AfDB Grants NEXIM Bank $302,000 for Regional Maritime Project

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Read Time:2 Minute, 45 Second

The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank) has received a financial grant of $302,000 (about N60m) from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to further promote the establishment of a regional maritime company, the Sealink project which NEXIM Bank is at its forefront.

The grant, which was released under the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) managed by AfDB, will be used to conduct further feasibility studies on the project to extend it to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

It will also be utilised in enhancing the Sealink promotional activities and assist in the development of human capital and corporate governance structure of the Sealink Promotional Company Limited (SPV) which was incorporated to facilitate the project implementation.

The Sealink project aims to promote intra and inter-African trade, thus fostering regional integration, economic growth and development in the West and Central African sub-regions.

It is accordingly in line with the federal government’s reform policy on trade and transport as articulated in the regional trade component of the new trade policy.

A statement from the NEXIM Bank in Abuja quoted its Managing Director, Robert Orya to have said at the grant signing ceremony that it was a confirmation of the government’s confidence in the activities of the bank.

Orya noted that the project’s promotional SPV is being promoted by the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), NEXIM and Transimex, S. A, Cameron.

He took the opportunity of the signing ceremony to give an update on the project, saying that the project is a private sector-driven project and that NEXIM Bank is only facilitating its establishment in line with its mandate, as the trade policy bank of Nigeria, to promote and deepen non-oil sector export trade.

He equally indicated that the project’s promotional phase and capital raising exercise are still ongoing with a pilot implementation phase expected to commence in the Quarter 2 (Q2) of 2015; while full project implementation would be initiated by the Q4 2015.

Orya reiterated that the Sealink project would assist in regional integration by mitigating some of the non-tariff barriers in intra/inter-regional trade in Africa.

Also speaking, the Resident Representative for AfDB Group in Nigeria, Mr. Ousmane Dore, reiterated AfDB’s commitment to promoting infrastructure development in Africa as being in line with the bank’s overarching objective to spur sustainable economic development, social progress and poverty reduction in the regional member countries.

Also, the Acting Director-General of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), Mr. Suleiman Shuaibu, stated that the aim of his Directorate (which is under the ministry of foreign affairs) is to enhance Africa’s development and integration by creating the enabling environment and opportunity for Nigerian professionals and indeed those of African descent to invest their immense intellect, expertise and skills in the economies of Africa towards bridging the widening economic and scientific gap between Africa and the rest of the world.

The statement added that the board and management of NEXIM Bank, other relevant stakeholders such as ECOWAS and its Parliament, federal ministries of finance, industry, trade and investment, as well as transport and Nigerian Shippers’ Council, amongst others are fully in support of the Sealink project.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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An Eminent Industrialist, Banker Succumbs to Death

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Read Time:3 Minute, 9 Second

To the surviving league of industrialists in Nigeria, it is time to mourn the demise of one of their own, Chief Onwuka Kalu, the famed Okpuzu of Abiriba.

Until he succumbed to the four-year battle against cancer last week in a London hospital, the deceased’s name almost became synonymous with indigenous industry as his activities between a long period spanning 1970s and 80s laid the foundation for the emergence of local manufacturing and indigenous enterprise.

His close associates said the story of Onwuka Kalu epitomises the Igbo spirit – the spirit of enterprise, hard work, determination, intelligence and honesty. Chief Onwuka Kalu – the Okpuzu Ndigbo was an eminent industrialist, lawyer, politician and community leader.
According to records, Onwuka Kalu achieved fame as a teenage millionaire trader who went into manufacturing of Rocket Nails and motor parts through Onwuka HiTek Plc, the first Nigerian company to be quoted straight on the first tier of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Today, the sheer industry and sophistication of locally manufactured goods in the popular Aba town is well known all over the world. However, it is on record that Onwuka Kalu, as a foremost promoter of Made-in-Nigeria goods, to a large extent popularised Aba as the Japan of Africa.

He was also the chairman, Onwuka Inter Biz, Aba. A fellow, Institute of Sales Management and associate member, Institute of Business Administration.

His enterprise did not end in the factory. He also tried his hands in banking. A man of big dreams, he was one of the first set of Nigerians to obtain a banking licence. He founded and chaired the board of Fidelity Bank but later exited in the heat of a boardroom squabble.

A great lover of children, Onwuka Kalu was passionate about promoting the welfare of African children. This moved him to set up the Children of Africa Foundation, with which he organised the Children of Africa Charity Concert that brought the global musical giants of the time to perform in a globally followed show in Lagos in 1991.

Having acquired fame and wealth, Onwuka Kalu also tried his luck in politics. He was a member of the 1988 Constituent Assembly. He later ran for governorship of Abia State in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but lost to the Chief Orji Uzor Kalu.

Records also showed that Onwuka Kalu was one of the victims of late despot Gen. Sani Abacha’s iron-fist reign. He was detained as a political prisoner for about a year at Alagbon, Lagos, losing one of his eyes in the process.

Onwuka Kalu, was born in Abiriba, Abia State on May 24, 1954. He had his early education at Amaogudu Primary School and JIKS Commercial Institute, Abiriba. He had his post primary education at Hendon College, London and Middlesex University, London from where he graduated with a law degree – LL.B (Hons).

Although he was a very bright and keen pupil, Onwuka Kalu’s education was interrupted by the Biafra-Nigeria war and the economic difficulties created for Igbo families by the Federal Government’s decision to wipe out their entire savings at the end of the war and pay them forty naira (twenty pounds) in exchange.

At the beginning of his illustrious career, he was once an assistant company secretary, Chika and Company Limited between 1971and 1974, and secretary of the company between 1975-1976. He was also the chairman, Onwuka Inter Biz, Aba. A fellow, Institute of Sales Management and associate member, Institute of Business Administration, Kalu was the co-coordinator of the first “Made-in-Nigeria Trade Fair” in Aba in 1982. He was also chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN), Eastern zone. Certainly, he legacies will live after him.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Budget 2015: New Adjustments and Analysts’ Vote of Confidence

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Read Time:8 Minute, 38 Second

The downward review of the oil price benchmark, the approval of a higher exchange rate and other adjustments in the 2015 budget, as announced by the Senate recently can allay the fears already created by the persistent oil price shock and the attendant strains on the Nigerian economy, reports Festus Akanbi

As attention shifted away from the postponed general elections, the Senate last week, after rigorous parleys with officials of the Finance Ministry and Budget Office slashed the oil benchmark for the 2015 budget from $65 per barrel to $52. It also announced an upward review of the exchange rate from N165 to N190 to a dollar, in tandem with the recent adjustment in the rate of the naira against the dollar at THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE MARKET.

