In the wake of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange (forex) for importation of food, members of the organised private sector say the initiative is a welcome development since it is in line with government’s resource-based industrialisation agenda. Taiwo Hassan reports
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari announced his new cabinet with Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo given the portfolio to man the country’s Industry, Trade and Investment ministry. To furtherconsolidate the trend, private sector operators have set agenda for him. Taiwo Hassan reports
As Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo assumes office as the new Industry, Trade and Investment minister, members of the organised private sector (OPS), no doubt, are expecting significant turnaround in the country’s real sector of the economy during this period.
No doubt, the past few years in the country’s industrial sector have been characterised by uncertainty, which affected investor confidence and caused a deceleration in the tempo of economic activities in the country.
In fact, investors were worried about the possible outcome of the country’s manufacturing sector after President Buhari’s second term in office, with the apprehension that the industry was already plagued with challenges.
However, the challenges in the industry coupled with low investor confidence have become a litmus test for the new minister.
Ideally, times like these are typically characterised by high political and policy risks with focus tailored towards improved growth in key sectors of the economy.
Meanwhile, as investor confidence gradually returns with diminishing uncertainty, private sector operators expect to see a rebound in economic activities.
Issues around business environment are as critical to the progress of the economy as the macroeconomic conditions.
These are issues of infrastructure, tax, regulatory environment, institutional issues, security situation, policy consistency and many more.
These are major business environment issues that have been contracting the country’s manufacturing sector from contributing effectively to the country’s gross domestic product.
However, the onus is on the new industry minister to prove to the private sector and investing public that he has solutions to the country’s harsh investment climate.
Ease of doing business ranking
Another major agenda from the private sector to the new industry minister is to ensure that the country’s ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business improves in all ramifications to boost investor confidence in the economy, mostly manufacturing sector.
Besides, the 2018 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report ranked Nigeria 146 out of 190 countries.
The report showed that the country took a step backwards from the 145th position it was anked in 2017.
The ranking takes into account trading regulations, property rights, contract enforcement, investment laws and availability of credit.
However, the OPS acknowledged the efforts of the current administration through the Presidential Ease of Doing Business Council (PEBEC) and series of Presidential Executive Orders targeted at improving the business environment.
To them, government still has enormous task of ensuring much better performance to enhance productivity in 2019.
This calls for a sound and result oriented business regulations and innovative implementation this year.
So, the new minister must work assiduously with the PEBEC to ensure that ease of doing business is entrenched in the manufacturing space.
The provision of power remains at the heart of ease of doing business in Nigeria. The private sector admits the efforts of government in addressing the perennial power supply shortage and deeper commitment to alternative sources of power including off-grid initiatives.
However, the power situation continues to pose severe challenges to the private sector operators, impacting adversely on productivity.
According to them, throughout last year, they received complaints across sectors about high energy costs especially high expenditure on diesel, higher cost of and scarcity of gas, and payment demand by Discos for power that was not supplied.
SMEs and some real sector companies reported that they spent as much as 20 per cent to 25 per cent of their total operating cost on provision of alternative power supply and payment to Discos.
Now, they are tasking Otunba Adebayo to liase with his counterpart in the power ministry to make electricity available for manufacturers to boost production.
The President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Ken Ukaoha, urged the new minister to create a trade policy, in order to advance the sector.
Ukaoha, who stated this in Abuja, stressed that it should, in fact, be the new minister’s first priority to ensure a brighter future for the sector.
He urged the minister to look into the subject of Common External Tariff (CET) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) related trade policies.
Ukaoha said that the CET experimentation for Nigeria would expire this year, and by 2020, Nigeria should be having a full-fledged implementation of the common external tariff.
He, however, regretted that the country had not learnt any lesson from the five years experimental stage; and, therefore, called for the hosting of a meeting of trade and industry stakeholders by the ministry to collaborate and strategise.
President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Ruwase, tasked the new minister to look into the ongoing regulatory burden on private firms.
