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Nigeria Joins African Continental Free Trade Area



By Martin Paul, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has formally signed the agreement for Nigeria to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Niamey at the opening of the African Union (AU) Summit.

President Buhari appended his signature to the treaty at exactly 10: 47 am. in the presence of African Heads of State and Government, delegates and representatives from the private sector, civil society and the media attending the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on Launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.

A statement by President Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesibn, said Buhari in his remarks, declared that Nigeria’s commitment to trade and African integration had never been in doubt nor was it ever under threat.

He told the Summit that Nigeria will build on the event by proceeding expeditiously with the ratification of the AfCFTA.

‘‘Nigeria wishes to emphasize that free trade must also be fair trade.

‘‘As African leaders, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that develops our economies and creates jobs for our young, dynamic and hardworking population.

‘‘I wish to assure you, that Nigeria shall sustain its strong leadership
role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA. We shall also continue to engage, constructively with all African countries to build the Africa that we want.

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‘‘I have just had the honour of signing the agreement establishing the
African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), on behalf of my country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘‘This is coming over a year since the AfCFTA Agreement was opened for signature in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the
African Union, on 21st March 2018.

‘‘In fact, you will recall that the treaty establishing the African
Economic Community was signed in Abuja in 1991.

‘‘We fully understand the potential of the AfCFTA to transform trade in
Africa and contribute towards solving some of the continent’s challenges, whether security, economic or corruption.

‘‘But it is also clear to us that for AfCFTA to succeed, we need the full
support and buy-in of our private sector and civil society stakeholders and the public in general.

‘‘It is against this background that we embarked on an extensive nationwide
consultation and sensitization programme of our domestic stakeholders on the AfCFTA.

‘‘Our consultations and assessments reaffirmed that the AfCFTA can be a
platform for African manufacturers of goods and providers of service to
construct regional value chains for made in Africa goods and services.

‘‘It was also obvious that we have a lot of work to do to prepare our
nation to achieve our vision for intra-African trade which is the free
movement of ‘made in Africa goods’ ”.

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‘‘Some of the critical challenges that we identified will require our
collective action as a Union and we will be presenting them for
consideration at the appropriate AfCFTA fora.

‘‘Examples are tackling injurious trade practices by third parties and attracting the investment we need to grow local manufacturing and service capacities’’, ,’’ President Buhari said.

He noted that Nigeria’s signing of the AfCFTA and its Operational Launch at the 12th Extraordinary Summit was an additional major step forward on the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Meanwhile, with Nigeria and Benin Republic signing the Agreement at the Summit, 54 out of 55 African countries have signed the world’s largest free trade area deal, encompassing 55 countries and 1.2 billion people.

Eritrea is the only African country yet to sign the agreement.

A total of 26 African countries have deposited instruments of ratification, with Gabon being the latest after depositing her instrument of ratification during the Extraordinary Summit.

The AfCFTA Agreement entered into force on May 30, 2019 thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29 April, 2019 in conformity with legal provision.


Banks’ll Accept Old Naira Notes after Deadline – Emefiele




By Ubong Ukpong & Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, yesterday disclosed that commercial banks will continue to accept the old Naira notes even after the expiration of the February 10 deadline, even as the apex bank said the old currency would cease to be legal tender after February 10.

Emefiele disclosed this yesterday while appearing before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee looking into the implementation of the policy.

The CBN governor said he agreed with section 20(3) of the CBN Act, which provides that commercial banks must accept old notes after a deadline.

Section 20 (3) of the Act says: “Notwithstanding Sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section, the Bank shall have power, if directed to do so by the President and after giving reasonable notice in that behalf, to call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof and any note or coin with respect to which a notice has been given under this Sub-section, shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but, subject to section 22 of this Act, shall be redeemed by the Bank upon demand.

Mr Emefiele said commercial banks must accept the money even after the 10 February deadline.

Although Emefiele had on Sunday announced 17 February as the “grace period” for Nigerians to deposit the money, the lawmakers were insisting that it must be months, not days.

