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AFBTE to CBN: Engage stakeholders over forex restriction list

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AFBTE to CBN: Engage stakeholders over forex restriction list

The Association of Food, Beverage & Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage operators in food industry before implementing President Muhammadu Buhari’s  directive that it should stop allocating  forex to food importers in the country.

In a statement obtained by New Telegraph,  the President of the association, Patrick Anegbe, said: “We appeal to government to engage the organised private sector and stakeholders in the food industry to discuss the issues involved in this matter more thoroughly before a final position on how to proceed is taken.

“We would like to trust that the government will allow for this step in the spirit of our sustained partnership with it over the years in addressing the various economic issues affecting the Nigerian state.”

He noted that the CBN had towards the end of July announced the decision to deny access to foreign exchange for the importation of milk and other dairy products.

“The negative economic implications of the move in the short- run on the performance of the affected companies and the overall economy had been widely highlighted by experts, industrialists and managers of the targeted businesses,” he said.

He specifically warned  that the impact the sudden ban would have on the overall financial results of the companies would  likely lead to loss of jobs among other negative effects.

“The organised private sector had tried to draw the attention of CBN to the danger in not allowing for a reasonable period of time for those concerned to make adequate preparations to source their imported milk and dairy products locally.

“The engagement on this CBN pronouncement was still on when news came that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had at an event in his home State during the Eid-el-Kabir holiday, announced that he had instructed the CBN not to allocate foreign exchange for importation of food.

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CBN keeps benchmark rate at 13.5%

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CBN keeps benchmark rate at 13.5%

Nigeria’s central bank held its benchmark interest rate at 13.5%, its governor Godwin Emefiele said on Friday.

Most analysts polled by Reuters had predicted the central bank would ease in September, though Emefiele has previously said the bank would maintain its tight monetary stance in 2019.

Africa’s largest economy and top crude oil exporter emerged from its first recession in 25 years in 2017. Growth remains fragile but higher oil prices and recent debt sales have helped the country to accrue billions of dollars in foreign reserves.

Emefiele, announcing the monetary policy committee’s decision in the capital Abuja, said tightening credit could constrain fragile economic growth while loosening it could allow inflation to rise.

He said holding rates steady would allow the bank to appraise the impact of current policies, such as changes to the loan to deposit ratios at banks, before determining what shift, if any, was needed.

Inflation fell to a nearly four-year low of 11.02% in August but the price index remains outside the bank’s single-digit target.

The central bank in March cut its benchmark interest rate to 13.5% from 14% in a surprise move as part of an attempt to stimulate growth and signal a new direction. It was the first rate cut since November 2015.

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UBA launches Leo on Apple Business Chat

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UBA launches Leo on Apple Business Chat

The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, yesterday, announced that the services of its Chatbot, Leo, is now available for customers on Apple Business Chat, where its users can communicate directly with businesses using the Messages app on iPhone and iPad.

“As a brand focused on providing excellent customer experience, we are always looking for new ways to serve our customers easily and on time; we are therefore thrilled to support Apple Business Chat, which gives us a powerful and engaging connection with our customers,” said Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, Group Managing Director of UBA, who spoke at the launch of the service in Lagos.

He said: “Most of our customers prefer iOS, and we always want to exceed their expectations when they experience UBA. Apple Business Chat makes communicating with us as easy as messaging a friend, so we expect it will quickly become our customers’ preferred customer service channel.”

He explained that UBA customers could use the services of LEO, through the Apple Business Chat to open an account, buy airtime, check account balance, make account transfers and pay bills.

With the business chat, customers can always reach a live person and are always in control of whether they share any contact information with a business.

Uzoka said: “Today, we are covering a segment that has been missing for some time. It is our desire to ensure that we put Leo everywhere, and today it is now on the IOS platform as the users approached us that they needed to enjoy the service which Facebook and WhatsApp users had been enjoying from LEO.

“Consistently, we have been the first in the use of intelligence banking; this is the first time this is happening in Africa. LEO is live in English on the IOS platform, and by the end of October, it will be live in other languages. As you know, LEO is already on WhatsApp and Facebook in English, French, Portuguese and Swahili languages.”

To start Apple Business Chat, customers can click the ‘Chat with Messages’ button on UBA’s website or in mobile banking app, available in the App Store. A conversation with UBA’s agents will open instantly in the Messages app, and users can take their time responding when it’s convenient.