The federal government had made a final proposal of $65 per barrel of crude oil to the lawmakers after two reviews.
The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had in December 2014 presented the 2015 budget to the lawmakers based on a speculated oil production figure of 2.2 million barrels per day. At its closed door session last Tuesday, the Senate said its decision was due to the fact that the current oil price in the international market was between $60 and $62.

As it is, the oil price shocks and the attendant strains on the economy have dawned on the lawmakers who reportedly admitted that Nigeria would have to borrow in order to meet some of its obligations this year. The severity of the situation is also underscored by the realisation that most of the budgetary allocations to various sectors would have to be adjusted to reflect the true state of revenue expectations.

Another major highlight of the negotiations was the executive volunteering a 25 per cent cut in the State House budget.
An initial agreement of N115 billion was also reached as the National Assembly budget, which is N35 billion or 23 per cent short of the lawmakers’ regular N150 billion annual budget.
But THISDAY gathered that while majority of the lawmakers supported the cut in the National Assembly’s budget, some have kicked against it because they do not want to lose their privileges.

Interestingly, the league of economic analysts who had criticised the government for the rather ambitious position during the presentation of the budget last year, are back, but this time with commendation for both the executive and the legislative arms for responding to the reality in global economy.

More Realistic Approach

According to Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, the new adjustments to the budget appear more realistic and are capable of allaying the people’s fears to a large extent.

Speaking with THISDAY last week, Rewane said, “I think these projections are more realistic now than what we had before. It is a move in the right direction. A $52 oil benchmark is more realistic.”

Pointing out that the new benchmark does not give the nation’s economy enough buffer, Rewane recalled that “Venezuela, Iran and Angola are using $40 per barrel benchmark, but personally, I believe that $52 per barrel is adequate as a benchmark but it doesn’t give much of a cushion.”

He believes that “The exchange rate of N190 is a dramatic move but I think N200 to a dollar would have been a better price but it is definitely commendable. It is very realistic, this is a move that should have been done much earlier but I’m quite pleased for moving in this direction.”

For the Chief Executive, Proshare Nigeria, Mr, Olufemi Awoyemi, “The drop in oil price simply means we have less in foreign reserves and FOREIGN EXCHANGE to go round and government needs to devalue the currency so that it can have more naira to meet its responsibility.” He said that is why analysts believe the price has to move up again.

Time to Encourage Exporters
“Secondly, because Nigeria has a diversified economy, the people need not worry even if the exchange rate gets to N250 or even N300. In fact, it makes it more compelling for us to find the ability to MAKE MORE MONEY for companies which are in exports for example, since they will have to produce locally because it doesn’t make sense for them to import anymore.

“So the higher the devaluation in terms of the exchange rate, the better for the Nigerian economy at the end of the day. The key question is this; every country is making its own currency weaker against the dollar, why should we make ours stronger?

“When you have a high exchange rate, what is going to happen? Import materials are the only things that carry the cost. If we are not importing but producing locally, it doesn’t make any meaning to us. What only get expensive are the things which you import. So what the government should do is to focus on policies which support local production. So whatever we lose in the next two years, we will gain them back later. Like some analysts believe, dollar is going to move up again and exchange rate is going to widen again.”

Awoyemi said there is no need to lose sleep over the 2015 budget. “The budget is just a statement of expenditure because in a budget like that of 2015 that has 30 per cent vote on capital expenditure, you can’t fund any development around that one because the whole thing is all about expenditure so people should really not bother about the budget since 70 per cent of the budget goes to expenditure. That won’t do anything,” he said, regretting that “we couldn’t meet the revenue target in the past five years, even at the period of oil boom.”
Speaking in the same vein, a research associate with BGL Plc, Mr. Olufemi Ademola, expressed the belief that the new threshold is better and that if the budget is well managed, the nation might not need to go borrowing.
Manageable Budget

He said, “I think it is better to a  certain extent, it is something we can manage with. We had done a scenario analysis in the past looking at different prices and what to be expected, our suggestions then was that they should be looking at $50 dollars as oil price benchmark and N180 as exchange rate and that if they did that one, they should be covered to a large extent.
Now that they have fixed $52 per barrel and an exchange rate of N190, it will give them a big leverage to the fact that we don’t need to borrow anything extra outside of that N170 billion they planned to borrow but they will have some more money.”

Ademola said the exchange rate of N190 is still okay, saying although the CBN has already yanked off the official exchange rate. “I expect the market to recover too and when the election is over and there is no crisis, there won’t be any reason to panic. I think it is a better speculation than the previous benchmarks. It is something that is easily achievable than what we had before,” he stated.
A source told THISDAY that several senators who spoke at the closed-door session, expressed concern over the state of the economy, regretting that the nation would have to resort to borrowing to finance some projects.
The federal government had on December 17 laid a budget of N4.357 trillion predicated on a $65 per barrel oil benchmark and an exchange rate of N165 to one dollar for the 2015 fiscal year.

The document also consisted of N2.622 trillion for recurrent expenditure, N627 billion for capital expenditure and N3.602 trillion as the government’s revenue target in 2015.
Despite dwindling oil revenue at the time, the federal government stuck to the $65 per barrel oil benchmark proposed for the 2015 budget as contained in the revised Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which it re-submitted to the National Assembly on December 2.
Prior to reducing the oil benchmark to $65 a barrel, the federal government had reviewed the oil benchmark from $78 to $73 per barrel on November 18.

The Senate’s approval of the $52 oil benchmark, THISDAY learnt, may not be unrelated to the agreement reached by the executive arm of government and the National Assembly to settle for the new benchmark following weeks of negotiations between them.
Both arms of government had been meeting to find an agreeable benchmark but disagreements over some budget details have lingered.
A source privy to the negotiations disclosed that while the executive had proposed $50 per barrel, the lawmakers rooted for $55 per barrel, after which both parties were said to have finally agreed on $52 per barrel.

Dip in the National Account

The Accountant General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, who confirmed the strings of losses to the oil price shock said the country suffered a substantial loss in revenue of about $77.53 million (about N13.025 billion) in November last year as a result of the massive drop in crude oil price at the international oil market.

He said the loss dropped to about $52.34 million (about N8.79 billion) in December, in addition to a 33 per cent decrease in the volume of export of the country’s oil for the two months, which translated to a loss of about $159.88 million (about N26.9billion).

