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Nigerian farmers, others to benefit from $7m US project

 

 

Farmers in six African countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania will benefit from the second phase of the Commercial Products (COMPRO-II) project, the Director for Natural Resource Management and Central Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Bernard Van Lauwe, has said.

The COMPRO-II project is a United States (US) $7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that aims to institutionalise quality assurance mechanisms and facilitate the rapid dissemination of top quality agricultural commercial products to increase yields and improve the food security of smallholder farmers in the region.

IITA will lead the project and will work with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – Soil Health Program (AGRA), Farm Input Promotions (FIPS), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Research Area of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT), the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), universities, national research organisations, extension organisations, and quality control entities in the different targeted countries.

According to the Director-General, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, “The plan is to raise awareness among over two million smallholder farmers on effective and profitable commercial products by 2016, through public-private partnership.

“Of these households, 420,000 will have tested at least one effective commercial product and at least 50 per cent of these will have adopted the technology and achieve a 15-30 per cent yield increase with substantial impacts on food security and income.”

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Nigeria prints three billion bank notes yearly’

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Three billion pieces of currency notes are printed yearly by the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC), its Managing Director, Mr Ehi Okoyomon has said.

He said while portion of this figure is kept in vaults; the rest is circulated in the economy through the purchase of goods and services, financial transactions, tax payments, and other purposes.

Okoyomon however, failed to disclose how much the country spends in printing the notes.

He spoke yesterday at an e-Payment Thought Leadership Breakfast Series, organised by Intermarc Consulting.

The NSPMC boss said the Central Bank of Nigeria ’s (CBN) cash-less scheme would reduce the amount of naira to be printed by The Mint in the coming years and further reduce loss of the naira, occasioned by bad handling.

He noted that Nigeria was one of five countries in the world that spend huge sums to print its notes, adding that the other four countries included the US, Indonesia, India and China.

For the CBN’s cash-less policy to be effective and make desired impact, he said there was need for formulation of strategies that would push the initiative across the country. 

He enjoined stakeholders including the CBN, banks, service providers, e-payment operators to work in collaboration with the government for the scheme to be successful.

Okoyomon explained that the policy would not mean total non-usage of cash. “All over the world, statistics have shown that the use of cash is not reducing, in spite of e-payment drive, what only happens is that there is less physical cash transactions. Cash is still king,” he said.

The cash-less banking regime, permits a daily cumulative limit of N150,000 and N1,000,000 on free cash withdrawals and lodgments by individuals and corporate customers, respectively. Individuals and corporate organisations that make cash transactions above the limits will be charged a fee of N100/thousand and N200/thousand respectively while third cheques above N150,000 will not be eligible for encashment over the counter and would only be paid through the clearing house.

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Nigerian Christian Woman sues over order to wear trousers

written by Jide Ladipo
A Nigerian woman is suing Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals in England for making her wear trousers rather than a dress in the operating theatre. Hannah Adewole, a devout Christian claims wearing trousers is forbidden in the Bible, she is using the command that women should not wear men’s clothing as her reason.
The 45-year-old says she was banned from wearing scrub dresses in theatre but Muslim midwives are allowed to vary official uniform policy with their own hijabs and tops.
Speaking at a tribunal, she said: “A Muslim midwife would not have been treated in such a disrespectful manner. Reading the Bible has always given me strength. I believe that the Bible is truth and that its words should be followed wholeheartedly.”

Mrs Adewole is suing Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust for religious discrimination and harassment. As a worker at  City University London, Mrs Adewole was ordered to wear trousers to prevent infection. When she refused, she was transferred from the labour ward to post-natal care.
The Trust, which has now given her two dresses, claims that theatre uniform was never discussed when they interviewed her. The tribunal case continues and if she wins she could be in for a big compensation payment.

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London based Nigerian businessman shot dead in Lagos

written by Christopher Oji

Yemisi Sanda, widow of London-based Nigerian, Kole, who was shot dead by suspected armed robbers at a filling station in Lekki, Lagos, has called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Hafiz Ringim to fish out her husband’s killers.

Sanda was shot dead few days on arrival from London, when he went to a filling station in company of his cousin, Gbade Amao to buy fuel for his generator. Yemisi said the only thing that would heal her pains was for the IGP to fish out her husband’s killers and bring them to justice.

Yemisi, who was still not in terms with the reality that her husband who left her few days ago had been shot dead, said she was on her way to the mortuary to see if really it was his corpse.
A tearful Yemisi said: “But I believe it is really true because, he can no longer pick his phone calls. My husband could not stay two hours without calling me or his children. It is true, it is true.”
She said her life crashed the day she received the shocking news that her husband, who left her and the children hale and healthy had been killed in a most horrendous manner.
“My husband was shot like a common criminal. He was a very responsible and hardworking man who had been contributing to the economy of the country. Why should he be killed like a common criminal in his own country?”