The Group Head, Online Banking, Austin Abolusoro, who spoke at the event, said the bank was always looking for ways to improve on its services to its teeming customers.

“We are leading financial industry AI in Africa. Our customers have been increasingly asking for mobile services that make their lives easier, and Leo has become a growing choice for his convenience and personal solutions, Over a million customers are already on the LEO platform. Before now, customers can only come to the bank, but today we are on social media as well as on the IOS platform, and the launch of LEO has helped customer to get their complaints resolved without physically visiting the bank. Leo makes use of available data to resolve complaints and where more information is needed, Leo will transfer the customer to human agents.”

“As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even continue to give them increased value,” Abolusoro added.

He added that Apple Business Chat is available in beta for users and businesses around the world, and is built into iOS 11.3 and higher. For more information, visit: apple.com/ios/business-chat.

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Nigeria spends N80.8bn on palm oil in 8 months

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Nigeria spends N80.8bn on palm oil in 8 months

…imports 72,000 tonnes in 2 months

 

total of 328,598 metric tonnes of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) valued at N80.8million ($221.5million) have been imported by Nigerian palm oil merchants.

The imports were delivered through Nigerian ports between January and August this year.

No fewer than   82,210 tonnes of the produce were imported between June and August 2019, despite Federal Government’s directive to blacklist any firm importing the produce into the country.

Already, the produce is among the list of 41 items restricted from accessing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) foreign exchange.

Nigerian importers currently source their palm oil from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to meet industrial and domestic demand.

The imported palm oil in the last eight months was 93.9per cent of the projected imports of 350,000 for 2019.

Already, the price of the produce from Malaysia has been increased by 29.98 per cent from $472 per tonne in May this year to $674 per tonne.

Statistics from Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s shipping position indicated that the 248,388 metric tonnes of crude palm oil were ferried to the country between January and May, 2019.

Currently,   palm oil imports attract 10 per cent duty and 25 per cent levy in the country.

New Telegraph gathered that within the last two months, the country had taken delivery of 72,110 tonnes of CPO valued at N13.47billion ($36.9million) from four ships.

Statistics by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s shipping position revealed that Navig8 Universe berthed at Apapa Bulk terminal Limited (ABTL)  with 20,000 tonnes of the produce, while   Alangova and Rosy discharged 9,500tonness and 10,200 tonnes in the terminal respectively at the terminal in February.

Other  vessels which berthed at theABTL of the Lagos Port Complex include Africa Runner5 laden with 5,195 tonnes; Lustsen, 5,717tonnes;  Kerel, 16,400tonnes and Chembulk Houston, moored at New Oil Jetty with 5, 028tonnes

In May this year Malaysia and Thailand exporters slashed the price of crude palm oil as demand for the commodity increased in the country.

Between February and April this year, price of Malaysia palm has dropped by 22.3 per cent from $607.97 to $472.55.

As at May the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) explained that it had kept its export duty on crude palm oil at zero per cent because of competition among the Asian exporting countries.

Between 2017 and 2018 Nigeria annual consumption of palm oil has reached 2.7 million tons.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had assured that Nigeria would emerge as the third largest producer of palm oil in the world.

The   CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele said recently that the country would have recorded great heights in capital returns and job creation if the country had supported improved cultivation of palm oil like the rest of the world.

Emefiele told stakeholders in Abuja that plans were underway to develop sustainable financing models for oil palm in the country.

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Border closure: Contending with spiraling prices of goods

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Border closure: Contending with spiraling prices of goods

Following the continued closure of land borders over smuggling of weapons and agricultural produce, the multiplier effects are already being felt by Nigerians in their daily lives, as prices of some food items have skyrocketed. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

 

As a matter of urgency, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has urged the Federal Government to re-open its land borders around Seme, as it hampers the implementation of free trade movement within the ECOWAS sub-region.

Already, the effect has crippled many business activities around the border towns amid tales of sudden increase in prices of food stuff.   

Part of the reasons for the closure was to control smuggling of foreign rice as a way of boosting presence of the locally milled ones in the market.

No doubt, Seme border is strategic for ECOWAS in terms of implementation of free trade movement within the region.

Despite this, the Federal Government is concerned with the economic effects smuggling has done to the national economy and local investors.

Prices of food items

Findings in states where Nigeria shares borders with neighbouring countries show that prices of rice, poultry products, brands of vegetable oil, sugar, beans and even fairly used cloths have increased by between 10 and 30 per cent.

