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The Federal Government plans to tackle post-harvest losses put at nine billion dollars annually through multiple approaches, including setting up of staple crops processing zones.

Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture, made the disclosure on Thursday in Abuja, at a stakeholders’ conference organised by Akassa Development Foundation (ADF).

Akassa is a community in Bayelsa in the southernmost part of Nigeria.

The theme of the stakeholders’ conference is: “ Sustainable Development and Security in the Niger Delta beyond Oil.’’

The minister, represented by Eniye Amloakederem, Senior Technical Adviser on Agric-business, listed the approaches to include-storage, development of cold chains, improving infrastructure, improving product handling, among others.

He said that staple crops processing zones would be set up in “ areas of high food production.’’

According to the minister, the government will utilise fiscal and infrastructure incentives to attract private food manufacturing companies to add value to agricultural produce.

Lokpobiri said that all the investments were structured around smallholder farmers, to ensure inclusion of models that would create wealth and boost development.

He challenged the people of the Niger Delta region to engage in agriculture as the region has the largest wetland with arable land for agriculture.

He said that the area is also suitable for commercial production of varieties of crops, including rice, cassava, yam, okro, ogbonno, cocoyam, maize, pepper, plantain, among others.

He commended the ADF for sustaining community development in Akassa.

Mr Nsima Ekere, Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who spoke at the event, stressed the need to embrace agriculture as a tool to tackle hunger and insecurity in the Niger Delta.

He said that agriculture, in which the people of the Niger Delta have founded their core preoccupation, “presents the strongest and most rewarding options to fighting poverty and facilitating sustainable development.’’

He said that agriculture “worked great wonders in countries such as Mexico, India and China,’’ adding that Bayelsa alone has the capacity to feed the nation.

“ A World Bank study shows that Bayelsa is capable of producing enough rice to feed Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

“ How can we exploit these opportunities to fight poverty, which is at the core of continual agitation in the land?

“ It is vital to note that tackling and defeating poverty is essential to the urgent need to boost security in the region or in any society,’’ Ekere said.

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Access Bank Plc has unveiled a new savings scheme tagged: ‘Family Savings Scheme’ initiated to give its customers a boost in their savings. The exercise is in line with the Bank’s commitment to promoting savings culture among the populace.

The ‘Family Savings Scheme’ is a savings scheme designed to encourage families to save together and enjoy exclusive privileges such as high interest rates and family rewards while they continue to enjoy the confidentiality of their banking relation and manage their accounts as unique individuals.

The Scheme provides access to people who are presently excluded from financial services whilst promoting capital accumulation and investment boom.

Under the scheme, a minimum of four family members are encouraged to bank with Access Bank and enjoy exclusive value propositions. Eligible family members include partners, children, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

According to the Bank’s Executive Director, Personal Banking, Victor Etuokwu, the scheme comes under new segment in the Bank – Family Banking Segment. “This is not a new product but a new segment in the bank. We have basically pulled together the various products we offer to unique family members under this Segment,” he added.

He listed some of the value propositions of the savings scheme to include education advisory services, deals and discounts, higher Interest rates, insurance, school fees advance and home loans.

Etuokwu implored theexisting and prospective customers to take advantage of the ‘Family Savings Scheme’ to save for themselves and more importantly for economic development.

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Thursday condemned the communal conflict that resulted in the death of a police inspector and siblings at Lekki communities at the weekend, saying he will not entertain any threat to the $15 billion investment in Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ).

Consequently, the governor asked the warring communities to sheathe their swords and give peace a chance, saying no meaningful development could happen in any area prone to violence and breakdown of law and order at the slightest provocation.

He gave the advice after visiting the two communities, stating that it was indeed unfortunate such clash broke out at the time the state was marking its 50th anniversary.

Some youths of Oriyanrin, an Ibeju-Lekki community had attended Kilajolu, a masquerade festival at Ilagbo on Saturday when a clash broke out between the two communities. Some elders of Ilagbo were said to have sent the youths away.

The communal clash, which broke out between the youths of Ilagbo and Oniyanrin, resulted in the death of three persons and wanton destruction of properties.

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Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Thursday revealed strategies being adopted towards moving the State from mega city to smart city, just as he said that his administration has put in place policy framework for a technology-driven land administration and mapping, tax administration and justice administration.

