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Trade Expert Calls for Increased Investments in AfCFTA to Boost African Economy

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There have been calls for more investments in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to boost the African economy.

At a recent virtual conference organised by the African Public Relations Association (APRA), an expert on trade and finance, Mr. Jesuseun Fatoyinbo, Head of Trade, Transactional Products and Services at Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, highlighted the benefits of increasing investments in the AfCFTA agreement during one of the sessions held as part of the three-day virtual conference.

Jesuseun stated that the AfCFTA agreement will allow African-owned enterprises to enter new markets, expand their customer base and create new commodities and services in the continent. The agreement was created in 2018, and a total of 54 African countries have signed up. Of these, 30 countries have ratified the agreement and 28 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification.

AfCFTA holds great promise for the African economy as it seeks to eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for businesses to trade within Africa and benefit from its emerging markets.

Speaking on the impact of trade on economic development, Jesuseun said: “The status of intra-regional trade within the European, North American and Asian economic corridors is currently estimated at 64 per cent, 50 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

However, the status of intra-African trade currently stands at 17 per cent, which is significantly lower than other continental regions. This limits business investments within the African continent while increasing trade dependence on foreign markets.” He emphasised the need for improvement in order to expand the African economy.

According to him, increased investments between African countries will trigger trade growth in Africa which will, in turn, promote industrialisation, economic development and subsequently lead to increased employment opportunities across the continent.

Jesuseun advised stakeholders on the need to observe other continental trade trends, as continental trade usually yields positive results. He said, “All sectors need to be involved in AfCFTA to promote industrial development and sustainable socio-economic growth in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa.”

The Stanbic IBTC Head of Trade cited some nations in East Africa which were insulated from economic recession as a result of intra-trade activities. He noted that “despite the severe issues caused by the COVID -19 pandemic in 2020, Tanzania and Ethiopia avoided economic recession, due to their ever-improving trade policies.”

Jesuseun advocated the replication of their strategies across other African nations, to boost Africa’s income and lift millions of Africans out of poverty.

Speaking on Stanbic IBTC’s capabilities to boost trade, he said, “Stanbic IBTC is leveraging world-class digital technologies to make commercial imports and exports easier. The organisation is committed to making trade processes seamless and easier with technology.”

The trade expert stated that the pandemic unearthed the possibility of remote verification as against the prevalent practice of physical documentation. He cited examples of African trade’s past experiences, where many trade processes had experienced inefficacies and bottlenecks because of physical documentation.

Jesuseun concluded that trade processes need to be digitised, to enable seamless multilateral trade between African countries. He urged other stakeholders to create awareness about the usefulness of the AfCFTA agreement.

Economy

LCCI President, Asiwaju Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole Speaks On State Of The Economy At The Quarterly Press Briefing On Tuesday

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ADDRESS ON THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY BY PRESIDENT OF THE LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, ASIWAJU (DR.) MICHAEL OLAWALE-COLE, CON, HELD ON TUESDAY, 12TH APRIL 2022, AT THE COMMERCE HOUSE, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS

Olushola Okunlade Writes

At the second series of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) quarterly press briefings held on Tuesday, 12th April 2022 at the Commerce House, Victoria Island Lagos State, LCCI President, Asiwaju Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, CON, welcomes everyone and gave an insightful analysis on the state of the economy.

ADDRESS ON THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY BY PRESIDENT OF THE LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, ASIWAJU (DR.) MICHAEL OLAWALE-COLE, CON, HELD ON TUESDAY, 12TH APRIL 2022, AT THE COMMERCE HOUSE, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS
LCCI President, Asiwaju Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, CON.

READ FULL ADDRESS ON THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY BY PRESIDENT OF THE LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, ASIWAJU (DR.) MICHAEL OLAWALE-COLE, CON, HELD ON TUESDAY, 12TH APRIL 2022, AT THE COMMERCE HOUSE, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS

The briefing is a fundamental component of our public policy advocacy programs during which we review major developments in the domestic and global economies in the preceding quarter and communicate our position to the wider business community and government. The key objective of this briefing is to highlight areas of concern through macroeconomic diagnostics to make recommendations to the government on creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.

The private sector plays a vital role in the Nigerian economy in terms of revenue generation, strategic partnerships, job creation, investment facilitation, and trade promotion, among others. The private sector accounts for over 80 percent of total economic activities in Nigeria.  It is therefore imperative to ensure an enabling operating environment for investors in the economy. A thriving private sector means more company taxes revenues for the government to meet critical infrastructural obligations. It is a win-win scenario.

