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Food security: Heritage Bank restates commitment to deepen Agro-business funding

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Heritage Bank Plc has reiterated its commitment to further deepen the drive to support agribusiness value chain in order to fast track food security and sufficiency in the country.

The MD/CEO of the bank, Mr Ifie Sekibo, who disclosed this, stated that in a bid to support food sufficiency, Heritage Bank would not relent in boosting the agric base of the nation and; making farming profitable to stakeholders and attractive to the youth.

Specifically, he affirmed that the bank would focus in supporting the agric space via financing farmers to purchase modern technology; as the funding will bring about transformative development in the sector.

According to him, the bank would support the drive for cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, which the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has always been cautious given the dangers the continuous reliance on imported food items pose to its efforts to create jobs as well as develop and diversify the economy.

The bank’s Group Head, Agriculture Finance, Mr Olugbenga Awe, also disclosed that Heritage Bank is committed to the development of agribusiness and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“Our support cuts across the entire value chain with focus on large corporates and small holder farmers.  We encourage value addition and ultimately export,” he said.

He, however, noted that the bank’s support goes beyond food sufficiency to increasing cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.

He hinted that Heritage Bank is effectively tackling the bottlenecks since it has long identified the opportunities in agribusiness, thereby offering solutions to ease of doing business in the sector.

“For ease of financing, we would be better off with functional commodity exchanges as a country. We can start by refinancing commodities through a warehousing receipt systems, gradually we will move to crop receipt. With commodities exchange, the value-chain is strengthened and the whole system is structured. Exchange helps in reducing the long marketing chain, it helps in enforcement of commodity standards, it provides price certainty and in some cases storage and warehousing facilities,” Awe suggested.

He further noted, “if we sustain the current momentum on rice, we shall surely export rice in the nearest future, and the operative word here is sustaining the momentum. However, there is need for strategic alignment on objectives. The current focus by government is on small holders’ farmers using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by Central Bank of Nigeria.”

The Group Head, Agriculture Finance, said to hasten the export drive, commercial farmers will have to step in and drive the process using mechanization on thousands of hectares of farmland with vast irrigation networks and all year round farming as most importers need large quantities delivered on schedule.

Meanwhile, he noted that with the Heritage Bank strategic partnership, CBN had continued to provide lot of supports through various on-lending scheme, as ABP has made visible and measurable impact especially in rice, while hoping other commodities especially grains would follow.

Awe explained that via the strategic partnerships Heritage Bank have achieved vast footprints in agribusiness.

For example, through our partnership with Triton Aqua Africa Limited and on-lending support from CBN, Heritage Bank have provided N2billion for fishery to reduce our heavy reliance on fish import.  Nigeria’s current annual demand for fish is estimated at 2.7million metric tonnes and we currently produces about 800,000metric tonnes. With support from CBN through Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme CACS, Triton is now producing about 27,000metric tonnes and their projection is to reach 100,000 metric tonnes in five years. From recent forecast, they will meet that projection easily. The bank is also supporting rice farmers under the ABP in Bakolori, Zamfara, Sanga in Kaduna and Soyabeans farmers in Rijana, Kaduna. Heritage Bank also have ongoing projects across the country.

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Contempt: Again, court commits EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to prison

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The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has been committed to prison for allegedly disobeying court order.

The court also directed the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to effect Bawa’s arrest and remand him in Kuje prison for the next 14 days until he purges himself of the contempt.

Justice R.O. Ayoola of the Kogi State High Court, in his judgement on Monday, granted the application for committal to prison of the EFCC chairman for disobeying a court ruling delivered on November 30, 2022, wherein the EFCC chairman was directed to produce the applicant in the case, Ali Bello.

Ali Bello had dragged Bawa to court for arresting and detaining him illegally, with the court ruling in his favour, only for the EFCC to arraign him for alleged money laundering three days after the ruling.

The EFCC’s applications for setting aside and stay of execution of the ruling were refused for want of merit.

