he Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has removed the interest rate cap regulation on interest rate and lending fees for mortgage financing in the country.
In a circular to Other Financial Institutions (OFIs) and mortgage sector stakeholders posted on its website at the weekend, the CBN said that the move was due to “some implementation challenges” regarding the mortgage finance section of its 2017 “Guide to Charges by Banks and Other Financial Institutions in Nigeria.”
The apex bank stated that henceforth the section of the document that deals with mortgage financing has been amended, and now has the word, “negotiable” to replace the interest rate cap.
The circular reads in part: “The CBN in 2017, issued the Guide to Charges by Banks and Other Financial Institutions in Nigeria, to moderate charges on various products and services offered by banks and Other Financial Institutions (OFls) in Nigeria.
“Our attention has been drawn to some implementation challenges in respect of Part 2 Section 2.1 .3 (Mortgage Finance) in respect of the maximum cap of MPR + five per cent placed on mortgage finance rates.
“The CBN after due consideration of the concerns of stakeholders, hereby amend Part 2 (A & B): interest Rate and Lending Fees Subsection 2.1 .3 Mortgage Finance to read “NEGOTIABLE”. Please note that “subject to a maximum of MPR + five per cent” is no longer applicable. This new provision takes effect from September 9, 2019.”
Border closure: Price of stock-fish, dry fish rise by 22% at Oyingbo Market
he price of rice may not be the only imported (smuggled) item that may have rise due to the recent closure of Nigeria’s borders as the Sunday Telegraph Market Survey team on Thursday learnt at Oyingbo and Otto markets, on the Lagos Island that the price of stock-fish and stock-fish head has increased by over 22 per cent.
This is even as most of the traders spoken to in the markets complained of poor patronage by customers, who according them are being scared away by the sudden increase in the food item.
Speaking, Mr. Ndubusi Okoro, a dealer on stock-fish in Otto Market, a bag of ‘Cod’ Stock-fish is now N400, 000. This N100, 000 above the N300, 000 it was sold before the border closure, over 22 per cent increase.
Okoro admitted that he is aware that stock fish is prohibited, but said that it is not fair to stop Nigerians from eating stock fish after they had developed that taste over a century ago, even as the country does not produce stock fish. He further argues that there no country in the world that produces all that it consumes.
He further disclosed that before the closure of the border, one was selling at N11, 000 but not it sells for as much as N15, 000.
Mrs. Chichi Steven, a stock-fish head dealer in the market, disclosed that from June to July every year, the price of stock-fish head used to be low but this year the price has remained on high till date.
She said a bag stock fish head is now sold at the rate of N72, 000; this is over N7, 000 above the 65,000 per bag it was sold before the border closure. The least retail price of stock-fish head, now ranges from N200, N450 to N700, before the border closure, one could buy a stock-fish head at N180, Mrs. Chichi said.
Commenting on the price of dry-fish in the market, Mr. Aliyu Bala a dealer on dry-fish in Oyingbo Market said he had different varieties of dry fish, like ‘Italian’ fish which he said was the only imported; the rest like ‘Ariwa’ fish come from Maiduguri, Lokoja and Minna.
According to him, four pieces of ‘Italian’ dry fish sells at N1, 500 and N2,000 respectively while five pieces of Lokoja dry fish sold at N3,000 and Asa dry fish goes for N600 for one. He added that the current increase in price of some foodstuff in the market has not affected dry fish in the market as they still sell at the pre-border closure prices.
Meanwhile, Sunday Telegraph observed that the price of onions in the market has also increased. Speaking, Malami Mulatah, who sells onions in Otto Market, said that we already in the off-season for onions as a result, a bag now sells at N35,000 as against N12,000 a couple of months ago. Four pieces of onions sells at N100 while they also have a small bowl of onions sells at between N2, 000 and N3, 000 respectively.
Similarly, Mr. Andrew Ikeh, a rice dealer in the market disclosed that a 50kg bag of foreign rice sells at N25, 000 for those that still have it as old stock and the demand higher than the supply while the Nigerian rice has a lot of fake ones in the market, he said. The Abakaliki (Ebonyi) Rice is sold at N19, 000 per 50kg bag and those ones he referred as fake rice do have problem when cooked in a large quantity.
Again, Mr. Andrew mentioned five varieties of Nigerian rice in the market that one can buy when cooking in large quantity. They include Mama Pride, Mama Choice, Lake Rice, Tomato King and Tomato Nigeria Rice, all sell at the rate of N20, 000 per 50kg bag.
