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Justifying N500bn Manufacturers’ Lifeline

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The way he came to power was everything but smooth and so he is trying his best to impress on the people that he is equal to the task which the leadership of a complex  country like Nigeria has placed on his shoulders. Hence, the changing of the old order seems to be the major challenge of the Jonathan administration which has so far not spared any stone in its attempt to turn around the fortunes of the common man in Nigeria for good.

It is in pursuit of this challenge that the administration moved to make petroleum products available to ease transportation problems facing the people, a development which has drastically reduced the expletives the common  man throws on governments before  this administration. Thus, towards reducing the tedium of doing business in Nigeria the federal government recently released the whopping sum of N500 billion to the manufacturing sector to enable major players reactivate moribund  and ailing industries to boost the economy. Unveilling the package recently, the Vice President, Arc. Namadi Sambo noted that of the amount, N100 billion is allocated to the textile industry in response to the demands of investors in the sector for financial aid. Already, he said, N40 billion out of the allocation to the textile industry had been disbursed to some investors in the sub-sector.

Mindful of the potentials which the manufacturing sector has in boosting the nations  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accelerate the diversification of  the economy grossly dependent on crude oil export, this plan to revive the manufacturing sector by injecting much  needed funds is highly commendable.

However, in view of the high rate of youth unemployment which a robust manufacturing sector could help in redressing, it is hoped that the disbursement of the  N500 billion bail-out fund would not be politicised if it must achieve the objective it is set to meet.

This fear was expressed at the 49th annual general meeting  of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA held in Abuja, not too long ago. At that forum, NACCIMA lamented the dwinding  fortunes of the nation’s industrial sector. Reviewing the economy, stakeholders decried the drop in industrial capacity to an average of  36 per cent in May 2009. In his articulation of NACCIMA view, its president, Dr Simon Chukwuemeka Okolo blamed the decline in industrial capacity utilisation to the poor operating environment especially very low credit access by operators and infrastructural decay. Okolo observed the initial N70 billion Textile Fund and the N200 billion Special Agric Fund which were aimed at developing the real sector were yet to show desired positive impact on the economy.

“Therefore, government should as a matter of urgency address the current character of credit allocation which shows high degree of disconnection of the financial system from the real sector of the economy,” Okolo observed.

In fact, Okolo advocated the setting up of sector specific development banks like in other countries to restore the real sector as the driving force of the economy and the need to engage the private  sector through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach by putting in place the appropriate machinery and strategic framework to develop the real sector to enable it drive the economy cannot be over-emphasised.

All said, government’s gesture towards the manufacturing sector and the textile industry in particular is aimed at employment generation for Nigerians. For instance, the textile industry in its hey days in the 1980’s had over 70 firms which together employed over 500,000 workers. Today, the industry, a mere shadow of its original self has no more than 20 firms still in operation with just over 20,000 employees, hence the interest of government in revamping the textile industry which is a major employer of labour.

Besides, Okolo who is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) urged the Federal Government to endeavour to diversify the revenue base of the country through serious encouragement of non-oil exports in the country, stressing that unemployment has continued to soar in the country with dwindling revenue inducing budgetary constraints for the federal government. He then urged the federal government to improve the country’s investment climate to encourage development of industries that will boost production of goods for local consumption and ease the unemployment situation in the country. It follows that the totality of federal government policies must be aimed at boosting local industries which in turn would address the unemployment problem in the country.

Clearly, the glut in the labour market has rubbed off negatively on even the few that are employed. This is why in its ranking of living condition around the world, the United States based Newsweek Magazine judged Nigeria to be second to the worst. The analysis examined factors such as education, healthcare, quality of life, economic dynamism, political environment, the proportion of employed people in the population and industrial output. That  government is sensitive to these issues could be gleamed from the ongoing revolution in the manufacturing and power sectors. The solution to the inadequacy of power and energy is considered extremely necessary  as the epileptic power outage in most  parts of the country has not only created untold hardship for the citizenry but has led to low capacity utilisation of manufacturers as well as reduced productivity of the real sector operators who depend on private provision of alternative sources of electricity through power generators,    thereby making the cost of doing business in the country very high. The task to release the country from the vice grip of retrogressive elements has come  and the Jonathan/Sambo government needs all the support it could muster to drive the economy. With a buoyant ceremony and near full employment for youths the scourge of militancy in the Niger Delta region and the uprising by youths in the Boko Haram sect would be a thing of the past.

