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Obiora: Nigeria’s economy still tied to politics

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Obiora: Nigeria’s economy still tied to politics

Dr. Obiora Madu is a former Chairman, Export Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the Chief Facilitator and Chief Executive Officer of Multimix Academy. In this interview with Taiwo Hassan, he speaks about the various challenges facing the economy and the impacts of the coming general elections

 

What is the fate of Nigeria’s economy and the manufacturing sector in this election year? Do you see any improvement post-election?
It would definitely depend on whole lots of things such as the outcome of the elections and post-election activities. For example, assuming you have violence in any form at the end of the day, it will change the equation in the economy. If there were a peaceful transition that would win the confidence of the international community and bring investment into the country. It would be a different ball game. The truth is that we are a profitable investment destination, but the environment is very unfriendly for businesses. You know this thing about perception also, even as we speak now, the election is yet to hold but the international community already has their mindsets on where they think it should go. So the outcome of the election would determine the kind of moves they want to make in the economy. It is unfortunate that people don’t seem to realize that those little things count during election. As for the manufacturing sector, they have not had it very good because more factories are closing down daily while new ones are not coming up and that is very bad for this economy.
At times, when you see some statistics on manufacturing sector performances you wonder where it is coming from. The truth is that factories are closing down, people are losing jobs and unemployment is high in the country. So anything we can do in post-election is needed to salvage the economy. Right now, everything is tied to the election with no meaningful progress in the economy and so no genuine investor will want to come into Nigeria and invest because everybody is playing waiting game. So as I said earlier, the outcome of the general election will determine whole lots of things on the progress of the economy and manufacturing sector.

With the current state of the economy, can we see positive change anytime soon?
If we see any improvement in the economy in the whole of this year, we should count ourselves lucky. Again, it is a function of who wins the general election. If you have a President who has the zeal to put the economy back on good footing, then, in the third quarter, we can see positives, because just some germane appointments and the rest of them could take the economy back to profitability. But if we find ourselves in the same situation as are currently, then forget about any improvement till next year. You know the last time it took us five months without ministers and now, its four years, nothing has changed. These are all where the issues are I can tell you. The economy has not received any positive attention in the last four years. It has not been projected properly to the international community as a viable economy because foreign direct investment (FDI) is what pushes developing country like us. When they are not coming, everything is affected. So if we are lucky and we send the right signal immediately after the election, then by third quarter, you could see something positive. But if we are in a slow movement just the way we are now, then we can forget this year, as we won’t see any changes at all in economy and manufacturing sector.

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2019 appropriation bill to NASS. However, there are growing fears that its passage may be delayed again. What implication does this have on the economy?
Of course, the first consequence of budget delay is that firms can’t plan properly. People can’t plan too. Even also development partners can’t plan. Nobody can plan because everybody is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the general election. But ironically, the non-passage of budget does not affect government’s spending because government continues. But it affects the private sector, which is supposed to be the engine room of the economy for planning. So we have in the past three years seen the consequences of delayed budgets on our economy. In fact, the public sector is terribly affected because you heard people talking about the release of the budget in first quarter. How can you get efficiency in the system? So it’s not a good development for the country’s economy and its manufacturing sector at all. You see the challenge in Nigeria is that after election people must leave politics alone and face the country’s battered economy squarely. We will not move forward until we are able to separate politics from business for proper administration because what happened on the day of presentation of the budget at the National Assembly in Abuja was a disgrace to the nation. There is too much of politics attached to everything in this country and we are paying very dearly for it. In India, they changed their Prime Ministers maybe six or seven times in one particular year, but the economy was not affected at all, because the politicians were doing their own things and businesses were running without hitches. But in a situation where everything is tied to politics, it affects the whole gamut of the economy. For instance, when the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended, you can see the fallout on the stock market with the figures showing negative. Also, when a serving Senator was arrested, you could see the economy being affected by politics. These are the things they don’t seem to understand in this country. That is why before you take certain actions timing is important because if you weigh the consequence on the nation then, you must be ready to forfeit certain things for certain time. The timing is what is causing the problem in the stock market and other spheres of the economy.

Over the years, manufacturers in the country have been lamenting over myriads of challenges confronting their businesses, are there remedies to those problems?
First of all, there is need to find out what are the real challenges confronting manufacturing sector in this country. Physical infrastructure is the key challenge to Nigeria’s development at present. For instance, the physical infrastructure is not there and it is difficult to run business here in this environment, not to talk of multiplicity of taxes, policy contradictions, exorbitant cost of clearing and transporting raw materials from ports to the factories, poor access to Lagos ports, weak port infrastructure to increasing incidences of smuggling and counterfeiting and high unsold inventory of locally goods. These challenges have jointly constrained the manufacturing sector from attaining its full potential in the country. With the type of tax system we have in Nigeria, no big investor will like to come down here and invest in the country. For instance, company such as Nike cannot outsource their production into Nigeria because of our power challenge. So, the power situation in the country is appalling and major hindrance to setting up of factories here. In 2005, when we were doing the analysis on the impact assessment of Export Expansion Grant (EEG) in the country, I spoke to the Managing Director of Michelin Tyres on power. He showed me the figures that two of his factories are not connected to the national grid at all with four giant generators running 24 hours daily. He told me then that if nothing happened on power supply in Nigeria and nothing was done by government to fix the power problem, the end was in sight.
Then, five years later, Michelin left Nigeria for Ghana. But one thing I can say is that they have not left Nigeria totally as they are still in Ijora, importing tyres, selling them and making money. Meanwhile, thousands of Nigerians lost their jobs due to their exit from the Nigerian market. Truly, for the power situation, I don’t know because it is discerning when you look at the trillions already invested into the power sector in this country. Let’s also talk about the logistics infrastructure and the roads network. In fact, I pity those who are in transport business in this country. First of all, you join a queue, an endless queue to take goods for delivery. Where is the turnaround time measurement of transport business if you have to stay longer days in a queue just to load?
So, manufacturers are taking part of the hit even though some of them have outsourced transportation. If you ask him to go and queue, he will queue. You will be paying for it while he’s queuing and at the end of the day a lot of these costs are shifted to the final consumers who buy the products in open market. But there is a limit to how far you can go otherwise you stay with your goods. So it’s really very unfortunate because the logistics infrastructure situation has put us in a very un-competitive situation. Even if you look at our export, because of logistics infrastructure, local commodity goods are high in the market. It is cheaper to bring a container from China to Lagos than taking it from Apapa/Tincan to Ikeja. It cost N750, 000 to move container from Tincan to Ikeja. Yes, I can confirm it. So, it is a terrible situation. Recently, I heard the African Development Bank (ADB) gave ECOWAS fund for the completion of the Lagos- Abidjan Corridor, fantastic if it happens because there is nothing that opens the economy like roads and logistic infrastructure. If you like, concession all the ports, if people can’t have access to the ports nothing productive will happen there. You can see what has happened to Apapa port. Now we are coming back to our senses, we are beginning to think that there is need to put railway close to the port. For example, look at how long it is taking us to develop an alternative to moving things out of the port. How can the infrastructure deficits be solved? There is only one-way; provide power and all others will follow suit. We know it cannot happen overnight without proper planning. In fact, I pity those in the manufacturing sector. If anyone is still manufacturing in Nigeria today, such person needs to be commended for enduring infrastructure challenges.

