We can’t produce enough, says wheat farmers
loomberg and several Economists have continued to react to the reported directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop allocating of foreign exchange to food importers, saying the move could have the opposite effect by threatening food supplies and pushing up prices.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Central Bank on August 13 to stop dollar supply for food imports, saying food security has been achieved and agricultural production has increased. That came after Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele had said in July that the Central Bank plans to cut off dairy importers’ access to foreign exchange in a bid to bolster domestic milk output.
The food price index in Nigeria has risen almost 80 per cent since the start of 2015, pushing inflation above the Central Bank’s target and putting pressure on households’ finances in a country where about 60 per cent of consumption spending goes to food.
“Many of us are agitated by this food import ban,” said Abosede Ogungbemi, who sells imported rice, wheat and other food items in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. “Food will become scarce and very expensive.”
Nigerian food prices have been a key driver of inflation
The Central Bank already restricts access to dollars for the import of 43 kinds of items from cement to soap.
Nigeria spent about $1 billion importing food and live animals in the three months to March, according to the statistics agency. Domestic food-supply chains have been disrupted by a decade-long Islamist insurgency in the northeast region. Clashes between herdsmen and farmers have also decimated communities, destroyed crops, killed cattle and forced producers to flee to protective camps in Nigeria’s northern and central regions.
Still, Buhari and Emefiele insist Nigeria can produce all the food it needs, and the dollar ban will help with that. That’s even as large quantities of rice and other goods are being smuggled into the country, according to the president.
The restriction is “certainly counterproductive,” said Nonso Obikili, director of the Abuja-based Turgot Centre for Economic Policy Research. “Nigeria currently does not grow many of the key food products we consume and such a restriction will likely have the dual effect of higher food prices and increased smuggling.”
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization last year said Nigeria is one of 37 countries in need of external food assistance.
“We can’t produce enough food,” said Suleiman Adulaziz, a wheat grower in Born State in the northern region. “Banning food imports without supporting farmers and creating an enabling environment to produce food on a large scale is condemning Nigerians to hunger.”
Meanwhile, as Nigeria faces the prospect of a weakening naira, Bloomberg says the Central Bank is digging out its 2015 playbook to stem the currency’s decline.
Nigeria’s external reserves dropped by $482.18 million from N45.14 billion as of July 8 to $44.65 billion as of August 8, latest statistics from the CBN have shown.
The reserves which had maintained a steady rise in recent months has started suffering a decline.
A research by First Securities Discount House (FSDH) Limited noted in its monthly economic and financial markets outlook with the theme, ‘Easy money: time to create buffers’ for the month of August that this could be linked to fall in oil prices.
Part of the research read: “The average price of Bonny Light in July 2019 stood at $66.24/b compared with the average of $66.52/b in June.
“However, in the last few days, crude oil price has dropped below $60/b as a result of trade tensions between United States and China which have impacts on the global economy.
“This may have negative impacts on revenue and other key prices in Nigeria.
“The external reserves continued on its downward trend in July 2019. The decrease in the external reserves may be attributed to lower crude oil prices and lower Foreign Portfolio Investors inflows.”
In recent months when the reserves enjoyed some growth, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had said: “External reserves have recovered significantly from $23 billion in October 2016 to over $43bn as of December 3, 2018.
“While the drop in our export earnings arising from our reliance on crude oil exposed the fragility of our domestic economy in 2016, it also reinforced the view within the CBN and the Bankers Committee on the need to revise our growth strategy as a nation.”
There is no gainsaying the fact that it would have been in the growth strategy envisioned by the Central Bank Governor that he four years ago, curbed dollar supplies for imports on 41 products (later 43 items) from glass to toothpicks. Now, he wants to add dairy products on the list, while President Muhammadu Buhari wants to add food.
Experts say it’s a last-gasp bid to avoid marking down the naira for the third time since February 2015, when the currency was pegged for 15 months against the dollar. They, however, added that it won’t work, predicting that the naira will weaken 11 per cent to 405.06 by the end of June.
“The governor himself knows he is going to starve if he implements the directive,” said Michael Famoroti, an economist and partner at Stears Business in Lagos. “I am unsure what exactly the central bank is going to do.”
