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Challenges Before West, Central African Shippers

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Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Compt. Ekpowie Edike (left) being presented with plaque by the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, during his courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary in Lagos last Friday.

Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Compt. Ekpowie Edike (left) being presented with plaque by the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, during his courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary in Lagos last Friday.

By most accounts, issues
of poor connectivity and high transport costs of international and sub-regional trades in West and Central Africa are major disincentives to shippers (importers and exporters).
As part of efforts to address this problem, stakeholders recently converged on Abuja for a sub-regional workshop on “Minimising Transport Costs and Improving Connectivity of West and Central African Countries: A Panacea for Economic Development of the Sub-region’’.
The two-day workshop was jointly organised by the Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) and was hosted by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT).
The focus of the workshop was on “New International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Rule on Container Weighing and its Implications for Nigerian Maritime Trade’’.
In his address, the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, urged West and Central African countries to address the challenges of high transport costs and poor connectivity facing the economies of the sub-regions. He particularly urged the UASC to adopt a holistic transport policy to address the challenges and other issues hindering the competitiveness of the sub-region in international trade.
The minister proposed the establishment of an integrated and sustainable transport system, with emphasis on rail and inland waterways transportation, in order to foster quality connectivity within the system.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello said integration of the West and Central African sub-regions would reduce the cost of transportation and facilitate efforts to diversify the economy.
Bello said that the cost of transportation within Africa was quite high because of poor connectivity, adding that African countries must strive to improve their transport systems.
“If there is no transportation, all these will not be useful. So, we need it as of necessity; we must improve our transportation system.
“It is that transportation system that will yield or materialise our potential; it is that transportation system that will integrate our West and Central Africa regions,’’ he said.
Bello said that NSC and Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) wanted to establish constant shipping services that would internally cut down the cost of transportation. He said that almost in all the regions, imports and exports were ferried by foreign ships to and from sub-regional countries.
“Most countries in the West African sub-region, including Nigeria, do not own fleets and we are at the mercy of foreign shipping companies.
“To improve connectivity and lower the cost of transport, therefore, we need to look very seriously at the area of ship building and vessels’ ownership in order to increase the number of vessels plying our waters, with a view of encouraging international trade,’’ he said.
Bello described the role of NSC in UASC as pivotal because Nigeria, being the largest economy in West and Central Africa, generated about 60 per cent of the trade of the sub-region.
Beyond that, attention was also drawn to the impending implementation of the amended IMO Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention on container weight, which will come into effect on July 1, 2016.
The Secretary-General, Global Shippers Forum of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr Chris Welsh, said that the new IMO rules placed new responsibilities on shippers to verify the actual gross mass of the container.
This, according to Welsh, includes the goods, packing, stowing materials, pallets and tare weight of the container.
Welsh, however, said that the new rules would also apply to export containers.
All the same, the Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers (DSC) Sub-committee of IMO has approved changes to the SOLAS Convention that would require verification of container weights before loaded containers could be placed aboard ships.
The Secretary-General of UASC, Mr Adamou Abdourahamane, said that Africa’s share of global trade was more than nine billion tonnes, less than 10 per cent of the international trade. He underscored the need for connectivity in terms of infrastructure in order to improve sub-regional trade.