The media has shown a collective responsibility towards what the Chamber is committed to achieving for the business community. Let me, therefore, as usual, express our profound gratitude to the media for being worthy partners in our advocacy activities and our quest for a better business environment. Our advocacy activities would not have been as impactful without your cooperation. As an institution with the mandate to protect business interests, we restate our commitment to deepening this partnership.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The global economy is beginning to show signs of impressive recovery from the devastating effects of the COVID-19-imposed restrictions and disruptions. However, just as the world recovers from the Virus, the Russia-Ukraine war emerged and has persisted till today, to the irritation of the international community. Looking at manufacturing activities and services, the global Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs) have so far not entirely captured the real effects of the persisting war in Ukraine. The global manufacturing PMI fell to 52.70 in March 2022 from 53.6 in February, and compared with 53.2 in January. The PMI decelerated in March but maintained a positive trajectory at above 50%.

This positive index reflects the sustained improvement in global activity level, largely supported by continued progress in the vaccination programme in advanced economies, successful containment measures, increased funding for vaccinations in developing countries, easing of restrictions and lockdowns, and sustained policy support by fiscal and monetary authorities. As of the end of March 2022, Nigeria recorded 14.85% vaccination of its population. Data by the World Health Organization showed that only about 2.2% of vaccination was achieved at end of 2021. The massive improvement in vaccination is highly commendable. But in comparison, Nigeria’s vaccination rate is dwarfed by that of Ghana at 41.05%, Egypt at 73.58%, South Africa at 55.64%, and Kenya at 31.51%. We restate our conviction that the way to go is more vaccination. The Government must do everything in its power to increase the vaccination rate in Nigeria, These could necessitate extensive enlightenment and educative programs and increasing the number of vaccination centers.  

Global GDP growth is projected to moderate from 5.9% in 2021 to 4.4% in 2022 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The fiscal and monetary interventions from governments will continue to boost aggregate demand across economies in 2022. However, a major risk to growth in 2022 is the persisting disruptions to global supply chains arising from the prolonging Russia-Ukraine war which is increasingly impacting commodities’ prices across various economies.

For the first quarter of 2022, crude oil prices trended upwards. Brent crude oil spot price, which opened the year at US$84.19pb, peaked at US$128.27pb as of 9th of March and closed the quarter at US$107.27pb as of 31st March. It is expected that the Brent price will average $116/b in Q2 of 2022 and $102/b in the second half of 2022 according to the IMF. It is also projected that the average price will fall to $89/b in 2023. It must be noted that actual price outcomes will be dependent on the degree to which existing sanctions are imposed on Russia, and independent corporate actions will affect Russia’s oil production or the sale of Russia’s oil in the global market.

The war in Ukraine has disrupted the country’s harvest and planting cycles, meaning less food down the line even if the war ends today. Surging prices for oil and shipping will add to food costs. The global shortage of fertilizers is now worsened by the disruption of Russian and Belarusian supply – one-third of the global market for potash. Even countries far removed from the war, like Brazil and Argentina, will face agricultural disruptions.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENT

2021 FOURTH-QUARTER GDP REPORT

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 3.98% (year-on-year) in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2021, showing a sustained growth for the fifth consecutive quarter since the recession witnessed in 2020 when output contracted by -6.10% and -3.62% in Q2 and Q3 of 2020 under the Covid pandemic. The fourth-quarter growth indicates a steady economic recovery accounting for annual growth of 3.40% in 2021. The Q4 2021 growth rate was higher than the 0.11% growth rate recorded in Q4 2020 by 3.87% points and lower than 4.03% recorded in Q3 2021 by 0.05% points

The oil sector contracted by –8.06% (year-on-year) in Q4 2021 in real terms, indicating an increase of 11.71% points relative to the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020 and -10.73% in Q3 2021. Annual growth stood at -8.30%, a rate better than the -8.89% recorded in 2020. The Oil sector contributed 5.19% to total real GDP in Q4 2021, down from 5.87% and 7.49% recorded in Q4 2020 and Q3 2021 respectively. Based on data from the NBS, average crude oil production in Q4 was 1.50mbpd, down from 1.57mbpd in Q3 2021 and 1.56mbpd in Q4 2020. Crude Oil Production in Nigeria decreased to 1.258mbpd in February from 1.399mbpd in January of 2022.

Meanwhile, the non-oil sector grew by 4.73% in real terms in Q4 2021, which is higher by 3.05% point compared to Q4 2020, and 0.71% point lower than the third quarter of 2021. Activities in Agriculture (crop production); trade; Information and Communication (Telecommunication); and Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions), were responsible for the growth. In real terms, the Non-Oil sector contributed 94.81% to the nation’s GDP in the fourth quarter of 2021, higher than 94.13% in Q4 2020 and also higher than 92.51% recorded in the third quarter of 2021.

