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Fidelity Bank boosts local rice production with N34bn

Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc,

Fidelity Bank has facilitated the disbursement of over N34 Billion in direct credit to players in the Nigerian rice value chain.

The bank’s interventions in recent years have helped to unlock spontaneous financing opportunities for a large swathe of paddy rice farmers with significant contributions to the expansion of national paddy rice output.

Only recently, the bank part-financed the construction of a 400 metric tons per day mega rice mill in Kano state owned by the Gerawa Group of Companies.

Commenting on the development, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc, said, “Through our interventions in the rice space, we have created a positive impact in rural communities by way of farmer empowerment and employment generation. This is also in alignment with the business sustainability imperative of our banking business.”

Shedding light on the bank’s activities further down the value chain, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe stated that the bank directly financed the construction and installation of several integrated rice mills across different geo-political zones in Nigeria. These rice mills have a combined rice milling capacity in excess of 500,000 MT per annum.

Recognizing the importance of the last mile traders in the value chain, she noted, “We have also provided low-cost funds to rice traders to purchase rice from indigenous rice millers for sale to the final consumers. This has helped in stabilizing the prices of locally produced rice.”

Whilst stressing the importance of imbibing sustainability practices, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe points out that the bank has modeled effective social and environmental sustainability frameworks into its agribusiness deal structuring workflow to address social and environmental sustainability requirements.

This, she said, follows the CBN’s Sustainable Banking Principles and Sector Guideline, IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles.

The bank’s activities have continued to receive recognition by operators, funding partners and all other actors in the agribusiness space.

At the Bankers’ Committee meeting of December 2019, for instance, Fidelity Bank was awarded 2nd position in Sustainable Agriculture Transaction of the year.

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Business

Stakeholders express concerns over continued closure of land borders

President Buhari
—- say action hurting economy
Agitated stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed concern over the continued closure of some border stations in the country.
According to them, this action is already affecting the ease of doing business in the country, as many enterprises have shut down, throwing thousands of people out of jobs.
It could be recalled that while the Seme border has reopened, the Idiroko border is yet to be opened, among others land borders that were opened by the Federal government after the prolonged closure.
However, the disturbed stakeholders believed that the border closure has not achieved its aim, especially, as the rate of smuggling of prohibited items has increased, unlike when the border was open.

They argued that the Federal Government only opened its borders with Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger in December 2020 for the movement of people while the movement of goods remained blocked.

The stakeholders warned that if the borders are not fully opened, the economy would be negatively affected with impacts on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as many African countries may blacklist Nigeria this year 2022.

President of the Association of National Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Nwabunike, said more than 3,000 businesses have closed, with over 300,000 jobs lost due to the closure of some land borders to trading activities.

According to him, the reduction in trans-border trade contributes to the weakness of the naira.

Nwabunike claimed that keeping the borders closed where there are no security issues is a sign of non-compliance with the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaties, of which Nigeria is a signatory.

“And as a country, we should not be signing treaties and agreements we won’t comply with, because compliance concerns all of us.

“Nigeria, her agencies and private business operators all have a responsibility to be compliant. Let us all build a culture of National integrity on all fronts at home and in the eyes of the global trading community,” he said.

The ANLCA president urged the Federal Government to reopen all approved borders, particularly, in the Southwest and other areas with less threat of insurgency, to allow trading activities to resume with its accompanying benefits of economic growth and job creation.

A lecturer at the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko, Charles Okorefe, said while Nigeria continues to shut its borders to trading activities, the Port of Lome currently records 30 percent higher cargo throughput than Lagos ports, as investors and importers prefer to do business in other neighbouring countries.

Okorefe, who is also the author of ABC of Shipping and ports operation in Nigeria, said such imports end up in the Nigerian market despite the continued border closure, which he said has multiplied smuggling.

“This act of “protectionism” itself negates the spirit behind AfCFTA.

“So, going forward for 2022 and to enhance our presence in the comity of African trading nations, the Federal Government must eat the humble pie by reopening our closed borders. It is hurting our economy,” he said.
A maritime consultant, Olayemi Abass, pointed out that while the government’s prime targets were agricultural produce, finished goods and petroleum products, there is no data to support that the border closure has helped the local industries, especially in terms of import substitution.

