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Workers seek withdrawal of funds from NHF

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For not meeting their housing needs, Federal Government employees are mounting pressure to break the monopoly of National Housing Fund (NHF) on workers’ contributions. To show their seriousness, they are currently seeking withdrawal of their contributions from the NHF to Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB) for easy access to their money.

Their demand is contained in the proposed Amendment to the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board (FGSHLB) Act currently before the House of Representatives. The proposed amendment is hinged on the need for federal public servants to derive guaranteed benefits from their contributions to NHF. Under the proposed amendment, Section 8 of the new Act is proposing that 50 per cent of Federal Public Service contributions to the NHF be channeled to the FGSHLB to guarantee contributors’ access to the fund.

Justifying this in his lead presentation to House of Representative Committee on Public Service Matters in Abuja, Director, Legal Services, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Emmanuel Omonowa, stated that many workers, who were contributors to the NHF, who should be helped to put money together to own their own houses, were denied access during and after retirement. According to him, what has been on ground is that money would be deducted from work ers’ salary at source and given to primary mortgage institutions (PMIs) to build houses that civil servants cannot buy due to high cost, adding that this has been responsible for rising nation’s housing deficit. In view of the fact that contribution to the NHF is being done by federal public employees, the director of legal services proposed that “50 per cent should be ordered in the Act, to be amended, to be paid to the loans board.”

He said: “Number one, for anybody to retire from the public service today, they request that you must bring a certificate from the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board that you do not owe. These are the people contributing to NHF and they must come to the board to obtain a certificate to show that they do not owe. “So why not put their contributions here (FGSHLB), so that when they come for their certificate, if they have not obtained any loan, then you put their contributions together and give to them.”

The NHF Act compels workers to contribute two and half per cent of their salaries to the fund and the law empowers employers to deduct the contributions at source. Although the law covers workers in both the public and private sectors, only federal public servants have been contributing to the fund since the law took off in 1993. The existing law setting up the NHF gives the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) the power to manage the funds being contributed by workers.

The argument, however, is that FMBN operates as a secondary mortgage institution that does not deal with individual contributors. This was identified as a problem in accessing to the NHF by contributors. Representative of Senior Civil Servants Association of Nigeria, Mr. Apebo Joshua, maintained that contributions of public servants to the NHF should be transferred to the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board.

He said: “This is because we do not benefit from our contributions to the National Housing Funds, being managed by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.” According to him, even if FMBN gave money to private developers to build houses, many houses built by developers won’t be affordable to civil servants with the current N18, 000 minimum wage. He said: “If a developer charges N4million for a house, a civil servant who desires to own such a house would be required to pay 10 per cent of the sum, amounting to N400,000. How much is minimum wage? Minimum wage is N18,000, in 12 months will give you N216,000.

“The sum of N216,000 is not up to the 10 per cent being demanded by the developer. So how can somebody acquire that type of house?” But a representative of FMBN, who did not want his name in print, told the House Committee that the NHF Act, which empowered FMBN to manage the fund, was opened to all contributors to the fund. He added that civil servants and members of the public sectors have been benefitting from it.

The FMBN representative further explained: “We reckon that the Act provided for the monies collected (through NHF), to be channeled through Primary Mortgage Institutions (PMIs), for on lending to contributors, and we have our problems there. We have been seeking to amend our own Act and then the NHF Act, to meet the realities of the time.” In an effort to ensure that civil servants that cannot afford equity contributions to own a house have access to fund, the FMBN representative said the bank floated Home Renovation Loan to enable them access to funding to renovate existing homes.

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Tincan Customs chief to implement 48-hour cargo clearance

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Customs Area Controller (CAC), Tin Can Island Port Command, Musa Baba Abdullahi has reiterated the command’s unshaken commitment to achieve 48hour cargo clearance from the port without compromising revenue collection and national security.

The customs chief said efforts are being put in place to maximise benefits of technology and build the command’s manpower to meet with the growing challenges of modern trade.

