SON advises agric produce exporters on quality

Standards Organisation of Nigeria has emphasised the need for the stakeholders in agricultural produce sector in the country to maintain quality and standard on their products meant for export.

Speaking at a North Central regional stakeholders workshop with the theme, ‘Sensitisation on agricultural produce for export,’ in Ilorin on Tuesday, the director- general and chief executive of the SON, Osita Aboloma, noted that transportation, storage facility, packaging and warehouse condition posed challenges that made export produce from Nigeria to be rejected by foreign countries.

The SON boss, represented at the workshop by the North Central regional coordinator of the agency, Charles Nwagbara, also emphasised the need for standard storage and packaging for agricultural produce meant for export ,arguing that the quality must remain intact, as they were being exported abroad.

He said, “Standard is part of the security apparatus for the country. You use it to control and defend your populace from danger, risks and products coming into your country. One per cent leakage can cause a chain of negative effects on the consumers and entire populace.

“That’s why some countries reject our products, especially when their regulations find the products faulty due to handling and transportation.

“If you have a quality product in Kwara State, before you move it for export using sea or air transportation, storage facility, warehouse or lack of knowledge on recommended pesticide or herbicide and its limit, or duration to use them, can make those products get rejected. And every country has that first principle or policy to protect its citizens. There’s no compromise about that.

“It is not in Nigeria here that products do not meet standard, but the distance from here, for example, to Europe using cargo, not to talk of ship, could affect quality and standard of agric products.”

Also speaking, the director of TNP, a consultant outfit for the programme, Mr Toyese Oyekunle, said that the workshop was organised to impart knowledge to farmers in order to make Nigerian products meet international standard and regulatory requirement.

FG, Stanbic IBTC, Standard Bank discuss solid minerals financing

The Federal Government on Thursday opened talks with a team of bankers from the Stanbic IBTC and Standard Bank, South Africa, on financing investments in iron ore and coal processing.

Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr Bawa Bwari, told the bankers led by Global Sector Head, Mining and Metals Client Coverage at Standard Bank, Mark Buncombe, that the country was ripe for substantial investment in the mining sector.

The delegation was in Nigeria on behalf of its client, African Natural Resources and Mines Limited, which has steel plants in the country and recently found iron ore which it intends to exploit to feed the steel plants.

Bwari urged the bankers to go beyond their relationship with African Natural Resources and Mines Limited and play in the country’s solid minerals sector, adding that there were other operators in the sector that were in need of finance.

He said, “Today, we have the African Natural Resources and Mines, your client, who discovered iron ore in Kadarko, Kaduna State and they want to develop it to feed the seven steel plants they have in Nigeria.

“They also want to build a coal plant. It is a company we are proud of and will work even more closely with it following your visit.”

Speaking generally on the sector, Bwari stated, “We have discovered about 44 minerals and we have also developed a road map in the area of industrial minerals because government’s priority is to create job opportunities for our people, increase contribution of mining to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and ensure that mining is done in the best standard practice in terms of human health and environmental degradation.

“Today, as a country, we are self-sufficient in cement production because we have large deposits of limestone. We are now exporting cement to other countries of the world.

“We want to do the same in phosphate for agriculture and taconite for the pharmaceutical industry but we discovered that no country can develop or industrialise without the steel sector. And for long, we have been trying to develop our steel sector. We have challenges that we are trying to address but we shall surely get there.”

The minister also received a mining delegation from Morocco led by the Managing Director of OCP Africa, Mohammed Hettiti, who came to seek collaboration in the area of phosphate development locally.

Bwari highlighted and appreciated the long-standing relationship between Morocco and Nigeria.

“We know that your country is one of the best producers of phosphate. So we want to leverage our relationship to collaborate with you in developing our own phosphate,” the minister said.

He added that the country has had good relations with Morocco in agriculture and expressed confidence that this would be replicated in the solid minerals sector.

CBN gov sets up panel to revive 50 textile firms

The Central Bank of Nigeria is targeting to revive at least 20 textile companies before the end of the 2019 fiscal period.

The move is contained in the technical cooperation proposal for revamping the cotton, garment and textile sector in Nigeria.

The proposal was made available to our correspondent shortly after the inauguration of the textile implementation committee.

The committee was inaugurated by the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on Thursday in Abuja.

Present at the event was the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, and the Deputy Governors of Kaduna and Jigawa states, among other stakeholders in the CTG sector.

