The Akwa Ibom State government is on the verge of making history with the floating of a state fully owned airline, Ibom Air.
This was announced by the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel at the weekend during the state’s annual Christmas Carol in Uyo, saying the airline is ready for commercial operation.
According to Emmanuel, the floating of the new airline will be the first state government owned airline in Africa and is ready for commercial scheduled flights.
According to the government, the new airline currently has a fleet of three aircrafts, with service commencing with two aircrafts which have already been branded in Canada and will land in Uyo, the state capital by the end of the year. The third is expected to join by February 2019.
“Our state owned and run Obong Victor Attah International Airport has a Category 2 runaway and work is on-going on the second taxiway. To ensure that our state remains the destination of choice for foreign investors, we are launching Ibom Air, our wholly owned airline that will lessen the problems currently being encountered by our numerous air travellers,” Emmanuel said.
The governor, while speaking at the Carol, also gave account of his stewardship, reeling out his achievements since 2015.
According to him, his administration has performed creditably in all sectors, especially in the areas of rural electrification, roads, health care delivery, industrialisation, among other key developmental projects.
The governor further restated the commitment of his administration to make the state an industrial hub in the country and West Africa sub-region with a view to creating jobs and opportunities for growth.
Emmanuel also explained that he became governor when the country was going through the worst economic crises in her recent history and even when most state governments could not pay their workers’ salaries, he went ahead to clear 10 years backlog of pensions and gratuities spanning 2001 to 2011.
The Federal Government’s revenue target for the 2019 budget has again run into murky waters as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut Nigeria’s crude oil production qouta by 3.04 percent to 1.685 million barrels per day.
The cut in production is expected to be for the first six months of 2019, and it is in a bid to shore up prices at the international market by reducing oversupply.
President Muhammadu Buhari had during his 2019 budget estimates proposal presentation to the joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, disclosed that the budget was prepared on the assumption that the nation will produce 2.3 million barrels per day at a price of $60 per barrel.
The price of the crude in the international market has however continued on a downward decline and currently hovers below the $60 benchmark.
It would be recalled that OPEC and 10 non-OPEC countries had agreed earlier this month to cut oil production by 1.2 million bpd effective from January for an initial period of six months to shore up what many expect to be weakening market fundamentals ahead.
After being exempted from production cut since January 2017, Nigeria was asked to join the deal during the OPEC meeting on December 7 in Vienna.
With a current reference level of 1.738 million bpd, Nigeria’s oil production is to be cut by 53,000 barrels to arrive at the new quota of 1.685 million bpd, according to a breakdown of member quotas under OPEC’s supply accord obtained by S&P Global Platts on Thursday.
OPEC kingpin, Saudi Arabia, has pledged to lower its crude oil output to 10.311 million bpd -a 322,000 bpd cut from its October level, the document prepared by OPEC’s secretariat showed.
The document also showed that OPEC would shoulder 812,000 bpd of those cuts, while the non-OPEC participants would cut 383,000 bpd.
Iraq, OPEC’s second highest producer, will cut 141,000 bpd to reach an output level of 4.512 million bpd and the UAE will cut 96,000 bpd to average 3.072 million bpd.
Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempted from the cuts.
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, has said that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, grew to 1.81 percent (year-on-year) in real terms in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the 1.50 in the second quarter of the same year.
This, the NBS said in a report released on Monday, was aided by the non-oil sector of the economy.
According to the report, in nominal terms, aggregate GDP stood at N33.36 trillion while real GDP was estimated at N18.08 trillion.
Growth in Q3 was largely helped by the non-oil sector, which contributed 90.62 per cent to total GDP while the oil sector contributed 9.38 per cent to growth in the review period.
However, Oil GDP contracted by -2.91 per cent compared to -3.95 per cent in Q2 and 23.93 per cent in Q3 2017.
The report also showed that average daily oil production fell to 1.94 million barrels per day (mbpd), higher than that of the 1.84mbpd recorded in Q2 by 0.10 mbpd- but lower than the 2.02 mbpd recorded in the same quarter of 2017 by -0.08mbpd.
The report further showed that real growth of the oil sector was –2.91 per cent (year-on-year) in Q3, indicating a decrease of –25.94 percentage points relative to rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2017.
The non-oil sector however grew by 2.32 per cent in real terms in Q3, representing 0.28 percentage points higher than the 2.05 per cent in preceding quarter and by 3.08 percentage points higher compared to the -0.76 per cent recorded same quarter of 2017.
