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Obama Signs Financial Overhaul Bill Into Law

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Revelling in victory, President Barack Obama, on Wednesday, signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression, a package that aims to protect consumers and ensure economic stability from Main Street to Wall Street.

The law, pushed through mainly by Democrats in Washington’s deeply partisan environment, has come almost two years after the infamous near financial meltdown in 2008 in the United States that was felt around the globe. The legislation gives the government new powers to break up companies that threaten the economy, creates a new agency to guard consumers and puts more light on the financial markets that escaped the oversight of regulators.

Obama described them all as commonsense reforms that will help people in their daily life — signing contracts, understanding fees, being aware of risks.

He went so far as to call the reforms “the strongest consumer protections in history.” The president added to a burst of applause: “Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes.”

Republicans portray the bill as a burden on small banks and the businesses that rely on them and argue it will cost consumers and impede job growth. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California called Obama’s bill-signing a “charade” that ignored the root causes of the financial crisis.

The president said otherwise. He argued that a crippling recession was primarily caused by a breakdown in the financial system that cannot happen again.

“I proposed a set of reforms to empower consumers and investors, to bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day, and to put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” Obama said to supporters.    “Today, thanks to a lot of people in this room, those reforms will become the law of the land.”

In a note of irony, Obama signed the bill with great fanfare in the massive Ronald Reagan Building, named after a president who championed deregulation.

The president was joined by scores of consumer advocates, state and local government officials, business owners and executives, and members of Congress who supported the bill. Obama singled out for praise Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who shepherded the bill through Congress.

In the midst of a heated midterm election season for many lawmakers, Obama sought to put the complex law in consumer-oriented terms for the nation. He said it would help root out fine print and hidden fees for people, and provide deeper scrutiny of the sophisticated financial transactions on Wall Street.

The law also assembles a powerful council of regulators to be on the lookout for risks across the finance system. Large, failing financial institutions will now be liquidated and the costs assessed on their surviving peers. Borrowers will be protected from hidden fees and abusive terms, but also will have to provide evidence that they can repay their loans. The Federal Reserve will get new powers while at the same time coming under expanded congressional oversight.

“While President Obama pats himself on the back today, families and small businesses are bracing for yet another big-government overreach that will make it harder to create new jobs,” said the House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio.

Though Obama and his top officials urged Congress to pass the law while the memory of the 2008 financial crisis was still fresh, many of the law’s provisions won’t take effect for at least a year, as regulators scramble to write new rules and implement them.

Large Wall Street banks have welcomed some provisions in the bill, but have fiercely opposed others that would limit their banking business and cut into their profitability.

Obama has at least one contentious remnant from the bill to address. He must still nominate a director for the independent consumer protection bureau, an agency that became one of the bill’s flashpoints and was attacked by Republicans as a broad expansion of government power over private business.

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, is considered a leading candidate for the job. As head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank rescue fund known as TARP, she has periodically clashed with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Liberals and unions have been aggressively pressing for her appointment. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was among the latest to voice support for of Warren, saying Tuesday she is the only candidate “uniquely qualified and equipped to head this new agency.”

But opposition in the Senate could make Warren’s confirmation difficult, a point Dodd made in a radio interview on NPR Monday. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that while the administration has additional candidates in mind, “We are confident she is confirmable.”

Also under serious consideration is assistant Treasury secretary Michael Barr, one of the architects of the financial regulation bill and a close ally of some White House officials”.

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FG To Build Industrial Clusters In N’ Delta States

