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N300bn presidential Initiatives on Customs Modernisation: The inside story

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N300bn presidential Initiatives on Customs Modernisation: The inside story

               …as reps stop project, commence investigation 

 

  • Customs does not need AFC $300m investment –Alagbaoso

 

In this report, PAUL OGBUOKIRI ex-rays the new Customs modernisation plan, tagged: ‘E Customs Projects,’ already approved by the presidency. He concludes that the move is needless as the Nigeria Customs Service is modernised, adding that the wild goose chase will cost Nigeria over N300 billion savings in the 1 per cent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) fund

Controversy of over 20-year concession of Nigeria Customs Service, tagged ‘E Customs Projects’
As controversy trails the reported move by forces in the presidency to concession the Nigeria Customs Service to the private sector for 20 years, a document sighted at the weekend by our correspondent  titled, Re: Presidential Initiatives  on Customs  Modernisation: “E-Customs  Project”(Establishment  of  a Digital /Paperless  Customs  Administration) and other Matters,  indicate that the presidency has approved the  engagement  of  a consortium comprising Bionica  Technologies  West  Africa,  Bergan  Security  Consultants & Supplies,  Africa Finance Cooperation (AFC) and Huawei to establish a project special  purpose  vehicle to  enter  into the 20-year  concession arrangement with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)  and the  Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
Sunday Telegraph learnt that  the selection  of  this  consortium  was not  advertised  and  no  tender was  issued  for  the selection  of  the  best  companies.  It was further learnt that the  process  was  not  made  transparent  and  the  current contract  holders in the ongoing transformation and modernisation of NCS  were never given  an  opportunity  to  bid.
This is even as it was disclosed that the  supposed  partners  within  the  consortium  do  not  have  any  discernible experience  to  warrant  their  inclusion  in  such  a  huge  and  sensitive  endeavour.
A search on Huawei,  the  technical  partner, showed that it has  never  implemented,  anywhere  in  the  world,  an  automated system  for  Customs  and  has  no  experience  in  the  Customs  environment.
Chief Jerry Igbokwe, a maritime lawyer, described the plan as a major  risk to the Nigerian economy  as NCS  plays  a  vital  role  in  revenue  collection  for  the  Federal Government of Nigeria.
Recall that the security  debate around  Huawei is  not  new,  although  it  has  intensified  in  recent  months.  Huawei  is  considered  by many governments to be a surrogate for the Government of the People’s  Republic  of  China.
US security  forces  have  warned that Huawei equipment  could  be  used  to  create  a  “backdoor”  into foreign  mobile  and  data  networks.
According to Chief Igbokwe, having  such  a  company  monitoring  all  trade  transaction  in Nigeria  could  be  a  major  issue.
He noted that granting  of  a  20-year  concession  “in  a  non-tendered  and  non-transparent process  seems  precisely  to  be  the  type  of  business  model  that  the  Federal  Republic  of  Nigeria has been trying  to move  away from.”Modernising of Customs since 2013 led to NICIS 11
On October 10, 2019, Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, in a motion, raised the alarm over the plan to introduce a fresh modernisation programme for the Nigeria Customs Service even as the agency has been modernising since 2013.
He urged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, to cause an investigation to commence into the deal.
He said: “There are some foreign companies who are very eager to sponsor, finance and provide technical services to what they call the modernisation of Customs, without recourse to the National Assembly.
“My motion is the need to investigate the curious concession proposed arrangement between the consortium Bionica Technologies West Africa Limited, who are the sponsors; Bergan Security Consultants and Supplies, who are co sponsors, African Finance Corporation, who are lead financiers and Huawei, Nigeria Customs Service and Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) for Customs modernisation project.
“The House is aware of various Customs modernisation projects in the past. For example in the 90s, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for the installation of ASYCUDA++ and training of Customs officers for three years.
“The House is also aware that the Federal Government agreed to engage former pre shipment companies for valuation and classification of goods, hence, some service providers namely Webbfontaine, Cotecna, SGS and Globalscan were engaged for that purpose.
“This contract was to last for seven years, from 2005 to 2012 when the service providers handed over to Nigeria Customs Service.
“By 2011, one could say the positive effects of this included competent and committed workforce for Nigeria Customs Service, personnel understanding of the new process and benefits to stakeholders.
“It resulted to collection of proper revenue due, elimination of corruption and other benefits. The House notes that with these put in place, there exist a one stop shop which allows all trade transactions to be conducted through a single system domiciled with the Customs
“For example, all other government agencies like NAFDAC, SON and the rest have dissolved into a single platform with the Nigeria Customs Service,” he said.
He noted that in 2011, there was an illegal concession between the Federal Ministry of Finance and a company with inadequate capital base called Single Window System and Technologies, signed in secrecy during the government transition period of which the House of Representatives had a Public Hearing and stopped it to save Nigeria billions of Naira vide the votes of Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
According to him, in 2017 another move for Customs modernisation was made by the Technical Committee on the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme, purported to be acting on behalf of the Federal Government called Adani Systems Nigeria Limited, to modernise, maintain, develop the scanning of goods in the country in line with the pre shipment inspection act for a period of 25 years.
“Again the attention of Controller General of Nigeria Customs Service was drawn to this and the concession was stopped.
“Curious that in September 2019, another concession, which will last for 20 years (that is the subject matter now) is being suggested to Nigeria Customs Service, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, Federal Ministry of Justice and this agreement is for pro-rata sharing of one per cent CISS and a needless $300 million investment.
Meanwhile, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the implementation of Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) II, adopted by the Nigerian Customs Service for trade facilitation and tariff processing has built a robust Customs System for Nigeria.
NICIS  II, our correspondent learnt, links around  a  paperless  platform of various organisations like CBN, FMF, SON, NAFDAC, NIACOM Insurance Certificate,  NAQS,  MLSN,  NSA  and  FIRS,  commercial  banks  and  more  than  3000  private  sector companies (Importers,  Shipping  lines,  Airlines,  Clearing  agents).
Having exceeded the N1 trillion mark in revenue since 2017, NCS in October alone, collected over N115 billion and in the first nine months of this year has collected over N1.05trillion. Experts in Customs operations say the revenue continues to increase  despite  the  closure  of  the Nation’s land  borders, because  the  electronic  payment of duties and taxes has secured revenue collection and removed opportunities  for  fraud.
Our correspondent also learnt that clearance  time  is  also  drastically  reducing  for  revenue  collection  and electronic  certificates,  leading  to  better  turnaround  time  and  therefore  many  more  revenue cycles.House investigates, suspends concession
Sequel to the Hon. Alagbaoso’s motion, the House passed Resolution No. HR 132/10/2019 mandating its Joint Committee on Finance, Customs and Petitions to investigate the contract.
The resolution further read: Pursuant to Section 88 (1) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which confers on the National Assembly power to conduct investigations, the Joint Committee urged the different parties involved to maintain the status-quo-ante pending the outcome of the investigation
Alagbaoso had in the motion expressed worry that the over N300 billion believed to have accumulated in the CISS fund between 2012 and 2019, will be frittered away.
He said he is further worried that there is no difference in substance, scope and structure between the failed concession attempts of 2011, 2017 and this 2019.
He added that there is already a national single window platform in the Nigeria Customs Service and officers of the service are performing beyond expectations, collecting duties in billions of naira on daily basis.
The House further resolved to mandate the Committee on finance, Customs , public petitions, committee on agreements to expose the foreign and local collaborators involved in this project either as sponsors, co sponsors, financiers and others.
Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) could not be reached at the time of going to press, to comment on their involvement in the deal as several calls put across to Mr. Chidi Iwuwah, Director General of the agency were not answered.

