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Benue launches facilities for NIHOTOUR zonal campus

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By Ebere Chibuzor

The Benue State Government has kept faith with its promise to hand over of some structures and facilities to the Federal Government for the take-off of the North Central zonal campus of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR).

The Minister for Arts and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the statement at the official handing over of the facilities in Makurdi, said tourism had assumed an extraordinary growth globally.

Tourism, according to him, is a major catalyst for economic growth and social development of most countries with its attendant spiral effects along the long line of its value chain.

He further said that one of the prerequisites for the tourism industry to flourish and play the desired role in the socio-economic development of the country is the availability of trained personnel to run the sector.

This, he said, was what informed the setting up of NIHOTOUR by the Federal Government with the mandate of providing skill proficiency, technical upgrading and professional-based education for the hospitality, travel and tourism industries for both Nigeria and the West African sub region.

Mohammed expressed the appreciation of the Federal Government to the government and people of Benue State for making the desire to establish the North Central zonal campus of the institute a reality and called for renewed understanding between states, organised private sector and the Federal Government in the efforts to transform the socio-economic growth of Nigeria through tourism.

He reiterated the determination of his ministry to develop, project and showcase the country’s tourism potential and endowments because the benefits derivable therein are enormous in revenue generation, job creation, wealth redistribution, infrastructural development and  inter-sectorial linkage incentives.

In his address at the occasion, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, stated the resolve of his administration to tap into the potential of tourism products and activities that the state had been endowed with to grow the economy and better the social activities of the people of the state.

Ortom said the handing over of the magnificent edifice to the Federal Government for use by NIHOTOUR was informed by the desire of his government to create the needed platform for youth empowerment and skill acquisition which the training centre would offer youths of the state as well as states within the North Central Zone to grow the economy through hospitality and the tourism industry.

Director General of NIHOTOUR, Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa, had earlier in his speech stated that the dearth of needed skilled and trained manpower to run the hospitality and travel-tourism industry in the country was responsible for the stunted growth and development of the industry, adding that with NIHOTOUR in place, it has the capacity to overturn the trends for the best to develop the sector.

He said the choice of Benue as the zonal campus and headquarter of the North Central Zone of the institute was informed by the place of the state not only as the food basket of the country, but a tourism haven of Nigeria.

He urged the state to explore the tourism potential the state is endowed with to grow its internally generated revenue to boost its economy.

Kangiwa pointed out the need for the state to produce its tourism development master plan which would be a guide in the appropriate development of the state’s tourism endowments in line with global best practices.

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NNPC petrol price without subsidy is N400/litre – Marketers

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The lowest price the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited can sell Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, to marketers, assuming there is no subsidy, is N400/litre, it has been learnt.

Oil marketers, who made the disclosure on Sunday, also gave other reasons for the continued scarcity of petrol, which had led to the lingering queues at filling stations nationwide.

They said PMS imports charges were becoming unbearable for the sole importer of the commodity – the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, disclosing that the NNPC had been subtly pushing these charges to depot owners.

It was learnt that depot owners, on their part, were also passing the charges to filling stations, which in turn push it to final consumers of the product, a development that has led to the increase in the pump price of the commodity.

It was also gathered that the Federal Government had quietly allowed depot owners to raise the ex-depot price of petrol to about N185/litre, whereas the approved rate used to be N147/litre.

This came as the scarcity for petrol continued on Sunday. Many retail stations in Abuja were shut due to lack of products to sell. Residents had to resort to black marketers, who sold their products in jerry-cans.

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The same scenario played out in parts of Nasarawa and Niger states, as oil marketers explained that the rise in the dollar was also contributory to the PMS scarcity witnessed in Nigeria.

“The dollar is affecting PMS purchase, something you were buying for about $15/tonne when the dollar was about N440 to N450, but currently the dollar is about N750 to N800. Definitely the price of the product will increase,” a major marketer, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.

The official added, “You can buy a product, say $10/tonne from maybe Russia, it will get to Nigerian waters at that rate, but most of those mother vessels, as soon as they discharge into your own vessel, whatever rate you now pay will be international rates in dollar.

