The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has taken over many tank farms and loading terminals belonging to some independent marketers and importers of petroleum products in Nigeria due to inability to pay the debts they owe banks. Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Adetunji Oyebanji, speaks on these crises and other burning issues in the downstream subsector of the petroleum industry, in this interview with Adeola Yusuf. Excerpts:
In other countries we see fuel retail outlets owned and operated by international oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, among others, why is it not the same here in Nigeria? Don’t you think it’s time the Federal Government compelled them to do so?
Most governments across the globe promote free market enterprise. People and businesses invest in different sectors out of their free will based on opportunities there. You cannot coerce people or institutions to invest in an industry when the environment is not conducive or acceptable to them.
Some Nigerians and organisations have expressed concerns about the huge amount of money being spent on fuel subsidy, what will be your advice to the government if asked to do so?
Government should put a robust plan in place to wind down their involvement in fuel importation by liberalizing and deregulating petrol. This would channel very scarce resources used in its importation to other sectors of the economy in dire need of attention, for example, Education, Health, Security, among others for true benefit of the citizenry.
What is the state of the debt owed oil marketers by the Federal Government?
Kudos to this government as two thirds of marketers’ debts, which are largely legacy debts inherited by the present government in 2015 have settled them. The instrument used for payment is promissory notes, which can be discounted for cash.
Banks, we learnt, have been directed to waive the interest that accrued on the N800 billion owed marketers, will that make marketers commence importation of fuel?
Marketers cannot compete because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is capable of accessing forex for product importation at a rate others cannot. They, alone, can take the shock of product cost landing at above pump price and every other person buys from them. It is currently not a level-playing field at all.
Over the years, the Federal Government had been advised severally to deregulate the fuel marketing arm of the oil industry, but the government is not excited to implement it because it will make the citizens to unnecessarily pay more for fuel. What do you think can be done to deregulate the sector and still keep the price of fuel (PMS) at a reasonable level?
Pump price of petrol is cheapest in Nigeria than all our neighbouring countries. This is mainly the case due to the subsidization of the product. Unfortunately we have porous land/sea borders and these fuels find their way to other countries where they do not subsidize fuel. So technically, Nigeria is subsidizing fuel for other countries and making some black marketers super rich. Government can plan deregulation in phases and put palliative measures in place to cushion any sharp or adverse effect of the process.
The major oil marketing companies have not been increasing their retail outlets in the past few years, what’s responsible for this action? Is it a collective decision by the umbrella body – MOMAN?
Personally, the downstream is not very attractive, as a lot of companies today are trying to stay afloat or survive due to the very thin margin on petrol because it is a regulated product. A lot of fuel terminals are under AMCON’s management, as they could not meet their financial obligations to banks, among others. The margins have not been reviewed since 2016 and for many years before then, it’s been the same. The subsidy payment came as a relief, but some companies had passed redemption even with the inflow and suffered the inevitable. Necessity is the mother of invention, as a lot of marketers have divested or reengineered just to remain relevant. This is the same reason why most international oil companies (IOCs) have divested from Nigeria and even people who took them over have in some cases also moved on to other more profitable ventures.
Normally, when the price of crude oil is low, the price of petroleum products should be low. Why doesn’t that apply in Nigeria?
The government is already bleeding as a result of cushioning the price of the product, as the landing price of petrol is more than the pump price. So naturally when price is low, it may at best be at breakeven point with pump price. At least, government will have some relief at those seasons.
The downstream subsector has not been attracting foreign and local investors, what’s the cause?
The answer to this question is not farfetched. With the right environment such as free enterprise and a level playing field, investors will be encouraged and participate in building capacity and infrastructure, as they will be guaranteed of a reasonable return for their investment. If this isn’t the case, as we are now currently experiencing in our polity, even the existing players will pack their bags to leave.
MOMAN is recognised as a cardinal and reputable organisation, why isn’t it helping the government to find solution to the downstream problems?
MOMAN is an association made up of member companies driven by their core values, which is primarily to provide energy solutions to Nigerians at a reasonable return. However, we also share a mandate to ensure there is fluidity in Federal Government’s plan in reaching policy solutions. Unfortunately what we find is successive governments using fuel/PMS as a political commodity and trying to solve our problems of deregulation politically as opposed to using economical approach to resolving it.
