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Customs begins sales of rice for N10,000

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By Seun Ibiyemi

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will, on Friday, start the distribution of forfeited food items to Nigerians.

It was gathered that the foreign rice would be sold at N10,000 per 25kg of rice to vulnerable Nigerians.

However, speaking during the flag-off of the sales at Zone A Command of the Service, the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, stated that items to be distributed formed part of the items seized by the service in recent times.

The CGC stated that the service has noticed that some people whom he described as saboteurs have started moving food items in large quantities out of the country.

He said this action by the group has also put pressure on the supply of food thereby creating scarcity around the country.

“In recent months, the government has been addressing the challenges faced within our economy, particularly the lagged effects of insecurity and the current exchange rate issues. These challenges have exacerbated concerns about food security, leading to a concerning trend where food items are moving out massively to neighbouring countries.

“Some of the items include: over 20,000 bags of assorted grains (Rice, beans, Maize, Guinea corn, millet, Soya beans  2,500 cartons and 963 bags of dried fish. Others include, Dried pepper, tomatoes, cooking oil, Maggi, Macaroni, salt, sugar, garri.

“This trend is not sustainable as it puts pressure on our productive capacity and threatens our food security. To address this, the NCS has remained responsive in carrying out its mandate to protect our borders from the inflow and outflow of restricted goods.

“One concerning trend noticed is the outflow of food items in huge quantities, posing a threat to our food security. It should be noted that the condition for the export of any item is only met upon fulfilling sufficiency internally.

“In this regard, food items deemed not to fulfil these conditions are showing up in our interceptions made at the borders,” he added.

The CGC further said as part of ongoing commitment to safeguarding the food security of Nigerians, the service has secured approval from the government to dispose of the seized food items to needy Nigerians at discounted prices of N10,000 per 25kg bag of rice.

He said criteria for Nigerians to benefit from the initiative include having a verifiable National Identification Number (NIN) and that the target groups include artisans, teachers, nurses, religious bodies, and other Nigerians within our operational areas.

“The intention is to reach out directly to members through these organized structures to ensure the maximum impact of this exercise.

“To ensure the security and integrity of this initiative, NCS has put in place comprehensive measures. These measures encompass robust security protocols throughout the process. Our officers will be closely monitoring the entire supply chain to prevent any misuse or diversion of the food items.

“Moreover, we have established strict guidelines and eligibility criteria to ensure that the items are distributed only to those in genuine need. Additionally, we will be working closely with relevant agencies to ensure compliance with the terms of this program,” he said.

He said it is imperative that beneficiaries of this exercise understand that the items are not to be resold, adding that the service has taken a strong stance against any form of profiteering or exploitation of this initiative.

He said, “We urge Nigerians to report any incidents of misuse or unauthorized resale of the seized food items.

“NCS is fully committed to transparency and accountability in this process, and we will not hesitate to take decisive action against any individuals or entities found to be in violation of the terms of this program.”

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Nigerian Breweries embarks on strategic recovery plan to boost profitability

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Nigerian Breweries Plc has embarked on a company-wide reorganisation business recovery plan to ensure a sustainable future for its stakeholders.

The company’s Human Resource Director, Grace Omo-Lamai, said this in a statement signed by Mrs Sade Morgan, its Corporate Affairs Director, to the leadership of some food and beverage associations on Friday in Lagos.

The associations include the National Union of Food, Beverage & Tobacco Employees and the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association.

Omo-Lamai said the move was essential to improve the company’s operational efficiency and return to profitability, in the face of the challenging business environment.

She said the proposed plan would include operational efficiency measures and a company-wide reorganisation that includes the temporary suspension of operations in two of its nine breweries.

“As a result, and in accordance with labour requirements, the company invited the unions to discussions on the implications of the proposed measures.

“It will be recalled that the company recently notified the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) of its plan to raise capital of up to N600 billion by way of a rights issue.

“This is as a means of restoring the company’s balance sheet to a healthy position following the net finance expenses of N189 billion recorded in 2023 driven mainly by a foreign exchange loss of N153 billion resulting from the devaluation of the naira,” she said.

Also, the Managing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr Hans Essaadi, described the business recovery plan as strategic and vital for business continuity.

Essaadi noted that the tough business landscape characterised by double-digit inflation rates, Naira devaluation, foreign exchange challenges and diminished consumer spending had taken its toll on many businesses.

This, he said, was why the company had taken the decision to further consolidate its business operations for efficient cost management and optimal use of resources for future sustainable growth.

“We recognise and regret the impact that the suspension of brewery operations in the two affected locations may have on our employees.

