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We’re working on regulations for crypto assets – SEC DG

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We’re working on regulations for crypto assets – SEC DG

Acting Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Mary Uduk in this interview, speaks on the state of Nigeria’s capital market and the efforts of the Commission to help boost investors’ confidence, Chris Ugwu was there.

 

What is the position of the SEC in regulating crypto currencies?

In the last Capital Market Committee (CMC) meeting we talked about it and inaugurated a committee in respect of FinTech. The committee was charged with coming up with a FinTech Road map on the capital market community and we also informed you that we now have a dedicated Division in the Commission on that.

The committee is working assiduously to decide what regulations we can make in this area. The Commission has the mandate to protect investors. We know that crypto assets are volatile unlike ordinary assets. Since January 2017, we have been asking investors to be vigilant when it comes to that area. We don’t want to get in the way on innovation. Regulators across the globe are paying attention to what is happening in this sphere.

On the one hand, they want to protect investors and on the other hand they want to support innovation. On all fronts, SEC is looking at development in the FinTech space.

There is also an on-going collaboration led by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), there is an inter-agency committee on virtual currencies on which SEC is working with other market operators. In no distant time, SEC will come up with regulations on crypto currencies. We are embarking on investor education so that investors understand what it is all about.

 

The gambling industry is doing very well, is the SEC looking at introducing a product that will allow youths to invest money as is done in some advanced countries?

We presently do not have any laws on gambling, but we have mutual funds and it covers every asset in the capital market. Whether it is money market, insurance, capital market, real estate, infrastructure among others, the youths can invest in these, rather than leave your money in savings account, you can invest in mutual funds. It runs like savings account and after three months, you can withdraw your money same way as you do with the banks. We don’t have to go and gamble, you need to let them know that there are so many products in the capital market that they can invest in rather than going to gamble and losing their money.

We have various products that are very attractive where they can invest their money. We have commenced investor education and enlightenment for Nigerians to understand the benefit of these funds, which gives more interest that saving money in bank account.

 

NSE has been down; does it mean investors do not have confidence in the market?

Market depends on several factors- some are global and others are domestic. Some are industrial and some has to do with the company’s performance. You can see sectors that are doing better; you can also see specific sectors that are not. Around election, its possible people have different expectations, some want to keep their money, some sell their shares to vie for political office, but as elections are over, we expect that some of those people that withdrew prior to elections will come back to the market. Around elections in the history of Nigeria, we will see that there is usually a lull in the market. The statistics are not that bad, the day after the elections, the market actually moved up and around sub-national elections we saw that market came down a bit.

There was a time we did 42 per cent and there was also a time we did -17 per cent, there would always be sentiments. What is very important about the market is that in the long run even though you have fluctuations, do you have something that is looking upwards? The stock exchange index started in 1984 with 100, today we are in over 30,000. There will definitely be ups and downs.

 

How strong has NSE been and what has been the contribution of the market to the Nigerian economy?

 

In terms of the contribution of the market to the economy, we can look at it in terms of capitalization ratio as well as how many new issuances were made in the market. We know capitalization ratio has increased; it should be about 21 to 22 per cent when you talk about equities and bonds. Last year, we were able to make more corporate bond issuance than the previous year. In 2017 we did about N23 billion and in 2018 we did about N323 billion. Going forward, we are hoping to do better.

 

Given the fact that we are working to reduce transaction cost as well as time to market, we also advice sub-nationals to come to the market so that we can have new issuances in the market. We have seen quite a number of activities in the bond segment recently and we are hoping that we will see more in the equities segment too. Not just private placement and Rights Issue, we also hope we will see more of Initial Public Offerings (IPO).

 

How many people have requested for the e-dividend and how many mandated accounts do we have and what is the quantum of unclaimed dividends?

About one year ago, SEC stopped the free registration exercise, specifically 31st of March 2018. At that time, 2.2 million investors had mandated. It is interesting to observe that just because the free registration stopped, members of the pubic appear not to come forward again. As at the last CMC meeting, only about 2.7 million investors had mandated their accounts.

 

There is a strategy that is going to be reviewed and developed by the market in concert with the banks and registrars to entice investors. The fee for every approved mandate is N150, but investors are not going to be asked to pay the amount before they are   registered. If you have 120 accounts, you just mandate them company by company and the only thing you will pay per company is N150 even if you have dividend of up to N200, 000. It is just a processing fee for maintaining the portal and investors are not to be asked to pay at the point. Please encourage them to proceed to their banks and register.