Recently, members of the Organized Private Sector (OPS) decried large unsold inventory of locally goods in their warehouses, what do you think is responsible for this?
First of all, the logistics cost implication pushes the price of items up in the Nigerian market. And with the way the economy is, the purchasing power of everybody in Nigeria is low. So talking about the large stock of inventories that is a big challenge to manufacturers currently. Even if you say you want to export those items, because a lot of them are exportable, the price cost is still a challenge because the same items coming from somewhere else are found in Nigeria at reasonable price. For example, in Costa Rica, their 2kg of Pineapple goes for 95 penny in the United Kingdom. However, to transport 2kg of Pineapple from Nigeria to UK is One Pound. So why is it like that? Some obnoxious cost at the airport is responsible for the rise in the price of the commodity. An aircraft that will pay about $35,000 to take cargo from Nigeria, in Ghana, it will cost less than $15,000. Now that explains why DHL cargo planes will come into Nigeria, drop letters and other items, buy sandbags to balance their aircraft and leave the country to Ghana or elsewhere to pick up goods. And of course, foreign goods that are coming into the country have made our local manufactured ones not competitive in the market again.
For instance, the Economic Partnership Agreement is still outstanding, as Nigeria has not signed it. And it is our manufacturers who are standing in the way of signing the document because they are all afraid that the day Nigeria signed that they are all dead! How long are we going to wait in the wilderness because we are talking of globalisation? So does that means we are not going to be signing international agreement again despite being signatory to many global trade agreements? We have been refusing to sign various trade agreements and this is not good for our economy and us. Hitherto, the challenges that are stopping us from signing the EPA is not from outside but internal, which we created by ourselves because nobody can tell me that if our economy was managed well, I don’t care, which political party but by everybody, we wouldn’t be where we are today economically. So it’s a very unfortunate situation. The manufacturers are taking a serious hit because there is a massive investment you need to make in physical and variable ones. One doesn’t wish it, but I don’t see people not losing their jobs further because of the high inventory goods.

What is your stance on Nigeria’s refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)?
First of all, we made fool of ourselves with our refusal to sign the ACFTA. Ironically, we are part of that negotiation. In fact, we bided to host the headquarters here in Nigeria. But surprisingly, in the last minute, we failed to sign in time with President Buhari calling for more consultations with the organised private sector (OPS). And these consultations seem to have become endless. So we just made a fool of ourselves on ACFTA. Nevertheless, he (President Buhari) wants to understand it by making room for more consultation. To me, there is nothing wrong about that. But again, it’s taking eternity for Nigeria to decide. But the truth is that the world is in a hurry and will not wait for anybody. For instance, the EPA we didn’t sign, some other countries have signed and they are enjoying the benefits of what they signed. We didn’t sign then and we are losing the benefits we would have gained if we could have signed. You see, when you are getting into this kind of relationships even a big economy such as Nigeria, at the initial stage, you will take some losses and in the long run, you start to gain. That is what happened if you look at Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) and rest of them. That is what happened to the big economies in those areas. Whatever it is, I know by now extensive consultations have been done but right now, nobody can even talk about it because of the general election. But I think we need to join because the world is already a global village so we don’t have a choice.

There is a report that the activities of insurgents in some parts of Nigeria is fuelling rise in cost of goods in the markets. What is the fate of firms taking goods to the North?
The consequence of the activities of insurgents in the country is very dire to the economy, no doubt about that. I know of a particular manufacturing firm that is producing a particular product where sales dropped by 70 per cent as a result of the uprising in the Northern region. Because apart from sales being made in the area, those areas are also channels through which their products get into Niger, Chad, Sudan and the rest of them. Then again, talk to a transporter and tell him you want him to take your goods to Maiduguri, Borno State capital, he will take special insurance, charges you a special fee and these are the things that you don’t plan for but you wake up to seeing them. I can tell you that the company shutdown one of its production lines and about 300 people were sacked. So, the impact of the activities of insurgents from the economic point of view is huge apart from the blood that is being shed.

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CBN injected $29.72bn into forex market in nine months

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CBN injected $29.72bn into forex market in nine months

T

he Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sold a total of $29.72 billion to authorised dealers between January and September 2019, findings by New Telegraph have shown.

The figure is $4.02 billion more than the $25.7 billion total forex sales made by the apex bank for the whole of 2018.

According to the CBN’s economic report for the third quarter of this year released at the weekend, there was a considerable increase in foreign exchange sales to the Investors and Exporters’ (I&E) forex window, swaps transactions and wholesale forwards in Q3’19.

The report stated: “A total of $10.11 billion was sold by the CBN to authorised dealers in the third quarter of 2019. This represented 37.1 per cent increase, compared with the level in the second quarter of 2019. The development, relative to the preceding quarter, reflected, mainly, the significant rise in foreign exchange sales to the I&E window, swaps transactions and wholesale forwards in the review quarter.

 

“Of the total, foreign exchange sales to the I&E window, swaps transaction, wholesale forwards intervention, SME intervention, sales to BDCs, interbank sales and SMIS intervention, rose above their levels in the preceding quarter by 2,345.14 per cent, 36.1 per cent, 24.3 per cent, 12.5 per cent, 9.3 per cent, 6.9 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, to $2.02 billion, $0.47 billion, $1.50 billion, $0.43 billion, $3.54 billion, $0.33 billion and $1.84 billion, respectively,” it added.

 

New Telegraph’s compilation of CBN’s forex sales for preceding quarters showed that the regulator sold a total of $11.81 billion in Q1’19 and $7.8 billion in Q2’19.

 

 

This means that it sold a total of $29.72 billion for the first nine months of this year.

In its Annual Activity report for 2018, the CBN had stated that total forex sales last year was $25.7 billion, comprising $14.6 billion as spot and $11.1 billion as forward transactions.

According to the report, “In 2018, the CBN maintained its direct intervention in the inter-bank foreign exchange market to cushion demand pressure and ensure exchange rate stability. Consequently, total spot sale was $25,676.77 million, while forwards sales amounted to $11,054.52 million.

“These spot sales comprised $3,453.09 million at the inter-bank, $1,581.40 million for invisibles, $1,315.50 million for SMEs and $8,272.26 million at the Investors’ and Exporters’ (I & E). On the other hand, the Bank purchased $7,802.77 million at the inter-bank market. Thus, net sales by the Bank amounted to $17,874 million.”

Analysts said that the CBN’s frequent interventions in the forex market have been responsible for the naira’s stability in recent years, adding that the apex bank increased its forex sales in Q3’19 following lower inflows at the I&E window which made the regulator to step up its intervention to ensure exchange rate stability.

In fact, as the Q3’19 economic report put it: “The CBN sustained its interventions at both the Inter-bank and the BDC segments of the foreign exchange market in the review quarter. Consequently, average exchange rate of the naira vis-à-vis the US dollar at the Inter-bank segment, appreciated by 0.01 per cent to N306.93/US$, above the level in the preceding quarter. It, however, depreciated by 0.3 per cent, compared with the level recorded in the corresponding period of 2018.

