Fed Govt to redress trade agreements

 

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The Federal Government has taken steps to reverse trade and negotiation failures, as well as coordinate deficits in trade

Speaking in Abuja, the Director-General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Amb Chiedu Osakwe said some of these deficits date back to the First Republic.

Amb Osakwe stated that based on the fact that Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and 26th in the world, there was the need for coherence and coordination on trade negotiations and agreements.  According to him the organisation also coordinates, manages and leads all trade negotiations between Nigeria and other countries.

He spoke during a visit to Buhari Media Organisation (BMO). He said it was in recognition of trade as engine of growth that the Buhari administration, on May 10, last year, approved the setting up of the NOTN.

“The organisation is also mandated to, among other things, create a data base for Nigeria’s trade agreements and streamline the process of trade agreements between Nigeria and other countries. It is also mandated to establish a data base to register Nigerians’ ill-treatment abroad; develop a trade dispute settlement department to resolve issues and improve trade financing for medium and small scale enterprises.”

Responding, Chairman of BMO, Niyi Akinsiju, commended NOTN for its vision and commitment to its mandates of rectifying negative trade practices between Nigeria and other countries; noting also that negative trade practices had contributed largely to economic stagnation in developing countries.

Group to govt: deploy IT in economic development

 

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The Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) has urged the three tiers of government to embrace technology to deliver services to the people. It warned that governments that failed to embrace technology have fallen while those that deploy technology have continued to rise.

Its Registrar, Mr. Allwell C. Achumba, who spoke during IT Professionals’ Assembly in Abuja,  said: “We live in a world driven and powered by intellect and technology, a world where we see nations rise and fall as a result of its embrace or neglect of IT. Therefore, we need to intensify our efforts at developing the IT profession in Nigeria. We should not pay lip service to our efforts at building a solid and highly respected IT profession in Nigeria. It is for the good of the profession, the nation as well as the professionals and practitioners who will be reaping the dividends of their sacrifice. IT profession has lots of prospects in Nigeria. Therefore, we should not be tired of putting more efforts and sacrifices especially in terms of effective regulation of the IT profession as well as discharging our financial obligations to the profession in order to make it what it should be in the country.

Also, speaking on the occasion which had: Professionalism in Information Technology; Past, Present and Future as its them, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu said the Federal Government recognised the critical role of IT in its developmental agenda, and has therefore made IT a priority.

The minister lamented the poor state of IT in the country and challenged Council to work with government towards the attainment of the national goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He also challenged the participants at the Assembly to discuss how the nation can facilitate technology – enabled learning as a way of preparing the youths for the future workplace.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha congratulated CPN on its 25th anniversary celebrations. He said governments all over the world were becoming smart, efficient with the adoption of appropriate technologies to drive governance and create the requisite enabling environment for national change and the much needed transformation.

He said, as the agency of government established to control and regulate the practice of Information Technology (IT) profession, the role of CPN in the scheme of developmental goals of government cannot be over-emphasised. He said IT is a critical sector and the flagship of other professions, and one that is viewed seriously in the course of the nation’s drive for sustainable national developments.   Mustapha said the establishment of CPN is government’s way of demonstrating its commitment to the development and deployment of IT in Nigeria. He expressed the confidence that the Council would keep aligning itself to the Federal Government developmental goals, especially in Science, technology and innovations.

In his opening remarks/welcome speech, the President/Chairman-in-Council, Prof. Charles Uwadia said that this year’s 2018 of the IT Professionals’ Assembly was special in many regards.

Firstly, it was the first since his election into office at the 23rd AGM.

Secondly, he said the Assembly coincided with the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Council. The President/Chairman-in-Council said the choice of the theme for this Assembly, therefore involved an assessment of the progress that IT practice has made in the past 25 years in the country, where the country presently is regarding bridging the digital divide and deploring IT for our common good as a people, and also foraying and projecting into the future, regarding the boundless opportunities that our profession, IT practice portends for our dear nation, and her future.

