In this report, PAUL OGBUOKIRI enumerates how the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is leading the new African effort for a sustainable ocean governance to grow the economy of the continent
Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy
Over 80 per cent of today’s international goods are transported in vessels and over 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea. Over the past four decades, the volume of global sea-borne trade has more than quadrupled. Ninety per cent of world trade and two-thirds of energy supplies are carried by sea. The world’s oceans and seas are interlinked, and action in one sea or one policy area with a direct or indirect impact on the sea may have positive or negative effects on other seas and policy areas. Whilst over 46 per cent of Africans live in absolute poverty- a figure that is still rising- fish makes a vital contribution to the food and nutritional security of over 200 million Africans and provides income for over 10 million.
The coastal and marine ecosystems play a significant role in mitigating the impacts of climate change as they could serve as carbon sinks. The paradox is that the marine and coastal areas in Africa are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change in the world, mainly attributed to the low adaptive capacity in the continent. These negative effects have also been compounded by human carelessness and pollution as shown by the un-understandable pollution of African waters by human wastefulness as shown by the dumping of plastic in African water ways these have devastating consequences on marine life.
Maritime security is also one of the most significant dimensions of global and human security in general. It poses multidimensional threats to global security, and in turn has major effects on such essential issues as food, energy and economic security. For the last decade, Africa has been the epicentre of international maritime insecurity. Piracy and armed robbery at sea has re-emerged in the modern era off the east and west coasts of Africa alike, this has caused enormous human and financial damage. But we have also seen other breaches of maritime security on the rise in Africa’s seas: illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, toxic waste dumping, and human, weapons and narcotics trafficking.
Thus for Africa, the sustainable management of coastal and marine environments and resources is of utmost priority. The promotion of sustainable use of marine and coastal resources in Africa will significantly enhance food security, ensure constant economic growth and improve the quality of lives of the people in the coastal communities.
After years of struggling with these geostrategic challenges and opportunities, in 2012 at ministerial level, the African Union (AU) adopted the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy. The overarching vision of the 2050 AIM-Strategy is to “foster increased wealth creation from Africa’s oceans and seas by developing the blue economy in a secure and environmentally sustainable manner.
The strategy includes a framework for action on, inter alia: fisheries and aquaculture; environmental and biodiversity monitoring; marine tourism; disaster risk management (DRM); handling and shipment of hazardous materials and dangerous goods; maritime governance; flag state and port state control; and illegal activities, including money laundering, piracy, maritime terrorism and human trafficking and smuggling by sea.
Africa a ‘sea blind’ continent
To ensure that Nigeria takes the leading role in the growing effort to make effective use of the oceans and seas resources, NIMASA has since 2017 put plans in place to work with stakeholders in the maritime sector to make the blue economy Nigeria’s economic mainstay.
Addressing the theme for that year, ‘Harnessing African Maritime potentials for sustainable development’, Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside said: “It is a well-known fact that Africa’s seas and oceans are usually overlooked when it comes to issues of sustainable development in Africa, to the extent that Africa is considered to be sea blind because there is low level awareness of the potentials for wealth creation which abounds in the seas and oceans. This event therefore, tends to show that our eyes are gradually being opened to the reality that our seas and oceans possess huge source of economic resources that can take the continent to the next level.”
He said decade of Africa’s Seas and Oceans declared by the African Union (AU) from 2015-2025 should be perceived as a shift in perspective that recognizes the fact that our oceans and seas are economic infrastructure, necessitating the need for stakeholders in the sector to work together to realize the opportunities embedded in the sector.
Dakuku said that NIMASA has considered it necessary to continue championing the awareness on Africa Integrated Maritime-Strategy and the Blue Economy through the Day of the seas and oceans and other sensitization programmes the Agency will still embark upon.
He said: “The desire of the government is to ensure cleaner oceans and to eliminate sea piracy, armed robbery and all forms of illegalities within Nigeria’s maritime space which is in line with the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS).”
