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Bank accounts with BVN rise to 38m

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Bank accounts with BVN rise to 38m
  • 34.9m still unlinked

 

The number of Biometric Verification Number (BVN) linked accounts in the country rose to 38 million as at June 9 this year.
This, New Telegraph learnt, showed that about 600,000 accounts were linked in the last two months as the figure stood at 37.4 million in March ending.
However, based on the number of active bank accounts in the country, which was 72.9 million as at April, about 34.9 million active accounts are yet to be linked five years after the introduction of the banking security measure.
BVN is a unique number for customers of banks in Nigeria, which contains biometric details of customers, including the fingerprint of all 10 fingers and facial image. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Bankers’ Committee and in collaboration with all banks in Nigeria launched a centralised biometric identification system for the banking industry in 2014. The biometric identification was introduced to address identity theft, reduce exposure to fraud and enhance the banking industry’s chances of being able to fish out blacklisted customers, among others.
Analysis of data released by the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) showed that registration for BVN has been very slow compared with the rate of accounts being opened in the country. For instance, 2.04 million bank accounts were opened in the country between December 2018 and February 2019. According to NIBSS, the total number of bank accounts opened by Nigerians, which stood at 118.1 million as at the end of December last year, inched up to 118.9 million in January and rose to 120.1 million in February. By March, the number of bank accounts in the country rose to 120.9 million and in April, it hit 121.6 million.
Further breakdown of the data indicates that the number of active bank accounts also rose during the period, as it grew from 71.2 million in December last year, to 71.7 million in January and 73.5 million in February. In March, active accounts rose to 74 million but declined to 72.9 million in April.
While BVN is seen as a potent tool to fight corruption because every account owner can be identified and traced, industry analysts said it has led to increase in the number of inactive bank accounts and unclaimed funds in banks, as people with questionable sources of fund are unable to claim their accounts and link it with BVN. They noted that this is also responsible for the large number of accounts yet to be linked with BVN, adding that the figure may not likely reduce.
However, to increase the rate of enrolment for BVN, recent reports indicated that Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the recently announced plans to start freezing corporate accounts that do not have BVN details of all their signatories, Directors and beneficial owners. According to an email sent by a Tier 1 lender to its customers last week, the planned restriction on corporate accounts without requisite BVN details of all their Directors and signatories is in compliance with a directive issued by the CBN to lenders that all customers’ accounts should have the BVN details of all signatories, Directors as well as beneficial owners linked to their respective non-individual accounts.
Meanwhile, the apex bank also recently said it was planning to introduce a new mechanism, called the Global Standing Instruction, which would work with the BVN of depositors to detect bad borrowers who refuse to pay their loans but plans to take another loan from other unsuspecting banks. The regulator planned to introduce the mechanism this year.
The CBN said the GSI would bring out the credit history of any debtor who planned to borrow from any bank, and all Nigerian banks would be provided such information. The mechanism, it was learnt, would make it impossible for any borrower to get another loan from another bank without first repaying all outstanding loans.

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Report: US reaches deal in principle on trade with China

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Report: US reaches deal in principle on trade with China

The United States has reached a “phase-one” trade deal in principle with China, a source briefed on talks between the two nations said on Thursday, saying a statement from the White House was expected soon.

Trump was scheduled to huddle with his top trade advisers at 2:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) on Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told senators that announcements were possibly “imminent” on U.S. tariffs, senior Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters.

Bloomberg News was first to report a deal in principle had been reached.

U.S. negotiators have offered to reduce tariffs on about $375 billion in Chinese goods by 50% across the board, two people familiar with the negotiations said, and suspend tariffs on $160 billion in goods scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, reports Reuters.

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NDIC: Mobile money subscribers hit 9.25m in H1’19

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NDIC: Mobile money subscribers hit 9.25m in H1’19

The number of subscribers to the 23 mobile money operators (MMOs) in the country stood at 9.25million as at the first half of this year, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, has said.