Commenting on the price of beans in the market, he said that Honey Beans is sold at the rate of N18, 000 to N20, 000 per 100kg bag, while Brown Beans sells from N25,000 to N30,000 per 100kg bag. White Beans sold from N25, 000 to N30,000 per 100kg bag.
2020 budget: FG makes zero allocation for population census
…as government plans with inaccurate population figures
As Nigeria continues to make its budgetary projections using estimates from the discredited and rejected 2006 census figures, PAUL OGBUOKIRI in this report avers that national enumeration of Nigerians, which is already over by three years, is the worst hit by President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent observation that “some of the statistics we get relating to Nigeria are wild estimates and bear little relation to the facts on the ground.”
Accurate census data
Demographers and population experts at the weekend agreed with President Buhari that” we can only plan realistically when we have reliable data.” They said the 2020 budget, like past budgets, will not be impactful on the life of Nigerians unless an accurate population census of Nigerians is carried out.
Speaking in reaction to President Buhari’s reported statement during the inauguration of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) last Wednesday in Abuja, they said the reported government prioritisation of agriculture as a critical sector to create jobs and bring prosperity to Nigeria’s rural communities will only be successful if the accurate number of people living in those communities and their age brackets are known.
The demographers who spoke to Sunday Telegraph in different interviews, said assuming the 2006 census figures on which the estimation of the current population figures is based, was accurate and accepted; “it would still have ceased to be scientifically reliable after 10 years when the structure of the population used for the calculation of the 2006 census should have changed.”
A census was supposed to be conducted since 2016, 10 years after the last one, but this has not happened three years after and like the 2019 Appropriation Act, no provision was made in the 2020 Appropriation Bill for census, an indication that President Buhari’s administration does not a plan to use accurate census figures for its 2021 budget plan.
One country, many population figures
According to Prof. Olasupo Ogunjuyigbe of the Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, censuses conducted after independence suffered from the problem of over-count.
He said: “The people who refused to be counted during the colonial era were counted more than once and some had multiple counts.”
Sunday Telegraph notes that results of the first post-independence census conducted in 1962 were withdrawn. The reliability of the 1963 census was questioned. The results of the 1973 census were discredited and never saw day light, and no census was conducted in 1981.
The 1991 census was marred by allegations of cheating when some states showed every household in the states having exactly the number of members as the census form provided lines to list people. Dr. Akinyemi said unsurprisingly, the 2006 census was subject to all the same flaws as before.
“There was huge influence from the communities and political class to manipulate the whole processes. In my view, there was a competitive manipulation across many communities and states,” he said.
Arguments and counter arguments since have revolved particularly around the number of people in Lagos State in the South and Kano in the North. In a report on the 2006 census process, former Chairman of National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu said: “Even before the census was conducted, highly placed individuals and organisations in several states had already determined to the decimal point the population of a particular area or region.”
Chairman of the Commission, Yusuf Anka, in a media briefing to mark the 2019 World Population Day in Abuja, said the current population of Nigeria is about 198 million people. Three months earlier, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had announced a figure of 201 million populations for Nigeria.
However, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) using the Africapolis urban study puts Nigeria’s population at 190.56 million for 2019.
“The OECD has adjusted Nigeria’s population figures on the basis of the much reduced urban populations estimated by the Africapolis team,” Dr Deborah Potts, a reader in Human Geography at Kings College London told Africa Check.
She said: “Their calculations put Nigeria’s population at 110.1 million in 2000, compared to a UN estimate for that year of 123.7 million.”
In a report, the organisation estimated that Nigeria’s population in 2006 was just over 134 million; below the 140 million reported in the census. “Using a similar growth rate to project the OECD figure to today gives an estimate of around 190.56. It was 162 million in 2014”.
Rigged census figures
Controversy over Nigeria’s census figures is nothing new. Accusations that the country’s official population figures had been rigged date back to even before independence in the 1950s, then 1962/63; and have continued under both military and civilian regimes.
In the run up to independence in 1960, the British authorities were accused of skewing census figures to favour the interest of northern political elite. After independence, the same accusations were made about the seriously flawed 1963 census.
The next official population count, conducted in 1973, was no better. It was officially annulled and no figures were published. After that, there was no attempt at a head count until 1991 when a census was conducted and just as quickly discredited and annulled.
