Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Trade and Industry

Forex ban for food importation unsettles some experts

By Anthony Areh

Economic Experts said that though Federal Government’s decision to ban forex for food importation would develop local capacity but should be executed cautiously to forestall drastic food shortage.

The experts gave this suggestion on Sunday in Abuja while commenting on

President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to implement any plan geared toward providing forex for the importation of “food items and fertilisers”.

According some of the experts, it is a welcomed development but should be executed systematically and cautiously.

Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, an Economist, while lauding the president’s directive said that if food item importation was banned, there would be growth in local food capacity and its attendant gains.

“However, the decision to end such importation must be executed systematically and gradually, to forestall drastic food shortage, which could cause high inflation in food sector arising from shortages and increase in hunger.

“Nigeria still imports up to 60 per cent of palm oil to fill local supply shortfalls. This applies to many other food products. Therefore, it has to be done cautiously,” he advised

The ban on importation of rice, Nigeria gradually became self-sufficient in rice production and indeed, the entire rice value chain.

He said that the country saved a lot of foreign currency and many jobs were equally created in the sector.

Mr Olawale Rasheed, Director, Policy Advocacy Centre (PAC), Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), described the ban allocation of forex for some food items as a step in the right direction.

“The bitter reality we are facing as a nation is that the government is cash-strapped due to multiple complications arising from COVID-19, oil market setback and others,” he said.

Rasheed, however, urged the government to prioritise application of the earnings accruing to the nation, especially in the forex sector.

He further advised the government to strengthen local production by supporting local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), hence the N70 billion MSMEs support fund was commendable.

He also called on the Federal Government to deepen engagement with business associations to ensure that supportive policies were put in place to minimise any negative effects of the forex ban.

Dr Ken Ukaoha, a Trade and Economic Law Advocate, commended the President for his consistency in design of export orientation, aimed at closing door to latent importation and dependence.

He said it would boost self-sufficiency and added value to Nigerian products.

Ukaoha, however, urged the government to also look at the quantity of what Nigeria has because presently majority of farmers in the north-east were internally displayed due to insurgency.

“In the North-West presently, we have dreaded banditry and kidnapping.

“In the North Central we also have a situation where crises between farmers and herders had discouraged and displaced many farmers.

“Major agricultural commodities produced in Nigeria are from the north, so if we have problems there, in addition to the climate change issues, which have resulted to massive flooding and  deforestation, where do we stand?

“I agree with the policy but let the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development focus on the quantity of commodities available, what we need to produce more, how sustainable are they and how capable are we?

“These are some of the analysis I will like the ministry to embark on and bring forward before the conclusion of this well-intended directive to save Nigeria from further embarrassment,” Ukaoha said.

Alumni lists impediments to enforcement of Cabotage Law

By Anthony Areh 

Mr Austin Umezurike, President, Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (AMANO),  has identified  contractual requirements, competency and certification as some issues that should be addressed for full enforcement of the Cabotage Law. 

Umezurike made this known on an Instagram live programme organised by Mrs Ezinne Azunna of the MaritimeTv, to commemorate the 2020 World Maritime Day. 

According to him, the Cabotage Law stands on four pillars, among which  is that manning of vessels must be 80 per cent to 100 per cent done by Nigerians. 

“Among the vessels that operate within the Nigerian maritime sector, 80 per cent to 90 per cent supports the oil and gas industry and they are dominated by International Oil Companies which have stringent certification requirements. 

“They make sure that vessels operating with them have certain categories of personnel onboard and also ensure that local vessel owners are forced to meet the requirements. 

“One of the requirement is that they should have certificates from certain countries that are internationally recognised; if they do not meet the requirements, they will not get contracts. 

“The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) can enforce compliance with the Cabotage requirements in terms of 100 per cent manning, but contractual requirements have actually affected full implementation,” the AMANO president said. 

He said that competency, certification and quality of local seafarers  should also be ensured  for effective enforcement of the Cabotage Law. 

Accordung to him, effective enforcement  of Cabotage Law requires collective efforts of all stakeholders in the maritime space, including NIMASA and Maritime Academy of Nigeria,  to ensure production of required personnel. 

Umezuruike said that  there was the need to have more maritime academies which should be  well-equipped and have  competent lecturers. 

He said that the existing maritime academy  was not attracting qualified lecturers because it was a government parastatal and had a salary structure  not good enough. 

