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 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.
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.
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