For instance, a bag of 50 kg foreign rice, which sold for between N13,000 and N15,000 before the closure now goes for N16,000, N18,000 and N20, 000 depending on the brand in many towns and cities across the country.

Also, there is a sharp increase in imported flour due to restriction of import from Cameroon.

A transporter, Bala Jumallah, explained that it was difficult to transport flour from Yola due to bad roads and broken bridges; hence bakers opted for a cheaper alternative from Cameroonian side of the border, which is closer.

Similarly, a fruit dealer, Muhammad Bello, said the restriction had prevented export of orange into Cameroon, thereby causing drop in price.

He said the price of a sack of orange crashed from N9000 to N7000 as supply surpassed its demand.

Adamawa, being one of the three front line states in the war against Boko Haram, had been placed under a form of border restriction since 2015, but renewed control in the last few weeks has caused public outcry at the border.

But the partial closure has heightened smuggling around Lagos border communities too.

The smugglers have now resorted to using waterways to bring contraband items such as rice, frozen poultry products and fairly used clothes, shoes and bags into the country.

Despite the increase in smuggling activities, prices of some basic food items have skyrocketed, with traders and consumers complaining of limited stocks.

Frozen poultry is the most affected in Lagos as a kilogramme of frozen chicken, which before now sold for N1,200, now costs N1,600, while a kilogramme of frozen turkey now sells for N1,700.

A trader at Alaba Rago, a major market in Lagos, Tawa Ibrahim, said that the border closure was affecting his business.

She said: “Lake Rice (locally produced rice) would have been a better alternative for us, but we are not getting it to buy. Even the volume of okra needed to feed this nation cannot be produced in Nigeria.

“We rely so much on Cotonou for okra. That is why its price has also shot up since the border was closed. A big basket of okra, which sold for N4,000 or N5,000, is now N8,000.”

Further findings showed that in Kebbi, the closure of borders with Niger and Benin Republics was causing economic hardship to people around the border areas of Dole Kaina, Lolo, Kamba and Bachaka as some of the border town residents, particularly farmers and merchants, also complained.

While lamenting the situation, a farmer, Abdullah Salalah, said: “The situation is becoming unbearable. As you are aware, our people are into farming and they cross the border to trade. Since they closed the borders in Lolo, we cannot do our farming and we cannot trade. The prices of commodities are increasing by the day.”

He added that the situation was becoming more pathetic because people have family, cultural and trade ties with people in Benin and Niger republics and because of the border closure people in Kebbi, Niger and Benin Republic are suffering.

Pressure mounts on FG

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, at the opening of the 2nd Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Monrovia, Liberia, this week, appealed to the Federal Government to reopen its closed borders for free trade movement. 

Cisse Lo explained that the border closure posed a threat to the implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons at a time when Africa needed to intensify efforts for effective abolition of barriers within the communities.

Cisse Lo, however, urged the government to find a permanent solution to the challenge of smuggling, rather than closing the borders, which was not a lasting solution.

“In the same vein, the closure of the Nigerian borders with Benin more than a month ago and Niger recently is a hindrance to the achievement of the community’s main objective, which is to achieve the creation of a prosperous, borderless West African region where peace and harmony prevail.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls for compliance with community provisions and, thus calls for the reopening of borders and a coordinated fight against smuggling in the region.”

“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.” he added.

FG’s stance

Recall that the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali, had insisted that Nigeria’s borders would remain closed until the country and its neighbours agree on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement.

Ali said government would no longer condone smugglers taking over the country’s economy. 

“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.

“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Ali said.

When asked about the consequences of closing the borders, he said, “if you check our website, you will see the seizures and interception we’ve made.”

He said that by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband.

“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Ali said.

According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen. We’ve also stopped the influx of rice and our rice is now selling.

“Even those selling garri that have been abandoned because there was cheap rice are making brisk business.

“This is because people are now buying garri as food. So, I think the economy is now picking up and we are grateful for that,” he said.

Last line

With the current scenario, many Nigerians are yet to see and feel the positive effects of the situation, as it has only led to lamentations and agonies all over the country with increasing prices of foodstuff and some other items in the market.

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Labour seeks FG’s intervention in farm workers’ plights

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Labour seeks FG’s intervention in farm workers’ plights

Efforts by the Federal Government to diversify Nigeria’s revenue generation source from oil with agriculture being at the forefront has been applauded by all Nigerians. But this can only be achieved if those in agric sector including farm workers, who are currently nursing secret pains, are given a sense of belonging and recognition. Regina Otokpa reports

 

 

“Save Nigerian workers from modern day slavery” has become the slogan of rubber and palm workers in the country, an industry under the agriculture sector where informal employment has remained riddled with extreme poverty, unsafe and insecure working environment for all workers.

