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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has struck a $741 million deal with Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company to rehabilitate an oil refinery in Kaduna State.

According to Bloomberg, NNPCL signed the maintenance service contract with the South Korean engineering firm at a ceremony held on Thursday.

In a statement issued by the company, it read, “Under the terms of the agreement, Daewoo will restore production at the inoperative 110,000 barrels-a-day facility to at least 60 per cent of its capacity by the end of 2024.

“The deal is part of the NNPCL’s efforts to reduce Nigeria’s near total reliance on imported fuel — long a source of embarrassment for the government of Africa’s largest crude producer.

So This Happened (193) reviews Adeleke’s inauguration as Osun governor, 14-day paternity leave|Punch

“The company has also acquired a 20 per cent stake in a vast 650,000 barrel-a-day complex being built outside Lagos by Africa’s richest person, Aliko Dangote, which after repeated delays may enter production later this year.

“The NNPCL currently imports the entirety of Nigeria’s gasoline requirements — mainly via crude-for-fuel swaps with local and international traders — which it then sells at a steep loss to retailers and wholesalers,” it added.

The government has said that it will remove the costly subsidy in June, even though a new administration will be in the office by then following elections scheduled for later this month.

“The NNPC will finance Daewoo’s “quick-fix” turnaround work at the Kaduna plant — which was commissioned in 1980 — through a mix of its own revenue and third-party financing,” the company said, without identifying any lenders.

The company is already paying Italy’s Maire Tecnimont SpA to rehabilitate two state-owned refineries in the oil hub of Port Harcourt that have a combined capacity of 210,000 barrels a day, mainly funding the project with a $1 billion loan from the Cairo-headquartered African Export–Import Bank.

“Once those facilities and another NNPC plant in the southern city of Warri resume production, the company will hire reputable outside contractors to run them,” it said in the statement.

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The domestic debt owed by state governments and the Federal Capital Territory administration rose to N5.33tn as of the end of December 2022.

The sub-national domestic debt stock was N4.46tn by the end of 2021, which means it rose by N870bn within one year.

The latest figures released by the Debt Management Office indicated that Lagos State recorded the highest domestic debt as of the end of Q4 2022 with N807.21bn; this was followed by Delta State with N304.25bn and Ogun State with N270.45bn.

On the other hand, the lowest debt was recorded by Jigawa State with N43.95bn, followed by Kebbi State and Katsina State with N61.31bn and N62.37bn, respectively.

In the states’ debt profile breakdown, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom and Anambra owed N103.7bn, N124bn, N219.2bn and N77.4bn, respectively, while Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno borrowed N143.6bn, N146.3bn, N141.3bn, N96.1bn respectively.

Other debtor states are Cross-River; N197.2bn, Ebonyi; N76.4bn, Edo; N110.5bn, Ekiti; N117.1, Enugu; N91.8bn, Gombe; N139.3bn, Imo; N204.2bn, Kaduna; N83.3bn, Kano; N122.3bn, Kogi; N93.6bn, Kwara; N109.3bn, Nasarawa; N71.4bn, Niger; 95.5bn, Ondo; N77.1bn, Osun; N148.3bn

Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and FCT had N161.1bn, N149bn, N90.5bn, N87.9bn, N90.7bn, N112.1bn and N81bn respectively.

However, according to the DMO, the domestic debt stock for Rivers State was as of September 30, 2021, and figures for Katsina and Taraba states were as of September 30, 2022.

Reacting in an earlier interview, the Director, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Muda Yusuf, said the rising debt profile of the government raised serious sustainability concerns.

He said, “The government tends to argue that the condition was not a debt problem, but a revenue challenge; the truth is that debt becomes a problem if the revenue base is not strong enough to service the debt sustainably.

“It invariably becomes a debt problem and possibly a debt crisis. The government’s actual revenue can hardly cover the recurrent budget, which implies that the entire capital budget and part of the recurrent expenditure are being funded from borrowing. This is surely not sustainable.”

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Bank workers and customers have lamented the quality of the old naira notes reintroduced into circulation by the Central Bank of Nigeria amidst the gradual disappearance of the new notes.

Saturday PUNCH gathered that bank tellers, who pay cash to customers, and workers in bulk rooms, who collect large cash deposits from depositors, were apprehensive that the dirty and mutilated notes could spread diseases.

A teller at a new generation bank in the Ibafo area of Ogun State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that handling dirty notes was a source of concern to her and her colleagues, especially those in the bulk room.