Last line
A maritime expert and president of Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said changing  such  a  complex  Customs  system  as NICIS 11 that has cost the country billion and has repositioned the Service, to  an  untested  IT  system  that  has  never  been implemented  in  a  big  country  might  have  an  impact  on  the  revenue  collected  by  NCS  and  could have  a serious impact on the  ability of importing  and  exporting  for  several months.

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Cassy Lionberger

    December 11, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want?HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

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Emefiele bags ‘Champion of Human Capital Development Award’

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Emefiele bags ‘Champion of Human Capital Development Award’

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele,  has received Nigerian Tribune’s Platinum award of “Champion of Human Capital Development.”

The award was conferred on the CBN governor at the Tribune’s Platinum Awards and 70th year anniversary ceremony held  in Lagos on Tuesday.

The Chairman, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc, publishers  of Tribune newspapers, Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, commended  Emefiele for his tremendous  achievements in the country.

She noted that Emefiele as Governor of CBN had overseen  an interventionist policy that has ensured exchange rate stability over the last few years

She noted:”In 2019, Nigeria’s Senate approved a second five-year term for Emefiele. It was the first time that anyone had served for a second term in that capacity since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.”

In his remarks, the representative of the CBN governor, Deputy Governor, Operations, CBN, Mr.  Folashodun Shonubi, commended the publishing company for honouring his boss.

