Aso Villa Reads for 13/5/2019

Every day, we bring you the best stories that the Media is reporting about the Government of Nigeria.

Vanguard reports that “the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, weekend stated the resolve of the Federal Government to deal ruthlessly with institutions and individuals indebted to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON. Osinbajo, who noted that one of the measures to be deployed against the debtors was stopping them from doing business with government, vowed that government would not fold its arms and allow AMCON debtors walk the streets free. “I think the time has come for us (Federal Government) to set some examples with some of these top debtors of AMCON, which I believe will set a good example and serve as deterrent to others,’’ the vice president said. He said the debtors had made it impossible for AMCON to resolve its outstanding N5 trillion debt, thereby holding the entire nation to ransom with their bad behaviour. He said the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari will no longer fold its arms and allow a few individuals owing AMCON huge sums of money walk freely on the streets in the country.”

“The National Consultant, Food and Agriculture Orgnanisation (FAO) of the UN, Dr. Emmanuel Odunze, says Nigeria has huge potential in food security and has enough to export. Odunze said this at the opening of a two-day Step-Down workshop on the Revised and Harmonised Characterisation, Inventory and Monitoring of Animal Genetic Resources tools for Africa in Abuja on Friday. The workshop is organised by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).” According to Daily Times,”he said that Nigeria had huge potential in food security, all the country needed to do was to harness these potential. He added that “you can see the fertile lands, the genetic breeds, Nigeria has the potential in food security and can even export; government should try more in allocating resources and deploying the right manpower to the food and agriculture sector. More resources and manpower should also be deployed for logistics to increase food production and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture should support the private sector.”

“The minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi has said that the connection of standard gauge railway to seaports at Apapa, Lagos will enhance evacuation of 30 million tonnes of cargoes awaiting carriage yearly. Currently, between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes of cargoes are evacuated on narrow gauge railway line.” Leadership reports that “the minister disclosed this at the weekend during the inspection of Ebute-Metta to Apapa axis of the ongoing construction of Lagos to Ibadan standard gauge railway project. According to him, by December this year, when the standard gauge is expected to be connected to Apapa port, the current traffic grid lock caused by long queue of trucks awaiting to load cargoes will be a thing of the past. The minister also said that structures and lands marked by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) for demolition will only be demolished if lease agreements entered into with beneficiaries have expired adding that those whose lease period of agreement did not expire will be compensated before demolition of such structures. Still on the rail project, he said China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Nigeria Limited (CCECC) has laid 123 kilometers of track with a target to achieve156 kilometers of track laying to Ibadan by end of June this year, adding that by July, concentration will shift to connection of the Iju to Ebute-Metta Junction and Apapa axis with standard gauge railway lines.”

According to This Day “the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved road contracts worth N35.944 billion in six states of the federation, bringing to a total of 16 roads the council has approved in recent times. The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Communication, Mr. Hakeem Bello, said that the newly-approved roads was in pursuance of the federal government’s commitment to developing the country’s road network in the six geopolitical zones. Barely three weeks ago, the council approved the award of N169.74 billion contracts for the construction and rehabilitation of 10 roads across the country. However, the minister said that the beneficiary states in the latest approvals during the last FEC meeting, include Kebbi and Zamfara states where a N3.813 billion contract was approved for the rehabilitation of BirninYauri-Rijau, Magajiya to Daki-Takwas Road; Akwa Ibom State, where a N1.1 billion contract was approved for the construction of Atan Ikot Okoro Road with Bridge at Esssien Udim Local Government Area and Ebonyi State where a N3, 071 billion was approved for the reconstruction of Oso-Owutu Road. He added that for Benue State, a contract of N27.3 billion was approved for the rehabilitation of Makurdi-Naka-Adoka Road Phase 1.”

“The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, has said the federal government is currently working through the National Economic Council in collaboration with state governments to streamline the multiple taxes paid by businesses particularly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).” According to This Day “he also said the implementation of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) had resumed since 2018, after the programme was suspended at the inception of the current administration adding that the scheme had now been streamlined to avoid abuse and irregularities which marred it in the past. Addressing journalists over the weekend about the strides made by ministry in transforming the business environment in the past four years, the minister also said efforts were ongoing to make the Kano and Calabar Free Trade Zone operational. He said though the Kano free trade zone had been underutilised, the ministry has, “taken several steps to make it better and the result will soon start showing.” He added: “One is to upgrade the infrastructure because it has dilapidated and that upgrade has been going on for the last two years.”