Having headed both multinational and local oil firms, what are the things that we are not doing properly or we should do differently as a country to put the downstream on a strong footing?
First and foremost as a nation, we should formulate proper policies that will entrench fair play and promote free market enterprise. One of the key reasons for this, fundamentally, is it will attract a lot of both local and foreign investment. On the area of Safety, Corporate Governance, Operational Efficiency etc, the world now is a global village and a lot of best practices are easier shared across companies and industries more now than never before.
Should the Federal Government sell Nigeria’s refineries to private investors?
It is a general rule and very popular school of thought, which says government are not very efficient in running state corporations due to the usual inherent bureaucracies and usual inherent corruption that we tend to find prevalent. Having said this, government may encourage private partnerships to run and oversee the refineries by putting proper policies and plan in place for its workability.
How should government go about it?
Partner with the right team to gradually see government’s involvement in running the refineries diminish. Right policy framework that will ensure the new managers enjoy tax exemption and other incentives before the refineries become fully operational and viable again.
Does the nation stand to benefit from selling off these refineries?
Yes to the extent that they will be more efficient and produce more molecules for the Nigerian populace. Hopefully this will put less and less pressure on the need to import refined products and also reduce the pressure on our foreign exchange reserves.
There is agitation that there will be job loss if the refineries are sold. Will this not be counter-productive?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that some of the existing jobs on the refining line currently out dated will be replaced by more modern machinery with less human intervention, but overall the economy will likely see a boom and will be freed up. This has a ripple effect of generating a robust growth and earnings potential that will exponentially create more jobs and income for Nigerians.
Will selling the refineries now not have negative impact on price of refined products for Nigerians?
From our experience the impact of our refined product is largely minimal overall, as we import close to 70 – 80 per cent of our premium motor spirit (PMS) or petrol consumption from foreign refineries. So, by government finding right partners and moving away from directly managing the refineries to a more efficient manager will see government concentrate on other social- economic role beneficial to all as opposed to a purely business-driven venture approach needed to run modern refineries properly.
How is 11Plc faring in the industry? Have you resolved your case with Ascon Oil on the Mobile retail outlet at Gbagada?
We are trying to compete favorably and face all of the challenges being faced by all the local players. Our edge, however, is staying within the ambit of the law and doing those things we are known for flawlessly. For the Mobil Gbagada service station, the case is still in the courts.
We gathered that 11plc sacked some workers due to inability to pay while some workers are still working as casuals; can you throw more light on these issues?
There isn’t any iota of truth in this story. Members of staff who leave are those who attained the retirement age or choose to leave based on pursuing other passions or dreams. At 11PLC, we pride ourselves as a company that develops our manpower, as we see our people as our strongest asset and like I said, the management and staff of 11PLC always stay within the ambit of the law of the land.
Last year, MOMAN engaged with some stakeholders on the need to clear the Apapa gridlock. What is your assessment of the situation?
If you look at the bridges today, you will see that most of the trucks that are on those queues are trucks for dry goods. Hardly will you see any tanker that is parked indiscriminately in Apapa. To that extent, I think we have worked hard to make sure that MOMAN members and other companies that are coming to lift from our facilities have places where they can park their trucks without being a distraction. However, the overall problem of Apapa still remains. On our own side, in our own industry, a good percentage of the imports into Nigeria come in through the Apapa ports. So that is a problem, although it has been decentralised to a certain extent so people also go to places such as Calabar and Warri to lift products.
But the vast majority comes into Apapa. So that is one problem. Secondly, the major ports here, Tin Can and Apapa ports are still here. So most of the dry goods that are imported into the country again, are coming in through the same ports that were built several years ago, despite an increase in volume. So, I would say the major problem is really lack of investment. If the country has invested in more ports’ receipt facilities, infrastructure in this area in different parts of the country then, we would not really have this problem. Until that fundamental problem is addressed, we are going to continue to see this kind of problem intermittently. In addition, the roads are bad, not only in coming into Apapa but all over the place and that has also compounded the issue.