Speaking at an international conference held at Eko Hotels and Suits as part of activities marking the Lagos@50 celebrations with the theme: “Towards A Smart City: Preparing For The Next 50 Years Of Prosperity,” Governor Ambode said the government has completed modalities for the take-off of the digital switch, all of which he said would come on stream in the coming months.

The Governor acknowledged that for the State to be prosperous in future and occupy its pride of place among city states, concerted efforts must be geared towards equipping the youth with technological and educational skills they can use to develop solutions to challenges.

He said the future prosperity of Lagos is dependent on how well the young ones are equipped technologically and educationally, adding that in line with such, the State Government was already focusing on driving growth through key areas such as ICT, transportation, ease of doing business and tourism.

While alluding to the theme of the conference, Governor Ambode said if Lagos must become a Smart City, the next 50 years of the State must cut out a path to create a framework for leaders that are not only visionary but also inspirational with passion for development.

He said: “Obviously, this gathering is not about what we have done or what we ought to have done.  I am quick to add, that, there is so much yet to be done.  Yes, we are always in agreement that the interplay of THINK, PLAN AND ACT is a sure recipe to success; but the practice and process are not fully picked up in textbooks or lectures.  Leadership must have passion and commitment for vision before it can be delivered as a product.

“The next fifty years must cut out a path for us to create a framework for leaders that are not only visionary but also inspirational with passion if Lagos must become a Smart City.

“Our State has made this commitment which has the potential to improve lives of our citizens, expand economic opportunities and access to critical public services.  The Smart City initiative is Lagos Urban Development vision to integrate all sectors of governance into one box of growth and development – through efficient service delivery to each citizen.

“The future prosperity of Lagos is dependent on how well we can equip our children and youth with technological and educational skills they can use to develop the solutions of the future,” he said.

Besides, the Governor acknowledged the fact that for government to facilitate investment in infrastructure, it was imperative for a top notch public service to be in place, especially delivery of quality service by civil servants, saying that such would facilitate greater confidence in government from the private sector.

In his keynote address, Professor Paul Collier from Oxford University, said in its years of existence, Lagos has shown sustained and visible progress, and especially commended the leadership of the State over the years for moving in the right direction.

He commended Governor Ambode for his initiative on mass transportation, but recommended that it should be scaled up with the deployment of technology, while also calling for introduction of tax to stop people from driving private cars to already congested areas.

Collier, who is a development expert, also advocated for power issues to be addressed as well as clear legal and secured land ownership, saying that such was vital both for housing and commercial investment.

To address housing deficit, Collier said the State Government must plan for housing development through plots preparation, layout of streets, road network, storage, sewage, water and electricity, among others, while the private sector can develop the rest.

Also, other discussants – Mrs Mosun Bello- Olusoga, Chairman of Access Bank; Uyi Akpata, Managing Partner, PWc and Dayo Adelegan, President of British Nigeria Chamber of Commerce advocated for the globalization of the Lagos economy and proper environmental management initiatives.

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Nigeria’s former Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has warned that growth and development cannot be achieved in any Country that has distortions in its foreign exchange rates.
Her concerns came amidst optimism by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, that the economy will be out of recession by the end of the third quarter of 2017.
Speaking after the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, Emefiele said the CBN will not dictate where the much-needed foreign exchange convergence will be, but hopes the rate will head southwards rather than remain on the high side.

But the former World Bank Managing Director who spoke at the launch of Beating the Odds: Jumpstarting Developing Countries, a book written by Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga in Ahmedabad, India, said there was no one way to growth and development, for any economy without putting some basic principles in place.
“You can have development that takes specific country and context specific situations in hand and begin from there,” she said.

“So, the proposals for industrial parks, industrial zones or what you want to call them as a way of kicking off development in a country fits within this context. For me, I think we should just absorb the lesson that there is no one correct answer to economic growth and development. There is no one path.
“There are some specific and fundamental principles that are important, which, if you do not observe, you will not take off. And I think, even with this, you would agree; if your prices are not right within the economy, it is still not going to work.

“And when I mean prices, I think like, if you have a distorted exchange rate regime, if you have very severe distortions within the economy, that are fundamental to macroeconomic stability, it is not going to work.
“So we can outline those principles, and say you need to observe certain principles; these are not conditionalities or 450 prescriptions we are talking about. They are just certain basic principles that underpin development,” she said.