The committee, according to the proposal, is saddled with the responsibility to resuscitate at least 50 textile firms by the end of 2023. The committee is also expected to collaborate with stakeholders to identify, name and shame textile smugglers in Nigeria as well as develop a framework for the eradication of smuggling and dumping of textile products into Nigeria.

The committee would also facilitate the production of 200,000 hectares of cotton fields by 2020 and maintain an annual increase of 100,000 hectares over the next three years.

Other tasks of the committee include to determine power requirements by the textile hubs in each state; develop a framework for the production, transmission and pricing of power within the hub; and facilitate collaboration among all related agencies to ensure compliance with regulations.

It is also expected that the committee would work assiduously to deliver a minimum of 50 megawatts of captive power to CTG firms in the interested states by 2021, and facilitate the effective pricing and delivery of gas, black oil and diesel to CTG firms in Lagos and other interested states.

This is expected to enhance their power generation and consumption.

Speaking at the event, Emefiele noted that the CTG sector within the last 20 years had suffered a lot of difficulties.

He gave the key challenges affecting the CTG sector to include low cotton production, poor power and transport infrastructure, obsolete production lines, smuggling and counterfeiting, inadequate local patronage, high cost of production, and multiple taxation , among others.

The apex bank boss said while farmers and processors had had to deal with low-quality seeds, rising operating cost and weak sales due to the high energy cost of running factories, smuggling of textile goods, and poor access to finance were having a negative impact on the growth of the sector.

For instance, he said smuggling of textile goods alone had been estimated to cost the nation over $2.2bn.

He said, “It’s no secret that the past 20 years have been very difficult for the cotton, textiles and garment sector.

“Today, most of the textile factories have all stopped operations and the workforce in Nigeria’s textile industry stands at less than 20,000 people.

“In addition, a large proportion of our clothing materials are imported from China and countries in Europe.

Sterling Bank expresses commitment to skills development

Sterling Bank Plc, has reiterated its commitment to developing skills among the youths in the country.

In a statement on Thursday, the bank said that for the second year, it supported iCreate Africa; an advocate of vocational skills development in Africa, to host iCreate Skills festival following its successful debut in Abuja last year.

The bank said this year, the event held in different cities across Nigeria including Kaduna, Enugu and Lagos.

It stated that the Kaduna regional competition which held recently featured over 80 competitors across Nigeria’s northern states.

The bank said the competition focused on 15 skill categories such as bricklaying, tiling, tailoring, shoe making, plumbing and web development, among others.

While representing Sterling Bank at the event, the Head of Public Relations, Adeola Adejokun, stated,  “This is our second year of supporting iCreate Skills festival because the future of the country is in jobs and there is need to do all that is necessary to create jobs in various sectors of the economy.

“This explains the bank’s intervention in areas and sectors that have the potential to create jobs thereby ensuring a future of shared prosperity for all Nigerians.”

Adejokun added, “The unemployment figure in the country is alarming, yet corporations are importing trades and craftsmen from other countries. In the construction sector, there is high demand for tilers and masons from Republic of Benin in most parts of the country while a large number of young Nigerians idle away.

“This development can be attributed to the lack of interest from our youth to develop and hone their skills in technical fields. They are preoccupied with chasing white collar jobs losing out on the wealth creation potential of blue-collar jobs simply because they are perceived as not glamorous.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Icreate Africa, Bright Jaja, said the skills competition/festival was the company’s way of tackling the increasing wave of unemployment and getting the right skills’  in areas normally looked down upon by many Nigerians, especially the youths who were daily in search of white collar jobs.

Jaja said, “I was really eager to solve a problem. I was tired of the situation and the solution being proffered to tackle unemployment by the government and everyone else. So, I thought of ways through which the foundation could solve the problem.”

He thanked Sterling Bank for supporting him to bring the dream to life when other corporates could not see the value in his vision.

He said, “It is important to mention that Sterling Bank was the first Nigerian organisation to support iCreate Africa, we had tried to pitch our idea to many large corporates but they did not see the opportunities we saw then. However, after a successful outing last year, it has been much easier to sell our vision to both medium and large organisations.”

Seplat promises increased returns as shareholders get N10.6bn dividend

Shareholders of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc have received $0.05 (N18) dividend per share for the 2018 financial year, amounting to N10.6bn.

The company, which posted a N73bn profit for 2018, gave an assurance to grow production, drive increased shareholder yield and capital appreciation.

The company reiterated its commitment to stronger growth in the oil and gas sector as it held its sixth Annual General Meeting in Lagos on Thursday.