For me, you have to decentralize this place. l do not think any new tank farm should be allowed here. We already have enough. They should take them to other places. And then if the roads are also fixed, that will improve. We have a big truck pack. Most of our MOMAN members have truck parks and we are able to park our trucks. But I think it’s something that needs to be done for not only the petrol tankers or trucks coming into Apapa.
How come most of the multinationals have left with the exception of Total? How was Total able to do this?
Well, what I would say clearly is that the downstream in Nigeria is not healthy. As you know, we operate on a fixed margin. The last time any review was done on our margins was in 2016. Inflation continues to rise, workers continue to demand a higher salary as well as an increase in all the inputs. If you want to build a mega station now, the cost is probably two or three times over what it would have cost a few years back and yet our margins remain the same. Today, NNPC is the sole importer of fuel; so all of us have to go cap in hand to NNPC to beg for allocation. So with all the stress and combination of things, regulations are not applied to all. In some cases, you will find this regulation will be applied here, for another person the same will not be applied.
So those kinds of differential ways of doing things and then, when you add to all these multiple taxations, every local government, every environmental agency, three different agencies can come requesting for the same things and charging you huge amounts of money, all coming from a fixed petrol price on a fixed margin. With that, it doesn’t take rocket science to know that things will be bad. And that’s why I think people have left. For TOTAL, I think the only reason why they are still here, I can’t speak for them, but I believe Africa is a corner piece of their own strategy. So they have been expanding significantly in Africa and maybe that is why they feel it’s important to remain in a large economy like Nigeria. But for other people, that made a business decision that this is not a sustainable economic environment that can keep their companies going and they have decided to vote with their feet.
What solutions will you proffer to these problems you mentioned?
Well, we are in a competitive industry. We believe in competition. We believe that when you allow players in the industry a free hand to go into the market and to compete effectively, it brings out the best in them and the investment that is lacking. You can see the trucks on the road, most of the trucks you see on the road are not good, many of our stations you see are not what you call state-of-the-art stations. If you go abroad, you can see much better service stations. Many of our facilities are old and getting older. We believe that the government needs to free up the industry just like it has done in so many other industries and we have seen the massive development there. I believe that we should deregulate the industry. Deregulation doesn’t mean there will be a lack of regulation. The regulation will still be there but the government will concentrate on setting standards and making sure that everybody is playing according to the rules, and that people are not creating monopolies in terms of oppressing people.
Today, even though the margins have not been touched for quite some time, they are fixed and they are known. At least you know what you are dealing with. In a deregulated environment you may not know what those margins are. In fact, your margins could go negative if possible but at the end of the day what that means is that, those who are not running the business efficiently would die and the strong will survive or there’ll be consolidation in the industry, which is part of what you see happening in the banking sector because the competition is stiff. People have to consolidate.
With all the benefits you outlined, why do you think the government is yet to sign up on deregulation?
It is from a political standpoint and it is always going to be a challenging thing. Unfortunately the longer you wait, the more difficult it is going to become. It is not going to run away. You really have to take the bull by the horns because what we keep on doing is that, when there is an attempt to deregulate and there is a lot of pushback, eventually when the government has to take a step backward what they end up doing ultimately is just to increase the price. Deregulation is not about just increasing prices periodically. What usually happens is that when the pressure on government finances becomes so much, they have no choice and they will say we want to deregulate and immediately they say that there’s outrage, people in different places carry placards, strikes and all that.
OPEC+ likely to extend oil supply cuts until June – sources
OPEC and its allies are likely to extend existing oil output cuts when they meet next month until mid-2020, with non-OPEC oil producer Russia supporting Saudi Arabia’s push for stable oil prices amid the listing of state oil giant Saudi Aramco.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets on Dec. 5 at its headquarters in Vienna, followed by talks with a group of other oil producers, lead by Russia, known as OPEC+. The current oil supply cuts run through to March 2020.
On December 5, Saudi Arabia is set to announce the final pricing of the initial public offering of Aramco, in what it hopes will be the world’s largest IPO. The oil price at the time is likely to be key to Aramco’s listing, expected around mid-December, reports Reuters.
