- Sell Ajaokuta Steel company, MAN, Others Tell FG
Manufacturers and experts have said privatisation of Ajaokuta Steel Company will yield better dividends than the facility being run by the government.
They spoke with our correspondent in separate interviews, maintaining that government-run business had never turned out to be a profitable venture but one that was prone to corruption and waste.
As such, they canvassed the sale of the national asset but urged the government to do such in a transparent manner.
A business and investment consultant, Dr Vincent Nwani, pointed out that the government was not supposed to run business.
He said, “Ajaokuta needs to be run as a business and not as a government agency or non-profit organisation. It needs to be transferred to the private sector for proper management.
“The steel mills in Japan and other places worldwide are not run by the government but by private companies and they are very successful.
“The pending court case on Ajaokuta should be resolved and the facility should be given to private investors in a transparent and competitive manner.”
Nwani emphasised that steel industry everywhere in the world was the bone of development.
“If our steel mill is well managed, it will service the local industry and save us huge foreign exchange spent on importation and there will be multiple benefits derived including job creation and economic development,” he said.
Another expert and a professor of economics at the University of Uyo, Leo Ukpong, agreed that a private entity would reactivate the steel company and run it successfully.
He said, “Government-run business has a history of corruption and lack of continuity in cases where another administration takes over and quickly abandons the agreement entered into by his predecessor.
“The demand for steel is very high both domestically and globally. This would serve as an incentive to any private investor who will see the prospect of profit and market in the investment.”
For the President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mansur Ahmed, it is important that the steel company is converted to a profitable entity and one sure way of doing this will be to involve private investors.
He stressed that the investors must be the right kind of private investors who could turn the facility into a profit-making one.
He said even if it was done with the involvement of the government on a public private partnership basis, the private investors must be given a free hand to operate, adding that such investors were usually many.
Ahmed said it was imperative this be done soon because there was a huge demand for steel in Nigeria.
Earlier, the former President, Nigerian Metallurgical Society, Prof Benjamin Adewuyi, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the completion of the steel complex during his second tenure.
Adewuyi who gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria said Buhari should ensure that the moribund steel company became operational in his second tenure to boost the economy.
He explained that the project when completed, arms, ammunition, and cars, among others, that were now being imported could be manufactured in the company.
He said, “Ajaokuta has the capacity to produce cars, arms for the military among others and can also provide massive employment for the youth.
“We are only deceiving ourselves that we are manufacturing cars locally. Without Ajaokuta steel functioning, we cannot manufacture our own cars.
“We have many brilliant youths among us that cannot carry out any innovation because we lack the materials they require, Mr President should revisit Ajaokuta Steel Company and kickstart the project.”
COVID-19: CBN Has Disbursed N83B Loans to Healthcare Sector
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, said the central bank had disbursed over N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical and healthcare practitioners in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has stressed the need for a slash in the cost of governance in the country, saying a lot more resources could be dedicated towards healthcare and critical infrastructure.
They both said this yesterday, at the premiere of ‘Unmasked’, a documentary on Nigeria’s response to the pandemic held in Lagos.
Emefiele, who was represented by the CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Osita Nwasinobi, explained: “Building a robust healthcare infrastructure was also vital from a security perspective, as some nations had imposed restrictions on the exports of vital medical drugs as well as the use of drug patents that could aid in containing the spread of the pandemic.
“As a result, we focused our interventions in the healthcare sector on three areas. Building the capacity of our healthcare institutions supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.
“In this regard, we disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country. We were also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centres across the country. These measures helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the CBN Governor, the banking sector regulator also initiated the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Grant Scheme, which was to aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases.
He said so far, five major healthcare-related research projects were being financed under the initiative.
Speaking further on the call to increase access to health insurance, Emefiele said: “One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians. A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services.
“According to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO), only four percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance. Besides food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure.
“Out of pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals particularly those in rural communities may be denied access to healthcare services.
“Expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes, could help to reduce the high out of pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians. It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.”
“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices. Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities.”
According to Emefiele, the CBN remains committed to working with all stakeholders in improving access to finance and credit that would support the development of viable healthcare infrastructure in our country.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu said: “What are the lessons that we have learned with the Covid-19? Looking at all the things that Covid-19 has cost us, how are we preparing ourselves?
“The truth be told the structure of our governance system needs to change particularly the cost of governance. We need to speak up and ask ourselves are we ready to change.”
“When it gets to the election it is the same set of people that will come up and people don’t come out to vote and we end up having 20 percent out of 100 percent that will elect those that will govern. So, the change has to be about all of us. That is how the real change that will help us will come,” he added.
Emefiele Says CBN Will Resist All Attempts to Continue Maize Importation
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has vowed to resist all attempts to continue the importation of maize into the country.
Godwin Emefiele, the governor, CBN, in a statement titled ‘Emefiele woos youths to embrace agriculture’, said: “the CBN would resist attempts by those who seek to continually import maize into the country.”
Emefiele, who spoke in Katsina during the unveiling of the first maize pyramid and inauguration of the 2021 maize wet season farming under the CBN-Maize Association of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said maize farmers in the country had what it takes to meet the maize demand gap of over 4.5 million metric tonnes in the country.
“With over 50,000 bags of maize available on this ground, and others aggregated across the country, maize farmers are sending a resounding message that we can grow enough maize to meet the country’s demand,” Emefiele said.
He explained that the maize unveiled at the ceremony would be sold to reputable feed processors.
He added that this would in turn impact positively on current poultry feed prices, as over 60 per cent of maize produced in the country were used for producing poultry feed.
Nigeria’s Spending Structure Unsustainable, Budget Head Says
Nigeria’s current trend of spending more money on running the government than on building new infrastructure is unsustainable, the country’s top budget oversight official said.
Low revenue collection and high recurrent costs have resulted in actual capital expenditure below two trillion naira ($4.88 billion) a year for a decade, Ben Akabueze, director-general of the Budget Office, said Tuesday in a virtual presentation.
“Hence, the investments required to bridge the infrastructure gap are way beyond the means available to the government,” Akabueze said. Recurrent spending, allocated towards salaries and running costs, has accounted for more than 75% of the public budget every year since 2011, he said.
Africa’s largest economy requires at least $3 trillion of spending over the next 30 years to close its infrastructure gap, Moody’s Investors Service said in November. The country’s tax revenue as a proportion of gross domestic product is one of the lowest globally, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“Huge recurrent expenditure has constrained the provision of good roads, steady power supply, health care services, quality education and quality shelter,” Akabueze said.
Nigeria should amend its constitution to create six regions to replace the existing 36 states, which each have their own governments, Akabueze said. The country also needs to reduce the number of cabinet ministers to a maximum of 24 from more than 40 and cut federal ministries to fewer than 20 from the current 27, he said.
“No country can develop where a large part of its earnings is spent on administrative structures rather than on capital investment,” Akabueze said.
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