While the Central Bank wants to boost local food production, there are other reasons for the urgency. Nigeria has a record N9.6 trillion ($27 billion) of government securities that are due for repayment by the end of December. The country’s current account, the widest measure of the trade in goods and services, swung to a deficit in the first quarter, while the price of crude, which generates 90 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange, has dipped below the $60 level that the Federal Government’s budget is based on.
Nigeria is coming under increasing pressure to again devalue the naira
But curbing greenbacks at the height of the 2015 currency crisis and in the face of tumbling oil prices according to Famoroti, will come with a heavy cost. The measures drained Nigeria’s reserves from almost $50 billion in 2013 to below $24 billion in October 2016.
“It also pushed the inflation rate to an almost 12-year high because it limited supplies, contributing to the economy’s first full-year contraction (recession) in a quarter century, a slump the nation is still struggling to recover from. Inflation has held above the Central Bank’s upper target of 9 per cent since June 2015.
“Effectively banning the import of all remaining food items would have grave consequences for the availability and prices of certain food products and add to prevailing inflationary pressures,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London.
CBN has missed its inflation target for more than four years
Over the past three years, authorities have relied heavily on open-market operations, in which government securities are sold at special auctions to control the amount of money in the financial system. These so-called OMO notes created a lucrative carry trade for foreign investors with yields on 175-day notes of 11.8 per cent, compared with 11.35 per cent on 182-day Treasury bills, making them more costly.
While reserves of $44 billion is higher than 2015, it has declined consistently since May, and outflows from repaying maturing OMO notes could deplete them further.
“It doesn’t have the capital to continue issuing notes as aggressively as it has in the past,” Amaka Anku, Eurasia Group’s Africa head, said by email.
Foreigners own at least $17.5 billion, or 37 per cent, of the outstanding securities, which will test the Central Bank’s resolve after being so accommodative with its balance sheet, Chapel Hill Denham Securities Ltd. said in a note.
Global factors, such as the U.S.-China trade war, slowing global growth and an increase in shale oil production could further “make or mar” the CBN’s efforts to stabilize the naira, Chapel Hill Denham researchers, led by Tajudeen Ibrahim, said.
“The efforts to contain food imports also risk failing because of porous West African borders, which will not only have the unintended consequence of costing the government lost revenue and spur inflation, but also push demand for foreign exchange to “alternative markets,” they said.
This fear Sunday Telegraph learnt might be the reason President Buhari recently ordered the closure of the country’s borders with Benin Republic and Niger for 28 days.
Speaking during an audience an audience granted his Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, on the margins of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), in Yokohama, Japan on Wednesday, Buhari said the activities of the smugglers threatened the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.
“Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” he said.
Border closure: IMF backs Nigeria, urges speedy resolution of issue
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has backed Nigeria’s closure of its borders with some neighbouring countries over issues bordering on illegal trade.
Mr Abebe Selassie, the Director of the African Department at the IMF, gave the position at a media briefing on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington.
He was responding to a question on whether the closure negates the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Selassie said although free trade was critical to economic growth of the continent, it must be legal and in line with agreements.
`On the border closure in Nigeria which has been impacting Benin and Niger, our understanding is that the action reflects concerns about smuggling that has been taking place.
“It is about illegal trade, which is not what you want to facilitate,’’ Selassie said.
He said the IMF was hoping for a speedy resolution of the issues as the action was already taking a toll on the economies of the country’s neighbours.
“We are very hopeful that discussions will resolve the challenges that this illegal trade is posing.
“If the border closure is to be sustained for a long time, it will definitely have an impact on Benin and Niger which, of course, rely quite extensively on the big brother next door,’’ he said.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the borders were closed to curb illegal trading activities by Nigeria’s neighbours.
Ahmed said the closure would remain in force until the country secured the commitment of its neighbours to trade agreements and treaties signed with them.
Meanwhile, the IMF director said the AfCFTA was one of the most exciting policy developments in the region in recent months.
Selassie said analyses by the Fund showed that the initiative had a “tremendous potential to facilitate higher economic growth’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the IMF projected a region wide economic growth of 3.2 per cent in 2019.
Selassie said the “hard task’’ before African nations was making sure the AfCFTA was fully implemented “to facilitate the trade that we need to see between countries in the region’’.
The IMF director also commented on the continent’s high debt burden, especially from China, resulting largely from borrowing to balance budget deficits.
He explained that the Fund was not particularly wary of China, which he said “has been a very important development partner for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa’’.
