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Ogun debunks report on FG refusal to pay COVID-19 reimbursement



Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta

The Ogun State Government has described as blatant falsehood, a news report which claimed that the Federal Government refused to make COVID-19 reimbursement to the state because of pervasive corruption.

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to Ogun State Governor, Mr. Kunle Somorin, the State Government said that contrary to the insinuations in the fake report, the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery & Economic Stimulus (NG-Cares) programme is not a COVID-19 intervention but a post-COVID economic stimulus packaged for poor and vulnerable people in the society, as well as Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)  that were most negatively affected by the pandemic in terms of disruptions to livelihoods and businesses respectively, adding that the states that had been reimbursed so far are only the first set of beneficiaries.

Somorin said the so-called bombshell report is mere comedy taken too far, as the authors decided to hold brief for the Federal Government without doing basic research.

Somorin added that the verification exercise is continuous and all eligible Ogun State Government post-COVID economic stimulus and related expenditures would be captured and adequately reimbursed in subsequent verification exercises, as each state of the Federation is eligible to receive up to $20million.

Tracing the origins of the programme, Somorin said, “The NG-Cares Program, funded by the World Bank, was originally designed as a loan to the 36 states.

“However, given the level of investments and costs expended by Ogun State during the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to investments in healthcare facilities and palliatives to ameliorate the suffering experienced by Ogun citizens at the time, and other subsequent socio-economic interventions such as Okowo-Dapo for women, employment of artisans for affordable housing construction, maintenance of public roads and planting materials palliatives for farmers, the Ogun State government decided not to take further loans.

“However, due to various engagements by the 36 states with the Federal Government and the World Bank on the need to re-structure the funding of the Program, the NG-Cares Program was recently changed to a Performance for Results (PfR) Grant program, and so the reimbursements to State Governments announced were the eligible expenses incurred and validated during the first verification exercise.”

According to him, at no time did the Ogun State Government lower the standards in its management of post COVID-19 intervention programmes, describing the authors of the report as political failures desperate for attention.

He added that the efforts of Ogun State, the first to record the index case in Nigeria, in the management of COVID-19 is second to none, adding that Ogun was the first to put a state-owned molecular laboratory in place during the pandemic, coupled with the various degrees of isolation centers in strategic locations of the state, including Olabisi Onabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital ( OOUTH), Sagamu, Model School Ikenne, General Hospital, Iberekodo, among other ones which were donated by private individuals.

According to him, the system put in place by the Prince Dapo Abiodun led government to manage the pandemic was inspected by the then Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu and the Country Director of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Fiona Braka, both of whom lauded the State Government for giving direction to other states on how to deal with the pandemic.

“Even the then Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunibe Mamora, during his visit to Abeokuta in  March 2021, expressed satisfaction with the response activities of Ogun State to COVID-19, saying that the State has done excellently well.

“Ogun State, it would be recalled won several awards for its proactiveness for the management of the pandemic and was adjudged the overall best performing State  on Routine Immunisation (RI) and COVID-19 Vaccination by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

“Governor Abiodun is a man known to be committed to putting a round peg in a round hole without giving room for anything less than the best.”

Speaking on the distribution of palliatives during the pandemic,  the statement debunked the allegation of corruption in the exercise saying, “The Governor set up an inter-ministerial committee, which was a task force in charge of palliatives and enforcing compliance during and after the lockdown. The Secretary to the State Government was at no time in charge of procurement in relation to COVID-19 just as it is worthy of note that no political appointees took COVID-19 palliatives as his or her private items for personal use.

“The CACOVID items were distributed based on the instructions of the donors, and our papers are there as proofs of how the distributions were done.

“The naysayers only brought the figments of their imaginations to the public space to ridicule themselves. We therefore advise the public to ignore these lies as our government remains committed to transparency and accountability in the efforts to fulfil our avowed electoral promises,”  he said.

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Divestments: Foreign investors cite harsh operating environment as reason for exit, pull out N310bn assets



Foreign investors have cited a harsh operating environment as reasons for their exit from the Nigerian market.