She stated, “The fear of contracting diseases is real. Following the re-circulation of the old notes, the N1,000, N500 and N200 that we are being supplied to pay to customers are mostly dirty and mouldy. Some of the bundles smell bad and we have returned to wearing nose masks to safeguard our health.

“Last week, two of our colleagues in the bulk room started coughing and the situation degenerated to the extent that the branch manager asked them to stay away from work so that they could be treated. The affected workers complained of being exposed to mouldy and smelling notes, which they had to sort out.

“What we now do is covering our mouths and noses with face masks. We also keep hand sanitizers in strategic locations. The condition of the old notes makes many people sick and even customers are complaining, but they can’t reject the dirty notes because of the naira scarcity of the past three months.”

A trader in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos, Alhaji Sarafadeen Akanbi, who withdrew N500,000 from over the counter on Thursday, complained bitterly when the cash was handed over to him.

He said, “I urgently need the cash and that’s why I came here. I exploited my relationship with the bank employees, starting from the branch manager, as a highly valuable customer to withdraw N500,000. Though the bank limited other customers to N20,000, I was given the privilege of withdrawing that much.

“However, I was shocked when I was paid in dirty, smelling and mutilated notes. I complained to the manager and he said I could fill the deposit slip and my account would be credited with the amount if I felt dissatisfied as that was what was available. When I decided to sort out the money, I didn’t get up to N150,000 worth of manageable notes and I had to return the rest as the people I want to pay will not accept them from me.”

Many bank customers were still unable to make withdrawals in many branches in parts of Lagos and Ogun states on Friday as some of the lenders claimed that the cash supplied them had been exhausted.

At the Ibafo branches of UBA, Access Bank and First Bank, long queues of customers were seen at Automated Teller Machine galleries, while those who wanted to get into the banking halls besieged the gates.

Those who succeeded in making withdrawals lamented that the old notes were dirty and could spread diseases.

A security guard at the UBA branch informed the restless crowd that only those who wanted to make deposits and sort out failed transactions would be allowed in as the cash for over-the-counter withdrawals had been exhausted.

When one of our correspondents managed to gain access into the banking hall, a senior official of the bank said only N2m was made available for over-the-counter payment and that the amount was exhausted before noon.

The official said, “I am tired of the situation as we face serious pressure from customers, who are desperate to make withdrawals. When we opened in the morning, we were paying each customer N10,000 over the counter and through the ATMs, but when we realised that the money would soon get exhausted, we limited what each customer could get to N5,000.

“However, many customers are not having that as they claim that the CBN has allowed them to withdraw up to N500,000 weekly. While this is true, we can only pay out what we get.”

Asked if new notes were being mixed with the old notes, the banker said, “Where are the new notes? I haven’t seen the new notes in almost a month. They are not being supplied and the few ones paid out before the Supreme Court ordered the CBN to re-circulate the old notes are not coming back into the banking system.”

The branch manager of a Tier-1 bank on Victoria Island, Lagos, told Saturday PUNCH, “Customers can withdraw any amount up to the N500,000 limit set by the CBN for individuals and N5m for corporate bodies from our branch and many other branches on the island. A lot of customers from the Mainland have been coming here to make withdrawals.

“We have not received new notes for over two weeks. I don’t think the new notes are being printed currently. The availability of the old notes is dependent on how much each bank was able to return to the CBN before the deadline, as each bank is being given a percentage of the deposits.

“The payment of mutilated notes to some customers is meant to discourage those of them who insist on making withdrawals of huge amounts as that is against the spirit of the cashless transaction. Such notes can only be paid over the counter as they can’t be loaded in ATMs because they jam the machines and cause all sort of problems.”

Several calls to the CBN spokesman, Isa Abdulmumin, on Friday were unanswered as his phone rang out. Messages sent to him on WhatsApp also received no response.

However, Saturday PUNCH gathered that the apex bank had exhausted the new notes printed and had not been able to take delivery of more new notes and was only peppering over the cracks with the re-circulation of the old notes.

Saturday PUNCH had reported in February that the CBN might contract the printing of the redesigned N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to foreign contractors as acute scarcity resulted in violent protests occasioned by vandalism of bank facilities.

Sources had said the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, which is responsible for the printing of the naira, appeared to lack the capacity to meet the demand for the new notes.

To douse the tension created by the scarcity of the notes, the National Council of State had advised the apex bank to print more naira notes or re-circulate the old notes, which it mopped up from circulation, in order to ease the pressure on hapless Nigerians, who had been suffering from the scarcity of the new notes.

