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Entrepreneurs Urge N’Delta Govts To Empower Women In Business

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A panel of female Niger Delta-based entrepreneurs has called on the governments of Niger Delta states to urgently implement innovative policies that would empower small and medium scale women entrepreneurs whose businesses have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The panel noted that female entrepreneurs have emerged as breadwinners of their families following the economic downturn occasioned by the necessary restrictions placed to contain the spread of Covid-19 in their states.
The entrepreneurs encouraged women in business to persevere in spite of the harsh business environment and urged for support from government and corporate bodies to women in business.
The female entrepreneurs made the call during the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)-sponsored live radio programme, ‘Canvas-The Niger Delta Roundtable’, monitored in Port Harcourt.
Speaking on “Women in Business in a Challenging Era,” the panelists noted that the strong entrepreneurial spirit of the Niger Delta woman, who accounts for 41% ownership of micro-businesses in the region, has been severely threatened by the triple effects of “harsh economic policies, the Covid-19 pandemic and the more recent protests prevalent in several parts of the country.”
The panelists listed the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta to include difficult access to loans, patriarchy, double taxation, insecurity and cultural biases.
Port Harcourt-based Ford Foundation Fellow and an award-winning Social Work, Development and Impact Analyst, Dr Mina Ogbanga, said, “It is important to discuss women in business now because women make up 51% of the country’s population and a pandemic heightens all inequalities that already exist. Women are therefore more affected.”
Yenagoa-based 2017 winner of Shell Nigeria LiveWire Business Leaders Award and Creative Consultant/Chief Responsibility Officer of Queen Esther Multi Biz Services Nigeria Limited, Barrister Esther Bolou-Ebi, noted that the inequalities include “Patriarchy which has caused women to face severe challenges while doing business, double taxation, insecurity, poor access to loans and cultural biases”.
Bolou-Ebi, who is the founder of Farmtojuice and Foods Nigeria Limited, said, “Insecurity discourages people from doing business, while double taxation is another challenge businesses face”.
Winners of Shell Nigeria LiveWire Entrepreneur Awards in 2016 and 2017, respectively, Port Harcourt-based Mrs. Ibiere David and Warri-based Ms. Harriet Omoweh, said, “Though the pandemic affects all businesses, some of the challenges predominantly affect businesses run by female entrepreneurs who have to repeatedly defend her competence to command respect, whose marital status stereotypes her and is used to measure her ability to be entrusted with important businesses.”
They urged women in business to seek opportunities like Shell Nigeria LiveWire programmes that give credible opportunities to actualize their business visions and provide good quality mentors to better run their businesses.
The panellists said, “Enterprise is crucial to the development of an economy, especially of a country like Nigeria. Entrepreneurship is therefore essential for national development, poverty eradication and employment generation. It is the bedrock of any nation’s industrialization. And with about 23million female entrepreneurs operating in this space, women form an integral part of this development in Nigeria.”
The SPDC-sponsored Canvas-the Niger Delta Roundtable is a weekly live radio programme that is aired in the Niger Delta states to discuss the future of the oil-bearing region and reflect on topics relevant to the development of the region and its people.

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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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