GDP Growth Outlook for Q2 2022

The persisting Russia-Ukraine war has triggered a positive oil price shock with spillover effects on operating costs, raw materials, and inflation in countries that are not directly engaged with the war. Nigeria is not an exception as prices of goods and services are moving northward with the potential implication of shrinking production of goods and services. The worsening security challenges in many parts of the country are another serious threat to the agricultural and manufacturing value chain, which is capable of reducing production and contracting these sectors.

If the above conditions persist, production volumes will be impacted by the raw materials supply chain disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine, the rising cost of diesel, and other internal security crises. Job losses are also very likely due to constrained production and disrupted supply chains. All of these will likely depress growth potentials in Q2 2022.

The agriculture sector showed some evidence of impacts from heightening insecurity and lingering supply chain disruptions as it recorded real growth of 3.58% (year-on-year), an increase of 0.16% points when compared with the Q4 2020, and an increase of 2.36% points from Q3 2021 which recorded a growth rate of 1.22%. However, the sector contributed 26.84% to overall GDP in real terms in Q4 2021. This is lower than the contribution in Q4 2020 and lower than Q3 2021 with 26.95% and 29.94% respectively.

The manufacturing sector recorded real GDP growth of 2.28% (year-on-year) in the fourth quarter of 2021, higher than the figure for Q4 2020 by 3.80% points and higher by 2.01% points for the Q3 of 2021. The growth rate of the sector on a quarter-on-quarter basis stood at 3.57%. In terms of real contribution to GDP, the manufacturing sector contributed 8.46% in Q4 2021, lower than the 8.60% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020 and lower than the 8.96% recorded in Q3 2021.

Assessment & Outlook

Going into the second quarter of 2022, the manufacturing sector will likely suffer some shocks from the rising cost of diesel, logistics, foreign exchange illiquidity, domestic inflationary pressure, weakening purchasing power, poor public infrastructure, and port-related challenges as these may continue to present as headwinds to the sector’s performance. Additionally, with the war in Ukraine aggravating disruptions to supply chains of raw materials like wheat, barley, soybeans, sunflower, and corn, the rising cost of production may not abate soon.

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

Sustaining the pace of recovery in 2022 and navigating through the rising uncertainties in the global economy requires well-coordinated fiscal and monetary policies in promoting growth-enhancing and confidence-building policies that would encourage private and foreign capital inflows into the economy. To achieve these, we recommend accordingly:

  1. The Government needs to look for ways to resolve the lingering fuel supply crises by increasing importation to meet growing demand which is putting pressure on diesel and fuel prices. It has also become imperative now that Nigeria needs to have reserves for these critical commodities which can be accessed to meet sudden crashes in supply.
  2. We have always advocated for the removal of fuel subsidies and that such rescued funds be diverted to subsidize the production of goods and services in the face of the rising cost of manufacturing. 
  3. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should embark on easing the economy while keeping a tab on controlling rising prices. Credit to the private sector should increase and be targeted to support growth sectors and export-promoting sectors.
  4. The growing uncertainty is driven by the war in Ukraine, degenerating security crises, and difficulties around the sourcing of FOREX for the importation of raw materials.
  5. The CBN needs to initiate a gradual transition to a unified exchange rate system and allow for a market reflective exchange rate. The currency market is still beset with persisting liquidity challenges evidenced in the wide premium between the NAFEX and parallel market rates. To consolidate on the interventions earlier initiated, the CBN needs to roll out more friendly supply-side policies to boost liquidity in the market. This would help bolster investor confidence and attract foreign investment inflows into the economy.
  6. Deliberate efforts toward making the business environment more conducive for MSMEs and large corporates at the national, subnational, and local government levels are imperative. This can be achieved by addressing the structural bottlenecks and regulatory constraints contributing to the high cost of doing business. A supportive and conducive investment environment is critical in facilitating private sector involvement in the economic recovery process.
  7. The government should initiate moves towards having cost-reflective tariffs in the power sector as this will attract the needed investment to boost the power supply.

INFLATION

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned with the high and rising inflation rate which stood at 15.70% as of February up from 15.60% recorded in January 2022. On a year-on-year basis, the rate decelerated from 17.33% recorded in February 2021. Rising prices will remain a major concern for businesses and households, especially given the challenges associated with insecurity, infrastructure deficit, and foreign exchange fluctuations, all of which are factors that have continually triggered inflation in Nigeria in the past months. It is expected that the war in Ukraine which has disrupted supply chains of oil and gas, and food commodities will, in the short-term drive inflationary pressures northward.

