External Reserves In Rare Increase, As CBN Targets N200/$ Parallel Market Rate

Nigeria’s external reserves which had been on a steady decline, rose marginally week-on-week to $27.808 billion as at Wednesday, compared with the $27.790 billion it attained the previous Wednesday, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This followed an increase in international crude oil prices which yesterday hit highs not seen in four weeks, as a positive economic report offset continuing concerns about a global supply glut.

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the US benchmark, rose to $34.13, while the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose to $36.62.

However, oil analysts argued that the global glut of oil was more than enough to absorb increased demand, likely leading to a prolonged period of low prices.

But commenting on Nigeria’s external reserves position, CSL Stockbrokers Limited, in a report noted that what was more interesting is that the level of reserves in terms of goods import cover had been steady if not rising gradually over recent months.This, the firm attributed to the fact that imports had been contracting, revealing that the 12-month moving average of goods imports in the country is presently at 5-year low.

“The steadiness of import cover is not a positive sign as the decline in imports is reflective of the economic slowdown. From a balance of payments perspective however, the fact that the reserves/import ratio is not falling perhaps provides some indication of why a genuine balance of payments crisis has not forced the Central Bank of Nigeria to abandon its commitment to keeping the currency at N200/$1 on the interbank market,” they added.

Meanwhile, the CBN has assured Nigerians that it would continue to implement policies that would lead to the convergence of the official and parallel markets exchange rates.
This is just as the naira appreciated to N310 to a dollar on the parallel market yesterday; up from the N330 to a dollar it had closed on Thursday.

According to a top source in the central bank, “The aim of CBN is to ensure that the divergence between the official and parallel rate does not exceed N3, so we are looking at a parallel market rate of N200/$ because the downward trend in the pressure on the naira will be sustained.” The CBN recently put the value of its development finance interventions, aimed at boosting domestic production across the country at about N1.36 trillion.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele had emphasised that the central bank’s determination to improve lending to the real sector of the economy would stimulate employment generation and boost accretion to foreign reserves through non-oil exports. A breakdown of these disbursements had shown that N300 billion had been set aside for Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF); N220 billion had also been disbursed for the Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF); the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) got N75 billion; and the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilization Fund received N213 billion.

Similarly, the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) support at N50 billion for the Export Refinancing and Restructuring Facility; and the Non-oil Export Stimulation Facility that received N500 billion.

ThisDay

Reps Order Suspension Of Planned Speed Limit Device

Nigeria’s House of Representatives has directed the Federal Road Safety Commission to suspend its planned enforcement of the Speed limit device in vehicles.

Subsequently, the FRSC Chief Executive Officer, Boboye Oyeyemi is to appear before the House Committee on Road Safety to explain why the commission chose the speed limiters above more modern technology.

It had been reported that by April this year, Nigeria’s road safety agency will commence the enforcement of the use of speed limiter device on vehicles plying the nation’s roads.

From that date, commercial vehicles are expected not to go more than eighty kilometres per hour while private vehicles’ limit is one hundred kilometres per hour

The Commission believes this will go a long way in reducing incidences of road crashes which often lead to loss of lives and properties.

But members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives are disapproving of the Commission’s initiative.

TVC News

Sugar Industry To Generate 114m Jobs by 2023 – NSDC

By Waheed Adekunle, Osogbo

As efforts to diversify economy gathered significant momentum, National Sugar Development Council, NSDC, has assured that sugar production sector will create over 114 million jobs by 2023 if the government can invest in the sector.

The Executive Secretary, NSDC, Dr. Latif Busari said this while speaking on “where we are -three years” at Royal Spring Holiday Inn, Osogbo.

The theme of the Southern Region Sugar Sensitization Workshop is “Sustaining the Gains of NSMP for National Self-Sufficiency in Local Sugar Production”.

Dr. Busari who noted that the sector had helped in improving job creation, reduction in price of sugar and sugar smuggling, added that the sugar sector is a capital intensive industry.

He urged the state governments to support sugar project, saying that the sector has the capacity to generate 400megawatts of electricity if given adequate support.

He also lamented the neglect of sugar industry since its establishment in 1980-1981 in the savanna, saying “since then till now there is none except if you mention the refinery in Apapa, Lagos.

“This industry ‎by 2023 is expected to produce 1.8m tonnes of sugar locally, 161 litres of Ethanol, as we are also expecting to generate 400million megawatts of electricity and create over 114,000 jobs both permanent and seasonal job,” he stated.

Earlier, the Director, Policy Planning, Research and Statistic, National Sugar Development Council, Mr. Hezekiah Kolawole, lamented the huge amount of money spent annually on the importation of sugar by the Nigerian government.

