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Awaiting minimum wage implementation

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As the current year is significant to Nigerians – being the build up to 2019 elections, workers in the country are also looking forward to the implementation of a new minimum wage regime as recently promised by the Federal Government. Sunday Ojeme reports

 

The commitment by the Federal Government to implement the proposed minimum wage was again reaffirmed early in the week with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, placing the possibility of having it executed this year at the doorstep of the tripartite committee set up to look into the process.
Having battled the Federal Government and other employers of labour for years, the leadership of labour movement finally made a positive headway last year as the struggle to increase the current minimum wage of N18,000 is becoming realistic.

Uncertainty
The onus, according the minister, now lies on how fast the committee is able to fast-track the process as the Federal Government is set to pay the enhanced package without hindrance.
While the leadership of the various labour unions had assured workers of the government’s seriousness in the current dispensation, what is, however, not certain is whether the employers would pick any of the much-touted N56, 000 and N96,000 wage proposals by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the factional United Labour Congress (ULC) respectively.

Although the new wage is yet to be made public, a member of the committee, however, disclosed during an interaction that the committee was not likely to pick either of the wages put forward by labour.
He made it clear that it would, however, present an acceptable proposal that will be acceptable to both government and workers.

Optimism
Going by the minister’s promise, the National Tripartite Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari would likely conclude arrangements on the exercise in the third quarter of this year.
“We had our inaugural meeting on 14th December and we did a framework for our work. We will finish our job before the third quarter of this year, but we may finish earlier,” said Ngige.

“Minimum wage is a national matter and only the federal government can legislate on it. Labour matter and the issue of national minimum wage are in the Exclusive List.
“President Buhari is monitoring it strictly, and I am monitoring it too.”

Likely hitches
Despite the assurance, there are, however, fears that the National Assembly might delay the process and possibly push it further into 2019. The apprehension stems from the fact Buhari while inaugurating the committee had said that after the completion of the work of the committee, an executive bill would be sent to the National Assembly “to undergo scrutiny before being passed into law.”

Known for its delay tactics and political infusion into matters of this nature, one of the labour leaders, who is the President, Medical and Health Workers Union, Mr Biobelemoye Joshua, said the organised labour would not allow the government to use the minimum wage issue to score political point. He said that if the government employed delay tactics for any reason, labour would waste no time in reacting.

Having expressed satisfaction over government’s position, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, believes that the quick implementation of the process will go a long way in filling the gaps workers had lost in the past
Wabba said the inauguration of the new minimum wage committee was long overdue, stressing that the committee should work immediately to cover the times that have been lost.
“This is something that workers have long anticipated and our expectation is that we want a speedy process now that the facts of the issues are very obvious. “The current minimum wage of N18,000 approved in 2011 has waned over the years in terms of its purchasing power,” he said.

“If you look at the exchange rate, the N18,000 minimum wage of 2011 when we signed the agreement, it was almost equivalent to N110 dollars; today, the N18,000 is less than 46 dollars. So, this is the reality and with the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerian worker, with the high cost of transaction, our expectation is that the committee should look at the conditions of the Nigeria workers and pensioners.”

President Buhari had earlier corroborated Wabba’s position while inaugurating the committee when he said that the new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage instrument had expired, noting, “minimum wage must be consensual and generally acceptable and should be anchored on social justice and equity.’’

Committee membership
The 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee include governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Simon Lalong of Plateau, Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.

Also involved are persons from the public sector (federal and state governments) and the private sector made up of the largest private employer group, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).

The committee has a former Head of Service and Minister of Housing, Ama Pepple, as chairperson, while the current Minister of Labour and employment, Chris Ngige, is deputy chairman.
On the Trade Union side are the President of NLC, who leads a team comprising Peters Adeyemi, Kiri Mohammed, Amechi Asugwuni and Peter Ozo-Eson.
The Trade Union Congress is led by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and other members including Sunday Salako and Alade Lawa.

The President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Igwe Achese, is also a member.
On the employers’ side are Olusegun Oshinowo, Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, as well as Timothy Olawale and Chuma Nwankwo.
The Director General, Federation of Construction Industry, FOCI, Olubunmi Adekoje; Chairman, Kaduna East Branch, Manufacturers Association, MAN, Ahmed Gobir; and Francis Oluwagbenro also from MAN are members.