Looking forward to the second quarter, we expect headline inflation to remain elevated as the combination of supply chain disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war, food supply shocks, FX policies, higher energy costs, FX illiquidity, heightened insecurity in major food-producing states, will continue to mount pressure on domestic consumer prices. We believe a broad-based harmonization of fiscal and monetary policies toward addressing the identified structural constraints will significantly help moderate inflationary pressure in the short term.

DEBT SUSTAINABILITY

The Federal Government spent N2.05trillion on domestic debt servicing and US$2.11 billion (N880 billion) in 2021. Nigeria’s total public debt as of December 31st, 2021 was N39.556trillion or USD95.779billion. The amount represents the total external and domestic debts of the Federal Government, thirty-six states, and the FCT. The comparable amount for December 31st, 2020, was N32.915 trillion or USD86.392 billion.

With the Total Public Debt Stock to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 22.47%, as of December 31, 2021, the Debt-to-GDP ratio remains within Nigeria’s self-imposed limit of 40%. This ratio is prudent when compared to the 55% limit advised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for countries in Nigeria’s peer group, as well as the ECOWAS Convergence Ratio of 70%. However, the Federal Government must be sensitive to, and mindful of the relatively high Debt-to-Revenue Ratio of about 90% in 2021. We must initiate measures to increase revenues without jeopardizing the existence of the businesses that pay taxes to the government.

We project that Nigeria’s debt stock and debt-servicing to revenue ratio will remain elevated in 2022. the Federal Government still plans to borrow an additional N1.6tn, while the 2022 debt target for domestic borrowing is N2.57tn. There is also a plan to borrow N2.57tn from foreign creditors, while N1.16tn is expected from multilateral/bilateral drawdowns. In total, the Federal Government plans to add N6.3tn new debts to the current debt stock, which would push the country’s total debt stock to N45.86tn by December 2022.

The 2022 FGN budget is now projected to have a deficit of N7.35trillion from the approved N6.26trillion if the recent request for an additional deficit of N965.4billion by the President presented to the National Assembly is granted. In total, the Federal Government plans to add N6.3tn new debts to the current debt stock, which would push the country’s total debt stock to N45.86tn by December 2022. We are likely to have a higher debt service-to-revenue ratio if revenue levels do not increase significantly.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE MARKET

The Naira has recorded unprecedented volatility in the first quarter of 2022 with a widening premium between the official (NAFEX) rate (at N415/USD) and the BDC/Parallel market rate (of N589/USD). Let me reiterate the Chamber’s position that monetary authorities need to liberalize the FX market by unifying the multiple FX rates and ensuring FX rates are market-driven. This is critical in the process of enhancing stability, liquidity, and transparency in the FX market. The unification is expected to improve the country’s currency management framework given that the multiple exchange rate systems had been creating uncertainty issues and sources of arbitrage.

MONETARY POLICY DEVELOPMENT

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) retained the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), at 11.5 percent, and the asymmetric corridor of +100/-700 basis points around the MPR throughout 2021 and the first two meetings in 2022. The Cash Reserve Ratio at 27.5 percent and 30 percent Liquidity Ratio were equally maintained. The Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN will be faced with a tough policy choice of boosting economic growth and tackling inflation for the most of 2022. This policy dilemma will put the committee in a very tight position in the coming months and might propel the Committee to cautiously retain its policy stance in the first half of the year 2022.

A broad-based synchronization of fiscal and monetary policies is critical in achieving the twin objectives of output growth and price stability. Looking forward, we expect factors such as oil price & production, GDP growth, inflation rate, FX trends, private investment inflows, credit to the private sector, and domestic interest rates to influence monetary policy direction in the short to medium-term.

We recommend the following:

  1. The Federal and state governments need to show more commitment to the insecurity challenge considering its multidimensional impact on the economy.
  2. The need for an effective synchronization of fiscal and monetary policies to improve the investment climate to attract sustainable foreign direct investments into the economy. This would also help to stabilize the exchange rate and boost output growth.
  3. The need to improve the agricultural value chain, particularly in key commodity products like cocoa, palm oil, and cashew to diversify the country’s export receipts.
  4. On Government revenues, the Federal Government should improve its tax collection by expanding the tax net to reduce its dependence on oil revenues and reduce its exposure to global shocks like the war in Ukraine.

FOREIGN TRADE

The Lagos Chamber notes the release of Q4-2021 Foreign Trade Statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics. The value of Nigeria’s total merchandise trade stood at N39.75 trillion in 2021, a 57.6% increase over total trade in 2020. Total import was N20.8trillion, which is 64.1% higher than the value in 2020. The export trade in 2021 stood at N18.91trillion showing an increase of 50.99% more than what was exported in 2020.  Overall, Nigeria recorded a deficit of N1.94 trillion in 2021. Particularly in the fourth quarter, total export was largely dependent on crude oil exports which recorded N.3trillion (or 74.04% of total exports). Non-oil export was valued at N1.50trillion (or 25.96% of total exports).