“Conversely, at the BDC segment, the average exchange rate appreciated by 0.1 per cent and 0.02 per cent to N359.14/US$, relative to the level in the preceding quarter and the corresponding period of 2018, respectively. At N362.20/US$, the average exchange rate at the I&E window depreciated by 0.4 per cent, relative to the level in the preceding quarter, but appreciated by 0.1 per cent, compared with the level in the corresponding period of 2018.”

However, the CBN’s frequent interventions in the forex market have taken their toll on the nation’s external reserves. For instance, the Q3’19 economic report states that: “Gross external reserves were $40.90 billion as at September 25, 2019. This indicated a decrease of 8.6 per cent, compared with the level in the second quarter of 2019.”

New Telegraph reported last week that the external reserves have been on a downward trend in recent months, dropping to $40.50 billion as at October 30, 2019 from $45 billion on July 25, 2019.

Specifically, the reserves fell by $1.26 billion from $41.76 billion in October 2 to $40.5 billion as of October 30.

In a recent report, Coronation Research predicted that unless there is a significant improvement in capital inflows, especially Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves may fall to $38 billion by the end of this year.

The firm stated that: “The CBN FX reserves are currently $40.7 billion (a reported 30-day moving average). Given the recent decline in the reserves, a reserve level around the $38 billion mark is not far-fetched, in our view, unless FPI picks up.”

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PoS deals hit N2.5trn in 10 months

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PoS deals hit N2.5trn in 10 months

Surpass full year 2018 record

 

TRACTION

Electronic payment continues to gain traction in Nigeria as more people use Point of Sales (PoS) terminals

 

N

igerians transacted businesses valued at N2.5 trillion through Point of Sales (PoS) terminals between January and October this year, New Telegraph has learnt. This represented 38.8 per cent growth when compared with N1.8 trillion recorded in the same period last year.

 

 

Latest statistics released by the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) showed that the electronic payment channel recorded steady growth in usage in the last 10 months. The data also indicated that the value of PoS transactions in the 10-month period surpassed N2.3 trillion in the entire 12 months of last year.

 

 

According to NIBSS, volume of PoS transactions within the period stood at 350.6 million. This also indicated 56 per cent growth over 224.5 million recorded in the same period in 2018.

 

 

Analysis of monthly statistics showed that transactions worth N222.9 billion were carried out over the electronic platform in January, while N193.4 billion was recorded in February. In March and April, N217.4 billion and N246 billion were recorded respectively. Nigerians spent N257.7 billion over PoS terminals in May while N245.9 billion was recorded in June.

 

 

In July, value of PoS transactions stood at N279.4 billion, while highest transaction value in the 10-month period  was recorded in  August as Nigerians transacted businesses worth N294 billion over the platform. Transactions value for September and October stood at N283.3 billion and N287.7 billion respectively.

 

 

Indicating increase in demand for PoS machines by merchants, the NIBSS report showed that registered terminals rose to 404,283 as at October. However, by same period, only 273,082 have been deployed. This means that a total of 131,201 registered machines are yet to be deployed.

 

 

According to analysts, the huge growth in PoS is due to a combination of factors such as increased adoption by SMEs, chain business owners etc; increased awareness as well by cardholders, who ask for the POS from business owners when making payments; and improved dispute resolution process for failed transactions.

 

 

However, stakeholders are worried that the recent introduction of stamp duties on PoS transactions may reverse the gains recorded over the years, even as they fear that the government’s cashless policy would be negatively affected. Already, filling stations, supermarkets and other merchants using PoS machines have started adding the fees to their customers’ bills after purchases. Before now, fees are paid by merchants on the aggregate PoS transactions carried out on a particular period, which was never passed to customers. However, a CBN’s directive issued September 17, 2019 compelled banks to charge N50 Stamp Duty on individual transactions, rather than merchants’ accounts.

 

 

According to Executive Director at Inlaks, an integrated payment system company, Mr Tope Dare, the policy will discourage many from using PoS and in effect slowing down the cashless policy of CBN.

 

 

“Some small merchants who know the impact such charges may have on their sales are also considering dropping the machines to collect cash. While the big merchants like filling stations and superstores may not toe that line, the customers would not want to be paying extra charges and may go for cash payment instead of using their cards,” he said.

 

 

While noting that the CBN may have good intention in introducing the charges, he said impacts of the policy must be evaluated by the regulator to see how it has fared.

 

 

“Whenever regulators issue policy, they should go out to test impact. They must be able to know whether it is working or not or whether it is having different effect from what was intended. When we just issue policies and sit down in our offices, we may have problems,” he said.

 

 

Also speaking, Mr Festus Akwaja, a financial analyst, said the implementation of the PoS charges was capable of weakening the financial inclusion drive and financial development goal as a whole. He added that the stamp duty charge was an anti-financial inclusion policy as it is capable of discouraging small businesses and the very poor from coming into the banking space.

 

 

“We suggest that CIBN should make presentation to the authorities for certain set of businesses, accounts and payment platforms such as the PoS to be exempted from the stamp duty charges,” he said.

 

 

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CWG: High operational costs hurt earnings

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CWG: High operational costs hurt earnings

High operational cost and other challenges in the economy and business climate has impacted negatively on earnings of Computer Warehouse Group Plc. Chris Ugwu reports

 

 

Technology has revolutionised information management and tremendously increased the value of even the smallest piece of data. All over the world, effects of IT are noticeable in almost all aspects of life.

 

 

However, in developing countries, the impact of IT is yet to be fully felt to appreciable extent in some sectors.

 

 

The Nigerian situation is not an exception; the sector like any other is relatively not successful because of harsh operating environment.

 

In spite of the fact that Nigeria is developing in the area of ICT, there are still some loopholes, which are affecting its total advancement. One the major challenges is that the use of computer, access to internet and other tools of ICT are limited greatly to the urban areas as most people in the rural areas are yet to know how to use the computer.

 

 

Some other challenges facing full ICT deployment in the country include poor infrastructure, which has remained a key problem for ICT providers. Inconsistent government policies in form of multiple taxations, conflict of interest between regulators and operators, duplicity of functions, among others also remain serious challenge to the sector.

 

 

There is also no doubt that security challenges in the northern part of the country with the attendance consequences of loss of lives and properties, domestic constraints such as depletion of fiscal buffers, dwindling foreign reserves, erratic supply of public electricity have also remained a thorn in business operating environment.

 

 

Computer Warehouse Group Plc (CWG), which weathered the storm during recession, has surprisingly remained in state of despondency following increasing operational expenses.

 

The group, which had followed the preliminary review of its financial statements for the year ended 31 December 31, 2017, said that it was expected that the estimated earnings and year-end financial projections would be materially lower in comparison to the previous financial year.

 

The company in a notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) said: “The reduction in earnings is predominantly a result of losses incurred, due to the financial cost implications of non-actualized projects which have adversely affected the Company’s estimated 51 earnings and year end projections.

 

 

“Although there is a decline in earnings, CWG Plc profit margins have continued to remain stable, for the financial year ended 2017 and are expected to relatively stay the same. Further details pertaining to the company’s financial performance is disclosed in the audited financial statements.”

 

 

It added that the board was highly optimistic about the new initiatives due to the launch of a number  of technology platforms that are currently in developmental stage and the strategic partnerships that have been concluded, which are expected to translate to increased transactional numbers. The company reiterated its commitment towards excellence and maintaining its position as a market a leader.

