Atlas Mara Limited is inching closer to the takeover of Union Bank of Nigeria, as the company affirmed an agreement to acquire additional shares that will take their shareholding to 49 per cent from 48 per cent.
The sub-Saharan African financial services group, yesterday, said its pursuit of 280,956,166 additional shares in the bank will increase its combined direct and indirect shareholding, which will position it for any possible takeover.
According to the NIPC Intelligence, published by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council, Atlas Mara, had already filed applications for the New Shares to be admitted to the Official List of the UK Listing Authority and trading on the London Stock Exchange.
The admission was expected to become effective, with dealings in the New Shares to commence as at yesterday’s morning.
The Guardian’s efforts to clarify the development with the bank’s Head of Corporate Affairs/Communications, Mrs. Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, was not successful, as she neither picked calls nor responded to several text messages.
The New Shares will rank pari passu with the existing ordinary shares and following the admission of the new shares, the company will have 174,618,767 ordinary shares in issue, of which 1,545,764 shares are in treasury and 3,298,298 shares are held in escrow as part of the contingent consideration for the acquisition of Finance Bank Zambia Limited, as disclosed to the market on July 1, 2016.
NIPC Intelligence quoted a report from Atlas Mara as saying: “We hereby confirm that the total number of voting rights in Atlas Mara is 169,774,705. This figure should be used by shareholders as the denominator for the calculations by which they will determine if they are required to notify their interest in, or a change in their interest in, the share capital of the company under the FCA’s Disclosure and Transparency Rules.”
Union Bank recorded considerable growth in key performance indicators in the first quarter of this year, giving prospects of better returns for the 2018 business year.
The bank’s interim report and accounts for the first quarter ended March 31, 2018, showed that gross earnings rose by 15 per cent, while profits before and after tax grew by 16 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.
The first quarter earnings report, which was released alongside the audited report for 2017, yesterday, at the nation’s bourse showed that Union Bank improved on its performance in 2017.
The three-month report showed gross earnings of N39.5 billion in first quarter 2018 as against N34.3 billion in first quarter 2017.
Profit before tax rose from N4.7 billion in first quarter 2017 to N5.4 billion in first quarter 2018, while profit after tax also increased to N5.3 billion in first quarter 2018, compared with N4.5 billion recorded in comparable period of 2017.
In 2017 56 UN peacekeepers were killed in malicious acts such as when they were deliberately attacked, the most fatalities of that kind since 1994. All but one of the fatalities resulted from operations that included “stabilization” in its name.
The UN has not defined stabilization in official documentation. As a result, the practice of stabilization by UN forces has developed organically in recent years. The Security Council has given increased attention to the concept with recent research showing the term is used more and more during open meetings. In 2001 stabilization was mentioned in 16% and by 2014 the use of the term had spiked to 44%.
Nevertheless, when mandating peace operations the Security Council has not given a consistent indication of what activities fall under stabilization. Likewise, UN personnel have differing understandings of what the term means.
The mandates of stabilization missions have one major similarity – they are routinely instructed to support efforts that extend state authority.
In the stabilization mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, this is achieved through the use of a Force Intervention Brigade. The brigade operates in cooperation with Congolese forces and is mandated “to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralise these groups, and to disarm them”. The brigade has used offensive rather than defensive force, which is not the norm in UN peace operations.
In the Central African Republic, the UN has taken a “proactive and robust posture” to help create conditions that will reduce the presence and threat of armed groups. For that purpose, the UN has operated alongside Central African forces on a number of occasions.
These two examples illustrate that stabilization missions are increasingly acting in concert with government forces, posing a potential problem on two fronts. First the UN risks alienating communities it is mandated to protect and, second, the increased intensity of violence against UN forces puts those troops at greater risk.
What does stabilization mean?
The UN appears to have adopted a combination of US and UK understandings in its approach to stabilization. The US sees stabilization as militarily defeating an insurgency to give the “legitimate authority” the monopoly on the use of force while supporting a locally owned transition.
Both the UK and US are heavily involved with the mandating and planning of operations as part of the Security Council’s P3 (US, UK and France). The three are the so-called “penholders” on most resolutions relating to UN peace operations.
As a result, UN stabilization missions typically do two things. First, they displace and deter armed groups and, second, undertake peace building activities to entrench state authority and create state legitimacy in the power vacuum left behind. Depending on the situation, the displacement and deterrence of armed groups has been sought by using offensive force or by taking a robust defensive posture.
This approach can be seen in the UN stabilization mission in the Central African Republic. When the mission was deployed in 2014, the state had little authority beyond Bangui, the capital. From the outset UN forces understood robust force would be needed to support the state’s authority outside Bangui and to prevent armed groups from entering the capital.
Three examples bear this out. In February 2017, UN troops opened fire on 40 members of an armed group approaching the city of Bambari. An airstrike was used to show that the armed group had crossed a “red line” around the city that had been imposed to protect civilians. The UN mission also announced that a joint deployment was underway with Central African forces to establish state authority in Bambari.
