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French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that France was “just at the beginning” of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 30 people in the country and infected more than 1,600.
 
“We’re just at the beginning of this epidemic,” he said after a visit to the ambulance service in Paris, urging the French not to panic and saying the authorities were “organised” in the face of the crisis.
 
France is the second-worst affected country in Europe after Italy.
 
Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive for the virus.
 
Preventive measures have been stepped up at the presidential palace, with Macron’s cabinet chief ordered to work from home after having been in contact with an infected person.
 
But with only a fraction of the 463 deaths reported in Italy, France has so far refrained from the draconian measures imposed by its neighbour, which is under nationwide lockdown.
 
Clusters of cases have been identified in half a dozen French regions, with schools closed in three — the northern Oise area, the northeastern Haut-Rhin area and the city of Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
 
Gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been cancelled since the weekend, leading to several sporting events and concerts being called off.
 
Macron said the government, which is pressing ahead with nationwide municipal elections scheduled on Sunday, was taking a region-by-region approach to the outbreak.
 
“One must not expect that at a given moment, at a given hour in the country, there will be a big shift when everything changes,” he said, adding the government would continue to adopt a “proportional” response to the epidemic.
Indications emerged on Monday that the African Development Bank (AfDB) had endorsed an outlay of $200 million (around N61.2 billion) for Nigeria to develop its decrepit power transmission facilities.
 
According to reports obtained in Abuja on Monday, the money was approved last week by the AfDB management to be utilised under Nigeria’s Transmission Expansion Programme.
 
Wale Shonibare, Acting Vice President Energy, Power, Climate and Green Growth made the revelation during its team’s visit to the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy-Egba.
 
“We’ve come to recap the progress we are making with our several investments within the power sector in Nigeria around the Nigeria Electrification Project, working with the Rural Electrification Agency where our board approved $200m.
 
“And we also have the work we are doing with the transmission company under the NTEP programme where we’ve approved $200m for phase one and there is a phase two. It is a $410m programme,” Mr Shonibare said.
 
He went further to say “for the NTEP programme, it was signed last week and so the investments will start flowing into the sector very soon.
 
“Over the coming months, we will be looking to progress into the second phase of the power transmission programme.”
 
Concerning the REA programme with the bank, Shonibare said “that has already been signed and it is under implementation as we speak. In fact, I am here to flag off the beginning of that programme for the REA.”
 
He also disclosed that the AfDB had begun discussion with Distribution Companies (Discos) as the bank intends to invest in distribution as well.
 
“We are also supporting government on the Jigawa Solar Project where we provided $1m to support feasibility studies for phase one and we will be looking at phase two, going forward.
 
“We are also looking at ways in which we can intervene in the distribution sector. And that work is going on right now, to see what’s the best way of supporting investments in distribution.”
 
On his part, Jedy-Agba said “the AfDB has offered to invest more in our power sector. They have offered to increase their funding and diversify from REA to other things as well.”

A court in Tanzania on Tuesday ordered a group of opposition lawmakers and other co-accused to pay a fine or serve five months prison on charges related to a banned demonstration.

A judge in Dar es Salaam found the nine defendants including top political opposition figures guilty of sedition and other charges and sentenced them to jail unless they raised 350 million shillings ($152,000) in penalties.

The accused, including Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe, four MPs and other senior opposition officials, were remanded in custody after failing to raise the money.

“We went to the court believing that we could win. However, this sentence will not stop us from fighting for democracy in this country,” the party’s deputy chairman, Said Issa Mohammed, told reporters after the verdict.

He said Chadema, the main opposition movement challenging Tanzania’s powerful ruling CCM party, was trying to raise the money and would consider appealing.

Mbowe and the others were charged in 2018 with sedition, unlawful assembly and inciting violence, among other offences, over a rally in which police fired live rounds to disperse Chadema supporters demanding accreditation in a local election.

A 22-year-old student who was not taking part was shot dead by a stray bullet from police.

Some of the charges were linked to a speech Mbowe gave during the demonstration in which he said President John Magufuli would not last long in his job.

The demonstration had been banned by Magufuli’s government, which has been accused of crushing dissent, jailing critics and passing draconian laws that have weakened freedoms in Tanzania.

The strongman leader, who was elected in 2015, is expected to run for another term later this year in a country once seen as a bastion of democracy in a tumultuous part of Africa.

The Naira is currently at the mercy of two economic catastrophes: the ceaseless plunge in oil prices triggered by the untameable COVID-19, and the nation’s shrinking international reserves that have been on a free fall for months on end.
 
Crude prices took their hardest bashing so far from the epidemic early Monday following a price warfare between top producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, after efforts by Saudi to broker an output cut deal with Russia ended in a standoff.
 
Yesterday, crude oil futures, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent cratered to as low as $31.13 and $31.02 per barrel respectively, their lowest since 12th February 2016 and the largest single-day percentage plunge since 17th January 1991, when the US Gulf War teed off.
 
French multinational investment bank, Société Générale S.A. said on Monday that fall in oil prices might compel Nigeria to devalue the Naira as the current export revenue crunch eats away at foreign reserves,  weakening the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) ability to rescue the currency.
 
