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Mechanised Agric, Key Sector For Nation’s Economy

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Mechanised Agriculture has been identified as one of the key sectors capable of sustaining the nation’s economy if properly harnessed.
Nigeria,s first Lady and wife of the president, Hajiya [Dr.] Turia Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, made the observation Monday during the official flagging – off and lunching of the 2009 cropping season for the Nigerian women in the southern part of the country held at Okpara Square, Enugu.
According to her, no economy can record meaningful feat without agriculture, hence the Yar’Adua led federal government places much emphasis on the sector, stressing the need for the country to always give mechanised farming serious attention it deserved.
She therefore, explained that the southern lunching exercise which was coming less than one week that of the Northern part of the country took place in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory was a genuine attempt designed to empower Nigerian women in agriculture, adding that provision of the farm implements being made available to the women at a subsidise rate would also go a long way in enhancing food security in the country.
The First Lady, however, called on all and sundry to always support women farmers especially those that are into mechanized farming, pointing out that agriculture, as being encapsulated in the federal government’s 7-point agenda would continue to receive adequate attention of the Federal Government.
Her words: “It is worth mentioning here that women are responsible in carrying out greater percentage of agricultural labour and about 60 per cent food processing activities, they still have access to less than 20 per cent agricultural inputs being distributed nation wide”, saying such situation remains a serious challenge and impediment on the side of the women towards contributing having food security in the nation.
“I salute your efforts, encouragement and determination for actively participating in the socio- economic growth of the nation”, she further stressed.
While welcoming the women to the ceremony which was attended by governor’s wives from the 17 southern states of the federation, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, commended the First Lady for her effort in encouraging Nigerian women to embrace farming, disclosing that his administration places much emphasis on agriculture.
He made it clear that agriculture was one of his administration’s 4-point agenda, assuring that the state government would continue to encourage and support every genuine agricultural programme in the state.
Earlier in her brief speech, wife of the host governor, Mrs. Clara Chime who led other South-East governors’ wives to the well- attended event noted that despite the fact that majority of the southern people are subsistence farmers, their efforts are not recognized by government , pointing out that, about 70 per cent of all agricultural activities are done by rural women The Enugu State First Lady, however, regretted that despite the tremendous role played by women in the agricultural sector, they have continued to face a scores of obstacles, especially in the southern states of the country, listing some of such barriers to include lack of access to better technology of production and processing machines, non allocation of marginal lands to women, among others, pointing out that better ones are reserved for men in the country.
The occasion was graced by several women farmers’ groups, including the Nigerian Council of Women Society, among other women associations in Nigeria.

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Truckers Threaten Service Withdrawal Over Customs’ Haulage Truck Seizures 

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Truckers under the aegis of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) have threatened to withdraw their services over incessant seizures of vehicles by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The truckers lamented that the seizure and possible auctioning of their trucks by the NCS has led to untold hardships for haulage operators in the maritime industry, describing the seizures as unjust.
A statement signed by  the President  and secretary of the body, Chief Yemi Ogungbemi and Alhaji Sanni Muhammed, respectively queried management of the Customs over failure to arrest  ships that import illicit goods to Nigeria for complicity.
”Does Customs seal the terminals that receive contraband and dangerous consignments in their yards for complicity in storing illicit consignments?”,
The truck owners said the Nigerian Customs at different fora made haulage operators to understand that the law stipulates they arrest the means of conveyance.
“If that is the reason, why not arrest ships that import containers with contraband goods to Nigeria. Are vessels no longer means of conveyance?”
AMATO described such laws  obsolete, saying that it has become injurious to truckers’ means of livelihood.
The AMATO executives further stated that truckers can no longer withstand what they call the unfortunate circumstances of being used as scapegoat for offenses perpetuated by unscrupulous importers.
“The seizure and possible auction of our trucks by the Nigerian Customs Service is causing us untold hardships as truckers, and for a very long time, we have been passing through this injustice in the hands of Nigerian Customs Service.
“Truckers are mere commercial transporters of goods. We are only invited by agents to come and carry goods to and from the ports after Customs might have examined and approved the release of goods in containers to Importers and agents.
“But unfortunately, after loading the containers that are duly examined and released by Customs on our trucks, they would waylay the trucks on the road, seize and detain our trucks in their yards together with containers with question marks”, they said.
Further questioning the rationale for the seizures, AMATO queried why they are the victims when they are not involved in physical examination of goods in the ports together with Customs, Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Drug Law Enforecement Agency (NDLEA), etc. to see what they carry.

