The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has queried the selective nature of paying salaries to a few members against the majority.
The branch Chairman, Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Keffi), Nasarawa State, Mr Achimugu Isaiah, disclosed this shortly after a congress meeting of the union in Keffi.
He also appealed to the Federal Government to pay its members April and May salary in line with their agreement to suspend their strike.
JOHESU embarked on an indefinite nationwide industrial action on April 18 and resumed work on May 31.
Some of the demands made by the union included upward adjustment of the salary scale, employment of additional health professionals, review of retirement age from 60 years to 65 years and implementation of the court judgment.
JOHESU consists of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Medical and Health Workers Union (MHWUN) and Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals, among others.
Isaiah said that payment of two-month salary to the members of the union who embarked on strike to press home their demand would cushion their economic plight.
He added that it would also boost members’ morale toward effective healthcare service delivery.
“The strike was declared by the national body and the local chapter here only obeyed the directive of the national secretariat,” he said.
“Actually, we only called members of the union to brief them on the outcome of our meeting with the management of the centre after the suspension of the JOHESU strike by the national body of the union.
“After the suspension of the strike, we have been meeting with our management on the need for payment of April and May salary to our members but the management told us that those that were paid are those that worked during the strike.
“Such beneficiaries like the management staff, drivers, and their personal assistants, among others, were paid based on the directive from the Federal Government.
“They said that anything that was done was based on the directive and they can only take our message on the payment of our April/May salary to the federal government for action.
“It is in view of this that we are pleading to the federal government to consider our presentation, the plight of workers by paying us our April/May salary in the interest of peace.”
Besides, Isaiah urged the federal government to do the needful by implementing the demands of the union so as to put the issues that led to the strike to an end.
The chairman also urged the members of the union to remain calm, be law abiding and continue with their normal duties.
Umeh reconciles with Ekwunife at ASATU Award
t was a melodrama in Awka, the Anmabra State capital when the two embattled senators of Anambra central senatorial zone, Senator Victor Umeh and Senator Uche Ekwenife engaged themselves in reconciliation, tete a tete at the Omams Event Centre Awka.
They came to recieve the 2019 Anambra State Association of Town Unions Annual Community Service Award (ASATU). The award was the maiden edition and a cross section of the people of the state who have distinguished themselves in various fields of human endavour were nominated for the award including Senator Umeh and Ekwunife among others .
Umeh, first to arrive the venue was addressing the gathering, while he regaled his audience with his exploits as a founding member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in the red chamber, where he spent only 17 months, when Senator Ekwunife came in with her entourage. The meeting of the two political giants immediately changed the mood of the event. But shortly after his address the duo in the spirit of sportsmanship hugged and exchanged pleasantries in a low tone.
Addressing journalists shortly after, Senator Umeh said: “Politics is not a do or die affair. I have no regret whatsoever for not being in the Red Chambers today because in politics it is only one person that will win at a time.
“We have done what we can do as human beings and the people have decided on who they want. I am happy that the distinguished Senator reorganised that I made her whatever she is in politics today.
“As the National Chairman of APGA, I gave her a ticket to the House of Representatives as I made others including former governor Peter Obi. I was behind him during that trial period until he left and I am strongly behind the present Governor, Chief Willie Obiano. APGA is our party and there is no other we can call our own.
“I am equally fulfilled that for the 17 months I was in the National Assembly, I made my mark as an Igbo man for the world to see. I have forgiven her and I ask the people of Anambra State to give her their support.”
On her part Senator Ekwunife said she was in Anambra to receive the Award. She said, however, that it is not yet time for political campaign but what is clear is that what speaks for anybody in power is his or her track records and achievements.
The senator remarked that Ndigbo cannot get their own better share of the national cake without queuing into the national grid.
Hear her: “We have only two major political parties in Nigeria today and we cannot benefit if we continue to be in opposition. She said the clarification will be made clear during the campaign but what every reasonable Igbo man should know is that Nigerian is a secular state and unless you belong to the main political party you would never get a better bargain.”
