Wenger Says Arsenal’s Title Dream Not Over

Wenger Says Title Dream Not Over For ArsenalDespite back-to-back Premier League defeats Arsene Wenger insists his Arsenal side are still in the Premier League title race.

The Gunners are 12 points behind leaders Chelsea with 14 matches to play but Wenger insists his fourth-placed team are not yet out of the running.

“It’s never over – we cannot behave like that,” Wenger told Arsenal.com. “Even if you think it is, I don’t. We cannot even think like that.

“We look at the teams around us and we’re all in a pack that is very tight, where the fight for every position will be massive like it has always been in the Premier League, maybe even more this season than ever before.

“The way we respond to our disappointing result last Saturday is vital. If it is over for us, it’s over for everybody else. We are all together in a pack there, so first we have to focus on staying at the top, and then if we can reduce the distance between us and Chelsea after, you never know.

“They have an advantage where they aren’t playing in Europe. They have no midweek games, so of course they are in a very strong position.”

Arsenal next play a revitalised Hull City side fresh from a 2-0 victory over Liverpool, at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Wenger is not underrating The Tigers taking close look at their revival under new manager Marco Silva.

“Not really because I felt they played well since the start of the season but they had not always the results,” he said.

“The Premier League is difficult for everybody – they were a bit unlucky sometimes so they are a tough opposition for us.

“Every game is difficult, especially at the Emirates. We have to prepare well to face a Hull team with more confidence than when we played them, so we have to prepare well.

“We need to focus on what we do well and the quality of our game. As well these players have been great players [before] last Tuesday, they are still great players one week later. You are not a different player. You have to have common sense a little bit.”

Four Nigerian Banks Among Global Top 500 Banking Brands

Nigerian BanksFirst Bank of Nigeria ranks 320 in the 2016 top 500 banking brands ranking published by the Banker Magazine of Financial Times Group.

The bank moved up the scale 16 places from 336th position in 2015 to retain its number one banking brand ranking in Nigeria for the fifth consecutive year.

A press release from the country representative of the Banker Magazine in Nigeria, Kunle Ogedengbe, added that three other Nigerian banks also made the ranking.

They are Guaranty Trust Bank which moved to 389th position, Zenith Bank at 392nd, and United Bank for Africa at the 447th position.

Access Bank that made the ranking at 496th position in 2015 dropped from the 2016 ranking.

According to The Banker magazine, Nigeria has the highest brand value increase of $249m among the five countries in Africa that made the ranking.

Egypt moved up by $239m; Togo gained $134m while South Africa and Morocco lost $878mn and $213m.

The top 10 banks in the world are Well Fargo (USA); ICBC (China); China Construction Bank; Agricultural Bank of China; Chase (USA); Bank of China; Bank of America; Citi (USA); HSBC (UK); and Barclays (UK).

Nigerian Economy Is Stable – Finance Ministry

The Ministry of Finance has joined the effort by the Federal Government to re-assure Nigerians that the country’s economy remains on a sound footing, despite the global economic uncertainty.

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Ministry, in a statement referred to numerous comments and articles in the media, questioning the performance of the nation’s economy as well as casting doubt over the management of the Excess Crude Account and the External Reserves of the country.

While promising to continue to make effort to respond to demands for greater transparency in the management of the nation’s revenues, the Ministry declared that: “the Nigerian economy is strong. Our economic performance is robust when viewed against a whole range of objective factors. Inflation is now down to single-digit at 9.0% in January 2013, compared with 12.6% in January 2012. The exchange rate has been relatively stable, and the fiscal deficit at just under 2% of GDP is on a downward trajectory, and below our threshold of 3% of GDP.

“Our national debt is at a sustainable level at about 19.4% of GDP. Overall, GDP growth for 2012 was 6.5%, and projected at 6.75% for 2013, compared with the projected global growth of 3.5%. The above facts have been independently noted and validated by international ratings agencies (such as Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s) who have upgraded the country’s economic outlook, even as other countries are being downgraded. In addition, Nigeria’s bonds have recently been included in the Barclays and JP Morgan Emerging Market indices.”

The ministry urged Nigerians to stop denigrating the efforts being made to correct things that are wrong in the system, maintaining that the current administration is focused on diversifying and growing the economy “through investments in agriculture, housing and construction, manufacturing, aviation, power, roads, rail, solid minerals and the information and communication technology (ICT) sectors by both government and the private sector,” adding that the economy is certainly moving in the right direction.

On the external reserves, the ministry explained the three part components to be made up of “the CBN’s external reserves, the Excess Crude Account, and the Federal Government’s funds belonging to agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation for joint venture cash calls and so on. This is simply a matter of definition, and follows international best practices and reporting guidelines.”

On the claims of inconsistency of account balances provided by the Ministry of Finance and the CBN, the statement said: “It is worth noting that the Ministry of Finance typically reports its balances following Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) Meetings, which often take place at the middle of the month, whereas CBN data are reported at the end of each month. There is thus a time lag between the reports from the two institutions.

“As a result, there are usually some differences due to ‘transit items’ which are yet to be reconciled in both accounts. In addition, for quite a while, the CBN excess crude reports have included the $1 billion allocated to the Sovereign Wealth Fund as this is still domiciled with the CBN, whereas the Ministry of Finance does not regard it as part of the distributable Excess Crude Account.”

ACN is myopic

The perception of the Finance Minister has been reiterated by the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe who in a statement described the claim by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that the nation’s economy is in danger of collapse as lacking in substance and runs contrary to the verdicts of reputable international rating agencies who have consistently upgraded the country’s economic ratings in the last one and a half years.
The statement signed by Mr Okupe reads “For a fact, there are incidents of crude oil theft which had existed for several decades before this administration came on board. However, the truth is that this is currently being tackled through proactive steps by the government. The opposition is most probably aware of the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan recently secured the co-operation of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and French President on measures to prevent refineries in Europe from buying crude oil stolen from Nigeria.”

“Similarly, the Jonathan administration has provided more and better surveillance boats for the Nigerian Navy to enhance patrol of our coastal waters. This has resulted in arrest of several vessels engaged in oil theft and these were well reported in the Nigerian print and electronic media.”

Mr Okupe drew the attention of the opposition political party to the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly which it says was conceived by President Jonathan to provide for best practice processes for acreage availability, bidding and awards and therefore address the problems of dwindling oil and gas exploratory opportunities, and corruption among other problems in the sector.

“One wonders if the ACN would have ignored the ratings by FITCH, STANDARD & POOR’S, MOODY’S and JP MORGAN if those bodies had turned in a negative verdict on the Nigerian economy. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the opposition has once again chosen the myopic and jaundiced path of public policy analysis rather that base its assessment on verifiable, objective indices. Unfortunately, a matter as sensitive as a Nation’s economy ought not to be subjected to this fashion of blind politicking.”

While assuring Nigerians that the Federal Government remains committed to implementing sound economic policies and development of the Nation’s infrastructure, the presidency urged politicians to exhibit statesmanship in addressing issues of critical nature rather than seeking to score cheap points in desperate manner.

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had  raised an alert of an impending collapse of the nation’s economy, unless the Federal Government cuts the ‘astronomical cost’ of running governance and takes urgent measures to diversify the Nigerian economy and shore up the nation’s production of crude oil.