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Union cautions ministry over haulage charges

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Haulage operators under the aegis of Union of Tipper and Quarry Employers of Nigeria (UTQEN) has cautioned Lagos State Government against plan to introduce multiple haulage charges in the state.

Acting National Chairman of UTQEN, Comrade Aliu Mayungbe, made this call at a media briefing in Lagos. He said that such charges will cripple the activities of haulage business in the state.

The Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development recently stated that it was planning to obtain haulage charges from trucks transporting sands from dredging sites to complement the state’s revenue collection. Initially, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at a town hall meeting with industry stakeholders, had described any charges from state governments illegal, as only the Federal Government had the right to collect charges on sand mining anywhere in the country.

Mayungbe said that the plan was unlawful and a disincentive to businesses in the state. The chairman noted that members of the union had been paying the said charges to government regularly through the Ministry of Transportation, stressing that effort by the Ministry of Waterfront to utilise collection agents to obtain the charges from truck drivers amounted to collecting multiple charges.

According to him, the union maintains a position of neutrality and refuses entanglement in the payment dispute between government and the Dredgers Association of Nigeria. He said: “Officials from the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development met with our members to solicit support for introduction of haulage fees on our activities.

“The collection process was for truck drivers to obtain N500 from dredgers on each truckload of sand moved from their site and pay to the ministry’s collection agent positioned at the gate of the site.

“We resisted the fees because our activities are not regulated by Ministry of Waterfront and Infrastructure Development but by Ministry of Transportation. “Moreso, the dredgers that we are being pitched against are members of our union and every increase in charges by government impacts negatively on our operating costs and reduces job creation opportunities.”

Comrade Abimbola Odusanya, Public Relations Officer, UTQEN, Lagos State chapter, said that officials of the ministry threatened to imprison truck drivers that refused to boycott sites of dredgers that didn’t comply with the payment. He said:

“Obeying such order will hinder our business activities and relationship with dredgers. We instructed our members to resist efforts of government officials that tried to collect the payment from them,” he said. Reacting, President, Dredgers Association of Nigeria, Mr Batare Akpomejero, said a declarative Federal High Court judgment was issued against the state government and its ministries to desist from seeking to control commercial activities of dredgers

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Business

Hike in IGRs: MAN slams MDAs

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As the general elections draw nearer, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has warned that the quest by regulatory agencies of government-ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to increase their internally generated revenues (IGRs) will put unexpected pressure on manufacturing activities this year.

 

President, MAN, Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs, disclosed this in a chat with New Telegraph in Lagos.

 

He insisted that the move by the MDAs to shore up its IGRs is not good for Nigeria’s economy, especially the manufacturing sector.

 

He explained that its members were groaning over the way MDAs were harassing them in some key sectors of the economy in a bid to meet revenue targets set for them by the Federal Government.

 

He said that information reaching the association’s headquarters in Lagos showed that many of their members were facing challenges over unexpected hike in tariffs and taxes by regulatory agencies of the government as elections approach.

 

Jacobs warned that the continued rush to raise unregulated taxes or tariff for the sake of contributing monies to the Treasury Single Account (TSA$ for election purposes at the detriment of stabilising the economy was not in tandem with good governance.

He explained that some of its members were complaining of bottlenecks they are facing at the ports with officials of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during goods clearance.

 

According to him, the dispute with the NCS had to do with goods valuation computation.

 

Jacobs stressed that the association had already implored its members to abide with the Nigeria Customs’ honest declaration process, adding that here has, however, been challenges with valuations.

 

He added that this was causing dispute between officials of the Nigerian customs and manufacturers/importers of imported goods.

 

 

He opined that there should be a credible ground to resolve the dispute relating to the value of invoice on imports, adding that most of the prices were global prices and easily verifiable online.

 

“In many of the instances, the actions of the NCS have no bearing with these global prices. Prices vary across different regions of the world,”Jacobs said.

 

 

“Regrettably there is no dependable dispute resolution framework in place to ensure speedy resolution of such disputes.”

 

 

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Business

Strike: ‘We exhausted all avenues for dialogue’

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Health workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu chapter, have said that there will be no going back on the strike embarked upon by the workers except all arrears of salaries are paid.
Speaking in Enugu, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Secretary Trade Union Congress, TUC, Enugu State chapter, Ben Asogwa, said they exhausted all avenues for dialogue with the management to no avail.
He said they had no choice than embark on the action, which has grounded activities at the hospital.

The workers under JOHESU had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the management of the hospital over a litany of issues.
This was followed by another 7-day ultimatum, which has also expired.

JOHESU’s ultimatum borders on withheld salaries and arrears from February 2017 till date; withheld promotion arrears, withheld teaching allowance and enrolment of the hospital into the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
The ultimatum was signed by Comrades Ozurumba Anthony, Onu Bank-Anthony, Sims Nwagwu, Ugwu Eric. A. Eze Mathew and Oduru Friday on behalf of the JOHESU affiliate bodies.

It was followed by another one by the University Graduates of Nursing Science Association (UGONSA), and signed by its President, Chief S.E.O Egwuenu and the Secretary, Nurse Goodluck Nshi.
The group said if the current situation at the hospital was not checked, it will result in a breach of peace and a breakdown of law and order, adding that peace would not return to the hospital without the immediate implementation of the report of a panel earlier sent to the hospital by the minister.