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Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, says the Federal Government is planning to build industrial clusters in nine states of the Niger Delta.
The minister made the disclosure at a meeting with management staff of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt.
According to a statement by the commission’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Charles Odili on Saturday, the minister was quoted as saying that the plan was part of government Post Amnesty Initiative (PAI), targeting ex-agitators, who had completed their training in its Amnesty Programme.
“The Federal Government is planning to start a PAI, where industrial clusters will be established across the region to engage youths that graduated from current Amnesty Programme.
“We know that the amnesty programme will come to end someday, with the youths forced to fall back on NDDC.
“So, the nine Niger Delta states will have the industrial clusters that would absorb between 1,000 to 2,000 youths with different skills set.
“We are going to make provision for this in the 2020 budget of NDDC. To this end, the ministry and the commission will collaborate to realise this goal,” the minister said.
Akpabio, accompanied by Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Festus Keyamo, lauded NDDC for completing the N24 billion 29-kilometer Ogbia-Nembe road project in Bayelsa.
He said the road project, constructed by NDDC and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and connecting 14 communities had opened the area to renewed economic and agricultural growth.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has given the ministry the mandate to supervise activities of NDDC.
“So, we are now in marriage. Currently, there is a general consensus that NDDC could have done better than it has done in the past.
“We have to work together to ensure that NDDC lives up to the expectations as well as curtail its procurement activities and reduce the number of new projects and programmes.
“As at today, the commission has 12,000 ongoing projects with many of them experiencing funding challenges.
“NDDC must prioritise signature projects in each of the nine Niger Delta states. The projects should be properly funded, monitored and supervised to ensure prompt delivery,” he said.
The minister later inspected ongoing construction of the 13-floor NDDC headquarters and a failed section of the Nkpolu stretch of the East-West Road in the city.
He directed the commission to complete and move into the building on or before March 2020 to save huge rents being paid to maintain its current office.
Acting Managing Director, NDDC, Dr Akwagaga Enyia, said the commission was currently carrying out an internal audit of its finances to promote transparency.
“So, we have set out to build a new image based on a culture of service delivery devoid of corrupt practices.
“Our daily business must be transacted with no modicum of corruptive complicity,” the managing director assured.

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Experts Set Agenda For Buhari’s New Economic Team

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Economic experts have highlighted problematic areas the newly-constituted economic advisory team of the president should focus on to address the economic challenges confronting the country.
The experts spoke in reaction to the recently-constituted Economic Advisory Council (EAC) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari had, last Monday, announced the constitution of an eighth-member EAC, with Prof. Adedoyin Salami as Chairman.
The council, which replaces the current Economic Management Team (EMT), led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, will be reporting directly to the President.
An economic analyst, Dr Patricia Auta, said there was need for the council to look at how manufacturing, financial services, maritime and aviation sectors could transform the economy, create millions of jobs and pull millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
“The banks in Nigeria have not performed optimally, particularly in the areas of delivering on cash to the real sector and consumers. They seem to be engaging more in short term lending, including treasury bills.
“The result is that the economy is bleeding out. A banking policy that delivers resources to the economy is needed.
“Also, there is the need to streamline the CBN. The bank appears overburdened, especially with its concentration on development finance.
“There may be need to set up another body to handle development finance activities, so that CBN can concentrate on its core mandate of monetary policy administration and banking supervision,” she said.
Auta also called for the support of polices that promote the consumption of made-in-Nigeria goods which, she said, was good for the sustainability of local industries in the country.
Another expert, Mr Tunde Folorunso, urged the EAC members to review the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to improve implementation.
He said that the ERGP would have been able to get Nigeria out of recession, but it had so far failed to spur rapid growth and economic development.
“Government’s policies on tax appear to be poorly thought-out. There’s the need to get government to reconsider increasing VAT from 5 percent to 7.5 percent as it will have an adverse effect on the economy.
“Also, the recent clampdown by the FIRS on alleged tax defaulters’ bank accounts is unlawful and must be checked.
“Members of the EAC have their work cut out for them. They cannot massage the government’s ego. They must point out the flaws in the current economic plan and give honest advice to the president,” he said.
Also, another economist, Dr Tom Adedoyin, said that the country could not grow without first tackling the problem of insufficient power supply and poor transportation.
He hoped that the EAC would come up with ideas that would help the government address those problems which, he said, had riddled the country for decades.

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Indefinite Closure Of Borders’ll Hurt Economy -LCCI

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The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the Federal Government’s indefinite closure of the country’s borders with its neighbouring African neighbours will ultimately hurt the economy and cross-border economic activities.
The President, LCCI, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, said this last Friday during the organisation’s 2019 presidential policy dialogue in Lagos.
Ruwase who called for policy mix noted that this was not the best of times for the nation’s economy, stating that the short -term outlook of the key economic indicators was not looking bright.
While he shared the government’s efforts at tackling insecurity and smuggling, he, however, said indefinite closure of the borders would not serve as solution.
He called for reforms in the economy, adding that Nigeria’s economy had strong fundamentals, as the resources were enormous, the domestic market large and the people resourceful and enterprising.
According to him, “The closure of the land borders has enormous implications for cross border economic activities around the country.
“The indications are now that the closure is indefinite. While we share the concern of government on issues of security and smuggling, we believe that the indefinite closure of land borders is not the solution to the problem.”
Ruwase who recognised that the government had introduced some economic reforms to take the economy out of the woods, said a lot still needed to be done.
He said, “We need the right mix of policies to achieve the desired outcomes. I am aware that some policy choices have been made by the present administration to promote economic diversification, stabilise the foreign exchange market and promote small businesses.

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