OCEANIC BANK, BANK PHB AND STERLING BANK GET CBN LIFELINE

L-R, Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

L-R: Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

Nigeria’s version of the global credit crunch might have crystalised into a reality that may not be easily wished away. Reports from sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria asserted that three banks in Nigeria have been given lifelines to shore up their liquidity standing. These banks according to the source are; Oceanic Bank Plc, Bank PHB and Sterling Bank. With the exception of Sterling Bank that secured a N90billion lifeline, the other two got N100billion funding in what banking industry analysts said is akin to a financial bailout for the banks.

This is coming on the heels of a meeting of chief executives of banks held on Tuesday, 15 October 2008. The high point of that meeting was the decision by the banks’ chief executives to formally request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial sector to forestall the effect of the ongoing global financial crisis on the system.

The committee of banks chief executives also agreed at the meeting to request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial market through a package of measures similar to those introduced in developed countries and that the Central Bank (CBN) should continue to support the interbank money market.

Reports indicated that the bankers would have preferred the United States of America and Europe’s option where government directly intervened to inject funds into selected crisis ridden banks and, in some cases, nationalizing the financial institutions that were strategic to the main-stream banking public but whose liquidity profile had become moribund.

Sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria informed that the CBN Governor rather opted for the fiscal management approach. The CBN, had, before the meeting of the banks chiefs, granted the banking industry a concession through a circular directive of October 2, 2008 to restructure some of their capital market exposures to December 31, 2009. Interpreted, this concession allows banks not to make provision for non performing loans and other facilities that had gone into the nation’s capital market that had taken a dive for the deeps since March, 2008.

“Apparently, the concession was not enough to stave off the simmering threat of illiquidity banks were experiencing.” The CBN source said. “In response to the appeal of the banks chiefs, the CBN offered the option of an expanded discount window operation. The key elements of the expanded discount window operation provided the opportunity for banks that need to assuage their liquidity problems to use short term financial instruments, like overnight standing facility, treasury bills, federal government bonds and non-federal government securities as collateral to secure long term funds from the CBN. You know the CBN conducts liquidity mop up of the money market by selling treasury bills and also sell bonds to financial institutions, normally, treasury bills are due in 30 days while bond are due in period ranging from 90 days to 180 days. Now, to help the liquidity problems in the banking sector, the CBN, with the expanded discount window, allows the banks to present these short term instruments which the CBN will use as collateral to provide funds for them for repayment period of 365 days.” The source explained.

This option does not seem to have been effective, the Nigeria Inter Bank Official Rate, the rate at which banks lend themselves money, have continued to increase, spiking to as high as 21 percent last week. This may not be unconnected to the fact that just a few banks are in the position to lend money to needy banks. Fortune&Class Weekly reported last week that many banks chief executives continued to troop to First Bank Plc, to negotiate and secure funding to keep their operations going.

FINALLY, OTEDOLA BREAKS MONOPOLY WITH 2MILLION TONNES OF CEMENT

The persistent rise in the price of cement, an essential building material, may be heading for a reverse with the Federal Government approval granted Femi Otedola to import 2million tonnes of cement into the country.

The cement which a source close to the CEO of Zenon Oil and Gas said will soon land in Nigeria, is believed to be one of the Federal Government strategies to in the short run avail the Nigerian market cheap supply of cement.

“Of course, the Federal Government is aware of the fact that hitherto, the supply side of cement is controlled by a close knit community of suppliers who had turned cement supply into an open monopoly.” The source said.

“Though Federal Government had lifted the ban on importation of cement since January as part of the strategies to correct the shortfall in the supply of cement believed to be in the region of 11.5million tones, the efforts of the first batch of companies granted the right to import have not shown yet in the market. I think due to a combination of liquidity crunch in the nation’s financial sector and the global financial crises which have made access to credit a tasking process, most of these players might not have been able to bring in enough supplies of cement into the country. Naturally, the Federal Government had to make overtures to Mr. Otedola, who, they think has enough liquidity to break the strangle hold of the monopoly that cement supplies had turn.” The source revealed.

The source further added that the importation of cement by Otedola is going to be a continued process until the price of cement becomes affordable to the common man.

