If predictions by financial experts are anything to go by, Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary authorities should be bracing for the impact of another global economic recession next year. Tony Chukwunyem writes
Clearly, in the wake of the US President’s (Donald Trump) recent intensification of the trade war between his country, financial circles have been rife with predictions that the world’s economy could face another recession in 2020.
Last Wednesday, for instance, Bloomberg reported that the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China was: “nudging the world economy toward its first recession in a decade with investors demanding politicians and central bankers act fast to change course.”
The news agency cited the drop in German industrial production, which last June registered its biggest annual decline in almost a decade, “highlighting the severity of a manufacturing slump in Europe’s largest economy,” as well as the surprise interest-rate cuts announced by Central in New Zealand, India and Thailand to protect their economies from global headwinds.
It also quoted eminent economist and Harvard Professor, Lawrence Summers, as saying that a recession risk was: “Much higher than it needs to be and much higher than it was two months ago. You can often play with fire and not have anything untoward happen, but if you do it too much you eventually get burned.”
However, even before Mr. Trump announced the latest round of tariffs on Chinese imports, financial experts have been forecasting that 2020 is likely to be the year in which the world’s economy would slide into a recession.
Specifically, another well respected Economist, Nouriel Roubini, had last December predicted that while the current global expansion will likely continue into next year, the conditions for a global recession will be ripe in 2020.
Some of the conditions, according to him, include that the Central Banks in the Western countries were ending their stimulus packages; inflation and interest rates were beginning to rise in these economies and the negative impact of trade disputes on economies.
IMF, World Bank warnings
Furthermore, recent reports released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, while not forecasting that recession is a distinct possibility next year, have not exactly boosted optimism about the global economy.
For instance, in its latest quarterly World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released on July 23, the IMF further reduced its global growth outlook, already the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008/2009 and suggested that policy, “missteps” on trade and Brexit could derail a projected rebound.
The Fund stated that the world economy will expand 3.2per cent this year and 3.5per cent next year, both down 0.1 percentage point from April projections. The IMF also cut expectations for growth in the global volume of trade in goods and services, reducing its estimate by 0.9 point to 2.5per cent in 2019.
“The projected growth pickup in 2020 is precarious, presuming stabilization in currently stressed emerging market and developing economies and progress toward resolving trade policy differences,” the IMF said.
However, while the IMF saw global trade slowing this year more significantly as a result of the trade tensions, it predicted a bounce back to 3.7per cent growth in volumes in 2020, the same pace as 2018.
“The principal risk factor to the global economy is that adverse developments – including further U.S.-China tariffs, U.S. auto tariffs, or a no-deal Brexit – sap confidence, weaken investment, dislocate global supply chains, and severely slow global growth below the baseline,” the IMF said.
According to the Fund, the risks facing the global economy include trade tensions, which hinder investment, the continuing impact of low interest rates on investors’ risk appetite and disinflationary pressures that would make servicing debt harder, and constrain central banks’ ability to use monetary policy in downturns.
Similarly, in its June 2019 Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank forecast that global economic growth will ease to a weaker-than-expected 2.6per cent in 2019 before inching up to 2.7per cent in 2020.
The report stated that growth among advanced economies as a group was anticipated to slow in 2019, especially in the Euro Area, due to weaker exports and investment, adding that U.S. growth is forecast to ease to 2.5per cent this year and decelerate to 1.7per cent in 2020.
It also stated that growth among emerging market and developing economies was projected to fall to a four-year low of 4per cent in 2019 before recovering to 4.6per cent in 2020.
“While almost every economy faces headwinds, the poorest countries face the most daunting challenges because of fragility, geographic isolation, and entrenched poverty,” said World Bank Group Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu. “Unless they can get onto a faster growth trajectory, the goal of lowering extreme poverty under 3 percent by 2030 will remain unreachable.”