According to him, businesses experience frequent incidence of overbearing regulatory disposition, leading to increased burden, higher cost of operation, waste of executive time and reputational consequences.
To him, these manifested in form of fines and charges that are sometimes difficult to justify, sanctions, regular summons of corporate executives.
As Adebayo takes his seat, members of the OPS are concerned about his background as a core politician and whether he has the clout to improve the country’s industrial sector in the next four years of this administration.
Airtel acquires Intercellular in $70m deal
Airtel Africa yesterday announced the acquisition of Intercellular Nigeria in a transaction valued at about $70 million.
The acquisition is aimed at boosting its Nigerian operation, Airtel Nigeria, with additional spectrum to expand its network across the country.
Airtel Africa disclosed this in a regulatory filing to its shareholders through the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
The telecoms firm, with a presence in 14 countries on the continent, said its Nigerian subsidiary signed an agreement with Intercellular Nigeria Limited to acquire an additional 10 megahertz (MHz) spectrum in the 900 MHz band in Nigeria.
Intercellular Nigeria Limited commenced commercial operations as a public company in 1998 after being awarded a National Fixed License in 1996.
Prior to its acquisition, Intercellular Nigeria operated with a National Unified Access Service License and was able to provide a complete range of telecommunication services to Nigerians.
Airtel Africa said the acquisition of the additional spectrum would allow Airtel Nigeria to expand its operations and strengthen its LTE network across Nigeria, considered the largest market for Airtel Africa.
The deal is, however, subject to regulatory approval by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The latest acquisition aligns with the company’s plan to continue to dominate the tele-mobile communications space on the continent.
Last August, the company unfolded plans to roll out its mobile money platform. The company said it was continuing its aggressive investment in its 4G network infrastructure, with nearly 1,500 additional sites across its operational locations, apparently preparatory to the roll out.
In the last six months period ended September 30, 2019, Airtel Nigeria announced a 23 per cent increase in its revenue, with revenue from data sales increasing by about 76 per cent during the period, driven by the accelerated rollout of its 4G network.
The increase in data customer base rose by about 20.8 per cent, with an ARPU growth of about 43 per cent. The report said during the period, 4G data usage by its customers increased by almost 20 folds.
Reacting to the latest acquisition, the Chief Executive of Airtel Africa, Raghunath Mandava, identified data as a key pillar of the company’s growth, driven by increasing 4G networks, supported by the increased affordability and increasing penetration of smartphones.
ProPetro confirms SEC probe, accounting weaknesses
Oilfield services firm, ProPetro Holding Corp, on Wednesday, said a board of investigation had uncovered material weaknesses in its financial controls and an undisclosed related-party transaction with its former chief accountant.
The Midland, Texas-based company also confirmed Reuters’ report last month that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had opened an investigation in its financial disclosures and reporting.
ProPetro provided the first snapshot of its business since disclosing the departure of its chief accounting officer and the demotion of two top officials amid an internal investigation into its financial accounting and disclosures.
According to Reuters, its board identified weaknesses in internal controls, two of which were material and at least one of which existed since Dec. 31. It plans to amend its 2018 annual report and first-quarter 2019 financial filing to reflect the change, it said in a statement.
The undisclosed related-party transaction involved a business owned in part by former chief accounting officer Ian Denholm that had sold or leased a facility to ProPetro. Denholm resigned in October.
He did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn request seeking comment and attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.
ProPetro also said it would not file its second- and third-quarter reports to the SEC before Dec. 31 due to the continuing investigation. Its internal review, however, has not to date identified anything requiring restatements of its balance sheet, statement of operations, shareholders’ equity or statements of cash flow, it said.
A company spokesman declined a request to interview an executive on Wednesday. ProPetro will hold a conference call on Thursday morning to discuss its results.
The company reported net income fell to $34.4 million, or 33 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30, from $46.3 million, or 53 cents per share, a year earlier.