“Does it sound just for Customs officers and other government agencies that jointly examined and approved the exit of contraband and other dangerous goods in the ports to be holding the trucker responsible for their fault and negligence?

“Is it the commercial trucker that is short-paying government’s import duty on goods or the Importers and their Agents?

“If the answer to the above questions are ‘No’, we are calling on Nigerian Customs Service to release all our trucks detained in their yards or we withdraw our services nationwide in protest against the unjust seizure of our trucks.

“Our members are facing agonizing economic hardships. Their means of livelihood are being seized by the Nigerian Customs for the offense committed by Importers and their dubious collaborating Agents.

“Nigerian Customs should please release our trucks and stop using the truckers as scapegoat.

“Recently, some containers were found to contain tramadol, arms and ammunition. If the trucker knows that he is to carry container loaded with explosives that can destroy him and the truck, or the contraband drug that would equally put him in trouble, he will not carry it.

“Thus, where is the justification for seizing our truck?

“We appreciate the previous Management of Customs authority, in that they reasoned with complaints and issued out circular that enables us to retrieve our seized trucks through application.

“But the present Management of Customs wrote against the Circular. All our efforts and entreaties to the present management of the Customs to revalidate the circular to enable us secure the release of our trucks have proved abortive.

“Hence our plan to settle out grievance with the customs authority through the eloquence of withdrawal of services if our trucks are not released by the Customs”, AMATO concluded.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Electronic Auction Platform, Most Authentic For Goods -NCS

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has restated that electronic auction (e-auction) platform of the Service at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/ is functional and remains the only authentic means of auctioning goods to members of the public.
The Service in a statement issued in Abuja by its Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, noted that this clarification became necessary following rumours that a special auction of over 7000 cars would soon be held by the Service.
It reiterated that auctions are periodic and advertised in advance on the Service’s website to avail members of the public the opportunity of selecting and bidding for items of their choice.
NCS recalled that the Service deployed the e-auction platform in July 2017 specifically to improve efficiency in revenue generation to the Federal Government and also provide equal opportunities to all Nigerians in the seamless disposal of seized/condemned and overtime/abandoned cargoes.
“Since its implementation, the e-auction has lived up to expectations by guaranteeing transparency and integrity in the auctioning process.
“Requirements to take part in the e-auction bidding process by interested public/bidders include:
“Applicant must have a valid tax identification number (TIN) issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with an active e-mail account for the issued TIN.
“Conditions and Terms of this auction are to be carefully considered by an interested person before acceptance.
“Applicant must ensure he/she has an authentic and nationally accepted means of identification, i.e. international passport, driver’s license, national identity card or voters card.
“Other guidelines can be found on the e-auction portal at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/.”
The statement, however, advised owners of uncleared vehicles at the ports to avail themselves of the VIN-Valuation protocols which it said had simplified, automated and made user-friendly the clearance procedure.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Subsidy: Reps Summon Finance Minister, Query NNPC

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The House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee that is Investigating the Petroleum Products Subsidy regime from 2013 to 2022 has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to appear before it on Tuesday next week for questioning.
Ahmed is to appear before the committee with all the documents demanded by the lawmakers relating to subsidy claims and payments in the period under review.
Chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Aliyu, issued the summons at the continued investigative hearing of the panel in Abuja on Tuesday.
Members of the committee had faulted the appearance of the ministry’s Director of Home Finance, Stephen Okon, without a letter from Ahmed authorising him to represent her.
The Chairman decried the non-appearance of several invited agencies, such as the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, and Shell Petroleum Development Company.
After Okon was eventually allowed to speak, the Director said he only appeared before the lawmakers to seek more time for the Ministry to collate and present the required documents.
The committee consequently gave the Minister one week to do so.
“This committee requested from you to know the total amount released from the Consolidated Revenue Account as subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; the total amount released from other accounts other than the Consolidated Revenue Account to subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; breakdown of beneficiaries; companies that enjoyed releases from the Consolidated Revenue Account and other revenue accounts as subsidy payments.
“Identify each beneficiary with the amount sent to them, month by month, covering the period from January 2013 to date; all correspondences between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria regarding subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; evidence of lodgement of forex into Consolidated Revenue Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation now (Nigerian National Petroleum Company) Limited as revenue from January 2013 to date”, the Chairman stated.

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