 

Nigeria’s economic reforms in 2017, Q1 worth over $83.9bn

 

 

The Federal Government’s economic reforms to attract investments in 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 is said to yield  over 83.9 billion dollars.

Mr Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement, said the figure was given  in the 2018 Making Business Work report.

He said the report was presented to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on July 31 by the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat, during the monthly meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

On capital investments, Akande said over 66 billion dollar worth of investments comprising 112 projects across 27 states and the FCT Abuja were announced in 2017.

He said an additional 17.9 billion dollars worth of investments were announced in quarter one of 2018, as actual capital importation stood at 6.3 billion dollars, representing over six times the value in quarter one of 2017.

Akande explained that measurable progress had been recorded in multiple fronts as the economy responded to key government interventions especially in, foreign exchange and external reserves, capital market, infrastructure and social investment programmes.

Looking at the journey so far, the report indicated that under economic growth, the rigorous implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) led the economy out of a recession in 2017.

“It grew to 0.83per cent, up from -1.58per cent recorded in 2016, on the back of improvements in agriculture, industry and trade.

“Akande said the economy has registered four consecutive quarters of steady growth.

“In the first quarter of 2018, the economy grew 1.95per cent and is projected to grow by up to three per cent over the year.

“”Also for the first time in Nigeria, under the competitiveness section of ERGP, soft infrastructure is recognised as a deliberate strategy to attain economic development,’’ Akande quoted the report as saying.

Akande said the report recognised government’s efforts in improving the effectiveness of the system of government, financial, educational, health care, law enforcement systems in the country.

He said: “”Nigeria’s reforms have so far seen it successfully move 24 places up the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings.

“”Overall, in the current reform cycle, the PEBEC focused on three pillars to accelerate and expand the impact of completed reforms.

“”It will focus on deepening existing reforms, complete pending initiatives and ensure implementation of completed reforms launched in 2017, including communication and consequence management, as well as making the reforms sustainable.”

On inflation, Akande said the pressure on prices had eased and inflation fell 16 consecutive months from 18.72per cent in Jan. 2017 to 11.60per cent in May 2018.

He said the capital market recorded an outstanding performance in 2017.

He said the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) All-Share Index rallied 42per cent and emerged the third-best performing exchange in the world in 2017 (after the USA and Argentina).

Akande expressed optimism that the PEBEC would in 2018/2019, continue to improve public service delivery and the business environment for MSMEs.

He said: “Nigeria must improve its ranking by 45 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index over the next two years to achieve its goal of attaining the top 100 by 2020.

““Such an ambitious goal requires accelerated and focused execution and the National Action Plan 6.0 (NAP 6.0) and Executive Order 01 (EO1) have laid the foundations.

”Also, government must institutionalise all efforts and work closely with the private sector to deliver an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.”

He further said the PEBEC, in the second half of 2018 and into 2019, would focus primarily on regulators, an Omnibus Bill on business facilitation, and consolidating gains for the economy.

This, he said would be done through deepening of the Subnational Ease of Doing Business project.

FG Restates Commitment to Innovation

 

 

 

As part of efforts to enhance technology development in Nigeria, the federal government has reiterated its commitment to supporting innovation in the country. 

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who said this during a programme organised by Google Nigeria in Lagos, assured the participants that the government would continue to support technology development through policies that will provide the enabling environment for businesses to grow. 

Commending Google Nigeria for its initiative to launch public WiFi in targeted public places, through the Google Station, Osinbanjo, said such initiative would afford more Nigerians the opportunity to have internet access to boost their businesses and lifestyles.

Announcing the launch of Google Station in Nigeria, in partnership with 21st Century Technology, the Vice President, Product Management at Google, Anjali Joshi, said the initiative would help address internet connectivity challenges in the country.

According to her, Google Station was launched in Ikeja Computer Village, Ikeja Mall, MMA2, Unilag and Landmark Event Centre, all in Lagos, to provide internet access to people. Google, she said, planned to extend the launch to 200 locations in five cities across the country by 2019, designed to provide internet access to millions of Nigerians. 