She said that if her husband had been sick, she may not have been as shocked as she was.
However, a family member, who simply identified herself as Nike, also wants the police to fish out Sanda’s killers. She revealed that the deceased had concluded plans with some expatriates to establish a company in Lagos. She said: “Now, the dream is over. When I discussed with my brother last time he came, he told me that he wanted to contribute in reducing unemployment in the country as the company would have employed about 500 workers.”

Nike berated the security lapses in the country especially in Lagos, alleging that the robbers operated in the filling station for over two hours unchallenged by the police. “The robbers also shot other persons who may have died like my brother.” She said the most painful aspect was that “my brother was pleading with the gunmen to allow him go for treatment as he was bleeding excessively, but the robbers would not let him go as they even warned him not to dare them further. He later bled to death.”

She wants the police to review their security strategies to seeing that more lives were not wasted the way and manner her brother was brutally killed.“If this type of untimely death should continue unabated, it would discourage Nigerian in Diaspora from coming home. It will also discourage investors from coming to invest in Nigeria,” she noted.

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Tier 4 student visa changes come into effect in the UK

The UK has implemented changes to the student immigration rules from 21 April 2011. There are now tougher Sponsorship and English language requirements for entry as a student. Also, fewer student’s will have the right to work legally in the UK

The changes follow a public consultation and were put into effect to “deliver a strong migration system which tackles immigration abuse, while allowing genuine students to study at genuine colleges.”

Sponsorship (Accreditation)

Sponsors wishing to sponsor foreign students at there college or University must have been accredited by either Ofsted or its “devolved equivalents”, QAA, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, or the Schools Inspection Service. By April 2012, all sponsors must acheive “Highly Trusted Sponsor” status and be accredited by a relevant agency. Until then, there will be a limit on the number of sponsorships allowed by institutions who have not yet met the requirements.

English Language Requirements

Students must be proficient in English to level B2 in each of the four disciplines if they are studying at level 6 (undergraduate) and above. For Pathway and other lower courses, a level of B1 is required.

People trying to obtain a visa under the Tier 4 student route who are not attending an undergraduate program or above must provide a test certificate from an independent English language test provider as proof of their English language ability. A university can vouch for a student’s English language ability if they are coming to study at degree level or above.

This requirement may be waived for “truly exceptional students”.

Student funding requirements

Tier 4 visa applicants are now required to sign a declaration that they have enough funds to support their stay in the UK. Only banks statements from UK Border Agency-approved banks will be allowed.

“We shall refuse applications where the bank statements are from a bank which we cannot trust to verify the statements,” the UK Border Agency has stated in their guidance.

Work rights

Students at universities will retain their right to work 20 hours per week and do work placements where the work/study ratio is 50/50. Students at publicly funded FE colleges will still be allowed to work 10 hours per week. Other students will have no work rights, and work placements will have to be at the 66:33 Study/Work ratio.

Dependants

To be able to bring in dependents, a student must be a Government Sponsored student or enrolled in a post graduate course (NQF 7 and above) at a university. The course must be longer than 12 month’s in duration. Dependants are allowed to work.

Tier 1 Post Study Work

The Tier 1 Post Study Work route will end April 2012. This route allows students to work in the UK for up to two years after graduation. During this time the student will have the opportunity to find permanent employment and apply for a Tier 2 visa.

Posted in Education, Uncategorized4 Comments

Alluring exposure for business travellers

The art of travelling has been made easy for those travelling to Africa. Booking an accommodation is no longer a problem, thanks to the power of the internet which enables tour operators bring their services closer to globetrotters. The Protea Hospitality Group has signed agreements with three global travel agencies in the past four months, partnering with Agoda.com, Expedia and Gullivers Travel Associates (GTA).

The agreements mean that Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels will be listed on the agencies’ associated websites, thereby gaining worldwide exposure for all of their establishments across the African continent.

The websites will allow customers to book accommodation with any of Protea’s hotels online. They will also be able to access information related to the hotel chain.

According to Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing and advertising manager for Protea, the agreements will bode well for the company’s plan to expand further into Africa. “Africa is our stronghold and so expansion has to be done on the continent,“ he said.

Protea already has a presence in eight African countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia and Uganda and is looking to add Angola, Botswana and Mozambique to that list.

Barenblatt further stated the agreements will provide the group with the opportunity to observe how customers engage with the Protea brand in an online environment. Since consumers are more trusting of online portals these days, their task has been made a little easier.

“The agreements we have reached with such diverse global partners are a clear indication that the local hospitality market is both realising its potential and competing equitably on the world stage alongside more established markets,” said Protea sales director Danny Bryer.