“So far we have two main scenarios: either meet in December and extend the current cuts until June; or defer the decision until early next year, meet before March to see how the market looks and extend the cuts until the middle of the year,” said an OPEC source.
“It is more likely that we will extend the agreement in December to send a positive message to the market. The Saudis don’t want oil prices to fall, they want to put a floor under the prices because of the (Aramco) IPO.”
OPEC sources said market conditions in the first quarter of 2020 remain unclear amid concerns of a slowdown in oil demand and weak output compliance by some producers such as Iraq and Nigeria, which is complicating the outlook.
An OPEC delegate said: “My feeling is that (an extension) to end-June to avoid meeting again early March, with the possibility of calling for an (earlier) meeting should market conditions require it … is the likely scenario as of today.”
The two sources said formally announcing deeper cuts looked unlikely for now although a message about better compliance with existing cuts could be sent to the market.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, wants to focus first on boosting adherence to the group’s production-reduction pact before committing to any more cuts, they said.
“The Saudis want to see how the rest of those who are not complying (with the cuts) do first. There are no numbers being circulated so far for deeper cuts or changing output quotas,” said the first OPEC source.
Amrita Sen, co-founder of Energy Aspects think-tank, which closely watches OPEC and Saudi oil policies, said a mere extension by OPEC+ of the existing output cuts until June might not be enough to support oil prices.
“The market expects a further cut and an extension until the end of 2020. In any other scenario, the market will sell,” she said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin set the tone for the December meeting last week, calling Saudi Arabia’s position ahead of the talks “tough”.
Moscow argues that it will find it hard to cut oil production voluntarily during the cold winter months, especially in western Siberia, where Russia produces two-thirds of its oil and where most of its well rigs are located.
Freezing temperatures make it difficult for Russia to shut in and restart wells in winter months.
“There is no doubt that Russia won’t let the Saudis down in case of a price collapse, given the upcoming IPO,” said one source familiar with Russian thinking.
He added that Putin had developed close ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Russian government was aware that the three-year-old partnership could fall apart if Russia did not support Riyadh.
The OPEC+ alliance has since January implemented a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day, to help boost oil prices trading now at $62 a barrel.
“This is not only about supporting Saudi Arabia. The deal, without a doubt, is beneficial for Russia. The Russian budget has received more than $100 billion from the deal. And the deal has stabilized the Russian economy,” Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund, told Reuters.
Dmitriev and Energy Minister Alexander Novak were the key architects of a deal with Saudi Arabia, which began in 2017.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers in OPEC have been delivering more than their share of promised cuts to stabilise the market and prevent prices from falling.
In October, the kingdom raised its oil output to its OPEC target, pumping 10.3 million bpd to replenish its inventories after attacks on its facilities last month, but kept the volumes of crude supplied to the market at 9.9 million bpd.
Last week, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said U.S. shale oil supply growth could slow next year while demand may have upside potential, appearing to downplay any need to cut output more deeply.
Traders lament continuous border closure
The sustained border closure by Federal Government has continued to destabilise commodity retailers, especially those into food item business.
Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that the situation had started creating an atmosphere of hopelessness since the Federal Government has vowed to sustain the closure till end of January 2020.
Nigeria closed its land borders to both Benin and Niger in August in what the government said was aimed at curbing smuggling of goods, especially rice into Nigeria. The closure has led to increase in food prices and subsequently pushed up annual inflation in the country.
Speaking on the development, John Paul, who sells food stuff such as rice, beans garri, noodles, among others at Egbeda market, complained that since the closure of the border his business had been affected in terms of both patronage and restocking.
He said the effect of the closure was obvious, as he has both increased the price at which he sells as well as reduce the quantity he buys.
Another woman, who pleaded anonymity, complained that the fairly used clothes she sells were now difficult to buy.
According to her, before the closure of the border she used to purchase her goods from neighboring countries at cheaper price, but with the closure, she now buys here in Nigeria but at a high price.
Before the border closure she used to sell her clothes for as low as N300 or N400 depending on the quality of the material, but now she sells them for nothing less than N600.