She said Google Station was first launched in India and Mexico, and that since then, it has been providing internet access to millions of people in those countries. 

Welcoming the Google Station initiative, Osinbajo said, “We want Google Station in more public places like the public markets that have large clusters of people. Beginning with Computer Village, Ikeja Mall, MMA2, Unilag and Landmark Event Centre is commendable, but we want to see this public WiFi in more densely populated public places.

“We have large concentration of people in public market places like Ariaria market in Aba, Main Market in Onitsha, Sabongari Market in Kano, Balogun and Ikporin Markets in Lagos. These are places where Internet access should be available.

Nigerians want access to education, e-Commerce and other forms of business through the internet. Millions of Nigerians have personal stories how the internet has transformed their lives and businesses and Google has told us how it has helped to give access and opportunities to several Nigerians and we need more of such opportunities,”he said.

Before the closure of Third Mainland Bridge

 

Image result wey dey for pictures of third mainland bridge                      Third Mainland Bridge Lagos

 

It is gratifying to note that the Federal Government has shifted the date for closure of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos for repairs from Friday, 27th July to Friday, 24th August 2018.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, justified the action thus: “The shift was done in order to give succour and relief to the people of Lagos State and other inter-state road users and support the efforts of the state government”.
This shows there is genuine coordination of efforts among the organs of the Federal Government and between the Federal and Lagos State governments towards bringing sanity back to the highways of the nation’s economic melting pot. Hitherto, the desired synergy between the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government, whose elected officials are of the same party, had not been in evidence.
The importance of Lagos in the socio-economic and political affairs of the nation can no longer be ignored. The current scourge of traffic gridlocks due to the presence of thousands of trucks from all over the federation, choking mobility and hampering the economic well-being of the State and the nation at large, is a poignant pointer to the need to always give Lagos special considerations.
When the Third Mainland Bridge is eventually closed either for inspection or actual repair works, it will exert heavy impact on road users in the city-state and outliers. It will virtually return Lagos to the situation it was before the Bridge was inaugurated by former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, in 1990. When considered that the size of the city and its precincts as well as its population have grown to perhaps more than double what they were in 1990, the implications for the impending traffic nightmares can only be better imagined than experienced.
Before this bridge is shut down for repairs, we suggest that the authorities first examine the possibility of partial closure, whereby the inspection or repair work is alternately conducted on one side of the eight-lane bridge while motorists continue to use the other side.
If that is not possible, then there is no other alternative than the total removal of trucks from all the expressways of Lagos. During this period, the multi-agency task force jointly set up by the Federal Government and LASG must work virtually round the clock and strictly enforce zero tolerance to any form of road blockage in any part of the city.
The authorities should also consider letting heavy trucks run only during after-hours and either move to holding bays or go straight to evacuate goods from the ports.

FG Restates Commitment to Entrepreneurial Devt

 

 

 

 

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has reiterated the commitment of the federal government towards entrepreneurial development in the country. Osinbajo said this while speaking yesterday at a co-creation conference with the theme, ‘Catalyst for Innovation,’ organised by Venia Business Hub in Lagos.

While noting that co-working and collaboration remains key for sustainable development, he lauded innovators in the country.

According to Osinbajo, innovators who had taken the risk to invest in providing co-working spaces to spur innovation and ideas that would be commercialised in the country, are contributing to the growth of the economy.

He said: “I want to emphasise that this is an economic and social phenomenon and I say that most profound idea of the industrial revolution was probably the concept of division of labour and am sure many of us are practically familiar with that concept and the government is fully in support of this. In this age, in the knowledge economy, it is co-working and co-creation that would define the way we work and progress.

“But let us first understand that the deconstruction of the conventional work environment as important as it is, is the least profound of the implication of the co-working. As a matter of fact, a lot of people are sharing working space. A lot of us today are sharing working space. That is profound.”

The vice president described co-creation as the process by which groups of people from across boundaries, come together with a shared purpose, to create value through improving or developing services and products.

