Microsoft calls for cross border solution to Software piracy

Microsoft, has recommended an enhanced enforcement mechanism using dedicated specialised Intellectual Property enforcement; investigating and prosecuting resources and cross border cooperation among law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across West Africa to check software piracy in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Anti-Counterfeiting Collaboration (ACC) of Nigeria’s fifth roundtable held in Lagos, Microsoft officials said the war against piracy would not be successful unless all stakeholders put in place certain measures.

Microsoft stressed the need for increased public education and awareness to change the current public attitude toward software and IP, while calling for a leader-led model by the government through the promotion and use of legal software in state-owned enterprises and by its contractors and suppliers as a precondition for contract.

The company also called for implementing software asset management (SAM) programmes in Nigeria and the West African region .

The Head, Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Anglophone West Africa, Ms. Ijeoma Abazie, at the roundtable to review the IPR Bill gave tips on how to address software piracy, its various forms, how it undermines the industry’s ability to innovate, limits economic growth in economies around the world and puts consumers’ data and security at risk, as well as the use of anti-piracy technology to checkmate it.

Disclosing some findings of the Business Software Alliance/INSEAD study, Abazie, said that increasing the use of genuine software by 1% contributes $73billion to the global economy as opposed to $20billion from pirated software, a whopping gap of $53billion.

She highlighted the benefits of curbing software piracy to include job creation, higher tax revenues and safety. Abazie said there was an urgent need to draft and enact an internet protocol bill for Nigeria to align the country with international best practice and technological developments.

The ACC is the umbrella body for intellectual Property Rights legalisation and related issues in Nigeria with membership spanning across all sectors including the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association of Nigeria.



SEC Approves New Minimum Capital Base For Market Operators

Securities and Exchange Commission (Nigeria)

Securities and Exchange Commission (Nigeria) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The board of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved a new minimum capital requirement for all categories of capital market operators pursuant to Section 313(6) of the Investments and Securities Act (ISA) 2007.

Following the amendments, the capital requirement for a broker/dealer has been increased from N70 million to N300million.

The capital requirement for a broker has been increased from N40 million to N200 million and for a dealer, from N30 million to N100 million.

The capital requirement for issuing houses has been increased from N150 million to N200 million, while that of an underwriter has been increased from N100 million to N200 million.

This development comes barely one year after stock brokers faulted moves encouraging a one-size-fit all approach to minimum capital requirement for dealing member firms at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

They had suggested that the minimum capital requirement for stock broking firms’ should be determined by the level of business they want to do.

For a registrar, the capital requirement has been increased from N50 million to N150 million while that of trustees have been raised to N300million, from N40 million.

The capital requirement for rating agencies has been increased from N20 million to N150 million, while that of corporate investment advisers stay at N5 million.

The minimum capital requirement for an individual investment adviser increased to  N2million from N500, 000, while that of fund/portfolio managers’ has been raised from N20 million to N150 million.

Analysts are of the view that the recapitalisation is on the high side considering the intermediation role of market operators.


Investors switch to short-term bonds

After a bumper year for Nigerian stocks, investors are selling riskier assets and moving money into short-term debt due to uncertainty over government spending and the future leadership at the Central Bank of Nigeria, according to Reuters.

Nigeria has grown as an investment destination.

Foreign bond holdings swelled five-fold in 2012 to an estimated $5.4billion, due to its inclusion in the JP Morgan index and a stable Naira.

CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, who is due to step down in June, has been the driving force behind the currency stability and in pushing inflation down to a five-year-low of 7.8% in October.

Inflation inched up slightly to 7.9% in November.

The CBN has kept rates on hold since last year after six successive hikes in 2011, including a 275-basis-point rise in October 2012 to 12%, to ward off speculation against the Naira, which fell 4.5% against the dollar in 2011.

Investors worry that the next CBN Governor may not follow Sanusi’s tight monetary policy, while an expected hike in government spending before the elections in 2015 adds to currency risks, prompting a wait-and-see approach by many investors.

Analysts expect the currency to weaken to N164 against the US dollar by the end of 2014 – not far off the Finance Ministry’s June forecast of N163 to the dollar by end-2014.

Reuters quoted Emerging Market Strategist at Standard Bank, Mr. Samir Gadio, as saying, “The uncertain transition at the central bank and the pre-electoral climate in 2014 will weigh on sentiment.”

Domestic pension funds and asset managers are cutting exposure to stocks and putting cash in treasury bills to keep gains recorded after sharp rises in the main share index, which is up 41% this year.

Stocks began rising last year as Nigeria made a late recovery from the 2009 banking crisis, luring back foreign investors as well as locals.

Bond yields have remained steady at around 12.5% since November, while the stock index eased off a five-year high in June and has been largely flat for a month after hitting a resistance level around 39,000 points.

The three-year bond was sold last week at 12.90%, higher than the 12.55% it sold last month, while the one-year treasury bill, yielding 11.66%, has attracted the most demand.

“We have switched to the short-end of the (yield) curve,” said Adeniyi Falade, managing director of Crusader Sterling Pension, which has increased the weight of bonds and short-term debt in its portfolio by 10% to 70% over the last three months and cut exposure to stocks.

“We’re trying to match asset maturity with uncertainties around the exit of the central bank governor and forthcoming elections,” said Falade, who manages over N100billion ($630million) in pension funds.