He disclosed this at the 16th edition of the workshop for business editors and members of tmFinance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN), which ended in Yola yesterday.

Represented by Mohammed Kudu of the Communications and Public Affairs Department of the NDIC, Ibrahim cited the provision of Deposit Insurance Coverage (DIS) to subscribers of MMOs to maximum limit of ₦500,000.00 through the Pass-Through Deposit Insurance Framework, as one   of the significant reforms embarked upon by the corporation.

Another such reform, according to him,   is the NDIC’s extension of DIS coverage to micro finance banks (MFBs) and primary mortgage banks (PMBs).

He said: “In 2010, the maximum deposit insurance coverage was increased from N200,000 and N100,000 to N500,000 and N200,000 for deposit money banks (DMBs) and MFBs and PMBs, respectively. The coverage level for the PMBs was later reviewed upward to N500, 000.”

Other significant reforms embarked upon by the NDIC  during  the period, according  to Ibrahim,  are the development of Enterprise Risk Management, implementation of Differential Premium Assessment System (DPAS), Capacity Building in Risk-Based Supervision (RBS), deployment of a Performance Management System, enhanced Deb Recovery System and increased pay-out to both insured and uninsured depositors.

The NDIC boss also  stated that  as at June 30, 2019, the corporation received a total number of 35 petitions/complaints from  bank customers on various issues such as  Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fraud, unauthorised fund transfers  and cheque related  problems, adding  that  “investigations and mediation were carried out where necessary and customers were appropriately reprieved.”

In addition, he emphasised that following the issuance of the framework for licensing and regulation of payment service banks (PSBs) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which stipulated the extension of deposit insurance coverage to PSB depositors, the NDIC  would protect the depositors of PSBs and guarantee  to pay them N500,000.00 as insured sum in the event of  the financial institutions’ closure.

Noting that fintech and digital currencies were witnessing rapid deployment globally and in these parts, the NDIC chief executive pointed out that the corporation  in  August 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on experience sharing and capacity building with the Korean Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) and the Taiwan Central Deposit Insurance Corporation to further deepen the implementation of the DIS in Nigeria, adding that the MOU also aims to enhance the NDIC’s capacity to understand and supervise the fintech and the digital currencies phenomenon.”

He stated that the support of the media had been instrumental to the successful implementation of the DIS by the corporation since its inception 30 years ago, noting that “it is in recognition of the crucial and strategic role the media has to play in the actualisation of our own objectives that the NDIC has remained faithful in its support for the annual FICAN conference along with the editors’ forum.”

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PZ Cussons’ profit dips on weak consumer spending

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PZ Cussons’ profit dips on weak consumer spending

Cosmetics and soap maker, PZ Cussons Plc, reported lower half-yearly profits on Thursday due to weak consumer spending in its major markets.

The maker of Imperial Leather soap and Carex handwash also said Alex Kanellis, a company veteran, who has been at the helm for 13 years, would retire on Jan. 31.

The company is facing challenges both at home as well as in its African business that makes up more than a third of revenue, as Britons cut back on spending and demand for personal care brands dwindles in key African markets.

According to Reuters, PZ also reported lower revenue for the first half, but expressed optimism for the second half.

“A stronger second half is expected subject to no further worsening of the economic and trading environments across our key geographies,” the company said in a statement.

Still, full-year revenue and adjusted profit before tax is expected to be modestly below the prior year on a like-for-like basis, the company said.

Non-Executive Chair, Caroline Silver, will become executive chair following Kanellis’s exit, the company said, adding that it expected to find his successor in the first half of 2020.

Shares in PZ Cussons, which said it would provide an update on cost-saving measures at a later date, looked set to open five per cent lower on the London Stock Exchange, according to premarket indicators.

PZ Cussons Nigeria had early in the year denied reports that it is pulling out of Nigeria as reported by  some online medium.

In a statement issued  by PZ Cussons Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Christos Giannopoulos, he described the stories as false.