“The work spaces will be liberating not restrictive, allowing for flexibility, not just in working hours, but in modes that we work. But more importantly, it will allow for collaboration, co-innovation, and co-value creation. It emphasizes the power in the interdependence and cross-pollination of ideas, not as an inadvertent occurrence, not as a mistake, but as a currency, as a way of creating, marketing and selling value. We must prepare for the creative disruption of this phenomenon. It will redefine how we teach in our schools, how the students learn and to some extent, the content of learning in schools.

“The truth of the matter is, the knowledge economy is bound to change everything, co-working is bound to change everything, how we learn and work,” he said.

Also speaking at the conference, the CEO of Venia Business Hub, Kola Oyeneyin commended efforts of entrepreneurs and innovators in the country.

Only Committed States Qualify for $400m World Bank YESSO Programme’

 

                            President of the World Bank Group, Mr. Jim Yong Kim

 

The federal government has revealed that only states that demonstrate readiness, commitment and willingness to contribute 10 per cent counterpart fund are qualified to access the $400 million World Bank Youth Employment and Social Support Operations (YESSO) programme.

The seven-year-long programme, which commenced in 2013, was designed to increase access of the poor and vulnerable, using improved safety net systems to youth employment opportunities in all participating states and to provide targeted grant transfers to the poor, vulnerable and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-east.

YESSO’s Acting National Coordinator, Hajara Umar Sammi, who spoke in an interview, on the sidelines of the second quarter progress review meeting of YESSO in Abuja, stated that states desirous of partaking must not only show interest and commitment, but be ready to contribute 10 per cent counterpart fund.

She said: ”For states to benefit from this programme, it must show interest, commitment and be ready to pay a counterpart fund of 10 per cent of the total costs, presently, only 15 states are benefiting across the country.”

Sammi expressed gratitude that the holistic data already collated by YESSO on the very poor in the society as well as for the IDPs is now being used by the federal and state governments in selecting and getting beneficiaries for conditional cash transfers because of its credibility.

”The YESSO objective is basically to increase access to poor people from their households , poor individuals to employment strengthening social safety nets system and also the other part is to provide targeted grant transfer to the IDPs, so the intention are in three categories.

”There is component one, two and three manned at the federal level and also at the state level where we have a coordinating unit that is in charge of strengthening the social safety net system; ensuring that there is a community development or target-based mechanism is used to identify where these communities are mobilised.

“In these various components, we ensure that different categories of participants, ranging from skill acquisition to doing menial jobs among others are paid stipends not less than N7,500 monthly through their various bank accounts,” she stated.

As FG, Discos Trade Blames Over Poor Electricity Supply

neither of the federal government nor electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria’s power sector can win in the new fight over who’s to blame for the poor showings of the country’s electricity industry…

 

 

 

 

Pundits who have keenly observed the way Nigeria’s power sector had functioned in the last three years or thereabout, weren’t startled by the recent crossfire between the federal government through the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and the power distribution companies (Discos).

They, as a matter of fact suggested  that the exchanges came later than they had expected, noting that both parties had built up palpable tensions in the sector over the last couple of months on decisions and actions they had taken.

The relationship between the government and the Discos have not really being a healthy one as the parties involved have consistently suspected each other.
And as the months rolled by, feelings that a disagreement was in the horizon became profound and the first to fire the salvo but in a discreet manner was Fashola, who told the Discos at a meeting in Kaduna, that the rains were now upon the country and they should become a lot more efficient in their operations.

Fashola, equally made comments about the proposed legislation on estimated billing by Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, stating that the practice had become a source of controversy in the sector and that government would work to end it.

“On the legislative side of government, there is a clear intention to intervene by legislation. The executive and legislative response show that government is committed to addressing this issue of meters. It would take some doing but we are committed.

“Let me be clear that every Disco is affected, no Disco is exempted, we all have meter under-supply and therefore every Disco needs to respond by providing meters quickly and seeking to end estimated billing, which is subjective, discretionary, and often times prone to abuse, and that is why it causes disaffection between the Discos and consumers,” he said.

