Life Lager Continental Beer has empowered 19 entrepreneurs with N5.7 million during the fourth edition of its Life Progress Booster at Ekwulobia in Anambra State.
The Assistant Brand Manager, Life Lager Continental beer, Mr Rex-Anthony Anieke, told newsmen on Tuesday that Life Progress Booster was a platform targeted at supporting upcoming young businesses.
Anieke said that the company had so far empowered more than 800 people since the company launched its Community Social Responsibility for South-East businessmen and women in 2015.
“The Life Progress Booster is a platform targeted to support upcoming businesses, especially in the South East, where the core value is to make progress from trade.
“The small boost of N300, 000 per beneficiary is to help them make more progress in their trade,” he said.
He said that the company received over 700 business proposals across the region but 19 people emerged winners.
“Since we started doing this, it has been a huge success, particularly among beneficiaries we monitored,” he said.
Anieke said that winners were selected after a thorough consideration of proposals and interviews.
He said that other editions of the programme would hold in Asaba, Port-Harcourt and Aba within the year.
One of the beneficiaries, Mr Calistus Ugochukwu, whose Printing Press business was based in Oko, Anambra, said the money would assist him to purchase digital image and identity card printing machines.
“These two machines have been my desire because most times I travel to Awka from Oko to print my work.
“Now, there is no need to go to Awka again for printing of coloured jobs and identity cards,” he said.
Another beneficiary, Miss Gift Samuel, 25, said the money would assist in purchasing more chairs, tables, refrigerator and a generator set in her bar and restaurant business located at Nanka in Anambra.
Also, Mr Ejikeme Ememadukwe, 30, a fashion designer from Amanuke community in Awka North Local Government Area, urged the company to sustain the programme to benefit others.
“Now, I have the money I need to boost my business; this is real and I thank those producing the Life brand.
“They should continue the good work in the lives of other young entrepreneurs,” Ememadukwe said.
Nigeria Spends N993.5bn On Debt Servicing In Three Months
Nigeria spent almost N1trillion on debt servicing payments in the first quarter of this year, the latest data obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO), have shown.
The DMO had, last Wednesday, disclosed that the country’s total public debt increased to N33.11trillion at the end of Q1 2021 from N32.92trillion in December.
It said the domestic debt rose to N20.64trillion as of March 31, 2021 from N20.21trillion on December 31, 2020 while the external debt fell to N12.47trillion ($32.86billion) from N12.71trillion ($33.348billion) in December.
The total debt stock is made up of the domestic and external debt stocks of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
DMO’s data collated by our correspondent showed that the cost of servicing the country’s debt from January to March this year stood at N993.5billion.
A total of N612,712,626,144.40 was spent on domestic debt service while $1,003,409,940 (N380.79billion) was spent on external debt service payments.
An exchange rate of N379.50 to $1 was used by the DMO in converting the external debt service payments to naira.
PwC Nigeria said in a recent report that the increasing cost of servicing debt continued to weigh on the Federal Government’s revenue profile.
It said, “Actual debt servicing cost in 2020 stood at N3.27trillion and represented about 10 per cent over the budgeted amount of N2.95trillion. This puts the debt-to-revenue ratio at approximately 83 per cent, nearly double the 46 per cent that was budgeted.
“This implies that about N83 out of every N100 the Federal Government earned was used to settle interest payments for outstanding domestic and foreign debts within the reference period. In 2021, the Federal Government plans to spend N3.32trillion to service its outstanding debt. This is slightly higher than the N2.95trillion budgeted in 2020.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said last year that the rising cost of debt service underscored a precarious liquidity position that could impair the government’s fiscal space, as well as its growth objectives.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had in March described the increasing debt service as a threat to the country.
“Total public debt has increased from N5.24trillion in 2010 to over N32trillion in 2020; still fine at around 20 per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). But rising debt service is a threat. Also, shocks to commodities price (are) affecting revenue. And low tax to GDP ratio,” the Head, Economic Research and Policy Management Division, Office of the Chief Economist, SEC, Afolabi Olowookere said.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had said in December that Nigeria needed significant revenue mobilisation — including through tax policy and administration improvements — to create space for higher social spending and reduce fiscal risks and debt vulnerabilities.
It said with high poverty rates and only a gradual recovery in prospect, revenue mobilisation would need to rely initially on progressive and efficiency-enhancing measures, with higher Value Added Tax and excise rates waiting until stronger economic recovery takes root.
Lawmakers Want CBN To Halt Naira Devaluation
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 “.
Four West African Countries To Buy Nigeria’s Unutilised Electricity
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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