Business News

NNPC to Reconstruct 21 Critical Federal Roads, Projects to Gulp N621.2bn

The federal government has given the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) the green light to take over the repairs and reconstruction of 21 critical highways spread across the nation’s six geo-political zones.

This is just as the NNPC has said deregulation of petroleum sector would enable the country save the N12 trillion being spent on subsidy payment in the next four years.

According to the federal government, the 1, 804.6 kilometres-long stretch of roads which would be fixed with a total sum of N621.2 billion over a reviewable three-year period would be executed under the tax relief scheme of the present administration.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who made these known to journalists yesterday, at the State House, Abuja, after the weekly virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, declared that six out of the 21 roads were located in Niger State which is known to have one of the worst road networks in the country.

According to him, the intervention by the NNPC was a strategic move under the federal government’s Road Infrastructure and Refreshment Tax Credit Scheme.

He said nine of the benefitting road projects are in north-central, three in north-east, two in the north-west, two in the south-east, three in south-south, and two in south-west.
The minister disclosed that his ministry presented three memoranda to the Council that were approved, explaining that two of the documents were on road contracts.

He said the first memorandum had to do with a section of Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja road especially the section to Apet Central where he said had a problem with steel reinforced drain that was discovered there.

“Those drains were put there, about 42 years ago and 86 of them have failed and we need to replace them now with concrete rain drains to allow water pass through otherwise the retention of water will badly impact the road.

“As a result of that, we have to revise the scope of works from rehabilitation to construction in order to remove all the old steel drains that are corroded and replaced them with concrete drains.
“It is over 75 kilometers road and that will require an augmentation contract by an additional sum of N12 billion. So that memo was approved,” he added.

Fashola further explained that the second memorandum had to do with the road infrastructure tax credit scheme.
“You recall the Executive Order seven signed by Mr. President allowing private sector operators to identify infrastructure such as roads for which you deploy your taxes in advance with tax and pay.
“Also recall that I had briefed you here about the use of that policy like the Dangote Group from Obajana to Kabba, Apapa to Oworoshoki roads

“Earlier this year, there were five other roads, the Kaduna Western bypass, the Lekki Port road, the road from Shagamu through Papalanto and couple of others and there is one road in Maiduguri. That was approved about N320 billion.
“So today, we have another player. We have all the interested players who are still showing interest but we haven’t concluded. We have another player who has shown interest and committed to deploy taxes.

“It’s the government corporation known as NNPC. So NNPC has identified 21 roads that it wants to deploy. So now the instructive thing about this is that this initiative helps government to achieve many things, including Ministerial Mandates Three and Four, which we discussed at the last retreat if you recall was energy sufficiency, electric power and petroleum energy distribution across the country.

“Of course petroleum energy distribution is being impacted positively and negatively, as the case may be the transport infrastructure, which is the Ministerial Mandate four,” he said.
According to him, the “NNPC sought and council has approved today that NNPC deployed tax resources to 21 roads covering the total distance of 1,804.6 kilometers across the six geopolitical zones.

“Out of those 21 roads, nine are in North Central, particularly Niger state. And the reason is that Niger State is a major storage center for NNPC. So the reason NNPC is doing this is to facilitate the total distribution across the country.

“We have seen and have heard every year Niger State gridlock, the governor complaning that his roads are being damaged by trucks, by those who overload the trucks after damaging the roads themselves now protest the damage that they sometimes have induced. Anyway, this is the final solution to that problem.

“So there are nine like that in north central, there are three in the Northeast. Two in the northwest, two in the southeast, three roads, the entire Odupani – Itu – Ikot Ekpene road in LOT 1, 2 and 3 now fully covered.
“Then in the southwest, you have the Lagos-Badagry expressway, the entire junction and you also have the Ibadan to Ilorin in Oyo-Ogbomosho section. So that’s it.