Consequently, the AGF said the trend in declining oil revenues had continued during the month of January 2015, which saw gross revenue for the month decreasing by about N73.94 billion, from N490.03 billion in December 2014 to N416.096 billion.

He also attributed the declining revenue situation to the continued shutdown of some oil production facilities, which resulted in the shut-in of operations on some oil export trunk and pipelines at various export terminals.

Revenue yields from non-oil sources, he noted, also performed poorly below 2014 budgetary estimates by about N54.624 billion (about N165.323 billion as against N110.699 billion that was realised.)

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Forte Oil, Nestle, Nigerian Breweries Whet Investors’ Appetite with Dividend

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Read Time:3 Minute, 41 Second

 There are strong indications that despite the underlying oil price shock currently rocking the nation’s economy and the  plunge in prices of stocks, Nigerian investors may be heading towards a regime of bumper harvests in some of the leading quoted companies in respect of the 2014 financial year.

This is because the three listed companies which have so far announced their corporate actions for the year to December 31, 2014, recommended dividends. Although some of the dividends recommended are lower than the previous year’s thresholds, analysts and investors said the development would boost confidence in the market.

The three companies include Forte Oil Plc, which approved a N2.50 dividend in addition to one for five bonus for existing shareholders. In 2014, the company paid a dividend of N4 without any bonus share. Another company on the list is Nestle Nigeria Plc which is paying N17.50 as against N24 on May 13, 2014. In all, Nestle will be paying a total dividend of N27.50, having paid an interim dividend of N10.00 per share earlier.

Nigerian Breweries Plc, the third quoted company which also announced its corporate action is paying a dividend of N3.50. It paid N4.50 on May 1, 2014.

Forte Oil is holding its annual general meeting on April 15, while the dividend is to be paid on April 22.
A look at the results of Forte Oil showed that revenue increased by 32.8 per cent to N170.13 billion compared to N128.03 billion recorded in 2013.

Gross profit increased by 51 per cent to N18.46 billion compared to N12.26 billion recorded same period in 2013. Profit before tax recorded a decrease of 7.9 per cent from N6.52 billion to N6.01 billion on the back of high finance charges.

Similarly, an analysis of the Nestle results, which were released on Wednesday, indicated that the company recorded revenue of 143.3 billion, up by 7.7 per cent from N133.1 billion posted in 2013. Cost of sale rose by 7.6 per cent from N76.3 billion to N82.1 billion, while gross profit grew by almost same margin from N56.8 billion to N61.2 billion. Financial charges soared by 147 per cent from N2.1 billion to N5.3 billion.  This depressed the profit before tax by 6.7 per cent to N24.4 billion, from N26 billion in 2013, while profit after tax stood at N22.2 billion in 2014 compared to N22.3 billion in 2013.

Market operators said the declaration of the results and dividends came at the right time considering the fact the STOCK MARKET has remained bearish this year despite closing last year negatively. The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) ended 2014 as one of the worst performing exchanges as the market capitalisation of the listed equities fell by N1.749 trillion from N13.226 trillion at the start of the year to N11.477 trillion.

Data compiled by the CNNMoney using benchmark year-to-date (YTD)  performances of exchanges  as at December 24, 2014, showed that the NSE ranked 72 out of 74 exchanges considered with the NSE All-Share Index (ASI) at 20.67 per cent negative.
A separate report published on December 24 by the United Kingdom (UK) Telegraph ranked Nigeria number three among the worst performing STOCK MARKETS of 2014, with Columbia and Russia occupying the second and first spots, respectively.

However, NSE eventually ended 2014 with a dip of 16 per cent. The performance which was a sharp contrast to that of 2013 which the exchange ended as one of the best performing exchanges in the world with the NSE ASI YTD return of 41 per cent.

After the dismal performance of the market in 2014, it was hoped the market will recover in 2015 to recover as investors were expected to take advantage of low prices of stocks. But recovery did not happen. Rather more decline was recorded due to economic uncertainties and rising political risks as a result of the general elections. The market  recorded a year-to-date decline of about 20 per cent as at penultimate week before the bulls set in and reduced the decline to 12 per cent as at Wednesday.

Market analysts are optimistic that more positive 2014 results and dividends would further stabilise the market.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Ports: Senior Advocates Lock Horns over Shipping Charges…

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Read Time:8 Minute, 11 Second

About 72 days after Round One of the case between the terminal operators, shipping companies and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on shipping charges was decided and won by the Ports Regulator, three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) appear to be battle-ready for the second stage, writes Francis Ugwoke

For Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Atoyebi and Chidi Ilogu, it is indeed a battle royale over who smiles last on the issue of shipping charges being collected at the nation’s ports. The three are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).  Besides, they are highly rated lawyers. More to it is that the three are also friends at personal levels. The case for which they have clashed is the one between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as the Ports Economic Regulator and the shipping service providers in the ports. The service providers are the terminal operators or concessionaires and the shipping companies. While Agbakoba is defending the interest of the Ports Regulator, both Atoyebi and Ilogu are counsels for the terminal operators and shipping companies respectively.  

Genesis of the Case
The case followed the current efforts by the Ports Regulator to   reduce the cost of doing business at the ports. The Council had in November last year reduced some shipping charges being collected at the ports by both the terminal operators and the shipping companies. The Council had reduced the Progressive Storage Charge collected by the terminal operators to the rate approved by the Transport Ministry in 2009. NSC also reduced the shipping line agency charge and container cleaning and maintenance charge being collected by shipping companies by 50 percent. Having taken this action, it issued a notice to the service providers asking them to stop collecting the charges with effect from November 3. But the affected terminal operators and shipping companies in reaction headed to the court to stop the regulator from enforcing the order. The court action had questioned the powers of the NSC to carry out such regulation.

Judgement
In the case which hearings were accelerated, the NSC emerged the winner when Justice Buba Ibrahim dismissed the case by the service providers. Apart from stopping the collection, the court had also ordered that the service providers should refund what was collected earlier. The court also affirmed the appointment of the NSC as a regulator by the Federal Government and upheld its decision on the shipping charges.  This was after exactly 43 days of legal fireworks by both teams representing each interest.  But not satisfied about the court judgement, the two lawyers, Atoyebi and Ilogu   appealed against the judgement.  In doing do, they equally filed an application for a stay of execution of the order of the court.