We believe that by the time we are giving report next, we would have improved.

Unclaimed dividend in the market is being tackled in minimum of two solid approaches. One of them is e-dividend. For every account that is mandated all accrued dividends is automatically paid. Then there is the use of regularization of multiple accounts. We discovered that while dividend is growing and it is increasing unclaimed dividends, the pace is not as satisfactory as when we observe that multiple accounts, which have not been claimed for many years are still being paid dividends. Those people that have multiple accounts can only lay claim on dividends in one account, all the others will keep warehousing dividends as long as they are not regularized.

We want to see how far the registrars can go in regularizing the multiple accounts so that we can have a specific figure for the unclaimed dividends.

We have a provision in Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) that if unclaimed dividends stay for a specified time, those dividends should be returned to the paying company and that is what the Commission is doing. Now any unclaimed dividends, which is 15 months and above is returned to the paying company. That way the shareholders also benefit as those money could be invested by the company and result in more interest for the shareholders.

Recently you gave a directive on fidelity bond, what is the level of compliance?

Fidelity bond is one of the requirements for all market operators; they have to file fidelity bonds every year. It runs from January to December of every calendar year. We observed that some people were not complying hence we issued a circular. In that circular, the management gave a reprieve of 45 days. We have started compiling the list of those that have not filed, those that filed after the date that we gave as the deadline. All of those persons will be sanctioned according to the provisions of the law.

What’s the update on margin loans so we don’t have the kind of abuses we saw prior to 2008? What is the level of discussion with CBN so that processes are not abused?

Actually when there were such abuses, we did not have a comprehensive margin loans laws but now we have specific rules.

After the meltdown, SEC and CBN came up with a rule on margin loans and it was after that we came up with comprehensive rules on margin loans. But after the issuance of the rules, we discovered that there were almost zero activities on margin loans. That is why the market suggested that it appears the rules were too stringent and suggested the need to look at the rules again with possibility of amending it. Due to our experience of the past we excluded banking shares from the list of margin loans but we also found out that in other jurisdictions you can give loans to buy bank shares. Due to that we now started engaging with CBN, the engagement is still going on and we believe that at the end of the day we will be able to amend our rules.

 

Market operators have been yearning for derivatives and ETFs, have there been training for those that will drive the process of course?

Derivatives are a very good product to be in the market. As we speak, the Rule on Derivatives will be ready soon and we have been building capacity in-house in partnership with South Korea. We have a Knowledge Sharing programme with them, they have been to the country twice now and our staff are scheduled to travel to their country for more training. Even their ambassador has been to the Commission and all of that are part of building capacity and training the staffs.

Even in the market, NSE is doing a lot in the area as well as the FMDQ who are taking some people to India this month on capacity building. All stakeholders including CBN, have been joining hands together to ensure that we get it right.

SEC recently held maiden awards for the Committees in the capital market, is there plan to sustain it?

My only regret is that the award took this long to hold. The reason being that the regulator cannot work on its own; we require the support of the capital market operators who are one of the most important stakeholders in the market.

I have been in this market for a while and I know that capital market operators are key stakeholders to the development and growth in the market. They have been there over the years. They are helping as much as they can to ensure the market is revived and they are doing that in partnership with the SEC.

If we did not have their cooperation and partnership it would have been difficult. And a lot of the time they work with us pro bono.

We set up these committees after the launch of the 10-year capital market master plan. A lot of them work in the various committees pro bono. Sometimes they have to travel and they do so at their expense. They bring their experiences to bear in the work that they do and we thought that it was important to let them know that we appreciate all that they do. We thought it was important to let them know that we appreciate what they do and we think it is the beginning of such partnership in the market.

 

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Energy

Saudi Aramco prices shares at top of range in world’s biggest IPO

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Saudi Aramco prices shares at top of range in world’s biggest IPO

State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) will be the biggest in history, but will fall short of the towering $2 trillion valuation long sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the top of its indicative range, the company said in a statement, raising $25.6 billion and beating Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (BABA.N) record $25 billion listing in 2014.

