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Protesting Youths, Workers Shut Down Warri Refinery Over Employment

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  • Protesting Youths, Workers Shut Down Warri Refinery Over Employment

Hundreds of youths and members of staff of the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company on Wednesday shut down commercial activities at the Warri Refinery in Ekpan, Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State, over alleged management’s failure to regularise their engagements.

The protesters drawn from across the Niger Delta states vowed to continue with their protest and ensure that major activities at the refinery remained shut until the management of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation resolved the issue.

Our correspondent observed that the protesters had all the entrances into the refinery under lock and key, accusing the management of NNPC of reneging on its earlier agreement to convert them from contract staff members into full staff members of the company.

The casual workers, including members of the host communities (Ekpan, Ubeji, Aja-Etan, Ifie-Kporo and Ijala-Ikeren) to the WRPC, however, rebuffed efforts by security operatives, including policemen and officers of the Nigerian Army to have them vacate the major entrance into the refinery.

Some of the protesters, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented that they had spent their productive years working for WRPC, alleging that despite series of promises to fully absorb them, they were not invited for the second batch of staff recruitment for the corporation in Abuja.

One of the protesters, Edemerukewan Emedwor, claimed that even though most of them were graduates and certified skilled workers that had been effectively doing the jobs, the company recently came up with some criteria such as having a First Class or Masters Degree, as conditions to become full staff members.

Emedwor, who, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter so as to ensure they were employed in line with his administration’s “Next Level” mantra, added that their current terms of engagement amounted to “slavery,” considering that the company continues to recruit outsiders.

He said, “We are not slaves; we are putting our strength and resources into this job. What do they need to do for us? It is to convert us so we can have job security.”

Similarly, Samuel Ihadieu, stated that in spite of the exposure to toxic elements and the hard labour put in every day by the casual workers, their services were not being rewarded for contributing their quota to national development.

A Niger Delta youth leader and National Secretary of the Itsekiri National Youth Council, Jemi Mene-Ejegi, told journalists that they would not vacate the premises until the managing director of NNPC visited the refinery to address the matter, otherwise the protest would remain a standstill.

Mene-Ejegi said, “Initially, we wrote a letter and they called us, excluding the casual staff members, that the issue will be resolved. We told them to attend to the casual workers first. The second time, the same thing happened, which prompted the first protest. “They (WRPC) again called for calm. We accepted, with the thought that this is our country. But from then till now, nothing has been done. Instead, they are playing a backyard game.”

Addressing the protesters, WRPC’s Chief Security Officer, Hope Akpodiete, and Administrative Manager, Mr Solomon Siakpere, both pleaded with the protesters to allow officials who had engagements to be allowed to go ahead.

Their pleas, however, fell on deaf ears.

Siakpere, while addressing the workers who comprised mostly of young people, said, “We are familiar with what is ongoing. As we are gathered like this, we must be able to translate the gathering into action, not make noise, so that we can make progress. This is to get attention and that has been achieved. Rest assured that our corporate management is aware.”

When contacted over the demands of the protesters, NNPC spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, said there was no discrimination in the corporation’s recruitment process, saying that he was not aware of any agreement to convert the protesters into full members of staff.

Ughamadu said, “We have been announcing the various stages for recruitment. In that advertisement, it was thrown open to all the workers and they were asked to apply. How many of them applied? The casual workers were equally invited but that aside, we have engaged them. We told them that look, after this exercise, there is another stage.

“If they didn’t fall into the first category, they may fall into the second category. That is what we are on. We don’t have casual workers only in the Warri Refinery, we have casuals in all of our subsidiaries, including the headquarters and many of them applied, and they are undergoing interviews now. There’s no discrimination in the process. I am not aware if there was an agreement with them.

“I’m appealing to them to exercise some restraints. We’ll continue to engage them to ensure that an amicable resolution is reached.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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COVID-19: Demand for Second Passport by High Net Worth Individuals Surges 50 Percent

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The number of high net worth individuals looking for a second international passport in order to improve their global access rose by 50 percent year-on-year, according to the latest statement from the deVere Group.

The group said national lockdowns, borders and travel restrictions have helped boost enquiries for second passports, citizenships and overseas residencies this year.

deVere Group, an independent financial advisory firm, that manages over 100,000 clients globally said demand for its residency and citizen service skyrocketed in this highly unusual year.

Most of the enquiries were from high net worth individuals from the U.S., India, South Africa, Russia, the Middle East and East Asia “who are seeking alternative options in Europe and the Commonwealth.”

According to Nigel Green, the Founder and CEO of deVere Group, “Previously, a second passport, citizenship or residency were regarded by many as the ultimate luxury item; a status symbol like yachts, supercars and original artwork.

“While this still remains the case, there’s also been a shift due to the pandemic.

“Now, second citizenship or overseas residency are increasingly becoming not just a ‘nice to have accessory’ but a ‘must have.’

“Whether it be for personal reasons, such as to remain with loved ones overseas or be able to visit them, or for business reasons, a growing number of people are seeking ways to secure their freedom of movement as they have faced travel restrictions which are, typically, based on citizenship.”

He continues: “The pandemic has served as a major catalyst for demand which skyrocketed this year. It has focused minds to secure that second passport or elite residency.

“However, the appeal for is broader than just the global Covid-19 crisis.

“Increasingly people prefer the concept of being a global citizen, rather than being solely tied to the country of their birth.

