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Nigeria’s economy suffers as trade deficit with manufactured goods reaches N9.4trn deficit in 2023

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Nigeria’s trade balance of manufactured goods has reached a deficit of N9.4 trillion in the first nine months of 2023, according to analysis of Foreign Trade Statistics reports published by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The data reveals that Nigeria’s imports of manufactured goods amounted to N2.5 trillion in the first quarter, increasing to N3.2 trillion in the second quarter, and reaching N4.1 trillion in the third quarter. Cumulatively, imports of manufactured goods in the first nine months of 2023 totaled N9.9 trillion.

In contrast, exports in this category amounted to N131 billion, N212 billion, and N200 billion in the first, second, and third quarters respectively, resulting in a total of N543 billion. This indicates a negative trade balance, as imports exceeded exports by N9.37 trillion during the period under review.

The major items imported during this period included used vehicles with diesel or semi-diesel engines from the United States and United Arab Emirates, machines for reception, conversion, and transmission of voice, images, or data imported from China, and other medicaments not specified elsewhere from India.

On the other hand, the major exports in this sector were unwrought aluminium alloys exported to Japan, oilcake and other solid residues resulting from the extraction of soybean oil, and cathodes and sections of cathodes exported to Japan.

The significant deficit in Nigeria’s trade balance of manufactured goods highlights the country’s heavy reliance on imports in this sector. It also raises concerns about the competitiveness of Nigeria’s manufacturing industry and the need to promote domestic production and exportation of manufactured goods.

The data revealed that manufactured goods exports by region were mainly exported to Asia, Africa and Europe.

Nigerian businesses have struggled to make a significant impact in global export trade, ranking 52nd among nations, according to a report by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.

The report, titled ‘Emerging Issues Disrupting Nigeria’s Non-Oil Export And Innovative Solutions,’ highlighted production, port administration, and the operating environment as major obstacles to non-oil exports in the country.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest non-oil export volume achieved by Nigerian businesses was $9.13 billion.The report also emphasized the need to increase non-oil revenues, even with the benefits of oil being secured, as highlighted in a recent World Bank ‘Nigeria Development Update.’

The President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Francis Meshioye, explained in an interview that exporting manufacturers often struggle to compete with international counterparts due to high production costs. These costs ultimately lead to higher prices for manufactured goods in Nigeria.

Meshioye said, “We tell our members to export more, but all these things are based on competitive advantages. If you want to export a product, it is fine, but at what cost are you going to export it? What will be your price? If the cost is astronomically high, it will be difficult to export. It is a circle.

“The export base should be good enough to support the floating exchange rate, but we need to have a good economic base to do that.”

Education

UNLOCK: FG to increase grant winners, support businesses with registration

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As the ongoing UNLOCK Training Programme enters its final and crucial phase, participants on Monday got surprise boosters from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Technical, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Education (SSAP-TVEE), Madam Abiola  Arogundade, as she announced a decision to increase the number of grant winners and a promise of assistance in business registration.

Earlier on Friday, the fourth day of the programme, participants were also thrilled by the news that trainees of Vocational and Skills Acquisition Centres are included in the Students Loan Bill recently signed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to enable them obtain loans for the duration of their programmes.

In her remarks during the question-and-answer session on Monday, the Day 5 of the training, Arogundade said her Office (OSSAP-TVEE) would assist participants, especially start-ups, to process the registration of their new companies after the training. She added, however, that the assistance would be for only those who do not win the grant while grant winners would be expected to process theirs with part of their grants.

And welcoming the participants to the second week of the programme  at the end of the day’s training session, the SSAP-TVEE, who  expressed delight at their continued enthusiasm, announced, “I want to encourage you to continue to come for every single class, to start with your Business Plans. We have decided to include more people than we decided in the beginning for the grant; and so I want to encourage you to give us a reason for giving you the grant.”

Highlights of Monday’s training session included the assumption of the training function by a new facilitator, Mr. John Eyok, who took over from Bukola Mayie and the visit of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and MSMES, Hon. Tola Johnson, who exhorted the participants on the importance of the training they are currently undertaking.

On Friday last week, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Students Loans and Tertiary Education, Hon. Adegboyega Nasir Isiaka, who gave the news of the Students Loans Bill during a brief visit at the programme, explained that Section 2 of the Act clearly states that vocational trainees would henceforth be beneficiaries of the Students Loans.

According to the Committee Chairman, the Act provides that fees and maintenance cost of students of tertiary and skill acquisition centres would be entitled to some amounts of money for school fees and maintenance throughout the duration of their programmes.

“What that means is that if you are in any particular skills acquisition training institution that meets the requirements of the Board and Management of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), you can benefit from the facility,” the Chairman said.

Explaining that the details of the Bill are being worked out in terms of how much each category of beneficiaries would be entitled to, the Chairman told the participants, “In broad terms, it means that you have to do more of these activities; because anyone that wants to acquire one skill or the other will now no longer be deterred by funding required to do that.”

