Nigeria is set to supply 130,000 tonnes of roasted cashew nuts valued at $7 billion to Walmart Super Market chain in the United States of America, USA.
This was revealed by the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, on Wednesday while briefing State House correspondents after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the State House Presidential Villa Abuja.
“But the other good news is cashew nuts. These things look small, but we are in conversations with Walmart, the biggest supermarket chain in the U.S., they came here and asked us to roast cashew nuts for them
“Their demand is a 130,000 tonnes of cashew nuts per annum, the total value is $7 billion,” he said.
Mr. Ogbe said what Nigeria currently does is ship the nuts to Vietnam, who in turn roast and sell to the U.S. “This year we are going to create six cashew processing factories in Nigeria, one each to be cited in Enugu, Imo, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Oyo states. These are the cashew belt for now,” he said.
The minister said these options are coming now because Nigeria is beginning to focus on non-oil export. “Once you can diversify your economy, if something goes wrong in one sector you can hang on to the other,” he said.
Mr. Ogbe had earlier said Nigeria will formally flag off the export of yam to the UK on Thursday. He said the government is also looking to use yam for industrial starch for the textile industry and for export to China.
He added that India is also asking Nigeria for the supply of beans. He said the beans market in India alone is about $100 billion. “When the Indian Vice President came here, he asked me to visit so we could talk, so the market in Agric is huge, the prospects are large; it’s about improving on our strategies at home and getting all our states to get involved, not all of them are doing what they ought to be doing now,” the minister said.
Source: Premium Times
Atlas Mara Ltd., the company co-founded by former Barclays Plc head Bob Diamond, plans to sell a 35 percent stake to Fairfax Africa Holdings Corp. so it can increase its stake in a Nigerian bank.
Atlas Mara will raise $200 million selling new shares to existing shareholders and Fairfax Africa and by issuing a convertible bond to the Toronto-based investment company, Atlas Mara said in a statement on Wednesday. London-listed Atlas Mara also agreed to acquire an indirect 13.4 percent shareholding in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc from the Clermont Group for $55 million, which will raise its effective stake in the Lagos-based lender to 44.5 percent.
“A strategic partnership with Fairfax Africa creates a strong relationship between two like-minded, long-term investors in Africa,” Atlas Mara said. “Each is focused on capitalizing on the long-term growth potential of Africa and provides permanent capital to support growth.”
Union Bank has been Atlas Mara’s single biggest investment in Africa since Diamond started the company in 2013. The Nigerian lender is the country’s worst-performing bank stock this year, having announced in November it plans a rights issue to boost its capital levels as the country’s small- and mid-sized lenders struggled to cope with a contraction in the economy of Africa’s biggest oil producer.
Atlas Mara, which has investments in banks across seven African countries, has lost almost 80 percent of its value since an initial public offering in December 2013 as growth across the continent slowed and currencies weakened, hurting profit converted back into dollars. Diamond, 65, in February ousted Chief Executive Officer John Vitalo and pledged to cut annual operating costs by $20 million after expenses engulfed income and threatened the company’s ability to expand through acquisitions.
Fairfax Africa agreed to buy at least 30 percent of the $100 million of new shares at a price of $2.25 apiece, representing an implied purchase price of 0.33 times book value, the company said in a separate statement. Atlas Mara’s stock has traded at an average this year of $2.26, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The shares fell 0.5 percent to $2.50 as of 9:02 a.m. in London, giving the company a market value of $194.5 million.
“Banks are at the forefront of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa,” Prem Watsa, Fairfax Africa’s chairman, said in the statement. “Atlas Mara represents a unique opportunity to invest in many profitable banks in the region at a very attractive valuation.”
The partnership with Fairfax Africa, which has investment holdings across Africa, will give Fairfax four directors on Atlas Mara’s board, while a new management incentive plan will be put in place, Atlas Mara said. Diamond will continue as Atlas Mara’s executive chairman.
More than three million pre-payment meters are to be rolled out under the Federal Government’s intervention programme, Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, disclosed in Lagos on Sunday.
The intervention followed the incapacity of Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to meter all the houses of consumers across the country. Mr. Fashola, who is also the Minister of Works and Housing, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the government had in 2003 awarded contract for the meters but they were not supplied.
“In 2003, the government awarded a contract for three million meters but they were not supplied. “I inherited it, they were in court and I am trying to take it out of the court so that we can settle and start the supply,’’ he said. The former Lagos State Governor said that metering houses in the country was facing some challenges as there was no accurate database of actual consumers in the country.
