- BUA Kicks as Obaseki Orders Arrest of Two Workers
Two workers of BUA International Limited were arrested on Wednesday on the order of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, for allegedly flouting a stop-work order issued by the Federal Government over the disputed Obu mine in Okpella.
The suspects were arrested when the governor and some heads of security agencies visited the site in Etsako East Local Government Area of the state.
It was learnt that some explosives used for mining operations on the site were also confiscated and moved to the Army Brigade Command on the order of the commander.
The Obu mine has been a subject of disagreement between BUA and the Dangote Group, with both parties claiming ownership before the matter was taken to court.
The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Edo State Government had also ordered the shutdown of the mine pending the determination of the court case on the issue.
But the governor, who was accompanied by the Commander of the 4th Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Garba; Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo; and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Department of State Security, said the continuous operation on the site was a disregard for constituted authority.
According to him, the state government is more interested in the security of lives and property, adding that while there was the need for investors to make profits from their investment, “no money is worth any life.”
Obaseki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Crusoe Osagia, said, “There is a dispute over the ownership of this mine. The dispute is in court. There was a specific instruction from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development asking that work should stop pending the outcome of the matter before the court.
“I addressed a section of the Okpella community, who came to me to express concerns about the growing tension in the community because of the dispute. At that point, I issued instructions that the work should stop in line with the Federal Government’s directive and the case in court.
“I said that the status quo (should) be maintained until the determination of the case in court. I think that is the simple common sense thing to do. There is a quarrel and all parties should maintain peace and the status quo.”
The governor also accused the management of BUA of claiming that the state government had no authority and right to enforce a Federal Government directive.
He added, “What they are saying in essence is that government does not matter. That sort of utterance and position is very dangerous for our country, for a company that needs government to treat us with such disdain.
“With this, things will degenerate into anarchy. How can they operate in such an environment? We do not care who owns what; but human life is more expensive than whatever money anybody can make.”
The governor also explained that the visit to the site was to assure the people of the area that the government was on top of the situation to ensure peace in the community.
Also speaking, the Okuokphellagbe of Okpella, Alhaji Andrew Dirisu, maintained that the community was open to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Dirisu, who spoke when he received the governor at his palace, said, “There is no way we will not welcome people to invest. But what we want is for everyone to take what they get and no one should take from another.
“For now, as you have given your order, who are we to dispute it? I thank you for calling for peace in this matter.”
Meanwhile, BUA described the action of the governor as “a gestapo-style forceful shutdown of that mine despite a subsisting court pronouncement that the mine be allowed to operate.”
It said in a statement, “Upon reaching that mining site and not meeting any personnel or equipment, two BUA Cement employees were invited to the mining site to receive the governor. We later learnt that these employees were arrested upon arrival on the orders of the governor and taken away for no just reason.
“As it stands, we do not know why they were arrested but have requested our lawyers to secure their unconditional release immediately as these employees are innocent and have no knowledge of why they were being arrested.
“Now that one of our mining sites has been forcefully closed down by the governor without regard to the court’s pronouncement on maintaining the status quo at that particular site (and without any formal communication from the Edo State Government), BUA as a responsible corporate entity has instructed its lawyers to report back to the courts on this latest developments and pursue all legal channels to enforce its rights.”
BUA added, “Whilst the governor based the legitimacy of his actions on a purported stop-work order from the Ministry of Mines, BUA wishes to reiterate that there is a pronouncement of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin on December 5, 2017 that declared the stop-work order issued by the ministry as a contravention of the court’s directives to maintain the status quo and thus deemed it illegal. The same court also threatened to arrest the minister, who is the first defendant in the case, if the stop word order continues to be pursued.
“We once again ask all parties to await the conclusion of the judicial process as this matter is already before a court of competent jurisdiction.”
West African Consumer Sentiment Reflects Global Uncertainty
Ghanaian Consumer Confidence Declines by 15 Points
Lagos, 7 July 2020 – Against the backdrop of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, West African consumer sentiment has experienced a sharp drop in the Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) for Quarter 2, 2020. Ghana’s figures show a substantial decrease of 15 points to 104, while Nigeria’s CCI has decreased by 14 points to 108.
Looking at Ghana’s performance, Yannick Nkembe, Market Lead for Nielsen West Africa Expanded Market, comments; “The latest consumer sentiments reflect the market reality. With the global pandemic affecting the economy and causing general uncertainty all around, consumers have readjusted their confidence levels and are also more cautious with their spend.”
Ghanaians have significantly dropped their outlook around their job prospects, with less than half (45%) saying they will be good or excellent in the next 12 months – a 16 point decrease from the previous quarter. In terms of the state of their personal finances over the next 12 months, 60% say they are excellent or good, again a substantial 16 point drop from the previous quarter.
Ghanaians propensity to purchase has also seen a considerable decrease quarter on quarter, with the number of those who think now is a good or excellent time to purchase what they want or need drop from 52% to 33% in the second quarter.
Only 43% of Ghanaians say they have spare cash, down 13 points from the previous quarter. Once they meet their essential living expenses, the highest number of consumers (74%) put their spare cash into savings, followed by 73% on home improvements/decorating and 56% who would invest in stocks and mutual funds. One of the most significant drops in discretionary spending is on holidays down from 58% to 27% – a clear indicator of consumers’ mindset shift away from non-essential services and their desire to avoid unnecessary travel.
When asked whether they had changed their spending to save on household expenses compared to this time last year, 75% said yes, up seven points from the previous quarter. To reduce expenses, 53% said they spent less on new clothes, 52% on out of home entertainment, with the same figure deferring on the replacement of major household items.
