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Agriculture, Government

MINA Blog- The Federal Government of Nigeria on Wednesday confirmed the disbursement N300 billion to farmers while 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari who  revealed this while virtually declaring open the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in Abuja said some of the various initiatives embarked upon to boost agricultural trade in Nigeria include the Anchor Borrowers Programme.

 

He stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria had made more than N300 billion available to over  3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities.

 

He said the commodities included Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Cassava, Poultry, Soybeans, Groundnut, Fish, cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland.

 

“It is on record that 80% of rice consumed in Nigeria is now produced locally,’’ he said.

 

He added that the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians had 32.6 million persons from seven million poor and vulnerable households identified, imploring bankers to play a stronger role in improving livelihoods.

 

“From this number, 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than eight million individuals are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer program, which pays a bi-monthly stipend of N10, 000 per household,’’ he said.

 

President Buhari said the National Social Investment Programme was biggest in Sub-Sahara Africa and one of the largest in the world.

 

To further strengthen recovery and enable more Nigerians, President Buhari said, last year, he approved the establishment of InfraCo Plc, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion.

He said the company was being managed by an independent infrastructure Fund Manager.

 

“The Solar Power Naija project was launched in April 2021 with the aim of delivering five million off-grid solar connections to Nigerian households.

 

“In May 2021, the Rural Electrification Agency announced the planned deployment of solar-powered grids to 200 Primary Health Centres and 104 Unity Schools nationwide.

 

“Under the Family Homes Fund Limited, Social Housing programme incorporated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, more than two thousand hectares of land with title documents have been issued by 24 states with the capacity to accommodate about 65,000 new homes.

 

“The Central Bank of Nigeria is providing a N200 Billion financing facility, with a guarantee by the Federal Government,’’ he said.

 

The president affirmed that the theme of the conference, “Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance’’ was most appropriate, following the global shocks from COVID-19.

 

“I salute the Institute and the entire banking and finance industry for the commitment towards charting a practical path for economic recovery and transformation of our country, Nigeria, and by extension Africa as epitomized by the theme of your conference.

 

“I commend the financial services industry for its interventions and contributions towards the promotion of financial inclusion and literacy in our country.

 

“And more importantly, the roles played by the banks in fostering economic growth of the country.

 

“I am confident that the speakers that have been carefully selected to contribute to conference will share insights that will help individuals, businesses and governments at all levels make necessary adjustments and take the right steps towards our collective resolve to position Nigeria as one of the top economies in the world,’’ he added.

 

The president said a report from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product grew 5.01 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; the strongest rise since the fourth quarter of 2014.

 

“This is cheery news and an indication that the efforts of this administration at repositioning the economy is paying off,’’ he said.

 

He urged the bankers and financial institutions to leverage on the abundant business opportunities to grow the economy.

 

President Buhari implored financial institutions to play stronger role in making sure the Nigerian Small and Medium Enterprises were fit for purpose, with support in full implementation of “Agreement”.

 

“Indeed financial intermediary could not be any more relevant than at a time like this.

 

“We need you, the banks to drive value creation by developing new technologies, scaling payment infrastructure to serve the diversified economies expected to benefit from this Agreement,’’ he noted.

 

He said technological innovation was also important in the modern business terrain, noting that most transactions now take place online given the advent of the “Internet of Things”.

 

The president stressed that as the nation continues to progress towards the next frontiers of digitization, it must harness all opportunities while being mindful of the inherent risks.

 

“For example, the protection of data is now of utmost importance to provide users with more secure access to the online space,’’ he said.

 

President Buhari said the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything in the world, from interaction, work, communication to general lifestyle.

 

He noted that the epidemic also triggered new opportunities which helped to reshape the economy in the areas of digital transformation, trans-African trade, financial inclusion, security, workforce of the future, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, processing, supply, and logistics.

