…as Customs eye N2.6bn from petrol import tax reimposition
Nigerians are to pay more for fuel particularly Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol if ongoing lobbying by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the National Assembly scales through.
The NCS, checks by New Telegraph showed at the weekend, is seeking the reintroduction of N1.50 per litre import tax regime on petroleum products, which could fetch it N2.6 billion monthly on petrol imported into the country.
Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali [rtd], a report by NCS sighted by this newspaper showed, had already began the clamour for this petroleum tax regime at the 2020 budget defense session before the House of Representatives Committee on Customs.
The Federal Government in 2004 suspended the tax on imported petroleum products.
Before the suspension, a tax of N1.50 per litre of any petroleum product was paid by importers of fuel.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), sole importer of petrol into Nigeria, had said in a recent data that it imported and trucked an average of 1.736 billion litres of PMS monthly between January and October, 2019.
Using the 1.736 billion monthly import and truck out data, the N1.50 per litre fuel import tax would fetch the Customs N2.6 billion monthly on petrol imported into the country.
Speaking on the development, Ali said it had become imperative to reintroduce the tax regime in line with global best practices.
The same type of tax, he noted, was currently being implemented in about 36 countries at an average of $2.24 per gallon.
“The petroleum tax regime of 2004 before its suspension imposed N1.50 per litre. It is the considered opinion of the Service that this regime be reintroduced in line with international best practices as it’s currently operational in over 36 countries at an average of $2.24 per gallon,” he said.
The NNPC had also said that it trucked out N2.517 trillion worth of petrol in 526,000 trucks across the country in the last ten months.
Releasing the data as a part of measures to ensure safety and smooth operation in the petroleum products distribution value chain, the NNPC, in collaboration with other stakeholders in the petroleum industry and the Federal Government, said it had activated the Safe-to-Load initiative to mitigate incessant petroleum products tanker accidents and ensuing fire outbreaks across the country.
The meeting of the stakeholders held in Abuja was sequel to the initiative of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha, and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Haulage Operations in Nigeria aimed at ensuring safety in the whole gamut of bridging process across the country.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, said proffering a lasting solution to the challenge had become imperative given the frequent fire incidents from petroleum tankers with attendant loss of lives and properties.
A release by the Acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affair Division of the corporation, Mr. Samson Makoji, quoted Kyari as saying that the corporation as a socially responsible entity placed high premium on the lives of workers and citizens, noting that safety was one of the core values of the organisation.
“As an organisation founded on operational excellence, NNPC has a safety checklist for loading of petroleum products from its terminals and is interested in ensuring harmonisation of the Safe-to-Load checklists being used by all terminals across the country,” he said.
He stated that the corporation had commenced digitising all its analogue-loading facilities to ensure that all trucks leaving the NNPC depots comply with the required axle limits, emphasising that the corporation has kick-started installation of weigh-bridges and sprinklers across all loading gantries to forestall incidents.
The NNPC boss said that the corporation currently relied much on land transportation system to get its products across various locations in Nigeria, stating that a total of 19.23billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was moved by 583,000 trucks in 2018, while 526,000 trucks transported 17.36billion litres of PMS between January and October, 2019.
Using a N145 litre modulated price, the 17.36 billion litres of petrol stood at N2.5172 trillion.
Meanwhile, the customs boss also stated that he had forwarded a proposal for a downward review of vehicle tariff to the finance ministry for consideration.
He said the service was proposing that customs duty on imported vehicles should remain 35 per cent while the levy be reduced from the current 35 per cent to between five and 10 per cent.
According to him, the proposal, if approved, will encourage compliance and boost revenue as the 70 per cent import duty and levy is encouraging smuggling of vehicles
On the issue of porous borders, Ali said Nigeria had about 4,070km of land, adding that in the dry season, the entire part of the North was usually accessible by road.
He said the service was currently working with the Nigerian Air Force on the deployment of geospatial technology so as to check the trend.
He added: “That is why you see motorcycles ferrying rice every now and then as shown in some videos. That is why we want to leverage technology to deal with it. Mr President has already approved e-Customs.
“We’re working with the air force on geospatial technology that will be deployed. Our officers are being trained by the air force. They will work to make the borders secure. Part of the ongoing drill is to develop an action plan and we’re making progress.”
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.
Boosting security with communication centres
Amidst rising insecurity in the country, the establishment of Emergency Communication Centres across the 36 states of the federation is seen as a major solution that will not only boost national security but also enhance lives of Nigerians. SAMSON AKINTARO reports
Nigeria’s telecommunications sector has no doubt recorded remarkable growth over the years.
With mobile subscriptions reaching over 180 million as of October and teledensity at 94.5 per cent, the country could be said to have achieved milestones in connecting the people.
However, the absence of a national emergency communication channel had for years deprived the country of the huge potential in telecommunications as a tool for national security.
While successive governments in the country had made attempts towards building emergency ommunication centres, the project could not see the light of the day.
But the waiting seems to be over with the current efforts of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as it embarks on the establishment of the ECC across the 36 states of the federation.
Already, 18 ECCs are said to have become operational in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory, thus putting an end to failure of past years.
