GHOST WORKERS: FINANCE MINISTER URGES CBN TO EXTEND BVN TO MICROFINANCE BANKS

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has strongly solicited the cooperation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in extending the requirement for Bank Verification Number (BVN) to account holders in Microfinance Banks (MFBs), to facilitate the detection of bank accounts which might have been opened and operated in such banks for ghost workers by fraudulent syndicates.

The Minister,  who  sought  the  cooperation  of the CBN in that regard  in a correspondence addressed to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said that the introduction of the Bank Verification Number by the CBN  has contributed immensely in improving the  integrity of the Federal Government payroll  on which  more than 50,000 ghost workers were detected and removed.

Mrs. Adeosun stated that operating bank accounts in Microfinance Banks without requirement for BVN has left a huge loophole which individuals intent on financial crimes could use to hide and launder proceeds of crime and successfully escape detection by law enforcement agencies.

"Our ongoing efforts to verify the integrity of Federal Government personnel costs and purge the system of fraud and error has made extensive use of the Bank Verification Number as a means of identifying recipients of multiple salaries, and salaries paid into accounts with names that differ to those held on our payroll records. The success of this effort has to date yielded the removal of over 50,000 payroll entries," the Minister emphasised.

Mrs.  Adeosun referred   the CBN Governor to the discovery that, prior to the deadline for obtaining the BVN, the movement of a large number of salary accounts of Federal employees from commercial banks to Microfinance Banks, was observed.

"This is a suspicious activity and we have already commenced a review of such cases to identify and investigate any cases of fraud," the Minister explained.

While noting that extending the requirement for BVN to Microfinance Banks may put a huge financial strain on the smaller Microfinance Banks, the Minister pointed out that “some MFBs, such as National Police Force Microfinance (NPF), have over 27,000 salary accounts. Our inability to perform checks on such a large number of salary earners is a key risk."

“I am therefore seeking your co-operation to enforce compliance with BVN on any MFB with over 200 active salary accounts or those above a certain size. This will support the Federal Government’s efforts at reducing leakages to create headroom for the capital projects that will support the growth of the economy," the Minister said in the correspondence.

It could be recalled that the CBN was in September 2016 reported by the media to have announced its intention to extend the requirement for the Bank Verification Number to MFBs in the country, but the exercise has yet to take off.

FINANCE MINISTER BROKERS RESOLUTION TO NAICOM/PENCOM DISPUTE OVER ANNUITY ASSETS

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has intervened and brokered a resolution to the dispute between the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) over a circular issued by PenCom directing life insurance companies to transfer their annuity asset holdings to Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs). 

At a meeting convened by the Minister between the Director-General PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu and NAICOM Chief Executive, Alhaji Mohammed A. Kari, both parties agreed to issue a joint circular by Tuesday, March 21, 2017 that would supersede all previous circulars issued by the two regulatory agencies on the annuity matter.

The dispute was fanned by a circular issued by PenCom in November last year, directing life insurers to transfer custody of their annuity assets to PFCs and inform the commission accordingly.  

The insurers were also required by the circular to suspend approving new requests for annuity pending the transfer of assets to PFCs.

The Minister noted that the Federal Ministry of Finance had received several complaints from pensioners in relation to the outstanding dispute. She drew the attention of both parties to the adverse impact the current situation is having on pensioners and reiterated that a prompt resolution of the matter is paramount.

FG IS COMMITTED TO INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun on Tuesday emphasised the importance critical infrastructure projects, especially in the areas of Rail and Power to the country’s economic development.

She spoke during the visit of the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, to her office in Abuja.

Adeosun described the commitment of the current administration to infrastructure development as serious, stressing that Nigeria is ready to take off in terms of growth and diversification.

 “We are committed to the Mambilla Power Project. We are committed to Rail. We believe that we cannot properly develop our Solid Minerals and Agriculture sectors without rail transportation. So, we are committed to making sure we have an effective rail system.”

She expressed the determination of the administration to deepen the good relationship between Nigeria and China because, according to her, there are great opportunities and an alignment of culture, ideas and aspirations.

In his remarks, the Chinese Ambassador described Nigeria as a close ally of China, recalling the role played by Nigeria in getting China a seat at the Security Council of the United Nations in 1971. 

“We want to see the cooperation between Nigeria and China grow further. The relationship is blessed with new opportunities,” the Ambassador said.