Kolawole, who noted that the simplest way to reduce the menace of the unemployment to the barest minimum in the country was for all and sundry to rise up to the task and pay adequate attention to agricultural.

According to him, “Nigeria spends about 500 millions dollar to 600 million dollar annually on sugar importation to satisfy her domestic and industrial requirements”.

“What a paradox for a county that is endowed with abundant land, water and human resources as well as comparative and competitive advantages to produce this commodity in large quantities to not only satisfy her requirements but also for export to end foreign exchange”, he quarried.

1.5m Students For JAMB This Year

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) yesterday said about 1.5 million students are to sit for the 2016 University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) across the country and eight other foreign countries.

The board explained that the 2016 UTME examination would be conducted from Saturday, February 27, 2016, while the exercise is expected to last not more than 14 days.

Speaking ahead of the examination, JAMB Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, said: “This is the first examination we are conducting under this administration and the board want to use this opportunity to commend the federal government, the press and all stakeholders for the support it has given to the board in ensuring that its activities are successful.

“The board after the closure of registration had to reopen it portal for candidates who couldn’t complete the process of the 2016 registration to do so, however this didn’t include fresh registration. This was a 48hours grace and is expected to close by Thursday 12midnight.

“The board wants to use this opportunity to clearly state that the Federal Ministry of Education and JAMB will not be doing this again and prospective future candidates should take note as registration will close as indicated on our advertisement.”

He stated that “the board’s matriculation examination has grown to be a vitally indispensable gateway to tertiary institutions in Nigeria with a great measure of performance and integrity emulated globally in spite of increasing number of candidates and other challenges which the board’s management has consistently devised ways of addressing.

“For purposes of clarity, let me remind Nigerians that, the first Joint Matriculation Examination (JME) was held in 74 towns in Nigeria and by a special request in Gambia. A total number of 96,884 candidates were tested.

“However, the challenges in the conduct of examination became enormous as the number of candidates increased. Question papers were printed flown into Nigeria and transported in trailers escorted by security agents to the board’s office.

He explained that “the 180 cut-off point is a minimum requirement and not an indication that one is admissible. Other factors, criteria of admissions will also follow in arriving at what constitute admissible cut-off point.

“Nigerians should also note that institutions are at liberty to go higher than 180 depending on their peculiarity and this does not in anyway infringe on the powers of the board.”

On number of candidates, the board said: “A total number of 1,589,175 candidates applied for the 2016 UTME.
“In the last UTME conducted in 2015, a total of 1,475,477 candidates registered for the 2015 UTME.
“The figure for the 2016 UTME shows an increase of 113,673 applicants when compared with last year’s figure of 1,475,477.
“In addition, 343 prison inmates registered for the 2016 UTME. They will also have access to computers at both the Kaduna and Ikoyi prisons.

According to the registrar, “the examination will hold simultaneously in 521 examination centres in Nigeria and eight foreign centres, namely, Accra in Ghana, Buea in Republic of Cameroun, Cotonou in Republic of Benin, London in United Kingdom, Jeddah in Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia, Johannesburg in Republic of South Africa, Addis in Ethiopia and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire.

“Visually Impaired candidates are expected to take the examination at designated centres in all the state capitals and the FCT.
“It is the board’s desire to ensure that no candidate is deprived of taking its examination. The examination will be conducted using the Braillenote Apex Computers for the Visually Impaired candidates in order to give them the opportunity to pursue their dreams academically.

“A total of 201 visually impaired candidates registered for this year’s examination and adequate arrangements have been provided to ensure that they partake in the examination.”

Ojerinde further stated that “the continuous determination of the board to curb the incidences of examination malpractice and other related offences, the Board will continue to use the biometric verification machine to verifying candidates before admitting them for the examination. Also, candidates will be expected to thumb-print after the examinations.

“Candidates were expected to have commenced printing of their e-registration slips as at Thursday, February 18, 2016.This slips can be printed anywhere there is an internet service.

“Candidates are required to come to the examination centres with their e-registration slips only. They are not allowed to come to examination halls with any writing materials.
Candidates will be provided with scratch sheets in the examination halls. All candidates are required to provide such information as registration number, examination number and signature on the scratch sheets.

“Let me state here that candidates are allowed to change their choices of institutions and courses only once. This change has to be effected within two weeks after the results are released.”

The board also warned candidates against “the use of handsets or any communication gadgets in and around the examination venues is prohibited. Anyone found with such gadgets would be deemed to have been engaged in examination malpractice as outlined in the provisions of the Examination Malpractice Decree No. 33 of 1999.