 

 

The company, which ended the year 2018 at a loss position, had begun 2019 with hope after it recorded 1,121 per cent growth in profit after tax for the first quarter ended March 31, and a HY PBT of N149.341 million. However, investors’ relief was halted following 94 per cent decline in profit the group achieved during the third quarter.

 

 

The poor performance, according to the company, occurred on the back of a challenging and uncertain macroeconomic environment including predominantly on losses incurred, due to the financial cost implications of non-actualised projects which have adversely affected the company’s estimated earnings. Despite the recent upsurge in share prices, market sentiments for the shares of the company have remained stagnant at N2.54 per share year to date.

 

Financials

 

CWG Plc ended the year 2018 negative note with loss  after tax of N1.146 billion for the full year ended December 31, 2018 as against a loss after tax of N1.576 billion in 2017. According to a report obtained from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the group’s loss before tax stood at N1,141 billion from a loss before tax of N1.510 billion. However, the group’s revenue dropped by 12.14 per cent to N7.755 billion from N8.827 billion in 2017. Cost of sales equally dropped by 6.49 per cent from N6.308 billion in 2017 to N7.755 billion in 2018.

 

 

 

The group also began 2019 financial year on an impressive note with 1,121 per cent growth in profit after tax to N48.805 million at the close of business in March 31, 2019 from N3.997 million reported a year earlier.

 

 

Profit before tax for the period stood at N69.722 million in contrast to N5.711 million in 2018 accounting for a growth of 1,121 per cent. Revenue equally grew by 54.64 per cent, from N1.237 billion in 2018 to N1.913 billion in 2019. While cost of sales rose by 29.34 per cent to N1.244 billion in 2019 from N961.745 million a year earlier, operating expenses grew by 36.7 per cent from N401.554 million to N549.048 million in 2019.

 

 

 

Computer Warehouse Group maintained growth profile during the half year as it recorded profit before tax of N149.341 million for the half year ended June 30, 2019 as against a loss before tax of N25.340 million in 2018. In a filing with the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the group’s revenue grew by 55.03 per cent from N2.571 billion to N3.986 billion in 2019. Cost of sales grew by 82.37 per cent to N2.597 billion from N1.424 billion in 2018. Operating expenses stood at N1.055 billion in 2019 from N1.040 billion in 2018, accounting for a drop of 1.44 per cent.

 

 

However, CWG suffered a heavy decline in profit margin during the nine months ended September 2019 as it posted 94 per cent decrease in profit after tax to close the third quarter at N22.601 million as against N397.756 million reported in 2018. The group’s revenue equally grew by 28.23 per cent from N5.146 billion in 2018 in contrast to N6.599 billion post in 2019. The company’s cost of sales grew by 62 per cent to N4.783 billion in nine months ended September 2019 from N2.957 billion in 2018.

 

Profit deflators

 

The Chief Executive Officer of CWG Plc, Mr. Adewale Adeyipo, explained recently that the increase in the company’s operating cost from N401,554 million in Q1 2018 to N549,048 million in Q1 2019 was due to a one-time investment that is needed to position the ICT firm for growth.

 

 

According to the CEO, the investment was done to make sure things are well-placed. He, however, assured that there’s a plan in place aimed at reducing the operating expenses by 30 per cent before the end of Q3 2019.

 

 

“One very important thing to voice in 2019, we are looking at over 30 per  cent reduction in our operating expenses and we have a clear roadmap on how to achieve that. There will be little reduction in Q2, in Q3, I can assure you there will be a major reduction in terms of our operating expenses,” he added.

 

Future plans

 

 

The company is looking to tap into its various portfolios to achieve this cut. According to report, traveling expenses will also be looked into, restricting trips to the essential ones. So also will diesel consumption and professional services engagements. The company will pursue cost-effective services.

 

In their drive to cut cost, CWG will also utilise staff optimisation, thereby, tapping into staff resources, flexibility, and their potentials which haven’t been nurtured. This will result in the training of certain staff members to brush up their skills for company engagement.

 

The company had explained that it didn’t meet projected revenue for 2018 financial year due to non-actualisation of projects that were factored in.

 

Adeyipo said CWG was used to factoring projects into its financials but has learned from the experience.

 

While explaining the impact of non-actualised projects, Adeyipo gave an example of a state’s internally generated revenue contract, which was supposed to be sealed last year; but due to the shakeup in the state’s IGR, negotiations and presentation had to be redone before a conclusion was made this year.

 

 

He said: “So we had to go back to the new entity, the new people and we had to present again, and you had to be sure they have the proposal, and they have to get on board with you. We’ve learnt a lot from that.”

 

 

The company is looking to make its portfolios standalone business. With their resources and financial capability, they are at the level each can operate separately from CWG Plc.

 

Meanwhile, Adeyipo said part of CWG‘s goals was to make banks give up ATM business across Nigeria. The company currently runs deployment and management of ATMs for some banks in Nigeria. The company intends to deploy ATM across Nigeria without customers having to visit banks to withdraw or transfer cash. This is likely to come at a premium price.

 

 

Last line

 

 

The continued deterioration in Nigeria’s macro-economic condition has resulted in drop in earnings of many firms including CWG. However, it is expected that the improvement in macro economy would help reposition the company.

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Nigeria’s average housing cost dwarfs S’Africa’s

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Nigeria’s average housing cost dwarfs S’Africa’s

Investment

Nigeria’s seven cities with population of over one million each present possible markets for investors

 

 

Despite over 17million housing supply deficit, average cost of building a house in Nigeria is higher than that of South Africa and India, New Telegraph has learnt.

 

 

According to the Director, Deals Advisory, PWC , Mrs. Bola Adigun, while an average cost of building a house in Nigeria is $50,000 (N15.2million),  it is $36,000  (N10.9million) and $26,000 (N7.9million) in India.

 

 

By calculation, it means that the average cost of building a house  in Nigeria is 28.2 per cent  higher than that of south Africa and 48 per cent in India.

 

 

In a document presented at  the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV)’s summit in Lagos, the PWC’s deals advisory expert  listed poor access to loan facilities, high cost of building, difficulty in obtaining property titles, huge urban population, N20 trillion mortgage finance deficit among other challenges of the real estate sector.

 

 

Giving analysis of the situation, she stated that only four per cent of Nigerians over the age of 15 received loan from a financial institution in 2017; while 85 per cent of  the urban population lived in rented accommodation.

 

 

Speaking on the topic “2020 Budget: The Real Estate Perspective -Exploring the Present Realities for the Future,” she decried poor budgetary allocation to the housing sector, despite the huge deficit.

 

 

On how to explore the current realities, Adigun explained that typical and emerging real estate finance structures presented opportunities for  investors, practitioners and  other stakeholders in the industry.

 

 

She listed pre-sales (upfront payment from potential tenants), equity financing, debt financing public private partnerships and mezzanine structure (convertible debt stock) as typical available real estate financing.

 

 

She urged investors and practitioners to explore other innovative structure for project finance, listing Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs), mortgages and specialised real estate, adding that government efforts to revitalise the mortgage industry had positioned mortgages as a viable funding source to be explored for future real estate development in Nigeria.