On the 2021 Governorship race in Anambra State, Senator Ekwunife said although she has not declared, Ndi Anambra should be thinking of trying women, pointing out that the men folk have done their best and it is time for the women.
“I have not declared to run but I do know that what men can do women can also do better. We had Dame Virgy Etiaba and her track records are there for everybody to see. We should try women this time. “I will mobilize them and ensure that they are given chance to reposting Anambra State.
Earlier in his welcome addresses the National President of ASATU, Chief Alex Onukwue said that ASATU, the umbrella body of the town unions of all the 179 communities in Anambra State, has thought it wise to honour some illustrious sons and daughters of Ndi Anambra who have distinguished themselves in the community service.
“We believe that doing so, would only be encouraging those who have done a lot to do more but would be certainly be encouraging others to emulate them. There is a doubt also that government cannot do it alone given the lean resources available at their disposal and weighed against competing developmental challenges can hardly do it all alone. It matters a lot therefore that those who have the means should come forward to give back to the society,” he said. Chief Onukwe said that presently the association is building a cultural center at Mgbakwu, Awka South L.G.A, named after the founding national president, Late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN), a great son of Anambra State and Nigeria.
According to him when completed the center will add to the strength of the town union in promoting peoples participation in democratic governance going on in the State.
Speaking one after the other the Chairman of Ohaneze, Anambra State and Grand Patron of ASATU Chief Okeke Ogene, explained that ASATU has done very well in the state by brokering peace in the communities.
Also, he commended Governor, Willy Obiano for making the town union the fourth tiers of government through his Choose your Project Initiatives, which he saidhad brought tremendous development to all the communities in Anambra state.
Other recipients of the award were: the Late Professor Dora Akunyili, who received a Post Humous Award, Mr. Emmanuel Okala, A K A “Man Mountain”, former Enugu Rangers goalkeeper, Professor Kate Omenaugha, Chief Charles Allen Onyema, and Dr. Comas Maduka, Chairman Coscharis farms.
All new Jaguar F-Type debuts
he new Jaguar F-TYPE looks more beautiful than ever and embodies Jaguar design DNA in its purest form. The two-seat sports car offers a perfect balance of performance and driver reward with an even more muscular, assertive design and a cabin defined by rich, luxurious materials and beautiful details.
The range of powerful, responsive engines includes four-, six- and eight-cylinder options, all matched to eight-speed Quickshift transmissions with full manual control using either the SportShift gear selector or the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The new F-TYPE also offers more driver-focused technology, including a reconfigurable, high-definition, 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, Touch Pro infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and software-over-the-air functionality so future software updates can be made at the customer’s convenience without having to visit a Retailer. Two superb Meridian sound systems also offer enhanced sound reproduction.
Julian Thomson, Design Director, Jaguar, said: “Design the most beautiful sports car, with purity, proportion and presence that’s unmistakably Jaguar: that was the challenge we set ourselves. The new F-TYPE is more dramatic than ever, with even greater clarity of purpose in every line, surface and feature, and embodies true Jaguar design DNA.
“State-of-the-art technologies together with luxurious materials and finishes deliver beauty with purpose in an interior which will delight driver and passenger alike even before the engine starts and the journey begins. Jaguar has been making sports cars for more than 70 years, and that rich heritage has inspired the team to create something truly extraordinary.”
F-TYPE’s award-winning design has evolved still further with a focus on even greater purity and discipline to the perfectly-sculpted form. Super-slim pixel LED headlights* with subtly updated signature ‘Calligraphy’ J daytime running lights, and sweeping direction indicators, blend perfectly into the ‘liquid metal’ surfacing of the new clamshell bonnet, exaggerating the car’s visual width and accentuating its assertive stance. The new front bumper and subtly enlarged grille deliver even more visual impact and presence.