ProPetro has disclosed real-estate and rental transactions with executives and board members. In addition, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Dale Redman and former finance chief and co-founder Jeffrey Smith reimbursed the company a combined $364,000 for expenses improperly billed to ProPetro.
Shares of ProPetro, which went public in early 2017, were up about 5.5 per cent at $7.74 in after-hours trading after closing down 4.6 per cent on Wednesday.
NSE: Investors gain N246bn
●Market rises to five-week high
Nigerian stock market rose 1.91 per cent to a five-week high yesterday, boosted by demand for stocks in banking and other blue chip firms.
The index, which is down 16 per cent so far this year, firmed up to a level last seen in October, as most bank shares recorded appreciable growth.
Analysts at Afrinvest Securities Limited had said recent CBN restrictions on Open Market Operations (OMO) would restore confidence in the volatile stock market, considering the low stock prices.
“The CBN recently restricted individuals, local corporates, and non-banking financial institutions from participating in both the primary and secondary markets of Open Market Operation (OMO).
“Following this directive, we expect investors’ focus to shift towards equities due to current low prices and attractive dividend yields,” the analysts said.
The key market performance measures, the NSE All Share Index and market capitalisation, rose by 1.91 per cent as market sentiments returned to gaining streaks following investors’ sustained optimism on undervalued stocks.
Consequently, the All-Share Index gained 504 basis points or 1.91 per cent to close at 26,843.11 as against 26,339.11 recorded the previous day while the market capitalisation of equities appreciated by N243 billion or 1.91 per cent to close at N13.067 trillion from N12.821 trillion as market sentiment returned to the green zone.
Meanwhile, a turnover of 624.8 million shares exchanged in 6,426 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.
The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 368 million shares exchanged by investors in 2,623 deals.
Volume in the sub-sector was largely driven by activities in the shares of Zenith Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc.
The banking sub-sector boosted by activities in the shares of GTBank Plc and Sterling Bank Plc followed with a turnover of 105.5 million shares in 2,668 deals.
Attaining full-scale groundnut production
In a bid to improve on groundnut production value chain, the National Groundnut Producers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NGROPPMAN) has revealed plans to boost groundnut production to 17.5 million metric tonnes by the end of 2025. Taiwo Hassan reports
Nigeria produces 41 per cent of the total groundnut in West Africa. Besides, the groundnut pyramids used to be conspicuous in Kano city of Kano State (northern Nigeria).
The huge piles of sacks that tapered to a point higher than most of the buildings, were a symbol of northern Nigeria’s abundance in an important cash crop.
But today, the dusty yards where the groundnut marketing board stock- piled farmer’s harvest lie mostly empty and have been occupied by buildings.
The history of groundnut in Nigeria dates back to 1912, when most farmers were encouraged by high economic returns from groundnut. The marketing of the crop was well organised at that period.
At the end of each production season, agents moved to various parts of the region to purchase the produce while some farmers preferred to carry their produce by themselves to Kano city, where it was sold at a price fixed by the marketing board. The produce was collected from strategic collection centers and then transported to the port of Lagos by train.
Groundnut production decline
However, groundnut production in Kano and neighboring states has declined significantly. For instance, the total groundnut production up to 1973 used to be more than 1.6 million tonnes, which has come down to less than 0.7 million tonnes in the mid 80’s.
Both farmers and traders shifted to other agricultural (e.g. cowpea, sorghum, millet) and horticultural crops. This decline also affected industries, which used groundnut as raw material. Some even closed down or shifted to other oil seeds.
Several factors led to the rapid decline in groundnut production in Nigeria. The major causes were drought, rosette virus, and general neglect of agriculture due to oil boom, lack of organized input and marketing and dissolution of groundnut marketing boards.
There have been adverse changes in rainfall pattern in the last 30 years. Average annual rainfall has reduced drastically from 800 mm to 600 mm and consequently the length of the growing season has become shorter (from 4 to 3 months).
