On Wednesday, the NBS reported that Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 23.1% in Q3 2018 compared to 18.8% in Q3 2017. And then later that day, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed the data shows his administration is making economic progress.
The President made this claim in Abuja during a special dinner that was put together by beneficiaries of his Government’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme.
As if confusing scientific data wasn’t enough, President Buhari also took a slight jab at his predecessor Mr Goodluck Jonathan; as always talking about how he inherited an under-performing agriculture sector back in 2015. But even though this may be true, the fact remains that overall unemployment rate in 2015 was far lower compared to what currently obtains.
Disputing the data
The President Buhari-led Government have been trying hard to discredit the unemployment report which, in all honesty, is unimpressive. Just yesterday, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said that the report was false; a claim that was reiterated by President Buhari’s media aid, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Mallam Shehu even claimed that Nigeria’s Statistician General and CEO of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Mr Yemi Kale, had admitted that his agency’s latest report focused on white collar jobs and did not cover the agriculture sector.
But according to the Punch Newspaper, Mr Kale said he never made such an admission.
So much talk about rice production and little result
The Government has made so much claim in the past about the supposed success of its agricultural policies, particularly the Anchor Borrowers Scheme which it says “had created 12 million new jobs” and helped to increase rice production in the country and consequently led to a decline in rice importation.
But while this has always been a nice political statement, available information shows that it is, indeed, false. According to the United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade, Nigeria has imported a total of three million metric tonnes of rice this year. The US report even showed that Nigeria’s rice production declined in 2018 compared to what obtained in 2015.
As expected, the Presidency refuted this as well. But that doesn’t even matter because the truth remains that the level of unemployment, poverty/suffering in Nigeria can easily be seen in the streets of Lagos and elsewhere.
Therefore, instead of disputing what really is a serious crisis, President Buhari and his team should use the remaining months of his first term in office to come up with viable policies that can ameliorate the suffering in the land.
FG launches strategy for introduction of Covid-19 vaccine
The FG has launched a strategy for the phased and equitable introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine across the country.
The Federal Government has launched a strategy for the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine in a phased and equitable manner across the country.
The strategy code-named, “T.E.A.C.H”, was initiated by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, during the inauguration said the launch of T.E.A.C.H and Electronic Management of Immunization Data (EMID) will ensure the smooth rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign across the country.
What the Minister of Health is saying
Ehanire stated, “Our goal is to introduce COVID-19 vaccine in a phased and equitable manner, based on the advice of the WHO and the experience we observe other countries to have made, and ultimately vaccinating all eligible Nigerians within the next two years, to ensure herd immunity.
“We in Nigeria finally have the privilege of joining other countries to start the vaccination, which will prioritise, first those people most at risk of infection due to their exposure in the line of duty.
”Vaccination with safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a critical part of the country’s strategy to counter the COVID-19 pandemic and the stop transmission of the virus. No private hospital or organisation has experience in handling this type of vaccine than the NPHCDA,” he said.
The minister also said that vaccines that were not approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) would be determined as dangerous and would be seized by the Nigeria Customs Services.
The minister also noted that in less than 24 hours, the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines would arrive the country from the COVAX Facility and would be deployed.
On his own part, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said a lot of work had been done to reduce the casualty of Covid-19 in the country’s population.
Ihekweazu, who was represented by Head of Special Projects and Partnerships at NCDC, Dr Priscilla Ibekwe said that a sister agency, the NPHCDA, was prepared to lead the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in the country and NCDC would collaborate with them to ensure a successful campaign.
The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, in his introduction of the T.E.A.C.H Strategy, said it was an Indigenous approach to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine in the country.
Shuaib said that the Country has provided an e-registration link to enable Nigerians to register for the Covid-19 vaccines themselves, to obtain their pre-vaccination numbers and scheduled date
He said that the first phase of the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country would target front-line health workers, Covid-19 rapid response teams, laboratory network, petrol station workers and strategic leaders.
