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Organised Private Sector Lauds Buhari Over AfCFTA Signing

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President Muhammadu Buhari
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The Organised Private Sector (OPS) has lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for including Nigeria in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) at the just concluded Africa Union Summit on Sunday in Niamey.

The sector’s chieftains told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos that Nigeria has more to gain because it would have access to the larger market of the member countries.

Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr Muda Yusuf, commended Buhari for following the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on the Assessment of AfCFTA.

According to Yusuf, Nigeria’s access to African countries, whose population is estimated at 1.

2 billion and a two trillion dollars economy, offers tremendous opportunities for our firms.

“Not signing before now gave us the opportunity to put our views on the table to shape the structure of the agreement.

“We, therefore, welcome the decision of the Federal Government to the agreement,” he said.

The director-general, however, said though this would improve trade among African countries, appropriate safeguard measures should be put in place to protect vulnerable sectors of the economy.

He urged relevant agencies to effectively enforce the rules of origin of the agreement so as to build a competitive economy rather than having a disproportionate approach to the country’s industrialisation.

Also, Mr Mansur Ahmed, the President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said MAN was happy that the agreement had been signed after exhaustive consultations and analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement.

“Initially, we (manufacturers) were not fully prepared, but right now, we are more than ready to benefit and exploit the framework of the agreement,” he said.

Commenting, the Director-General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mr Ayoola Olukanni, said signing of AfCFTA was a good development.

Olukanni said that it was a reflection of Buhari’s fulfillment of carrying all along before signing the agreement.

Olukanni said the AfCFTA framework required that operational modalities of the Rules of Origin, Tariff Schedules, Tariff Concessions, Services, and Investment Rules, among others were strictly followed by the relevant agencies.

“As Africa gears up for the implementation of this landmark agreement, a few issues deserve our attention.

“The AfCFTA is designed for the economic integration of Africa along the lines of what is evident within the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“The reality is that AfCFTA is finally here, and the recent stakeholders’ meeting organized by the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) in Addis-Ababa is a clear indication that we are on the margins of history on the emergence of Africa as a single and unified market.

“However, only those who prepare for it will harness the full potentials,” he said.

Olukanni added that before the agreement, most Nigeria’s companies, including banks, operated in 18 African countries, while Nigeria practically dominated the entertainment and creative sector of the continent.

“Nigeria airline operators, in spite of the the tough terrain of the domestic Aviation sector, provide services across the west and other parts of Africa.

“Now is the time for other sectors to harness the potential of the agreement,” he said.

In his remarks, Prof. Olukunle Iyanda, President, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), expressed worried that the agreement would not be beneficial to the nation due to the attendant infrastructure deficit of the country.

“The agreement will not be too beneficial since the parameters to produce enough are not in place.

“My advice is that we specialise in the production of higher value export like cars, equipment and machineries rather than exchanging small value goods among member nations,” he said.

NAN reports that AfCFTA is to bring together all 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 3.4 trillion U.S dollars.

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Tackle economic challenges before it worsen -Bishop Uriah Urge FG

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From Dan Amasingha, Minna

The Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Diocese of Doko in Niger State has advocated for more effective policies to tackle the economic challenges confronting the nation to douse the tension of protest.

Speakers at the third session of the fifth Synod held at Busu the home town of the former Minister of information and National orientation, Professor Jerry Gana, stressed the need for government at all levels to act urgently to sustain the peace and stability of the country.

The synod which is the first to be held at the Saint Mathews Anglican Church, Busu under Busu Gaba Arch-deaconry in Lavun Local government area of the state featured the Bishop in Charge.

The Bishop of Doko Diocese Uriah Kolo, spoke about the acceptance of Christianity in the early Nupe land and called for an end to what he described as doctrinal war in Christendom.

Bishop Kolo expressed dismay at the rate in which the church has gone worldly, and called for fervent prayers for the faithful to return to Christ to avoid dire consequences.

He however commended the Niger State Government for its rural development and agricultural Programmes while calling for collaboration between all tiers of government to tackle the economic and security problems in the country.

Speaking at the synod the former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana re-emphasised that it is high time for Nigerians must be united to effectively tackle the challenges facing the nation.

Professor Gana expressed optimism that Nigerians should engage in the usage of the natural resources that abound in the country to bring about peace and development.

The chairman of the synod, Mr Banarbas Yisa urged people to be wary of fake prophets, stressing that such tendencies have portrayed some Churches in bad light.

A former Provincial Archbishop of Kaduna, Most Reverend Edmond Efoyikere Akanya, who spoke on the theme, “the lord of His church, addresses the condition of His church,” appealed for divine intervention in the affairs of the Nation.

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We’re Getting Int’l Accolades as Competition Authority – FCCPC Boss

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The Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC),  Dr Adamu Abdullahi has boasted that the commission is receiving international praise as a completion authority in Africa.

The Commission said it has in the last seven months, actively worked to prevent anticompetitive practices, protect consumers, and foster a competitive market.

Speaking at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the acting Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr Adamu Abdullahi said that the penalty was slammed on the companies after three years of intensive investigations.

”We are getting international accolades that at last, there is a competition authority in Africa that is standing against all these anti-competitive practices by multinational agencies.

On his achievements through his seven months tenure as the acting EVC of the Commission, he said that FCCPC implemented measures to curb price gouging, promote fair competition and protect consumers.

Abdullahi said the Commission had also carried out a review of the stand-alone curriculum for consumer education in secondary schools across the country.

He also explained why the $200 million fine against Meta Platforms Inc (Facebook) and WhatsApp LLC saying it was based on discriminatory practices and sanctionable offences committed.