Though the Discos did not react publicly to this, they quietly expressed their views, which was that the government appeared bent on hanging the unsavoury aspects of estimated billing on their shoulders.
They viewed this in bad taste, and inferred the government was yet to accept both parties were together in efforts to bring stable electricity to Nigerians.

Open confrontation
Almost a month after the Kaduna meeting, Fashola, addressed a press conference, where he specifically asked the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to improve its regulation of the sector and bring the Discos to account for efficient service delivery.
Suggesting the Discos have failed to live up to expectations in the industry, the government said it would not sit back and allow them hold Nigeria hostage with their alleged poor performances.

Fashola, thus asked them to buckle up or get out and leave the business of power distribution for people who were willing to compete and uphold their obligations in the sector.
He wanted NERC to begin to enforce the contracts of service of the Discos with regards to supply of meters, upgrade of their distribution networks and promotion of market efficiency.

He, in summary, substantially blamed the Discos for the failings of the sectors, and even went as far as insisting the government didn’t grant exclusive rights to them over their distribution areas, and in which case, the NERC could further split their networks, especially in areas still underserved by the Discos.

“It must be obvious to the ordinary person that the supply of power is now a private business in the hands of private operators and in the final end, in the hands of the Discos.
“But because of the critical and sensitive nature of power supply, government has not left the supply solely,” said Fashola.

He however stated: “It is the Discos who are service providers that you should turn to when you have questions about transformer collapse and metering,” adding, “As it is now obvious, from 2016 when the Discos complained about lack of power to distribute, the problem today is that the Discos cannot distribute all of the power that is available, leaving the sector with an unused capacity of 2000 megawatts approximately.”

“In the face of this picture, where we have power to sell, with more to come, the number of complaints coming to government for meters, which the Discos should supply, and for estimated billings, and mass disconnections when not everybody is owing cannot continue.
“Government must act and will do so. The Discos bought these assets with their eyes opened, and they must compete to deliver or exit,” Fashola insisted.

The Discos Fired Back
Not wanting to concede to the blames leveled against them by Fashola, the Discos through their association – the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) – firmly reacted to him and claimed he was quite economical with some of his claims, notably the level of power generation.

They promptly indicated the government was fighting a battle none of the parties would be comfortable with and allegation that the government was misrepresenting facts.
The Discos even linked the new disagreement to the upcoming 2019 elections, claiming they were been demonised for political mileages.

“It is with much regret that we feel compelled to respond to the significantly distorted picture that has been painted of the Disco by the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing in his press briefing of Monday, July 9th, 2018.
“In good faith and with recognition that the challenges of the Nigerian Electricity Industry (NESI) cannot be turned around based on a culture of misrepresentation, we have declined to rebut previous inaccurate assertions by the minister and other government functionaries.

“In this instance, it is clear that the objective of that briefing was to demonise the Discos, who by the structure of NESI, are the faces of a difficult sector. We are also left wondering whether such demonisation of the Discos is camouflage for the absence of the effective policy leadership that is desired for implementing the enabling environment that is necessary for the viability and sustainability of NESI?,” they said through ANED’s Director of Research and Documentation, Mr. Sunday Oduntan.

Oduntan further stated, “We recognise that we are on the crux of a political season, in which all manner of advantage is being sought by political contenders, we however do not want to be used as the whipping dog to advance other people’s agenda.”
According to him, “Our members, the Discos, are not politicians, even though they distribute a product that is of great importance to politicians, in view of the needs of their constituents.

“Our constituency which consists of customers, employees, bankers, vendors and investors have a greater interest in improved service delivery than the adoption of cheap theatrics and propaganda for political advantage.

“We take our service delivery obligations to our customers seriously, with total commitment to improving the quality of the electricity distribution experience to them, as well as meeting the performance obligations of the agreement that we have with the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE). “This is more so as the commercial success of our investments is intrinsically tied to the quality of our service delivery.”