He said: The implementation of the strategy will also assist with, establishing a Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone for Africa (CEMZA); enhancing wealth creation through building our countries’ maritime-centric capacity and capability; ensuring security and safety in the African Maritime Domain; minimising environmental damage, and preventing hostile and criminal acts at sea, and prosecute offenders if necessary; Protecting the populations, Africa’s Maritime Domain (AMD) heritage and infrastructure in the African Maritime Domain; promoting and protecting the interests of African shippers; enhancing Africa’s competitiveness in international trade; improving and facilitating intra-African trade as well as transit transport in landly connected countries. You would recall that as affirmed in the 2050 AIM-Strategy, there is no more ‘landlocked country’ in Africa, but all AU member states are ‘landly connected’ to the seas and oceans.”
Recall that Dakuku, while addressing participants at the 2017 edition said: “The desire of the government is to ensure cleaner oceans and to eliminate sea piracy, armed robbery and all forms of illegalities within Nigeria’s maritime space which is in line with the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS)”.
He further observed: “Our seas and oceans are our heritage and we must do all we can to protect it; pointing out that NIMASA will continue to work together with all relevant government agencies to ensure that our maritime sector is safe, clean and secured in order to continue to attract both local and foreign investors.”
Also speaking at the event was Professor Charles Ukeje, who delivered a paper titled; “Securing the African Marine Environment for Sustainable Development,” and noted that harnessing and sustainable use of our oceans and seas are the key to unlocking prosperity for the economy, but that this cannot be done by NIMASA alone, but by effective planning which must cut across public and private sectors of the economy on a long term basis, including a well trained personnel.
Dr. Magnus Chidi Onuoha who also spoke on the theme: “Harnessing Resources from Seas and Oceans for the African Youth Empowerment” identified people, prosperity and the planet as the key to sustainable development of the maritime sector in Africa and said that the marine environment is key to our survival.
Other speakers at the event, led by the Chairman of the session, Mr. Norrsion Quakers, (SAN), unanimously called for collaborative and concerted efforts among stakeholder in actualizing a virile maritime sector.
The anti-piracy Act
After a long delay, President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed into law the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019, in an unprecedented move billed to bring a dramatic improvement in security on the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
The Presidential assent dated June 24, 2019 followed the passage of the bill by the Senate and House of Representatives on April 9, 2019 and April 30, 2019, respectively.
The bill passed by the Eighth National Assembly gives effect to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA), 1988, and its Protocols.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had facilitated the drafting of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill in 2012, in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It was in a bid to give further credence to the relevant international treaties of the United Nations (UN) and IMO ratified by Nigeria on maritime safety and security and provide a much-needed legal and institutional framework for the country – through its maritime security enforcement agencies: the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA – to ensure safe and secure shipping on Nigerian waters, and prosecute infractions.
Besides addressing maritime insecurity, the new law, very importantly, fulfills the international requirement for standalone legislation on piracy, as against the approach of using the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Amendment Bill to criminalise piracy.
With the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, Nigeria has officially become the first country in the West and Central African Sub-region to promulgate a separate law against piracy, an important international requirement set by the IMO as part of measures to guarantee secure global shipping.
Speaking after the Presidential assent, the Director-General of NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, described the move as a step in the right direction, saying, “It marks the dawn of a great moment for world maritime.”
Dakuku said: “This is not just a victory for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime community. We are determined to continue to deliver on our promise to investors and the international community to ensure an increasingly safer and more secure environment for profitable maritime business.
“And the new law at this very critical stage of our Blue Economy drive is certainly an elixir that will boost our capacity to harness the rich potential of our seas and oceans.”
Dakuku thanked the President for “his commitment and passion for measures that will guarantee safety and security on Nigerian waters.” He also appreciated the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for their support. He assured that the agency will continue to work with relevant partners and organisations to achieve its aim of ridding the country’s waterways and exclusive economic zone of criminal activities.
Commitment to ocean governance The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, expressed Nigeria’s commitment to participate effectively in the shaping of International Ocean Governance in the United Nations.
