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ICT: The task before new communications minister

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ICT: The task before new communications minister

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.

Huge task

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.

Broadband penetration

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.

Infrastructure gap

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.

Multiple taxation

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.

Last line

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.

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ASHON tasks members on demutualisation

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s the Nigerian Stock Exchange prepares for demutualisation, the Association of Securities Dealing Houses of Nigeria (ASHON) has been advised to work as team in order to take advantage of the proposed market structure.

Demutualisation is a process by which the Nigerian Stock Exchange converts from a private organization, limited by guarantee to a public limited liability company, whose shares can be traded on an organised stock market.

ASHON, whose members are currently the owners of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said it had embarked on strategic restructuring to bolster the members’ image, consolidate a formidable team and review internal processes among others.

ASHON’s Chairman, Chief Oyinyechukwu Ezeagu, at the 10th Annual General Meeting (AGM) weekend, underscored the essence of unity of purpose in pursuit of common professional goal as demutualisation and other emerging institutions in the capital market will provide more opportunities for securities dealers to earn multiple income.

“The process of demutualization of the NSE is approaching a climax. We expect that we shall transform from being members to Shareholders soon. It is important that we prepare ourselves for the change in status which comes with some responsibilities and new realities. All our members representing us both at the advisory committee and the NSE council have been working tirelessly to defend our collective interests in the demutualization process.

“In order to effectively reposition the image of the association, we redesigned and changed the brand identity of the Association with a logo of progressive bars of different vibrant colors to depict the new thinking and divergent positive outlook of the association.

“By the recommendations of the transition committee, the association changed the nomenclature of its Executive Committee to Governing Council and aligned it with the amendment in the constitution. Thus, the following are the new structure of the governing council; chairman, 1st vice chairman, 2nd vice chairman, treasurer, four council members and 1 ex-officio member.

“The General Assembly members had on July 3, 2018 voted for the change of name of the association from the Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria to the Association of Securities Dealing Houses of Nigeria as well as a change of trustees. These changes were registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and we have been issued a new certificate to that effect.

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Premium Pension, Jigawa sign fund management pact

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igeria’s leading   Pension   Fund   Administrator   (PFA),   Premium   Pension   Limited, has   signed   a   portfolio   management agreement with   Jigawa   State   Government.

The agreement confers on the pension fund manager the authority and responsibility of managing the state’s pension fund as the lead PFA.

The fund was established by the state government   through   the   Jigawa  (state   and   local   government)   Contributory Pension   Scheme. 

The agreement, which has the   endorsement   of   the   National   Pension   Commission   (PenCom)   emphasizes, among others, that the funds must be managed in accordance with the guidelines issued pursuant to the Pension Reform Act 2014 and Jigawa State Pension Law.

A statement signed by Head, Corporate Communications, Premium Pension, Aliyu Mohammed Ali, said the ceremony for the agreement, which will see Premium Pension as a Lead PFA for a term of two years, was held at the Pension House, Dutse Jigawa State with key stakeholders from both sides in attendance.

While the Acting Managing Director of Premium Pension Limited Mr. Kabir Ahmed Tijjani, signed on behalf of the company, the Acting Head of Service of Jigawa State, Alhaji Hussaini Kila, and the Executive Secretary of Jigawa (state and local government) Contributory Pension Scheme, Alhaji Hashim Fagam, signed on behalf of Jigawa State Government.

Commenting on the agreement, Tijjan said: “This is a practical demonstration of mutual trust and highly productive partnership required to drive the contributory pension scheme in the country,” adding that all the appointed fund managers would continue to justify the confidence reposed in them by Jigawa State.

officials of the   state   present   at   the   occasion   include the   Statutory   Board members of the Jigawa (state and local government) Contributory Pension Scheme, the state Solicitor General and other government officials.

Others include managing directors and company secretaries of other fund managers appointed by the state.

In another development, and as part of strategic efforts of the company to reach out to  its teeming  members   towards   achieving   exceptional customer  experience,  the management of Premium Pension Limited held   an   interactive   session   with   the   Pension   Desk   Officers   (PDOs)   and human resource managers in Kano.

The colorful event took place recently at the Tahir Guest Palace Hotel. Highlight of the event was the launching of PPL Mobile app, which was timely and well appreciated by the participants. This is expected to drive and increase customer engagement   as   well   as   ease   access   to   the   company’s   services   through   digital platform.

