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Fresh anxiety mounts over presidential directive on metering programme

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images 29 2 Fresh anxiety mounts over presidential directive on metering programme

Power sector stakeholders are now in quandary over last week’s directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, ordering a nationwide metering programme for electricity consumers in line with Federal Government’s plan to halt estimated billing.

Sincethe president’s directive, power sector stakeholders, including electricity consumers and investors have been wondering how it can be actualised given the several bottlenecks that have frustrated the provision of electricity meters to consumers over the years.

The concern is that despite Buhari’s orders approving waivers on import levy on meters, to enable speedy supply at reasonable prices, various agencies of the government including the Nigeria Customs Service seem not ready to allow the policy realised..

Theose who spoked are concerned that the latest directive to boost meter supply may well end up in the trash cans like earlier ones issued by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) without yielding the expected results.

A major part of the agreement signed by the DisCos before the nation’s power assets were given to them was their commitment to meter every Nigeria to facilitate effective billing system that would not shortchange consumers.

But, seven years after the power sector privatisation, NERC has put the number of unmetered Nigerian power consumers at 6 million households which is an indication that the DisCos have failed to keep their part of the bargain.

This was despite several notices and timelines given to them to meter electricity consumers with threats of sanctions by the regulator being treated with kid gloves.

Speaking on the latest presidential directive, Executive Secretary of Electtricity Meter Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Muihdeen Ibrahim, during an interview on Channels Television on Saturday, aid the association was yet to be communicated on the presidential directive to crash meter prices.

According to him, it was expected that by now, a meeting of the Ministry of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), Discos and meter manufacturers should have been convened to pave way for the smooth implementation of the policy.

NERC had in a statement last week, announced that tariff reviews going forward will only follow service-based principles. Under these service-based principle, DISCOs will only be able to review tariff rates for customers when they consult with customers, commit to increasing the number of hours of supply per day and quality of service.

‘‘In all cases poor and vulnerable Nigerians will not experience any increase. In line with these expectations, DISCOs are directed to engage with their customers on a Service Based Tariff Structure, where DisCos can only review tariffs for customers under the following conditions:

Customers are consulted and communicated a guaranteed level of electricity service by the DisCos based on hours of supply.

The regulator for the umpteenth time warned DisCos that no estimated billing will be allowed except it follows through the strict enforcement of the capping regulation.

‘‘This means that unmetered customers will not experience any cost increase beyond what is chargeable to metered customers in the same area.

Even under the above conditions, there will be no change in tariff for the most vulnerable as tariffs for those consuming 50KW or less remain frozen. Customers receiving less than 12 hours of supply will also not experience any change in tariffs.

In addition, the President has directed that there should be a nationwide mass-metering program in an effort by the Federal Government to put a stop to estimated and arbitrary billing for electricity. He has also approved a waiver of the import levy on meters, so that those that do not have meters can be supplied as early as possible at reasonable costs’’.

Meanwhile, majority of consumers and industry groups who spoke to Daily Sun on the latest mass directive expressed doubts about its successful implementation while calling on Buhari to ensure that the regulator matches its words with action.

Founder, Consumer Rights Advocacy Group, Mr. Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said consumers are tired of the endless promises of metering and the huge estimated bills slammed on consumers. Ogunbanjo, lamented that NERC had in February 2020, issued order No/NERC/197/2020 on capping of estimated billings in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry(NESI),thereby placing a cap on estimated bills to unmetered consumers.

But, six months after the order, Ogunbanjo lamented that Discos were still very much in the habit of slamming consumers with estimated bills.

A consumer, who identified himself as Mr.Sunday Oluniyi, under the Ikeja Electric network in Abule Egba, lamented the delay in procuring prepaid meter, adding that two months after applying for same and paying the approved fees, he was yet to be installed with a meter, which he said was against the 10 working days approved by NERC.

Another consumer under the Eko Electiricty network in Ijehsa, Surulere, who identified himself as Chuks Johnson, said he has written to the network provider to come and disconnect him since every effort he has made to get metered in the last five months has proved abortive.

