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Okonjo-Iweala Inaugurates Sarah Alade-led NEXIM Board

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The Board of the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) recently reconstituted by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has been inaugurated by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coordinating minister for the Economy (CME) and minister of Finance, with a charge to the Bank to further boost regional trade in West Africa.

Speaking at the Board inauguration in Abuja, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala noted that the Jonathan Administration remains committed to the task of transforming the Nigerian economy and expanding regional trade through the incorporation of the West African economic zone and declared that NEXIM is pivotal to achieving this vision.

According to her, “…NEXIM Bank is a very important part of our finance complex. This a Bank that was set up to support import and export trade within the country. We are happy to say that it’s proven its worth; been performing its functions…but, there are a lot of expectations of this bank. Government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has embarked on a path of transforming the economy and has been trying to work with our private sector to expand trade, particularly regional trade…and NEXIM has so far supported this vision…we can only encourage and support them to keep up their good work…”

The minister reminded the gathering that Nigeria’s economy is 55 per cent of the regional economy which implies that the country’s economic structures have to be well primed and poised to take charge of affairs and pull commensurate weight in the sub region.

The platform for this is for the Government to support the private sector to trade within the region and beyond.

In this regard, she rehashed that NEXIM Bank is critical to Nigeria’s bid to become the powerhouse within the West Africa sub-region and Africa.

 She particularly lauded the initiative of the Roberts Orya-led management, stating that she “…is proud of the Bank because it’s going in to some very innovative areas, like shipping along the coast, entering into partnerships with many institutions, like the African Development Bank, Islamic Bank, etc.

Closing her remarks the minister charged members to stand up to the new challenge as the Federal Government expects them to bring their diverse experience to bear in transforming the bank into an instrument of trade facilitation.

Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama, minister of State for Finance,  who upon the dissolution of the Board in 2011, assumed direct supervision of its affairs, used the occasion to give an account of his stewardship to the new Board and members of the Nigerian public.

He categorically declared that NEXIM Bank has done very well to meet the expectations of its major Shareholders, the Federal Government and the general public.

He attributed this to the professionalism of the Bank’s staff.

According to him, “They have done well and this is something I would say is a credit to the present management and the staff because just in the last two to three years, they have turned the Bank from a loss-making to a profit-making institution… Last year was the third year in a row that the bank was posting profit. Not only did we post profit, we also declared dividends…the first time in the history of the bank. This is a good report card for the present management, and also good news for the incoming Board to know that they have people who can really deliver.”

He assured the new Board that they are coming in to work with a clean balance sheet and that it is time that the Bank was rated, and encouraged the new management to invite Agusto & Co to come and give the Bank a local rating as that will go a long way in as a way to raising funds.

The minister of State went further to declare his satisfaction and pride that the Bank has been taken closer to Nigerians.

“Hitherto, it had remained a city Bank. We have it in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Calabar. But, by and large only those who stay in the city know the existence and do business with the Bank. Congratulating the Roberts Orya-led management, he stated, “I am proud to say that we have about seven agencies in Yenogoa, Akure, Ishiagu, Damaturu, Yola, Gusau and Makurdi. These are the agencies that would ensure that every nook and cranny of Nigeria have customers that do business with the bank…”

Dr. Yerima affirmed that NEXIM now has relationships with international credit institutions which have assisted greatly to broaden the scope of the credit offering; to guarantee credit for both export and import as well as credit insurance.

Specifically, the Bank Shareholders are happy that the Bank has symbiotic agreements with EXIM Bank of India, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and other technical collaborations and budding relations with TurkExim, USEXIM, Export Development Canada (EDC) etc.

The agreement with the Islamic Development Bank has been signed and the product is being offered now to broaden the income base of the Bank.

Based on Mr. President’s recommendation, NEXIM is the foremost DFI in Nigeria to support the creative and entertainment industry in Nigeria.

The Bank is currently arranging a credit facility with the EXIM Bank of India. He stressed that it is important to note that even before that memorandum was signed, NEXIM had already injected more than N850m into that sector.

One of such facilities was a N300million in Kaduna for an amphitheater to help promote Nigerian films to fully empower the practitioners and the value-chain and save the industry, which is adjudged to be the third biggest in the world from piracy.

On the ECOWAS Trade Support Facility, there are two companies that the Bank is discussing with to provide facility to establish a shipping line that would go from city to city along the West African coast’

This is an addition to the facilities being given to transporters to enhance movement of goods across the borders, namely Chad, Cameroun and Benin Republic.

Presently, there are some initiatives in progress namely, the micro-business development to ensure that those people who have small businesses can get facilities to develop them and the issue of capitalization.