The former Minister said the state also has a major role to play in achieving economic growth and development, emphasising that not all can be left to the market to do.
“We forget that even in those countries where the economic theories we are expounding were born and are being practised that there is an acknowledged role for the state,” she said.
“That there are market imperfections and failures, where we have to call in other instruments other than the market. These are things we need to bear in mind.”

Okonjo-Iweala said many people do not know the president of Switzerland but investors and individuals from all over the world trust the Swiss with their monies because the nation had built institutions bigger than the president.
She called on African nations to build institutions rather than building personalities.
However, despite the former minister’s concerns, the CBN boss while commenting on Nigeria’s chances of exiting recession stated: “My view is that with all the positive signs we see: inflation tending downwards, GDP improving to the extent that negative growth rate has decelerated significantly; in fact, we have seen foreign exchange going to the real sector and industrial capacities are beginning to improve,” he said.

“We’ve seen positive signs in various economic sectors and I am very confident that at the end of the third quarter, we will be out of this (recession), and I still hold that position. We would prefer a convergence that will significantly be going southwards, than a convergence that will go northwards. The fact that we have seen a convergence in the southward direction gives us a lot of hope that things are working in the right direction.”
Emefiele stated that as a person, he would want low interest rates for the economy, but the economic aggregates available to the MPC do not allow for such at this time in Nigeria’s economic life.”

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Shareholders of Dangote Cement on Wednesday were full of praise for the board, management and staff of the company after approving the dividend payout of N144.8 billion, which translated to N8.50 kobo per share as against N8 per share that was paid in the corresponding period of 2015.

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM), held in Lagos, President of Amiable Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Festus Akano said the shareholders were pleased with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and his team.

He said for the company to still pay a robust dividend despite the recession in the economy, which also affected their operations shows the doggedness and the fighting entrepreneurial spirit of the management.

“We are very happy and pleased with this result. 2016 was very tough with the recession and fluctuation in the foreign exchange market which the chairman also said affected their operations, but despite all these challenges, the company was still able to pay us a very good dividend, better than last year, and even gave us hope of better returns on our investments in the years to come. This is very commendable and it is only a company like Dangote Cement that can achieve this laudable feat,” he said.

Chairman of the company and president, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote while presenting the report to the shareholders said the company’s strategy in every country of operations is to be the leader on costs, quality and service. He said the company built large, modern, highly efficient plants that combine the latest equipment from Europe, China and beyond to enable it make higher-quality cement at lower costs, thereby giving it strong competitive advantages.

He said, “Looking back at the 2016 financial year, I am pleased to report that our cement sales volumes increased by 25.0 per cent to nearly 23.6Mt. Of this, almost 14.8Mt was sold in the Nigerian market. Revenues increased by 25.1 per cent to ₦615.1billion, of which 68.3 per cent was generated in Nigeria (excluding eliminations) and 31.7 per cent from Pan-African operations. Our earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) decreased only slightly, to ₦257.2 billion, with Pan-African operations contributing ₦26.5 billion, excluding central costs. Earnings per share increased by 4.5 per cent to ₦11.34. As I have already stated, the Board proposes a dividend of ₦8.5 per 50 kobo share, subject to your approval, to be paid on 26th May 2017 to shareholders”

Another shareholder, Akin Akinwumi, from the Progressive Shareholders Association urged the management to give a bonus and a better dividend in this 2017. He said, the company should do all within its power to give bonus issue.

He said, “We thank the management for giving us this dividend but we are appealing so strongly that bonus issue should also be considered. For some of us, we prefer a bonus to this dividend and we know it can be done.”

He expressed optimism on the Pan African plants, especially now that the Plants are contributing significantly to the turnover of the company.  “It is a statement of fact that we are lucky to be shareholders of this great company. If you see what our subsidiaries across Africa are contributing to the turnover, then you will understand what I am talking about. I am very happy and our members are upbeat for the future, knowing full well that it will only get better.”

Group Chief Executive Officer of the company, Onne van der Weijde, revealed that the expansion strategy of the company yielded fruits last year when Nigeria was in recession as the Plants across Africa contributed significantly to the company’s turnover.He said, “… We can see how that strategy has helped us in a time that our main market of Nigeria is facing a recession, high inflation, lower consumer spending and a shortage of foreign currency to fund essential imports. But outside of Nigeria we’ve had operations that have now been running for more than a year and they are experiencing good growth and improving profitability, so we have managed to offset some of those top line pressures in Nigeria with revenue streams from countries in very different parts of the continent. Furthermore, those Pan-African operations are helping to generate foreign currency for the Group, so this shows how a long-term decision to diversify can help with a short-term pressure like an illiquid currency market in Nigeria”

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Eight ships laddened with petrol are waiting to berth in Lagos ports, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday.