The most recent attempt came in 2006, which declared that the population had reached just over 140 million. The census figure was seen to follow the 1963 pattern which was believed to be based on allocating numbers.
Speaking on the issue Dr. Akanni Akinyemi, another lecturer in Demography and Social Statistics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said cultural practices in the North and difficult terrains in the South had made head counting almost impossible in the country.
“There is a concept of ‘Ba Shiga’ in the northern part of the country, which forbids entry, particularly of a male guest into house. That means that enumerators must accept potentially erroneous numbers given to them by the male head of the household,” he explained.
Dr. Loretta Ntoimo of the Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, who could not agree less with Dr. Akinyemi, admitted that the population of Nigeria is not certain. “We depend on projections. It was from the projections that the 200 million figures for 2019 were arrived at.”
She said the projection was based on the 140 million census figures of 2006 which was questioned by experts because they did not analyse it. She added: “If you do the projections from past censuses like that of 1991, you will get something close to the 200million figure being bandied as the country’s population this year.”
However, according to the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 70 per cent of the children born annually in Nigeria are not registered at birth. It noted that this failure to track the biggest source of population growth – babies – makes it “difficult to verify the information on census forms” later on.
Other demographers spoken to by Sunday Telegraph insisted that no one can give a firmly reliable estimate for the total population of the country, saying the figures commonly cited are from the World Bank, “and they are extrapolated from the derided and rejected 2006 head count.
“That implies that today’s statistics – taken from faulty figures – are equally misleading,” they said.
Controlling population growth
It has been suggested that Nigeria should consider population control. Family planning allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies and thus control population growth of a country. It is achieved through use of various contraceptive methods.
There are about 15 different types of contraceptives which allow one to enjoy sex without the risk of getting pregnant. Some of the popular ones are the pills, condoms, Intrauterine Device (IUD), Contraceptive Implant and others like them.
However, lack of adequate family planning by citizens in a country is one of the major causes of population explosion and its consequences.
According to the World Health Organisation, (WHO) family planning is key to slowing unsustainable population growth and the resulting negative impacts on the economy, environment, and national and regional development efforts.
Going by the WHO analysis, by 2050, Nigeria will have twice the population it has today; more than half will live in cities, and about 60 per cent of them will be under 25. According to the projections, at the present rate of child birth, in about 30 years Nigeria will overtake the US to become the world’s third most populous country behind China and India.
Speaking on the danger of uncontrolled population growth, Chairman of Siverbird Television, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, said over 20,000 babies are born everyday in Nigeria, yet we are not even creating up to 2,000 new jobs each day. We either have to control our population growth rate, which is the highest in the world, or be prepared to provide jobs for them. If we don’t, we will have future crisis.
Uncontrolled birth rate
Dr. Nura Jummai Ibrahim of the Department of Social Science, Bayero University, Kano, faulted government’s lack of vision and political insincerity in knowing how many people we have in the country.
He is worried that with the way things are going and with lack of accurate plans as to how to tackle increase in birth rates some of which are unnecessary, the nation is entirely sitting on a key of gun powder.
He said already, many states are grappling with the problems of Almajiris and other redundant elements and this does not include the huge number of students graduating from secondary schools and universities.
In an article warning of the dangers, Peter Ogunjuyigbe, a demographer said: “Population is key. If you don’t take care of population, schools can’t cope, hospitals can’t cope, houses are not enough – there’s nothing you can do to have economic development.”
Already, the nation is grappling with the lack of jobs and the inability of universities to absorb the millions of youngsters leaving secondary schools every year is there for all to see.
Consequently, the rising population and the inability of the economy to match it, has led to the rising crime wave, kidnapping and other social vices across the land, he said.
The danger ahead
Food insecurity is already a major threat to Nigeria. Despite a food production rate consistently on the rise, there is still not enough to meet the national food demand, and as such, the country must rely on costly food imported directly or smuggled in through the porous borders.
In a country that benefits immensely from its oil exports and is often touted as an honorary BRIC member, hunger and malnutrition continue to be a constant threat. The World Bank has stated that as many as 90 million Nigerians -about 45 per cent of the population-suffer from chronic food shortages. Despite the bank committing US$1.2 billion for Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) to increase farm production in Nigeria since 1974, the issue of food security shows no sign of letting up, and the problem will only be exacerbated by the increase in population over the next decade.