“In the south-east you have Aba-Ikot Ekpene in Abia and Akwa Ibom states. So that’s a major link, then you have Umuahia to Ikwuano to Ikot Ekpene road and so on and so forth. In the Northwest, it is Gada-Zaima-Zuru-Gamji road, and also Zaria-Funtau -Gusau-Sokoto road.

“In the north-east, it is Cham-, Bali Serti and Gombe-Biu road. The roads impacted in north central include Ilorin -Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani sections I and II, Suleja-Minna sections I and II, Bida-Lambatta, and then Agaie-Katcha-Baro road. Then Mokwa-Makera-Tegina-Kaduna all in Niger State.”

NNPC: Deregulation to Deliver N12trn Savings to Nigeria in Four Years
Meanwhile, the NNPC has said the deregulation of petrol marketing business in the country would enable the country save N12 trillion subsidy payment in the next four years.

The corporation said the money could be used to carry out some critical social infrastructure projects in strategic sectors of the economy, including roads, hospitals, power generation, amongst others.

Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), an arm of the NNPC, Mr. Isiyaku Abdulahi, stated this yesterday in Lagos during his presentation at the ongoing 15th Oil Trading and Logistics (OTC) Africa Downstream Week.
He spoke on the topic, “Nigeria Fuel Congress.”

Isiyaku projected that petrol under-recovery, otherwise known as subsidy, could be N138 per litre when calculated using $80 per barrel oil price, 60 million litres daily consumption and the current official exchange rate of N411 per dollar.

He added that daily petrol under-recovery could be N8.3 billion while annual petrol under-recovery could escalate to N3 trillion.
Noting that the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector as contained in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) would lead to increase investments in the sector and enhanced value to the country, Abdulahi listed some critical social infrastructure projects that could be funded with the subsidy savings.

The projects cut across roads, health, education, housing, and power.
According to him, 7, 500 kilometres (km) of roads could be constructed every year at a cost of 400 billion per km.
He said the money could also help the country to build well equipped 120 bed tertiary health centres across the country, with 37 to be constructed every year at the cost of N82 billion per hospital.

Other projects, which can be carried out with the projected subsidy savings, according to him included building and equipping 2,400 units of 1,000 bed hospitals across the 774 local government areas of the country.

He listed others to include building of 500,000 new houses for families through mortgage at N20 million per house; additional 27,000 megawatts (MW) of solar-powered electricity to the national grid; and educating and skilling up of Nigerians with global standard quality of education and sought-after skills.

Also speaking at the conference, the Group Managing Director of Swift Oil Limited, Mr. Stilian Mitakev, and the immediate past Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr Muda Yusuf, knocked the federal government over its insistence to continue controlling the pricing of petrol despite the deregulation of the downstream sector by the PIA.

Mitakev expressed doubts about the Nigeria petroleum sector witnessing positive changes even with the creation of new agencies to replace the former ones, arguing that the same staff of the scrapped agencies were the same people to man the new ones.
He said, “On the new Act, it is true that DPR, PPPRA and PEF have already been scrapped but the Commission and the Authority will be manned with the staff from the scrapped agencies.

“So, they will be the same people in the new dispensation. Our only hope is that the CEOs of the two new agencies are seasoned professionals and I’m sure they will still try to achieve much better results in their respective fields.”

He said there was need for genuine deregulation and incentives to drive development of refining capacity in all parts of the country especially in the northern.
Mitakev said one of the serious impediments in the development of a truly deregulated market determined by demand and supply forces was scarcity of foreign exchange.

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eNaira: CBN Warns against Fraudsters, Refutes Alleged N50bn Disbursement

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday alerted Nigerians to the activities of fraudulent individuals and imposters working to swindle unsuspecting members of the public through false eNaira disbursement claims.

The fraudsters are luring Nigerians with claims that the central bank was disbursing N50 billion eNaira currency to citizens.
But, in a statement, the CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said its attention had been drawn to criminal and illegal activities of some individuals including a fraudulent twitter handle, @enaira_cbdc purported to belong to the central bank.