Fresh Tussle on Charges  
With the judgement, shippers had expected immediate enforcement of the order of the court. But this was not so, apparently because of the appeal and the stay of execution filed by the lawyers to the terminal operators and shipping companies. It is about two months and 12 days that the judgement was given. The industrial action embarked on by judicial workers also affected further hearing on the case. While waiting for the case to resume, the NSC had in what appeared like a move to stop the continued collection of the particular charges identified about nine   issues decided in its favour in the judgment delivered by the court. It was that publication that has so far generated reactions from the lawyers to the shipping companies and terminal operators. Atoyebi in a press statement reacted to the publication. He was followed by Agbakoka who replied. The argument from Atoyebi and Ilogu  centred on why the collection of the charges would continue while Agbakoba disagreed with them.

Fireworks by SANs
Atoyebi  in his reference to the publication by the Ports Regulator said:  “Firstly and for the avoidance of doubt, NSC did not file any counter-claim in the matter relating to our clients, STOAN in SUIT NO. FHC/L/CS/1704/2014 and so the court could not have upheld same as claimed in item 4 of the said publication. Secondly, the publication deliberately concealed the fact that the said judgment is subject of a pending appeal and that our clients also filed an application for a stay of execution of the judgment/injunction pending the determination of the appeal.
 

He referred to  Vaswani Trading v.Savalakh & Co (1972) and Kiogo v. Holman Bros (1980)  and other relevant  cases to support   his argument.

Atoyebi added,  “It is also trite that both the court from which an appeal lies and the court to which an appeal lies have a duty to preserve the ‘res’so that the appeal, if successful, is not rendered nugatory.     We consider that the NSC lawyers should have advised them appropriately of the correct position of the law and if they did, it would appear that NSC are refusing to follow the advice.    
 

We hasten to add that the NSC publication and any further step that may be taken by them in a bid to frustrate the pending appeal and foist on the Court of Appeal a situation of complete helplessness would be highly contemptuous of the court and we would not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law on such persons as nay have authorised the publication.  We would also like to draw NSC’s attention to the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case ofRATISCO (NIG) LTD v. S.G.S.(1990) 6 NWLR (PT.158) PG. 610, PARA. 5 wherein the court held as follows:
 

“Where a party who has suffered a defeat following a trial in any cause or matter is appealing, and he asks the court for a stay, he will not be held in contempt merely because he has not obeyed the order which he is appealing against or which he wants stayed or suspended pending the appeal.  What the courts frown against is any attempt by a successful party to pre-empt an application for a stay of execution of the judgment or even to pre-empt the appeal itself by accelerating or rushing the process of execution of the judgment so as to frustrate the exercise by the court of its jurisdiction to hear the application or the appeal.”
 

With this, Atoyebi advised  his clients to ignore the  directives  or any directive from the NSC as premised on the said judgement, insisting   “as they are not bound to follow them until our clients’ pending application and/or appeal has been determined, one way or the other”.
 

Chidi Ilogu was also quoted to have said that the Ports Regulator cannot execute the judgement delivered in its favour because of the pending appeal.
   

Atoyebi’s statement was the one that elicited reaction from Agbakoba. In his press statement, Agbakoba said it was wrong for the terminal operators to have continued to collect the shipping charges that had been stopped by the court.  He stated: Messrs. Femi Atoyebi SAN/Ayo Olorunfemi claimed that the Terminal operators have the licence to continue the collection of the illegal charges because there is a pending application for stay of execution of the judgment and an appeal. In essence, Messrs. Femi Atoyebi SAN/Ayo Olorunfemi are saying that the pending application for stays of execution and the appeal have arrested the effect of the judgment. “ We disagree with this position. The mere fact that there is a pending application for stay and an appeal does not remove the effect of the judgment.
 

Our position is supported by Supreme Court decision in Okafor v. Nnaife[1987] 4 NWLR (P. 64) 126 at 138, where the Court held that it will be unfair to allow a losing Defendant “to continue cutting down and selling economic trees on the land”adjudged by the trial court not to belong to them simply because of a pending application for stay of execution and an appeal. In his concurring judgment, Aniagolu, JSC, refused the application for stay in the following words:

“what the appellants who have been found not to be the owners of the land in dispute want of this court, in effect, is for the court to lend its authority to the Appellants, for them to continue devastating the land in dispute by being allowed to continue cutting down and selling the economic trees on the land while the owners of the land – the Respondent – sit back and watches, helplessly, the fruits of his judgment being denied and deprived him. That will be justice inverted. I will not be a party to such an inversion.”
   

“This Supreme Court decision is apt to our case. Applying the decision, it is clear that the terminal operators cannot continue to impose and collect illegal charges on the pretext that they have filed a pending application for stay or appeal.The statement attributed toMessrs. Femi Atoyebi, SAN and Ayo Olorunfemi advising the general public to ignore the judgment of a court is wrong. We advise the general public to disregard the publication”.

Fresh Suit
   Agbakoba  as a follow-up has filed an application before Justice  Buba to “compel the terminal operators to comply with the judgment pending the determination of the Application for stay of execution and to immediately refund the sum of N150bn illegally collected in disobedience of the judgment”. The case is expected to come up soon.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Nigerians and the Freedom of Information Act

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Read Time:6 Minute, 19 Second

Over three years after the Jonathan administration passed into law the Freedom of Information bill, Raheem Akingbolu looks at the clamour that greeted its passage  and the reluctance of media practitioners to access information through the law

Few years ago, the clamour for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FoI), bill by stakeholders was like a dream that would never come through. But shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in, the dream became a reality. He signed the bill into law.
For Nigerian journalists, lawyers and other stakeholders who believed that the act would enhance transparency, the decision was hailed. Three years after, media practitioners, who ordinarily should be the primary beneficiaries of the development appear to be shying away from its application.

Because of the sensitivity of the new law and the years recorded before it crossed the hurdle, the singular act turned the president and his team to instant heroes, within and outside the shores of Nigeria.

As a result of the development, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) had quickly urged the government of their country and Parliament to follow the example of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and pass into law the Freedom of Information Act, which according to a report, had been gathering dust in the Parliament after several years of hard work by stakeholders.

However, among other issues; there were fears in some quarters the moment the law was passed that it could be abused, disregard by public servants or be amended later by the political class to protect some personal interests.

Three Years after…
Few years after, the political class has surprisingly left the law intact but Nigerians who demanded it have tactically ignored it. According to a former Vice Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Ms. Bolanle Olatunde-Bruce, the failure of the media to work with the act has created a crisis in the polity.