 However, the minister said, the Bank has to reappraise its funding structure, and seek out more avenues for raise money or float a bond.

Citing AFREXIM as a best practice, the Minister encouraged NEXIM to further explore the option of raising money from the international market and not solely rely on Shareholders equity contribution.

Ending his remarks, Dr. Yerima promised to work towards ensuring that, going forward, NEXIM Board is exempted from sudden dissolution before the members serve out their tenure, just as other parastatals under his supervision such as the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), among others.

This is for the simple reason that such dissolution breeds instability which is not a good for the Bank’s local and international standing.

 Alhaji Suleiman Barau, brought the message of Dr. Sarah Alade, new Board chairman and the deputy governor, Economic Policy, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with a pledge that the new Board members would do their best to improve the existing fortunes of the Bank, knowing full well that much is expected of them.

He assured the Coordinating Minister that the new Board will leave no stone unturned to ensuring that the expectations of Nigerians and Mr. President are met. He promised that the new Board will work to support the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President and the Vision to emerge as the top 20 economies of the world by the 2020.

 According to him, “NEXIM will definitely play a key role in developing a vibrant economy, vibrant financial system that would help the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President and the vision 2020….The new Board will work to transform NEXIM to become like AFREXIM, US EXIM bank, and seek sustainable sources for funding the operations of the Bank from the market.”

In line with President Jonathan’s affirmative action on 35 per cent on women representation in governance, Dr. Sarah Alade, would be the first woman to serve as Chairman, NEXIM Board of Directors since the inception of the Bank in 1991

Other members of the reconstituted NEXIM Board are Mr. Musa Batari, Director, Trade and Exchange, CBN; Mr. Kalli Zaji, Director, Home Finance, Federal Ministry of Finance; and  Mallam Ajiya Mahia, Director, Trade Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. Also on the Board are Alhaji Mohammed I. Babangida, representing private sector interest; Chief (Barr.) Peter Nwaoboshi, also representing private sector interest; Mr. Roberts U. Orya, Managing Director/CEO, NEXIM; Bashir M. Wali, Executive Director, Corporate Services, NEXIM; and Folake I Oke, Executive Director, Business Development, NEXIM.


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Banks Fingered in $2trn Dirty Money Scam

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Some of the world’s top banks have been found to be complicit in aiding criminals move $2 trillion in dirty money around the world, according to leaked government files.

Banks Fingered in $2trn Dirty Money Scam

The exposition was done by Buzzfeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a group that brings together investigative journalists from around the world, which distributed them to 108 news organisations in 88 countries.

In the revealing documents, they said: “global banks including JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, among others defied money laundering crackdowns by moving staggering sums of illicit cash for shadowy characters and criminal networks that have spread chaos and undermined democracy around the world.”

It was also revealed that they kept profiting from these powerful and dangerous players even after the United States authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money.

FinCEN is the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. These are the people at the US Treasury who combat financial crime. Concerns about transactions made in US dollars need to be sent to FinCEN, even if they took place outside the US.

Known as the FinCEN files, these are more than 2,600 documents which banks sent to the US authorities between 2000 and 2017 which help show that these banks raise concerns about what their clients might be doing.

They have also been regarded as some of the international banking system’s most closely guarded secrets.

Some of what has been found so far showed that JPMorgan, the largest bank based in the United States, moved money for people and companies tied to the massive looting of public funds in Malaysia, Venezuela and Ukraine, the leaked documents reveal.

The bank moved more than $1 billion for the fugitive financier behind Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, the records show, and more than $2 million for a young energy mogul’s company that has been accused of cheating Venezuela’s government and helping cause electrical blackouts that crippled large parts of the country.

JPMorgan also processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

It was also revealed that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates used Barclays bank in London to avoid sanctions which were meant to stop him from using financial services in the West. Some of the cash was used to buy works of art.

HSBC allowed fraudsters to transfer millions of dollars around the world even after it had learned of their scam, leaked secret files show.

Britain’s biggest bank moved the money through its US business to HSBC accounts in Hong Kong in 2013 and 2014.

The United Arab Emirates’ central bank failed to act on warnings about a local firm which was helping Iran evade sanctions.

Deutsche Bank moved money launderers’ dirty money for organised crime, terrorists and drug traffickers.

Standard Chartered moved cash for Arab Bank for more than a decade after clients’ accounts at the Jordanian bank had been used in funding terrorism.

The FinCEN Files represent less than 0.02 per cent of the more than 12 million suspicious activity reports that financial institutions filed with FinCEN between 2011 and 2017.

