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COVID-19: Don urges Kaduna Govt. to initiate robust intervention programme for SME  



A university don, Dr Elisha Auta, on Saturday, called on Kaduna State Government to initiate a robust intervention programme for micro and small businesses to keep them afloat during the Coronavirus  pandemic period.

Auta, of the Economics Department, Kaduna State University, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna.

He observed that businesses, almost everywhere in the state, were on hold, while others had shut down because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said that the owners of micro businesses and other smaller businesses, whose daily income came from their daily sales, were the worst hit.

“The little profit they make is what they use to feed their families and now that they are not running the businesses, they use the capital to feed their family.

“At the moment, most of them have spent  their principal and  have to start all over again, as such, they will need all the support they can get from the government.

“The Kaduna state government needs to understand these issues and initiative ways of supporting small businesses,” Auta said.

He further expressed concern that many small business owners had lost their shops to the state’s market development programme even before COVID-19 hit the state.

“Others have also been relocated to temporary markets as part of measures to curb the spread of the deadly virus, a development that further put their businesses at a disadvantage of low patronage.

“It is, therefore, necessary for the state to have an all-inclusive team working on COVID-19 response, including the organised private sector, to help the state understand what is happening in the businesses community,” he said.

The lecturer also advised the state government to emulate the Federal Government by providing fund  to support small and medium scale enterprises in the state.

Edited By: Angela Okisor (NAN)


Philip Daniel Yatai: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]


Economists speak on expectations ahead of MPC meeting



Economic analysts on Monday advised the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to hold all rates, citing the global crisis occasioned by Coronavirus pandemic as its decision.

The experts gave the advice in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria , in Lagos ahead of the MPC meeting, scheduled for May 28.

They said that the the pandemic coupled with the sudden collapse of the oil market, which at the moment appeared to be showing early signs of recovery, meant that the only option confronting the country was to offer stimulus packages.

Dr Boniface Chizea, the Managing Director of BIC Consulting Services, urged the committee to maintain status quo.

“So, this is not the time to be tinkering with interest rates as it is of no effect or Cash Reserve Ratio or Loan to Deposit Ratio.

“The MPC meeting may just offer some advice to the Executive management of CBN, rectifying what has been done so far.

“We read that the reserves are bleeding profusely as the CBN defends the rate of exchange,  recalling that the rates were suddenly reduced by 18% to 360.

“But since not much of activity is going on by way of imports, scant attention has been paid to developments in this regard.

“So, we are in a global crisis and, realistically,  we expect a bold decision,” Chizea said.

In the same vein, a Political Economist, Chief Martin Onovo, urged the Committee to lower interest rates.

“As it is today, Inflation is rising, our foreign reserve is dropping very sharply.

“National debt has also risen sharply and our country is clearly in a debt trap and heading to a debt crisis.

“In addition, the Naira is loosing value sharply and the national economy is clearly ruined.

“Based on these, we expect the CBN in line with the stimulus package, to lower the interest rate.

“But, this will have an almost insignificant effect,  given the current national economic predicament,” Onovo said.

However, Prof. Ndubisi Nwokoma, Director, Centre for Economic Policy Analysis and Research (CEPAR) University of Lagos, advised the committee not to lower the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR).

The MPR is an interest rate at which CBN lends to commercial banks and other clients.

He said: “The exchange rate is fragile with possibility of further depreciation of the naira.

“Oil revenue is dwindling and foreign reserves on the decline.

“Inflation is on the increase and incomes are not rising for households.

“In view of this, I think CBN should not relax credit through the Deposit Money Banks (DMOs).

“Loosening credit through DMBs can lead to more pressure on the exchange rate and hence, further depreciation of the naira. Hence MPR should not be lowered,” Nwokoma said.

However, he advised that more focus should be on developing finance credit to stimulate the sectors through Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He added that the SMEs had been the hardest hit by the lockdown, the border closure and the macroeconomic uncertainties.

NAN recalls  that the MPC in March,  retained all key policy rates amid the growing impact of COVID-19 on the global and Nigerian economy.

MPR or the controlling lending rate was left at 13.5 per cent, with the asymmetric corridor at +200/-500 basis points around the MPR.

The Liquidity Ratio was at  30 per cent, while Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) was left unchanged at 27.5 per cent.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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COVID-19: Fixed income market will record increased activity – Onyema



Mr Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has expressed optimism that fixed income market would experience increased activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Onyema said this on Monday at a virtual event to mark the 10th anniversary of Brand Africa 100.

He said that the Nigerian government would embark on a lot of borrowings to finance the budget due to impact of COVID-19.

According to him, government will shift away from Eurobonds to domestic borrowings with significant emphasis on fixed income.

“We expect government and corporate companies to raise capital using different platforms, and capital market is one of it,” Onyema said.

He said the market would not witness any Initial Public Offering in the near-time due to narrative around COVID-19.