Extending Expedia relationship
The first and biggest agreement of the three took place in November 2010 with Expedia, the world’s largest online travel trade company. Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels are now listed on more than 90 Expedia travel sites.

According to Protea, the group has achieved 100% growth year-on-year with the previous arrangement, and the benefits of the expended deal are apparent after just three months.

Expedia’s global lodging strategic accounts director Christopher Michau said that the agency is pleased to extend its relationship with the South African hotel group.

“Protea Hotels’ footprint in Africa, coupled with their leadership position in the local hospitality industry, makes them a highly desirable partner for Expedia,”

More than 60-million potential travellers visit Expedia’s websites, which are accessible in more than 60 countries and 33 different languages.

Protea will also benefit from Expedia’s experts who can advise the group on online distribution strategies, merchandising and promotions.

Exposure to leisure and business travellers
The most recent agreement – with GTA – will allow tourists to book accommodation with Protea through GTA travel sites worldwide, which will feature more than 120 of the South African hotel group’s properties across the African continent and offer the agency’s global network of leisure and business travellers a range of hotels in Africa to choose from at competitive prices.

GTA has been providing ground travel products and services to role players in the tourism industry for over 30 years. Over 21 000 bookings are made each day for the agency’s 35 000 listed hotels in more than 130 countries. 

Luring Asian travellers
Protea looked to tap into the Asian market by partnering with Asian giants, Agoda.com, in December last year, and now 20 of Protea’s properties are listed on the website. This has also given the company access to Agoda.com’s yield control system propriety software, which allows management to control room inventory, prices, content and promotions.

“This partnership will create more opportunities for Agoda customers to enjoy these popular and unique travel experiences,” said Agoda president Robert Rosenstein.

Some of Protea’s establishments now listed on Agoda include safari lodges at the Kruger National Transfrontier Park and a number of the chic African Pride Hotels in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Steady growth
Now almost 20 years old, the Protea Hotel Group was founded in 1984 with just four properties – two in Cape Town and one each in Johannesburg and on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal – in its portfolio. It didn’t take long before the group was able to offer accommodation for budgets ranging from three to five stars.

Protea is today the largest African hospitality group in terms of numbers of hotels, and operates in eight countries as Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels, the luxury division of Protea established in 2001. Travellers in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda are able to choose from over 100 facilities in major cities, game viewing areas, and the countryside.

Besides offering a home away from home, the company is also involved with the community and has made it compulsory for every hotel as well as head and regional offices to have social investment projects. These include a partnership as sponsor with the Reach for a Dream foundation, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses to fulfil special dreams while there’s still time.

Protea also helps in-service trainees with full tuition fees and, said the company, has managed to retain 90% of graduates to date. Protea’s bursary fund is aimed at trainees at other hotel schools around South Africa, and has contributed nearly R2-million (US$290 000) to the cause.

Posted in Entertainment, Tourism, Uncategorized6 Comments

Satellite Technology Allows Observers to Keep Eyes on Nigeria

Susan Wolfinbarger, senior program associate with the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, discusses her analysis of satellite imagery from Nigeria in a new AAAS video.

Watch a slideshow of satellite images from AAAS’s Eyes on Nigeria Technical Report.

Read a AAAS technical report analyzing geospatial data used to support the Eyes on Nigeria project.

Learn more about the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program

 Multiple gas flares located near a village in the Niger Delta. Estimated air temperatures are approximately nine to twelve degrees Celsius above normal temperatures, and many agricultural fields are located near the flare

A new Web site by Amnesty International USA, created with technical assistance from AAAS, allows activists to see where human rights issues are occurring in Nigeria.

Eyes on Nigeria was launched on 18 March during Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary celebration. The Web site combines information gathered through on-the-ground reporting with innovative geospatial analysis.

This project arose in response to growing concerns over reports of human rights violations occurring in specific regions of Nigeria. To identify and determine the precise nature of what was occurring on the ground, Amnesty sought expertise from the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program’s Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project. Eyes on Nigeria uses high- and moderate-resolution satellite technology as well as traditional cartographic techniques and geolocated photography and video. As a result, the Web site offers a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground in Nigeria, according to Amnesty.

Eyes on Nigeria is the third Amnesty International monitoring project for which AAAS has provided technical support. Eyes on Darfur, the first project, was launched in 2007 and used high-resolution satellite imagery to document human rights abuses in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 2010, AAAS aided in the development of Eyes on Pakistan, an interactive spatial database of human rights incidents that can produce customized maps and identify trends for users.

While previous projects pinpointed the locations of demolished homes and villages, air strikes, and insurgent violence, Eyes on Nigeria identifies locations where forced evictions, conflict in the Niger Delta, and communal conflict are taking place. It also identifies the locations of gas flares in the Niger Delta region, introducing an innovative use of geospatial technologies that estimates the impact of high temperatures, fumes, and elevated sound levels caused by the flares on the surrounding communities.

