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Airports concession: Contentious issues of FG, aviation unions can’t sidestep

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images 99 2 Airports concession: Contentious issues of FG, aviation unions can’t sidestep

The Federal Government’s plan to concession Nigeria’s major airports have since set it and aviation unions on a tortous war path with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) fully in support of its affiliate.

On Monday, August 31, the unions had protested at all the airports across the country, vowing to shut down operations if the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, goes on with the concession project. The protest beganshortly after Sirika announced at the reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport runway in Enugu, that the facility had been listed among those to be concessioned.

At the heart of the unions’ grouse is the fear of job losses in National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) which they believe would be inevitable if the concession goes on as planned. They had since accused the Federal Government of not being transparent with the programme said to be shrouded in secrecy.

Unions make case

As at June 30, the unions madebare their grouse in addition to some of the contentious issues they say must be addressed before further discussion on concession would be made.

The unions said: “The Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, on Thursday, June 25, 2020, brandished the Certificate of Compliance purportedly issued him by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) confirming that had complied with all needed requirements to proceed with the process of concession for the four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. Therefore, the Minister will now proceed to seek the approval of Federal Executive Council (FEC) for his proposed Outline Business Case (OBC) for the project.

“But it is highly regrettable that both the Minister and the ICRC are engaging in a ruse, and are indeed taking Nigerians for a ride. We can say with authority that everything so far about the issue of concession for the four airports have been single handedly decided by the minister himself and the ICRC has not carried out any due diligence on to the concession exercise. If it did, the Commission would have discovered wide gulfs of deception in the exercise.

“For example, while the Project Delivery Team (PDT) – which includes the ICRC – was still discussing the issue of Transaction Adviser (TA), the Minister of Aviation was on air announcing the approval of FEC of a TA and his fees. Both the TA and the fees were apparently decided solely by the Minister. Up till date, the PDT has not been allowed to take a position on the matter, its effort in that direction being frustrated surreptiously.

“Also, at the last meeting of the Project Delivery Team, in late 2019, it was decided that the airports concession issue be degraded to the bottom of the list of aviation priority projects while upgrading the national carrier, aviation leasing company, and the aircraft maintenance and repair organisation for quick delivery. In addition, the ICRC was requested to provide the required components for the OBCs for the upgraded projects which the Commission promised to provide at the next meeting. That next meeting is yet to be called till date. But now, the same ICRC has been said to have issued a Certificate of Compliance (C of C) to the minister for the Outline Business Case for concession of four international airports. So we ask, who is fooling who?

“For the records, the Project Delivery Team comprises about five Federal Ministries, including Aviation and Finance, and other agencies including FAAN and the ICRC itself, as well as two representatives of our Unions. Unfortunately, the minister completely sidestepped the team and has gone ahead with his own programs as determined by himself alone. Our Unions have decided that we shall have to review our membership of the PDT if this type of public deceit and shenanigan continue.

“For now, however, being a component part of the Team, we completely disown any false reports of the Team there might be, upon which the ICRC might have erroneously based the issuance of the said C of C. We avow hereby that the said Certificate is obtained on faulty grounds. Our Unions are vehemently opposed to the selective concession of Nigeria’s four major international airports. Privatisation, of which concession is a form, has turned Nigeria into a huge theatre of the absurd. The Nigerian experience in privatisation leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. Check it out: Ajaokuta Steel Complex, steel rolling mills, NITEL, PHCN, and so many more. All tell tales of squander and plunder, with nothing to recommend that method of business to any Nigerian government.

“The story of the failed privatisation of the then national carrier, the Nigeria Airways which took the airline’s life is still reverberating since 2004. The concession of MMA2 to Bi-Courtney remains the biggest example of how not to concession an airport. All ongoing concessions of economic activities of FAAN have only resulted in losses in revenue to the Authority.