Speaking on the topic: “Impact of COVID on African financial markets”, Onyema said coronavirus had affected government, businesses and individuals in so many ways.

Onyema noted that the Exchange witnessed a lot of volatility with largest single day loss of five per cent at the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

He said that a lot of foreign investors exited the market in February when the first case of coronavirus was reported in Nigeria.

Onyema said the Exchange, which emerged as the highest stock market in terms of return having finished with 7.5 per growth in January, slid into negative territory due to COVID-19.

He said the market had showed some tremendous recovering across all the asset classes.

The NSE boss said investors were redirecting their investment into the capital market that offers higher returns due to foreign exchange challenges and fall in crude oil price.

Mr Geoffrey Odundo, Chief Executive Officer, Nairobi Securities Exchange, said the country experienced heavy down selling in March due to the pandemic.

Odundo said the Exchange transmitted to full remote trading environment to ensure access to the market from anywhere.

“We gave quoted companies more time to file their results and as well allowed companies to do their Annual General Meetings electronically,” he stated.

He noted that the international investors were still active in the market but at lower level.

Odundo said Kenyan government, just like others, announced various incentives and stimulus to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Dr Leila Fourie, the Chief Executive Officer, Johannesburg Stock Exchange, on his part, said COVID-19 caused a lot of outflow from the market.

Fourie said that whenever there was crisis, investors would take flight to safety.

“It will take a long time for companies to raise capital from the market due to the pandemic.

“We are still in lockdown in South Africa,” she stated.

Mr Anthony Chiejina, Group Chief Brand & Corporate Communications Officer, Dangote Group, described the pandemic as a passing phase.

Speaking on ‘Building brands in Africa post COVID’, Chiejina said Africans should reinforce their brands by telling their own stories.

He said such stories should lift hope rather than scare the populace.

Mr Mzamo Masito, Chief Marketing Officer, Google Africa, said the company would be helpful to SMEs and people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Masito said brands that help people and businesses to restart and recover would remain important in their lives.

He noted that Google would continue to provide relevant and accurate information to what people need.

To Sylvia Mulinge, Chief Customer Officer, Safaricom, brands must chase customers because they choose the brands of their choice.

“Every brand needs to know the critical thing required by the consumers to make themselves relevant in their life,” Mulinge stated.

She noted that brands must know what to do to stand out for their consumers in terms of products and messages.

NAN reports that Dangote Group emerged as the most admired Africa brand, trailed by MTN and DSTV, among others.

Brand Africa is an independent non-profit organisation registered in South Africa and a signatory to the Independent Code of Governance for non-profit organisations in Africa.

It was conceived to provide an objective metric for brands that Africans admire and drive the continent’s image and reputation.

The global results and rankings report were launched in September 2011 at a Brand Africa Forum hosted by Brand South Africa in Johannesburg.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)


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Group backs senate’s call for suspension of electricity tariffs increment



A group, the Energy Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Initiative (ECRRI) on Monday backed Senate’s call for suspension of increment in electricity tariffs by electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos).

Mr Sural Fadairo, ECCRI National President, told the News Agency of Nigeria   in Lagos that the tariff increment billed to commence on July 1, should be suspended due to prevailing economic realities.

NAN reports that the Senate, had during  recent plenary advised the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to suspend the increment to mitigate economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians and businesses.

Fadairo said the move had shown that the lawmakers had the interest of ordinary Nigerians  who are being subjected to exploitative bills by the DisCos at heart.

He said: “We, as an electricity consumer group have been against any form of increment in tariffs because we feel it is not justifiable.

” Now with the economy being ravaged by Coronavirus, it is only proper that any move to increase tariffs be put on hold because Nigerians are struggling to survive.”

The ECCRI president also commended the Senate for its ongoing probe of the privatisation of the power sector.

He urged the lawmakers to do a thorough job that would help put the sector back on track.

Fadairo said: “It is our belief that the privatisation of the power sector has failed because the nation is still struggling to provide electricity for  citizens.

“We believe that the procedures and processes which led to it must be reviewed if Nigerians are to enjoy quality supply of electricity.”

According to him, the privatisation model of the telecommunications sector which has made the industry vibrant today should be emulated in the power sector.

“We have to look at increasing power generation,  transmission and distribution to end users and also examine whether those currently saddled with the responsibility have the capacity of actualising that.

” It is not good enough that a nation of almost 200 million people generates  less than 5, 000MW of electricity.

“We cannot achieve economic growth and national development under this situation, “Fadairo said.


Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Eid-el-fitr: IPMAN seeks prayers for peaceful coexistence



The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has called on Muslim faithful to pray for  unity and peaceful coexistence of Nigerians during the Eid-el-fitr celebration.

IPMAN’s President, Mr Chinedu Okoronkwo made the call in a statement issued on Monday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria , reports that the Federal Government had declared May 25 and 26 as public holidays to mark the Eid-el-fitr celebration.