Gas flaring occurs when the natural gas associated with petroleum extraction is burnt off as waste, a process that is cheaper than alternatives including subterranean re-injection and storage for future sale, a AAAS technical report on the project explains. However, gas-flaring releases sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, and greenhouse gases that are linked to climate change. Residents of the Niger Delta have complained for years that unchecked gas flares seriously damage their quality of life and pose health risks.

AAAS analyzed satellite data covering the Niger Delta from 2000 to 2010 to study the prevalence of gas flaring that is blamed for reducing crop yields, causing environmental damage, and disrupting life in communities near the flares.

While the Nigerian government imposed a moratorium on gas flaring in 2008, AAAS identified 41 active flares in 2010, said Susan Wolfinbarger, senior program associate with the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project.

“We coupled published, on-the-ground measurements of a single flare in the region with the daily satellite sensor data for all flares in the region to determine the increased air temperatures affecting inhabitants and agricultural production within two kilometers of each flare,” Wolfinbarger said.

The research found that thousands of individuals currently inhabit areas where the estimated ambient temperatures are elevated as much as 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit) above the already considerable tropical heat. Moreover, flares burn 24 hours a day, forcing communities to deal with permanent light as well as noise pollution. Higher temperatures, such as those observed, also have been associated with reduced crop yields.

“The Eyes on Nigeria project is a comprehensive view of the most pressing human rights issues facing the people of Nigeria,” said Scott Edwards, director of the Amnesty International Science for Human Rights program. “We hope that people around the world will be inspired by what they learn through this new project to act in concert with the Nigerian people to demand basic human dignity.”

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Furniture Making: The Millionare Business in Abuja

Mr. Taiwo Ojo is the MD/CEO of Grand Furnishing Company Limited based in Abuja. In this interview at his new factory, he bares his mind on the opportunities, innovations, challenges and the way forward for the furniture industry in Nigeria.

Can you tell us how you went into furniture business?

I started by working with another furniture company called Interior Woodwork Limited. It is one of the major furniture production companies in Abuja. I worked with them for seven years before I started my own. I’m very fortunate because I disengaged about a year ago and here I am today with a factory of mine. I was fortunate to win a contract with a major construction company here in Abuja. They gave me a job for the paneling of the wall and partition in the National Judicial Council and from where I was able to get the fund to set up my factory here.

Did you study anything related to what you are doing?

I’m a graduate of University of Ilorin. I graduated in 1992 and my discipline has nothing to do with furnishing because I’m a graduate of Social Administration. I also did Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.

I fell in love with the job when I moved from Kano to my former company, and I have been so many things to that company. I have been the head of production, head of Installation before I disengaged so I got to know the workings of furniture making through that company and I decided to make a vocation out of it.

What are the prospects of furniture industry in Nigeria?

The prospect is very great because if you look at Nigeria and particularly Abuja, many buildings are springing up. Though government pay lip service to the issue of building but private individuals and estate developers are all over the places and they require the services of carpenters like us to do the wardrobe,the kitchen, the doors and all that, so the prospect is really very high.

As a matter of fact, I want to believe now that we don’t have enough furniture makers in Nigeria to meet the demands, especially those who do the real thing not just the road side, we have quite a number of them but those who do the real thing that people want are very few.

How do you source your raw materials?

What we use here are what we called melamine face cheep boards or MFC. We import them mostly from China and these are boards that are fully finished in terms of the surface, all we do here is to cut them to sizes and then assemble and it become whatever we want it to be.

Can’t we manufacture some of these things in the country?

Of course we can. They are simple things. If you look at the Ajaokuta steel industry, we have everything but I don’t know what is keeping it down up till now. It’s just negligence on the part of government otherwise these are very simple things.

If you go to most Saw Mills, there are so many dust in the plain wood they cut that you can convert as raw materials to produce some of these boards but if you go to saw mills, you see heap of sawdust which are just set on fire as waste but these are the things that are used to make these article boards we are talking about.

If government is serious, it can encourage people or release funds to us to bring the machines and produce them and employ people and pay back their money.

What will you say about the recent unbanning of imported furniture’s in the country?

It’s definitely bad. As a matter of fact, some of us are thriving because of that ban. It is helping us to grow and develop but the good news is that I was speaking with my former MD few days ago, he said that unbanning did not hold water because it was not gazetted and that a lot of people that were importing furniture encountered problem at the point of arrival as Customs were seizing them because the Customs said though they heard over the news that there was an unbanning but there was no gazette to that effect so they are not working based on newspaper information or a circular from government.