The FCCPC boss said the companies were found culpable of denying Nigerian data subjects the right to self-determination, unauthorised transfer and sharing of personal data which was not the practice in other climes.

Abdullahi stated that the companies gave options to data subjects in other climes to decide whether their data would be shared or not.

According to him, only last week, FCCPC issued a final order and imposed a monetary penalty of $220,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Twenty Million USD) against Meta Platforms Inc. and WhatsApp LLC over discriminatory practices in Nigeria.

”This is an investigation that has taken place for the past three years and I was part of it.

”We found out that when you register for the first time to join WhatsApp, there is a column that says you have agreed for your data to be shared for research.

”That is opposed to other climes where you have the choice of saying yes or no, that is discriminatory at the first instance.

”Secondly, we found out that they share our data across platforms,” he said.

He said the Commission was already getting international accolades for the investigation and sanction.

He said the Commission introduced sensitisation for traditional and religious leaders and other stakeholders to enhance capacity and empower them as consumer protection agents in their localities.

The FCCPC published its final order in which it imposed a penalty of $220 million and a reimbursement fee of $35,000 on WhatsApp LLC and Meta Platforms, Inc.

The penalty is for violations of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) and the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), following a joint investigation conducted by the FCCPC and Nigerian Data Protection Commission (NDPC).

“Our efforts included enforcing the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA), reviewing mergers, conducting investigations, and engaging in consumer and business education, among others.Actions on Fair Food Pricing and Enforcement Against Deceptive PracticesTo address public concerns over soaring food prices, the FCCPC implemented measures to curb price gouging, promote fair competition, and protect consumers.

“We monitored markets, partnered with stakeholders, enforced pricing transparency, and sensitised consumers. We also took action against underweight bags of rice, the sale of expired goods, cement price hikes, substandard iron rods, and alleged discriminatory practices in a Chinese supermarket.”

According to him, the most common consumer complaints in the electricity industry include exploitative billing, unlawful disconnection, non-metering of customers, lack of transformers and other salient issues.

”Given the relevance of electricity as a critical utility, the Commission prioritised intervention in the industry to tackle prevailing issues and improve service delivery.

”This we did by implementing various programmes and initiatives aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in the sector,” he said.

Abdullahi said the Commission would continue to work tirelessly to promote competition and protect consumers to create a vibrant economy that would benefit both businesses and citizens.

The CEO of the FCCPC noted that these efforts underscored the government’s dedication to safeguarding Nigerian consumers and fostering a fair marketplace, adding that the Commission was implementing data analysis techniques to systematically analyse consumer complaints to help in identifying patterns of unfair practices, leading to targeted interventions and improved consumer protection measures.

Abdullahi further explained that the Commission continued to advocate for the rights of Nigerian consumers, particularly in the digital money lending industry, while implementing the Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending to regulate the activities of Digital Money Lenders (DMLs), otherwise referred to as loan sharks.

“On Friday, May 17, 2024, the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos delivered a landmark judgment, convicting Dr. Anuoluwapo Funmilayo Adepoju and MedContour Services Limited on all five counts of obstructing an investigation by the FCCPC.

“The Court upheld the FCCPC’s broad investigative powers under the FCCPA, ruling that the FCCPA applies to “all undertakings and all commercial activities” within Nigeria, including health services related to consumer protection.

This judgment strengthened the FCCPC’s authority to investigate consumer rights violations across all sectors, including healthcare, and serves as a warning to businesses that impede or obstruct regulatory investigations.In another development, the Federal High Court struck out a lawsuit filed by the Centre for Social Justice Ltd/Gte against the FCCPC in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1210/2020,” the FCCPC boss recalled.

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N6.5m Up For Grabs in Gov Diri National Scrabble Classic

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From Mike Tayese, Yenagoa

Organisers of the Governor Douye Diri National Scrabble Championship have confirmed that the fourth edition will be held on August 23-25, 2024.

The three-day classic, which usually attracts national and international scrabble stars, is slated for the Chief Dappa Biriye Conference Centre of the Golden Tulip Hotel at Onopa, Yenagoa.

Chairman of the Bayelsa State Scrabble Association (BYSA), Mr.

Daniel Alabrah, confirmed the new dates after consultations with the Nigeria Scrabble Federation (NSF).

The BYSA chairman said the championship was earlier scheduled for July 27 and 28 but had to be shifted due to logistics reasons.

Alabrah said preparations were on to deliver a hitch-free tournament and one of the best since it began in 2021.

This edition will feature five categories, which are the masters, intermediate, veterans, opens and secondary school students that are based in Bayelsa State.

There are also special prizes for female players.

Alabrah disclosed that the total prize money in this edition is N6.5 million with the Most Valuable Player in the masters category taking home the N750,000 star prize and a trophy.

“The Governor Diri Scrabble Classic has become the biggest tournament on the NSF calendar and attracts our country’s top players that are dominating the local, African and international circuit.

“This season four promises to be bigger as the prize money has been raised to N6.5 million for the top four categories. Winner of the masters will take home the star prize of N750,000 and a giant trophy. This prize was N500,000 in the previous three editions,” he said.

The BYSA chairman commended Governor Diri’s passion for all-round sports development, which has seen Bayelsa become a sporting hub in the South-South and indeed the whole country.

He said the governor continues to encourage and develop other sports apart from football and that the state reaps the benefits in its outstanding performance at major national competitions.

Alabrah further stated that the registration and other details will be communicated through the NSF and other scrabble platforms on social media.

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