Mr. Fashola said: “There is a database of six million households; it is a faulty base because we have more than six million households in the country. “There are four types of consumers – R1 (poorest consumer), R2, R3 and maximum demand consumers — and they are not on the same plan.
“DISCOs need to go into these houses, do an audit to determine the type of meters to install. “If you have a wrong meter, you will pay wrong price or bill. A meter is both a safety device and a measuring device; it can under read or over read or cause fire if not properly installed. “But essentially, the DISCOs must provide meters, it is only fair and let the consumer manage his consumption and billing system because he has a meter.’’
On the challenges facing the nation’s power sector, Mr. Fashola, who described the problems as man-made, identified planning, way of life and human behavioural problem as some of the intractable issues. Others are power wastage, building of houses in difficult terrain without approval, lack of conservation culture and energy theft.
“Some people will put on a 70 or 120-watt bulb as security light for 24 hours, including the daytime when they do not need it and it is because they have either stolen the energy or bypassed their meters. “They are robbing DISCOs of huge sums of money as they may not be able to pay back the energy they bought for distribution,” the minister said. NAN reports that electricity consumers pay N25,000 (official), N35, 000 (fast-track) for a single-phase meter, while the three-phase models go for N50,000 and above.
Consumers have complained of down payment for several months or a year for the meters without being supplied by DISCOs which has exposed consumers to the user-unfriendly estimated billing system or “crazy’’ bills. In Ghana, prepayment metering was introduced in 1994 and the importation of the meters cost Ghana Government $99.2 million in 2015.
Nigeria’s central bank will let the market determine the naira’s rate in a new foreign-exchange window for portfolio investors as the nation struggles to revive its economy amid a dollar shortage. Naira forward contracts and banking stocks rose.
Governor Godwin Emefiele told senior bankers that he would tolerate the naira weakening in the window, which started today, according to a person who attended meetings with the policy maker over the past two weeks. While that may cause the currency to depreciate to its black-market level, the central bank probably won’t devalue the interbank exchange rate, the person said, declining to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Isaac Okorafor, a spokesman for the central bank, didn’t answer calls to his mobile or immediately respond to a text message.
Nigeria has suffered from a dearth of foreign exchange after the price of oil, its main source of revenue, collapsed from 2014. While crude prices have since risen, some investors say the central bank’s capital controls and attempts to stop the naira from weakening are exacerbating the crisis. The nation’s economy contracted last year for the first time since 1991.
The naira has traded at around 315 per dollar on the interbank, or spot, market since August. The black-market rate plummeted to a record 520 against the greenback in February, but recovered to 390 after the central bank sold $3 billion to $4 billion on the forward and spot markets.
Three-month non-deliverable forward contracts on the naira rose 0.9 percent to 355 per dollar at 4:14 p.m. in Lagos, the highest on a closing basis since March 6, suggesting traders see the currency weakening about 11 percent in that period. Six-month contracts rose 0.7 percent to 374.5.
Nigeria’s banking sector stock index rose 3 percent, the most since Jan. 9, with lenders’ earnings expected to be boosted by increased dollar liquidity.
The foreign-exchange window will be for bond and stock investors as well as exporters, the central bank said in a statement late on April 21. The Abuja-based regulator said it “reserves the right to intervene.”
The FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange, the Lagos-based trading platform, will publish the rate for the window, know as Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing, or NAFEX, each day. The first indicative closing rate on Monday was 377.11 per dollar.
Zambia’s government has just banned the imports of some farm produce as a way of promoting the growth of the agriculture sector. The Conversation Africa’s Samantha Spooner asked Calestous Juma about the impact this will have on African countries and their agricultural sectors.
Which African countries are the biggest importers of fruit and vegetables and how much do they rely on to meet local demand?
In 2013, the import value of all fruit and vegetable categories for the African region was about $1.2bn. However, the trade tends to be localised in countries that have poor infrastructure. They have short shelf lives so it’s important to get them to the market quickly. Consumers are also discerning and avoid buying produce on the edge of being spoiled. Many of them may not have refrigeration at home so are selective in what they buy.
Poor infrastructure means that countries such as Nigeria end up being major tomato importers because they can’t keep up with the demand. Over the last 12 months Nigeria imported 189.5 tons of tomato paste. This is despite the fact that they have states with ample land for growing tomatoes close to major urban centres such as Lagos.