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Sagamites announces business support initiative

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private socio-economic club in Ogun-State, Sagamites Club, has announced the launch of its annual leadership conference and business support initiative for local businesses in and around Sagamu, Remo.

The club made up of business executives from across various sectors of the economy have decided to enrich communities and commercially empower its citizens.

 

Seni Adetu, President of the Club and a former Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria Plc. said the organisation will, on 27th October, announce the award of its business support funds to 10 most qualified would-be-entrepreneurs, who will be selected based on merit and business proposition.

 

Adetu said: “It is a privilege to support the less-privileged; we are inspired by the fact that we are positioned to be of help in changing the narrative of our community youth, from the lamentation of unemployment and perceived laziness, 419ners and drugs-consuming youth, to that of powerfully and gainfully employed young adults”.

 

“Our commitment to this cause is motivated by our conviction that we have reached a point in our life cycle in Nigeria where the government alone cannot provide all of the economic opportunities required to have self-sustaining citizenry. We can blame the government all day long (and sometimes justifiably so) and accuse our youth of being lazy (again depending on your perspective), but our view is that, it’s better to spin our situation positively and change the narrative to what we are doing individually and collectively to make the most of an unpleasant situation. We must create little impact in our own patch leading to a result where the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.

“While we don’t and can’t claim to be government or be able to substitute government, we can nonetheless dial up our responsibility and contributions to the community. We can take more ownership of our destiny and help our youth to achieve the best they can.

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PTAD concludes North West verification of 11,335 pensioners

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he two- week verification exercise for Parastatal Pensioners by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) in the North West has ended.

During the exercise, there were four centres located in Arewa House and Dakhole Angels Multipurpose Centre Kaduna, Marhaba Event Place, Kano, and Hidima Conference Centre, Bodinga Road, Sokoto.

A statement from PTAD said a total of 11,335 Parastatal Pensioners were verified. The breakdown of the numbers verified shows Kaduna Centre 1 had the highest number of 4,073 followed by Kaduna Centre 2 with 3, 170 pensioners.  Kano Centre had 2,739 and Sokoto Centre had 1,353.

 

 

In line with PTAD’s tradition, the pensioners were treated with respect and empathy. The exercise was conducted in a conducive environment where Pensioners were also provided with lunch and medical facility to take care of any emergencies.

The NASS members were at the verification centres to monitor the exercise. The Senate Committee Chairman on Establishment and Public Service, Sen. Ibrahim Shekarau, was at Kano centre. Rt. Hon. Kabiru Alhassan Rurum, House Committee Chairman on Pensions was at the Kano and Kaduna Centres. Sen. Mpigi Barinada, Dep. Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service was at the Kaduna Centre. Hon. Bamidele Salam, Dep. Chairman, House committee on Pensions was at the Sokoto Centre. They gave PTAD excellent remarks and promised to support the Directorate with necessary appropriation.

The Executive Secretary, PTAD, Dr. Chioma N. Ejikeme, appreciated members of the National Assembly for their love for the senior citizens and support for PTAD. She promised to continue to work with the National Assembly towards improving the welfare of pensioners. She also thanked the staff for their commitment and the pensioners for their cooperation. She assured that the upcoming verification exercise in the North Central will include all the feedback received during the North West verification exercise.

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FG committed to effective ballast water mgt –Dakuku

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FG committed to effective ballast water mgt –Dakuku

 

…as IMO advocates harmonised enforcement 

 

 

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he Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, 2004. He also said that NIMASA remained determined to ensure cleaner oceans and a safe, secure and environmentally sound maritime sector.

Dakuku stated these in his keynote address at the opening of a three-day regional workshop on Ballast Water Management for Anglophone West and Central African Countries, hosted by Nigeria in Lagos from Monday to Thursday. He said growing concerns about the adverse effect on the marine environment of invasive alien species produced by ballast carried by ships gave rise to the BWM convention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

He said: “Since the advent of the Convention, efforts have been made to ensure effective implementation of its provisions, among which is this Regional Workshop.”

 

The NIMASA helmsman also said that Nigeria, being among the earliest countries to ratify the Convention, had taken steps to ensure its effective implementation. Such steps, according to him, include: the development and gazetting of regulations on Ballast Water Management, pursuant to the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act, 2007; development of an enforcement and implementation manual on ships’ ballast water; and development of guidelines with reference to relevant IMO documents for ballast water reception facility and exchange areas.

