MIXED FEELINGS OVER JIMOH IBRAHIM’s NATIONAL HONOUR

The intention of the Federal Government to honour controversial lawyer cum businessman, has come under heavy criticism by Nigerians.

It is being echoed that Ibrahim’s lifestyle and his debt ridden business status alongside other controversial and unresolved issues, do not present him as the best worthy to be honoured.

The belief is rife that Ibrahim is nominated for this award because he was a ready catalyst to discredit the Obasanjo administration as well as be positioned as ‘government friendly business ally.’

A few, however, consider him most suitable for this honour, as one from humble background who shook off the mud to be considered relevant for courting by banks, who have strongly backed virtually all his initiatives financially.

Another vital factor is the age advantage. In his early 40’s, he has embarked on gargantuan projects in the nine figure range.

His investments span hospitality, insurance, oil and gas, human capital development, real estate, etc.

…ACQUIRES 500POUNDS HOTEL IN LONDON

Words filtering in as at press time reveal that Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is on a spending spree once again. He is said to be on the verge of acquiring Cumberland Hotel, Central London, in the United Kingdom. Details are still sketchy, but his business history shows his flair for hospitality business.

Prior to this Cumberland Hotel purchase, he has in his kitty Nicon Hotel, Ajuba, Hilton Hotel, Lagos, among others.

It is yet to be clarified which financial institutions provided the back up for the acquisition of the said hotel.

UNSPENT FUND: FED. MINISTRIES ON LAST MINUTE SPENDING SPREE TO BEAT YAR’ADUA’s DEADLINE

Nigeria’s president, Umar Musa Yar’Adua may have placed excessive premium on the integrity of the federal ministries, government departmental and agencies to feel secured enough to inform the national assembly of part financing its budget deficit in 2009 through unspent funds taken back from federal ministries, departments and agencies.

FORTUNE&CLASS Weekly discreet investigations in Abuja, have, however, shown that the president and very senior officials in federal government ministries and agencies may be working at cross purposes.

“Even before the coming of the Yar’Adua’s administration, it has been made mandatory during the Obasanjo’s presidency for federal ministries and departmental agencies to rule off their accounts by the 15th of December.” A source in the federal ministry of finance informed. “The idea is that after the rule off, no expenditure aside salaries and allowances are allowed until the succeeding budgetary allocation are effected.” The finance ministry source added.

This year end account rule off had turned a mere paper directive until the assumption of office of President Yar’Adua who seemed to decide to make capital of the directive he had inherited from the Obasanjo administration, the seriousness of the administration in this regard was orchestrated when the erstwhile ministers in the federal ministry of health were forced to resign and prosecuted in court on account of an alleged N300million unspent fund in 2007.

FORTUNE&CLASS Weekly cross checks in Abuja, however, revealed that the frontal measures taken against the sacked ministers of health might have hardened the resolve of strategically placed civil servants that had become annual beneficiaries of unspent funds already in the kitty of the ministries.

An insider in the federal ministry of information and communication told this magazine last week that the officials in the account and audit units of the ministry have been busy over the last three weeks as they feverishly dish out contracts and supplies notes so as to eat up a large percentage of what is left of the unspent fund.

“The president thinks he can beat us to the game but we are better at it,” the source boasted. “Civil servants are smarter in these matters, is it not about filling out the appropriate vouchers and back dating them where necessary? In fact, we know how to settle the officials from the ministry of finance that usually come to supervise the account rule off.”

Another source, in an aside with this magazine explained that the cornering of unspent fund in federal ministries and parastatals is limited to very senior officials and staff members in the account and audit department. In the light of the seriousness of the present administration and the oversight function of members of the National Assembly, the source confided that these senior officials agree among themselves on a predetermined amount of unspent fund they will return to the government as unspent fund and also find the appropriate way to dispense with the percentage of unspent fund they have decided to corner.

Several civil servants also spoke of the federal government renewed efforts at ensuring accountability in service like directing that henceforth, any civil servant that was to proceed on a conference; seminar or any form of out station official duty would have the conference or seminar fee paid directly to the accounts of the facilitating body. This is contrary to the tradition where participant (s) from the ministry is/are given conference or seminar participating in cash. A curious angle to seminar or conference participation in the traditional sense is that some conference or seminar fees are inflated that after cash payment to the participating civil servant, such would just cream off the difference an pocket it while another may collect the participating fee and out of station allowance and altogether abandon the conference or seminar.