He said the impostor handlers and fraudulent persons had been posting messages related to the eNaira with the intent of wooing unsuspecting Nigerians with claims that the CBN was making financial is disbursements.
According to him, the impostors were bent on defrauding innocent and unsuspecting members of the public through the links attached to their messages for application to obtain eNaira wallets and become beneficiaries of the said N50 billion eNaira currency disbursement.

He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Central of Nigeria (CBN) is not the owner of that twitter handle (@enaira_cbdc) and indeed suspended its presence on Twitter following the federal government’s ban.
“In effect, the bank is not disbursing eNaira currency to citizens.”

The CBN, therefore warned members of the public to be wary of fraudsters who have resolved to take advantage of unsuspecting Nigerians especially in the wake of the CBN’s digital currency launch.
The bank further urged the public to always endeavour to seek clarifications on information about the eNaira either by visiting the eNaira through its website, www.enaira.gov.ng or call the eNaira contact centre or visit any CBN branch nearest to them.
It added that any suspicious activity should be reported to the CBN using helpdesk@enaira.gov.ng or to relevant law enforcement agencies.

The development came barely 72 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the digital currency.
However, the CBN has continued to assure the public of the safety and security of the digital currency.
Speaking shortly after the launch, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said adequate safeguards had been installed to forestall security breaches.

In an interview with THISDAY, the CBN governor said: “Let me tell you this, we would not embark on a project where we have not really dimensioned the risks; you identify risks and you now measure the risks and then we think about how to manage the risks and we have looked at it.

“There is no need, absolutely no reason for anybody to be afraid of the risk of even hacking your account and the rest of that.”
He said: “This morning I set up my account and my account is operating very well. I talked about the BVN; the BVN is one of the best payment systems infrastructure that we have put in place and I can assure you that with all that has been done, you cannot hack into it.

“If somebody hacks into yours, it will be because you were reckless in handling your information but not that the system failed.”
He described the eNaira as an extension of payment system in Nigeria and which would enhance payments outside the country.
He said: “You can make payment for goods and services rendered to somebody who even resides outside the country as long as he is willing to accept Naira.

“We will see eventually that what it does is that your reliance on third currency would be reduced by embracing eNaira and that for me is one area that I am looking forward to how this would help our country.”

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Petrol subsidy to go June 2022 –FG

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has announced that complete deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry would commence next July 2022.

The Minister, who stated this on Monday at a panel session during the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) in Abuja, said the Federal Government wouldcater for subsidy on petrol only in the first six months of 2022.

Her words: “In our 2022 Budget, we only factored in subsidy for the first half of the year; the second half of the year, we are looking at complete deregulation of the sector, saving foreign exchange and potentially earning more from the oil and gas industry,” she said.

Also speaking at the session, Doyin Salami, Chairman of the economic advisory council (EAC), said he had argued for a long time that the subsidy needed to go. He said that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) made the payment of subsidy of petrol illegal.

“With the PIA, essentially it makes illegal petrol subsidy and yes, there is a period where NNPC and the new regulatory agencies must calibrate themselves, but at the end of this period – and I think it is about six months, which explains why the minister has said for the first half of the year, there is a provision,” he said.

“My view will be if we could get it done sooner than that, it will be excellent. It releases money. The key point is simply this: we are now, any way, at the tail end of that conversation, except if we choose not to obey the law. My sense is we will obey the law and subsidy will be gone.”

In seven months, petrol subsidy payments gulped N714 billion, shrinking monthly revenue accrued to the federation account.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which is currently the sole importer of petrol, has been deducting subsidy payments from oil and gas proceeds due to the three tiers of government since there is no provision for it in the 2021 budget.

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Nigeria, Brazil to Partner in Aviation, Maritime Industries

Nigeria and Brazil are likely to go into bilateral relations in the aviation and maritime industries.

