he Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, says policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the maritime industry are targeted at encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the sector.
Dakuku stated this while addressing delegates at the West African Shipping Summit, a side event of the ongoing London International Shipping Week.
According to him, Nigeria has set up an International Maritime Arbitration Centre in Lagos to facilitate the timely resolution of disputes within the Gulf of Guinea area and significantly reduce the current trend where maritime players in the region head to London, Dubai or Singapore for arbitration on maritime issues.
He assured his audience, which included key players in the global maritime industry, that the reforms in the Nigerian maritime sector were opening up vast opportunities in the industry and invited investors to take advantage of them.
He said: “I believe that the Nigerian maritime environment has the largest potential. With a population of about 200 million, which represents over half of the entire population of West Africa, potentials in shipbuilding and ship repair are available.
“In the next five years, vessels built outside Nigeria will not be allowed to participate in Cabotage trade. So you are all invited to come and invest in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry in Nigeria.”
Dakuku also disclosed that the Nigerian Ship registry was being reformed to make it more attractive by having provisions for both national and international players.
“We are also reforming the Nigerian ship registry. The bigger picture is that over time, we are going to have dual ship registry, which will effectively take care of national interest and international interest. It will make it more dynamic, more responsive and it will be one of the most business-friendly registries in the world,” he said.
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.
Economic devt: FG tasks CIS on policy proposal
In a bid to address infrastructural development in the country, the Federal Government has called on Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS) to come up with policy proposals that will drive the economy.
The Federal Government made this known at the 2019 edition of the CIS annual conference, which held in Lagos yesterday.
Speaking on the theme, “Boosting capital market competitiveness in a challenging macro-environment,” Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adebayo, said it would be a welcome idea if the CIS can come up with policy proposals to support and address Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges while government will incentivise and provide the enabling environment to support this objective.
The minister, represented by Dr. Francis Alaneme, Director, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, said: “We declare our willingness to partner with the CIS in ensuring the necessary enabling environment that will further stimulate and boost competitiveness in the capital market as well as ensure a coordinated and integrated approach to Nigeria’s financial sector is attainable. The best way to improve competitiveness is through a mixture of policies designed to help, improve capital market competitiveness.”
Chairman, Capital Market and Institutions Committees, House of Reps, and other committee members, Honourable Babangida Ibrahim, stated that the theme was timely and addresses the need for effective policies that will drive the market forward.
Ibrahim noted that investor confidence as well as unclaimed dividends remained major issues affecting the growth and development of the capital market and called on the institute to devise means of bringing up policies that will affect the market and the economy positively.
His words: “I want to assure this institute that the committee is ready to work with the CIS and already the National Assembly and House of Reps in particular are aware of the major challenges facing the capital market in recent times. As a result of that, we have already started engaging with some of the key stakeholders including the institute on the best way forward.
“I would like to appeal to the institute to be unofficial advisers to the government and continue to monitor the activities of the government as regards policies affecting the market so as to ensure we move the capital market forward.
“The theme is timely and there are certain actions that must be taken in order to boost the competitiveness of the market. One of the challenges facing the capital market is investors’ confidence because of the inability to get the kind of gains they want. Recently, we brought a motion in the house to investigate unclaimed dividends and we discovered that it is growing day by day and so I will appeal to this institution and other key players that by the time we commence the public hearing, all these challenges will be tackled.”
Corroborating him, Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Capital Market, Senator Binos Yaroe, charged the institute to come up with policy proposals that will enhance the competitiveness of the market.
“The challenges the Nigerian capital market is facing cannot be emphasized and the economy has never been as bad as it is today and it is a known fact that the capital market is the barometer of any economy. The market indices have not been encouraging but for the positive impact of MTNN and Airtel Africa it would have been much worse. In that regard, the National Assembly is ready to partner and support the institute to ensure that our market is more competitive,” he said.
SEC begins development of teachers’ guides on CMS
The Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, has announced that as a step towards its avowed commitment to infuse Capital Market Studies into the Curriculum of schools in Nigeria, the commission has commenced the development of teachers’ guides.
This was announced by Acting Director General of the SEC, Mary Uduk, in a welcome address at the third quarter Capital Market Committee Meeting (CMC) held in Lagos, yesterday.