Despite the decent work deficits in this sector, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that it still employs 51 per cent of workers in Africa, comprising mostly of women.

Even at that, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, since 2015,  has continued to reel out the number of jobs it hopes to generate, with a target of a quarter of a million new jobs in ago-industry.

As good as this might sound towards boosting the macroeconomy of the country, recent

findings by the Nigeria Union of Agriculture and Allied Employees (NUAAE) in collaboration with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Solidarity Center American Federation of Labour, Congress of Industrial Federation (AFL-CIO), farms and plantations have been found wanting as far as decent work in line with the ILO Decent Work agenda is concerned.

Issues

Reports arising from the last 18 months of surveillance in some farms and plantations in Delta State have shown an alarming trend of precarious work condition, wage discrimination, violation of workers rights to unionise and bargain collectively, child labour practices, corruption, wage theft, illicit financial flows, systematic health and safety issues as workers are exposed to extreme weather and inadequate personal protective equipment.

According to the National President NUAAE, Comrade Simon Anchaver, over 90 per cent of workers, who have spent years in the farms and plantations, are casual workers basically referred to an “ non-staff,” without any contract binding their employers to stipulated terms and conditions of service. 

Besides the gender wage disparity, most workers are aggrieved due to the general wage discrimination, which is tantamount to breeding bad blood within aggrieved workers, who silently cry foul for being  unjustly cheated out of their rights.

According to Anchaver, “there is a high rate of wage discrimination in private palm plantations as workers have been known to work for more than 14 years without a raise while newly hired worker on same level, carrying out the same tasks or list of job duties earn higher than older workers.

“There are few workers who are on permanent appointment while the vast majority are on casual appointment and these determine the amount of wage that workers are paid. The office workers are paid standard rates as wages, while the farm workers’ salaries are  calculated according to the task performed and the yield generated by the worker. The farm workers who are mostly rubber tappers reported that their salaries are miserable and inadequate.”

Unfortunately, these workers, having been denied the right to freely associate, affiliate or join trade unions, also suffer pathetic work conditions such as inflexible working hours, unpaid overtime work, lack of social security system, failed remittance of deductions for housing fund, pension scheme and health scheme, since their is no voice to champion their cause.

Another thing of worry is the increase in child labour activities especially in private plantations, where children as young as 11 to 14 years have been alleged to be trafficked from other states to engage in the harvesting of palm fruits and other farm activities rather than being with their families and possibly be going to school.

But the story gets even worse, besides the deplorable state of the roads and houses, poor sanitation, inadequate health and education facilities, with no access to personal protective equipment such as helmets, raincoats, hand gloves, eye masks, and training on safe handling of hazardous substances, these workers are on a daily basis exposed to health hazards such as skin irritations, caterpillar bites, snake bites malaria and inhalation of hazardous chemicals.

Charting a way forward

Poised to improving the welfare and livelihood of workers in the palm and rubber industry in compliance with Nigerian labour laws and international standards, NUAAE  has called on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, to strengthen the labour inspectorate department through funding, an increased staff strength and trainings in order to curb the excesses of employers in the sector.

The union advocated for unscheduled visits by trained and well resourced personnel to farms and plantations across the country without influence by the employers, to allow government first hand information to  the true fate of workers in order to enable compliance, investment and productivity boost in the sector.

“Based on a system analysis of these issue, this group decided that clear enhanced labor inspection and more stringent penalties for non compliance will help Nigerian workers in large scale agriculture to improve labour rights compliance including trade union rights, and establish conditions of employment so that workers can get out of the poverty that ensnares them and their families.

“We therefore call on the Minister of Labour and Employment to strengthen and mobilise the Labour Inspectorate department of the ministry to embark on unscheduled inspections of plantations and farms with the aim of curbing the excesses of the employers in the plantations and farms.

“This will also ensure that workers enjoy living wages, regular work hours, leave, have clear job descriptions and respect for termination in written contract in accordance with the Labour Act.”

Last line

Following the development and Federal Government’s resolve to make agriculture a frontline revenue source for the country, there is no better time than now to take seriously the welfare of farm workers to enable them work diligently for the realisation of government’s agriculture target.

