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EU ban: A slap on Nigeria’s foods standardisation

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That the European Union (EU) rejected 24 exported food products from Nigeria in 2016 over failure to meet standards has, again, shown the lackadaisical attitude of government’s agencies towards food standardisation. TAIWO HASSAN writes

At a period the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is aggressively investing in Nigeria’s non-oil sector to resuscitate the ailing economy, which was grossly impaired by the slump in crude oil price at the international market since 2015, it is unfortunate that the country is yet to get it right in the agricultural export market.
Without mincing words, the present administration has openly demonstrated its commitment towards agriculture upliftment as the next ‘big thing’ in the country. Particularly, agriculture is tailored to take the country’s economy to the next level as part of the Buhari-led government’s efforts to focus on non-oil sector for Nigeria’s growth.
Consequently, the role of the non-oil export market cannot be overemphasised in the Nigerian economy, as it is in tandem with the present administration’s diversification agenda to generate foreign exchange revenue to boost the ailing economy.
Unfortunately, government’s standardisation agencies ignored the packaging aspect of Nigeria’s food produce, which is is one of the key areas needed to be considered when exporting agricultural produce abroad for international acceptance.
EU’s first ban
Indeed, President Buhari had identified the agric sector as one of the key areas slated for turning around of the country’s economic fortunes, in line with his administration’s change mantra- diversification policy agenda.
Arguably, the President had also urged farmers and Nigerians to key into agriculture because of the endowed opportunities to tap in towards the development of the country’s agric sector and ensure national food security and food exports in Nigeria.
Just as the administration was at an advanced stage planning to execute its policy thrust for agricultural development in the country, there came unexpected news in June 2015 that the European Union (EU) had suspended some agricultural food exports from Nigeria over their inability to meet international specifications.
Ban on agric products
Some of the food produce banned by the EU from entering Europe after carrying out some diligent tests to discover that they contained high concentration of pesticide included beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, dried fish and meat, peanut chips and palm oil.
Particularly, the European Food Safety Authority noted that the rejected beans contained between 0.03mg per kilogramme to 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide, when the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg/kg.
NEPC mandate
Consequently, the Federal Government swung into action by summoning various agric-related agencies to fashion out strategies that would not only see that the ban is lifted, but also ensure that Nigeria’s produce are globally accepted beyond the EU.
The Federal Government had constituted an inter-agency committee with the objective of achieving zero rejection of the country’s non-oil export products and improve revenue earnings for the Federal Government.
During the inauguration of the technical committee in Abuja, the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) mandated the committee to ensure that the country’s image at the international scene was revitalised for the good of Nigerians and the present administration.
Executive Secretary, NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo, while inaugurating the technical committee in Abuja, said it would ensure a consistent long-term effort on ensuring zero rejects of Nigeria’s products in EU markets and other parts of the world.
Awolowo said that the government was committed to ensuring that Nigerian agricultural produce was internationally recognised, adding that it now beholds on the committee to come out with a blueprint for the agric sector, which will finally nail in the bud Nigerian food items rejection at the international markets.
FG’s inter-agency committee
The inaugurated committee comprised of Trade Information, Export Procedures and Documentation, and Capacity Building, Quality Standards and Compliance. They were tasked to recommend ways to tackle the issue of rejects associated with Nigeria’s produce.
While members of the committees were drawn from government agencies such as the NEPC, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigeria Custom Service, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC).
NAFDAC’s announcement
Just as agric stakeholders and Nigerians were itching and waiting endlessly to see the EU’s reversal of Nigeria’s agric produce ban, NAFDAC dropped another bombshell – that the European Union (EU) had rejected 24 exported food products from Nigeria in 2016 for failing to meet standards.
The NAFDAC spokesperson, Dr Abubakar Jimoh made the disclosure while speaking on the latest EU rejection of Nigeria’s agric produce in Abuja last week.
He said the five major products are groundnut, palm oil, sesame seed and beans that were illegally exported to the EU.
He noted that from the information made available to NAFDAC, groundnut was rejected because it contained aflatoxin, which made the quality substandard.
Jimoh said: “The exported palm oil did not scale through the EU’s test because it also contained a colouring agent that was carcinogenic.
“Beans was banned by EU sometime ago but it was illegally exported to European countries.
“Beans was initially banned for one year, when EU was not satisfied with our exported beans in terms of quality assurance, it extended the ban by another two years, which expires next year.
“NAFDAC and other regulatory agencies of the government are working round the clock to ensure that when the ban is lifted, we can then begin to export more agricultural products to EU,” Jimoh, who is also the NAFDAC Director Special Duties, said.
He said most of the products that were smuggled out were not certified by the agency and the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services at the ports.
Last line
The latest EU’s rejection of Nigeria’s agricultural products has shown the ineffectiveness of NEPC and its inter agency committee in taming the growing rejection of Nigeria’s food produce globally, which is also dwindling the country’s foreign exchange fortunes.