“We are committed to limiting the impact on our people as much as possible by exhausting all options available including the relocation and redistribution of employees to our other seven breweries; and providing strong support and severance packages to all those that become unavoidably affected.

“We are also committed to supporting our host communities in ways that ensure they continue to feel our presence.

“We remain wholly committed to having a positive impact on our host communities and our consumers; leveraging our strong supply chain footprint; excellent execution of our route to market strategy; and our rich portfolio of brands,” he said.

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FG to provide solar subsidy in Nigeria through $750m World Bank loan

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The federal government plans to provide subsidy to developers and operators of solar mini-grids in unserved and underserved areas in the country.

The subsidy will be provided through a World Bank approved loan of $750 million under the Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES) project.

This was disclosed in the financing agreement for the loan project.

The financing agreement for the loan was signed by the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, on March 31, 2024, and World Bank’s Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on February 19, 2024.

The loan project is fundamentally aimed at augmenting the supply of electricity to both households and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) through a surge in private sector-led distributed renewable energy initiatives.

The document noted that the loan will be partly used to provide “Support to the development and operation of privately owned and operated solar hybrid mini grids in unserved and underserved areas through: 1.1. Minimum Subsidy Tender Carrying out of Minimum Subsidy Tender processes and provision of Minimum Capital Cost Subsidies to selected developers/operators of: (a) Isolated mini grids; (b) Interconnected mini grids; or (c) Solar rooftop solutions in Participating States.”

Asides from providing subsidy, the federal government plans to also provide performance-based grants.

The document noted that there will be “Provision of Performance-Based Grants to eligible mini grid operators based on new customer connections for isolated mini grids and percentage of capital expenditures for interconnected mini grid projects.”

The grant will also cover Standalone Solar (SAS) Systems for Households, MSMEs, and Agribusinesses. This grant will provide “Support to the expansion of SAS systems for households, MSMEs, and agribusinesses in rural areas through: 2.1. Performance Based Grants for Standalone Solar Provision of Performance Based Grants (‘PBGs’) to eligible companies to rapidly deploy SAS solutions in rural and underserved areas, through supply and demand side support and based on independently verified outputs, and to support deployment of solar productive use of electricity (PUE) equipment to MSMEs, agribusinesses and commercial customers.”

There will also be “Catalytic Grants Provision of Catalytic Grants, on a matching basis, to eligible SAS companies that target the poor, remote, or hardest to reach consumers in the country.”

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IMF charges banks to guide against cyber attacks

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…As hackers make off with $12bn

Following reports that cyber thieves stole $12bn from global financial institutions in the last 20 years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Central Banks across the globe and financial institutions to strengthen resilience in the financial sector by developing an adequate national cybersecurity strategy accompanied by effective regulation and supervisory capacity.

This was contained in the April 2024 Rising Cyber Threats Pose Serious Concerns for Financial Stability report released by The Bretton Wood institution.

The report noted that greater digitalization and heightened geopolitical tensions imply that the risk of a cyberattack with systemic consequences has risen

The fund expressed concern that the rising incidents of cyberattacks on financial institutions globally could affect confidence in the financial system and destabilise economies while expressing worries that cyberattacks have more than doubled since the pandemic.

“Financial firms have reported significant direct losses, totaling almost $12 billion since 2004 and $2.5 billion since 2020,” the IMF stated.

According to the body, financial firms, given the large amounts of sensitive data and transactions they handle, are often targeted by criminals seeking to steal money or disrupt economic activity.

“Attacks on financial firms account for nearly one-fifth of the total, of which banks are the most exposed. Incidents in the financial sector could threaten financial and economic stability if they erode confidence in the financial system, disrupt critical services, or cause spillovers to other institutions.

“Cyber incidents that disrupt critical services like payment networks could also severely affect economic activity. For example, a December attack at the Central Bank of Lesotho disrupted the national payment system, preventing transactions by domestic banks,” IMF stated.

As part of measures proposed to guide against the attacks, the fund called for the periodic assessment of the cybersecurity landscape and identifying potential systemic risks from interconnectedness and concentrations, including from third-party service providers.

It further called for the encouragement of cyber “maturity” among financial sector firms, including board-level access to cybersecurity expertise, as supported by the chapter’s analysis which suggests that better cyber-related governance may reduce cyber risk.

Improving cyber hygiene of firms—that is, their online security and system health (such as antimalware and multifactor authentication)—and training and awareness.

Prioritising data reporting and collection of cyber incidents, and sharing information among financial sector participants to enhance their collective preparedness.

Noting that attacks often emanate from outside a financial firm’s home country and proceeds can be routed across borders, the IMF said international cooperation has also become imperative to address cyber risk successfully.

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