In the last two years, the reserves have hit their lowest since November 2017, tumbling by 20% and there are worries they might reach $30 billion anytime soon, the limit set by Godwin Emefiele, the apex bank chief, for devaluation to happen.
 
Jason Daw and Phoenix Kalen, strategists at Paris-headquartered SocGen said in a note obtained by Bloomberg on Monday it was high time the CBN looked the way of currency reform review before something untoward occurred.
 
Naira fundamentals are not sustainable and under current external vulnerabilities, principally lower oil prices, the threat of a devaluation is pretty much high, said SocGen.
 
“The combination of a current-account deficit — previously due to strong imports but now being compounded by weak exports — portfolio outflows and lower oil prices will continue to deplete FX reserves and pressure the naira.”
 
Monday, yields on Nigeria’s 2049 Eurobonds leapt by 143 basis points to 10.18%, the peak so far, just as the Naira weakened 1.1% in offshore trading.
 
Similarly, Nigeria’s benchmark stock plummeted to its lowest level in nearly three years.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari had signed this year’s budget into law on a crude oil forecast of $57 per barrel with the government targeting N2.64 trillion from oil revenue.
 
Brent, the benchmark for Nigeria’s Bonny Light, has tumbled by about 45% year to date to $35.77 per barrel.
 
Crude oil earnings make up over 90% of Nigeria’s export revenues.
 
Emefiele, since taking over the leadership of the CBN in 2014, has tightened capital controls and closely managed the value of the Naira, regularly saying both measures are the best remedies for inflation and stimulating manufacturing by discouraging imports.
 
Daw and Kalen wrote, “an initial attempt at a managed depreciation is more likely than a one-off large devaluation (like in the past), but it might be challenging to maintain over the medium term unless bolder policy action is taken.”
 
They noted the CBN could consider firming up liquidity in the interbank market or by tightening policy while a proposed Eurobond sale could help shore up the currency reserves.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in conjunction with the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) has commissioned has commissioned $1 billion (about N360 billion) worth of locally assembled vehicles.

The vehicles are manufactured in the country by 17 companies such as Innoson, Nissan, Coscharis, Ford and Elizade Motors.

Adeniyi Adebayo, the Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, during the commissioning of the Nigerian-made and assembled automobiles in Abuja on Monday observed the vehicles would later be showcased at the Argungu Motor Rally.

The inaugural edition of the motor rally will be kicked off in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister said plans were afoot by the NADDC to make the Argungu Motor Rally a yearly festival for the Nigerian local auto industry although the rally is part of the Argungu Annual International Fishing and Cultural Festival.

He expressed optimism in the progress of the country in automotive assembly saying the sector had posted tens of thousands of newly assembled vehicles despite beginning from a zero production level in 2012.

Mr Adebayo affirmed that the unveiling of the 10-year Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP 2013-2023) in 2013 had made it possible for 62 firms to be registered to assemble vehicles.

The former Ekiti State Governor disclosed that the companies were registered to assemble vehicles at Semi Knocked Down (SKD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) levels with a total installed capacity of 423,790 units.

He observed that an actual assemblage of 10,343 units had been attained to date just as 31 automotive assembly companies were currently listed under the Bureau of Public Procurement for patronage.

“The vehicles and brands for unveiling are a testament to the zeal and commitment of the automotive industrial subsector to the present government’s efforts towards diversification of the non-oil sector of the economy.

“The role of the NADDC in reviving and sustaining the automotive sector has greatly helped in stimulating growth and development in Nigerian automotive industry,’ Mr Adebayo said.

He enjoined Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria vehicles with a view to creating jobs, driving investment, conserving foreign exchange, building capacity and transferring technology to the citizenry.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, who was represented by Nasir Gwarzo, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, urged the auto firms to improve local content and repose their trust in government’s dedication to the diversification of the economy.

On his part, Jelani Aliyu, the NADDC Director General confirmed that $1 billion had been invested by the auto companies whose vehicles were being commissioned while 4,700 people had been directly employed in the sector.

Aliyu said it earmarked N5 billion aimed at a single digit vehicle finance scheme and was in talks with banks including Wema, Jaiz and Zenith in order to provide the financing for made-in-Nigeria vehicles.

He asserted that the organisation was building three automotive testing centres and three automobile service hubs across Nigeria in order to boost sustainability and maintenance culture.

“Not just to build cars for 200 million people but to support local producers by opening up for them market opportunities to the one billion people of the African continent,’’ he said.

Mr Aliyu expressed his discontentment with the fact that the country spends $8 billion (about N2.932 trillion) every year to import 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles.

Nigeria may be heading for its second recession in nearly four years after crude oil prices crashed to $30 per barrel in the international market.
 
The fresh meltdown in the global oil market is expected to threaten the country’s 2020 budget implementation, especially funding of capital projects.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari had while presenting the 2020 budget estimate adopted a conservative oil price benchmark of $57 per barrel and daily oil production estimate of 2.18 mbpd
 
The oil prices crashed as much as 30 percent within seconds of the market opening on Sunday evening after Saudi Arabia launched an aggressive price war over the weekend, driving crude to its lowest level in four years.
 