Other  awardees  at the event  were  the Governor of Edo State,  Godwin Obaseki,  Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Benue state, Sir Samuel Ortom,  and a former Ogun state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.

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ATCON to host Pantami in Abuja

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ATCON to host Pantami in Abuja

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has concluded plans to host the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to a ‘special reception’ in Abuja.

The Executive Secretary of ATCON, Ajibola Olude, who disclosed this,  said that the President of the association, Mr Olusola Teniola, would lead the special and high-powered reception.

He said that among the objectives of the event would be to formally introduce the honourable minister of communications to the captains of the industry.

In addition, he said, the reception would give the industry the opportunity to meet with him and share some of the challenges that are impacting negatively on the telecom industry in Nigeria and to offer the minister the opportunity to share his plans for the industry with the relevant stakeholders.

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Economic growth amidst rising unemployment

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Economic growth amidst rising unemployment

Two years after it grew out of recession, the economy  consistently  maintains upward growth. Driven  predominantly by activities in  oil and non-oil sectors, the growth is dwarfed by significantly rising  unemployed population. Abdulwahab Isa reports

 

Africa’s largest economy shrank by 1.5 per cent in 2016, recording  its first annual contraction in 25 years.

It also   declined first quarter of 2017 due to lower oil revenue and a shortage of hard currency.

The economy witnessed relief in first quarter 2017.   

Government  deployed  a combination of  fiscal and monetary policy instruments, which eventually reversed the  slide. 

Nigeria’s economy grew out of recession in the second quarter of 2017, expanding 0.55 per cent year-on-year,  National Bureau Statistics had said at the time.

Two years after it emerged from recession, the  economy has grown.

According to latest GDP report  release by  National Bureau Statistics (NBS) for Q3 2019, the economy recorded marginal growth across all the sectors.

The growth came amidst inflationary pressures in food prices.

  

Sluggish  growth:

Latest GDP report by NBS indicates that the economy, consistent with its pattern, recorded slight growth in third quarter of 2019.

It grew by 2.28 per cent (year-on-year) in real term.

The growth rate in Q3 2019 represents the second highest quarterly rate recorded since 2017  when Nigeria economy emerged from  recession.

Compared to third quarter of 2018, which recorded a growth of 1.81 per cent, the real GDP growth rate observed in the third quarter of 2019 indicates an increase of 0.47 per cent points.

Relative to the second quarter of 2019, which recorded a growth rate of 2.12 per cent, Q3 2019 represents an increase of 0.17 per cent points.

“On a quarter on quarter basis, real GDP grew by 9.23 per cent. The growth rate in Q3 2019 represents the second highest quarterly rate recorded since 2016. In the quarter under review, aggregate GDP stood at N37,806,924.41 million in nominal terms. This performance is higher compared to the aggregate of N33,368,049.14 million recorded in the third quarter of 2018, representing a year on year nominal growth rate of 13.30 per cent,” NBS said.

Oil sector real growth  was 6.49 per cent (year-on-year) in Q3 2019 indicating an increase of 9.40 per cent points relative to rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2018. The rate was , however lower by –0.68 per cent points when compared to Q2 2019 which was 7.17 per cent.

The current  output, according to data agency,  was 0.1mbpd higher than the daily average production of 1.94mbpd recorded in the same quarter of 2018, and 0.02mbpd higher than the revised oil production levels in Q2.

Similarly, the non- oil sector recorded significant growth going by NBS latest GDP data.   Non-oil sector grew by 1.85 per cent in real terms during the reference quarter. This is –0.48 per cent points lower when compared to the rate recorded in the same quarter of 2018 but 0.20 per cent points higher than the second quarter of 2019.

Major drivers of non-oil sector include agriculture, mining & quarrying, information and communication sub- sector;  transportation and storage.

Effect of border closure

Desirous of protecting the economy against flagrant dumping of substandard foreign goods , the Federal Government shut its land borders to Republic of Niger, Ghana and Cameron respectively.

The closure, which took effect August 2019, put seal to entry of foreign rice and other commodities, hitherto, being smuggled into Nigeria via land borders.

Government gesture gave the economy the  breathing space it needed to grow.  Production of local rice has received huge patronage. It has spurred massive employment  across rice value chain  production leading to expansion and growth in GDP.

Speaking to New Telegraph on implication of border closure and the gains on economy with  reference to  third quarter, 2019  GDP growth, development economist,  Odillim Enwegbara, noted that no nation opened her borders to every country without restraint.