Also, stressing in the report that prospects looked worse for developing economies, World Bank President, David Malpass, said: “Stronger economic growth is essential to reducing poverty and improving living standards. Current economic momentum remains weak, while heightened debt levels and subdued investment growth in developing economies are holding countries back from achieving their potential.
“It’s urgent that countries make significant structural reforms that improve the business climate and attract investment. They also need to make debt management and transparency a high priority so that new debt adds to growth and investment,” he added.
Impact on Nigeria
With the previous global economic recession-2008/2009- resulting in a significant drop in oil prices, leading to calamitous consequences for Nigeria, which relies on the export of the commodity for over 80 per cent of its revenues, industry watchers believe that another economic slump worldwide next year will seriously undermine efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government to speed up the country’s economic growth.
Indeed, as predictions about a global economic recession in 2020 came in thick and fast in recent weeks, the price of Brent crude tumbled last Wednesday to $56 per barrel, its lowest level in seven years.
According to traders, slump in oil prices followed an unexpected build in US crude supplies and fears of lower crude demand due to deepening trade tensions.
Significantly, Brent crude, against, which Nigeria’s oil is priced, fell by $2.60 to $56.34 as of 8.10pm on that day, meaning that it had lost more than 20 per cent since hitting its 2019 peak in April.
Nigeria’s 2019 budget, which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May, was based on oil production of 2.3 million bpd (including condensates) with an oil benchmark price of $60 per barrel.
Commenting on developments in the oil market, Vice President of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford Connecticut, Mr. Gene McGillian, was quoted in a Reuters report as saying: “The market continues to trade lower on concerns about demand growth and the idea that economic growth can be impacted by the trade war. The market isn’t concerned about anything other than how demand is going to play out through the rest of the year.”
Another report the by the news agency last Friday stated that Nigeria was facing challenges selling its oil as the U.S. was flooding traditional markets in Europe and Asia with exports of competing light, sweet grades.
“The changes illustrate how U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy for ‘energy dominance’ is reshaping oil markets worldwide, as U.S. oil exports surged 260,000 barrels per day in June to a monthly record of 3.16 million bpd,” the report stated, adding: “Crude from Africa’s top exporter has largely been pushed out of the U.S. market in the last decade due to booming domestic output.”
The news agency quoted a major buyer of West African crude as saying: “They (Nigeria) are facing bigger competition from the U.S., and in the last few weeks, U.S. exports have really picked up.”
Projected sluggish demand
Also, another concern for Nigeria is that last weekend, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest monthly report, which showed that increasing signs of an economic slowdown and a ramping up of the U.S.-China trade war have caused global oil demand to grow at its slowest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.
“The situation is becoming even more uncertain … global oil demand growth has been very sluggish in the first half of 2019,” the IEA said.
The Paris-based agency said that compared with the same month in 2018, global demand fell by 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May – the second year-on-year fall of 2019.
“The prospects for a political agreement between China and the United States on trade have worsened. This could lead to reduced trade activity and less oil demand growth,” the IEA said.
Lowering its global demand growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020 to 1.1 million and 1.3 million bpd, respectively, the IEA cited China as the only major source of growth at 500,000 bpd for the first half of this year.
“The outlook is fragile with a greater likelihood of a downward revision than an upward one,” the report said.
Speaking on the implications of reduced income from oil on the Nigeria economy, a financial analyst, Mr. Jude Ejiofor, told New Telegraph that it would lead to a drop in the country’s external reserves thereby making it more difficult for the CBN to defend the naira.
He said: “We have had the same experience whenever there has been a sharp fall in the price of oil. The external reserves will start declining as the CBN continues to intervene in the forex market. Of course, currency speculators would also be closly watching developments. They would start betting against the naira as soon as they perceive that the CBN does not have adequate dollar buffers to defend the local currency.”
However, as the country’s fiscal and monetary authorities brace for what might be a tough 2020, the consensus in financial circles is that the looming global recession should make them step up efforts to diversify the nation’s revenue sources.