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In his speech, Mr Emefiele said “the law which says even after the old currency has lost its legal tender status that we are mandated to collect these money. And I stand with the House of Reps on this. What does that mean? It could have lost its legal tender status which means we have moved on.

“But if you have your money that you have not been able to send to the bank, we will certainly give you the opportunity to bring them back into the CBN to redeem it. Either you pay it to your bank account or you want to do an exchange—we will give you. You will not lose your money. This is the assurance I give to Nigerians.”

Emefiele, who was supposed to appear before the Committee last week, failed to do stating he was out of the country with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The House had threatened to invoke the provisions of section 89(1)(d) of the Constitution by issuing a warrant of arrest today to compel him to appear.

The CBN Governor, who appeared with some of his assistants, went into a brief Executive session with members of the committee.

Nigerians Can Only Redeem Face Value of Old Currency at CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has clarified its position on the legal tender status of the old series of the N1,000, N500, and N200 banknotes after the February 10, 2023, deadline for depositing the affected banknotes.

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Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, the Director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, explained that the old notes would cease to be legal tender after February 10, 2023, and can no longer be used for any form of transaction afterwards.

However, he stated that in line with the provision of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, Nigerians would have the opportunity to redeem the face value of the Naira only at the Central Bank, after the currency had lost its legal tender status, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Reiterating the pledge of the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, at the meeting with the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee yesterday, Nwanisobi said Nigerians would not lose their money, even as he urged citizens to take advantage of the extended deadline of February 10, 2023 to deposit the old banknotes currently in their possession at their banks or through mobile money agents.

Citing instances in other climes, Nwanisobi explained that banknotes that cease to be legal tender are only redeemable by the monetary authorities of such jurisdictions upon demand subject to conditions /processes as may be prescribed by that Central Bank.

Nwanisobi also used the opportunity to encourage Nigerians to adopt other payment channels for their transactions, saying that Nigeria’s payment system is robust enough and ranks amongst the first in the world.

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Reps Approve Buhari’s N1trn Loan Request, Defer Decision on N22.7trn

The House of Representatives has approved the request by President Muhammadu Buhari to secure an additional N1 trillion loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The loan will be used to fund the 2022 supplementary budget.

The lawmakers approved the request yesterday following the consideration and adoption of the committees on finance, banking and currency, and aids, loans and debts management.

The house, however, deferred the request to securitise the N22.7 trillion ways and means loans, pending “further engagement with the executive by the joint committee to allow for a thorough and detailed work and submissions”.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the N22.7 trillion request would be considered after the lawmakers resume from recess.

In 2022, the president had written to the national assembly, seeking approval for the ways and means advances.

“The ways and means advances by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit,” Buhari had said in the letter.

 “The ways and means balances as at 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion.”

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Nigeria’s Public Debt Stock Hits N44.06trn in Q3 2022 – NBS




Nigeria’s public debt stock increased from N42.84 trillion (103.31 billion dollars) in the second quarter of 2022 to N44.06 trillion (101.91 billion dollars) in the third quarter of 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said this yesterday in its Nigerian Domestic and Foreign Debt Report for Q3 2022 released in Abuja.

The report said Nigeria’s public debt stock which includes external and domestic debt, grew by 2.

84 per cent in Q3 of 2022.

It said the External debt stood at N17.14 trillion (39.66 billion dollars) in Q3 2022, while domestic debt was N26.91 trillion (62.25 billion dollars).

“However, the share of external debt to total public debt stood at 38.92 per cent in Q3 2022, while recorded domestic debt at 61.08 per cent.”

In addition, the report showed that the Federal Government’s share of domestic debt was 80.

07 per cent in Q3 of 2022.

In a breakdown by states, the bureau said Lagos State recorded the highest domestic debt of N877.03 billion in the third quarter of 2022.

Delta followed it with N272.61 billion and Ogun with N241.78 billion.

The report showed Jigawa recorded the lowest debt at N44.40 billion, followed by Kebbi and Katsina at N60.13 billion and N62.37 billion.