Speaking at the Brazil-Nigeria Aviation and Defence Trade Forum in Abuja yesterday, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, said the Nigeria Air Force is ready to do business with Brazil to improve its capacity to dislodge terrorism and insurgency from the country.

Amao, who was represented at the occasion by Air Vice Marshal Moses Onilede, said the recent procurement of the Super Tucano fighter jets by Nigeria has changed the narrative in the ongoing war against terrorism and insurgency in the country.

He said the military would be interested in getting easy access to spare parts for the Super Tucano and to get them maintained from time to time and since the fighter jets are originally Brazilian, they would be ready for collaboration with Brazil in this regard.

He also said the Air Force would be ready to collaborate with Brazil in the area of training, especially of engineers, for proper maintenance of the Super Tucano and is also ready to purchase other fighter jets from the South American country.

The Director General/Chief Executive Officer Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Professor Mansur Matazum, said that investment in technological did not come cheap.

Matazu, who was represented by agency’s Director of Finance and Accounts, Sani Aliyu, said: “NIMET is opened to direct investment from Brazil, insisting that the investment is highly profitable and would yield investors good return on investment.”

Earlier in his welcome address, the Ambassador of Brazil to Nigeria, Mr. Ricardo Guerra de Araujo, said that Brazil and Nigeria shared longstanding human, cultural and historical relations and play an important economic role in their respective regional context.

Aliyu said: “In terms of size and economy, potentials, Brazil is the first GDP in Latin America and has also the largest population in the South American continent, just like Nigeria which have the biggest GDP and population in Africa.”

He noted that “while there are countless business and economic opportunities in Nigeria, there are also important challenges, particularly concerning the need of a more efficient infrastructure.

“Civil aviation and defense products remain, however, two outstanding strategic opportunities for international investment and trade.”

He acknowledged that some of the main factors driving defense spending include the threat posed by insurgency and terrorism and also the rising levels of illicit activities and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off the Nigerian coast, through which more than 90 per cent of Nigerian international trade is done, adding that: “The milestone here is that without security there cannot be investment, without investment there cannot be growth and employment and without growth and employment there cannot be development and social welfare.”

He noted that with that with ITIA estimating that Africa would become one of the fastest-growing regions for aviation over the next 20 years, expanding annually at five per cent. “Nigeria is in the pole position to grab a good slice of this staggering growth as a leading economic hub in the West Coast of Africa and in the continent, thanks to companies like Air Peace,” Aliyu said.

He revealed that “the aim of this forum today is to promote and put forward opportunities in the aviation and defense products sectors between Brazil and Nigeria by providing networking opportunities and avenues for the development of bilateral trade and investment possibilities.”

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CBN introduces eNaira app, merchant wallet

The Central Bank of Nigeria has finally launched its Central Bank Digital Currency called eNaira on Monday.

The eNaira was scheduled to be launched on October 1, 2021, but was moved due to a clog of activities billed for Nigeria’s 61st anniversary celebrations.

The Digital Currency has two applications – eNaira speed wallet and eNaira merchant wallet, which were launched on the Google Playstore and Apple Store on Monday.

A statement on the eNaira website explained the overall function of the currency and its value to Nigeria’s economy.

The statement read, “eNaira is a Central Bank of Nigeria-issued digital currency that provides a unique form of money denominated in Naira.

“eNaira serves as both a medium of exchange and a store of value, offering better payment prospects in retail transactions when compared to cash payments.”

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Wike: We Are Not at War with FG over Tax Collection

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, said at the weekend that the state was not at war with the federal government or any of its agencies. The clarification followed insinuations in some quarters about hostility between the two tiers of government in the wake of the legal dispute over who is authorised to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) in the state.

Wike made the explanation at a public lecture on “Taxing Powers in a Federal System.” He said Rivers and the federal government were coequals because they derived their life from the constitution.
The public lecture was organised in commemoration of the 60th birthday of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Ahmed Raji.