“The growth  is real.  I won’t tell you it is not;  It’s possible.  That’s one of the benefits of border closure. Unrestricted borders  is at the core of her economic problem. Border closure isn’t the only causes of Nigeria economic problems but it’s one of the major causes.

“If you allow every manner of good and services to be dumped in your economy space, it would restrict real economic activities that would have taken place in your country. So, is a welcome development and I’m looking at Nigeria economy moving from single digit to double digits. Who says it can’t happen? But we all have to be part of economic growth plan,” he noted.

Odillim said the GDP growth signalled rebound in local investment, adding that a lot would still have to done to bolster and deepen the economy.

“Confidence is returning, but  there is still issues  regarding foreign investors. What’s happening is that, we are taking advantage of border closure, which was supposed to have been closed a long time.

“There won’t be any investor confidence in economy when we have this  kind of insecurity problem. The security problem must be dealt  with. No government expects growth, rapid industrialisation  when there is major problem with security;  goods and services and human being can’t move freely because of fear of the unknown,” he said.

Also commenting on GDP growth,  budget analyst, and Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said the growth was insignificant and unable to fill the gap created by huge unemployed hands.

He noted that while the GDP growth was an increase over previous one, it was a tepid growth, a figure yet to meet the spiraling population rise.

According to him, “although the 2.28 per cent GDP growth is an improvement on the performance from previous quarters, it is rather tepid. It is yet to meet the population growth figure of about three per cent per annum.

“Considering Nigeria’s poor credentials in inclusive and sustainable growth, new policy measures are needed to drive economic growth to not less than eight per cent per annum, with a road map to sustain this kind of growth for not less than ten years. This is possible if the political will is combined with getting the best hands to run the economy and thinking through policy measures before they are implemented.”

Danger of unemployment

A recently released World Bank report indicated Nigeria’s high unemployment rate dwarfed her economic growth

Titled “Jumpstarting Inclusive Growth: Unlocking the Productive Potential of Nigeria’s People and Resource Endowments,” the global bank in the   report projected  growth  to pick up from 1.9 per cent in 2018 to two percent in 2019 and 2.1 per cent in 2020-21.

It  described growth recorded by Nigeria economy as insufficient, noting that growth  outlook was  vulnerable to external and domestic risks, including geopolitical and trade tensions that may affect inflows of private investment.

According to the report, Nigeria has the opportunity to advance reforms to mitigate risks amid growing public demand for greater economic opportunities.

It added that  Nigeria’s labor force was  growing rapidly, stating that  in 2018 alone,  over five million Nigerians entered the labor market. This resulted in 4.9 million more unemployed people in the last year.  While  some states recorded feats in the area of job creation, the jobs were not enough to absorb the number of fresh entrants to the labour market.

“Positive news are emerging from some states that are creating enough jobs to keep up with the growth of their labor forces. In the year following the recession (between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018), 10 states saw some positive job creation, but the number of new jobs was not enough to absorb the new entrants into the labor force.

“The situation improved by the third quarter of 2018, as four states (Lagos, Rivers, Enugu, and Ondo) created more jobs than the entrants to the labor market, and as a result these states reduced unemployment,” the bank said.

Commenting  on the latest  report, World  Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, said the reforms would help achieve faster, more inclusive, and sustained growth with jobs.

“Building on recent efforts, going forward, we recommend actions in priority areas, including increasing fiscal revenue and improving the quality of spending to manage oil-sector volatility, investing in much-needed human capital and infrastructure, and improving the business climate to unlock private investment and tackle Nigeria’s jobs challenge.”

“The report discusses ways to boost the productivity and resilience of the Nigerian economy, including: leveraging trade integration to harness the benefits of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area; improving the efficiency of spending in education; monitoring the impact of conflict to protect the poor and vulnerable; and leveraging digital technologies to diversify the economy and create jobs for young workers. “Investing in people and removing barriers that make it difficult for new firms to compete and grow will encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, spur job growth, and ultimately reduce poverty,” said Chaudhuri.

Last line

There is danger lurking around the economy unless drastic steps and concrete measures  are taken to match GDP growth with creation of  sufficient jobs that will engage the rising population.

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9mobile slashes roaming rates for U.S., others

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9mobile slashes roaming rates for U.S., others

Mobile network operator, 9mobile, has introduced roaming packages that offer lowest voice calls, SMS and data rates for its customers travelling to the United States, United Arab Emirates, and 44 other European and African countries.

Through the package tagged ‘Super 50 Offer’, the operator said customers on the network could make or receive calls for as low as N50 per minute, send or receive SMS at N50 per page, as well as use data at N50/MB on a pay-as-you-go basis.

