Group Managing Director of SIFAX, Mr. Adekunle Oyinloye, in this interview with BAYO AKOMOLAFE, advises government to remove conflicting laws and policies hindering maritime growth to enable the industry become the hub of shipping in West and Central Africa
The company: SIFAX Group
Assest: – NIL
Membership: Maritime, aviation, haulage, off dock terminals, logistics, oil & gas, financial services and hospitality, among others
CEO: Adekunle Abdurazak Oyinloye
Total pay- Nil
Training: Local and international in shipping and law
Expertise: Maritime, aviation, haulage, shipping, hospitality and finance.
Schools: Ahmadu Bello University; University of Lagos; Columbia University and University of Ibadan
Certificates: Degree in economics, Master of Science degree in economics, banking & finance from University of Ibadan and the Strategic Management Certificate from the Columbia Business School, Columbia University, New York.
Work experience: Africa InfraFund Plus; International Aviation College, Kwara; Echostones Nigeria Limited; Prime Plus Estate Services Limited; Unity Bank Plc; UnityKapital Assurance Plc (now known as Veritas Assurance Plc); The Infrastructure Bank Plc and Pacific Bank among others.
Previous jobs: Director, managing director and board member of companies
Professional membership: Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Chartered Institute of Marketing Nigeria (CIMN), Institute of Credit Administration (ICA), Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM)and a member of the Institute of Directors (IoDs).
What is your assessment of the maritime industry since the beginning of the year?
Activities in the maritime sector are usually low at the beginning of the year, especially the first two quarters. The country had its general elections early this year. This further contributed to the lull in the economy as people were tentative in committing to new investments. In the second half of the year, we began to see a boost in volume of activities. This is generally the case as we draw closer to the end of year festivities.
However, generally speaking, this year has been very challenging because of the poor infrastructure around the port areas.
What are the challenges hindering Nigerian ports becoming hub in West and Central Africa region?
There are various challenges hindering the country from achieving the hub status in West and Central Africa. These includes insecurity, unfavourable policies, lack of a strong implementation mechanism, rising port costs and charges, infrastructural deficit, lack of sincerity and will power on the part of the government. There are many conflicting laws and policies hindering businesses, duplication of several government agencies role, bottlenecks in Nigeria’s clearing process and high tariffs, among others.
Once these issues are addressed, Nigeria will definitely achieve the hub status in West and Central African region. Naturally, we have the highest volume of trade and this is the comparative advantage we have over other countries in the sub regions.
Do you think the industry can grow the nation’s economy?
The industry can grow the nation’s economy in so many ways. As a company, we have advocated that with the right approach and more attention from government, the maritime sector can become a major revenue earner for government and can replace Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil. Right now, the sector suffers infrastructural deficit. If necessary infrastructure is fixed, many ancillary businesses will spring up and this will create more jobs and add value to the economy. Moreso, the revenue that will accrue to government will also increase.
There should also be a deliberate effort by government to ensure that port cost and charges are reduced. Reduction of the port costs and charges will have a direct impact on the economy too. Once the industry is attractive to shippers and the issues of insecurity on our waterways are effectively tackled, more ships will call at the Nigerian seaports. This will translate to better value for the country in terms of revenue and job creations.
How has the harsh operating environment affected businesses in port industry?
The poor road infrastructure has been the biggest challenge confronting all stakeholders in the industry. The terminal operators, Customs agents, consignees and truckers among others have not been finding it easy to get to the port. For instance our company, SIFAX Group has a number of off-dock facilities around the port area where we transfer importers’ consignments for customs clearing. But transfer of containers has become a very herculean task because of the bad roads. It takes days on many occasions for a truck to move containers from Tin Can Island Port to a nearby off dock terminal. This is due to the traffic congestion on the roads around the port.
The roads are in bad shape and the alternative means of evacuating consignments from the port are not working as expected. This has made trucks and tankers to invade the port on a daily basis. Even the trucks are finding it difficult to access the port freely. The Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) is making concerted efforts through the provision of a transit trailer park to address the menace of the truck blocking access roads. The presidential task force set up few months ago are also working with NPA to solve the problem of traffic congestion. Their work is beginning to show result, but they still need to do more.