Wike was represented at the occasion by the Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacheus Adangor.
The governor said, “I have heard a lot of comments been made that we are fighting federal government. There is no desire or any intention of the Rivers State government to fight the federal government, but you must remember that in a federal system, the states are not houseboys of the federal government.

“The principle of coequality is fundamental to federal arrangement, that principle leads to the principle of autonomy, autonomy leads you to fiscal autonomy and fiscal autonomy leads you to fiscal federalism, and when you put all the principles together, what it means is that each level of government, whether federal or state, is coequal because none derives its life from the other.

“They both derive their life from the constitution because they have coequality and every level of government is entitled to have access to sufficient revenue so that they can carry out its own responsibility without subordinating its will to that of a superior authority.

“That is the fundamental aspect of fiscal federalism and until we get it, we will continue this journey of talking and talking without result. But I think that the court has a role to play, the court can lay this crisis and controversy to rest when it makes a pronouncement.”

Wike explained that the taxing system being sought was one that would ensure homogenisation, adding that what operates today is not what was agreed upon at the constitutional conference.
“Can we say that the federal government has the power to impose and collect those taxes that the court struck down in Port Harcourt?” Wike queried.

“Certainly not, and so for me, we need to resolve this issue through the courts and that is what Rivers State has opted to do and we encourage as many states as possible to join us in this new revival of the Nigerian federal arrangement so that we can lay some of these issues to rest,” the governor added.

The celebrant, Raji, used the occasion to call on the Nigerian government to immediately introduce a new tax policy known as “Wealth Tax,” that would make very rich Nigerians pay tax that would be used to cater for the downtrodden in the country. He said the policy, if introduced and implemented, would make rich Nigerians to contribute meaningfully to government’s purse to bridge the gap between the affluent and super poor in the nation.

According to Raji, “It is a fact that the downturn in Nigeria’s economy are having harsh and devastating effects on the poor majority Nigerians. The wide disparity between the rich and the poor should be of grave concern to patriotic Nigerians and the way out must be found.

“The gap between the rich and the poor is so much and so offensive that it can lead to breakdown of law and order in any moment.
“It is in the interest of justice that the super-rich should shed part of their stupendous wealth to cater for the downtrodden masses before it is too late.”

The senior lawyer said he opted to use the public lecture to mark his birthday so as to use it to draw attention to some burning issues and challenges that deserve public attention, rather than engage in mere merry making.

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Buhari to unveils CBN’s eNaira Tomorrow

President Muhammadu Buhari will tomorrow (Monday) formally launch the Nigerian Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), known as the eNaira at the State House, Abuja.

The unveiling of the much-anticipated electronic money had been delayed partly to allow for the country’s 61st independence celebration, according to the CBN.

A statement from CBN’s Director, Corporate Communications, Nwanisobi, noted that the launch of the eNaira is a culmination of several years of research work by the central bank in advancing the boundaries of the payments system to make financial transactions easier and seamless for every strata of the society.

The apex bank had designed the digital currency, following a series of engagements with relevant stakeholders including the banking community, fintech operators, merchants, and indeed, a cross-section of Nigerians.
According to the bank, the eNaira marks a major step forward in the evolution of money as well as the CBN’s commitment to ensuring that the digital currency, like the physical Naira, is accessible by everyone.

Nwanisobi, stated that given that the eNaira is a journey, the unveiling marks the first step in that journey, which will continue with a series of further modifications, capabilities, and enhancements to the platforms.
He said, “The CBN will continue to work with relevant partners to ensure a seamless process that will benefit every user, particularly those in the rural areas and the unbanked population.

“Since the eNaira is a new product, and amongst the first CBDCs in the world, we have put a structure to promptly address any issue that might arise from the pilot implementation of the eNaira.
“Accordingly, following Monday’s formal launch by the president, the bank will further engage various stakeholders as we enter a new age consistent with global financial advancement.”
According to him, the theme of the eNaira is: “Same Naira, more possibilities”.

