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Cement prices: Block moulders call for lower import duties

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The National Association of Block Moulders of Nigeria (NABMON) has urged the Federal Government to reduce import duties on cement manufacturing components to attract more foreign investment in the sector.

The National President, NABMON, Mr Adesegun Banjoko, gave the advice in a statement issued on Monday in Lagos.

He said the price of one bag of cement in Nigeria, currently in the region of N7,000 and N8,000 was still considered too expensive.

Recall that the federal government and cement manufacturers had in February, in Abuja agreed on a N7,000 to N8,000 price range for one bag of 50 kg cement.

However, cement manufacturers said the cement price reduction wasn’t guaranteed, indicating that the sustainability of the price decrease was dependent on the government following through on its promises to address certain industry challenges.

Banjoko in the statement said the threat by the government to open up the borders to increase supply had also not brought down the prices.

“Of recent, the issue of our key raw material, cement, attracted front burner attention nationwide, and the dust is yet to finally settle as far as we are concerned because the N7000 to N8000 offer is still on the high side.

“The government has threatened to open the borders to increase supply.

“Please also reduce import duties on imported components for manufacturing cement and also invite more global investors into the sector so that the market can determine fair prices,” he said.

The NABMON President also advised the government to discourage cement smuggling to neighbouring countries.

Banjoko said that Nigeria had a larger population and presumably a higher demand for cement, yet it lags behind South Africa in production facilities.

He suggested the need to invest in building more cement factories to meet the country’s domestic needs and become a potential exporter.

“South Africa, with a population of 60million, has 15 cement factories, and Nigeria with a population three times larger has only three cement factories, then there is still much work to be done,” he said.

Banjoko, therefore, expressed optimism that ongoing research efforts would find alternative materials for cement production in Nigeria.

“It is, however, heartwarming to our awareness that all hands are currently on deck at our research institutes and universities on cement innovations research.

“This is with a view to finding locally sourced alternative materials for cheaper, quality cement and even other building materials,” he said.

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Private sector players urge FG to suspend new electricity tariff

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…Says it will affect production negatively

By Omolola Dede Adeyanju

Private Sector players in the Nigerian business space under the umbrella group of the Organised Private Sector (OPSN) have urged the Federal Government (FG) to suspend the new electricity tariff.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had recently announced an upward review in the electricity tariff for Band A customers generating public outcry.

In a statement by OPSN comprising top Business Membership Organisations (BMOs) MAN, NACCIMA, NECA, NASSI and NASME representing more than 5 million businesses in Nigeria, the association said has taken due notice of the various reforms initiated by the President Bola Tinubu administration to stabilise the economy, enhance human capital development and increase the tax-to-GDP ratio to 15 percent while enhancing fiscal transparency.

“The OPSN has received numerous complaints from its member-companies on the implications of the recent astronomical increase in electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for Band A customers without the required and proper consultations with the private sector. This sudden exponential increase in the face of inadequate electricity supply, is inimical to the competitiveness of Nigerian products and businesses and will definitely exacerbate the impact of high cost of production,” the Group argued.

Meanwhile, OPSN explained that the astronomical increase is against the MYTO Order referenced NERC/2023/05, which valued the cost-reflective tariff at N114.8/Kwh (determined using exchange rate of N919.39/$1).

“It also does not reflect the current exchange rate reality that has seen the Naira appreciate by 62.95 percent over the dollar in the last one month.

“A closer look at the impact of increase in electricity tariff to N225/kwh (determined using exchange rate of N1463.31/$1) on the cost profile of a medium sized company using 700kw revealed that the firm will need to pay about N1.4b per annum (700 x 225 x 24 x 365)for electricity.

“In China, a similar medium sized company will pay a little over N24m (700 x 94.14 x 24 x 365). Obviously, the new electricity tariff is outrageously higher, when compared with the going rates in countries with significant manufacturing performance.”

The body further enumerated that In the United states of America (USA), United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India, South Africa, Ghana and Benin Republic, prevailing electricity cost per kilowatt hour are $0.1545, $ 0.3063, $0.53,$0.0573,$0.076, $0.068, $0.0999, $0.123 and $0.195 respectively.

The group further argued that conversion values of the afore-mentioned electricity cost in Naira are N191.38, N379.41, N656.50, N70.98, N94.14, N84.23, N64.53, N152.36 and N125.95 respectively.

“Clearly, with the new tariff of N225/kwh, Nigeria now ranks third after Germany and the United Kingdom on the list of countries with high electricity cost. What is most worrisome with the Nigerian case is the fact that the electricity to be supplied is not adequate.

