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$1m Boom US Housing Markets

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Housing markets in United States (US) neighbourhoods is booming as a million dollars could get you a lot more. During the housing boom, prices rose so high and so fast that even cookie-cutter homes in the paved suburbs of South Florida and California could cost a cool million. In Santa Clara, Calif., a high-tech hot spot, the median price hit $836,780 in 2007. That was a long way from the days when a million-dollar home evoked images of marble columns and swimming pools with vanishing edges. Subprime loans allowed more people than ever to buy houses that were once above their means. Higher demand fueled ever-higher prices until the spigot of cheap money was turned off and the housing bubble burst. The recession forced many well-heeled buyers into unemployment lines. And sales of homes over $1 million cratered by more than 50 per cent from the peak four years ago. “Everyone has less money than they once had,” said Amy Wright, an agent with The Real Estate Office in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. “That has certainly affected the nouveau riche, and that’s definitely in that $1 million price point.” For people who do have the money, however, it’s the best time in years to buy luxury real estate. Rancho Santa Fe is a luxury enclave in San Diego County that has over the years lured the likes of Howard Hughes and Bill Gates. Equestrian trails border golf courses, and the most expensive home on the market is listed for $29.9 million. A couple of years ago, the idea of getting a house in Rancho Santa Fe for a paltry $1 million was laughable. Now, foreclosures and financially distressed homeowners account for about 15 per cent of sales, and home prices are down 30 per cent. In one golf-course community in the town, a 2,200-square-foot home is listed for $800,000. Residents live in a gated community where Spanish style homes surround a 250-acre Rees Jones-designed golf course and an accompanying 35,000-square foot clubhouse. In the 20 largest U.S. metro areas, about 2,800 homes sold for more than $1 million in July — down by more than half from July 2005, according to MDA DataQuick. Nati-onwide, overall home sales were down about 27 per cent, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the month of August, sellers with homes priced above $2 million were cutting prices by an average of 14 per cent, compared with the national average of 10 percent, according to Trulia.com. The good news for luxury homebuyers is that they’re getting about 20 per cent “more house” than they did two years ago, and the prestige of owning a $1 million home is returning, said John Brian Losh, CEO of luxuryrealestate.com. On Friday, the average interest rate for a 30-year “jumbo loan” (defined as a mortgage over $729,750) was 6.18 per cent — about a point higher than a conventional fixed-rate mortgage, according to Bankrate.com. That means the mortgage payment for a $1 million home (with a down payment of 20 per cent) would run about $4,900 a month, not including property taxes. A buyer would have to earn at least $200,000 a year to make the payment plus taxes — and only about 4 per cent of Americans fall into that tax bracket, 2007 Census data shows. In Fort Myers, Fla., Pat and Dennis Tyeryar are trying to sell their four-bedroom, 3,795-square-foot house on three acres for $999,700. The property is a rare slice of lush Old Florida, with moss cascading off shade trees and views of a river and lagoon. The property, valued at $1.4 million four years ago, is unique for the area because it sits on a peninsula: Every room in the house has a water view. In a recession-battered place like Saginaw, Mich., however, a person can scoop up almost 18 houses for $1 million. Or, a buyer can get a 6,360-square-foot, two-story brick palace that sits on a five-acre estate. The house is priced at $995,000. It has an indoor swimming pool and six bedrooms, but the property has been a hard sell in a market where a 2,300-square-foot home can go for $160,000, real estate agent Bruce Shaw said. Shaw said the home would have been listed for about $1.3 million during the boom. “It’s not like I get a lot of calls on it, not unless someone is moving from Southern California,” he said. In Toledo, Ohio, agent Nancy Kabat has two listings that add up to $1 million — a six-bedroom, $635,000 house in suburban Ottawa Hills, and a three-story, two-bedroom condo on the Maumee River for $360,000. The house has detailed crown molding and a renovated kitchen with granite countertops. It’s also near good schools. The condo has a view of Toledo’s landmark Anthony Wayne Bridge and is a short ride to an area with upscale restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. “You could have a house in the suburbs for the winter and have a condo on the river in the summer and use your boat,” Kabat said.