Race for 2019 NAJA Automotive/Transport Award begins
reparations for the 2019 Edition of the Nigerian Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) Awards slated to hold on December 12, 2019 in Lagos, has reached feverish peak.
Just like similar awards organised by automotive journalists in other countries, the NAJA annual awards is put together to recognise corporate stakeholders organisations and other automotive products and ancillary products like tyre brands , lubricants and individuals that are adjudged to have relatively stood out among other competitors in their respective segments in Nigeria’s auto industry within the year.
The annual awards also remain the only authentic industry event in the country that involves all the motoring journalists in Nigeria drawn from the print, electronic and online media in the voting process.
According to the organisers, one of the high points of the awards is in the Car-Of-The-Year (COTY) award category.
Other segments of awards are Luxury Car of the Year, Heavy Duty Truck of the Year, Auto Plant of the Year, CEO of the Year, Auto Personality of the Year and CSR Company of the Year. The Pick-up of the Year and Showroom of the Year and many others are not left out.
According to the chairman of NAJA, Mike Ochonma, new additions to the awards segments this year, include Super Luxury Car of The Year, Online Auto Marketing Platform of The Year and Motorbike Taxi Service of The Year.
Ochonma said this year’s edition, just like the previous ones will be honouring outstanding auto brands and models that have achieved extraordinary success in the out-going year. He stated that some award categories in the past editions may be dropped in this award due to dynamic nature of the market and present situation of Nigeria’s automotive industry.
The NAJA chairman stated that the awards provide the opportunity for organisations to gain competitive advantage by having their projects, initiatives, contributions, products and services recognised.
He further said that the event provides ultimate platform for improving brand awareness, loyalty, just as he noted that some few more categories have been added to the list of awards due to changing times.
Lagos partners Uber on marine transportation
agos State Government on Friday announced that it has gone into partnership with Uber Technologies, Inc. an American multinational ridesharing company in the area of marine transportation.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the government is entering into the partnership to leverage on modern technology to expand water transport share of the over 14 million people the state move from one point to the other daily.
Sanwo-Olu explained that the consummation of the partnership was the outcome of his meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of Uber when he travelled to the United Nations headquarters in the United State of America with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He disclosed that the initiative will further help the state government reach its target of having at least 20 per cent of Lagos residents that move by road daily, patronise water transport system.
Emphasizing that the Lagos State Government is equally committed to other modes of transportation in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu pointed out that water transportation has come to stay in the state.
Assuring that boat transportation is a safe means of transportation, he noted that the state is also mindful of safety and security which is very important in transport business.
On the state’s future plans, Sanwo-Olu said “We are going to have helicopter shuttle in Lagos. Traffic management and transportation are the pillar of our agenda”.
Also speaking during the press parley, Lola Kassim; General Manager West Africa at Uber said that Uber is aware of Lagos State government’s commitments and extremely strong vision to improve transportation and that is why they are partnering with the state.
“It is an exciting day for Uber in Nigeria. We have helped people to get around their cities reliably in the last 5 years. We know the Lagos State government has extremely strong vision to improve transportation. This is why we have been taking steps to partner the state government to see how we can offer easy transportation,” Kassim said.
Speaking further, Kassim said “I announce our Uber Boat. This for us is to see how we can use our Uber Technology to help people move from one place to the other.”
Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Frederic Oladeinde, at the event said the Lagos State Governor in the last few months has been involved in a lot of developmental projects of which transportation management is part of it.
Stating that the marine transportation system will make Lagos State a world class environment Oladeinde said: “In bringing the whole thing together, we will be displaying one of the high technology. Lagos State caters for about 14 million people; water transport is one of the most effective ways of transportation”
In his own remark, managing director of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Damilola Emmanuel said: “Today is a symbolic day because what we see in the last few years is development in the inland water ways.
“We are committed to ensuring that we are able to build with those who are ready to support us,” he said.
Why we brought container ship to Calabar Port, by Holm
anaging Director of Hull Blyth Nigeria Limited, Mr. Christian Holm has offered more insights into why his company facilitated the first call of a containership to Calabar Port in 15 years.
Addressing members of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating why Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Onne Ports are not being put to maximal use, Holm said Hull Blyth, which is the shipping agent to Marguisa Lines, owners of the containership, ”MN Boreas”, facilitated the visit of the ship in order to open up trade and businesses activities in the eastern ports.
He said the vessel made its first call to the port on September 22, 2019.
