By Rotimi Onadipe
A scam is simply defined as an illegitimate or deceptive plan of making money, particularly by tricking unsuspecting victims e.g. individuals, companies or organisations.
With the advancement of technology, particularly the invention of high tech devices everywhere e.g. smartphones and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, there is no doubt that we now live in an age where almost anything seems possible, good, easy, cheap and available.
The scammers are aware of this development and they are also taking advantage of the situation to trick unsuspecting victims into giving their money, property, personal or sensitive information to them. They are always looking for ways to make money at the expense of unsuspecting victims.
Internet-related crimes are getting more sophisticated every day because of advancements in technology. As far as online scams are concerned, we are all vulnerable irrespective of age, sex, status, tribe, academic qualification or nationality.
We must be informed that the menace of online scams in our society cannot be totally eradicated in today’s technology age but we can reduce it to the barest minimum by educating ourselves, implementing best practices and staying vigilant at all times.
There are many reasons why many people fall prey to online scams but here are some common reasons:
Safety tips to avoid online scams:
Rotimi Onadipe is the CEO of Onadipe Technologies and the founder of Internet Safety Magazine
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Stanbic IBTC Asset Management, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, charted a new course for real estate investment in Nigeria.
The financial institution was appointed to manage a real estate investment trust scheme, UPDC REIT, as confirmed by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in May 2021.
The UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust (UPDC REIT) was listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) in the year 2008. The fund manager, Stanbic IBTC Asset Management, was bestowed with the responsibility to implement the closed-ended fund’s investment strategy and other related activities.
Since it took up management of the REIT, Stanbic IBTC Asset Management focused efforts on improving the operational and governance structure of the REIT to form the bedrock for improved performance. Likewise, investor relations was prioritised with the presentation of a Fact Behind the Figures session on the NGX in December 2021. These measures had been sustained.
Recently the company announced the 2021 audited financial result for the UPDC REIT. The result showed that there were significant rooms for improvement in the largest REIT in Nigeria.
The Fund Manager’s analysis highlighted two critical reasons for the decline recorded. One was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial properties within the portfolio which contributed over 60% of the portfolio’s rental income, and the other was the effect of portfolio revaluation, in view of market realities, which resulted in a 19% decline.
The REIT’s rental income in 2021 declined to N1.26 billion, compared with NGN1.57 billion generated in the previous year. The decline was underpinned by a reduced occupancy level, which was due to remote working strategies adopted by many corporates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, due to delayed recovery of rental income from some tenants who struggled to bounce back from the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses, a N141 million impairment charge was booked.
A fair value loss of N5.04 billion was taken on the investment properties because the REIT’s properties were revaluated to fulfil regulatory requirements. Thus, the REIT recorded a loss before tax of N4.48 billion from the positive of N1.93 billion in the prior year.
As the spread of the pandemic waned, the Fund Manager was optimistic that outstanding rental fees would be recovered, and the demand for commercial office spaces would improve as more firms returned to work in office premises.
Stanbic IBTC Asset Management offered copious reassurance to stakeholders. Oladele Sotubo, Chief Executive of the Asset Management Company, stated in a commentary that, “as a Fund Manager, we have a responsibility to conduct due diligence in ensuring that the Fund which we now manage is accurately valued in line with regulatory requirements and in alignment with our expert knowledge of Funds management. With the improved liquidity on the stack and a significant discount presented by the current market price, a unique opportunity is presented to investors that seek to buy into the future of the REIT.
“In addition, we are exploring opportunities in alternative sectors which have shown economic resilience and become profitable in the last few years. Some of these sectors include retail purpose-built student accommodation, short lets, industrial properties, and so on. We expect that opportunistic acquisitions in these sectors would give room for short to medium term capital gains.
“I will summarise by saying that we are not too worried. Rather, we are excited at this opportunity to bring our experience and expertise to bear in returning the UPDC REIT to profitability while also contributing tangibly to the provision of sustainable housing and development of Nigeria’s real estate sector.”
The Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Dr Demola Sogunle, commented on the Financials saying, “as a forward-thinking organisation, we are not oblivious of the critical nature of this sector and the need for growth, hence our commitment to evolve the UPDC REIT such that investors can enjoy substantial returns on their investments. Now more than ever, we encourage Nigerians to invest in UPDC REIT, as those who invest at this time are more likely to benefit from significant medium to long term gains as the Fund performance improves and yield takes on an upward curve.”
