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FOREX withdrawal for food importation will increase smuggling, says NECA

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The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on Wednesday warned that there would be unprecedented smuggling of food products because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the CBN to withdraw foreign exchange for food importation.

The Director-General of NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale,      while reacting to the directive, told reporters in Lagos that although the directive might be well intended, it left much to be desired in the absence of a buffer time for adjustment.

According to Olawale, Nigeria currently lacks the capacity to meet its local food demand and the demand that will be created as a result of the directive will be through smuggling.

He said that given the fact that Nigeria recently signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) intended to open up the borders, smuggling would become the order of the day.

”With the recently signed AfCFTA, Nigeria will further create a thriving market for other countries and will remain a dumping ground for imported goods.”

He said the implication of a ‘knee-jack’ action, was that “a wholesale immediate withdrawal of FOREX without giving a buffer period for businesses to adjust and source for alternatives would boost smuggling activities.

”This will have serious consequences for the economy.

“But we commend the president and indeed, the Federal Government for the numerous efforts at ensuring food sufficiency in the country and protecting local farmers.

The director-general said that the withdrawal of forex would decapitate businesses leading to loss of jobs and relocation of some businesses to neighbouring countries where they could without hindrance, bring the products to Nigeria under the cover of AfCFTA.

He said that the timing of the policy called for concern and that with consistent support and policy stability, local food production might meet demands and also provide foreign exchange through exports.

According to him, the reality is that Nigeria currently lacks the capacity for sufficient food production to meet local demand.

The NECA chief said that conserving foreign exchange through the withdrawal or ban of FOREX for food importation was not tenable.

Olawale said that if Nigeria was desirous of conserving foreign exchange, government would do well to stop the allocation of FOREX for the importation of petroleum products and ban medical tourism to aid investment in Nigerian hospitals.

He said that the government should also withdraw FOREX for payment of tuition in foreign universities to enable the resuscitation of the perpetually under-funded Nigerian universities, among others.

“The reality of lack of capacity to embrace these other wholesome reforms is true of the situation with insufficient capacity presently for food production,” he said.

The NECA boss argued that “rather than withdrawal of FOREX on food importation and indeed, milk importation, a gradual withdrawal with a buffer period of not less than five years should be given.”

He said that this would ensure proper and strategic implementation of government’s agricultural promotion policy that was established less than five years ago.

Olawale said that government should also resolve the myriad of challenges facing the food production value-chain, including the distribution system for fresh foods, post-harvest losses due to a lack of storage system as well as the security challenges and the menace of herdsmen.

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Ondo lawmakers hail Akeredolu’s infrastructural development drive

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Lawmakers in Ondo State, on Thursday, commended Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for the on-going road construction across the state, saying it would  ease traffic flow and boost socio-economic activities.

Mr Adeyemi Olayemi, the Chairman, Ondo State House of Assembly Committee on Works and Infrastructure, gave the commendation during an oversight function to the ongoing roads projects in the South Senatorial District of the state.

Olayemi, while expressing happiness over the ongoing construction of the first flyover in the state, that is, the Ore flyover in Odigbo Local Government area, said it was long overdue.

He said that once the flyover was ready, it would bring the perennial traffic gridlock in the axis to an end.

The Ore-Benin expressway connects Ondo to other states, which makes Ore the commercial nerve centre of the southern part of the state, but unnecessary vehicular gridlocks have subjected motorists, pedestrians and other road users to untold hardship.

The ongoing road construction in other districts, such as the Ore flyover, will further boost commercial and tourism activities in Ore and the state at large.

I sincerely commend Gov. Akeredolu for this giant stride, in spite of the meagre allocation,’’ the lawmaker said.

Mrs Magaret Akinsuroju, the Caretaker Chairperson, Odigbo local council, said that she was so excited that Ore was wearing a new look during her tenure, adding that the flyover would bring succour to travellers and residents.

Akinsuroju urged motorists and other road users to be patient on the Ore-Benin expressway and put into consideration the ongoing construction work in the Ore axis.