“We are excited about the willingness of Marguisa Lines to invest in the port and in the new service, and all the new opportunities that opens up for trade and development in Calabar and beyond, now that the port is connected with a global container liner service,” he said.
Holm, however, identified inadequate infrastructure, shallow water drafts, poor road infrastructure and insecurity as factors hindering large vessels from calling at the ports outside Lagos.
He said port complexes outside Lagos “have not been upgraded in accordance with modern seaborne trade.
“This relates especially to containerized trade, where the requirements for sizeable port container yards and related handling equipment are not met,” he said.
Holm also said that water depth in rivers to the ports as well as alongside the quays has not been dredged or maintained, thereby giving rise to shallow drafts.
“The shallow drafts prevent access of average sized vessels to the ports, and shipping companies must instead deploy smaller tonnage which cannot provide economic transportation to most shippers,” he said.
He said the investment by Marguisa Lines and the willingness of its customers to use the Calabar Port will be jeopardized “unless the above key issues are urgently addressed by the government”.
Marguisa Lines is headquartered in Madrid and since 1990, has specialized in liner transportation between the Mediterranean and West Africa.
Its main service operates between the ports of Algeciras in Spain and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, and connects a large network of global and regional ports.
“The port of Malabo will also serve as hub port for the feeder vessel calling at Calabar on regular basis,” Holm said.
Eunisell increases business solutions for marginal oilfield owners
unisell has announced an extended range of comprehensive solutions for Nigeria’s marginal oil field owners.
The new products and services include: well testing, enhanced well testing, data services, well blowback solutions, multiphase flow, well clean up and early production facilities.
Others are offshore production units, enhanced production solutions, facilities upgrade, and repairs, operations management, sand management solutions produced water solutions, drill stem testing, electronic memory gauge services, and pumping services.
Speaking on why the extension became necessary, Mr. Chika Ikenga, Eunisell’s Group Managing Director, stated that field owners are vital to economic growth, and must be provided with every opportunity to operate efficiently and effectively.
“Through experience, we often find that skills gaps exist spanning financial, technical skills and resources – crucial facets to an operation being viable and profitable. Eunisell closes the gap with a unique range of business solutions and we have just announced an extension to the services we offer.”
He further stated the company’s fast track production facilities help owners achieve first oil in record time.
Eunisell, a leading oil, and gas production solutions company, has extensive technical resources and equipment with facilities in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
With over 20 years’ experience and ISO 9001:2015 certification, the company is committed to delivering a wide range of solutions, a quality management system and processes at international standards.
Mercedes-Benz records 223,838 sales in September
ercedes-Benz achieved a new September record last month with 223,838 vehicles sold worldwide (+10.4 per cent). From July to September, a total of 590,514 cars with the three-pointed star were sold, which is the best third quarter in the company’s history (+12.2 per cent).
Within just three months, Mercedes-Benz also reversed its sales trend since the beginning of 2019. In the year to September, deliveries increased by 0.6 per cent to a total of 1,725,243 vehicles.
The segment of compact cars was one of the key drivers: new sales records with double-digit growth rates were achieved from January to September as well as in the month.
The established C-, E- and S-Class Saloons also posted sales increases worldwide in September. Since the beginning of the year, Mercedes-Benz maintained its market leadership in the premium segment in markets including Germany, UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Canada, Republic of South Africa and other markets.
“We have posted the best-ever third quarter for Mercedes-Benz – a strong team performance of which we are extremely proud, especially in these challenging times,” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing and sales.
“In the year-end spurt, we want to further consolidate our ambition to remain the world’s leading premium automobile brand.
“Despite the highly competitive environment, we assume that Mercedes-Benz retail unit sales will increase slightly in the full year,” he said.
Mercedes-Benz unit sales by model
More than 72,700 units of the A- and B-Class, CLA Coupe, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA were delivered last month – more compact cars than in any month before (+17.7 per cent). In addition to the new A-Class Saloon, the new B-Class and the new CLA Coupe have been key drivers for the growth of the compact models, especially in Europe. Both models, the B-Class and the CLA Coupe, achieved significant double-digit sales growth in Europe last month. In the first nine months of the year, worldwide unit sales of the compact car segment also reached a new record of more than 489,600 units (+10.6 per cent).