Beside, overnight and out of station allowances are now paid direct to the account of recipient civil servant than collection by cash as part of the new accountability regime.

Some of the civil servants FORTUNE&CLASS Weekly interacted with said these measures have been eroded with the opening of multiple accounts. Asserting the fact that it may be near impossible for the federal government to arrest the trend of frantically spending off unspent fund in a ministry within a short period, Mr. Nathaniel Cole, a forensic accounting expert and anti fraud specialist said that the model of conventional auditing that the government depends on to stop the diversion of unspent fund into private pockets shows that government is not serious about tracking unspent fund:

“I don’t think government is serious about this. It is obvious that the officials that are going to audit the ministries are interested parties so there is no way they can objectively audit the account to ascertain how unspent fund would have been tampered with. What government needs at such time like this is the service of forensic accountants, because, in truth, a certain aspect of civil servants efforts to corner the unspent fund has to do with some criminality in the area of filling vouchers and back dating them. Only forensic accountants can handle such case. For forensic accountant, it is easy to pinpoint the exact culprits in the account manipulation.” Cole said.

NIGERIA TO BENEFIT FROM OBAMA’s “USE IT OR LEAVE IT” POLICY

The expectant echoes of the Barack Obama’s soon to be inaugurated presidency in the United States of America might have recorded its first true translation of the high hopes of Nigerians over the Obama presidency to a commitment of assistance soon after the inauguration of the first black man to emerge president of the United States of America.

Yet, this support, in its present form, is not a programmed or any of the contemplated official aids or support for Nigeria by the United States of America’s president elect. Rather, Fortune and Class Weekly has been informed that a USA based non for profit, info-tech focused organization, Saigant Technologies, was alert enough to locate an immediate opportunity that can be utilized for the benefit of Nigerians in the first set of economic stimulus package the president elect as assured Americans he is going to introduce to revitalize the recession bound American economy.

Mr. Obama, had on Saturday, December 6, 2008, in a radio address on the economy reviewed how 533,000 jobs were lost in the US and how jobs lost alone in November became the single worst month of job loss in over three decades.

“Yesterday, (December 5, 2008) we received another painful reminder of the serious economic challenge our country is facing when we learned that 533,000 jobs were lost in November alone, the single worst month of job loss in over three decades. That puts the total number of jobs lost in this recession at nearly 2 million.” Obama said in the broadcast

Highlighting the areas of worries for the average American, Obama said:

“But this isn’t about numbers. It’s about each of the families those numbers represent. It’s about the rising unease and frustration that so many of you are feeling during this holiday season. Will you be able to put your kids through college? Will you be able to afford health care? Will you be able to retire with dignity and security? Will your job or your husband’s job or your daughter’s or son’s job be the next one cut?”

“These are the questions that keep so many Americans awake at night. But it is not the first time these questions have been asked. We have faced difficult times before, times when our economic destiny seemed to be slipping out of our hands. And at each moment, we have risen to meet the challenge, as one people united by a sense of common purpose. And I know that Americans can rise to the moment once again.”

The president elect thereafter informed the American public of his economic recovery plan when he assured that:

“But we need action – and action now. That is why I have asked my economic team to develop an economic recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street that will help save or create at least two and a half million jobs, while rebuilding our infrastructure, improving our schools, reducing our dependence on oil, and saving billions of dollars.

“We won’t do it the old Washington way. We won’t just throw money at the problem. We’ll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve — by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world.

“Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

The economic stimulus plan which is now known in some circle as the “Use it or Lose it” policy has as part of the plans the creation of millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in America’s national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s:

“We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”

It is, however, in the president elect economic recovery plan to launch sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings and to repair broken schools by making them energy-efficient, and putting new computers in the classrooms that Nigerians stand to benefit in the immediate.

An official of Saigant Technologies, an organization that was established by a US based Nigerian, said a review of the US president elect radio broadcast of December 6, 2008, provided an immediate answer to the limitation to owning lap tops and desk top computers by Nigerian students.