“The decision to concession four out of 22 airports is the height of subterfuge. These four airports are the live wire of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and the rest of the airports depend on the four for sustenance. As a matter of fact, without the four, the other airports will die automatically. Therefore, to concession these four airports is to close up FAAN completely. But considering the basis of creating these other airports which is the public interest of opening up the entire country, even nationwide development, and national unity, one would wonder the rationale behind the idea of sacrificing these undeniably noble goals on the altar of a superficial notion of private investment.

“Of serious concern is the fact that the airports concessioning exercise is being directly carried out by the minister, whereas he does not run any airport, nor does the FAAN Act grant him any powers to concession FAAN assets. He has completely usurped the functions of the Management and the Governing Board of the Authority, as such, he has unlawfully arrogated to himself the powers to enter into agreements in the place of FAAN. This is a serious infraction; a travesty and an anomaly.

“The joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Aviation of the 8th National Assembly held a public hearing on the matter, and the Committee, based on the weight of several unanswerable questions, resolved to ask Senator Sirika to step down the question of airports concession. But their opinion was ignored by the Minister.”

Unions proffer alternatives to concession

The unions had given alternatives to concession, suggesting that new investors could deal on fresh ventures which includes construction of new runways, terminal buildings to be operated for a specified period of time and compete with the existing airports before handing them over to government.

A second option they suggested is that FAAN can be corporatised whereby the Federal Government shall retain 45 per cent equity share while the remaining 55 per cent is broken down for public acquisition. Another option is the complete autonomy of FAAN without interference from the Ministry.

Aviation ministry defends concession

In response to the unions letter, the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, posted a lengthy statement on the official Facebook page of the ministry on July 16, saying the ministry does not approve infrastructure concession programme as the role is independently played by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC Establishment Act 2005). It said the ICRC is Nigeria’s regulatory agency responsible for regulating all infrastructure concessions and Public-Private-Partnerships in Nigeria.

“The ICRC has approved and issued an Outline Business Case (OBC) Compliance Certificate for the further development of a concession programme focused on the passenger and cargo terminals in four airports only. These airports are Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja (International and Domestic), Port Harcourt Airport(International and Domestic) and Mallam Aminu Kano Airport (International and Domestic). These assets do not include airside assets such as runways, navigational infrastructure or ground handling.

“ICRC’s rigourous process requires all initiators of concession programmes to procure independent Transaction Advisors(TA) to provide expert advice on the viability of the proposed transactions, which is used to inform the development of an Outline Business Case review by ICRC. The procurement of these TAs is regulated by the Bureau of Public Procurement and guided by the Public Procurement Act 2007.

“This process led to the appointment of a team of reputable internationally recognised advisors that include Infrata, Denton, Proserve and Templars. The certification of the OBC by the ICRC means that the transaction is thus viable and has taken a myriad of factors into consideration. This OBC certificate, with all supporting documents, will then go to the Project Steering Committee(PSC) before the process moves into the public procurement phase which will involve a Request for Expression of Interest (RFQ and then a Request for Proposal (RFP). Throughout this process, all key stakeholders will remain engaged by the Ministry and the relevant agencies under it.

“The misleading press statement put out by some individuals and special interest groups purporting to be acting on behalf of the various associations wrongly ascribes approval powers to the PDT. This is inaccurate and intentionally misleading. The PDT does not have any approval powers or responsibilities. Its function is as an advisory and implementation support group.

“Concessions and public-private-partnerships differ from privatisation programmes. In a concession or PPP, the assets remain the property of the government and so are subject to the regulations and processes already outlined. Private programme, which is not at all what this programe is, are driven by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and involve a full or partial sale of equity in the asset, thus a transfer of ownership to private parties,” Odaudu said.

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Charting new roadmap for improved financing of women entrepreneurs

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images 12 3 Charting new roadmap for improved financing of women entrepreneurs

The national debate around enhancing government and private sector’s efforts at lifting Nigerian women entrepreneurs competitiveness and productivity to an acceptable global minima has continued without let at least in the last two decades.

The massive traction it had garnered among stakeholders can also not be divorced from their growing economic relevance and contributions to the country’s GDP over the years.