The E-Class Saloon and Estate models posted an 11.8 per cent increase in September with about 33,800 vehicles delivered. The E-Class Saloon set new sales records both in September (+15.2 per cent) and since the beginning of the year (+2.1 per cent). In the Asia-Pacific region and the Chinese and South Korean markets, sales of the E-Class Saloon reached record levels in September and the first nine months of the year.
With more than 5,700 units delivered worldwide last month, the S-Class Saloon achieved a significant increase in deliveries (11.1 per cent). Much of the strong double-digit growth came from the Chinese market, where, due to its ongoing popularity, the S-Class Saloon set a new record for deliveries in September. Sales in the United Sates also increased significantly with a double-digit growth last month.
Land Rover enables access to isolated villages around Zambezi River Delta
arly in August Kingsley Holgate and his expedition team set off in a pair of Land Rover Discoverys to criss-cross remote Mozambique on a mission to change lives with free cataract operations. More than 2,000km later, the team has safely returned from its ‘Vision Mission’ having given the gift of sight to over 130 patients.
Using their expedition Land Rover Discoverys and the big ‘Ma Robert’ pontoon boat named after Dr David Livingstone’s first mechanised boat on the Zambezi River, Kingsley and crew assisted with the pre-screening and transport of patients to two mobile operating theatres set up at the Marromeu government hospital.
“The Discoverys’ seating configuration was ideal for this work and the team was able to transport up to nine patients at a time,” said Kingsley Holgate. “Even with a heavy load and all of our kit on the roof racks, the Discoverys’ off-road capabilities made short work of the narrow, bumpy footpaths and bicycle tracks to reach the isolated villages.”
The vast, 18,000 square kilometer Zambezi River Delta has never had an eye surgery outreach like this before. More than 1,300 people were screened and over 130 specialist eye surgeries completed by the Doctors for Life volunteer team – including five children and a life-saving removal of a large, cancerous growth.
Other patients were flown out of the Delta by a Mercy Air helicopter, and using an expedition Discovery the team raced another desperately ill patient to the Marromeu Hospital for urgent, life-saving medical treatment.
Covering treacherous terrain and enduring fierce weather conditions, the team also provided hundreds of poor-sighted people who didn’t require eye surgery with reading glasses, as part of the Land Rover-supported Mashozi’s Rite to Sight programme. More than 200,000 pairs of spectacles have been delivered to recipients as part of the programme to date.
The Kingsley Holgate Foundation and Land Rover have successfully completed over 30 humanitarian and geographic expeditions – many of them world-firsts. This Zambezi Delta Vision Mission Expedition also forms part of a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Land Rover Discovery and a 2019 objective of continuing to provide humanitarian impact to thousands of people through malaria prevention and education, Mashozi’s Rite to Sight and water purification.
These two Land Rover Discoverys used on these expeditions have certainly earned their stripes. Now in their third year of grueling expedition work, they have already reached Africa’s most easterly point in Somalia on the Horn of Africa, and completed the challenging 17,000km transcontinental expedition from Cape Town to Kathmandu, which included high-altitude mountain passes in Georgia and Armenia, crossing the vast deserts of Iran and traversing the Karakoram Highway over the high Himalayas – said to be the highest paved mountain pass in the world.
“These are certainly the most capable Land Rovers we have ever used,” said Kingsley’s son and expedition leader Ross Holgate. “Our two Discoverys have each clocked more than 70,000km of difficult expedition travel, and the Kingsley Holgate foundation is grateful to Land Rover for enabling us to reach some of the world’s most difficult locations where medical facilities are virtually non-existent.”
Imo: Unveiling Ihedioha’s roadmap for agriculture
Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State is set to recapture the once blossoming agriculture sector in the state by unveiling new roadmap in anticipation of the self-sufficient revolution. Steve Uzoechi reports
Prior to the creation of Imo State in 1976, the major industries that kept the people and the society viable were agriculture and education. To a large extent, agriculture funded and gave impetus to qualitative education.
Against this backdrop, successive regimes – military and civilian – laid great emphasis on agriculture. This at some point resulted in the state establishing colleges of agriculture and other related institutions to promote agricultural research, imbibe globally accepted best practices and ultimately maximize agricultural productivity.
At the time, the agro-benefit focal areas were food security, employment, foreign exchange earnings, poverty reduction and production of raw materials for local industries.
Return to democracy
Expectations were high that the return to democracy and constitutional governance would create a suitable environment and provide the agricultural sector of the Nigerian economy with the needed leap in food productivity.
