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COVID-19: FG Urges Women To Apply For MSMEs Grant

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The Federal Government has urged female entrepreneurs to apply for its ongoing intervention grant for Micro, Small and  Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to enable them overcome challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum, made the call at a news conference on the implementation process of the survival fund in Abuja, yesterday.
Katagum, who is also the Chairperson, Programme Steering Committee, said the Project Delivering Office (PDO) for the scheme was receiving feedbacks from Nigerians since its registration portal opened on September 21 for applicants.
According to her, the project, which will run for an initial period of three months, has provisions for 45 per cent female-owned businesses and five per cent for those with special needs.
She, however, noted that there had so far been low women enrolment on the scheme, and therefore called on state and local governments, and trade associations to mobilise women to apply for the grant.
The minister said: “There is need to mobilise more women because by the design of the programme, we are targeting 45 per cent of women beneficiaries and five per cent for those with special needs.
“I use this medium to encourage more women to apply, and we also urge associations to try assisting their members who do not have access to the internet.
“If you are a woman, apply and encourage others to apply because this money is there and we want to ensure that it gets to the targeted beneficiaries,” she said.
Katagum lauded MSMEs’ performances across the country and urged them to take full advantage of the scheme by applying for any category that suits their needs.
She said that although many Nigerians had applied for the grant but there was need for improved awareness creation for MSMEs, especially those in the grassroots to key into it.
According to her, the white list of beneficiaries fully verified for disbursement and payments to the approved block of beneficiaries has also started.
She said that disbursements had been approved for a total of 16,253 MSMEs businesses, accounting for a total of 101,567 beneficiaries.
“Also N30, 000 was paid to each of the 94,696 employees/beneficiaries, while N50, 000 was paid to each of the 6,871 employees/beneficiaries.
“And 2.6 per cent of the beneficiaries are people with special needs, while 43 per cent of the total beneficiaries are women in line with the guidelines on disbursement.
“The disbursements for payroll support commenced last week Wednesday, November 18 and it is ongoing presently across the country.
“However, due to the inability of some states to meet their targets, the portal will be reopened to accommodate such states,” she said.
Katagum said that distribution of beneficiaries across the country so far to include Lagos – 25,000, Kano -17,000 and Abia – 16,000 beneficiaries, while every other state has 13,000 beneficiaries each.
The minister said that the Formalisation Support Scheme, which is simply the registration of 250,000 new businesses with CAC started on October 26.
According her, the scheme has so far registered 9,084 MSMEs from Lagos State, 8,406 from Kano State and 7,906  from Abia, while other states have 6,606 beneficiaries each.
The minister said that prospective beneficiaries under the Artisans and Transport Grants scheme were being paid in three streams with each stream having 12 states.
“Under stream one, 29,000 beneficiaries (artisans) have been approved for payment across the following states, they are FCT, Lagos, Ondo, Kaduna, Borno, Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Abia, Plateau and Delta.
“While disbursement to beneficiaries under the first stream was ongoing, enumeration of artisans in stream two commenced on October 26 and concluded on November 11.
“Beneficiaries under this stream have been fully verified and will start receiving payments from yesterday.
“The states under stream two comprise Taraba, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Edo, Ogun, Ekiti, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Enugu and Ebonyi.
She said that enumeration of artisans under the third stream commenced on Nov. 13, and was concluded on November23 for Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River, Yobe, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Oyo, Osun, Jigawa, Gombe,  Benue and Zamfara states.

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Waterways Disaster: NIWA Institutes Insurance Cover For Goods, Barges 