 

“As we look beyond the effects of the pandemic to the future, there are bountiful opportunities ahead of us. As you all may know, the African Continental Free Trade Area, of which Nigeria is subscribed, is not only an opportunity for the growth of trade but also the growth of Pan African businesses.

 

 “It portends opportunities for our teeming youth population, the women, the creative industry, the digital economy, the financial services sector, agricultural value chain, commerce, industry, education and indeed every aspect of the economy as Nigerians will have unfettered access to the over 1.3billion consumer market,’’ he said.

 

The President commended CBN, working in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, for providing single-digit financing to young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and Information Technology through establishment of the Creative Industry Financing Initiative.

 

In a goodwill message, President Paul Kagame of Republic of Rwanda said exploring new technology in the banking sector, with more focus on innovation, would enhance financial inclusion.

 

“The banking sector can lead the way in integration. Banking is about trust,’’ he said.

 

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele said the regulatory body had been working with the Bankers Committee to scale the challenges posed by Covid-19, which include reduction of interest rates on loans, increasing the moratorium for payments, and injecting N3 trillion loans in the private sector.

 

 “We do expect that the pace of inflation will moderate as we approach the harvest season,’’ he added.

 

He expressed the hope that banks would remain strong, resilient and healthy.

 

He said the N15 trillion infrastructure fund would be inaugurated in Oct. 2021.

 

According to him, innovations like the Nigeria/International Financial will provide a gateway for capital and investments, and digital currency, e-naira, will enhance inclusion.

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Energy

 “Much of the global investment in clean energy will need to go into Africa. However, instead of prioritizing efforts to redirect global capital to our nations, efforts are currently underway to limit the development of gas projects in Africa, violating the principles of equity and justice enshrined in global agreements”, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

 

He made this submission while speaking during a virtual conference themed: Climate, Conflict, and Demography in Africa jointly hosted by the International Crisis Group, the Royal African Society, and African Confidential publications earlier today.

 

In the past, Prof. Osinbajo had at different forums, raised the issue of financing of gas projects in developing countries, like Nigeria, advocating for a just transition and more effective engagements towards the target of Net-Zero Emission by 2050.

 

At a meeting held earlier in February with the British Member of Parliament and COP26 President-Designate, Mr. Alok Sharma, Prof. Osinbajo restated Nigeria’s support and commitment to the Climate Change agreement but cited the planned restrictions on financing of gas projects in African countries as a potential setback.

 

Also, in March this year, at a meeting with a delegation from the European Union (EU) led by its Executive Vice President, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, the VP reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to the global green energy initiative but called for a just transition to zero-emission.

 

Speaking at the virtual event today, Prof Osinbajo explained the necessity of gas in developing nations, “because the role of gas as a bridge fuel, to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, and rapidly transition away from firewood-based cooking fuel to natural gas-based cooking, yields both environmental and health benefits. 

 

The Vice President emphasized that despite Africa’s contribution to climate change being negligible, “we continue to be the most adversely impacted by climate change, so much so that public resources that could help modernize the energy mix has to be redirected towards adaptation spending.

 

 “But worse, we are being compelled to make disproportionately huge sacrifices as the wealthier countries continue full speed on defunding gas projects and insisting that gas projects must be defunded as an important component of the drive towards net-zero emissions by 2030.”

 

Regarding the amount of investments required in clean electricity – generation and grid storage infrastructure, Prof Osinbajo stated that to get the world on track for net-zero emissions by 2050, it will cost more than US$1.6 trillion per year by 2030. “This is over four times more than what was invested in these sectors in 2020. In regions like Africa, installed electricity capacity will need to double by 2030 and increase at least five-fold by 2050,” he said.

 

Giving reasons for his argument against defunding gas projects, Prof Osinbajo said, “our first obligation will always be to ensure the wellbeing of our people, through access to development services including electricity, healthcare, education, safe jobs, and a safe environment, including access to clean cooking fuels.