Okoronkwo said the lessons of the holy month of Ramadan include fervent prayers, piety, goodwill and sacrifice which were all critical for nation building and national development.

He said: “On behalf of the National Executive of IPMAN and its Board of Trustees, I want to felicitate with our Muslim brothers and sisters as they mark Eid-el-fitr.

“I urge them to continue to pray for the unity and peaceful coexistence of our beloved nation during this critical moment.

“We are all aware of the challenges posed to our economy by the COVID-19 pandemic and crash in global crude oil prices and we believe that with prayers and sacrifices, Nigeria will surmount these challenges.”

Okoronkwo said IPMAN, on its part would continue to support the government’s policies and regulations aimed at bringing sanity to the petroleum sector and improving the nation’s economy.

Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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MPC: Don predicts CRR reduction to 22.5% due to coronavirus



A Professor of Finance and Capital Market has said that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would reduce the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by five per cent during its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting on Thursday.

Prof. Uche Uwaleke of Nasarawa State University made the prediction in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Lagos.

Uwaleke, who spoke on the expectations from the meeting slated for May 28, said the MPC would likely reduce the CRR from 27.5 per cent to its previous level of 22.5 per cent.

“The MPC will most likely adopt a slightly dovish approach which may entail reducing the CRR from 27.5 per cent to its previous level of 22.5 per cent, while retaining the other policy rates.

“That is, the MPR at 13.5 per cent, Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent and the asymmetric corridor at +2-5.

“A reduction in the CRR will be the right decision to take as it will free up some funds for banks given that they are not remunerated for cash reserve with the CBN,” Uwaleke stated.

He noted that the reduction would be a breather and would support the banks not to lay off staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Uwaleke added that the CRR reduction would enable banks to maintain the Loan to Deposit Ratio put in place to enhance credit to the private sector, especially in this period of COVID-19.

“I think the choice before the MPC on May 28 will be either to maintain the policy parameters or relax them.

“The issue of further tightening of the policy may not arise as that could spark an outcry in view of the difficult times the economy is passing through.

“Essentially, the MPC will take into consideration the rising inflation rate which is moving far away from the CBN threshold of 9% and fast closing in on the MPR of 13.5%.

“If not put in check and it surpasses the benchmark rate, then we have a situation in which real returns are negative and becomes a disincentive to investors, especially portfolio investors.

“So, the MPC will be mindful not to discourage Foreign Portfolio Investment because of its positive impact on external reserves.

“The MPC will be the knock-on of a lower MPR on exchange rate against the backdrop of the move to merge the official and autonomous foreign exchange rates in line with the condition for accessing the $3.4 billion IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument Facility.

“These factors will feature prominently in the considerations to retain the policy rates including the huge fiscal deficit in the 2020 budget that will be financed largely through borrowing by the government.

“On the other hand, the MPC will equally be concerned about the current economic recession occasioned by COVID-19 and the collapse in crude oil price.

“The need for complementary measures in support of government’s stimulus packages and the ones by the CBN.

“I also expect the MPC to consider the effect of a high MPR on the asset quality of banks especially its potential to increase non performing loans arising from inability of many bank customers hard-hit by the pandemic to meet their loan terms and conditions.

“Against this backdrop, I see the balance of risks weighing in favour of economic growth stimulation,” Uwaleke said.

He said the CBN governor might seize the opportunity of the MPC meeting to unveil some heterodox measures aimed at containing the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)


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Gov Buni is committed to industrialisation of Yobe — Commissioner



Yobe State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Barma Shettima, says the Gov. Mai Mala Buni’s administration is committed to the development of commerce and industry.

The Commissioner told the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Damaturu that Gov Buni’s commitment was  geared toward improving the  state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

Barma said the governor remained  committed to the industrialisation of Yobe and provision of the needed infrastructure for economic growth.

He added that when this administration assumed office, almost all the industries in the state were not functioning.

“Buni, however, swung into action by resuscitating most of the industries such as Yobe Flour and Feeds Mills Limited, Sahel Aluminium Company, the Woven Sacks Company.

“They were not in use for quite long time but now the government gave directives and approval for immediate resuscitation and now the companies are fully operational.

“With all these industries working in full capacity, we can say we have recorded much progress in terms of revenue generation to the state.

According to Barma, Buni’s administration also recorded tremendous achievements in the commerce sector.

He said  the construction of Damaturu modern market was  50 per cent done and in final level of completion.

“Government has also issued a tender for the construction of other modern markets in Potiskum and Gashua Local Government Areas of the state,” he said.

The commissioner said another plan for the construction of rural markets in Buni-Yadi and other local government areas were also underway.

He said the progress recorded within the first year of  Buni’s administration,  particularly in the industry and commerce sector had created more job opportunities for the populace.

“The gesture has equally made some products available in state, like roofing sheets that were scarce,”  Barma added.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)


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Eid-el-fitr: EKEDC reassures customers on improved service delivery



Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) has reassured customers of its commitment to improved service delivery across its distribution network.