“There are some counties that have borrowed extensively, and this is not just from China but from all other sources of financing either through Euro bond, domestic markets or other sources of capital.
“Yes, there are countries that have borrowed beyond what they can quickly pay, but it is important that we get this story straight.
“China has been a very important partner for many countries and remains so.
“Our concern really is more about overall debt level, not just about debt but some other things.
“One is, once you have borrowed money to invest in infrastructure, health and education, it is important you are able to capture the rate of return on that investment so that the debt can be serviced.
“What you put the debt to and how effective the investment projects that you are undertaking is really the important part of the equation,’’ Selassie said.
He added that it was also important for countries to address their “tremendous development needs avoiding debts becoming unsustainable’’.
Forex intervention: CBN injects $325.5m into retail market
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has injected 325.5million dollars in the retail Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) and CNY14million in the spot and short tenured forwards segment of the inter-bank foreign market.
The bank’s Director, Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor made this known in a statement in Abuja on Friday.
Okorafor explained that the dollars intervention was for agricultural machineries and industrial raw materials.
He said the Chinese Yuan, on the other hand, was for Renminbi denominated Letters of Credit.
Okorafor further expressed optimism that the stability in the forex market would be sustained.
He assured the genuine foreign exchange users of the commitment of the apex bank towards ensuring adequate liquidity in the market.
The director disclosed that the bank on Tuesday offered authorised dealers in the wholesale segment of the market the sum of 100million dollars.
According to him, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the invisibles segments received the sum of 55 million dollars each.
Meanwhile, N358 was exchanged for a dollar at the Bureau de Change (BDC) segment of the foreign exchange market, while CNY1 exchanged at N48.00.
Firm files bankruptcy action against AITEO
Charlietam International Services Limited a Port Harcourt-based company has filed an action before the Federal High Court in Lagos to commence winding-up proceedings against the oil giant for its prolonged inability to pay a debt of N259,068,753.00 owed the company for various services rendered to AITEO between December 2017 and March 2019.
The petition was filed by the company through its Solicitors, Anthony Enyindah, Victor Okezie and Dr Dickson Omukoro of Ntephe Smith & Wills.
According to the petition made available to New Telegraph at the weekend in Yenagoa, the petition prayed the court to wind-up the company on grounds of insolvency pursuant to sections 408 and 409(a) of the Company and Allied Matters Act.
In a six paragraph affidavit verifying the petition, Mr Unye Sunday Micah, Managing Director of Charlietam International Services Limited, the petition affirmed that between December 2017 to March 2019, his company rendered services valued at ₦265,068,753.00 and was only paid the sum of ₦6million without payment advice, leaving an outstanding balance of N259,068,753.00.
The petitioner maintained that several demand letters, including those from the petitioner’s solicitors were sent to the Company’s Abuja and Lagos addresses, but AITEO refused or/failed to respond to any of the letters.
The final demand letter dated August 28 2019, was sent by the petitioner pursuant to sections 408 and 409 (a) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.
In the said letter, the petitioners demanded to be paid the amount owed him and informed AITEO of an impending legal action.
The petition, accordingly read in part: “More than 21 days have since elapsed from the last demand without the Company making good the moneys owed as aforesaid.”
The petition further stated that the Company is insolvent and unable to pay its debt and your Petitioner therefore humbly prays as follows:
“That the Court, under the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990, winds-up AITEO EASTERN E & P COMPANY LIMITED; and for such further or other orders as this Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
Reacting to the petition, a source at the oil company said: “I have done my investigations and he is one of our contractors but what I’m doing is to make sure that I invite him here so that everything will be sorted out.”
ILO: Self-employment, SMEs providing more jobs than ever
A report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has revealed that seven in 10 workers are self-employed or in small businesses.
According to the estimates, self-employment, micro and small enterprises play a far more important role in providing jobs than previously believed.
The data, gathered in 99 countries, found that the so-called ‘small economic units’ together account for 70 per cent of total employment, making them by far the most important drivers of employment.
The findings have “highly relevant” implications for policies and programmes on job creation, job quality, start-ups, enterprise productivity and job formalisation, which, the report says, need to focus more on these small economic units.
The study also found that an average of 62 per cent of employment in these 99 countries is in the informal sector, where working conditions in general tend to be inferior, (i.e. a lack of social security, lower wages, poor occupational safety and health and weaker industrial relations).