UPDC REIT is a close-ended property fund sponsored by UPDC Plc (UPDC) in 2013 via an issue of 3,000,000,000 units at N10 each and is listed on the NGX.
Stanbic IBTC Asset Management is dedicated to developing customer assets and real estate investment trusts in Nigeria.
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Similar to a February 16, 2022, media report where economic experts urged the federal government to seek a debt moratorium and reduce the cost of governance to cut funds expended on debt servicing because it is the best option at the moment as it will enable the government to suspend payment for now and re-strategies, particularly the government cannot continue to service its rising debt profile at the expense of meeting the competing needs of the people, a similar expert warning was recently handed by economic analysts that the federal government’s soaring borrowings could eventually suffocate the country if not mitigated.
Speaking in Akure, Ondo State capital at the 32nd annual seminar for Finance Correspondents and Business Editors themed Exchange Rate Management and Economic Diversification in Nigeria: The Pave Option, the experts hinted that going by the government’s borrowing plans, a fresh N6.3 trillion debt may be added to the current debt stock of N39.556 trillion ($95.779 billion as at December 31, 2021) to ultimately push the country’s total debt stock to N45.86 trillion by December 2022.
Notwithstanding this unhealthy trend, they argued it was high time the country invested more in boosting local production and export-oriented infrastructure before the huge debt burden sinks the country.
Indeed, from the explanation/concerns expressed by these experts, this piece clearly agrees that ‘Nigeria’s debt stock has finally become an issue that calls for a more drastic approach to support the fiscal and monetary authorities to tow the nation’s economy out of the doldrums.
But what has, however, caused concern is that despite these prophecy of foreknowledge which deals with what is certain to come and prophesy of denunciation, which on its part, tells what is to come if the present situation is not changed; both acting as information and warning respectively, the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government has become even more entrenched in borrowing, ignoring these warning signals.
There are so many factors that visibly qualify as a tragedy, including the federal government’s obstinacy and inability to adhere to or heed warning signals.
First and very fundamental, in 2020, one of the reputable national newspapers in Nigeria in its editorial comment among other observations noted that Nigeria would be facing another round of fiscal headwinds this year with the mix of $83 billion in debt; rising recurrent expenditure; increased cost of debt servicing; sustained fall in revenue; and about $22 billion debt plan waiting for legislative approval.
It may be worse if the anticipated shocks from the global economy, like Brexit, the United States-China trade war and the interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve Bank go awry.
The nation’s debt stock, currently at $83 billion, comes with a huge debt service provision in excess of N2.1 trillion in 2019 but is set to rise in 2020. This challenge stems from the country’s revenue crisis, which has remained unabating in the last five years, while the borrowings have persisted, an indication that the economy has been primed for recurring tough outcomes, the report concluded.
Second is a recent news report which indicated that the federal government made a total of N3.25 trillion in 2020, out of which it spent a total of N2.34 trillion on debt servicing within the year. This means, the report underlined, that 72 per cent of the government’s revenue was spent on debt servicing. It also puts the government’s debt servicing to revenue ratio at 72 per cent.
Thirdly, it was in the news that PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network of firms, operating as partnerships under the PwC brand, in a report entitled Nigeria Economic Alert: Assessing the 2021 FGN Budget warned that the increasing cost of servicing the debt will continue to weigh on the federal government’s revenue profile.
It said, “Actual debt servicing cost in 2020 stood at N3.27 trillion and represented about 10 per cent over the budgeted amount of N2.95 trillion. This puts the debt-to-revenue ratio at approximately 83 per cent, nearly double the 46 per cent that was budgeted. This implies that about N83 out of every N100 the federal government earned was used to settle interest payments for outstanding domestic and foreign debts within the reference period. In 2021, the FG plans to spend N3.32 trillion to service its outstanding debt. This is slightly higher than the N2.95 trillion budgeted in 2020.”
Today, such fears raised cannot be described as unfounded just as this author doesn’t need to be an economist to know that as a nation, we have become a high-risk borrower.
And even as the nation goes on a borrowing spree and speeds on ‘borrowing lane’, and at a time the World Bank indicates that “almost half of the poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in just five countries: and they are in this order, namely; Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Madagascar, the situation becomes more painful when one remembers that no one, not even the federal government can truly explains the objectives of these loans and whether they utilized in the masses best interest.