Because of the road challenge we have not been able to move consignments out of our terminal as quickly as possible, thereby putting pressure on the little space available for vessels to discharge consignments. As a forward thinking organisation, we have always found a way round the challenges. Recently, we partnered with an off-dock facility that is closer to our port terminal for a less-strenuous container transfer. The short distance has given more leeway to decongest our terminal.
Also, the major challenge confronted by the business in the first half of the year was the traffic gridlock caused by the poor access roads around the Lagos ports.
Although, I commend government for responding to the situation with the award of the road construction, but a more sustainable solution of linking the ports with a functional rail system would complement the road infrastructure. We will also wish that government can think beyond the road to link the Tin Can island port by rail. The numbers of our consignments that spend days on the roads have no reasons to be there. We wish the roads can be speedily restored because that was the pride of our port at one point. A number of our consignments that spend some extra days at the port have no reason to be there if the roads are good, delivery would have been smoother. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get some of the consignments out at the appropriate time.
We would have looked beyond the roads by linking Tin Can Island Port by rail and that again will make evacuation of cargo easy. On our part, we are ready to play any role that government wants us to play to make it happen. SIFAX Group will also support the Federal Government to retain its place as the hub of maritime activities in the region.
It is quite a shame that some ports in the coast of West Africa are now taking shine off the Nigerian ports. If you go to Lome Port now, Togo has become a hub of shipping. I wish that Nigeria as big in size and economy should be the hub of shipping for West and Central Africa. I’m sure we can revise that, government is already taken some steps towards that.
For us, we don’t like to react. SIFAX does not imitate anyone. We set the pace. So, it is in path of setting the pace that we began this year, the task of looking into the future, beginning with maritime and logistics and we’ve asked ourselves, where do we want to be in five years time? Today, the group is giving birth to a major, new hotel in Ikeja. The hotel is a five-star hotel and it will be declared open early next year. We set the pace at SIFAX group for about 31 years now and we are very happy about it, and our financing is beginning to increase much more than it was before
What are the strategies you have explored to remain in business?
We are constantly reinventing ourselves so that we can serve the public much better. That is the reason early in the year, my humble self left what I knew how to do better in the past to join forces with the Group Executive Vice Chairman, Dr Taiwo Afolabi to further reposition the group. A couple of my colleagues also joined early in the year. The new vision of the company necessitated a new management team, which is currently driving the business. The management is delivering on the mandate of Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, which is to turn the business to a big global brand. It is in the path of setting the pace that we began this year by looking into the future of maritime. We are asking ourselves where we are going. Can we get ourselves ready for the task? We began the year with a restructuring plan to position ourselves ahead of what is likely to happen in the industry. The future has given birth to what we call five years strategic plan and it is planning and executing the plans that you see many of the people that we have brought on board to drive the new business. This is also the reason for positioning ourselves to have increased the number of bonded terminals.
As a proactive company, we are already preparing for the future. We have an ambition of becoming a real mega business with substantial presence globally. Our first major footprints would be in Africa. We are already in some West Coast nations while efforts are on to do more.
The recent inclusion of new departments and personnel formed part of the strategy to achieve the feat.
Also, the group has also increased its number of bonded terminals with a recent partnership with Mid Maritime Bonded Terminal in Apapa and another expansion at the Okota Bonded Terminal. We will soon be receiving big ocean liners at our Warri terminals.
The group is also maintaining its lead in aviation business in Nigeria with Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) which as you know, has been quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company was established 10 years ago and it is now dominating the skyline around the airport.
Do you have capacity to compete with other concessionaires in the industry?
Yes. Across our companies, more harbour cranes, reach stackers, haulage trucks, forklifts, baggage tow tractors among others have been acquired to match our ambition as a market leader in all the sectors we operate. Facilities are also been expanded. For example, we have acquired two new off dock locations in Lagos in order to improve cargo evacuation from the port and provide more options for our clients to clear their consignments without stress. We are expecting our throughput for 2019 to be in the region of 280,000 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) to 290,000 TEUs on the back of an improved port access road. We have already crossed the 130,000 TEUs mark for the first half of the year. This figure is 275 TEUs less than what we achieved in 2018.
