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2017 piracy report: Nigerian waters a threat to ships, seafarers-IMB




N igeria’s waterways and waters around the Gulf of Guinea remained a threat to seafarers in 2017 according the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The global maritime watchdog in its 2017 report released recently, said though maritime piracy and armed robbery reached 22-year low in the review period, it, however, said that there were there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.
It stated in 2017 a total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships was reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
According to IMB, this is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995, when 188 reports were received.
“In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
“In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured.”
IMB said that in 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crewmembers taken hostage.
Sunday Telegraph notes that beyond the global figures, the report underlined several takeaways from the past year.
Somali pirates
Nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.
Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with “committing an act of piracy” where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.
“This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” said Mr. Mukundan.
Mixed results in Southeast Asia
Indonesia recorded 43 incidents in 2017, down from 49 in 2016. The IMB report notes that Indonesian Marine Police patrols continue to be effective in the country’s 10 designated safe anchorages.
In the Philippines, however, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas. Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017. However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks.

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Local content: Economic realities choke underwriters’ capacity




Efforts by local underwriters to boost their capacities in local content cover have suffered a major setback in the last two years due to prevailing economic realities.
Satisfied with the reforms put in place by the industry regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and combined efforts at their level, the operators had anticipated a higher percentage premium growth from big ticket risks, especially in the oil and gas sector.

Although there is a little boost in the area of aviation cover, recent findings, however, revealed the last two years appeared to be a repeat of the old song with regard to oil and gas despite putting in place the formidable $4 million Energy and Allied Risks Insurance Pool of Nigeria (EAIPN).

In a chat with New Telegraph, an industry player pointed out that the requisite human and financial capacity to increase stake in oil and gas cover was still lacking in the industry.
According to him, although the creator of the EAIPN came in with the intention to demystify the inadequate participation of local underwriters in the oil and gas sector, what followed thereafter with regard to the economy partially frustrated the intention.

The fear of biting more than they can chew at the moment is scaring the underwriters from delving into more risky areas just as the regulator confirmed recently that the industry operators were already covering risks in excess of N1 trillion with just less than N350 billion premium to show for it.

“You recall that the pool was launched in 2015 with all the fanfare it deserved. It received the support and commendation of NAICOM, and then we felt it was time to make a mark with big ticket risks but the sudden downturn of the economy did not help matters,” he added.

“If you watch the insurance sector closely in the last two years, you will agree with me that everyone has just been taking his time to remain afloat in order not to get choked. You appreciate the little premium from your old clients than dipping your legs into new grounds when it was clear the cost of doing business had gone higher with businesses closing down.”

According to a section of the local content Act, “No insurance risk in the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry shall be placed overseas without the written approval of the Commission, which shall ensure that Nigerian Local Capacity has been fully exhausted.”

NAICOM had consistently expressed concern over situation where insurance practitioners fail, neglect or refuse to consider and fully utilise relevant in-country capacities of insurance/reinsurance institutions such as pools, reinsurers and other approved local/recognised insurance capacities, prior to applying for approval to cede certain proportion of some risks offshore.

According to the regulator, “all insurance institutions are required to ensure that Nigerian insurers, reinsurers and pools, in the Commission’s records, must be offered and allowed to willingly decide the proportion of the risk they wish to accept, subject to their respective capacities, before any application for approval for offshore placement of the excess.

“All recognised reinsurance treaties/arrangements and additional capacities offered by local reinsurers/pools must be fully utilised before excess consideration for offshore placements. “All off-the-system or informal directives to co-insurers, local reinsurers and pools to accept lower than their desired available capacities are prohibited.”

Three years ago, NAICOM inaugurated 14 insurance companies to operate the technical management board of EAIPN with the hope that it would help the industry retain capacity in oil and gas risks underwriting, curb capital flight and grow the local market in energy and allied risks underwriting.