“Government needs to know that maritime education is very key globally; for the country to compete globally, we need to make sure we have qualified lecturers that will provide the needed training for our cadets. 

“The Federal Ministry of Transportation needs to look into this issue of remuneration of lecturers in the academy because this is the only way qualified personnel will be employed,” he said. 

The AMANO president expressed satisfaction that NIMASA was addressing the issue of certificate of competency of Nigerian seafarers, hoping that it would ensure that the seafarers  would work with international vessels. 

“Nigeria has an advantage, majority of our population are youths and they speak English which is the maritime language; so, there is no way they cannot dominate the maritime industry,” he said. 

He, however, regretted that Nigerian waterways were being polluted with waste, urging that it should be tackled. 

“AMANO is not just an alumni, it is one of the most versatile players that produce professionals in the Nigerian maritime space with the aim of practicalising some policies and pronouncement from government agencies. 

“We can’t  continue to talk without actions; that is why, to mark the World Maritime Day, we went to the Sagbonkoji in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area  to clean up the area,” Umezurike said. 

Ms Koni Duniya, Chairperson, AMANO Planning Committee, noted that foreign vessels passed through the Sagbonkoji community before going to Lagos ports. 

“What these vessels will see is not good, our waterways are polluted and require education of communities on  proper waste disposal,” she said. 

The World Maritime Day is celebrated on Sept. 24 annually and 2020 edition  had the theme, ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet’.  

Problems cause increase in power tariff

By Chris Ndibe 

The sale of power generating and distributing companies to incompetent investors caused the problems that have led to increase in electricity tariff. 

Information and culture minister Lai Mohammed stated in Lagos at a meeting with the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria. 

Mohammed, who was responding to questions on the adjustment in electricity tariff, said that the federal government had spent N1.7 trillion to supplement electricity tariff after the previous government sold and handed over to the investors. 

He said that the government could no longer afford the cost of the subsidy, especially under the prevailing economic conditions.  

The minister noted that the revenues and foreign exchange earnings by the government had fallen by almost 60 per cent due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector.  

“Before we came in, the power sector had been privatised by the previous administration, but the people they sold to them are incompetent. 

“When we assumed power, we met the mess. 

“Apart from the fact that the Distribution Companies (Discos), could not meter the people, they also could not pay for the electricity generated by the Generation Companies (Gencos), from the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Companies. 

“We had two options – cancel the entire sales or to get the Discos to recapitalise. 

“We took over the debt of the Discos, which was about N701 billion, because of the effect the cancellation of the sale will have on the country and international investors. 

“The people are simply incompetent and if we did not provide the money that means they will not distribute power to anybody,” he said. 

The minister noted that the government did not have the resources to continue along the path of subsidising electricity tariff to private companies. 

“To borrow just to subsidise generation and distribution, which are both privatised, will be grossly irresponsible,” Mohammed stressed. 

To cushion the effects of adjustment of the tariff, the minister said that government was providing incentives to local manufacturers of meters through the Central Bank of Nigeria 

He said that companies importing meters would get incentives through tax waivers. 

Mohammed added that in order to protect the large majority of Nigerians who could not afford to pay cost-reflective tariffs, only customers with guaranteed minimum of 12 hours of electricity would have their tariffs adjusted. 

He said that the industry regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), would ensure that those who get less than 12 hours supply experience no increase. 

In addressing the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing, he said that mass metering programme was being undertaken to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians. 

The minister said that the government was also taking steps to connect Nigerians not yet connected to electricity at all, to the facility. 

“As you are aware, under its Economic Sustainability Plan, the government is providing solar power to 5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months. 

“This alone will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation, thus ensuring that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system,” he said. 

The minister assured Nigerians that the service-based electricity tariff adjustment and the ongoing work by German company, Siemens, to boost power supply in Nigeria, would help end the perennial power problem in the country. 

According to him, under the three-phase Siemens deal, Nigerians will enjoy 7,000 megawatts of reliable power supply by the end of 2021 ((phase 1), 11,000 megawatts by the end of 2023 (phase 2), and 25,000 megawatts in the third phase. 

Customers pressure Multichoice on pay as you go tariff

By Tanko Mohammed  

Nigerian subscribers have intensified their pressure on Mutichoice Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) and other service providers to introduce the Pay as You Go Tariff (PAYG). 

A cross section of subscribers said it was time the providers introduce PAYE in Nigeria. 