The importance of investing in infrastructure, as I argue in The New Harvest, has significant implications for food production, storage and distribution.
But poor infrastructure isn’t the only driver of imports, especially of fruit. Other factors such as taste, widely available variations among nations – like India – in fruit production, and seasonal availability are important forces behind the globalisation of the fruit trade.
Advances in freight technology and expansion of shipping have also made it possible for exporters to achieve economies of scale that out compete local producers. China, for example, is emerging as a major fruit exporter partly because of its world class capacity in shipping and logistics.
Is banning imports a good way to boost the local agricultural sector? Has it worked elsewhere?
Banning imports is a blunt tool for stimulating local production. It often triggers unnecessary trade reprisals unless there’s evidence of health concerns. And they’re a poor substitute for measures such as investments in local infrastructure that would enable local producers to compete favourably.
But it’s also important to take into account the political context that leads to bans. Countries like Zambia, for example, don’t have a long agricultural tradition and are under pressure to protect the emerging sector.
Zambia historically specialised in mineral exports and relied on food imports from neighbouring countries and international markets. It sought to diversify it’s economy when global copper markets tanked late last century and the economy collapsed. As a recent entrant into the green vegetable export market, Zambia has previously faced phytosanitary barriers to its exports.
Given the circumstances it’s clear why the government would want to protect local producers. But the ban is unlikely to result in the desired outcomes except to provide relief for existing producers. Bans are usually not permanent and so do serve as incentives to encourage new investment that may take a long time to show results.
Are international trading rules inclusive enough to accommodate a country’s different needs and pressures?
While I think bans don’t work in many cases, international trade rules cannot operate well without any consideration for their implications on ordinary people.
International trade can be designed as a positive-sum game. And it should be. But it will continue to be challenged when it carries the seeds of irreparable loss of livelihoods. Of course we need international trade, but it needs to be guided by different ethical stands such equity so countries are not pushed into continuous conflict because of the fear of being excluded from the global market.
4. What impact does importing agricultural produce have on local agricultural sectors?
Imports are not necessarily bad in themselves. They are part of a global system that’s theoretically built on the principle of reciprocity. This includes the expectation of reasonable balance of trade between the partners. Quite often bans are motivated by imbalances in trade relations.
Banning imports simply because one is seeking to protect local agriculture – and without just cause – is generally a poor approach to achieving food security. In many cases, imbalances in agricultural trade exist because African countries haven’t made the necessary investments – such as storage facilities and capacity building in international trade practices – that allow them to become important players in the global economy. Therefore, imports and suppressed local production tend to reinforce each other.
Even when countries increase production they still have to contend with the challenges of breaking long-term import contracts or violating international trading rules.
5. Have other African countries introduced similar bans?
Many countries tend to introduce bans to reduce the amount of foreign exchange used for imports, not necessarily to stimulate local production. When foreign exchange earnings improve they tend to reverse the bans. This often affects those local businesses that may have thought the bans would benefit them.
It’s therefore important to first put in place policies and incentives that promote local production. Their effective implementation often makes the need to introduce bans unnecessary.
Nigeria has previously imposed bans on imports. One example was barley. This helped to stimulate the use of sorghum to produce beer. But the motivation was foreign exchange management, not necessarily to promoting innovation in brewing.
In another Nigerian case, foreign exporters of wheat stifled efforts to introduce bread that was made with 40% cassava. The government didn’t ban wheat imports but a bill put to the legislature to require the blend was starved of support and defeated. Such is the power of food import lobbies.
In this case the initiative would’ve stood a better chance of success if it had found a way to extend benefits to those who were likely to lose from reduced wheat imports. It’s such losers who become the sources of resistance to new ideas, as I argue in Innovation and Its Enemies.
6. Apart from banning imports, what should African countries be doing to grow their agricultural sectors?
Banning imports may protect a few existing producers but in the long run it should not be considered as a tool to grow the agricultural sector. The focus should be on laying foundations for agricultural productivity, starting with infrastructure and working up the value chain to developing agro-industries.
Without reliable roads, power supply and irrigation there is little chance that Africa will radically transform its agriculture. Much effort is going into scientific research, which is commendable. But the gains from productivity will have little impact if produce can’t reach the market because of poor infrastructure and a lack of competence in logistics.