At that level, Aramco has a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, comfortably overtaking Apple Inc (AAPL.O) as the world’s most valuable listed firm. But the listing, expected later this month on the Riyadh stock exchange, is a far cry from the blockbuster debut originally envisaged by the Crown Prince, reports Reuters.

Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market but two sources said it was scheduled for Dec. 11.

Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.

Demand from institutional investors, including Saudi funds and companies, reached $106 billion, while retail investment’s demand hit $12.6 billion.

Around 4.9 million Saudi retail investors have bought shares in the oil giant, including 2.3 million aged between 31-45.

Aramco’s advisors said they may partly or fully exercise a 15% “greenshoe” option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4 billion.

The pricing comes as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is gearing up to deepen oil supply cuts to support prices, provided it can strike a deal later this week with allies such as Russia.

Climate change concerns, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency put foreign investors off the offering, forcing the kingdom to ditch ambitions to raise as much as $100 billion via an international and domestic listing of a 5% stake.

Even at a $1.7 trillion valuation, international institutions baulked, prompting Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a 1.5% stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks offered citizens cheap credit to bid for shares.

DIVERSIFY FROM OIL

The IPO is the culmination of a years-long effort to sell a portion of the world’s most profitable company and raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil and create jobs for a growing population.

“The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

“Nevertheless, combined with other areas of funding, we believe that there is meaningful capital in place to progress with the investment plans aimed at diversifying the economy.”

The government promoted the investment as a patriotic duty, particularly after Aramco’s oil facilities were attacked in September, temporarily halving the kingdom’s oil output.

Despite the official push and offer of loans to fund share purchases, interest was relatively muted compared with other emerging market IPOs, including the listing of a top Saudi bank in 2014 which was oversubscribed many times over.

Alibaba’s listing in Hong Kong this month had bids for 40 times the number of shares on offer.

Sources have said the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), sovereign wealth funds of two of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf allies, planned to invest in the deal. ADIA declined to comment, while KIA did not respond to requests for comment.

Saudi citizens were offered 0.5% of the company or about a third of the offering, an unprecedented retail offering compared with previous Saudi IPOs.

Aramco has planned a dividend of $75 billion for 2020, more than five times larger than Apple’s payout, which is already among the biggest of any S&P 500 company.

But investing in Aramco is also a bet on the price of oil and growth in global demand for crude, which is expected to slow from 2025 as steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are rolled out and the use of electric vehicles increases.

The IPO also carries political risk as the Saudi government, which relies on Aramco for the bulk of revenues, controls the company.

Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and for its role in a war in Yemen.

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Fowler: Digital space key to revenue generation

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Fowler: Digital space key to revenue generation

Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has described digital space as the new gold in revenue generation. Fowler said this yesterday in his opening remarks at the third Annual Nigeria Tax Research Network Conference holding at the FIRS Training School in Durumi, Abuja.

The conference is themed: “Revenue Challenges Online and Offline: Bridging the Digital divide in an Analogue Economy.” According to the FIRS boss, it is important that the service improves its capacity in the taxation of economic activities within the digital space.

Towards this, Fowler said the FIRS had deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of improving transparency as well as easing speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and administrators. “The volume of economic activities associated with businesses like Uber, Amazon and our own Jumia and Interswitch is further confirmation of the aptness of the theme. “To put it in clear terms, the digital space is new ‘gold’ in terms of revenue generation, and tax administration must be alive to this fact.

“It is with this in mind that FIRS has designed and deployed electronic tax services (e-services) to ensure the automation of tax processes for the purpose of the improvement of transparency, ease and speed of tax administration for both taxpayers and tax administrators.

“These e-services have in no small way contributed to the successes recorded in the last two years amidst an economy characterised by the effect and aftermath of recession,” Fowler said. According to him, the e-services, are e-Registration for registration of new taxpayers; e-Stamp duty for payment of stamp duties on qualifying documents; e-TaxPayment for payment of all taxes of the Federal Government using Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Remita or Interswitch; e-Receipt for receiving and verifying e-receipts generated for taxes paid through the new e-TaxPayment. Others are e-Filing, which enables taxpayers file their tax returns through Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS); and e-TCC platform, which enables taxpayers apply for, receive and verify authenticity of their electronic tax clearance certificates (e-TCC).