It gave the reassurance on Saturday, as it felicitated with Muslim faithful on the Eid-el- fitr celebration.

Mr Godwin Idemudia, EKEDC’s General Manager,  Corporate Communications, said in a statement that Eid-el -fitr was a solid reassurance that with every challenge and difficulty came respite, redemption and renewal.

Idemudia noted that while Eid-el-fitr was symbolic for its celebration, it was also the expression of the ideals of the holy month of Ramadan.

This, he described as essential for peaceful coexistence, togetherness and nation building.

“As we commemorate this year’s Eid-el-fitr celebration, it is important that we continue to exemplify the true teachings and lessons of Ramadan including piety, sober reflection, sacrifice, goodwill, love for God and a deep sense of community.

“It is noteworthy that this year’s Eid-el- fitr is coming at a time when the world is faced with the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Eid-el- fitr, however, offers us a solid reassurance of hope that while we may have more to endure, better days and normal times will return, ” he said.

He appealed to customers  to support the company’s efforts by using its designated channels for the immediate settlement of bills and all other obligations.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Group lauds Kaduna Gov’t over palliatives to 32,000 households



The Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC) has commended Kaduna Government for the distribution of N352 million worth of food items to 32,000 vulnerable households in the state.

Chairperson of the coalition, Ms. Jessica Bartholomew, said in a statement in Kaduna on Saturday, that the measure would significantly reduce hunger among vulnerable households caused by the Coronavirus lockdown.

Bartholomew recalled that the state government had in April,  distributed N500 million worth of food items to low income households in nine Local Government Areas of the state to cushion the effects of the lockdown.

“And on Friday,  the government announced the commencement of the second round of the distribution to 32,000 vulnerable households in the remaining 14 LGAs. This is quite commendable.

“This do not only show the responsiveness of the government, but its resolve to ensure that the vulnerable population are  supported to improve their resilience to the current hardship and hunger,” she said.

She also commended the state government for addressing some of the concerns raised by the coalition, particularly the  involvement of party officials and other anomalies that characterised the distribution in the pilot LGAs.

She lauded  the government for providing detailed information on the exercise to help civil society organisations and the media to adequately monitor the distribution to ensure transparency and accountability.

According to her, disclosing what each benefiting vulnerable households is expected to receive, will prevent the committee members from indulging in sharp practices and short changing  the beneficiaries of their entitlements.

“The pilot distribution was marred by poor planning by the cluster committees, as the food items were either hijacked by politicians or shared among people not in need.

“People living with disabilities were largely schemed out of the process, while the distribution was not orderly in some locations, leading to complete disregard to social distancing.

“But we are glad that some of our recommendations are  considered in the second round of the exercise with steps taken to improve the process,” she said.

Bartholomew  commended the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Malam Balarabe Abbas, who doubled as Chairman of COVID-19 Relief Distribution Committee for  steps taken to make the process as transparent as possible.

“The SSG equally said that lessons learnt from the pilot exercise have been incorporated in the second phase of the exercise, so as to accommodate more of the target group. This is laudable,” she added.

She also called for collaboration  with the coalition in the spirit of Open Government Partnership (OGP) to complement government’s efforts  in all social protection interventions in the state.

She urged the state government to strengthen feedback and complaint mechanism for timely response to complaints by beneficiaries and concerns from civil society organisations.

The chairperson added that KADSPAC would monitor the exercise in all LGAs to ensure transparency and accountability as well as generate feedback on citizen’s satisfaction.

“We want to believe that the new approach will ensure that no one is left behind, especially the targeted poor and the vulnerable, including the socially excluded groups.

“These groups include the disabled, aged, people living with ,  mothers and children suffering from malnutrition among others,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls  that the SSG  in a statement on Friday, explained that a package of food items per benefiting household cost N11, 000.

He added that the package comprised of 10 kilogramme (kg) of Rice or Spaghetti, 5.0 kg of beans, 10 kg of Semovita or cassava flakes (Garri) and a carton of noodles and  three litres of vegetable oil.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma and Isaac Ukpoju (NAN)




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Group launches coop society to aid food production in Southwest



A pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural group, Yoruba Ko’ya Leadership and Training Foundation, on Friday in Lagos launched a Multipurpose Cooperative Society to help entrepreneurs and boost food production in Southwest.

The Director of Finance and Investment of group, Mr Olakunle Osuntokun, said the multipurpose society would be used to propel knowledge-based entrepreneurship, food production, trading, and vocational training among the youth.

Osuntokun said the multipurpose society, also known as Ijinle Development Multipurpose, would also be used by market men and women in the Southwest geopolitical zone.

According to Osuntokun, the organisation is worried over the abysmal level of food production, high level of poverty and hunger in the zone.

He said the group, therefore, resolved to launch a formal platform through which residents of the zone would be empowered financially without any burden.