 

While addressing maritime journalists in his Apapa office, Musa identified swift dispute resolution as a key component to facilitate trade. He said the command has put in place a faster mechanism to address any area of disagreement in interpretations of guidelines for duty collection and other related matters.

 

He added that a committee put in place for disputes resolution meets as soon as any dispute arises to avoid port users incurring costs caused as a result of delays in resolving such disputes.

 

According to him, there is a quicker process of bringing issues to his attention and contacting the headquarters where necessary to avoid delays associated with such disagreements. He said the command has stepped up efforts at keeping officers and relevant stakeholders abreast with the use of technology for the purpose of customs operations.

 

The Controller disclosed that senior officers and licensed customs agents are being trained at the command’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centre on the latest Nigeria Customs Information System (NICIS 2) in batches.

 

Musa said the training and retraining of customs personnel and stakeholders will continue with a view to getting as many persons as possible knowledgeable in the workings of the system.

 

He also stressed the need for all stakeholders to increase their levels of compliance with rules and improve on their knowledge as ways of achieving seamless flow of trade thereby achieving faster clearance of goods from the port.

The Controller also advised the maritime media to uphold the ethics of their profession and be fair and truthful in all they do.

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Early rainfall to boost Nigeria’s cocoa mid-crop

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Nigeria’s mid-crop cocoa output for 2017/18 could rise by 15 per cent from last season, helped by a mix of rainfall and sunshine in the main growing regions which has helped the trees, President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sayina Riman said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

 

Drought cut last season’s mid-crop harvest by 40 per cent. The dry weather continued into the main crop of the new season.

 

Riman said the drought affected the trees, reducing output of between 300,000 tonnes and 320,000 tonnes projected at the beginning of the 2017/18 season.

 

He said that early rains in March and April have helped boost the mid-crop, which could see the season’s output close at around 290,000.
Riman farms on a 170 hectare cocoa plantation in Nigeria’s second-biggest region of Cross Rivers.

 

The cocoa season in Nigeria runs from October to September, with an October-to-February main crop and a smaller light or mid-crop that begins in April or May and runs through September.

 

“Despite the drought of last year which affected cocoa we believe we would be close to 290,000 tonnes for 2017/18 season,” Riman told Reuters.

 

The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), however, gives much lower estimates of Nigerian cocoa output. It forecast last season’s production at 225,000 tonnes.

 

Riman did not give a reason for the discrepancy. Nigerian government production figures are also significantly higher than ICCO estimates.

 

Nigeria has recently emerged from recession and a currency crisis which caused a chronic dollar shortage, forcing exporters to under-invoice their goods in order to use the foreign exchange black market to get premium for their hard currency.

 

The action caused the West African country slip to the sixth producer of cocoa in the world at the peak of the crisis. Riman said Nigeria was getting back to number four grower as exporters now use the official currency markets.

Riman said Nigeria was working on improving its bean quality especially with renewed demand from Europe.

 

However, bean count, a measure of the number of beans needed to produce 100 grams of cocoa, reached as high as 140 for the main crop.

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Rising Nigerian bonds drags yields down

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Nigeria’s local-currency bonds are on a roll, rising for the last eight days and driving their yields below Turkey’s for the first time in more than two years.

 

The average rate on Nigerian government bonds has fallen around 400 basis since an August-peak to 13 per cent. Yields are now 100 basis points below the Central Bank of Nigeria’s benchmark interest rate of 14 per cent, where its been held since July 2016.

Investors have piled into the naira market thanks to slowing inflation, a stable currency and rising Brent crude prices, which climbed about 25 per cent in the past six months to more than $70 a barrel. In contrast, they’ve turned bearish on Turkey, which has the worst-performing local bonds in emerging markets this year, because of accelerating inflation and loose monetary policy.

 

Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, may be tempted to commence his long-touted easing cycle and help revive the economy that has faltered since the 2014 oil crash. While that would reduce the attractiveness of naira assets, Nigerian yields are still high relative to other major emerging markets. Aside from Turkey, Argentina and Egypt’s bonds are the only ones to yield more in the Bloomberg Barclays EM Local Currency Index.

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