Despite these, what is your contribution to the country’s economy?
There are several Nigerians benefiting directly and indirectly from the business we do as a company. In term of taxes, the Federal Inland Revenue now comes through your bank statement. Before, they don’t have the power but now they have the capacity to go to your bank and bring out your statement. If they can grab your turnover, they will just deduct their Value Added Tax (VAT).
We pay taxes to the Federal Government, state and local governments in hundreds of millions of naira. We are happy paying it as a responsible organisation but we want government to see this as our own contribution towards the growth of the economy as well. We are one of the biggest tax payers around here and we would be more proud if we see the impact of this tax on the streets, schools, hospitals and every socio infrastructure that touches life of Nigerians.
What are the security issues confronting your operations?
Globally, terminals are expected to be highly secured. Unfortunately, any human invention would also have some shortcomings. We had that unfortunate incident and what is important is what we did afterwards. We have a new chief security officer for the group. He is a seasoned security intelligence person trained in one of the best schools. In the last one month, even with the ingenuity of the criminals, they have met a brick wall as a result of our security expertise. We have also improved our security apparatus.
Do you have enough human resources to sustain your growth?
The company is expending a lot on training to develop human capacity to improve the service rendered at our various companies. Another challenge we have is the issue of human capacity development. The company is spending a lot on training which is a challenge. So, we are creating more opportunities for our staff to take up the challenges that may occur at our various companies.
The challenge is that the good hands in crane operations would not be created overnight but as more ports get ready and busier, some of the trained hands are migrating to new ports seeking new opportunities, this is a challenge.
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.
OPPO launches Reno2 series in Nigeria
In its bid to reach the high-end Nigerian market, global mobile phone manufacturer, OPPO, has launched the new Reno2 and Reno2 F smartphone series in the country.
According to the manufacturers, the Reno2 and Reno2 F models, the latest of OPPO’s popular Reno series, has been designed to change the boundaries of users’ creativity with its unique photography-enhancing features.
Speaking at the launch in Lagos, Public Relations Manager of OPPO Nigeria, Joseph Adeola, said the Reno2 series comes with unique multi-perspective capabilities that enable users to see things differently.
“Inheriting the already rich creative spirit of the Reno series, this latest iteration presents our users with even more creative possibilities, empowering them to discover new perspectives. Its advanced camera technology performs superbly in a range of environments and scenarios, from busy cities to natural landscapes to broad daylight to dark nightlife,” he said.
Adeola noted that the Reno2 comes equipped with four cameras that provide a full focal length imaging system; offering a 5x Hybrid Zoom, Ultra-Wide Angle lens and more.
“Three lenses of varying focal lengths work in unison to create a unique 5x Hybrid Zoom effect from the ultra-wide-angle to telephoto, which also fuses image technology to ensure a smooth, seamless zoom transition.
“With a 48MP primary lens equipped with Optical Image Stabilization, F1.7 aperture, and a 1/2-inch sensor along with Quad Bayer technology, Reno2 can achieve better performance in low light. The Reno2 Series’ Ultra Dark Mode covers an entire range of different night scenes via a powerful NPU, and OPPO fine-tuned algorithms. Even if light levels measure below 1 lux, it elevates your photos beyond the naked eye through hardware network-optimized AI noise reduction,” he added.
Speaking further on the features, Adeola said the OPPO’s industry-leading Ultra Steady Video Mode technology ups the stability of videos, enabling users to capture steady videos while running, skiing, skateboarding, cycling, and more.
Samsung’s foldable phone debuts in Nigeria
Device maker, Samsung, has made good its promise of bringing its premium smartphone, Galaxy Fold to Nigeria.
The high-end smartphone, which was described as a huge success in other parts of the world where it has been launched, is targeted at high net-worth individuals in the country.
Speaking at the unveiling in Lagos, Managing Director at Samsung Electronics West Africa, David Suh, said: “Samsung prides itself on being at the forefront of design and technology innovation and the Galaxy Fold is a testament to this. Quite simply, it’s a device that will change the way we use smartphones, as well as what we expect them to do in the future. I’m really looking forward to seeing user responses to this amazing device.”