Amaechi stated this in a message to the African Day of Seas and Oceans with the theme: “Maritime Governance for Sustainable Development’’.
This came as the Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administrations and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said that Nigeria can achieve accelerated economic growth and development with regulated exploitation of her marine biodiversity.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the African Day of Seas and Ocean, Gbajabiamila said that efficient management of the nation’s marine resources will no doubt provide a veritable tool for the government’s Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP).
The Minister was represented by the Director of Maritime Safety and Security, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Danjuma Dauda.
Amaechi said the ministry was embarking on bilateral and other multilateral engagements with the coastal neighbouring countries to achieve an improved and sustainable enforced framework.
He said: “We are aligning ourselves fully with the African Union strategy on Blue Economy and Maritime Governance, as a tool for sustainable development.”
Also speaking President of Association of African Maritime Authorities (AAMA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, urged maritime stakeholders to key into 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
He said that oceans represented major assets to accelerate the development of Africa’s economics, adding that 90 per cent of imports and exports activities were conducted by sea.
“It has therefore become necessary for the African Continent to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Blue Economy.
“Oceans and seas are central to the concept of `Blue Economy in Africa’ and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has identified the Blue Economy as suitable in meeting sustainable development goals.
Firm files bankruptcy action against AITEO
Charlietam International Services Limited a Port Harcourt-based company has filed an action before the Federal High Court in Lagos to commence winding-up proceedings against the oil giant for its prolonged inability to pay a debt of N259,068,753.00 owed the company for various services rendered to AITEO between December 2017 and March 2019.
The petition was filed by the company through its Solicitors, Anthony Enyindah, Victor Okezie and Dr Dickson Omukoro of Ntephe Smith & Wills.
According to the petition made available to New Telegraph at the weekend in Yenagoa, the petition prayed the court to wind-up the company on grounds of insolvency pursuant to sections 408 and 409(a) of the Company and Allied Matters Act.
In a six paragraph affidavit verifying the petition, Mr Unye Sunday Micah, Managing Director of Charlietam International Services Limited, the petition affirmed that between December 2017 to March 2019, his company rendered services valued at ₦265,068,753.00 and was only paid the sum of ₦6million without payment advice, leaving an outstanding balance of N259,068,753.00.
The petitioner maintained that several demand letters, including those from the petitioner’s solicitors were sent to the Company’s Abuja and Lagos addresses, but AITEO refused or/failed to respond to any of the letters.
The final demand letter dated August 28 2019, was sent by the petitioner pursuant to sections 408 and 409 (a) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.
In the said letter, the petitioners demanded to be paid the amount owed him and informed AITEO of an impending legal action.
The petition, accordingly read in part: “More than 21 days have since elapsed from the last demand without the Company making good the moneys owed as aforesaid.”
The petition further stated that the Company is insolvent and unable to pay its debt and your Petitioner therefore humbly prays as follows:
“That the Court, under the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990, winds-up AITEO EASTERN E & P COMPANY LIMITED; and for such further or other orders as this Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
Reacting to the petition, a source at the oil company said: “I have done my investigations and he is one of our contractors but what I’m doing is to make sure that I invite him here so that everything will be sorted out.”
ILO: Self-employment, SMEs providing more jobs than ever
A report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has revealed that seven in 10 workers are self-employed or in small businesses.
According to the estimates, self-employment, micro and small enterprises play a far more important role in providing jobs than previously believed.
The data, gathered in 99 countries, found that the so-called ‘small economic units’ together account for 70 per cent of total employment, making them by far the most important drivers of employment.
The findings have “highly relevant” implications for policies and programmes on job creation, job quality, start-ups, enterprise productivity and job formalisation, which, the report says, need to focus more on these small economic units.
The study also found that an average of 62 per cent of employment in these 99 countries is in the informal sector, where working conditions in general tend to be inferior, (i.e. a lack of social security, lower wages, poor occupational safety and health and weaker industrial relations).
The informality level varies widely, ranging from more than 90 per cent in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Madagascar to less than five per cent in Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam and Switzerland.