Abdourahamane said that the infrastructure included roads, railways, ports and airports which offered a lot of socio-economic advantages by connecting enterprises to regional and international markets.
He stressed that the non-availability of these facilities would delay transactions, while increasing transportation costs.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Managing Director of Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Mr Bashir Wali, said that transport and logistics costs were high within the West and Central Africa.
Wali, nonetheless, commended NSC for hosting the workshop, pledging NEXIM’s sustained commitment to its strategic objective of facilitating trade by strengthening regional maritime services and international cooperation.
NEXIM has requested for the designation of the Kirikiri Terminal in Lagos as the regional port for the Sealink Project (shipping line) of the West and Central African sub-regions.
The Technical Adviser to NEXIM’s Managing Director, Mr Hope Yongo, who made the disclosure at the Abuja workshop, said that the status of the terminal would be upgraded for container weight verification, in line with the SOLAS Convention. He said that the regional Sealink Project was aimed at putting in place moderate transport costs for shippers in the West and Central African sub-regions.
He, however, solicited cargo support from all member countries and encouragement of private and maritime organisations to boost the regional project and investment in it.
He said that transport and logistics costs in the two sub-regions were one of the highest in the world.
Besides, Yongo observed the absence of dedicated, safe and modern fleet to encourage and facilitate Atlantic Short-Sea Trade in the West and Central African sub-regions.
“There is inadequate infrastructure among member states and non-tariff measures are barriers to increased intra-regional trade,’’ he said.
Yongo noted that ECOWAS trade in the past 10 years grew from 4.7 million tonnes to 13.2 million tonnes without a comparative increase in transport infrastructure.
He also said that there had been low level of African container traffic; describing it as less than one per cent of the total world container traffic of over 400 million containers.
The ECOWAS Commission has endorsed and financially supported the Sealink Project via road shows. The project has similarly received technical assistance from the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA)
Moreover, the project has received technical and financial support from Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as well as Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome & Principe. It also got the technical and financial backing of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, Africa Development Bank (AfDB), up to the tune of 302,000 U.S. dollars.
The Secretary-General, Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), Mr Michael Luguje,however, argued that reducing customs duties and having an effective single window platform would aid efforts to reduce port costs to the barest minimum.
He, nonetheless, underscored the need to have a port community system which would serve as a framework for stakeholders to dialogue on how to improve the quality of services and reduce the costs of doing business.
Luguje said that the total port costs on a particular cargo, including customs duties and taxes, accounted for over 70 per cent of the value of the cargo.
After exhaustive deliberations, the workshop participants noted the non-declaration of container weight had led to several marine accidents because of overweight containers and poor stowage.
The participants urged member countries to strengthen their fiscal policy measures in order to avoid dumping.
According to the communiqué, there is need to check the activities of concessionaires in the sub-regions by the regulatory authorities so as to ensure fair charges that are commensurate with service delivery.
“Members of the sub-regions should deliberate and form a joint taskforce that will go against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Countries in the sub-regions should adopt an effective cargo transit regime that can harmonise the movement of containers within the sub-regions.
“Member countries should step up efforts toward training, retraining and sensitisation of stakeholders on best practices,’’ the participants said.
Member countries were, however, advised to sensitise and mobilise investors to avail themselves of credit financing and other facilities put in place for indigenous companies that want to venture into regional trade.
Cole is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