Last line
As the Federal Government shifts the next line of action to the committee, it is expected that the members, who are known to be committed to the welfare of workers, work speedily in order not to give room to more delays.

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Port industry worse under Buhari administration –Amiwero

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Lucky Amiwero is the President of the Council of Managing Directors of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents and Managing Director of Eyis Resources Limited. In this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he says that the hype on ease of doing business in Nigeria is a ruse in the port sector. He posits that Nigeria’s ports, though large, are far from being modern and are the most expensive in the world with no access roads and riddled with decaying infrastructure

 

What is your assessment of the port sector of Nigerian ‘s transport system under the Muhammadu Buhari government?

Well, this is the worse we’ve ever had in the port industry. Our access roads are bad, our procedures are archaic and most of the agencies of government are not performing their core functions like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) appears a bit better because of the court cases but in almost every other area of our port operation, it’s like we have gone backwards by more than 500 per cent from our former position.

NPA for instance is not established for revenue collection as its core functions. There are three components of its core responsibility: One is the port operation that was taken over by Terminal Operators. Another of its core function is commercial regulation, which is now being handled by the Nigerian Shippers Council. The last is marine operation, which is farming out to different private operators.

 

Our ports have been left unregulated and becoming one of the most expensive in the world that you pay as much as N20,000 per day for a container that is left lying in the port because you cannot access the facility on time with your truck due to bad roads.

Do an analysis of the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports and you will agree that it is the most expensive in the world. Trucks will spend two to three weeks to access the ports and spend about four days to exit the port after collecting your consignment. This doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.

 

When you exit the ports with your consignment, you begin a battle of worries over likelihood of containers falling off or accident. People are dying on the Lagos ports roads. Have you not seen or heard of containers falling off on people?

 

Aside the accidents, the stress level of the port user has increased under this regime and this is terrible.

Fixing the ports access roads is part of NPA’s core functions under section 32 of its enabling law. NPA should take all the blames for not fixing the roads. It is their primary function to make them accessible.

 

NPA and the minister should take the blame. We have five ports clustered around here and they account for about 80 per cent of the cargoes that come into Nigeria. The stakes are high for us as a country if we develop our transport infrastructure for ease of vehicular movements to and from the ports.

Over 70 per cent of our revenue from the maritime sector is derived from Lagos, but we are not giving it commensurate attention. We are not predictable, we are not consistent and we are not transparent. These are the tools for trade facilitation and if they are not there, nobody can come into your country to invest.

 

There is this Presidential Council on Ease of Doing Business. Has it impacted on the maritime industry?

That council knows nothing about the ports. Most of them in that council have not seen a port in their lives. You don’t just go and bring people from your church and put them in a council that should oversee sensitive economic issues.

 

You need experts who have been in the port system. The woman that is the head of Ease of Doing Business has never come to the port before. She knows nothing about the operations here. She doesn’t understand the system and procedures. On ease of doing business on trading across borders, Nigeria is the worst.

 

Trading across borders is an important component of what we are talking about.

 

The Minister of Transport just goes about talking about rail; he has not made any impact here. The man knows nothing about this sector and is unwilling to learn. Most of the international conventions Nigeria is a signatory to are domiciled in the Ministry of Transport.

 

Amaechi knows nothing about the FAAL Convention that was used in facilitating trade in our ports between 2006 and 2008 and in 1999 when we have most of the laws that was used to reorganise the ports and make several maritime related laws.

 

Our port looks disorganised; SON, NAFDAC and other agencies of government are all operating unregulated. No coordinating agency, no lead agency. In fact nothing is working.

 

Look at Benin Republic, they asked Antwerp Ports to handle their port for them that mean most of Nigeria bound cargo will be going there. We will now be moving our smaller ships to their port to pick our cargoes to our archaic ports.

 

Benin Republic doesn’t have cargo. They rely on our cargo. For them to ask an advance port operator to manage their ports, they will give Nigeria very serious competition using our own cargoes.