The information is published in a new ILO report, Small matters: Global evidence on the contribution to employment by the self-employed, micro-enterprises and SMEs.
The report finds that in high-income countries, 58 per cent of total employment is in small economic units, while in low and middle-income countries, the proportion is considerably higher.
In countries with the lowest income levels, the proportion of employment in small economic units is almost 100 per cent, the report says.
ILO estimates draw on national household and labour force surveys, gathered in all regions except North America, rather than using the more traditional source of enterprise surveys that tend to have more limited scope.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the employment contribution of so-called small economic units has been estimated, in comparative terms, for such a large group of countries, particularly low and middle income countries,” said Dragan Radic, Head of the ILO’s Small and Medium Enterprises Unit.
The report advises that supporting small economic units should be a central part of economic and social development strategies.
It highlights the importance of creating an enabling environment for such businesses, ensuring that they have effective representation and that social dialogue models also work for them.
Other recommendations include understanding how enterprise productivity is shaped by a wider “ecosystem“, facilitating access to finance and markets, advancing women’s entrepreneurship, and encouraging the transition towards the formal economy and environmental sustainability.
Stakeholders mount fresh pressure over housing sector bills
Again, stakeholders comprising real estate developers, builders, engineers, estate surveyors and town planners are mounting pressure on the National Assembly to expedite action on the outstanding housing bills before it.
The housing bills, New Telegraph gathered, are yet to be passed by the National Assembly since 20O4.
They include the passage of Foreclosure Bill into law to legally resolve default issues in the housing sector; Review of Land Use Act of 1978; Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2018; Review of Federal Government Housing Loans Board Bill (FGHLB); Review of the National Housing Fund (NHF) Scheme Act 1992; Review of Mortgage Banks Act 1989 ( subsumed in BOFIA); Review of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) Act 1993; and Review of the Trustee Investment Act 1962.
Others are Review of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) Act 1993; Review of the Insurance Act 2002; Review of the Investment and Security Act 1999; Review of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Act 1990; Climate Change Adaptation Policy; Policy Creating the National Council on Housing for Sector Regulation; and Securitization Bill and other affordable housing policies.
Commenting on the bills, a former General Manager of Aso Savings and Loans Plc, Mr. Fonahanmi Idris, said that the various Acts should analyzed into areas of interest in the sector, adding that he was optimistic that if seen, they could be reviewed in line with current dictates.
New Telegraph also gathered that the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) was also putting the bills into priority.
Another affordable housing advocate, David Gamvwa, said it was sad that eight of the bills were initiated, prepared and sent to the National Assembly since 2004 by Professor Akin Mabogunje-led Presidential Technical Committee on Housing and Urban Development.
In his agenda setting for government, Adebayo reminded the Minister of Work and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, that urgent passage of the outstanding bills would facilitate rapid investment in the real estate sector and drive the economy.
Besides, he called on the minister to urgently partner with the Mortgage Bankers Association of Nigeria (MBAN), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others to see that these critical bills are passed by the National Assembly.
Adebayo noted that funding has remained one of the most critical challenges for Nigeria’s housing sector, urging the minister to consider approaches that would ease access to funding low-income housing in the country.
Whether in terms of partnerships, policy developments or securing alternative finance models, Adebayo said that if access to funding could be guaranteed, a lot could be achieved in record time in the sector.
He lamented that mortgages and project constructions were stalled by limited access to funding.
He said: “Another critical mandate for the minister is to partner with relevant stakeholders in the sector to create standard data system in Nigeria that can be universally accepted to collate data, identify data gaps, integrate, optimise and expand knowledge set to meet current demands.”
This, he said should also included the adoption of high impact training that supports research and data generation by major stakeholders within the industry.
“Any plan or investment in the sector ought to be based on dependable data,” he said, quoting the stakeholders.
Adebayo urged government to facilitate process to tackle the backlog of issuance of consent and Certificates of Occupancy on Federal Government lands.
“There is the need to do more in terms of creating enabling policies around land title documentations, with government playing a larger role in assisting investors and supporting local building industries and materials,” he said.