The numbers expose the state of the non-oil sector and the continued dependence on crude oil for foreign exchange income despite the implementation of several policies and programs aimed at boosting domestic production and driving economic diversification.  Persisting trade deficit across non-oil product categories from agriculture, manufacturing, raw materials to solid minerals reflect the numerous productivity challenges confronting the real sector. Over-reliance on crude oil for fiscal revenue and forex earnings will continue to expose the economy to fluctuations in the oil market even as the country lacks adequate buffers to absorb external shocks.

The government at all levels in conjunction with trade finance institutions needs to channel efforts towards the enhancement of value addition to non-oil exports. This can be supported by the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that facilitate agro-processing for export. We also need more investment in export infrastructure, port operation efficiency, tackling the high cost of production, and boosting the supply-side of the FOREX market to improve liquidity and ease access to FOREX. Even within the oil sector, we need to diversify away from crude oil exports to boost refining capacity, and production of petrochemical products and accelerate reforms to halt the importation of petroleum products.

An effective harmonization of fiscal, monetary, trade and regulatory policies is needed to support businesses in the real sector. There is a need for a greater investment-friendly disposition of the government towards enhancing the quality of Nigeria’s trade infrastructure and better border management.

Nigeria’s trade outlook with the global community may likely weaken in the short term. The Nigerian economy will likely begin to feel the impact of oil theft on the oil export and thereby on the overall amount of export. And with imports continuing to outpace exports, the trade deficit is expected to widen in the full year of 2022, and that may put more pressure on FOREX. Looking ahead to 2022, we expect crude oil to sustain its dominance in Nigeria’s export while manufactured imports will most likely dominate the country’s import bill. We anticipate a sustained trade deficit in agriculture, manufactured goods, and raw materials goods this year.

CAPITAL IMPORTATION

In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Nigerian economy attracted a total value of capital importation worth $2.19 billion from $1.73 billion in Q3 2021 showing an increase of 26.35%. In comparison with the corresponding quarter of 2020, capital importation has increased by 109.28% from $1.05 billion. The Chamber is however careful to note that out of this amount, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) amounted to only 16.38% ($358.23 million) of total capital imported in Q4 2021. The concern here is that FDIs are more valuable than the other types of investment inflows. We need more FDIs to create jobs and increase output in the economy. To achieve this, we must tackle the worsening insecurity in many parts of the country and implement investment-friendly policies to create an enabling investment and regulatory environment.

THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR

The war between Russia and Ukraine will likely make the world’s hunger crisis even tougher to fight. The countries are two of the world’s major suppliers of staple grains like wheat, corn, sunflower, potash, etc. Nigeria’s food supply has started to feel some pressure as it imported 4% of wheat from Ukraine and 27% of wheat from Russia in 2021 according to Gallup News. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that Russia was the sixth major exporter to Nigeria as of the third quarter of 2021 coming only after China, India, the USA, Netherlands, and Belgium in that order.

The most sustainable solution is for the government to boost local production of these staples to levels that meet local demand. The world economy is already feeling the impact of the disruptions caused by the war on global supply chains. This is reflected in the rising local prices of petrol and diesel, as in the case of Nigeria where we depend on oil imports. Today, it is not just about the skyrocketing price of diesel which has risen above N700.00/litre, but that the product is now scarce and difficult to get.

In preparing for the reality of our near future, we urge the Federal Government to take seriously the completion of projects like the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria. With this, we can explore the opportunity of exporting gas to Europe in the long term. We should also target Trans-Saharan and European markets with the ongoing construction of the Ajaokuta, Kaduna, and Kano Gas Pipeline, popularly known as the AKK Gas Pipeline. Arising from the calamities of this war, Nigeria can explore emerging opportunities to earn huge foreign exchange inflow in the medium to long-term.

We reiterate our recommendation that refining our crude remains the most sustainable option especially when we consider the huge cost of subsidies on government finances. In refurbishing the refineries, the government should consider the joint venture model similar to the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) model.

OIL THEFT

The menace of oil theft has become a rising cost to the economy as it deprives us of much-needed oil revenue. The position of the Government that the problems of the oil and gas sector are the push back against investment in fossil fuels and decreasing investment inflows into the sector, is quite debatable when we consider the inability of the government in stopping oil theft in the sector. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC) reported that Nigeria lost $3.2 billion in fourteen months. The weak regulation and systems in the oil and gas sector are a reason for divestments and low attraction of new investment. The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 was meant to create a more standardized sector that foreign investors would be comfortable playing in, but unfortunately, the Act is in a perceived state of limbo amidst growing uncertainties.