The Court had, in Form 49, Order IX, Rule 13, marked, “HCL/697M/2022” and titled, “Notice to Show Cause Why Order of Committal Should not be Made,” asked the EFCC Chairman to appear before it on January 18, 2022 to explain why he should not be jailed for flouting the order given on December 12, 2022 in a case filed by Ali Bello against the EFCC and Bawa, as the 1st and 2nd respondents, respectively.

The court ordered that the EFCC and Bawa be served the motion of notice together with Form 49 by substituted means.

The court had declared the arrest and detention of the applicant in the face of a subsisting court order made by a court of competent jurisdiction and without a warrant of arrest “or being informed of the offence for which he was arrested” as unlawful, unconstitutional, and in contravention of the personal liberty and dignity of human person guaranteed under Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

The court had also ordered the respondents to tender an apology to the applicant in a national newspaper and awarded N10 million compensation for him.

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Fidelity grows profit to N52 billion for FY 2022 

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Fidelity Bank Plc has announced an impressive growth in Profit Before Tax to N52 bn for the Full Year 2022. This was made known in the Bank’s unaudited statement of account presented to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) on Wednesday, 31 January 2023.

 

According to the regulatory filing, the bank grew Gross Earnings by 33.9% to N335.897 billion (from N250.774 billion in FY 2021) and Net Interest Income by 61.1% to N152.813 billion (from N94.877 billion in FY 2021) leading to a Profit After Tax of N47.163billion for FY 2022 (from N35.579billion in FY 2021).

 

Similarly, Total Assets for the Bank now stand at N3.999trillion (from N3.289trillion in FY 2021) and Deposit from Customers is now at N2.591trillion (from N2.024trillion in FY 2021).

 

Analysts posit that this is yet another strong showing for the tier-one bank having sustained impressive performance year-on-year even in the face of the headwinds in the economy. Despite growing its Gross Earnings at an impressive rate, the bank has managed to record one of the lowest Non-Performing Loans (NPL) ratios in the Nigerian banking industry, for instance.

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Petition signatures to Emefiele over new naira hit 1653..

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Petition signatures to Emefiele over new naira hit 1653

 

Following the crisis over the non-availability of the redesigned N100, N200, N500 and N1000, over 1653 Nigerians have petitioned the Central Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to end what they termed ‘hardship’ on the citizens.

 

The petition, hoisted on the global change website, change.org, which was started on Friday, garnered over 1653 signatures on Saturday.

 

As of the time of filing this report, many bank customers have yet to access the new notes as many automated teller machines are either not dispensing cash or completely shut down because of the crowd.

 

Protests have erupted over the situation in some parts of the country and some banks vandalised by hoodlums, demanding access to their money lodged in several accounts.

 

 

 

There have also been controversial videos showing bank officials sabotaging the process by hiding the new notes behind old ones in vaults.

 

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has requested seven days from Nigerians to fix the mess.

 

Part of the petition stated, “The recent shortage of physical cash in Nigeria has caused major untold hardship to Nigerians. People are spending hours in long lines at banks just to withdraw cash, and many are forced to rely more on digital transactions which tend to be unreliable due to poor bank networks.

 

POS operators also charge outrageous amounts; as much as N1000 for a N10,000 withdrawal. The Central Bank of Nigeria has stated that the shortage is temporary, but it is causing serious disruption to the daily lives of many Nigerians.

 

“We call on the government, stakeholders, law enforcement agencies and the CBN to take urgent action to address the cash shortage crisis in Nigeria. We demand that the CBN increase the distribution of physical cash to meet the demand, and also any POS operator found charging outrageous amounts for withdrawal should be arrested.’’

 

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has expressed displeasure over the issue, noting that the process was not only ill-timed but also not well thought out.

 

Speaking to Sunday PUNCH during a telephone interview on Friday, National Vice President (External Affairs), Akinteye Afeez-Babatunde, said, “The whole situation is crazy. We are tired. Students are crying and complaining. They can’t get cash. The leaders have confirmed to us that they don’t care for the people. The policy is fine but the process to get it done is to the detriment of our own lives as Nigerians. Our day-to-day activities have been disrupted. Nigerians are suffering.’

 

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