The NBS report said the non-oil sector was mainly driven by Information and communication sector while other drivers include agriculture, manufacturing, trade, transportation and storage and professional, scientific and technical services.
For the sectoral contribution of GDP growth in the period under review, The NBS report showed that information and communication sector contributed 10.55 per cent to real GDP while agriculture 29.25 per cent to real GDP.
Manufacturing contributed 8.84 per cent to growth while services accounted for 48.79 per cent as well as industries which contributed 21.97 percent to real growth.
Also, trade contributed 15.80 per cent to real GDP while finance and insurance 2.52 per cent to growth as well as construction which recorded 3.01 per cent to GDP.
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, has said that Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased to 23.1 in the third quarter of 2018 as against the 18.8 percent recorded in Q3 2017, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The NBS, in the Labour Force Statistics – Volume I released on Wednesday, the number of unemployed Nigerians increased from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.
The report further states that the economically active or working age population also increased from 111.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 115.5million in Q3, 2018, while the labour force rose to 90.5million in Q3, 2018 from 75.94 million in Q3 2015, 80.66 million in Q3 2016 and 85.1 million in Q3,2017.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday gave an overview of the implementation of the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget, saying 67 per cent performance had so far been recorded by Ministries, Departments of Agencies (MDAs) of government.
The President revealed this when he presented the 2019 budget estimates at a joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja.
According to him, out of the total appropriation of N9.12 trillion, N4.59 trillion had been spent by Sept. 30, 2018, against the prorated expenditure target of N6.84 trillion.
He said: “This represents 67 per cent performance. Debt service and the implementation of non-debt recurrent expenditure, notably payment of workers’ salaries and pensions are on track.
“Despite the delay in the passage of the 2018 Budget on 20th June 2018, the sum of N820.57 billion had been released for capital projects as at 14th December, 2018. We have carried over capital projects that were not likely to be fully funded by year-end 2018 to the 2019 budget.’’
The President said the 2018 budget was based on a benchmark oil price of 51dollars, oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N305 to the dollar.
He added that based on these assumptions, the federal government’s aggregate revenue of N7.17 trillion was projected to contribute to the 2019 budget of N9.12 trillion while the projected deficit of N1.95 trillion (or 1.73 percent of GDP) was to be financed mainly by borrowing.
“In 2018, average oil production up to end of the third quarter was 1.95 mbpd, as against the estimated 2.3 mbpd for the entire year. However, average market price of Bonny Light crude oil was higher (an average of $74 per barrel as at October) than the benchmark price of $51.
“As at the end of the third quarter, federal government’s actual aggregate revenue was N2.84 trillion, which is 40 percent higher than 2017 revenue.
“The overall revenue performance is only 53 percent of the target in the 2018 budget largely because some one-off items are yet to be actualized. We have now rolled this revenue item over to 2019,” he said.
While urging the lawmakers to expedite action for the passage of the 2019 budget, the President stressed the need for the legislature to partner with the executive arm of government for the benefit of Nigerians.
As part of measures to ease the processing of foreigners coming the Nigeria, the Immigration Service (NIS) has expanded its Visa-on-Arrival counters at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two visa on arrival counters at the “D” and “E” Wings of the airport were expanded following approval by the Comptroller General of the NIS, Mr Mohammed Babandede.
A top official of the NIS told NAN on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity that the move had increased the capacity of the service to process visas for foreigners coming into the country.
The source said : “As you can see, we have expanded our offices at the “D and E ” Wings to accommodate the high number of foreigners arriving the country who have approvals to be issued visas.
“Sometimes, we have two or more international flights arriving simultaneously and the existing counters can not accommodate foreigners requesting for visas.
“We sometimes get up to 150 people per day. During this yuletide, we are having an average of 1,000 foreigners coming through this airport every week.
“It is a part of the Ease of Doing Business Policy of the Federal Government because this will eliminate unnecessary delays in the issuance of visas to foreigners coming into Nigeria,” he said.
According to the source, apart from creating a more conducive environment for travellers, it will also shore up the image of the country in the international community.
The source, however noted that some foreigners were still not conversant with the processes of obtaining their visas on arrival.
“Some of them don’t wait for approval from the Comptroller General before coming to Nigeria. They just make payments but they need to wait for the approval which normally takes about 48 hours.
“So, they need both their payment receipts and approval before we can allow them into the country. The payment is made online and collected by our technical partners because we operate a cashless policy, ” the source noted.