 

 “We must prioritize solutions that align with development and climate agendas, this is absolutely important. The global climate conversation can only be equitable and inclusive by putting all people in all geographies at the heart of the endeavor to save the planet.”

 

In the same vein, the VP mentioned the need to “recognize and plan for growing energy demand; its increase will be critical for driving growth, jobs and economy-wide progress, and delivering healthcare and education services. Efforts are already underway in my country, Nigeria, and in several countries across the continent to transition to large shares of clean energy sources to do so.”

 

In attendance at the virtual event were the Minister of Environment for Ghana, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, who represented the President of Ghana; Chairperson of the Royal African Society, Ms. Arunma Oteh; Patrick Smith, Publisher of African Confidential, and the event was moderated by Bola Mosuro.

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Education

MINA Blog- The Federal Government of Nigeria has increased the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) research grants to universities and other tertiary institutions to N8.5 billion, up by 13.3% from the N7.5 billion it doled out in 2020.

 

The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who announced the increment while declaring open the first National Conference on Research, Training and Development in Zaria, noted that in 2019, the grants totaled N5 billion.

 

The conference, under the theme: “Research, Training and Development in Nigeria’s educational system in the 21st century: challenges and way forward” was organized by the Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria.

 

The minister, represented by the Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for doing a lot in the area of education.

 

He added that the Federal Government had decided to raise its budgetary allocation to the education sector by 50 per cent in next year’s budget, with a view to addressing the funding shortfall for the sector.

 

The minister stressed the global importance of research in any academic community, saying that the number of academic publications were not enough, as what mattered most was the amount of research grants one attracted to his or her university as a professor or senior academic officer.

 

The minister congratulated ABU for winning a total of 12 research grants in 2020 from the TETFund as against the five it won in 2019.

 

“I am really happy that things are gradually changing in ABU. As one of the first generation universities in Nigeria, ABU should not take the rear seat in the area of research and other academic activities,” he said.

 

The minister recalled with nostalgia some of vibrant intellectual activities organised by students that attracted many to ABU, citing the examples of the popular Moot Court at the Faculty of Law and the Mock Summit at the Department of Political Science and International Studies.

 

The minister, however, noted with dismay, that those epoch-making events by students had ceased to exist in recent years, although they were beginning to pick up under the leadership of Prof. Kabiru Bala as the institution’s Vice-Chancellor.

 

Earlier, Prof. Bala, had stressed the importance of research in national development, saying that this was what promoted the Institute of Education to organise the annual national conference on research, training and development.

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Education, Government

The Senate on Tuesday passed two bills seeking to establish two federal universities in Ekiti and Nasarawa States.

 

The bills are Federal University of Health and Medical Sciences Iyin, Ekiti State (Establishment) Bill, 2021, and Federal University Lafia Teaching Hospital (Establishment) Bill, 2021.

 

Both bills are sponsored by Senators Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), and Tanko Al-Makura (APC, Nasarawa South).

 

The passage of both bills followed the presentation and consideration of two separate reports by the Committee on Health (Secondary and Tertiary).

 

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara Central), in his presentation, said the bill to establish the Federal University of Lafia Teaching Hospital was “necessitated as a result of the precarious health conditions faced by resident.”

 

According to him, the bill to establish the Federal University of Health and Medical Sciences Iyin, Ekiti State, seeks to promote and emphasize teaching, research and extension of knowledge in the field of medicine and environmental sciences.

 

In a related development, the Senate on Wednesday passed a third bill to amend the University Teaching Hospitals (Reconstitution of Boards) Act.

 

The bill’s passage by the upper chamber followed consideration of a report by the Committee on Health (Secondary and Tertiary).

 

Senator Oloriegbe in his presentation explained that the amendment bill seeks to amend the First Schedule to the Principal Act to include the University Teaching Hospital, Lafia and Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital.

 

In a related development, a bill seeking to establish the Federal College of Education, Kaiama, Kwara State, scaled second reading during plenary.

