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Exploring Nigeria’s flourishing ‘illicit’ crypto space



Despite opposition to the implementation of the five per cent telecoms tax on calls and data by the Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Prof Isa Pantami, and other stakeholders in the economy, the Federal Government has insisted it was not backing down on tax. Instead of over-taxing the telecoms sector, the government should provide the regulatory space for crypto transactions to boost its digital tax earnings, writes LUCAS AJANAKU.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami, appeared to have captured the mood of the nation, aligning with the masses when he expressed his opposition to the five per cent telecom tax.

One of the reasons he opposed the tax is its timing. To Pantami, it is rather inauspicious for the Federal Government to add to the yoke of over-burdened Nigerians. Pantami is not alone. The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Deolun Ogunbanjo, is also against the tax because of the poverty some of the policies of the government has visited on the citizens.

For the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, the tax is one too many. He wondered why the fixation of the telecoms sector for taxation. He said no fewer than over 40 taxes, levies, dues, including payment for rough-necks that would insist on cash before fueling base transceiver stations (BTS), exist in the sector.

Pantami, Adebayo and Ogunbanjo are indeed on point on the rising poverty in the land and the need for the government to show empathy. Nigeria’s inflation rate in June, surged further to 18.6 per cent compared to 17.71per cent recorded in the previous month, according to the last CPI report for the month of June 2022, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Inflation rate climbed to its highest level in 65 months (over five years), and the fifth consecutive monthly rise. The last time the inflation rate hit the 18.6 per cent ceiling was January 2017, when it stood at 18.72per cent.

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Monthly, the inflation rate increased to 1.82 per cent in June, this is 0.03 per cent higher than the rate recorded in May 2022 (1.78 per cent). Also, the urban inflation rate increased to 19.09per cent (year-on-year); this is 0.74per cent points higher than the 18.35 per cent recorded in June 2021, while the rural inflation rate increased to 18.13per cent in June 2022 from 17.16 per cent recorded in the corresponding period of 2021.

Crypto world

Despite regulatory reservations, cryptocurrencies have over the years gained enormous popularity, making people adopt them as a tool for financial transactions. In fact, cryptocurrencies have delivered several benefits, such as minimal transaction fees, instant accessibility and high levels of transparency.

With the benefits cryptocurrency has over traditional currency and even other asset classes, it’s hard to argue that there’s no value in transacting with or investing in crypto. The utility provided by many cryptocurrencies is of great benefit to people who value fast and secure transactions. And this is only going to grow more accessible over time with fewer technical hurdles being curbed.

As a demonstration of the fact that if crypto is given a regulatory breathing space, it could boost earnings from digital cash, Mara, a pan-African crypto exchange trading platform, Mara, said plans to impact 1 billion people over the next five years in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Its co-founder/CEO, Chi Nnadi, said: “Starting this September with Hack The Mara, we will periodically hold hackathons to solve predominately African problems. We want to train one million people through our training programs and impact a billion in Africa over the next couple of years.”

Speaking on leveraging the platform to establish youths and crypto community, he said platform, which recently raised $23 million in pre-seed, would raise more money on token next year to build more in Africa.

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The CEO also said more tokens were going to be listed after building up the Mara community.

Crypto security

As a digital payment system, cryptocurreny doesn’t rely on banks to check and verify transactions. It utilises a peer-to-peer network that makes it possible for anybody, anywhere, to send and receive payments. This system uses encryption to verify transactions and the aim of this is to provide added security and safety.

Just like traditional systems, blockchain networks are not exempted from potential obstacles. However, despite the prevalence of this, there are tools that enable anyone to look up transaction data such as the location, timing, and quantity of cryptocurrency sent from a wallet address. The amount of cryptocurrency saved in a wallet may also be seen by anyone, and this level of transparency helps cut down on any insecurities.

Recently, an automated market maker (AMM), Wine Swap, engaged in an exit scam, and the Binance Security team was able to effectively recover an estimated 99.9 per cent of the nearly $345,000 worth of stolen bitcoins. The platform’s busiest and most dedicated community builders, Binance Angels, have been instrumental in raising money for recovery operations. The volunteer organization assisted a user in recovering 98,000 USDC in funds that were unintentionally sent to the incorrect address.

Keys to enhancing crypto security

While the element of transparency in crypto transactions as well as blockchain networks to conquer any potential insecurities, there is still a need to adopt stringent security measures.