According to him, since Samsung Globally unveiled the Galaxy Fold and created a new mobile category, there has been much hype about the device. Not only is the Galaxy Fold infused with never-seen-before integration of tablet and phone, but it also encompasses incredible innovation in material, engineering, and display.
He disclosed that the Galaxy Fold featured the world’s first 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display, which folds into a compact device with a cover display. Galaxy Fold offers a powerful new way to multitask, watch videos, play games, and more – bringing to life new experiences and possibilities years in the making.
“Galaxy Fold doesn’t just define a new category, it defies category. When folded, Galaxy Fold’s slim silhouette slips easily into your bag or pocket. It also fits comfortably in the hand, putting all apps within easy reach. When opened up, the displays work together seamlessly with impressive app continuity, allowing users to continue effortlessly with whatever they may have been busy with when folded up.
“The dual battery capacity is a game-changer that uses and recharges both cells to prevent overcharging,” Suh said.
Manufacturing firms dominate marketing excellence awards
Despite the harsh operating business environment in Nigeria, renowned manufacturing firms dominated recipients of this year’s Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) awards for marketing excellence.
They were rewarded for their huge contribution towards using innovation and creativity to boost the country’s advertising industry and the economy in general.
Speaking at the 2019 ADVAN awards for marketing excellence in Lagos, the First Vice President of the association, Bunmi Adenigba, explained that the contribution of manufacturing firms towards the growing of brands and advertising industry had shown that innovation and creativity drive business performance.
She said that companies such as Hayat industries, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Unilever Plc, Nestle Plc, Guinness, Dunfil industries and others had demonstrated their resilience in building uncommon brands that have positioned Nigeria as a global leader in advertising industry.
According to her, the latest released global innovation index puts Nigeria at 114th position among 129 countries considered, adding that government’s policy summersaults, harsh operating environment and other business challenges facing firms’ operations were the reasons for Nigeria’s inability to leapfrog in the international innovation space.
Adenigba said: “There are three things that come from the industry we represent, which I am going to share with you. The first is that innovation drives business performance regardless of our industry.
“The second is that creativity is at the heart of this innovation regardless of our industry and the third one is adverts. So the summary of all I have said here is that for any business to grow, it must innovate, be creative and advert driven.
“My twist is sharing a recent study from the brands and innovation world. There is a group called the world intellectuals property organization, they released annually the global innovation index. The one for 2019 was only released in July this year and it ranks countries by their innovation index. Of that index, Switzerland was ranked first. The United States (3rd), China (14th). Ghana (106th) and Nigeria is ranked 114 among a total of 129 countries that were considered.
“There are a lot facing the innovation index of business in our country, trading environment, government’s business policy and a lot of all this things. But my counter argument is, if it’s singularly adverts, we represent an industry where we control over 80 per cent of advertising spending in this country.
“That is, if the amount is right, about N200 billion. So a whopping $500 million in perspective is the total worth of a size of a small country like Sao Tome Principe.
“So today, we will be celebrating the works of people who have put ingenious works together. It is the excellence that has cut in the works of people who have used their brands to attain path to excellence that we want to celebrate. And one interesting thing for me is for brands that have used the influence that they have to have a point of view on the issues that really matters to the consumers that we served. My sincere hope is that as we leave here today, all of our creative efforts and combined inputs into the industry would hopefully move Nigeria from the position of 114 to a double digit and from that double digit to a single in a very near future.”
Textile rebound as catalyst to self-sufficiency
Last week, the Senate charged the Federal Government to ban importation of textiles into the country for a period of five years to encourage local production just as Taiwo Hassan looks at the impact of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s N100 billion intervention on the project
Indeed, the move by the Federal Government to resuscitate the country’s textile sector, which at a time was the second highest employer of labour after agriculture, has been applauded by all and sundry.
In fact, the paradigm shift towards the revival of the moribund industry is apt as it is coming when the Federal Government is thinking of sustainability and self-sufficiency in all spheres of the economy.
To set the ball rolling and demonstrate its stance on sufficiency, government had since August closed the country’s borders with her neigbours to ensure that Nigerians consume what they produce and also promote local production of goods.