Border closure: Used vehicles flood Apapa port
No few than 5,200 used vehicles have been imported within the last two months through the Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) Tincan Island Port following the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.
The imports have boosted Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)’s revenue at PTML.
It was gathered that within the last two months, the Service had generated N25.8 billion at the terminal from vehicle imports.
In August, it collected N12.6billion and in September, N13.2 billion.
According to NCS, a total of N116 billion was generated from vehicle importation between January and September 2019.
The revenue was N28.91 billion higher than the N87.60 billion collected in 2018.
Last month, eight roll-on roll-off vessels berthed at the port terminal with 2,950 used vehicles.
The vehicles were shipped into the country by Grande Togo with 350 units; Hoegh Xiamen, 400 units; Grande Tema, 400units; Grande Cameroon, 350 units; Grande Lagos, 400 units; Rep Del Brasile, 300 units; MSC Christiana, 400 units and Grande Congo, 350 units.
Also in August, 2,250 units of used vehicles were off loaded from six ships with Heogh Xiamen leading with 400 units; Grande Tema, 400 units; Grande Lagos, 400 units; Grande Morocco, 350 units; Grande Ghana, 350 units and Grande Togo, 350 units.
According to the command’s spokesman, Yakubu Mohammed, its monthly revenue target was N10.3 billion.
A breakdown of the revenue revealed that the command generated N 14.8 billion in January; February, N10 billion; March, N11.8 billion; April, N13.2 billion; May, N12.3 billion; June, N13.3 billion; July, N14.8 billion; August, N12.6 billion and September N13.2 billion.
Meanwhile, PTML has reduced tariffs for all categories of vehicles, which had been rooting away at the port for over a year at the terminal.
Investigation revealed that the tariffs were offered in order to create space for the new imports.
The cut rate per unit tariff for cars is N75,000; vans, N100,000; trucks/trailers/bus, N150,000 and plants, N300,000.
According to the PTML’s General Manager, Tunde Keshinro, the terminal handled 159,000 units of vehicles in year 2018.
However, it was gathered that most of the vehicles were of low grade.
It was revealed that PTML took delivery of 269,000 units or 65.53 per cent of the 410,443 units that entered the country between 2017 and 2018.
In 2018 alone, no fewer than 229,690 units were imported through the seaports, while some 180,753 units of vehicles were imported in 2017.
Findings by New Telegraph revealed that PTML alone received 159,000 units in 2018 and 110,000 units of vehicles in 2017.
Also, data obtained from United Nations Comtrade portal revealed that two countries- United States and China, exported N357.7 billion ($980 million) to Nigeria in the period.
United States exported $581 million, while China brought $399 million vehicles into the country between 2017 and 2018.
CPS: Families of 1,223 deceased workers get N4.69bn
In fulfilment of plans under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) arrangement, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) has approved the payment of N4.69 billion as benefits to families of 1,223 workers, who lost their lives.
The payment, which moved the total payments of death benefits to N178.56 billion, according to the final second quarter report by the Commission, brought the total number of deceased employees from both public and private sectors to 57,043.
According to the commission, approval was also granted for payment of N5.28 billion to 10,673 RSA holders who were under the age of 50 years and were disengaged from work and unable to secure another job within four months of disengagement.
The cumulative total number of RSA holders, who were paid benefits for temporary loss of job was 324,141 and were paid a total of N113,21 billion, being 25 per cent of the balances of their RSAs as prescribed by the Pension Reform Act 2014.
A further analysis showed that the private sector accounted for 95.33 per cent of those who benefitted from these payments, while the public sector accounted for 4.67 per cent.
An earlier report by this newspaper had revealed that during the period under review, demand notices were issued to 37 defaulting employers whose pension liabilities had been established by Recovery Agents.
The effort, the Commission said, “resulted in the remittance of outstanding pension contributions of N260.62 million, representing principal contributions of N151.59 million and penalty of N109.64 million.