Fowler stated that the conference was an opportunity for tax administrators to brainstorm on new ideas to broaden the tax net as well as strategise on optimal service delivery. The conference, according to him, is also for the discussion of current ideas, new trends and future prospects of revenue collection. “This conference, like others before it, presents us with an opportunity to brainstorm and articulate initiatives for the broadening of the tax net and strategies geared towards ensuring optimised service delivery.

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Access Bank donates facility to police

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Access Bank donates facility to police

Access Bank Plc has donated an interrogation room to the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) at Alagbon, Lagos. In addition to the fully equipped facility, the bank also donated a 250 KVA generator to the force to help improve their working conditions and that of neighbouring communities.

The Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc., Herbert Wigwe, who was represented at the commissioning by the Group Head, Enterprise Business Resources, Mac Atom, spoke on the bank’s motive and commitment to corporate social responsibility.

“Partnerships and social investment remains a critical part of Access Bank’s sustainability drive. In our bid to offer more than banking and create value for various government agencies, we have donated state of the art interrogation and observation rooms to select divisions of the Nigerian Police Force across the country, starting with Lagos. “We thank the NPF for all they do, especially for seeing to it that all our customers remain protected and secure,” he said. Speaking on behalf of the NPF, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Annex, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Murtala Mani, expressed gratitude for the donation and urged other private organisations to follow Access Bank’s blueprint in offering support to the Force. Over the years, the bank’s sustainability focus areas and community investment include education, health, gender equality, arts, and sports – demonstrating its commitment to channeling noteworthy resources and funds into impacting citizens positively and responsibly.

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Border closure: Spurring rise in rice milling plants

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Border closure: Spurring rise in rice milling plants

It is reported that the Federal Government’s decision to partially close the country’s land borders since August this year is already yielding fruits in rice value chain with more rice milling plants springing up nationwide. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

The Yuletide season is around the corner and all eyes are on the country’s rice sector as processors and merchants are going to step up to meet demand for the number one staple food of many Nigerians. 

There is no doubt that the border closure has cleared the way for rice millers and producers in the country to produce abundant rice for consumption at a period smuggling of the commodity has drastically reduced.

However, against all odd, reports have, however, showed that hundreds of rice milling plants have sprung up in the country, while those that were moribund are now being reactivated in many rice-producing states.

A number of rice millers are now floating milling plants by adding to their production lines in a bid to ensure sufficiency and also key into government’s diversification agenda to promote agriculture.

Genesis

For the record, Nigeria is now a rice producing nation following Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB), which has opened gateway of opportunities for the development in the country.

The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would be remembered for the active role it played towards sustainable development of rice production in Nigeria.

At the launch of ABP scheme on rice development at Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State in 2015, there were lots of doubts among some sections of Nigerians about government’s capability to deliver on its promises on developmental project in the country.

Emphatically, the Anchor Borrowers Programme has been a success story in all ramifications and it is even being replicated in some neighbouring countries.

In 2015, at a Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) in Abuja, it was agreed that to float rice APB to be managed by the apex bank, with focus to attain self-sufficiency in rice production.

Rice millers’ impact

Following Federal Government’s intention to ban rice importation in favour of local rice production, there has been aggressive move by private sector–led firms to invest in rice mills.

Particularly, many rice millers have commenced rice cultivation in line with government’s policy to ensure sufficiency in the country by year end.

Some of the major rice milling companies in the country that have heeded the clarion call have intensified their efforts to see that more rice mills are established in the country to meet national demand.

These rice companies include Olam Nigeria Limited owned by Stallion Group, WACOT rice mill, Dangote rice mill, Sunti Rice Limited, a subsidiary of FMN Plc, Miva rice mill and BUA rice mill.

Others are Umza Rice, Ebonyi Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Mill Limited, Coscharis Farms Limited and others.   

Dangote Group is also planning to establish a multi-billion naira rice processing mill in Hadin, Jigawa State. The Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, who laid the foundation stone for the construction of the mill, said it had the capacity to process 16 metric tons of paddy rice per hour when completed.

He said that in a year, the mill would process paddy rice worth N14billion, bought directly from famers in Jigawa at market rate.

Apart from the large millers, there are many medium-scale ones upgrading their facilities to strengthen production. They include NFG-CS Rice Mill in Ga’ate and many more in Lafia and Doma in Nasarawa State; Ogoja Rice Mill in Cross River.

Recently, the management of Tiamin Rice Mill Limited disclosed that about $13,370,500 was invested to boost its production capacity from the current 320 tonnes to 1,520 tonnes per day.