Breakdown shows that drought spells have become more frequent than ever before. This undoubtedly has led to the failure of groundnut, which requires more than 4 months with the currently available cultivars to reach maturity. Drought has also been associated with outbreaks of diseases and insect pests such as aphids. Aphids are carriers of the groundnut rosette virus, which is a devastating disease. It wipes out the entire crop during epidemic outbreak.
For example, in 1975, an epidemic of rosette virus destroyed nearly three quarters of a million hectares of the crop in Nigeria and wiped out regional trade worth estimated at $250 million.
Subsequent epidemics in 1983, 1985 and 1988 had a major impact on farmers’ decisions. Many of the farmers who suffered financial ruin have stuck to other crops such as cowpea, sorghum and pearl millet.
As a consequence, groundnut production has not yet returned to the pre-1970 levels of 1.8 million tonnes. Research on fertilizer use in northern Nigeria began in 1925. Experiments have shown that groundnuts respond to added superphosphate. Seed for planting was freely distributed to growers and cash subsidy was later introduced. This encouraged farmers to use high quality seeds and fertilizer.
However, following the introduction and application of suitable fertilizer, the country’s groundnut production has been steadily since the farmers were taught on the need to use high quality seeds which automatically buoys increased in volume of production.
To consolidate the country’s groundnut production and value chain, National Groundnut Producers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NGROPPMAN) believes that attaining groundnut production target of 17.5 million metric tonnes by the end of 2025 from its present level can be achieved.
President of NGROPPMAN, Aimu Foni, told newsmen after the conclusion of a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja that plans were already underway.
He said that the 17.5 million metric tonnes projected was part of the groundnut draft policy, being reviewed by important stakeholders.
Foni stressed that the policy would improve the production of groundnut and help reposition other value chains when adopted by the stakeholders and supported by the Federal Executive Council.
“The objective of the draft policy, which is still under review, is to improve groundnut production and make it a major source of revenue generation for the government.
“The policy when approved will further tackle the problem of training and extension services, critical to agricultural development. Also, the document will help with risk management, marketing as well as competitiveness to ensure robust domestic consumption and high-quality export,” he said.
‘Next level’ mantra
The Secretary-General of the association, Adeniyi Adebayo, said the stakeholders were eager to take groundnut production to the next level.
He said, “We met to see how to contribute meaningfully to the new groundnut policy. As you know, we are into production, processing, and marketing as a sub-sector and the draft policy is focused on these areas.
“In terms of production, it dwells on how the lives of groundnut farmers will be improved. Most times when there is excess production, farmers are often left to bear their losses as they sell their produce at giveaway prices.”
Adebayo expressed hope that when adopted by stakeholders and sent by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to FEC, it would be approved.
With the groundnut draft policy review underway, agric stakeholders believe seed is basic to agriculture and makes a major contribution to agricultural productivity. Unless groundnut seed is available in the right place, at the right time, in adequate quantities and quality at affordable prices, it will be difficult to meet the target.
TUC restates commitment to workers’ welfare
President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye, has restated the commitment of the congress to improving welfare of the nation’s workers.
Olaleye, who is also the President of Food, Beverage &Tobacco Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (FOBTOB), stated this during a parley with the media, noting that most labour leaders were indeed junketing with politicians at the expense of embattled Nigerian workers, who they ought to be protecting.
Represented at the occasion by National Treasurer of FOBTOB, Aderogba Adebayo, he said: “The workers are the reason why we are in existence.But most of us in the Labour movement today have neglected our core responsibility of defending the right of Nigerian workers.”
He stressed that the new leadership of TUC was out to advance the interests of workers everywhere and urged all critical stakeholders to support it to achieve the goal.
Olaleye commended the cordial relationship existing between the congress and the media, urging newsmen to shun sensationalism but rather strike a balance in their reportage.
Create jobs from your talents, youths advised
… as sport minister graces award, book launch
A German-based Nigerian journalist, author, evangelist and motivational speaker, Mrs. Gift Chidinma Nnamoko, has advised Nigerian youths to redirect their energy deployed in seeking white collar jobs to rediscover their god given talents and create employment for themselves.
