Security checks on newspapers are temporary, Jonathan cries
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday denied ordering a clampdown on the media, even as y confiscation of newspapers meant for circulation across the country by the military continued for the second day..
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the administration would neither engage in nor encourage any acts that would constitute an assault on any media organisation or infringe on press freedom.
In a reaction to media reports that the Federal Government had ordered a clampdown on media houses as a result of some isolated incidents of security checks on some newspaper delivery vans in the last few days, Okupe called on the media to bear with the inconvenience the ongoing security checks are causing on newspapers' delivery vans, saying it was temporary.
He said that the country was in dangerous times that required extraordinary measures to keep everybody safe, while maintaining that the military was only acting on intelligence reports to prevent dastardly acts.
Okupe said security threats could not be neglected, assuring however that the routine checks on newspapers would ease as soon as possible.
He said the Presidency had received assurances from the military that no personal liberties of media practitioners or their employees would be unlawfully tampered with 'and that as soon as there is significant reduction in the level of the security alert, the ongoing exercise will be relaxed'.
'If the collective security of a country is at a risk, those charged with this responsibility have an onerous job of discharging it even if painful to some of us. That's why I said some sectors of the society may undergo some inconveniences so that the larger society can be safe and this is not something happens on a daily basis. It was not an act to clamp down on media houses. You know what it means to fight the insurgency. People are paying sacrifices everyday every time. So, if it comes to our turn, let's bear it with fortitude. It's not something that's going to be forever. It's a temporary issue. If people act on intelligence reports to prevent dastardly acts from taking place, and we now say what are they doing because it's now affecting us.
'I'm sure they'll do everything to ensure this thing is eased as soon as possible, but you can't neglect a security threat. I'm aware the vehicle used to bomb Jos the other day was carrying vegetables. We're living in trying times. This is the problem we all have to face because our country is under siege by insurgents, and people we put in place to keep us safe, we must allow them to do their job provided it's done with sincerity and transparency without any problem or unduly extending the thing beyond what is reasonable. This government won't clamp down on the media, won't infringe or do anything against press freedom. It's not in the character of this administration. But we must recognise that we're living in dangerous times and therefore, it'll require extra ordinary measures sometimes to ensure everybody is safe'.
Okupe added: 'The media, as the fourth estate of the realm, is held in very high regards by the president and this has been practically demonstrated in various ways by this administration in the last three years. You'd recall that it was President Goodluck Jonathan who signed the very contentious Freedom of Information Bill into law immediately on assumption of office and has consistently espoused the principles of openness, accountability and liberalism in its relationship with the media at all times.
'The reported incidence of checks being carried out by the military on major Nigerian roads and cities is not targeted at Newspaper vans because of the contents of the publications as insinuated in the reports. Rather, the military had explained that those routine checks were being carried out following intelligence reports on the possibility of some elements within the society using such vehicles to convey materials with grave security implications across the country.
'While we sympathise with media houses which might have suffered one discomfort or the other as a result of these security checks, we assert, for the avoidance of doubt, that the president has not and will never give any order capable of hampering the smooth running of any media organisation or harass media practitioners in the lawful performance of their dutiesWe live in very trying times which may necessitate that some sections or sectors of the society might experience some temporary discomfort in the overall interest of ensuring that the ideals of freedom, peace and security which we all hold dear will not be compromised by a few unscrupulous elements in our midst'.
Shareholders commend FCMB's 2013 performance, approve N5.94b dividend
FCMB Group Plc will be paying a cash dividend of 30 kobo per ordinary share, for the year ended December 31, 2013.
The shareholders at its 1st Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lagos on Friday unanimously approved the payment which translates to a total amount of N5.94billion.
The Chairman of FCMB Group, Dr. Jonathan Long, said the Group, which comprises First City Monument Bank Limited, FCMB Capital Markets Limited and CSL Stockbrokers Limited, ''has recovered strongly over the past two years and in 2013 made sufficiently strong progress''.
For him, the tonic had been the implementation of initiatives that have improved efficiency and the successful integration of FinBank, which boosted FCMB in retail banking.
He said, ''the intention to pay dividend signifies the desire of the Board to reward the Group's shareholders for their continued commitment and support''.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Peter Obaseki, said 'the Group is on track to deliver on its promise to its various shareholders''.
He continued by explaining that the Financial Holding Company structure, ''enables us deliver more consistently and sustainably. As we look ahead to the future, we will continue to enhance the contribution of the non-bank subsidiaries to the Group through deepening market penetration in each of our business lines, investments in other growing sub-sectors of financial services, while driving cross-sell and synergy realisation across the Group. We believe that our approach of revenue maximization, underscored by our implementation of a robust risk management practice will enhance shareholder value in the medium to long term'.
Also speaking, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of First City Monument Bank Limited, Mr. Ladi Balogun, pointed out that the Bank delivered improved financial performance, in spite of the challenging regulatory environment, due to the high liquidity levels it maintained and its growing focus on retail banking.
Balogun explained that the Bank's primary goals in the next three years are to, 'ensure that we can achieve a return on equity of over 20% and a cost-to-income ratio below 55%''.
The GMD/CEO also assured that 'the Bank will continue to accelerate development of its retail franchise, increase its customer base to 4 million by 2016 and show growth in retail loans. There will also be a heightened focus on customer experience, while simultaneously defending our corporate and investment banking market share and shifting most of our customer transaction to alternative channels'.
The audited accounts of FCMB Group for the year ended December 31, 2013 showed a profit before tax (PBT) of N18.2billion, up 12% from the previous year. The Group also reported improved earnings growth in 2013. Net revenue rose 16% to N84.2billion over prior year. Moreover, the significant developments in key operating areas also impacted on deposits as this grew by 11% to N715 billion, aided by 21.1% growth in current and savings accounts, while fixed deposits declined during the year. Consequently, the bank's funding mix has improved, with current and savings accounts now accounting for 73.9% of total deposits, which saw a reduction in the bank's cost of funds during the year in spite of the fact that interest rates remained high throughout 2013. Loans and advances also grew 26% to N451billion with total assets (excluding contingencies) standing at over N1trillion.
First City Monument Bank Limited, the banking subsidiary of the Group, also sustained the soundness of its balance sheet and credit standing. Going by the 2013 financial statements, the Bank exhibited abundant liquidity (liquidity ratio of 47%) and robust capital base (capital adequacy ratio of 18%), that protects against downside risks and supports future business growth without immediate need for capital raising.
As a demonstration of FCMB Group's strength, it built on the momentum of last year's performance into this year as the result for the first quarter ended March 31, 2014 showed a profit before tax (PBT) of N5.6 billion, up 15% from N4.8 billion for the same period in 2013. Net revenue also rose 16% to N22.3 billion over prior year, deposits was up 9% year-on-year to N687.3 billion, while loans and advances increased 50% year-on-year to N493.7billion.
Commenting on the development and the financial statements of the Group, the Coordinator of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunny Nwosu, commended the Board and Management of FCMB Group Plc for improving FCMB's profitability over 2012, despite the particularly challenging operating environment for banks in 2013. He added that, ''the resumption of good dividend payment is proof that FCMB's management team is successfully executing its strategy and leveraging the recent transformation into a financial holding entity, to drive significant value creation for shareholders''.
On his part, the National Chairman of Shareholders' Trustees Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Mukhtar Mukhtar, expressed delight on the payment of dividend. He urged the management and Board of FCMB to continue to improve customer experience at every customer interface and invest in key sectors of the economy, as these will improve profitability and ability to pay even more dividends next year.