FSDH, a domestic asset management firm, which manages over N50billion ($315million), said it viewed the equity market as overbought and has reduced its exposure in the past three months in favour of short-term treasury bills.

Offshore investors are also buying up treasury bills and exiting long-term bonds and stocks.

Foreigners account for around 60% of stock trading on the local bourse, stock exchange data show.

NNPC urges FHC to review TAT’s ruling

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has urged the Federal High Court to review a ruling by the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT), Lagos Zone, on a dispute over oil mining lease (OML) 118 Production Sharing Contract (PSC) in the case of Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Company Limited and others V. FIRS and another, Suit No. TAT/LZ/001/2012.

Parties involved are the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria (Deep Water) Limited, Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited and Total E & P Nigeria Limited, joined as second to sixth respondents.

NNPC sought a declaration that TAT, Lagos Zone (the first respondent) lacks the jurisdiction to adjudicate over rights and obligations conferred on parties to the Bonga PSC.

It said the TAT cannot determine contractual disputes arising from the interpretation of the contract.

Shell, Esso, Agip and Total had sought declaratory reliefs at the tribunal over the determination of tax incidences of parties in PSC involving NNPC.

The tribunal, in its July 3 ruling, assumed jurisdiction in the case. It held: “The tax assessment challenged in this appeal is within the remit of the Tax Appeal Tribunal.”

But NNPC urged the Federal High Court per Justice Mohammed Idris, to declare the tribunal’s decision “ultra vires, illegal, wrongful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”

It sought an order of certiorari urging the High court to take over the tribunal’s proceedings and to quash the ruling and an order prohibiting the TAT from further hearing and making any decision in the matter.

NNPC said the tribunal erred when it assumed the powers conferred by Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution on the Federal High Court to entertain and determine matters relating to government revenue.

It claimed that by the provisions of the PSC, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth respondents are not tax payers known to the FIRS and as such are unable to successfully maintain an action before the TAT against FIRS.

NNPC added that the reliefs before the TAT is such that when determined, will have direct impact on the Federal Government’s revenue and the contractual relationship in the Bonga contract.

NNPC, the concession owner and holder of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 212, executed the Bonga PSC dated April 19, 1993, with Shell as contractor to the operations of OPL 212.

Shell, Esso, Agip and Total constitute the “contractor” through a joint venture in the Bonga contract.

By the PSC’s provisions, NNPC files Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) returns for itself and the contractor.

According to NNPC, the contractor was to prepare accurate PPT returns and submit to NNPC and NNPC in turn files the returns to FIRS.

The applicant said in 2010, the contractors prepared “incorrect” PPT returns for the 2009 assessment in respect of the Bonga license and forwarded same to the NNPC.

NNPC alleged that the returns it received from the contractor were “inaccurate, incorrect and non-compliant with contractual terms of the PSC.”

It claimed it was compelled to file accurate tax returns with the FIRS, which resulted in a disagreement with the contractor.

Subsequently, the oil firms instituted an appeal at the tribunal.

They sought “a declaration that although chargeable tax for the year is USD2, 042, 706, 851, however, by virtue of the overpayment of PPT in previous years of assessment, the PPT for the Bonga Contract Area in the 2010 year of assessment is nil.”



Sterling Bank gets CBN’s nod on non-interest banking

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has granted Sterling Bank an operating license to start non-interest banking (NIB) services in the country.

With this development, Sterling Bank, has emerged the pioneer national commercial bank to fully explore the non-interest banking space as an effective means towards achieving wholesome financial inclusion in the country.

The bank said it has developed a bouquet of specialized banking products to meet a range of customer needs and expectations.

The range includes various transactional accounts, savings and investment account options involving profit-sharing, partnership contracts, trading contracts and lease contracts.



NCC to license InFraCos in 2014

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that new telecoms infrastructure companies (InFraCos) will be licensed by 2014.

Speaking at the maiden edition of the Telecom Stakeholders’ Summit in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah said the move was part of the NCC’s commitment to making sure all houses and institutions are connected by the year 2014 (i.e.universal access).

Juwah said the year 2014 will usher the auction of frequency in the 2.3GHz band in a transparent manner.

He said: “Next year will witness the bidding and issuance of licences in the different layers as prescribed in the Open Access Model. This is to say that 2014 would be a year of many additions to the industry, with more opportunities opening for investors, and services available to customers in line with government’s aspirations.”

Juwah disclosed that the NCC will continue to work towards tackling problems of quality of service with renewed vigour and anticipated cooperation of the service providers.

He said: “for a cross section of consumers who are our primary stakeholders, they have had to contend with some complaints, especially on issues of quality of service which has fluctuated over time. We hope to continue to address the challenges.”


NSE pledges support for GTI’s trading floor

The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has assured to support the operations of Nigeria’s first trading floor built by GTI Securities.

The floor was built as part of efforts to deepen the capital market as a catalyst for national development.

Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr Oscar Onyema, who gave this assurance during a visit to the trading floor, described the initiative by GTI Securities as an exciting and trail-blazing innovation.

According to him, the NSE will provide support to GTI because the private trading floor will help to drive the NSE’s stated goal of $1 trillion market capitalisation across five products.

Situated on Tinubu Street in the Marina axis of Lagos’s main Central Business District, the trading floor is a 150-seat multi-purpose trading floor. At full installed capacity, some 150 brokers and dealers can trade on all securities listed on any of the securities exchanges including Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and NASD Plc.