“Accordingly, total recoveries made from inception to date amounted to N16.01 billion, comprising principal contributions of N8.22 billion and penalty N7.79 billion.
“These amounts have since been credited to the respective RSAs of the employees.”
The Commission maintains the services of Recovery Agents for the recovery of outstanding pension contributions and penalty from defaulting employers. The RAs are mandated to review the pension records of employers assigned by the Commission with a view to recovering outstanding pension contributions with penalty.
Another major activity carried out by the Commission during the quarter was the refund of pension contributions to military and security agencies personnel following their exemption from the CPS.
According to PenCom, it processed 2,080 applications for refund during the period under review.
“In that regard, the sum of ₦142.13 million was refunded to the contributors, while ₦83.67 million, representing the contributions by the Federal Government, was returned to the Contributory Pension Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The extended timeline given to the Tripartite Committee for the Winding Down of the refund exercise ended 30 June, 2019 and the report is being finalised,” the Commission noted.
On contributions, the Commission revealed that the total monthly pension contributions received from contributors from both the public and private sectors was N5.45 trillion as at the end of the second quarter, 2019.
This shows an increase of N169.90 billion, representing 3.22 per cent growth over the total contributions as at the end of the previous quarter.
According to the commission, “during the second quarter of 2019, the total contributions received from the public sector amounted to N72.42 billion (42.63 per cent), while the private sector contributed N97.48 billion (57.37 per cent).
“A review of the aggregate total contribution received shows that N2.73 trillion or 50.09 per cent of the contributions came from the public sector, while the private sector contributed the remaining 49.91 per cent (N2.72 trillion).
“The aggregate total pension contributions of the private sector increased from N2.62 trillion as at first quarter of 2019 to N2.72 trillion as at the end of the reporting period, representing a growth of 3.72 per cent. Whereas, the aggregate total pension contribution of the public sector increased by 2.72 per cent from N2.66 trillion to N2.73 trillion over the same period.”
Besides, the report also noted that the Commission approved a total of 2,941 applications for retirement under life annuity during the quarter, bringing the total number of retirees receiving their retirement benefits through the annuity plan to 68,857 from inception.
The 2,941 retirees received N4.68 billion as lump sum payment and paid premium of N17.53 billion to insurance companies and monthly annuity of N184.50 million. This resulted in total lumps sum payment of N91.28 billion, premium of N371.21 billion and monthly annuity payments of N3.70 billion as at the end of the period under review.
Japanese firm empowers farmers in Cross River
A Japanese farming group, the Sasakawa Africa Group, has trained 5,500 farmers in Cross River State since 2015. The training is on how to adapt modern technology to increase agricultural yields. The group clustered the farmers and deployed their technical experts to regularly guide them on the latest researches on particular crops and cultivation.
This was disclosed to newsmen in Calabar by the group’s state coordinator, Ekok Ntum, before their experts, led by the group’s country director, Prof Sani Miko, visited farm settlements in central and northern parts of the state.
Ntum said the farmers, who were spread across the three senatorial zones of the state, were trained on modern methods of cultivating cassava, maize as well as rearing of goats. He disclosed that the farmers were specifically trained on the new methods of planting cassava and maize by means of intercropping, as well as the proper dimensions and species to guarantee optimum yield. He said the training was made possible by the Sasakawa Africa Association and the Africa Cassava Agronomy Initiative, with the support of researchers from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan.
Border closure: Thorny path to food self-sufficiency
The firm stance of the Federal Government vowing not to review border closure has shown that Nigeria’s quest to achieving self-sufficiency in food production is gradually yielding fruit. Taiwo Hassan writes
The recent report by Africa Rice Center that Nigeria is now the largest producer of rice in Africa, with four million tonnes of rice yearly has already positioned the country as a leading rice producer among comity of rice producing countries globally.
The road towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in the country can be traced to 2015 when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) unveiled its Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to boost agric and manufacturing value chains in line with Federal Government’s economic agenda to improve revenue earning from non-oil sector of the economy.
That same year, the CBN launched the ABP in 14 states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from small holder farmers to commercial or large growers.