Another woman, who also pleaded anonymity, explained that there were goods currently on demand but not available as a result of the closure.
“Products such as sardines and some brand of sanitary wares are no longer in the market,” she added.
ICPC bestows integrity award on FAAN staff
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has recognized a staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mrs. Josephine Ugwu for her honesty and integrity in the discharge of her duties.
Mrs Ugwu was presented with the award at a two day summit on ‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector’ jointly organized by the Office of the Secretary to the
Government of the Federation and ICPC in Abuja.
You will recall that in a celebrated case in the year 2015, Mrs. Ugwu while carrying out her duties as a cleaner at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos saw the sum of $12,200,000 in a toilet and submitted it to security officials. The money was subsequently returned to the owner. She has also refunded other sums lost by several other passengers at different times.
Mrs. Ugwu was subsequently given automatic employment by the Authority in recognition of her honesty and exemplary conducts.
The event climaxed with an hand shake to Mrs. Ugwu from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari. She was also given a brand new apartment in Lagos for her act of honesty and integrity.
Senate pledges to help AMCON recover N5.4trn debt
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Uba Sani, has declared that the Senate under the leadership of current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, will join forces with the executive arm of government to wage serious and sustained war against obligors of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), whom he described as economic saboteurs, saying they must be made to repay the over N5trillion outstanding debt owed the corporation.
Sani made the declaration at the commencement of the 2019 retreat for members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, which began in Kaduna on Wednesday.
He said recovering the huge debt of AMCON had become a major burden for which the National Assembly will consider all options including reactivating the Failed Bank Act and at some point invite the pioneer management of AMCON under the leadership of Mustapha Chike-Obi to come and explain to Nigerians what they did during their tenure.
The chairman also hinted that the National Assembly would continue to support AMCON by providing all legislative supports including further amendment of the AMCON Act, if need be, to enable the corporation to recover the huge outstanding obligation.
He said the red chamber would bring up several motions that will enlighten the public on the real dangers of non-recovery of the debts to the economy. As the upper legislative arm provides AMCON with such support, the senator said if need be the Senate would along the line step on toes as far as the recovery of these national assets are concerned.
NSE extends gain with N46bn
Nigerian stocks market yesterday sustained its positive outlook as the overall performance measures, NSE ASI and market capitalisation, rose further by 0.36 per cent each.
Market watchers attributed development to renew of confidence as bargain hunters leverage on under value stocks.
Consequently, the All-Share Index rose by 95.94 basis points or 0.36 per cent to close at 26.872.09 index points as against 26.776.15 recorded the previous day while market capitalisation of equities appreciated by N46 billion or 0.36 per cent to close higher at N12.969 trillion from N12.923 trillion as market sentiment remained on the green territory.
Meanwhile, a turnover of 239.2 million shares in 3,585 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.
The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 121 million shares exchanged by investors in 1,527 deals.
Volume in the sub-sector was driven by activities in the shares of FBNH Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
The banking sub-sector boosted by the activities in the shares of GTB Plc and Sterling Bank Plc followed with a turnover of 45 million shares in 624 deals.
The number of gainers at the close of trading session was 21 while decliners closed at 12.
Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Cornerstone Insurance Plc topped the gainers’ table with 10 per cent to close at 77 kobo per share while Oando Plc followed with 9.89 per cent to close at N3.89 per share and Flour Mills Plc with a gain of 9.85 per cent to close at N17.85 per share.
On the flip side, CCNN Plc led the losers’ chart with a drop of 10 per cent to close at N18.00 per share. Jaiz Bank Plc followed with a loss of eight per cent to close at 69 kobo per share while Lasaco Assurance Plc dropped by 7. 41 per cent to close at 25 kobo per share.
FirstBank reiterates commitment to women empowerment
The Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, has restated the lender’s commitment to empowerment of women.
He stated this at the bank’s first female-focused product, ’FirstGem’, 3rd Anniversary Conference held in Lagos yesterday.
He said: “May I reiterate that FirstBank is committed to the empowerment of women. We understand their story and recognise their invaluable contributions to the economy of our nation in particular and the global economy in general.
