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SMEDAN begins disbursement of N5bn loans to SMEs

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The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) says small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have started accessing the N5 billion single-digit interest rate loan it secured from Sterling Bank.

However, SMEDAN said some SMEs are facing hurdles in meeting the bank’s eligibility criteria, and support is being offered to help overcome these challenges.

According to Charles Odii, director-general of SMEDAN on Tuesday, he met Abubakar Suleiman, Sterling Bank’s managing director, on Monday to address the issues.

Odii said the bank attributed the difficulties to issues with formalisation and other factors affecting eligibility.

“Yesterday, I met with Sterling Bank MD/CEO, and other officials to discuss the SMEDAN-Sterling loan program, which offers ₦5 billion to small businesses at a single-digit interest rate to increase access to finance,” he posted on X.

“While disbursements have been made and are ongoing, I raised concerns we received about the application process and difficulties some have faced in reaching the disbursement stage.

“The bank explained issues with formalization and other factors that prevented some businesses from meeting their eligibility criteria.

“We agreed on an action plan to address this, including continuous updates to the digital platform for a seamless experience, support for applicants who failed the eligibility test to address the responsible factors, and providing clear answers to applicants’ questions online or at bank branches.

“Our shared goal remains to support small businesses and ensure the loan opportunity is fully maximised for business growth.”

Odii said the agency will contact successful applicants to monitor their progress and offer tailored support to ensure the opportunity is fully leveraged.

On November 22, SMEDAN signed an agreement with Sterling Bank to provide N5 billion loan facility to small businesses across the country.

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NAMA calls for reversal of 50% revenue deduction, says it ‘hinders infrastructure upgrade’

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The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has called for a reversal of the 50 percent deduction in its revenue.

NAMA said it is currently facing significant financial constraints due to the deduction.

In a statement on May 29, Farouk Umar, managing director of NAMA, said the 50 percent revenue deduction was hindering the agency’s ability to maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure.

Umar also said the deduction is detrimental to airspace safety, adding that it was ‘unsustainable’.

He said the model had severely impacted its revenue, cutting it by more than half at a time the need for infrastructural and personnel development was on the rise.

“The safety of our airspace is paramount, and the current financial model is unsustainable,” Umar said.

“The 50 percent revenue deduction hinders our ability to maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure, such as our obsolete surveillance systems, which are over a decade old and urgently need replacement.

“Without adequate funding, we can not meet the high costs of procuring and maintaining essential equipment or ensuring the continuous training of our technical staff, which is vital for maintaining safety standards.

“It is crucial to understand that NAMA operates on the principle of cost recovery, as recommended by ICAO.

“This means all charges are solely meant to be for the recovery of equipment and other costs incurred in service provision.

“The current revenue-sharing formula allocates only 22 percent of the 5 percent airfare, contract, charter, and cargo sales charges to NAMA, despite our significant capital investment needs.

“Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) with less responsibilities as it stands currently is allocated 56 percent while the NAMA, with all its responsibilities, gets 22 percent.

“This formula is skewed against NAMA in spite of the huge capital requirement of its investment, jeopardising our ability to meet both national and international obligations. Restoring the full revenue allocation to NAMA is quite essential.”

Umar further said if the revenue allocation is reviewed, it would go a long way to enable the agency to address the critical infrastructure needs, enhance operational efficiency, and ensure the continuous training of NAMA’s safety-critical personnel.

“With adequate funding, we can fulfil our mandate to provide safe and reliable air navigation services across Nigeria’s airspace,” he said.

“By reversing the 50 percent revenue deduction, we can significantly enhance air safety, ensuring that Nigeria’s skies remain safe and maintain high safety standards.

“At this juncture, I find it expedient to remind our political leaders that the entire aviation system is about safety as it remains sacrosanct owing to the fact that there is no parking space in the sky.

“Safety procedures and protocols must be prepared and strictly adhered to while on the ground.”

Umar also urged all stakeholders to support this change for the future of Nigeria’s aviation sector and the safety of the flying public.

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Exchange rate for customs duty collection drops by 10.3% in 2days, lowest in May

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The exchange rate for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) import duty collection has dropped by 10.34% in just two days from N1480/$ to N1,327.5/$.

This represents a decline of N153.1 since May 27th, 2024, when the exchange rate for the service stood at N1,480/$.

Furthermore, the current exchange rate for the customs service is the lowest recorded in the month of May so far, as the naira lost steam after becoming the best-performing currency in the world in April.

The decline in the customs duties exchange rate mirrors the significant appreciation of the naira in the official market. On Monday, the naira gained about 10.71% increasing from about N1,480 which it closed the last week to N1,339/$.