Arising from a consistent advocacy for gender equality and economic emancipation, governments and development finance partners are also no longer in any mood to ignore the catalytic roles women have been playing in national development hence the various moves to prioritise financial inclusion issues concerning them.

This is crucial because beyond making up a sizable proportion of the nation’s informal sector, and constituting over 60 percent of the economy working at farms, as factory hands in cottage industries and other family owned businesses that keep states and national economy bubbling, there is also an emerging innovative entrepreneurial class among women who are committed to breaking the glass ceiling in commerce, manufacturing and the service sectors of the economy.

Indeed, a 2017 Global Findex Database of the World Bank on women financial inclusion shows that Nigeria’s 38 percent women financial inclusion rate barely puts it directly behind Kenya, with over 78 percent , Namibia with about 72 percent and South Africa with 60 percent women inclusion

This then leaves no one in doubt about the urgency that government and development partners require to cast the current toga of passive attention being paid to this critical economic segment.

But beyond the usual rhetoric of African governments announcing bogus financial allocations to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with strong women ownership and management, development theorists have never failed in their role of advocating the setting up of well -articulated framework for a better financial inclusion of women whose ingenuity has created lots of jobs and wealth in the communities where they operate.

On the back of such lofty considerations, some stakeholders only recently tagged the new Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Framework for Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria, a timely intervention by government to prioritise its agenda for increasing financial inclusion and support for women in business.

In the accompanying guidelines, the apex bank said it has reserved 60percent of its N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund for women entrepreneurs.

It also added that 2 percent of the wholesale component of the fund would be given to economically active persons that are living with disabilities and with 10 percent reserved for start-up businesses.

More-so, as part of strategies to fulfill the provisions of section 4.2 (iv) of the policy, which stipulates that women’s access to financial services be increased by at least 15percent annually to eliminate gender disparity, 60percent of the Fund has been earmarked for providing financial services to women.”

Many who have followed the current policy trajectory particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic believe that it was as part of the initiatives that the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, at its last meeting cut the benchmark interest rate by 100 basis point from 12.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

The Framework, developed in conjunction with the Financial Inclusion Special Interventions Working Group (FISIWG), Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), and Women’s World Banking (WWB), gave much recognition to gender-related financial inclusion issues, while making some far -reaching recommendations for addressing the high exclusion rates among women in Nigeria. It equally canvasses the building of a culture that raises the usage of financial services by women across Nigeria in a more sustainable manner to deepen their inclusion levels.

However, one key concern of stakeholders in this raging discourse centres around the extent the Framework can go in addressing the many barriers women face on the road to accessing financial services, including other broader economic and societal issues around actionable, implementable, and trackable plans within the financial services sector.

Commenting on some of the reasons why Nigeria women entrepreneurs have remained largely financially excluded despite government’s efforts at changing the narrative, Lolade Oresanwo, Chief Operating Officer ofWestAfricaENRG, argued that a general notion that it’s a man’s world remains partly responsible for women entrepreneurs being financially excluded, stressing that lack of respect for feminine gender has added more to this gap.

While admitting that most women have not proven themselves to be hard working enough to be entrusted with huge financial responsibilities, Oresanwo said “It’s not just about the Nigerian women entrepreneur issue, it’s a global challenge. If you look at 50500, how many women are CEOs of the 50500 companies.”

“Even at the board level at international companies, they still don’t trust women to be at the helms of affairs. “How many women are presidents, and prime ministers. Also commenting, Martha Omoekpen Alade, founder, Women in Technology in Nigeria(WITIN) said “The financial exclusion gap in Nigeria is widened by a large percentage every year because most women are into informal trade and access to technology remains a big challenge.”

“There is a huge gender gap in financial access in Nigeria. Women face difficulty when seeking financial support, as the odds are usually against them and when compared to the men they are largely financially excluded.”

Income and education levels of most women and confidence in financial services are some of the factors limiting their access.

These coupled with location or residence play a part since women residing in the north and rural areas are likely to be more excluded than their counterparts in the South living in urban areas.