 

Others are: development of guidelines for enforcement of violations of the regulation on ballast water management; establishment of a globally recognised and integrated ballast water testing laboratory; and development of a home-grown concept of Ballast Water Management and Ports with Acceptable Risk (PWAR), which was presented by Nigeria to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 74, in May 2019, among other initiatives.

 

Also speaking, the Secretary-General of IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, who was represented by the Technical Officer, Sub-Division for Prospective Measures, Marine Environment Division, Dr. Megan Jensen, noted that the marine environment and marine resources were vital to the global economy and sustainable economic growth. He said that there was an urgent need for implementation of a harmonised ballast water management regime around the world, with special focus on compliance, monitoring, and enforcement.

The Ballast Water Management Convention was adopted in 2004 to minimise the risk of species invasions through ballast water. The Convention entered into force on September 8, 2017, and, currently, 81 countries have ratified it, including Nigeria, which was among the first five countries to endorse the treaty.

The workshop had in attendance delegates from Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Gambias and Liberia.

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Meristem: Food inflation to spiral over border closure

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nalyst at Meristem has said that the current mandate for the complete closure of all land borders will further pressure the prices of foods items in the coming periods. We are of the opinion that the envisaged increase in food prices could set the progress of the Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC’s) growth strategy a step back.

Meristem disclosed that the Nigerian equities market, with a P/E ratio 7.00x, remains favourably priced relative to its peers in emerging markets.

 

“With the uptick in inflation, coupled with the border closure which could incite further rise in the inflation figure, we expect foreign investors to price this into their risk assessment for the market, dampening their confidence in the space.

“…However, at the current inflation level and outlook for a further rise, we expect investors to demand a higher yield as the macroeconomic landscape remains a strong determinant of investment decisions in the year.

 

This is coming after three consecutive months of decline, Nigeria’s headline Inflation rose to 11.24 per cent in September. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 1.04 per cent on a Month-on-Month basis (vs. 0.99 per cent in August 2019). On a year on year basis, the food inflation rose by 13.51 per cent (vs 13.17 per cent in August 2019) and the core inflation also rose by 8.94 per cent (vs. 8.68 per cent in August 2019) apiece. “We expect an uptick in inflation to be considered at the upcoming Treasury Bills primary market auction this week,” Meristem analysts said in report made available to Sunday Telegraph.

 

 

They disclosed that the jump in inflationary trends was not unconnected to the recent regulations in the domestic economy which “has begun to weigh in on inflation figures.”

They stated that the partial closure of land borders in August inhibited the free movement of goods, resulting in an uptick in the prices of food items such as frozen foods, rice, vegetable oil and fruits, amongst others. “In September, the food price index rose by 13.51 per cent as against13.17 per cent in August, mirroring the pressure on the aforementioned items. Core price index walked a similar path, trending upwards by 8.94 per cent year-on-year, on the back of price increase in hospital services, cleaning, clothing, footwear and household appliances, amongst others.

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2018: Nigeria lost N39bn to tanker, trailer accidents –FRSC

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2018: Nigeria lost N39bn to tanker, trailer accidents –FRSC

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he Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has revealed that Nigeria lost over N39 billion in 2018 alone to trailer and tanker-related road accidents.

 

This was disclosed during the week in Lagos by the Corps Marshal of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi.

He said: “Nigeria lost N39 billion to trailer and tanker crashes in 2018 alone, with about 650 articulated vehicles involved, while over 90 per cent of them had been used for haulage transportation for over 30 years.

 

“Haulage has become the most utilized way of inter-city movements of goods and services, while the country consumes an estimated 60 million liters of refined petroleum products per day.’’

Oyeyemi also revealed the major challenges that FRSC believes to be the causes of the fatal tanker and trailer accidents in Nigeria. Some of them include: Neglect of the use of retro-reflective type of tapes (for night visibility), use of unnecessary additional lights, indiscriminate parking especially along main corridors on streets, Lane indiscipline and use of unlicensed drivers (motor boys).

 

In a general overview, Oyeyemi concluded that adhering to the new “safe-to-load” programme in the distribution of all major oil products by trailers and tankers in Nigeria will curb this depressing rate of accidents. This programme had been structured such that it only allows large vehicles in approved good condition to transport dry and wet cargoes on Nigerian roads.

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Toyota cuts CO2 emissions in new Yaris hybrid

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he styling of the new Yaris, with its prominent wheel arches and wide grille dominating the front, gives it an appealing, “ready to go” character, according to Toyota.