He said the headline was misleading and creating the impression that PZ had decided to leave the country.

The CEO explained that the trading statement issued to the London Stock Exchange was clear on PZ Cussons’ continued operations in Nigeria.

“While these conditions prevail, we will maintain our strong market shares in key product categories in Nigeria until growth returns to the market,” he stated.

“This year, 2019, we shall be celebrating 120 years of making life better and adding value to Nigeria.

“In our 120 years of doing business in Nigeria, we have faced different conditions and come out stronger at the end of each phase.

“We confirm to our shareholders, consumers, customers, employees, business partners and stakeholders that Nigeria still remains a market of interest for us and have made no plans to leave Nigeria. Our factories in Ikorodu, Aba and all our distribution centres around the country are operational and will continue to be,” the statement said.

The firm’s parent company in the UK has been issuing cautionary trading statements ahead of the release of its quarterly results as its business in Nigeria faced tough conditions due to weak consumer demand precipitated by a lingering recession.

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Christmas rush: Controversy over Nigerian rice re-bagging

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Christmas rush: Controversy over Nigerian rice re-bagging

Following massive rush to buy rice for Yuletide and New Year celebrations, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned business owners involved in sharp practices of revalidating expired rice and also repackaging Nigerian rice as foreign to desist from the act in the interest of the  economy. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

Already, the hierarchy of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) led by Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had raised the alarm over existence of expired rice in circulation.

Ali, who made this known when the customs destroyed containers of foreign rice smuggled into the country recently, warned that Nigerians were eating expired rice without knowing.

The comptroller-general blamed importers of the commodity for not saying the truth on the state of what was being imported into the country.

He, however, applauded the country’s border closure policy of the Federal Government, saying that the closure would benefit the nation in future.

However, despite the attempt to take the minds of Nigerians away from foreign rice consumption, it was learnt that the preference is still outweighing that of local rice as investigations carried out by this newspaper showed that Nigerians are desperately looking for foreign rice to buy for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Amid this mass rush for foreign rice by Nigerians, there are insinuations that business owners involved in the country’s rice value chain are now secretly bagging local rice with foreign labels and also jerking up the price tag following Nigerians preference for foreign commodity.

In fact, the fallout of rice conversion from local to foreign ones is mind blowing.

Why foreign rice patronage

Recently, a survey on the rice market across the six geo-political zones in the country by the Economic Confidential team observed that foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati were sold alongside Nigerian rice such as Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano, Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States among others.

The reason for the sale can be attributed to the fact that the desire for Nigerian rice is still low, thereby raising doubt as to Nigerians’ preferences for local rice.

Stakeholders in the rice sub-sector, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN) and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) had given kudos to the Central Bank of Nigeria for the timely intervention and banning of rice import into the country since 2015 without issuing of Form M, a development that has seen growth in local production, thereby saving foreign exchange for the country.

On-the-spot checks by the magazine showed that the preponderance of foreign rice in these markets by merchants who said that profits coming from foreign rice far out-weigh the local rice which majority of those interviewed believed has more nutritional value than the foreign rice.

However, what cannot be fathomed is why still preference for foreign rice by Nigerians despite the border closure, ban and aggressive local production of rice milling?

Locally fabricated rice de-stoner machine

Speaking on the changes that need to embrace by local millers to bring sanity to the country’s rice value chain, an agriculture expert, Mrs. Bridget Obi, charged the three tiers of government to embrace and adopt the locally fabricated rice de-stoner innovation machine to boost local rice production in Nigeria.

Obi, also the former Commissioner for Women Affairs and Youths Development in Anambra State, disclosed this at the unveiling ceremony of three agricultural devices by the Nigerian Association of Technologists in Engineering (NATE) in Oshodi, Lagos recently.

According to her, the agricultural devices were: scale down rice de-stoner,castor oil de-husking machine and automated mains failure device.

Obi pointed out that these rice machines would ensure accelerated production and reduces drudgery, especially in the processing of agricultural produces in the country.