According to her, “in terms of our investor education efforts, you are aware of the initiative towards including Capital Market Studies into curricula of Basic and Senior Secondary Schools. Having infused the capital market content into this curriculum, the next phase of our work is to develop teachers’ guides. We have equally constituted a steering committee for the Universities’ curriculum.
“Taking our investor enlightenment drive further, we hosted over 250 personnel of the military, para-military and security agencies in August. The program was a first of its kind with the participants anxious for more exposure to the capital market. A similar engagement was held in Lagos in October, with equal success recorded.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the SEC Board, Mr. Olufemi Lijadu, said capital markets played critical roles in the development of any country, adding that at this period of low oil price, the capital markets could be a medium to raise more funds to finance the nation’s development projects.
“What we do here at this CMC meeting has far greater implications for the economy. We hope and trust that this will be the beginning of good partnership between the SEC board and the market as we both have a common objective of developing a first class capital market.
“We hope to build a capital market where there is transparency, fairness, liquidity, compliance among others. A lot of true knowledge and research capability you have as stakeholders will be of immense assistance to us as we pursue these laudable goals to make our market a world class capital market,” Lijadu added.
BNQUEST gets Customs’ approval on duties, taxes
FBNQuest Merchant Bank, the investment banking and asset management business of FBN Holdings Plc, has been approved by the Nigeria Customs Service as the first designated merchant bank in Nigeria authorised for the collection of customs duties and taxes.
According to the bank in a statement, the development validates the bank’s reputation for service delivery and efficient processing of international transactions through its trade services platform.
“The joint agreement with the Nigeria Customs Service, and the full integration process with the bank’s payment application system will ensure that businesses now have access to further enhanced turnaround for Form M customs duty related transactions, end-to-end import processes, as well as shipping document endorsement, delivery and collection,” the bank noted.
Commenting on the development, Bimbola Wright, Head of Coverage and Corporate Banking at FBNQuest Merchant Bank, said: “In our continued effort to make our service offering more robust, seamless and convenient for our customers, we constantly innovate and introduce value adding solutions to facilitate the international trade activities and requirements of our clients. Being the first merchant bank in Nigeria to be authorised for custom duties collection is a development we are very proud of, and we are excited to further expand the scope of support we provide our customers.
“The trade services business within FBNQuest Merchant Bank is responsible for delivering international trade and related solutions, by collaborating with the coverage and corporate banking arm of the institution. The bank is also set to fully implement its trade Information system early next year, which will serve as a hub for end to end execution of customers trade transactions,” Wright said.
Report: Nigeria, others boost infrastructure with over $100bn
There are indications that infrastructure financing in Africa exceeded $100 billion for the first time in 2018, even though a significant financing gap of between $52 billion and $92 billion per year still exists.
The Infrastructure Consortium Africa (ICA) Infrastructure Financing Trends in Africa 2018 report shows a jump of about a quarter on 2017 and 38 per cent up on the 2015-2017 average.
This years’ report shows the role ICA continues to play in institutional and policy reform as well as its consistent financial contribution within the infrastructure space in the continent.
This, along with a 65 per cent and 33 per cent increase in commitments over the previous three-year average by China and African governments respectively, and the role of other multilateral organisations resulted in the 24 per cent increase recorded in infrastructure financing for 2018.
Among the key findings of the report was an increase in financing commitments across all sectors of the economy, with a notable increase in the energy sector, which attracted financing commitments worth $43.8 billion, an all-time high and a 67 per cent increase on the 2015-2017 average.
The information, communication and telecommunication sector also saw record commitments in 2018 of $7.1 billion, mostly from the private sector.
Even with the significant increase in commitments in 2018, there remains a total financing gap of $52 billion to $92 billion per year. Yearly estimates of Africa’s financing requirements range from $130 billion to $170 billion.
In addition, the report showed that water and sanitation had the largest financing gap of all the sectors, based on annual financing needs of $56 billion-$66 billion and a 2016-2018 average commitment of $13 billion.
In a related development, the Federal Government has disclosed that it has spent about N2.7 trillion capital projects, mostly on infrastructure to enhanced improvement in manufacturing sector and makes Nigeria a hub of investment destination in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite this infrastructure spending, the African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates Nigeria’s infrastructural gap at $400 billion (costing us about three percentage points of gross domestic product growth per annum), saying fiscal resources alone would be inadequate to ﬁnance the infrastructural gap unless government adopts public private partnerships initiative.
Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who made this known in Lagos recently, explained that the issue of dearth of infrastructure had been a cause of concern for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration since assuming governance and improving the country’s infrastructure deficit has been the administration’s top priority.
In a bid to defend the administration’s infrastructure spending, Osinbajo explained that the administration of President Buhari decided to dedicate the 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets to improving the country’s infrastructure in a bid to ensure that trade and investments geared up in the country.
According to him, the dedicated infrastructure is meant to develop roads network, power, rails, industrial clusters and others.
Members of the organized private sector had stated that the reason for the plummet in performance in the real sector of the economy could be attributed to the enormous productivity challenges arising from the constraint of infrastructure, particularly power and logistics.
They, therefore, solicited for greater investment and policy focus on improving logistics and strengthening the power sector in order to bounce back the real sector to productivity.
‘South Africa, Nigeria can complement each other’
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Nomalungelo Gina, has DVISED Nigeria and South Africa to team up for economic development.
She said with South Africa’s know-how and experience in infrastructure development projects including the energy sector, and Nigeria’s opportunities in different parts of the chain-value especially in generation, transmission and distribution, both countries can complement and learn from each other in order to grow their economies together.
She spoke after cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the South African National Pavillion at the Future Energy Nigeria, WAPIC Conference and Expo 2019.
The pavillion houses business representatives of South African companies and industry associations funded by the Department of Trade and Industry ( the dti ) that are showcasing their products and services. The products that the companies are showcasing over the period of two days include prepaid electricity meters, power electric cables, generators, and natural gas genset packages.
Gina said South Africa’s attendance of the expo was a commitment to economic, trade and investment cooperation with Nigeria, adding that there was no way that both countries could not have good trade relations.
She emphasised that as both have big economies and with South Africa’s know-how and experience in infrastructure development projects including energy sector and Nigeria’s opportunities in different parts of the chain-value especially in generation, transmission and distribution, both countries can build, complement and learn from each other and grow their economies together.
She added that the South African government was appreciative of Nigeria for opening up and sharing the opportunities in the energy sector with its businesspeople.
“The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has laid a foundation for both our countries and the continent at large to increase intra-African trade that has been historically low. “We must take advantage of it and increase trade with each other, grow our economies and create much needed employment for our people especially youth and women,” said Gina.
The South African Consul-General in Lagos, Mr Darkey Africa, said access to energy must grow in Africa. He added that by 2030 Africa will have the largest workforce and energy therefore will be central to make sure people are able to participate in the economy. Against this backdrop, Mr Africa said it was important for Africa to work together to increase access to energy else it will have minimal development.
“We need collective action around energy. We believe that through participation in the expo and conference, we will be able to learn from countries like India present here and we are hoping that we will ensure that we have sustainable electricity provision which is affordable, inclusive and which is secured because without energy security our developmental needs and goals will never be with.
Conveying the message of support to South African businesspeople, the Director of the Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Ubong King, said both South Africa and Nigeria were the biggest economies in Africa and their partnership could not be underestimated. South Africa’s expertise and Nigeria’s opportunities must be matched to benefit both economies. The added that with 1.6 billion people in Africa, energy is a serious requirement and needs for everyone to play their part.
NewAfrica award: Group seeks social welfare plan for Nigerians
To make mentorship easier for youths and the unemployed, some Nigerians have suggested that the Federal Government start considering putting up social welfare arrangement that will give hope to the less privileged, thereby giving them a sense of belonging.
They said this was the only way the less privileged can easily be mentored and motivated amid the widespread hardship in the country.
Speaking in Lagos during the NewAfrica Youth Summit and Mentorship Award, as well as book launch, the panelists said efforts to mentor youths to create employment and become useful to the country was becoming difficult because of the grinding poverty faced by most youths.
According to them, today’s youths and the unemployed are finding it difficult to face the reality of starting small, not because they don’t want to but for the fact that even the basic needs of life are not even there for them.
Lamenting the situation, organiser of the award and author of the book, “Growing up in Africa: The Beauty of Unemployment,” Mrs Gift Chidima Nnamoko, said mentorship was becoming difficult specifically in Nigeria because the society lacks social welfare programme.
According to her, “it also becomes difficult because when you try to mentor some people what they expect from you is money.”
She said a number of youths in the country were failing in businesses in due to lack of sound mentorship, saying that youths need father figure to see and encourage them through their investment or chosen career.