He explained that the decision of the Chinese construction giant-China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC)- to open its North-West Africa headquarters in Abuja, demonstrates the important position in which China views Nigeria.

China’s Overseas Direct Investment for the next five years is expected to be at around $750Billion.

In conclusion, the Ambassador expressed a renewed commitment to strengthen the partnership between Nigeria and China.

FG SECURES EU'S COMMITMENT ON REBUILDING OF NORTH EAST, NIGER DELTA

The European Union (EU) on Monday pledged its support for the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to rebuild some parts of the North East and Niger Delta regions by earmarking 20 million Euros for the reconstruction of markets and warehouses in Borno and Delta States.

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Arrion, who gave the pledge during a visit to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun in her office, said the funds would be offered to the two States in the form of budget support.

“Sometime ago, we talked about budget support but we will be able to do that only at the State level, using a special instrument meant for countries emerging from war, and we can look at States in the North East and look at specific projects in terms of financial support to their budgets,” he said.

However, Mrs. Adeosun said all the financial analysis needed to facilitate support to the States had been put in place, pointing out that the Fiscal Sustainability Plan required a  21-point fiscal reform programme that enhanced transparency, accountability and efficiency.

According to the Minister, the funding arrangement would help in healing the wounds caused by insurgent activities in the North East. She said it would also give hope to the Niger Delta people who have been impacted by  pipeline bombings and the attendant environmental problems in the area.

The EU Ambassador said the quest to invest in Africa was largely informed by the need to discourage migration to Europe, pointing out that several thousands of Nigerian citizens have continued to migrate to Europe.

He said, “We have specific objective for creating this instrument and it is to address the root cause of migration. We are presenting this initiative within the framework of the global response to irregular migration.

Today we have a few thousand Nigerians in Europe, and we feel we have the responsibility of attracting them to come back to Nigeria.

“By investing in Africa, we will be creating jobs. We will be mixing grants with loans. We believe the grants will have a leveraged effect,” He disclosed that the EU, has in the last two years invested over 300 Billion Euros in Africa.

MOF SEEKS TO RECOVER UN-REMITTED N450BN OPERATING SURPLUSES FROM MDAS

The Federal Ministry of Finance has announced the constitution of a committee to recover unremitted operating surpluses of agencies of government, running into N450billion.

The committee led by the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, is to reconcile the operating surpluses of 31 revenue-generating agencies of government for the period 2010-2015.

The findings of the committee so far, have shown under-remittance of over N450 billion, which has accrued within the period.

The Finance Ministry stated that staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation have critically reviewed the accounting statements of these agencies, which include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Petroleum Technology Development Fund, (PTDF), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among others.

The Committee will therefore be inviting the management of these agencies to explain why their operating surpluses have not been remitted as mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.

It will be recalled that Sections 21 and 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, specifically states that:

“21. (1) The Government corporations and agencies and government owned companies listed in the Schedule to this Act (in this Act referred of as “the Corporations”) shall, not later than six months from the commencement of this Act and every three financial years thereafter and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Minister their Schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.

2) Each of the bodies referred to in sub-section (1) of this section shall submit to the Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year:

a. An annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section; and

b. Projected operating surplus which shall be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices

3) The Minister shall cause the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section to be attached as part of the Appropriation Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.

 

22. (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of any written law governing the corporation, each corporation shall establish a general reserve fund and shall allocate thereto at the end of each financial year, one-fifth of its operating surplus for the year.

2) The balance of the operating surplus shall be paid into the Consolidate Revenue Fund of the Federal Government not later than one month following the statutory deadline for publishing each corporation’s accounts.”

Some of these agencies have incurred huge expenses on overseas training and medicals, and huge expenses on behalf of supervisory ministries and/other organs of government involved in oversight or regulatory functions without appropriate approval.

Other infractions include payment of salaries and allowances to staff and board members, governing councils, and commissions which are outside or above the amount approved by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.

The list also includes unacceptable expenses incurred on donations, sponsorships, etc; unfavourable contract signed for revenue collection by a third party; granting of staff loans that have not been repaid as well as sale and transfer of assets to board members, among others.

According to the Finance Ministry, the overall effect of these practices is that operating surpluses of these agencies are lower than should be.

As a result of this, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun has directed the Accountant General of the Federation to issue a circular that will limit allowable expenses that can be spent as part of measures to ensure these agencies face strict monitoring.

This development is part of the resolve of the Honourable Minister to ensure that leakages are tackled.