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FG to Raise Rice Production To 12.8 million Tonnes

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Nigeria is to raise rice production from 4.1 million tonnes to 12.8 million tonnes by 2018, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Alhaji Salihu Gusau, has said.

Speaking in Minna on Monday at the launching of the National Rice Development Document, Gusau said that the programme was being executed under the Coalition for Africa Rice Development Programme (CARD).

“This is a major plan for tripling domestic rice production, improving indigenous processing capacity and enhancing the marketability of rice grown and processed in Nigeria,’’ he said.

He said that when fully executed, the strategy would save the country the more than 500 million dollars spent on rice importation annually, as well as impact positively on food security, job creation, balance of trade, poverty reduction and national productivity.

The Tide reports that CARD and Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) initiative, seek to double rice production in sub-Saharan Africa from 100,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes.

The permanent secretary said the programme would place priority on post-harvest, land, seed and irrigation development as well as adequate supply of inputs.

According to him, available data indicate that annual milled rice demanded in Nigeria was 5 million tonnes, while domestic production was more than 2.21 million tonnes, with a national deficit of 2.79 million tonnes, while the importation of rice stands at 695 million dollars.

He said Nigeria, in her quest for self-sufficiency in food production as means of achieving poverty reduction and food security, was among the 12 pilot countries selected for the first phase of CARD implementation.

Gusau said Niger, being the largest producer of rice in Nigeria, informed the decision of Federal Government to bring the launching to Minna.

Gov. Aliyu Babangida said it was unfortunate that large quantity of rice had to be imported to bridge its supply and demand gap.

He said that in spite of the estimated 4.6 million hectares of land suitable for rice production, only less than 1.6 million hectares is currently under cultivation.

Babangida said for all the rice initiative to be a success, the cartel that depended on the dividend of rice importation most be broken, saying the country could not continue to rely on importation to the detriment of the nation and the small-scale farmers.

He called on the Federal Government to raise the import duty on rice importation and concentrate on the development of local production.

Mr Moses Adewuyi, Director Agriculture Processing, said that under the programme, emphasis would be put on irrigated and rain-fed lowland rice development.

He said there was an urgent need to rehabilitate all the existing irrigation schemes and put more land under cultivation.

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‘Unemployment Rate Hit 0.8% In 2023 Q3’

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The unemployment rate in Nigeria rose by 0.8percent in the third quarter of 2023.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), this was a significant rise, adding that the unemployment rate rose from the 4.2percent recorded in Q2 2023 to 5.0 percent in Q3 2023.
The NBS, the custodian of official statistics in the country, disclosed this in a report it published last Monday titled “Nigeria Labour Force Survey Q3 2023”.
“The employment-to-population ratio was 75.6 percent in Q3 2023 with a decrease of 1.5 percent compared to a ratio of Q2 2023.
“The combined rate of unemployment and time-related underemployment as a share of the labour force population (LU2) increased to 17.3percent in Q3 2023 from 15.5percent in Q2 2023.
“About 87.3 percent of workers were self-employed in Q3 2023. The proportion of workers in Wage Employment in Q3 2023 was 12.7 percent.
“The unemployment rate increased significantly in Q3 2023 at 5.0 percent. This is an increase of 0.8 percent from Q2 2023.
“The rate of unemployment among persons with post-secondary education was 7.8 percent in Q3 2023”, the report stated in part.
It added that the unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years was recorded at 8.6 per cent in Q3 2023 while the informal employment rate in Q3 2023 was 92.3 per cent.
The report added, “The unemployment rate in urban areas was 6.0 percent percentin Q3 2023, a slight increase of 0.1 percent from Q2 2023.
“Time-related underemployment in Q3 2023 was 12.3 percent, showing a slight increase of 0.5 percent from the rate recorded in Q2 2023. This shows an increase of 1.4 percent compared to the rate in Q4 2022.
“4.1percent of the working-age population was in subsistence agriculture in Q3 2023. Informal employment rate in Q3 2023 was 92.3percent, while Q2 2023 was 92.7percent.
“Percentage of youth Not in Employment, Education or Training was 13.7percent in Q3 2023”.
Recall that Nigeria’s inflation rate last Thursday climbed to 29.90 per cent in January 2024 from 28.92 per cent recorded in the previous month.
The 0.98 percent increase shows that the inflation rate in the country is yet to slow down.
The NBS revealed this in its ‘Consumer Price Index’
The development adds more pressure on the Central Bank’s monetary policy committee to sharply raise interest rates at a February  26-27 meeting its first in seven months.

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Merchant Navy Lauds NIWA Over Staff Welfare

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The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNO/WTSSA) has expressed optimism that the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Mr. Bola Oyebamiji, will prioritise workers welfare for optimal performance of the agency.
Jibril Darda’u, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, NIWA, in a statement over the weekend, disclosed that the seafarers’ union’s remarks are one of the highlights of the meeting between the Trade Union Congress (TUC) affiliate group and management of the agency.
The statement quoted the Chairman of the NMNO/WTSSA, Comrade Suleiman Danjuma, as commending the Managing Director of NIWA for the good initiative of the kind of interaction that brings the staff closer to the management.
“This will definitely boost the morale of the staff and pledge their loyalty and confidence in the Managing Director’s leadership style”, Danjuma stated.
Earlier, the Managing Director of NIWA promised to build on the progress already achieved at the Lokoja River Port, Kogi State.
The MD disclosed this when he went on a familiarisation tour of NIWA’s facilities in Lokoja.
According to the MD, the importance of Lokoja River Port being in the confluence State is to boost the economic viability of the State and Nigeria at large.
“We are here for facility tour to see for ourselves what is on ground at Jamata Port, Lokoja. It is important we come here to assess the facilities to see, at least, how we can move the facilities forward”, he stated.
Recall that in continuation of his familiarisation tour, the Managing Director’s visited the NIWA Lokoja Area office to inspect the Dockyard facilities.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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NCS Consolidates Modernisation Project For Trade Facilitation

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Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, has convened a steering committee meeting as part of measures to consolidate on previous gains achieved in the implementation of the Nigeria Customs Service Trade Modernisation Project (TMP), aimed at enhancing trade facilitation.
The CGC, who addressed TMP Steering Committee during a closed-door meeting held at the Customs corporate headquarters in Abuja last Thursday, disclosed that the project is geared towards achieving end-to-end automation of the processes and procedures of the Service.
“The Trade Modernisation Project encompasses the Unified Customs Management System, Trade Portal, and Cargo Release System, alongside Automation Services such as Big Data & AI Integration and Document Management System, as well as Transition & Handbook, covering Technology Upgrades and Enhanced Capacity Building”, he said.
The project, The Tide gathered, has been identified as a milestone, as it highlights the significance of digitisation for transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.
According to him, it sets the stage for adapting to evolving market dynamics in trade, optimising operations and procedures, and creating new pathways to unlock revenue streams.
Addressing the members of the NCS TMP Steering Committee, the CGC reiterated that the project is designed to last for 20 years and has three phases, which are Core Services, Automation Services, Transition, and Handback.
He said, “This project will be able to address the challenges before us, answer tough questions, and make good decisions that will propel the service forward. We will discuss some of the highlights in detail so that we can review the implementation of decisions taken.
“I’m optimistic that we will have robust discussions and make very good decisions. I’ve also seen some highlights of the reports of the last meeting. Hopefully, along the line, we will discuss those in detail”.
He emphasised that the team, as it stands, has a solid foundation that will assist them in reviewing the implementation of progressive decisions.
Chairman of the Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Saleh Ahmadu reiterated his team’s full support for the Service.
He revealed that software has been created to integrate revenue collection to support the NCS revenue target of N6 trillion for 2024. He also expressed optimism that the steering committee would strive to overcome its everyday challenges.

Meanwhile, the Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, has approved a total of N5.079 trillion as revenue target and N706.4 billion as budget for the Service for the 2024 fiscal year.

The approval for the sum of N5.079 trillion revenue target and N706.4 billion annual budget followed consideration of a report presentation by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise, and Tariff, Jibrin Isah (APC-Kogi), at the plenary last Thursday.

Addressing the plenary, Isah highlighted personnel costs at N225.99 billion and overhead costs at N111.76 billion, representing 31.99 and 15.82 percent of the budget.

“Also, ongoing capital projects stood at N148.42 billion while new projects, which represents 52.19 percent, earmarked for N220.26 billion”, he said.

Providing a breakdown of the budget, he added that the timely rollout of the 2024 fiscal policy would enable the Service to commence implementation promptly.

In his words, “As part of Customs strategy, the provision of the flexible window will help curb illegally imported vehicles and ensure the proper collection of expected import duties and 25 percent penalty charge from such category of transactions.

“Mechanisms such as systems audit, real-time auditing, post clearance auditing, institution of revenue recovery committee and other intelligence gathering tools will ensure intensive revenue recovery drive”.

The revised penalties and charges in the new Nigeria Customs Service Act, 2023, which he noted, will improve the service’s revenue generation.

On anti-smuggling and cargo tracking, the committee Chairman stated that the service looks forward to collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers Council and other relevant government agencies to decongest and achieve efficient, effective port operations, which would yield more revenue.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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