Oduntan denied the entire allegations heaped on the Discos by the minister, noting that the government at the privatisation exercise acknowledged the sector was moribund and famous for its inefficiencies, and needed to have a tariff structure that covers the cost of all stakeholders along the value chain, but has so far failed to live by this.
This, he added has also contributed to the failure of the market to move into its planned contract-based regime. He inferred the problems of the sector were self-inflicted and could be solved with honest commitments from all stakeholders.

“Unfortunately, the evolution into TEM (Transition Electricity Market) was truncated by politically-induced regulatory restrictions and actions – (removal of collection losses, freezing of the tariff for R-2 residential class for 18 months, non-payment of N100 billion subsidy for 2013 and 2014, under-recovery of required revenue, non-implementation of minor and major tariff reviews, all manner of politically induced regulatory orders.) – that have resulted in the inability of the Discos to recover the cost of the energy that they supply, preventing their ability to enter into contracts to directly purchase energy from Gencos,” he explained.

Oduntan, equally stated that the current 4.1 million meter gap in the sector was as a result of the government’s failure to invest in metering in over 62 years of running the sector, adding that no other party can be as interested in universal metering of consumers than the Discos because according to him, “metering alone reduces collection losses very significantly and improves customers willingness to pay.”

Regarding power generation profile which Fashola said has improved overtime, Oduntan said in disagreement, “We do not understand the constant references to the increase of generation capacity to 7,000MW, from 4,000MW, for the period of 2015 to 2018 that has been used as the basis of defining the Discos as incapable of taking on more power.
“A review of NERC’s “Daily Energy Watch” for January 28th, 2015 would indicate a generation availability of 6,421MW – divided into peak of 4,230MW and constrained energy of 2,191 MW. In other words, it is misleading to state that available generation has grown from 4,000MW in 2015, as a measure of progress, given that a volume of generation slightly under 7,000 MW already or previously existed, prior to the beginning of this administration.”
He said the government could not claim to have an idle 2000MW capacity when gas supply to generation plants have not been consistent.

As regards the government financial support for the sector, Oduntan, explained that the Discos only got N58.45 billion or 27.75 per cent of the N213 billion the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) previously provided for the country’s energy sector, adding that it should not be misread that it got so much and yet doing very little.

Experts’ Opinion
Considering the anxiety the development has thrown up, experts who volunteered their opinions has chose to anonymity.

They, however explained that the development was not in the interest of the country’s power sector.
For instance, they stated that the government appeared to have become exceedingly political with the operations of the sector, adding that the regulatory jobs of the NERC had largely been taken away from it, or at best, orders handed down to it to implement.

Some of them even suggested the government had been largely responsible for the failings of the sector and cited the time it took to constitute the sector’s regulator after the term of its former commissioners expired in December 2015, as well as its alleged refusal to allow the regulator some independence in dealing with the Discos.
According to them, that Fashola and the Discos now exchange words over service delivery, meant that the NERC was either failing in its regulatory tasks or has been relegated and not taking up its jobs.

“You’ll see a veiled politicisation of the issues, and that is very unfortunate because the sector does not need that now or anytime. This is a sector that has not attracted any form of new investments since it was privatised and I think that should worry the government and operators more.

“We should not get to the point of scaring investors. We should not give the impression that this is a difficult sector to invest in because it is not if the government allowed the regulator to do its job. How often do we hear the ministry of finance quarrel with the banks? It never does because it has no business with them when there is a CBN to do all the regulatory and supervisory works,” said an expert who spoke unanimously.

The expert further stated that while the Discos are also guilty of poor performance at some of their tasks, they however have valid claims against the government as regards its interference with the workings of the sector, notably tariff. He said, the NERC and not the power ministry was enough to deal decisively and with regulatory measures with the Discos and their failures.

“Eventually, the consumers will be losers in this because the government has not shown enough capacity to run the sector if it for instance wants the Discos back.
“Go look in on the Yola Discos and how it has fared so far to understand the situation, and you can also ask the government it has been able to refund the former owners of Yola their negotiated remuneration since they exited,” added the expert.