“With these latest offers, 9mobile is enabling its customers travelling to any of these 46 destinations to stay connected with their loved ones back home without any inconvenience,” the company said in a statement.

According to Acting Director, Marketing, 9mobile, ‘Layi Onafowokan, the US ‘Super 50 Offer’ is currently the lowest package offered by any Nigerian network operator to customers travelling to the USA. “Calls within the US and calls to Nigeria are charged at N50 per minute; incoming calls at N50 per minute; SMS at N50 per page; while PAYG data is now N50/MB,” he said. This offer is in partnership with renowned US Telecom Company, AT&T, and Etisalat UAE among others.

On the UAE ‘Super 50 Offer’ roaming package in partnership with Etisalat UAE, the company said its customers enjoy discounted rates for voice calls at N50 within UAE and calls back to Nigeria, SMS at N25 per SMS, and data at N25 per MB. Customers also benefit from free 100 minutes/month to receive calls on recharge the threshold of N5000 in a month.

“The ‘Euro Afrique Offer’ is currently available in partnership with carriers like Vodafone, Orange, Vodacom, and Airtel in Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands. Nigerians travelling to African countries including Egypt, Congo DR, Botswana, Morocco, Mozambique, Ivory Coast and South Africa, will also enjoy the offer,” Onafowokan said.

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Truecaller: Telcos account for 85% spam calls in Nigeria

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Truecaller: Telcos account for 85% spam calls in Nigeria

Telecommunications operators in Nigeria are responsible for 85 per cent of spam calls and SMS received by mobile users in the country while telemarketing accounted for only three per cent, a report by Truecaller has revealed.

The report also indicated that Nigeria was one of the top 20 countries affected by spam calls and SMS globally.

According to the study, the average Truecaller user in Nigeria receives 8.4 spam calls per month, which is 20 per cent higher than last year.

This year, Brazil topped the list, with the average Truecaller user receiving 45.6 spam calls monthly. 

Brazil is followed by Peru and Indonesia at 30.9 and 27.9 spam calls respectively.  This report had countries in North and South America dominating the list.  They were: Mexico, Chile, the USA, Colombia and Canada.

The other continent, which featured prominently, is Asia, parading countries like Indonesia, India, UAE, Sri Lanka, Israel, Lebanon and Malaysia.

Besides Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt were the other African countries affected by spam calls, with the latter having the least record of spam calls in 2019.

For spam SMS, Nigeria ranked 7th among the top 20 countries affected.

The average Truecaller user in Nigeria received 65 spam SMS per month. 

However, Ethiopia came tops with the average Truecaller user receiving 119 spam SMS per month, followed by South Africa with 114 and Kenya with 102 spam SMS monthly.

In all, nine countries in Africa and nine countries in Asia dominated the list of recipients of spam SMS.  Brazil and Colombia were the only American countries on the list.

Truecaller users in Ghana received the least number of spam SMS.

Truecaller Insights Report 2019 was aggregated anonymously from incoming calls that either was marked as spam by users – or automatically being flagged by Truecaller during the period of January 1st, 2019 to October 30th, 2019 to understand the monthly average spam rate.

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Border closure: OPS vindicated over inflation

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Border closure: OPS vindicated over inflation

Recently, the Federal Government admitted that the closure of the nation’s borders contributed to rising inflation in the country, a position earlier aired by members of the organised private sector. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

Indeed, the country’s economy is already witnessing some negative signs of the recent border closure, with the third quarter report of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showing that the country’s annual inflation rate increased to 11.61 per cent in October 2019 from 11.24 per cent in the previous month.

Members of the organised private sector had already pointed out to the federal government that its decision to shut the borders would have dire consequence on the economy.

Private sector           

In fact, when the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali, said that the Federal Government had ordered the complete closure of the Nigerian border by placing a ban on both legitimate and illegitimate movement of goods in and out of the country, the private sector operators warned that the country’s economy should expect dire consequences following the announcement.

Speaking with this newspaper, the Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, warned that the country’s manufacturing sector and export segment of the economy were in for more trouble with that harsh decision taken by government.

Ajayi-Kadir pointed out the economic danger the continued closure was having on the growth and development of the country’s real sector. 

He particularly stated that government should expect a dire consequence on the country’s economy with this harsh decision in the short, medium and long terms.

The MAN director-general explained further that there was no way the real sector of the economy could contribute to the country’s gross domestic product amid the decision, warning that the country’s production capacity utilisation could fall to an all-time low, with mass closure of industries, downsizing of workers and high inventory of unsold goods.