According to the apex bank, the effort, which was part of its developmental agenda was not just to create millions of jobs but also capable of lifting thousands of small holder farmers out of poverty.
During the flag-off programme in Birni-Kebbi, Kebbi State, CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) to be given to farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum.
However, in the space of four years, the ABP has demonstrated a surgical solution to Nigeria’s quest to boosting non-oil sector profile by empowering millions of farmers in the country’s agric sector.
In addition to this result, the Federal Government has also propelled the outcome further with the recent border closure as a way of discouraging influx of imported food items into the country.
In order to demonstrate its readiness towards sustaining the border closure policy, the Federal Government ruled out any plan to review calls for reopening the borders, until neighbouring countries stop violating Nigeria’s laws against food smuggling.
The decision that was consolidated a few days ago is meant to show that the country is serious in its bid to eradicate smuggling in and out of the country as it has taken a toll on the country’s revenue earnings for decade.
Speaking in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, affirmed that the Buhari administration would sustain the border closure policy despite the ECOWAS protocol in place.
Nanono lamented the adverse effect foreign food import was having on the country’s foreign exchange, saying that no serious nation would opt for importation of foods at the detriment of local ones.
“I think so long as these bordering countries do not respect our protocols on these very important issues of bringing food into Nigeria, border closure will remain. I think we are producing enough food to feed ourselves,” the agric minister said.
On his part, the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), reportedly disclosed in Abuja that the country was realising N5 billion daily revenue generation from the border closure.
Ali confirmed that Nigeria’s borders would remain closed until the country and its neighbours agree on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement of goods and other food items.
“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.
“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Ali said.
He said that by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband.
“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Ali said.
According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen.
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomole, explained that Nigerian borders with neighbouring countries should remain closed until they comply with ECOWAS protocols.
He explained that his party was strongly behind the border closure and all other reforms being carried out by the service, adding that such action should be sustained for economic growth of the country.
“The state must have control over the economy and Nigeria is absolutely right in taking the decision having been victims of expired rice brought in through the porous borders.
“It is a shame that after spending much to re-position agriculture, we still allow people to import expired rice into our country.
“We are lucky to have a president who told us to consume what we produce in the country in order to grow our economy. People are complaining that the prices of food commodities have gone up; our farmers should make money from their sweat.
“Over the years, farmers got good harvest, sometime with right prices but smugglers often crash the prices,” he said.
Nigerian farmers position
Speaking on the border closure, Nigeria’s business mogul and richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, supported government’s stance.
He said: “We can now sit down and set the rules on how to operate the border because obviously we cannot allow smuggling activities to kill our industries. Obviously, we want to create more jobs, but if we allow smuggling to wipe out our industries the way it did to the textile sector then obviously we are in trouble.
“For example, Benin Republic has no reason to allow parboiled rice to be landing in Benin because they do not eat parboiled rice in Benin, but white rice. One of the dialogue could be no more parboiled rice in transit to Benin under any guise, that way we can save millions of farmers and create more jobs.”
In the same vein, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Coscharis Farms Limited, Cosmas Maduka, decried the smuggling of parboiled rice into the country from the neigbouring countries.
He said the border closure was the only solution to Nigeria’s bid to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
“Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice, because Coscharis Farms Limited alone has about 3,000 hectares of land for rice production that yields four tons per hectare. Now that we have developed the seed, we are getting eight tons per hectare. In other words, we have had another 3,000 hectares of land.
“For now, irrigation is finished and we are going to start next season. That means we have multiplied our supply. We used to have four tons. We are having eight tons now, and we are going to have 16, 000 tons, by the dimension of the farm, and if we succeed to do three crop seasons, we will have 24,000 tons on that same piece of property.
“In fact, we are already thinking about having a second mill now. I am sure, if what we are working on works out exactly the way we are planning it, in three years, we will solve 100 per cent rice demand in the eastern part of Nigeria. That is our goal. Nigeria spends $3 billion importing rice. We are targeting 20 per cent of that market and we will get it. We will then see how much further we can go,” he said.