Nnamoko, who gave awards to some individuals that have excelled in their various professions by being persistent and focused, said the programme was put together to identify with those who have struggled on their own to attain greatness in their career.
She described mentorship as a process of followership, nurturing, grooming and tutoring.
According to her, “government can’t employ everyone; but people can understand the re-orientation and mindset changes, understanding that the little that they have can be changed into something, probably when they look up to those that have crossed the path and succeeded, then they can learn to sustain whatever they have in their hands.
“We are working on the minds of some young people to start understanding totally what they already know. Most talents are wasted. When you read this book, you will see some of the people that have talent, and see how they channeled their talents into something positive. It is a way of re-awakening their talents and making it positive.
“Everyone, whatever you know how to do, put in your best, there is no sleeping and no wasting time. If you think someone will do it for you, you are going into poverty. Always look up to someone that can give you advice, especial when you are in problem, don’t think you know it all.
“I discovered that most people only look at success from the glamourous side alone. They don’t understand that there is an integral part, that is when suffering, process and pain come in. I feel behind every glamourous face, the pain story should be also told.”
On her part, one of the book reviewers, Stella Rita Asogwa, also an awardee, described the book as something good for the youths, saying every entrepreneur in the book had one challenge or the other.
“The book will give hope to every reader to stand firm in whatever he or she does.
It’s all about determination, power of the mind because every single person had gone through whatever you are going through in life.
She, therefore, recommended that the books be made available to schools.
Speaking in the vein, Mr. Apeh Harrison Iwodi described entrepreneurship as not just what “we do but how we think. Some people have keys but no doors.
“Anyone who is about greatness at any point in their life should read the book. It’s not just about youths. You read stories about people who don’t just have keys but also have doors.”
Commending the programme organiser, the Founder, Sublime Partners, a law firm, Enite Young Odebala, recommended the book for those that have already attained success, saying “like the fact that it was written from the face of sincerity and not the know it all attitude.
“It encompasses all scores. Beyond knowing the how of doing things, there is also the why about the choice of doing what you want to do. More so, the book goes beyond just making money to include impacting on the society.”
Poor remuneration as minus for auditors’ integrity
Auditors’ poor remuneration remains a dent as it propels corruption in government agencies. Abdulwahab Isa reports
The major obstacle on Nigeria’s path to economic prosperity is prevalence of corruption in public sector institutions, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.
The inglorious padding of budgets, cooking up financial figures and falsifying financial records are still prevalent across MDAs.
All measures, devices hatched by government to tackle corruption at MDAs are neutralized by employees reaping from corrupt system.
Recently, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, raised the alarm about unrestrained corruption at MDAs.
Owasanoye said budget paddling was still prevalent in Nigeria; and that many government agencies take more money than they need to pay salaries.
Owasanoye spoke in Abuja while giving report of the phase one of constituency project tracking initiated by the commission.
According to him, “we broke down the 2019 budget and we are going to announce publicly what project is allocated to each state. People can call ICPC and ask for it and we will tell them what project they should expect. This is much more effective way of fighting corruption.
“Part of our prevention mandate is to go into government agencies and look at how public fund is used. A month ago, we restrained N9.2bn from going out (of government purse). What happened was that when we looked at the budget and what has been appropriated and how it was to be used, I can tell you authoritatively that there is still budget padding.
“This is because the oversight is not strong enough. If you have personnel vote that is not exhausted and people do not complain that salaries have not been paid, you can tell that someone has made budget proposal of more than what is needed to pay salary. The agency involved did not dispute it and we informed the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“The figure has moved because it is an ongoing exercise. As at this morning (Thursday), we found an additional N3.2bn. Hopefully, by the time we finish, we would have found more money and saved government personnel cost.”
Owasanoye added that ICPC also found out how agencies breached financial regulations.
According to him, to cover up extra budget collected, MDAs employ people hurriedly and backdate their employment date. He noted that 59 directors of an agency were arrested over movement of over N3 billion through their bank accounts.
In some cases, he said the head of the agencies were not aware of the fraudulent practices going on under them.
Auditors’ remuneration as drawback
Auditors have the sacred responsibility of ensuring transparency, accountability in financial records of MDAs.