However, as government shifts attention to reviving the country’s textile industry, industry stakeholders have so far expressed satisfaction with the role of CBN, especially as it is boosting the effort with N100 billion funding intervention.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said he had directed the CBN to pump money into the sector for local production of textiles and garments.
The president stated that the cotton, textile and garment sectors had the capacity to transform Nigeria’s economy and refine the sector to bring about an industry capable of creating more than two million jobs.
While confirming the presidential directive, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said that the apex bank was looking at injecting N100 billion as its intervention in the cotton, textile and garment value chain, saying that about two million jobs are to be created afterwards.
Emefiele explained that the apex bank had already disbursed about N50 billion to the cotton and ginning components of the sector.
The CBN governor said the bank’s intention was to ensure that local players took control of the cotton, textile and garment industry and get it revived to facilitate its job creation capacity.
He disclosed that an “approval to the tune of N19.18 billion has been granted to finance nine ginneries with a view to retooling their processing plants, while providing them with improved access to finance at single digit interest rate.”
The same support, he said, would be extended to the textile and garment firms, adding that the apex bank had invested heavily in local textile and garment factories “to retool and produce assorted uniforms for our uniformed services that meet international standards.”
The governor explained that the CBN had constituted a Textile Revival Implementation Committee (TRIC) whose members include the CBN, Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development; Water Resources; Industry, Trade and Investment; and the Governments of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Gombe and Zamfara States.
He said: “This Committee is driving the initiative to achieve self-sufficiency in cotton production and textile materials within a span of three years.”
However, at the upper chamber of the national assembly, the challenges facing the country’s textile industry came to the front burners with the Senate emphatically urging the Federal Government to ban importation of textile into the country for five years to encourage local production.
In a debate on a motion sponsored by Sen. Kabir Barkiya (APC-Katsina Central) during plenary on “Urgent need to revamp the nation’s comatose textile industry,” the upper chamber lauded government’s stronger motivation to encourage local textile manufacturing companies, by providing them with soft loans and easy access to credit facilities through the Bank of Industry.
While debating the motion, Barkiya noted that the textile industry in the country played a significant role in the manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy with a record of over 140 companies in the 1960s and 1970s.
He said: “The textile industry recorded an annual growth of 67 per cent and as at 1991, employed above 25 per cent of the workers in the manufacturing sector.
“The textile industry was then the highest employer of labour apart from the civil service.”
He noted that the industry had witnessed massive decline in the last two decades with many textile companies such as Kaduna Textile, Kano Textile and Aba Textile among others closing shops and throwing their workers into the job market.
Contributing, Sen. Robert Boroffice (APC-Ondo North) said that the importation of textile materials was as a result of the comatose level of the textile industry.
“The closure of our borders is an eye opener. China closed its borders for 40 years for its industrialisation and development. I believe that the closure of our borders should be extended to allow us put our house in order.”
The lawmaker further said that government policies like increase in taxation, high cost of production, trade liberalisation resulting in massive importation of textile materials had negatively affected the production of local textile materials.
Barkiya said that the resuscitation of the industry would provide additional revenue and assist government to diversify the nation’s economy.
As the current administration moves to revamp the textile industry with the introduction of a comprehensive cotton, textile and garment policy, it is believed that the existing 40,000 garments will be catalyst for the creation of no fewer than 2.5 million jobs.
SMEs: OPS seeks banks’ release of funds
In line with achieving the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s 80 per cent financial inclusion target for 2020, members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) have called Nigerian banks to willingly release the CBN intervention funds to Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) operators.
They advised the banks to tow the line rather than being wary of risk of repayment and also paying penalties to the apex bank.
According to Mr. Idowu Bakare of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mrs. Nwanmaka Okeke, the Managing Director, CYWE Venture International Limited, the only way to achieve 80 per cent financial inclusion penetration set target is with the country’s commercial banks.
Speaking with this newspaper in Lagos, Bakare explained that the private sector was worried over the slow pace at which SMEs get loans meant for them through commercial banks.