Osuntokun noted that the Ijinle Development Multipurpose would help in promoting a culture of savings among the market men and women.

He said it would help both existing and aspiring young entrepreneurs in the zone and boost their savings through loans that attract only five per cent interest payable in one year for growth of their businesses.

“We are focusing on food production; Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM); vocational trainings; agriculture value chain; and digital wealth.

“Our vision is to build an industrialised Southwest, which is strong in commerce and knowledge-based economy.

“The reality is that any nation that lacks the capacity to feed, at least, 70 per cent of her people will lack true peace.

“Today, the Southwest cannot feed 5 per cent of its people; which is a worry to us,” he said

According to Osuntokun, the Ijinle Development Multipurpose is going to bridge the gap and with consistency, the zone shall get there.

In his address, the convener of Yoruba Ko’ya, Deji Osibogun, said he was worried that the Southwest which used to be a haven of agricultural production in the First and Second Republics now rely heavily on other parts of the country for virtually all food.

“Reports have shown that this COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the zone as a weak entity in terms of food security and agricultural production.

“Also, the pandemic has opened our eyes that every nation must promote and develop knowledge-based entrepreneurship otherwise known as Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM).

“Therefore, Yoruba Ko’ya, through Ijinle Development Multipurpose will be promoting our innovative and creative young men and women on knowledge-based entrepreneurship,” Osibogun said.

In his speech, the Ikeja Area Officer of the Directorate of Cooperative in the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Cooperative and Industry, Mr Olusegun Odedina, said many nations of the world, including South Africa, are now strengthening their economy.

Odedina, who inaugurated the multipurpose cooperative society in line with Lagos Coop Law Cap of 2004, said nations were building wealth and creating employment opportunities for their teeming population through Multipurpose Cooperative.

He charged Yoruba Ko’ya to remain committed to its vision and dream of making the Southwest part of the country a producing entity, rather than a consuming land that it is at the moment.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)



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AfDB, others inaugurate second Africa Regional Integration Index



The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA),  African Development Bank (AfDB) and African Union Commission (AUC) on Friday inaugurated the second Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII 2019).

It comes with a call to action, for economies on the continent to deepen their integration.

The AfDB Communications and External Relations Department made this known in a statement on Friday.

According to the statement, the 2019 Index, which builds on the first edition that was published in 2016, provides up-to-date data on the status and progress of regional integration in Africa.

It also helps to assess the level of integration for every Regional Economic Community (REC) and their member countries.

The report, according to the statement, observed that although 20 countries scored above average, no African country could be considered well integrated in its region.

It said that even the most integrated country, South Africa, scored 0.625 less than two-thirds of its potential on the scale.

Mr Stephen Karingi, Regional Integration Division Director of ECA, is quoted in the statement as saying: “the report found that much more needs to be done to integrate regional economies to make them more resilient to shocks such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, the Index shows that levels of integration on the continent are relatively low with an average score of 0.327 out of one.

“Whereas the Index edition we are releasing today has data cut off points in 2019, the present COVID-19 pandemic has reopened the question of whether enough is being done in advancing regional integration as a means to help Africa withstand systematic shocks such as the one being experienced today.

“This index is both a measurement exercise and a call to action; to build resilient economies through integration.”

According to him,  it will identify the solutions needed to truly build an integrated Africa.

Jean-Denis Gabikini, Acting Director of the AUC’s Economic Affairs Department, is quoted as welcoming the collaboration in producing the Index.

He noted that the Index covered issues of intellectual property, competition policy, investment and digital trade, which were critical to the successful negotiations of Phase II and III of AfCFTA.

“To achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, representing a dynamic force in the concert of nations, this ARII report will support AU Member States and RECs to address industrialisation and value addition priorities for the development of the continent,” Gabikini said.

The AfDB’s Director for Regional Development and Regional Integration, Moono Mupotola, said the Index was a useful tool for tracking progress on the regional integration front and would help countries identify priorities to improve integration.

“The crippling effects of COVID-19 illustrate the need for enhanced production of African finished goods and services that can readily be traded across the continent,” Mupotola said. 

Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Tunisia’s GDP shrank 1.7 per cent in Q1 2020



Tunisia’s GDP shrank by 1.7% year-on year in the first quarter of 2020, the State Statistics Institute said on Friday, as the vital tourism sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

That compared with growth of 1.1 per cent in the same quarter last year.

Authorities in the North African country expect the economy to shrink by 4.3per cent this year, which would be its steepest contraction in more than 60 years.

Tunisia started relaxing restrictions on movement and businesses this month, allowing half of government employees to return to work, but the pandemic is hammering its tourism sector which contributes nearly 10per cent of gross domestic product and is a key source of foreign currency.

Tourism revenues fell in the first three months of 2020 by 27 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 to 1 billion dinars, as western tourists deserted Tunisia’s hotels and resorts.