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Nigeria Attains 100% Broadband Penetration—Buhari




President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said that the Federal Government had achieved 100 per cent broadband penetration across Nigeria.

The president said this in Abuja at a Digital Economy Conference tagged ‘Promoting a Vibrant Digital Economy, A Catalyst for Economic Growth in Nigeria’.

Newsmen report that the conference was organised by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

Represented by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isah Patami, the president said the figure was contrary to reports that the country had achieved 43 per cent penetration only.

According to him, reports on 43 per cent penetration is obsolete.

“One of the richest persons in the world announced that Nigeria out of the 54 African countries has outstanding broadband.

“As I speak to you today, the broadband penetration in Nigeria is 100 per cent,” Buhari said.

He said that the Federal Government performed excellently in terms of achieving wider broadband for Nigerians.

According to him, from 23 per cent coverage in 2019, this administration increased the broadband by 77 per cent in 2022 and 100 per cent in 2023.

“As at today, the broadband can be accessed everywhere in the country  whether in the urban area, rural area or desert.

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“We are the first African country to attain this and the only one so far,” the president said.

Buhari said the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy had been rated very high by an independent assessment.

He said, “70 per cent is distinction and the digital sector has surpassed it.

“We delivered excellently in all the eight priority areas in the sector.

“For instance on pillar number one, which is broadband penetration, we achieved 134 per cent,  pillar number two, which is 4G penetration we achieved 127 per cent.

“Furthermore, we delivered 99 per cent on the third pillar, the fourth pillar, which  has to do with national Identity we achieved 94 per cent.

“On the fifth pillar which is quarterly revenue generation, we moved from generating N51 billion in three months to N408 billion in three months.”

According to him, on the sixth pillar we achieved 103 per cent result, seventh pillar we achieved 111 per cent and the eight pillar we achieved 137 per cent.

On call by the President of NACCIMA for inclusion of the organised private sector in the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the president said the provision had been made.

He asked NACCIMA to forward the names of their representatives for consideration.

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Mr Ide Udeagbala, the National President of NACCIMA, said the conference was to among other things promote the technology ecosystem in Nigeria and establish potential of the digital economy for job creation.

He also said the conference was organised to identify the opportunities that existed in the technology industry and grow them by attracting local and foreign investments to Nigeria.

Udeagbala further said the conference would help identify challenges impeding development of the technology industry and encourage government to enunciate policies that would build on existing laws among others.

He said part of the discussions at the conference would also centre around establishing digital hubs in the six geo-political zones.

This, according to him will give opportunities to the rural areas, promote start-ups and encourage innovations in the industry while discovering technology savvy experts.

“The top five biggest technology companies in the world are managed and run by Indians.

“Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is Satya Nadella, an Indian; Google CEO is Sundar Pichai, an Indian; Twitter CEO is Parag Agrawal, an Indian.

“Also, IBM CEO is Arvind Krishna, an Indian; and then Adobe CEO is Shantanu Narayen, also an Indian.

“This is besides the fact that Indian technology sector works with over 75 per cent of the fortune of 500 companies, with most of them having their Headquarters in the U.S.

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“The question begging for answers is what stops Nigerian youths who distinguish themselves academically in every institution of the world from attaining this,“ he said.

Udeagbala said it was time to move away from the narrative where some Nigerian youths were using technology for fraudulent activities commonly called ‘yahoo-yahoo’.

He called for the inclusion of the organised private sector in the  National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo commended NACCIMA for organising the conference.

The minister, who was represented by the Director of Trade in the ministry, Mr Sulaiman Audu, said the ministry would collaborate with NACCIMA to explore the potential of digital economy.

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Pauline Tallen said there was the need to improve women and people living with disabilities in the digital economy.

She said the ministry would be willing to collaborate with actors in the digital world to mainstream women and other challenged persons in the society.

Newsmen report that the event was attended by foreign nationals,  captains of industry and other stakeholders.(NAN)

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