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says its effort at reducing poverty and unemployment in the country through agricultural investment is yielding desired result. The Coordinator of CBN Fair, Mr Sam Okogbue, made this known during a two-day workshop organised for business partners and bank customers in Lokoja at the weekend. The theme of the workshop was “Financial Stability and Economic Development.” Okogbue said that the CBN, under the leadership of Mr Godwin Emefiele, had introduced measures that will continue to add value to the nation’s economy. “CBN is now rebranded; under Godwin Emefiele, CBN has become one that works for all. CBN preaches local contents, customers-friendly and agricultural revitalization as tools towards taking the country out of unemployment and poverty,” he explained. He called on the people to embrace the various CBN agricultural programmes such as the Anchor Borrower and APPEALS to reduce poverty and unemployment in the country.” Daily Trust reports.

Daily Trust reports that “the policies and programmes embarked upon by the Muhammadu Buhari administration since 2015 have revived the solid mineral sector and taken it to the next level, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development Abubakar Bawa Bwari has said. Alhaji Bawa Bwari said the present government met a sector that was moribund due to neglect and poor funding, ‘’and through deliberate efforts, we have now revived it to make our mining environment competitive again.’’ The minister stated this in his speech at the commissioning of completed Research Development Projects at the National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC) in Jos. The speech was emailed to Daily Trust yesterday. He said as regulators, the federal government would provide the enabling environment for operators to thrive while also attracting new investors into the sector. He said in order to accomplish this, the ministry and its agencies must be equipped with the tools that will make them perform their roles adequately hence the commissioning of the projects.”

“The Federal Government has directed the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to further extend the period for the registration of small businesses in the country at a reduced cost of 50 per cent by three months The acting Registrar General of CAC, Lady Azuka Azinge, said the directive, which takes effect today, was in order to give opportunity to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that could not register in the first and second phases of the Business Incentive Strategy (BIS), the opportunity to do so. Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, handed the directive to the CAC to further extend the registration window at the reduced cost of N5,000 by 90 days. Lady Azinge, who disclosed this to newsmen in Abuja weekend, said the move was in line with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s drive to support and encourage ownership of MSMEs for the economic growth and development of the country. It would be recalled that CAC under its Business Incentive Strategy (BIS) had reduced the cost of business name registration from N10,000 to N5,000 for a period of three months from October 1 to December 31, 2018.” This is according to Daily Trust.

“Businesses and individuals who have been making a fortune as contractors producing corporate gifts for distribution at annual general meetings (AGMs)/extraordinary general meetings (EGMs) of public companies may need to change their business strategy or go under. The contracts will soon cease to flow as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in the process of stopping public companies from spending a significant amount of their earnings on corporate gifts. In order to deepen the capital market in Nigeria, the apex regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is proposing a fine of N10 million for companies distributing gift items at their Annual General Meetings (AGMs).” According to the report, “in a notice to the market, SEC explained that it was doing this because it observed publicly quoted firms spending a lot of money on corporate gifts, when such funds should have been channelled to payment of dividends to shareholders or operations of the organisations. The agency said in order to make things better, it was proposing amendments to the its Rules And Regulations of Part N Rule 602 titled Miscellaneous Rules.” Business Day reports that “public companies spend a significant amount of money on corporate gifts at AGMs/EGMs and this has a great impact on their profitability. Few of the companies are making reasonable profits and even fewer can afford to pay dividends. If the amount budgeted for gifts at AGMs/EGMs can be reserved for other relevant operational or administrative expenses, it would positively impact on their earnings per share,” SEC said.”

“President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated Federal Government undaunted efforts to tackle youth unemployment and underemployment through matrix of initiatives. Buhari made this known at the 13th convocation ceremonies of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka on Friday. Buhari, represented by the Minister of State Education, Tony Anwuka, said the initiatives included N-Power, Bank of Industry’s Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES), the CBN and Bank of Agriculture Support Scheme. “As part of the continuing efforts to stave off, the number of initiatives to boost the employability of graduands of our tertiary institutions, either as employer or in self-employment. These initiatives include, but not limited to, the energising education programmes through the rural electricity agency, the intent of which is, to provide captive power plants for selected tertiary institutions Thus, providing them with the needed uninterrupted power supply and the skill G projects by TETFUND which provides computers, laboratory equipment and other learning resources to tertiary institutions,” he said. The President restated also the conviction of Federal Government that education was the bedrock of socioeconomic development of society”. Business Day reported.

Business Day reports that “the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) is considering legal options to compel employers of labour to comply with the provisions of Employees Compensation Act (ECA). The enabling Act as amended (2011) makes it mandatory for employers of labour to pay 1 per cent of their employees’ emoluments to a pool of insurance fund which is being managed by NSITF. “We have used the persuasion and subtle approach to enlist the buy-in of employers since the inception of the fund in 2011,” Segun Basorun, a general manager with NSITF, said in Lagos when the management gave details on developments within the Fund. “But going forward, we’re going to invoke the provisions against employers who have remained recalcitrant and refused to register with ECA scheme,” Basorun added. The fund acts as a buffer against injuries, loss of body parts, permanent disability or death of an employee resulting from accidents on line of duty. It is indeed a form of social insurance that provides a succour directly to an employee or his/her dependants in the event of untoward occurrences in the course of duty. While official statistics shows increasing accidents at work places with compelling need for compensation of victims, the rate of compliance with the law by employers of labour has remained abysmally low; a development that the NSITF says cannot continue to fester.”