Another stakeholder, Mallam Ibrahim said if the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) and the DisCos were sincere, the challenges about metering would be surmounted.

He said a lot of meter manufacturers in the country have more than enough meters and capacity to produce meters for the local market.

He said the missing link was the penchant of MAP firms for imported meters, a habit he said was only creating jobs for citizens of other countries to the detriment of Nigerian citizens.

He also took a swipe on the DisCos whom he accused of wanting to frustrate the metering process because they are making more money from estimated billing.

For his part, CEO, Integrated Resources Limited, a MAP licensee, Mr. Duro Omogbenigun, said the implementation of the presidential directive must be swift in order to avoid exchange rate and forex differentials wiping out the gains.

He said though the import duty waiver on meter was announced by the Minister of Finance some weeks ago, there has not been any communication with MAP in that regard.

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Fidelity Bank Restates Support for SMEs

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images 2020 09 28T101531.256 Fidelity Bank Restates Support for SMEs

Fidelity Bank Plc has pledged its continued support for the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSMEs) sector whose activities were disrupted in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bank made the disclosure recently at the 13th edition of the Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

Speaking at one of the panel sessions, Divisional Head, SME Banking Division, Osaigbovo Omorogbe, said the bank’s commitment was borne out of the realisation that SMEs are the engine room of any economy.

“The ability of MSMEs to stay on sustainably at this time, and even become more attractive for various types of funding support will undoubtedly be strengthened with deepened capacity building support, both on the back and front office ends”.

He explained that there was a compelling need for relevant stakeholders to deepen capacity-building support for MSMEs in various areas, ahead of funding support, to enable them position more strongly to stay afloat and even grow in the new normal.

While insisting that a one-size-fits-all capacity building model/approach for MSMEs would no longer help, Omorogbe stressed the need for more tailored capacity building support that will take into account the peculiarities and challenges MSMEs are facing; first on account of the pandemic and secondly because of the respective economic sectors they play in, their supply and distribution chains, the geographical locations they operate from and cover, etc.

He advocated for stronger collaboration amongst all stakeholders who have roles to play in ensuring MSMEs get and enjoy the much needed support they require at this time, in various areas, to further ensure the MSME segment not only survives the times but also gets set firmly, on the path of sustainable growth.

Over the years, Fidelity Bank has leveraged the myriad intervention/development funding schemes typically offered at single digit interest rates by local and international Development Finance Institution (DFIs), for the benefit of its SME customers. Specifically, the Bank has through the efforts of its SME Banking Division, continued to build structures and systems to channel low-cost intervention/development funding to MSMEs including women entrepreneurs, to tame the ‘high-cost-of-funds’ challenge small businesses face in this market.

As at mid-September 2020, the Bank in its capacity as a participating financial institution (PFI) in the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) on lending scheme for SMEs and small corporates, has disbursed a total of N21.9 billion to a large number of SMEs and small corporates playing in diverse sectors.

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CIBN Recertifies NDIC’s Academy

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download 16 CIBN Recertifies NDIC’s Academy

The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) Academy has been recertified and its accreditation renewed as a training service provider for various professionals in the banking industry for the next three years effective June, 2020, by the Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

The recertification, according to the Head of the five-man CIBN Accreditation Team, Mr. Saubana Ogunpola, followed the exemplary performance of the NDIC Academy since it initial accreditation in 2016 and the satisfaction of the stringent conditions for the recertification. He noted there would be periodic monitoring to ensure that quality standards are being adhered to.

A statement quoted Ogunpola to have commended the NDIC for its consistent efforts toward meeting high standards for the benefit of the banking industry and the larger economy.

He described the NDIC’s readiness to subject itself to the rigors of the Institute’s accreditation process as a testimony of its Management’s commitment to capacity development for all stakeholders.

Reacting to the development, NDIC’s Managing Director/Chief Executive, Mr. Umaru Ibrahim described the recertification as another milestone in the NDIC efforts to consolidate the position of the Academy as a center of academic excellence in the nation’s banking industry and on deposit insurance in Africa.