As it is now, the unbanning has seized so we have gone back to the status quo whereby importation is still prohibited for furniture items and which is good for the company and Nigeria at large.

As small as this company is, we have employed not less than 20 people even though we have not started full operations because of the delay of the machines we are expecting but 20 people is not bad. If there is an unbanning, that means we will close shop and cause such people to go into the labour market which will further deplete the economy.

Does the quality of your products meet international standards?

Yes. The machines that are being used abroad are the machines that we imported into the country. So rather than go there and bring the finished goods, we have endeavored to bring those machines down to our country, the raw materials like I said earlier, are also imported.

The only thing that we are trying to do here is skill training. The difference between what we have here and there is the human being doing the job. Abroad they are more exposed and have good workers but here you have to train them to imbibe international standard and practices in what they do so if you see any difference, is the factor of the human doing the production element but for the machines, the raw materials, they are the same things.

Have you ever received assistance either from the government or financial institutions?

Absolutely no. When I was about to start my company, I had a challenge of how to raise money. Unfortunately I had no money, I just left my former place of employment. I approached my bank, unfortunately, the bankers too are not helping. All they were asking for was that I should bring collateral which I didn’t have.

They said if I have landed property here in Abuja, they could tie it to whatever money I want to collect but I said this is a contract paper from a reputable company. This is the value of the paper, you can do everything within your policy to release fund for this project but they said no, the best way out is for me to look for property anywhere.

I ran to an insurance company to see if I can get something like an insurance or performance bond which the company was requiring before they can give advance payment but they too were asking for collateral.

I was lucky to run into one of our old customer who also imports. He was the one that gave me the initial materials which I used to secure that particular job. So there is no support at all from government and most unfortunately even from banks that are supposed to be helping out.

Have you made any effort or know somebody who has been able to secure the N200 billion SMEs bailout fund?

I have not heard about anybody who has secured the fund for now.

How is the patronage like in the furniture business?

The patronage is very good and high especially in Abuja. Abuja residents go for quality. As long as you can give them what they want at an affordable price, the sky cannot even limit you. So many sites all over the place, the patronage is very impressive.

Can you tell us how much you make in a month even though you have not fully started?

My turnover in a month is about N5 million  just because I have not mounted my machines and I’m also careful not to take jobs that will stress and cause me to disappoint customers because I don’t have all the facilities right here now.

What are some of your challenges?

Number one constraint that is very well known to everybody is power as you can see I bought a 75KVA generator which is on standby. The second constraints is that of manpower. Like I said earlier on our people are used to the old method of doing things and this is a new horizon.

The products we are trying to produce can compete favorably with anyone elsewhere in the world and you cannot produce without the human factor. So the challenge of getting quality workers is also there but we are trying to overcome that by training and retraining the ones that we have.

The other challenge is fund. I said earlier on that in my initial take off, I had that challenge. If not that I was lucky to meet a friend who was willing to give me materials on credit, I might have lost out on the job completely and what that means is that I might have lost out on my dreams of having a factory like this.

Another   one may be government inconsistency in policy. We just talk about the issue of banning and unbanning; another government will come and do another thing. Most times, government play politics with the decisions they take not bearing in mind the far reaching consequences on the economy.

What is your message to unemployed graduates?

My message is simple. It is good to be educated because it will prepare you for the challenges ahead but we should not rely on the certificates because it is no longer a thing that is in vogue all over the world now. What is in vogue is for you to think deep within you.

I was trained as a social administrator and what that means is that I was supposed to be administrating to people in the prison, giving counsel to those who are distressed but I have gone way beyond that to think of what I can do that can generate employment for people. That should be the focal point of the new people coming into the labour force.

Government also should create a programme that will no longer be focused on certificates but on skill acquisition.

As I m  talking to you now there is skill gap in this furniture industry and if government identify it they can do something to begin to train people so that they can become marketable especially in the furniture industry.

I’m married with three children, two of them are in the secondary school and one is in the primary school, one boy two girls.

What is your message to managers of our economy?

They should remember that everyone has his or her role to play in the development of our nation. China today is said to be the second largest economy in the world apart from America. They got to that stage as a result of dedicated minds.

Posted in Investments, Jobs, Nigerian News, Relocating to Nigeria, Uncategorized0 Comments

Back to the waters: Lagos commuters find alternative to road transportation

By Benjamin Njoku
Olufemi Akintola is a system engineer in one of the leading oil companies situated in the Lekki area of Lagos. He is one of the thousands of Lagos commuters who are abandoning stressful road transportation for the more comfortable boats. He lives in Ikorodu, from where he goes to work daily. Until recently, he was among the thousands of Ikorodu residents spending endless hours in the heavy traffic congestion on the Lagos-Ikorodu road.