 

Aisha Cole

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Imperative Of Overhauling Nigeria’s Security Agencies

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Recurring terrorists’ killings, banditry, kidnapping, deadly farmer-herder clashes and other related crimes across the country, have, no doubt, reached embarrassing situation. These dastardly incidents have also elicited hue and cry, prayers and suggestions on how to contain the incidents.
Security agencies have upped their ante fighting with tenacity to curb crime and tackle terrorism in various theatres, while President Muhammadu Buhari, has reiterated his administration’s commitment of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, recently reassured of government’s commitment to protect lives and property, when he announced that more personnel would be recruited for the nation’s security agencies. He said that more weapons would be acquired to tackle the hydra-headed problem, adding that more would be done to ramp up surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Osinbajo spoke when he hosted clergymen from the northern part of Nigeria, under the aegis of Arewa Pastors’ Forum for Peace. The vice president said the Federal Government was committed towards containing the threats and security concerns in the country. The vice president assured the pastors that the Federal Government was doing everything that needed to be done.
“We are handling security well, and as you know, including military deployment in diverse fields, like the Boko Haram in the North-East. In fact, we have to recruit more into the army, and much faster than we ever did because we need men on the ground and resources to buy more arms, to buy more platforms.
“ At the last meeting of the National Security Council, we had discussions on how to beef up the military’s platforms. How do we beef up the numbers? How do we recruit more men and women into the army? How do we collaborate more with local vigilante, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and all that.
“So, there is a lot going on in terms of trying to beef up security; the security situation is one that is very challenging. We are also looking at aspects of surveillance, how we can do more aerial surveillance using drones and electronic devices to improve surveillance,” he said.
Osinbajo assured the clergymen that the Federal Government was also committed to finding lasting solutions to the perennial crisis in communities in the North and other parts of the country, including the ones bothering on religious prejudices. He urged the group to also come up with ideas and thoughts on how to ensure lasting peace in the country.
President of the forum, Bishop Mbayo Japhet, said the group’s visit to the Presidential Villa was to support the administration and the vice president. The bishop described  Osinbajo as an apostle of peace.
President Buhari, at the recent inauguration of two Nigeria Air Force Agusta 109 Power Helicopter and Mi-17 E Helicopter at the Eagle Square, Abuja, said the military would be re-professionalised and re-equipped to meet the growing exigencies of security in the country. He assured Nigerians that the promise of ending terrorism would be realised. The president urged the Nigeria Air Force to ensure discipline in their operations, and a strong maintenance culture that would enable the nation to derive maximum benefits from the newly acquired helicopters.
“We promise to re-professionalise and re-equip the armed forces and security agencies to effectively discharge their duties to our nation. Professionalism, capacity building and adequately equipping the armed forces and other security agencies are a major policy thrust of the administration. I have no doubt that the deployment of these Agusta 109P gunships and the M-17E Helicopter would add impetus to the combat efficiency of the Air Force in combating our contemporary security challenges.’’
Buhari said that two earlier inaugurated Agusta 109 Power Helicopter gunships, which were procured from Italy over a year ago, had made impact on the war against terrorism. He commended the support of the governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, and efforts of the Italian and Russian ambassadors to Nigeria, at sustaining the strategic partnership which facilitated this acquisition.
“I want to, once again, salute the resolve of our armed forces and the invaluable contributions of all security agencies for their efforts towards the decimation of Boko Haram. Your contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a nation, but has also projected us as a reliable regional power.
“During my inaugural speech as President, I promised to put an end to Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping and other forms of criminalities that have bedevilled our country. You will all agree with me that the successes we have achieved so far, have restored our pride and honour, the world over,’’Buhari said.
The president appreciated Nigerians for their support to the military and other security agencies against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, adding that the security challenges would be collectively won.
On his part, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, said the purchase of the helicopters further demonstrated the administration’s commitment to bringing the security challenges in the country under control.
Sharing a similar sentiment, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the visionary approval to purchase more aircraft for the Air Force since 2015 had impacted positively on the fight against terrorism and other crimes.
“Your excellency’s government has so far procured and inducted 22 aircraft. And the service is expecting 17 additional platforms including 12 x Super Tulcanos from the US,’’ he said.
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently ordered the deployment of aerial surveillance helicopters to major cities in the South-West and North-West. He said that the Police air wing operational base in Abuja, would cater for Abuja–Kaduna highways and the adjoining states in the North-West and North-Central.
The National Assembly, on its part, strongly agreed on the urgency of boosting the capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies to enable them tackle the security challenges. The leadership of the National Assembly recently met with President Buhari over the security issues in the country and other matters of governance. Speaking afterwards, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said that there was need to provide solution on how to tackle the security challenges in the intermediate and the long term.
“We should be able to come up with some strategies, the road map to ensure that we secure the lives and properties of Nigerians. We believe that it is imperative that we are able to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces of this country and the police, to ensure that they are able to operate and perform efficiently and effectively,’’ he said.
According to Lawan, in order to minimise the casualties of the armed forces and improve efficiency, technology should be applied.
Security analysts are of the view that, aside enlisting more men and procuring more weapons, revving up intelligence gathering is also critical as this will keep security personnel ahead of the criminals or terrorists as the case may be.
Okoronkwo is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

By: Chijioke Okoronkwo

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NEW Rivers: Promotion Of Workers’ Welfare