 

 

According to her, Nigeria has continued to have strong fundamental factors for sizeable growth in real estate sector due to its growing middle class, growing population and urbanisation.

 

 

Talking about inherent opportunities for investors and private partners, Adigun said: “Nigeria’s middle class outnumbers that of any other states in sub-Sahara Africa,” adding that with  a growing population of over 180 million, Nigeria offered enormous opportunities for real estate despite structural weaknesses in its economy.

 

 

“Nigeria has seven cities with a population of over one million people, presenting several possible markets for investors to enter,” she said.

 

 

On his part, Chairman, Lagos branch of NIESV, Mr. Adedotun  Bamigbola, stated that  issue of housing deficit in the country needed to be critically dealt  with, saying that was one of the reasons the summit is promoting syndication for real estate finance and collaboration to create synergy on specific projects for development.

 

 

On the N60 billion budget allocation to housing, Bamigbola corroborated other professionals, saying the amount would not make much impact considering the nation’s 17 million housing deficit.

 

 

“The issue is that the N60billion is going to make little or no impact. We still have a long way to go if we are supposed to cover from 17 million to 22 million housing deficit,” he said.

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NERC’s row with power firms deepens

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NERC’s row with power firms deepens

… as tariff hike deadline looms

 

 

N24bn debt: Concern as power tariff hike deadline looms

 

 

T

he spat over N24 billion power debts between the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and eight distribution companies (Discos), at the weekend, heightened the push for quick implementation of the power tariff hike to begin in less than two months from now.

 

 

The template for the tariff, sighted by New Telegraph at the weekend, showed that Nigerians are to pay high tariff for power beginning from January 2020.

 

 

The vigorous pursuit of tariff hike, this newspaper gathered, was occasioned by pressure from investors who saw the threat to withdraw operating licences of Discos by NERC as “overbearing and a misplacement of priority.”

 

 

The affected Discos are Abuja, Benin, Enugu, Ikeja, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt and Yola.

 

 

The Discos, according to the NERC, breached the terms and conditions of their respective distribution licences based on the provisions of Electric Power Sector Reform Act and the 2016 – 2018 Minor Review of Multi Year Tariff Order and Minimum Remittance Order for the Year.

 

 

“The cancellation notice remains extant and the eight Discos are still required to show cause in writing within 60 days from the date of receipt thereof as to why their licences should not be cancelled in accordance with section 74 of EPSRA,” the commission stated.

 

 

It noted that the eight recipients of the cancellation notice, who filed petitions against the Minor Review and Minimum Remittance Order, had acknowledged that their petitions did not constitute their written response to the cancellation notice.

 

 

Like the NERC, the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) has been at daggers drawn with the Discos over alleged unsettled invoices to gas suppliers.

 

 

Recently, the NBET said it was directed to take over the payment of Discos’ gas invoices to supplier following allegations of huge indebtedness.

 

 

The commission noted the failure of the DisCos to comply with expected minimum remittance thresholds in the Order exposes NESI to systemic risk that threatens the sustainability of other parts of the value chain; and the ability to improve service delivery to consumers.

 

 

The commission, according to checks, posited that the Discos failed to provide the minimum financial ‘securitisation’ of their payment obligation to NBET i.e. “an adequate and unencumbered letter of credit covering three months based on their minimum payment obligations to NBET and MO.”

 

Consequently, the commission ordered them to show cause in writing within 60 days from the date of receipt of the notice why their operational licences should not be revoked in accordance with section 74 of EPSRA.

 

 

The NERC added that it considered their actions as “manifest and flagrant breaches” of EPSRA, terms and conditions of their respective distribution licences and the Order.

 

 

Meanwhile, the commission has proposed an intermediate review in end-user tariffs effective January 1, 2020, with full cost-reflective levels to be achieved by July 2020.

 

 

In the interim, NERC said in a template sighted by New Telegraph that government had agreed to fund the revenue gap arising from the difference between cost-reflective tariffs determined by the commission and   the actual end-user tariffs.

The power generation companies, Gencos, on the other hand, have put the revenue shortfall at over N1 trillion.

 

The regulator, however, added that “the deadline for the submission of written response showing cause against the cancellation notice by the eight Discos is December 7, 2019.”

 

On other demands from the Discos, the commission said it expected the eight power firms to address the issue of “optimal utilisation of resources” and “efficient operation” imposed by sections 32 and 76 of EPSRA, respectively, in their written responses to the cancellation notice.

 

The commission also stated that it expected the eight Discos to address the principles of “prudence” and “used and useful” as further justification of optimal utilisation of resources for efficient operations in the areas of general procurement practices, related party transactions, and directors’ fees and expenses.

 

Others include technical partners from takeover to date, material and contingent liabilities, utilisation of intervention, fund received from the Federal Government, efforts to date to address customer complaints and improvement of overall willingness to pay for services.

 

The NERC further stated that the Discos must show analysis of capital and recurrent expenditure, metering and billing of maximum demand customers, metering and billing of MDAs, payments for technical and management fees, purchase and utilisation of foreign exchange and remittances on market obligations from date of takeover to date.

 

Power distributors are the designated revenue collection agents for the entire value chain in the industry, as they interface with end-user customers.

 

Regardless, the situation has remained largely unaddressed, with most consumers still waiting for their meters years after they paid for them, while others are being subjected to estimated billing.

 

 

 

 

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Airline operators threaten to dump underwriters

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Airline operators threaten to dump underwriters

A

irline operators under the umbrella of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have threatened to dump Nigeria underwriters and place their risks with foreign companies.

 

While calling on the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to quickly intervene and address the enormous challenges they are having with local insurers, they advised the regulator to quickly organise a forum that will enable them sort out their issues with underwriters.

 

The AON members, who expressed their misgivings at the 2019 annual interactive session with consumers of insurance products organised by NAICOM in Lagos, noted that most insurance firms over the years had continued to renege on payment of claims with excuses that are not tenable.

 

The Chairman of AON, Captain Ahmad Joji, noted that his members were really not having good times with local insurers. He called for an open market to enable Airliners insure freely without hindrance.

 

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Air Peace Limited, Toyin Olajide, lamented over $ 300,000 loss incurred due to non-payment of claims by underwriters.

 

She also canvassed the need for a lead insurer to settle claims and get refund from co-insurers.

 

The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbedos Group, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, narrated how his underwriter failed to respond to an accident complaint on one of his aircraft.

 

According to him, having reported the incident to the underwriting firm, the company instead of getting back to him went and report the issue to their foreign partner (underwriter) who called him for an enquiry.

He called on NAICOM to grant airliners the liberty to insure abroad, where aviation business is properly handled.

 

According to him, aviation business should not be handled with kids gloves, as any mistake can lead to great mishap.

 

President of Chartered insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), Eddie Efekoha, noted that the issues raised by AON members were handled by insurers according to stipulated laws. He encouraged the organisation of a forum for AON members and insurers to properly examine the issues.

 

The Head, Complaint Bureau, NAICOM, Ahmad Adamu, urged the airline operators to exercise restraint as NAICOM will look into their complaints.