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Lawmakers Want CBN To Halt Naira Devaluation

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The House of Representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to urgently put in place a policy to check further devaluation of the naira to the United States dollar and other international legal tenders.
The House decried that while the Nigerian currency was losing value, others in Africa were appreciating.
At the plenary on Wednesday, the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Pensions, Mr Bamidele Salam, which warned the CBN of the implications of further devaluing the naira.
The motion was titled, ‘Matter of urgent public importance on the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria to urgently put in place monetary policies to stop the free fall of the naira against the dollar and other international legal tenders’.
Salam recalled that the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, while addressing the Bankers’ Committee at a summit on the economy in Lagos earlier in February, informed the committee about the naira devaluation against the dollar.
The lawmaker also quoted Emefiele as saying at the summit that the official exchange rate stood at N410 to the dollar.
“That is 7.6 per cent weaker than the rate of N379 published on the central bank’s website,” Salam noted.
According to the lawmaker, while the value of the naira relative to the dollar had declined by nine per cent in the last six months, the South African rand and Ghanaian cedi had appreciated by 11.4 per cent and one per cent, respectively.
Salam also recalled that the CBN adopted multiple exchange rates in 2020, in a bid to avoid an outright devaluation. 
He noted that the official rate used as a basis for budget preparation and other official transactions differed from a closely controlled exchange rate for investors and exporters known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing Methodology.
He stressed that the naira had traded in a tight range between N400 and N410, while the NAFEX rate was different from the parallel market, considered illegal by the CBN, where the naira closed at 502.
Salam said, “The House is concerned that devaluation is likely to cause inflation because imports will be more expensive any imported goods or raw material will increase in price; aggregate demand increases, causing demand-pull inflation. Firms/exporters have less incentive to cut costs because they can rely on the devaluation to improve competitiveness.
 ”The concern is that the long-term devaluation may lead to lower productivity because of the decline in incentives.
 ”The House is further concerned that devaluation of the naira makes it more difficult for Nigerian youths especially in the IT sector, whose businesses are online and must necessarily transact businesses in the US dollars. 
“It also reduces real wages. In a period of low wage growth, a devaluation that causes rising import prices will make consumers feel worse off “.

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Four West African Countries To Buy Nigeria’s Unutilised Electricity

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Four West African countries, Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, are collaborating to buy the unutilised power produced in Nigeria. 
The Chairman of the Executive Board of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Sule Abdulaziz, disclosed this at the WAPP meeting on the North core project in Abuja, on Wednesday. 
Abdulaziz, who is also the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), said the four countries were collaborating to make the power purchase from Nigeria through the North core Power Transmission Line currently being built.
He explained, “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria.
“The electricity generators that are going to supply power to this transmission line are going to generate that power specifically for this project. So, it is unutilised power”.
He said Nigeria was expecting new generators to participate in the energy export for the 875km 330KV Northcore transmission line from Nigeria through Niger, Togo, Benin to Burkina Faso.
Abdulaziz said, “In addition, there are some communities that are under the line route, about 611 of them, which will be getting power so that there won’t be just a transmission line passing without impact”.
The WAPP chairman noted that the project, funded by World Bank, French Development Council and the African Development Bank, had recorded progress, adding that the energy ministers would be addressing security issues for the project at another meeting in Abuja.
He said, “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian Gencos (generation companies). 
“So, from that, the revenue is going to be enhanced and a lot of people will be employed in Nigeria”.
The Secretary-General, WAPP, Siengui Appolinaire-Ki, said the cost of the project was about $570 million, adding that part of the investment in each country would be funded by that particular nation.
According to him, the countries in the partnership, including Nigeria, are also being supported by donors.
He said the funding agreement was ready as partner countries were awaiting the disbursements.
Appolinaire-Ki, however, said the donor agencies had said they needed a Power Purchase Agreement between the buying and the selling countries to be executed before releasing the fund.

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Reps Probe N275bn Agric Loans Under Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari

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The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the disbursement of loans and credit facilities by the Federal Government in the agriculture sector since 2009.
The period under review covers the administrations of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan as well as the present President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chike Okafor at the plenary last Wednesday, titled ‘Need to investigate disbursements of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security’. 
Okafor said, from 2009 to date, the Federal Government had approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various schemes to the tune of over N275billion, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security in Nigeria.
The lawmaker also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the schemes were to grant agricultural loans to large and small-scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
He said, “The House is aware that since the approval, most farmers have not been able to access the loans due to stringent requirements being demanded by banks from prospective borrowers and the alleged siphoning of over N105billion meant for farmers by management of NIRSAL.
“The House is concerned that food production has not attained the expected level, despite the approval of over N275billion facilities to farmers. 
“The House is worried that the projected diversification of the economy from oil production to agricultural production and increase in agricultural output, food supply and promoting low food inflation will not be achieved if farmers are unable to access loans meant to increase agricultural production”.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to mandate the Committee on Banking and Currency to “investigate disbursements and compliance of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security in the country”.

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