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All across the country, Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is known as Mr Projects.  He is popular for his commitment  to expanding  the frontiers  of infrastructural development of Rivers State.  But there is an aspect of Governor Wike’s performance  that is not as pronounced. His commitment  to workers’ welfare.
Many have forgotten  that Governor Wike took over the reins of leadership at a time the morale of Rivers workers was at its lowest level.  The immediate past APC Administration owed the workers three months salary arrears. Even Pensioners were owed four months arrears.
Governor Wike cleared the arrears and has since placed workers welfare on his top priority list. He has always opened a line for dialogue  and settlement of disputes that arise in the course of government-workers relationship.
The Rivers State Government has built and completed  the Ultra-modern Secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The Former NLC Secretariat was gutted  by fire in 2015. Since then, the Rivers NLC operated from makeshift  facilities.
On 29th June, 2018, Governor Wike invited the NLC President,  Comrade Ayuba Wabba to lay the Foundation of a new Secretariat.  That Secretariat is now being  used by Rivers workers.  The State Government  is also constructing another Secretariat  for the Trade Union Congress (TUC). That Secretariat is almost ready for Commissioning.
During the commencement  of construction,  Governor Wike said that the State Government embarked on the construction of the  two secretariats  in appreciation of the cordial working relationship with Rivers workers.
“We have worked harmoniously with labour. They have not troubled this administration with unnecessary strikes . In order to build stability, we have set up a structure that will enhance the performance of labour.
“This project must be completed by December.  I don’t want to hear excuses.  The contractor has been mobilised.  We will also build a secretariat for the Trade Union Congress “.
Performing the flag off, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba lauded the Rivers State Governor for taking steps to improve the working condition of workers.
“This will go down in history as a landmark as you are one of the governors who has worked with Labour for a better society”.
He said that the partnership between labour and the Rivers State Government will lead to faster development in Rivers State.
”Once workers are happy, they will put in their best and the state will benefit in terms of development “.
The NLC President added that the congress was overwhelmed by the gesture of the Rivers State Government, which will advance the productive relationship between Labour and the Government.
“Workers and employers are supposed to be partners in progress. It is when we partner together that we will be able to deliver on our various mandates. This is commendable and I urge that it should continue”, the NLC President said.
Rivers State NLC Chairman, Comrade Beatrice Itubor said by constructing the Rivers State Secretariat of the congress, Governor Wike has shown goodwill, which will be reciprocated by the workers.
The NLC Secretariat built by the Wike Administration  is a three-storey building with conference halls, offices, stores and multiple staircases.
The Secretariat was commissioned as part of the first 100days of the second term of Governor Wike.  It emphasised the commitment of the Rivers State Governor to the welfare of workers.
Speaking at the Commissioning of the NLC Secretariat,   Governor Wike said that his administration will continue  to partner with labour for the development of Rivers State.
He said that the State Government resolved to create enabling environment for labour leaders to work towards improving labour/government relations.
Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike called on the leadership of labour in the state to always place the interest of Rivers State above other considerations in their engagements with the State Government.
“For me, Rivers first  before  any other thing. Before you go on strike or declare any dispute with the Rivers State Government,  look through and check what the implications would be for Rivers State.
. Chairman of NLC Rivers State,  Comrade Beatrice Itubo commended the Rivers State Governor for building the Secretariat despite recent economic challenges.  She said that labour is committed  to improving  synergy with the State Government for the development of the State.
Representative of the NLC President,  Dr Comfort Okoh said Governor Wike is the authentic leader who is needed at the national level to advance national growth.
Aside the Secretariat,  Governor Wike recently commissioned a Civil Servants Quarters  in the heart of Old GRA in Port Harcourt.  Last year, the Governor unveiled another Civil Servants Quarters at Lagos Street,  Port Harcourt and Doctors Quarters at the GRA.
Governor Wike said that his administration remains committed to ensuring that civil servants live in beautiful and secured residential Quarters.
“ See where you are going to live free of charge.  Assuming you are going to pay house rent here in Old GRA,  you know it will be very costly.
“This is a very secured environment.  Government is here for you. To give you the best. You also have to contribute your own quota as Civil Servants.”
Governor Wike urged Rivers civil servants to reciprocate the commitment of the State Government to their welfare. He said that they are under obligation to give their best to the state.
“Work for the people of the state. Civil servants should reciprocate and work for the people of Rivers State.
“I dont know any State that can say they have these  facilities. This is the third time. We built one at Lagos Street,  we built the Doctors Quarters and then this one.
“You have no excuse not to contribute the best. Take this property as your own and keep it clean. Civil servants I give that challenge   keep your environment clean. “
The Rivers State Governor assured workers that his Administration will invest in the development of more housing quarters for civil servants.
“We will build more houses for civil servants to stay . Take it as your personal building.”
Governor Wike pointed out that Judges Quarters, constructed by his Administration,  is  one of the most beautiful residential estates  in the country.  He said that Judges Quarters will soon be commissioned.
The commitment to workers  welfare does not mean that there are no areas for further engagement.  It simply means that Governor Wike is ever willing to address workers needs within the available resources and with the required speed necessary at all times.
The harmony that exists cannot be underestimated.  Several states are owing salaries and pensions,  running into years. While State Economies are collapsing across the country,  Rivers State is waxing stronger.
Much as the opposition is unwilling to recognise this fact, they appreciate  the truth that Governor Wike has enhanced  working conditions and stabilised the work environment.
The key projects developed by Governor  Wike will serve as the premise for further partnership between the State Government and Rivers workers.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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Using Weather Forecast To Boost Agric