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Micro pension: Gaining traction amid challenges

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Micro pension: Gaining traction amid challenges

Effort by the Federal Government to ensure Nigerian retirees do not suffer the experience of the past as regards pension has been falling into place. Sunday Ojeme reports

 

 

W

hile the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) has been fully established and to a large extent taken care of workers in the formal sector including public and private establishments, the micro-pension plan for the informal sector came on-board fully this year with a major launch by the Federal Government.

 

The scheme, which went through the usual teething problem associated with every new programme, has, however, appeared to be taking shape with a recent disclosure by the industry regulator, National Pension Commission (PenCom) that the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) have started registering the targeted workers for the scheme.

 

Enrolement

 

Specifically, although coming after eight months, the current record has it that the PFAs have so far registered 28,000 employees in the informal sector for the scheme.

 

Disclosing this in Lagos, Head, Corporate Communications, National Pension Commission (PenCom), Peter Aghahowa, said 19 Pension Fund Administrators (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.

 

 

Challenges

 

The scheme is, however, without some challenges as Aghahowa put it, it has been challenged due to low financial literacy, 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.

Optimism

 

However, despite the obvious challenges, the fact that the scheme had taken off is something to celebrate as Nigerians in the informal sector now have the opportunity to save for their future like their counterpart in formal employment.

 

Recall that observers had expressed worries months after the guidelines even as they doubted the ability of the handlers to meet the 12 million registration target by the end of the year.

 

The situation, according to investigation, followed the slow pace with which the PFAs were going about the scheme.

 

Findings by New Telegraph had revealed that although the industry regulator had prepared the ground by issuing the necessary guideline for the scheme’s take off, the PFAs have failed to show the same enthusiasm it put up in the case of the formal sector employees.

 

During the launch of the scheme in March by President Muhammadu Buhari, PenCom declared that its target was to get about 20 million Nigerians into the pension net from the current eight million contributors already in formal employment.

 

The micro-pension plan is to capture 71 per cent self-employed Nigerians, who are currently not into the pension net as regulated by PenCom.

 

Expectation

 

 

While conceiving the micro-pension idea, PenCom proposed that it would boost pension contributors to 20 million from the current eight million contributors by the end of 2019 and 30 million by the year 2024.

 

The scheme, according to PenCom, is expected to capture self-employed people, especially those with irregular income, usually in the informal sector and largely financially uninformed with limited or no access to financial services especially pension plan.

The targeted groups include hordes of artisans as well as high profile individuals such as those in entertainment and other self-employed industries.

 

Section 2(3) of the Pension Reform Act 2014 provides that employees of organisations with less than three employees as well as self-employed persons shall be entitled to participate under the CPS in accordance with guidelines issued by PenCom.

The Head, Research & Corporate Strategy, PenCom, Dr. Farouk Aminu, had earlier described the scheme as a development that would enhance the growth of pension assets in the country, saying that the micro pension plan would be voluntary with a lot of flexibility in the plan to allow it to work.

 

He stressed that the contributor would decide whether to be contributing daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, adding that they will also have access to 40 per cent of his contributions, while 60 per cent would be locked in as pension, and can only be withdrawn when the contributor retires.

 

According to him, there will be no bottleneck in collecting the money when the retiree wants it, because PFAs will handle all approvals unlike the normal one that all approvals would come from PenCom.

 

Empowerment

 

Speaking on the prospect of the scheme for the country, the Acting Director-General, PenCom,  Aisha Dahir-Umar, described it as remarkable as it will democratise savings culture in Nigeria in a systematic and efficient manner.

 

According to her, the product also perfectly aligns with the current social empowerment programmes of the Federal Government as it seeks to ensure, in the long term, the sustainability of the benefits of the empowerment programmes for the participants, who may seize this opportunity to save for their old age.

 

“This is the first time such window of opportunity is being opened to self-employed Nigerians and those working in the informal sector, to participate and enjoy the benefits inherent in the Contributory Pension Scheme.

 

“As you might have observed, the CPS has been very impactful in Nigeria since the commencement of its implementation in 2004. The formation of long term domestic capital, represented by the over N8.74 trillion worth of pension assets as at January 2019, belonging to 8.46 million formal sector participants, is slowly but surely changing Nigeria’s financial landscape. This, by extension, is also transforming the course and pace of our socio-economic development.

 

“For instance, N6.51 trillion, representing 73 per cent of the total pension assets is invested in Federal Government Securities issued to finance various activities of Government. Thus, in the area of infrastructure alone, the pension funds invested about N95.31 billion in the N200 billion Sukuk issued by the Federal Government. Similarly, out of the N10.67 billion Green Bond issued by the Federal Government, pension funds invested N7.19 billion.

 

“Consequently, we believe that the enlistment of the informal sector into the pension savings net would boost the quantum of available long term investible funds that would galvanise national development efforts,” she noted.

 

Though the micro pension scheme is moving at a slow pace, the President, Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp), Aderonke Adedeji, said there was need to give it time in order to avoid mistakes.

 

“In recent time, we have been experiencing slow pace of growth in 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.

 

Last line

 

As the micro pension plan gradually takes shape, there is need for the stakeholders, especially the PFAs, to embark on aggressive campaign and possibly deploy some incentives to get more of the targeted informal sector workers to enrol.

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Stock market halts weekly losses by 0.08%

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Stock market halts weekly losses by 0.08%

RESPITE

Financial services industry led activity chart with 1.833 billion shares valued at N12.367 billion traded in 11,116 deals

 

T

rading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) at the weekend closed green, halting weeks of downswing as the NSE All-Share Index and Market Capitalisation both appreciated by 0.08 per cent to close the week at 26,314.49 and N12.810 trillion respectively.

 

 

Similarly, all other indices finished higher with the exception of NSE premium, NSE ASeM, NSE Consumer Goods, NSE Oil/Gas and NSE Lotus II Indices, which declined by 0.34 per cent, 0.18 per cent, 5.91 per cent, 0.25 per cent and 2.63 per cent respectively.

 

A total turnover of 2.063 billion shares worth N18.431 billion in 16,778 deals were traded last week by investors in contrast to a total of 1.511 billion shares valued at N16.193 billion that exchanged hands the previous week in 15,544 deals.

 

The Financial services industry (measured by volume) led the activity chart with 1.833 billion shares valued at N12.367 billion traded in 11,116 deals; thus contributing 88.82 per cent and 67.10 per cent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively. The Industrial Goods industry followed with 102.535 million shares worth N2.236 billion in 1,148 deals. The third place was Consumer Goods industry with a turnover of 46.061 million shares worth N1.676 billion in 1,965 deals.

 

Trading in the top three equities namely, Jaiz Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc. (measured by volume) accounted for 1.118 billion shares worth N8.018 billion in 4,492 deals, contributing 54.18 per cent and 43.50 per cent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively.

 

 

Thirty equities appreciated in price during the week, lower than 27 equities in the previous week. Twenty eight equities depreciated in price, higher than 18 equities in the previous week, while 108 equities remained unchanged, lower than 121 equities recorded in the preceding week.

 

 

A total of 5,624 units valued at N177,580.70 were traded last week in five deals compared with a total of 1,830 units valued at N65,956.10 transacted the previous week in seven deals.

 

 

A total of 34,163 units of Federal Government Bonds valued at N39.269 million were traded last week in 15 deals compared with a total of 7,465 units valued at N8.165 million transacted the previous week in 44 deals.