“There are also cultural and religious issues that cause financial exclusion for Nigerian women which need to be addressed through deliberate policies by government to increase their access to financial services.” She said

But according to the Lagos Chairman of Nigeria Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Gertrude Akhimen, the large concentration of Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs in the MSME space equally limits them to managing small businesses that generate turnovers of less than N25million per annum. This makes it difficult for them to generate enough funds to grow the businesses and create wealth on a sustainable basis, thus affecting their ability to acquire property and participate in politics.

She believes that the CBN, the government and other development finance institutions can help women entrepreneurs bridge a gaping business management skills gap that makes it difficult for their businesses to grow exponentially.

Quoting late United Nations Secretary General Mr Kofi Anan, she said “There is no tool for developing a nation greater than the empowerment of women.“

According to her “NASSI has always been an advocate of women empowerment. We believe that if women are given concessions in all government’s intervention programmes for entrepreneurs, they will grow their businesses.”

This was as she called on governments at all levels to enforce the issue of land titles by making it easier for women to acquire properties, stressing that various policies created by government to increase women’s entrepreneurs access to bigger credit failed because of the stringent conditions attached to them including lack of property rights as collateral and the demand for husband’s assent before being eligible for loans.

“We recommend that Business Membership Organisation should be empowered to identify and train women entrepreneurs so that these funds can reach as many businesses as soon as possible without being diverted to other areas.

For her part, President of NACCIMA, Hajiya Saratu Iya-Aliyu, said the association has since advocated that women should access 40 percent of the survival funds for MSMEs.

She said “The initial stimulus package has since been followed by the Economic Sustainability Plan of N2.3trillion. “We have taken due note of the various programmes and projects under the Economic Sustainability Plan and various Stimulus Packages recently unveiled. This includes the N50billion survival fund for MSME and N15billion Guaranteed Offtake Scheme to save 500,000 jobs”.

Notably, under this intervention, 40 percent of the Funds would be reserved for Women-Owned businesses and it is encouraging that it has been indicated that the Private Sector will play an important role in rejuvenating the economy through these intervention schemes.

Adducing reasons for women’s financial exclusion and failure to turn government policy funds into advantages, Mrs. Blessing Irabor, Presidents, Organisation of Women in International Trade, Nigeria (OWIT) blamed, “Low financial literacy and awareness among women; stringent eligibility criteria which tend to exclude a lot of the women from accessing existing opportunities for financial support including high interest rates. Other limitations she listed include low levels of participation by women in the development of guidelines for accessing credit support; large numbers of women entrepreneurs engaged in cottage industries as many of the existing support guidelines exclude such level of business from accessing their funds among others.

Similarly, Director General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, blamed lack of critical information among vast majority of women in the rural areas on steps to accessing to financial services available in the social media and other modes of communication including television, and newspapers.

According to him, this is attributable to limited participation of Female Gender based Associations in policy formulation processes which is also part of the reason for the perception of the women that the funds are meant for a “chosen few” who know the people in Government thus discouraging majority from applying.

“Informality of majority of female-owned businesses which makes it difficult for them to operate business accounts which would have enabled financial institution to capture their demographics and create products specifically to facilitate their business growth: Limited access to material resources like property and credit and even have been bereft of resources like education, market data, and trendy technology: Lack of Technological and managerial know how which discourages them from taking advantage of external funds that would have expanded their businesses: “Sometimes they have mobility constraints that make it difficult to engage with financial institutions as well as fear of taking risks which largely determines the success of entrepreneurial activities. Often, men are seen with risk -taking attitude than women entrepreneurs,” he said.

The NECA boss said it was in an effort to encourage women entrepreneurs that it formed a women group, known as NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) to create more public awareness of government’s incentives through Women Focused Business Associations.

“Furthermore, deliberate efforts should be made to take the information to the rural areas so that Business Membership Associations, not individual, should be invited to be part of the policy formation process,” he said.

Olawale also stressed the need to encourage more women to formalise their businesses to take advantage of the large bouquet of products and services offered by financial institutions adding that education and Businesses Training should be intentionally targeted at the girl child and female entrepreneurs freely or at a token fee by Government or Business Associations.