“We don’t need to import rice again. The Federal Government should support various institutions to help in driving technology that will help our nation to achieve our agricultural goals. “Without technology, we can do nothing; it helps to save cost, manpower and man hour,” she added.

She said local rice production should henceforth be encouraged with the devices to assist in addressing the major challenge of local rice.

“With huge amount released by CBN toward increasing rice production, the NATE scale down rice de-stoner will increase mass production of quality rice to ensure availability in the farming communities. “I urge governments to give necessary assistance in ensuring mass production of the machines at subsidised rate.

“They should be made available to farmers at a very low interest rate with long term repayment plan,” Obi said.

NAFDAC’s warning

However, NAFDAC has read the riot act warning business owners involved in sharp practices of revalidating expired rice and repackaging local rice as foreign to desist from the act.

The Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Christiana Adeyeye, in a statement made available to New Telegraph recently, called on Nigerians to be vigilant, and exercise discretion when purchasing rice and other food items.

“NAFDAC is fully alive to her responsibilities of assuring the safety, wholesomeness and quality of foods and other regulated products offered for sale to the public,” she noted.

She said the Ogun State office of NAFDAC received a report from the Department of State Services (DSS) in the state of ongoing food fraud at Oke-Aje market in Ijebu Ode

“We, in company of men of the Nigeria Police Force proceeded to the scene of the illegal activity. On arrival, the suspected perpetrators of the food fraud instigated unnamed persons to unleash mayhem on the team of investigators

“However, enforcement officers of the agency and its Federal Task Force team stormed the market in company of DSS officials. They sighted miscreants at the market who took to their heels.

“Bags of expired rice, caked rice, bags of local rice, bags of popular foreign rice and sealing machines were found in the shops the NAFDAC enforcement team finally gained access into.

“Three shops were sealed during the operation. It is instructive to note that expired and caked rice are unwholesome as they contain moulds and microorganism that cause diseases which are of immense public health concern,” she added.

She called on Nigerians to report cases of re-bagging and sale of caked and expired rice or other food items to the nearest NAFDAC office across the federation.

Last line

With this disturbing report of re-bagging, sale of caked, expired rice or other food items in the country, it has shown that government needs to do more in its monitoring activities by extending its searchlight beyond borders as perpetrators are ready to make more gains on Nigerians through re-bagging of Nigerian rice as foreign ones.

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WISTA: NPA boss calls for improved female empowerment

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WISTA: NPA boss calls for improved female empowerment

The Managing Director, Nigerian Port Authority, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, has called on women in maritime sector under the aegis of Women in International Shipping and Trade Association (WISTA) to work towards balancing gender gap in the work place.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the association in Lagos, Bala-Usman, who was represented by Dr. Chinwe Abama, said that pursuing gender balancing would enable women to get fair advancement that commensurates with their qualifications and experience.

“When a woman is empowered, you are invariably empowering a whole generation that will benefit from the quality of leadership that is exceptional and unique to women.

“The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as ensuring in SDG (4,5,8,.10) aim for inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all; Gender quality and empowerment of women and girls; Decent work and economic growth; Reducing inequality in the lives of women.

“Emphasis should be laid on innovation by enabling women discover themselves, build personal and corporate brands, identity that differentiate them in society making them not only unique and authentic but visible to rise into role of leadership and influential position,” Bala-Usman said.

She maintained that women were not asking for equality in terms of power with men but are earnestly calling for equal opportunities, adding that women were special gift from the unfathomable unknown and are greatly endowed with special qualities.

She further argued that there was evidence to show that institutions with more women leaders have better performance and achieve higher economic growth.

Also speaking , Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Dame Pauline Tallen said that the most effective approach towards balancing the gender gap in maritime participation was to ensure qualitative priority education of the girl child, particularly in terms of equal opportunities at the developmental level.

According to her, “this explains my priority focus on girl-child education as the fulcrum for balancing the gender gap in the society.