“They too value the many associated benefits including visa-free travel, world-class education, optimal healthcare, political and economic stability, reduced tax liabilities and wider business and career opportunities.”

However, nations have different criteria for granting citizenship, including time spent in the country, the ability to prove the legal source of funds and zero criminal records.

For instance, Portugal’s residency program requires just two weeks every two years of residency to gain the benefits, including the right to live, work, study and open a business there, as well as travel across the 26 countries of Europe’s Schengen area.

“More and more nations are running citizenship-by-investment programs, in which applicants invest an amount of money in a sponsoring country typically in high-end, new-build real estate developments in exchange for permanent residency, citizenship, or both,” affirms James Minns, deVere’s Head of Residency & Citizenship.

“These programmes, which high-net-worth individuals regard as invaluable insurance, are typically based on property investments that start from 250,000 EUR.”

Nigel Green concludes: “These highly unusual times have fuelled the surge in demand for second passports.

“The pandemic has brought into sharp focus what really matters to people: family, freedom and security.”

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Online Shopping Skyrockets Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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Lagos, Tuesday 30 November 2020 – As we experience the first-ever Black Friday promotional phenomenon under lockdown, the dominance of online shopping platforms has become crystal clear.

To keep track of this development Nielsen Global Connect has conducted extensive research that includes an overarching view of the massive increase in online FMCG  shopping and just how rapidly it evolved over the first six months of lockdown.

Nielsen Connect, Global Intelligence Unit, Executive Director Ailsa Wingfield comments; “Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, online FMCG shopping usage has advanced by up to five years in just six short months. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in online shopping and usage with new users, frequency and preference having skyrocketed.

Preference of online as the most-used channel has also more than doubled.

Evidence of this results from the Nielsen New Shopper Normal Study which was conducted in May 2020 allowing for powerful insight into the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on consumers, during an unprecedented time in our history.

The Nielsen study found that in terms of new Nigerian FMCG online shoppers, 29% had never shopped online. Sixty-seven per cent recently shopped online during the past week and 12% shopped most often online during the past week versus only 7% pre COVID-19. In terms of Frequency, 23% said they shopped online multiple times a week and 44% shopped once a week.

The best of both worlds

 Nielsen’s consumer and retail measurement evidence therefore clearly shows a massive and ongoing move to online, but it must be pointed out that this is not in isolation when considering the overall shopping journey. In Nigeria, two-thirds of consumers (67%) say they are now using both online and offline channels with fewer exclusive brick & mortar shoppers at 33%.

Wingfield elaborates; “Overall, consumers are shopping and buying in a mixed reality. In many instances, online shopping options are a new addition to their existing store repertoire but most consumers indicate that they will maintain a combination of online and offline – which will lead to the rise of more omnichannel shopping journeys and experiences.”

Interestingly, this adoption is even more pronounced for ‘Constrained Consumers’ – those who have been impacted by job/income loss. These consumers are less likely to be exclusive Brick & Mortar shoppers as Omni shopping is even more important to help them make better and more frugal choices.

Wingfield adds; “The challenge for retailers is that consumers want equivalent experiences regardless of the environment in which they shop. These are categorised by a seamless experience where the retailer’s online, and bricks and mortar offerings, are connected and offer a similar and familiar shopping experience.”

 Still more work to be done

In terms of the remaining obstacles for retailers to overcome and where online needs to work harder, the biggest concern for Nigerian shoppers is delivery which has emerged as the most important factor to get right. 42% of Nigerian consumers stated they wanted same/next-day delivery while 21% said they don’t want to wait when there are no slots available.

When it comes to Price & Promo perceptions, 57% of respondents said online prices had increased, while 22% perceived less online promotion and 17% said online was more expensive. That said, online price perceptions are currently more favourable than offline (brick and mortar) perceptions. They may also improve even further, following the heavy push by retailers of online-only Black Friday and year end seasonal promotions.

 Looking to the future

 Looking at how consumers’ newfound relationship with online shopping will evolve, Wingfield comments; “We saw that ‘necessity catalysts’ such as safety and precaution considerations and the availability of products initially drew consumers online, but there are still several obstacles to overcome. To sustain online FMCG traction, retailers and brands will need to focus on how they can solve consumers’ changing needs by differentiating their offerings in the Omni shopping journey.”

She goes on to suggest; “They will need to solve for overall satisfaction and experiences in the areas of time, convenience, availability and value based on consumers’ altered circumstances to truly differentiate themselves.”

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Rising Operating Costs, Exchange Rates, Service Charge Increased Airfares by 100%

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Price of air tickets rose by 100 percent across several routes as rising operating costs, high foreign exchange and surged in service charge forced airline operators to raise airfares.

Airlines attributed the increase to a series of price adjustments and the introduction of new fees by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). According to them, airline firms were given special concessions, which will continue to push price up and could hit an average of N100,000 for even the Lagos/Abuja route.

Speaking on the situation, Captain Ado Sanusi, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, said airline companies could not access forex at the official rate while the FAAN had upped its fees.

He said “We were buying dollars at N360 and it went to N380 but you can’t get it for less than N480.

“We are paying VAT at 7.5 per cent. We are paying 15 per cent duty on our spare parts. The boarding passes, we pay 15 per cent duty on it.

“The passenger service charge has increased by FAAN. So, don’t look at one component but look at the total reason for the increase.

“Yes, there is an increase in demand but it is caused by the lack of aircraft and this lack of aircraft is caused by unavailability of spare parts which is also caused by dollar scarcity.”

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