Stakeholders in Rivers State have lamented the difficult operating environment in all sectors, arguing that Federal Government’s policies have made things difficult for millions.
In separate interviews with The Tide, some residents of Port Harcourt appealed to governments at all levels to initiate policies and programmes to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians in 2018 to cushion the negative impact of government actions and inactions in 2017.
One of the respondents, a lawyer, Barrister Temple Weje said, “The year 2017 which has just ended was quite traumatic economically, and as legal practitioners, we are at the receiving end.
“It is so pathetic that our clients, even in the heat of the economic down-turn, when they decide to dispose property to make ends meet at ridiculous rates, the prospective buyers are never coming, apparently on the account of fear of insecurity or being arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The multiplier effect is that money is not circulating from one hand to the other, which is the hardship we all experience today.
“We also find situations where our clients (litigants) cannot afford the minimum requirement financially to prosecute their cases, which by implication, means sacrificing their rights because of poverty,” Weje added.
A businessman, Vintage Mart Supa Centre, Mr McDonald Lordswill said, “Every businessman would always expect a better year, even though the previous year was not that successful.
“In the year 2017, we experienced a lot of setbacks. In my business, we deal on imported products, and those time, bringing in goods from outside Nigeria has not been easy because of harsh economic policies and non-availability of Forex. All these setbacks affected our business negatively.
“Nevertheless, we believe that we are going to have successful and business breakthroughs in 2018. We hope that the experience witnessed in the 2017 Christmas period due majorly to fuel scarcity, which also adversely affected businesses will not continue in 2018.
“If there is a change in policies that directly affects our businesses negatively, it would be a way forward. I believe that it would have positive impact on our business, especially most of us that deal on imported goods,” he said.
A commercial bus driver, Elder Friday Elijah said “This business recorded a very low return last year due mainly to the use of old vehicles. Majority of the buses used by Port Harcourt commercial drivers are very old, and as such, if we work for a day, the next day, the bus is in the mechanic workshop for repairs which makes it difficult for us to save any reasonable money. The drivers mostly affected are those on hire purchase.
They find it very difficult to eat, not to talk of balancing the bus owners.
“No driver can be proud that he has achieved much with such condition in the commercial bus business. We are, however, looking forward to a situation where the government would support bus drivers in Port Harcourt through an empowerment scheme. This would go a long way in reducing the hardship being faced by commercial bus drivers.
A civil servant, Joyce Tonye said, “2017 was not that bad. We thank God for life, and pray that the year 2018 will be better than 2017. I commend the Rivers State Governor, Mr Projects, Chief Nyesom Wike for ensuring the prompt payment of workers’ salaries. The workers are happy with all the achievements he has recorded thus far.
“I appeal that he should ensure workers’ prompt promotion and payment of their promotion arrears. I also humbly appeal that the governor ensures that in 2018, he pays priority to the payment of arrears of annual increments, gratuity and pensions,” she pleaded.
A medical doctor, Dr Simon Lazarus said, “Our business as private doctors in the year 2017 increased tremendously, as we received highest number of patients. But it is sad to say that in the midst of all these, returns on income were very low. Many patients that came to register could not afford the cost for treatment and some simply died due to the delay in raising money for treatment.
“We hope that in 2018, there would be enough cash flow in the system so that people can afford their medical bills and even those not sick would be able to go to the hospitals for some routine check-ups, and treatment where necessary.
“Some challenges confronting private doctors are the inability to afford all the needed equipment due to exorbitant cost, and in a situation where one is able to afford these equipment, patients are not able to afford cost of treatment. Also, the epileptic power supply by Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) is not encouraging at all.
“We believe that if the Rivers State Government really wants to boost its Internal Revenue Generation (IRG), it needs to look particularly into the problem of PHED and ensure that there is always constant power supply everywhere in Rivers State, and not just some segments of the state,” he added.
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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