The source disclosed that 278 foreigners have been turned back in the past few months for not having the necessary requirements to be admitted into Nigeria.
According to the source, a foreigner coming to Nigeria should either apply to the Nigerian Embassy or make an application to the NIS for visa on arrival.
NAN reports that the visa on arrival policy by Nigeria began in 2012 with Kenya and a few African countries.
It came into full stream with the introduction of the Ease-of-Doing-Business Policy by Federal Government in May 2017.
The federal government of Nigeria says the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will soon access World Bank’s $750 million grant.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this at the 7th Community of Practice (CoP) for State Commissioners of Planning and Budgeting, in Abuja, with theme, ‘Achieving Realism in State and Federal Budgets for Effective Service Delivery.’
Mrs Ahmed, who found CoP in September 2016, as then Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, was invited to speak on issues concerning the group.
She expressed optimism that states will continue with their fiscal responsibility to serve as a platform to access the loan and grant from the World Bank.
The Community of Practice meetings, she said, enhances the state commissioners of planning and budget’s capabilities in performing their functions, and serves as platforms for facilitating peer learning and information exchange, strengthening coordination, collaboration and networking.
Issues being discussed at the 7th CoP meeting include expanding the forum beyond the current membership to include the minister of finance and commissioners of finance from states for better coordination and planning, budget and public finances.
She said: “During the course of these meetings we had the benefit of hosting the World Bank and several other opportunities, including the Governors’ Forum,” the minister said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
“During the course of this exercise, the Ministry of Finance had to on instruction from the President provide bailouts to the state because at one point states were not able to pay salaries.”
Part of the conditions given for those bailouts, the minister explained, is a fiscal responsibility plan which need to be implemented for the states to continue to be qualified to access the funds that the federal government was giving.
The FSP, she noted, was quite successful because of improvements in the public financial management in a lot of states, some of which is evidenced in the increase in internally generated revenue and increase in the frequency of the preparation of financial statements in budgets.
This year, she said, it was so good that the World Bank acknowledged what the group has done by approving about $750mn in the form of concession loans and grants that will be available soon for the states to access.
She said the loans and grants are in the process of going to the Executive Council Federation (FEC) for approval.
She said the World Bank has already approved the grant and others, while government expects the states will continue to implement their fiscal responsibility to qualify them for this facility as well as the grant.
According to the minister, the principles agreed by NEC on the operations of the group were still as relevant as they were in 2016.
She urged the CoP to ensure the monitoring aspect of the principles still continue.
She charged the CoP to make monitoring of the process of implementation of budget a cardinal principle, because it would benefit and enhance what they are doing to improve the standard of living of the people in their states.
“Let me add that the need for monitoring is beneficial, because it will enhance process improvement. It will also help us to refocus ourselves as well as our principles to stay on those commitments that are made. But, most importantly, it will enhance public service delivery to the citizens,” she stated.
Nestlé Nigeria restated its commitment to responsible sourcing at its last Suppliers’ Day event held in Lagos.
The event united all key players who supply raw materials, packaging materials, services and indirect materials to Nestlé.
This was an opportunity to consolidate existing relationships as well as ensure best practices in sourcing. With about 80% local sourcing reached in 2018, the company is poised to increase the percentages where possible in the coming years.
“We work with more than 1,000 direct suppliers, 700 of which are local suppliers,” said Nestor Finalo, Supply Chain Manager for Nestlé Nigeria at the event.
“We hope to invest more in local suppliers who are able to meet with the quality requirements of Nestlé,” he continued.
Responsible sourcing has always been at the core of Nestlé Nigeria’s operations, especially in a society where consumers and stakeholders increasingly want to know what is in their food, where it comes from and how it is made.
Nestlé Nigeria has responded to these demands by ensuring transparency and compliance in its supply chain. The company continues to urge its suppliers to adhere to the highest ethical standards and procedures.
“All our suppliers must imbibe and adhere to good ethical practices whether in terms of labour laws, working hours or relationship with the environment. We have also put structures in place to ensure that quality is not compromised,” Mr. Finalo said.
On their part, suppliers at the event reaffirmed their trust in Nestlé while identifying opportunities for improvement to better meet the company’s requirements.
Commenting, one of the key players said, “We are confident that we will be able to reach and surpass Nestlé’s standards on quality. We are happy about our partnership and hope to do more with Nestlé in the coming years.”
