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Oil Companies And Bank Loans

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Olusola Bello

The five banks which last weekend had their managing directors sacked by the apex bank are also known to have been involved in what is now called banks unusual romance with the oil and gas industry. The former bank bosses may have marched into the slippery terrain of the industry without first of all doing their home work on the vagaries of the sensitive sector. The bait which forced them to lower their guard was the fact that the oil firms continued to service their accounts a tendency which subsequently took the place of the good old collateral. Many analysis have faulted the banks’ failure to conduct due diligence on the sector before offering the companies jumbo loans that were not secured.
On their part, the oil firms selling the idea that the escalating price of crude oil would continue to point skywards, took advantage of the situation to churn out irresistible bankable proposals.
There was a sudden rise in the price of crude oil to about $140 per barrel while the price of products like Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) or petrol, Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) or diesel was sold at about N140 per litre. However, against the importers’ and their bankers’ expectations, prices started falling. Through this the importers incurred heavy losses.Again, the banks influenced by greed and their level of solvency threw so much money into the oil sector because they considered the sector as the honey pot that yielded quick and fantastic returns.
A source said that there are many factors that prompted the oil companies to also seek for loans, one of which was that some of them have no genuine intention to pay back the loans.
The loans, the source said were used for other purposes that were also hit by the economic recession and this has made it difficult for them to repay back the loans.
There have also been allegations of diversion of some of the loans by the oil companies to real estates. Unfortunately, the sector like other sectors of the economy also crashed, leaving their investments in danger.
Some of the oil companies were said to have taken loans to import products at higher prices only to sell at much lower prices in the bid to under-cut the established oil companies and gain popularity among consumers. While this was going on, the prices of the product plummeted and have not risen since that time. So, rather than make returns on their investments, the firms were recording loses.
Compounding the problems associated with the loans, was the steady upward movement of interest rates, exchange rate fluctuations and the devaluation of naira which some of the firms could hardly cope with because of their capital base.
For instance, the exchange rate was $1 to N117 as at the time the imports were made before they could arrive the country the exchange rate had risen to N150 to $1.
This situation made oil marketing companies to threaten to stop fuel importation into the country. They consequently gave conditions under which they would import products especially Premium Motor Spirit or petrol.
The private sector which imports at leat 50 per cent of the nation’s Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) requirements under the Petroleum Subsidy Fund (PSF) scheme while Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) delivered the balance were aggrieved that the government was not paying them what could cover their cost of importation.
The exchange rate was beyond what was provided for the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) import template. As a result, when the verified private sector subsidy claims for the third quarter of 2008 of $1,189,964,305.45 was paid in naira, on the 10th of January, 2009 at the rate of N117.91, the naira payment of N139,225,823,738.27, could only purchase $870,161,398.36 at the prevailing exchange rate thereby leaving a shortfall of $319,802,907.09, a sum equivalent to the nation’s cost of PMS import for a month.”
By virtue of the Clause 3.3 of the agreement between the PPPRA and importers on PSF, subsidy payment should be made monthly and within 15 days of submission of claim.
They argued that they were unable to recover these additional costs from the regulated pump price. The marketers had to fight for a foreign currency window to be made available for PMS importation, at current market trends. The private sector requires between $200m. $250m monthly for importation of petroleum products.
To ensure continuous supply of products, the marketers stated that they would require the following.
Immediate payment of all outstanding cost and exchange rate differential.
All payments for subsidy claims or contribution should be based on the prevailing exchange rate.
Interest on late payments of subsidy claims should be paid on past claims to enable importers recover cost of funding.
Current interest rate as a result of worldwide economic situation must be reflected in the template, PPPRA and Ministry of Finance must make payment within the period stipulated in the contract to avoid additional costs.
Foreign exchange availability is a precondition for guaranteed supply of petroleum products in some of the relatively new companies engaged in frivolous extravagance in their attempt to be heard and seen in places where ordinarily they should not be. A couple of them spend valuable time lobbying lawmakers and sponsoring government officials to international events and seminars without taking a look at the implications of the flamboyant lives on the business they are doing.
The government liberalisation of the sector which gave room to all manner of people coming into the sector with the hope of bringing in products and getting refunds through the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) did not help matters. But this was not forthcoming on time as the government had to delay for a long while before paying up the difference between the landing cost of the products and the official price at the pump stations.
Lack of human capacity in the energy sector by most of the banks was a major snag in the way the banks transact their oil businesses. This has resulted in their inability to do due credit analysis on the various companies that were given the loans even as some of the companies that received credits did not have storage facilities. They are brokers or bulk purchasers who go about to beg fellow operators with depot to assist them with letters stating that they would be allowed to use their facility in order that federal government may give them licence to import products.
A particular company among the ones listed as owing some of the banks was alleged to have imported four ship loads of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) without having any storage facilities. The ships were said to have stayed for 60 days on the Nigerian territorial waters without much success before they sailed back to Europe.
Culled from Business Day

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CBN Assures On Depositors’ Fund Safety 