Recall that President Bola Tinubu had in his inauguration speech in May and also in August assured investors of his dedication to revitalising the nation’s economy by intensifying the removal of all bottlenecks obstructing efficient business establishment and management in Nigeria.

However, since the President came on board, the country has witnessed over four major foreign investors in the manufacturing and oil and gas sector exiting the country in droves citing high operational costs and unfavourable business climates as some of the reasons for their exit.

The latest exit announcement was made yesterday by Procter & Gamble (P&G) a major global player in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) segment and Equinor, another global player in the upstream oil sector.

With these new exits, Nigeria’s economy is expected to lose $335 million (about N310 billion) in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

The amount represents the combined assets value of the two companies.

Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods company, says it has plans to transition from local production to solely importing its products as the firm winds down its on-ground presence in Nigeria.

Equinor is exiting after selling its Nigerian business, including its share in the Agbami oil field to Nigerian-owned energy company Chappal Energies.

Explaining the decision, Chief Financial Officer, P&G, Andre Schulten said the decision is a result of “the challenging business environment in Nigeria, as well as the difficulty in creating US dollar value.”

On his part, Equinor’s Senior Vice President for Africa Operations, Nina Koch, in a statement, said, “Nigeria has been an important part of Equinor’s international portfolio over the past 30 years.

“This transaction realises value and is in line with Equinor’s strategy to optimise its international oil and gas portfolio and focus on core areas.”

In the second half of this year two other major multinational companies, GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, Consumer Nigeria Plc and Sanofi-Aventis Nigeria Limited, a French pharmaceutical company, pulled out assets estimated at over $800 million from Nigeria, citing harsh operating environment.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has blamed stringent regulatory and legislative activities, insufficient infrastructure, and policy inconsistencies for the difficulties faced by businesses.

Reacting to the exit of Procter & Gamble, P&G, NECA’s Director-General, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde expressed dissatisfaction with the news.

He however, commended the Federal Government for supporting the Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, and manufacturers through the disbursement of the N125 billion Presidential Palliative Programme.

The DG said, “NECA commends the Federal Government for supporting the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and manufacturers through the disbursement of the N125 billion Presidential Palliative Programme.

“This strategic intervention is a proactive step in mitigating the impact of the multi-dimensional challenges currently being faced by businesses. It strongly emphasised the immediate need for decisive measures to halt the ongoing trend of companies divesting from the country.

“While we commend the Federal Government for the disbursement of the intervention funds, we urge a quick and definitive action to arrest the continuous exit and divestment of legitimate organizations in Nigeria.

“In the last few years, hitherto strong brands like GSK, Nampak and now P&G and some other local brands have either closed shop or divested fully or partially. These regrettable departures will persistently undermine the Federal Government’s efforts to attract Foreign Direct Investment, rendering its initiatives highly ineffective.

Highlighting the probable factors behind these business closures, the NECA boss asserted “that the challenging business landscape, marked by stringent regulatory and legislative activities, insufficient infrastructure, and policy inconsistencies, all conspired to exacerbate the difficulties faced by businesses.

“When established global brands like P&G cannot survive the environmental and regulatory onslaught, it is worrisome how many more businesses will capitulate.

“Regulatory bodies tasked with fostering business growth persist in prioritising revenue generation at the expense of their core mandate, while legislators, in the guise of oversight functions, consistently create impediments for organized businesses, hindering their operations.

“The contradictions and self-disruptive tendencies of many federal and state Institutions can only be imagined, as they negate the efforts of the President to attract Foreign Direct Investment.”

NECA implored President Bola Tinubu, as well as the Minister for Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, “to prioritise the survival of local businesses as the primary step before actively seeking Foreign Direct Investment.

“We advocate for the 2024 Appropriation Bill to address crucial infrastructural requirements conducive to business expansion, laying the groundwork for a prosperous nation.

“Additionally, he underscored the necessity of focusing on comprehensive tax reforms and addressing the challenges related to FOREX and exchange rates with a sense of urgency.”

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CBN reviews service charter to drive ease of doing business



By Sodiq Adelakun

In a significant move to bolster the ease of doing business in Nigeria, the  Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Yemi Cardoso, has officially approved a revised “Service Charter” for the nation’s apex bank.

