Nigeria’s government says it will impose “precision” lockdown measures in areas that report rapid increases in cases of coronavirus but will slow the phased reopening of the economy. According to the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, the recent order of the President Muhammadu Buhari on gradual ease of lockdown will remain in force for another two weeks. Buhari had on 27 April announced a “phased and gradual easing” of the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, while declaring a nationwide curfew with effect from 4 May. The FG also extended a full lockdown in the northern economic hub of Kano state, which has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the country behind the commercial capital Lagos, and where authorities are investigating a spate of mysterious deaths. Nigeria had planned to completely ease coronavirus lockdowns in those states over a six-week period from 4 May. The government said its phased reopening of strict lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states would go more slowly than initially planned, and the current phase of gradual reopening would last a further two weeks. Mustapha said in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria was not yet ready for full opening of the economy “and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority.” The country has also implemented a nationwide curfew from 8.00 pm to 6.00 pm, ordered individuals to wear face masks in public and banned all inter-state movements. Mustapha said the country would step up enforcement of these measures.
A US court has approved Nigeria’s request to seek documents from VR Capital Group, an asset manager with a stake in Process & Industrial Development (P&ID). Nigeria is currently in a legal tussle to overturn a $9.7 billion judgement awarded against it for a breach of agreement in a gas project. Bloomberg reports that Paul Engelmayer, a US district judge, ruled in Nigeria’s favour on May 14 that it could subpoena information from VR Capital, four subsidiaries and three of its directors. Nigeria recently received court permission to access the account statements of some former public office holders including former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience; former ministers of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke and Rilwanu Lukman. According to Bloomberg, a Cayman Islands-registered unit of VR Capital acquired a 25% interest in P&ID in 2018 whom Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation, says would have conducted due diligence on the firm that is “highly relevant” to the ongoing investigation. Court filings show that Nigeria wants VR Capital to hand over documents concerning the company’s purchase of P&ID shares as well as the contract and arbitration proceedings. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said its investigations have shown that P&ID acknowledged destroying records “in or around January 2017” and VR Capital is “a logical source” for recovering such information. In 2017, a UK judge found Nigeria guilty of breach of contract in a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) with P&ID.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the non-performing loans of insurance companies and other financial organisations granted by banks dropped by ₦24.28 billion from ₦28.86 billion in December 2018 to ₦4.58 billion at the end of the 2019 financial year. The report also showed that the total non-performing loans in the banking sector stood at ₦1.05 trillion out of a total loan of ₦17.56 trillion as of the end of 2019. Banking sector loans to finance, insurance, and capital market operators are about 7.4 percent of the total loans in the sector. The National Insurance Commission has barred the regulated entities from borrowing money to meet their recapitalisation requirements as the underwriters beef up their capital to meet the new order. The commission had said that the features of paid-up share capital constituting the companies’ new capital in the sector’s ongoing recapitalisation would be absolute paid-up share capital, as distinct from solvency capital/capital fund/capital base.
The chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami, has enacted an old civil service rule hitherto suspended to retire nine directors of the agency. The chairman was said to have unlawfully removed the directors to pave the way for his allies. According to the Punch, the government of late President Umaru Yar’Adua had instituted a civil service rule which made it compulsory for directors to retire after serving for eight years. However, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari rescinded that directive. The new regulations said that civil servants are to leave service after attaining the retirement age of 60 or spending 35 years in service. The new regulation, which was reportedly upheld by former Chairman of the FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, as no director was retired as long as they had not crossed the retirement benchmark, was, however, revoked by Nami who assumed office in November 2019. Nami was said to have instructed that directors who had served for eight years be retired. Nine directors received retirement letters in March 2020. According to a copy of the letter signed by Nami, the board of the FIRS at its emergency meeting held 20 March 2020, approved the retirement of all directors who have served eight years and above as directors in the service in line with Para 10: 1(a)(iii) of HRPP. The directors were asked to retire the service with immediate effect. The affected directors were Victor Ekundayo (Career and Skills Development); Kemi Odusanya (Facility); Emmanuel Obeta (Chairman’s Office); Chiaka Okoye (Programme Office Non-Tax); Kola Okunola (ICT); Asheik Maidugu (Planning and Statistics); Innocent Ohagwa (Human Capital Development); Ezra Zubair (Programmes and Policy Monitoring) and Olufemi Faniyi (Team Lead Tax Operations Group).