Seplat also announced N228bn revenue in its full-year 2018 financial result, representing an increase of 65 per cent from the N137bn recorded in 2017.

Seplat, listed on both the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange, also recorded N73bn profit before tax, indicating a 480 per cent increase from N13bn reported in the same period in 2017.

The Chairman, Seplat, Dr Ambrosie Orjiako, said the company’s 2018 operational and financial performance reflected the significantly higher year-on-year levels of production uptime at its core oil-producing assets combined with a firmer, albeit still volatile, oil price and increased contribution from the company’s gas business.

He said 2018 saw an important step taken by the company when it migrated to the Premium Board of the NSE.

Orijako said the Premium Board gave the company enhanced access to a wide pool of investors and that they were particularly proud of the fact that Seplat had achieved another first in becoming to date the only oil and gas company to achieve such feat.

He said, “As we enter 2019, our reliable production base, the low unit cost of production and discretion over capital commitments will allow the business to remain highly free cash flow generative and profitable.

“In the absence of any major interruption or force majeure event, this will enable Seplat to honour its dividend policy and provide an attractive yield to our shareholders in addition to the potential for capital appreciation.”

According to Orjiako, the company will selectively invest in low-risk oil production drilling opportunities within the existing portfolio and the continued expansion of the gas business, with 2019 set to be the year that activity intensifies at the large scale Assa-North and Ohaji-South gas and condensate development.

The Chief Executive Officer, Seplat, Mr Austin Avuru, said the company’s operational and financial performance resulted in robust profitability and cash flow generation, which provided an extremely solid foundation for growth for the coming years.

He said, “In 2018, we reinstated the dividend, increased capital investments and with the resources and headroom in our capital structure, we are equipped to capitalise on organic and inorganic growth opportunities as they may arise.

“The board has taken the Final Investment Decision for the ANOH and Amukpe to Escravos alternate export pipeline, which will be completed and fully commissioned in the second quarter of the year.

Afreximbank plans $40b trade deals

The second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2020) scheduled to take place in Kigali from September 1 to 7, 2020 will target the execution of Intra-African trade deals worth more than $40 billion, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), has announced.

Oramah was speaking in Kigali at the signing of the hosting agreement for IATF2020 by the Government of Rwanda, Afreximbank and the African Union.

Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry of Rwanda, signed for the Government while Oramah signed for Afreximbank and Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the African Union, signed for the organisation during the ceremony held at the Transform Africa Summit taking place in Kigali

Oramah said that for IATF2020, which is being organized by Afreximbank in collaboration with the African Union and hosted by Rwanda, the partners had set themselves the ambitious target of attracting more than 1,000 exhibitors and hosting over 10,000 buyers and conference participants from over 50 countries.

According to him, the trade fair will build on the tremendous progress made in the first Intra-African Trade Fair held in Cairo in 2018 to achieve more far-reaching results in terms of impact in promoting Intra-African trade.

ProOramah who noted that “52 countries have signed the AfCFTA and 22 have ratified it, paving the way for the agreement to enter into force”, said that IAATF2020 would include an IATF Trade and Investment Forum which will look at the practical challenges affecting AfCFTA implementation and provide solutions on how to address them and exploit the benefits offered by the Agreement.

Afreximbank will showcase some practical solutions, including the Pan-African Payments and Settlement System, which will be launched at the AU Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Niamey in July 2019, he said.

That system will facilitate trade settlement in local currencies, providing a vital boost to intra-regional trade.

Also speaking, Amb. Muchanga said that the partners in the IATF had succeeded in creating a brand and that the trade fair was a platform for sharing trade information. It brought together buyers and sellers and created access to financing for businesses.

Amb. Muchanga announced that the African Union was establishing an African Trade Observatory, which will gather trade-related information from African countries and be a resource for anybody who wanted to trade with the continent as a source of general trade statistics.

Ms. Hakuziyaremye expressed Rwanda’s appreciation at being selected to host IATF2020 and said that the country was committed to building on the success of IATF2018 to ensure a successful event in 2020.

She urged all African countries to work together for the success of the AfCFTA.

IATF2018 attracted more than 1,000 exhibitors from 45 countries and across 20 sectors, generating in excess of $32 billion in deals, some of which Afreximbank has already financed. IATF2020 will provide a platform for businesses to share trade, investment and market information and for buyers and sellers, investors and countries to conclude business deals

Another external loan of $1bn was approved by the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday.

