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Shippers’ Council urges support to boost maritime’s contribution to GDP

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The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on Wednesday said the maritime industry required more support to enhance its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Mr Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary, said this at the Maritime Anti-corruption Network (MACN) and the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) Port Users conference held in Lagos.

The conference had the theme: ‘Retooling of the Maritime Sector for Stronger Economic Growth.’

According to Jime, as an import dependent nation, it is critical for the government to support and pay more attention to the industry’s issues and needs to allow the industry realise its full potential.

“The way forward is investment in infrastructure, provision of rail linkages and development of other transportation modes for cargo evacuation in the Nigerian Ports.

“There should be synergy among government agencies involved in port operations to adequately address issues of overlapping functions. sustenance of the implementation of Ease of Doing Business Action.

“Also needed is the speedy passage of proposed Port Reform Bills at the Presidency and National Assembly and Implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note,” he said.

Jime added that the Nigerian maritime industry had developed overtime, but there was still a compelling need for continuous development of the industry to attract potential investment to enhance the country’s economic performance.

He pointed out some of the interventions by NSC to reposition the industry as: removal of over 70 illegal check points along the Lagos port corridors, improved the number of containers examined daily from average of 120 in the past to 230 containers.

Dr Evelyn Ngige, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, called on the need to bring out solutions that would make the nation’s port user friendly.

Ngige represented by Mr Abdullahi Usman from the ministry, stated that stakeholders when asked why they did not use Nigerian ports attributed it to high cost regulatory fees.

“There is need to dredge the ports, come out with trade hubs, address issues of security and these will chart a new way for the country,” she said.

She added that making the ports in the country operational was of essence as the country was preparing for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Earlier in his address, Mr Soji Apampa co-founded, CBI, said the purpose of the conference was to examine the policies, practices, opportunities, and next steps in addressing the lingering challenges in port operations.

He noted that these challenges affected all categories of stakeholders in the maritime sector.

“The conference will also evaluate the extent to which the strategies and tool, like the introduction of Standard Operating Procedures, Grievance Reporting Mechanisms and Learning Management System deployed through MACN Nigeria Project improve institutional compliance practices,” he said.

 

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UBA America hosts Diplomats, Business Leaders at World Bank Summit

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UBA America, the United States subsidiary of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc hosted diplomats, government officials and business leaders to a networking reception in partnership with the esteemed Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) and the U.S. Department of States in Washington DC on Monday.

The event which was held on the sidelines of the ongoing IMF World Bank Spring Meetings was organised by the BCIU and US Department of State to enhance collaboration and fortify commercial diplomacy among nations, institutions and individuals.

Speaking during the event, UBA’s Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Oliver Alawuba, noted that the bank’s co-hosting of the event via its American subsidiary, underscores its commitment towards cultivating robust relationships within the development communities in the United States.

He said, “As a distinguished member of BCIU, a non-profit organisation providing customised commercial diplomacy services, UBA Group and UBA America share BCIU’s vision of actively pursuing strategic opportunities, contributing to global economic cooperation, deepening of economic diplomacy, facilitating ideas, forging partnerships, and adding value for all stakeholders.

“Our resolve to co-host this Networking Reception symbolises our dedication to fostering inclusive economic growth and partnership across borders. By leveraging platforms like this, we can collectively address shared challenges and seize opportunities for sustainable development,” he stated further.

BCIU is a non-profit Association comprising of policy experts, strategic advisors, and trade educators, and offers bespoke commercial diplomacy services to the world’s governments and leading organisations, from Fortune 100 companies to global investors and multilateral institutions.

Only last year, the CEO UBA America, Sola Yomi-Ajayi, was appointed to the Board of BCIU, where she collaborates with fellow board members to ensure the organisation operates in alignment with its by-laws and New York 501(c)3 non-profit legislation.

Yomi-Ajayi has been committed to nurturing long-term organisational growth and sustainability, thereby reinforcing the bond between UBA America, BCIU, and the broader international community.

UBA America is the United States subsidiary of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, one of Africa’s leading financial institutions with presence in 20 African countries, as well as in the United Kingdom, France, and the United Arab Emirates. UBA America serves as a vital link between Africa and the global financial markets, offering a range of banking services tailored to meet the needs of individuals, businesses, and institutions.

As the only sub-Saharan African bank with an operational banking license in the U.S., UBA America is uniquely positioned to provide corporate banking services to North American institutions doing business with or in Africa.