They are expected to be firm, incorruptible in vetting financial records of agencies. This isn’t the case. The sleaze, financial fraud in MDAs are aided in most cases by auditors covering them up. Auditors’ poor remuneration has been cited as major reason for thriving corruption and financial fraud in MDAs.
Auditor General of Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine, recently brought to fore the impact of poor remuneration of auditors in the fight against corruption in public sector.
Speaking in Abuja at the bi-annual conference of the body of federal and state auditors-general, Ayine painted a gloomy picture of remuneration and incentives for auditors in Nigeria, which he said was poor, abysmal and very discouraging compared to their counterparts in other anti-corruption agencies in the country.
He said poor remuneration had the potential to cripple the holistic fight against corruption as some auditors might be tempted to compromise on objectivity and transparency, which are critical to their work and ethics.
“Remuneration for auditors is poor. Let me remind you that these auditors go out and examine the records of other audited entities. For these auditors, there is a risk of being tempted. It becomes very important that these auditors should be properly remunerated so that they can resist such temptations when they are tempted.
“Thank God for Mr. President resolute about fighting corruption. I think our audit institutions in Nigeria must support this administration in fighting this corruption. It is also important that we address the issue of poor remuneration for the auditors which is a serious challenge.
“For example, you send Auditors to Lagos and you are not able to pay them their duty tour allowance that should enable them stays in good hotels and do their work; you run the risk of these people tempted by the audited entities. To prevent and avoid that, there is need for these auditors to be given their duty tour allowances, and it is also important their remuneration is good in terms of allowances.
“For now, the audit institution in Nigeria is still tied to the civil service. In many climes, it is not like that; audit institutions are isolated from the civil service. If you compare the pay of civil audit institutions in Nigeria to other anti-corruption agencies, you will discover that it is something very discouraging. Something needs to be done in order to properly position and encourage these auditors to do their work,” he said.
Bedsides, Ayine also identified poor accounting environment as a major challenge facing auditing in Nigeria.
He ssid: “We have a poor consciousness of having a good accounting system in place, which involves proper preparation of accounting records that are capable of drawing financial statements, which could be monthly, quarterly or yearly.
“Today, Nigeria has adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standard (IPSAS), which has made our ministries, departments and agencies to prepare a standalone financial statement.
On poor funding of the office of auditors-general, Ayine admonished state auditors-general to explore alternative sources of funding aside budgetary allocations.
He enjoined them to engage developmental partners at the local and international levels to be able to attract the much needed donor funds for their offices.
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, stated recently that enhanced, commensurate remuneration gave government the liberty to impose severe sanctions on internal auditors, heads of internal audit units across MDAs where fraud cases are detected.
He vowed to reform the internal audit process in MDAs, by fully implementing the internal audit modernisation process, which was mooted in 2010, saying it would be one of his legacies as Accountant-General of the Federation.
Autonomous Auditor- General to the rescue
The current audit practice in Nigeria does not meet the best global practices. To ensure an independent auditor- general office, autonomous in practice and function, the 8th National Assembly passed the audit bill.
The bill is still awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari endorsement as experts say the audit bill is the potent instrument to clip corruption in public sector.
To this end, both the Senate and House of Representatives’ Public Account committees have insisted that the audit bill passed at the 8th Assembly remains very sacrosanct. The two committees said the 9th Assembly would resuscitate the bill.
The Chairman, Public Accounts Committee of the Senate, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, and his House of Representatives counterpart, Honourable Busayo Oluwole-Oke, who co-chaired a session of stakeholders on the Audit Bill, said the 9th National Assembly would breathe a new life into the Audit Bill and ensure its passage again.
Senator Urhoghide and Honourable Oluwole-Oke lamented that the nation’s current audit practice did not meet the global best practices and that necessary reforms that would empower and enable the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to function optimally and efficiently were imperative.
The Head, Technical Support, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) Engaged Citizens (EC), Mr John Mutu, who facilitated the session explained that it was aimed at finding a common solution to ensure that the audit bill succeeds in becoming a law.
Mutu explained that the main objective of the session was to provide a platform for the National Assembly’s Public Account Committees (NASS PACs), the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) and the Presidency to reflect and review the Audit Bill so as to identify areas of concerns that that prevented the President from giving his assent to the bill.
Speaking further, Senator Urhoghide said that the nation would reap huge benefits if the Audit Bill becomes law as it would block revenue leakages and curtail corruption.