 

Too many agencies want to play regulatory roles in our port. In Ghana the government awarded a contract of $4.5 billion for the expansion of Tema Port. Our transit trade has been taken over by Ghana.

Cargoes that should move from here to Niger, Chad and other countries are now moving from Ghana even though Ghana is longer, it is being patronised because their processes are better and easier.

 

Ghana has a more efficient system. The have an electronic tracking system tracking containers on transit, you don’t need Federal Operations to escort containers with guns. This is a small country that developed their system and we have so much to learn from them.

 

They are taking over our cargo and developing their system deploying technology to surpass Nigeria. Smaller countries are developing their ports to take Nigerian cargoes.

 

 

What is the implication of losing our cargoes to the ports of these neighbouring countries?

Soon bigger vessels with 20,000 TEUs capacity won’t be coming to Nigeria, they will be taking Nigerian cargoes to those ports. Within the West and Central African regions we need at least two transshipment centers. Some ports in the region are acting as centers already. Coted’ Ivoire, Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo are already operating as transshipment centers.

There is going to be a siphoning of most of our cargoes through their operations. The employment advantage will be in their favour. Where a ship berths, some jobs are created. The entire freight component, benefits of shipping companies, customs agents, terminals and others goes to the country where the ship berths

Most of our policy makers are ignorant about these things and the country is paying dearly for it. As a country, we seem not to have learnt anything from our mistakes. We keep going round the same circle of complaints because everyone in government or position is concerned about self enrichment.

 

Benin, Togo, Ghana and Coted’Ivoire have higher draft. This is not all about politics or getting favourable stories out in the media, it’s more about what your country put in place for economic growth and business development. Most of the ships coming here are smaller ships that have berthed in other countries and gotten the cargo transshipped. We have lost the economic advantage of having the mother ship calling in our port first hand.

For Ghana to have invested $4.5 billion in port development with careful project implementation agenda, they mean business. Nigeria has never done that. We either deploy funds that are not used well or we devise slogans to create impression that things are working.

 

Nigeria is not investing in the right directions. Our port concession has remained faulty from the foundation. No one has been able to look into what infrastructure the Concessionaires have built or real value they have added to what they met on the ground.

Ghana has dropped terminal handling and terminal delivery charges, our transport minister here is doing nothing. We have the market, we have the ports, we consume higher cargoes but we don’t have the infrastructure in place to accommodate large ships.

We have lost over two million jobs through a failing port system; Chad, Mali and Burkina faso are no more looking up to Nigeria for their cargoes because they are getting the service more efficiently from somewhere else.

We are in a very fierce economic battle with our neighbours in terms of ports development and maritime activities.

 

 

What are your views about emerging ports being planned by some state governments? Edo is talking about Gelegele Port, Akaw Ibom is talking about Ibaka Deep Seaport while Cross Rivers talks about Bakassi Deep Seaport and many more?

All these ports cannot work. I call them ‘political ports.’ Some people just want to pour money into them, abandon them and go away. Nigeria doesn’t need multiple transshipment centers now.

 

One of the core components of transshipment port is destination of cargoes. Do you have enough cargoes in Ondo, Edo Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers that all of them are talking about having deep seaports?

 

Ships you see coming to Lagos is because Lagos has potentials to consume cargoes, it has factories that need raw materials and many more including it’s population. Ships will not just move to any place just because you are constructing an emerging port there. Those things may just end up as abandoned projects.We have largely idle ports in Sapele, Onitsha, Burutu, Calabar, Warri. Ask yourself, how many ships are going there? Now some governors want to spend scarce resources to build more ports. Weeds and rats have overtaken some of these ports and you want to sink money into building new ones. It doesn’t make sense.

 

Lagos has what it takes to attract cargoes. Most of these states owing workers should not go into constructing political ports because they will amount to waste.

For instance, you cannot divert Lagos cargo to Calabar because you may not have the infrastructure to move it from Calabar to other parts of the country. These governors should look for something better to do with their funds and time. They should not go into expensive port construction projects that may end up being abandoned midway or being idle after completion.

 

 

Kaduna Dry Port, do you see the milestone as a major step forward in port infrastructural development?