Mr Fergus Shiel from ICIJ said the leaked files were an “insight into what banks know about the vast flows of dirty money across the globe”. He said the documents also highlighted the extraordinarily large amounts of money involved.


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SEC Boosts Investor Protection with Digital Assets

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has explained that its Digital Assets and their Classification and Treatment is aimed at boosting investors’ protection in the capital market.

Emomotimi Agama, Head, Registration, Exchanges, Market Infrastructure and Innovation of the SEC speaking on the guidelines in an interview said: “The first thing the SEC bothers about is investor protection.

“This is no different from what we have been doing. We are looking at investor protection, integrity, transparency and of course we want to make sure that the market is safe and everyone is comfortable with what is going on in the investment climate”.

Agama noted that last year the Commission launched the Fintech Road map and after that was done, it went ahead to set up the block chain virtual financial assets committee.

“These committees are both market wide and principally done to engage the market, to be able to have discussions with the market and get their buy-in into what we are doing.

“What we found out today is that a lot of persons, youths are all involved in this space and it is important that even as far as that is the case, the SEC lives up to the expectations  and making sure that those people that are getting into the business are protected

“Clearly, that is our aim and the market is part of this and indeed the feedback has been wonderful. People are happy with what we are doing, being able to provide some clarity as to where we stand in terms of digital assets regulation.

“Digital assets is the next thing, our idea is not to stifle innovation, but to promote innovation within a reasonable space and that is exactly what we are doing. Section 13 of the ISA empowers us to do this and so we are doing what we have been empowered to do by law,” he said.

On what internal capacities the SEC is developing to meet the challenges of this fast changing digital financial world, Agama said “the SEC is a knowledge based institution and before we come out of this kind of initiatives, we would have done so much research.

“I need to tell you that the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has been partnering with the SEC and up to this point, we have been engaging with them and several of our staff have been part of their programmes.

“The World Bank and other institutions are also working with us on Fintech to see that the Nigerian landscape is not left barren but guided with basic principles, we will not leave any stone unturned, but ensure that everyone within the SEC that has the responsibility to guiding investors and the populace in making sure we have an investment environment that people will be proud of is provided.

“Capacity building is a continuous exercise, we will continue to upgrade ourselves, we will continue to learn because knowledge is for life”.


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Rising Covid-19 Cases Keep Risk Assets Under Pressure

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By Hussein Sayed, Chief Market Strategist at FXTM

Equity markets kicked off Monday on the back foot following three weeks of consecutive declines in US stocks, which marked the longest weekly losing streak since 2019. Investors are becoming increasingly worried about the momentum in the economic recovery given the resurgent numbers of global Covid-19 cases and lack of progress on a new US stimulus package.

Although President Trump signaled his readiness to back a bigger stimulus bill last week, the Supreme Court’s empty seat left by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to complicate the matter. The fight between the President and Congressional Democrats on whether to fill the vacant seat now or wait until after the election is expected to lead to more delays in reaching a middle ground on a new fiscal package. Hence, we would expect that the much-needed stimulus will be pushed back until after the US elections.

Given that the list of uncertainties is growing, especially on the pandemic front, risk is now skewed to the downside. We have US elections just around the corner, hefty valuations in growth sectors despite the recent correction and the high stakes of possible national lockdowns in the UK and elsewhere all pointing to waning momentum in the economic recovery. All these factors indicate more volatile times for the next several weeks.

Datawise, investors need to keep a close eye on September’s flash PMIs coming out of Germany, France and the UK this week for further indications on how the big European economies are faring following the strong rebound in early Q3. Signs of weakness here will be a strong signal that the economic recovery is indeed losing its way and further action is needed from fiscal and monetary policymakers.

Currency markets are not yet reflecting the risk aversion seen in equities. The Dollar is trading slightly lower against its major peers, with the DXY -0.15% at the time of writing. The Fed is clearly the winner among other central banks in providing the most accommodative monetary policy, which means the long-term projections for the Dollar remain to the downside. However, if the selloff in US equities accelerates this week, expect the greenback to regain some support.

In commodity markets, Brent fell by 1% after trading slightly higher in early Asian trade. The battle between the bulls and bears is keeping prices rangebound between $40 and $45. At this stage, the demand outlook is far more important than the supply side. That’s why oil traders need to keep a close eye on the trajectory of the virus, especially if it’s going to lead to renewed lockdowns. Gold is also another commodity stuck in a narrow range as traders await new clues on the Fed’s policy approach towards inflation.  This could happen later this week as Chairman Jerome Powell may provide new hints when he appears before the Congress on Tuesday.

 


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