“This, I think, is going to be the first in the process to crash the price of cement. I am informed that the price of the first importation to be undertaken by Otedola should sell between N600 and N700, the calculation has been done. I think that after this consignment, others would be brought into the country until the price of a bag of cement becomes affordable to the average intending home owner.” The source added.

In response to a question on the impact of wholesale importation of cement to local cement manufacturing capacity, the source reasoned that the importation policy is an interim measure to assuage the difficulties in the building sector.

“I don’t think it is proper to allow Nigerians to wallow in the difficulty of unrealized dreams in real estate because local capacity has to be protected. Nobody is stopping the growth of local manufacturers, I know that government is encouraging that aspect of the sector by also opening up the space to intending manufacturers who are also given adequate incentive, the importation is an interim measure as I had said, to bring down price in the immediate.” The source submitted.

FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT CASTIGATES FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICES FOR PROTECTING OIL COMPANIES

Issues in appropriate auditing process and accountability have, over the years become a constant source of worries and had, often led to cases of finger pointing by Federal Government agencies responsible for regulating the oil and gas sector and the mostly multinational oil producing companies in the country.

The contentious issue had always revolved around the huge discrepancies between amount that up stream oil companies say they paid and what the government says it actually received.

Financial experts and officials of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative had, since 2004 continued to dismiss the measure of transparency and accounting standards as generally poor.

But a United States of America based Nigerian forensic accountant has accused the Federal Inland Revenue Services of shielding the influential multinational oil companies from the investigative probing of forensic accounting. The Federal Inland Revenue Services is the primary government agency responsible for assessing tax and other revenue due to the government from oil and gas exploration and production activities of shielding.

Mr. Nat Cole, the Forensic Accountant observed that he had been aware of a flourishing practice of under reporting of revenue due to the Federal Government from the multinational oil companies in Nigeria and had approached the Chair person of the FIRS to approve for him, at no cost to the government, the responsibility of auditing the oil companies on the auditing model of forensic accounting’. Cole said.

“The Federal Government and other stakeholders in the oil and gas sector have always been suspicious of figures declared by multinational companies in the now vexed joint venture arrangement with the government in oil exploration and production. In fact, the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative had, in an audit covering the period 1999 to 2004, uncovered huge discrepancies in the figures returned to the government by the oil companies and the figures that are, actually, due to the government.

“As a veteran forensic accountant with more than 28 years auditing the oil and gas sector in the United States and other countries in Europe, I had volunteered my services to the FIRS to audit the books of the oil companies without charges to the Federal Government. I told the Chairman of the FIRS, Mrs. Omoigui Ifueko-Okauru of the limitations of the conventional auditing style to get the actual status of revenue accruable to Nigerians through payment to the government by the oil companies.

“The fact is that by deploying the forensic model of auditing one would be avoiding the what you see is what you get model of auditing. The fact is that with the auditing, you can only work within and by the figures the companies present to you. You won’t be able to ask questions beyond the figures presented. But with forensic accounting and auditing procedure you apply investigative techniques and that will uncover more facts that can be authenticated.

“But the FIRS seems not be to be bothered about what I all of us believe are the wrong things the oil companies are doing as they deliberately act to short change us. I offered my service and I think it is the responsibility of the FIRS management, if they are really serious about getting the right picture of what is happening in the oil and gas sector, to approve the forensic auditing of the companies in the sector.

“But I fear that the FIRS may not be willing to do this because it might be protecting the oil companies from what I can’t really understand. Well, the truth is that the oil giants have become so influential in government that they seem to do things at will and get away with these inappropriate things. It won’t be until we muster enough courage to confront them that the nation would be able to get what is rightfully its, from the oil giants.” Nat explained.

NCAM: A DAY OUT WITH AUTO SALES LEGENDS OF OUR TIME IN NIGERIA

Even though there is no business existence without its challenges, there is one particular line of business in this country that takes lots of guts and down to finger pushing to get it off the ground. It is even more stringent due to the saturation of the market, even though some players belief otherwise.

The business of auto dealing is one of the most lucrative businesses that is gaining attention in the Nigeria corporate terrain. Although most auto dealers try engaging in popular brands to boost sales and recuperate the investments in the short run, it still needs the ability of a good marketing team to devise creative strategies in getting even an unwilling customer to order for the whole company!

