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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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Farmer Cries Out Over Cattle Invasion

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A farmer in Aluu Community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr Nwo Nna, has cried out over cattle invasion of his farmland and crops.
Nna made this known in a chat with newsmen in Aluu recently.
He said that the most worrisome aspect of the development was the neglect by the herders of the Anti-Grazing Law passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The farmer who discribed such as vexatious and  provocative, appealed for intervention by relevant agencies in order to secure their future.
“I got to my  farm on Saturday morning only to see my vegetables, cassava, yam and the entire farm devastated by cows”, he said.
He  expressed regrets that his farm, which was not at the road  had experienced such  attack for the second time.
The farmer noted that it would have been a different ball game, if he had met the herders in his farm.
“The saving grace was that  I did not meet them. They should be called to order to avoid problems”, he said.
He also sought for urgent intervention of  the Rivers State Government, Myyetti Allah and other relevant authorities to warn the herders to keep off people’s farms in the interest of peace.
The farmer further explained that it was becoming a regular practice for herders to parade their cows along the roads, and such  cows  stray into farm lands and  destroy people’s means of livelihood.
While declaring that Rivers people are hospitable, the farmer warned stranger elements, who do not have respect for the laws of the land as well as terrorise other people’s means of livelihood, to take their lawlessness elsewhere.
Other farmers who also responded  called for the establishment of a system that monitors the  activities of herders.
According to them, it will enable those who take their cows into farms to be identified and adequately sanctioned in the event of any invasion by the cows.
This, they said will bring a lasting peace and as well  serve as a deterrent to others.

By: King Onunwor

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EFCC Blames Frauds In Banking Sector On Insiders

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission last Wednesday said most frauds in the banking sector were perpetrated by insider Information, Communication Technology employees.
Head, Cybercrime Section of the EFCC, Abbah Sambo, made the declaration at a national seminar on Banking and Allied Matters for judges in Abuja recently.
Sambo, who represented the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, at the seminar, said that most banking sector frauds handled by the commission showed that bank employees aided the acts.
He also expressed regrets at the increasing rate of cybercrime in spite of efforts by the commission to tackle it.
Sambo observed that in years past, young people involved in cybercrime were not ICT savvy, but today, it was  ICT graduates that are the champions in perpetrating the crime.
He attributed the increase in cybercrime to moral decadence and peer group influence.
“The rate at which young men are perpetrating cybercrime is seriously alarming.
“When we arrest these criminals, one major reason they give for going into the crime is peer influence.Their friends are into it and they want to run with guys that drive the best cars and have the best girls in town”, he said.
He hinted that most times when  the criminals were arrested, a lot of  assets on them,  are  registered in the names of their parents.
“Cars in the names of their mothers and houses in the names of their fathers. There is a fundamental issue relating to decay in moral coverage in the society,’’ he said.
Sambo said that the greatest challenge in fighting cybercrime was the knowledge gap, and  noted  that the criminals were getting more sophisticated.
According to him, the criminals had the ability to talk to one another seamlessly by sharing knowledge, unlike law enforcement agencies.
“A lot of the people trying to combat the crime in the field tend to lack the drive because they do not have adequate training,’’ he said.
He stressed the need for adequate sensitisation and engagement with youths, especially from secondary school level to let them know the ills of crime.
The two-day seminar was organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in collaboration with the National Judicial Institution.

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SEC Frowns At Resurgence Of Ponzi Schemes

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has frowned upon the resurgence of Ponzi schemes and illegal fund managers in the country’s financial sector.
The Director-General of SEC, Mr Lamido Yuguda, made the observation of the development at an enlightenment workshop with the staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on in Abuja over the week.
Yuguda said  that the unlawful schemes had continued to enjoy massive patronage of the populace and remained a source of concern for regulators in the financial sector.
According to him, the commission was  poised to continue to apply measures and seek the cooperation of relevant stakeholders toward combating the activities of these Ponzi schemes.
He expressed regrets that the upsurge of the schemes had undermined the reputation of the financial markets and dampened investors’ confidence, among other things.
“SEC firmly believes that the country’s capital market can attain its potential if market operators and participants contribute their respective quotas to the growth”, he said.
He also explained that SEC was committed to always ensure and maintain an environment that was enabled by the appropriate regulatory framework, timely and affordable access to market.
“The commission is also committed to zero tolerance for infractions, heightened investor confidence and awareness, innovative product development and good governance practice”, he said
“There is the need to restore investor confidence and improve the participation of retail investors in the market.
He further pointed out that the demography of investors in the country’s capital market showed that the young population do not participate in the capital market, and only a few Nigerians invested in the capital market.
The situation, he said,  created a huge challenge to the market growth and the commission  and added that it was striving to change the narratives by instilling a fair, transparent and orderly market.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, represented by Mr Stephen Okon, Director Home Finance, urged investors to take advantage of the various initiatives in the market.

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