“The board is appealing to all examination officials to ensure that instructions are read and adhered to by candidates. They are to ensure that candidates are obliged all necessary and approved assistance in the hall to ensure a smooth conduct.

“The board will also want to remind examination officials that the rules guiding the conduct of the examination have been included in the Training Manual given to them. We appeal to them to follow the steps as indicated in the manual for a hitch-free examination.

Concerning security ahead of the examination, Ojerinde said: “The board has engaged the services of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Department of State Services (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), special security forces in security challenged areas etc. to monitor examination centres and maintain close surveillance during the examination for a peaceful and successful conduct.

“The board will equally engage the services of Independent Examination Watch Groups, to monitor the examination. The group will comprise eminent personalities including Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian universities, Rectors of polytechnics, Provosts of Colleges of Education, officials of the federal and state Ministries of Education, immediate past directors of the board, stakeholders in the education sector and other observers. It is important to mention that the groups’ reports have been of immense benefit to the board in the past; hence we are encouraged to continue engaging them.

“Candidates are hereby informed that there will be no rescheduling of any examination. Any candidate who fails to turn up for his/her examination on the date assigned has missed the examination. Please note that the examination has been programmed in such a way that rescheduling is impossible.”

He explained that “with CBT, the board is expecting examination malpractice to be reduced to the barest minimum. However, lateness to examination will not be tolerated.

“In our continued fight against examination malpractice and to ensure the credibility of our examination, we want to assure the general public that JAMB is alive to its responsibilities. I want to sound a note of warning once more to those who may be tempted to compromise our well organised arrangement that they shall be made to face the full weight of the law.

“The Board is hereby appealing to all candidates to strictly adhere to all laid down rules by conducting themselves properly during the examination,” Ojerinde warned.

Online Dictionary Helps Nigerians Decode Their Names

The names given to a child by southwest Nigeria’s Yoruba people come with a certain meaning, which may be related to something like the time of year or to the circumstances of the child’s birth.

While linguist Kola Tubosun knows the meaning of his name, many of the other Yorubas he has met do not.  So, he decided to do something about it.

Launched earlier this month, YorubaName.com is an online dictionary of traditional Yoruba names, aimed at Yoruba people who might have forgotten their name’s meaning or never learned it in the first place.

“The whole idea is to provide a central place where people can find all, hopefully all of the Yoruba names, be able to find its meaning,” said Dadepo Aderemi, the site’s head developer.

Yorubas are among the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria and have significant populations in neighboring Benin.  Large numbers of Yorubas also live in Brazil and the Caribbean, as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

While the Yoruba language is widely heard across Nigeria’s populous southwest, Tubosun says educators undervalue it and other local languages.

Some parents would rather their children learn English as a way to to get an advantage over other students in the competition for jobs and opportunities, he says.  In a country where two-thirds of the population live in poverty, both are in short supply.

“Over time, parents bought into this idea that if you don’t learn English, or don’t learn in English, or you don’t learn any other language other than English, then you are denying yourself a chance for a good future filled with opportunities,” Tubosun said.

That emphasis on learning English ends up harming local traditions, he says.

“I realized that something is going to get lost over time if we didn’t find a way to document these things,” said Tubosun, whose first name is given to males who are born into a newly-purchased house.

The dictionary is a work in progress, Tubosun said.  He anticipates adding many more names to the site, along with a tool for people to hear the pronunciation of individual names.

Tubosun started the dictionary because he is Yoruba, but, he doesn’t plan to stop there; many cultures in Africa give names that have meanings, and he intends to expand the dictionary to other languages in Nigeria and across the continent.

With some 500 local languages in Nigeria, he has his work cut out for him.

Culled from VOA

FG, World Bank To Bail States Out

The Federal Government and World Bank have formed a partnership aimed at assisting state governments to grapple with the effects of the financial challenges occasioned by the slump in global crude oil prices.

Speaking at the end of a two-day workshop in Ibadan, the Chief Responsibility Officer and Team Leader of Mothergold, Dr. Adesina Fagbenro-Byron, said through a programme tagged ‘Saving One Million Lives’, the FG and World Bank were planning to reduce the effect of the economic crises on primary healthcare services.

He said development partners including the World Bank were providing support to the SOML through a scheme called the Programme for Results, which will be implemented at the state level.

Fagbenro-Byron said, “The quantity of services provided is prioritised with 61 per cent of the resources from the Programme for Result dedicated to rewarding improvements in six indicators. States will receive $205,000 for every percentage point increase in the sum of the six indicators.