UBA America delivers treasury, trade finance, and correspondent banking solutions to sovereign and central banks, financial institutions, SMEs, foundations, and multilateral and development organisations. Leveraging its knowledge, capacity, and unique position as part of an international banking group, the Bank seeks to provide exceptional value to our customers around the world.

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FG to launch 2700 CNG buses, tricycles before May 29

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The Presidency on Sunday said it was ready to launch about 2,700 CNG-powered buses and tricycles before May 29 when President Bola Tinubu turns one year in office.

It said the Federal Government is set to deliver 100 conversion workshops and 60 refuelling sites spread across 18 states before the end of 2024.

The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, revealed this in a statement he signed Sunday titled ‘Presidential CNG initiative set for rollout.’

“From the end of May, Nigeria will take some baby steps to join such nations that already have large fleets of CNG vehicles.

“All is now ready for delivery of the first set of critical assets for deployment and launch of the CNG initiative ahead of the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration on May 29.

“About 2,500 of the tricycles will be ready before May 29, 2024…working towards delivering 200 units before the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration,” said the Presidency.

It added that in all, over 600 buses are targeted for production in the first phase which will be accomplished in 2024.

In October 2023, about five months after the removal of the petrol subsidy, President Tinubu launched the Presidential CNG Initiative to deliver cheaper, safer and more climate-friendly energy.

The CNG Initiative was designed to deliver compressed natural gas, especially for mass transit.

The Federal Government earmarked N100bn (part of the N500bn palliative budget) to purchase 5500 CNG vehicles (buses and tricycles), 100 Electric buses and over 20,000 CNG conversion kits, with plans to develop CNG refilling stations and electric charging stations nationwide.

The FG had said the initiative would ease the burden of the increased pump price on the masses.

“After months of detailed planning and background work, the committee driving the initiative is set to deliver on President Tinubu’s vision and promise,” Onanuga affirmed.

Part of Sunday’s announcement was the creation of a new plant on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that will assemble the tricycles while Brilliant EV will assemble electric vehicles when it receives the Semi Knocked Down components.

The Presidency explained further, “The SKD parts manufactured by the Chinese company LUOJIA in partnership with its local partner to support the consortium of local suppliers of CNG tricycles are set for shipment to Nigeria and expected to arrive early in May.

“In collaboration with the private sector, the PCNGI is set to deliver 100 conversion workshops and 60 refuelling sites spread across 18 states before the end of this year.”

Four plants owned by JET, Mikano, Mojo, and Brilliant EV located in various parts of the country are involved in the assembly of the semi-knocked-down components of the CNG buses, Onanuga revealed.

He added “JET, which has received the SKD parts is coupling the buses in Lagos and is working towards delivering 200 units before the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration.

“Brilliant EV will assemble electric vehicles. It is awaiting the SKD parts, which will arrive in due course. The electric vehicles it will produce are meant for states such as Kano and Borno, which do not have access to CNG for now.

“They will also be available in key Nigerian cities and university campuses. It must be noted that soon-to-be-completed gas pipeline projects initiated by the Buhari administration and being completed by NNPCL (the AKK Pipeline) will take gas into the hinterlands of North East and North West where there is a current paucity.”

Onanuga said the deployment of CNG buses and tricycles and the vision to get at least one million natural gas-propelled vehicles on our roads by 2027 will mark a major energy transition in our country’s transportation industry.

With necessary tax and duty waivers approved by President Tinubu in December 2023, the PCNGI committee is partnering with the private sector to deliver the promise on the initiative, he explained further.

Therefore, the private sector has so far responded with over $50m in actual investments in refuelling stations, conversion centres and mother stations.

Also, a safety policy document on 80 standards and regulations that must be strictly adhered to by operators has been developed and approved to ensure CNG conversions are done safely and reliably.

The FG also plans to sell thousands of conversion kits for petrol-powered buses and taxis that want to migrate to CNG at subsidised rates, especially to commercial vehicle drivers to bring down the cost of public transportation.

The Presidency said as part of private sector collaboration, NIPCO and BOVAS are involved in offering refilling services for the CNG vehicles and also serving as conversion centres.

“NIPCO is setting up 32 stations nationwide to offer the services. The company has completed the set-up of four of the CNG stations.

“Likewise, BOVAS is setting up eight stations in Ibadan, two each in Ekiti, Abuja and four in Ilorin. MRS is also involved.

“It is making efforts to announce where its refilling stations and conversion centres will be,” the Presidential aide explained.