The new Toyota Yaris hybrid pairs a three-cylinder engine with a lithium ion battery for the first time to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent compared with the outgoing hybrid, the automaker says.

Toyota Europe will offer its latest-generation Yaris small-segment car with gasoline and full hybrid powertrains. There will be no diesel version, as with the current model.

The new small car will initially be launched as a hybrid only, with gasoline versions arriving later, Toyota said in a news release on Wednesday.

 

A 20 per cent improvement over the current Yaris hybrid would reduce CO2 emissions figure to 67 grams per km, meaning its emissions would be closer to a plug-in hybrid than a standard full hybrid.

A switch to lithium-ion from nickel metal hydride has cut the battery’s weight by 27 per cent, Toyota said. Toyota did not give a figure for battery capacity.

The new Yaris is the first car to be built on Toyota’s new modular small-car platform, a variant of the TNGA platform that underpins the new Corolla compact and CH-R and RAV4 crossovers. The new platform, called GA-B, is said to improve handling thanks to increased rigidity and a lower center of gravity.

 

The platform also allows designers to create visually distinctive models with appealing proportions, Toyota said.

The styling of the new Yaris, with its prominent wheel arches and wide grille dominating the front, gives it an appealing, “ready to go” character, according to Toyota.

The new car is 5 mm shorter than the outgoing Yaris, which is 3,950 mm long. The new car is also 15 mm lower and 50 mm wider.

Toyota is strongly promoting the safety benefits of the new Yaris, describing it as the safest in its segment. The company said it is the first small car to use a center airbag, which deploys between the two front seats.

Active safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control, which can brake the car automatically to a complete stop, and a lane-keeping assist. Both are standard.

Toyota will continue to build the Yaris at its Valenciennes plant in northern France. The automaker has invested 300 million euros ($330 million) to bring the TNGA platform to the plant, a move that Toyota said would increase capacity to 300,000 cars annually. The company added a third shift at Valenciennes in 2014 to bring production to 220,000 cars annually.

 

Equipment inside the Yaris includes a touchscreen mounted high on the dashboard and a 10-inch head-up display that projects information such as satellite navigation directions onto the windscreen. A heated steering wheel is also available.

Toyota describes the materials used in the interior as high quality and highlights the use of a felt trim finish on the door panels. The company said its aim was to give the interior “a sensory quality” that places more importance on colors, operation of the controls, interior ambient lighting and graphics.

 

The size of the steering wheel has been reduced slightly as part of a design layout that Toyota calls “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel” because of its intention to reduce distractions for the driver.

The hybrid version of the Yaris has become a successful model for Toyota since it was first launched in Europe in 2012. Almost half of the 130,967 Yaris models sold in the first six months of this year in the region were hybrids, Toyota Europe said.

The model has had few electrified competitors in the segment, but the new Yaris will go up against the new Honda Jazz, which arrives next year as a hybrid model only. Like the Yaris, the Jazz will be powered by a 1.5-liter engine boosted by an electric motor.

Deliveries of the Yaris hybrid will start in the second half of next year.

Toyota will launch 1.0-liter and 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline models at a later date but only in selected markets, the automaker said, without giving more detail

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IMB reports 30% piracy drop on Nigerian waters

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he International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported a drop in piracy attacks in Nigeria in the third quarter of 2019. IMB said in its latest report, “Nigeria has reduced Q3 piracy attacks from 41 in 2018 to 29 in 2019,” which represents nearly 30 per cent year-on-year reduction.

This is as the Deep Blue Project, a comprehensive maritime security architecture initiated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in collaboration with the military and other security agencies, comes into operation.

The global maritime security watchdog also said there was a decrease in worldwide piracy incidents during the first nine months of 2019, compared with the corresponding period in 2018, in a fall to a five-year low.

Director of IMB, a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Pottengal Mukundan, said: ‘’119 incidents have been reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in 2019, compared to 156 incidents for the same period in 2018. Overall, the 2019 incidents include 95 vessels boarded, 10 vessels fired upon, 10 attempted attacks, and four vessels hijacked. The number of crew taken hostage through the first nine months has declined from 112 in 2018 to 49 in 2019.”

However, according to IMB, piracy and armed robbery attacks remain a challenge in the Gulf of Guinea.