The Managing Director of the company, Aminu Ahmed, explained that the policy of the current administration, especially the ban on smuggling and the interventions given to them by CBN, had helped immensely in boosting local production of rice.

He also revealed that the company was established in 2016 in Kano and started production of rice in 2018 with 320 tonnes per day.

Ahmed disclosed that the existing production line in Kano would be expanded from 320 tonnes to 920 tonnes next year, just as a new production line would start production of 600 tonnes per day in Bauchi by May 2020.

New rice mills

In order to sustain the momentum in rice production, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N10.7 billion for the construction of 10 new rice mills to sustain the actualisation of rice-sufficiency programme last year.

Speaking at the press briefing after the council’s meeting, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, Heneiken Lokpobiri, said FEC approved the establishment of 10 rice mills with capacity to produce 100 tonnes per day, which would be managed by private rice millers.

Lokpobiri said the FEC approved the construction of 10 large rice mills to boost the milling capacity of rice value chain in the country.

“A few years ago it was reported that this country needs a minimum of 100 large rice mills. As of today we have about, 21, but the Federal Government in its wisdom decided that today we should approve the establishment of 10 at the total cost of N10.7 billion,” he added.

According to the former minister, the rice mills would be given to the private sector for proper management as they would pay back within a given time frame as agreed between the Bank of Agriculture and the rice millers.

Lokpobiri noted that the mills wouldbe located in Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Ogun, Niger and Bauchi states.

Last line

With brisk business at full swing for local rice millers at this period despite challenges of sophisticated equipment to improve on paddy processing, some agric experts still doubt the capacity of the rice millers to meet national demand.

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Bank lauded for supporting young entrepreneurs

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Bank lauded for supporting young entrepreneurs

Ecobank Nigeria has been commended for supporting budding entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

The bank got the commendation for giving weight to young entrepreneurs who were selected as beneficiaries of the ‘Unusual Entrepreneurs” programme, an initiative of the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki Lagos.

Speaking at the presentation of cheques to the 251 young entrepreneurs, the Parish Priest, Monsignor Pascal Nweazeapu, said this action by Ecobank showed a clear alignment to the vision of supporting employment amongst the teeming youth population in the country.

He noted that the scheme was initiated to empower those who show demonstrable interest in business to enable them bring the ideas to fruition. The beneficiaries were given seed funding ranging from N50,000 to N1million to start their businesses.

Also speaking, Chairman of Unusual Entrepreneurs Committee and President of Transcorp Hotel, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, said the ‘Unusual Entrepreneurs’ programme was to empower the participants to grow their businesses, improve their economic status and fend for themselves and their families and also contribute meaningfully to nation’s economy.

Ozigbo added: “The essence is to be able to empower men and women economically as they are also filled spiritually. We believe that with this combination, they would have more reason to believe and trust in God.

“But beyond that, they are able to fend for themselves, and those around them. We want them to run successful businesses, hence we matched them with mentors; people who have been so well established in what they do. So basically, they handhold them, watch them all through the journey, and we have seen a lot of testimonies already. We are highly delighted that Ecobank is partnering with us in this laudable initiative.’’

In his comment the Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan pledged the bank’s continuous support to budding entrepreneurs to enable them grow and nurture their businesses to support the rapid development of the nation’s economy.

He said the decision to partner with Unusual Entrepreneurs was part of a deliberate policy of the Bank to assist upcoming businesses to grow, stressing that the main objective of the pan African bank is to contribute to the economic development and financial integration of the continent.

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Maritime: N2.5trn loss triggers doubt over FG’s policy

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Maritime: N2.5trn loss triggers doubt over FG’s policy

More than three years after, the Presidential Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business signed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to facilitate trade in the nation’s maritime sector, has been stalled by lack of single window platform and corrupt practices.

The executive order was signed on May 18, 2016, to reduce cargo clearance and ship turnaround time.

However, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce (LCCI) and its relevant maritime industry members, in a recent survey produced by Convention on Business Integrity (CBi) stated that negative operational elements had made the ports lose N2.5trillion annually.

The survey further explained that wide discretionary powers were used by some port officials on clearing processes, fees, charges that have created opportunities for graft and extortion of port users.

With regard to port operations, there were six reform initiatives introduced by the executive order but lack of single window platform and bottle neck created by government agencies had impeded the order from working.