“What we live with daily in Nigeria is simply half-truths, just because those who should feed us with the facts and figures have abandoned their duties. Having been in the media industry in the past I can’t imagine what such law would have helped us to achieve during my days in the newsroom. It is amazing these days when some cliques mischievously speak about corruption to score cheap political goals with little or no effort by journalists to put the record straight.”

Meanwhile, the Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade, had dismissed the insinuation that the law could be abused by journalists.

In an interview with THISDAY shortly after the bill was passed, he said, “The fear of abuse should not arise at all, though I agree that anything could be abused but with the well spelt out procedure of the FoI, it is not possible to be abused by any member of the public. Here, we are talking of simple principle of demand and supply, members of the public, including journalists, fall under demand while public institutions, that have the information in their custody fall under supply. If we are talking of abuse, I think it can only come from the supply side, because they can distort or withhold against the provision of the law.”

Lamenting the situation in the past, when Nigerians would not be able to know the exact figure of annual oil sales, the IPC Chief said; “Hardly has there been any year when we get accurate figure of our oil sales. The result from the NNPC would be different from the one that would come from the Federal Office of Budget. But with this law in place, one is not in doubt that things would change for better.

Beyond its positive contribution to media practice, Arogundade also said the law would help Nigeria strengthen her democratic profile. “You can’t have good governance without democratic accountability. With this law, which gives electorates right of access to records, leaders would be made accountable. The strength of it will be when an ordinary citizen goes to his local government to ask about budget or project implemented. By this, it will enhance public participation, which is good for our democracy

Thrust of the Act…
With the law in place, any public institution that fails to provide information to persons entitled to the right of information under the Freedom of Information law can be sued by the persons seeking for the information, compelling it to comply with the provisions of the law.
Before it was signed into law by the president, A copy of the harmonised version of the bill, stipulates under Section 1, Sub-section 3 of the new law that, “Any person entitled to the right of information under this Act, shall have the right to institute proceedings in the Court to compel any public institution to comply with the provision of this Act.”

Accordingly, Section 2, Sub-section 1 of the new legislation compels “A public institution to ensure that it keeps records and keeps information about all its activities, operations and businesses.”

The law further requires public institutions to “ensure that information referred to in this section is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means, including print, electronic and online sources, and at the offices of such public institutions.”

Institutions are further required to update and review information required to be published under the law, periodically and immediately whenever changes occur.

The FOI Bill describes public institutions as all authorities, whether executive, legislative or judicial agencies, ministries, and extra-ministerial departments of government, together with all corporations established by law and all companies in which the government has controlling interest, and private companies utilising public funds, providing public services or performing public functions.

A Lagos Lawyer, Mr. Kazeem Salaudeen, who claimed to have studied the act very well pointed out its merit but expressed his concern over the nonchalant attitude of Nigerians towards acquainting themselves with its details to be able to understand the process.

“All over the world, such law helps both the government and the governed in the area of trust and having confidence in each other but unfortunately, an average Nigerian is careless about his or her right, thereby allowing themselves to be punched left and right. I expected that after the bill became law, the quality of reportage in the media would be better but not much has been done by Nigerian journalists to up the ante. Little by little, investigative journalism is dying without any attempt to rescue it,” he said.

Salawu, who commended the current administration for yielding to public demand in passing the law, called on members of the public especially the media, being the watch dog of the society to rise up to the occasion and fully explore the opportunity.

Tortuous Routes to Passage
Since 1999, when the journey began, the bill held the record of being the oldest legislation to pass through the legislative process in the National Assembly. Aside the fact that it encountered stiff resistance from successive administrations starting from former President

Olusegun Obasanjo, former members of the parliament, had struggled hard to scuttle its passage.
The closest the bill came to enactment was in 2007, when it was passed by both chambers of the legislature and sent to Obasanjo for assent, but he refused to sign the bill. Today the rest is history but nothing seems to have changed.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Daniel: Insurance Industry Had its Finest Moment under Jonathan

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Read Time:14 Minute, 13 Second

Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Fola Daniel, in this interview with Festus Akanbi, says the resolve of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to make insurance a pivot of economic development has not only underscored the potential of the sector but has also challenged operators to double their efforts

How will you describe the developments brought to bear in insurance industry under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?
I think President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is making insurance the centre point of development and that was highlighted by recent pronouncements.  It will be recalled that in the 2015 Budget Speech, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala set the ball rolling by saying that the government is poised to focus attention on the insurance sector.

In his Acceptance Speech when he was returned unopposed by the Peoples Democratic Party to contest for the 2015 Presidential Election, the President devoted prime time to highlight the potentials of the insurance industry.  He is a president that is focusing on the totality of the financial services sector which is a tripod.  Once you remove insurance, the tripod becomes incomplete. So with insurance being properly brought in, you have a complete tripod to drive with vigour, the economy of this country.

The current administration has recognised the potential of the insurance industry. They see an insurance industry that can drive the Transformation Agenda which is one of government’s main thrust. They see an insurance industry that is capable of generating employment and a springboard for curbing social discontents.   Insurance industry, inclusive of agents and brokers, currently employs about 50,000 persons but insurance industry has the capacity to employ a lot more.

The President modestly calculated that he sees an insurance industry that can generate 300,000 jobs in the next two years. I think that is being modest because there is huge employment potential in the insurance industry.  For example, take a look at the Insurance Intermediary, we are selling insurance largely through brokers. The brokers are wholesalers. They are interested in big tickets and I’m sure that is where they derive big commissions or brokerage, whilst the grassroots is largely unexplored and unexploited. We can take some graduates off the street by employing and training them as agents to go to every nooks and crannies of the country to sell insurance thus earning a living. So the President should be given the credit for recognising the potential of the insurance industry and setting a goal for the industry.

What are the measures being put in place to achieve this potential you just talked about?
If you compare our insurance laws with similar laws all over Africa, I think we have the largest number of compulsory insurance such as Motor (Third Party), Group Life, Builders’ Liability, Occupiers’ Liability, Marine Insurance etc. We have 12 compulsory insurances, but these compulsory insurances are just there in the books. They are just there as laws, many people are not even aware of it. So what did we do in the last five years? We tried to create awareness. We sensitised Nigerians first about the existence of these compulsory insurances, how it is best as a means of managing our risks than the Ad-hoc assistance we get from government in times of trouble or turbulence or losses, so we have done that over the last five years and I’m glad to say that there is enhanced awareness amongst the populace. The income of the insurance industry in the last seven years has more than doubled. In fact, in the year 2007, we had an income of slightly N100billion but as at last year, we posted over N300 billion

Even if you look at the insurance sector in the whole of Africa, we ranked number five while South Africa ranked number one up to year 2012.  Yet we have the largest population on the continent and a large economic base, so there is no reason for us to be in number five.  Happily, last year, we came to number three.   So, we are making some progress but I know we can do better.

