The Federal Government has announced the resumption of the Abuja to Kaduna rail services on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The resumption of the train services is going to coming with fare increases amid precautionary measures to curtail COVID-19.
The disclosure was made by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, during an inspection tour and test run of the 10 newly acquired coaches and 2 locomotives deployed on the Abuja to Kaduna rail corridor.
Amaechi also revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an increase in train fares due to the fact that the train will now be conveying half its capacity in order to maintain social distancing.
According to the Transport Minister, “In a month (pre-COVID-19), we get about N120 million, and if we run like this (half capacity), we will realize N60 million. It means that we need another N60 million to complete the running cost.”
‘’It is, therefore for the above reason that the rates have been increased as follows: First class, N6,000, Business Class, N5,000 and Economy, N3,000 to enable Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) meet up at least with the running cost.’’
When asked if this increase will not be too much of a burden for the poor to pay, Amaechi insisted that they can afford it, pointing out that it was certainly cheaper than the ransom to be paid if kidnapped on Abuja-Kaduna road.
On the Itapke to Warri rail line, he also revealed that the route will be more lucrative when fully operational, than the Abuja to Kaduna route because when the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline project starts, they will carry their pipes from Warri seaport to Itakpe.
He said that the fear of exposing the 1000 workers needed to complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway, to the coronavirus disease, stalled the project which was supposed to be completed in May 2020. He also said that lack of funds is delaying the take-off of the Ibadan-Kano railway line.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who saw the Minister off to the rail station after a courtesy call, told journalists that the reopening of the railway could not have happened at a better time. He reminded them that COVID-19 is real, therefore people should abide by all the safety protocols.
On the issue of the increased train fare, the governor said he wished it would have been higher and called on the Ministry and NRC to consider e-ticketing as a measure of addressing ticket racketeering at the train stations.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, said that with the arrival of these Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s), the corporation will now increase the frequency of trips on the Abuja-Kaduna line from eight (to and fro) trips to 14 per day.
The Manager of the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Service, Pascal Nnorli disclosed that there will be fumigation of all rolling stocks and offices before the reopening of the station. He also said that the policy of no mask no entry will be enforced at all stations. He further disclosed that more DMU’s are still being expected on the route to manage the high passenger traffic.
It can be recalled that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) suspended passenger train operations nationwide following the ban on interstate travel by the Federal Government on April 28, 2020, as part of the measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Some of the suspended train services include the flagship Abuja-Kaduna train service, Lagos-Kano express train on the old narrow gauge, Lagos-Ogun passenger services and some others.
Amaechi had earlier last month, said that the ministry was not in a hurry to resume train operations because of the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic. He insisted that all health and safety protocols must apply when train services resume.
Abuja-Kaduna train service will resume operations on Wednesday.
We just conducted inspection of the new coaches on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. Social distancing is set as the new normal with end to end sitting arrangement. – @ChibuikeAmaechi
— NIGERIAN RAILWAY CORPORATION (@Official_NRC) July 26, 2020
Rack Centre to create West Africa’s largest data centre in $100m expansion
Rack Centre’s expansion programme will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres.
Leading carrier neutral data centre operator in West Africa, Rack Centre, has announced an expansion programme that will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres, which will pave way for 13MW of IT power capacity in its Lagos campus.
This was disclosed in a press release by the company, which was seen by Nairametrics.
The expansion is expected to bring carrier neutral scale to West Africa, and this is in response to increasing demand for data centre space from cloud uptake, telecommunication investment and outsourcing of IT facilities by enterprises in the region.
The funding for this expansion will come from a $250m pan-African data centre platform, established by Actis and Convergence Partners, a leading ICT infrastructure investor in Africa.
In addition to the expansion in Rack Centre, the platform is also actively developing additional buy and build opportunities across Africa, to establish a network of carrier neutral data centres aimed at catering to carrier, cloud and hyperscale customers.
Back story: It is noteworthy that on March 2020, in a bid to pave way for the expansion programme, Actis, a London private equity firm, announced an investment in Rack Centre, taking a controlling stake in the business alongside Jagal.