Jumia identifies wrongdoing in Nigeria as loss widens
Jumia Technologies AG has identified improper transactions at the Africa-focused online retailer’s Nigeria business that amounted to as much as four per cent of first-quarter sales.
While the Berlin-based company says it’s taking measures to cut out instances of wrongdong, the findings backed up warnings made by short-sellers Citron in a report three months ago, which brought an abrupt end to a share-price rally following Jumia’s initial public offering in New York the previous month.
Jumia found cases where “improper orders were placed and subsequently canceled,” the company said in a statement. These included deals made through a team of independent Nigerian sales consultants called J-Force. The transactions in question amounted to two per cent of 2018 gross merchandise volume , a term for sales used in online retailing rising to four per cent in the first quarter of 2019.
According to Bloomberg, J-Force allows the company to interact directly with customers but requires constant improvement, Jumia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sacha Poignonnec said in a conference call.
The retailer sometimes dubbed Africa’s Amazon has operations in 14 countries and is seeking to take advantage of rising incomes and better technology on the continent.
In advertising for candidates to join J-Force, Jumia promises the opportunity to “earn unlimited income” while having “complete freedom and control over your activities.” Nigeria is ranked 144th on a list of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Transparency International.
The report of dubious sales practices comes after Citron called Jumia an obvious fraud,” wiping out early gains from the IPO. The stock shed another 14 per cent to $12.73 in New York, dropping below the $14.50 listing price.
Jumia said second-quarter operating losses widened by 60 per cent to 66.7 million euros ($74 million), mainly due to an increase in costs related to the vesting of share options following the IPO. The company’s target for profitability is late 2022, and the cash raised through the listing should take Jumia close to that, Poignonnec said.
NSE advances on blue chip firms
The bulls maintained their grip on market activities at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), as stocks sustained rally for the second trading following gains recorded mainly by blue chip stocks.
The key market performance measures, the NSE All Share Index and market capitalisation, rose by 1.01 per cent as market sentiments extended gaining streaks following investors’ sustained optimism on new Federal Government cabinet.
Consequently, the All-Share Index gained 276.72 basis points or 1.01 per cent to close at 27,629.66 as against 27,352.94 recorded the previous day, while market capitalisation of equities appreciated by N135 billion or 1.01 per cent to close at N13.441 trillion from N13.306 trillion as market sentiments remained on the green zone.
Meanwhile, a turnover of 369 million shares exchanged in 3,319 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.
The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 99.9 million shares exchanged by investors in 1,085 deals.
Volume in the sub-sector was largely driven by activities in the shares of Zenith Plc and UBA Plc.
The banking sub-sector, boosted by activities in the shares of GTB Plc and ETI Plc, followed with a turnover of 68.2 million shares in 668 deals.
The number of gainers at the close of trading session was 22 while decliners closed at 13.
Eterna Oil Plc led the gainers’ table with a gain of 10 per cent to close at N2.75 per share while ETI Plc followed with a gain of 9.49 per cent to close at N7.50 per share. Wapic Insurance Plc added 8.82 per cent to close at 37 kobo per share.
On the other hand, NCR Plc and UPL Plc led the price losers’ table, dropping 10 per cent each to close at N4.95 and N1.44 per share respectively. MRS Oil Plc followed with 9.83 per cent to close at N18.80 per share while Okomu Oil Plc trailed with a loss of 9.78 per cent to close at N40.15 per share.
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.
U.S. stocks fall after disappointing data
U.S. stocks turned lower on Thursday as the first contraction in the manufacturing sector in nearly a decade and uncertainty about future interest rate cuts overshadowed an initial boost from upbeat retail earnings.
IHS Markit said its “flash” survey on new orders for U.S. manufactured goods fell to 49.5 in August, over concerns whether the U.S.-China trade war would tip the economy into a recession. In response, yields on the U.S. two-year Treasury notes again moved above those of 10-Year bonds.