And more than anything else Africa needs agricultural engineering. Today Africa exports less food than Thailand. The immediate goal should be to learn how Thailand became an agricultural force and apply the lessons to regional trade.
Africa will become a more serious international player when it can trade effectively with itself. It’s like the world of football. Those countries that don’t have strong regional leagues tend to shine in the first rounds of the World Cup tournament then they flounder.
The contemptuous label of “cyber-criminals” is the figurative sword with which the Nigerian image is generally being hacked and left for dead. According to Professor Biko Agozino of Virginia Tech university,
“there is a long standing demonisation of Nigeria as being full of criminals.”
This unfortunate generalisation, especially in the media, has a far-reaching negative impact on the overall image of Nigeria as a nation. It’s become the prism with which most Nigerians are viewed and judged globally.
It stems from the country’s vulnerability in a specific category of cybercrime known as ‘419’ and its offshoots. Dr Mohamed Chawki, President of the International Association of Cybercrime Prevention, explains that the term 419
is coined from section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud. Nowadays, the axiom ‘419’ generally refers to a complex list of offences which in ordinary parlance are related to stealing, cheating, falsification, impersonation, counterfeiting, forgery and fraudulent representation of facts.
The most widely known component of ‘419’ is cyber fraud - the culprit behind the blanket labelling of most Nigerians as cyber-criminals.
But cybercrime in essence encompasses a wide range of crimes other than cyber fraud. These online crimes include cyber stalking, cyber hate speech, cyber espionage, cyber terrorism, cyber colonialism, revenge porn and cyber bullying among others. Nigeria is exclusively implicated in cyber fraud. The country has no significant record of other forms of cyber crimes such as cyber espionage, cyber stalking and revenge porn found predominantly in Western nations.
The key point here is that the term ‘cybercrime’ is misleading which is why it’s reasonable to call into question Nigeria’s reputation. It’s an image nonetheless buttressed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its Internet Crime Complaint Centre which has ranked Nigeria third in the world behind the US and UK.
But the FBI centre’s claims are problematic because in Nigeria cybercrime is exclusively cyber fraud (or scam). What constitutes ‘cybercrime’ in most Western nations differs from the particularities of cybercrime in Nigeria. They differ possibly because jurisdictional cultures and nuances apply online as they do offline.
Crime primarily driven by economic benefit
Money is undoubtedly a primary motivation for online fraud. The primary benefit of a Nigerian swindler is financial. That the problem is propelled by monetary pursuits is well illustrated in the examination of 150 scam letters by professor Afe Adogame of Princeton University.
Corruption among some government officers and some high profiled politicians also plays a role. Corrupt practices promote cyber criminal activities.
Another contributory factor is the link between e-waste and online fraud. E-waste refers to discarded electronic appliances such as mobile phones and computers. The dumping of e-waste from countries such the UK and the USA is common in Nigeria and Ghana and there’s a strong correlation between dumping and the physical locations of online fraud victims.
The statistics are selective
Why is Nigeria ranked the third worst nation for cybercrime perpetrators?
The FBI-run Internet Crime Complaint Centre was established in May 2000 to limit economic losses through internet crime. It acts primarily by reviewing victims’ complaints. These number about 300,000 a year.
The centre’s data looks robust because they are drawn directly from victims. But this is deceptive. Of particular concern is the fact that complaints are exclusively framed by victims. This highlights the centre’s over-reliance on participants’ honesty and accuracy. The data’s probity is also undermined by the fact that only a small percentage of people voluntarily report themselves as victims of cybercrime. Even the FBI has previously noted that globally less than 10% of people report themselves as victims of cybercrime.
Apart from cybercrime being under-reported, the vast bulk of cybercrime goes undetected. For example, people who see themselves as victims of law enforcement are unlikely to flag their predicament to the FBI.
Finally, it’s impossible to tell the extent to which the entire process is shaped by the media and political discourses which tend to amplify the moral panic about Nigerian 419 fraud. Based on these underlining factors it’s reasonable to argue that the cybercrime league table is a simplified, limited and an incomplete representation. The claim that Nigeria is ranked third globally is therefore questionable.
Beyond the league tables
Over 90% of crimes reported to the complaints centre between 2006 and 2010 were primarily about cyber-fraud. Under this specific category Nigeria was found to be the third most cited nation. But what if categories such as cyber espionage and cyber bullying were covered? Would the outcome be different?