She said that motorists and other road users would benefit a lot after the completion of the road projects.

I am so happy and thank our amiable governor for standing by his promise to construct the first-ever flyover in the state; the residents of this council appreciate this gesture and this will remain in our minds for a long time,’’ she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Daniels Mansur, the Project Manager, Craineburg Construction Company, the firm handling the Ore flyover, said that rain was the only challenge hindering the project.

Mansur said that the flyover would be completed and handed over to the state government by second week of January 2020.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the house committee members on works and infrastructure also inspected the ongoing township road construction in Araromi Obu seaside in Okitipupa council area.

The committee members also visited the ongoing township road construction in Kiribo, Ese-Odo LGA and the Owodunni road construction in Irele Local Government area.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that other committee members were Messrs Olugbenga Akogun, Samuel Aderoboye, Ademola Edamisan, Festus Adefiranye, Tomide Akinribido, Simeon Borokini and Taofik Mohammed.

Edited by: Oluyinka Fadare and
(NAN)
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Katsina govt. committed to making LGCs more productive-‘Commissioner

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The Katsina  government says it is fully committed toward making the 34 existing local government areas in the state more  productive and vibrant through participatory approach.

Alhaji Yau Gwajo-Gwajo, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs gave the assurance while speaking with Nigeria News Agency in Daura on Thursday.

Gwajo-Gwajo said the local government staff would be fully exposed to training and retraining and fully utilized in achieving the targeted goals through capacity building.

He reaffirmed the determination of the government in promoting welfare of local government staff through timely payment of their entilements and other benefits for effective and efficient service delivery.

The commissioner urged council staff to be fully committed to their duties by being honest, transparent and accountable in both their official and private conducts, saying government would not condone sharp practices.

He said the ministry would continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that development projects were executed across all the local government councils without prejudice.

The Commissioner commended security agencies, traditional, religious and community leaders for maintaining relative peace and stability across the 34 local government councils.

Nigeria News Agency reports that Gwajo -Gwajo was the former Speaker of the Katsina House of Assembly prior to his subsequent appointment as commissioner by Gov. Aminu Masari.

Edited by: Razak Owolabi/Tukur Muntari.
(NAN)
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Border closure has not violated free trade treaty – says Aondoakaa

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Former Minister of Justice, Mr Mike Aondoakaa says Nigeria has not violated any treaty regarding free trade among the West African States by closing its borders.

Aondoakaa also President, West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) stated this while speaking with newsmen on Thursday in Makurdi.

“The country is only taking measures to sanitise a filthy development that is almost grounding the local economy with agricultural produce wasting on daily basis.

“Nigeria is the only country in West Africa that eats parboiled rice.

“So, our neighbours often take advantage of this and under the pretext of free trade among West African countries to use their countries as smuggling routes to bring in some products that one cannot even verify their source.

“Even when the products are to be examined following the branding to trace the root, the supposed producers will distance themselves from these same products brought into our country with their labels and insignia.

“The worse aspects of it is that, these supposed importers mischievously using Nigeria as dumping site for questionable products do not even pay custom duties

“If this is not worrisome to anyone, then, it is very unfortunate,” he said.

Aondoakaa urged the Federal Government to sustain the closure due to its numerous economic advantages to the country.

“I pray that President Muhammadu Buhari will insist that the borders remained closed until there is convincing commitment from the offending neighbours that they are ready to consistently and meticulously check products that pass through their territories into Nigeria,” he said.

He stated that the development would serve a bitter lesson to neighbouring countries that had over the years taken the country for a ride by consistently allowing their territories to be used as transit routes for smugglers to dump unverified products into the country.

He further revealed that government took the measure based on pressures from farmers who kept lamenting and appealing that they needed to get benefit for their produce.

“I threw my weight behind the border closure because it is the best way to go for Nigeria,” he said.

Edited by: Philip Dzeremo/Ali Baba-Inuwa
(NAN)
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Yuletide: Transporters make brisk business in Jos

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Commercial vehicles operators in Jos are making brisk business due to the increase in the volume of passengers traveling out of the state for the Christmas and New Year festivities.