“Having identified the gaps in their lives, both in corporate Nigeria and in the entrepreneurial space, we are committed to bridging those gaps effectively by providing the tools required for women’s empowerment.”
The First Bank CEO said he was delighted that FirstGem was already in its third year, adding that the product, which was launched on 28 October 2016, was designed specifically to meet the financial needs of both corporate and entrepreneurial women.
“This product, apart from being an account dedicated solely to women, is lifestyle-enhancing. It provides a total lifestyle support for discerning women to enable them meet their economic needs and aspirations,” he said.
Savannah Bank: Reps summon Emefiele, NDIC boss
The House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Banking and Currency to summon the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele and Managing Director, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Alhaji Umaru, to ascertain the new status of Savannah Bank, its readiness to commence operation and to ascertain whether promoters of the bank have fulfilled all requirements to begin business.
The committee is also requested to invite the shareholders and the new management of the bank to brief it on possible ways they have fashioned to pay or refund depositors’ funds.
The resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Aliyu Da’u Magaji (APC, Jigawa), at Thursday’s plenary of the House.
The committee, which is to submit its findings in two months, has also been mandated to ensure that effective measures are put in place to avoid the reoccurrence of what led to the withdrawal of the bank’s licence and eventual closure in 2002.
Pension: Workers invest N951.28bn in banking sector
Nigerian workers, who are active in their contributions under the new pension arrangement, Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), have so far invested about N951.28 billion in the banking sector.
The investment carried out on their behalf by pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) represent 9.93 per cent of the total N9.58 trillion pension assets.
According to a breakdown of the total investment posted on the industry regulator, National Pension Commission (PenCom)’s website, the pension fund managers also invested a total of N6.84 trillion in Federal Government securities within the period, representing 71.43 per cent of the total assets.
Details of the commitment shows that Federal Government bond got the highest with N4,47 trillion at 46.1 per cent; treasury bills, N2.2 trillion (23.62%); agency bonds N10.2 billion (0.11%); Sukuk, N80.52 billion (0.84), and green bonds, N13.37 billion (0.14%).
Within the same period, a total of N125.24 billion, representing 1.31 per cent was invested in state government securities while corporate debts securities gulped N621.95 billion, representing 6.49 per cent.
In the same vein, corporate bonds got N572.41 billion (5.97%); corporate infrastructure bond, N17.79 billion (0.19%); corporate green bonds, N31.71 billion (0.33%) and supra-national bonds N4.03 billion, representing 0.4 per cent.
Other areas invested in include commercial papers, N123.28 billion (1.29%), and foreign money market securities, N1.07 trillion (11.21%).
For mutual fund, they invested N9.90 billion (0.10%) in open/close-end funds and N11.91 billion (0.12%) in Reits.
The investment choice as stipulated by law setting up the scheme also includes real etste properties, N231.48 billion (2.42%); private equity fund, N32.06 billion (0.33%); infrastructure fund, N34.89 billion (0.36%) as well as cash and other assets, N26.47 billion, representing 0.28 per cent.
From recent development, the outlook of investment is likely to expand as the regulator disclosed recently that workers in the informal sector are gradually keying into the scheme.
According to the Head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, 19 PFAs have registered 28,000 micro pension participants as at November.
According to the breakdown, 21,430 participants were registered as at June 2019,b while in July, 221 participants were registered. In August 2019, 1,299 Nigerians were registered, September, 2737 registered and in October, 2313 participants registered.
While over 40 million Nigerians in the formal sector have no pension plan, which account for about 65 per cent of the GDP, Aghahowa said registration had, however, been challenged due to low financial literacy.
Other challenges include the need for National Identity Number (NIN), which is one of the criteria for registration; low awareness about the scheme and inadequate technology platform to support the registration process.
He said in a bid to tackle the challenges, the commission embarked on campaign across the traditional, social and digital media, engaging with union, associations, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations.
“Though NIN has slowed down the process of micro pension registration, PenCom has, however, collaborated with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure that participants get their numbers on time to fast track registration.
“The commission is working on having its own USSD code to ease payment of pension contribution for enrollees,” he added.