Are you saying in essence that the pledge by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance that insurance will become one of the channels to develop the economy is achievable?
The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance is a technocrat in government. She is an economist of repute and a woman of honour who is not given to making empty promises. When she makes a pronouncement on issues, she follows it through.

We had an insurance summit in December last year. The conception of that summit commenced on November 26. It was her brain child. She called me on November 26 saying the government needed to support insurance sector having recognised what we had done so far. We subsequently agreed on an agenda that we should brainstorm through a summit.

At the end of the day, we had a very successful summit that even drew participants from outside Nigeria. It was well attended.  One of the resolutions that emerged from the summit is that government would focus on insurance to strengthen it to perform its pivotal role in the nation’s economy. Again, within two weeks of that summit, a budget presentation was effected by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy/Minister of Finance and she reiterated Government’s resolve to support insurance growth.  Closely followed was Mr. President’s statement on insurance in the course of his acceptance speech as candidate of the ruling party for the coming elections.

Will you say you have achieved much in the area of consumer protection?
I’m very delighted to say that our quest to protect policy holders is succeeding. When I came on board in 2007, on average on weekly basis, we received 15 to 20 complaints from members of the public against insurance companies. We then reinvigorated the Complaints Bureau. We engaged more professionals and strengthened the Bureau.  We thought these complaints would have quadrupled but because of the measure we took. Two months after I took over, we sanctioned two insurance companies, which hitherto were considered untouchable and that sent the correct message to insurance practitioners that it is no longer going to be business as usual and they were compelled to improve significantly on claims settlements processes.

We are not done yet because we believe that insurance companies must engender the kind of confidence that you find in insurance industry in United Kingdom, US and South Africa. Therefore we said, even though we saw some improvements, we still decided that we still need to keep on with the pressure.

What we did next was to set up a Call Centre which receives complaints from members of the public real-time. We also believe in self- regulation therefore we are working with the Nigerian Insurers Association to self -regulate as much as possible in the area of consumer confidence. The collaboration with NIA culminated in the setting up of an Ombudsman under the Chairmanship of a retired appeal court judge who is a very reputable gentleman. You will recall that since last January, we have been repeating a publication in newspapers asking insurance consumers that are aggrieved due to denial of genuine claims or delay in settlement to come forward and lodge complaints.

Insurers generally find this pressure discomforting and it has yielded accelerated attention.  We will continue with this drive until we are able to achieve zero case of complaints for delayed settlement or denial of genuine claims.

How is NAICOM responding to changes in global insurance market?
The key changes you will find in the global insurance market are mainly centered on improved confidence, trust, depth, capacity and sound business practice.  So all the measures we have taken in the last few years are to ensure we are on the same page with international community.

Insurance is an international business and therefore, people should not be in Lagos and want to buy policy in South Africa or UK just because they can afford it. They should have an insurance industry they can trust. They should have an insurance industry that when an accident happens, people can simply exchange their cards and go their different ways with the assurance that the insurance company will not only come and remove those vehicles from the road but will even give you something to use while they effect repairs on the cars.

What is the latest on the collaboration between NAICOM and Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate some alleged diversion of investors’ funds?

The collaboration is not just between NAICOM and SEC. It is amongst financial services regulators namely, CBN, NAICOM, SEC, NDIC, PenCom and CAC, etc. We have regular meetings where we exchange ideas and compare notes about our regulated entities. As for SEC, we have had a very good and robust collaboration and it is working.

Can you give us the progress report on your zero tolerance policy on claims settlement?
I believe I dealt with this sufficiently earlier.   Nevertheless, I think you are referring to our Consumer Protection initiatives on claims settlement.   If you are a doctor and a patient runs to you to complain, you don’t just give him a painkiller to cure that headache. That may do it but you really need to investigate why this guy is having recurring headache. Why do we have incidence of unpaid claims in insurance industry in the past? The truth of the matter from our investigation and analyses showed that a lot of these premiums are not even paid. Insurance is one of the few products that are bought on credit in this country.

People are taking insurance and owing insurance firms infinitely. We have a situation where an entity is insured for four years and it hasn’t paid premiums at all. So if an insurance company is not receiving premiums, it will not have money to pay claims. Insurance provides mechanism to pool premiums from different persons in order to meet liabilities and claims.  Money therefore becomes available to grow the portfolio, run administrative duties and management expenses but when this money is not paid, the insurance industry is rendered incapacitated and that was where we found ourselves, which compelled us to invoke the “No Premium No Cover” provision of Section 50 of the Insurance Act 2003. We don’t enact law because NAICOM is not a parliament but we implement policies as regulators.

The “No Premium No Cover Policy” predated the 2003 Insurance Act. The law was there but it was not being implemented resulting in almost the death of the insurance industry. So when we invoked it from January last year, we saw an upsurge in cash flow of insurance firms.  So, if we have removed the major reasons why they were not paying claims, then they no longer have reasons not to pay genuine claims. Therefore, if you look at the financial reports of insurance firms in 2013 and 2014, you will find minimal outstanding premiums.

For the first time, our fellow African brothers came to Nigeria to copy from us. Even though some of them do not have the legal backing, they administratively introduced the policy of No Premium No Cover and it is working for them. All the French speaking African countries have copied the no premium no cover policy. So, I’m glad that the culture is not limited to us but it is spreading all over Africa.

How will you address the issue of rate cutting in insurance industry in Nigeria?
Rate or rating refers to consideration paid by Insureds for their risks carried by insurers.  Rates can be viewed from three perspectives.
The first category relates to compulsory insurances such as Motor Third Party Insurance.  The approved rates stipulate that the insurer cannot charge beyond a maximum of 10 per cent.  This provision became necessary to avoid exploitation of the insuring public.  The nemesis of this arrangement is that no minimum is stipulated, leaving Insurers to apply discretion.

The second category of rate falls within what I will call commercial underwriting for domesticated risks.  Now what are the factors determining the rates? You look at the risks factors and measure put in place by the insured to determine whether the rates applicable should be reduced or increased.  When underwriters reduce rates in defiance of this technical consideration, it is generally referred to as rate cutting.

