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Fidelity Bank, NEPC, LBS Train 100 SMEs in Kano on Non-oil Exports

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Fidelity Bank Plc has trained over 100 SMEs at the 8th edition of the highly acclaimed Export Management Programme (EMP) with the aim of providing impactful, world-class support to Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Kano State.

The training is in partnership with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Lagos Business School (LBS), this programme currently in its third year was designed specifically to enhance the competitiveness of export-oriented businesses.

The programme has since graduated over 400 entrepreneurs who have transitioned from base level export experience to becoming established exporters with extensive export market footprints.

Since the commencement of the programme in 2017, the bank had always planned to take EMP to other parts of Nigeria where there are critical mass market opportunities for exports.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director (DMD), Mohammed Balarabe commended the participants for enrolling for the programme, adding that it was smart investment decision in the light of emerging opportunities in the non-oil sector of the economy.

“I am very confident that your business will benefit immensely from the insights and knowledge that the programme provides, with return on investment far exceeding the financial and economic costs of the programme to you” Balarabe said. Commenting on the rationale behind holding this edition in Kano, Mr. Balarabe noted that the decision was borne out of the need to exploit the massive potentials of the positioning of Kano as the hub for aggregation of agro commodities in Northern Nigeria.

“Kano is the hub for agro commodity exports in Northern Nigeria and majority of these exports are done informally. We have brought this Programme closer to you to fully unlock the potentials of the Northern Exports market and help you gain the knowledge required to increase your market access” he said.

Also, Regional Coordinator (Northwest) for NEPC, Mr Hassan Bala stated the EMP 8 will help scale the capacity of existing and potential exporters to enable them participate fully in the non-oil export business in Nigeria.  “The faculties we have gathered have the capacity and experience to assist the participants in achieving the target set for the programme. It is an invaluable training programme for all businesses interested in Nigeria’s foreign trade”.

The Programme Coordinator and Lagos Business School Faculty Member, Dr. Frank Ojadi decried the over dependence of the country’s economy on oil exports.

“The truth remains that Nigeria’s economy is overly dependent on the oil sector and this makes the prosperity of the economy reliant on crude oil prices. We need to concentrate on development of our non-oil export to increase revenues for the Government and generate employment for the populace.

“We have the natural resources to be a world leader in exportation of several products and it all boils down to the matter of unlocking these potentials. This is one of the major reasons why we partnered with Fidelity Bank and NEPC to create a Programme that not only educates budding exporters, but also enhances the capacity of experienced Exporters to unlock new levels of the Export business. He explained that EMP is designed to equip participants with the knowledge, tools and skills required to develop their export businesses in line with global standards. “We have held seven (7) editions of this Programme in Lagos and majority of the participants have gone on to develop their Export businesses by leveraging on the information gathered. The facilitators will train the participants on how to package their products, development of supply chain and accessing overseas markets.”

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Reps Reject Disengagement of Local Contractor from $100m Loan to Fight Malaria

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja 

The House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has lampooned the Ministry of Health over the disengagement of a local contractor in a $100 million loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Development Bank meant to address the challenge of malaria in the country.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon Amobi Ogah in a stakeholders meeting to address the matter was displeased that succour that was expected through the intervention was yet to materialize even after signing the agreement in 2022.

In his ruling at the meeting, Amobi directed that Minister of Health, Prof Ali Muhammad Pate, who was in attendance to provide a comprehensive report of the transactions pertaining to the agreement to the committee within two weeks.

The report is expected to explain in detail why the local vendors approved for the agreement were disqualified and not given access to the job.

Amobi said the meeting was to resolve the logjam that seemed to have crippled the implementation of the Islamic Bank Loan to support malaria elimination in Nigeria under the Lives and Livelihood Project.

He said the project aims to reduce under-five mortality in Nigeria from 132 to 79 per 1,000 births by 2030.

“We are aware that Malaria continues to exert a huge burden on majority of Nigerians, with the greatest toll affecting children under 5 and pregnant women. Nigeria contributes 27% of the global malaria cases, (World Malaria Report, 2021) and 31% of global Malaria deaths. In view of this sad story every effort must be made to support any initiative that attempts to reduce or eliminate malaria burden in Nigeria. 

“However we are at a loss as to the reason why the Loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Bank which is expected to last for 3 years, that is terminating by end of this year, has suffered monumental setback and we as the Parliament, representing the people of Nigeria who are affected and ravaged daily by malaria epidemic cannot fold our hands and watch matters degenerate so badly, hence our intervention in this matter.