Finance Minister Nizar Yaich said last month in a letter to the International Monetary Fund that the tourism sector could lose $1.4 billion and 400,000 jobs this year due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Tunisia’s need for external funding will double to about 5 billion Euros this year from about 2.5 billion Euros previously expected, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh has said.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)


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COVlD-19: Analyst urges FG to diversify economy



Mr John Fashikun, a public affairs analyst, has urged the Federal Government to learn from the COVID-19 outbreak by diversifing the nation’s economy to promote more development.

Fashikun gave the advice while speaking with newsmen on Friday in llorin.

According to him, over-dependence on oil has remained the bane of development in the country, especially at a time of pandemic.

Fashikun said the economy would record more remarkable progress through proper planning and diversification.

“If the country had  planned for the rainy day, things would have been better for Nigerians during this pandemic affecting the whole world,” he said.

He urged the well to do in the society to be their brothers’ keeper by assisting the less privileged in the society.

The analyst added  that no government, no matter how benevolent, ccould solve all the problems of its citizens.

Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)

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CSCS shareholders approve N4.3bn total dividend for 2019



Shareholders of Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc, on Friday, approved total dividend of N4.3 billiion declared by the board for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2019.

The shareholders gave the approval at the company’s virtual 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) by proxy, held at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) event centre.

The dividend translated to 86k per share when compared with 70k per share paid in the comparative period of 2018.

Speaking to the shareholders at the meeting, Mr Oscar Onyema, CSCS Chairman, appreciated the resilience of the company and its performance amidst market volatility and waning transaction volumes in 2019.

“This sets of results and impressive returns to shareholders are commendable, particularly when put in the perspective of the relatively weak liquidity in the market in 2019.

“This feat reflects the tenacity of the management in diversifying the business and commitment to cost efficiency.

“Whilst transaction fees waned, it is satisfying that CSCS sustained both top and bottom-line growths, with revenue and profit before tax of N9.1billion and N6.3 billion respectively”, Onyema said.

Mr Haruna Jalo-Waziri, CSCS Managing Director, said that the performance was a result of commitment to superior value for shareholders.

“My colleagues and I remain committed to our earnings growth and cost efficiency philosophies, as we are driven by the ultimate objective of creating superior value for  shareholders and enhancing market efficiencies.

“I am pleased with the 165 per cent growth in non-core earnings, reflecting our tenacity toward diversifying the business.

“More importantly, the overall performance reflects the pay-off of our painstaking investment in people and new technologies, as we strengthen our capacity to serve our participants better and meet anticipatory need of the market.”

“Notwithstanding the inflationary environment, we closed 2019 with 31.5 per share cost-to-income ratio, demonstrating continuous improvement in cost efficiency.

“As we deliver on our strategic initiatives aimed at enhancing the post-trade segment of the Nigerian capital market, we are upbeat on the earnings outlook of the company, with expectations of delivering superior returns to shareholders over the long term,” Jalo-Waziri said.

He said that the company would continue to strengthen its partnership with all market stakeholders toward deepening the market for mutual growth.

 “In 2019, we seamlessly delivered on our core responsibilities of safe depository, clearing and settlement of capital market transactions, but these do not excite us, as we are not in business for these table stakes, which we consider to be routine.

“We have greater and audacious ambitions of partnering with our stakeholders in realising the huge potential of the Nigerian capital market through innovations.

“I am pleased that we are laying solid foundations for creating value and impactful innovations for the Nigerian market, even as we reckon the odds”, Jalo-Waziri added.

On coronavirus pandemic, Jalo-Waziri said that the company activated its Business Continuity Plan requiring staff to work from home well ahead of the Federal Government’s lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.

He said, “I am happy to report that we continue to seamlessly serve the market remotely, extracting the benefits of our proactive investments in new technologies and people.

“Whilst operating remotely over the past eight weeks, we continue to record 99.99 per cent uptime across all our channels, with a resounding commitment to efficiently support all primary and secondary market transactions through this challenging time, and always.”

Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Investors gain N233bn on NSE, as market capitalisation crosses N13trn mark



Investors net worth appreciated by N233 billion on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Friday,  following gains achieved by some blue chips.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the market capitalisation which opened trading at N12.902 trillion rose by N233 billion to close at N13.135 trillion.

Similarly, the All-Share Index increased by 446.36 points or 1.80 per cent to close at 25,204.75 against 24,758.39 achieved on Thursday.

An analysis of the price movement table indicated that Mobil led the gainers’ table, increasing by  N19.40 to close at N213.90 per share.

MTN Nigeria followed with N4 to close at N115, while BUA Cement garnered N3.40 to close at N39 per share.

Nigerian Breweries rose by N2 to close at N39.50 , while Conoil increased by N1.90 to close at N21per share.

On the other hand, Stanbic IBTC topped the laggards’ chart, shedding 30k to close at N32.55 per share.

Caverton trailed with a loss of 29k to close at N2.61, while Guaranty Trust Bank dipped 25k to close at N23.75 per share.