Nnamoko, who has motivated youths into different spheres of positive engagements across the country through talk shows and editorial materials, gave the advice ahead of her book launch and award ceremonies to honour some entrepreneurs, who have excelled greatly in their careers.
Speaking on the book titled ‘The Beauty of Unemployment,’ Nnamoko, who is currently based in Germany, said she decided to publish the book as part of her numerous approaches to curbing youth restiveness in the country.
She said in writing the book, which will be unveiled alongside a magazine, Wear Africa, as well as presentation of awards on November 19 at Oriental Hotel in Lagos, she painstakingly picked some individuals, who have succeeded in their chosen career from startups without losing focus.
Expected at the event is the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare as well as other dignitaries.
According to her, “who says Africa is only a continent where you find poverty, war, and diseases? As much as you have the bad and the ugly, you also have the good. If you are fixated on the negatives of life there is no doubt that you will miss the big picture.
“In my journey as an entrepreneur, I believe there are ‘blessings’ that come with being unemployed. Many youths have given up just because they are without a paid job. There is still good news for you. Why spend all your life waiting to be employed when you can actually become an entrepreneur? I have also met lots of successful businessmen and other professionals who are on top of their careers.
“They started out on their own, some of them never having applied for paid jobs. This is not to say that they didn’t face challenges associated with doing business in Africa. I assume they may have found ways to cope with power outages and infrastructural deficits. Despite the challenges, these acquaintances of mine are glad to find themselves in Africa at a time opportunities are springing up everywhere.”
Those to be given awards include Mr. Ifeanyi Oputa, MD/CEO, Colvi Ltd. (Photography); Mrs. Yvonne Benson, Fashion designer; Collins Abiodun Adeyemi, MD/CEO, CA Diversified Creation Nig. Ltd (Media and Events); Mrs. Esther Akinduro, Founder, Taes International Concept Ltd, (Construction); Mr. Peter Ogbudu, Founder, Pinq Island Nig. LTD (Entertainer), and Mrs. Titilope Ojo, CEO/Lead Consultant, A-Plus Trainers Ltd (SME Development), among others.
Dangote promises to empower 18,000 women
The Group Executive Director, Dangote Industries Limited, Halima Aliko-Dangote, has promised that Aliko Dangote Foundation will empower 18,000 women across the 18 local government areas in Edo State with micro-grants.
The Executive Director, Aliko Dangote Foundation, made the promise in Benin City during the Alaghodaro 2019 Summit in Benin City, to mark Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration’s third year anniversary.
According to her, the foundation board has approved the sum of N1billion for the micro-grant scheme to be implemented across Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Edo states this year.
“The Foundation is planning to come to Edo and empower 18,000 women in 18 Local Governments through the micro-grants scheme and it is expected that these funds will generate a positive ripple effect on the incomes, livelihoods and poverty levels of the beneficiaries,” she added.
The programme, which is already running in other states, is being extended to Edo state for women empowerment.
“So far, since the ADF micro-grants began in 2012, the sum of N3.584 billion has been disbursed to women across Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Lagos, Niger, Nasarawa and Sokoto states,” she noted.
She said thousands of beneficiaries across the partner states, who are mainly small-scale entrepreneurs, market women, subsistent farmers and petty traders in items like soft drinks and pure water, have been able to expand their business, improve their incomes and livelihoods, and take better care of their families.
According to her, “in some states, a mobile phone/bank cards to start up or improve their income-generating activities were also added to the grants as a delivery mechanism for the funds in partnership with the respective state and local governments and mobile money/bank operators.”
‘Mortgage laws, documentation fuelling housing costs’
Existing laws on land administration, documentation and mortgage financing have been blamed for high costs of housing units in the country.
According to housing experts, the laws have compounded housing challenges among citizens.
Besides, they said the laws were responsible for the inability of stakeholders to bridge accommodation gap of over 17 million people in the country.