Brent crude, the international benchmark, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dropped from $45 a barrel to $31.52 a barrel in one of the biggest one-day drops in its history.
 
The huge sell-off follows the collapse of Saudi Arabia’s oil-cutting alliance on Friday, with Russia refusing to make deeper cuts to output despite the sharp hit to demand from the coronavirus outbreak.
 
Saudi Arabia, Opec’s de facto leader, has responded by slashing prices and indicating it will instead raise output. The move is seen as an attempt to take on Russia as well as squeezing other high-cost producers out of the market, including parts of the US shale sector.
 
It is reminiscent of the attempt to win back market share in 2014 during the last price war, but this time it comes as demand is seen falling because of the impact of the coronavirus, which has crimped air travel and the wider economy.
 
“It is very rare for a demand collapse to coincide with a supply surge,” said Bob McNally at the Rapidan Energy Group. “It is the most crude price-bearish combination since the early 1930s. The price collapse has just begun.”
 
Goldman Sachs, one of the most influential banks in commodity markets, on Sunday lowered its price forecast for Brent to $30 a barrel for the second and third quarters, and warned there could be dips to $20 a barrel in the coming weeks.
Dangote Industries Limited on Sunday promised that its ongoing subsea gas pipeline project would on completion, cut the amount of flared gas in the country considerably while delivering gas supply in enormous quantities to enhance industrial operations.
 
A key component of the company’s capital-intensive fertiliser, petrochemical and refinery projects, the 1,100 kilometre pipeline is anticipated to handle three billion cubic feet of gas per day, the company said.
 
The pipeline will not only feed the company fertiliser plant and connect the Niger Delta to Lekki Free Trade Zone but also serve as a corridor for evacuating trapped gas from offshore site in a bid to commercialise it.
 
The company promised the venture would guarantee Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in gas, saying it would stimulate the diversification of the economy, boost government’s revenue generation and expand foreign exchange from exports.
 
According to Devakumar Edwin, Dangote Industries Limited’s Group Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects and Portfolio Development, the pipeline project is the biggest subsea pipeline facility in the world.
 
He affirmed that the gas pipeline would provide unflinching electricity to Dangote refinery alongside the petrochemical plants, which would in turn improve Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Rana Kapoor, the arrested founder and former managing director of India’s crisis-hit Yes Bank, faces a double charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of almost $602million.

Kapoor was sent on Sunday to police custody until Wednesday by a court in Mumbai following his arrest.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Rana Kapoor early on Sunday after hours of interrogation and searches at his and his daughters’ residences in Delhi and Mumbai. The 62-year-old broke down when he was produced in a Mumbai court.

ED’s lawyer Sunil Gonsalves said at the hour-long hearing the total proceeds of the alleged crime amounted to Rs 4,300 crore, about$602million, and that Rana Kapoor had refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Rana Kapoor denied this. “I want to cooperate with them,” he told the court through tears. “I’m willing to cooperate day and night despite the fact that I haven’t slept a wink.”

His lawyer Zain Shroff told the court his client had been made “a scapegoat” due to public outrage against Yes Bank after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) placed the bank under a moratorium and imposed a Rs 50,000-limit on withdrawals.

Weighed down by an increasing pile of bad debt, Yes Bank tried unsuccessfully for months to raise the capital it needs to stay above regulatory requirements.

On Thursday, RBI took control of Yes Bank and said it would work on a revival plan. State Bank of India (SBI) said on Saturday it would invest funds to buy a 49 per cent stake in Yes Bank as part of the initial phase of a rescue deal for the troubled lender.

Last week finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Yes Bank had granted loans to entities including bankrupt Dewan Housing and Finance Ltd (DHFL).

The bank is the third significant Indian financial institution to unravel in the last six months, following the RBI’s moves to take control of Dewan Housing and Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative Bank.

According to NDTV, investigators from the Enforcement Directorate are probing Kapoor over investments worth over Rs 2,000 crore, 44 expensive paintings and a dozen alleged shell firms.

The agency, official sources said, has also recovered documents that show some assets of the Kapoor family in London and the source of funds for their acquisition is now being investigated.

The central probe agency that began action against the banker by raiding his residence in south Mumbai on Friday is primarily investigating Mr Kapoor, his wife and three daughters over a Rs 600 crore fund received by a firm allegedly “controlled” by them from an entity linked to the scam-hit Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL).

Kapoor’s firm, DoIT Urban Ventures (India) Pvt Ltd, was alleged to have received the funds when Yes Bank had an exposure of more than Rs 3,000 crore loans to DHFL, already being probed for purported financial irregularities and diversion of funds.

The bank, they said, allegedly did not initiate action to recover the NPA-turned loans from DHFL and the agency suspects that the Rs 600 crore funds were part of alleged kick backs received as quid pro quo in the firm controlled by the Kapoor family.

The ED, officials said, is looking at finding the proceeds of crime during the raids conducted at Mr Kapoor’s residence and those of his wife Bindu and three daughters. It has stumbled upon investments worth over Rs 2,000 crore by the family and the active presence of about a dozen shell or dummy firms used to rotate alleged kick backs, they said.

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