The session of the council, which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, approved the loan to be sourced from the China-Exim Bank for the Gurara II Hydropower project.

The power plant is planned to generate 360 megawatts of electricity, according to the Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, who spoke on the decision of FEC.

The new loan will add to Nigeria’s growing debt stock, which the Debt Management Office admitted last month, stood at N24.387tn as of December 2018.

In 2017, the debt stock was N21.7tn.

Only in April, the International Monetary Fund advised Nigeria to slow down on borrowing, particularly from China, due to possible long-term consequences.

The minister, who addressed State House Correspondents after the FEC meeting rose, spoke on the fresh loan and other approvals.

He stated, “The FEC approved $1bn Chinese loan from Chinese EXIM Bank for the Gurara II Hydropower project, which has the capacity to generate 360 megawatts electricity.

“Council also approved N5.7bn revised total estimated cost for the completion of Nkari Dam in Akwa Ibom.

“Council also approved the appointment of a consultant to resuscitate the Gari Irrigation Project in Kano/Jigawa states. Council had in 2017 approved for the resumption of the project, which was earlier abandoned for 17 years.

“The consultant is the same appointed in 1998. The contractors are already on the site.

“Council also approved the revised estimated total cost of N10.4bn for the completion of Ile-Ife Dam in Osun State. The project was started in 2004 and abandoned. The completion period is 24 months.”

The Minister of Power/Works/Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, also spoke on the approvals made for projects under his ministry.

Among the approvals was the sum of N11.208bn for the procurement of 200,217 meters by the Yola Electricity Distribution Company under the Meter Asset Providers Scheme.

Fashola explained, “As you might know, Yola Electricity Distribution Company is the Disco that was surrendered by the original holder. So, it is under the Federal Government’s management. So, they are buying 200,217 metres for consumers under their franchise, which covers Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and Yobe states.

“The cost of those metres is N11.208bn. It is to be funded from the judgment sum that I previously briefed you about two years ago, that council approved a compromise from an old metre supply dispute since 2003.

“So, that money is in a bank; that is where these metres will be funded from and as consumers pay back the metres as they are supplied, the money goes back into that account.”

On his part, the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh, spoke on the approvals for the purchase of grains for storage.

“Everywhere in the world, silos are owned by the government into which they purchase grains at the end of harvest. The average is usually between two and three per cent of all grains grown.

“In this case, we have got approval to buy 61,000 tons of maize, millet and sorghum and the purchasing will begin shortly.

“We also informed the council of the problem we have with Nigerian grains, especially maize, sesame seeds and groundnuts. An infestation called aflatoxin, which the Minister of Health confirmed, is a very big threat to the liver and the kidney of most consumers.

“Luckily, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has found a product which they produce in large quantities and send to Africa for treating the farms, the Silos and the sacks in which we put the grains to eliminate aflatoxin”, the minister told reporters.

He also explained why the country was importing grains right now, saying, “We are purchasing grains grown in the last season.

“First of all, at the time of harvest usually around November, December, January, most of the grains we have in this country are not dry enough. If you buy and put them in poly bags or dump them in Silos, they begin to gather moles and moles are a source of cancer.

“We have pressure from some companies, which operate in this country, that we should allow them to import maize on the grounds that our maize is not of good quality and we said no you must buy local maize because we are dealing with the challenge of an afterthought.”

However, he said the policy of the government on eating home-grown food remained unchanged, adding that it was the reason the country saved up to $21bn on imports since 2015.

FG disbursed N531bn loans to businesses in four years –Investigation

Between January 2015 and December 2018, the Federal Government through the Bank of Industry disbursed a total of N521.5bn to large, medium and small enterprises.

The amount, which is contained in the annual financial statements of the bank covering 2015 to 2018, is part of the intervention programme of the government as encapsulated in the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan.

An analysis of the amount showed that the sum of N83.5bn was disbursed in 2015.

For the 2016 fiscal period, the bank provided the N65.9bn as a credit to businesses, while the 2017 and 2018 fiscal period had N112.5bn and N259.6bn respectively.

Speaking on its development programme, the BoI Managing Director, Mr Olukayode Pitan, said the bank would continue its intervention in various sectors of the economy.

In partnership with the Federal Government with respect to its Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, a component of the Social Investment Programme, he said the bank facilitated the disbursement of N29bn nationwide through its flagship products such as TraderMoni and MarketMoni.

These products, he noted, were specifically aimed at providing soft loans at no interest rate to micro-entrepreneurs.