“And to achieve this, we are collaborating with the ministry of education to promote enrolment, retention and completion rate of girls in schools at all levels.

WISTA also unveiled its first ever magazine, a development which Pauline noted and lauded, saying that women operating in the nation’s maritime industry may become the bedrock on which genders equality in Nigeria may one day, lean on.

“It is heartwarming to note that the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, Nigeria, is driving the vision of creating a credible platform for women in this sector to network and forge stronger partnerships.

“For this, I salute the leadership of the organization and encourage you to sustain the momentum.

“The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality. Therefore, balancing gender gap in the maritime sector connotes that there is inequality in opportunities and need to be rectified.

“It requires that from the onset young girls receive quality education to prepare them to make the rightful choices in life; especially in careers in maritime,” she said.

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Oil workers parley to tackle challenges

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Oil workers parley to tackle challenges

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and Petroleum Dealers Association of Nigeria (PEDAN) are collaborating to tackle challenges confronting members in the downstream sector.

Among the challenges is a plea for the international oil companies (IOCs) to look into their rebate, which they describe as presently very low.

PEDAN team led by Hamlet Emman solicited NUPENG’s assistance in this regard during a recent visit of the leadership of the Interim PEDAN to NUPENG Secretariat in Lagos.

Reiterating the union’s support and assistance to the Association, Williams Akporeha, President of NUPENG, urged that they embrace workers’ right to unionisation at their various filling stations.

Akporeha, however, said that NUPENG has commenced negotiation with Nexen Petroleum Ltd. in furtherance of its commitment to social dialogue.

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Unemployment: ILO restates importance of Nigerian forum

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Unemployment: ILO restates importance of Nigerian forum

Following the growing youth unemployment in Africa, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has declared that the forum organised in Nigeria in August was apt to address the unfortunate development.

Speaking on the challenges facing Africa as regards unemployment at the 14th African Regional Meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Director-General, (ILO) Guy Ryder, said that despite opportunities to be proud of within the continent, a number of challenges are also there to contend with.

According to him, “our meeting is taking place at a time when the global economy is stalling: estimates for next year will show growth to be only three per cent worldwide, and about 4 percent to the continent. It is in this context that the challenge of employment in Africa will have to be met: to create 26 million productive jobs every year in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It is also in this context that the $68 billion annual financing gap will have to be filled in order to finance the investments needed to make universal social protection a reality in Africa.”

The ILO boss said that it was estimated that by 2035 the labor force would grow by more than 60 per cent in Africa, adding that “it is a tremendous demographic dividend for growth and development, provided that all the jobs that it needs can be created, without which this development will lead to more economic, social and migratory pressures.

“That is why it was particularly timely for Nigeria to host the Global Forum on Youth Employment in Abuja in August, and I was very pleased to be able to participate.”

He pointed out that new technologies opened up entirely new perspectives for development in Africa, with real breakthroughs if these technologies can be applied and deployed successfully.

“However, the danger is that digital divide and marginalization will become worse if the necessary investments and innovation are lacking.

“Africa has a unique renewable energy potential, which gives it an extraordinary advantage in the transition more than ever necessary to climate neutrality. At the same time, we are witnessing the continent’s vulnerability to climate change, which gives rise to fears of large-scale population displacement and the destruction of their livelihoods.

“Experience has shown us that the benefits globalization brings to Africa depend entirely on the conditions in which it integrates into the global systems of trade, investment, finance, migration and technologies. Hence, ladies and gentlemen, the imperative need to strengthen the global foundations for sustainable, balanced and just development for Africa’s future prosperity.

“This is to say how important are the issues of the discussions that we will have this week here in Abidjan. It is about how to apply in Africa the approach to the future of human-centered work enshrined in the Declaration of the Centenary adopted in June by the International Labor Conference.”

On her part, the ILO’s head of employment and labour markets, Sukti Dasgupta, described the youth unemployment crisis in Africa as a reflection of ineffective development strategies, saying that serious and honest political will was needed to avoid a disaster.