The rear haunches enhance the F-TYPE’s inherently dramatic, purposeful form, while the new slender rear lights combine an unmistakable LED chicane signature, inspired by the Jaguar I-PACE all-electric Performance SUV, with subtle monogram pattern detailing and a fine ‘pinstripe’ beneath.
The interior combines traditional Jaguar craftsmanship with rich, contemporary materials such as Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome. Beautiful details include monogram stitch patterns in the seats and door trims, Jaguar Leaper motifs in the headrests, and subtle ‘Jaguar Est.1935’ markings on the centre console finisher, glovebox release button surround, and seatbelt guides.
The 12.3-inch reconfigurable HD TFT instrument cluster offers a choice of different displays, including full map mode but, as befits a true sports car, the default mode is characterised by the large central rev counter. This feature and the gearshift light subtly convey the F-TYPE’s driver-focused character and performance potential.
Even before the drive begins, the F-TYPE delights the driver with the visual theatre of flush, deployable door handles and deployable air vents. Pressing the start button brings the car to life with its hallmark exhaust flare as purposeful as ever.
All engines – 221kW turbocharged four-cylinder, 280kW supercharged V6 and 423kW V8 – feature active exhaust systems, which are switchable either as an option or as standard. Customers who choose the 423kW supercharged V8 benefit from the new Quiet Start function, which ensures a more subtle, refined sound – the electrically-actuated bypass valves in the rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open up under load. If desired, Quiet Start can be over-ridden by selecting Dynamic Mode or by pressing the switchable exhaust button before starting the engine.
Alan Volkaerts, Vehicle Line Director, Jaguar F-TYPE, said: “The new F-TYPE is the definitive Jaguar sports car and continues to set the benchmark for design purity, driver engagement and reward, and a truly visceral driving experience – it makes every journey extraordinary.
2nd Niger Bridge hits 33.33% completion
•Host communities, others excited
hough the date set by the Federal Government for the completion of the N220 billion second Niger Bridge is 2022, there is already excitement and celebration in the air over the news that work on the bridge which is the main road link between the West and Eastern parts of Nigeria has reached 33.33 per cent completion.
Members of the host communities and people from the South East geopolitical region who spoke to Sunday Telegraph in different interviews on Tuesday expressed happiness over the pace of work on the project since the contraction on the main project commenced in 2017.
A trader at the Onitsha market, Confidence Chukwu, said though work on the project was slow initially, “there is already excitement in the air as people start to see the pillars of the bridge standing. People are no longer in doubt over the sincerity of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete the project as he promised. Infact, where work on the project has reached now, it is almost getting to the point of no abandonment. We are confident that President Buhari will as he promised; complete the construction of the bridge in 2022, a year before he leaves of office.”
Speaking, Chief Okechukwu Mgbolu from Asaba said if the bridge is completed it reposition the economy of the town, saying the gateway town will only realize its full potentials when the road is completed and put into use.
Mrs. Nkiruka Ugboma, a women leader in Onitsha said they are happy over the recent increase in the pace of work at the site adding that it has also opened up the host communities to commercial activities. “We thought that it was one of those promises of the government but what is going on is interesting and we thank the Federal Government for bringing development to our town.”
Also speaking, Chief Davidson Nwankwo, who has lived in Atani for 40 years though he is a native of Ehime Mbano in Imo State, described the project as a landmark that will have catalytic effect on the economy of the South East and Nigeria in general.
The bridge is a new construction of an 11.9kilometre long, double three-lane highway designed to connect Asaba and Onitsha in Delta and Anambra states.
The bridge is being executed under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Plan (PIDP) and it is being funded by the three tiers of government through the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), in collaboration with private investors.
PIDP is an initiative of the present administration to accelerate the execution of critical and strategic infrastructure projects necessary to drive the rapid growth and modernization of Nigeria’s economy.
Meanwhile, in a visit to the site on Tuesday, Sunday Telegraph was told by the project supervisor Engr. Oluwaseyi Martins that the Second Niger Bridge is 1.59 km in length which forms part of the 11.90 km length of the project.