Meanwhile, the CBDC is expected to improve monetary policy effectiveness and enhance the government’s capacity to deploy targeted social interventions, and boost remittances through formal channels.
The bank explained that eNaira wallet is required to access, use and hold eNaira.

The CBN also tasked the deposit money banks (DMBs) to facilitate prompt placement of restrictions on eNaira wallets in the event of a valid report of loss, theft of device or compromise, a hack of a user eNaira wallet.
According to the Regulatory Guidelines on the eNaira, obtained by THISDAY, the apex bank, further directed banks to ensure that customers can report via USSD channels, internet banking platforms, customer care phone lines, and in-branch customer care where there is any compromise in the eNaira transactions.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had said that in unveiling the digital money, the bank does not downplay potential risks, adding however that the apex financial regulatory body had put in place appropriate mitigation mechanisms for safer operation.

He said, “We are not going to pretend that there are no risks in opening your system up. We will look at the various products, determine the risks, determine the best way to mitigate the risks before opening it up.
“But it is a journey that we are determined and decided that we will start on October 2021.”

The planned unveiling of the much-awaited Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), known as the eNaira, originally slated for October 1, 2021, was put on hold due to other key activities lined up to commemorate the country’s 61st independence anniversary.

However, the CBN, in the framework for the operation of the eNaira further set the transaction and balance limits for individual and merchant eNaira wallets.
In the Tier 0 category or phone number without verified National Identity Number (NIN), the daily transaction is limited to N20,000 with a balance or eWallet limit set at N120,000.
For the Tier 1 category with verified National Identity Number (NIN), the daily transaction limit is set at N50,000 with an N300,000 balance.

However, those in the Tier 2 category will be able to do transactions up to N200,000 daily with an eWallet balance of N500,000, while Tier 3 will have daily transactions of N1 million with balances of N5 million.
However, merchants, or duly accredited individuals and non-individual (corporates) authorised to conduct business in Nigeria will have no limits on eNaira transactions.

The CBN also stated that under the digital currency framework, Financial Institutions (FIs) shall render returns to the bank in line with the provisions of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2020 and as may be specified from time to time.

The guidelines, among other things, said FIs shall put in place appropriate measures to ensure sound risk management practices to address potential threats to their operations.

These include an enterprise risk management framework; Appropriate governance structures; Documented and approved policies; and Secured information technology infrastructure.
It said, “Financial Institutions shall be required to implement additional risk management measures as may be prescribed by CBN guidelines from time to time.”

The guidelines stipulated the role and responsibilities of the different stakeholders particularly concerning ensuring the prevention or minimisation of loss following a loss, theft of a user’s device or compromise, hack of user eNaira wallet.

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FG Targets $18bn Annual Returns from Cassava Export

The federal government has stated that when fully harnessed, Nigeria has the capacity to generate as much as $18 billion from the export of its estimated 45 million metric tonnes cassava products every year.

The Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Mr Niyi Adebayo, who made the disclosure when he received the Chief Executive Officer of BKG Exhibitions, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Agwu, weekend noted that the country had not fully taken advantage of the much-sought-after commodity.

The minister lamented that though a world leader in cassava production, Nigeria is currently not an active player in the cassava trade in the international market, explaining that with the right collaborations, the situation would improve markedly.

He said: “Cassava and oil palm are strategic commodities in our quest for growth and development of the non-oil sector of our economy. Available statistics point to the fact that Nigeria is a leading producer of cassava with a production capacity of 45 million metric tonnes per annum, estimated at about $18 billion.

“This accounts for a fifth of the world’s cassava production followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, Congo and others. However, though a world leader in cassava production, Nigeria is not an active player in cassava trade in the international market.”

The minister also recalled that Nigeria had maintained a leading position in the global production of palm produce between 1950 to 1960 and controlled well over 45 per cent of the global market.

