The Central Bank of Nigeria said it will grant more licences for payment service banks after it set a minimum capital base of $13 million, which could prevent telecoms firms and some other potential new entrants to the digital financial services sector. The monetary regulator Monday said that telecom firms, banking agents, retail chains and postal services could apply for licences to become payment banks. It directed that they must set up a separate company for it with a minimum capital of N5 billion or $13 million and run it as an independent entity from their existing operations. So far, the CBN has granted three licences to 9PSB, a unit of local telecom firm, 9mobile, and two others. MTN, Nigeria’s biggest telecoms firm, which is yet to receive approval, last year launched a mobile money transfer service, targeting those without bank accounts in a bid to secure the central bank’s approval for a payments licence as the country looks to open up its digital financial services sector, which will help millions of Nigerians who do not have bank accounts. However, regulation has been caught up with intense lobbying from lenders seeking to protect their turf in the wake of intense competition and weakening asset quality. The success of mobile money in East Africa has convinced investors and the industry that financial services are the next growth area for the telecoms sector, where prices for basic services are falling. But the licensing requirement in Nigeria risks putting off investors. Telecom firms had argued that they are not banks who need capital base after CBN two years ago issued preliminary guidelines for payment banks. The regulator said in its circular that it could ask payment banks to recapitalise for specific risks. It said that payment banks should operate mostly in rural areas and unbanked locations, accepting deposits from individuals and small businesses, but they cannot grant loans.

Nigeria’s state oil firm recorded a ₦5.34 billion or $14 million cost for fuel in June 2020, months after it changed its pricing method in an effort to eliminate subsidies. The NNPC said the figures were an under-recovery – the losses incurred due to the difference between the subsidised price at which the corporation sells petrol and the price which it should have received to meet its production cost in the month. The NNPC data showed that in January, February and March 2020, the oil firm incurred ₦43.31 billion, ₦20.68 billion and ₦37.66 billion respectively as under-recoveries. It, however, posted zero under-recovery in the months of April and May 2020, based on receipts and payments for the months. According to NNPC spokesman Kennie Obateru, the costs represented temporary payments to marketers, who buy imported fuel and then sell it on, for stocks they held when the subsidy was removed and would be spread over six months. He told Reuters that since the subsidy removal started with a reduction in pump price, marketers have to be paid the differential of the (government) verified stock they held. Amid a global oil price crash in March, Nigeria cut its petrol pump price and said it had eliminated subsidies through a new price cap that maintained government control but allowed prices to move with the market. The prices had been kept artificially low at ₦145 per litre. A study supported by the British government estimated Nigeria spent ₦10 trillion on subsidies from 2006 to 2018, more than the individual budgets for health, education or defence.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has warned the FG against reopening tertiary institutions without taking concrete steps to curb the spread of COVID-19. Zones of the union said social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols were practically impossible in public tertiary institutions, which were always overcrowded in the country. On 22 August, the junior education minister, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said tertiary institutions shut in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in March, would reopen “very soon.” But the national vice president of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said that if the government believed that the education sector was critical, it should meet the COVID-19 guidelines which it prepared for school reopening. He maintained that top-notch procedures were created at airports because the elite children needed to be kept safe while returning to school abroad, whereas other Nigerian children were asked to go back to campuses which were not COVID-19 complaint. Similarly, the Lagos Zone of ASUU, during a press conference at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, said the FG should be ready for possible negative consequences if it reopened the institutions without putting necessary measures in place. The Lagos zonal coordinator of ASUU, Prof Olusiji Sowande, who addressed the press conference complained that government made arrangements for a special bailout for airline operators and other private individuals, but did not extend such to public universities. He cautioned that it was not enough to have the students back on campuses, but that the atmosphere and conditions must also be right. Prof Sowande said hostel accommodation was inadequate, adding that there were no facilities to ensure physical distancing in large and crowded classes. He declared that years of neglect of both education and health sectors in the country had resulted in inadequate infrastructure and lack of well-equipped diagnostic, testing, treatment and research laboratories in both sectors.

Leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an umbrella organisation of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have entered a peace deal Monday towards ending 17 years of conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Fighting in Darfur alone had left about 300,000 people dead after rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations, with former government leaders accused of carrying out genocide and crimes against humanity. Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, in the wake of South Sudan’s independence, resuming two decades of war. Sudanese paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — best known by his nickname “Hemeti”, and who commanded fighters in the war — signed the deal on behalf of Khartoum. Faisal Mohammed Salih, Sudan’s information minister, told AFP, at the ceremony in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan that the country has started the real transformation of Sudan from dictatorship to democracy. Rebels fought troops deployed by now-toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. Bashir, who is in jail in Khartoum convicted of corruption, is now on trial for the 1989 coup in which he grabbed power. Sudan’s transitional authorities in February agreed Bashir be handed over to the ICC. Officials have said that the deal was “initialled” and not signed, as a way to leave the door open for two key holdout rebel groups to join in a “final” agreement. Forging peace with rebels, which covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power-sharing and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting, has been a cornerstone of Sudan’s transitional government, which came to power in the months after the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019. Sudan’s rebels are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of the government in Khartoum.The