A different approach might be useful. One such approach is the Tripartite Cybercrime Framework which I recently proposed. This framework helps to simplify league table claims into a nuanced umbrella which includes categories such as, for example, socio-economic cybercrime and geopolitical cybercrime.
If the complaints centre’s reports were viewed through this lens, the results could be interpreted differently. This would, for example, lead to Nigeria being ranked third in the socio-economic category. And naturally in the geopolitical category Nigeria would be ranked much lower. It would also have positive impacts on efforts of law enforcement agencies in Nigeria such as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission EFCC in controlling the activities of cyber criminals.
It’s of utmost importance for the term “cybercrime” to be revisited and re-defined because it has huge consequences. It has, for example, influenced the framing of most scholarly endeavours about Nigeria which echo the sense of ‘moral panic’ over the ‘419’ phenomenon. It also affects how Nigeria is portrayed in the western media and how it’s viewed in the world.
Given that repeating discourses normalise their claim, the problem is deep.
Nigeria presents an interesting tale of seemingly opposites in the African growth agenda. Simultaneously taking pole position as the largest economy in Africa in 2016 and yet suffering from its worst recession in 25 years is indicative of both the ups and downs that the country’s economy has been through.
The last 24 months, in particular, have been difficult for the nation as an exodus of foreign direct investment (FDI) and assets took place prior to and at the time of the last Presidential elections in February 2015. The country faced a liquidity crunch, with the Central Bank and Nigerian stock exchange both facing trials and the country’s reserves decreasing from over $50 billion to $20 billions.
Various other socio-economic issues additionally came to the fore; volatile commodity prices, poor production in the dominant oil sector and depressed import levels, a devalued currency, inflation, high unemployment and the continuing challenge of corruption.
In line with these developments, foreign exchange suffered a blow. What impacted on this was that Nigeria has seven official and unofficial exchange rates from the official Central Bank rate to the parallel market or street rate - leading to market speculation.
As such, keeping foreign exchange and how its rates are determined under control comes with inherent challenges - and, as is to be expected, there have been considerable swings in the rates over the past 24 months. This has been marked by exchange rates that have ranged from between N305 to the dollar and N520/$ at its lowest level on the street.
Also contributing to the crisis was overseas remittances – money sent from Nigerians living outside the country to citizens within its borders – which is the second highest source of foreign exchange in Nigeria. Twenty million Nigerians living elsewhere in the world have a significant impact on spending power, particularly when those remittances come in the form of British pounds and US dollars. However, with the banks foreign exchange crisis in late 2015 and 2016 stemming from the unavailability of foreign exchange, that value fell considerably.
Despite the undoubted hardships the Nigerian economy and trade environment has struggled through over the past 24 months, there have in the last year been marked improvements that are driving a general consensus of a more positive outlook for the country.
Unpredictable commodity prices levelled out and even saw an upswing at the beginning of 2016 that continued throughout the year – and with the return of international banks providing additional credit lines to Nigerian banks to fund trade, an increase in FDI and a number of significant capital markets transactions such as the listing of $1 billion Federal Government (FGN) Eurobond on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in March 2017, there is growing evidence of a certain optimism in the country.
Upward movement in performance in the manufacturing, energy, retail and agriculture sectors mean that there are buds of growth starting to show. Dangote Cement, the largest cement producer across the continent, for instance, has in the last year built additional manufacturing plants in the country that have seen Nigeria stop importing cement at all – and, in fact, start exporting the product to the rest of Africa. Sales from its Nigerian operations increased by 13.8% in the last year.
This development speaks directly to the trend of a fundamental and ever-increasing move to local production. In retail, significant shelf space is taken up by Nigerian products from fresh produce right down to soap and toothpicks. Shoprite Nigeria even introduced its ‘Made in Nigeria’ campaign on 1 March this year to promote local producers; according to reports, over 80% of products in the retailer are locally made and sourced. “Made in Nigeria” now has a meaning and is not just a passing comment.
The shift to local was mostly driven by the lack of availability of foreign exchange through the Central Bank, and it essentially changed the economic focus of the country from importing to local production - noticeable too in agriculture, for example, where there is a concerted push towards domestic rice production, as well as export of agri commodities. Dangote Rice – a subsidiary of the Dangote Group, which also owns Dangote Cement – has plans to produce 225 000 metric tonnes (MT) of parboiled, milled white rice in 2017 alone and moving up to 1 000 000 MT over the next five years, satisfying 16% of the domestic market.