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Analysts: No delivery of new retail mall in H1 2019

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Due to unfriendly economic climate, Nigeria did not record any delivery of new space in the formal retail market in the first half of 2019, New Telegraph has learnt.

According to the latest report by Broll Nigeria, although some projects are nearing completion in the core and secondary markets, they are yet to be delivered.

These  uncompleted projects, Broll analysts said  measured below 10,000 square metres (m²) and included the Landmark Retail Boulevard (approximately 6,000m²) and the Simbiat Ikeja Mall in Lagos state (4,900m²); Oshogbo Mall in Osun state (roughly 5,000m²) and a retail project in Port Harcourt of approximately 9,000m².

Additionally, analysts disclosed that a number of developers, both local and foreign, in the formal and informal sectors, were currently in the project conceptualization phase of a few developments in both the core and secondary markets.

While the international developers tend to be relatively new to the market and are leaning towards the more traditional formal retail designs (10,000m² +), analysts noted that  local developers were looking at smaller projects to suit the demographic locations in which they would operate in.

In the period under review, analysts stated that landlords were able to highlight certain factors that existing occupiers now require to enhance the usability of their current space.

Such factors, according to them, included improved amenities, additional seating areas within the mall, free onsite parking to improve dwell time, early lease terminations and service charge reconciliations.

The analysts said: “Moreover, possibly the most important factor that has been highlighted by existing tenants is a reduction in occupied box sizes.

“Medium to large box sizes have proven difficult to lease in both core and secondary retail markets as prospective tenants are unable to justify the financial costs attributed to acquiring these premises which range from 100m² – 1,000m².”

On overall vacancy rates, analysts said the rates  averaged 20 per cent  across core and secondary market locations,noting that the very successful malls were  operating at below two per cent vacancy rate.

On rental values, the Broll report stated that rents have remained largely unchanged in first half of 2019 in secondary market locations.

However, the analysts said there have been notable revisions upwards in rental values in the core market, noting that  asking rentals in the successful malls in Lagos were  above $100 per square metre per month for 50m² – 250m² boxes.

“While, average asking rentals in other core market locations generally range from $40/m²/month to $75/m²/month, up from $30/m²/month to $70/m²/month recorded in H2:2018, rentals are flat in secondary market locations at $15/m²/month to $25/m²/month,” they said.

According to the analysts, landlords in the core market retail malls were less inclined to offer discounted rentals, as was once the  case during the economic recession, especially as vacancy rates declined in certain malls.

They said: “Landlords are also generally unwilling to accept naira denominated rents in core market locations, however, with the exception of a small minority, naira rentals are welcomed in secondary market locations.

“In the near term, landlords largely see no capacity for rental growth from current levels, and even though new deliveries are set to increase supply, it is not anticipated to be at a magnitude capable of disrupting current rental rates.”

On outlook of retail space,analysts explained that local retailers were expected to drive demand in the coming months as international brands look to entrench themselves in the market through experienced franchise operators.

On the supply side, they said: “Approximately 25,000m² of retail stock is set to enter the market by year end. This is in addition to the existing 350,000m² of retail stock existing in the core and secondary market locations.”

The analysts expect  landlords in both core and secondary market locations do not foresee an increase in rental values in the near term. Rents are likely to remain flat in the core market while there is potential for rents to decline in the secondary markets, conditioned on possible vacancies as well as the landlord appetite to keep their malls leased to a certain degree.

On demand for retail malls during the first half of 2019, latest  report from Broll Property Intels, said there had been notable tenant activity in the formal retail space, adding that enquiries increased moderately in key malls within the core and secondary markets.

The report read: “A number of transactions have been concluded in the food and beverage, fashion and accessories as well as beauty and personal care categories, however, the majority of these transactions have remained under  square metres(m²) in size.”

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FOI: BudgIT flays lawmakers’ 552% budget increase

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Nigerian lawmakers’ flair for budgeting enormous funds for themselves without consideration for decaying infrastructure and ordinary Nigerians going through difficulties has again been highlighted as it moved from N23.3 billion in 2003 to N150 billion in 2014.

The increase, according to details released by transparency monitor outfit, BudgIT, represents a whopping 552 per cent within the period in view.

Meanwhile, Nigerian lawmakers are among the highest paid in the world. Last year, a Nigerian senator revealed that the legislators receive N14.25 million (over $40,000) monthly.