 

 

Analysts at Cordros Capital, while reacting to the development, said: “In our view, the market is a reflection of investors’ views about the expectations for the economy given the still uninspiring macro story. Nonetheless, we expect the market might benefit over the short-term from recent policy directions as investors seek alpha-yielding opportunities in the face of lower yields in the fixed income market.”

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Oyetola: Osun has prepared the ground for interested investors

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Oyetola: Osun has prepared the ground for interested investors

Since coming on board in the last 15 months, His Excellency, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola has impacted tremendously in the fortune of Osun State, especially with regard to infrastructure development and social welfare enhancement. In this interview with a group of journalists, he speaks on the need for investors, both local and international, to take advantage of the enormous potential in the state as it remains one of the best places to invest at the moment.              Sunday Ojeme reports

 

 

Your administration is planning an economic summit specifically to attract investment. What are the resources driving this plan?

 

 

What we are trying to do here is to bring Osun to the entire world. We want to expose Osun to the world because the abundance of mineral resources may not have been known to people, especially investors. It is a question of trying to show what we have to the world. Some investors have already signed MoU with us on mining, and has even deposited huge amount of money. People don’t know what we have. They only know we have artisanal miners but they don’t know what we have. We have something to show the entire world, so it is not a talk show. Like I said earlier, the issue of 18 hour electricity supply is not known to a lot of people. It is a question of trying to show what we have to the entire world, and we are serious about it. People are showing interest but they actually don’t know all what we have. So we are serious about it and I can assure you that a lot will happen after this summit. We are trying to expose Osun to the entire community of investors. Unless you have the opportunity of knowing what goes on. In the past what you heard about Osun was half salaries and things like that, but we have a lot of potential in Osun, and Osun is a place to be in the areas of agriculture. Remember in the past, our state was the leading producer of cocoa, which used to be the major revenue earner for the western region at that time, even Nigeria. So, we have quite a lot of opportunities for agriculture.

 

 

We are blessed with abundant mineral resources. Quite a lot of them are there. There has been a lot of illegal mining, but what we are trying to do now is to regulate it and ensure we provide the enabling environment for investors to come around and invest in mining. Ditto environment, issue of waste to wealth; there are quite a lot of opportunities for investors to come around and invest. We also have the largest number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. In the area of culture and tourism, It is on record that we have the UNESCO Grove in Osun. Virtually everyone come from all around the world to come and have a look at what we have there, and in addition you have quite a lot of other tourist attraction site, Olubirin Water fall, natural fall for that matter. Quite a lot of these sites are available for investors.

 

 

What specific roles will government be playing to drive the process?

 

 

My attitude to business generally is that government has no business in business, so the best concept is to drive all these investments through PPP (public private partnership). So, we will create the enabling environment for people to come and invest. We have a very secure environment, our state has been adjudged to be the most peaceful state in Nigeria. In addition to that, we have also beefed up our security arrangement. We’ve just acquired about 20 additional vehicles in collaboration with the South West states that will be launched any moment from now. We recently built helipad to ensure surveillance of the entire state in the event of any crime being committed. In terms of the people, the people of Osun are very hospitable. The ease of doing business is there, we are ready to sign off issuance of C of O within 90 days from the time of processing to completion. The hiccups that we met have been clearly removed. So, we look at the totality of what we have, we have virtually created a good environment for business to thrive, and we have done that in line with our state development plan, which is based on four pillars economic development, infrastructure development, human capital development and security, and sustainable environment. All our programmes have been tuned to address all these areas, but in doing so, we have a lot of opportunities for investment.

 

 

What are the specific attractions for investors?

 

 

Osun is a place to be for a number of reasons. We have expanse of land for agriculture, our vegetation is very good for agriculture; like I said earlier, we have abundant mineral resources. We have not less than 10 mineral resources that are waiting for investors. What we have now are artisanal miners, but we want to properly regulate and encourage investors both local and international to come and invest. Again, we have a very secure environment. We place a lot of premium on security. Then we have not less than 18 hours of electricity supply everyday. Most of the companies that relocated to Ghana from Nigeria did that because of electricity, but they are not aware that in Osun we have at least 18 hours. We have a power distribution centre in Osun. Then we have the political will to guarantee your investment. I am from the private sector background. At least, I spent about 30 years of my post-graduate experience working in the private sector, so I know what it takes to ensure that you allow business to thrive, and in any case, it is the private sector that drives the economy. Government should always provide the enabling environment policies to ensure there is an opportunity to drive the economy. So, with all that I believe our state is the best state for investment. That is why we are going out to showcase what we have, the potential of Osun to the entire world.

 

 

What are the incentives on ground for likely investors?

 

 

The issue of incentive, if you talk of agriculture, for instance, we have a land bank where we have been able to have so much of the land available for investors. That will stop them from the troubles of going to the communities to start talking about land issues. Government will be providing land for investors. That is part of the incentives that should attract investors to come to us. Again, talking about agreement, we are a state that believes in the rule of law. Once agreements are made, they are binding on the government. Government is a continuum. Once an agreement is made, you keep to the agreement. So I don’t see any problem whether you spent only four years; once you make an agreement on behalf of the state, it is binding on whoever comes in after your tenure. Like I said earlier, there will be no problem with C of Os as it   will be sealed in 90 days.

 

 

How do you wish to regulate mining in the state without rendering the artisanal miners jobless?

 

 

When we talk of regulation it is just about doing things properly. If you leave them entirely to continue to do what they are doing, there will be a lot of destruction of the environment, again you might end up realizing that international investors might be discouraged if we don’t sanitise the sector, not by driving them away but you accommodate them by regulating their activities. As I speak, we are registering all miners in Osun to ensure we are able to flush out all the criminals that come under the guise of mining. That was the problem in Zamfara. Most of them came there for mining and became criminals. We want to ensure that does not happen in our case by ensuring that we register every miner in our state, whether artisanal or investor, so that we can at least know precisely whoever comes to do business in Osun is protected. So our case can never be like that of Zamfara. I think they left it pretty unregulated for too long a time. We have learnt from that and we are regulating right away from now. We are also working to protect the environment to forestall what is happening in the Niger Delta. The Federal Government has actually put up a presidential artisanal miner initiative and Osun and Kebbi are the pilot states. The intention is to actually encourage our youths to go into mining, and find a way of accommodating the artisanal miners, train them and even fund them. Even the Federal Government is trying to ensure that the artisanal miners are trained.

 

 

How are you guarding against people invading your mine sites illegally?