‘Embrace digital channels’

Meanwhile, the CBN has urged Nigerians to embrace alternative payment channels such as eNaira, USSD codes and other Internet banking facilities in line with its cashless policy.

The apex bank said the idea became necessary as the country was gradually marching towards the alternative payments policy regime, which is the trend all over the world.

Abdulmumin made the call during the CBN’s Special Day at the ongoing 34th Enugu International Trade Fair in Enugu on Friday, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria.

He added that the country could not afford to be left behind in the global financial ecosystem but rather embrace digital payment channels.

Abdulmumin, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Communication Department, CBN, Mr Imoh Esu, said the apex bank had continued to seek creative ways to ensure that Nigeria took full advantage of opportunities and benefits of digital payment channels.

This, he said, led to the launch of the eNaira in October 2021 aimed at broadening the payment possibilities of Nigerians and fostering digital financial inclusion, with potential for fast-tracking inter-governmental and social transfers.

He stated, “Similarly, the CBN in collaboration with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System, recently launched the National Domestic Card Scheme – the first in Africa.

“This is expected to not only lower operating costs for banks, but reduce the huge foreign exchange costs associated with operating foreign card schemes.”

 On the recent redesign of some denominations of the naira, Abdulmumin reiterated that the policy, which was approved by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was in the overall interest of the country and the economy, in addition to aligning with the international best practices.

According to him, overall, the policy has started strengthening macroeconomic fundamentals, moderating inflation and up-scaling the financial inclusion rate.

“It has also led to relative stability in the exchange rate and supported the efforts of the security agencies in combating banditry and ransom-taking in the country,” he added.

Earlier in his welcome address, the President, Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Mr Jasper Nduagwuike, lauded the various intervention schemes of the CBN in supporting and encouraging the growth of businesses in various sectors of the economy.

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Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace attained another milestone yesterday when it launched nonstop flight services to Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra State in Southwestern India.

Air Peace said it is starting with two weekly flight frequencies to Mumbai with plans to commence Delhi operations as soon as the Mumbai service garners significant momentum.

“This direct, nonstop Mumbai service is a respite to Nigerians and Indians who have to travel for so many hours to India with stopovers via other countries,” the airline said. The Chief Operating Officer, Air Peace, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said: “The Mumbai route is our fourth international destination and is strongly indicative of our unwavering commitment to continually expand our route network to meet the evolving travel needs of not only the Nigerian market but also the West African sub-region.

“On May 31, 2020, Air Peace became the first ever Nigerian airline to operate the first direct flight from Nigeria to Kochi, India, airlifting 312 Indian citizens. In the same year and early 2021, we operated more than six evacuation flights afterwards, showing our strength and familiarisation with the Indian airspace.

“Our Mumbai service is direct- meaning no stopovers. So, you’re saving time, money and avoiding stopover stress. Also, we’re offering a launch fare of 450,000 naira. That’s unbeatable, especially considering that we’re deploying our comfy Boeing 777 aircraft, offering passengers best-in-class hospitality.”

According to her, the airline is strengthening its presence on the Asian continent with the launch of Mumbai service, adding that it is not just a big stride for the airline; but also a huge feat for Nigeria in the implementation of its Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, with India, and deepening socio-economic ties between both countries.

Olajide disclosed: “Passengers can connect from Kano, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Accra, Monrovia and Douala through Lagos to Mumbai, and if you are connecting from any of the aforementioned domestic routes, the fare for the local leg is waived. These are some of the benefits you enjoy on our Mumbai service.

“Discussions are ongoing with some Indian airlines for an interline partnership so that we can connect not just the West but the North, East and South of India to Nigeria and the West African region. Our promise is to consistently provide seamless connections for our esteemed customers across continents.

“Air Peace is only eight years old, but we have done a lot and have more planned in terms of route expansion and fleet modernisation.  As you may know, plans to launch Israel are on top gear as the Israeli government has approved April 20, 2023, as the kick-off date. Also being planned for launch are Jeddah, Malabo, Congo Kinshasa, Lome and we recently introduced Abuja-Banjul and Abuja-Dakar connections.”

The airline said it is investing in modern aircraft, adding that it has 37 aircraft currently and still expecting eight brand new Embraer 195- E2s and additional 15 brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 and 10 orders to boost its operations.

The COO expressed appreciation to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Ministry of Aviation, the Indian government, travel partners, and other stakeholders who contributed to making the Mumbai launch possible, assuring that the airline will work closely with all relevant aviation actors to ensure the new route is maximised.

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