He said that it is located 1.7 km downstream of the existing Niger Bridge on a new alignment, adding that it consists of two end spans of 40.25 meters and 40 meters respectively 16 equal intermediate spans of 55 meters each and two intermediate spans 90 meters each, three navigational spans of 150 meters each.
He said that it has a total width of the dual carriage bridge is 30.1 meters consisting of 12. 25 meters width of three lane carriage with 0.9 meters shoulder in each direction and 3.6 meters central reserve.
According to him, two under passes classified as secondary bridges are planned at Amakom village and Atani roads with an interchange on the Onitsha, Owerri road consisting of important sediment of the project.
He explained that the Berger Nigeria Plc had commenced early work on the other phases, which were integral parts of the construction of the main works adding that it commenced at 23 +000 km on Asaba side and terminates at 34+900 km on the Onitsha side.
Sunday Telegraph also learnt that the toll plaza is located at 25+700km while the Onitsha -Owerri interchange is located at 34,100 adding that the express way including the Niger Bridge has two directions with three lanes each.
Martins stated that at the moment the project has reached 33.33 per cent completion from the previous percentage of 25.
Currently the two other bridges are located at Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra and Amakom village in Delta State as a link to the bridge have been completed and work on the toll plaza have commenced.
Martins disclosed that the host communities were also integrated in the project through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the construction company.
To this end sub contracts have been awarded to the natives in the area of supplies as well a percentage of employment to the villagers.
He said that 90 per cent compensation has been paid to the host communities for economic trees graves, shrines and buildings in Amakom village and Atani respectively.
Recall that on March 10, 2014, the then President Goodluck Jonathan performed the ground breaking ceremony of the Second Niger Bridge which was heralded by so much celebration giving an indication that the pressure on the first Niger Bridge constructed in 1965 would be reduced drastically.
The first Niger Bridge has since it’s construction served as the only gate way to the nine states in the old Eastern Region namely Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu as well as Akwa Ibom, Rivers Bayelsa and Cross River states.
Mercedes-Benz delivers over 200,000 vehicles in November
or the first time, global sales by Mercedes-Benz passed the mark of 200,000 units in a November: deliveries of 209,058 cars constitute an increase of 5.3 per cent. Not only was a new record high reached for the month, but unit sales also increased by 1.4 per cent in the period of January to November. Last month and also since the beginning of the year, the previous year’s sales were exceeded in the three largest markets: China, Germany and the United States. Important growth drivers for Mercedes-Benz unit sales in November were compact cars and SUVs, among other things due to new models such as the A-Class Saloon, the B-Class, the GLC and the GLE.
In the first eleven months of the year, Mercedes-Benz maintained its market leadership in the premium segment in markets including Germany, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Portugal, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Canada, Republic of South Africa and other markets.
“With convincing products and the impetus from our model offensive with compact cars and SUVs, we have started the year-end spurt with confidence. In November, we presented the Maybach GLS, the first SUV model from our exclusive Mercedes-Maybach brand. For our customers, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS combines the advantages of the popular GLS with the luxury of a high-end Saloon that Maybach customers are used to. Since the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Saloon was launched in 2015, more than 45,000 units of this model alone have been delivered to customers all over the world,” stated Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and of Mercedes-Benz AG responsible for Sales.
Mercedes-Benz unit sales by region and market
A total of 82,123 cars with the star were delivered in the Europe region in November (+0.1). Since the beginning of the year, unit sales in the region increased by 0.6 per cent. In Germany, the region’s core market, Mercedes-Benz sold 30,872 vehicles last month (+5.8 per cent). From January to November, unit sales by the Stuttgart-based company with the star in its domestic market were 5.1 per cent higher than in the prior-year period. Deliveries in Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal increased to a record level in November.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Mercedes-Benz set a new record in November with sales of 83,652 units (+11.0 per cent). In the region’s core market, China, 57,901 customers were delighted to receive their new car with the star. This is the highest number of cars ever sold in a November by Mercedes-Benz in China and as well as double-digit growth (+11.0 per cent). Since the beginning of the year sales there have continued to be at record levels with 640,933 units (+6.3 per cent). Since the beginning of the year new sales records were also set in South Korea and Vietnam.