Overall, the difficulties of the past two years have caused the country to diversify its economy, making the move away from reliance on oil to industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and retail and driving growth by increasingly investing in local producers. Nigeria has over the years proven to be a resilient country - and with improved transparency between banks and international companies, greater regulation and an increasingly inclusive economy, the Nigerian good news story is slowly but surely starting to write a new chapter.
By Charles Weller, Head of FI Trade Nigeria, Barclays Africa
The Federal Government on Monday announced its readiness to ensure seamless operation at Kaduna International Airport as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja closes today March 8 for runway repairs.
The Minster of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this during a World News Conference organised by the ministry in Abuja. The news conference was attended by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Mohammed said the Acting President had inspected Kaduna airport and the rail station to ascertain the level of readiness to ensure smooth operation during the six-week closure period. He said that the summary of the findings during the inspection was that even though the airport might not be 100 per cent ready, its current state was suitable enough for the operation.
The minister also disclosed that the repair work on the Abuja-Kaduna highway had been completed to ensure smooth passage for Abuja bound passengers. “As you are all aware, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja will shut from the midnight of Tuesday March 7 to the Wednesday March 8 for the purpose of repairing the failed portion of the airport runway.
“During that time, Abuja flights will be diverted to Kaduna.
“On Friday, the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo inspected the Kaduna airport and the railway station to ascertain the state of readiness. “The summary of the finding is that while the airport may not be 100 per cent ready, by the time Abuja airport is shut, it will indeed be suitable enough,” he said.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said government had concluded arrangements to provide free transportation service for Abuja-bound passengers to and from Kaduna. Amaechi said that the train services would be rearranged to suit the flight schedules at Kaduna airport, adding that the train would be coming from Kaduna instead of the current arrangement.
He said the Kaduna airport runway was in perfect shape, adding that it was a portion of the terminal building that was yet to be completed as at Friday. According to him, the work was nearing completion as at that day and the contractor promised to deliver it before the deadline. The Minister of State, Aviation, Sirika, craved the indulgence of air travelers to bear with the government on the closure.
He said that the decision was for safety reasons, which is the key word in aviation sector.
The minister said the part of the Kaduna airport terminal building had been completed as at this morning, adding that much work had been done to ensure smooth operation. According to him, the ministry has provided a dedicated website (www.abujaairportclosure.info) to update airport users on the operations at Kaduna during the period. Sirika said the government had no other option than to shut the Abuja airport runway considering the level of dilapidation that had made it to fail completely.
He said that Kaduna airport would remain a seasonal international airport even after the six weeks period until it met the requirements to be a designated international airport. According to him, Ethiopian Airline is the only foreign airline that has expressed its readiness to fly the airport so far but at the end we expect more to operate the airport.
The minister reiterated the government’s plan to concession all the airports for efficiency beginning from the big four such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. “We have already concluded the arrangement for the appointment of transaction adviser that will commence work in a matter of weeks,” he said.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, assured that the police had made adequate security plans to ensure seamless operation between Abuja and Kaduna airports. Idris said the police force had enough capacity and capability to carry out efficient surveillance on the road, the rail line and air during the six weeks. According to him, he was in Kaduna on Sunday to conduct assessment of security in the airport, on the road and the rail at Jere and Idu stations.
“In the whole, our deployment on the ground is perfect because we have the various units of the Nigeria Police Force in charge of specialized units. “We have the force Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD), we have the force animals in charge of dogs; we have the patrolling team and the mobile force as well as the air wing.
“As I stated, all the units are deployed fully on ground,” he said.
Foreign travelers planning to reach the Nigerian capital, Abuja, next month have two choices: make a 15-hour drive from the southern commercial hub of Lagos or fly to the northern city of Kaduna and ride through an area plagued by kidnappers and gunmen.
The authorities plan to close Abuja’s airport for six weeks on March 8 to repair potholes on the 35-year-old runway that have damaged planes’ landing gear. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and South African Airways declined the government’s suggestion to divert their flights to Kaduna, while Ethiopian Airlines says it will fly there. Kaduna’s attractiveness dimmed on Feb. 23 when two German archaeologists were kidnapped and released three days later in a village off the 234-kilometer (145 mile) road to the capital.
“This route passes through insecure territory where the convergence by criminal actors from cattle rustlers to bandits and militants has precipitated a surge in kidnappings,” said Michael Clyne, an analyst at the Lagos-based security consultant group DC Premium Logistic and Solutions Ltd. Victims of the abductions included two former ministers, a Sierra Leonean diplomat and two bankers, he said.