FBN Holdings lost 15k to close at N5.20, while May & Baker depreciated by 9k to close at N3.06 per share.

The banking stocks dominated activity chart with United Bank for Africa exchanging 49.17 million shares valued at N330.88 billion.

Zenith Bank came second, accounting for 44.96 million shares worth N756.58 million, while FBN Holdings sold 30.07 million shares valued  N156.79 million.

Guaranty Trust Bank sold 11.83 million shares worth 281.78 million, while Lafarge Wapco exchanged 11.63 million shares valued  N131.54 million.

In all, the volume of shares traded closed lower as investors bought and sold 259.58 million shares valued  N2.88 billion in 5,605 deals.

This was against a turnover of 350.77 million shares worth N3.71 billion transacted in 5,239 deals on Thursday.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)


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Lockdown: Abia govt. to impound vehicles, fine inter-state travelers N50,000



Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu has signed an executive bill empowering Abia transport ministry to impound vehicles and impose a N50,000 fine on travelers who violate the ban on inter-state trips.

Chief Ekele Nwaohammuo, Commissioner for Transport, who disclosed this in an interview with the  News Agency of Nigeria , on Friday in Aba, said that the ministry had already arrested two drivers and impounded two vehicles with passengers moving from Aba to Lagos.

“We have also sealed Perfect Transport Company, Aba for violating the lockdown directive which prohibited inter-state movements,” he said

The commissioner said that he would soon meet with transporters and road workers unions in Abia to remind them of the implications of running foul of the lockdown rules, and to encourage compliance.

“It is very correct that some motorists and buses still load and move people in and outside Abia.

“I have arrested some motorists for boarding people in their vehicles to move outside the state.

“I am just from the Secretary to the State Government’s office where I went to seek reinforcement because I am just an individual and cannot handle the situation alone..

“These commercial drivers are very stubborn. I have told them on radio the difference between intra-state and inter-state movements, yet they keep doing what they are doing.

“I will hold a meeting with all their leaders on Friday to ensure they understand the need to obey the lockdown order or face the consequence,” Nwaohammuo said.

He disclosed that he had been authorised to work with the Special Adviser on Security to Abia government, Capt. Awa Udonsi, and use “every reasonable force” to seal any park transporting people for inter-state trips.

Edited By: Razak Owolabi and Ephraims Sheyin (NAN)


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Unitrust Insurance pays over N269m claims in first quarter



Unitrust Insurance Company Ltd. on Friday said it paid its customers over N269 million as claims in the first quarter of 2020.

The insurance company said in a statement that the claims were paid during the COVID-19 lockdown in fulfillment of its avowed commitment to prompt claims settlements.

“We have been working remotely despite the COVID-19 disruption and have remained reachable to our customers via our CRM solutions and other business continuity plans.

“Some of the major businesses whose claims were settled includes: Mouka Foam Ltd. (Fire and burglary Policy), Pz Cusson Nigerian Ltd and Subsidiary (Marine and Fire policy),” it stated.

According to Unitrust Insurance, other organisation that were also settled included Sumal Foods limited (Marine Cargo and Goods-in-Transit), RATCON Construction (Engineering and Cash-in -Transit Insurance).

Unitrust was licensed in 1981 and authorized by the Corporate Affairs Commission RC– 42899 and National Insurance Commission (NAICOM).

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Real time trading, helping capital market to thrive — shareholders’ association



Mr Eric Akinduro, the Chairman, Shareholders’ Association, Ibadan Zone says real time trading is helping the Nigerian Capital Market to thrive in the face of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Akinduro made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Ibadan.

He commended the leadership of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) for being proactive in setting machineries in motion for such a time as this.

“As one of the players in the market, I can say that the market is really encouraging.

“It is very active in the sense that we are getting more bullish period (Stock Market characterised by rising share prices).

“Economically, if we should look at it, by now we should not have such a thing because there is not much activity in the economy.

“But when you look at our market at times, what is driving our market is quite different from finance, as we can see it in the market presently,’’ he said.”

He noted that the market was not feeling the heat of the present pandemic and lockdown occasioned by the novel COVID-19.

“The lockdown has not really affected the market negatively because we can see that some of the companies are really performing well now.

“But one thing we know which I am quite sure of is that we are going to see the likely reverse aspect of the market at the end of the day.

“It may not be in the long term but in the short term because the market is one that is progressing,” he said.

The trend we are passing through presently would affect the market but it would be in the long term.

“When we look at some of these companies that are in the market, they are really making good business now.

“And at the end of the day, the report they will give as their quarterly report will be very encouraging, I am quite sure,” he said.

According to him, the manufacturing companies, beverages and others are earning good money now unlike some other sectors like hotels and the likes.

“Some of the companies will surely give us good reports but we cannot rule out that the market will definitely feel the heat after this period. 

“But one thing I know is that, it is not going to be for the long term but for the short term and at the end of the day the market will definitely correct itself.