The participating companies included Leadway Assurance Company limited, Custodian & Allied Insurance Plc, Aiico Insurance Plc, Lasaco Assurance Plc, Royal Exchange Insurance Co. Ltd, Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc, and Sovereign Trust Insurance Plc.

Others are Linkage Assurance Plc, Industrial And General Insurance Plc, Nigerian Agric Insurance Corporation (NAIC), Sterling Assurance Company Limited, Prestige Assurance Plc, NEM Insurance Plc and NSIA Insurance.

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Food sufficiency: FG, NAERLS give conflicting reports



Despite Federal Government’s claim that food production has increased across the country, the 2017 wet season National Agricultural Performance Survey report revealed otherwise. TAIWO HASSAN reports


Indeed, the study highlighted challenges that affected food production during the 2017 wet season farming to include: climate change, absence of government input support, insecurity, kidnapping and poor support for agricultural extension.

The study carried out by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, domiciled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, noted that the constraints affected all the subsector of agriculture including crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture, and agro forestry value chain.

The study, which was launched in Abuja by the Minister of State Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, noted that although there was increase in land area for food production, but this only resulted in 35 per cent increase in livestock and aquaculture.

While presenting the report in Abuja, the Executive Director, NAERLS, Prof. Mohammed Othman, lamented that the level of mechanisation in Nigeria is still very low, as over 34 states are unable to access tractor services in 2017, due to high cost of hiring services.

Besides not buying tractors for farmers, Othman said the survey indicated that 28 states could not access tractor services for their wet season farming due to unavailability, resulting into high cost of land clearing activities.
The report identified maize as the most cultivated crop in Nigeria, accounting for 5,960,920 hectares, producing 10, 813,980 metric tonnes (MT) compared to 12,107,580MT in 2016, representing a 11.96 per cent increase in national total output.

Blame game
However, the minister blamed NAERLS for withholding the research results of the survey, which has been conducted annually for the past 29 years, saying that the report ought to serve as a planning tool for farmers, investors and other relevant stakeholders.

He said: “We are very sad that for the past 29 years, we have always produced this type of document done with painstaking survey conducted across the country, but never formally presented to the public. Any research conducted but not presented to the public, as far as I’m concerned, will not be able to achieve the purpose for which it was conducted.

“You can imagine that for 29 years, this very highly respected institute, domiciled in ABU, has been producing this survey, but never formally presented to the public.”
He also criticised the survey as being one-sided, due to its concentration on only the wet season farming, noting that Nigeria did so well in its dry season farming.
Lokpobiri noted that for over two years of being a minister, he never received a copy of any of the previous surveys from NAERLS, decrying over-dependence on data generated by foreign organisations, which might not represent the true situation of Nigeria.

He noted that investors had trooped to the ministry to establish farms and production facilities, but were discouraged due to lack of data.
He therefore stressed the need for NAERLS to ensure annual public presentation and commercialisation of the report to generate more revenue for government.

Wheat losses
Indeed, the study showed that in the wheat sector, farmers were facing tumults challenges and this is fueling unrest.
Particularly, the report said that Nigeria lost fortunes of wheat production amid post-harvest losses, lack of quality seeds and other inputs, as well as non-availability of farming implements.
Realistically, these factors hindered Nigeria’s quest to achieve the set target of 1.5 million tons wheat production earmarked for 2018 as many of the farmers were forced to abandon their hectares of wheat farms.

Farmers’ plight
Speaking on the issues in a chat with New Telegraph, a member of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), said lack of improved seeds had forced farmers in Gombe State to abandon their initial plans of cultivating 10,000 hectares of wheat farms in the state.

“Our cultivation is limited by lack of quality seeds and farming implements. Most of our farmers complained that the available seeds have been planted and replanted for over five years. This has resulted in deterioration in terms of crop quality, as the crop yield will not be good,” he said.