“The mother vessel has its limit, it has to be stationed at Atlas Cove. But the daughter vessel you are going to charge, which brings in the product, will be charged in dollars. They don’t take naira. So all these charges come in dollars.”

The source stated that these charges were currently hitting hard on the NNPC, as the oil company was finding it tough to bear the increased fuel imports’ rates.

“All vessels operate on international rates and it must be in forex. So as it is now, the rates are getting so high for NNPC to bear alone. Some of these charges have to be pushed to depots that are taking the products and they have to pass it on to consumers,” the oil marketer stated.

The source added, “The subsidised ex-depot rate for petrol from NNPC is about N147/litre, but tell me, which depot is selling at that rate today? I know somebody who said he bought from a depot at N182/litre. And he got it at this rate because he did bulk purchase, he bought about 20 trucks.

“And he bought it from one of the major marketing companies. So when you make a bulk purchase at N182/litre, then you can imagine what those who are buying one or two trucks will have to pay for the product.

“This means that there is hardly any depot you can go to now that you can get products for less than N185/litre. And by the time you buy at N185/litre at the depots, why won’t they sell at N200/litre and above?”

This development was confirmed by the National Public Relations Officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, who stated that NNPC was currently finding it tough to continue subsidising PMS.

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“The least that NNPC can sell petrol is over N400/litre to depots and not at N145/litre, but because of subsidy, which is becoming over-bearing on them, the oil firm has been struggling to subsidise,” he stated.

He added, “That is why you see the lapses. The government is looking for dollars to import this product and pay the contractors importing for NNPC, and it is also trying to subsidise PMS.”

Ukadike explained that the landing cost of PMS in Nigeria was about N450/litre, as he noted that subsidy on PMS was no longer sustainable.

“The government will not continue to be Father Christmas and cripple the economy. Subsidy must stop!” he stated.

Agencies keep mum

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Garba-Deen Mohammad, did not respond to enquiries when contacted. In fact, the NNPC has remained mute on issues around fuel scarcity.

Similarly, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the regulator of the downstream oil sector, stayed mute when contacted.

 The NMDPRA, just like NNPC, has also remained mute on this matter since last week. The agencies of the Federal Government have decided not to speak on the cost of PMS, amidst the scarcity of the product and attendant queues.

The President, Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, told our correspondent that the crisis in the downstream oil sector would continue until the industry was deregulated.

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“We have said it times without number that this issue will continue to drag as long as there is subsidy on petrol, which from all indications is no more sustainable. So the best thing is to stop it,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike also stressed that the continued payment of subsidy on petrol was taking a toll on not just the resources of NNPC but also on the Federal Government.

He said, “It is becoming increasingly difficult for them (NNPC). In fact, it is taking a toll on the economy generally. And even the Federal Government cannot contain it.

“So the best way out is just to allow people to be able to adapt to the non-subsidy regime in order to relax the pressure on the dollar and the government can then invest in other sectors.

“All these issues, including the subsidy regime, contribute to the scarcity we see across the country. The naira is crashing against the dollar, there is less supply of products, NNPC and the government are battling to subsidise petrol, why won’t there be scarcity?”

Subsidy gulps N6.88tn

Last month, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the administration of Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), could spend not less than N10.976tn as subsidy petrol from when it came to power in 2015 till May 2023.

The report showed that already, the government had spent about N6.88tn in subsidising the commodity, according to data obtained from NNPC and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The President and his party, the All Progressives Congress had, however, kicked against the fuel subsidy scheme that was implemented by the previous administration of the Peoples Democratic Party, while campaigning in 2015.

NEITI had stated in a report submitted in September to the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the fuel subsidy regime from 2013 to 2022, that petrol was subsidised all through these years.

In October, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told members of the House of Representatives that the Federal Government’s projection was to spend N6.72tn on subsidy in 2023.

She, however, said the second option of the government was to keep fuel subsidy till June 2023 and that in this option, fuel subsidy was projected to gulp N3.3tn.

A combination of all the above figures indicated that the Buhari regime could spend nothing less than N10.976tn on petrol subsidy from 2015 and June 2023.