Why this matters
Nigeria is a key entry point for global telecommunications, content, and cloud players seeking access to the region. Despite the potentials of the country; with 138 million internet subscribers, more than any country in Africa or Europe, and the largest population and GDP in Africa, a lack of cost-effective, energy-efficient IT infrastructure, has been a constraint to doing business in the region.
However, in a bid to create unrestricted connectivity between customers, telecommunication carriers, and internet exchange points within its data centres in the region, as a unique scale carrier neutral player, Rack Centre brings global best practice to Nigeria, as the first carrier neutral data centre in the region, to achieve Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF).
The global leaders that the platform has engaged include:
- Tim Parsonson, Co-founder, Teraco Data Environments – the largest carrier neutral operator in Africa, who joins the Board as Chairperson on the board.
- Frank Hassett, a veteran of the global data centre industry and previous Vice President of Infrastructure, at Equinix, brings over 1300MW of build and operate experience, to assist with hyperscale expansion.
While speaking on the expansion of capacity, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners, said; “Africa is at the start of a critical time in its development, as the 4th industrial revolution offers the chance to leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges, and harness the immense potential of its people. Convergence Partners is delighted to partner with Actis in accelerating the growth of high quality data centre infrastructure, an indispensable part of the foundation of this revolution in the region.”
Dr Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, emphasized that the group is proud of the quality and scale bar which they have set in the region.
“We are proud of the quality and scale bar we have set in the region and are scaling to be the de-facto digital data hub for West Africa
“Mass adoption of digital working models and content distribution is driving growing investment in the region and Rack Centre offers a world class location to house these IT and telecoms facilities,” Coker said.
Supporting this ambition, engineering consultancy Arup, have been appointed for the project. The leadership status of Arup is uncontested, having designed over 2,000MW of IT capacity for industry-leading tech giants, and co-location providers across the globe.
CBN gives up on its policy of attracting dollars
CBN has given up its policy of attracting ‘hot money’ as it selects an alternative way to fight inflation.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a monetary policy communique explaining why it cut its monetary policy rate from 12.5% to 11.5%, the first drop since May 2020 when it slashed MPR from 13.5% t0 12.5%. The cut in rates means it is no longer targeting foreign investor inflow as a basis for keeping the exchange rate stable.
The CBN has held MPR high for years due to high inflationary pressures believing that higher MPRs could lead to a lower inflation rate. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased price of fuel and electricity suggest this is a battle already lost via hawkish monetary policy.
Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data
What they are saying: According to the bank, it believes the higher inflation Nigeria is facing is not due to monetary policy but due to “causal factors” which are outside of its immediate control.
“In the view of the MPC, so far, evidence has not supported the rising inflation to monetary factors but rather, evidence suggests nonmonetary factors (structural factors) as the overwhelming reasons accounting for the inflationary pressure,” the CBN stated.
The structural factors the CBN is referring to are rising in prices of fuel and electricity as well as cost increases emanating from the devaluation of the naira.
“Accordingly, the implication is that traditional monetary policy instruments are not helpful in addressing the type of inflationary pressure we are currently confronted with,” the CBN added.
These issues mean the CBN faces a quagmire in how to combat inflation as the traditional measures it has typically deployed might not work effectively.
Forgo hot money: The apex bank toyed with increased MPR to combat the high inflation rate but opined that doing so could lead to an even deeper recession despite the benefits of attracting foreign capital.
“The Committee noted that the likely action aimed to addressing the rise in domestic prices would have been to tighten the stance of policy, as this will not only moderate the upward pressure on prices but will also attract fresh capital into the economy and improve the level of the external reserves. It however, noted that this decision may stifle the recovery of output growth and thus, drive the economy further into contraction.”
In 2017, the CBN adopted a hawkish monetary policy stand of increasing MPR and offering interest rates as high as 18% via its open market operations bills.
- The policy helped attracted billions of dollars in capital rising to as high as $13.4 billion in 2019. It dropped to as low as $332 million in the second quarter of 2020.