The informality level varies widely, ranging from more than 90 per cent in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Madagascar to less than five per cent in Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam and Switzerland.
The information is published in a new ILO report, Small matters: Global evidence on the contribution to employment by the self-employed, micro-enterprises and SMEs.
The report finds that in high-income countries, 58 per cent of total employment is in small economic units, while in low and middle-income countries, the proportion is considerably higher.
In countries with the lowest income levels, the proportion of employment in small economic units is almost 100 per cent, the report says.
ILO estimates draw on national household and labour force surveys, gathered in all regions except North America, rather than using the more traditional source of enterprise surveys that tend to have more limited scope.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the employment contribution of so-called small economic units has been estimated, in comparative terms, for such a large group of countries, particularly low and middle income countries,” said Dragan Radic, Head of the ILO’s Small and Medium Enterprises Unit.
The report advises that supporting small economic units should be a central part of economic and social development strategies.
It highlights the importance of creating an enabling environment for such businesses, ensuring that they have effective representation and that social dialogue models also work for them.
Other recommendations include understanding how enterprise productivity is shaped by a wider “ecosystem“, facilitating access to finance and markets, advancing women’s entrepreneurship, and encouraging the transition towards the formal economy and environmental sustainability.
Stakeholders mount fresh pressure over housing sector bills
Again, stakeholders comprising real estate developers, builders, engineers, estate surveyors and town planners are mounting pressure on the National Assembly to expedite action on the outstanding housing bills before it.
The housing bills, New Telegraph gathered, are yet to be passed by the National Assembly since 20O4.
They include the passage of Foreclosure Bill into law to legally resolve default issues in the housing sector; Review of Land Use Act of 1978; Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2018; Review of Federal Government Housing Loans Board Bill (FGHLB); Review of the National Housing Fund (NHF) Scheme Act 1992; Review of Mortgage Banks Act 1989 ( subsumed in BOFIA); Review of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) Act 1993; and Review of the Trustee Investment Act 1962.
Others are Review of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) Act 1993; Review of the Insurance Act 2002; Review of the Investment and Security Act 1999; Review of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Act 1990; Climate Change Adaptation Policy; Policy Creating the National Council on Housing for Sector Regulation; and Securitization Bill and other affordable housing policies.
Commenting on the bills, a former General Manager of Aso Savings and Loans Plc, Mr. Fonahanmi Idris, said that the various Acts should analyzed into areas of interest in the sector, adding that he was optimistic that if seen, they could be reviewed in line with current dictates.
New Telegraph also gathered that the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) was also putting the bills into priority.
Another affordable housing advocate, David Gamvwa, said it was sad that eight of the bills were initiated, prepared and sent to the National Assembly since 2004 by Professor Akin Mabogunje-led Presidential Technical Committee on Housing and Urban Development.
In his agenda setting for government, Adebayo reminded the Minister of Work and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, that urgent passage of the outstanding bills would facilitate rapid investment in the real estate sector and drive the economy.
Besides, he called on the minister to urgently partner with the Mortgage Bankers Association of Nigeria (MBAN), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others to see that these critical bills are passed by the National Assembly.
Adebayo noted that funding has remained one of the most critical challenges for Nigeria’s housing sector, urging the minister to consider approaches that would ease access to funding low-income housing in the country.
Whether in terms of partnerships, policy developments or securing alternative finance models, Adebayo said that if access to funding could be guaranteed, a lot could be achieved in record time in the sector.
He lamented that mortgages and project constructions were stalled by limited access to funding.
He said: “Another critical mandate for the minister is to partner with relevant stakeholders in the sector to create standard data system in Nigeria that can be universally accepted to collate data, identify data gaps, integrate, optimise and expand knowledge set to meet current demands.”
This, he said should also included the adoption of high impact training that supports research and data generation by major stakeholders within the industry.
“Any plan or investment in the sector ought to be based on dependable data,” he said, quoting the stakeholders.
Adebayo urged government to facilitate process to tackle the backlog of issuance of consent and Certificates of Occupancy on Federal Government lands.
“There is the need to do more in terms of creating enabling policies around land title documentations, with government playing a larger role in assisting investors and supporting local building industries and materials,” he said.
Border closure: Used vehicles flood Apapa port
No few than 5,200 used vehicles have been imported within the last two months through the Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) Tincan Island Port following the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.