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Recapitalisation: Access Bank confident of raising $300m – Aig-Imoukhuede

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Mr Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, Chairman of Access Holdings Plc, says he’s confident that the bank would raise 300 million dollars in capital for Access Bank, considering the bank’s strong market position and shareholders’ support.

Aig-Imokhuede said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) on the sideline of Access Holdings’ second Annual General Meeting(AGM) held in Lagos.

NAN reports that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on March 29, directed commercial banks in Nigeria with international authorisation to shore up their capital base to N500 billion and national banks to N200 billion.

Similarly, non-interest banks with national and regional authorisation will increase their capital to N20 billion and N10 billion, respectively.

The recapitalisation exercise is expected to commence from April 1, to March 31, 2026.

Consequently, the shareholders of Access Bank, iat the AGM, unanimously backed the Group’s plan to establish a capital raising programme of up to $1.5 billion.

They also agreed to the subset initiative to raise up to N365 billion specifically, through a Rights Issue of ordinary shares to its shareholders.

The proceeds of the rights issue will be used to support ongoing working capital needs, including organic growth funding for the group’s banking and other non-banking subsidiaries

Aig-Imokhuede explained that having announced to embark on a capital raising through Right Issue, he was confident that the group’s shareholders would support the bank in the journey.

He stated that Access Holdings had p0a unique relationship with the capital market in Nigeria and internationally.

“It is not the first time CBN is coming up with such policy.

“Recall that in 2004 when CBN announced that all banks must recapitalise to the tune of N25 billion and Access Bank had about N3 billion of capital.

“Between 2004 and 2007, our team, when I was the CEO of the bank, raised two billion dollars of common equity capital.

“Therefore, in 2024 when Access Holdings  is much older, wiser, stronger, larger and significantly respected by the capital market with over 800,000 shareholders, raising 300 million dollars in capital for Access Bank, its banking subsidiary is not really much of a challenge.

“We signalled to the market first that we will be doing a Right Issue, which means that we must carry everybody along, in spite of our large institutional shareholders.

“Nonetheless, we believe in ensuring that shareholders, either large or small, continue with us on our journey.

“They have always supported us when need be with good reasons, because they believe in the company and the performance that would be delivered subsequently to such capital raising exercise.

“What is on the mind of our shareholders now is recapitalisation and they are also concerned about how their company continues to deliver returns,” he said.

Commenting on the CBN recapilisation policy, the chairman noted that Access Bank as a group endorses the CBN policy wholeheartedly.

Aig-Imokhuede described the policy as a good and sensible prudential regulation.

He added that banks, particularly after period of significant devaluation of domestic currency, volatility in the foreign exchange, and interest rate regime, are always encouraged to build up their capital buffer.

According to him, this is to ensure that whatever adverse effect that may arise as a result of the dynamic changes in the business environment would not affect their very concern.

In terms of performance and expectations from Access Holdings going forward, Aig-Imokhuede stated that the earning profile of the group, which spread across Nigeria, Africa and outside Africa subsidiaries, is very robust.

He said: “As an investor, you always look to see whether there is deep concentration where the profit is coming from; in our case, these arears are spread across three core areas that is of significant interest to local and international investors.

“If you look at the performance of banks in the year ended 2023 financial reports, you will see that all banks in naira terms have increased significantly their profitability as a result of the devaluation.

“But that isn’t the case with Access Bank, whose revaluation benefits come from the fact that it has significant international operations, because it is not a function of holding large foreign currency balances.

According to him, Access Bank, United Kingdom for example, is the largest and probably highest performing Sub-saharan African bank that has a license in the UK and making hundred of millions of naira of profit from the UK.

The chairman further said that this is not an accounting benefit that comes in the year 2023, but will continue, and with the operations of the bank in France, and across other European, Asia and Middle Eastern jurisdiction.

“We can see that the foreign currency benefit of profit in those locations are going to also accrued to the holding.

“The holding as an investor is also thinking of retail banking, which is like a utility. A retail banking with about 60 million customers is enough to sustain the bank anytime, irrespective of how volatile or uncertain the market is,” he said.

Access Holdings full-year results for the period ended Dec. 31, 2023, showcased an impressive 335 per cent increase in pre-tax profit to N729 billion from N167.68 billion in 2022.

The group also experienced an 87 per cent surge in gross earnings to N2.59 trillion from N1.39 trillion in 2022 and reported a remarkable 306 per cent growth in profit After Tax to N619.32 billion, from N152.20 billion posted in year 2022.

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