“This will make investors to keep on enjoying themselves,” he said. 

Akinduro also said the electronic means of transactions had been effective and helpful in the capital market.

“It seems our operators of the capital market have helped our economy by going ahead of this current situation.

“The leadership of the Nigerian Stock Exchange at this present time envisaged this and has put every stock broking firm on their toes to ensure that they are up to the task. 

“As you can see now, there is no physical trading but trading is going on online and investors are participating.

“That is why when you have leadership they should see challenges ahead before it turns to problem. 

“They have envisaged this before now and we thank God that the real time trading is really helpful to investors now and we are enjoying it.

“If I have anything to buy today and I instruct my broker before noon, I get the alert that is to show us the proactiveness of the NSE and the capital market.”

Akinduro said if NSE had planned for such a time as this, he believed there would not be any way the investors could be participating in the market as at now. 

“They are aware of this and have put a tough strategy in place so we don’t feel the heat of the lockdown on the market as everything is going on as it ought to be,” he said.

NAN reports that the association has members in Ekiti, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States.


Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Ese E. Ekama (NAN)


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Philippine lawmaker proposes tax targeting tech giants to fund virus fight



A Philippine lawmaker has introduced a bill in parliament, aimed at taxing big tech firms such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, to raise funds to battle the coronavirus.

The bill looks to raise 29 billion pesos ($571 million) by imposing a value added tax on digital services provided in the Philippines, a key growth area for e-commerce transactions as its people are among the world’s heaviest users of social media.

“We spent to fight COVID-19 and we need more to continue fighting it and recover,’’ Congressman, Joey Salceda, the bill’s principal author, told Reuters.

“It sends a strong signal to the world that the Philippines is ready for the digital transformation.

“We are putting our taxation in order.’’

Starting next year, Salceda said, funds raised from new taxes would also be used to finance digital programmes such as a national broadband project and digital learning, to fill the education gap caused by school closures.

But it may take a while before the proposal is scheduled for debate, as lawmakers are busy deliberating on an economic stimulus package to jumpstart the Philippine economy, ravaged by pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Google, Netflix, and Spotify were not immediately available for comment.

Facebook declined to comment.

The Philippines has recorded 13,434 virus infections, including 846 deaths and 3,000 recoveries and has run nearly 208,000 tests among its population of more than 107 million.

Last week, neighbouring Indonesia announced plans for VAT of 10 per cent on digital products from July, to boost revenues amid the pandemic.

Southeast Asian regulators held talks last year on a region-wide effort to tax tech giants more.

($1=50.74 Philippine pesos)


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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World Bank approves $48m to help Uganda contain locust plague



The World Bank said its board of executive directors has approved $48 million to help Uganda fight a desert locust invasion threatening livelihoods.

The funds, under the Emergency Locust Response Programme, will help Uganda monitor and manage locust swarms to limit the growth of existing and new desert locust populations, the bank said in a statement.

The funds will also provide livelihood protection and restoration to the affected households, communities and vulnerable groups.

“The project is expected to support 950,000 direct beneficiaries and about 1.2 million indirect beneficiaries in the locust-affected districts,’’ the bank said.

“The outbreak could undermine development gains and threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of Ugandans.’’

With support from other development partners, Uganda has started the fight against the migratory insects.

The country deployed over 2,000 soldiers and 835 civilian personnel, including agriculture extension workers, to contain the locusts.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Oil drops after China abandons target for 2020 GDP amid coronavirus outbreak



Oil prices slumped on Friday after China’s decision to omit an economic growth target for 2020 renewed concerns that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will continue to depress fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil user.

Brent crude fell $1.56, or 4.3 per cent to $34.50 a barrel by 0323 GMT, after gaining nearly one per cent on Thursday.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dropped by $1.79, or 5.3 per cent, to $32.13 a barrel, having gained more than one per cent in the last session.

China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) kicked off a week-long meeting on Friday with the government saying it omitted the 2020 target, while pledging to issue one trillion yuan ($140 billion) of special treasury bonds to support companies and regions hit by the pandemic.

Abandoning the growth target “could be interpreted as putting less focus on infrastructure investment and could be viewed as negative for oil,’’ said Stephen Innes, Chief Global Market Strategist at AxiCorp.

“The commodity market, in general, was looking for a bigger infrastructure pump from the NPC so there is bound to be an element of disappointment,’’ Innes said.

Still, both Brent and WTI are heading for a fourth week of gains as more evidence emerged that fuel demand is recovering as countries ease business and social restrictions imposed to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Gasoline demand is returning with traffic congestion in some of the world’s capitals recovering to year-earlier levels after the lifting of coronavirus, data prepared for Reuters shows.

Traffic flows in Berlin and Tokyo have rebounded, according to the data, while in the U.S., the easing of restrictions in many states has supported demand for gasoline.

The upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend typically kicks off the U.S. summer driving season.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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