When looking at the real-life factors that are affecting their outlook, the top consumer concerns over the next twelve months were increasing food prices (29%), followed by work/life balance (23%) and their children’s education (22%). Nkembe comments; “Ghana has previously experienced strong business prospects and with the relatively earlier easing of restrictions to stimulate its economy, recovery in Ghana is likely to rebound sooner. We expect consumers to revert to previous consumption behaviours, although some of their attitudes will have fundamentally or permanently changed post the pandemic.”
Subdued sentiment in Nigeria
In tandem with the rest of the world, Nigeria’s CCI figure dropped by 14 points. Commenting on the reasons for this, Nielsen Nigeria MD Ged Nooy says; “As Africa’s largest economy and the largest exporter of oil, Nigeria’s economy was already under immense pressure before the COVID-19 lockdown due to the collapse in international oil prices. Based on the additional economic pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria, therefore, instituted a fairly early easing of its 5-week lockdown in early May due to the adverse financial effects on its economy and population.”
Looking at the consumer picture during this time (Quarter 2, 2020) Nigerian job prospects declined with less than half viewing them as excellent or good, a 14 point drop from the previous quarter. Nigerians’ sentiment around the state of their personal finances also showed a decline with 59% who think they will be excellent or good over the next year, having decreased 19 points from the previous quarter. Immediate-spending intentions also declined, with only a third of the respondents saying “now is a good or excellent time to purchase” what they want or need, a 14 point drop from the previous quarter.
In terms of whether Nigerians have spare cash to spend, 32% said yes, versus 50% in the previous quarter. When we look at Nigerians spending priorities, once they have met their essential living expenses, 81% said they would put their spare cash into savings, 73% said home improvements and decorating and 66% would invest in shares/mutual funds.
Seventy-six per cent of Nigerians said they had changed their spending to save on household expenses compared to this time last year. To reduce expenses, 67% said they had delayed the replacement of major household items (a 10 point increase on the previous quarter). Sixty-four per cent said they would spend less on new clothes and 56% said less out of home entertainment – both of which are understandable given ongoing restricted living patterns.
In the next 12 months, Nigerians said their top concern would be attaining a work/life balance (31%), which has seen the biggest increase of eight points compared to the previous quarter. This is followed by increasing food prices (23%) and concerns over the economy (19%).
Elaborating on these results, Nooy says; “Economic recovery has been sluggish and will remain severely constricted due to the oil price crash amidst and beyond the pandemic. For Nigeria’s manufacturing and retail sectors to rebound will require a sharp focus, as trade opportunities and execution remains severely constrained, having further deteriorated during the partially restricted living period.”
Domestic Airlines Increase Fares Ahead of Flight Resumption
Domestic Airlines Raise Ticket Fares Ahead of Flight Resumption
The nation’s airline companies raised ticket fares to compensate for lack of bailout from the Federal Government and about 100 percent increase in service charges.
Last month, the Federal Government directed all domestic airlines to begin flight operations on July 8th following the March 30th suspension of all operations.
However, checks by our correspondent showed that domestic airlines have increased fares on all classes of tickets from Lagos to Abuja.
For a Dana Air flight from Lagos to Abuja, Economy Discount tickets are sold for N30,000 for a one-way ticket while the Economy Flexible ticket goes for N70,500.
Similarly, Air Peace Economy-Flexi Domestic Plan ticket goes for N33,001 for a one-way flight from Lagos to Abuja. The company sold its business class ticket for N80,000.
While potential passengers of Azman Air would need to part with N33,000 for an economy ticket from Lagos-Abuja. For a business class ticket, the company charges N60,000.
Arik Air, however, charges the lowest for economy plan. Passengers are required to pay just N29,189 for economy tickets and N71,532 for business tickets for a one-way trip from Lagos to Abuja.
Allen Onyema, the Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace, who was present at the simulation exercise conducted two weeks ago, had called for a bailout to help the sector protect jobs.
He said “Palliatives, bailout, rollout, intervention funds or whatever we call it is necessary. All over the world, the government is giving palliatives, bailout funds to their airlines.
“Even the strongest of airlines all over the world asked for this. What bothers us more in Air Peace is the retention of the workforce.
“COVID-19 has brought about immense loss of jobs worldwide. We must begin to think of ways of curbing the losses in Nigeria.”
However, it doesn’t seem like the Federal Government that is presently battling possible recession is willing to bail out airlines whose services are mainly required by high net worth individuals. This further highlighted why the service charges on flight tickets were raised by 100 percent.
The average cost of one way air flight from Lagos to Abuja was between N15,000 to N40,000 before the lockdown.
IATA Says Nigerian Airlines Loses $2.09bn in April and June
Airlines in Nigeria Loses $2.09 Billion in April and June
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that Nigerian airlines lost about $2.09 billion in the month of April and June due to COVID-19 lockdown.
In its report titled ‘Quarantine measures threaten aviation restart in Africa and the Middle East,’ IATA stated that the aviation sector in Africa and the Middle East was the worst-hit.
According to the report, the aviation sector in the two regions provides over 8.6 million direct and indirect jobs.
While the report did not provide data for the month of May, it stated that the number of Nigerian passengers declined by 4.7 million in April and 5.32 million in June when compared with the same period of 2019.
Similarly, the report said 125,400 jobs were at risk in April and 139,500 jobs were at risk in the month of June.
Muhammad Albakri, the Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, IATA, said governments in Africa and the Middle East must devise alternative methods to the current quarantine measures in place, saying the two regions have the highest number of government-imposed quarantine measures on arriving passengers.
He said, “It is critical that AME governments implement alternatives to quarantine measures. AME has the highest number of countries in the world with government-imposed quarantine measures on arriving passengers.
“The region is effectively in complete lockdown with the travel and tourism sector shuttered. This is detrimental in a region where 8.6 million people depend on aviation for their livelihoods.”
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