Further details, however, shows that the budget moved steadily for another period of five years from 2015 to the current year.

According to the details, while the lawmakers budgeted N115 billion for 2015/2016, it, however, increased by N10 billion in 2017 to N125 billion, increased by N14 billion to N139 billion in 2018 before dropping by N11 billion to N128 billion in the current year.

BudgIt, whose founder, Seun Onigbinde, recently resigned from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over barrage of criticism from supporters of the administration, is, however, demanding from the office of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to give a breakdown of how the whole budget amounting to N668.8 billion over the years was disbursed.

According to the transparency body, Nigerians should give their tacit support to the Freedom of Information request sent to RMAFC so as to unravel whatever secrets are behind the disbursements.

The letter dated September 4, 2019, referenced BN/FOI/RMAFC/2019/001, and addressed to the Chairman of the commission, Engr. Elias Mbam, was posted on BudgIt’s twitter handle, @BudgeITng.

The letter, signed by Principal Lead, BudgeIT, Mr. Gabriel Okeowo, is titled ‘Freedom of Information Request for Details/Breakdown of Salaries and Allowances to Legislators in Nigeria.’

It read in part, “On behalf of BudgeIT Nigeria in accordance with Freedom of Information Act 2011 and in the spirit of transparency and accountability, we request the following information; breakdown of salaries and allowances of 469 legislators in the National Assembly.

“We would appreciate if explicit responses are given to each of these questions above and within 7 days as stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act 2011. Kindly note that refusal to respond is subject to prosecution under the law. 

In May this year, BudgIT demanded a big cut from the annual budget of the National Assembly, saying that 50 per cent of the budget be centralised in the General Service Unit for efficiency.

Proposing a 58 per cent slash from N125 billion to N52 billion, it also called for a probe into the buying and selling of certain items by the lawmakers.

“NASS budget ballooned from N23.3 billion to N125 billion between 2003 & 2019. On a yearly basis, 50 per cent of this money is spent on stationery, computers, cars etc – all for sale below. Surely there’s a cartel within NASS mgt. Who’ll probe this?” the agency tweeted.

It listed some of the materials for sale to include a Samsung double door refrigerator was given out for N25,000; HP Envy Core 13, N49,000; Apple Ipad Air computer, N41,980; LED TV Samsung UA4600AR 50, N59,500. Shredding machine, N19,800; Water dispenser with bottle, N8,990.

“Photocopying machine Sharp Copier AR 6021 N57,172; Scanner HP Scanjet Pro 3900 Fi N20,130; HP Laserjet Pro M201 N10,038; Desktop Computer Model Envy 23” Touch screen; and Suit hanger N1,900.

“Any member taking the entire 11 items would pay N349, 970.50 with N17,498 .83 as VAT.”

At the moment, a lawsuit to stop the lawmakers from spending  N5.5 billion on vehicles is on with thousands of Nigerians seeking to block members of the Senate from using public money to buy luxury cars. The suit was initiated by rights groups that became tired of government corruption.

More than 6,700 Nigerians have joined suit that aims to prevent parliament from releasing 5.5 billion naira — equal to about $15 million — that would enable leaders of the Senate to purchase luxury vehicles.

Three domestic rights groups originated the suit, which was filed with the Nigerian Federal High Court.

BudgIT’s Communications Associate, Shakir Akorede, while speaking on the class action suit, said: “This is living the luxury life by the so-called representatives of the people. How in any way does this plan show the seriousness, the commitment on the part of the government to solve our socioeconomic crisis?”

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South Africa holds key rate in unanimous decision

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South Africa’s central bank left its main interest rate on hold at 6.5 per cent yesterday as expected, saying it would like to see inflation expectations anchored closer to the midpoint of its target range.

The decision by the bank’s monetary policy committee was unanimous.

South Africa has seen benign inflation outcomes this year, but growth has been sluggish. That has piled pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on lifting the economy out of a deep slump.

The South African Reserve Bank left its 2019 economic growth forecast unchanged at 0.6 per cent but cut its forecasts for growth in 2020 and 2021 to 1.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively.

It repeated calls for structural reforms to raise potential growth rate, saying weakness in many sectors of the economy remained a cause for concern.

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is also expected to hold rates at the end of its meeting today.