Speaking at the commissioning of one of the ECCs in Katsina recently, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, described the centre as a one-stop-shop through which members of the public can access help from any response agency such as the Nigeria Police Force, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Fire and Ambulance Services, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and so on by dialling the toll-free 112 from any network.
According to him, “each of the ECCs is equipped with the following facilities: eleven workstations (10 for call taking and one for the supervisor); a server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public and then dispatches the calls to the appropriate agency that has responsibility to attend to the specific emergency.
“Members of the public do not have to memorise several 11-digit numbers from different response agencies, as it may have been the case; power supply mix consisting of public power supply from the national grid, two units of 100KVA generators; and two units of 20KVA UPS powered by 160 units of 100AH inverter batteries and a 10KVA UPS powered by 16 units of 100AH inverter batteries; and the facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the response agencies.
“At the moment, 17 states and the FCT have functional ECCs. These are Kastina, Ogun, Kano, Plateau, Anambra, Enugu, Kaduna, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Adamawa and Imo states” he said, adding that efforts were ongoing to activate ECCs in the remaining states of the federation.
According to NCC’s Board Chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, the ECC project is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision to enhance lives and properties of Nigerians, at a time the Federal Government is concerned about fighting insurgency, kidnapping, as well as mitigating road accidents, fire outbreaks or any other life-threatening occurrences in the country.
He said the centres would, among other benefits, provide citizens and members of the public with free and easy access to the agencies of government charged with the responsibility for public safety in times of distress.
“The centres will provide the response agencies such as the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Fire and Ambulance Services) and so on with timely information to prevent crime, rescue distressed people, mitigate and possibly prevent disasters. The resultant efficiency of the Response Agencies will, therefore, translate to more economic activities and boom for the country,” he said.
Head, Emergency Communications project, NCC, Chukwuma Aizkiwe, said on assumption of office in 2015, Danbatta recognised the focus of President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda which could be summed up in three: to improve economy, curb corruption and improve the security of lives and property.
“To this end, Prof. Danbatta-led NCC has prioritised the need to accelerate work on executing the Emergency Communications Centre (ECC) in each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Consequently, in line with the NCA 2003, the Commission has revved up efforts to opening ECC in each state with an emergency number ‘112’ and is currently collaborating with necessary stakeholders in sync with the NCC’s 8-Point Agenda towards ensuring effective and efficient management of the ECC and service delivery; facilitate and ensuring adoption/usage and publicity of the 112 by the public and response agencies; enhancing the discharge of the statutory responsibility of the respective response agency in the country and decreasing emergency response time,” he said.
Stakeholders hail NCC
While the ECC initiative has already earned NCC recognition and awards for its efforts towards safeguarding the security of lives and property of Nigerians in the country through the execution of the project, stakeholders in security and emergency management have also commended the Commission.
A former Director-General of the National Emergency Agency (NEMA), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Mohammed Audu-Bida, said the decision to establish Emergency Communication Centres across the 36 states of the federation by NCC was not only timely but very strategic given the imperative of communication in emergency or crisis management.
“Establishment of Emergency Communication Centres is one project that has always been dear to my heart. As the DG of NEMA, I conceptualised the idea of having emergency communication centres in the country,” he said.
Also reacting to this development, the Executive Secretary of the Centre for Crisis Communications (CCC), Air Commodore Yusuf Anas (rtd), considered it as heart-lifting, the report that NCC was establishing emergency centres across the states.
Anas assured that CCC was willing, able and ready to partner with NCC to ensure that the emergency centres function effectively.
“With our pool of experts in crisis communication and media management, we are sure to complement the effort of NCC in this regard,” he said.
Section 107 (3) (a) & (b) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) enacted in 2003 mandated the NCC to take immediate steps upon the commencement of the Act to promote and enhance public safety through the use of a particular number which shall be designed as the universal safety and emergency assistance number for telephone services generally; and; encourage and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout Nigeria of seamless, ubiquitous and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency communications needs.
Consequently, in 2005, the then Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, set up a ministerial committee to recommend modalities and procedures for the establishment of an emergency communications system for Nigeria.
The committee was made up of representatives of the Police, NCC, Ministry of Communications, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the then Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
It is instructive that the ministerial committee made far-reaching recommendations that included the enactment of an Act of the National Assembly to create a National Emergency Communications Agency (NECA) to be responsible for the deployment, regulation and management of the centres all over the country.
The then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2006 subsequently gave approval for the implementation of the committee’s recommendations as presented by the minister.
However, in the absence of the recommended Act to create the proposed NECA, the Board of the NCC, in 2006, with the endorsement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), approved the establishment of one-model Emergency Communications Centre (ECC) in each of the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Each state was then requested to allocate a suitable piece of land, like its counterpart contribution for the establishment of the ECC, while NCC was to build, equip and operate the centres for some years before handing over to the states.
Though long in coming, the establishment of EECs will go a long way in helping security challenges and better management of emergency situations.
Therefore, there must be a continuous synergy between the commission, state government, security and response agencies to fully actualise the benefits of the centres towards enhancing national security to the benefit of the Nigerian public.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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