He lamented that good quality seeds, when available, were not enough for distribution to the farmers during the period under review.
“Initially, Lake Chad Research Institute brought us foundation seeds, but the problem we had then was that the seeds, which were of good quality, were not sufficient. Those farmers who were able to plant the crop early enough harvested three to four tons on each hectare of farmland, while those that planted late realised between one and two tons per hectare,’’ the source said.

Last line
Ironically, many Nigerians have been deceived under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that the country’s agric sector is recording unprecedented achievement, but the realities on the ground depicts the contrary.

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Livestock: Japanese firm targets Nigeria in $1bn drug deal




The trade relation between Nigeria and Japan is set to experience another boost with a Japanese trading house, Sumitomo Corp., listing Nigeria among countries being targeted with its brand of pharmaceutical products for livestock.

Buoyed by the belief that the population of animals is growing alongside humans, the firm is expecting a lucrative global drug market for livestock and pets in the near future, aiming for $1 billion in sales of pharmaceuticals for animals.

According to Asian Nikkei Review, the company, which bought an equity stake in China’s Shandong Sinder Technology in 2016, plans to expand its sales channels for Shandong Sinder products to other regions including Africa.
Already, it has signed a contract with a local sales agent in Kenya to sell livestock drugs, and is also considering an extension of the market to Nigeria.

Among Japan’s major trading houses, Sumitomo is especially interested in getting into the animal drug business, aiming for eventual annual sales of around $937 million.
The trade relations between Nigeria and Japan blossomed in over the last 50 years.

Last month, the Trade Commissioner, Japan External Trade Organisation, Taku Miyazaki, disclosed that Japan’s import from Nigeria from 2015 to 2017 was to the tune of $283.8 million, $849.56 million and $785.20 million, respectively.

He expressed optimism of improved trade relations with Nigeria as the Nigerian government intensified efforts at implementing Economic and Recovery Growth Plan.
According to him, Nigeria’s economy is on the path of rebound due to stable oil price, more forex liquidity and the government efforts at implementing ERGP.

Miyazaki noted that trade declined between both countries from 2015 to 2017 due to decreased natural gas import, lean harvest of sesame seeds in Nigeria and weak demand for some goods.
He said: “There was decline of 7.6 per cent of import value from Nigeria mainly because of the decrease of natural gas import.
“Natural gas is still dominant with more than 80 per cent of Japan’s import from Nigeria.

“Sesames seeds kept third despite 47 per cent decrease in value and 43 per cent in quantity, mainly due to the lean harvest in Nigeria.
“Aluminium refined from scraps surged by 46 per cent in value, accounting for 14 per cent of total import from Nigeria.”

According to hi, Japan’s export to Nigeria declined due to continuous weak demand in Nigeria, adding that export from Japan to Nigeria kept almost same level in spite of improved foreign exchange in the country.
He said: “Hot-rolled steel sheets and synthetic hairs dropped by 49 per cent and 43 per cent in quantity respectively, as not a few of Nigerian traders and consumers have shifted to items with lower prices, even some of which were substandard ones.

“Automobiles, once the biggest export item from Japan, still suffered from extremely weak demand coupled with incomplete implementation of auto policy.”
He said Nigeria’s lifting of ban on fish import from Japan in 2015 led to a surge of import of mackerel from Japan to Nigeria in the last two years, adding that Japan’s export of mackerels surged in the last two years, especially in 2017, six times more than that of the previous year, accounting for nearly 56,000 metric tonnes.”

Miyazaki said that there was a need to improve the bilateral trade relationship of both countries, noting that Japan was the third largest economy in the world, while Nigeria was the largest economy in Africa.
He said: “Improving trade between both countries would be mutually beneficial as Japan has been participating in transferring technology to local producers and will continue to assist Nigeria in its effort to diversify its economy.
“The presence of Japanese companies in Nigeria keeps increasing, and this shows the huge potential of Nigeria and the interest of Japanese companies to explore and forge strategic partnership with their Nigerian counterparts.”

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