Ajayi-Kadir noted that Nigerian manufacturing sector’s core business was all about import and export of goods and raw materials, adding that these were the areas that are sustaining the country’s local manufacturers, who are into production of goods and service.

Similarly, the Director-General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, reckoned with the fact that the closure had severely affected costs, supply chain disruptions and losses in businesses both corporates and individuals.     

Yusuf said the corporates, who are large number of informal sector players and individuals doing legitimate businesses across the borders, werre the victims of the border closure.

Consequently, this poses a dilemma even though government means well, but there are many innocent casualties in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Yusuf said: “As we celebrate the benefits, we should also count the costs. Jobs have been lost, prices have skyrocketed, legitimate exports to the sub-region have been halted, intermediate products for some manufacturers have been cut off, some multinational companies have been de-linked from their sister companies in the sub-region. The economies of border communities have been paralysed with consequences for unemployment and poverty.”

Inflation

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, recently admitted that closure of the nation’s borders contributed to the rising inflation in the country, showing that the border policy of government has affected growth and development of the economy, with the real sector of the economy having the larger share of the possible outcome.    

Ahmed, however, assured that the closure was temporary as government expects the neighbouring countries to respect ECOWAS protocols to fast track reopening of the borders.

But the reopening is taking longer than expected with reports that Benin Republic and Niger Republic are yet to align with the protocols.

She explained that despite complaints by some Nigerians on the negative effects, its benefits outweigh any hardship people may be complaining about.

According to her, “I need to remind us that the border closure is temporary. We have really advanced in our discussions between ourselves and our neighbours. We expect that the outcomes of those discussions and agreements are that each party will respect the protocols that we all committed to and then the borders will be open again.

“What we are doing is important for our economy.

“We signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement, we have to make sure that we put in place checks to make sure that our economy will not be overrun as a result of the coming into effect of the ACFTA. That is why we have this border closure to return to the discipline of respecting the protocols that we all committed to.”

Similarly, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the benefits for border closure far surpassed the very little increase in inflation.

Mohammed was quoted to have said that the border closure was the best thing to have come to Nigeria’s economy positively in recent times.

He added that the closure have spot on the long time challenges Nigeria had been enduring in the ECOWAS protocols.

Last line   

With the report that other neighbouring countries are not willing to respect the ECOWAS protocol, the OPS says the country’s economy should expect more hardship with businesses on the threshold of going under.

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Yuletide: Report predicts likely rice scarcity

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Yuletide: Report predicts likely rice scarcity

There are indications that the Federal Government’s border closure policy is set to trigger rice scarcity and price hike during and beyond the Yuletide.

This is as Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RPAN) battle to meet consumers’ demand for the grain with total consumption estimated at seven million tonnes and local production at four million tonnes.

Although, the rice processor group affirmed that its members had the capacity to meet the demand for rice during and beyond the Yuletide.

According to a report by Pricewaterhousecooper (PwC), the shortfall of three million in rice production is expected to trigger scarcity of the commodity during this period as Nigerians rush to buy available ones in the market.

PwC said in the report that Nigeria needed to increase its rice production to 7.2 million tonnes next year to meet local demand and sufficiency.

According to the firm, to achieve this, it estimated that Nigeria would need to, at least triple, its current stock of machinery over the same period, saying that the border closure could worsen the set objective of meeting local consumption demand.

It described rice as one of the most consumed staples in Nigeria, with consumption per capita of 32 kilogram, adding that in the past decade, consumption had increased by 4.7 per cent, almost four times the global consumption growth, and reached 6.4 million tonnes in 2017 – accounting for 20 per cent of Africa’s consumption.

Given the importance of rice as a staple food in Nigeria, the report said boosting rice production had been accorded high priority by government in the past seven years.

“Significant progress has been recorded; rice production in Nigeria reached a peak of 3.7 million tonnes in 2017.

“In addition, as population increases, along with rural to urban migration, ensuring food security in key staples becomes critical. However, food security cannot be achieved by a system that depends almost entirely on human muscle power and other manual methods,” it said.

While responding to the three million rice production shortfall, the RPAN Chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, assured that the combined capacity of integrated mills produced about 150,000 truck load of rice on a daily basis as well as 1.8 million metric tonnes annually.

He said members were aware that there will be mass rush for the commodity during and beyond Yuletide and, as a result, were already putting things in order to minimise scarcity.

Abubakar said the figure was apart from millions of metric tonnes produced annually by small scale millers.

He said that speculations that there would be scarcity of rice during this Christmas period should be disregarded, adding that there would be enough supply in the country.