Nigeria News Agency reports that virtually all the motor parks in Jos metropolis are filled to capacity as early as 6 a.m by passengers heading for various destinations in the country.

The Vice Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) of the motor park located opposite NTA, Jos, Mr Austin Robert, told NAN that the park began to witness an increase in passenger traffic in the first week of December.

Robert said the patronage was so high that by 9.30 a.m, there was no more available vehicle going to Abuja and other routes.

He, however, said that in spite of the influx of passengers, the park had not increased its transportation fares and assured that the charges would not be hiked during the yuletide.

As part of its efforts to make the operations hitch-free, the vice chairman said, the union was holding regular meeting with its drivers to sensitise them on the ills of taking substances that could enhance their driving performance.

According to him, the drivers were told that such practice could endanger their lives and those of the passengers.

He said that the union usually monitored the drivers and that anyone of them found to be intoxicated would not be allowed to drive that day.

Robert advised passengers to desist from the act of putting pressure on the drivers to speed in order to meet up with their various appointments.

Similarly, the Manager of Benue Links Park in Jos, Mr Verbe Tembe, said the park was experiencing increase in the number of passengers traveling for Christmas and New Year.

Tembe also said that the management of the park was meeting with the drivers twice in a week to sensitise them on the ills of drunk driving or driving under the influence of psychotropic substances.

He said the drivers were being monitored to ensure that they complied with the order against drunk driving.

He called on passengers to report any driver they found to be under the influence of any substances, so that the union would immediately recall him.

An Abuja-bound passenger, Malam Abdu Abubakar, commended the operators for not increasing their fares in spite of the high patronage.

I am impressed by this patriotic gesture of the Jos transporters who refused to take advantage of the high patronage to increase the fares. I commend them for maintaining the fares,” Abubakar said.

Similarly, Miss Yop Pam, a passenger going to Benue, commended the transport companies for not increasing the fares and appealed to them to maintain the charges “so that people can travel and see their loved ones”.

Edited by: Abdullahi Yusuf
(NAN)
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NGO urges media to encourage women in politics, promote inclusiveness in governance

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An NGO, Legal Awareness For Nigerian Women, has urged the media to pay special attention on women issues to ensure inclusiveness and encourage women participation in politics and governance.

Mrs Rebbeca Sako, the Executive Director of the organisation, made the appeal in Kaduna at a workshop on promoting media synergy with women in politics.

Sako noted that though there were several laws that accord women equal opportunities to participate in politics, the media needed to educate the women to exercise such rights.

She said women constitute about 50 per cent in the society, “but when its come to their visibility in public spaces you will no see much women.”

The executive director also noted that political parties have not made efforts in enhancing the capacities of women to excel in politics.

There is need for more participation of women in politics to get their voices and inputs in the decision making process so as to achieve more impact and contribute in building the society to stimulate socio economic development.

During elections there are more women than men voters; we want to see more women as candidates and contestants since they have more than 50 per cent of the population,” she said.

Sako therefore urged women to use there numbers to take over the political space so as to make a difference in the governance of the country.

She noted with concern that less than 10 states have 35 per cent represention of women in elective and political positions in the country.

In her remarks, Mrs Hannatu Ahuwan of the organization’s office in Kaduna, said the objective of the workshop was to bring media practitioners in an inter party women network to create synergy on promoting women participation in politics.

Ahuwan said the organization is working in collaboration with National Democratic Institute on its

Women In Politics (WIP) project, being supported by the DFID since 2016.

She said it is aimed at encouraging women and other maginalized groups to be part of the political space and government in order to build sustainable democracy.

Ahuwan added that the project also seeks to increase the visibility of female legislators and strengthen the inter party network to be strong in political participation.

Mr Paul Onwude, who spoke on the role of media in promoting women participation in politics, called for the projection of women politicians and issues affecting women into the front burner of national discourse.

He streesed the need for the media to make issues of women more visible to the public, so as to elicit appropriate action by those in authority.

Edited by: Maharazu Ahmed
(NAN)
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