“You should recall that the Mr. Obama talked about renewing American schools and highways, and about renewing information superhighway. For the president elect, it is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. He argued that in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and promised that they’ll get that chance when he becomes President – because that’s how he wished to strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world. Now for us in Nigeria, the specific highlight of information technology overhaul as part of the economic stimulus plan of the president elect presented a begging opportunity to imagine what the incoming American government would do with those computers, lap tops and those IT accessories the government would be replacing in order to galvanize the American domestic economy.”

“We realized that the US government would have problems disposing off these equipment which, if compared to our standard of usage here in Nigeria, would look relatively new and in the light of the limited access to computer sets and lap tops in Nigeria, the simple logic was to approach the likely channel through which we could connect with the president elect to present our proposal of moving the American used laptops and computers to those that would need them in Nigeria.” The Saigant source said.

“We made a direct offer to the president elect through Change.Gov website of the president elect and the response is quite assuring. There is a commitment to accessing about 200,000 computer sets and laptops free of charge over the next two years that Mr. Obama would be implementing the first leg of the economic stimulus programme. Our responsibility will only be limited to footing the transportation and clearing cost of the laptops and computer sets here in Nigeria.” The source further affirmed.

“This will be the first major impact of the Obama presidency on the average Nigerian; our intention is to use the opportunity to present the 200,000 plus laptops and computer sets to Nigerians at a no price rate, to boost the nation’s capacity for information technology.”

SKYE BANK DROPS ‘HAKUNA MATATA’ CAMPAIGN?

Viewers and indeed observers are wondering what necessitated the stoppage of ‘Hakuna Matata’ (Don’t worry), the new campaign launched within the year.

It has been replaced with “Say Yes’, a very successful campaign (that became an anthem in virtually every home and ring-tone of several phones) that was adopted by the bank post capitalization.

‘Hakuna Matata’ was obviously enjoying wide acceptance until the interruption, that saw the re-emergence of the very old ‘Say Yes’ television commercial.

‘Say Yes’ naturally does not have the steam that it had until it was replaced. No official position has been taken to explain the strategic change or how long the ‘impasse’ to precede a new campaign will last.

Dangote telecoms outfit eyes 2009

Businessman extraordinaire, Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s telecommunication outfit, Alheri, may eventually take off in 2009.

Heard from the grapevine that Dangote is already dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to ensure a successful operation when eventually it takes off next year.

Industry pundits are, however, pointing out that he may be facing challenges in accesing loan from banks who are skeptical on the success of such a venture in view of the existing competition in the industry.

Considering the huge capital demand of the venture, it may not be a worthy risk that will be profitable.

The not too successful outing of a telecom outfit, under a popular bank, is a ready case-study.

As published in Issue 48 and uploaded on http://www.fnc0486.wordpress.com

The Consultant

Please, there has been so much noise about market-makers, how will they operate to stabilise the capital market. + 44 7957110056

The term market makers is the latest terminology in the Nigerian Capital Market and the way they are going they make it look as if all the  solutions to the problems in the Nigerian capital market will be solved with the appointment of market markers.

A market marker can be described as a person or company registered by the appropriate agencies to play an intermediary role in the capital market.

They can be described as the discount house of the capital market, they are expected to acquired shares of a quoted company on the floor of the stock exchange when their is surplus of the target stock and to sell / release stock of quoted companies in their possession to the market in period of scarcities, i.e they are to provide a balance in the market.

The use of market markers had always been controversial as they are generally seen as an artificial means of market control.

Looking at the Nigeria environment, my fear is the likely possible abuse of the roles and mandate of the market markers

I took my e-dividend form sent to me by the Registrar of a company in which I have shares to my bank for stamping etc, I was surprised when my bank told me that I had to pay =N=1,000.00 just for them to do the needed things. I think this is exploitative – Wale, OOU

Dear Wale,

You are right, it is not only exploitative it is symptomatic of the illegal and exorbitant charges Nigeria Banks charge their customers. Well, don’t be surprised because some Nigerian Banks now charge customers for depositing money into their account; meanwhile don’t forget that these are the same banks killing themselves and their marketers over deposit.

In the first place, I do not think that there’s need for the form in the first instance, what should have been required is for the mandate to be part of the CSCS procedure.

Also, it’s a process that could have been run through the stockbrokers.

Please where is the office of Wema Registrars – Toyin, ikeja

Wema Registrars is at OLD LEVENTIS BUILDING , MARINA, SECOND FLOOR

As published in Issue 48 and uploaded on http://www.fnc0486.wordpress.com