 

The project remains an uncompleted one. They should finish it. As things stand, there is no law establishing the Kaduna Dry Port. So you need the National Assembly to do that with proper legal framework.

 

If the president or minister designates that facility as a Dry Port, what are they relying on to do so, is it NPA Act or Shippers Council law?

Our port related laws talks about navigation. It is centered on the marine sector. No provision has been made for Dry Ports in our laws. Part of our problem is that we don’t follow due process. That Kaduna facility can only be operated as a Customs Port or Bonded Terminal.

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Stakeholders: Auto policy, not executive order will boost industry

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President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week signed an Executive Order aimed at boosting domestic production of goods and creating jobs in science, technology and engineering in the country, but PAUL OGBUOKIRI reports that auto manufacturers will not be able to take advantage of the ‘legislation’ unless the Federal Government summons the courage to implement its auto policy

 

President Buhari, has frequently spoken about ending Nigeria’s dependence on oil exports while also creating jobs by boosting local food production.

Months after he came to power in May 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) restricted access to foreign currency to import certain goods in a bid to stimulate local manufacturing.

To further give a stronger effect to promote production and consumption of made-in-Nigeria goods, the president recently signed the Executive Order to boost domestic production of goods and service.

“I have repeatedly emphasised my vision for a Nigeria that produces what it consumes. To attain that vision, it is vital that local companies get preference in planning, designing and executing Sci, Tech & Eng. projects,” Buhari said on his official Twitter feed two weeks ago.

But speaking on the order, auto manufacturers in Nigeria under the aegis of Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA) who were encouraged to invest in the sector by the country’s auto policy of 2013, are saying their investments are suffering, even as the second hand auto market is being tacitly promoted and allowed to flourish by the Federal Government.

“The Federal Government seems to be more focused on short term goal of earning more revenue from Customs Duty paid by second hand vehicle importers, than the implications of its action on industrialisation, economic activities, employment and vision 20:20:20”.

In a statement issued recently in Lagos, NAMA, which is an association of all vehicle companies, like the older PAN Nigeria Limited and ANAMMCO, as well new comers like Innoson in Nnewi, Coscharis Ford etc; argued that the negative impact of the policy shift on the economy will outweigh the short term benefits.

The statement said: “The Federal Government seems to be more focused on short term goal of earning more revenue than the implications of its action on industrialisation, economic activities, employment and vision 20:20:20”. It, therefore, called for stricter control of the inflow of the vehicles.

According to them, the age limit of 10 to 15 years would only add to the common scenario where our highways and roads are littered with broken down motor vehicles with their attendant impact on human lives and the environment.

The association called for a full implement of the 70 per cent tariff on imported second hand vehicles

“Compared with all other developing countries with vehicle assembly plants, our import duty on fully built up vehicles is the lowest. These countries charge import duties of between 30 per cent – 100 per cent and even impose other charges”.

The Nigerian auto industry imported and sold just between 8,000 and 10,000 new vehicles in 2017, a figure that is lower than the 15,000 projected for last year and is over 80 per cent fall from the 2014 to 2015 figures.

The Managing Director, Toyota Nigeria Limited, Mr. Kunle Ade-Ojo, gave this figure at the company’s forecast for the Nigerian automobile industry in 2017 at Toyota’s quarterly briefing in Lagos.

He said that the data showed that “imports dropped by about 90 per cent between 2016 and 2017 first quarter. In terms of retail sales, we are estimating, based on the information we have, that the auto market did about 2,000 vehicles compared to about 5,000 vehicles that were sold in first quarter of 2015, bringing it to a drop of over 50 per cent when you look in terms of retail sales.”

Meanwhile, Ndy Ekere a former Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering, and a Professor of Manufacturing at the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom has said successive governments in the country have recognised the strategic importance of the Nigerian auto industry and its great potential in terms of job creation, contributions to foreign exchange earnings/savings, technology acquisition and skills development. For these reasons, the auto industry was seen as a key strategic driver for industrialisation, and an important component of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) which was launched in 2014.