“Manufacturing has been pretty weak across the globe for a while now and we are starting to see that bleed into U.S.,” said Joe Mallen, chief investment officer at Helios Quantitative Research. “It’s not unexpected, but definitely not good for prospects of our economy going forward.”
According to Reuters, adding to the downbeat mood, Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker said he does not see the case for additional stimulus, while Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George said she does not yet see a signal of a downturn in the U.S. economy.
Their comments sent jitters through markets ahead of a highly anticipated speech by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday at an annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole.
The release of the minutes from the U.S. central bank’s meeting on July 30-31 offered little clarity on its next move. The policymakers were deeply divided over their quarter-point cut in rates, but united in wanting to signal the move was not on a preset path to further cuts.
Despite the stock market stabilizing from a rough first half of August, investors are wary about how far policymakers are willing to cut rates and Powell’s remarks may prove crucial to short-term sentiment..
Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower with a 0.59 per cent decline in technology .SPLRCT weighing the most on the benchmark index. Interest-rate sensitive bank stocks gained as central bankers toned down expectations of aggressive rate cuts.
Leading gains on the S&P 500 was Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N), up 15.4 per cent, as it joined Target Corp (TGT.N) and Lowe’s Cos Inc (LOW.N) this week in delivering a quarterly profit beat and bolstering confidence in consumer demand.
L Brands Inc (LB.N) slid 7.8 per cent after the Victoria’s Secret owner reported quarterly sales short of estimates.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.86-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
Food import: Buhari’s directive may push prices up
Nigeria’s food inflation, which has been on a downward trend in the last two months, could head north if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) fully implements President Muhammadu Buhar’s directive to stop allocating foreign exchange to food importers in the country, analysts at Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) have said.
In a note obtained by New Telegraph yesterday, the analysts, who were commenting on National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) latest inflation data, which showed that inflation fell to 11.08 per cent in July from 11.22 per cent in June, predicted that the president’s directive vould push up commodity prices and stoke inflation.
They further said: “Although the move would encourage backward integration and support agric sector growth, it could push up food prices in the coming months as Nigeria is highly food import dependent.”
The FDC analysts stated in the note entitled: “Nigeria: Inflation lower but the storms are gathering – food import restriction yet to bite,” that “it is worth mentioning that food inflation dropped to 13.39per cent from 13.56per cent in June. In the last year, the food basket has been mostly responsible for the direction of inflation.
“This is because it accounts for more than 50per cent of the weight in the general basket. The food index declined by approximately 0.60per cent in the last two months due to a number of factors including a favourable harvest.”
They, however, forecast that President Buhari’s directive to the CBN and other factors such as implementation of minimum wage and the adjustment in exchange rate for computing custom duty could fuel inflation in the next few months.
According to the analysts, “other inflation stoking factors that have been benign are likely to become potent in August and September. These factors include, the minimum wage implementation and the adjustment in the exchange rate for computing custom duty which moved to N326/$ from N305/$. Assuming that 60 per cent of all goods imported attract a duty, the shift from N305/$ to N326/$ will have a pass through effect of approximately N25.7billion.
“The apex bank is also contemplating adding dairy products to the list of items restricted from forex. Annual dairy imports is estimated at $1.2bilion. In recent times, the President directed the CBN to prohibit forex access for all food imports. This could push up commodity prices and stoke inflation. In Q1’19, food imports was estimated at $1.1billion, 10.7 per cent of total imports. Imported food inflation in Q2 was 15.72 per cent, 2.04 per cent higher than domestic food inflation.”
Specifically, they stated that “according to the NBS, the price of food items such as bread and cereals increased. However, the global cereal price index declined by 2.7 per cent to 168.6 points in July. These commodities have high import content and are exchange rate sensitive.