However, the return to democracy in 1999 saw agriculture making staggered steps in most areas, taking a plunge from target driven agriculture to politically convenient agriculture.
For Imo State, that sharp drift in agricultural development hit a crescendo when Rochas Okorocha assumed office as the governor of the state in 2011. His apparent disinclination to agriculture led to many of the viable agricultural institutions and farm settlements winding down.
In this past decade, agriculture became fully relegated to the background with very poor farmers restricting themselves to only subsistent farming just to produce what they can consume within their small family units.
Slump in agriculture
In Imo State, this reality has over the years had a horrendous impact on the economy and lifestyle of the people as a whole.
Within the period, the state government distanced itself from the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP); put a stop to funding the agency and largely refused to take interest in the activities of the agency.
That was the beginning of the end of agricultural extension services as the ADP became more occupied with self-preservation and survival of its personnel as government was no longer willing to fund or support its programmes and initiatives.
By that policy action of the Okorocha administration, agriculture in Imo took a major hit and farmers bore the brunt.
A lawyer and prominent farmer from the rice belt area of the state, Chief Uche Ohia, had said: “The Okorocha led administration practically turned its back on farmers in Imo State generally and rice farmers particularly. First, there was no agricultural policy. There was no forthright direction of agric development. Like everything else associated with that administration, it was the whims and caprices of the chief executive that determined what was said or done in the state. Farmers made no input in agricultural development during his tenure.
“In the circumstance, whatever the administration tried to do or pretended to do for agriculture was salutary and aimed at playing to the gallery. A government that failed to pay any counterpart fund – not to the Bank of Industry, not to the Bank of Agriculture, not to any international development agency – how can such a government make any positive impact on agriculture? How could it positively affect the life of farmers or boost productivity?
“The stories of fertilizer subsidy, the ‘Imo rice’ were clearly farcical. Those of us that are commercial farmers that persevered lost a fortune. All Okorocha was interested in was land to acquire for his own personal interests and development, no more no less. To say the least, the Okorocha administration was a disaster as far as agriculture was concerned in this state.”
Ohia noted, however, that farmers in the state were looking forward to an interface with the new government so that farmers can make inputs from a practical perspective, which will enable the state government integrate theory and practice in its policy formulation and implementation.
He further stressed: “In any country that has made a success of agriculture, one underlying factor is government subvention. Government must support farmers to enhance productivity so that food security can be achieved. Imo farmers are lagging behind in several indices because the agricultural revolution which the Federal Government has been funding is yet to take place in Imo State. The present administration appears poised to make it happen.”
New pathway to agric devt
It was apparently in the light of this prevalent outcry and in pursuit of his resolve to harness the state’s agricultural potential that Governor Ihedioha of launched his Agricultural Roadmap for Imo. This, to many, represents a comprehensive framework for self-sufficiency in food production, both for domestic consumption and for exports purposes.
This roadmap, a major component of the governor’s Rebuild Imo agenda, is expected to lift Imo State from the morass of underdevelopment and despair to a blooming height in productivity across the entire agricultural value chain.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Agricultural Development, Mr. Uche Odozor, some of the key impact areas the new initiative will focus on include oil palm, ginger, cassava, soya beans, cashew, pig farming, bee keeping, rice, maize, tilapia, water melon, cucumber, aquaculture, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, pineapple, dairy farming, goat farming, shea butter business, Isabella grape and agro-based e- commerce.
The central objective of the policy, according to the governor, is to make Imo State the centre of agriculture and agro-processing in Nigeria by increasing agricultural productivity through promoting technical progress and ensuring rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, with particular reference to labour.
Also, the policy involves ensuring a rapid improvement in the standard of living for the agricultural community in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture; and to assure the availability of supplies as well as ensuring that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.
On how to achieve these, Odozor explained: “Governor Ihedioha believes that the situation in Imo deserves revolutionary and aggressively intelligent approach so that speedy recovery could happen for the benefit of the people.
“People must be empowered and removed from poverty. Wealth must be created in communities. Food must be amply available for local consumption and for export to other communities and abroad for foreign exchange earnings. Agriculture must once again become the core pillar and pride of our economy.”
“The current situation of gross incapacitation in agriculture must be converted into a palpable testimony that brings joy to the people and pride to the nation.
“To the governor, everything that should be done, would be built on inclusive agricultural productivity growth; improved nutritional outcomes; enhanced livelihood for people and foreign exchange income earning capacity.”