“I can assure Nigerians that they will find rice everywhere and throughout this festive period,” he said.

The RPAN chairman also noted that the positive impact of Federal Government’s border closure on rice millers was enormous.

Abubakar said that Nigeria relied on rice importation with only one rice mill in operation about 10 years ago, but today the country can boast of 40 integrated milling machines of world standard.

He disclosed that before the border closure, members of the association had been complaining that they could not sell the product in their warehouses but that since the borders were closed, they had since exhausted their stock.

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Expert: Nigeria must brace for cyberattacks

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Expert: Nigeria must brace for cyberattacks

Nigeria’s move to digitise the economy comes with lots of benefits and huge risks that the country must be well prepared for, a cybersecurity expert has said.

Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications, Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, who stated this, said cybercriminals were on the prowl to take advantage of any loophole in everything that is digital, hence, Nigeria’s digital economy must be backed by robust cyber-security framework.

With the addition of ‘Digital Economy’ to the Ministry of Communications functions, government said it would ensure that all areas of governance become digitised for the country to benefit from the global digital economy.

While commending government’s push for digitisation, Nnamani said the moment that was achieved, “we are going to see a lot of public sector services and general services migrating to the digital platform and that is where you run the risk of cybercrimes.”

According to him, in a digital economy, all government services are made available online, while facilities such as electricity supply, train movement, among others are controlled with technology. He said before these are put in place in Nigeria, the country must double its cybersecurity efforts.

“As the country is transitioning into a digital economy, cybercrimes become a bigger risk compared to what we are currently experiencing.  Suddenly, you can wake up one day and find out that the Federal Government of Nigeria is being held into ransom by hackers.

“We have witnessed series of attacks on government and public facilities in the developed countries, but we are spared of that today because our economy is not yet digitised, we are in an un-smart economy,” he said.

Nnamani, however, noted that despite the risks, the country must go digital as it is the only way to remain relevant in the global economy.

“Now, Nigeria as a country can’t turn away from this, it must go digital because that is the future. But that also means there will be more exposure to the cyberspace beyond what we are doing today, which is why we must be prepared.

“The country’s cybercrime report recently released showed that Nigerian businesses are more prone to attacks than other businesses in Africa as the country has the lowest number of cybersecurity experts per person.  The shortage of expertise is said to have contributed largely to the rising cases of cybercrimes in the country, leading to a loss of about N288 billion ($800 million) by businesses in 2018.

“The losses in that period were incurred mostly by commercial banks, government, and telecommunications operators in the country, according to the report. Before now, the Federal Government had said that the country loses N127 billion annually to cybercrimes.

“In the course of our study, we found out that the country is ill-equipped in terms of cybersecurity experts to address the challenges facing her. This is in spite of the fact that the number of experts in the country has grown from about 2000 to 3,500,” the report by Demadiur Systems stated.

According to the report, with the cost of cybercrime increasing every year across Nigeria, lack of local cybersecurity skillset is a big challenge to businesses and governments in the country.

“From our analysis, we identified that this skill gap comes from two major sources: Few skillset in the nation and the inability of companies to have a cybersecurity team and strategy. With the number of SMEs and large organisations in the country facing cybersecurity threats compared to the 3500 certified security professionals in Nigeria, it is clear that Nigerian businesses are easy targets for both local and international hackers,” the report read.

With the low-security expertise, Demadiur Systems said the study conducted in Nigeria also revealed that more Nigerians were going into cybercrimes as attacks from the country have increased.

“We found out that locally engineered malware experts on the rise, which indicates that more Nigerians are going into the crime.

“In 2016, there was one cybersecurity expert for every 124,587 Nigerians, while this marginally improved to one expert for every 106,048 Nigerians in 2017; in 2018, it abysmally stood at one expert for every 103,093 citizens. There is a need to have people well trained in that space and also to have a certification process to ensure that the right skill needed is acquired,” the report read.

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Firm unveils product to solve energy challenges

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Firm unveils product to solve energy challenges

In a bid to promote renewable energy towards solving the country’s energy challenges, a private firm, ZOLA Electric, has introduced its flagship renewable power solution product, ZOLA Infinity.

It is meant to provide 24 hours reliable, renewable and clean energy.

Speaking at the company’s unveiling of its first experience centre in Nigeria in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, ZOLA Electric, Bill Lenihan, explained that the company was in the country to complement Federal Government’s efforts at stabilising power supply and also finding permanent solution to the country’s energy crisis through exploring renewable energy as an alternative to power.