In the executive order, all agencies physically present at the ports are supposed to harmonise their operations into a single interface.

In addition, it noted that Apapa Port would have 24-hour operations. However, the order exists only on paper as cargo dwell time has risen to 22 days, while the ship turnaround time has increased to eight days at the various due to lack of single window platform to help eliminate human contact at the port.

The CBI survey revealed that officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and port operators function at the supply side of the system.

It noted that they were very influential in manipulating the system for and/or against the demand side of port users.

Also, a Deputy Director, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Nigerian Shippers’ council (NSC), Mrs Celine Ifeora, said lack of single window at the port was currently breeding corruption and delay in cargo clearance.

She stressed the need to put the platform in place in order to eradicate all manual processes, which bring about delay and corruption.

Ifeora said in Lagos that despite efforts by the council at ensuring efficiency, absence of a single window platform had robbed the country the gains of port reform exercise carried out in 2006.

The director noted that Cotonou Port had been experiencing reduction in cargo dwell time from 14 days to seven days after implementation of the single window platform, while some neighbouring countries have three days.

She said:  “Although the ports have been concessioned in order to ensure low cost of doing business, but we are still having so many problems. We want to bring in efficiency but efficiency is running away from us. Most of the cargoes that come into our country today still undergo physical examination, even the scanners that we have, most of them are not working, and cargo dwell time is still going up.”

Ifeora also explained that the turnaround time of vessels was equally going up in some of the terminals.

The director noted: “Not long ago, I was in Cotonou, where Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) had a programme about single window, you won’t believe that Cotonou Port for example told us that when they put the single window in place, their revenue increased by 38 per cent which is quite high. Secondly, their cargo dwell time reduced from 14 days to 7 days, we need to join people who are doing the right thing in order for us to be competitive.”

Worried by the spate of corruption at the port, founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam, at a forum in Lagos, had stressed the need for the adoption of individual declarant in the cargo clearing operation.

He explained that the current system, where the declarant in trade documents was a corporate body, as recognised by the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), was responsible for trade malpractices at the nation’s ports.

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Envoy: Nigeria, others can halt $35bn food import

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Envoy: Nigeria, others can halt $35bn food import

Nigeria and other African countries have been advised to prioritise the importance of good land governance, effective land administration and sustainable land management within the continent as a way of stopping the over $35 billion spent on food importation from the West annually.

Counsellor for Economic Cooperation at the Germany Embassy in Abidjan, Cote D’ Ivoire, Benjamin Laag, in an interview with this newspaper at the 2019 Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA2019), which held in Lagos, said it was time for governments in the continent to finally tackle the alarming food import bill that has rendered the continent underdeveloped for decades.

Laag said due to technological improvements in agriculture, as well as in geospatial sciences and other relevant land sectors, tools were available to implement policies to ensure fair and sustainable land policies on the continent.

According to him, corruption is behind the continued spending on food importation and unless there is a change in perception towards agriculture development in the continent.   

“Almost every person on the continent has been affected by corruption and very often the distribution and registration of agricultural and urban land is the reason for it. The importance of good land governance as well as effective land administration and sustainable land management is needed for the African continent which spends over $35 billion annually importing food from the West,” he said.

He disclosed that the German Government had supported Nigeria and some other countries in the continent in its efforts to address land corruption in its bilateral and global programmes on land just as it has also supported transparency initiatives such as the Land Matrix and Land Portal, as well as financing Transparency International’s programme on land and corruption in Africa.

“Data and research on the linkages between land and corruption is now available and I am personally looking forward to hearing from participants presenting their findings.

“We need African solutions to African challenges. And in this regard, Germany appreciates the huge effort that the AU is making through the African Land Policy Center and other AU institutions, to promote and implement the AU agenda on land,” he said.

The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, had revealed that Nigeria and other countries in the continent were spending over $35 billion annually on food import.

The AfDB chief, therefore, called for land tax for unused agricultural land to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.

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IPPIS: Lecturers restate revulsion for scheme

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IPPIS: Lecturers restate revulsion for scheme

As the battle between Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the latter’s refusal to enroll in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Scheme (IPPIS) remains unresolved, some lecturers have restated their abhorrence for the scheme as it tends to shortchange them in the course of doing their job.