 

According to him, the National Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) which was  subsequently launched in 2014 is aimed at attracting Direct Foreign Investment (DFI), reviving the comatose plants, attracting new automotive assembly and manufacturing plants, and encouraging the transfer of modern and advanced manufacturing technologies required for the production of affordable vehicles in the country. “Another strategic objective of NAIDP is to curtail Nigeria’s dependence on imports by meeting demand with domestic production and in the longer term to make Nigeria a regional automotive hub.”

He further said that the auto industry is widely recognised as the greatest engine of economic growth in the world and has been famously called “the industry of industries” by Peter Drucker.

In spite of the challenging global economic recession, it remains a key sector of the economy of every major country in the world today, and is vast, accounting for more than one in ten jobs in industrialized countries. He said: “It is for these reasons that most developing countries look to their local automotive sector to serve as the catalyst for economic growth and for technological development by capitalising on the many linkages that the auto industry has to other sectors of their economy.” Nigeria cannot realize its economic potentials without a viable the automotive industry which drives its content locally.”

 

To this end, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has expressed concern over the continuing neglect of the country’s automotive policy by Nigerians, saying the preference for used cars popularly known as Tokunbo is killing the economy.

 

Amaechi, who spoke at a two-day workshop for chief executives of mass transit organisations on the topic: “A National Agenda for Sustainable Mass Transit Operation and Development, said that the potential in the nation’s automotive policy has been largely undermined by tastes for foreign used cars, a development he said accounted for most of the road accidents across the country. He explained that the Federal Government had deliberately crafted the Nigerian automotive policy to facilitate procurement of brand new made in Nigeria cars by Nigerians, instead of depending on importation of used cars at the detriment of development of the nation’s automobile industry.

The minister said the policy was also designed to create jobs through local manufacture of cars in the country, while lamenting the amount of foreign exchange that is pumped yearly into importation of used cars, a situation he said has kept the economy down.

“As you are aware, the key objective of the Nigerian automotive policy is to make new cars more affordable for Nigerians, while at the same time discouraging importation of used cars called Tokunbo.

The Federal Government believes that the policy will create significant employment as well as improve quality of manufacturing. However, till date, no major investor has taken full advantage of the automotive policy, apart from Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company,” he said.

 

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FG sets new target for completion of Tin Can Trailer Park

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The Federal Government has expressed it desire to ensure that the Tin Can Trailer and Truck Park at Apapa is completed this year, saying the cost has been raised to N9.55 billion, from the initial N8.66 billion budgeted for the project.

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abuja. Fashola said the truck park was part of the measures by the Federal Government to address the issue gridlock on Apapa Port access roads. He said: “The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing presented only one memo – a memorandum seeking the augmentation of the price due to the need for increased scope of work especially shoreline protection of the Tin Can Trailer and Truck Park, which is almost finished.

 

“It is an ongoing project. We sought council’s approval to augment the price from N8.66 billion to N9.553 billion which was an augmentation of N892.177. 289million. We expect that truck pack will now be completed this year and it will be one of the many multi-prong efforts being pursued to give relief to the Apapa area, to facilitate vehicular truck and trailer movement and also maritime and import and export business and general economic activity for Apapa in particular, Lagos at large and the country as a whole. The memorandum was approved.”
He disclosed that a design on a portion of the Apapa Creek Road and Coconut bridge has been handed over to the Dangote Group.

 

He further explained that what his Ministry intends to do would be to go for procurement process and FEC approval so that the project would take-off.

 

Fashola said, “I think road development is clearly the mandate of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, especially the work sector by legislation. There is multi-agencies’ collaboration. The Nigerian Port Authority, the Apapa Port, Tin Can Island that are critical to the economy are affected. So, there is multi-agencies’ interaction and that is what we have been having really and truly.

 

“You will recall that I briefed you about a four-kilometre stretch between the bridge from the Apapa Police when you are coming from Ijora, just to the junction of Point Road right through to Wharf Road, to the entrance of the Apapa Port. That is the stretch that the Dangote Group, the Flour Mills, and the NPA agreed to do as Corporate Social Responsibility as soon as possible. That is going on. It is a problem because after the works started, we found that the gas lines that supported most of the industries there and keep them in operation were within the right of way.

 

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