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Traders lament continuous border closure

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Traders lament continuous border closure

The sustained border closure by Federal Government has continued to destabilise commodity retailers, especially those into food item business.

Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that the situation had started creating an atmosphere of hopelessness since the Federal Government has vowed to sustain the closure till end of January 2020.

Nigeria closed its land borders to both Benin and Niger in August in what the government said was aimed at curbing smuggling of goods, especially rice into Nigeria. The closure has led to increase in food prices and subsequently pushed up annual inflation in the country.

Speaking on the development, John Paul, who sells food stuff such as rice, beans garri, noodles, among others at Egbeda market, complained that since the closure of the border his business had been affected in terms of both patronage and restocking.

He said the effect of the closure was obvious, as he has both increased the price at which he sells as well as reduce the quantity he buys.

Another woman, who pleaded anonymity, complained that the fairly used clothes she sells were now difficult to buy.

According to her, before the closure of the border she used to purchase her goods from neighboring countries at cheaper price, but with the closure, she now buys here in Nigeria but at a high price.

Before the border closure she used to sell her clothes for as low as N300 or N400 depending on the quality of the material, but now she sells them for nothing less than N600.

Another woman, who also pleaded anonymity, explained that there were goods currently on demand but not available as a result of the closure.

“Products such as sardines and some brand of sanitary wares are no longer in the market,” she added.

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ICPC bestows integrity award on FAAN staff

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ICPC bestows integrity award on FAAN staff

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has recognized a staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mrs. Josephine Ugwu for her honesty and integrity in the discharge of her duties.

Mrs Ugwu was presented with the award at a two day summit on ‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector’ jointly organized by the Office of the Secretary to the

Government of the Federation and ICPC in Abuja.

You will recall that in a celebrated case in the year 2015, Mrs. Ugwu while carrying out her duties as a cleaner at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos saw the sum of $12,200,000 in a toilet and submitted it to security officials. The money was subsequently returned to the owner. She has also refunded other sums lost by several other passengers at different times.

Mrs. Ugwu was subsequently given automatic employment by the Authority in recognition of her honesty and exemplary conducts.

The event climaxed with an hand shake to Mrs. Ugwu from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari. She was also given a brand new apartment in Lagos for her act of honesty and integrity.

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Senate pledges to help AMCON recover N5.4trn debt

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Senate pledges to help AMCON recover N5.4trn debt

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Uba Sani, has declared that the Senate under the leadership of current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, will join forces with the executive arm of government to wage serious and sustained war against obligors of the  Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), whom he described as economic saboteurs, saying they must be made to repay the over N5trillion outstanding debt owed the corporation.

Sani made the declaration at the commencement of the 2019 retreat for members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, which began in Kaduna on Wednesday.

He said recovering the huge debt of AMCON had become a major burden for which the National Assembly will consider all options including reactivating the Failed Bank Act and at some point invite the pioneer management of AMCON under the leadership of Mustapha Chike-Obi to come and explain to Nigerians what they did during their tenure.

The chairman also hinted that the National Assembly would continue to support AMCON by providing all legislative supports including further amendment of the AMCON Act, if need be, to enable the corporation to recover the huge outstanding obligation.

He said the red chamber would bring up several motions that will enlighten the public on the real dangers of non-recovery of the debts to the economy. As the upper legislative arm provides AMCON with such support, the senator said if need be the Senate would along the line step on toes as far as the recovery of these national assets are concerned.

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NSE extends gain with N46bn

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NSE extends gain with N46bn

Nigerian stocks market yesterday sustained its positive outlook as the overall performance measures, NSE ASI and market capitalisation, rose further by 0.36 per cent each.