The recent judgement that allows Igbo women to inherit family assets is a step in the right direction. Culture should also encourage women to take risks and be financially independent

“Women should be encouraged to form and join cooperatives to give them access to loans and support while Financial institutions should develop women friendly products and services.”

Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of the Association of Nigeria Women Business Network (ANWBN), Mrs. Anita Nana Okuribido, said women groups are now ready to lend their voice to the ongoing constitution review by the National Assembly.

She said women are gradually coming to terms with the problem of lack of finance, hence her Association was already planning to have a Women’s Empowerment Fund in its proposed seminar.

“I am sure that the speakers we would have from Central Bank, commercial banks and other financial institutions would show us the roadmap on how to create and manage our own ANWBN empowerment fund. In governance, women inclusion and a lot of policy framework would need to be reviewed and by the time we get talking, the expectation would be so high that ANWBN would be promised the 35 percent Affirmative Action for women, at all levels of governance.”

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NNPC GMD lauds Waltersmith on completion of modular refinery

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images 10 4 NNPC GMD lauds Waltersmith on completion of modular refinery

The Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, has lauded Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited for completing its 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State. The NNPC bosswho was represented by Yusuf Usman, Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, during a pre-commissioning visit to the plant, said that the modular refinery which was part of Nigeria’s push towards energy sufficiency reinforces the Federal Government’s agenda of increasing local refining capacity, enhancing value addition to the hydrocarbon resources and employment generation.

“It is a landmark achievement and it shows that we can actually refine our crude oil in-country”, he said.

Kyari assured that the NNPC and other key stakeholders will collaborate with relevant entities to provide Waltersmith with all the necessary support it needs to operate and achieve its growth plans for the refinery.

“We will work closely with Waltersmith to ensure that it gets enough crude feedstock it needs to operate seamlessly. We are also looking forward to the Phase 2 of the project when the refinery will start producing premium motor spirit (PMS) which we largely need in this country”, Kyari said.

The 5,000bpd modular refinery is scheduled for official commissioning on October 26, 2020, with products truck-out beginning immediately, having concluded off-take arrangements with select firms.

“We will be producing 271 million liters of petroleum products to meet some of the requirement of South Eastern market”, Abdulrasaq Isah, Chairman of Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited said.

Isah said that Waltersmith decided to embark on the modular refinery project as a strategy to address incessant pipeline vandalism and theft of its crude oil products.

“As we began to work on the modular refinery project, we started to see the economic value and impact on Nigeria. The project will also ensure import substitution, energy security for the nation, lower of the company’s operating cost and create lots of jobs”, Isah revealed.

He outlined the company growth plans, “part of which is to significantly expand the refinery’s production capacity to 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day”.

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NSE set to host 5th market data workshop

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images 9 4 NSE set to host 5th market data workshop

The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), in partnership with InfoWARE Limited, is set to host the fifth edition of the NSE Market Data Workshop on October 23, 2020.

According to the Exchange, this year’s event will be held virtually in compliance with guidance around physical distancing occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the theme, “Handling Shocks in the Capital Market: A Quantitative Risk Management Approach Using Market Data”, the workshop has been designed to provide capital market stakeholders – particularly risk managers, portfolio managers and market data experts – with insights into the importance of market data in developing risk strategies during a crisis.

The event will feature presentations from industry professionals with strong expertise in risk management, quantitative and data analysis on market data products and services. There will also be panel discussions on the topics: Risk Management Approach Using Market Data and Adopting a Data Driven Culture: The Key to Innovation.

Some of the confirmed speakers at the event include Uwa Agbonile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Software Architect, InfoWARE Limited; Felix Egbon, Group Head, Risk Management, Zenith Bank; Lilian Olubi, CEO, EFG-Hermes; Tapas Das, Managing Director/CEO, NG-Clearing Limited; and Oladipupo Oyefuga, Head, Risk, Stanbic IBTC Bank.

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