As a country, we should be certain of the exact volume of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, that we consume daily. We had the unfortunate incidence of adulterated fuel import into the country in January, and then the partial suspension of the PIA 2021 implementation. Beyond the accusations and trading of blame, nobody has so far been sanctioned or punished for their roles in the importation of contaminated fuel. These developments reflect a failure of  governance and regulation. We urge the government to conduct an audit of the current systems in the Oil & Gas sector towards having a standardized system that meets international best practices.

Recently, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised Nigeria’s oil production quota from the 1.735 million barrels per day target approved in April 2022 to a new target of 1.753 million barrels per day for May 2022. Regrettably, we do not seem prepared to meet these targets and boost our oil revenue on the back of the global oil crises and rising oil prices. With more than 84% of our revenue coming from the export of crude oil, it is expected that the Government will not allow oil theft to diminish our economic fortunes.

POWER SECTOR

It is becoming clearer that the national grid cannot supply sufficient power to meet our electricity demand. We have had issues with a disrupted gas supply, distribution companies lacking the capacity to take up power generated by the power generating companies, and the challenges of achieving 100% metering for power consumers. On the back of these challenges, businesses have had to deal with the rising cost of manufacturing, exorbitant logistics, and constrained production. With the cost of diesel at record levels and persisting poor power supply, businesses are running on unsustainable costs and producing at uncompetitive prices. This can lead to job losses as output is constrained due to the unbearable cost of production. If not quickly tackled, these challenges will likely subdue the GDP growth potentials and projections for 2022.

We recommend that government invest more in technology to fight pipeline vandalism. The government should create funding for critical infrastructure and special purpose intervention in the power sector. The newly launched Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (Infracorp) has a mandate to focus on power, renewables, transport, and logistics. The INFRACORP will succeed in mobilizing private sector participation if we can achieve cost-reflective pricing in the power sector. The gas-to-power infrastructure requires an overhaul to resolve the persisting gas shortage. However, the most sustainable solution to Nigeria’s power shortages is the transition to renewable energy.

INSECURITY

The worsening insecurity profile in Nigeria is reaching a worrisome dimension with the unfortunate incident on Monday 28th March 2022, when some gunmen launched a deadly attack on a Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Abuja-Kaduna evening train carrying an estimated 398 passengers. After the attack, reports confirmed that eight people were killed, and twenty-two people are still missing. Earlier, on 26th March 2022, the Kaduna Airport was attacked, leaving one dead and many maimed. This is rather frightening and increasingly threatening to the well-being of Nigerians. 

On behalf of the business community, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned with the current insecurity crisis because of its impact on businesses and the economy. We are also very concerned because of the apparent threat to our forthcoming general elections in 2023 and, by extension, a threat to our democracy. In the absence of peace and security, it would be challenging to hold credible, free, and fair elections that would reflect the choices of the electorates about whom their leaders should be.

The 2021 Global Peace Index published by the Institute for Peace and Economics ranked Nigeria at 146 out of 163 countries, only better than countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Russia, which are typically known to have been conflicting areas for a long time. The security challenges are continuing to spiral into general lawlessness and anarchy. Also, the Global Conflict Tracker hosted by the United States Council on Foreign Relations recorded that attacks by bandits across the North-West have claimed at least 5,000 lives since 2018. Since 2009, nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-Eastern part of the country due largely to the activities of Boko Haram Islamist insurgents. The number of displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin is about three million.   

Insecurity in Nigeria is multidimensional and pervasive, ranging from armed banditry, kidnapping, attacks on state infrastructure, perennial herder-farmer clashes to gang violence, attacks on police stations, prisons, airports, and power transformers, intercommunal violence, ritual killings, mob justice, and casual intimidation of ordinary citizens by the law enforcement agents. In the South-South region, we have an economic war as the Government struggles to maintain the peace required to achieve optimal crude oil exploration for FOREX earnings. Nigeria earns about 80% of its foreign exchange earnings from the Oil and Gas Sector. There are political agitations in the South-East, secessionist agitations in the South-West. Today, we have terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping in the Northern part that have taken frightening dimensions and colorations.

