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Free Zones Authority Attracts $16b to Nigeria

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… Moves to Amend OGFZA Act

By Chike Duru

The Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Nigeria (OGFZA) says it has attracted about Sixteen Billion Dollar ($16b) worth of investment commitment to Nigeria.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of OGFZA, Senator Tijjani Kaura disclosed this during a media parley at the Authority’s office in Abuja, Wednesday.

According to him, “between 2021 and 2025, OGFZA attracted a total investment commitment of $15.97b from new and existing investors in five of the Oil and Gas Free Zones.”

“They include Brass Oil and Gas Free Zone: Proposed investment – $3b; Notore Oil and Gas Free zone:  Proposed Investment-$5.35b; Liberty Oil and Gas free zone:  Proposed Investment-$6.4b; Bestaf Maritime and Industrial OGFZ: Proposed Investment-$485m and OGFZ-SBA Free zone: Proposed investment-$738m.”

Speaking on the mandate of OGFZA, Kaura stated that the “Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Nigeria (OGFZA) is the premier agency of government responsible for promoting, securing, and sustaining investments in the oil and gas free zones in the country.”

“As part of our core functions, we are mandated to facilitate Public-Private partnership investment in the nation’s oil and gas free zones as vehicle for promoting accelerated growth and sustainable development.”

“OGFZA was established in 1996 as the first government agency in the world solely dedicated for the regulation of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the energy industry.”

On the challenges facing the Authority, Kaura lamented what he described as infrastructural deficit, as well as interference with the operations of the Authority.

“One of the major challenges bedeviling our Free Zones activities, is the deplorable state of the Port Harcourt – Onne Junction of East-West Road. This section of the East-West Road provides access to major Oil and Gas Free Zones and other national strategic investments of national economic importance, including the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, Notore Industrial Complex, Eleme Refinery, Indorama Petrochemical complex, Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, Akwa Ibom State etc.”

“The Authority is also faced with the problem of regulatory interferences due to lack of understanding of the peculiar nature of the operations of free trade zones.”

On strengthening the legal framework of the organisation, he stressed that “we are also taking steps to update the laws setting up the Authorities to meet with present day realities.”

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Multiple Fibre Cuts Bar MTN’s 87m Customers From Calls, Data

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MTN Nigeria has attributed the recent network disruption encountered by its customers nationwide to several instances of fibre cuts.

On Wednesday, the 28th of February, 2024, MTN subscribers encountered difficulties in making calls or accessing data services. The issue reportedly began around 1:39 PM on that day.

In a response communicated through X, MTN Nigeria attributed the network problem to multiple fibre cuts. The company assured its customers that its engineering team is diligently working to restore normal services.

The statement issued by MTN reads: “Dear Customer, you may have experienced difficulties connecting to the network due to a significant service outage caused by multiple fibre cuts, impacting both voice and data services. Our engineers are actively addressing the issue, and services are gradually being restored in some regions. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience and understanding as we strive to fully restore service at the earliest.”

Funso Aina, Senior Manager of External Relations at MTN Nigeria, echoed similar sentiments, stating, “Our customers have encountered challenges in connecting to the network due to a major service disruption caused by multiple fibre cuts, affecting both voice and data services.”

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, the number of mobile subscriptions on the MTN network has increased to 87.04 million.

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Binance Addresses Unusual Currency Movement

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The cryptocurrency trading platform Binance has made adjustments to its trading operations to address an unusual movement in currency values. Despite reports suggesting that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other government agencies ordered Binance to impose restrictions on Nigerian traders selling USDT, Binance has distanced itself from such claims. In a report published on Wednesday by the Binance Blog, the platform clarified that its peer-to-peer (P2P) product remains operational but with some adjustments.

Binance explained that to safeguard users and prevent potential abuse, their system automatically halts trading during periods of significant currency movement. They noted an instance of temporary suppression of prices that briefly reached their system limit late at night. Prompt adjustments were made to allow trading to continue seamlessly. The platform highlighted their stringent measures to protect users, such as real-time monitoring, immediate removal of non-compliant advertisements, and permanent exclusion of bad actors from utilizing the P2P product. Continuous market surveillance ensures the swift removal of abnormal prices, supported by a fixed security deposit.

Furthermore, Binance emphasized their collaboration with legislators and authorities to uphold transparency in cryptocurrency trading and its impact on financial markets. They underscored that foreign exchange rates are influenced by various complex factors beyond Binance’s control. Despite this, they reiterated their commitment to engaging with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to facilitate open and transparent dialogue about managing the evolving cryptocurrency and financial markets landscape.

Binance encouraged users and the community to disregard any unfounded fears or uncertainties and expressed gratitude for ongoing support as they navigate dynamic market conditions. They pledged to provide updates through official channels as necessary.

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Again, CBN Hikes Import Duty Rate To N1,493.23/$1

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Less than a day after reducing the rate, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) increased the exchange rate used for calculating Customs duties at the country’s seaports by 1.4 percent on Saturday morning.

According to information from the official trade portal of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Customs duty rate has been adjusted upwards from N1,472.756 per dollar to N1,493.23 per dollar as of Saturday, February 17, 2024.

This adjustment represents a 1.4 percent rise in the Customs duty rate, resulting in an increase of N20.474 compared to the previous rate.

This move contradicts the directive from the House of Representatives, which called on the apex bank to maintain the Customs and excise duties exchange rate below N1,000 per dollar. The House proposed pegging the rate at N951.941 per dollar, believing that reducing the rate would stimulate activity in Nigerian ports, curb inflation, and enhance economic stability.

The decision to raise the Customs duty exchange rate means that importers will incur higher costs to clear their goods, as import duties are linked to the dollar.

The new rate aligns with the official CBN foreign exchange rate of N1,493.73 per dollar as of Saturday, February 15, 2024, as announced by Customs management.

Earlier this year, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Adewale Adeniyi, stated that the Service would solely use the exchange rate from the official Central Bank window for clearing imported goods and would refrain from arbitrarily adjusting the exchange rate.

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