Market watchers attributed development to renew of confidence as bargain hunters leverage on under value stocks.

Consequently, the All-Share Index rose by 95.94 basis points or 0.36 per cent to close at 26.872.09 index points as against 26.776.15 recorded the previous day while market capitalisation of equities appreciated by N46 billion or 0.36 per cent to close higher at N12.969 trillion from N12.923 trillion as market sentiment remained on the green territory.

Meanwhile, a turnover of 239.2 million shares in 3,585 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.

The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 121 million shares exchanged by investors in 1,527 deals.

Volume in the sub-sector was driven by activities in the shares of FBNH Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.

The banking sub-sector boosted by the activities in the shares of GTB Plc and Sterling  Bank Plc followed with a turnover of 45 million shares in 624 deals.

The number of gainers at the close of trading session was 21 while decliners closed at 12.

Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Cornerstone Insurance Plc topped the gainers’ table with 10 per cent to close at 77 kobo per share while Oando  Plc followed with 9.89 per cent to close at N3.89 per share and Flour Mills Plc with a gain of 9.85 per cent to close at N17.85 per share.

On the flip side, CCNN Plc led the losers’ chart with a drop of 10 per cent to close at N18.00 per share. Jaiz Bank Plc followed with a loss of eight per cent to close at 69 kobo per share while Lasaco Assurance  Plc dropped by 7. 41 per cent to close at 25 kobo per share.

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FirstBank reiterates commitment to women empowerment

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FirstBank reiterates commitment to women empowerment

The Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, has restated the lender’s commitment to empowerment of women.

He stated this at the bank’s first female-focused product, ’FirstGem’, 3rd Anniversary Conference held in Lagos yesterday.

He said: “May I reiterate that FirstBank is committed to the empowerment of women. We understand their story and recognise their invaluable contributions to the economy of our nation in particular and the global economy in general.

“Having identified the gaps in their lives, both in corporate Nigeria and in the entrepreneurial space, we are committed to bridging those gaps effectively by providing the tools required for women’s empowerment.”

The First Bank CEO said he was delighted that FirstGem was already in its third year, adding that the product, which was launched on 28 October 2016, was designed specifically to meet the financial needs of both corporate and entrepreneurial women.

“This product, apart from being an account dedicated solely to women, is lifestyle-enhancing. It provides a total lifestyle support for discerning women to enable them meet their economic needs and aspirations,” he said.

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Savannah Bank: Reps summon Emefiele, NDIC boss

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Savannah Bank: Reps summon Emefiele, NDIC boss

The House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Banking and Currency to summon the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele and Managing Director, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Alhaji Umaru, to ascertain the new status of Savannah Bank, its readiness to commence operation and to ascertain whether promoters of the bank have fulfilled all requirements to begin business.

The committee is also requested to invite the shareholders and the new management of the bank to brief it on possible ways they have fashioned to pay or refund depositors’ funds.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Aliyu Da’u Magaji (APC, Jigawa), at Thursday’s plenary of the House.

The committee, which is to submit its findings in two months, has also been mandated to ensure that effective measures are put in place to avoid the reoccurrence of what led to the withdrawal of the bank’s licence and eventual closure in 2002.

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Pension: Workers invest N951.28bn in banking sector

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Pension: Workers invest N951.28bn in banking sector

Nigerian workers, who are active in their contributions under the new pension arrangement, Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), have so far invested about N951.28 billion in the banking sector.

The investment carried out on their behalf by pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) represent 9.93 per cent of the total N9.58 trillion pension assets.

According to a breakdown of the total investment posted on the industry regulator, National Pension Commission (PenCom)’s website, the pension fund managers also invested a total of N6.84 trillion in Federal Government securities within the period, representing 71.43 per cent of the total assets.

Details of the commitment shows that Federal Government bond got the highest with N4,47 trillion at 46.1 per cent; treasury bills, N2.2 trillion (23.62%); agency bonds N10.2 billion (0.11%); Sukuk, N80.52 billion (0.84), and green bonds, N13.37 billion (0.14%).

Within the same period, a total of N125.24 billion, representing 1.31 per cent was invested in state government securities while corporate debts securities gulped N621.95 billion, representing 6.49 per cent.