 

The bill was sponsored by Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North).

 

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, after the bill was considered, referred it to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND.

 

The Committee which is chaired Senator Ahmad Baba Kaita was given four weeks to report back to the upper chamber.

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Economy, Finance

*VP lists housing, renewable energy financing as priority for banking & finance sector

 

*Adds: Job creation, poverty reduction should be target

 

The banking and finance sector has over the years played significant roles in the economy, but emerging challenges require that the sector takes on more transformative projects such as housing and renewable energy, among others, in ways that significantly impact job creation and poverty reduction, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

 

Prof. Osinbajo stated this today in Abuja at the opening session of the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference themed “Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation, the role of Banking and Finance”. President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier declared the conference opened and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame also delivered the keynote address.

 

In their separate remarks, Presidents Buhari and Kagame commended leaders in Nigeria’s banking and finance sector for their contributions to the development of Africa’s economy. President Buhari specifically urged the sector to support his administration’s efforts in job creation and poverty alleviation, listing some of government’s achievements in the areas.

 

According to the Vice President, “it is time for the sector to take on some of the transformative big-ticket items that would fundamentally transform our economy. Such matters include consumer finance but housing finance in particular.”

 

He noted that a focus on how to finance housing is critical.

 

Referencing an African Development Bank (AfDB) survey, Prof. Osinbajo said “the housing sector may support poverty reduction and inclusive growth in two general ways. First, housing construction contributes to economic output, creates employment, and generates a demand for materials and related services. Second, improved housing raises the standard of living of occupants.

 

“That study (AfDB survey) says for example that the benefits of housing for individuals accrue in large part through better health and sanitation, and of course this improves the overall human capacity of our citizens who are able to own these houses. Housing also generates large multiplier effects in terms of employment and output. Employment is created for both skilled and poorer, unskilled workers.

 

“The evidence also suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between housing finance and financial sector development. Housing finance helps to develop the financial sector itself and helps to contribute to economic growth. So, these were the justifications that we also advanced for our mass housing initiative in the Economic Sustainability Plan.”

 

Challenging the banking sector on participating in the Federal Government’s Mass Housing programme, the VP noted that “the finance sector appears shy or simply has not found the right housing finance model that will work.”

 

On renewable energy and mitigating the impact of climate change, Prof. Osinbajo said “one of the chief considerations especially for developing countries is how to pay for the massive transition to renewable energy. How do we pay for moving from where we are especially fossil fuel-based power sources to renewable energy? This is a significant challenge but it is also an enormous opportunity.”

 

Citing the example of the Federal Government’s solar power initiative, Prof. Osinbajo decried the low interest shown by Commercial Banks to catalyze installations or manufacturing for Solar Power Naija programme.

 

He explained that “the challenge of under-electrification of the rural and poor and it’s associated impacts on our economic well-being and security cannot be overstated. The climate change challenge is a massive one in more ways than we can imagine.

 

“I would like to encourage the Bankers Committee to refocus on supporting the Solar Power Naija to ensure that in the next few months we can catalyze access to the N140 billion and create 5 million connections that can multiply to eliminating our electricity access deficit and creating jobs.”

 

While commending the sector for its efforts in improving service delivery over the years, the VP noted that “going forward, the banking and finance sector must take advantage of the new opportunities that are opening up and also adapt to domestic and international developments.

 

“The rapid changes in the technology sector mean that financial technology companies and payment service companies are now an inescapable part of the banking and financial landscape.”

 

Prof. Osinbajo also suggested that financial inclusion being critical to the objectives of recovery, inclusion and transformation, should be prioritized “especially in this COVID era, for the poor and more vulnerable sections of society so that they can keep their micro-businesses alive and handle risks and uncertainty.”

 

Other dignitaries who spoke at the event include Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, and President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN), Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, among other bank executives across the country with several participants also joining virtually.

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