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As Virus Spreads, Maryland, Massachusetts Order Nonessential Businesses To Close

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On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all nonessential businesses closed by 5 p.m. ET to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Massachusetts issued a similar order to go into effect at noon ET on Tuesday.Steve Ruark/AP

Governors in Maryland and Massachusetts issued executive orders on Monday ordering nonessential businesses in their states closed as the race to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus intensifies.

Meanwhile Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a drive-through testing facility will open in The Villages, a sprawling mega-retirement community in the central part of the state.

Coronavirus Daily

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan issued a new executive order effective at 5 p.m. ET., which he referred to as “immediate, additional mitigation and social distancing actions.”

The executive order closes all nonessential businesses, organizations, establishments and facilities in the state.

“Let me be clear, we are not issuing or ordering a shelter in place directive or forcing people to stay home,” Hogan said. He reiterated that Marylanders should follow previous state-wide directives, including the new state law prohibiting crowds of more than 10 people.

Hogan’s announcement comes as the state has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all but three of Maryland’s 24 counties. The governor also announced its latest coronavirus-related death, a woman in her 40s.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts issued a similar directive ordering all non-essential businesses to “cease in person operation.”

Charlie Baker@MassGovernor

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Today I issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide #COVID19 essential services to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public.

FULL DETAILS: https://bit.ly/2QziBnN 

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1,5033:27 PM – Mar 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,558 people are talking about this

The order is set to go into effect Tuesday at noon and go through Tues., April 7 at noon. Businesses that provide essential services, such as restaurants and pharmacies, are excluded. Liquor stores and medical marijuana shops can also remain open.

Baker’s order advises residents to stay at home and to forgo unnecessary travel during the two-week period. The Baker administration adds it, “does not believe Massachusetts residents can be confined to their homes and does not support home confinement for public health reasons.”

DeSantis, speaking from The Villages in Sumter County, Fla., announced a testing site that is “tailormade” for this 55-years-old and older community because both cars and golf carts will be allowed through.

Map: Tracking The Spread Of The Coronavirus In The U.S.

The operation, conducted in partnership with the University of Florida, hopes to test up to 400 people a day and plans to reach 2,000 people by the end of the week. The governor added that people who didn’t reside in The Villages could be tested as well.

According to NPR’s Florida Correspondent Greg Allen, retirees there are practicing social distancing:

Greg Allen@gallennpr

2000 people expected to be tested this week. People can drive through in cars or in golf carts, the preferred mode for many retirees in the Villages. DeSantis note golf courses there are still open, but says retirees are practicing social distancing–each in their own golf cart. https://twitter.com/gallennpr/status/1242112238208630786 …Greg Allen✔@gallennprGovernor DeSantis announces opening of a drive-through testing facility in the central Florida retirement community, The Villages. It will be operated by UF Shands doctors and will test asymptomatic as well as symptomatic patients as part of a research project.14:36 PM – Mar 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Greg Allen’s other Tweets

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Nigerians Will Now Pay N6.98k For Every USSD Transaction Carried Out

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A few days ago, telecom operators withdrew the USSD shortcode service bank from their platform which means customers would have huge challenges in carrying out financial transactions via the USSD platforms.

As of today, Nigerians will now pay N6.98k for every USSD transaction carried out from their mobile phone. The price replaced the former per session billing structure for USSD transactions.

USSD

According to CBN “Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have had protracted disagreements concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions.

“This resulted in the accumulation of outstanding fees for USSD services rendered leading to potential service withdrawal by the MNOs.” “We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed thus:

 “Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and all CBN – licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction. “This replaces the current per session billing structure ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion.

 With the latest announcement by the CBN, it appears that the banks and telcos have resolved to put the brunt of the cost on the users contrary to the NCC initial directive.

This means that Nigerians will pay even more than the N4 they were initially complaining about. Starting from today, users of USS D will have to pay N6.98 per transaction.

However, it is still unclear who will collect the charges, banks, or telecommunications.

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Crypto Ban: Northern Senators Support CBN, Southern Senators Oppose

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The recent ban on cryptocurrency transactions via Nigerian bank accounts has divided opinions among Nigerian senators.

The Central Bank had directed deposit money banks and other financial institutions to deactivate all customers’ accounts used for transacting all forms of virtual currencies.

The CBN hinged its decision on claims that fraudulent transactions were being carried out via cryptocurrency dealings, thereby weakening the Naira. It also alleged that the exchange could be used to funnel illicit funding for terrorism and other threats to national security.

Debating the development on Thursday at plenary, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, a former bank chief executive from Lagos, says he does not see the ban as the solution to the highlighted threats but suggested a public hearing be held with stakeholders.

“The last five years, we have had people changing crypto-currencies to over 500 million dollars. It is good to ban because of the challenges it has presented; in reality, banning it doesn’t take it away,”
 Mr. Abiru said.

“Even our Security Exchange Commission (SEC) also recognised crypto-currency as a financial asset they need to regulate. What we should do is to invite the major stakeholders to a public hearing.”

Adding his voice, Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) opined that rather than the outright ban on crypto-currency by the banks regulator, regulation of the market would be a better option.

In his words: “I am strongly against the outright ban of this medium of exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN). What the CBN should be telling Nigerians are the regulations put in place to regulate the activities of the operators.”

“All over the world, these cryptocurrencies are regulated. The operators of this so-called currency are everywhere. I would indulge this senate to allow the regulators also to be invited so that they can also tell the committees their own position concerning the operation of cryptocurrency in Nigeria,” Mr. Adeola concluded.