Of the over 226 million youth on the continent, 13.4 million are unemployed, while 52.2 million are not in employment education or training.

Dasgupta said the biggest problem that has exacerbated the youth unemployment crisis was a lack of opportunities and that drastic action is needed to fix this.

“There is a time bomb about to explode, I would say. The number of youth in the labour market is rising. By 2040 you will have a labour force size on the African continent which will be the combined size of the labour market in India and China,” she noted.

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Pressure mounts on govt to tax vacant properties

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Pressure mounts on govt to tax vacant properties

As one of the remedies to check money laundering and corruption in the country, both federal  and state government have been urged to tax all vacant houses  in most value precincts and communities across Nigeria.

According to real estate professionals under the auspices of Society for Professional Valuation (SPV), more than 80 per cent of proceeds of corruption in the country find their way into real estate, hence the  need to tax  vacant houses that have remained in the market in the last two to seven years.

Leading the call  to  commemorate the United Nations (UN) Global Anti-Corruption in Lagos, Chairman of SPV, Mr. Sola Enitan, stated that government would need to send tax notifications to owners of  these properties once the vacant period exceeds one year.

He said: “In most high value precincts and communities in Nigeria, large swathes of vacant homes exist with the owners uncaring and unperturbed about the long- vacancies of the properties running into years.

“Government should realise that these are symphony of money laundering and such properties ought to be taxed to ensure that they are engaged in productive occupation.”

The SPV boss advised Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies to upscale their efforts in the fight against money laundering in the country.

He pointed out that effects of the scourge on economic growth among others included loss of economic policy, erosion of financial institution systems, weakening of the financial sectors and evasion of tax.

New Telegraph gathered that most of these buildings, which have stayed more than five to eight years unoccupied, are located in exclusive quarters of Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki in Lagos; Maitaima, Asokoro, in Abuja and other locations in the federation.

Secretary and Public Relations Officer of the association, Isaac Fabiyi and Adetokunbo Fakeye respectively, said Nigeria had been described as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, adding that pervasive corruption in Nigeria constituted a major threat and underlined most of the money laundering cases reported in recent time.

For over 27 years, they noted that government had committed itself to combating corruption and money laundering to set the stage in confronting the menace on economic activities, and to comply with the Vienna Convention.

Enitan further listed some causes and methodologies of money laundering in Nigeria, pointing out that the menace had the tradition of eroding financial institutions and weakening the financial sector’s role in economic growth.

“It has the habit of facilitating corruption, crime and other illegal activities at the expense of the country development and increase the risk of macroeconomic instability,” he said.

Suggesting ways out, Enitan urged government to make asset declaration by public officials a must before and after their term in office, adding that an independent body such as Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should ensure their asset declaration was true and made public.

“Pre and post-construction development appraisal ought to be done to clear issues of over and under invoicing,” he stated.

Besides, he stated  that procurement officers from public and private institutions should be held accountable through professional certification and strict ethical conduct.

He called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to establish an online land registry to which a catalogue of all titled properties nationwide will be seated, where owners of lands and properties will be known with cover ups exposed and their sources of wealth fully disclosed.

Besides, he urged EFCC to work with other international intelligence agencies to report suspicious movement of funds in accounts suspected of belonging to Nigerians across the globe, adding that all suspicious transactions be reported to the appropriate authorities.

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Rice: Integrated millers boost production value to N288bn

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Rice: Integrated millers boost production value to N288bn

Deficit crashes by 64.3%

As consumption climbed to N1.2billion daily, value of rice production by integrated mills in Nigeria has increased by 1.8million tonnes or N288billion this year.

The boost in production has made the grain fall by 64.28 per cent from 2.8million tonnes to one million tonnes.

It was learnt that Nigeria currently boasts of 40 integrated milling machines of world standard procured through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme.