In reality, the Federal Government’s border closure policy has a good economic undertone, but sadly, it has been receiving knocks and jabs among Nigerians following the skyrocketing prices of local rice, which is currently selling for between N19,000 and N21,000.
‘Confluence Rice’ll be affordable to Nigerians’
The producers of another brand of local rice, Confluence Rice, has assured Nigerians of higher quality, more nutritious and affordability irrespective of class.
The Managing Director of the company, Mr. Olusegun Olonade, who disclosed this to journalists, said the processes employed by the company in the growth, cultivation and refining of the final product by the management of the mill were the best standards available anywhere in the world.
According to him, ‘’although our paddy rice is locally grown, the finished product is of very high quality and higher nutrition value than imported rice grains. Consumers of the rice will find our product quite enjoyable, smooth and excellent in taste as we hit the market.
Olonade, however, said the recent ban on importation of rice by the Federal Government had resulted in widespread increase in prices of rice, leaving the masses, who represent the highest consumers of rice frustrated
“We have received a lot of patronage since the commencement of the production. Presently, there is a high demand from our distributors, as I speak our rice is currently in production is sold out.
IGI workers protest mass retrenchment
Aggrieved employees of Industrial and General Insurance company Limited (IGI) on, Wednesday, warned the management to rescind its decision to retrench majority of them or face industrial action. The protesters urged the management to “withdraw all such sack letters immediately through the same medium they were disseminated to avoid any chaos in the company.”
The workers accused the company’s management of biase, pointing out that those affected by the retrenchment exercise were mainly members of ASSBIFI AND NUBIFIE under the umbrella of the Coalition of IGI Staff. A statement issued in this regard said: “The exercise which was largely executed on the social media of WhatsApp on October 15, 2019 is hereby rejected in its entirety as it has been done in very bad faith, being the fall out of our letter to the Board of Directors on your anti-staff management style since you assumed the position of MD in the company coupled with the quiet but formal inauguration of our membership of the NUBIFIE and ASSBIFI.
“Also as pointed out in our letter to the Board under reference, of a vital note is the fact that since you assumed your position in the company as the supposed Chief Marketing Officer, you have not used your position to add any financial value (not even N5,000 Motor- Third Party premium) to assist the staff struggle toward easing the liquidity stress of the company.
“Rather you have depended largely on the fund generated by the same staff you met in the company, to satisfy your personal financial needs through frivolous allowances and estacodes, whilst depriving the staff who made the money, of their salaries, which has accumulated to about 20 months as at date.”
NSE records N20bn midweek decline
Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange yesterday witnessed another drop in share prices as bears sustained their grip on the local bourse following the sell- off that have pervaded the stock market.
The local bourse recorded 13 gainers against 11 losers.
Consequently, the All-Share Index dipped 41.45 basis points or 0.16 per cent to close at 26,47.20 index points as against 26.513.65 recorded the previous day while market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N20 billion from N12.906 trillion the previous day to N12.886 trillion as market sentiment remained on the negative territory.
Meanwhile, a turnover of 138 million shares exchanged in 2,487 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.
The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 51.6 million shares exchanged by investors in 847 deals.
Volume in the sub-sector was largely driven by activities in the shares of Access Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
Also, the banking sub-sector boosted by the activities in the shares of Sterling Bank Plc and GTBank Plc followed with a turnover of 12.9 million shares in 409 deals.
Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that in percentage terms Law Union and Rock Insurance Plc topped the day’s gainers’ table with 9.09 per cent to close at 48 kobo per share while Livestock Feeds Nigeria Plc followed with 6.38 per cent to close at 50 kobo per share. Courtville Business Solutions Plc added five per cent to close at 21 kobo per share.
On the flip side, Wapic Insurance Plc led the losers with a drop of 8.57 per cent to close at 32 kobo per share while Chams Plc shed 8.33 per cent to close at 22 kobo per share. Sterling Bank Plc trailed with 7.69 per cent to close at N1.80 per share.
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