Senator Biodun Olujimi, apparently against the ban, noted that the youth have gained so much from the business of bitcoin, hence, advised the CBN and the government to iron out ways for cryptocurrency to work for the country while also taking step to prevent fraudulent people from gaining access.

Ms. Olujimi said, “We didn’t create cryptocurrency and so we cannot kill it and cannot refuse to ensure it works for us. These children are doing great business with it and they are getting results and Nigeria cannot immune itself from this sort of business.”

“What we can do is to ensure bad people must not use it. This motion is most important to us. The time has come for us to harmonise all the issues concerning cryptocurrency,”
 the senator added.

However, in a swift opposition, Senator Sani Musa (Niger) believes the directive is necessary due to the clandestine nature of the medium of transaction which makes it almost impossible to regulate while seeing it as a threat to Nigeria’s weak economy and the fragile Naira.

“Cryptocurrency has become a worldwide transaction of which you cannot even identify who owns what. The technology is so strong that I don’t see the kind of regulation that we can do. Bitcoin has made our currency almost useless or valueless,”
 Mr. Sani lamented.

In addition, he said: “If we have an economy that is very weak, and cannot regulate cryptocurrency in Nigeria, then I don’t know how our economy would be in the next seven years.”

The senate then mandated its committees on banking, insurance and other financial institutions, ICT and cybercrime, and capital market to invite the CBN governor for briefing on the opportunities and threats of the cryptocurrency on the nation’s economy and security and to report back findings within two weeks.

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Nigerian Mutual Funds Hit N1.26 Trillion In 5 Months

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Total net asset of collective investment schemes and funds in Nigeria has risen to N1.257 trillion in the first five months of the year.There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected various parts of the Nigerian economy and indeed, the world economy. One industry in Nigeria that has remained resilient in spite of it all, is the mutual fund industry.Data released by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as at May 29, 2019 showed that net asset value of mutual funds rose by N251 billion or 24.95 per cent from N1.006 trillion on December 29, 2019 to N1.257 trillion to close the first five months of the year, on May 29, 2019.The analysis revealed that in spite of the decline of 5.864 per cent witnessed in the Nigerian equities market during the period under review, the Nigerian mutual fund managers witnessed a growth of 24.95 per cent.Looking at how the funds flow into the sub-sector showed that Money Market Funds, Bond Market and Fixed Income Funds were the most active.Money Market Funds up by N93.613 billion, Bond Funds rose by N81.156 billion, Fixed Income Funds appreciated by N76.979 billion, Equities Based Funds up by N331 million, while Ethical Funds increased by N121 million in five months.On the other side, Real Estate Funds and Mixed Funds depreciated by N1.087 billion, and N121 million, respectively.Mutual fund is a pool of funds brought together by a professional fund manager from several investors to invest in selected underlying securities. The underlying securities can be one or a combination of the following: stocks, fixed income securities, real estate and commodities. A mutual fund portfolio is structured and maintained to match different investment objectives. The type of mutual fund an individual invests in depends on their financial objectives and appetite for risk.Meanwhile, in 2019, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in conjunction with the Fund Managers Association of Nigeria (FMAN), the Central Securities Clearing Systems (CSCS) and the Association of Stockholding, Nigeria (ASHON) launched the Mutual Fund trading platform, with the aim to improve and enhance access of listed mutual funds to investors and to enhance visibility for the listed funds and promote financial inclusion while stimulating retail investor participation in our market.The chief operating officer of InvestData Consulting Limited, Ambrose Omordion said that over the years, there has been a significant increase in the number of mutual funds as investors’ interest increases, saying that mutual funds have become a vehicle used by both advisors and institutions to access investible funds and diversify portfolios.He noted that the money market fund continues to evolve and grow as seen under the period review.Omordion said that there is a need for the government and financial/investment houses to sensitise the public of the need of alternative investments such as mutual funds and the benefits, as this will create awareness in the market and go a long way in creating strong relationship between the investors and investees.A stockbroker and the CEO, Sofunix Investment and Communications, Mr Sola Oni stated that mutual fund is a collective investment that enables small savers to benefit from investment in blue chips across a broad spectrum of industries.He added that although it can be abused if not properly regulated, it is a strategy for diversification by which an investor can hold shares in specialised sectors that ordinarily he cannot afford to buy as individual stocks.Oni said that mutual trust is a form of risk management and managed by professional money managers and this enhances operational efficiency, which is easy to track.Group managing director of Cordros Capital said that “We need a collective effort from both the regulators and the operators. The Securities and Exchange Commission has done a lot in this regard as the industry is a lot more regulated and the investing publics are better informed about the opportunities that mutual funds offer.”Agbeyangi however, noted, “We think both the operators and regulators can still do a lot more with regards to financial literacy and adequate wealth management strategies.“Operators also need to come out with more investment solutions that cater to the various needs of investors. Government can also look at providing incentives and enabling environment that encourage savings and investments.”He added that the mutual funds trading platform launched in 2019, marks the beginning of a new era in Nigeria’s mutual fund industry as mutual funds can now be traded on the floor of the stock exchange, saying that investors can now buy and sell units of funds on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).The managing director of HighCap Securities Limited, Mr David Adonri said that mutual fund investment has been widely embraced as a good investment platform in the developed economies, and serves as a vehicle for the mobilisation of capital for economic development.He noted the investors are now embracing mutual fund instrument to diversify their investment risks especially in the equities market, explain that since investments in mutual funds are like investment in a basket of securities.

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