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Business

Tomato policy: All eyes on FG’s monitoring team

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Recently, the Federal Government inaugurated a tomato monitoring team to supervise the implementation of its tomato policy. TAIWO HASSAN examines the task ahead of the team

 

Barely one year after the Federal Government announced the approval of new tomato policy, there is still much to be done towards the revitalisation of the country’s tomato industry.
Particularly, the tomato policy was designed to achieve sustainable tomato processing in Nigeria, but the implementation of the new tariff regime, which began in August 2017, is yet to felt in the sector
This has therefore become worrisome for members of the organised private sector (OPS), who are lamenting their huge investments in the sector.
According to the Federal Government’s blueprint on new tomato policy, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and large companies needed to invest in the industry given its potential such as job and wealth creation in rural areas.
Ideally, the implementation of the policy has been slow, prompting the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board to look at ways to solve the challenges in the comatose sector and protect local manufacturing companies.
Importation of tomatoes
Statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showed that about N6 billion is currently spent annually in foreign exchange on tomato import despite the introduction of the new tomato policy.
With an annual national domestic demand estimated at 2.4 million metric tons, only about 1.7 million metric tons is produced annually, leaving a deficit of 700,000 metric tons due to cultivation of existing low yield varieties and high post-harvest losses.
But in order to arrest the shortfalls and reduce the influx of tomato paste importation, the Federal Government disclosed that the policy on importation of tomatoes has stimulated the establishment of new and emerging processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants.
Speaking on this development, the Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr. Hussani Ibrahim, said that the government was fully aware of the uncertainty in the country’s comatose tomato sector.
According to him, the establishment of new and emerging processing plants, if allowed to operate at optimal capacity and competitively, and satisfies the demand for table use, it would add an additional five million metric tons of quality processing grade tomatoes.
Monitoring team
Speaking at the inauguration of the monitoring team, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, said that the government was working round the clock to make sure that the approved new regime on tomatoes was a success after all.
“It is, therefore, important to put in place a tomato monitoring team to oversee the implementation of the policy. The membership of the monitoring team is made up of public and private sector and the processors,” she stated.
Abubakar noted that the ministry had been partnering other ministries, departments and agencies to address challenges that could hinder the actualisation of the objectives.
The minister said the team would provide a linkage between research and development in the industry as well as champion the growth and development of the tomato industry.
She added that the sustainability of the industry would be promoted through a peer review mechanism among tomato processors to be instituted by the team.
The monitoring team is made up of the ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Finance; Agriculture; Raw Materials Research and Development Council; Nigeria Customs Service; Central Bank of Nigeria and National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Others are National Research Institute For Chemical Technology (NARICT) and private sector players.
Among the private sector players are the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dangote Tomato Processing Limited, Erisco Food Industries Limited, Savannah Integrated Farms, GB Food, Tomato Jos and Springfield Tomato Processing Companies.
The team’s terms of reference include monitoring the implementation of the policy and importation of tomato products and derivatives.
MAN’s position
For the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), there is need for the Federal Government to protect the huge investment by local firms in tomato production by reducing the importation of concentrated tomato paste.
Its President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, in a chat with New Telegraph, rued that the government through its introduced new tomato policy must cushion the large importation of concentrated tomato paste, which, according to him, is killing local industry.
He said that there was need for the government to balance the continued importation of concentrated tomato paste and enhance local production for consumption.
Jacobs explained that despite the government’s support of local manufacturing firms that are into tomato paste production, all is not well with the industry in terms of stability and conducive environment for investors.
He lamented that importers of concentrated tomato paste still spent billions of naira yearly on the commodity through seaports and land borders in spite of the policy in place.
“The issue of tomato has been on for a long time. Members in the sub-sector have invested heavily in the industry. They have made representation through MAN on ways to protect their industries. I believe that most of the imports you are talking about are not the finished tomato paste but rather the concentrate ones,” he said.
“If they are the concentrate ones then those people that import them are expected to pay some levies.
“Paying the levy is to balance against those people that have gone into backward integration.”
Jacobs bemoaned the challenges facing the local manufacturing firms that are into tomato production in Nigeria, stressing that apart from the environmental and industrial challenges, the issue of mass importation of tomato paste into the country was the most critical thing affecting tomato development in Nigeria.
FG’s stance on importation
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okey Enelamah, while speaking on the new tomato policy recently, insisted that the government had not totally banned importation of tomato paste rather it only introduced higher duty, tariff and levy for prospective importers in order to discourage importation of the product.
He said that the idea of the new tomato policy was in favour of local production.
“Yes. We haven’t stopped people from bringing in tomato paste. We only said that you will pay more if you bring it here because you have breached the incentives of growing it here,” he explained.
“So in a nutshell, what we are trying to say is that importing paste is a luxury thing whereas we can grow it locally.
“What has happened in the sector before we came in was the flooding of cheap tomato paste in circulation, of which some of them are sub standard.9
“We find out that people are finding it difficult to compete locally. So what we’ve done is to issue a new tomato policy that bans first of all, retail of tomato paste and that it should be produced locally, including the so-called packers, that is, those who bring in industrial paste and pack them here. We have basically said that they should pay an extra duty of 50 per cent and of course, there is also a levy of $1500 per ton.
“The idea of the new tomato policy is to favour local production and I think, we have already seen some positive signals in the processing plants that were redundant now going back to work.People are basically retooling their abandoned plant”
Last line
Industry stakeholders are optimistic that the monitoring team will judiciously execute their jobs and reduce the huge foreign exchange loss.

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