“States will need to radically rethink and engage a range of actors in the search and deployment of locally tailored innovations that can improve health outcomes at the state level. Improvements will be measured through surveys that provide robust estimates at the state level.”

He added, “Our common objective is to unlock billions of naira set aside by international bodies for healthcare delivery in Nigeria. Among the criteria to access these funds include the states’ commitment to match funds received with results achieved.”

The Punch

Buhari To Convene National Economic Conference

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the convocation of a national economic conference aimed at rallying the country together to offer solutions to the current economic challenges facing Nigeria.

A top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed this to a group of journalists in Abuja on Thursday.

The approval came barely a week after Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, called on the President to summon an emergency economic meeting to recommend specific solutions to the nation’s prevailing economic challenges to save the country’s economy from further drift.

The nation’s currency has slumped drastically against the dollar in recent months due largely to the scarcity of the foreign currency and the tough regulations of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

This appeared to have led to spiralling inflation in the country as most products are produced abroad, putting the nation’s foreign reserves and currency under intense pressure.

The price of crude oil in the international market has continued to fall since November 2014, threatening to frustrate the provisions of the nation’s N6.07tn 2016 budget.

Soyinka, who made the call when he visited the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja last Thursday, had said experts and consumers should be invited to the meeting.

“The President should call an emergency economic conference with experts to be invited – consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts, professors, etc. I think we really need an emergency economic conference, a rescue operation, bringing as many heads as possible together to plan the way forward,” Soyinka had said.

But the government source said the idea of the economic conference, which had tentatively been fixed for March 10 and 11, was first discussed at the 65th National Economic Council meeting held on January 28.

The council, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had all the state governors and the Central Bank Nigeria Governor, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and some ministers as members.

It has a constitutional role of advising the President on economic matters.

The source said the NEC members had in their deliberations called for a major conference, where the current economic situation of the country could be thoroughly discussed by all the states and the Federal Government.

He added that in approving the idea, the President himself would declare the conference open and participate fully in order to demonstrate his personal commitment to the idea.

He said the views of the private sector and non-state actors would also be sought at the conference.

The source explained that well-respected global experts were expected at the conference to aggregate the views of other governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions.

The government official stated, “The NEC retreat, as is being called by the Federal Government and the states, becomes imperative amid dwindling oil prices with a direct and significant impact on the money now available for federal allocation and sharing between the FG, states and local government councils.

“For instance, the FG states and local governments shared a sum of N370.4bn a few days ago for the month of January 2016, which is a drop of more than N17bn from the N387.8bn shared the previous month of December last year.

“That could be compared for instance with what was shared in January 2014, which was N629bn and N503.6bn the previous December, both higher significantly than the present situation.

“Another concern of the FG and the states necessitating the economic conference is the drop in foreign reserves of the country, which is now already below $30bn and compelling the CBN to adopt tough forex measures, including the ban on certain items from forex funding and rationing.

“The depreciation of the value of naira has also become an attendant impact of the foreign exchange scarcity.”

He added that it was the President’s expectation that the conference would be solution-centered and also create an opportunity to rally the nation, the FG, states and private sector together for a clear and mutually beneficial economic direction.

“It is interesting that a respectable Nigerian (Soyinka) recently raised the idea of a national economic conference earlier this month, the same idea that had been decided by members of NEC at their January meeting. It shows there is indeed a wide consensus on the idea,” he said.

He explained that although government was not calling the conference an emergency one, it was clear that both federal and state governments agreed on the need to discuss frankly and develop innovative ways to take the country out of the economic challenges of the day.

The source explained that while the FG was clear on what direction it intended to drive the country economically, there was the need to rally the entire nation.

He said there was the need to call on the government and the people to tighten their belts and prepare for sacrifice.

“The President has already set the tone for frugality in spending by cutting off routine security votes among other cost-cutting measures.

“Besides, the idea of a Zero-Based Budgeting and Treasury Single Account are parts of the attempt by the Federal Government to tighten public revenues and finance,” he added.

Court Strikes Out Etisalat’s Suit Against MTN For Buying Visafone

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out a suit by Etisalat against MTN.

The plaintiff challenged MTN’s use of the 800megahertz (MHZ) spectrum following its acquisition of Visafone.

Etisalat said it considered the action necessary to prevent MTN’s use of the spectrum as it would entrench the defendant’s dominance in the data services market.

The plaintiff said the use of the 800MHz spectrum to deploy broadband services ahead of its competitors, particularly those who prior to MTNs purchase of Visafone, held similar spectrum bands as MTN, would be to other telecos disadvantage.