The NPA, which disclosed this in its daily, “Shipping Position” made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, said two other ships would berth with aviation fuel and bulk fertiliser.

Thirty-one ships laden with petroleum products, food items and other goods are expected at Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports in Lagos between May 24 and June 14.

NPA said the expected ships were carrying bulk wheat, containers, bulk sugar, general cargoes, steel products, base oil, bulk corn, bulk fertiliser, empty containers, frozen fish and petrol.

NAN reports that 15 other ships are already discharging general cargoes, buck wheat, frozen fish, bulk gas, petrol, container and bulk corn.

It will be recalled that the NPA said on Tuesday that thirty-five ships laden with petroleum products, food items and other goods was expected.

NPA said that some of the ships contained buck wheat, bulk fertiliser, general cargo, empty containers, steel products, frozen fish, soya beans, base oil and petrol.

NAN reports that seven ships as at Tuesday had arrived at the ports, waiting to berth with bulk fertiliser, aviation fuel and petrol.

Fourteen other ships are in the ports discharging empty containers, buck wheat, frozen fish, bulk sugar, Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATK), containers, petrol and bulk gas.

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Law Union and Rock Insurance Plc has declared a 100% profit in 2016, Chairman of the Company, Mr. Remi Babalola, stated this on Tuesday at the company’s 48th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lagos.

According to Mr. Babalola, in 2016, the company increased marginally in her top-line while it recorded a significant growth in the bottom-line.

The Company ended the year with N3.935 billion Gross Premium Written compared to N3.858 billion recorded in 2015, he said, adding that Profit before Tax grew by over 100%, from N0.328 billion in 2015 to N0.658 billion.

He stated that total assets grew by 3.72 per cent to N8.580 billion, while shareholders’ funds grew by 13.03 per cent from N4.458 billion to N5.039 billion in 2016.

Bablola said the Company’s mantra remained “unfailing and prompt settlement of all claims” with Claims Paying Ability (CPA) rating of A- . He said the company paid out N1.454 billion in 2016.

In his report to the Shareholders, Babalola said by the approval of the shareholders of the Company to raise additional capital by way of private placement to the tune of 1,031,199,000 ordinary shares of N0.50 Kobo at N0.70 Kobo per share, requisite regulatory approvals were obtained for the placement issue.

Consequent upon a conditional approval issued by the National Insurance Commission, that the investor’s post-placement position should not exceed 20 per cent of the Company’s equity, the placement was 83.3 per cent subscribed, thus bringing the total shares subscribed to 859,000,000ordinary shares.

The additional capital raised is expected to significantly enhance the Company’s operations and boost its capacity to play in the oil & gas and engineering subsector of the insurance space.

The Chairman also eulogised the immediate past Chairperson of the company, Princess Adenike Adeniran, who retired last year from the Board for her astuteness and leadership openness sand accountability while heading the Board.

Also,the Managing Director, Mr. .Jide Orimolade, said the profitability of the company has constantly been increased since 2014.

He also confirmed that the repositioning has begun to yield result as the company was able to regain her dominance in the Engineering market.

He attributed the company’s great feat to the various strategic initiatives which were driven by state of art technology which gave the company competitive advantage ahead of our competitors and enable her to navigate through the turbulent economy in 2016 with a good profitability.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer said: “Our careful attention on our service delivery to the customer satisfaction has further given the company respect and recognition in the industry.

“Our attention would be given to distribution of our products to the burgeoning middle class which has the highest volume. We expect to reap huge premium through retail products as well as launch more new retail product. We shall continue to upgrade our technology in order to provide excellent and cutting edge service delivery. Huge value will be placed on our customers to secure their loyalty and thereby record high customer retention”.

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Shareholders of Nestle Nigeria Plc has approved a dividend payment of N10 per ordinary share, amounting to a total dividend of N7.926.562.520 for 2016 financial.

The shareholders who spoke at the company’s 48th Annual General Meeting also urged the company to extend its production line to the South East, adding that the quality of the quality of the product must be sustained as there is a lot of competition in the market.

National Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Boniface Okezie maintained that there is urgent need company to have a water plant in the east in order to reduce the cost of transporting the water to the eastern market.