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NBS: Lack of market-oriented policies stifling growth

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NBS: Lack of market-oriented policies stifling growth

Latest merchandize trade report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which showed a decline in the country’s foreign trade surplus in the first half of this year, as well as weak second quarter 2019 capital importation data earlier released by the bureau, indicates that a lack of market-oriented policies is hindering Nigeria’s economic growth, analysts at Cowry Asset Management Limited, have said.

The analysts, who stated this in a report obtained by New Telegraph yesterday, said they expected the weak data to lead the Federal Government into amending its policies to encourage private sector participation in building the economy.

They said: “We expect FG to tweak its policies to drive private participation as the meagre FDIs inflow and the shrinking foreign trade surplus suggest that Nigerian economy is stifled due to dearth of market-driven policies. Also, Nigeria is still at the mercy of ‘hot money managers’ for currency and interest rate stability as portfolio investments still constitute the major foreign capital inflow.”

As the analysts pointed out, the NBS merchandise trade report shows that while Nigeria’s foreign sector merchandise trade value rose year-on-year (y-o-y) by 15.43 per cent to N16.84 trillion in H1 2019,  the merchandise trade surplus declined by 63.14 per cent to N1.42 trillion in the same period.

Similarly, according to the capital importation report released by the NBS, th

e economy recorded a decline of $3.2billion in investment inflow from $8.48billion in the first quarter of this year to $5.82billion in the second quarter.

The report stated: “The total  value  of  capital  importation  into  Nigeria  stood  at  $5.82billion  in  the  second  quarter  of  2019. This represents a decrease of 31.41 per cent compared to Q1 2019 and 5.56 per cent increase compared to the second quarter of 2018.”

It further disclosed that the largest amount of capital importation by type was received through portfolio investment, which accounted for 73.76 per cent or $4.29billion of  total  capital  importation.

The report added that this was followed by “other investment,” which accounted for 22.41 per cent of $1.3billion of total capital imported and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which accounted for a paltry 3.83 per cent or $222.89million of total capital imported in the second quarter of this year.

Although the NBS did not give reasons for the decline in investment inflows, the general belief in financial circles is that delay in appointing and assigning portfolios to cabinet members may have affected investor confidence.

In addition, analysts believe that President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to appoint mainly experienced politicians and very few technocrats as ministers sent a signal to foreign investors that the president was not disposed to carrying out major fiscal reforms in his second term in office.

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OECD: Global economy sliding towards weakest growth in decade

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Intensifying trade conflicts have sent global growth momentum tumbling toward lows last seen during the financial crisis, and governments are not doing enough to prevent long-term damage, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said in its latest outlook.

The Paris-based organisation cut almost all economic forecasts it made just four months ago, as protectionist policies take an increasing toll on confidence and investment, and risks continue to mount on financial markets. It sees world growth at a mere 2.9 per cent this year.

The OECD lowered its growforecasts for most major economies

“Our fear is that we are entering an era where growth is stuck at a very low level,” OECD Chief Economist, Laurence Boone, said: “Governments should absolutely take advantage of low rates to invest in the future now so that this sluggish growth doesn’t become the new normal.”

The OECD is the latest institution sounding the alarm over the state of the global economy. In the past two weeks, the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the People’s Bank of China and numerous of their peers have eased policy to shore up demand, urging governments at the same time that fiscal stimulus will be needed to ensure their efforts won’t be futile.

Manufacturing has borne the brunt of the economic crisis brought about by a tit-for-tat trade war between the U.S. and China. The services sector has proved unusually resilient to the malaise so far, but the OECD warned that “persistent weakness” in industry will weigh on the labor market, household incomes and spending.

Additional risks stem from a sharper slowdown in China and a no-deal Brexit that could push the U.K. into a recession and would considerably reduce growth in Europe, according to the report.

“Trump’s brinkmanship on trade with China has left consumers, businesses and financial markets on edge. Not knowing whether the next Presidential tweet will ease or exacerbate tensions makes for an environment of extreme uncertainty, pushing businesses to turn cautious on investment and hiring, and households to swing from spending to saving.”

The OECD said: “collective effort is urgent,” and the effectiveness of monetary policy could be enhanced by “stronger fiscal and structural policy support.”

It’s a point central bankers have made for months, and their requests are getting more intense. Following the ECB’s latest monetary stimulus push, President Mario Draghi said it’s “high time” for fiscal policy to take charge, signaling there’s not much more his institution can do.

“The takeaway for the euro zone today is not to rely on monetary policy to do the job alone,” Boone said.

“Start investing to do the structural reforms that need to be done for more sustainable growth, and do it now,” he added.

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