To this end, a forum on the happenings in the auto world, tagged National Conference on Automobile Marketing, where the legends in auto sales and marketing in Nigeria would be gathered to bare out their minds, and share their success stories with budding and up coming auto marketers.

The one day event, holding at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos on the 26th of November 2008, will feature a platform to chat with the big shots in the industry, interactive session and a paper lecture titled ‘the Magic of Volume Sales’.

The get together which commands the presence of the likes of Chief Michael Ade Ojo, Chairman, Toyota Nigeria Ltd; Chief Molade Okoya Thomas, Chairman, CFAO Group; Alhaji (Dr.) Sanni Dauda, Chairman, Peugeot Automobile Nig Limited; Chief Williams Anumudu, Chairman, Globe Motors, Dr.(Mrs) Diezani Allison-Madueke and Prof Bamidele Badejo to mention few, is primarily targeted at auto marketers, banks and insurance companies.

With full support from the federal and Lagos state governments, the event promises to be an epoch making one.

FINANCE MINISTER PETITIONED OVER CBN REVERSAL OF BANKS’ UNIFORM YEAR END

A corporate lawyer, Mr. Roy Bassey Ukoh and a forensic accountant, Mr. Ori Adeyemo, have, in a joint petition forwarded to the Minister of Finance, protested the reversal of the adoption of common year end by commercial banks as earlier directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The two petitioners said they were compelled to write to the Minister in the overall interest of the banking public and asked for the reversal of the cancellation of the uniform accounting year end for banks in Nigeria which, according to them should have started in December 2008.

Describing the earlier directive contained in CBN Circular No. BSD/DIR/CIR/GEN/VOL2/008 issued on August 25, 2008, as laudable, the petitioners insisted the CBN Governor made an unpardonable somersault of his laudable policy of making December 31 of each year, the uniform accounting year end for each bank starting December 31, 2008.

Stating that such change of policy is not in the best interest of the general public but a compromised attempt to serve the parochial interest of the banking cabal, who are the Managing Directors of the 24 banks operating in Nigeria in other to cover their apparent lapses, the petitioners argued that CBN rationalizing the cancellation of the directive to the desperate mobilization of deposits and which led to the hiking of interest rates by banks, according to the two petitioners is not accepted and grossly untenable.

“We consider both excuses given by the CBN Governor as totally unacceptable and crassly untenable. It further goes to confirm our unassailable conviction that the Nigerian banking industry is not only weak, in dire state of distress but also desperately needing surgical operations to survive irrespective of the spurious splendid financial results that these fraudulent banks churn out from time to time (in active collaboration with the CBN) all in order to continually deceive the gullible unsuspecting Nigerians to invest their hard-earned money in the thrash shares of these sinking banks.” The petitioners reasoned.

Making further assertions on the impropriety of the cancellation of the common year end for banks, the petitioners asserted that: “It is a classic endorsement that the consolidation of the banking industry which the CBN carried out on December 31, 2005 has irredeemably failed if after telling Nigerians that it now has mega-banks; these same banks are still in hot pursuit of deposits at whatever costs not also minding the fact that these same banks had gone to the capital market times without number to mobilize funds. The question now is: what has happened to all the billion of Naira mopped up by Nigerians banks from the capital market from year 2004 to date? Nigerians need to know.”

“The CBN Governor has always been aware that Nigerian banks have been defrauding their customers through the passage of spurious and illegal bank charges into the accounts of innocent customers thereby leaving behind unpaid debts leading to the deceitful foreclosures of collaterised assets of the customers or the settlement of bogus debts at extremely high costs. For the unfortunate ones, it has always been a tale of woes leading to the collapse of businesses, ill-health and sometimes paying the ultimate price of untimely death. To worsen matters, whenever a report of the nefarious and illicit actions of the banks is brought to the attention of the CBN; an illegal referral is made by the CBN to the committee of Ethics & Professionalism which is a sub-committee of the Bankers’ Committee made up wholly and exclusively of bankers with nobody protecting the interest of bank customers thereby making banks judges in their own case.” The petitioner further asserted.