But now, he merely goes to the Metro Ferry Jetty in Ikorodu to queue for ticket to board a ferry to Lagos Island.

Many Lagosians today are steadily abandoning the road for the waterways. While the city is surrounded by water, public transportation is still built around road based, with rail and water transportation just marginal.

The chaotic traffic congestion in Lagos has forced many commuters to begin to explore the ferry and speed boats as alternative. Surprisingly, the Chief Executives of big companies and financial institutions, on the island are climbing down from their high positions to join the brand wagon effect.

The resurgence of the waterways has made it easier and quicker for commuters to keep appointments and go about their normal business on the island without much stress about the chaotic traffic congestion on the Lagos roads.

A recent visit to Tarzan boats, a privately owned water transportation service with its jetty situated at Sandfill area of Victoria Island remains an eye-opener to the increasing rate at which Lagosians are using the waterways as alternative means of movement in the city.

Some of the commuters at the jetty said that they usually wake up as early as 5 am, to queue for tickets. One Taiwo Abe, a driver in one of the banks said: “I live in Mushin, and every morning, by 5 am, I am at CMS bus stop, to queue for a ticket to board a speed boat to Victoria Island. And in a matter of 20-minutes, I am in my office. It’s quicker, safer and convenience to use the waterways.”

Mrs Margaret Onyema, who works in an oil servicing company on the island has also caught the bug. She says the waterways should be seen as a perfect alternative to overcoming the stress of the traffic situation that has become the order of the day in Lagos.

“ I live in Ikeja, and work on the Island. By as 5am, I would drive down to CMS bus stop, park my car and join the speed boat to Lekki, where my office is located. I have been using the waterways for more than one year now, and it makes my journey easier and less stressful, given the prevailing traffic congest along Ozumba Mbadiwe road, Victoria Island.” she said.

Mrs Onyema said, maximising the usage of water transportation can easily solve the problem of transportation in Lagos.

Apart from conveying human beings, automobiles are also ferried from one  end of the lagoon to the other. Rather than being held up in traffic for hours, car owners said they prefer to spend N1000 to cross the lagoon, with their cars. There is a stand by car ferry that accomplishes the deal.  The fare for a boat trip is N50. It is mandatory for commuters to put on the lifejacket, which is obtained at the point of ticket purchase.

This, according to the CEO of Tarzan boats,  Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun is to protect the lives of commuters in the event of any mishap.

While the reporter was at the jetty, about eight cars were ferried from the Victoria Island end of the lagoon to Ikoyi, at N1000 each. One of the car owners said, the fare is reasonable compared to the cost of  being held in traffic. “I think N1000 is not too much for the comfort of getting home to rest when others are still in traffic, hours after work.” he said.

Balogun, who is also the National president, National  Association of Nigerian Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (NATBOWAT) said morning hours and evenings are the peak period for their  business.

“Commuters start queuing for tickets from 6 am, when they are going to work and 4 pm when they have closed from work. The cost of being trapped in traffic, is reduced by the kind of services we are providing for Lagosians, he said, adding, “water transportation is the quickest means of transportation to any part of Lagos. Water transportation is safe and cheap, but many people, probably out of ignorance, would not want to use it.

From Badore jetty to Ijede, Ikorodu by road could take almost a whole day if one takes into consideration the traffic gridlock of Lagos. But from the jetty, have Badore to Ijede is less than 30 minutes.

“People would spend less time in vehicles and the roads will be decongested.” he said

Tarzan, however, lamented that water transporters are not getting the necessary encouragement from government. He mentioned the current law by the agency in charge of water transportation in the state, which requires all boat operators to pay N1.5million  to ply the water ways. This excludes levies that the operators have to pay before they are allowed to ply a specific route.

He noted that all this would make water transportation expensive and unattractive as an alternative means of transportation.

Balogun also said, it is always difficult for boat operators to get fuel to operate their boats and often have to resort to buying fuel in the jerry cans, which most time, is very difficult.

He therefore, called for the building of petrol stations around water fronts, so that it will be easy for the operators to have access to fuel.

Posted in Nigerian News, Relocating to Nigeria, Uncategorized0 Comments

Uncover the Goldmine in Toiletries

Written by Sulaiman Adenekan 

The need to have a clean environment and live a healthy life makes manufacturing of household and industrial cleaning products, like soaps and detergents, a profitable venture in Nigeria and beyond. There are several firms, especially multinational firms, that are into the manufacturing of these products. But the fact that the greater majority of Nigerians are within the poverty bracket, who often find it difficult to afford the prices of products made by multinationals and other big companies, will always make small-scale production of these products a viable option. This is because the prices will always fall within the people‘s affordability range.