“Thus the adjustment in the exchange rate for computing custom duty to N326/$ from N305/$ most likely pushed up their prices. Imported food inflation rose to 16.39 per cent in July from 15.75 per cent in the preceding month.”
Forex ban: Association frets over food import
President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to halt foreign exchange on food importation will lead to inflation and also reduce the livelihood of Nigerians.
President, Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN), Professor Bashir Raji, disclosed this.
He advised the president to ruminate on both the production and consumption of food in the nation, while also emphasising that the policy would be laudable if properly articulated.
He described it as “a right policy, right timing but wrong approach.”
He stated that Nigeria’s current rice production was about 3.7 million tonnes annually and its requirement about eight million tonnes of annually, adding that with outright ban, there is no way the country can meet up with the required 50 per cent in one year.
In his words: “Definitely there will be a lot of inflation, there will be high prices, and considering the economy at the moment, a lot of people will suffer. The president must have been fed the impression that because of drop in importation of rice through our ports, the rice we consume in this country is produced locally, which is not true.
“There is a lot of increase in the production of rice locally but there has been increased smuggling from neighbouring countries, which eventually ends up in Nigeria to complement what is produced locally. The policy, if properly articulated, will be beneficial on the long run, but it is quite clear that we still rely a lot on importation of food and outright banning is likely to bring about inflation.
“It will also bring about pressure on the black or parallel foreign exchange market and high cost of food, especially rice. We don’t import yam, we don’t import cassava, beans and we don’t actually import most of our staple food; the ones we import are basically rice maybe wheat, milk, sugar and some of the exotic foods.
“Unless we can produce one and a half times what we require, it will not be a good decision to ban outright importation of food, especially now that a lot of people are suffering economically.”
Prof. Raji recommended that the Federal Government halt forex gradually over the next five years, setting objectives to meet up measurable targets and make sure 50 per cent shortfall is met during the period.
He also guaranteed that the society was ready to work with the Federal Government to reduce land degradation and climate change.
Appraising mushroom farming’s impact on economy
The National Mushroom Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NAMGPMAN) has asked for the support of the Federal Government for a 30 per cent mushroom content in all confectioneries produced in the country so as to generate income and employment, as well asimprove the economy. Taiwo Hassan writes
Indeed, Nigeria is known to be great in agriculture even though it still struggling to attain food security following enormous challenges bedeviling the sector.
Nevertheless, the country’s struggle to achieve nutritional security is still on in all ramifications. In future, the ever-increasing population, depleting agricultural land, changes in environment, water shortage and need for quality food products at competitive rates are going to be important issues in the country.
To meet these challenges and to provide food and nutritional security to Nigerians, it is important to diversify agricultural activities. It is widely known that Nigerian diet is primarily based on cereals (wheat, rice, grain and maize), which are deficient in protein.
However, mushrooms not only impact diversification but also help in addressing the problems of quality food, health and environment related issues.
It is believed that supplementing mushroom recipe in Nigerian diet would bridge protein gap and improve the general health of socio-economically backward communities.
Therefore, mushroom diet can be a good source of dietary fibre in the long run because they are very low in fats and has no starch, hence they are used in preventing diabetes, high cholesterol, heart diseases and obesity.
In short, many varieties are high in fibrer, essential amino acids and proteins and provide vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, cobalamine, ascorbic acid and Vitamin D. They also contain minerals like iron, copper, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Antioxidants like ergothioneine and selenium are also present.
In Nigeria, mushroom cultivation is of mixed type, i.e seasonal farming as well as high-tech-industry. It can help to reduce vulnerability to poverty and strengthens livelihoods through generation of a fast yielding and nutritious source of food and a reliable source of income.
As it does not require access to land, its cultivation is viable and attractive for both rural and urban farmers. Small-scale growing does not include any significant capital investment. Mushroom substrate can be prepared from any clean agricultural material in temporary clean shelters. They can be cultivated on a part-time basis, and require little maintenance.