Lenihan stated that the power challenges in Nigeria had shown that government alone could not solve the country’s energy crisis, adding that was the reason exploring renewable energy served as a key option.

According to him, the experience centre would serve as a retail hub for the business ensuring seamless interactions with customers on the innovative power solutions that is aimed at bringing a permanent solution to the energy needs of Nigerians and businesses.

He also explained that the centre would serve as the retail footprint for ZOLA in Nigeria as part of its commitments to provide 24 hours reliable, renewable and clean energy solutions to its customers.

The CEO, however, pointed out that the occasion was for the unveiling of its flagship renewable power solution product,m to the first set of 100 customers who pre-ordered the innovative renewable energy product in the country.

“We are excited to open our first experience centre in Nigeria which would afford Nigerians the opportunity to have a feel of how we provide clean, 24 hour reliable and affordable energy to Nigerians. When we started in Tanzania, we built a system for that market particularly for those who don’t have access to the grid whatsoever to power their homes. We are grateful today that ZOLA Electric has touched millions of lives in the process.

“Two years ago, we built products to serve the Nigerian market. We are glad to say that today we are prepared to solve Nigeria’s acute energy problem with these revolutionary products. As you aware, energy needs of countries are different and Nigeria requires a technology solution that was different in anything from the one we had in the past,” he said.

In his speech at the occasion, the Managing Director, ZOLA Electric Nigeria, Abdallah Khamis, explained that the opening of the experience centre as well as the launch of ZOLA infinity product was a clear demonstration of the company’s capacity to solve the energy needs of Nigerians and businesses groaning under the pain of poor power supply through its custom built innovative products.

According to him, the different power solutions have been uniquely designed to meet the energy demands of customers regardless of their status.

The managing director further disclosed that ZOLA’s energy systems were accessible with payment plans from her financial partner, Sterling Bank.

He said the company’s product was already in four countries in African content, namely; Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. 

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Chinese firm plans multi-billion naira investment in Nigeria

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Chinese firm plans multi-billion naira investment in Nigeria

…to establish offices, R&D centre

ZKTeco, the world leader in biometrics technology, identity management and security applications, has said it plans to establish its business in Nigeria that will serve as the hub for the sub-Saharan market.

The Chinese company, with operations in over 35 countries, also plans to establish a research and development centre in the country.

While the company has not announced the total amount to be invested, projects already highlighted to make Nigeria its hub for the rest of African countries are running into billions of naira.

The global president and founder of ZKTeco, Mr John Che, who was in the country on a working visit, gave this indication in Lagos at an interactive session with journalists organised by its local partner, SB telecoms and Devices Limited.

According to Mr Che, Nigeria was considered to act as a hub for the rest of Africa because of the country’s strategic position on the continent, including its population, the market size, the GDP, as well as the government’s efforts to transform the economy via its diversification agenda and encouragement of foreign investments.

Along with the office will be the establishment of an R&D centre at the University of Lagos to take advantage of the abundant local talents to create solutions that can run on ZKTeco platforms.

“ZKTeco already has a presence in South Africa and Egypt, but based on our growth objectives and the fact that Africa has a strong growth prospect, we decided to increase our stake in Africa and we identified Nigeria as the epicentre of Africa, representing the strongest growth prospect on the continent, with opportunities to collaborate on its identity management and biometrics standard needs,” Mr Che said. 

Che stated that with ZKTeco’s expertise in biometric technology, identity security management, and time management, the company hopes to collaborate with Nigerians, both in the private and public sectors, in line with the company’s growth objectives, to help fast track the country’s development.

Biometric technology, the ZKTeco boss said, is the future of society. He stated that Nigeria will achieve its developmental goals faster if it got its biometric identity management right. He gave the example of China’s remarkable growth over the past three decades, which he said was largely driven by the Asian giant’s ability to establish a robust identity management process. “Identity management through biometrics is very critical to growth and development. Biometrics helps to drive the efficient management of time and resources, helping to boost productivity,” Mr Che said. He gave the example of the efficient immigration processes in China today due to biometrics deployment compared to the laborious practice of the past to buttress his point.

He said for a meaningful and sustainable development, it was imperative that the government undertakes a robust database that will help in the effective management of people and resources.

“A country’s development aspirations must be matched by biometric standard. If you don’t have this the country will waste huge resources without commensurate result,” Che said.

Chief Executive Officer of SB Telecoms and Devices Limited, Mr Afolabi Abiodun, added that ZKTeco’s relationship with Nigeria started about eight years ago when SB Telecoms became its accredited partner in Nigeria, also servicing the West African sub-region.

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