 

 

We have taken steps to guard against the normal conflict that is always around resource rich areas by mapping all the titles we have and do a proper enumeration of who is doing what and where. During the time of the Zamfara crisis, we have it that an average of 15,000 of these artisanal miners have migrated down south when they closed the mines in Zamfara. So the proactive step we took was to start enumeration, and via the enumeration, we have registered a few thousands of them right now. We are giving them an RFID enabled card. The RFID enables us to track who is doing what and exactly where. So they have their lands, called Seriki, who are their guarantors through which we can reach out to them. So that is ongoing. Part of the regulation is to ensure they won’t be left out of job but to increase their skill. Osun has academy, which is actually into vocational and technical centre for which we are proposing to designate one of such in the mining area around Osu, and it is fully equipped to train artisanal miners. It will interest you to know that in terms of readiness for investors, although mining is on the Exclusive List, Osun is one of the first few states that proactively reached out to the Federal Government and got its own mining titles and about the largest, currently in the entire country. It will interest you also to know that one private sector company is currently in Osun and has put the state on the global mining map.  It’s about the most recognised gold mining company in Nigeria. For the effort they have made, in one of their sites they have currently reported over 1.5 million ounces of gold, which in simple terms is over $2 billion worth of asset. We have about 16 mining titles for which about eight of are in Osun. We have other mining titles across Nigeria. Osun as a state is ready for business. In Zamfara, Niger, in Kaduan and even far in Ebonyi, we have titles that belong to Osun as a government to let you know we are ready for partners to come in. We are doing our resource estimate in partnership with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency. They are giving us tit bits on reserves that are available. However, we are partnering with investors that will do the proper exploration to determine the commercial quantity. In taking care of the environment, the MoU we are signing with partners, we are integrating the IFC, that is the World Bank international benchmark to contain environmental and social risks. Part of the things we are currently doing is studying the livelihood sustainability around our mine areas to ensure that the environmental risks are considered. Currently, we are speaking with the SMDF (Solid Mineral Development Fund).

 

 

Is there any form of industrial cluster in the state?

 

Talking about cluster, what we are trying to do and part of what we are trying to achieve with this summit is to see people who will be interested in investing in industrial parks where you have opportunities for business to be sited with some degree of amenities. So that is part of what we think we will be able to achieve after this summit. Another area is the free trade zone that we already have. That is already available for the investors to come in. They have all the amenities to start their business once they are ready. Talking about cocoa value chain and what we are doing, we have these cocoa industries where they produce cakes and cocoa butter. We recognize the fact that you need a kind of value chain. It is not enough for you to just export cocoa. There is need for all these agro allied industries in your state. It boosts revenue, it provides opportunity for employment and it is a win-win situation for us. So we are not just looking for people that will use our base for raw materials, we are already creating opportunity for value chain. That is part of what we are selling to the entire world.

 

 

In all of this, what are the infrastructures on ground in the state?

 

 

We have done so much in the area of infrastructure. Loans taken by the state were procured for infrastructure renewal. We have done so much in the area of infrastructure. If you have been to Osun of recent you will see a lot of improvement in that area. In addition to that, the Federal Government is constructing rail line that will pass through Osun to the north. So in terms of movement of goods and services, investors can do that by road and by rail.

 

 

What is your plan for the airport project in the state?

 

 

The airport was conceived even before we came in. It was supposed to be in partnership between the Federal Government and Osun as far back as the time of Governor Oyinyola. It was supposed to be a 50-50 arrangement. The Federal Government was supposed to put down 50 per cent while the state government put down 50 per cent. Osun started but Federal Government was not forthcoming. But realising the fact that if you want to encourage the movement of produce, particularly in creating a value chain, a cargo airport is desirable, that is what informed the previous administration to have gone into that. But what we are looking at is to get investors that want to take it over and we will give them 20 to25 years lease as the case may be. They develop it. It is like build, operate and transfer. So the government is not willing to put money into it other than what has been invested so far. Quite a lot of investors are showing interest. They want to partner with us to revive the airport. They believe it is viable. So they believe it is viable

 

 

Any relationship with donor agencies?

 

 

We have relationship with a lot of donor agencies. We are doing a lot with the World Bank, DFID; quite a lot. They are supporting us massively on a lot of things, both technical and grants.

 

 

Only recently, in the area of health, we have done so much. We are revitalizing 332 health centres across the state. That makes it one health centre per ward because we believe health is wealth. So these are some of the initiatives we have taken on our own, and we have been given awards by most of these agencies. We are partnering with them but it can never be enough.

 

 

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Lender identifies prospects in Nigeria’s £4bn gold market

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H

eritage Bank Plc has disclosed that Nigeria’s gold market is worth £4 billion with high prospects of profitability for all players in the subsector.

The MD/CEO, Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, who stated this at the Nigeria-Canada Investment Summit, held in Abuja, at the weekend, also disclosed that the enormous potential of the industry was one of the reasons the bank delved into mining sector despite enormous risks.

 

According to him, the bank has Dukia Gold as its partner that will facilitate access to local miners and artisans to get value for their commodity at international market price after being registered with Dukia Gold.

Sekibo, who was represented by the Team Lead, Agric Finance and Export, Adelana Ogunjirin, explained that prior to now, local miners of gold found it difficult to trade their commodities favourably but with the involvement of Dukia and its partner, Heritage Bank, a Quality-and-Quantity test will be conducted based on the arrangement they made with Dukia Gold and that will lead to additional value to the small holder miners.

 

He explained that this would leverage the small miners the opportunity to also trade their commodities at international market price.

 

He further stated that a metric tonne of gold was currently valued at $30million, adding that it is worth investing in the industry, especially as gold is a kind of commodity that does not easily lose its value.

 

He said: “Mining sector is an area which has not been fully tapped in terms of the potentials around it, as there are quite a lot of opportunities around that sector. Recently we secured $1 billion funding line with our funding partner AfreximBank, which also is to support areas like solid minerals.

 

“Now with respect to this we have looked at the value chain of this space and we have looked at the opportunities that are there. A lot of fund providers have not really delved into this and it is because of the lack of understanding of the market.

“In terms of value, gold is an area where you can enhance the value. You hardly see Gold losing value and you see that in different exchanges you even trade those commodities.

 

“Looking at it in terms of trend, you see that gold is something that will appreciate definitely. So in terms of the profitability of this business, we have looked at it, the crunch, the numbers we see that is a space that the Bank will definitely earn a lot of income.”

 

He also noted that other banks would like to come into the Nigerian mining sector, but may be studying to properly understand it.

 

“Definitely other banks will come into the sector. For us we are leading, but the truth is they need to play in an area and space that they understand, as not everybody would be able to play in that space.

 

“Heritage Bank has already carved a niche for itself in agribusiness space, just like the Gold commodity, this would be exported. So, in terms of export proceeds too, there are opportunities to be explored. Generally, looking at the Nigerian outlook, on the long run, this will also enhance the country’s external reserves. There are multiplier effects of what we are doing today and that is why we are also moving in this direction.”

 

Also speaking, Managing Director, Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Abba Bello, revealed that the bank had gone into high level discussions with heavy equipment manufacturers and suppliers that would lease equipment to miners for exploration and processing, adding that this was expected to make the equipment accessible and affordable.

 

Bello said: “For equipment supplier or outright purchase of equipment, we have gone into discussions with Bluecare and now Mantrac for the supply of heavy equipment for gold processing or exploration on lease basis and, it is something that does not exist currently within the industry.

 

“Barrick Gold and Bullion Mart is something that happens in the mining world. You don’t have to own the equipment, but there are vendors who supply the equipment for explorers to hire.

 

“Discussions have gone very far with the equipment suppliers and very soon we will announce the programme.”

Meanwhile, the Country Manager, ITM, Nigeria, Habibah Waziri, raised concerns on human resources development that would sustain the sector.

 

Waziri also said there is need to formalize the sector and also invest in human capital in the sector for growth and development.

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