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Surviving Economic Realities In 2020s

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Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th Century, in his famous apothegm said, “The only constant is Change”. Literally, whether change is desired or not is inconsequential as it occurs independently; devoid of assents or prior notice. And the earlier people prepared their mind for it, the better as it is inevitable. This is thus, a clarion demand for reprogramming the minds to adapt as it occurs. Not even resistance deters it except to be left behind; an unhealthy option.
Typically, the major and fastest agent of change is civilization which everyone profoundly cherishes. Nobody in their right senses will kick against civilization due to the comfort, speed and productivity it offers. However, the bad side of it is, the same pace it opens new opportunities to the sensitive minds, is also how it pushes out the indolent and conservative minds out of jobs and businesses.
For example, the evolution of modern computers; Central Processing Units (CPUs) and laptops sent conservative typists and typewriter-merchants that were insensitive to upgrade out of jobs and businesses. Similarly, online shopping has become the most utilised medium across the world thereby affecting daily sales of shop owners. Arguably, technological advancement is moving fast.
Presently, foodstuffs including fresh tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and even native cooked foods are ordered online and delivered with ease in Nigeria. Likewise, the usual taxi business which required people to board on the road is being overtaken by connected system which can access, negotiate variety of taxis in the comfort of the living rooms.
Churches are not left out as people in the comfort of their homes now actively participate in church services same way as onsite worshippers. In banking industry, higher volume of transactions are currently done virtual which reduces human activities in the banking halls alongside overhead costs. Of course, by design, banks are profit-oriented and not charity organizations, hence, will always switch over to most cost-effective system.
Conversely, the labour market is adversely affected as technology drops human activities thereby increasing unemployment ratios. Even those already in employment are likely to face more retrenchments as their services can be rendered cheaper and more efficiently through technological revolution.
For emphasis, on September 3, 2019, an energy firm, Oando Plc, sacked about 100 workers. Similarly, on November 21, 2019, First Bank of Nigeria recorded a mass sack of staff numbering over 1000 across the federation. The record goes on. The umbrella body of the workers; National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) threatened fire and brimstone to reverse the action.
Though the solidarity was commendable, unfortunately, NUBIFIE forgot the employers’ obligation to discharge employees is to be laid off accordingly. The union overlooked to do a feasibility study vis-à-vis the management’s unflinching action, without any panic against possible collapse of the bank by the volume of the retrenchment. This is a critical oversight.
For instance, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) can now withdraw and also collect deposits into customers account in few seconds. The implication is that scores of contract staff that mount the tellers may be drastically reduced to virtually zero. Believably, all banks are working in that directions which implies that more retrenchments are looming particularly in the banking sector in the new decade.
Realistically, NUBIFIE and other unions may not do much to counter the trend. This is because they cannot provide the funds to subsidize overhead costs; to secure their members’ jobs. Convincingly, the bank discovered an alternative mode to handle operations without such a crowd of employees. To call a spade, a spade, the sacks were no accidental discharge but necessitated by profit maximization which is its major goal.
Laudably, a leading financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA), recently recorded a massive recruitment drive of about 4000 new staff alongside promotion of 5000 existing staff members with inspiring increments. However, the truth must be told. Industrialized economy is rapidly succumbing to digitalized economy.
The top-secret is technological innovation that economically, efficiently handles human tasks. In other words, repositioning is crucial. A stitch in time they say, saves nine. Sensibly, those not considering modern economy are vulnerable to be victims of the contemporary economic dynamics. Another bitter truth is that government alone cannot provide the much needed jobs for the high number of unemployed population.
However, governments must obligatorily provide the enabling environments for businesses to thrive. Economy must be stimulated and made attractive for investors. And essentially, insecurity must be unrelentingly wrestled not merely by empowering security agents but creating jobs for unemployed populations alongside empowerment with skills acquisitions. Government must meet these critical demands.
Interestingly, the most striking feature of the new economic direction is that it can empower distressed persons from zero level to financial independence without capital unlike the phasing-out industrialized economy. Above all, it creates secure incomes alongside conventional vocations. Instructively, most of the capitalists in the developed economies do not survive by commonplace hustling but connected economy.
Thus, whilst it is ideal to have exciting new year resolutions, big dreams and accept nice predictions, efforts must be put in top gear to think outside the box. People should expediently, ardently consider realignment. By the rapidity of technological advancement in the world, it is obvious a lot of employments may be in danger.
The way out is to embrace the modern economy to run with the changes against the challenges. Connected economy, distinctively, thrives by merely building relationships and fostering connections, rather than assets (money) and stuffs as exists in industrialized economy. However, extreme caution is required as scammers have infiltrated digitalized economy knowing it is the new face of the world economy.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

 

Carl Umegboro

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Oil & Energy

Nigeria Petitions OPEC+, Demands Quota Increase

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The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said he has petitioned the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners known as OPEC+ for an increased oil production quota for Nigeria.
Sylvia revealed this at the Gastech 2021 conference in Dubai, according to S&P Global Platts.
According to him, the country already wrote the group for an increment in its quota.
He said: “We’ve put request on the table, and we expect that to be looked at.
“We have capacity for more production than we are producing right now. Unfortunately, we are constrained by the quota.”
The Minister said the country’s full production capacity of about 2.2 million barrels per day should be reflected in a revised quota, saying that the country’s production struggles is due to technical problems from re-tapping reservoirs that had been shut to comply with the stringent OPEC+ cuts of the past 17 months, adding that production struggles would soon be fixed.
He said output could rebound to around 1.7 million barrels per day by November and two million barrels per day by the end of the year.
“We had some issues from shutting down the reservoirs,” he was quoted as saying by S&P Global Platts.
“When you shut down a reservoir, to restart it, sometimes there are challenges,” he added.