The Managing Director, Lyd-Mar Industries Limited, manufacturers of Brymar range of industrial and household liquid cleaning products, Mrs. Maria Asuquo, who calimed to have started business at a micro level by meeting the cleaning needs of friends and neighbours, says the business is a profitable venture, if prudently managed.

According to her, about N350, 000 is required to start the business at the small scale level, covering the cost of packaging and other miscellaneous costs but excluding that of the mandatory registration by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. On the other side, she says about N20m is required to start a large scale production.

Asuquo says between two to three employees are needed to start at a small scale level, while about 20 or more are required for a large scale operation, depending on the number of departments created.

On the requirement for a simple small scale operation, she says NAFDAC would always require, at least, four rooms- each for production, cloaking, storage of raw materials and finished products. In short, a rented apartment or a medium size three-bedroom flat build on a plot of land can serve as a starting point. However, an acre of land measuring up to 4,840 square yards (approximately 2,880 square metres) would be required for a large scale cleaning factory.

According to Asuquo, the equipment needed for the business include industrial mixers, storage tanks, filling machines, capping machines (optional), product coding machine, labels, plastic bottles, carton or nylon for final packaging.

She says raw materials for manufacturing of soaps and detergents can be sourced locally in Lagos, Aba and Ota in Ogun State.

She says that the business owner should have the basic knowledge of and passion for the business, adds that educational qualification is good but training will further give the required knowledge on how to operate the business profitably.

Stating the benefits of doing the business passionately, Asuquo says, ”When we started manufacturing for just friends and neighbours, the need became more than we could handle. This gave us an insight into what the business held and we decided to get NAFDAC registration for four of our products.

She insists that the market for soaps and detergent is not saturated, and there is still enough opportunity for those who can dare to venture into it. She, however, stresses the need for prospective manufacturers to identify their market niche.”

On the challenges facing the business, she says poor power supply, which adds up to the cost of doing business through the use of generators; and inadequate fund to finance operation and create good distribution networks and awareness for the products are some of the pressing problems that confront small scale production of toiletries.

According to her, quality products may be expensive to produce and there is the need to maintain quality and also produce more than demand in order to eliminate scarcity of products.

She says the government can help manufacturers by improving the power situation in the country. Government can also mandate financial institutions to develop special packages to assist genuine manufacturers.

Speaking further on the challenges of toiletries manufacturing, Asuquo decries the high rate of advertisement charges, saying that media outfits should put in place advertisement packages that promote products and services at cheaper rates to aid the development of SMEs in the country.

Another major small scale manufacture of toiletries, Mr. Bola Akintade, maker of Clean Total soaps and toiletries, says operating at a small scale level can be started with an asset less than N100,000.

”All you need is a two-room apartment, the mixing machine, bulk payment for raw materials and a good source to access packaging. Of course, this is usually made easy when the maker has a distributing van and a landed property of his own,” he says.

Recalling his starting point, Akintade, who is the Managing Director of AK Beauty, arguably the most popular local toiletry products in the Agege area of Lagos, says, ”Small scale production is a promising one in toiletries making. The immediate challenge is distribution, at the initial stage. But once people know the product and they have accepted it, there is no limit to the success that can be achieved.

However, he lists some of the challenges that can bring about failure to include lack of good knowledge of the production process, lack of access to fund, power and product adulteration.

”But some of these can be tackled through proper planning, adequate mentorship and an effective management process.

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Nigeria is strategically irrelevant to the United States

Written by Henry Kester Ewruje

In 1945, at the end of World War 2 when most of Europe lay in ruins, two superpowers, with conflicting ideologies emerged — the United States and the Soviet Union. No nation in the world could boast of as much natural resources as Soviet Union could. The nation was richer in oil, uranium, gold and forest than any other in the world. But in a world that increasingly valued entrepreneurship, communication and freedom, the Soviet Union got increasingly irrelevant, got poorer and poorer until it eventually broke apart. Today, the nation Soviet Union, no longer exists —- totally extinct. Today, despite the ongoing recession, the United States of America remains the world’s leading nation.

This does not have to happen to Nigeria but I think that the elite ought to stop talking about what a great country it is, and how terribly important it is to the United States. Is Nigeria, a good model for democracy? Is Nigeria a model for good governance? Nigeria’s strategic interest is not important to the United States.

During his first visit to Africa, the American President, the first black who happened to be of original African descent, snubbed Nigeria to go to Ghana. According to President Barrack Hussein Obama, “repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or drug traffickers can buy off Police. No businessman wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20% off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, which is tyranny and now is the time for it to end”. All emphasis mine.