In the face of these challenges, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry wishes to make the following recommendations:

  1. Nigeria needs a surveillance infrastructure that is monitored in real-time to respond to emergencies and foil planned crimes. This calls for more technology deployment to gather intelligence, provide 24/7 responsive surveillance, and track persons’ movements and activities, especially in already troubled areas.
  • Youth unemployment is a critical factor fuelling insecurity in Nigeria. The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that youth unemployment is at 42.5% and youth underemployment at 21%. This is a driving factor for the insecurity crises in Nigeria. We need more jobs to engage our youths productively.
  • We must tackle gun control crises where unauthorized and unidentified people possess firearms without strict control. It is estimated that more than six million small arms are in the hands of civilian nonstate actors.
  • Drug abuse by our youth must be curtailed, and drug traffickers adequately prosecuted and punished as a deterrent. The United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) in 2021 revealed that about 14.4% of Nigerians were engaged in drug abuse. This portends a negative trend for the country’s future when we estimate the connection between drug abuse and violence.
  • The huge amount of N2.41 trillion earmarked for the defense and security sector in the 2022 Federal Government budget may have reflected Government’s commitment to resolving security challenges. We however need to be prudent with spending and put in place checks to prevent the diversion of funds to other uses like sponsoring political activities. At the state and local government (LG) levels, governors and local government chairpersons have severally been accused of mismanaging “security votes” within the states. There is a need for better accountability in the disbursement of these funds for suitable projects.

For immediate action, we recommend that the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, should convene a National Council of State Meeting to deliberate on the several issues around politics, the economy, insecurity, and the forthcoming general elections. We also call on the Federal and State Governments to expedite actions to restore peace, law, and order in the country before the full-scale launch of political campaigns for the 2023 general elections.

If we do not commit to a new order and more enabled and innovative security architecture, soon, security will suffer a heavier blow once politics takes center stage in governance. The major challenge waiting for the incoming Nigerian president (likely a civilian) will be to resolve the security crises. Still, first, we must restore and preserve law and order in Nigeria today for us to be able to hold the elections next year. The majority of Nigerians still have confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR being an accomplished and retired Army General to be well equipped to tackle Nigeria’s daunting security challenges.

CONCLUSION

Distinguished Gentlemen of the Press, it is our collective responsibility to engage with the government in creating an enabling investment environment for the advancement of the Nigerian economy and the good of all investors and economic players. However, to achieve this, we need to have the right policy and regulatory framework. And because we know the Government cannot resolve all the issues highlighted above, the Lagos Chamber has always initiated engagements with the government at all levels on resolving critical issues for the economy.

Our policies and regulations must foster business competitiveness at national, sub-regional, continental, and global levels.  The environment must support businesses, preserve investments, and create job opportunities. Genuine commitment to implementing key reforms would not only stimulate output growth but would also put the nation on the path of macroeconomic stability over the medium term.

As a private sector advocacy group with the mandate to promote the interests of the business community, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry shall continue to engage relevant government agencies where and when necessary, on evolving policy issues that may affect the business community.

Thank you for listening, he concluded.

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Economy

Worsening Security Challenges: LCCI Recommends Possible Solutions To Curb Further Deadly Attacks

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ASIWAJU (DR) MICHAEL OLAWALE COLE, CON PRESIDENT, LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY (LCCI).

…Curbing the current insecurity crisis because of its impact on businesses and the economy

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The worsening insecurity profile in Nigeria is reaching a worrisome dimension with the unfortunate incident on Monday 28th March 2022, when some gunmen launched a deadly attack on a Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Abuja-Kaduna evening train carrying an estimated 398 passengers.

After the attack, reports confirmed that eight people were killed, and twenty-two people are still missing. Earlier, on 26th March 2022, the Kaduna Airport was attacked, leaving one dead and many maimed.

This is is rather frightening and increasingly threatening to the well-being of Nigerians.  

Through the business community, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned with the current insecurity crisis because of its impact on businesses and the economy. We are also very concerned because of the apparent threat to our forthcoming general elections in 2023 and, by extension, a threat to our democracy.

In the absence of peace and security, it would be challenging to hold credible, free, and fair elections that would reflect the choices of the electorates about whom their leaders should be.

The 2021 Global Peace Index published by the Institute for Peace and Economics ranked Nigeria at 146 out of 163 countries, only better than countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Russia, which are typically known to have been conflicting areas for a long time. The security challenges are continuing to spiral into general lawlessness and anarchy. Also, the Global Conflict Tracker hosted by the United States Council on Foreign Relations recorded that attacks by bandits across the North-West have claimed at least 5,000 lives since 2018. Since 2009, nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-Eastern part of the country due largely to the activities of Boko Haram Islamist insurgents. The number of displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin is about three million.   

ASIWAJU (DR) MICHAEL OLAWALE COLE, CON PRESIDENT, LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY (LCCI).
ASIWAJU (DR) MICHAEL OLAWALE COLE, CON PRESIDENT, LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY (LCCI).