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Business

SON Plans Stiffer Penalties For Fake Products 

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Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has revealed that it would soon seek an amendment to the Act establishing the Agency, which would prescribe stiffer penalties or sanctions for importers and manufacturers of fake and sub-standard products in Nigeria.
Mallam Farouk Salim, Director General of SON, disclosed this in Abuja at a media briefing to mark the 50th-anniversary celebration of SON.
Salim explained that the provisions of the proposed law would not only stipulate that the importers and manufacturers of sub-standard products be fined, but also jailed on conviction by the court.
He said SON is poised to fight against counterfeit and sub-standard products across the country, adding that “any time Nigerians buy sub-standard products, they are aiding and abetting the closure of Nigerian industries and helping the youths to be unemployed.”
Commenting further on the effects of sub-standard products on the economy, Salim said the importers of counterfeit products contribute to the present insecurity in the country, as their activities have led to the collapse of industries in Nigeria.
Noting that the Act establishing the SON was last amended in 2015, he said, before 2015, the penalties were not very clear in the Act. So, the amendment has empowered us for conformity assessment.
“The reason we always amend the Act is that the world is evolving and industries are always changing
“The people following the rules are also changing. Hopefully, before the tenure of this administration, we will have another amendment that will be presented to the National Assembly.
“For example, in 2015, the penalty for importing sub-standard products was N1 million and N1 million now, is not significant.
“Most of these people importing these products are not poor, they are rich.
“In the industry where people break the rules, it is the consequences that stop them.
“So, we need to amend the Act to increase the jail term or give them the right to fine and make sure that jail term is added to it”.
On the activities of SON over the last 50 years of its existence, Salim said the organisation has gone through a lot of transformation and evolved to become a standards regulatory body of global recognition.
According to him: “It is important to emphasise that SON today has evolved into one of the world’s most reputable standards regulatory bodies due to good leadership demonstrated by the successive Chief Executives.
“This is seen in the various innovations championed by the past and present leaders of the organisation.
“Some of the notable innovations over time in the Organisation are the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) for local manufacturing, and Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for offshore assessment of cargoes’’.
Speaking further on the milestones recorded by SON, he said: “To further demonstrate its desire for a more effective standardisation process, the Federal Government introduced the first ever Nigerian National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS) 2020 – 2022 as part of its economic diversification policy.

The strategy, which was developed by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), is designed to identify priority areas to focus on, based on national needs assessment.

The SON Governing Council recently approved 168 new Standards for publication and dissemination to various sectors of the nation’s economy in furtherance of the ongoing economic diversification policy.

Currently, SON is structured to lead every process that surrounds the preparation of standards relating to products, measurements, materials, and processes among others, and their promotion at the national, regional, and international levels.

“Working within the provisions of the Enabling Act, SON under my leadership, SON has been able to, through the Standards Council, designate, establish, and approve standards in respect of metrology, materials, commodities, structures, and processes for the certification of products in commerce and industry throughout Nigeria.

“SON is a member of international constellations of standards regulators such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

“Upon assumption of duty in September 2020, we have set some goals to make the Organisation to effectively deliver its mandate.

“So far, we have been able to facilitate the return of SON to the Ports and ensure the election of Nigeria into the standards management committee of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), among others.”

SON was established in 1970 with the creation of the Nigeria Standards Organisation (NSO) as a Department under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Business

Coy Begins Cargo Tracking In Lagos Port 

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Webb Fontaine, a leading service provide for Nigeria  Customs  Service (NCS) has put in place cargo tracking system  trade automation for use in Apapa Port.
This was disclosed to our correspondent by Webb Fontaine’s Operations Manager in Nigeria, Vlad Lonescu, who said the feat, which is a breakthrough and major milestone in NCS modernisation drive, will aid online, real-time, and live monitoring containers within controlled areas in the customs zone at the port and outside of the port.
According to him, anomalies such as containers missing in transit, tampering with the seal, broaching, and removal of cargo before the examination can be easily detected and traced using the technology.
It will also change the narrative that neighbouring countries like Benin Republic are ahead of Nigeria in areas of customs and ports aided automation.
According to him: “Customs officers trained by Webb Fontaine will operate the system that will aid in achieving more operational successes that could have been done manually”
The new system, he said, comes with many advantages including building shippers’ and port users’ confidence in theft prevention and curbing other unlawful activities.
“It will save the cost and time of using too much manpower to provide escort services for cargoes in transit as their movements within a geo-fenced zone will be monitored.
“Diversions of cargoes from specified movement itineraries will be swiftly detected with further preventive mechanisms activated to prevent loss or theft of cargo’’.
The feat in Apapa, which  will also serve as test run that will be replicated in other ports across Nigeria, will help to position the country as one with a competitive port, befitting for hub status in the West and Central African region.
Webb Fontaine has succeeded in automating the Lagos Free Zone which is first of its kind in the county sitting on 82 hectares of land.

The Lagos Free Zone automation makes the complex stand out amidst 42 other free zones in the country being the first to be so technologically wired for trade.

It is the first free zone in the country to be proximate to the most modern and equipped Lekki  Deep-Seaport.

Webb Fontaine’s trade solutions in Nigeria is presently impacting on more than 25 government agencies through automation of their processes and bringing Nigerian business world closer to what obtains in advanced economies where it is providing services, Lonescu said.

“This cargo tracking system, it will function in Apapa, Tin Can port with 2 Inland Container Depots with many objectives, among which is to decongest the port and improve the revenue of the NCS.

“It is also a way of monitoring the containers that are moving between the port and outside, which means we will have eyes on the containers at all times. Therefore, if there is any attempt to tamper with the process, we can immediately flag it and alert the customs officers.

“The NCS will monitor the full process; we are in charge of training the officers that are going to operate and supervise the transit of the goods. They will be in a control room with screens, computers and digital maps, from which they can monitor the movement of each containers.

“By doing this, the port will be decongested, and all stakeholders like the terminal operators, ship owners, freight forwarders and all will be confident that when they move cargo from the port, things will not get lost and they will be safe.

“For now, we are in the pilot stage, and we are bringing in  specialists to train officers both inside and outside the port. For Customs, we’re going to do Web Fontaine’s Training the Trainers, so we are not training all the officers who will be in charge of this system; we will train a few, who will then pass on the knowledge

By; Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Oil & Energy

NNPCL Flares 100% Gas Output  Earns Zero Revenue In Sept

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In spite of the Federal Government’s gas monetisation policy and pledge to the United Nations to attain net zero by 2060, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. flared 100 per cent of their gas output in September and earned no revenue from it during this period.
The NNPCL gas production and utilisation data for September 2022, obtained by The Tide’s source described its subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company as one of the worst offenders in gas flaring in September.
The firm and its Joint Venture partners, Seplat Petroleum Development Company and NPDC-Chevron Nigeria, flared 100 per cent of their entire gas output of 106 million standard cubic feet of gas and 7 million standard cubic feet of gas, respectively.
The firm further noted that Newcross Exploration and Production Ltd and Belema Oil flared about 96 per cent and 75 per cent of their 112 million standard cubic feet of gas and 21 million standard cubic feet of gas, respectively.
Also, about 8 billion SCF of gas was flared in September, representing 5 per cent of the total gas output for the month, compared with 10 billion SCF of gas flared in the month, of August, according to the report.
This is coming at a time the country is battling a cash crunch due to a drop in its oil revenue on the back of a significant decline in oil production which dipped to below 1million barrels per day, the lowest in 32 years.
The government has been relying heavily on borrowing to finance its activities, as its debt reached an all-time high of N42.84 trillion in June.
The NNPCL gas production and utilisation data did not state why the firm had flared the whole of its gas production for the month. The firm’s spokesperson, Garba Deen, did not also respond to both phone calls and messages sent to him.
Mobil emerged as the highest gas producer in the month under review with a total output of about 25 BSCF of gas, out of which it utilised 23 BSCF of gas and flared 1.6 BSCF of gas.
Shell Nigeria followed with a total gas output of about 25 BSCF of gas, utilising 24 BSCF and flaring 0.5 BSCF; Chevron Nigeria produced about 24 BSCF of gas, out of which it utilised 23 BSCF and flared 0.2 BSCF of gas and Total Energies Nigeria produced about 23 BSCF of gas, out of which it utilised 22 BSCF and flared 0.6 BSCF of gas.

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