Ibrahim disclosed that the Academy had so far trained a total of 13,368 participants cut across the NDIC’s workforce. It had also trained 135 participants from relevant stakeholders, including the EFCC, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

On the international front, 19 employees from sister deposit insurance agencies in African had benefitted from the expertise of the Academy

He stated that the NDIC Academy has been designated to host the African Centre for Studies on Deposit Insurance System (ACSDIS) recently established by the Africa Regional Committee (ARC) of the International Association of Deposit Insurance (IADI).

Ibrahim reiterated that with the recertification, the NDIC Academy is positioned to fulfill the NDIC’s goal of serving as a center of excellence for capacity building on Deposit Insurance Scheme (DIS) for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. He added that the NDIC prides itself on establishing the highest standards of professionalism and competency among its staff through the NDIC Academy and other human capital development initiatives, including the Chartered Banker/MBA program at Bangor University, Wales in partnership with the CIBN.

The NDIC boss emphasiSed that the corporation places high premium on capacity building and continuous high level training of its staff to achieve the NDIC mandate of deposit guarantee, bank supervision, bank distress resolution and liquidation. The ultimate goal, he said, would be to enhance depositor protection and public confidence in the nation’s banking system.

CIBN

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Popoola Wants Role for Credit Bureau in CBN’s Intervention Fund Disbursement

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images 2020 09 28T095730.905 Popoola Wants Role for Credit Bureau in CBN’s Intervention Fund Disbursement

The access, impact and prospects of the intervention funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) formed the basis of discussion at a recent webinar organised by the CRC Credit Bureau.

The webinar was part of the firm’s CSR initiative that serves as an avenue to enlighten members of the public on issues around financial literacy and the Bank’s policies.

The Managing Director/ CEO, CRC Credit Bureau, Dr. ‘Tunde Popoola, said: “As at now most of the intervention funds, especially by the state governments are disbursed without reference to the credit bureaus. Even after disbursement, such data are not submitted to the credit bureaus.

“What happens is that wrong people or non-targeted platforms may be the beneficiaries of the intervention funds”

Popoola further advocated that data of beneficiaries be submitted to the credit bureau, saying it would help in collection and repayment, alongside improve access to non-government funds for credit beneficiaries as well as instill discipline to the repayment process.

Presenting the intervention funds as one of the key mandate of the CBN, Dr. Chinedu Zephaniah, of its Development Finance Department, said the Bank was positioned to promote a sound financial system, stimulate key sectors and facilitate investment in critical infrastructure that will assist development alongside deployment of finance to specific focal centres.

For him, the grand aim of development financing is to increase impact, achieve employment elasticity in some sectors of the economy and diversify the economic base of the economy.

“Our focus is on agriculture, manufacturing, specialised products for MSMEs, infrastructure and then power. These are the sectors that when we intervene, we have a wider range of effects to the economy.

“In all, CBN has disbursed over N1.5 trillion in terms of facilities. CBN will continue to focus on the priority sectors of the economy using particularly agriculture and manufacturing through a range of direct policy and indirect policy interventions, alongside direct funding of these sectors.

“We will take advantage of the COVID-19 and turn its difficulties into opportunities,” he explained.

Presenting fund management and project implementation as some of the duties of Bank of Industry, the Executive Director of Bank of Industry, Mr. Simon Araronu, during his session moved on to explain that BOI also plays a monetary role in overseeing that the funds are returned back to the fund owner, the CBN as at when due.

According to Araronu, the four core intervention funds managed at the BoI include power and airline, SMes, industry finds and textile intervention funds.

“Following the COVID-19 development, there was need for palliative. CBN was very proactive and offered a reduction in interest rate.

“Right now, the interest rate for the aforementioned intervention funds have gone down from nine per cent to five per cent for one year.

“The idea behind it is to provide palliative to players in this sector. For projects under implementation, CBN granted a one-year extension of moratorium from March 1, to February 28, 2021,” he added.

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