He said that the chamber’s findings revealed that the commercial banks were still being reluctant to give out the CBN intervention funds meant for the real sector of the economy to the SMEs because of risk of default as they rather prefer paying penalties to the CBN for deliberately withholding the funds or channeling it to other financial areas at the detriment of SMEs.
Bakare said: “I have to inquire by myself and others to research extensively why money is not getting to the hands of SMEs in this country. One obstacle we discovered based on our investigation is that the money is actually being released by the CBN and the Federal Government into the hands of commercial banks.
“But now, they prefer to pay penalties for not releasing the money than giving it out to the SMEs, so the purpose of such loans is not realistic. So I will urge the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment to make an impact and ensure that these bottlenecks are broken once and for all and allow genuine SMEs to have access to these monies.”
In her submission, Okeke explained that SMEs were suffering in the hands of Nigerian banks that have made up their minds to starve them of funds, saying this was fuelling high cost of production and inflation in the country.
She said: “SMEs have challenge of funding in Nigeria because banks are not looking at our faces as they call us risk personnel. They can’t take risk on you, they cannot try it and before you know it, they force us to start opening many accounts.
“As I am standing here, I have six accounts with zero money in it. They will come and brainwash me, tell me sweet things, I will open account that ends there and another one would come brainwash me again, I will open.
“So the banks are not helping us. I can categorically say to you that many SMEs had gone under because of loans and high interest rate payment.
“You can see the multiplier effect in terms of high logistic costs and getting our raw materials across to us is expensive, getting your raw materials from the markets to your office is expensive and these increase our cost of production.”
Connectivity: Lagos to deploy 6,000km fibre cable
The Lagos State Government has said it will deploy 6000 kilometers of fiber optic cables across the state to boost internet connectivity.
The project, scheduled to commence next year, is expected to be completed in 2021.
The state Commissioner for Science and Technology, Akeem Fahm, who disclosed this, said the state would deliver 3000 kilometers in 2020 and another 3,000 kilometers in 2021.
This, he said, would also ease traffic congestion in the state as residents of the state would be able to do many things online from the comfort of their homes, rather than driving out to get it done.
“By the time we have this infrastructure in place, it will create opportunities for telemedicine, people can stay at home to work and a lot of things will be done from home and many would not need to go out. This will help to reduce traffic congestion on our roads,” he said.
This move may, however, affect the current infrastructure companies (infraco) initiative of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The telecoms regulator had, through the initiative, licensed six companies to deploy fibre optic cables across the country in order to deepen broadband penetration with MainOne covering Lagos.
However, the company, which had been licensed since 2016 to deploy fibre cable around Lagos, has been unable to roll out due to the unresolved issue of right of way permit from the state government.
Speaking at a recent meeting with the NCC, Head, Regulatory Services at MainOne, Mr. Ifeloju Alakija, said the current RoW charges made it impossible for the InfraCos to roll out.
According to Alakija, at an average cost of N4000 per meter, MainOne would have to pay N12 billion to lay 3,000 kilometres of cable in Lagos and the cost has been the obstacle for the company.
“This is apart from the cost of the cable, cost of electricity and even the cost of securing the cables. This is unrealistic,” he said.
To address the problem of the high cost of right of way, which has lasted for years across the country, the Federal Government this year budgeted N80.9 million for harmonisation of the charges across the country.
The harmonisation, which was approved by the National Executive Council (NEC) in 2017, is to encourage easy deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country.
The RoW is permission given to telcos and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to lay fibre optic internet cables and it is solely granted by state and local governments.
However, despite the FEC approval, charges for RoW still vary from state to state.
While some states charge as high as N6, 500, others charge N4000 or less per meter. These charges also contradict a 2013 NEC recommendation of N145 per meter fee for Right of Way across states and the high charges have been a major obstacle to broadband penetration in the country.
While implementation of the harmonisation had started since 2018, there was no evidence of compliance by the states as they still charge at different rates and higher costs, which prevented even licesened InfraCos from rolling out.
Immediate past Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, had recently said that the harmonisation policy would encourage the colocation of the companies’ fibre optic cables.
Just like the telecommunication masts which were harmonised after long years of defacing the environment, he said government wanted to do the same for the laying of fibre optic cables which is becoming a burden on the Nigerian roads.