Making further allegations, the petitioned observed that: “Another very important point to deliver is the fact that the CBN Governor is in the knowledge that banks have surreptitiously been stealing Federal and State Governments funds through non-remittance of 10% Withholding Tax on declared dividend as well as interest on deposits, 5% Value-Added-Tax (VAT) as well Personal Income Tax yet have blatantly refused to call them to order knowing fully well that by virtue of Section 3.2.5 of the CBN Monetary, Credit, Foreign Trade & Exchange Policy Circular No. 37 of January 02, 2004, it is the responsibility of the CBN to collect these deductions from the banks for and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria within seven days of collection. The various excess and spurious bank charges clandestinely laid into the accounts of both arms of government all in a bid to defraud in billions of Naira cannot also be wished away.”

“As investigative accounting consultants, we are in the knowledge that the books of these Nigerian banks have all along been cooked and spiced accordingly in order to present fake excellent performances. A veritable way of doing this is to aggressively mobilize deposits at the adopted scattered year ends and also to temporarily put a stop to lending when the accounting year end of banks is near.

“The banking cabal has also made it a point to be shifting deposits among themselves in order to help out each other and they are aware that a uniform accounting year-end will put a final stop to this unwholesome malpractice.

Alluding to one of the reasons the common year end would have done the banking industry some good the petitioners observed that: “Nigerians will recall that prior to the announcement of the uniform accounting year end for banks; every bank in Nigeria was always celebrating any achievement that they can think of from the mundane to the unimaginable. At that time, it was commonplace to find banks celebrating best bank with highest deposit base, the first bank to deploy certain banking software in Nigeria, the first bank to hit the trillion Naira asset base, the bank with the highest turnover and all what not. However, we note that with the announcement of the common accounting year-end, all this rubbish has stopped.

“We must not forget the so-called compromised ratings given to banks by the foreign rating agencies based on the falsified financials published, which these banks would then celebrate as if they have won the football world cup. It was either the banks were awarded A+++++ or AAAAA or some stupid figures by their collaborating foreign rating agencies without looking at facts behind the figures published.

“We wholly support this uniform accounting year-end for banks since it will enable Nigerians and the whole world to be able to separate the chaff from the grains but this laudable and well-thought-out policy by the CBN is being killed before it is born and therefore every attempt must be made to stop the unwarranted and self-serving shift or cancellation of the uniform account year-end.”

“It cannot be disputed that the capital market in Nigeria has lost over N3.5 trillion due to depression with the Nigerian banks accounting for over N2 trillion thereof. You will also admit that this was what led the CBN to issue a guideline allowing the banks to reschedule margin accounts by at least one year. We sadly note that even with this understanding, the CBN is yet to fully inform Nigerians as to the extent of the loss incurred by the banks as a result of their participation vide gambling with depositors and investors monies in the capital market.

“Our submission is that with the full implementation of this uniform accounting year-end policy by the CBN; Nigerians will be able to know the healthy banks from unhealthy or dead-woods because as things currently stand, the adopted scattered year-ends gives latitude for fraudulent and creative accounting manipulations, which undoubtedly amounts to corrupt malpractices which the CBN is now advocating and encouraging through the back door.

“It is an understatement to say that if you are allowed to have your way by shifting or out-rightly canceling the uniform accounting year-end of these banks, you would have succeeded in postponing the doomsday, which would eventually come considering the whole lots of unwholesome and unprofessional malpractices being daily perpetuated by these banks unrestrained.

“We cannot but state once again that the financial state of these banks is in sordid state and the earlier that the CBN and the banks come clean to tell Nigerians the truth the better.” The petitioners concluded.

CEMENT PRICE WAR STARTS NEXT WEEK: OTEDOLA TO SELL AT N700 PER BAG, JIMOH IBRAHIM NICON CEMENT ON THE WAY

Who holds the Ace?

Who holds the Ace?

When the Federal Government approved licenses for 13 Nigerian firms to import bagged cement into

Nigeria, the Government’s stated intension was to put an end to short supply and ensure the crash of price of the product in the country. Yet, most Nigerians would not still believe the prospect of a crash in price of cement, because, according to cross section of Nigerian residents in Lagos State, when prices of commodities go up in the country they don’t often come down.