However, he lamented that at present, the country ranks 26th in global production, stressing that: ‘’This is a clear indication that the fortunes of both commodities are declining drastically.’’

Speaking on the agricultural hybrid expo scheduled to hold from November 2-5, 2021 at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, Adebayo stated that the programme would further showcase the enormous potential in the sector to the rest of the world.

He added that the partnership with BKG Exhibitions Limited to organise the conference tagged PAC Africa Expo & Conference, will unlock the huge revenue in the area for sustainable economic growth.

According to the minister, aside BKG Exhibition and his ministry, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Raw Materials, Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and other related agencies of government will be actively involved in the upcoming programme.

Adebayo reiterated that the conference will bring together experts from diverse fields in the oil palm, cassava, agricultural technology and allied industries to discuss, educate, review and make informed inputs on current trends on global best practices and technology in the sector.

Earlier in his address, Agwu told the minister that over 300 local companies had been invited for the expo, adding that the committee was in talks with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to facilitate easy entry to Nigeria for the many international organisations that would be coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Ghana and other countries.

Agwu called on the minister to bring on board state governments to ensure easy acquisition of lands for the investors who may be willing to invest in Nigeria’s cassava and oil palm sub-sector.

“We seek the ministry’s support in the area of speaking to the governors with a view to making lands easily available for agricultural investment. Our findings show that 24 states in Nigeria grow palm and our intention is to harness this for greater economic sustainability. Oil palm is said to be more costly in the international market than even crude oil,” he said.

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FG to Upgrade Industrial Arbitration Panel to Commission

In bid to ensure more efficient and speedy resolution of industrial disputes, the federal government has announced plans to upgrade the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) into a permanent commission.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige disclosed this in his office, while receiving Federal Arbitrators from the IAP who paid him a courtesy visit on Friday.

A statement signed by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations at the Ministry, Mr. Charles Akpan, quoted Ngige as saying that the proposed commission would operate with its own bureaucracy.
The Minister recalled that the IAP, which came into existence 40 years ago, gave birth to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).

According to him, it was because of the IAP that the federal government decided that there should be a gradation of the Labour Law to establish the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
Ngige added: “As at today, the hierarchy of industrial dispute resolution is that we should start here if the people decide to come here to report. We can put up a Tribunal. We can put up a Board of Inquiry if a strike has occurred.

“If we cannot resolve the dispute here, we then go up to the IAP. If they are not satisfied at the IAP, then they go up to the NICN.
“So, it is the same ladder stepwise formation for the normal disputes. If it is interpersonal, it is State High Court/ Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

“More importantly, I want to inform you that in the Labour Law review, which the ILO asked us to do, the IAP is targeted as one of the places we will review, to make it a permanent commission.”

Ngige invited the arbitrators to join the Ministry during the validation to make their inputs and contributions, saying, “we may think that we have done everything, but you may point out one or two things not done.”
He assured the arbitrators that the federal government would continue to support them in human resources and capacity building and in terms of material resources.

Speaking on behalf of the Arbitrators, Rita Chris Garba, who represented the Chairman of IAP, Aniazoka Zokas, said the arbitrators rose after a four-day intensive workshop on arbitration anchored by Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators.

Garba said they were in his office to appreciate the minister for approving the capacity building workshop and the programme they held on October 12, 2021 and October 14, 2021 respectively.

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Naira crashes to record low at official market

The value of the naira fell further by 1.68 per cent against the dollar at the official market on Thursday.

At the Investor & Exporter foreign exchange window, the local currency opened at 413.15/$1 on Thursday but closed at 422.07/$1.

The naira had depreciated by 0.19 per cent to 415.10/$1 on Wednesday after closing at 414.30/$1 on Tuesday.

At the parallel market, the dollar was bought at N565 and sold for N570, according to some operators in the black market.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, however, maintained N410.91/$1 as its official rate on its website.

In July, the CBN stopped forex sales to the Bureau de Change operators and assured that it would supply forex to legitimate users through the banks.

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