“The Committee on ATM under my leadership has set a clear vision that it will no longer be business as usual, that Nigeria and Nigerians should be the focus of Government policies and programs. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers and, in this case, we know the grass; the grass is Nigerians ravaged and battered by malaria and the opportunity to receive succour through the intervention of the Islamic Bank loan is yet to materialise after the signing of agreement in 2022. We however, don’t know whether the Elephants fighting here is the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare? Or is it the Local Manufacturers of Insecticidal Nets? Or is it UNOPS?

“While the Committee is eager to hear from all the parties involved in this saga, we will make it categorically clear that as a Parliament we will not tolerate any entity that will toy with the lives of our people, we must think locally and grow our local capacity to ensure that malaria is eradicated from our Country. 

“There is nowhere in the world that sovereign laws of a State are not respected and obeyed and the Parliament will guard jealously the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it relates to Executive Orders and no entity or non state actors should go contrary to these Laws.

“We must put our House in order if we must win the fight against malaria, we cannot continue to pursue shadows and keep running in cycles while leaving out the substance and our people are worst for it. We must say enough is enough and be genuinely ready to do something meaningful for Nigeria and Nigerians. Therefore this contractual logjam must be resolved today one way or the other,” he said.

The Health Minister, Pate, said the agreement was reversed because there were issues with the local producer.

He said according to the design of the loan, there was an agreement by the government to utilise a United Nations procurement agent, UNOPS, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.

“The provisions for all commodities, drugs test kits would be channelled through UNOPS in particular, those that are going to be produced here should be bought here. For bed nets in specific terms, the original MOU was for the bed nets to be procured using national competitive bidding on the assumption that they were three local producers who are prequalified.

“Of the three only one was prequalified and that is the company in the country that was to be involved. The tender process started in early 2023. The process ran into procedural difficulty and it was suspended by UNOPS in an open and transparent manner and investigated. Consequently the MOU was reversed because there were issues with this sole producer. Amendment was made to go for international competitive bidding and that revised MOU was signed by a member of the government,” he said.

He acknowledged that the country still has a malaria challenge and the Islamic Development Loan is a major effort that started four years ago as part of Nigeria’s effort to achieve malaria elimination.

He said, “It is a $100 million loan that was meant for five states, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kogi and FCT. The Federal Government signed and negotiated the loan and also state level legal agreements with those five entities were constructed by the Islamic Development Bank though and the Ministry of Finance so that they are borrowing that money to implement the malaria programme.”

According to him, the $100 million dollars consisted of a $90 million loan that is repayable and a $10 million grant.

He said, “This was done in 2020 and the implementation activity started. Since that loan was signed and became effective, a total of $62 million was disbursed through the UNOPS in two tranches. For the Ministry of Health only $201, 000 dollars has been spent from the proceeds at the federal level.

“Of what has been disbursed to UNOPS as the procurement agent as per the agreement that was designed and signed by the federal government on behalf of those states for this loan, there is a balance of $54 million that is still with UNOPS. So only about $8 million dollars has been utilised in buying drugs, kits, and commodities necessary as part of the programme and on their way to be delivered because UNOPS was agreed to be the procurement agents.

“So the $54 million that is at hand is what we are looking at how it can be executed. There is another part of the loan that has not yet been disbursed to UNOPS. So if you look at it almost 90 percent of this resource is yet to be activated and 98 percent of it all is yet to be activated and utilised.”

Director and Representative of the UNOPS, Ghana Multi Country Office, Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, said there was an anomaly with local contractor lacked capacity hence the need to terminate their agreement.

She said, “The agreement with UNOPS was signed in September 2022, however there was a clause inserted that meant that that if it did not become effective until December 2022 and by January 2023 we did a training for local vendors that were supposed to participate, we did a training for them and by February 2023 the tender launched. 

“Like the Minister said in evaluating particularly the bed nets, they were issues. For the antimalarial drugs, all the anti medicines have been procured and all locally procured. All have undergone quality control testing and we have written to the national malaria programme to bring the distribution list so the local manufacturer can distribute that. 

“So local manufacturing and procurement of medicine has been done. For the medicine not manufactured locally, it was agreed to be procured internationally. Shipments have started arriving. All the other products are already on track and it’s the bed nets that is the issue.”

The Committee said according to a submission by UNOPS, a United Nations agent, employed as the procurement agent for the project the reasons for dropping the local contractor were unclear.

It said according to the submission there were conflicting reasons given for the action including that it was due to an anomaly, that the local contractor lacked capacity, that they needed to change specifications and that they had information from a whistleblower on why the agreement should be discontinued.

Responding, the Committee Chairman, Ogah, said, “With due respect, what UNOPS has done in this transaction is so bad because if they can tell us as a country that they cannot tell us what the local manufacturer has done that made them disqualify this local manufacturer. The reason why we are all here is because of Nigeria. If it is a grant or aid it would be different. We are here because it is a loan that we are going to pay back with interest. We demand a report from the Ministry

“Anything that would undermine our quest to encourage local producers and manufacturers we seriously frown on it. All of a sudden the whole intent and purpose were changed in favour of foreign bid to supply the materials whereas as we have one which you earlier pre-qualified and all of a sudden it was set aside to encourage foreigners to supply the net in Nigeria,” he said.