Speaking with New Telegraph, the Managing Director of Countryhill Affordable Luxuries, a real estate firm, Mr Adewale Oshinaike, called on government and relevant authorities to review these old housing laws, which he said were hampering home ownership among Nigerians.
If this is done, he expressed optimism that practitioners in the real estate market would be able to provide more offerings to make housing challenge history in the country.
He explained that some of the provisions of the Land Use Act of 1978 were inimical to affordable housing in Nigeria, adding that most state governors had subjected the process of Land Use Act to political considerations.
As a result, Oshinaike stated that land titling processes instituted by state governors in their respective domains had become cumbersome, making it tough and costly for developers to access land at economic speed.
New Telegraph gathered that there were some housing and mortgage related bills for review/amendment before the National Assembly.
On mortgage finance, the Countryhill boss said these bordered on mortgage rates and tenure, pointing out that double digits rates were not sustainable for developers and home seekers.
He said: “Moreso, there is non-compliance of companies to statutory provision that stipulates that 2.5 per cent of employees’ basic salary should be remitted to National Housing Fund.”
The managing director called for stricter measures to make compliance effective.
Oshinaike stated that his firm , a subsidiary of Fox Capital Investment, thrived on integrity and affordability of its brand offerings and was willing to partner equity investors to address the prevailing housing challenges.
Besides, he hinted that the firm was offering opportunity to prospective home seekers to own land, measuring 500 square metres, in its Olive Gardens located in developing areas of Ibeju-lekki, Epe of Lagos and Shimawa, Agbara areas of Ogun State, with a daily payment of N1,000 for a period of three years.
Talking about mortgage, another professional in the built environment, Akinloye Akintunde, stated that until cost of funding mortgages come down and workers’ pay improved drastically, housing challenges would persist.
He blamed issues of affordability and low purchasing power for poor mortgage penetration in Nigeria.
“To say that funds are available for the primary mortgage banks and they are just not creating mortgages couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he said.
He said some experts had mentioned that most primary mortgage banks focused Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, instead of reaching out to other states to create mortgages.
Akintunde pointed out that there was a major affordability problem in the country as far as mortgages were concerned “even in major cities mentioned.”
According to him, most states are civil servant states, noting that very little thing happen in these states without government activities.
Besides, he said most of the civil servants could not afford mortgage at 18 per cent due to low pay.
He said: “The question then is, how many state civil servants can afford mortgage at 18 per cent from the so called “available” fund?
“Even with N5 million mortgage loans at six per cent, a lot of them simply cannot afford it due to poor pay. This has been tested in several states across the country with the same results.”
He said the banks would naturally concentrate in areas where capacity to pay is a bit better.
Another expert and Managing Director, Rock of Ages Limited, Francis Onwuemele, argued that affordability was a gradual process, saying “it’s a stepwise tactics.”
He said: “If government jump starts mortgage with a seed fund of N500 billion, you will be amazed how this fund will quadruple in less than five years. The fund is there if we prioritise.”
Life insurance annuity hits N322.91bn
Following renewed public confidence in the nation’s life insurance segment, the retiree life annuity fund has increased by 17.46 per cent from N274.91 billion as at end of Q4, 2018 to N322.91 billion as at the end of Q2, 2019.
According to further details of the fund posted on the website of National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), within the same period under focus, the cumulative total payouts stood at N122.09 billion.
The retiree life annuity market has been in existence since the advent of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and it has so far recorded 73,554 contracts purchased for a total premium of N341.61 billion as at end of Q2, 2019. This represents 13.02 per cent and 6.21 per cent growth in count and volume, respectively in 2019 from end of Q4, 2018.
According to further details, the year-on-year (YoY) growth during the last three years for annuity business has averaged 34.28 per cent and 35.12 per cent in count and volume respectively, while the fund portfolio growth has averaged 27.46 per cent, notwithstanding the RLA payouts being cumulative total payments of N122.09 billion as at end of Q2, 2019.