Advanced security measures, offline money storage, real-time activity monitoring, and data encryption are a few of Binance’s main platform security initiatives. In addition to ensuring that only users have access to their personal information and the safety and integrity of user cash, these initiatives also analyze user activity through Binance’s risk management system in the event of any unexpected activity on the account.

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While guaranteeing industry-wide compliance with crypto security standards, it’s critical to take user-level security into account, which takes us to the user-first approach.

User-first approach

A high level of security is maintained on the user’s side thanks to the user-first approach. Maintaining a security measure on the user’s side is as crucial to maintaining crypto compliance on the industry side. This is a vital key to enhancing crypto security. The Binance platform consistently prioritises user protection through its cutting-edge security measures and stringent data privacy laws because users are the foundation of the Binance ecosystem. This consists of a comprehensive risk management system, real-time monitoring, and cutting-edge data privacy solutions.

Safe sign-in, access control, and security notifications are among the user-level security measures to ensure adequate crypto security. In addition to the user-first approach measures, Binance also put the following actions in place to guarantee user-level security: prompt alerts in the event of questionable activity, a stringent sign-in policy, and opt-in security measures.

Also, Binance includes a cooling-off time feature that stops trading in derivatives, allowing users to refrain from compulsive buying after experiencing losing streaks. This capability is also accessible for margin trading, allowing for the temporary suspension of activities like borrowing and isolated or cross-margin trading. Along with these capabilities, the platform also contains user-generated material, help articles, an auto-deleverage liquidation indication, and client knowledge tests.

The greatest level possible of cybersecurity must be maintained regardless of the rise in crypto vulnerability, and Binance has taken this step to retain their commitment to user safety by adopting a user-first approach.

Also, it is important for users to take security measures seriously. Keep your devices safe, and also conduct personal research on the cryptocurrency you’re transacting with. This is important as it keeps you informed about the cryptocurrency market and improves your future investments decisions.

(The Nation)

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Concrete Roads: Cement price to hit N9,000, manufacturers warn



The Cement Producers Association of Nigeria has warned that the ongoing plan of the federal government to introduce concrete roads will raise the price of cement to N9, 000 per bag from the current price of N5, 000.

It also called on the current administration to permanently address the perennial cement price hike problem by facilitating larger participation in the cement industry, noting that Nigerians have no business buying cement for more than N5, 600 per bag.

The association, in a statement jointly signed by the National Chairman, Prince David Iweta and National Secretary Chief Reagan Ufomba, on Sunday, commended the works Minister’s position on cement-made roads but warned of dire consequences, if the supply end is not addressed properly.

As a solution, the cement producers urged the government to lay more emphasis on road design that allows both cement technology and asphalt pavement to run concurrently and provide ample time for a smooth transition that allows contractors to invest in commensurate and requisite equipment and retooling.

The statement read, “Our findings from various parts of the country show that cement sells for as high as N6000 per bag in the rainy season. Our prediction is that it will sell for over N9,000 per bag in the dry season, especially with the pronouncement of the Honourable Minister of Works on cement technology and the marching order on housing by Mr President if the government does not take proactive steps.

“While we commend the Honourable Minister’s position on cement-made roads, we warn of the dire consequences if the supply end is not properly addressed. In fact, it would amount to dereliction of duty not to intervene. And the time is now. To do otherwise is to continue in a worsening pipe dream that prices would suddenly drop on this essential input that will continue to drain the purse of Nigerians, render them homeless, encourage chaos between demand and supply, and worsen the infrastructure deficit it sets out to cure, and lead to an unprecedented price hike.

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“We also call on the Honourable Minister of Works to lay more emphasis on the design criteria of roads that allow both cement technology and Asphalt pavement to run concurrently, in turn, will provide ample time for a smooth transition that allows contractors to invest in commensurate and requisite equipment and retooling. We must also as a nation regulate static and dynamic load traffic by introducing weighbridges at access points on our highways. Working in sync with contractors, and allied Ministries of Trade and Investment, Transport, Environment and Finance on realistic policy on cement is most desirable at this critical time.”

The association further requested the government to conclude the backward integration policy of the late Yar’adua administration that was already bringing availability and affordability of cement in the country.