The decline in piracy and armed robbery attacks on vessels came as the Deep Blue Project, Nigeria’s Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, began to yield results. The project is handled by an Israeli firm, Homeland Security International (HLSI). It involves the training of field and technical operatives drawn from the various strata of the security services and NIMASA as well as acquisition of assets to combat maritime crime, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, and establishment of a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing to aid targeted enforcement.

The Deep Blue Project aims at building a formidable integrated surveillance and security architecture that will broadly combat maritime crime and criminalities in Nigeria’s waterways up to the Gulf of Guinea.

The timing of the IMB report also coincides with the conclusion of the Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC 2019) hosted by Nigeria, and coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA, under the theme, “Managing and Securing our Waters.”

With the stated objective of, among others, defining the nature and scope of coordinated responses to maritime insecurity in relation to interventions, the conference enabled global maritime leaders to review the progress made in the fight against maritime crime while charting strategies for the future.

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Fresh crisis looms at Ladipo Market over N48m debt

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The relative peaceful business environment that has reigned at the popular Aguiyi- Ironsi International Market, Ladipo, Mushin, Lagos State, appears set to be shattered as the leadership crisis that has bedeviled the market union over the years is rearing its ugly head again.

Sunday Telegraph learnt that this looming crisis might not be unconnected to an alleged N48 million unsettled account due to a past chairman of the union and alleged bias in the report of a Peace Committee which though not approved by the General House of the union has been reportedly forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), knowledge and approval of the general assembly of the union.

 

Sunday Telegraph investigations revealed that subsequent protests over the alleged biases contained in the report by many of the shop owners and traders, is causing division and disaffection among the traders along their loyalty lines.

Recall that the auto spare parts market has been enmeshed in crisis since 2006 which at various times, led to riots and attempted murder by thugs fighting for different factions in the market.                       

Indeed, issues arising from the leadership tussles in the market are pending in various courts in the country, police formations and the EFCC.

 

An aggrieved trader who identified himself simply as Francis, regretted what he called a worrisome fact that majority of the gladiators in the looming crisis do not own any shops in the market and are not traders in the market .                        

He said: “They create crisis, intimidate and do unlawful things to win elections just to rule us, force incalculable huge levies on the powerless traders, while our businesses bleed into bankruptcy, whereas they escape to their various states of origin to build hotels and buy property”.                                                                                          Sunday Telegraph learnt that the fresh crisis brewing in the market emanated from alleged move by a leader in the market to shut out some of his election sponsors.

Other burning issues Sunday Telegraph further learnt, were the alleged N48 million debt and repairs or replacement of two cars belonging to a former leader of the market said to have been damaged during the factional wars as well as the said reluctance of the proponents of the committee report to condemn the alleged unprovoked assassination attempt on the former market leader, which took place on April 12, 2017, inside the market.

Also alarming, according to the traders, was the alleged fraudulent submission of the contentious report to EFCC and courts, without following constitutionally laid down procedure of adoption of such reports by the general house of the market union in an open meeting.

Like the case of brothers against one another, the stage appear set now for a show down between these traders who are mostly from Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states; fighting for the soul of Aguiyi Ironsi International Market union.

However, speaking in an interview in his office, chairman of the market union, Mr. Emmanuel Mbamara, disclosed that his executives and the union were not responsible for giving out the said copy of the committee’s report to the EFCC and court. He blamed the opponents of the former chairman for passing the report to the court and EFCC.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that the situation is degenerating by the day as the traders become and more factionalised. Concerned traders said that the last time there was a similar situation; it was bloody, turning the market into a sort of theater of war, where unbelievably, different kinds of dangerous weapons including ‘ Juju’, were deployed, thereby paralyzing business activities in the ever busy market.

Former chairman of the union, Chief Cyril Onyemaechi in a telephone chat, told our correspondent that he did his utmost best to ensure that peace returned to the market before handing over to Mbamara.

He enjoined the warring factions to exercise restraint and resolve the brewing crisis. He expressed concerns, as according to him, Mbamara was Okolies choice candidate during the election that ushered the new regime.

Speaking on the contentions report, Market Youth Leader, Remigium Tochukwu said:” We must always say the truth no matter what or who is involved. The report was presented to the general house but was not adopted because the former chairman, Jonathan Okolie traveled to Japan, even the incumbent chairman shifted the adoption until the person indicted is around”.

 

Other traders in the market who agreed with Remigius that the report was not adopted were, Emeka Eze,Sam Akachukwu,Amaobi and Obi.

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