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Buhari’s Men Join Chorus, Criticise PMB for Economic Hardship

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Fund managers first expressed their concerns over President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of Nigeria’s economic crisis by taking billions of dollars of funds from its markets.

Then, multinationals and local industry captains began voicing unease with his government’s policies.

Now Buhari’s senior officials and allies are joining the chorus of criticism, complaining of “paralysis” and a lack of urgency under his leadership in tackling the economic malaise.

 Even his wife, Aisha, has spoken up, saying that if things carry on as they are, she will not campaign for his re-election in 2019.

“The whimper is becoming a din — externally and [within government],” said one government minister.

“Naturally we should be quiet, because it’s our government and we want our president to succeed. But a sense of lack of urgency is getting in the way.”

The growing murmurs of discontent highlight the depth of the crisis in Nigeria, which is enduring its first recession since 1991, amid complaints that Buhari is exacerbating the situation rather than leading a revival.

n a speech this month, Mr Buhari acknowledged “how difficult things are” for Nigerians. He insisted he remained “resolutely committed” to good government, and to stopping “the stealing of Nigeria’s resources”.

But the first lady told the BBC that her husband “does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed”.

“I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” Mrs Buhari said. “If things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again.”

The president sought to laugh off his wife’s comments.

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” Mr Buhari said.

The fall in oil prices triggered the economic crisis in a nation that depends on petrodollars for 70 per cent of state revenues and 90 per cent of export earnings, and the slump in commodity prices has hit economies across Africa.

But in Nigeria, there are complaints that Mr Buhari has undermined his economic management team and created policy inconsistencies and sent conflicting signals to markets and the public.

As a result, the few major decisions that have been taken, such as the removal of fuel subsidies and relaxing the currency’s peg, have come months too late, officials say.

The former military ruler’s election last year spawned huge expectations in Africa’s top oil producer.

It was the first time an opposition candidate had unseated an incumbent at the ballot box and Mr Buhari, 73, pledged to crack down on rampant corruption and overhaul an inefficient state system.

But a senior presidential aide said optimism had given way to “paralysis”. “Where is the energy? Everyone is waiting for bold decisions,” said the aide.

Capital inflows dropped by 75 per cent in the second quarter, reflecting the negative sentiment of investors who say they cannot bring hard currency to the country because the foreign exchange market is not transparent.

When the central bank did ease the currency’s peg to the dollar in June, causing the naira to fall by 30 per cent, Mr Buhari said he was not convinced a devaluation would help the economy.

This was viewed by investors and bankers as a sign of interference in monetary policy, and added to perceptions that members of the president’s inner circle are giving instructions to the central bank governor Godwin Emefiele to prop up the naira at all costs.

“The governor is independent, so we are told,” said the minister. “The extent to which he is — and where he is taking his instructions from — remains to be seen.”

He said investor confidence would not be restored unless Mr Emefiele was replaced. “We need a shock therapy. The market needs to see some heads roll,” the minister said.

Other top officials, including Kemi Adeosun, finance minister, have complained that the central bank’s refusal to bring down the main interest rate from 14 per cent is choking the economy.

Audu Ogbeh, agriculture minister, said that high borrowing rates had made it impossible for farmers and agribusinesses to scale up production of rice, sugar, milk and other goods imported in huge quantities.

“We’re in trouble because we can’t produce and we can’t import,” he said. “The timing of policy and implementation has to be better organised.”

The presidential aide did cite military gains made against Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group, as a positive.

But he acknowledged that Buhari’s promise of “quick win” reforms, such as an overhaul of the notoriously corrupt state-owned oil company, have yet to happen.

“The key question is whether the president realises this and does the right thing by empowering the economic management team,” said the aide. If not, he said, “we will limp along from crisis to crisis”.


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Microsoft Moves into 5G Race with Azure Cloud for Telecom Operators

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Microsoft Corp unveiled a new cloud platform on Monday aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.

After banning China’s Huawei from its telecom network, the U.S. government has been pushing big American companies such as Microsoft to get more involved with 5G – a technology which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing.

The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30%-40% in some cases.

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the 5G arena after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon VZ.N and AT&T T.N to network equipment firms such as Samsung 005930.KS and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for existing 5G service vendors like Nokia NOKIA.HE and Ericsson ERICb.ST, said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.


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Interior Ministry Boosts Digitization Process with New ICT Projects

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Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, over the weekend commissioned the e-Library, e-Law Library, CCTV Surveillance network services and other projects in his office in Abuja to digitize work processes and procedures in the Ministry.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said that the projects were part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at repositioning the Ministry for better performance in line with its mandate of providing internal security and citizenship integrity for Nigerians and foreigners alike.

According to him, the e-Library will avail officers the opportunity to access the right information, in the right form and time.

“The e-Library gives our legal and other officers 24/7 access to a wide range of online resources, which can be updated in real time and we believe this will enhance the quality of their work to the benefit of the Ministry”, he said.

The Minister further assured of government’s commitment to putting in place measures that will boost staff capacity and also ensure self-development, with a view to ensuring proper implementation of projects, policies and programmes that will improve the lives of Nigerians which would lead to economic transformation in line with the present Administration’s policy thrust.

Aregbesola emphasized that crime and criminality has become complex to handle, the world over, hence the need to deploy modern technology to fight it.

He therefore called on staff to see the projects as morale booster for self-development and urged them to continue to support the efforts of government towards improving the lives of its citizens.

Earlier, Lanre Adesuyi, the Chief Executive Officer, Havillah Merchants Limited, thanked the Minister for giving them the opportunity to provide workers with state of the art equipment for efficient service delivery.

On his own part, Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, the Managing Director, Aliph Technologies, called on government at all levels to see the deployment of modern technology as one of the best ways to tackle security challenges in the contemporary world.


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Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte Canvass Use of Tech to Tackle Fraud & Rescind Effects of Covid-19

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Ifie Sekibo, managing director/CEO of Heritage Bank, speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.


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