In January 2018, the UN launched a joint military operation with government forces to deter armed groups from entering the town of Paoua. The most recent example was in April 2018 when UN forces undertook a “joint disarmament and arrest operation” alongside government forces. The targets were criminal groups that threatened civilians and obstructed state authority. The operation led to exchanges of fire and the death of a peacekeeper.
The Congolese, Malian and Central African missions have all operated during ongoing conflicts in contrast with traditional operations where there is peace to keep. These missions are also mandated to use varying degrees of proactive, robust force to prevent attacks on themselves and people they’re trying to protect. This invariably means extending a state’s authority.
Consequently, the lines are increasingly becoming blurred between using robust force for protective purposes and the use of offensive force to fight an enemy alongside the host state government.
A new precedent for UN peace operations?
It may be the case that the UN has now set a precedent of entering conflict zones ready to stand its ground and fend off armed groups rather than wait for peace to keep. But there are risks.
One is increased peacekeeper deaths where troops are increasingly targets of attack. The other is that support from UN member states may wane in the long term as the dangers associated with contributing troops multiply.
What is undoubtedly true is that stabilization efforts will have an effect on the civilian populations the UN is there to protect. The robust use of force by well equipped peacekeepers who can access the latest intelligence and logistical equipmentfrom Western contributing states could lead to the effective deterrence of armed groups and a better chance at a normal life for civilians.
But the importance of who the UN chooses to work with cannot be underestimated. Where the UN seeks stabilization in cooperation with the government it risks marginalising communities disillusioned with the current regime. The UN promotes local ownership in peace building, yet this may be prove more difficult to achieve where UN personnel are seen to be synonymous with state authorities that aren’t trusted by sections of the population.
Group of Managing Director of Dangote Cement Plc, Engr. Joseph Makoju has said that the investments of the foremost cement company and its expansion drive across African countries were very strategic to contribute to Africa economy and make its products the most preferred by consumers.
He stated this at the weekend during a partnership visit and plant facility tour by top officials of the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) to the Ibese Cement Plant of the Company in Ogun state.
The Cement GMD said that the Dangote Cement is way ahead of competition in quality, volume production size and production automation saying these are parts of the results of continuous investments by the management.
Engr. Makoju who was represented by the Dangote Cement National Sales and Distribution Director, Adeyemi Fajobi stated that besides the investments in expansion to ramp up volume, such investments have added value to the economies of the African countries where the company has presence.
To date, Fajobi disclosed that Dangote Cement operates in 14 countries in Africa with efforts on to expand to other three within the next few months to make its presence felt in 17 countries. The ultimate aim, he stated is to help other African countries to attain self-sufficiency.
In the last ten years, Dangote cement has embarked on aggressive expansion drive which has seen it having an annual production of cement to the tune of over 29 million in its three production plants in Ibese, Obajana and Gboko thus effectively eliminating importation of cement.
“Besides our continuous expansion, we also export to counties like Ghana, Benin and Togo. These are sources foreign exchange for our dear nation. Where ever we operate we operate as economic partners because we add value to the economy by creating employments.
“Our commitment is not only to meet production target but quality and safety standard in our operations and this is one of the reasons we partner the regulatory agencies like the SON to devise means of keep up the standard and raising the bar where necessary.”
Mr. Fajobi also explained how Dangote Cement has been able to check the incidence faking of its products through its expansion of volume availability, saying adulteration and faking of products thrive where the original products are not easily available suggesting that with the availability of Dangote cement in every nooks and crannies of Nigeria, the problem of faking has been checked considerably.
In his presentation, the General Manager, Production, Ibese Cement, Engr. Sunday Adondua explained that Dangote Cement has gone far in its quest to lead in cement manufacturing in Africa disclosing that the Company now export Klinker, a major cement production component to some African countries.
According to him, Dangote Cement now export Klinkers to the tune of about 2 million per annum and that these constitute a boost to the Nigerian economy.
In his remark, the Director-General of SON, Osita Anthony Akpoloma, represented by Joseph Ugbaja, Group Head, Building and Civil said the partnership with the Dangote Cement was for the good of the industry and that so far Dangote cement has been a leading light in the cement sector of the built industry
He explained that SON relationship with Dangote dates back to the inception of Dangote cement manufacturing in Nigeria and that the Son has always visited the company’s plant on routine quarterly inspections.
Engr. Ugbaja stated the Organization has also certified Dangote Cement products on the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme which is an attestation to its goods product quality and the capacity to conduct in-process test and in-house test on its finished products in conformity with the standards.
“It may interest you to note that the revised standards for cement has been approved by the Standard Council of Nigeria and ready for implementation in response to your call for review”, he added.
The SON boss advised other sector operatives to borrow a leaf from Dangote cement’s model and invest in quality and volume expansion.
Highlights of the visit of the SON officials was the award of certificates to all those who came on the visit and gala night to make the visit memorable.