 to 8,075,831,900 ordinary shares of 50 kobo each,” the statement noted.

Shares of Nigerian Breweries depreciated by 1.46 per cent or 70 kobo today at the stock exchange to close at N47.30, according to data obtained by Business Post.

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Economy

FG Suspends Fuel Subsidy Removal, to Amend 2022 Budget

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fuel subsidy

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The federal government has suspended fuel subsidy removal, which was earlier meant to be from July 1, 2022, and will now amend the 2022 Appropriation Act to accommodate the new change.

This action followed the pressure mounted by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which threatened to embark on a nationwide protest from January 27, 2022.

In the 2022 budget signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari last month, the provision of petrol subsidy was till June 30, but the labour said fuel subsidy removal at this period of high inflation would be resisted.

On Monday, January 24, 2022, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms Zainab Ahmed, was at the National Assembly for a meeting with lawmakers.

She explained that due to ongoing consultations, it was agreed that the planned removal of fuel subsidy should be shelved for now.

“Provision was made in the 2022 budget for subsidy payment from January till June. That suggested that from July, there would be no subsidy.

”The provision was made sequel to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act which indicated that all petroleum products would be deregulated.

“Sequel to the passage of the PIA, we went back to amend the fiscal framework to incorporate the subsidy removal.

“However, after the budget was passed, we had consultations with a number of stakeholders and it became clear that the timing was problematic.

“We discovered that practically, there is still heightened inflation and that the removal of subsidy would further worsen the situation and impose more difficulties on the citizenry.

“Mr President does not want to do that. What we are now doing is to continue with the ongoing discussions and consultations in terms of putting in place a number of measures.

“One of these includes the rollout of the refining capacities of the existing refineries and the new ones which would reduce the amount of products that would be imported into the country.

“We, therefore, need to return to the National Assembly to now amend the budget and make additional provision for the subsidy from July 22 to whatever period that we agreed was suitable for the commencement of the total removal,” the Minister informed the lawmakers.

The Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, who conveyed the meeting, commended the federal government for the bold step, urging the labour unions to suspend their action.

Also present at the gathering were the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva; the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mr Mele Kyari; among others.

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Economy

Stanbic IBTC Finances Ardova LPG Storage Terminal

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LPG Storage Terminal

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The 20,000 metric tonnes Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage terminal being constructed in Ijora, Lagos, by AP LPG terminal, a fully owned subsidiary of Ardova Plc, is being financed by the Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund, Business Post has learned.

In August 2021, Stanbic IBTC closed the first tranche of its N100 billion Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund aimed to support the funding of critical projects in the country with competitive return profiles, sustainable environmental practices, and the potential to positively impact the economy.

Ardova, one of the leading players in the energy sector in Nigeria, keyed into the initiative and on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, the firm performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the LPG storage terminal, which is expected to be completed in December 2022.

Upon completion, the project will be the largest LPG storage facility in the nation and will ease some of the existing bottlenecks in the value chain for the supply of cleaner and more efficient energy for domestic use (cooking gas) in Nigeria, amongst other strategic benefits.

Speaking at the event, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Ardova, Mr Olumide Adeosun, commended Stanbic IBTC for its commitment to the project, noting that the importance of having formidable partners for project development, planning, execution, and investment support cannot be overemphasised.

“We are pleased to have the support of the Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund for its pioneering role in a transformational project within the LPG value chain, which will undoubtedly accelerate the various energy transition initiatives currently underway at Ardova Plc.

“This support has helped us commence construction of this 20,000 metric tonne LPG storage terminal, which is expected to bring efficiency and reliability of LPG supply to Nigerian consumers as well as create long term value for our shareholders; and for this, we are thankful,” he said.

Mr Adeosun further that, “Beyond the cleaner energy premise, approximately 600 direct jobs will be created during the construction of the project and there is a multiplier effect of about additional 1,400 indirect jobs that will be created during the construction period after which it settles to about 250-300 jobs once the project becomes operational.”

On his part, the CEO of Stanbic IBTC Asset Management, Mr Oladele Sotubo, noted that, “Across the globe, cleaner energy investments have continued to be the focus.”

“Given the environmental sustainability benefits of this project, Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund’s investment philosophy is properly aligned, hence the support for the 20,000 metric tonne LPG storage facility terminal,” he added.

Mr Sotubo applauded Ardova for partnering with Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund and used the opportunity to also commend all the Tranche 1 investors, including institutional investors such as Trustfund Pensions, Veritas Glanvills Pensions, NPF Pensions, Fidelity Pensions, Crusader Sterling Pensions, Agip CPFA, Progress Trust CPFA, AIICO Insurance, and other High Networth Individuals (HNIs), for the confidence reposed in the fund.

He pointed out the impact their investment is making in terms of solving some of Nigeria’s infrastructure bottlenecks, creating jobs while earning returns. “As an organisation, we remain committed to bridging Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit through the provision of investment capital needed to develop projects”, he added”.

The Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Chief Executive highlighted that the Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund remains dedicated to meeting the investment needs of its clients, providing them with the right investment vehicles, opportunities and professional investment services needed to achieve their financial objectives.

He urged institutional investors such as pension fund administrators, insurance companies and asset managers to explore the unique opportunities of the Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund in meeting their long-term financial goals.

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