The imports have boosted Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)’s revenue at PTML.
It was gathered that within the last two months, the Service had generated N25.8 billion at the terminal from vehicle imports.
In August, it collected N12.6billion and in September, N13.2 billion.
According to NCS, a total of N116 billion was generated from vehicle importation between January and September 2019.
The revenue was N28.91 billion higher than the N87.60 billion collected in 2018.
Last month, eight roll-on roll-off vessels berthed at the port terminal with 2,950 used vehicles.
The vehicles were shipped into the country by Grande Togo with 350 units; Hoegh Xiamen, 400 units; Grande Tema, 400units; Grande Cameroon, 350 units; Grande Lagos, 400 units; Rep Del Brasile, 300 units; MSC Christiana, 400 units and Grande Congo, 350 units.
Also in August, 2,250 units of used vehicles were off loaded from six ships with Heogh Xiamen leading with 400 units; Grande Tema, 400 units; Grande Lagos, 400 units; Grande Morocco, 350 units; Grande Ghana, 350 units and Grande Togo, 350 units.
According to the command’s spokesman, Yakubu Mohammed, its monthly revenue target was N10.3 billion.
A breakdown of the revenue revealed that the command generated N 14.8 billion in January; February, N10 billion; March, N11.8 billion; April, N13.2 billion; May, N12.3 billion; June, N13.3 billion; July, N14.8 billion; August, N12.6 billion and September N13.2 billion.
Meanwhile, PTML has reduced tariffs for all categories of vehicles, which had been rooting away at the port for over a year at the terminal.
Investigation revealed that the tariffs were offered in order to create space for the new imports.
The cut rate per unit tariff for cars is N75,000; vans, N100,000; trucks/trailers/bus, N150,000 and plants, N300,000.
According to the PTML’s General Manager, Tunde Keshinro, the terminal handled 159,000 units of vehicles in year 2018.
However, it was gathered that most of the vehicles were of low grade.
It was revealed that PTML took delivery of 269,000 units or 65.53 per cent of the 410,443 units that entered the country between 2017 and 2018.
In 2018 alone, no fewer than 229,690 units were imported through the seaports, while some 180,753 units of vehicles were imported in 2017.
Findings by New Telegraph revealed that PTML alone received 159,000 units in 2018 and 110,000 units of vehicles in 2017.
Also, data obtained from United Nations Comtrade portal revealed that two countries- United States and China, exported N357.7 billion ($980 million) to Nigeria in the period.
United States exported $581 million, while China brought $399 million vehicles into the country between 2017 and 2018.
CPS: Families of 1,223 deceased workers get N4.69bn
In fulfilment of plans under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) arrangement, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) has approved the payment of N4.69 billion as benefits to families of 1,223 workers, who lost their lives.
The payment, which moved the total payments of death benefits to N178.56 billion, according to the final second quarter report by the Commission, brought the total number of deceased employees from both public and private sectors to 57,043.
According to the commission, approval was also granted for payment of N5.28 billion to 10,673 RSA holders who were under the age of 50 years and were disengaged from work and unable to secure another job within four months of disengagement.
The cumulative total number of RSA holders, who were paid benefits for temporary loss of job was 324,141 and were paid a total of N113,21 billion, being 25 per cent of the balances of their RSAs as prescribed by the Pension Reform Act 2014.
A further analysis showed that the private sector accounted for 95.33 per cent of those who benefitted from these payments, while the public sector accounted for 4.67 per cent.
An earlier report by this newspaper had revealed that during the period under review, demand notices were issued to 37 defaulting employers whose pension liabilities had been established by Recovery Agents.
The effort, the Commission said, “resulted in the remittance of outstanding pension contributions of N260.62 million, representing principal contributions of N151.59 million and penalty of N109.64 million.
“Accordingly, total recoveries made from inception to date amounted to N16.01 billion, comprising principal contributions of N8.22 billion and penalty N7.79 billion.
“These amounts have since been credited to the respective RSAs of the employees.”
The Commission maintains the services of Recovery Agents for the recovery of outstanding pension contributions and penalty from defaulting employers. The RAs are mandated to review the pension records of employers assigned by the Commission with a view to recovering outstanding pension contributions with penalty.
Another major activity carried out by the Commission during the quarter was the refund of pension contributions to military and security agencies personnel following their exemption from the CPS.