He said the bank was working with the Federal Government in the implementation of the N-Power programme, which is also part of the Social Intervention Programme.

He said under the programme, soft loans worth N15.34bn were provided to beneficiaries to purchase work-tools in sectors such as agriculture, health and education.

Pitan told our correspondent in an interview that the bank raised over $750m last year to finance the operations of companies in the country.

He said through the ability of the bank to raise funding at a low-interest rate, more companies could have access to funds at an interest rate that was less than 10 per cent.

The BoI boss said the bank would continue to support sectors that would not only create jobs but had the potential to contribute significantly to the growth of the economy.

He said, “We are already working to raise more money in 2019 because the major raw material in BoI is money for long tenure.

“So you can be able to get money from BoI at 10 per cent for eight years and so this year, we would like to increase the size of our balance sheet.

“We want to do more than we did last year. We want to have more Nigerians create more employment and we hope we can be able to generate good returns for our shareholders.”

On the repayment of the loans, he said that the bank had adequate professionals that could carry out an effective risk assessment on any loan before approvals would be given.

He said, “We have a good board, the management is professional and members of staff are well trained. We have learned from some of the Development Finance Institutions that have failed and these have helped us a lot because we have a thriving and a well run financial institution.”

On challenges facing the bank in its development programme, he said the rate of inflation was making the cost of funds expensive.

He said, “It is very challenging for a bank like BoI to be lending at 10 per cent. Basically, we are lending money below the rate of inflation. It means the funds that we lend out are subsidised.

“Everybody knows that it makes sense to borrow money at 10 per cent rather than borrow at 25 per cent that you are currently paying to commercial banks.”

First Bank grows agent network

First Bank of Nigeria has said that as part of its efforts to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, it has grown its network of mobile money agents to over 22,000 agents.

The bank also said the agents processed over $490m worth of transactions monthly.

The Deputy Managing Director, First Bank, Mr Gbenga Shobo, said this in Lagos during the Future of Finance West Africa Conference, while speaking during a panel discussion on ‘Mobile money services for a better financial inclusion in West Africa.’

The conference was organised by the Asian Banker, a leading Asian consultancy firm that specialises in financial services research, benchmarking and intelligence.

Shobo said that to support the Federal Government’s objectives to deepen financial inclusion, First Bank sought and got a mobile money licence in 2012.

He noted that its Firstmonie wallet platform had over four million customers and a spread of agent network that was expected to grow to 50,000 this year (2019).

Shobo said, “Firstmonie has had a transformational impact on reaching low-income and historically unbanked households in Nigeria.

“It is integrating them into the wider financial system by providing access to a range of banking services including account opening, fund transfer capabilities, identity management (BVN) and savings.

“After a successful roll out of the Firstmonie agent network in 2018, the business has grown to a network of over 22,000 agents processing over $490m worth of transaction in monthly value and a unique transaction count of 10 million monthly.”

He said that the bank had a spread across all the local governments in the country, and had deployed technology, invested in recruitment and training to ensure that more Nigerians were reached.

Also, the Consultant, International Finance Corporation (IFC/World Bank), Mrs Chidinma Lawanson, said that impressive growth recorded in Africa’s financial inclusion was driven by mobile money and agent banking.

She said that mobile money users in Nigeria increased from 1.6 per cent in 2016 to 3.3 per cent in 2018.

According to her, the adoption of mobile money in the country was still low.

Lawanson said that more women should be financially- included to achieve Nigeria’s target of 20 per cent financial exclusion adult population by 2020


NIMASA commences process to end gas emission in vessels

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency says it has installed Thorium-X tablet, a fuel consumption data collection device, on board a Nigerian-flagged fuel tanker vessel, MT KINGIS, commencing the process targeted at ending green-house gas emissions on vessels.

According to the agency, the pilot project, which came as fallout of the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre conference held in Kenya in March, aims at reducing fuel consumption by vessels.

It added that the MTCC was targeted towards developing countries, and Nigeria was nominated for the pilot project.

The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside, who was represented by the Head of the Marine Environment Management Unit at NIMASA, Dr Felicia Mogo, stated, “NIMASA is ensuring that we are keeping to global best practices with a commendable track record in administration and regulation in the maritime sector.

“NIMASA was chosen to lead the project in Nigeria, being the chosen country in the West and Central Africa region.  This pilot project will last a year. But the data will be reported to the Kenyan portal, then it goes to the International Martitime Organisation’s  global portal after every voyage.