IPMAN laments scarcity

Meanwhile, the National Controller,  Operations, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, told The PUNCH on Sunday that its members still lacked the product, adding that few filling stations which had PMS were selling between N230 and N240 per litre.

“We don’t have products because we could not get to buy. There are currently no products at depots”, he said.

According to him, IPMAN currently has over 30, 000 members nationwide, and accounts for 70 per cent ownership of retail outlets in Nigeria.

“Our members are in the villages and outskirts. Go everywhere, you will see our stations”, Osatuyi added.

A Depots Association of Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria source who pleaded anonymity said its members had paid for products but were not getting any from NNPCL.

“We have people who have paid but were not given. But the NNPC would say it has stock. Where is the stock and why don’t we have products in our tanks?”

The Chairman, IPMAN, Lagos Satellite Depot, Ejigbo, Akin Akinrinade, had said members of the association ought to be getting supply from the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company.

He said members had made payments in excess of N1bn since October 2021.

He however said the products were yet to be delivered, forcing members to patronise private depots for products while at the same time, servicing loans borrowed from banks for their money with PPMC.

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Rising Inflation is not peculiar to Nigeria, its a global problem – Emefiele

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Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele

Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has said in Lagos that the current inflationary pressures in the economy is not peculiar to Nigeria.
He said the development is a global trend.

Though he agreed that it raises global concerns, Emefiele said Nigeria is doing its best under the circumstances .
He spoke at the 57th edition of the Banker’s Forum.
He said the steady increase in headline inflation from 15.60 per cent in January to 20.77 per cent in September was consistent with global trends.

The dinner had the theme, “Radical Responses to Abnormal Episodes: Time for Innovative Decision-making” was appropriate and well timed.

He also said headline inflation went up to 20.77 per cent in September, indicating eight consecutive months of uptick.
He added that the upward momentum was after a successive period of decline in 2021, due to balanced monetary policy actions.

He said upside pressure on consumer inflation re-emerged during the year, as global conditions complicated existing local imbalances to undermine price stability.

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“Food remains the major component of domestic consumer price basket. The annualised uptick in headline inflation mirrors the 6.21 percentage points upsurge in food inflation to 23.34 per cent in September.

“During this period, core inflation also resumed an upward movement from 13.87 per cent in January to 17.60 per cent.

“In addition to harsh global spill overs, exchange rate adjustments and imported inflation; inflation was also driven by local factors such as farmer herder clashes in parts of the food belt region,” he said.

Emefiele said that during the early part of 2020, the world’s economy experienced the most significant downturn last witnessed since the Great Depression following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the effect contracted global GDP by about 3.1 per cent in 2020, and commodity prices went into a state of turmoil as the price of crude oil plunged by over 70 per cent.

He said as the world struggled to recover to pre-pandemic conditions, the global economy was yet again hit by another adverse occurrence with the eruption of the Russian-Ukraine war.

He said the war, along with the sanctions placed on Russia by the US and its allies, led to a spike in crude oil prices.

He said in the attempt to contain rising inflation, advanced markets such as the US, began to increase their policy rates, which led to a tightening of global financial market conditions along with a significant outflow of funds from emerging markets.

“The subsequent strengthening of the US dollar further aggravated inflationary pressures, along with a weakening of currencies, and depletion of external reserves in many emerging market countries.

“Today close to 80 per cent of countries have reported heightened inflationary pressures due to a confluence of some of the factors mentioned above,” said Emefiele.

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He explained that central banks in emerging markets and developing economies, in a bid to contain rising inflation were also compelled to raise rates, which was expected to lead to a tapering of global growth over the next year.

“In fact, the short-term global growth projections by the IMF have been downgraded three times in 2022 and is likely to be below the 3.2 per cent and 2.7 per cent estimates for 2022 and 2023, respectively.

“Average growth among advanced economies is projected to plunge from 5.2 per cent in 2021 to 2.4 per cent in 2022 and 1.1 per cent in 2023.“Estimated output growth in emerging markets, is expected to slow from 6.6 per cent in 2021 to 3.7 per cent apiece in 2022 and 2023,” he said.

He said in view of the food, energy, and cost-of-living crises in many countries, there were growing restrictions on food exports from many countries.