The third category of rates is big ticket risks such as Oil and Gas, Energy, Aviation etc.  Many rates falling within this category are rates that emanate from Lead Reinsurers abroad.  Such risks are shared across international borders and Nigerian Insurers may not have the sole prerogative to determine the rates.

So generally speaking, rate cutting in the Nigerian Market affects Motor Underwriting and all other largely domesticated businesses.  Where our Insurers are jettisoning the well-tested underwriting considerations of appropriate rating to succumb to rate-based market-driven competition, it is a problem that is as serious as the incidence of nonpayment of premium earlier discussed.  It has the potential of eroding the profitability of Insurance companies thus making investment in that Sector unattractive.

I am glad to note that all the stakeholders have realized this issue as a monster that must be curtailed very quickly.  I am aware that concerted effort is presently ongoing to inject sanity into the rating regime
We expect that the ongoing effort will culminate in agreed rating standards which NAICOM would be obliged to approve and ensure its enforcement in the interest of all stakeholders.

Why is it difficult for regulators to bail out weak insurance firms like the rescue package we had in the banking industry?
Insurance is a risk transfer mechanism.  Therefore unlike bankers, insurers are not deposit takers.  Whereas a banking institution could be in possession of Trillions of depositors’ money, insurers who assume risks worth Trillions, keeps only a negligible portion of that risk usually within a proportion of their Shareholders’ Fund.  The excess is transferred to Reinsurers whilst a portion to Retrocessionaires.  Through this chain of risk spread, the collapse of one particular insurer cannot pose systemic risks.

In addition, recoveries will usually come from those who initially share in the risk. Because the risk which primary insurance firms share is well spread in such a way that even when there is a problem, those who are insured by this firm are not going to suffer irreparable loss because this company that is in crisis has recoverable from the reinsurers and if there is a significant crisis, what the regulator will do is to ring-fence the resources of those insurance companies to enable it to pay the policyholders.

A particularly large loss may, for instance, lead only to a momentary diminution of the Shareholders’ Fund (temporary insolvency) with a window for the Shareholders to fill the financing gap.  The AIG crisis did not emanate from its core insurance activities, but from their unregulated activities.  A collapse of an insurance entity, though may affect consumer confidence, will not affect the economic system the way the collapse of a major bank will.

Why can’t NAICOM enforce compliance with compulsory insurance using security agencies?
As a regulator, I have to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to enforce compulsory insurances. We however have limitations.  For instance, we have to work with the police who are already fully engaged thus making it difficult in addition to the huge resources required to conduct a nationwide enforcement.  As part of our strategy, we realized that it is not fair if we do not educate the people before we start to enforce the laws. When people see values, there will be large voluntary compliance and that is what we have done.

The police have been overstretched. We use police on ad-hoc basis.  So we are looking at what we can really do; we are looking at the totality of the stakeholders. The law stipulates that 25 per cent of the net premium in respect of compulsory insurance should be set aside for the purpose of providing grant or equipment to institutions engaged in fire fighting services. It means if the rate of compliance is high, then the fire services will get more from the insurance industry.

We are therefore reinvigorating our awareness campaign and stakeholders engagement to engender compliance.  We are also happy to note that some state governments have passed laws to support the National Laws on compulsory insurance.  Where we have apparent breaches, enforcement remains an option to adopt.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Aganga: Access to Funding, Market Critical to SMEs Growth

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Read Time:9 Minute, 59 Second

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, says the Federal Government has assisted the SMEs sector by creating access to funding and market in a Fidelity Bank-sponsored radio programme on the development of small and medium scale Enterprises monitored by Sandra Alumona

What are those major initiatives that are relevant to SMEs that your Ministry has introduced?
Let me start by congratulating Fidelity Bank for introducing this radio programme. It is so effective and is an important thing and it is also very relevant to our economy, given the size of SMEs in the country. Now, for the first time in the history of this country, we have done quite a number of things. Today, we see the micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) as a sector. Up until now, they used to grow on their own and less than eight per cent of them had access to finance. They were not supported in anyway, which was why President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, launched a new National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDP). What that means is that we see the MSMEs as a sector. We have identified the seven barriers to growth which includes access to affordable finance, cost of doing business in the country, access to market and linking innovation to SMEs and the training requirements.

So, for the first time in the history of this country, we now have an MSME Council which is chaired by the Vice President of this country. The idea is to coordinate and harmonise everything we do in that sector because there are so many ministries involved in this. What are we doing in making sure that the MSMEs have access to accordable finance? What are we doing in terms of business advisory services and skill? What are we doing in terms of market access? Those are the initiatives that we have because SMEs are the most important group in the economy today.

Let’s talk about what Fidelity Bank is doing.  The bank has taken the cluster approach to funding SMEs. They have the Aba cluster. I know the federal government has the cotton, textile and garment (CGT) as well as the automotive cluster approach. What are the benefits of having these cluster approach?
First of all, let me congratulate Fidelity Bank for doing this. I was in Aba for two weeks and I saw the clusters. It is an innovative way of addressing the needs of SMEs in Nigeria by the bank. It has happened and it is in use in many other countries and it has worked. We are doing the same thing in the country today. The president has just approved the conversion of our 23 IDCs into industrial cluster parks for SMEs across the country. What it means is that all the necessary amenities they need, for example electricity at a cheaper rate, incentives would be there and other things that are barriers to growth of SMEs would be addressed there. Clusters helps to have access to market and more importantly, it also helps in terms of making funds available to them and enable them operate as cooperatives, which makes it easier. You know MSMEs don’t have the collateral we are looking for, neither do they have the assets to support it, but with that approach, it is easier for you to recover your money, it is easier for you to have small and growing businesses that employ people. So, overall, it is a win-win situation. In our case, what we are trying to do at the IDCs, is to make sure that they have shared services. Some of them do not have knowledge of how to start and grow a business.

So, the idea is to have some shared services there, in term of accounting and marketing, so that it is a lot easier for them. At some stage, we would also be targeting the export market. So, it is a brilliant idea and it is something the government has also adopted. We are working with the World Bank today, to appoint Special Advisers for the 23 IDCs. For three of them, we have an agreement with the World Bank to upgrade. What we are going to do with those three is that we are going to identify youths in some sectors of the economy, train them and make sure that they are capable of running their own business, put them in the parks, organise access to finance for them and give them a place to stay for at least one year to run their businesses before they move outside the park.