- Foreign investors have basically stopped inflowing forex into the control as yields have crashed and repatriating it is now a major challenge.
The other option: Deciding against increasing MPR means the CBN had to consider a dovish policy, which requires that they cut monetary policy rates and intervene in sectors of the economy that can address the supply side factors it cited. Supply-side factors are price-related increases emanating from high production, storage, and distribution cost of finished goods and services meaning that price will remain high despite stable or lower demand.
“On easing the stance of policy, the MPC was of the view that this action would provide cheaper credit to improve aggregate demand, stimulate production, reduce unemployment, and support the recovery of output growth. Members were of the opinion that the option to lose will complement the Bank’s commitment to sustain the trajectory of the economic recovery and reduce the negative impact of COVID-19. In addition, the liquidity injections are expected to stimulate credit expansion to the critically impacted sectors of the economy and offer an impetus for output growth and economic recovery,” the CBN stated.
What this means: By dumping inflation targeting from the demand side, the CBN is betting that spending money on stimulus programs will pay off down the road as cheaper long term credit will reduce cost of goods and services and will eventually reflect in the lower inflation rate.
- The CBN did not state where it sees the inflation rate and when it will drop to its new target by relying on supply-side management as strategy.
- The downside of this strategy is that there is very little impetus for foreign investors to purchase CBN securities at very low-interest rates.
- This shuts the door to the reliance of foreign portfolio inflows to shore up dollar reserves leaving us with investors who may want to return to the stock market.
- If oil prices fail to pick up and foreign investor inflow is not forthcoming, then there will likely be heavy pressure on the CBN effectively worsening things.
De facto Government: CBN explains why it will keep funding the economy
The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activies such as its intervemtion funds in the agricultural and energy sectors.
The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activities such as its intervention funds in the agricultural and energy sectors. The central bank has carried on as a form of de facto government in recent years particularly in the Covid-19 months, funding several developmental activities and sectors in the economy.
The explanation was provided in its monetary policy communique read out by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele following the end of the monetary policy committee meeting held on Tuesday.
According to Mr. Emefiele, it will keep spending because the Federal Government is currently incapable of funding development programs because it is facing revenue shortfalls. The CBN reckoned that the economy is faced with likely stagflation (a combination of an economic recession and high inflationary environment) even as Nigerians still have to deal with an increase in fuel and energy prices. It opined that it had to work harder to combat the pressure the price increases will have on Nigerians.
“The Committee was therefore of the view that to abate the pressure, it had no choice but to pursue an expansionary monetary policy using development finance policy tools, targeted at raising output and aggregate supply to moderate the rate of inflation.
“At present, fiscal policy is constrained and so cannot, on its own lift the economy out of contraction or recession given the paucity of funds arising from weak revenue base, current low crude oil prices, lack of fiscal buffers and high burden of debt services.
Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data
“Therefore, monetary policy must continue to provide massive support through its development finance activities to achieve growth in the Nigerian economy. This is the reason MPC will continue to play a dominant role in the achievement of the goals of the Economic Sustainability Program (ESP) through its interventionist role to navigate the country towards a direction that will boost output growth and moderate the level of inflation.”
As part of its plans to inject stimulus into the economy, the central bank committed to a stimulus package of about N1.1 trillion through the government’s Economic Sustainability Plans revealed in June.
CBN to the rescue: Over the last few months the CBN has been at the forefront of leading developmental activities in the country despite overseeing monetary policy and not fiscal policy.
- The role it is currently playing should be that of the Ministry of Finance, but with government revenue on decline, it believes it has no choice but to come in as a spender of last resort.
- The CBN through its development finance responsibilities has the powers to fund activities in the economy that it believes will create jobs and reduce the inflation rate.
But more recently, it has been criticized for expanding its balance sheets and playing too big a role in backstopping nearly all major developmental programs of the Buhari administration.
- The CBN is currently spending trillions funding the agricultural sector
- It has also set aside hundreds of billions of naira in funding SME’s through NISRAL and partner microfinance banks
- There is also several targeted private sector spending in the areas of power, healthcare, real estate, entertainment etc.