This strategic initiative is a direct response to the mandates of the Business Facilitation Act 2022, which aims to streamline business operations and enhance customer service delivery across the country.

The CBN announced on Thursday that the newly reviewed charter is designed to establish a clear framework for interactions between the bank and its external stakeholders. By adhering to the provisions of the charter, the CBN commits to aligning with the directives set forth by SERVICOM, the government agency responsible for promoting efficient and effective service delivery in public offices.

The implementation of the service charter is expected to mark a new era of transparency and accountability in the CBN’s operations, ensuring that the bank’s services are delivered in a customer-centric manner.

This development is anticipated to have a positive impact on the Nigerian business landscape, fostering a more conducive environment for both local and international investors.

Governor Cardoso’s endorsement of the service charter underscores the CBN’s dedication to upholding the principles of the Business Facilitation Act 2022 and its commitment to driving progress in Nigeria’s economic landscape.

“The document clearly outlines the bank’s mandates, vision, mission, and core values.

“It contains the list of services offered by the bank through its various departments and the service standards for each service.

“The service charter also includes a standardised customer complaints form for reporting service failures as well as a mechanism for addressing failures in any of the bank’s services,” it stated.

It added that the service charter reiterated CBN’s commitment to effective and prompt service delivery to its stakeholders and to its customers.

“It enables our customers to know the range of services provided by the bank as well as the standards at which these services would be provided.

“It equally states redress procedures in the event of service failure from any of our service windows.

“The charter applies to all stakeholders and customers of the bank,” it stressed.

In the foreword to the reviewed document, Cardoso reiterated CBN’s commitment to providing more responsive and citizen-friendly governance through quality service delivery that is efficient, accountable and transparent.

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At UBA Business Series, e-commerce owners urge SMEs to prioritise delivering value



Seasoned business  owners have advised Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) owners and operators on winning tips that will help them run successful online businesses especially in the face of growing competition and challenging business terrain.

Speaking during the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Business Series hybrid event at the bank’s Head office in Lagos on Thursday, the entrepreneurs and E-commerce experts agreed that SMEs should start small and offer value-added services to their customers as these are essential factors to help them grow their businesses into successful empires.

The Chief Executive Officer,, Nnamdi Ekeh, the Founder/CEO RenDoll Fashion Brand, Reni Abina, and Media Personality & Entrepreneur, Kaylah Oniwo were panellists at the event who spoke on the topic; E-commerce: the Effects of Online Retail.

“There is a need for proper documentation. Data is very important for business growth, as it gives you your conversion rates, and lets you know what to do to improve these rates to boost business patronage,” Ekeh said, as he emphasised that boosting security as regards payment options is also very important.

On her part, Abina advised E-commerce business owners and prospective owners to make use of reputable online influencers to promote their businesses, as she said, “It is important to find influencers in your field that are fitting to your brand and the kind of business you do.”

“It is important for business owners to know how their brands are being positioned; remember to track your growth properly as this will help you to know what you are doing right or wrong at every point in time,” Oniwo stated as she pointed out that the need for business owners to take the storytelling element of their business very important.

Together, all the speakers at the event noted that business owners should ensure that their businesses are duly registered, with functional business accounts as this gives a large amount of credibility to the company.

Speaking earlier, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Alero Ladipo, said UBA organises these business series frequently as they go a long way towards equipping customers with the much needed strategies to help build their businesses.

She said, “This year alone, we have had several conversations around business and health, personal finance and now, we are talking about e-commerce. To us as a bank, it is important that we have these conversations and the topic for this session is E-commerce, and is very important as we wrap up the year, because this is the season for giving and a lot of buying and selling will be going on during this period.

“As a financial institution that cares about its customers, UBA is interested in bringing in great speakers, experienced business people and thought leaders to educate its customers and Small business owners as they can then take the points discussed in these series and work with them to improve upon and positively impact their businesses,” she stated.

United Bank for Africa is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with 25,000 employees’ group wide and serving over 35 million customers globally. Operating in 20 African countries and in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and the United Arab Emirates, UBA provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.

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