Though the micro pension scheme is moving at a slow pace, the President, PenOp, Aderonke Adedeji, said there was need to give it time in order to avoid mistakes.
Speaking on the growth of the industry, Adedeji said 15 years after setting up the Contributory Pension Scheme, it has grown to over N9.trillion.
“However, we are not yet where we want to be. We need to address the issue of transfer window and the slow registration of NIN, but we are making progress in that aspect.
“In recent time, we have been experiencing slow pace of growth of the industry and the reason is not far-fetched.
“In terms of the state of the Nigerian economy, we have increase in unemployment rate which is a threat to the growth of the industry,” she added.
IGR: Taraba woos investors
To boost its internally generated revenue Taraba State Governor, His Excellency, Arc. Darius Ishaku, has called on local and foreigners to invest in its Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited so as to expand the production of Highland Tea.
Ishaku, who disclosed this to journalists during the launch of the tea in Lagos, said his administration planned to hands-off running of the firm soon and targeting interested investors both foreign and local to partner with the state government to expand the production.
According to him, the company currently employs over 3,000 people and also accepts green leaf from about 2,000 out growers who cultivate tea on 800 hectares of farmland across villages on the Mambila Plateau, which is enhancing the economic viability of communities on the Mambila Plateau and Taraba State at large.
He said that Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, makers of Highland Tea, was one of the 25 moribund companies he revived under his rescued mission during his first term in office, all in a bid to create employment for Taraba citizens and generate more IGR for the state.
Speaking on the choice of Lagos to unveil the commodity, the governor stressed that Lagos was strategically chosen as venue of the launch because of its population, large market and returns of investment, saying that the firm plans to set up its Lagos office for the distribution of the product.
“Lagos, the largest market in Africa, a city of over 20 million people, you cannot but have to deal with them. The idea is to bring our Highland Tea from Taraba to Lagos where the large market is available so that we can expose it to Nigerians here. After the acceptability of the product here, we will then think of West African countries. We will export but let’s satisfy the home demand.
“Nigerians don’t even know much about Highland Tea. Some people have taken it, they love it but it’s not in the market. We are going to bring it to the market in Lagos.”
The governor explained that Highland Tea had demonstrated to be a home grown tea that is better than foreign ones in terms of health.
Speaking on the Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, Ishaku noted that the company was a subsidiary of Taraba Investment and Properties Limited, which was incorporated as a private limited liability company in 2012 to manage the assets acquired by the Taraba State Government.
CBN to create 2m jobs via cassava value chain
In line with its ongoing strategic intervention in key sectors of the economy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is intervening in cassava production, which it said has potential of providing two million jobs across value chain.
To bring cassava’s enormous potential to fruition, CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday in Abuja, facilitated the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and Large Scale Cassava Processors.
Emefiele, who underscored importance of cassava as agriculture commodity, said Nigeria is hugely blessed with the commodity.
He disclosed that Nigeria imports cassava derivatives valued at about $600 million annually.
The CBN governor linked the apex bank’s interest in cassava value chain to President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic diversification programme for Nigeria.
This, he said, was because economic diversification is an essential tool for national development, pledging that CBN would leave no stone unturned towards repositioning Nigeria on the map of the world not just as the leading cassava producer, but a processor as well.
To achieve the cassava sufficiency goal, he said the CBN was holding consultations with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike.
He said: “We place a high premium on cassava because the commodity can generally be used for different uses along the value chain. The value chain has enormous potential for employing over two million people in Nigeria if well harnessed, due to the diverse secondary products that it offers.
“Some of the products include High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), starch, sugar syrups and sweeteners, chips for domestic livestock feed and for export to China, Ethanol/bio-fuels, High Fructose Cassava Syrup (HFCS), Fuel Ethanol (E10) as well as Animal Feed from cassava waste among others”.
“In our midst today are large corporations like Nestle, Flour mills, Promasidor, Unilever who require the secondary outputs from cassava such as starch, glucose, sorbitol etc. as raw materials for the production of their final products. We also have the companies whose responsibility is the processing of cassava to starch, glucose, ethanol etc., as well as members of the Cassava Farmers Association,” Emefiele said.
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