According to him, Abia State is currently the safest state in Nigeria, adding that there is need to ensure that interim dividend returns at the end of the 2017 financial year.

Also speaking, National President of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Sir Sunny Nwosu appreciated both the board and management of Nestle for their efforts so far in piloting the affairs of the company, adding that shareholders wants better dividends in the years ahead.

Williams Adebayo, a shareholder activist maintained that the company’s increase in sales shows that Nigerians are happy with the products and wishes the company continues irrespective of the current recession.

“There is a lot of competition in the market and there is there is need to maintain the quality of the products. The 20 per cent we have gained in the sales of products gives us the confidence that the future is bright,” he said.

Chairman of the company, Mr. David Ifezulike noted that in spite of the challenging operating environment, Nestle employed 111 new employees in 2016 as a result of its commitment to the long-term potential of the company’s business in Nigeria.

According to him, as at 31 December 2016, the total number of employees of the company was 2,325.

“Well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, we are cautiously optimistic as we evaluate the opportunities we have to continue to build a profitable business. These opportunities include the wealth of men and women who are passionate about keeping Nestle at the top and the consumers’ trust in the Nestle brands that have nourished families through multiple generations. Our company will courageously face the headwinds in 2017,” he noted.

In his comment, Managing Director, Nestle Nigeria Plc, Mr. Mauricio Alarcon said, as we look forward, “we will continue to work to impact the society positively. Every day, Nestlé Nigeria touches the lives of millions of people, from the farmers who grow its ingredients to the families who enjoy its products, to the communities where the company operates, and the rural environment upon which it depends.

“Driven by its purpose that is, enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future, Nestlé Nigeria is committed to enabling healthier and happier lives for individuals and families, local sourcing, capacity building for farmers and rural development.

“In Nestlé Nigeria, we will continue to stay true to the confidence our consumers place in us to guarantee the highest quality standards in the brands they know and trust for healthy nutrition. We will continue to work with partners to inspire people to lead healthier lives, we will continue to equip the farmers and suppliers we work with to consistently deliver high quality raw materials, we will continue to empower women, we will continue training and empowering the youth to develop the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

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The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rose from its two day meeting with the resolutions to retain the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 14 per cent.

The committee also retained the Cash Reserve ratio (CRR) at 22.5 per  cent; the liquidity ratio at 30.00 per cent; and retains the Asymmetric corridor at 200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele said: “In consideration of the challenges weighing down the domestic economy and the uncertainties in the global environment, the Committee decided by a unanimous vote of the 8 members in attendance to retain the MPR at 14.0 per cent alongside all other policy parameters.

According to him, the committee met against the backdrop of slowly improving global growth prospects even as international cooperation continued to be threatened by anti-globalization sentiments in major advanced economies.

On the domestic front, he said the economy had shown greater resilience in the intervening period since the last meeting of the Committee, anchored on more focused macroeconomic policies and improvements in oil prices.

While the general economic outlook seemed cautiously optimistic for the remainder of fiscal 2017, Emefiele said emerging indicators suggested that economic policy must remain circumspect.

He said, “Notwithstanding the improved outlook for the economy, the Committee weighed the implications of continuing global uncertainties arising from the dwindling commitment to global cooperation, the strengthening of the U.S. dollar, and the unsteady commodity prices and similarly evaluated other challenges confronting the domestic economy and the opportunities for achieving economic growth and price stability in 2017.

“The MPC is particularly pleased with the gradual retreat in inflation, the relative stability in the Naira exchange rate across all segments of the foreign exchange market and the improved prospects of foreign investment inflow.

“The Committee also welcomes the passage of the 2017 Budget and called on the relevant authorities to ensure its judicious implementation, especially, the capital budget in line with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. It, however, noted the associated risks to banking system liquidity of the envisaged fiscal injections during the remainder of the year. Against this risk, the Committee contemplated the prospects of further tightening of monetary policy should the need arise.

‘The MPC however, noted that further tightening would widen the income gap, depress aggregate consumption and adversely affect credit to the real sector of the economy,” he said.

Speaking further, the CBN boss noted: “The MPC was, however, concerned that loosening would exacerbate inflationary pressures and worsen the gains so far achieved in the exchange rate of the naira. It was also convinced that loosening would further increase the negative real interest rate as the gap between the nominal interest rate and inflation widens”.

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