Also, Honourao Oluwole-Oke said if the Bill becomes law, it would enable the Auditor General to carry out his duties very efficiently and effectively.
Oluwole-Oke said: “Nigeria is a member of comity of nations and we have to work in line with the global best practices. Just imagine, look at the 2017 auditor’s report. Why should the Auditor General exonerate the same agency that the president queried?”
The National Team Leader, Engaged Citizens Pillar (ECP) of DFID’s Partnership to Engage Reform and Learn (PERL), Dr. Adiya Ode, observed that the office of the Auditor General of the Federation plays a critical role in the fight against corruption which is one of the major agenda of President Buhari’s administration.
Corruption, financial frauds in public institutions will keep thriving unless the needful is done and done quickly. Government must grant independence to Auditor- General Office, and substantially remunerate auditors via emolument and allowances to shield them from inducement and compromise.
Smile: Why we double our data volume
One of Nigeria’s leading 4G LTE broadband service providers, Smile Communications Limited, said it now offered double the value on its existing 30 days data plans.
The company said it was doing this to help Nigerians cushion the biting effect of the inclement economic times.
According to a statement from the company, courtesy of the new ValuePlus data offerings, new and existing customers are assured of the best bargains; in service quality and rendition.
Acting Managing Director of Smile Nigeria, Akin Alayoku, said the main objective of the ValuePlus data plans was to give double value at more affordable prices to its customers.
According to him, the offerings are unprecedented in the range of the data plans on offer and unsurpassed in the value that will accrue to the customers who will take advantage of the offerings.
Applauding the initiative, Alayoku explained that the new improved data plans as a package were as robust as they are versatile.
“Each of the offerings is tailor-made for both the individual and corporate users. He urged forward-looking customers and prospects alike to embrace any of their preferred offerings and savor the benefits of double value,” he said.
Alayoku assured that Smile was continuously innovating to beat existing market benchmark all in a bid to provide products that will serve their customer’s best interest in the present turbulent market landscape.
He restated that Smile’s vision and mission was to be the broadband provider of choice and to enable its customers to benefit fully from the Internet world for data and voice.
“Smile will continue to bring value to its users as a long term strategy and bring explosive growth in mobile data usage. We will continue to innovate to meet the demands of users where mobile data is becoming a must-have that impact our daily lives and continuously exceed their expectations,” he averred.
Customers on the Smile network will, instead of the old offer of 2GB at N2, 000, now have 5GB at N3,000. For 3GB that was priced at N3, 000 consumers will now get 7GB at N4,000. Similarly, instead of 5GB at N4, 000 customers will now get 11 GB at N5, 000 and in place of 7GB at N5,000 Smile now offers 15GB at N6,000. There are also other packages that have transformed the old 10GB at N7, 500 to 21GB at N8, 000 as well as 15GB at N10, 000 to 31GB at N11, 000.
Telecoms: Bracing for AfCFTA revolution
Nigerian telecoms operators, among other businesses, face fresh challenges as well as opportunities once the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is implemented. However, stakeholders said adequate preparations for the challenges would put the businesses at a vantage position to profit from the opportunities. SAMSON AKINTARO reports
In July, President Muhmmadu Buhari signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, putting an end to months of waiting by stakeholders.
AfCFTA is an initiative of the Africa Union with the main objective of creating a single continental market for goods and services, in addition to facilitating free movement of investment and people across the entire African continent.
Interestingly, the telecommunications business is one area the AfCFTA is expected to impact, by making it easier for Africa’s telecoms operators to enter other markets and compete.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), under this agreement, Nigeria would cease to be known as Africa’s largest telecommunications market as the continent’s market would be viewed as one.
It is against this backdrop that the NCC recently organised a two-day workshop in Lagos, where experts discussed the implications of AfCFTA on telecoms business.
According to participants at the workshop, the implementation of the agreement will be a mix of challenges and opportunities for telcos in Nigeria
Similar to the liberalisation that took place in Nigeria in the year 2001, which allowed the likes of MTN and Airtel to play in the Nigerian market dominated by monopolistic NITEL, the AfCFTA prescribes a liberalised Africa telecommunications market, whereby operators from across the continent would have easy access to operate in all the countries.
Speaking at the workshop, the Acting Director-General of Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Mr. Liman V. Liman, said the liberalisation presented opportunities for competition in the market, thereby reducing the cost to the consumer.