The closure of the airport in Abuja, which handles 3 million passengers a year, will be another shock to a country facing its worst economic contraction in a quarter century. The drop in oil prices has slashed its main revenue earner, while the naira currency has weakened 35 percent against the dollar since June, the third-worst performance globally. President Muhammadu Buhari, 74, has been receiving treatment in London since Jan. 19 for an unspecified medical condition, with no date set for his return.
Abuja is a deal-making center, frequented by executives from mobile-phone companies, retailers and energy firms including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. that are pumping crude with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. in Africa’s second-biggest oil producer.
Already the airport shutdown prompted the postponement of the Nigeria International Trade and Investment Conference on non-oil investment until June.
“We have talked to several participants and embassies, and it seems no one is interested in going to Kaduna,” Sand Mba Kalu, who’s helping to organize the conference for Africa International Trade and Development Trust, said on Monday.
Besides the danger of the Kaduna route, its airport probably doesn’t have the capacity to handle the Abuja traffic. It had 12 flights in December 2015 compared with 812 in Abuja, Lagos-based research house SBM Intelligence said in a Feb. 24 note, citing the latest available figures from Nigeria’s airports authority.
Aviation State Minister Hadi Sirika said the government is expanding Kaduna airport’s capacity to handle more traffic. Most airlines had little alternative but to suspend their flights, said Joachim Vermooten, an independent aviation analyst in Pretoria, South Africa. “It’s very hard to transfer the whole airline supply-chain that includes ticketing, etc to Kaduna just for a short while,” he said by phone.
The runway at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was built in 1982 with a 20-year lifespan and has deteriorated to the extent that it has become a safety hazard and has to be completely overhauled, according to Minister Sirika.
Construction company Julius Berger Nigeria Plc won a contract in 2010 that was then worth about $425 million to build a 4.6-kilometer second runway, but it was canceled after lawmakers said it was too expensive. It also won the bid to carry out the current repairs at a cost of 5.8 billion naira ($18.4 million), according to Sirika.
Until the work is finished, Ben Okechukwu says he’s planning to shut his clothes shop in the capital because he won’t be able to make his usual monthly trip to Turkey to buy suits, shirts and ties.
“I plan to shift to Lagos,” he said in an interview. “The biggest problem is we are not sure how long the airport will be closed. If it’s six weeks it’s OK, but if it goes for months, then it messes up the whole year.”
Nigeria’s airline industry was already reeling from shortages of jet fuel and foreign-currency as revenue from crude oil fell and the value of the naira tumbled, leaving airlines with higher maintenance bills and difficulty in repatriating ticket sales. The government was forced to take over Nigeria’s biggest airline, Arik Air, this month. The airport closure will make the situation worse, said Linden Birns, managing director of Cape Town, South Africa-based aviation consultancy Plane Talking.
It’s not only a “blow for both domestic and foreign airlines who will lose revenues, but also for the Nigerian economy,” he said.
The Lagos State Government has said that the construction of Fourth Mainland Bridge would still begin this year.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde, gave the assurance in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Lagos. The commissioner, however, did not mention any specific time of the year for the commencement of the project.
He told NAN that the state government was committed to the proposed project. The construction of the bridge is accommodated in the state’s 2017 Budget and about N844 billion has been earmarked for it.
About 800 structures and shanties will be affected by the construction of the bridge to be carried out under a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement.
The construction of the bridge will be coming 50 years after the state’s existence and 26 years after the delivery of the Third Mainland Bridge by the ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida. NAN reports that the idea of the 4th mainland bridge first came up during the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration, about 14 years ago. In May 2015, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a consortium of firms and finance houses for the construction of the bridge.
During its conception, the government had to stop several times, when it realised that about 3,000 structures could be affected by the bridge’s right of way. To continue the construction, a new alignment design concept was produced to save about 2,200 houses from being destroyed. The project, when completed, will give birth to the longest of all the bridges connecting Lagos Island to the Mainland.
NAN reports that the bridge will pass through Lekki, Langbasa, and Baiyeku towns – on the Lagoon estuaries – to Itamaga, in Ikorodu. The bridge will serve as a complement to the Eko, Carter and Third Mainland Bridges and help to reduce traffic. The bridge is expected to have a four-lane dual carriage way.