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reassured the banking public of the safety of their deposits and the banking system’s resilience.
CBN’s Acting Director of  Corporate Communications Department, Mrs Hakama Sidi-Ali, gave the assurance in a statement on  Monday in Abuja.
The statement, a response to concerns raised about the stability of some Nigerian banks in the wake of Heritage Bank Plc’s license revocation, faulted claims that the CBN was considering revoking the operating licences of Fidelity, Polaris, Wema, and Unity Banks.
It also clarified that a circular issued by the Bank on January 10, 2024, notifying the public about the dissolution of the Boards of Union, Keystone, and Polaris Banks, was currently being circulated as though it was freshly issued.
According to the Director, Heritage Bank’s case was isolated.
“Allegations of further revocation of licences prior to the completion of CBN’s recapitalisation exercise are mere fabrications aimed at creating panic within the system”, Sidi-Ali said.
She stated that bank customers, particularly those of Heritage Bank, need not worry about the safety of their deposits, adding that the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) had commenced payment to the bank’s insured depositors.
The spokesperson urged members of the public to continue their regular banking activities without fear, dismissing any false reports regarding the health of specific Deposit Money Banks.
“The CBN, with its robust regulatory framework, is proactively ensuring the stability of Nigeria’s financial system, thereby guaranteeing the safety of depositors’ funds in all Nigerian financial institutions”, she said.
Sidi-Ali reiterated the assurances of the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, that the recapitalisation of banks in Nigeria was intended to bolster the banking system and safeguard the sector against risks.

She urged all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring the success of the process, which she said would be for the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Without prejudice to the ongoing recapitalisation process, I want to restate that the Nigerian banking industry remains resilient. Key financial soundness indicators remain within current regulatory thresholds.

“Customers are, therefore, encouraged to proceed with their transactions as usual, as the CBN is committed to ensuring the safety of the banking system”, she said

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NERC Approves New Tariff Hike For Port Harcourt DisCo

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In spire of calls that the recently hiked “Band A” tariff be reversed, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has approved a new tariff hike for the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (DisCo).
NERC permitted the PHED to raise tariffs for Band A customers categorised as Maximum Demand 2 Special (A – MD2 Special).
MD customers are customers that have a load of 45kVA and above. They also operate and maintain their dedicated transformers.
From N206 per kilowatt-hour, this category of customers within the Port Harcourt franchise will now pay N225/KWh.
In a regulatory instrument tagged June 2024 Supplementary Order to the Multi-Year Tariff Order – 2024 (“June 2024 Supplementary Order”) for Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc, the NERC said the tariff approval was under the Tariff Review Application by PHED.
“Further to Section 23 of the MYTO-2024, this Supplementary Order seeks to reflect the changes in the pass-through indices outside the control of licensees including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rate, available generation capacity and gas price for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs”, NERC stated.
The electricity regilator emphasised the basis for the review, saying the Naira to the US Dollar exchange rate of N1,469.06 per dollar has been adopted for June to December 2024. It said this has been determined by adding a 1 per cent transaction cost to the average foreign exchange rate of N1,454.52 during the period May 1 to 24, 2024 as obtained from the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It also added that the Nigerian inflation rate of 33.69 per cent for April 2024 as published by the National Bureau of Statistics was applied to revise the Nigerian inflation rate projection for 2024.
“Under Section 116 of the Electricity Act and extant regulations, the commission has considered and approved for PHED, the tariffs (in Table 2) effective 1st June 2024. The approved tariffs shall remain in force subject to monthly adjustments of pass-through indices including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rates and gas-to-power prices.
“In line with the policy direction of the Federal Government of Nigeria on electricity subsidy, the allowed tariffs for Bands B – E customer categories shall remain frozen at the rates payable since December 2022 subject to further policy direction by the government.
“With this policy, the estimated subsidy benefit for customers under the PHED franchise in 2024 is approximately N11.49bn monthly”, the NERC stated.
In April, the NERC announced a new tariff for customers in Band A, from N68/KWh to N225/KWh.
It later reduced the tariff to N206.80/KWh based on the rebound of the naira.
Meanwhile, organised labour and manufacturers have kicked against the Band A tariff.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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AMJON Partners School To Train Journalists On Maritime Operations 

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The Association of Maritime journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) has gone into a mutually beneficial collaboration with School of Eloquence to strengthen the capacity and reporting skills of Maritime journalists.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Chairman, AMJON Organising Committee, Mr. Segun Oladipupo and made available to our correspondent in Lagos on Monday.
According to the statement, “This year’s edition, tagged “Special Edition”, is a collaborative effort between the foremost Public Speaking training School,  School of Eloquence and AMJON”.
Oladipupo said the training is slated to hold on Friday at the School of Eloquence premises at Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
“Experts from the Nigeria Customs Service, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and School of Eloquence have been lined up to train journalists on the rudiments of their own operations”, according to the statement.
Speaking, the President of AMJON, Paul Ogbuokiri, said journalism required constant training to be in tune with evolving trends in the industry.
According to him, journalism has taken a leap from what it used to be and journalists need to equip themselves with modern journalism tools that will help them to catch up with the trends.
“We need constant training and restraining to be relevant in this age of journalism. If we fail to update ourselves, we will soon fizzle out,
“This partnership with the School of Eloquence is a right step in the right direction. It will no doubt, energise our knowledge of reportage”, he stated.
On his part, the Chairman, Organising Committee, Segun Oladipupo, said the event would afford members the opportunity to take their reporting to enviable height
He, therefore, enjoined participants to seize the opportunity to learn new trends in journalism and also learn the business side of the job.
He thanked the School of Eloquence for providing a platform for Nigerian journalists to take a flight in their daily assignment.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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