Insecurity in Nigeria is multidimensional and pervasive, ranging from armed banditry, kidnapping, attacks on state infrastructure, perennial herder-farmer clashes to gang violence, attacks on police stations, prisons, airports, and power transformers, intercommunal violence, ritual killings, mob justice, and casual intimidation of ordinary citizens by the law enforcement agents. In the South-South region, we have an economic war as the Government struggles to maintain the peace required to achieve optimal crude oil exploration for FOREX earnings. Nigeria earns about 80% of its foreign exchange earnings from the Oil and Gas Sector. There are political agitations in the South-East, secessionist agitations in the South-West. Today, we have terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping in the Northern part that have taken frightening dimensions and colorations.

In the face of these challenges, the Lagos Chamber wishes to make the following recommendations:

  1. Nigeria needs a surveillance infrastructure that is monitored in real-time to respond to emergencies and foil planned crimes. This calls for more technology deployment to gather intelligence, provide 24/7 responsive surveillance, and track persons’ movements and activities, especially in already troubled areas.
  • Youth unemployment is a critical factor fuelling insecurity in Nigeria. The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that youth unemployment is at 42.5% and youth underemployment at 21%. This is a driving factor for the insecurity crises in Nigeria. We need more jobs to engage our youths productively.
  • We must tackle gun control crises where unauthorized and unidentified people possess firearms without strict control. It is estimated that more than six million small arms are in the hands of civilian nonstate actors.
  • Drug abuse by our youth must be curtailed, and drug traffickers adequately prosecuted and punished as a deterrent. The United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) in 2021 revealed that about 14.4% of Nigerians were engaged in drug abuse. This portends a negative trend for the country’s future when we estimate the connection between drug abuse and violence.
  • The huge amount of N2.41 trillion earmarked for the defense and security sector in the 2022 Federal Government budget may have reflected Government’s commitment to resolving security challenges. We however need to be prudent with spending and put in place checks to prevent the diversion of funds to other uses like sponsoring political activities. In 2019, Nigeria had the third-largest military budget in Africa, behind only South Africa and Algeria. At the state and local government (LG) levels, governors and local government chairpersons have severally been accused of regularly mismanaging “security votes,” a monthly federal allocation towards security-related expenses within the states. There is a need for better accountability in the disbursement of these funds for suitable projects.

For immediate action, we recommend that the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, should convene a National Council of State Meeting to deliberate on the several issues around politics, the economy, insecurity, and the forthcoming general elections. We also call on the Federal and State Governments to expedite actions to restore peace, law, and order in the country before the full-scale launch of political campaigns for the 2023 general elections. If we do not commit to a new order and more enabled and innovative security architecture, soon, security will suffer a heavier blow once politics takes center stage in governance. The major challenge waiting for the incoming Nigerian president (likely a civilian) will be to resolve the security crises. Still, first, we must restore and preserve law and order in Nigeria today for us to be able to hold the elections next year. The majority of Nigerians still have confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR being an accomplished and retired Army General to be well equipped to tackle Nigeria’s daunting security challenges.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Annual Inflation Rate Up After Eight-Month Decline

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Nigeria’s Annual Inflation Rate Up After Eight-Month Decline

Inflation rose to 15.63 per cent in December 2021 compared to 15.40 per cent in November, the National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Olushola Okunlade Writes

Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose the first time in eight months after recording a consecutive fall for that long.

Inflation rose to 15.63 per cent in December 2021 compared to 15.40 per cent in November, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Monday.

The statistics office said the prices of goods and services, measured by the Consumer Price Index, increased by 15.63 per cent in December 2021 when compared to December 2020.

“This is 0.13 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in December 2020 (15.75) per cent,” it said.

“This is showing a slowing down in the rate when compared to the corresponding period of 2020.

Nigeria’s Annual Inflation Rate Up After Eight-Month Decline

But comparing the rate to the year-on-year performance in the previous months shows that the rate has increased.

Also, comparing the rate of price change between December and November (month-on-month) shows that the headline index rose by 1.82 per cent in December 2021. The November figure was 1.08 per cent.

The rise was in part driven by a continued surge in food inflation.

The NBS said food inflation, which is the composite food index, rose by 17.37 per cent in December 2021, down by 2.19 per cent points when compared to 19.56 per cent in December 2020.

According to the NBS, this rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, food products, meat, fish, potatoes, yam and other tubers, soft drinks, and fruits.

It added that on a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 2.19 per cent in December 2021, up by 1.12 per cent points from 1.07 per cent recorded in November 2021.

“The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the twelve months ending December 2021 over the previous twelve-month average was 20.40 per cent, 0.22 per cent points lower from the average annual rate of change recorded in November 2021 (20.62) per cent,” it said.

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