The strengthening of the Naira this week follows further aggressive monetary policy tightening by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week.

The apex bank increased the benchmark interest rate by another 150 basis points to 26.25% during its last MPC meeting on Tuesday. The increase makes it the third consecutive MPR hike by the CBN in 2024 and adds to a cumulative 750 basis points increase in MPR just in the first half of the year.

The bank had increased interest rates in February and March by 400 and 200 basis points respectively in a bid to rein in inflation and bring stability to the foreign exchange market that has seen significant volatility in the past 9 months.

While the initial MPR hike by the CBN was applauded by members of the public, the recent 150 basis points have had members question the efficacy of the policy in light of the renewed depreciation of the naira and continued rise in inflation.

In April, Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose to 33.69% with food inflation reaching 40.53% for the month. The CBN, federal government, and other international development institutions like the World Bank, IMF, and others had earlier in the year projected inflation to begin to decelerate after the first quarter. However, that is not the case as the inflation rate for April increased for the 16th consecutive month dating back to December 2022 when headline inflation last declined.

Beyond taming inflation, the business community has spoken against the recent MPR hike noting that it will increase the cost of accessing capital and further compound the problems they are battling. The hike in MPR since the beginning of the year pushed Nigeria into a high-interest business climate with the CBN selling treasury and OMO bills above 20%.

Furthermore, the FGN savings bonds issued by the Debt Management Office (DMO) now carry an interest rate of almost 20%.

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EFCC seeks final forfeiture of Emefiele’s properties, $1.4m allegedly domiciled in Titan Bank

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is seeking a final forfeiture order of the Federal High Court Lagos against a $1.4 million allegedly linked to the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, including his multi-million-naira properties.

The anti-graft agency maintains that the monies, which allegedly amount to proceeds of crime, are domiciled in Titan Bank to the knowledge of the embattled CBN governor.

This proceeding on Wednesday is one of the several lawsuits instituted by the EFCC against Emefiele.

In the motion exparte filed by counsel to the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari-Bala, she accused the ex-governor of contravening Section 44 (2)(B) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Channels Television reports. 

That section states that no moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily except for the imposition of penalties or forfeiture for breach of any law, whether under civil process or after conviction for an offence.  

The lawyer argued that between 2021 and 2022, when accessibility to foreign exchange in Nigeria was difficult, several international entities operating in Nigeria had to resort to different means to source Forex. 

She added that one Uzeobo Anthony and Adebanjo Olurotimi used a firm, to collect bribes and gratification on behalf of Godwin Emefiele, to get approval for accessing Forex, adding that one of the entities (NP) paid a total sum of USD 26,552 million, into the account of firm domiciled in Titan Trust account number 2000000500.

“That the said credits came into the account of the firm on November 9, 2021: $6,450,000; November 5, 2021: $6,050,000.00; December 16, 2021: $5,400,000.00; December 23, 2021: $652,000; January 31 2022; $3,000,000.00 and September 21, 2022: $5,000,000.00.

“The investigation traced the funds to having been fixed into interest-yielding accounts, dissipated and laundered through a foreign account in Mauritius, and transported back to Nigeria under disguise.

“That of the total sum of $26, 555, 000.00 US dollars received by the firm, the balance standing in the said account as of today is the sum of $1, 426, 175.14 million USD.

“That it is the balance in the account that the applicant seeks to forfeit to the Federal Government of Nigeria, which has been traced to be the proceeds of unlawful activities of (GE) and his cronies.

“That investigation further revealed that the international entities sourcing for forex were pressured into parting with huge funds to access forex during the period.

“That the signatories to the account warehousing the sum of $1, 426, 175.14 million USD, sought to be forfeited are at large and are making frantic efforts to dissipate the funds electronically.”

The lawyer contended that the motion should be granted in the interim so that the funds would be preserved till the conclusion of the case.

After hearing the prosecution on Wednesday, Justice Ayokunle Faji ordered the interim forfeiture of the money.

The judge directed the EFCC to publish the interim forfeiture order in a national newspaper so that any interested party could show cause why the funds should not be finally forfeited to the federal government.

The judge subsequently fixed June 25 for a hearing on final forfeiture.

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Bodex F. Hungbo, SPMIIM is a multiple award-winning Nigerian Digital Media Practitioner, Digital Strategist, PR consultant, Brand and Event Expert, Tv Presenter, Tier-A Blogger/Influencer, and a top cobbler in Nigeria.

She has widespread experiences across different professions and skills, which includes experiences in; Marketing, Media, Broadcasting, Brand and Event Management, Administration and Management with prior stints at MTN, NAPIMS-NNPC, GLOBAL FLEET OIL AND GAS, LTV, Silverbird and a host of others

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