Indirectly, mushroom cultivation also provides opportunities for improving sustainability of small farming systems through recycling of organic matters, which can be used as a growing substrate, and then returned to the land as fertiliser.
Through the provision of income and improved nutrition, successful cultivation and trade in mushrooms can strengthen livelihood assets, which can not only reduce vulnerability to shocks, but enhance an individualand a community’s capacity to act upon other economic opportunities.
Mushroom, being rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, can form an important ingredient of food for a balanced diet. They have been shown to promote immune function, boost health, lower the risk of cancer, inhibit tumor growth, help balancing blood sugar, ward off viruses, bacteria, and fungi, reduce inflammation, and support the body’s detoxification mechanisms.
Mushrooms are thus rich source of nutrients particularly proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, fibers and vitamins, such as B,C and D. Vitamin B greatly helps in carbohydrate metabolism and is particularly useful in removing cardiac embarrassment and beriberi.
Similarly, the presence of other vitamins like ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin and folic acid are useful in several other diseases. Their content of the anti- pellagra vitamin niacin is comparable to its level found in pork or beef, which are richest known source of this vitamin.
The mineral content particularly Ca and P are remarkably higher in mushroom than in many fresh fruits or vegetables, which again are extremely useful for body building processes. Most of the mushroom have very low starch content and form an ideal food for diabetic patients.
30% diet inclusion
Speaking at the inauguration of the association’s executives in Abuja recently, the President the mushroom growers’ association, Chief Michael Awunor, explained that it was time for government’s backing to support the development of mushroom in the country.
Awunor requested for a 30 per cent mushroom content in confectioneries produced in the country, in order to generate income and employment as well as improve the economy.
The president made the request at the inauguration of the association’s executives to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, led by the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Edet Sunday Akpan, in Abuja.
He appealed to the ministry to work on increasing the production of mushroom with the use of local content to establish nutritional security with a rigid policy.
Awunor said: “We will work with the ministry, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Environment and pharmaceutical stakeholders to ensure eating a plate of mushroom a day is against hypertension, diabetics and cancer.”
“The government must help us with policy that will drive this action. Your mushroom on the shelves must have 30 per cent local content. Hotels must include 30 per cent mushroom content in all confectioneries that are served to customers and there will be task force to ensure the implementation from the association. We will strike deal with Indomie Noodles to ensure mushroom inclusion as nutritional addictive into the flour for children and adults,” he added.
Alaya Hammed Funsho, one of the executives of the association, urged youths in agriculture to take advantage of the mushroom potential to create employment for themselves and others.
In view of the high food value to man and their medicinal properties, mushrooms can help in solving the problems of malnutrition and diseases as well as contribute highly to economic growth.
Prioritising unionism for cement workers
At the just concluded cement conference by Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), 75 participants, drawn from 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East, for two days, brainstormed on how to advance workers’ rights in the regions’ cement industry. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Unionism is a two edged sword which stands to benefit both the employee and the employer. For the workers, trade unions advocate and provide basic representation and education regarding workers basic rights to fair wages, safe work spaces, better medical facilities, welfare schemes, insurance, job security.
They also offer protection from discrimination, loss of benefits and outsourcing and stick out their necks for members through advice, legal representation and counseling.
In other words, union representation helps workers have more power against an employer when making a claim through collective bargaining.
The employer, on the other hand, enjoys some advantages from trade unionism such as easy negotiating communications via limited representatives, positive moral vibes, which could foster an increased production as workers feel compelled to be more involved and loyal to their jobs.
Given the importance to strike a balance between the employers of labour and workers, all around the world, there are national, regional and international trade unions in almost every sector saddled with the responsibility of preventing unfair labour practices by ensuring workers’ rights are not violated.
One of such unions is the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), a global union federation, which groups 334 trade unions representing about 12 million members in 130 countries drawn from the building, building materials, wood, forestry and allied sectors.