After the border closure, Nigeria suddenly experience rise in milled rice production from 4.9million tonnes to 6.7million tonnes. Currently, a bag of the grain is N16,000 in the market.

Before August, 2019, milled rice production had fallen by 800,000 metric tonnes from 5.7million tonnes to 4.9million tonnes despite CBN’s N55billion anchor borrowers support.

According to the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RPAN), the 1.8million tonnes produced by the integrated mills are different from millions of metric tonnes produced annually by small scale millers and local millers.

The processors noted that they had the capacity to meet the country’s demand during and beyond the Yuletide.

The Chairman of the association, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, noted that the positive impact of the Federal Government’s border closure was responsible for the huge production, saying that it was enormous to the rice millers.

He explained that the combined capacity of integrated mills produced about 150,000 truck load of rice on a daily basis and 1.8 million metric tonnes annually.

Abubakar said in Abuja that the figure was different from millions of metric tonnes produced annually by small scale millers and local millers.

The chairman stressed that there would be no scarcity of rice during the Christmas period as there would be enough supply of rice in the country.

He noted the country relied on one mill in operation for 10 year until recently rice processing was up to 40.

Abubakar added that before the border closure, members of the association had been complaining that they could not sell the grain in their various warehouses.

However, the chairman explained that they had exhausted their stock, noting that that some RPAN members, who closed their factories due to lack of patronage, were now back in business because of border closure.

The chairman said that he had gone to CBN on behalf of his members to seek grants for expansion of their rice business.

Farmers in Ghana under the aegis of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) have also advised their government to adopt the Nigerian model of ban by making it immediate instead of waiting for 2022.

The Association in a statement signed by Abdul- Rahman Mohammed, National President and Board Chairman of PFAG called for a show of commitment and steps to be put in place for immediate ban rather than wait until 2022.

It said adopting Nigeria’s food importation ban concept would not only help to reduce Ghana’s import bill but create employment opportunities in Ghana and stabilise the cedi.

In 2018, top rice importers, like Olam and Stallion, embarked on rice cultivation to remain in business as Federal Government concluded plans to end importation of the grain.

Major rice merchants, Dangote Group,  Stallion Group,  Olam International,  Cosharis Group and Miva, have invested  $1billion (N360billion), N50billion,  N20 billion,  N2billion and NI.369 billion respectively to acquire farms and mills to end the nation’s huge import bill  on the grain running into $3billion annually.

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FAO restates commitment to curbing soil erosion

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The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has revealed that it is throwing its full weight behind Nigeria in the face of environmental challenges in nthe country.

It says that it will extend technical support to mitigate soil erosion and environmental degradation risks across the country.

FAO’s Representative in Nigeria, Suffyan Koroma, reiterated the agency’s will at the ‘Experts Dialogue’ organized by the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS) in partnership with the FAO and the Soil Science Society of Nigeria, to commemorate the World Soil Day recently. 

According to Koroma, the FAO is committed to working with the government and private organizations to curb land degradation, promote soil conservation, improve soil fertility and productivity and promote food security.

He identified that Nigeria had the highest rate of deforestation of primary forest in Africa with annual losses estimated at 11.1 per cent.

He also noted that desertification in northern Nigeria was consistently advancing at the rate of 0.6 kilometers per annum, with as much as 351,000 square kilometers regarded as potential desertification.

In his words: “To reduce erosion rates on farmlands, reliable and proven soil conservation technologies must be adopted and these include ridge planting, no-till cultivation, crop rotation, mulches, living mulches, agro-forestry, terracing, contour planting, cover cropping and installation of windbreaks.”

Against this backdrop, Koroma revealed that the FAO had reinforced its effort and commitment alongside NISS to protect Nigeria’s soil, increase agricultural production and ensure a secured future for the coming generation.

He further entreated all organisations to work together in effecting soil erosion management and control in future project plans with a specific budget line, adding that there is a need to ensure that people have safe and nutritious food without endangering essential ecosystem services.

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