No less than 105 participants physically attended the training on Friday and Monday, Days 4 and 5 of the programme, while the number of online participants continued to soar with over 5,000 actively participating from more than 18 states of the Federation. The training enters its final stages this week as  Mr. John Eyok takes over from Bukola Mayie.

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Education

Unibadan students condemn 750% fee increase for fresh students

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By Sodiq Adelakun

The proposed 750% fee hike for newly admitted students at the University of Ibadan has sparked outrage among the student body, prompting a swift response from the Student’s Union leadership.

In a joint statement issued by Samuel Tobiloba, President of the University Students Union, and Olaniyi Dolapo, General Secretary, a meeting with the university management has been requested to address the sudden fee adjustments.

The Student Union expressed shock upon learning of the fee increments when the university portal was opened.

The fees displayed on the portal reportedly range from N133,500 to N372,500, with additional utility and technology levies of N20,000 each expected from every student.

The statement issued by the Union underscores the concern and dissatisfaction felt by students regarding the arbitrary fee hike, highlighting the potential financial burden it imposes on newly admitted students.

According to the statement, “In a bid to clarify these, we reached out to the university management and it was confirmed that the opening of the portal was a demo process in preparation for the commencement of payment and registration processes and there was a plan for the increment of fees ranging from N133,500 to N238,500 aside the utility and technology levies (N80,000 in total).

“We note with concern that this increment represents about 450%-750% of the previous bundle fee which ranged from about N20,000 – N30,000.

“This is coming at a period when several students are finding it hard to cope with the current fees regime, and increased costs of living in the country.

“The union condemns this increment in strong terms, and requests that this proposed increment be reverted to the status quo.

“We are equally requesting a meeting with the university management towards resolving this issue,” the statement added.

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ASUU, ATBU bicker over violation of VC appointment process

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Rauf Oyewole, Bauchi

The Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Branch, Bauchi has faulted the University management for violating the varsity’s law guiding the appointment of a new vice chancellor and “illegally” allowing some principal officers stay in office on acting capacity beyond six months.

The ASUU-ATBU Chairperson, Dr. Ibrahim Inuwa, while speaking during a press conference at the Union’s Secretariat on Monday said that the Acting Registrar who is the custodian of the University law has engaged in “illegality” by advertising the position of VC while he (registrar) is illegally occupying office.

He said, “The advertisement of the vacancy for the post of Vice Chancellor in ATBU Bauchi (Internal and External Advertisement) published on Sunday January 13th, 2024 has got tongues wagging within and outside the University Community due to the absence of the University Council. The Union rejects this illegality because it runs counter to any relevant law governing the University.

“The Union is worried with the misapplication of the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1993 as amended. The provisions of the Act never vested the powers of the advertisement of vacancy for the post of Vice Chancellor with the Hon. Minister of Education nor with the Registrar of the University.”

According to Inuwa, “There are no circumstances whatsoever in neither the spirit nor the letters of all the University Laws where anybody else rather than the Council, is given the powers to appoint a substantive Vice Chancellor. However, in an abnormal situation, the Law allows the University Senate to appoint an acting Vice Chancellor to hold the office for a maximum period of six months. This position is clearly spelt out in Chapter 16 Subsection A (b) xi-xii of the ATBU Conditions of Service.”

He said that ASUU ATBU found the move disturbing and unbecoming of the Management of the University using the absence of the Council to “perpetuate illegality even in the face of unambiguous provisions of the Laws.”

“This attitude of abusing the University Laws by the University Management has gradually become a norm. For example, the University Management in disregard to all extant Laws and the University Council’s directives that all Principal Officers’ who are in acting capacity should not exceed six months in that capacity and should be replaced by the next most senior officer in the unit if the vacancy is not yet properly filled.

“Nonetheless, the University Management violated this directive by allowing the current acting Registrar and other officers to be holding office for more than one year and counting. The Registrar, who is the supposed Custodian of the University Laws is unfortunately accommodating illegality,” he said.

The Union called on the Minister of Education and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are the supervisory Minister and the Visitor to the University respectively to earnestly and accordingly use their noble offices to protect what remains of the sanctity of Public Universities in Nigeria by immediately halting the illegally started process of appointment of a Vice Chancellor for the University and ensure that Governing Councils of Universities are restored immediately to ensure that the Universities run according to the Laws of the land.

Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the University, Zailani Bappa dismissed the lecturers’ claim that the management violated the laws. He said that the management has been following due process by advertising vacant positions.

He said that the law allows the management to advertise the post of the VC in the absence of the Varsity Council.

“We have not violated any law. On other principal officers, we have advertised them to. Also, the law also allows that acting capacity can be renewed after expiration of six months. So, I don’t know what the ASUU mean by what they have said.”

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