Retiree life annuity is an insurance product and one of the available retirement benefit options for retirees, which can be purchased from a life insurance companies licensed by NAICOM and authorised to sell annuity under the regulation.
New Telegraph recalled that in 2016, the Nigerian Insurers’ Association (NIA) engaged a South African based Actuarial firm to help review annuity business and align it with current global market practices. The review and other assignments were concluded in 2017.
“In its effort at promoting good order in the management of life annuity business in our market, the NIA has concluded plans to engage a South African based Actuarial firm to assist the Association review and advice on the current market practice leveraging global practices,” Eddie Efekoha, the chairman of NIA then, had said.
This was after the National Pension Commission (PenCom) directed that all annuity funds in the custody of life insurance firms be domiciled with Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), a development that did not go down well with the underwriters.
Speaking on the feud then, which led to an initial transfer of over N100 billion to the PFCs, Efekoha advised NAICOM and PenCom to address the public and correct the bad impression created by the circular.
According to PenCom, however, the circular was issued to curb unethical practices by some life insurers, who have been wooing retirees with loans, a development that contradicts the pension law.
It was gathered that PenCom took the decision to ensure that all pension funds are kept in the custody of the PFCs as specified the law.
A source at NIA, however, condemned the step taken by PenCom, stressing that proper consultations were not reached before the circular was issued.
He noted that PenCom as a regulator should have properly deliberated the issue with the insurance regulator before issuing the circular.
He said the development would make the public believe there is an unhealthy relationship between both regulators.
However, years after the cold war, the relationship between the two regulators has become cordial with both supervising their agencies as stipulated by law.
Firm injects $13.4m to boost rice production
In line with Federal Government’s rice sufficiency policy, the management of Tiamin Rice Mill Limited has disclosed that about $13.37 million has been invested to boost its production capacity from the current 320 tonnes to 1,520 tonnes per day.
The Managing Director of the company, Aminu Ahmed, disclosed this when he led the management of the company ona courtesy visit to the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Abhay Thakur, in his office in Abuja recently.
Ahmed explained that the policy of the current administration, especially the ban on smuggling and the intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria had helped immensely in boosting local production of rice.
He also revealed that the company was established in 2016 in Kano and started production of rice in 2018 with 320 tonnes per day.
Ahmed disclosed that the existing production line in Kano would be expanded from 320 tonnes to 920 tonnes next year, just as a new production line would start production of 600 tonnes per day in Bauchi by May 2020.
“We are now investing $13,370,500 to boost our production capacity to 1,520 tonnes per day. Already we have placed orders for all the machinery needed, and all arrangements are on top gear to meet the deadline we set. “By next year, we plan to become the biggest rice producers not only in Kano but in whole country.
“Our watch word is quality and affordability. We produce one of the finest brands in Nigeria that can compete with foreign rice brands in terms of quality,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed, therefore, appreciated the relative quality and durability of Indian machines, which he said were the secret behind the quality of Tiamin Rice.
The Managing Director then thanked the Indian High Commission for support and sought further cooperation in the areas of easing trade relations between his company and Indian partners.
In his response, the High Commissioner thanked Tiamin Rice for the courtesy call, expressing delight and appreciation for patronising Indian machines.
Thakur said the High Commission hoped that the policy of boosting local production would be sustained beyond the present administration so that local industries in the country would grow.
Briefing journalists after the visit, the managing director of the rice mill thanked the Federal Government for supporting local rice production and the state government for giving them the enabling environments.
“In line with Kano State Government’s policy of allocating free land to genuine investors towards reviving the industrial glory of the state, Kano state governor had particularly allocated land to us for our expansion project.
“It is heart-warming that during the governor’s visit to our company on 23rd May 23, 2018, he expressed desire to support and woo local investors with allocations of land.
“We urge other state governments to follow suit in order to boost local production and provide employment opportunities for youth in their states,” Ahmed added.
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