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FG seeks amendment of $406.8m suit against Shell

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For the second time, the Federal Government, Monday sought for an amendment of a $406.8 million suit it filed against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Limited over alleged crude oil theft at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/336/16, being handled by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, the Federal Government through its lawyer, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), is claiming the sum of $406.8 million from the defendants, representing the shortfall of money paid into its account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The money was said to be for crude oil lifted between 2013 and 2014.

At Monday’s proceedings, FG’s lawyer, Ituah Imhanze, informed the court of an application to amend the plaintiff’s statement of claim.

He urged the court to grant the application to allow the plaintiff tidy up its pleadings.

This application for amendment was not opposed to by the defence.

Justice Olatoregun while granting the application noted that there had been no remarkable progress in the suit since it was filed other than amendments.

She also directed the service of all amended processes on the defence.

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‘IEFX window, CBN’s most important policy in 2017’

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As the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) continues to receive commendation from various quarters for the stability of the naira in recent months, analysts at Financial Derivatives Company Ltd have attributed the positive development to the apex bank’s introduction of the Investors and Exporters’ Forex (IEFX) window, its consistent intervention in the forex market as well as higher oil prices and production.

In a note obtained by New Telegraph last weekend, the analysts also stated that the upward trend in capital importation into the country especially in Q3 2017 was mainly fuelled by the implementation of the IEFX window.
The experts said : “The introduction of the IEFX window in late April 2017 is arguably the most important policy implemented by the CBN in 2017. Prior to the introduction of the IEFX, foreign portfolio investors, particularly those repatriating funds from Nigeria, were concerned about the multiple exchange rates in the country.

There was a huge gap between the official exchange rate and the parallel market exchange rate, plus an opaqueness in the foreign ex-change management system (which caused uncertainty), and the acute scarcity of hard currency.

“Consequently, there was an exodus of foreign capital and little or no new investments into the country. However, foreign portfolio investors returned with the opening of the IEFX. Prior to this, investors were of the view that the naira was overvalued and not at a market-determined level. The IEFX window, higher oil prices and production, and the CBN’s consistent intervention in the forex market are the main drivers of the stability and the convergence of exchange rates in Nigeria today.”

They, however, argued that while the CBN Governor, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) and other top government officials believe that the forex shortage in the country is over and that the naira will continue to gain traction, “ the fragile stability will disappear if there is any significant oil price or production shock or if sentiment moves against emerging market assets.”

According to the analysts such sentiments could include the US Federal Reserve [US Fed] raising interest rates in 2018, and with the 2019 elections coming up, a new spate of attacks on oil infrastructure.
“ In the event of an oil price or production shock, the CBN will have to choose between defending the naira with its reserves and letting the naira float freely,” the analysts stated.

The Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed last October that the foreign exchange inflows into Nigeria through the IEFX Window had reached $10 billion since the window was launched in April 2017.
Also, latest data obtained from the FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange, shows that the window recorded approximately $26billion transactions in 2017.

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OTC products: IOSCO moves to protect investors

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The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) has issued a consultation report proposing policy measures for its members to consider when addressing the risks arising from the offer and sale of OTC leveraged products to retail clients.

The report on Retail OTC Leveraged Products identifies various regulatory approaches aimed at enhancing the protection of retail investors who are offered OTC leveraged products, often on a cross border basis.
The report covers the offer and sale by intermediaries of rolling-spot forex contracts, contracts for differences (CFDs), and binary options. Intermediaries market sells these products to retail investors in most IOSCO member jurisdictions.

According to IOSCO, retail investors use OTC leveraged products to speculate on the short-term price movements in a given financial underlying. The products are traded over the counter, and their pricing, settlement and trading terms are not standardized.

Typically, the products are offered through online trading platforms, and often though aggressive or misleading marketing campaigns. Several studies show that a large majority of retail investors in these complex products lose money.

In its report, IOSCO encourages its members to improve the practices of licensed firms that offer OTC leveraged products, in an effort to better inform investors about the features and risks of these products and to more effectively combat illegal cross-border activity in this area.

The policy measures IOSCO proposed in the report and offers guidance to regulators on how to apply each one include: A licensing requirement for all firms that sell the relevant products to retail investors either domestically or on a cross-border basis; leverage limits or minimum margin requirements; measures to address the risk of investors losing more than their initial investment; measures to enhance the disclosure of costs and charges of the products; measures to improve the disclosure of risks of the products, including profit and loss ratios; other focused requirements to enhance the quality of pricing and order execution; and, measures to restrict the sale, distribution and marketing of the products with a view to addressing mis-selling risk.