Deliveries in the NAFTA region increased last month by 7.7 per cent to 38,601 units. Mercedes-Benz was able to deliver a total of 33,721 cars with the star in the core market of the USA in November and achieved significant growth of 8.7 per cent. In addition, Mercedes-Benz was the highest-selling premium brand in the United States last month. For the first time in the year to date the Stuttgart-based company with the star reversed its sales trend in the USA: unit sales increased by 0.7 per cent.
Saudi Aramco prices shares at top of range in world’s biggest IPO
State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) will be the biggest in history, but will fall short of the towering $2 trillion valuation long sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the top of its indicative range, the company said in a statement, raising $25.6 billion and beating Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (BABA.N) record $25 billion listing in 2014.
At that level, Aramco has a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, comfortably overtaking Apple Inc (AAPL.O) as the world’s most valuable listed firm. But the listing, expected later this month on the Riyadh stock exchange, is a far cry from the blockbuster debut originally envisaged by the Crown Prince, reports Reuters.
Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market but two sources said it was scheduled for Dec. 11.
Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.
Demand from institutional investors, including Saudi funds and companies, reached $106 billion, while retail investment’s demand hit $12.6 billion.
Around 4.9 million Saudi retail investors have bought shares in the oil giant, including 2.3 million aged between 31-45.
Aramco’s advisors said they may partly or fully exercise a 15% “greenshoe” option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4 billion.
The pricing comes as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is gearing up to deepen oil supply cuts to support prices, provided it can strike a deal later this week with allies such as Russia.
Climate change concerns, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency put foreign investors off the offering, forcing the kingdom to ditch ambitions to raise as much as $100 billion via an international and domestic listing of a 5% stake.
Even at a $1.7 trillion valuation, international institutions baulked, prompting Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a 1.5% stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks offered citizens cheap credit to bid for shares.
DIVERSIFY FROM OIL
The IPO is the culmination of a years-long effort to sell a portion of the world’s most profitable company and raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil and create jobs for a growing population.
“The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
“Nevertheless, combined with other areas of funding, we believe that there is meaningful capital in place to progress with the investment plans aimed at diversifying the economy.”
The government promoted the investment as a patriotic duty, particularly after Aramco’s oil facilities were attacked in September, temporarily halving the kingdom’s oil output.
Despite the official push and offer of loans to fund share purchases, interest was relatively muted compared with other emerging market IPOs, including the listing of a top Saudi bank in 2014 which was oversubscribed many times over.
Alibaba’s listing in Hong Kong this month had bids for 40 times the number of shares on offer.
Sources have said the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), sovereign wealth funds of two of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf allies, planned to invest in the deal. ADIA declined to comment, while KIA did not respond to requests for comment.
Saudi citizens were offered 0.5% of the company or about a third of the offering, an unprecedented retail offering compared with previous Saudi IPOs.
Aramco has planned a dividend of $75 billion for 2020, more than five times larger than Apple’s payout, which is already among the biggest of any S&P 500 company.
But investing in Aramco is also a bet on the price of oil and growth in global demand for crude, which is expected to slow from 2025 as steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are rolled out and the use of electric vehicles increases.
The IPO also carries political risk as the Saudi government, which relies on Aramco for the bulk of revenues, controls the company.
Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and for its role in a war in Yemen.
Fowler: Digital space key to revenue generation
Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has described digital space as the new gold in revenue generation. Fowler said this yesterday in his opening remarks at the third Annual Nigeria Tax Research Network Conference holding at the FIRS Training School in Durumi, Abuja.
The conference is themed: “Revenue Challenges Online and Offline: Bridging the Digital divide in an Analogue Economy.” According to the FIRS boss, it is important that the service improves its capacity in the taxation of economic activities within the digital space.