Take, as an illustration, it would have been understandable if these loans were taken to build a standard rail system in the country that will assist the poor village farmers in Benue/Kano and other remote villages situated in the landlocked parts of the country, move their produce to the food disadvantaged cities in the south in ways that will help the poor farmers earn more money, contributes to lower food prices in Lagos and other cities through the impact on the operation of the market, increase the welfare of household both in Kano, Benue, Lagos and others while improving food security in the country, reduce stress/pressure daily mounted on Nigerian roads by articulated/haulage vehicles and drastically reduce road accidents on our major highways.
Again, it would have been pardonable if the loans were deployed to revitalise the nation’s electricity sector, to re-introduce a sustainable power roadmap that will erase epileptic power challenge in the country and in its place restore the health and vitality of the nation’s socioeconomic live while improving small and medium scale business in the country.
What about the nation’s refineries?
This piece recalls now with nostalgia that one of the popular demands during the fuel subsidy removal protest of January 2012 under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration was that the federal government should take measures to strengthen corporate governance in the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited as well as in the oil and gas sector as a whole.
This is because of the belief that weak structures made it possible for the endemic corruption in the management of both the downstream and upstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.
The present administration as part of its campaign promises in 2015, agreed to ensure a better deal for Nigerians six years after such demand was made and Jonathan has gone, the three government-owned refineries in the country have not been able to function at full capacity as promised by the present administration.
Today, if there is anything that Nigerians wish that the FG should accomplish quickly, it is getting the refineries to function optimally as well as making the NNPC more accountable to the people. What happened under President Jonathan has become a child’s play when compared with the present happenings in Nigeria’s oil/gas and electricity sectors.
What the above tells us as a country is that more work needs to be done, more reforms to be made; that as a nation, we are poor not because of our geographical location or due to the absence of mineral/natural resources but because our leaders fail to take decisions that engineer prosperity. And we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it.
Definitely, this piece may not unfold completely the answers to these challenges, but there are a few sectors that a nation desirous of development can start from.
The first that comes to mind is the urgent need for diversification of the nation’s revenue sources. Revenue diversification from what development experts are saying will provide options for the nation to reduce financial risks and increase national economic stability; as a decline in a particular revenue source might be offset by an increase in other revenue sources.
Finally, within this period of economic vulnerability, a new awareness that must not be allowed to go with political winds is the expert warning that accumulated debt can hinder a country’s development, especially when most of the revenue generated is used to service debt.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
It is a trap that the giant rat disdains that wrenches its testicles backwards.
At the beginning of the year, I had promised that for 12 months, Insha Allah, I will once a month X-ray the issues around the forthcoming general elections in the world’s largest black population and sufacracy. Kindly note my use of the phrase Insha Allah. This is number four, and eight more to go.
And I start like this—the war in Ukraine, along with sanctions imposed by the United States and Western countries against Russia, have caused global food, fertilizer, and fuel prices to ‘skyrocket’ and endanger the world food supply. This conflict is exacerbating the existing crisis of global hunger and imperils the living standards and well-being of billions of people – particularly in the Global South.
Russia and Ukraine together produce nearly 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and roughly 12 per cent of its total calories.
Over the past five years, they have accounted for 17 per cent of the world’s corn, 32 per cent of barley (a critical source of animal feed), and 75 per cent of sunflower oil (an important cooking oil in many countries).
On top of this, Russia is the world’s largest supplier of fertilisers and natural gas (a key component in fertiliser production), accounting for 15 per cent of the global trade of nitrogenous fertilisers, 17 per cent of potash fertilisers and 20 per cent of natural gas.
The current crisis threatens to cause a global food shortage. The United Nations has estimated that up to 30 per cent of Ukrainian farmland could become a warzone; in addition, due to sanctions, Russia has been severely restricted in exporting food, fertilizer, and fuel. This has caused global prices to surge. Since the war began, wheat prices have increased by 21 per cent, barley by 33 per cent, and some fertilisers by 40 per cent.
The painful impact of this shock is being felt by people around the world, but most sharply in the Global South. ‘In a word, developing countries are getting pummelled,’ United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently remarked.
According to the UN, 45 African and ‘least developed’ countries import at least a third of their wheat from these two Russia or Ukraine – 18 of those countries import at least 50 per cent. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, obtains over 70 per cent of its imports from Russia and Ukraine, while Turkey obtains over 80 per cent.
Countries of the Global South are already facing severe price shocks and shortages, impacting both consumption and production.