Recall that the Federal Government had directed all lecturers on its payroll to register on the IPPIS platform, warning that any lecturer that refuses to register should forget receiving his salary, beginning from October.

The IPPIS project, which commenced in 2007, is responsible for payment of salaries and wages directly to the bank accounts of Federal Government employees.

It is also in charge of deducting and remitting third party payments from the salaries of Federal Government workers.

Some of these third party deduction channels include Federal Inland Revenue Service, State Boards Of Inland Revenue, National Health Insurance Scheme, National Housing Fund, Pension Fund Administrator, Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions Dues, Association Dues And Bank Loans.

Reacting to the directive, ASUU charged its members not to register under the scheme as it will jeopardise the current arrangement in the university system.

In a chat with our correspondent, a lecturer in Department of Mass Communications, University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Mr. Robert Ezeanwu, said there were some errors in the scheme, which the government should to look into.

He said, for instance, that as regards the age or retirement, lecturers would be forced to retire at the age of 60, as against 65or70, stressing that the scheme also tend to restrict lecturers from moving freely from one institution to another as well as preventing them from sabbatical leave.

Also reacting, Mrs. Edith Ohaja, who is Head of Department, Mass Communications, UNN, said the scheme would centralize a lot of things to the discomfort of lecturers.

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Agric

ABP: Association begins N4bn loan recovery from cotton farmers

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ABP: Association begins N4bn loan recovery from cotton farmers

Prior to the disbursement of a N4 billion loan to farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) across some cotton-producing states, the Cotton Producers and Merchants Association (COPMA) has said it is setting out to recover the loan from beneficiaries.

The National President of COPMA, Alhaji Lawal Matazu, explained during the inauguration of the recovery committee that the programme was part of government’s policy to revamp the nation’s agricultural sector to enable farmers get economic freedom.

Matazu stated that recovery of the loan from his members was critical at this period because it shows that government has confidence in cotton farmers to pay back the APB loans. 

He said: “The programme is aimed at providing an opportunity for the common man, the peasant farmer especially, to have access to an agricultural loan at its doorsteps without any collateral or all those conventional protocols and at cheaper rate charges.”

He said the programme engaged 22,000 farmers across the country, and it covered 24,000 hectares of farms with an expected yield of 36,969 metric tonnes of cotton that will cost N4 billion.

“The minimum guaranteed price for the produce is agreed at N150 per Kg. The price is believed to be a reasonable one for the farmers to make a profit after repaying their loan. In the event that the market price of the produce is above the minimum agreed price, the produce will be collected at the rate of the market prevailing price,” Matazu explained.   

The association’s president admonished the recovery committee to use all available and peaceful avenues to recover the loans for the sustainability of the programme as it was designed as a revolving loan.

On his part, National Secretary of the association, Alhaji Kamilu Sheikh Munnir, stated that the programme was initiated by the Federal Government in 2016 for cotton farmers to easily access inputs, as it is designed as a simple loan.

He said: “COPMA came into the programme in 2017 and each farmer/beneficiary was allocated three hectares. All that was distributed to them were in the form of seeds, pesticides and other inputs and the repayment is expected to be with the cotton produced by the farmers, not in cash.”

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Business

Outsourcing: Whyte Cleon to promote entrepreneurial training

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Whyte Cleon Limited, a leading human resource outsourcing and consulting company, has revealed that it will commence an entrepreneurial development training designed for its former employees to make them become solution providers in outsourcing industry.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Mrs. Nireti Adebayo, made this known in Lagos during the company’s pre 10-year anniversary scheduled for the first quarter of 2020.

She stated that entrepreneurial development training was a platform in which the firm wants to give back to the society by equipping its former colleagues with a new mindset that will enable them become more productive in their chosen profession.       

Adebayo said: “Over time, we have delivered unrivalled quality service to our clients and provided practical solutions to our clients assisting them in strategy formulation and execution, talent acquisition, organisational performance and human capital investment.

“The entrepreneurial development training is a platform through which we aim to give back to society by equipping our former colleagues with a new mindset that will enable them become more productive, flourish, and ultimately become solutions provider and employers of labour, thereby helping to lift others out of poverty.”    

The chief executive officer explained that this initiative, which is the first of its kind by any organisation in the outsourcing space, attested to the status of Whyte Cleon Limited as Nigeria’s fastest growing , “future forward” human resources solution provider.

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