Towards this, Fowler said the FIRS had deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of improving transparency as well as easing speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and administrators. “The volume of economic activities associated with businesses like Uber, Amazon and our own Jumia and Interswitch is further confirmation of the aptness of the theme. “To put it in clear terms, the digital space is new ‘gold’ in terms of revenue generation, and tax administration must be alive to this fact.
“It is with this in mind that FIRS has designed and deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of the improvement of transparency, ease and speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and tax administrators.
“These e-services have in no small way contributed to the successes recorded in the last two years amidst an economy characterised by the effect and aftermath of recession,” Fowler said. According to him, the e-services, are e-Registration for registration of new taxpayers; e-Stamp duty for payment of stamp duties on qualifying documents; e-TaxPayment for payment of all taxes of the Federal Government using Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Remita or Interswitch; e-Receipt for receiving and verifying e-receipts generated for taxes paid through the new e-TaxPayment. Others are e-Filing, which enables taxpayers file their tax returns through Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS); and e-TCC platform, which enables taxpayers apply for, receive and verify authenticity of their electronic tax clearance certificates (e-TCC).
Fowler stated that the conference was an opportunity for tax administrators to brainstorm on new ideas to broaden the tax net as well as strategise on optimal service delivery. The conference, according to him, is also for the discussion of current ideas, new trends and future prospects of revenue collection. “This conference, like others before it, presents us with an opportunity to brainstorm and articulate initiatives for the broadening of the tax net and strategies geared towards ensuring optimised service delivery.
Access Bank donates facility to police
Access Bank Plc has donated an interrogation room to the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) at Alagbon, Lagos. In addition to the fully equipped facility, the bank also donated a 250 KVA generator to the force to help improve their working conditions and that of neighbouring communities.
The Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc., Herbert Wigwe, who was represented at the commissioning by the Group Head, Enterprise Business Resources, Mac Atom, spoke on the bank’s motive and commitment to corporate social responsibility.
“Partnerships and social investment remains a critical part of Access Bank’s sustainability drive. In our bid to offer more than banking and create value for various government agencies, we have donated state of the art interrogation and observation rooms to select divisions of the Nigerian Police Force across the country, starting with Lagos. “We thank the NPF for all they do, especially for seeing to it that all our customers remain protected and secure,” he said. Speaking on behalf of the NPF, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Annex, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Murtala Mani, expressed gratitude for the donation and urged other private organisations to follow Access Bank’s blueprint in offering support to the Force. Over the years, the bank’s sustainability focus areas and community investment include education, health, gender equality, arts, and sports – demonstrating its commitment to channeling noteworthy resources and funds into impacting citizens positively and responsibly.
Border closure: Spurring rise in rice milling plants
It is reported that the Federal Government’s decision to partially close the country’s land borders since August this year is already yielding fruits in rice value chain with more rice milling plants springing up nationwide. Taiwo Hassan reports
The Yuletide season is around the corner and all eyes are on the country’s rice sector as processors and merchants are going to step up to meet demand for the number one staple food of many Nigerians.
There is no doubt that the border closure has cleared the way for rice millers and producers in the country to produce abundant rice for consumption at a period smuggling of the commodity has drastically reduced.
However, against all odd, reports have, however, showed that hundreds of rice milling plants have sprung up in the country, while those that were moribund are now being reactivated in many rice-producing states.
A number of rice millers are now floating milling plants by adding to their production lines in a bid to ensure sufficiency and also key into government’s diversification agenda to promote agriculture.
For the record, Nigeria is now a rice producing nation following Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB), which has opened gateway of opportunities for the development in the country.
The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would be remembered for the active role it played towards sustainable development of rice production in Nigeria.
At the launch of ABP scheme on rice development at Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State in 2015, there were lots of doubts among some sections of Nigerians about government’s capability to deliver on its promises on developmental project in the country.
Emphatically, the Anchor Borrowers Programme has been a success story in all ramifications and it is even being replicated in some neighbouring countries.