This consultation report is part of IOSCO´s ongoing work on retail investor protection. In December 2016, IOSCO published a fact-finding report titled Retail OTC Leveraged Products that describes the main risks, activities and participants in this retail OTC market segment.

The current consultation is part of a wider IOSCO mandate, which will also include policy proposals and guidance regarding investor education material on relevant products and firms, and enforcement approaches and practices to address the risks posed by unlicensed firms operating in this area.

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CPS: Stakeholder hails pension funds’ role in debt mgt

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A former board member of the National Penson Commission (PenCom), Barrister Ivor Takor, has expressed satisfaction over the contributions of pension assets under the Contributory Penson Scheme (CPS) to the nation’s economy.
Takor, who is the Executive Director, Centre For Pension Right Advocacy, in a report, said that the investment of pension funds in federal and state governments’ securities had assisted both tiers of government to cost-effectively manage their national debts, thereby contributing in solving their financial needs.

He said the fund had come in as an independent financial intermediary, as the nation’s private business enterprises no longer rely on the banks as the sole sources of outside capital for the financing of their businesses.
According to him, the fund has therefore provided a domestic source of borrowing, which doesn’t attract excessive high interest rate. The transfer of resources in favour of long-term assets by the fund has significantly impacted on the nation’s GDP growth rate.

He also observed that the creation of the scheme as well as the ancillary bodies to drive the process had enhanced employment in the country.
“PenCom, CPFAs, PFAs, and PFCs employ thousands of graduates of diverse professions, thereby helping to take off the streets able-bodied Nigerians in particular, young graduates who otherwise would have been roaming the streets in search of jobs.

“Pension fund has also impacted positively on other sub-sectors of the financial sector of the economy. As the fund presses for improvements in the architecture of allocative mechanisms, including investment, risk management, better accounting, auditing, brokerage and information disclosure, insurance supervision and management for Group Life Insurance and annuity, new securities and rating agencies have developed.
“The fund has developed Equity market, which has shown to enhance overall economic development,” he noted.

According to the pension expert, the monthly pension payment under the life annuity scheme established under section 7(1) (c) of the Act has averaged N1.7 billion as at March 2017. That figure is much higher now. Moreover, the total premium paid to insurance companies for the Group Life under section 4(5) of the Act was N170.57 billion as at March 2017. This has significantly assisted the growth of the insurance industry.

He, however, lamented that in spite of these notable achievements and the positive impact of the fund on the economy, there have been recent activities, both legislative and administrative, which will undermine the pension reform in Nigeria.

He said: “There are Private Members’ Bills in both chambers of the National Assembly, which have all gone through second readings in both chambers, and public hearing held on them. Of note is the fact that during the public hearings organised by both chambers, critical stakeholders in the in the pension industry, roundly criticised, condemned and rejected the Bills.

“The unfortunate point in the Bills saga is that it points to the fact that the Bills are surreptitiously being sponsored by agencies of the Federal Government, with the sole objective of exempting the Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence from the Contributory Pension Scheme.

“The sponsors of the Bills carry on, with full knowledge that the issue of Police personnel exiting from the Contributory Pension Scheme had since been resolved by the government with the licensing of a Nigerian Police PFA by PenCom and the PFA is doing well. These sponsors are also aware that a Federal Government White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions, and Agencies, accepted the Committee’s recommendation that the practice where certain categories of employees were opting out of the Contributory Pension Scheme should be stopped.

“Administratively, the Federal Government as the sole employer of federal public servants including staff of the Federal Capital Territory has not been adequately funding accrued rights of her employees who were in service before the commencement of the Contributory Pension Scheme, thereby causing these employees not to be paid their retirement benefits as and at when they retire from service.

“Furthermore, there are delays in the payment of premium for the mandatory Group Life insurance, thereby causing delays in the payment of death benefits.
“The government has also not commenced the implementation of the increases in the rates of contributions by employers and employees as provided for in the Pension Reform Act 2014. These increases took effect from 2014 and were meant to enhance the balances in the employees’ Retirement Savings Accounts (RSA).
“The government needs to tackle these drawbacks to the smooth implementation of the CPS.”

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