Mrs Jumai Aliyu, a subscriber in Maitama said it was wrong for the service providers to stick to the fixed monthly tariff, unlike what was obtainable in other countries. 

“Nigeria constitutes about 40 per cent of DSTV’s global market share, yet the company refused to adopt the pay as you go tariff by sticking to the fixed monthly tariff which is exploitative. 

“Over 40 per cent of the Nigerian subscribers do not use a greater part of their monthly tariff due to engagements that take them from one location to the other on a daily basis. 

“Most subscribers cannot access the services upon expiration, whether or not they use their previous subscriptions until they renew it for another month,” Aliyu said. 

She was reacting to the recent hike in tariff by the providers. 

“The DSTV operates pay as you go tariff in other countries but chose to exploit Nigerians through a fixed monthly tariff,” Aliyu said, adding that the recent tariff hike was uncalled for. 

She noted that the development can make the company loose subscribers while forcing some to downgrade to lower packages. 

“I think that the increase in subscription tariff was ill- timed .The sad part of this development is that the company decided to hike the tariff even with the COVID-19 pandemic which has a devastating effect on the economy of the country. 

“The DSTV and other service providers like GOtv should either bring down their tariff, adopt the pay as you go tariff or risk losing their large patronage in the country,” she said. 

Mr Kenny Ayodeji, a subscriber in Nyanya corroborated Aliyu ‘s claim calling on the Federal Government to intervene in the matter. 

” I think government has a duty in ensuring that Nigerians are protected against unnecessary exploration by foreign companies like DSTV. 

“I remember that the National Assembly promised to ensure that the DSTV and other service providers adopt the pay as you go tariff and reduce their subscription fees, but I don’t know what happened eventually. 

“The lawmakers even promised to summon them for a meeting to discuss the issue but I don’t really know the outcome. 

” I think the time has come for both the executive and the legislature to join hands and safe Nigerians from the exploration of these companies,” he said. 

Mr Uche Chukwuma, a subscriber in Wuse, said that the service providers had never compensated subscribers for poor services especially during rain season when the services were always poor. 

He said that the present increase was coming too soon, after the last one was effected in June. 

“They effected a tariff hike in June and just three months after, another one,” he said. 

Responding, an official of Multichoice, who spoke on anonymous condition, said several factors were considered by the company before adopting the fixed monthly tariff in Nigeria. 

” The operating environment in Nigeria is much different from what is obtainable in other countries, even in Niger Republic here the environment is different. 

“In Nigeria most companies have to provide their own infrastructure and this contribute to the cost of production,” he said. 

The official also said that the recent hike in tariff was caused by the same factors calling for understanding from subscribers. 

Oil palm growers commend FG for empowering farmers

By Moses Uwagbale 

The Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) has commended the federal government for empowering smallholder farmers under the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP). 

The newly-elected President of the association, Mr Joe Onyiuke, made the commendation during a stakeholders’ forum on investment and funding opportunities in the oil palm value chain for oil palm growers in Abuja. 

Onyiuke explained that the current administration had so far demonstrated strong zeal and commitment as well as readiness to elevate agriculture to boost the economy. 

He said various associations in the agricultural value chains had been accessing CBN interventions and hence had taken the sector to certain level. 

He gave instances in the effort made by the Buhari-led administration to revive Cotton Textiles and Garments sub sector where some textile industries were now sourcing their cottons locally for production. 

Onyiuke lamented the inability of the previous leadership to create solid structure and properly organise the association adding that such had limited members from accessing the oil palm development funds recently unveiled by CBN. 

He said nonetheless the CBN governor held meetings with oil palm stakeholders recently but regrettably OPGAN could not organise itself as an association to access the funds. 

According to him, the oil palm value chain has enormous potentials to bring Nigeria back to where it should be in the world of palm oil market. 

He emphasised the need for the members of the association to come together and organise themselves. 

Onyiuke thanked the board of trustees which had taken it upon themselves to reposition the association, expressed gratitude to the association for the trust reposed in the new leadership and promise not to disappoint the association. 

The new president pledged to run a transparency and accountable association where financial transactions would be done in the best practices. 

“We need to bring oil palm back to the original status as it used to be a major foreign exchange earner for this country. 

“Imagine, other countries that came here to take our seeds today are doing much better than us and are even earning much more than we earn from crude oil. 

“So it is my desire to organise every smallholder farmer in Nigeria together and begin to do proper training and education” he added.