But Hillary Clinton came to visit Nigeria. The elite in Nigeria thought her visit was to soothe and assuage frayed nerves in the sense of the defeat with which Nigeria met the visit of the US President to Ghana. Nigeria sees itself as the giant of Africa, as a regional power, if not intercontinental power. So it was considered a serious act of insult that Obama chose Ghana instead of Nigeria. The elite concluded that the visit was part of the fence mending efforts of the Obama administration. Besides, Nigeria was a key supplier of petroleum to the US.

The Nigerian elite are men and women who are used to people fawning over them, telling them that they are the best things that ever happened to the country. Not Hillary, America’s former first Lady who would have been the world’s most powerful leader, today if not for President Obama. The US Secretary of State came all the way from America to speak truth to power in Nigeria and she did that in dramatic manner. Not one to suffer fools gladly, the iron Lady of American politics said governance has failed in Nigeria. And she was unsparing in her criticism. “The most immediate source of disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is a failure of governance at the federal, state and local levels ………Lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state” she intoned.

Few days before she visited, she had presented to the world, her proof that the country is badly governed. “Nigeria is the fifth oil producer in the world and it still imports oil. This is an example of bad governance”. She said on the Cable News Network, (CNN).

Now, the United States has listed Nigeria among 10 countries classified as “security risk states”. The US decision came after an attempted terrorist attack by a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a Delta Airlines Plane at Detroit International Airport, Detroit. Michigan, on Christmas day.

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka said, “What concerns me is what led the US government to take this decision. I am sure it must be due to lack of good governance, which is a result of Nigeria being a rudderless nation. The decision is timely because of the present state of anarchy in the country. Nigeria is presently a black whole in the galaxy of nations. Unpredictability of the Nigerian nation and our battered image abroad must have also contributed”.

Nigeria is of no strategic importance to the US. I know all the arguments. The Nigeria elite says it is a major oil producer, it is the most populous country in Africa, it has made major contributions to Africa in peacekeeping and of course, negatively if Nigeria were to fall apart, the ripple effects would be tremendous.etc Nigeria’s importance creates a tendency to inflate Nigeria’s opinion of its invulnerability. Nigeria is not too big to fail, or too important to be ignored.

Let me deconstruct these elements of Nigeria’s importance, and ask whether they are as relevant as they have been. Yes, Nigeria is a major oil producer; but Brazil is now launching a 10-year programme that is going to make it one of the major oil producers in the world. And every other country in Africa is now beginning to produce oil. And Angola is rivaling Nigeria in oil production, and the US has just discovered a huge gas reserve, which is going to replace some of its dependence on imported energy. So if you look ahead 10 years, is Nigeria going to be that relevant as a major oil producer, or just another of the many oil producers, while the world moves on to alternative sources of energy and other sources of supply?

We often hear that one in five Africans is a Nigerian. What does it mean? Do we ever say one in five Asians is a Chinese? Chinese power comes not just for the fact that it has a lot of people, but it has harnessed the entrepreneurial talent and economic capacity and all the other talents of china to make her a major economic force and political force. What does it mean that one in five Africans is a Nigerian? It does not mean anything to a Namibian or a South African. It is a kind of conceit. What makes it important or what is happening to the people of Nigeria? Are their talents being tapped? Are they becoming an economic force? Is all that potential being used? And the answer is—Not really.

What about Nigeria’s contribution to the continent? There is a great history of those contributions. But that is history. Is Nigeria really playing a major role today in the crises in Niger on its border, or in Guinea, or the Darfur, or after many promises making any contributions to Somalia? The answer is no. Nigeria is today NOT making a major impact, on its region, or on the African Union or on the big problems of Africa that it was making before.

What about the economic influence? There is a de-industrialisation going on in the country. A disgraceful lack of infrastructure, a lack of power means that with imported goods, under globalisation, factories are closing and more people are being unemployed. The nation is becoming a kind of society that imports and exports and lives off the oil, which does not make it a significant economic entity.

Now of course on the negative side, the collapse of Nigeria would be enormous, but is that a point to make the country strategically important? The biggest danger in Nigeria’s relationship with the US is not its opposition but that the US will find the country irrelevant. We have already seen evidence of it. When President Obama went to Ghana, and not Nigeria, he was sending a message that Ghana symbolized more of the significant trends, issues and importance that one wants to put on Africa than Nigeria. And when secretary Clinton did go, she also went to Angola. Who would have thought years ago that Angola would be the most stable country in the Gulf of Guinea?

So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and it is a sad commentary. Because what it means is that Nigeria’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed. And that is a sad conclusion. We should now focus and talk about what it would take for Nigeria to be that important and great. And that takes an enormous amount of commitment. We don’t need saints, we don’t need leaders like Nelson Mandela in every state of the federation, because we are not going to get them. We need determined leaders who say “We could be becoming irrelevant, let us solve the fundamental economic issues of the country and turn it around”. It has to happen now.

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