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MP Owen Paterson faces suspension for breaking lobbying rules

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MP Owen Paterson faces suspension for breaking lobbying rules

The Tory MP Owen Paterson faces a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules, raising the possibility he could lose his seat if enough constituents trigger a byelection.

The former cabinet minister was found to have breached paid advocacy rules, two years after the Guardian published documents revealing how the former environment secretary helped lobby for two firms he was paid to advise – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

Paterson claimed the investigation by Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, did “not comply with natural justice” and had played a “major role” in the death of his wife, Rose, who took her own life in June 2020.

Stone’s investigation, which was launched in October 2019, found Paterson had worked as a consultant to Randox, a clinical diagnostics company, since August 2015, and Lynn’s Country Foods, a processor and distributor of meat products, since December 2016.

She said he made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk; seven approaches to the same agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods; and four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology.

Following her investigation, the standards committee – which contains MPs from different political parties, including several Conservatives – launched its own investigation, and the results of both were published on Tuesday.

The committee revealed Paterson had failed to declare his interest and used his parliamentary office on at least 16 occasions for business meetings with his clients between October 2016 and February 2020, and sent two letters relating to his business interests on taxpayer-funded Commons-headed notepaper.

Paterson was also found to have committed “an egregious case of paid advocacy”, “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant”, and brought the Commons into disrepute. It said: “No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests.”

The committee recommended Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days.

Under a law introduced in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, any MP suspended for more than 10 days can face a trigger ballot where their constituents decide whether to force a byelection by supporting a recall petition. Ten per cent of the electors in Paterson’s seat would need to support the petition for a byelection to be called.

Paterson, who is also a former Northern Ireland secretary and prominent Brexit campaigner, claimed the investigation was biased and “offends against the basic standard of procedural fairness that no one should be found guilty until they have had a chance to be heard and to present their evidence including their witnesses”.

He said Stone did not speak to him to get his side of the story until after she had “made up her mind” and did not seek oral evidence from 17 witnesses who wanted to testify in his support. “I am not guilty and a fair process would exonerate me,” he added.

Last summer, Paterson’s wife of 40 years killed herself. “We will never know definitively what drove her to suicide, but the manner in which this investigation was conducted undoubtedly played a major role,” he said in a statement responding to the commissioner and committee’s ruling.

“Rose would ask me despairingly every weekend about the progress of the inquiry, convinced that the investigation would go to any lengths to somehow find me in the wrong. The longer the investigation went on and the more the questions went further and further from the original accusations, the more her anxiety increased.

“She felt beleaguered as I was bound by confidentiality and could not discuss this inquiry with anyone else. She became convinced that the investigation would destroy my reputation and force me to resign my North Shropshire seat that I have now served for 24 years.”

However, the standards committee said there was no evidence Stone had shown any evidence of bias and called it “completely unacceptable” for Paterson to have made “unsubstantiated, serious, and personal allegations” against the work of his scrutineers.

Questions were raised about Paterson’s business dealings in April 2019, when it was revealed he was being paid nearly £100,000 by Randox to act as a consultant, while helping lobby the government to seek contracts for the same multinational firm.

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Business

DMO Issues Two FGN Savings Bonds At N1,000/unit

The Debt Management Office (DMO) has announced its Dec. issuance of two Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) Savings Bonds at N1,000 per unit.

According to a statement by the DMO, the first offer is a two-year FGN Savings Bond due on Dec. 14, 2022, at an interest rate of 12.255 percent per annum.

The second one is a three-year FGN Savings Bond due on Dec. 14, 2025, at a 13.255 percent interest rate per annum.

It said that the opening date for the issuance of the bonds is Dec.5, the closing date is Dec. 9, the settlement date, is Dec. 14 while coupon payment dates are March 14, June 14, Sept. 14, and Dec. 14.

“They are issued at N1,000 per unit subject to a minimum subscription of N5,000 and in multiples of N1,000 thereafter, subject to a maximum subscription of N50 million.

“Interest is payable quarterly, while bullet repayment is made on the maturity date, ” it said.

It added that FGN savings bonds qualify as securities in which trustees can invest under the Trustee Investment Act.

“They qualify as government securities within the meaning of the Company Income Tax Act and Personal Income Tax Act for tax exemption for pension funds amongst other Investors.

“They are listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and qualify as liquid assets for liquidity ratio calculation for banks,” it said.

The statement said they were backed by the full faith and credit of the Federal Government of Nigeria, and charged upon the general assets of the country.

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Business

DMO Says It has Raised N130bn From Sukuk For Key Road Projects

The Debt Management Office (DMO) says it raised N130 billion from its N100 billion sovereign al ’Ijarah sukuk opened on November 21, 2022.

DMO, in a statement on Monday disclosed that the offer of N100 billion was “upsized to N130 billion due to the over 165 percent subscription level”.

The Sukuk is a strategic initiative that supports infrastructure development, promotes financial inclusion and deepens the domestic securities market.

Since the establishment of the initiative in September 2017, Nigeria has issued four sovereign sukuk: 2017 (N100 billion), 2018 (N100 billion), 2020 (N162.557 billion), and 2021 (N250 billion).

According to the statement, this year’s total sovereign sukuk issuance moved to N742.557 billion.

“The Debt Management Office (DMO) is pleased to inform the public of the successful conclusion of the issuance of N100 billion sovereign al ’ijarah sukuk. The offer for N100 billion opened on November 21, 2022, and was supported by wide public sensitisation to encourage subscription from diverse investors, particularly the retail investors,” the statement reads.

“The initial offer size of N100 billion was upsized to N130 billion due to the over 165 percent subscription level. The Sukuk was issued at a rental rate of 15.64 percent per annum. This brings the total sovereign sukuk issuance to N742.557 billion as at date.”

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CBN Limits Withdrawal To N100,000 Weekly

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday slashed the cash withdrawal by an individual to N100,000 per week by an individual.

The apex bank also fixed N500,000 as the amount a company can withdraw in a week.

By this new policy, account holders can only withdraw a maximum of N100,000 weekly through Automated Teller Machine (ATM), subject to a maximum of N20,000 daily withdrawal.

Under the new policy, which is to take effect from January 9, 2023, the maximum cash withdrawal via Point of Sale (POS) shall also be N20,000 daily.

This was contained in a circular issued by the CBN on Tuesday, signed by director of banking supervision, Haruna Mustafa and addressed to deposit money banks and other financial institutions.

According to the circular, deposit money banks and other financial institutions are also mandated to ensure that over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities do not exceed N100,000 and N500,000, respectively, per week.

It further indicated that all cash withdrawals in excess of the stated limits will attract processing fees of 5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

The new policy also states that third party cheques in excess of N50,000 shall not be eligible for over the counter payment, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques subsist.

“Only denomination of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs.

“In compelling circumstances not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits is required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed N5,000,000 and N10,000,000 for individuals and corporate organisations respectively, and shall be subject to the references processing fees in (1) above, in addition to enhanced due diligence and further information requirements,” the circular stated.

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