The highly anticipated assignment of portfolios to appointed ministers had come and gone. But for the minister of communications, the task ahead are enormous and stakeholders’ expectations are high given his background as a technocrat. SAMSON AKINTARO reports
With the recent inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet for his second term, the country’ Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector seems to be among the luckiest to have gotten a round peg in a round hole for a Minister. Prior to the release of the ministerial list by the Presidency, stakeholders in the sector had clamoured for appointment of an Information Technology (IT) professional and technocrat to man the Communications Ministry. Citing the peculiarity of the ICT sector, they had argued that appointment of politicians as ministers for the dynamic and evolving sector had dragged the country backward over the years. According to the immediate past President of Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, for a technical ministry such as Ministry of Communications, a core technical person is needed as a minister as such person already knows exactly what to do when he gets to the office. “Once you are not there as core technical person, it may be difficult for you to listen to the technical people working under you” he said.
Interestingly, true to the aspirations of the stakeholders, the announcement of Dr. Isa Pantami as the Minister of Communications was like prayer answered. Pantami, who until his appointment was the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), now has a bigger and more tasking role of supervising the Communications Ministry. As Communications Minister, Pantami will be expected to address lingering issues in the sector, which include current low broadband penetration, infrastructure gap, and the problem of multiple taxation, among others.
Having surpassed the 30 per cent target in 2018, stakeholders are looking forward to a more robust broadband penetration in Nigeria in the next five years. Hence, while there is no official target yet, like it was done in the 2013-2018 Plan, it is envisaged that the country should achieve 70 per cent penetration by the year 2023.
As at last June, broadband penetration in the country stood at 33.3 per cent, according to statistics released by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This indicated that some 63.5 million Nigerians were on broadband service in June. There have, however, been concerns that the increasing penetration level is not on national scale but in a few concentrated cities. The telecom regulator also recently admitted that the most pervasive networks in the country are on 2G, while there is still a large proportion of the population that are under-served or unserved with universal access to mobile and the internet. Pantami will be expected to drive new policies in this regard.
Despite the growth in mobile subscriptions over the years, telecommunications services are yet to get to some part of the country. According to the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, there are still about 40 million Nigerians that yet to be reached with basic ICT infrastructure and services.
A former Minister of Communications in the country, Dr Omobola Johnson, also declared recently that Nigeria would need huge funding to bridge existing infrastructure gap. According to her, as at 2015, a study carried out by her Ministry showed that the country would need $14 billion to bridge ICT infrastructure gap. She noted that the gaps are wider now with the emergence of 4G and 5G technologies, meaning that the country would need far more than the projected amount to develop ICT infrastructure.
Aside direct investment programmes in infrastructure, stakeholders in the sector believe that the government must formulate and implement policies to address this problem and the communications minister will be expected to stand up to this challenge.
The recurring issue of multiple taxation in the telecommunications sector will require a more pragmatic approach from the new minister. While successive ministers had made some moves to address the situation, it remains one of the major challenges bedevilling telecoms business.
According to stakeholders, while telecommunications has been a major catalyst for socio-economic development in the country, agencies of government are seeing the successes of the sector as opportunity to raise revenue for themselves. The quest for benefits, which are indeed, short term, compared with long term economic gains of telecommunications often times lead to disruption of services. The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) in a recent statement lamented the huge tax burden telecoms operators bear as a result of statutory and non-statutory taxes and levies from government agencies. It added that the multiple taxes have led to high cost of doing business in the country despite the Ease of Doing Business initiative of the Federal Government.
ALTON noted that the cost of running business in the country has now tripled the cost in Ghana and other neighbouring countries. “We have witnessed in Nigeria today that most of the regulatory bodies have left the regulatory functions and now turn to revenue generating bodies and this brings about multiple taxation and regulation.
“Please don’t forget that telecommunications operations are not isolated to the ecosystem, the cost of running business in Nigeria, especially telecoms is triple the cost of running same in Ghana and neighbouring countries. Almost all agencies of government are after telecommunications, why? We cannot afford to have crisis in the industry because we operate one network in all networks” the telcos lamented.
According to the President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, Mr Olusola Teniola, mobile operators currently pay on the aggregate 38 different taxes to various agencies of government at the federal, state and local levels. “The challenges are also going to conspire against the six infrastructure companies already licensed by the NCC to deepen broadband penetration, because they won’t be insulated from the challenges facing existing operators in the industry,” he said.
ICT roadmap implementation
Almost halfway into its lifespan, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications in July last year unveiled yet another policy in ICT plan with strategies to achieve some milestones in the next two. Tagged ‘ICT Roadmap 2017-2020’ the four year plan came into full stream in the second half of 2018 and full implementation was expected to begin this year. Unfortunately, not much have been done.
The Roadmap came out as fallout of the ICT retreat held in 2016, where all stakeholders dissected the industry and proffer solutions. All participants at the retreat agreed that ICT had become the 4th pillar of the economy and was also dubbed the “infrastructure of infrastructures”, with good reason.
The Roadmap focuses on four pillars which include, Governance, Policy, Legal & Regulatory framework, Industry & Infrastructure and Capacity Building. It also identifies strategies to address some cross cutting issues. According to the document, the overarching goal of the Governance pillar is to nurture a vibrant, citizen engaged ICT Sector permeating all Sectors of the economy in all parts of Nigeria. “In order to address the challenges in the Sector, an ICT gap Analysis will be conducted, with an expedited implementation of the e-government Master plan. A National ICT Council will also be established in the Presidency to determine options for institutional project coordination for better harmonisation”.
The Policy, Legal and Regulatory Framework pillar is to engender policy consistency and a predictable forward-looking Legal and Regulatory regime promoting competition in the industry to advance the national and consumer interests. “Interventions under this pillar include passage of the Critical National ICT Infrastructure Bill, mapping and elimination of all duplicative fiscal imposts (VAT, States, Local Government, Federal levies) through insertions in the next appropriation. Review of the IP Law will be accelerated”.
On infrastructure, the overarching goal of the roadmap is to provide cost effective ubiquitous access to ICT for overall national development. Proposed solutions are the passage of the Critical National ICT Sector Infrastructure Bill, release of the remaining Infrastructure Companies (INFRACO)licenses, hastening of the rollout of metro networks, use of NIGCOMSAT Satellites to bridge the rural penetration gap and hosting of critical National Data within the country. “For this pillar, key outcomes will include the creation of two (2) million jobs as well as wealth creation and revenue generation” the government said in the document.
The fourth focus area, which is capacity building “is aimed at developing a smart globally competitive workforce and digitally literate population for which a Digital Literacy Council will be established. ICT Gap Analysis, review and update of the educational curricula for primary, secondary and tertiary schools and an effective Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) mechanism are other proposed interventions. The establishment of an ICT University and Innovation Hubs across the country will be among the Key initiatives of this Pillar”. Pantami would be expected to carry on with the implementation of this laudable Roadmap, which is capable of turning the ICT landscape around if well implemented.
Barring his achievements at NITDA, all eyes will be on Pantami in the next four years to take ICTs in Nigeria to the next level. His handling of several issues confronting the sector will determine how the sector remembers him after he must have gone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Outsourcing: Whyte Cleon to promote entrepreneurial training
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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