Sadly, the role of trade unions is increasingly deflating as many work organisations now engage in labour casualisation, thereby denying workers the benefits accruing from collective bargaining.
A new direction
Recently, the regional body of the BWI converged in Abuja for the BWI Africa and Middle East Region Organised Value Chains 2019 regional cement meeting, and also to launch the Africa Regional Cement Network, all geared towards the adoption of new strategies to increase union representation, improved working conditions, health and safety, as well as defend workers’ rights in the cement industry.
During the meeting, three multinational companies were fingered for bad behaviour in Africa and the Middle East by infringing on workers’ rights.
Presenting a research report on “Mapping Trade Union Context and Possibilities within the Cement Sector in Africa and Middle East,” a consultant, Jennifer Grice, noted that workers in cement industries were badly affected by their companies’ anti-union stance.
Worried over such development, the Deputy President, BWI Africa and Middle East, Amechi Asugwuni, is desirous of having firms in the cement industry honour the rights of workers by allowing them unionise in their organisations within Nigeria and across Africa.
Asugwuni, who doubles as a Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the President, National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), maintained that “unionisation is a right of workers, it is not a matter of discretion of any employer. When an organisation becomes difficult other legitimate rights of workers will be trampled upon. It has become an issue here and that is why we are using innovative approach to see how we enforce the law.”
Explaining further, the regional representative BWI South Africa, Crecentia Mofokeng, lamented that workers operating in cement firm without a union were exposed to anti-labour practices including lack of respect to occupational health and safety, lack of respect to environmental safety such as pollution, which could give rise to dangerous health conditions such as cancer, respiratory diseases arising from consistent exposure to limestones, silica and other chemicals being used to produce cement.
This means that long term exposure to cement dust and inhalation could cause different health complications and pathogenesis such as cough, cancer, asthma, lung infections respiratory disorders, and severe inflammation.
“It is not that we want to force and put pressure but it is about how do we work and create a sustainable environment both for the employers and also for the workers,” she said.
After all said and done, the BWI seems ready to take erring multinational companies in the cement industry head-on, to ensure they respect the rights of workers, especially their rights to unionise, and also protect workers from avoidable incidents.
A communiqué issued at the end of the conference notes that the regional cement network for Africa will be rolling out series of solidarity actions to change the narrative surrounding cement workers in Africa and the Middle East.
One of such is the undertaking of campaigns against multinational companies found guilty of expressing what was described as “bad behavior,” towards the health and safety of cement workers and the long hours spent at work, as well as mounting pressure on multinational companies to comply with national and international laws.
Also, a campaign would also be carried out to ensure cement companies respect the International Labour Organisation’s Convention, particularly freedom of association, collective bargaining rights as well as health and safety.
Poised to getting positive results, henceforth, written evidence of violations will collected, complaints prepared and international instruments used in tendering these complaints against violations of national laws and ILO CLS and other relevant conventions.
In addition, BWI affiliates will actively support the signing of global framework agreements on labour rights and occupational health and safety, promoting 25 kilo bags campaign in cement and construction and zero accidents, as well as initiate changes on labour legislations in order to improve selection, management and monitoring of labour standards in out sourced companies.
Obviously, and from the foregoing, with cement workers dominating most of labour engagements across the globe, based specifically on the job they do as regards construction, the need to make them come together under to express their rights through unionization, to say the least, has become inevitable.
Airlines’ health worries stakeholders
Except urgent solutions are found, the health of Nigerian airlines has created concern for stakeholders and other aviation watchers.
Managing Director, Centurion Aviation Security Limited, Group Captain John Okikutu (Rtd), told New Telegraph that many of the operating private airlines of today were not financially healthy and are substantially not compliant with the economic regulations of the Nig. CARs.
He hinted that most of them were probably recycling the business plans of defunct airlines, stressing that airlines like Arik Air could not have incurred a debt of over N500 billion within six years of its operations.