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As a result of heavy losses of lives and properties by the operators of water transportation, the Nigeria Inlandways Authority has announced its readiness to roll out insurance cover plans to ensure that importers who patronize barge operators do not lose their investments.
Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, who disclosed this to newsmen at a media parley in Lagos, said his agency has held discussions with the barge operators for a suitable insurance cover for all goods on board barges.
He noted that this was simply to protect investments of importers who use waterways to transport their goods to their final destination
The NIWA boss described movement of goods by barges as a prime project in order to decongest the nation’s ports and also reduce pressure on the roads.
The roads,  Moghalu said, were not designed to carry as much as they do currently, adding, “if so, there is no way our infrastructure will last.
“So, whatever we can do to reduce such pressure, we do it… in civilized societies, bulk cargoes go on waterways”, he said.
He further explained that having concessioned Onitsha Port, others will follow with time, adding that government will use the same template used in Onitsha concession as a guide to Baro, Lokoja, Oguta and any other river port.
Recall that the former Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, had said that Onitsha River Port has a lot of economic benefits to the country.
Saraki said the port will generate about N23billion to the Federal Government in 30 years as part of the concession agreement.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Bakers Plan Fresh Price Hike, Cite Cost Of Materials 

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Bakers, under the aegis of the Premium Bread-Makers Association of Nigeria (PBAN), have warned of another inrease in prices of bread due to the skyrocketing cost of baking materials.
President of the association, Emmanuel Onuorah, who disclosed this to The Tide’s source in an exclusive interview, said the recent developments in the global marketplace had not translated into a better operating environment for local bakers.
Accordiy to him, the planned hike follows a recent strike action by PBAN, and the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN), which culminated in a 15 per cent hike in bread prices barely two weeks ago.
Onuorah said many members of PBAN had been forced to shut down business operations this year due to the skyrocketing cost of doing business.
“The price of bread is going up again. The millers just increased prices by N2000. Sugar refiners increased by N2000. We had a N10,000 increase between last week and this week. We are increasing prices again.
“Preservatives increased by N2000, and butter increased by N2000. So, we have to respond. For us as an industry, our own is garbage in, garbage out. If the price of wheat comes down today, and the price of fuel comes down, certainly we will look at the price of our products and act accordingly”, he said.
He also urged the Federal Government to open up a forex window for industry players, particularly the flour millers.
This, he said, would significantly address the indiscriminate increase in the prices of flour in the market.
“When we went on withdrawal of services, flour was N28,500. Today it is N30,500,” Onuorah said.
In July 22, 2022, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to free more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
The agreement, brokered with support from the United Nations and Turkey, was projected to have major implications on global food security and food prices.
The inability of Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports had severely reduced the supply of food to import-dependent African and Middle Eastern countries.
Before the war in Ukraine, Ukraine had been a bread basket, providing wheat, maize, and barley to countries throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
According to a recent publication by the World Bank, export prices of cereal indices were stable over the past 2 weeks, with the agricultural index closing at the same level as at two weeks ago.
The export index went up by two per cent, but the cereal index went down by one per cent.
The war in Ukraine is having extreme impacts on the world’s poorest countries. The countries at highest risk of a debt crisis are experiencing the additional threat of a food crisis.
A recent World Bank blog described the dire situation that many poor countries had been facing since the start of the war, with surging food import bills resulting from high grain prices caused by the war.
According to World Bank data, import bills for wheat, rice, and maize are expected to rise by more than one per cent for low-income countries at high risk of a debt crisis, more than double the increase from 2021 to 2022.

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Safety Compromise, Reason For Nigeria’s Depressed Economy 

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A retired diver, Engr. Tapenu Tobi, has blamed waterways operators for compromising safety in the waterways, which, he said, has resulted in Nigeria’s depressed economy.
He said the result is that  at the end of the day, it has forced many of them to  defer or skip maintenance, cut corners on mandatory training and operate wooden boats.
Engr. Tobi, who said this in an exclusive interview with The Tide in Lagos, noted that Nigerian Inlandways Authority lacked the resources needed to conduct a safe water operation in terms of funds, organisation and skilled personnel, a development which he said could make the operators to compromise safety.
He also stated that the regulatory mechanism required to enforce safety rules are non-existent in some States and simply  disintegrating and collapsing in others, as well as absolutely being ineffective in many.
Water transportation, according to the expert diver, is capital intensive as it involves a lot of expenses.
Such expenses, he explained, include ferry purchase/lease payment, high cost of acquisition of new boat, sea crew training (including simulator), and maintenance.
Others are “spare parts to support safe operation, jetties infrastructure facilities, provision of communications, navigational and landing aids and the provision of skilled and experienced manpower for the water safety regulatory body”, he said.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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