According to Business Day, “Kian Smith Gold Refinery, which is setting up the first gold refinery in Nigeria, is to host the first ever West Africa gold conference, the company has said. Tagged Gold West Africa, the regional conference, which will bring together players from different countries, is a strategic collaborative effort between Kian Smith Gold Refinery and Noemdek, a Nigeria-based international advisory firm. “This is the first regional conference in West Africa on gold” Nicole Smith, Gold West Africa event manager, told BusinessDay. Smith noted that out of the 15 ECOWAS countries, Cape Verde, Benin and Togo are the only countries without notable gold reserves. However, Benin and Togo are notable for gold trade. All other ECOWAS countries have either significant documented gold reserves, internationally listed gold mining companies or a significant footprint of artisanal gold mining. Despite this, there is presently no internationally recognised gold ‘market centre’ in Africa. “West Africa has a thriving underground gold economy that if regulated, could unlock the West African region as the gold market centre of Africa,” he noted. Smith said the event will bring 150 critical gold sector stakeholders from over 14 countries together with the aim of establishing a strong West African public and private sector lobby around the precious metal that could become the economic game changer for the region.”

“The on-going construction work and laying of tracks along the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project has reached kilometre DK 133 out of the 156 kilometer, representing 85.2 percent distance of so far covered, while the remaining 23 kilometers will be completed in the next three weeks. Speaking after inspection on Friday at Kila in Ibadan, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi stated that the on-going rail project is one hundred percent complete. Amaechi noted that “When we started, this whole area we are driving through was just bushes.They have not cleared the road, we created roads with our cars, but at the end of the day, we are coming to the end of the project with a new vegetation.” The Minister explained further that, “there used to be green grasses here, trees, waters and creeks, the creek is turned into dry land some of the areas where you have valleys we have build bridges, any area that we did not need to build bridges, we created roads”. He said: “Areas we could have just moved straight on, we created valleys just to ensure Nigerians are able to move from Lagos to Ibadan. We are going to the end of the track, because we are getting to kilomerer 156 and what remains is 33 kilometers which they can cover in the next three weeks’’. He revealed that CCECC has confirmed that by the end of May, they will complete track activities on this Lagos to Ibadan. So we are ahead of schedule and hundred percent ahead of schedule. So, “We should be at the end of the outskirt at the end of month’’. He disclosed.” This is according to Business Day.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that “China would invest $250 million on a dry port in Ibadan that will decongest the ports in Lagos and speed up clearance of goods by the Customs Service. The Chairman of China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC), Mr Fenjian Chen, said on Friday when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari. Chen, who led a high-powered Chinese team to meet with the President, said CRCC is an international company operating in 124 countries, with 18,000 local employees in Nigeria. According to him, part of projects CRCC include rail way, dry port, free trade zone, and building of highways, adding that about 40,000 more jobs are to be created from these. He commended President Buhari for the war against corruption and insecurity, expressing confidence that Nigeria would soon become a much better country. Earlier, President Buhari expressed appreciation to China for what he described as its “genuine efforts to improve Nigeria’s infrastructural development. According to a statement by his spokesperson, Mr Femi Adesina, the president that Nigeria’s infrastructure had depreciated and deteriorated over the years, affecting standard of living, and leading to loss of lives through avoidable accidents.”

“This is coming on the heels of findings by the commission, having received credible information that chemicals are being used as forced and artificial ripening agents for fruits, vegetables, and other food items. Of particular note, the commission said, was the use of calcium carbide to hasten the ripening of oranges and mangoes. Calcium carbide (CaC2) is a chemical compound containing arsenic and phosphorus, which have been scientifically proven to contain harmful carcinogenic properties that are harmful and capable of serious adverse effects and possible fatalities associated with consumption of foods containing them. Babatunde Irukera, the Director-General of FCCPC, speaking on the health concerns, advised consumers, retailers, farmers, and others in the produce value and distribution chain to desist from this harmful practice, and to be vigilant in order to prevent consumption of artificially ripened produce using CaC2. The FCCPC, formerly known as the Consumer Protection Agency, was established by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA). The Commission, Irukera said, was collaborating with other relevant regulators and stakeholders in the food security value chain to prevent this practice, sensitise and educate stakeholders, as well as interdict and confiscate produce already otherwise compromised by exposure.” Business Day reported.

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