“Also, the increase is coming on the heels of macroeconomic instability, infrastructure deficits, as well as other supply side constraints limiting the performance of the productive sector. Truth be told, over 65 percent of private businesses, especially manufacturing concerns and SMIs, may be forced to close down due to the high electricity tariff.

“However, in consideration of the above and from compelling primary data and submissions from member-companies, the OPSN noted that it is constrained to state that the more than 200 percent increase in electricity tariff at this difficult time is inimical to the survival of our businesses and would lead to unprecedented downturn in the productive sector of the economy.

“It will have negative trickle-down effects and certainly impoverish Nigerians. The unwarranted increase will worsen the upward swing in inflation, aggravate the pressure on the disposable income of the average Nigerian and lead to closure of many private businesses. The cumulative effect will be an escalation of the current high level of unemployment and insecurity in the country,” it explained.

The group urged the government to have dialogue around the process and methodology of determining electricity tariff as well as jointly agreeing on the transparent mechanism required for tariff setting.

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NPA secures $700m facility from Citibank to rehabilitate Apapa, Tin-Can Ports

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By Seun Ibiyemi

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has negotiated a loan of $700million from Citibank to be funded by the UK Export Finance (UKEF), an export credit agency, to rehabilitate the Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports, Lagos.

The Ports Authority has also opened a discussion with another funding agency to secure financing for upgrading of the Eastern Ports including Calabar, Warri, Onne and Rivers Ports as well as the reconstruction of Escravos breakwater.

Speaking in Lagos on Wednesday during the signing of a mandate letter with Citibank Nigeria, Managing Director of the NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the mandate letter will be sent to the Debt Management Office for final review and approval.

He said the funds are ready and the reconstruction of the Lagos Ports will start soonest even as the NPA perfects plans to sign another mandate letter for the upgrading of the Eastern Ports in about a month.

“In the last two years, the Federal Government has realised the need for us to rehabilitate and reconstruct the ports all over the country. We have been having discussions with multilateral funding agencies who have sent various proposals that we have reviewed.

“What we did is to further discuss with interested parties and we realised it is better to separate the ports in Lagos from the ports in the East, and we are in discussion with other funding agencies to fund the construction of ports outside Lagos,” the NPA MD said.

According to him, the Citibank facility is the cheapest for the Ports Authority because it comes with affordable interest rates.

“Port efficiency is not about automation which we have already begun, it’s also about the physical infrastructure, which must be in place and that’s why we are automating. Automation will naturally bring efficiency, increase revenue and plug leakages,” he added.

Bello-Koko said that the NPA is putting the Port Community System in place, which is a platform that will improve trade facilitation.

“Currently in Nigeria, importers or exporters fill up to 30 to 40 forms for one transaction but the Port Community System will reduce the numbers of forms, human interference and ensure speedy clearance process in or out of the country,” he added.

Earlier, Managing Director of Citibank Nigeria Limited, Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, said the bank is committed to supporting NPA and the Federal Government in bridging infrastructure gaps.

“We are absolutely delighted to be partnering with NPA especially being the collection bank for foreign and local currency port levies. Now, supporting this strategic initiative through export credit financing to upgrade port infrastructure in Tin-Can and Lagos Ports is commendable. However, we are committed in supporting NPA and the Nigerian Government in all its endeavours especially in the infrastructure space,” Ireti Samuel-Ogbu stated.

According to her, Citibank was opportune to have met with Wale Edun, Minister of Finance, a few weeks ago where the port upgrading project was mentioned and he was very delighted about the project.

“Since NPA generates its own foreign revenue, we will be able to support foreign facilities from our resources because this project is very strategic and an important project for NPA and the country at large.

“We are looking forward to this project and we thank NPA for giving us this opportunity and hope to bring this into fruition as soon as possible,” Samuel-Ogbu added.

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Blue Economy Ministry to spend N1.35bn on foreign, local trips, vehicle

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The Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy will spend a whopping N1 billion on the purchase of vehicles in 2024.

The ministry will also spend a total of N35 million on local and foreign travel in the same year under review.

According to the 2024 Appropriation Act signed into law by President Bola Tinubu, the ministry will spend N10 million on local travel and transport: training; N15 million on local travel and transport: others and N10 million on international travel and transport among others.

However, speaking on the appropriation, the President, National Association of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said the money for the purchase of vehicles for the ministry should be channelled towards port rehabilitation.

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