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Nigeria Joins African Continental Free Trade Area

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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.

‘‘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’ ”.

‘‘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.

Business News

CBN Unveils Strategy to Boost Remittances, Grants AIP To 14 New IMTOs

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has activated plans to double foreign-currency remittance flows through formal channels by granting 14 new International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) Approval-in-Principle (AIP).

This was disclosed in Abuja on Wednesday, by the Bank’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Mrs.

Hakama Sidi Ali, who stated that the initiative will help increase the sustained supply of foreign exchange in the official market by promoting greater competition and innovation amongst IMTOs to lower the cost of remittance transactions and boost financial inclusion.
 

She said, “This will spur liquidity in Nigeria’s Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEX), augmenting price discovery to enable a market-driven fair value for the naira.

“It will be recalled that the CBN Governor, Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, had recently declared: “We’ve set ourselves a target to double remittance flows into Nigeria within a year, a goal I firmly believe is within reach. 

“We are wasting no time driving progress to remove any bottlenecks hindering flows through formal channels permanently. We have a determined pathway and a sequenced approach to tackling all challenges ahead, working hand in hand with key stakeholders in the remittance industry,” she stated.

Continuing, Sidi Ali, said that the CBN viewed increasing formal remittance flows—one of the major sources of foreign exchange, accounting for over 6% of GDP—as a means of reducing the historical volatility in Nigeria’s exchange rate caused by external factors, such as fluctuations in foreign investment and oil export proceeds.

The increase in the number of IMTOs is one of the primary actions initiated by the CBN’s remittance task force, overseen by Governor Cardoso as a collaborative unit pulling together specialists to work closely with the private sector and market operators to facilitate the ease of doing business in the remittance ecosystem in Nigeria. 

The task force was established as a direct result of an executive learning session with IMTOs during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings held in Washington DC, United States of America, in April 2024. The task force will meet regularly to implement strategy and monitor the impact of its measures on remittance inflows.

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Economy

FG Vows To Ensure Continuous Flow of Tax Revenue – Madein

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Federal government is committed a tax culture that will ensure the continuous flow of revenues into government coffers, the Accountant General of the Federation, Dr Oluwatoyin Madein has said.

Madein stated this at the 26th Annual Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) in Abuja, with the theme: “Sustainable Tax Culture and Economic Roadmap for Nation Building”.

Madein said, “Like the CITN, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation is committed to a sustainable tax culture that will ensure the continuous flow of revenues even at an improved level.

“Tax revenue as at today is the highest source of revenue accruing to the federation.

Therefore at the Federation Account Allocation Committee meetings we eagerly await the numbers coming from the FIRS because the performance keeps on increasing and brings succour to all tiers of government.”

She charged tax practitioners to work harder in getting more revenue from taxes, stressing that tax revenue is currently the highest income source for the federation.

The government noted that based on the current high revenue from taxes, members of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee were always looking forward to the figures from the Federal Inland Revenue Service every month, in order to have funds to share to the three tiers of government.

“Tax revenue as at today is the highest source of revenue accruing to the federation. Therefore at the Federation Account Allocation Committee meetings we eagerly await the numbers coming from the FIRS because the performance keeps on increasing and brings succour to all tiers of government”, she added. 

FIRS exceeded its 2023 revenue target by N816bn, as its total actual revenue collection for last year stood at N12.37tn, outperforming the N11.56tn target.

This is contained in a presentation by Amina Ado, Coordinating Director of Special Tax Operations Group at the FIRS.

The accountant-general tasked tax practitioners to step up efforts in collecting taxes, so as to shore up more revenue for the government to provide infrastructure and other amenities.

Madein said, “Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to building a better future for all. Together we can harness the transformative power of taxation to create a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.

“Like I said earlier, at FAAC we eagerly look forward to tax numbers because at the moment revenue from non-oil has been a great revenue source to the federation.

“Therefore, to tax practitioners, you are doing so well, but we need more of this to be able to deliver on all the areas that the citizens are looking forward to, because for even infrastructure development, it is only through funds that we can get it done.”

She further stated that it was her strong belief that “the conference will go a long way to deepen the collaboration between our organisations in building capacity for all the professionals, experts and tax payers for better understanding of the tax laws, rules and regulations.”

In his remarks, the President/Chairman of Council, CITN, Samuel Agbeluyi, pointed out that the withdrawal of subsidies on fuel and electricity had reduced the purchasing power of the masses.

He noted that raising electricity tariff for a selected band after fuel subsidy was withdrawn “is going to reduce the purchasing power of the masses. So we urge govt to consider these actions on the masses.

He, however, stated that the institute was happy to know that President Bola Tinubu had asked the Central Bank of Nigeria to slow down on the recent cybersecurity levy that was approved by the apex bank.

“We will continue to advise the govt on its policies, considering how these polices affect the citizens,” Agbeluyi stated.

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Economy

Access Holdings Awards Shares Worth N427.13m to 8 Senior Executives

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Access Holdings Plc has awarded 23.8 million ordinary shares worth N427.13 million to its senior executives and those of its subsidiary, Access Bank.

This was disclosed in a notice sent to the Nigerian Exchange Ltd.(NGX) in Lagos.

The notification was sent in line with the disclosure requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the NGX.

It is also in pursuant of the terms of its shareholders’ approved Employees Performance Share Plan.

The group said that Ms Bolaji Agbede, Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, Access Holdings, Mr Roosevelt Ogbonna, Managing Director/CEO, Access Bank, and six others were vested with 23,883,790 shares worth N427.

13 million in total.

According to the filings, Ogbonna got the highest amount of shares, totalling 12,345,679 and valued at N220.37 million, having been traded at N17.85 per share.

Agbede was vested with 2,216,992 shares, valued at N39.795 million.

Other directors who had shares vested on them include: Mr Seyi Kumapayi, Executive Director, African Subsidiaries, Access Bank, with 1,234,568 shares worth N22.16 million.

Ms Iyabo Soji-Okusanya, Executive Director, Commercial and Investment Banking Division, Access Bank, got 1,691,308 shares at N17.95 per share, valued at N30.36 million.

Mrs Chizoma Okoli, Access Bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Retail South, also got 1,728,395 shares valued at N30.85 million.

Dr Gregory Jobome, Executive Director, Risk Management, and Hadiza Ambursa, Executive Director, Commercial Banking, were vested with 1,728,395 shares each,valued at N30.85 million and N31.02 million respectively.

Also, Access Holdings’ Company Secretary, Mr Sunday Ekwochi, was vested with 1,210,058 shares worth N21.72 milion.

The group stated that the shares were vested on May 3 and May 6.

It noted that the vesting of the shares was not a purchase or sale transaction in the context of the Exchange’s rules.(NAN)

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