In 2015, at a Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) in Abuja, it was agreed that to float rice APB to be managed by the apex bank, with focus to attain self-sufficiency in rice production.
Rice millers’ impact
Following Federal Government’s intention to ban rice importation in favour of local rice production, there has been aggressive move by private sector–led firms to invest in rice mills.
Particularly, many rice millers have commenced rice cultivation in line with government’s policy to ensure sufficiency in the country by year end.
Some of the major rice milling companies in the country that have heeded the clarion call have intensified their efforts to see that more rice mills are established in the country to meet national demand.
These rice companies include Olam Nigeria Limited owned by Stallion Group, WACOT rice mill, Dangote rice mill, Sunti Rice Limited, a subsidiary of FMN Plc, Miva rice mill and BUA rice mill.
Others are Umza Rice, Ebonyi Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Mill Limited, Coscharis Farms Limited and others.
Dangote Group is also planning to establish a multi-billion naira rice processing mill in Hadin, Jigawa State. The Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, who laid the foundation stone for the construction of the mill, said it had the capacity to process 16 metric tons of paddy rice per hour when completed.
He said that in a year, the mill would process paddy rice worth N14billion, bought directly from famers in Jigawa at market rate.
Apart from the large millers, there are many medium-scale ones upgrading their facilities to strengthen production. They include NFG-CS Rice Mill in Ga’ate and many more in Lafia and Doma in Nasarawa State; Ogoja Rice Mill in Cross River.
Recently, the management of Tiamin Rice Mill Limited disclosed that about $13,370,500 was invested to boost its production capacity from the current 320 tonnes to 1,520 tonnes per day.
The Managing Director of the company, Aminu Ahmed, explained that the policy of the current administration, especially the ban on smuggling and the interventions given to them by CBN, had helped immensely in boosting local production of rice.
He also revealed that the company was established in 2016 in Kano and started production of rice in 2018 with 320 tonnes per day.
Ahmed disclosed that the existing production line in Kano would be expanded from 320 tonnes to 920 tonnes next year, just as a new production line would start production of 600 tonnes per day in Bauchi by May 2020.
New rice mills
In order to sustain the momentum in rice production, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N10.7 billion for the construction of 10 new rice mills to sustain the actualisation of rice-sufficiency programme last year.
Speaking at the press briefing after the council’s meeting, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, Heneiken Lokpobiri, said FEC approved the establishment of 10 rice mills with capacity to produce 100 tonnes per day, which would be managed by private rice millers.
Lokpobiri said the FEC approved the construction of 10 large rice mills to boost the milling capacity of rice value chain in the country.
“A few years ago it was reported that this country needs a minimum of 100 large rice mills. As of today we have about, 21, but the Federal Government in its wisdom decided that today we should approve the establishment of 10 at the total cost of N10.7 billion,” he added.
According to the former minister, the rice mills would be given to the private sector for proper management as they would pay back within a given time frame as agreed between the Bank of Agriculture and the rice millers.
Lokpobiri noted that the mills wouldbe located in Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Ogun, Niger and Bauchi states.
With brisk business at full swing for local rice millers at this period despite challenges of sophisticated equipment to improve on paddy processing, some agric experts still doubt the capacity of the rice millers to meet national demand.
Bank lauded for supporting young entrepreneurs
Ecobank Nigeria has been commended for supporting budding entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
The bank got the commendation for giving weight to young entrepreneurs who were selected as beneficiaries of the ‘Unusual Entrepreneurs” programme, an initiative of the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki Lagos.
Speaking at the presentation of cheques to the 251 young entrepreneurs, the Parish Priest, Monsignor Pascal Nweazeapu, said this action by Ecobank showed a clear alignment to the vision of supporting employment amongst the teeming youth population in the country.
He noted that the scheme was initiated to empower those who show demonstrable interest in business to enable them bring the ideas to fruition. The beneficiaries were given seed funding ranging from N50,000 to N1million to start their businesses.
