28 February 2012

Nigeria: SWF Begins Operation in May, Says Okonjo-Iweala

Photo: Vanguard
Nigerian oil rig.

Barring any unforeseen hitches, the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) will commence operation in May this year as the Federal Government is concluding arrangements for its effectual take-off.

Already, the Federal Government is recruiting the chief executive officer, chief investment officer and the chief risk officer through KPMG - one of the world's leading management consultancy firms - it appointed to hunt for the key officers that will manage the fund under the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

THISDAY checks revealed that advertisements to that effect were placed in both local and international media outfits by KPMG some months back, calling for qualified personnel to apply for key positions to manage the operations of the Fund.

KPMG is playing the executive sourcing function on behalf of the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Finance.

This has to do with the short listing of potential candidates for the executive management team.

The firm is also supporting the executive nomination committee as prescribed by the Act setting up the SWF.

Meanwhile, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told THISDAY in Beijing, China, last week, that it would take about three months from now before the SWF could become operational.

"The Sovereign Wealth Fund will take off after three months. We are already recruiting the chief executive officer, chief investment officer and the chief risk officer, which will take us one month. And we have to give them one month to disengage from their former jobs and another one month after which the fund will take off in earnest," she said.

Okonjo-Iweala was keen on ensuring that the best people emerged out of this process and the benefits from the SWF are enjoyed by Nigerians.

A senior official in the Ministry of Finance, who is close to those responsible for the setting up of the fund, also said: "The priority has been to ensure that the whole process is transparent and international best practices are observed in the recruitment process. The Sovereign Wealth Fund is very important to Nigeria and we have to ensure that we get the right people to manage this so that the country can benefit from the objective of the fund."

The NSIA is expected to help in realising the full benefits of the nation's oil wealth by collecting the excess revenue earned from oil exports.

The excess revenue is that which is in excess of what is needed to finance the budget.

When operational, the NSIA is to invest the excess revenue where it will have the largest benefit for Nigerians, "for today and tomorrow", the official also said.

The NSIA is the agency to be set up by the Federal Government to manage the SWF. The SWF will be run by the private sector, which is expected to give a high level of efficiency in the usage of resources.

THISDAY also gathered that the NSIA will make targeted infrastructure investments that will serve as the backbone of a vibrant, dynamic and diversified economy.

It will help the private sector and do much to attract foreign direct investment into Nigeria.

"Initial funding of $1 billion for NSIA was authorised by the National Economic Council (NEC) in recognition of the pre-eminent needs of our nation," the official also said.

In line with international best practices, the NSIA is to be funded in an objective and automatic manner that will allow a part of any surplus revenue to be saved each month.

After its creation, the NSIA will receive monthly funding of 90 per cent of all commodity revenue above what the National Assembly approves each year as the budget revenue - using the oil price bench mark rule.

The remaining 10 per cent will be conserved for budgetary management monthly and accrued until this amount is equal to 2.5 per cent of the projected commodity revenue for the year.

Once this threshold has been reached, 100 per cent of commodity revenue above what the National Assembly has approved for the budget will be saved in the NSIA.

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