In her welcome address, the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager for Nestlé Nigeria, Victoria Uwadoka said, “The Suppliers’ Day presents a unique opportunity for us to celebrate everyone who supplies the products or services that help us produce high quality nutritious products. We are certain that this relationship will be sustained in the long-term as we work together to meet consumer expectations by ensuring responsible sourcing practices.”
Nestlé Nigeria reiterated its commitment to work together with its suppliers to ensure that they have all the support they need to continue to grow their businesses while contributing to the company’s growth. This is in line with Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value principles.
To strengthen supplier relationships, Nestlé Suppliers’ Day will continue to be held annually going forward. There will also be opportunities for training, skills and capacity building for the company’s top suppliers.
“This event will be carried out yearly to keep you abreast of the company’s best practices and to develop even stronger partnerships. We will also hold workshops and joint trainings to improve quality of deliveries and empower you, our esteemed suppliers,” said Mr. Nestor Finalo in his closing remarks at the event.
Attendees at the event included top management executives of all Nestlé Key suppliers.
Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property says oil companies contribute to the economic adversity of the country.
He said this at a press briefing in Abuja, on Monday.
According to him, the companies are denying the country oil taxes and royalties that will help government develop infrastructure.
“We are investigating some of these companies for tax evasion, failure to pay royalties. Five oil companies have not remitted over 1 billion dollars to government.
“We will get to the root of the matter,” he said.
While reeling out other achievements of the panel in 2018, Obono-Obla said that with the Executive Order 6, which had to do with travel ban, the panel had compiled the names of about 39 public officers who were under investigation.
“We have compiled their names and submitted to the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service so that they would be placed on travel ban,” he said.
On the Panama Papers, he said the Panel was in partnership with the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) investigating Nigerians allegedly implicated in the Paradise Panama Papers.
“Findings will be made available to Nigerians in due course.
“The Panel is investigating the Tumsah brothers – Tijani Tumsah (Vice Chairman, Presidential Initiative on North East) and Ibrahim Tumsah (Director, Finance and Accounts, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing) for alleged abuse of office and corruption.
“The Panel has recovered an assortment of 86 brand new luxury and sophisticated cars from the duo; 23 of these vehicles are bullet-proof without the requisite permits.
“We have since obtained an interim order of forfeiture from FCT High Court in Abuja in respect of these properties,” he said
The chairman expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari, for courageously leading the fight against corruption.
“We are also grateful to the President for his complete support and demonstrable resolve not to interfere with our operations in anyway,” he said.
The board of Diamond Bank Plc on Monday finally announced its merger with Access Bank Plc expected to be completed in first half of 2019.
Both banks recently denied media reports of any merger.
Mr Uzoma Dozie, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said in Lagos the board had selected Access Bank as the preferred bidder with respect to a potential merger of both banks.
Dozie said the potential merger of the two banks would create Nigeria and Africa’s largest retail bank by customers.
He added that the transaction to be completed in the first half of 2019 was in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Dozie said the completion of the merger was subject to certain shareholder and regulatory approvals.
“The proposed merger would involve Access Bank acquiring the entire issued share capital of Diamond Bank in exchange for a combination of cash and shares in Access Bank via a Scheme of Merger.
“Based on the agreement reached by the boards of the two financial institutions, Diamond Bank shareholders will receive a consideration of N3.13 per share, comprising N1 per share in cash,” he said.
Dozie also said the transaction would include the allotment of two new Access Bank ordinary shares for every seven Diamond Bank ordinary shares held as at the implementation date.
“The offer represents a premium of 260 per cent to the closing market price of 87k per share of Diamond Bank on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as of Dec. 13, 2018, the date of the final binding offer,” Dozie said.
He said the bank’s shares would be absorbed into Access Bank at the completion of the merger and Diamond Bank would cease to exist under Nigerian law.
“The current listing of Diamond Bank’s shares on the NSE and the listing of Diamond Bank’s global depositary receipts on the London Stock Exchange will be cancelled, upon the merger becoming effective,” he added.
Dozie said the proposed combination with Access Bank would create one of Africa’s leading financial institutions.
“The board of Diamond Bank believes that the proposed combination of the two operations provides an exciting prospect for all stakeholders in both businesses, he said.
Mr Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank the Chief Executive Officer, said: “Access Bank has a strong track record of acquisition and integration and has a clear growth strategy.
“Access Bank and Diamond Bank have complementary operations and similar values, and a merger with Diamond Bank with its leadership in digital and mobile-led retail banking’
“This could accelerate our strategy as a significant corporate and retail bank in Nigeria and a Pan-African financial services champion,” said Wigwe.