Also speaking, Chairman of Unusual Entrepreneurs Committee and President of Transcorp Hotel, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, said the ‘Unusual Entrepreneurs’ programme was to empower the participants to grow their businesses, improve their economic status and fend for themselves and their families and also contribute meaningfully to nation’s economy.
Ozigbo added: “The essence is to be able to empower men and women economically as they are also filled spiritually. We believe that with this combination, they would have more reason to believe and trust in God.
“But beyond that, they are able to fend for themselves, and those around them. We want them to run successful businesses, hence we matched them with mentors; people who have been so well established in what they do. So basically, they handhold them, watch them all through the journey, and we have seen a lot of testimonies already. We are highly delighted that Ecobank is partnering with us in this laudable initiative.’’
In his comment the Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan pledged the bank’s continuous support to budding entrepreneurs to enable them grow and nurture their businesses to support the rapid development of the nation’s economy.
He said the decision to partner with Unusual Entrepreneurs was part of a deliberate policy of the Bank to assist upcoming businesses to grow, stressing that the main objective of the pan African bank is to contribute to the economic development and financial integration of the continent.
Maritime: N2.5trn loss triggers doubt over FG’s policy
More than three years after, the Presidential Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business signed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to facilitate trade in the nation’s maritime sector, has been stalled by lack of single window platform and corrupt practices.
The executive order was signed on May 18, 2016, to reduce cargo clearance and ship turnaround time.
However, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce (LCCI) and its relevant maritime industry members, in a recent survey produced by Convention on Business Integrity (CBi) stated that negative operational elements had made the ports lose N2.5trillion annually.
The survey further explained that wide discretionary powers were used by some port officials on clearing processes, fees, charges that have created opportunities for graft and extortion of port users.
With regard to port operations, there were six reform initiatives introduced by the executive order but lack of single window platform and bottle neck created by government agencies had impeded the order from working.
In the executive order, all agencies physically present at the ports are supposed to harmonise their operations into a single interface.
In addition, it noted that Apapa Port would have 24-hour operations. However, the order exists only on paper as cargo dwell time has risen to 22 days, while the ship turnaround time has increased to eight days at the various due to lack of single window platform to help eliminate human contact at the port.
The CBI survey revealed that officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and port operators function at the supply side of the system.
It noted that they were very influential in manipulating the system for and/or against the demand side of port users.
Also, a Deputy Director, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Nigerian Shippers’ council (NSC), Mrs Celine Ifeora, said lack of single window at the port was currently breeding corruption and delay in cargo clearance.
She stressed the need to put the platform in place in order to eradicate all manual processes, which bring about delay and corruption.
Ifeora said in Lagos that despite efforts by the council at ensuring efficiency, absence of a single window platform had robbed the country the gains of port reform exercise carried out in 2006.
The director noted that Cotonou Port had been experiencing reduction in cargo dwell time from 14 days to seven days after implementation of the single window platform, while some neighbouring countries have three days.
She said: “Although the ports have been concessioned in order to ensure low cost of doing business, but we are still having so many problems. We want to bring in efficiency but efficiency is running away from us. Most of the cargoes that come into our country today still undergo physical examination, even the scanners that we have, most of them are not working, and cargo dwell time is still going up.”
Ifeora also explained that the turnaround time of vessels was equally going up in some of the terminals.
The director noted: “Not long ago, I was in Cotonou, where Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) had a programme about single window, you won’t believe that Cotonou Port for example told us that when they put the single window in place, their revenue increased by 38 per cent which is quite high. Secondly, their cargo dwell time reduced from 14 days to 7 days, we need to join people who are doing the right thing in order for us to be competitive.”
Worried by the spate of corruption at the port, founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam, at a forum in Lagos, had stressed the need for the adoption of individual declarant in the cargo clearing operation.
He explained that the current system, where the declarant in trade documents was a corporate body, as recognised by the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), was responsible for trade malpractices at the nation’s ports.
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