In the same vein, corporate bonds got N572.41 billion (5.97%); corporate infrastructure bond, N17.79 billion (0.19%); corporate green bonds, N31.71 billion (0.33%) and supra-national bonds N4.03 billion, representing 0.4 per cent.

Other areas invested in include commercial papers, N123.28 billion (1.29%), and foreign money market securities, N1.07 trillion (11.21%).

For mutual fund, they invested N9.90 billion (0.10%) in open/close-end funds and N11.91 billion (0.12%) in Reits.

The investment choice as stipulated by law setting up the scheme also includes real etste properties, N231.48 billion (2.42%); private equity fund, N32.06 billion (0.33%); infrastructure fund, N34.89 billion (0.36%) as well as cash and other assets, N26.47 billion, representing 0.28 per cent.

From recent development, the outlook of investment is likely to expand as the regulator disclosed recently that workers in the informal sector are gradually keying into the scheme.

According to the Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, 19 PFAs have registered 28,000 micro pension participants as at November.

According to the breakdown, 21,430 participants were registered as at June 2019,b while in July, 221 participants were registered. In August 2019, 1,299 Nigerians were registered, September, 2737 registered and in October, 2313 participants registered.

While over 40 million Nigerians in the formal sector have no pension plan, which account for about 65 per cent of the GDP, Aghahowa said registration had, however, been challenged due to low financial literacy.

Other challenges include the need for National Identity Number (NIN), which is one of the criteria for registration; low awareness about the scheme and inadequate technology platform to support the registration process.

He said in a bid to tackle the challenges, the commission embarked on campaign across the traditional, social and digital media, engaging with union, associations, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations.

“Though NIN has slowed down the process of micro pension registration, PenCom has, however, collaborated with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure that participants get their numbers on time to fast track registration.

“The commission is working on having its own USSD code to ease payment of pension contribution for enrollees,” he added.

Though the micro pension scheme is moving at a slow pace, the President, PenOp, Aderonke Adedeji, said there was need to give it time in order to avoid mistakes.

Speaking on the growth of the industry, Adedeji said 15 years after setting up the Contributory Pension Scheme, it has grown to over N9.trillion.

“However, we are not yet where we want to be. We need to address the issue of transfer window and the slow registration of NIN, but we are making progress in that aspect.

“In recent time, we have been experiencing slow pace of growth of the industry and the reason is not far-fetched.

“In terms of the state of the Nigerian economy, we have increase in unemployment rate which is a threat to the growth of the industry,” she added.

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IGR: Taraba woos investors

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IGR: Taraba woos investors

To boost its internally generated revenue Taraba State Governor, His Excellency, Arc. Darius Ishaku, has called on local and foreigners to invest in its Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited so as to expand the production of Highland Tea.   

Ishaku, who disclosed this to journalists during the launch of the tea in Lagos, said his administration planned to hands-off running of the firm soon and targeting interested investors both foreign and local to partner with the state government to expand the production.

According to him, the company currently employs over 3,000 people and also accepts green leaf from about 2,000 out growers who cultivate tea on 800 hectares of farmland across villages on the Mambila Plateau, which is enhancing the economic viability of communities on the Mambila Plateau and Taraba State at large.

He said that Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, makers of Highland Tea, was one of the 25 moribund companies he revived under his rescued mission during his  first term in office, all in a bid to create employment for Taraba citizens and generate more IGR for the state.

Speaking on the choice of Lagos to unveil the commodity, the governor stressed that Lagos was strategically chosen as venue of the launch because of its population, large market and returns of investment, saying that the firm plans to set up its Lagos office for the distribution of the product.

“Lagos, the largest market in Africa, a city of over 20 million people, you cannot but have to deal with them. The idea is to bring our Highland Tea from Taraba to Lagos where the large market is available so that we can expose it to Nigerians here. After the acceptability of the product here, we will then think of West African countries. We will export but let’s satisfy the home demand.

“Nigerians don’t even know much about Highland Tea. Some people have taken it, they love it but it’s not in the market. We are going to bring it to the market in Lagos.”

The governor explained that Highland Tea had demonstrated to be a home grown tea that is better than foreign ones in terms of health.

Speaking on the Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, Ishaku noted that the company was a subsidiary of Taraba Investment and Properties Limited, which was incorporated as a private limited liability company in 2012 to manage the assets acquired by the Taraba State Government.