According to him, How COVID-19 will be rolled out, Phase 1- healthcare workers, security agents, first responders, petrol station workers, laboratory workers, and strategic political leadership.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the Federal Government had announced that Nigeria would receive its first batch of 4 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from the COVAX initiative on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
- The COVAX Facility which is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner, is a global scheme to procure and equitably distribute vaccines for free, especially among poorer countries, as the world moves to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zenith Bank GMD explains why its difficult for SMEs to get loans from banks
Onyeagwu has highlighted the regulatory challenges that SMEs are faced in trying to secure bank lending.
The Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has discussed the impressive positive returns recorded this year by the bank. He also shared some insights on the relationship between commercial banks in Nigeria and Small/Medium Enterprise business owners.
Onyeagwu gave all these insights while speaking in an interview with Arise TV.
On why Nigerian banks charge high-interest loans, making it difficult for small business owners to get single-digit loans for their business, the Zenith Bank GMD explained that the operational costs and regulatory costs involved in running a bank usually sets the pace for every other thing. He listed examples of operational costs involved in running a single bank branch and how all that adds to the bottom line at the end of the day.
He also highlighted regulatory costs which are not particularly known by people outside the banking sector as one of the costs of doing business banks face. These two factors mainly contribute to the high-interest rates banks charge on loans.
“Our cost profile depicts the operating environment. Within the year we saw an upward review in fuel price, which accounted for the increase in our fuel cost. Again, when you are looking at cost of doing business, you also need to look in total, how businesses are being conducted. If I set up a branch today, I would need to provide my infrastructure, I need to provide power, water and in some cases, we even construct the road to provide access to the branch location. So, as a result of the poor state of infrastructure, you see that businesses would now have to contend with providing these resources to get their operations running. So, if we have more available and cheaper utility services and infrastructure to support businesses, of course, the cost would go down.
Then, looking at cost of doing business in banking, it goes beyond those operational costs. We also have things like regulatory cost. A bank like Zenith, given our size, the burden of regulatory cost on us is heavy. By regulatory cost here, I am referring to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation premium and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria fee. So, because of our size, if you look at the numbers, you will see that these regulatory costs account for a whopping 28 percent of our overhead. So, all of them come together to add to the cost of doing business for us as a banking institution in the country,” Onyeagwu said.
On why it is difficult to get single-digit loans from Nigerian banks, Onyeagwu highlighted 3 key reasons why single-digit loans are very difficult to obtain in Nigeria. He listed the following:
- Fiscal deficit
- Government Borrowing
- Money supply and demand
The Zenith GMD stated that it is nearly impossible to issue an interest rate by fiat. He stated that the interest rate will always be determined by market forces.
He said, “First of all, if you are looking at the interest rate, you have to look at it in terms of the theoretical framework and issues around money supply, demand for money, issues around government borrowing, and the fiscal deficits. So, when you put all that together, you will see that you cannot have a situation where you decree interest rate by fiat. Interest rates would always be set by the dynamics and realities in the market. In this case, if you are looking at the interest rate in Nigeria, you have to index it to the risk-free rate. The one-year risk-free rate in Nigeria is like 10 percent. So, it will be difficult to have a single-digit rate in Nigeria.”
Onyeagwu highlighted the various ways the Central Bank of Nigeria has intervened in a bid it provides single-digit loans to entrepreneurs in certain sectors. Sectors like cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing have been enjoying single-digit loans courtesy of various CBN initiatives.
He said, “We have intervention funds such as the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, where banks in the country provide long-term single-digit funding for entrepreneurs who are in cinema, movie, ICT, and fashion designing. We also have what is called the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme. It is also a pool of funds available for businesses in that space. You can as well access these loans. Apart from these, the CBN also has different intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, and others, and all these loans are single-digit and they provide long-term financing. The big problem we have is that when you see an SME approaching you for the loan, the SME may not have a track record; he walks up to you and tells you that he needs a single-digit loan and needs N20 million.
“But I can’t give you N20 million without looking where you are coming from. So, we cannot decree the interest rate by fiat. But the regulators have done good work by providing funding schemes and whoever is eligible would get such single-digit long-term loans once they meet the criteria. So, the funding is there, but the SMEs when they approach the banks don’t often meet the eligibility criteria.”
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