According to PenCom, it processed 2,080 applications for refund during the period under review.
“In that regard, the sum of ₦142.13 million was refunded to the contributors, while ₦83.67 million, representing the contributions by the Federal Government, was returned to the Contributory Pension Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The extended timeline given to the Tripartite Committee for the Winding Down of the refund exercise ended 30 June, 2019 and the report is being finalised,” the Commission noted.
On contributions, the Commission revealed that the total monthly pension contributions received from contributors from both the public and private sectors was N5.45 trillion as at the end of the second quarter, 2019.
This shows an increase of N169.90 billion, representing 3.22 per cent growth over the total contributions as at the end of the previous quarter.
According to the commission, “during the second quarter of 2019, the total contributions received from the public sector amounted to N72.42 billion (42.63 per cent), while the private sector contributed N97.48 billion (57.37 per cent).
“A review of the aggregate total contribution received shows that N2.73 trillion or 50.09 per cent of the contributions came from the public sector, while the private sector contributed the remaining 49.91 per cent (N2.72 trillion).
“The aggregate total pension contributions of the private sector increased from N2.62 trillion as at first quarter of 2019 to N2.72 trillion as at the end of the reporting period, representing a growth of 3.72 per cent. Whereas, the aggregate total pension contribution of the public sector increased by 2.72 per cent from N2.66 trillion to N2.73 trillion over the same period.”
Besides, the report also noted that the Commission approved a total of 2,941 applications for retirement under life annuity during the quarter, bringing the total number of retirees receiving their retirement benefits through the annuity plan to 68,857 from inception.
The 2,941 retirees received N4.68 billion as lump sum payment and paid premium of N17.53 billion to insurance companies and monthly annuity of N184.50 million. This resulted in total lumps sum payment of N91.28 billion, premium of N371.21 billion and monthly annuity payments of N3.70 billion as at the end of the period under review.
Japanese firm empowers farmers in Cross River
A Japanese farming group, the Sasakawa Africa Group, has trained 5,500 farmers in Cross River State since 2015. The training is on how to adapt modern technology to increase agricultural yields. The group clustered the farmers and deployed their technical experts to regularly guide them on the latest researches on particular crops and cultivation.
This was disclosed to newsmen in Calabar by the group’s state coordinator, Ekok Ntum, before their experts, led by the group’s country director, Prof Sani Miko, visited farm settlements in central and northern parts of the state.
Ntum said the farmers, who were spread across the three senatorial zones of the state, were trained on modern methods of cultivating cassava, maize as well as rearing of goats. He disclosed that the farmers were specifically trained on the new methods of planting cassava and maize by means of intercropping, as well as the proper dimensions and species to guarantee optimum yield. He said the training was made possible by the Sasakawa Africa Association and the Africa Cassava Agronomy Initiative, with the support of researchers from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan.
Border closure: Thorny path to food self-sufficiency
The firm stance of the Federal Government vowing not to review border closure has shown that Nigeria’s quest to achieving self-sufficiency in food production is gradually yielding fruit. Taiwo Hassan writes
The recent report by Africa Rice Center that Nigeria is now the largest producer of rice in Africa, with four million tonnes of rice yearly has already positioned the country as a leading rice producer among comity of rice producing countries globally.
The road towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in the country can be traced to 2015 when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) unveiled its Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to boost agric and manufacturing value chains in line with Federal Government’s economic agenda to improve revenue earning from non-oil sector of the economy.
That same year, the CBN launched the ABP in 14 states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from small holder farmers to commercial or large growers.
According to the apex bank, the effort, which was part of its developmental agenda was not just to create millions of jobs but also capable of lifting thousands of small holder farmers out of poverty.
During the flag-off programme in Birni-Kebbi, Kebbi State, CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) to be given to farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum.
However, in the space of four years, the ABP has demonstrated a surgical solution to Nigeria’s quest to boosting non-oil sector profile by empowering millions of farmers in the country’s agric sector.
In addition to this result, the Federal Government has also propelled the outcome further with the recent border closure as a way of discouraging influx of imported food items into the country.
In order to demonstrate its readiness towards sustaining the border closure policy, the Federal Government ruled out any plan to review calls for reopening the borders, until neighbouring countries stop violating Nigeria’s laws against food smuggling.
The decision that was consolidated a few days ago is meant to show that the country is serious in its bid to eradicate smuggling in and out of the country as it has taken a toll on the country’s revenue earnings for decade.