The Speaker, Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas, who was represented by the House Leader, Prof Julius Ihonvbare, hoped the matter would be resolved amicably.

“With the calibre of members of the committee, I have no doubt that whatever is causing the challenge would be resolved.

“We have a commitment to protect the local market and producers and encourage local production to prevent capital flight and encourage the development of skills and capacity to do better.

“We are shocked the matter has lasted this long. Many of us come from rural constituencies with poor access to medical services and we know now our people are suffering, so for an Mou to be signed and it has taken over four years is an embarrassment and hope we can resolve the matter and find the way forward,” he said 

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Construction of 50,000 housing units to  create 1.2m jobs – FG

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The Federal Government has said that the construction of 50,000 housing units under phase one of the Renewed Hope Housing Cities and Estates will create over 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, made this known on Friday in Abuja, at the ministerial  briefing on the performance of President Bola Tinubu’s administration in the last one year.

Dangiwa said that the job creation was in addition to the value chain effects of the purchase and supply of building materials, as well as businesses around the construction sites among others.

He explained that the ministry’s vision was to create an efficient housing market where all Nigerians would have the right to a secured, decent, and affordable home as a platform for active participation in economic development.

Dangiwa added that the ministry’s overall strategic action plan was centred on the three core pillars of the Tinubu Renewed Hope Agenda.

He said that the ministry had achieved some major milestone in housing in the last one year like the planning and actualisation of the Renewed Hope Cities and Estates Development Programme inaugurated by President Bola Tinubu earlier this year.

According to him, the Renewed Hope Housing Programme is designed to be a catalyst for economic growth, adding that the construction and development of the new areas will generate employment opportunities, stimulate local businesses, and attract investments.

”From the ministry’s 2024 approved budget, we are also rolling out another batch of Renewed Hope Estates of semi-detached bungalows.

”To enhance affordability and ease of off take, we used organic designs where one bedroom can be expanded to two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms as the income of beneficiaries increase over time,’’ he added.

Dangiwa further said that the programme aimed to address social inequality by providing a broad range of affordable ownership options.

He said this included single digit and up to 30 years mortgage loans to be provided by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.

He said that the other programme included rent-to-own options where beneficiaries could move in and pay towards homeownership in monthly, quarterly, or annual instalments and outright purchase for high income earners.

He disclosed that the government approved the total sum of N126.5 billion from the 2023 supplementary and 2024 budget for the projects including slum upgrade and urban renewal.

The minister explained that the ministry currently had estates in 12 states and three cities nationwide namely Katsina, Yobe, Gombe, Abia, Nasarawa, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Sokoto, Oyo, Osun, Abuja, Yobe and Lagos..

He revealed that contractors had been mobilised and commenced work to deliver 3,500 units, adding that an MoU had been signed with reputable developers to build  100,000 housing units nationwide.

”Work has commenced for 3,112 housing units under this public-private-partnership bringing the total number of housing units currently under construction to 6,612”, he said. (NAN) (nannews.com.ng)

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NAICOM, RMAFC Collaborate on Economic Diversification 

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Commissioner for Insurance and CEO, Mr. Olusegun Ayo Omosehin, and his management team have met with the members of the Constitutional Committee on “Mobilisation and Diversification” of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission ( RMAFC) led by Engr.

Sani Mohammed Baba, to explore ways of diversifying the Nigerian economy.
 

During their working visit to NAICOM Headquarters, Mr.

Olusegun Ayo Omosehin, in his opening remarks, reaffirmed the critical role of the insurance sector regulator in supervising, regulating, and safeguarding the interests of insurance policyholders. 

He highlighted insurance’s pivotal role in mobilising savings for long-term developmental projects and enabling businesses to thrive while managing risks effectively.

 

He also stressed the Commission’s commitment to ensuring insurance companies meet their obligations, thus contributing to the sustainability of the economy.

Speaking, Mohammed Baba emphasised the importance of revenue generation, institutional expansion, and employment creation for Nigerians through collaborative efforts.

The Commissioner for Insurance also acknowledged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ambitious goal of growing the Nigerian economy to One Trillion United States Dollars ($1 trillion) by 2026. 

He expressed the insurance sector’s intent to significantly contribute to this objective. Additionally, he mentioned ongoing efforts to embed insurance within the National Credit Scheme to ensure its sustainability.

Omosehin stressed the need for continuous advocacy and sensitization of government institutions about the vital role of insurance in national economic development.

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