Most states are still charging different and higher rates, despite NEC’s resolution that mandate States to adopt and implement Federal Ministry of Works guidelines for grant of Right of Way to ICT service on highways.
He said current practice in Nigeria where various telecommunication operators design, survey, dig, deploy and manage their individual fibers networks amounted to duplication of efforts, multiple earthworks, and trenches as well as increased administrative and licensing costs.
However, NCC’s Director of Technical Standards and Alternate Chairman, Broadband Implementation and Monitoring Committee, Engr. Bako Wakil, said the NCC had recently met with all the state governors through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to appeal to them on the need to revert to the recommended N145 per meter for RoW.
According to him, all the governors had agreed to adopt the price, but none has implemented it yet.
Cheque deals decline to N3.7trn in 10 months
…as BVN-linked accounts hit 39.8m
Value of cheques issued by businesses and individuals in the country between January and October this year stood at N3.7 trillion, New Telegraph has learnt.
This represents a 12 per cent decline from N4.2 trillion recorded in the same period in 2018.
According to data released by Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), the value was derived from a total of 6.5 million separate deals between January and October, which again was a decline from the volume recorded in the same period of last year at 7.5 million.
On an annual basis, the value of cheque transactions has been on a steady decline to hit an all-time low of N5 trillion in 2018, from an all-time high of 17.8 trillion recorded in 2009.
The decline is attributed to the growing preference for electronic payment channels, which are considered faster than cheque.
Analysis of monthly cheque transactions from January to October this year revealed that the paper transaction, which has been declining over the years, plunged further each month.
In January, the value of cheque transactions was N403 billion, a 3.7 per cent decline from N418 billion recorded in December 2018.
In February, it dropped further to N372 billion, a 7.6 per cent drop from the previous month.
It, however, rose to N377 billion in March but still 14 per cent lower than N440.7 billion recorded in the same month of the previous year.
In April, transactions valued at N379.8 billion were recorded, a 12.6 per cent decline from N435 billion achieved in the same period last year.
By May, the cheque value stood at N401.7 billion, which is 10 per cent lower than N446.4 billion recorded the same period 2018. June data showed that cheque value dropped to N336.5 billion compared to N397.6 billion recorded in June 2018.
In July, cheques valued at N402.8 billion were issued, a 2.5 per cent decline from N413.4 billion recorded in the same month last year. The figures for August, September, and October also showed a decline from last year’s record for respective months.
The cheque transaction value for 2019 stood at N345.5 billion, N351.3 billion and N375.2 billion for the three months respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of Biometric Verification Number (BVN) registrations rose to 39.8 million as of November 10, 2019. This showed that about 600, 000 accounts owners were registered for BVN in the last two months as the figure stood at 39.2 million mid-September this year.
While total active bank accounts in the country stood at 78.8 million as at the end of October, the banks and NIBBS had set a target of achieving 70 million BVN registration by 2020. Data released by the NIBSS showed that registration for BVN has been increasing steadily as the rate of accounts being opened in the country increases.
According to the “Industry Customer Bank Account Data,” released by NIBSS recently, the total number of bank accounts in the country as of October 31, 2019, stood at 124.11million compared with 114.55million in the same period of last year. This means that the total number of bank accounts increased by 9.6 million or 8.3 per cent in the period under review.
BVN is a unique number for customers of banks in Nigeria, which contains biometric details of customers including the fingerprint of all ten fingers and facial images.
The Central Bank of Nigeria through the Bankers’ Committee and in collaboration with all banks in Nigeria launched a centralised biometric identification system for the banking industry in 2014. The biometric identification was introduced to address identity theft, reduce exposure to fraud and enhance the banking industry’s chances of being able to fish out blacklisted customers, among others.
While the BVN is seen as a potent tool to fight corruption because every account owners can be identified and traced, industry analysts said it has led to increase in the number of inactive bank accounts and unclaimed funds in banks as people with questionable sources of fund are unable to claim their accounts and link it with BVN.
They noted that this was also responsible for a large number of accounts yet to be linked with BVN, adding that the figure may not likely reduce.
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