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) predicts a below-normal rainfall, dwindling amount and duration in many parts of the country.
Observers, therefore, posit that the pattern of rainfall can affect food production except there is sensitisation to climate-smart agricultural practices and proper weather information dissemination to the farmers.
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change.
Researchers believe that widespread changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threaten agricultural production and increase the vulnerability of people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to them, the threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural production systems.
They note that CSA promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, while reviewing NiMet’s report admits that the country is expected to experience a below-normal rainfall season.
He observes that rains are expected to start late, especially in the northern part of the country while the south eastern zone as well as the coastal areas will experience a normal onset of the rains.
He notes that most of the northern states will experience earlier-than-normal end growing season while shorter length of the growing season is predicted for most parts of the country.
He also says that there will be frequent and severe dry spell over the northern region during the rainy season.
“Dry spell will be more frequent and severe, ranging from 10 to 18 days in some parts of the extreme north around June and July, while the little dry season or (August break) in parts of the south is expected to be pronounced.
“The expected below normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding.
“In every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, lead to crop losses; farmers and other stakeholders are advised to get in touch with NiMet to access meteorological updates within the growing season.
“This is because these are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed.
According to Sirika, early release of the SRP before the beginning of the rainy season is to ensure effective harnessing of the climate resource.
He agrees that such information will further guarantee minimal losses from associated hazards, which are becoming quite devastating in this era of climate change.
He says that an increase of at least 30 per cent agricultural yields can be achieved if relevant meteorological information is utilised.
Similarly, Prof. Sani Mashi, the director-general of NiMet, says that farmers in the northern part of the country, mostly the Sahel zones are advised not to plant early as the country is likely to experience late onset of rains.
Mashi explains that early cessation of rains in the northern part will lead to shorter length of growing season and recommends  early provision and access to improved and drought resistant variety seeds.
“Normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states while the earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7 around the coastal region of the south-south region.
“The onset dates are expected to change northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru having onset of rains from June 16.
“The earliest cessation dates are expected to be from September 29 around the north-western parts of the country while most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October,’’ he explains.
He explains further that while the growing season is expected to end between late October and mid-November, parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience end of the season by mid-November to early December while the season is expected to end by late December along the coast.
According to him, governments at all levels are advised to embark on awareness and sensitisation of farmers and other stakeholders on CSA practices such as on-farm water harvesting structures, soil and water conservation practices and land preservation.
“Farmers are also encouraged to make provision for irrigation water during the predicted periods of dry spell.
“The warmer-than-normal temperatures predicted in February and April are expected to affect livestock in some parts of the country, particularly the northern states where rainfall has not yet established.
“Decrease in fodder production from dry land, increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and mortality rate is likely to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations, shell quality and egg weight in layers may also be affected.
“The colder-than-normal daytime temperatures in March may affect day old chicks and increase feed conversion ratio in layers and broilers while the spread of heat-related diseases is likely to increase as a result of the predicted warmer conditions in most parts of the country.
“Good veterinary practices for livestock vaccination, fisheries and aquaculture management should be adhered to because fish production is likely to be adversely affected as a result of warmer-than- normal conditions especially in the northern part of the country,’’ he warns.
Ogbaje writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

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