To demonstrate how detailed and efficient the agro-policy action would be, Odozor hinted that the new agricultural roadmap would demand the data capture of the people across the 27 local government areas of the state within the next one month, with a target of at least 500,000 active members in the first tranche.
In addition, the Governor Ihedioha -led administration is committed to ensure that it partners with relevant government agencies in agric development as part of its new policy thrust for the state to ensure that more farmers are empowered to realise abundant food supply for its indigenes.
The governor explained that Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture were going to play critical role in the state’s agric policy thrust during his administration.
With these lofty ambitions, Imo would be expected to be the hub of agro-investment and a thriving food basket for Nigeria and the African sub-region. Particularly, the current government is passionate and optimistic that with the new roadmap on agriculture, Imo is heading to becoming one of the major contributors of non-oil exports in Nigeria; and to achieve a productive industrial base for Nigeria as well as living up to its status as the Eastern Heartland.
Labour seeks pact to rid Lagos of sex workers
Following the shocking appearance of sex workers during the last Workers’ Day rally in Lagos, organised labour, under the aegis of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos State Council, is taking steps to collaborate with Lagos State Government, non-governmental organisations and other relevant agencies to re-orientate the sex workers and gradually rid the state of the ignoble profession.
Disclosing this to New Telegraph, the Chairman of NLC in the state, Comrade Agnes Funmilayo Sessi, said it was embarrassing for the young ladies to come out boldly during the parade coupled with the fact that their union is not affiliated to any of the recognised labour centres.
Sessi, who lamented the audacity of the sex workers, said: Basically, the work of NLC is to organise all its affiliate unions. The sex workers are not part of our affiliate unions. So I am sure government has not given permission for sex workers to be a registered trade union, but even if government permits that, I am so sure NLC will not allow such a trade union among its affiliates.
“Having said that, last year May1, when we had Workers’ Day, we were so shocked that we saw a group of very well dressed and good looking ladies, and it was not until we mounted the podium to acknowledge all the trade unions that marched past in from of the governor when we saw this group of ladies march past us and we saw their banners bearing ‘sex working is their right and all what not.
“We were shocked. All other trade unions that marched past us, we waved our hands and acknowledged them. But immediately we saw them, we dropped our hands because it was a thing of shock to us. You know anything that goes wrong in that circle they will mention NLC. It wasn’t only NLC that was there, TUC was there and we also had security personnel there, and I was looking out, probably the security agencies would challenge them as to how they got themselves to that place because we never invited any group like that.
“It is only our affiliates that have the right to come on that day because we are actually celebrating the workers but sex workers are not part of us. But earlier as I have said, I am a woman, I am a mother, and a wife; and I am a social change agent in our society. Probably these people are being organised by other group of people. I don’t know if there is anyone trying to take advantage of these vulnerable girls, but on our own, we are not to judge anybody, we are not to condemn, rather, we like to be social change agents because they are also children of some parents.”
Describing the girls as prodigal children that need reabsorption into a decent lifestyle, brought back to their senses with change in orientation and perception about life, she pointed out that some of them might have taken the decision due to economic hardship.
According to her, “some might be as a result of bad association, and some because of the bad foundation they had. We contribute, not only to the workforce but also to ensure there is stability in the economy, so we ensure as NLC that the society is rid of every evil. So we try to bridge the gap between the failures in the government side, the failures on the family side and try to reorganize or reorient ate the minds of these young ones. We can with love and correction add value to their life and regain them to positive living. We don’t want to condemn them in totality because we cannot throw the baby away with the bathe water.
“We will partner with some NGOs and some bodies with the capacity to counsel them and to also add value to their lives. NGOs that can engage them in positive ways, train them in whichever trade they might choose. However, in doing this the recalcitrant ones who don’t want to change might have themselves to blame. We will not totally condemn them but to re-orientate them.”
To effect the process, she disclosed that the congress would seek audience with the state governor to discuss it as the union does not have the capacity to do it alone.
“We want to partner with government and NGOs. So as soon as government gives us the listening ear then we commence the process. We also want to identify those taking advantage of them, and if there is need for them to be prosecuted so that these young ones can be liberated and then they can find a decent way of life and be usef to themselves and the country. So it’s going to be a three way thing, the government, Labour and the NGO. Let us all come together, even the churches and mosques should not be left out,” she noted.
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