Ojikutu explained that earlier operators’ main interest in commercial aviation was to daily count the number of passengers and their earnings as daily operational cost was not much of their concern.
He said: “However, when it was time for major repairs like the C – checks, they abandoned the aircraft which in any case were very old for any repair at a cost almost at the initial price of the aircraft. If private airlines are not financially healthy, there can be no appreciable investment for boosting the sector. Would government alone continue to invest in the sector and at the same time be providing financial support with public fund for the private airlines that have no key performance indicator programme in their business plans?”
He stated that rather than believe in the rhetorics of blaming government for killing their businesses, there were historical evidence suggesting that the Nigeria airline operators themselves killed their businesses themselves.
He challenged anybody to provide records or evidence to suggest that it was government or its policies that killed airlines like Okada, Kabo, Bellview, Chanchangi, Sossolisso, ADC, Triax, Harka, Hold Trade of the 80s and early 90s.
His words: “Some of these earlier private airlines particularly, Okada, Kabo, Gas, Triax and DAS, between 1992 and 1995 flew more than 2000 flights for the ECOMOG Mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia with BAC-111, B-727, B-707 and B-747 and were earning $50,000.00 for the smallest and $120,000 for the biggest for a return flight
“None of the operators of these airlines had evidence that they were not fully paid for their services to government. As bonus to their earnings, they paid nothing at both ends for landing, parking and air navigational services on any of the flights.”
The former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, maintained that there were credible evidence showing that Nigeria Airways and ADC chose not to participate in the three years operation because their insurance policy did not cover their operation to war areas.
These evidence, he reiterated, also had it at that time that Nigeria Airways management officials in the cloak of ‘government’ were selling economic tickets to senior government officials and their families and would put them in the first and business classes at the expense of genuine passengers, who were willing to pay the correct fares for the seats.
To him, many Nigerians, including most at the conference, believed that it was government that killed Nigeria Airways and not individuals exploiting or compromising their position of authority unilaterally.
Ojikutu lauded government for intervening in the plight of airlines when it bailed six carriers out with over N200 billion at six per cent interest from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry (BOI).
He added that government later gave zero duties to the airlines on imported aircraft spares.
According to him, “The government later gave zero duties to the airlines on imported aircraft spares. At an earlier event this year, we were told by the MD NAMA that over 12 containers of spares and equipment for critical communication and radar belonging to the agency a ‘government’ agency have been at the Apapa Wharf for over five years because of its inability to pay custom duties. Discerning minds may wish to ask; which government policy gave zero duties to the private airlines and could not give same to its own agency?”
An aircraft pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to audit the finances of the airlines, saying they “are in precarious situation.”
LAPO MFB boss charges media on microfinance sector’s growth
The Managing Director, Lift Above Poverty Organisation’s (LAPO) Micro-Finance Bank (MFB), Mr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, has appealed to journalists in the country to not only increase their reportage of MFBs, but to also ensure that their coverage of the sub-sector ensures its growth for the over-all benefit of the country.
Speaking at a media parley in Lagos, he noted that while the media had played a commendable role “in supporting the emergence of microfinance sector in Nigeria,” it needs to help create awareness on the unique role played by LAPO MFB over the last 30 years.
According to him, LAPO MFB’s long history as well as achievements in the industry has resulted in the creation of the impression in some quarters that ‘Lapo’ is synonymous with microfinance, leading to most infractions committed by other MFBs being ascribed to the bank.
He said: “LAPO MFB is a premium microfinance not only by our long history of involvement with low income households but also for our size and roboust financial services we provide. We do know that most people at the bottom of the society take ‘Lapo’ as microfinance. It is for this reason most infractions by other microfinance institutions and banks are ascribed to LAPO.
“While we take credit for pioneering microfinance in Nigeria and Africa, we feel we need to create awareness on the fact that we are indeed different from other microfinance banks and institutions. We have committed huge resources to ensuring over all development.”
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