Some suggested that a cartel had perfected its stranglehold on the supply side of cement that no matter what measure the government puts in place, as it had over the years, the strong cartel had always found a way to undercut supplies thereby sustaining high prices for the essential building material.

This state of helplessness may, from next week, start changing with the direct involvement of Mr. Femi Otedola to get involved on the supply side and manufacturing of cement. According to a source close to the Epe-Lagos State born businessman who had made a name for himself in the petroleum downstream sector, Otedola’s first shipment of his Otedola Portland Cement (OPC) would be launched sometime next week with a strong identification with Nigerians desires to be able to buy cement at affordable price.

“I can surely tell you that OPC is about being offered to Nigerians and in the character of chairman (Otedola) the product has to be affordable. I think the retail price that is been considered for the 50kg bag of cement is N700. That is about 40 percent slash from the current market price. Chairman believes that this price slash will help break the backbone of the monopolistic cartel that had dominated the cement market for a long time.” The source that is directly involved in the landing of OPC confided in FORTUNE & CLASS.

Otedola has a record of price dumping, a business model that another source in his Zenon Oil & Gas Company said, has by and large, impacted on the mass of Nigerians.

“For Otedola, a little profit is better than huge gains. You remember he blazed diesel price slash in Nigeria when the petroleum product became so scarce and expensive. It is simply about adding value for Nigerians who are in dire needs of products that are, otherwise, common goods but had now turned essential because of the activities of monopoly inclined operators.” The source said.

“I can tell you that we are planning an elaborate launch of Otedola Portland Cement starting from Mushin, the densely populated suburb of Lagos which would symbolize the populism appeal of the cement.” The source directly involved in the cement landing explained.   

 “Even beyond this, I can also reveal to you that Chairman is putting finishing touches to selling petrol at his AP stations for N59. You can expect this in the next six weeks. This would naturally force competitors to also reduce price for the benefit of Nigerians.”

Coming on the heels of recent rapprochement between Otedola and Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Chairman of the NICON Group, might have also persuaded the lawyer businessman to consider diversifying into cement manufacturing in the country.

“The idea is to flood the Nigerian market heavily.” The source informed. “What Chairman told Barrister Ibrahim is that if he comes into the supply side he would also be helping to make cement available to Nigerians at affordable prices. I am aware that very soon Barrister Ibrahim will be announcing the arrival of NICON Cement.”

TALE OF SIX ROGUE COMPANIES BEHIND PETROLEUM PRODUCTS ROUND TRIPPING AND THEIR GID FATHERS

You heard of petroleum marketing companies being investigated for round tripping petroleum products and still fleecing the nations of billions of naira through deceptive request for refund from the Petroleum Support Fund?

Yes, investigation is on-going and as we go to press, we have it on good source that six smalltime marketers have been fingered for detailed investigation, and well, for your ears only a former top notch in the Federal Government recently relieved of his high office, plus another one, who was part of the regulatory agency.

The six companies were said to have found influential moles at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its marketing arm, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC). Know how the deal works? Here is an abridged detail; these six secure product allocations from PPMC, move in vessel to load products that were already imported into the country, make a foray to the high sea, then turn around, head for Nigeria and berth at designated PPMC ports as if they just brought in fresh supplies from wherever. The scheming round trippers off-load and well, after processing their paper, apply for fund from the PSF. For that effort, the former big man in government goes home with N25million on every successful returns made by his sea farer round tripping marketers.

Avail yourself a brief on what PSF is all about:

 The Federal Government established a petroleum support fund effective January 2006 to stabilise the domestic prices of petroleum products against volatility in international crude and products prices. A substantial amount of that by government schedule will go for kerosene subsidy, thereafter, whatever is left on a monthly basis will go for petrol.

 

The fund, which is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), available for companies and depot owners licensed by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the disbursement of the fund to marketers importing petroleum products follow collation of product figures in all refineries, jetties and depots located in various parts of the country.

 

Now, let’s do some comparison: None of the six companies,  prime suspects, are importers, “they don’t even have loading bays,” our very knowledgeable insider says.