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CBN to create 2m jobs via cassava value chain

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CBN to create 2m jobs via cassava value chain

In line with its ongoing strategic intervention in key sectors of the economy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is intervening in cassava production, which it said has potential of providing two million jobs across value chain.

To bring cassava’s enormous potential to fruition, CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday in Abuja, facilitated the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and Large Scale Cassava Processors.

Emefiele, who underscored importance of cassava as agriculture commodity, said Nigeria is hugely blessed with the commodity.

He disclosed that Nigeria imports cassava derivatives valued at about $600 million annually.

The CBN governor linked the apex bank’s interest in cassava value chain to President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic diversification programme for Nigeria.

This, he said, was because economic diversification is an essential tool for national development, pledging that CBN would leave no stone unturned towards repositioning Nigeria on the map of the world not just as the leading cassava producer, but a processor as well.

To achieve the cassava sufficiency goal, he said the CBN was holding consultations with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike.

He said: “We place a high premium on cassava because the commodity can generally be used for different uses along the value chain. The value chain has enormous potential for employing over two million people in Nigeria if well harnessed, due to the diverse secondary products that it offers.

“Some of the products include High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), starch, sugar syrups and sweeteners, chips for domestic livestock feed and for export to China, Ethanol/bio-fuels, High Fructose Cassava Syrup (HFCS), Fuel Ethanol (E10) as well as Animal Feed from cassava waste among others”.

“In our midst today are large corporations like Nestle, Flour mills, Promasidor, Unilever who require the secondary outputs from cassava such as starch, glucose, sorbitol etc. as raw materials for the production of their final products. We also have the companies whose responsibility is the processing of cassava to starch, glucose, ethanol etc., as well as members of the Cassava Farmers Association,” Emefiele said.

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Economic devt: FG tasks CIS on policy proposal

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Economic devt: FG tasks CIS on policy proposal

In a bid to address infrastructural development in the country, the Federal Government has called on Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS) to come up with policy proposals that will drive the economy.

The Federal Government made this known at the 2019 edition of the CIS annual conference, which held in Lagos yesterday.

Speaking on the theme, “Boosting capital market competitiveness in a challenging macro-environment,” Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adebayo, said it would be a welcome idea if the CIS  can come up with  policy proposals to support and address Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges while government will incentivise and provide the enabling environment to support this objective.

The minister, represented by Dr. Francis Alaneme, Director, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, said: “We declare our willingness to partner with the CIS in ensuring the necessary enabling environment that will further stimulate and boost competitiveness in the capital market as well as ensure a coordinated and integrated approach to Nigeria’s financial sector is attainable. The best way to improve competitiveness is through a mixture of policies designed to help, improve capital market competitiveness.”

Chairman, Capital Market and Institutions Committees, House of Reps, and other committee members, Honourable Babangida Ibrahim, stated that the theme was timely and addresses the need for effective policies that will drive the market forward.

Ibrahim noted that investor confidence as well as unclaimed dividends remained major issues affecting the growth and development of the capital market and called on the institute to devise means of bringing up policies that will affect the market and the economy positively.

His words: “I want to assure this institute that the committee is ready to work with the CIS and already the National Assembly and House of Reps in particular are aware of the major challenges facing the capital market in recent times. As a result of that, we have already started engaging with some of the key stakeholders including the institute on the best way forward.

“I would like to appeal to the institute to be unofficial advisers to the government and continue to monitor the activities of the government as regards policies affecting the market so as to ensure we move the capital market forward.

“The theme is timely and there are certain actions that must be taken in order to boost the competitiveness of the market. One of the challenges facing the capital market is investors’ confidence because of the inability to get the kind of gains they want. Recently, we brought a motion in the house to investigate unclaimed dividends and we discovered that it is growing day by day and so I will appeal to this institution and other key players that by the time we commence the public hearing, all these challenges will be tackled.”

Corroborating him, Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Capital Market, Senator Binos Yaroe, charged the institute to come up with policy proposals that will enhance the competitiveness of the market.

“The challenges the Nigerian capital market is facing cannot be emphasized and the economy has never been as bad as it is today and it is a known fact that the capital market is the barometer of any economy. The market indices have not been encouraging but for the positive impact of MTNN and Airtel Africa it would have been much worse. In that regard, the National Assembly is ready to partner and support the institute to ensure that our market is more competitive,” he said.

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