“We cannot continue to take extreme measures, which hurt genuine businessmen and run counter to the letter and spirit of treaties and agreements signed by Nigeria.

“There is a need for concrete inter-agency dialogue with the Organised Private Sector to have a short, medium and long term plan to ensure proper cross border trade facilitation, which will engender security of life and property, improve the ease of doing business and our economy,” he stated.

A former Assistant Controller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Baritor Kpagih, said the border closure has been counter-productive to its aim, especially, as smuggling still persists in Nigeria despite the presence of customs officials.

He said the Benin Republic records a high import volume of parboiled rice cargoes, which are sent to Nigeria for consumption.

He questioned why the 41 import prohibited items flood the Nigerian market despite the presence of the special border patrol.

Kpagih stressed that the border closure is contrary to the ECOWAS trade law and could hurt Nigeria in AfCFTA, suggesting that there should be an urgent reopening of the closure, which has outlived its usefulness.

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AfCFTA: Why Nigeria may lose out in agro-export to 1.2 billion consumers – Okakpu

Captain John T Okakpu,

Eyewitness reporter

The African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty and end food insecurity on the Continent, but Nigeria has not been positioned as the ‘real’ stakeholder for agro-export under this agreement.

Captain John T Okakpu, MD/CEO, abx world Limited, dropped the hint over the weekend, stressing that the country’s participation and gain from AfCFTA, in the agricultural value chain, depends on the effectiveness and implementation of government policies, especially in the agricultural sector.

He said that AfCFTA will form a 3.4 trillion dollars economic bloc, which Nigeria cannot afford to be out.

Available reports show that trade between African nations in agricultural products as a percentage of Africa’s total agricultural trade remains below 20 percent long, one of the lowest in any region.

Total trade between African nations was only 2 percent in the period 2015–2017, compared with 67 percent in trade between European countries, 61 percent in Asian countries, and 47 percent in the Americas, according to UN trade agency UNCTAD.

“Now, AfCFTA intends to change the narrative. It has created the world’s largest free trade area, representing the 1.2 billion consumer market, and mandates states to remove tariffs and non-tariff in order to boost shipments and services between nations, and boost economic growth in doing so”

“If you look at the trend, Africa exports agricultural products such as tomatoes, onions, vegetables,  cocoa, coffee, cotton, yam tobacco, and spices to the nations of the world to earn significant foreign exchange.

” But the continent imports important foods such as cereals, vegetable oils, dairy products and meat in large quantities. Now, our neighbouring countries have positioned themselves to benefit from AfCFTA by building robust logistics and cost-effective export systems.

“So, looking at it critically, our logistics cost cemented our losses on AfCFTA unless we address it now”, Capt. Okakpu said.

Capt. Okakpu, who chairs a 28-member Nigeria Agro Set-Up Committee inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), with a mandate to reinvigorate broad national agricultural activities across the country, added that capacity building for farmers, regulators and top government officials is another major factor that must be considered for the country to get her acts together.

He said that the most basic of agro-export requirements is the knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) which is completely missing in Nigeria.

“In addition to other benefits, it teaches and equips farmers on standard Farming Bookkeeping which helps farmers know, track and compare total costs of farm inputs and inflows from sales and in so doing help to maximize their profitability.

“As it is now, we will continue exporting our products to the world market through another country and definitely will get worse under AfCFTA.

“For every N1 we are going to make, those countries our products are transiting will be making N10. There’s no shortcut here or lobbying, it’s a grass-root, that grassroot is the farmers with Certifications/Traceability of their farms and products.

“That notwithstanding, knowledge of GAP enables farmers to increase their yields per hectare by employing the latest, world-class and more efficient farming techniques.

“Similarly, farmers who have Global GAP certifications and training are automatically linked to off-takers who buy off their agricultural farm produce right from the farm gate at international market rates, thus saving most farmers from losses derived from low sales and prices that ultimately lead to loan defaults.

“The regulators and other government officials also need to be informed on why cost should be reduced; on why farmers deserve cost-effective interest loans; why the logistics value chain must be rejigged if we are going to benefit from AfCFTA,” he said.

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