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Your publication is wrong, Buhari didn’t ban food imports, Presidency tells Financial Times

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Kingsley Obiora

The Presidency denied on Sunday that the Federal Government had placed restrictions or an outright ban on importation of food items into the country.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency said President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent disclosure that the Central Bank of Nigeria had been asked to stop providing foreign exchange to food importers did not imply a ban on food importation by the government.

Shehu explained that importers could still source FOREX from non-governmental financial institutions and pay the relevant custom duties to the government.

The Presidency was reacting to a recent article published by the Financial Times, titled, “Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports.”

It was published on August 15.

Responding to the publication as ