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Experts To Develop Commercial Models For Cassava

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Experts working on the project to develop commercial models for cassava seed system in Nigeria will meet at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, tomorrow to map out strategies for development.
A statement by the IITA Communication Specialist, Mrs Adaobi Umeokoro, said that the experts would meet to strategise on how the potential of emerging cassava technologies could harnessed to create wealth for all.
The statement said that the experts were planning to develop a sustainable mechanism through which smallholder farmers could get timely and affordable access to high-quality planting materials such as improved cassava varieties.
It said that they would consider how to make cassava, an important staple crop for millions of families in sub-Saharan Africa, more profitable for those whose livelihoods and sustenance depended on it.
“ Building a Sustainable, Integrated Seed System for Cassava in Nigeria (BASICS) project will hold its first annual review and planning meeting.
“It promises to strategise on the best available options for making planting materials of superior variety and quality readily available and accessible to Nigerian farmers at the appropriate time, place, and price,” it said.
The statement quoted the Project Director, Dr Hemant Nitturkar, as saying that although Nigeria was the largest cassava producer in the world, its average yield of about 14 tonnes/ha was less than half of what could be produced in a realistic way.
“Given the potential of this crop and the vast number of Nigerians depending on it, there is an urgent need for improvement at all levels of the cassava value chain.
“Increased adoption of improved varieties and usage of quality materials have the potential to improve the productivity of cassava, thus positively impacting on food security and livelihoods in Nigeria.
“It can earn valuable foreign exchange for the country through increased exports and import substitution; BASICS is catalysing the build-up of a sustainable seed value chain in Nigeria,” he reportedly said.
The statement said that Nitturkar stressed that BASICS would sensitise farmers to the need to use high-quality seeds of improved varieties to achieve higher net profits from cassava cultivation.
“BASICS is piloting two business models for seed multiplication and distribution.  The first is a decentralised Village Seed Entrepreneur (VSE) model, where over 130 VSEs will be developed in Benue, Abia, Imo, Akwa-Ibom, and Cross River states.
“The second is the Processor Led Model (PLM), where cassava processors will multiply good quality improved cassava varieties for supply to outgrowers to plant under a buy-back arrangement for the roots produced.
“The project has developed an online platform called Cassava Seed Tracker (CST) to facilitate easy registration of seed producers and real time monitoring of field inspections and certification by National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC).
“CST is also designed to link seed producers with needy farmers and many more features will be added to this platform over time.’’
The statement said that Nitturkar emphasised that the project would also address one of the key bottlenecks of cassava seed system, which was slow and low seed multiplication ratio.
“It is piloting the use of an innovative rapid seed multiplication technology called Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH), which has been successfully used in commercial potato seed multiplication in Argentina.
“SAH is expected to significantly help the cassava seed system by enhancing the capacity of pre-BASICS and BASICs seed producers to make available adequate quantities of certified planting materials of improved varieties for further multiplication by certified seed producers.
“The technologies and models being piloted in this initiative are tailored towards creating a win-win scenario for farmers, processors and seed entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
“The processors benefit from an assured supply of better quality cassava roots for processing.
“Youths and women, among other seed entrepreneurs, benefit from an expanding cassava seed market as an economic opportunity and the nation benefits from the resulting enhanced productivity across the cassava value chain,” Nitturkar said in the statement.
The project director said in the statement that BASICS, a four-year project (2016-2019), was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The project partners include the NASC, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Context Global Development, Food and Environment Research Agency of the UK (FERA), among others,” Nitturkar was quoted as saying.

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MWUN Threatens To Down Tools Over Failed Quay Aprons 

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The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) on Friday threatened to shutdown port operations over the dilapidated quay aprons at some of the nation’s seaports.
Speaking in Lagos during a joint press conference put together by the union and Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), President General, MWUN,  Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, reiterated that the lives of labour workers at the affected terminals was at risk, saying that “injury to one is tantamount to injury to all.”
Adeyanju lamented that the union cannot allow the situation consume some dockworkers before protesting against the trend, noting that as a responsible and proactive group, there was the need to down tools for government to do the needful.
Our correspondent gathered that two port terminal, at Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos, and another  at Port Harcourt, Rivers Port  Quay wells have been in  dilapidated condition for over five years without any sign of repair works from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Recall that Minister of Transportation, Mu’Azu Sambo, who also inspected the dilapidated portion of the Tin Can Island Port quay apron recently, asked Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the engineers to forward the ‘as-built’ plan of the jetty, alongside other documents to his office for immediate action.
While reacting to questions from the journalists, Adeyanju said the union will also engage management of the NPA in furtherance to address the menacing failed infrastructure of the terminals.
On the recently inked Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NARTO, the President General noted that the collaboration has been in existence for a long while with the aims to cater for drivers’ welfare and support projects of the NPA in port terminals operations.
He also warned members of the dockworkers branch to cooperate and embrace the agreement with the trucking association, noting that any attempt by the dockers to flout the MoU reached so far would result to sanctions from the national executive of MWUN.
He assured the leadership of NARTO, led by its National President, Alhaji Yusuf Othman, of the Union’s commitment towards ensuring that progress and success is achieved  in the agreement.
According to him, the MoU is binding for members of the dockworkers branch, stressing that the Lagos ports was a test run with plans ahead to extend the agreement to other seaports, including, Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt ports.
Earlier, President of NARTO, Alhaji Othman, lauded the MoU reached with MWUN, adding that success will be achieved in the merger. Othman said in line with port operations, the merger will bring about free flow of vehicular movement in and out of the ports calling on the parties involved to embrace sincerity and transparency for the benefit of the industry and Nigeria.
He said, “We wish to draw the attention of the general public to the decision for MWUN and NARTO to synergise and collaborate on a basis of common desire to ensure seamless environment to do business in the maritime sub sector of the nation’s economy”.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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PenCom Approves Use Of Pensions For Mortgage

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National Pension Commission (PenCom), has commenced approval for workers to use 25 per cent of their Retirement Savings Accounts for mortgage.
PenCom in a press statement released on Friday, titled ‘PenCom approves guidelines on accessing Retirement Savings Account balance for payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by RSA holders’, noted that the approval was in line with the Pension Reform Act of 2014.
It stated in part, “PenCom is pleased to inform all stakeholders and the general public, particularly RSA holders, that the commission has approved the issuance and immediate implementation of the guidelines on accessing RSA balance towards payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by RSA holders.
“The approval is in line with Section 89 (2) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, which allows RSA holders to use a portion of their RSA balance towards payment of equity for residential mortgage”.
According to the PenCom, the guidelines cover pension contributors in active employment, either as a salaried employee or as a self-employed person.
It added that the maximum amount to be withdrawn is 25 per cent of the total mandatory RSA balance as of the date of application, irrespective of the value of equity contribution required by the mortgage lender.
It further stated that where 25 per cent of a contributor’s RSA balance is not sufficient for payment as equity contribution, that RSA holders may utilize the contingency portion of their voluntary contributions (if any).
To qualify as a mortgage lender for the purpose, it stated, the company must be licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, comply with the Contributory Pension Scheme and have valid Pension Clearance Certificate.
“The RSA of the applicant shall have both employer and employee’s mandatory contributions for a cumulative minimum period of 60 months (five years).
“A contributor under the Micro Pension Plan is also eligible, provided he/she has made contributions for at least 60 months (five years) prior to the date of his/her application, and the RSA Holders that have less than three years to retirement are not eligible.
“Married couples, who are RSA holders, are eligible to make a joint application, subject to individually satisfying the eligibility requirements.
“RSA holders, if registered before 1 July 2019, must have their records updated through the RSA data recapture exercise.
“Application for equity contribution for residential mortgage shall be in person and not by proxy.” it stated.

By: Corlins Walter

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Car Hires Operators, Bolt Driver Flex Muscles In PH Airport

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There was pandemonium at the Port Harcourt International Airport Omagwa, Friday, as the Accredited Car Hires operators clashed with a Bolt taxi operator over passengers.
The scenario that played out got to the extent that everyone scampered for safety, as the Bolt driver went wild with his vehicle, and defied everything put in place to stop him, determined to crush anything, including humans, that stool on his way.
Problem started when the suspected Bolt driver was stopped by the Car Hires.  After a heated argument, characterized by abuses, the bolt driver decided to enter his vehicle in anger, after he sensed that his car was in danger of being confiscated.
In the commotion that ensued, the car hires, as usual, used their iron piercing instruments to block the tyres of the vehicle to keep it within their custody, and the uproar attracted  the attention of other airport users.
The Car hires and their allies at the airport had always insisted that no other taxi operator must carry passengers at the airport, since they do not pay any levy to the airport authority.
Consequently, they use every force necessary to stop other outside taxis from carrying passengers from the airport.
Friday’s incident took a new twist, as the Bolt driver over. Powered the forces used by the car hires, and went on a suicide mission, which made people to scamper for safety, including the car hires.
The driver went on a speed spree away from the airport. Even when the piercing instruments cut his tyre, he drove in such reckless manner capable of pulling down a building, thereby setting the entire environment on panic.
Some security agents present had to clear the way for the Bolt driver who drove out of the Airport with the iron piercing instrument obstructing his car, defiling all attempts to stop him.

By: Corlins Walter

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