It added, “There has been so much comment on cement and cement pricing of late. What our nation needs is cement that is available and affordable. And this cannot be achieved by mere wishes, faulty policies and programmes, without breaking the chain of monopoly and favouritisms. Nigerians are tired of waiting for a downturn in the price of cement and for decent and affordable housing.

“We call on the Tinubu government to permanently solve this perennial cement price hike problem by expanding participation in the sector with companies who have verifiable evidence of local investment, including greenfield licenses and quarrying. As a matter of fact, we call on the government to more specifically conclude the backward integration policy of the late Yar’adua administration which was already bearing availability and affordability fruits.

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“As patriots, it is our view that the government reintroduces backward integration policy and the conclusion of old ones. Consequently, the government cannot be seen to approbate and reprobate by deregulating issues of petroleum products and foreign exchange on one hand and regulating on pricing of cement, essential goods and services on another. There is a need for policy harmonisation and convergence between fiscal and monetary policies.

“Finally, we call on the government to urgently intervene in the foreign exchange market, intervene in restructuring bad loans of manufacturers, and review palliative modules. The cry for elusive FDI will be drastically reduced if all manufacturing concerns are revived. The government must be decisive in the kind of economic policies it intends to foist on the people,” the statement concluded.

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Fake News: Dangote Group denies Cement price slash 



Aliko Dangote and Dangote Cement

Dangote Group has described as fake the reports circulating online that it would reduce the price of cement per 50 kilogramme from N5,500 to N2,700.

Anthony Chiejine, Spokesperson for Dangote Group described the claim as fake news on Monday.

His reaction comes amid speculation that the Dangote group crashed the cement price by 50 per cent with effect from October 1st, 2023.

Earlier, Bahir Ahmad, media aide to former president Muhammadu Buhari, had commented that the report was fake.

Ahmad made this known through his official X handle on Sunday.
“The Dangote Group has denied the trending reports that it has reduced the price of cement from N5,500 to N2,700 effective October 1st”, 
he wrote.

The price of a 50kg bag of cement is sold between N4,600 to N6,000 in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Abuja.

However, barely two weeks ago, BUA Cement had hinted at plans to reduce the price of a 50kg bag of cement to between N3,000 and N3,500.

BUA chairman, Abdul Samad Rabiu disclosed this after meeting with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

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Naira crashes to all-time low at exchange market



The exchange rate between the naira and the dollar plunged to a record low N983/$1 at the black market based on quotes received by Nairametrics on Wednesday as currency traders said there no dollar to sell

This represents a 2.93% drop when compared with the N955/$1 that it traded the previous day as the foreign exchange crisis in the country continues unabated.

This also shows a substantial depreciation from the N950/$1 that it traded last week as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) appears to be still struggling to stabilize the foreign exchange market despite its various policy pronouncements.

Recall that in mid-August, the dollar was quoted as low as N955/$1, stoking fears among investors that the exchange rate might plummet to N1000/$1.

This, however, appreciated at some point to N840/$1 after the apex bank warned speculators about potential major losses due to the policies it hopes to introduce.

In related news, trading on the official I&E window on September 20 witnessed the exchange rate between the naira and the dollar settling at N776.60/$1, a drop from N773.98/$1 the previous day.

The intra-day high soared to N799.9/$1, whereas the intra-day low dipped to N720/$1.

Data from FMDQ Securities Exchange, a platform that oversees official FX trading in Nigeria, shows that a total of $71.01 million was traded at the I & E window, Nigeria’s official trading window.

2023 Currency tracking platform AbokiFX also captured the exchange rate trades at N980/$1 on Wednesday. We are out of business
A top official of the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) who did not want to be mentioned said that the forex market is currently in disarray as most of the licensed operators do not have dollars to sell and as such out of business.

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He said, ‘’The market has scattered, the rate is N983/$1.

Most of the licensed bureau de change operators do not even have dollars to sell, we are out of business.

“I think the liquidity is in the so-called parallel market. Its all about scarcity and when there is scarcity, it gives rise to parallel or black market.’’

He said that if there is dollar available to sell or buy, he might not even do the transaction because he does not know what to do, adding that he is confused as a licensed bureau de change operator.

Going further, he said, ‘’You see this market operates on different level, we have started seeing Binance, we are now seeing Dubai rate, we are now seeing local parallel market rate, so it depends on the level you are.’’

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