“It also presents an opportunity for the government to impose universal service obligations to telecommunications service providers to ensure that even poorer areas are provided with telecommunications services. This can be imposed as part of the licensing conditions,” he said.
Liman noted that the Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union had resolved that the liberalisation of trade in services in the AfCFTA shall be negotiated in two phases.
According to him, phase one shall involve liberalisation of what is referred to as priority sectors, telecommunications being one of them.
“The negotiations on the liberalisation of telecommunications have not yet begun. It is however expected that the framework of the telecommunications sector in the AfCFTA will include: regulatory disciplines, data transmission, cellular telephone, fixed telephone, mobile satellite, value-added data services, and other services to be determined by the negotiating parties,” he said.
He added that the AfCFTA did not intend to harmonise telecommunications regulation, nor is the intention to usurp the function of the national regulator, but rather, it is to ensure that amongst others, there is a minimum standard of treatment or regulatory principles: competition to avoid abuse of dominance; interconnection to guarantee fairness; independence of operators; universal service requirements; transparency provisions; technical standards; licensing criteria and procedures; and qualification criteria and procedures.
“The telecommunications section of the AfCFTA will include what is referred to as a schedule of telecommunications services commitments, which sets out the scope and depth of market opening that is offered (market access), national treatment obligations and any additional commitments to be offered,” Liman said.
According to the NOTN DG, the process of liberalisation would significantly affect smaller mobile network operators as they risk being crowded out of the market by big players.
“These few operators will increase their market share and have the power to influence prices,” he said.
Based on that, Lima said a strong regulatory institution must be established in order to prevent unfair competition in the market.
“Although the AfCFTA will establish a minimum set of standards in this regard, the role of national regulators will remain critical,” he said.
Investment in infrastructure
Despite the huge investments recorded in the past years, the level of telecommunications infrastructure in the country is still relatively low, thus giving room for other African operators with big financial muscle to take positions in the market.
To avoid being crowded out of the market, NCC said operators in the country would need to invest more in infrastructure to remain competitive in the liberalised African market, which also offers them the opportunity of providing services for 1.2 billion people in the continent.
Also speaking on the implications of the agreement on telecoms business, the Board Chairman of NCC, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, said: “At the Nigerian Communications Commission, we recognise that the Continental Free Trade Agreement means that we now have access to extend communications services to 1.2 billion people across the African continent.
“With a larger proportion of this population made up of young people, whose hunger for data and mobile services continues to grow, there is no limit to achievement by innovative operators/investors in terms of business opportunities.
“Just the way we recognise the opportunities for investors in the African market, we also know that there are challenges not to say threats. Operators and investors within the Communications ecosystem must fully appreciate these dynamics, in order to ensure that they prepare adequately for them. Hence, the need for this sensitisation workshop.”
The NCC chairman added that the commission would continue to strive to improve the performance of the rapidly-evolving industry by encouraging more investments in the industry, engaging stakeholders on issues of common interest, and charting viable courses for the growth and development of the industry/economy.
Speaking earlier, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbata, noted that with the ratification by 22 member states of the African Union, the Continental Free Trade Area was now the largest trading bloc in the world in terms of participating countries, since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“What all these means, therefore, is that, with the AfCFTA agreement, the hitherto business algorithm in Africa is going to change, as it will become difficult for any country to be regarded as the largest market in Africa, since the African continent is now going to be seen as one single international trade bloc,” he said.
Danbatta, who was represented at the workshop by NCC’s Director of Policy and Authorisation, Mallam Mohammed Babajika, said the workshop was aimed at examining how it could improve the competitiveness of the over $70 billion Nigerian communications sector market for the continental free trade.
NOTN DG also added that to remain competitive in the AfCFTA era, telecom operators in Nigeria would need to invest more in building infrastructure.
“In order to be globally competitive, telecommunications infrastructure will require a significant amount of investment both by domestic and foreign investors.
“A significant challenge will be to ensure complementarity between the AfCFTA telecommunications regime – the regulatory principles and the market access commitments – with the telecommunications legislative and regulatory frameworks at national levels,” he said.
To benefit from the opportunities in AfCFTA agreement, all stakeholders, including the operators, the regulators, and government must be ready to play their roles and prepare ahead of the implementation.
Opening the country’s borders to all businesses without the capacity to derive commensurate value from other markets would spell doom for the nation’s economy.
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