Speaking in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, affirmed that the Buhari administration would sustain the border closure policy despite the ECOWAS protocol in place.
Nanono lamented the adverse effect foreign food import was having on the country’s foreign exchange, saying that no serious nation would opt for importation of foods at the detriment of local ones.
“I think so long as these bordering countries do not respect our protocols on these very important issues of bringing food into Nigeria, border closure will remain. I think we are producing enough food to feed ourselves,” the agric minister said.
On his part, the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), reportedly disclosed in Abuja that the country was realising N5 billion daily revenue generation from the border closure.
Ali confirmed that Nigeria’s borders would remain closed until the country and its neighbours agree on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement of goods and other food items.
“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.
“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Ali said.
He said that by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband.
“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Ali said.
According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen.
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomole, explained that Nigerian borders with neighbouring countries should remain closed until they comply with ECOWAS protocols.
He explained that his party was strongly behind the border closure and all other reforms being carried out by the service, adding that such action should be sustained for economic growth of the country.
“The state must have control over the economy and Nigeria is absolutely right in taking the decision having been victims of expired rice brought in through the porous borders.
“It is a shame that after spending much to re-position agriculture, we still allow people to import expired rice into our country.
“We are lucky to have a president who told us to consume what we produce in the country in order to grow our economy. People are complaining that the prices of food commodities have gone up; our farmers should make money from their sweat.
“Over the years, farmers got good harvest, sometime with right prices but smugglers often crash the prices,” he said.
Nigerian farmers position
Speaking on the border closure, Nigeria’s business mogul and richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, supported government’s stance.
He said: “We can now sit down and set the rules on how to operate the border because obviously we cannot allow smuggling activities to kill our industries. Obviously, we want to create more jobs, but if we allow smuggling to wipe out our industries the way it did to the textile sector then obviously we are in trouble.
“For example, Benin Republic has no reason to allow parboiled rice to be landing in Benin because they do not eat parboiled rice in Benin, but white rice. One of the dialogue could be no more parboiled rice in transit to Benin under any guise, that way we can save millions of farmers and create more jobs.”
In the same vein, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Coscharis Farms Limited, Cosmas Maduka, decried the smuggling of parboiled rice into the country from the neigbouring countries.
He said the border closure was the only solution to Nigeria’s bid to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
“Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice, because Coscharis Farms Limited alone has about 3,000 hectares of land for rice production that yields four tons per hectare. Now that we have developed the seed, we are getting eight tons per hectare. In other words, we have had another 3,000 hectares of land.
“For now, irrigation is finished and we are going to start next season. That means we have multiplied our supply. We used to have four tons. We are having eight tons now, and we are going to have 16, 000 tons, by the dimension of the farm, and if we succeed to do three crop seasons, we will have 24,000 tons on that same piece of property.
“In fact, we are already thinking about having a second mill now. I am sure, if what we are working on works out exactly the way we are planning it, in three years, we will solve 100 per cent rice demand in the eastern part of Nigeria. That is our goal. Nigeria spends $3 billion importing rice. We are targeting 20 per cent of that market and we will get it. We will then see how much further we can go,” he said.
In reality, the Federal Government’s border closure policy has a good economic undertone, but sadly, it has been receiving knocks and jabs among Nigerians following the skyrocketing prices of local rice, which is currently selling for between N19,000 and N21,000.
‘Confluence Rice’ll be affordable to Nigerians’
The producers of another brand of local rice, Confluence Rice, has assured Nigerians of higher quality, more nutritious and affordability irrespective of class.
The Managing Director of the company, Mr. Olusegun Olonade, who disclosed this to journalists, said the processes employed by the company in the growth, cultivation and refining of the final product by the management of the mill were the best standards available anywhere in the world.
According to him, ‘’although our paddy rice is locally grown, the finished product is of very high quality and higher nutrition value than imported rice grains. Consumers of the rice will find our product quite enjoyable, smooth and excellent in taste as we hit the market.
Olonade, however, said the recent ban on importation of rice by the Federal Government had resulted in widespread increase in prices of rice, leaving the masses, who represent the highest consumers of rice frustrated
“We have received a lot of patronage since the commencement of the production. Presently, there is a high demand from our distributors, as I speak our rice is currently in production is sold out.
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