Nigeria doesn’t always rank very high on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ report. What is the government doing to make sure that the ease of doing business in Nigeria is a lot smoother so as to boost our raking?
Again, for the first time in this country, we are taking this very serious. You are absolutely right about the importance of that survey. So, we have studied it and we have an investment climate reform programme which target states in terms of where we go. For example, according to the World Bank, it takes a minimum of one month to register a business in Nigeria, which is absurd. If you look at the SMEs today, 85 per cent of them operate in the informal sector. So, today, we now have online business registration and e-payment.

I tried that payment on the day of the launch and I did it in 10 minutes. So, we have moved from a country that actually takes a minimum of one month to register a business, to one that takes minutes and you will see that reflected in subsequent rankings. The second thing which we are doing is at the state level. So what we are doing is sub-national business ranking, and what we did was to rank all the states for those that came first, second and third and we are compiling these factors in each of the states. We share these factors among the states and work with them to improve viable access to land, the C-of-O signing. We would take these factors and share it with other states and in that way, we would improve our raking. So, it is important and we are addressing it.

What are you doing to make sure that SMEs have more access to long-term finance and equity finance?
If you look at the survey we conducted with the Lagos Business School recently, it is actually very disgraceful that as a country where you have 32 million people in the SME space, there is no support for them in terms of access to finance. Yes, we do have the Bank of Industry (BoI) and the others, but the amount of money they have for the sector is so small relative to the needs and as a country that wants to have inclusive economic growth, you cannot ignore the sector. So, it is a disgrace that past governments did not take this sector seriously and that is the change which President Goodluck Jonathan has introduced.

So, part of what we are doing to address this is to make sure we look at all the intervention funds we have in the country and make sure we put them together and know why people are not accessing them. For example, we just set up a committee to work with the CBN on the N220 billion to make sure that people get enough access to it. So, we are working with the CBN to make sure that it is quicker for SMEs to access the fund. Another thing which they ask for is collateral. They don’t have collateral and so there must be creative ways to do this. Indonesia does that and the recovery rate is 90 per cent. So, there are things we can learn from Indonesia and Brazil. Of course, we need to look at SMEs credit ranking scheme. One of the reasons why they are unsuccessful to raise funds is the quality of their account records and business plan. Today, we are now institutionalising a new scheme called the Business Development Support providers for SMEs across the board.

The BoI has contracted about 100 of these people. The World Bank is going to work with us to appoint at least one in each political zone and they would be working with the SMEs to prepare their business plans’ access funds and get them out into the market. Another way of doing this is encouraging the development of the private equity and venture capital sector. Venture capital will bring in, not just a loan which you get from banks, but they will bring in equity capital and they bring in the business development support services. They train you, help you develop your business, then at some stage, you hand over to the private equity, who buy it later. So, we are working on new rules, new regulations. We have had a committee working on this for eight months and now we are at the implementation stage. Hopefully, before the end of this administration, we shall have regulations and rules that makes it a lot easier for more venture capitalists to come in to play.

What is your ministry doing to make sure more SMEs have access to market?
It is clear that if you produce your products and you can’t sell it, you won’t MAKE MONEY. So, access to market is critical for a sector. There are number of things we are doing and have done, for example on what is happening in the United State of some percentage of federal government contracts going into the SMEs sector to encourage the sector, we now have a policy we are putting in place to ensure that a percentage FG contracts goes to that sector. Already, there is something that is not working enough, so we need to intensify and look into that again. So, that is a critical part for government.

Government spending must go into developing the economy itself and generating inclusive economic growth. So, we agree to that, it is not only the US that is doing this, Brazil is doing this and a number of countries are doing this already. Number two is to have a strong, viable and vibrant commodity exchange because even when you talk about SMEs it includes the farmers. Today, we say agric is a business, so, farmers are included too. Access to market is to have a strong and viable commodity exchange, again which we have in six geo-political region. But the innovative way we are doing this as well is value chain partnership is that we are looking at the top 50 corporations in the country and we are looking at the supply chains and how we can use SMEs as part of that supply chain. I will give you an example, Nigerian Bottling Company already does this and Nigerian Breweries is also doing this.

The idea is to find out the supply chains, look at where opportunities are for SMEs, and advertise those areas and get to work with large companies. When they do this, they get access to finance and they there is a system to produce their goods to international standard. So, to some extent you can start exporting, that will be a big way because we now be developing quite large companies that will be doing well. And, across the value chain, there are so many things that SMEs can supply but they are not aware of it. So, the first thing to do, is to identify them, make we publicise them and ensure that, they are part of that value. That will be an effective game changer in the country and that is what we are working on.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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William Shatner steals Space Shuttle to search for reborn Leonard Nimoy

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Read Time:1 Minute, 5 Second

An arrest warrant has been issued for Star Trek actor William Shatner, who is reported to have stolen the space shuttle Enterprise.

It is believed that Shatner carried out the audacious theft with a group of friends after claiming they just wanted to ‘look the old bird over’ before she was broken up.

NASA are reported to be incredulous about the crime, as the Enterprise was retired from service in 2012.

A spokesperson said, “We just don’t understand how they got her going. She’s a relic on a one-way trip to the scrap heap.”

“Quite simply, the engines cannae take it.”

“The only way they could get that old tub going again would be to steal parts from a nuclear vessel, and who has the ability to do that?”
Shatner to search for Nimoy

Shatner and his crew – reported to comprise Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig – are understood to believe that Leonard Nimoy will have been reborn on a new, Edenic alien world as suggested in a 1984 documentary.

When asked their course, shortly before passing out of radio range, Shatner is reported to have replied “Second star on the left, and straight on ’til morning.”

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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You’re on your own, Manchester told

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Read Time:52 Second

The rest of the country has told Manchester to get lost in a major new experiment in devolution.

Under the terms of a new deal, Manchester will get full control of budgets and the NHS in return for agreeing to pretend it doesn’t know the rest of the country.

“This is a great deal for both Manchester and the rest of the country,” said the chief executive of Liverpool council.

“They get a big pile of money and we get to act like we’ve never met.”

If the experiment is successful, other regions like Doncaster, Islington, Burnley and most of Wales also might be offered large sums so long as they don’t let the door hit them on the way out.

However, pro-devolution campaigners aren’t 100% confident, as it has been pointed out Scotland recently rejected a similar deal at the last minute when it became clear all the money they’d been promising themselves didn’t actually exist.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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