In Nigeria, bread prices have risen by 40 per cent in some areas. Meanwhile, Brazil, the world’s largest producer of soybeans, is facing a major reduction in crop yields. The country purchases close to half of its potash fertiliser from Russia and neighbouring Belarus (which is also being sanctioned) – it has only a three-month supply remaining with farmers being instructed to ration.
Dangers that one belittles are liable to cause great havoc…Nigeria is literally producing nothing than selling crude oil and is dependent on every other thing else!
Nigeria, be it himself, herself or itself, is a nation that thrives on breaking the rules, one of the major reasons for why we are at this point. We refuse to follow the set rules, we kill what seemed ordinarily our once moderately easy to follow rules, ethos and norms. With each new administration, the signs were there but we refused to see them. Again, the signs are there, that the world may not remain the same…but our would-be leaders come 2023 don’t seem to understand the dynamics I outlined above beyond buying nomination forms.
From top to bottom, it was all messed up, and those vying for elective positions in the general elections do not know the amount of work to be done if we are to even aspire to the top from the bottom.
Do they have a template in today’s world of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa (BRICS), where Nigeria does not feature beyond collecting all manners of loans and being indebted to all?
From atop when the Naira outweighed the Dollar, the Nigerian postage stamp carried muscle against the British pounds, the Naira donated to the Rand, and the Brazilian cruzeiro then was a debt currency, everything Chinese was inferior and India was known for its many gods, Bollywood and cricket.
Now, we are miles apart, being deported and left to rot in jails in these places. From the point where just, a Naira gave you plenty of dollars to now a hundred dollars gives you plenty thousands, in fact, nearing N1,000, real bottom!
From a history when most nations were visa-free, to a gradual decline where (1) we beg, pray, fast and then if successful we add a thanksgiving for a visa to Botswana. (2) To a situation where one of the government’s key phrases is foreign direct investment. A nation that cannot invest in itself yet believes that by treating its calabash recklessly, we would get better treatment from others. We watch the gradual disconnect between governance and good governance, a people and her leaders; that rather than provide leadership, ‘rule’ and ruin them to rock bottom.
Once upon a time, a giant of Africa and big brother, now begging to partner everyone for any project from electricity from Ghana to fuel from Niger, or beans from Burkina Faso or what is it we wanted from Rwanda again. Really our testicles have been wrenched backwards.
We killed everything that had an N–Nigerian Airways, Nigerian Railway, NITEL, Niger Dock, Nigerian Hospitals, Schools, Nigeria Police, a step at a time we sowed hate, theft, political violence and corruption, watered it and we are acting amused like we never saw it coming.
So, mobile telephone is South African, best hospitals are Indian, Egyptian, or German but not Nigerian. We invite Mosaad, FBI, Scotland and anyland Yard to solve our never-ending criminal puzzles. Just for those that don’t know, or are feigning ignorance. They are schools in Nigeria where the tuition fees are dollar-denominated, shops that only sell in dollars.
Just listen to the old block, Maitama Sule, Emeka Anyaokwu, and though they share the blame when they talk; you hear of a glorious past and advice on how to get to a desirable future.
Sadly, now the dollar talks, Naira shivers, public officials loot in the dollar, and we citizens spend Naira to cowardly defend them because of faith, creed, religion and ethnic cleavages. He/she is not a thief if he/she comes from my own side of the wood or prays to my own ‘god’.
Private miseducation has long replaced patriotic public education. Nursery rhymes have long replaced the national anthem. Public officials are applauded; people dance and come down with rheumatism for the building of a culvert or borehole. Nigerians have not become Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sudanstan but going to Kaduna from Abuja has become Golgotha. It has all changed and how fast it all changed, from Jos, a once peaceful haven to a conflagration of all sorts of bloody and violent clashes. It’s worse in Kaduna, terrible in Katsina and Borno, Zamfara and Sokoto, Kebbi and in the South West criminality and robbery prevail, while gunmen and unknown gunmen hold the East hostage.
That we are now being forced to tell our kids the good old story is painful, not painful because it is the good old story, but because they may never see a good Nigeria if we don’t get 2023 right.
All these masquerade dancing egedege do they know we are rock bottom; do they know what’s happening in the global community and how it affects us, are they ready to move from bottom to a middle ground if not top, do they know beyond which zone or region gets the presidency, the crown does not cure the headache—only time will.
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