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Content Policy Saves $2bn In NLNG Train 7

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Nigeria was saved the sum of $2 billion dollars from the ongoing Train 7 of the Nigeria liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project as a result of using Nigerian firms, says the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr Simbi Wabote
Wabote, stated this last Friday, shortly after receiving the award of African Local Content Icon, from the African Leadership magazine, in Yenagoa.
The NCDMB Executive Secretary, who dismissed the assertion that the Nigerian content policy was costly, and a ploy by foreign interests who do not wish the country to develop, described the claim as blackmail, because experience had shown that the policy was more cost effective for oil firms.
“The Nigerian content policy saves costs, from the projects that the NCDMB have supervised it is clear that it is better for the International Operating Companies in Nigeria, but foreign interests at global levels erroneously say that local content is expensive.
“Before the move to increase the participation of Nigerians in the oil and gas sector, the participation was at about three per cent and previous administrations relied mostly on taxes and revenue and lost sight of the opportunities for Nigerians to get involved in the sector.
“From the oil sector where I am coming from, it is five times more expensive to pay an expatriate than a Nigerian, so how can they say that local content is more expensive ?
“ On the Train 7 project if you look at the cost provided by foreign companies, you have a wide gap of about $ 2 billion from the quotations of the lowest submitted by foreign firms and the highest from Nigerian companies, so local content is better as we ensured that quality was not compromised.
“From 2010 till now, we have come a long way, for instance NLNG had 90 per cent of the workforce as expatriates, but today 90 per cent of the workers are Nigerians with some even occupying top positions in foreign oil firms.
“I am thankful to President Muhamadu Buhari, who gave me the opportunity to practice local content in the public sector, by appointing me in 2016 and reappointing me in 2020,” Wabote said.
On the African Local Content Icon Award bestowed on him, Wabote said that it came to him as a ‘pleasant surprise’ adding that the ideals of the African Leadership Magazine justified his decision to accept the award.
Speaking earlier, the Managing Editor of the African Leadership Magazine, Mr Kingsley Okeke, noted that the process leading to the selection was transparent and independently conducted with nominations received from across the African continent.
“We found in the accomplishment and achievements of the Executive Secretary of the NCDM, a worthy character we must encourage and export to the rest of Africa.
“Our focus at the magazine is to spotlight the positive developments in the African continent and change the narrative and stereotypes by western media,” he said.
The Tide source reports that the African Local Content Icon Award was presented by Mrs Laura Hall, President-elect of the National Black Caucus in the U.S congress, at the headquarters of the NCDMB in Yenagoa.
Hall said that blacks in the United States, represented by the Black Caucus, also have a similar challenge with building local capacity to compete with their white counterparts in executing contracts in the U.S.
She said the caucus would collaborate and share ideas with the NCDMB on ways to increase the capacities of blacks in the U.S.

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Oil & Energy

HOMEF Frowns At PIA Non-Commitment To End Gas Flaring

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The Health of Mother Earth Foundation. HOMEF, has expressed displeasure that the Petroleum Industry Act is not definite about ending gas flaring regime in the country.
Executive Director, HOMEF, Rev Nnimmo Bassey, said the Act creates numerous provisions for operators to continue flaring gas unchecked, as it gives power to the Commission to grant operators a permit to flare gas.
Bassey lamented that such permits could easily be abused and turned into a license for unchecked and perpetual environmental and health damage to communities (as has been done previously).
“The Act also does not state the timeframe allowed for flaring in the case of facility start up or for strategic operational reasons
“While the PIA makes the flaring of gas illegal, it nonetheless creates a series of exemptions which ensures that the same gas flare regime continues literarily unchecked.
“The Act identifies instances where gas flaring may be permitted. These include (a) in the case of an emergency; (b) pursuant to an exemption granted by the Commission; or (c) as an acceptable safety practice under established regulations.
“It goes further to clarify that the Authority or Commission may grant a permit to a Licensee or Lessee to allow the flaring or venting of natural gas for a specific period –
(a) where it is required for facility start-up; or
(b) for strategic operational reasons, including testing.
“The section however does not provide an explanation of what ‘strategic operational reasons’ are beyond testing. It also does not state the timeframe allowed for flaring in the case of facility start up or for strategic operational reasons. These provisions could be easily abused and turned into a license for unchecked and perpetual environmental and health damage to communities (as has been done previously).”
HOMEF maintained that to end gas flaring, offenders should be made to pay the full economic cost of the flared gas based on the prevalent market price of gas, as well as the related health and environmental costs.
The environmental rights group also said that the Act does not appear to consider Nigeria’s climate change pledges as contained in the nation’s Nationally Determined Contributions.

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