Justice Ibrahim Buba struck out the suit on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.

He held that the court cannot interfere with NCC’s regulatory duties.

Buhari Welcomes IDB Finance Offer

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Mecca, Saudi Arabia,welcomed an offer by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to organize a financing roundtable in Abuja to mobilize more funds for investment and development of infrastructure in Nigeria.

According to a statement issued by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President of the IDB, Dr Ahmed Mohammed Ali, made the offer at a meeting with President Buhari who is currently on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Ali assured Buhari that the IDB will work with its traditional partners such as the Saudi Fund, the Kuwait Fund, Arab Bank for Development in Africa and the Abu Dhabi Fund, to increase the quantum of funding available to Nigeria.

Welcoming the offer, President Buhari restated his government’s determination to revamp and diversify the Nigerian economy rapidly.

Buhari said: “The days of Nigeria as a big oil producer with plenty of money are gone. We need all the support we can get to diversify our economy as quickly as possible.

“We also need to rehabilitate our infrastructure, develop the domestic capacity to feed ourselves and export the surplus.”

He welcomed the plan by the IDB to fast track the take-off of the Bilingual Education Program, aimed at integrating the Almajiri system of education with Western education in Nigeria.

The IDB has already provided $98 million for the Bilingual Education Program in Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Osun and Yobe States.

The bank plans to support similar projects in other states of Nigeria.

Aisha Buhari Unveils NLNG Vessel

Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled a new vessel of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas company billed to add to the fleet of the organization .

While performing the “naming ceremony “in Seoul South Korea on Thursday ,Mrs Buhari said the acquisition of the new vessel, named LNG ABUJA 11, was an additional impetus to the growth of export related businesses that will improve revenue generation for Nigeria .

“For example ,more than $10 million dollars was generated from the export of quality Nigerian materials to Korean shipyards ”

According to her ,among other recorded achievements ,the relationship of the two countries was quite in line with the goals of the present administration of furthering the development of human capital and job creation .

She expressed confidence that despite challenges in the global energy sector, Nigeria and South Korea will continue to occupy important positions with respect to international energy security and development .

Although Nigeria is undergoing a process of transformation for improved quality of life of the people , she said it became absolutely necessary to provide avenues for businesses to achieve their full potentials to compete grow and deliver long term value.

“I stand by this principle because that is how great countries like South Korea were built”.

The wife of the President commended the NLNG for the new stride and noted that nothing makes her proud than the knowledge that Nigerians and Nigerian companies actively participated and benefited directly from the construction of the new (ship) vessel .

While noting that the ship has Nigeria written all over it, she expressed hope that participating companies in the sector will continue to export to shipyards across the world and make Nigeria to shine in every shore for increased economic development .

The vessel, named LNG ABUJA 11 is billed for the fleet of the NLNG and specifically for BONNY GAS COMPANY ,a subsidiary of the NLNG Ltd .It was built by SAMSUNG AND HYNDAI HEAVY INDUSTRIES South Korea .

Nigeria produces 22 million tonnes of LNG per annum sold to North America and Europe by the ships.

The Nation

Anyaoku Backs Buhari On Devaluation

Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary-general of the commonwealth, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to devalue the naira.

The elder statesman however urged the president to set up an economic team to proffer solutions to the nation’s economic problems. Speaking at the celebration of Ondo state’s 40th anniversary in Akure, Anyaoku said devaluation of the naira would lead to inflation, and further affect the masses.

“There is an incontrovertible fact, that with the present level of the country’s dependence on imported crude, which results in a monthly import bill that is four times the value of our main export, which is traded in dollars, official devaluation of the naira would inevitably produce a further rise in inflation to the detriment of all of us,” he said.

“In such circumstances, devaluation would lead to an unacceptable drain on our country’s external reserves, which is already worryingly depleted. “In my view, the president should – as a matter of urgency – convene a meeting of carefully-chosen economic experts in the country to discuss this item and provide means on how to deal with the country’s economic vices”.

Buhari also holds Anyaoku’s view, as he has insisted that the naira would not be devalued because he believes devaluation would affect the poor.

But Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano and former CBN governor, is opposed to both Anyaoku and Buhari, saying the current foreign exchange regime is already affecting the poor. Sanusi had earlier said the current forex policy is taking “so much money away from states and local governments, because this is money that from oil proceeds, from PPT, royalties, that should go to education and healthcare for the poor”. “While the president is looking at the pain inflicted on the poor, by high prices of import, he also needs to look at the pain inflicted on them by taking away revenue that could go into education and healthcare.”

Also present at the event were Ben Bruce and Shehu Sani, senators of the federal republic.