“As at the last count, about 23 countries, mainly in advanced economies, according to the World Bank have banned the export of 33 food items. “Seven other countries have additionally implemented various measures to limit food exports,” said Emefiele.

On currency redesign, Emefiele said, “Analysis of the key challenges primarily indicated a significant hoarding of banknotes, as over 85 per cent of currency in circulation were held outside banking system.

“This is even as currency in circulation more than doubled from N1.46 trillion in December 2015 to N3.23 trillion in September 2022; a worrisome trend that must be curbed.”

He, therefore, said the policy would quicken the attainment of cashless economy as it was complemented by increased minting of the eNaira.

According to him, the redesigned notes will also curtail currency outside the banking system, and as the monetary policy becomes more effective, it will help rein in inflation.

CIBN president, Dr Ken Opara, commended Emefiele, saying he had during the year, continued to be purposeful in curtaining economic shocks from the aftermath of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He commended him for keeping inflation and other related economy indices, especially the naira, from distortions exacerbated by declining production levels fueled by high cost of production, insecurity, dwindling government revenues, foreign exchange volatility and uncertainty in the global oil market.

Opara said, “through the careful management of the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), the CBN continued to drive the recovery path of the Nigerian economy through the expansion of credit to the real sector, guided management of foreign reserves and promoting sound financial environment and monetary policy.”

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Innoson makes history, exports Nigeria-assembled vehicles to Sierra Leone 

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Nigeria’s indigenous vehicle manufacturing company, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Ltd, has delivered the first set of vehicles manufactured for the Government of Sierra Leone as ordered by the country’s Ministry of Defence.

This is in fulfilment of a promise made during a working visit to Innoson Vehicles by top hierarchy of the Sierra Leone Defence Ministry led by Mr. Edward Soloku, the Minister of Internal Affairs as well as Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) led by its President Mr. Isaac Ken-Green.

Head of Corporate Communications, Innoson Group, Cornel Osigwe, said in a statement that various models of vehicles bought within that dispensation were for the present administration.

Osigwe explained that subsequently, the Government of Sierra Leone led by President Julius Maada Bio placed an order for the manufacturing of Innoson Vehicles valued at $4.7Million for the officers of Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).

The first set of the vehicles supplied from Nigeria to Sierra Leone were as Monday leaving Queen Elizabeth 2 Port (Sierra Leone’s sea Port “Water Quay”) in Free Town for distribution to military officers across the country.

Reacting to the development, the people of Sierra Leone have been commending their President, Julius Maada Bio, for acting in line with the spirit of the continental agreement by opting for an African (IVM) brand of vehicles for the use of the country’s Armed Forces.

In one of the many reports in the local media on the purchase of the made-in-Nigeria vehicles, a popular blog in Sierra Leone, Focus News Blog, hailed President Bio for believing “that our Army Officers deserve better.”

The post, which showed a line-up of the IVM products from Nigeria, informed Sierra Leoneans that the vehicles would soon be “ready for distribution to military officers across the country” by the government

“Innoson Group has penetrated the vehicles market over the years. It is currently serving as one of the few wholly African car assemblers.

One of the effusive commendations for President Bio by a Sierra Leonean, Francis Ken Samu, remarked, “We are on top of the situation in times of security. Bravo HE President Bio. Keep the Military Colour Flag going up higher than ever before in de history of Sierras Leone.. God bless you, HE President Bio for equipping the RSLAF.”

This development is indeed a step towards the acceleration of intra-African trade as facilitated by the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).

With the arrival of the Innoson vehicles in Free Town, Sierra Leone has become the first country in West Africa whose armed forces are using the IVM products outside Nigeria.

Four years ago, the Nigerian Army signed a partnership agreement with the Nnewi auto plant for the supply of purpose-built vehicles for its personnel.

The agreement also includes identifying requirements for the production of the armoured fighting vehicle in Nigerian Army Central Workshop in Kaduna and enhancing the capacity of Nigerian Army personnel to actively participate in the successful implementation of these joint ventures

The export of Innoson is coming two years after President Mohammadu Buhari signed the AfCFTA agreement in July, 2019.

 

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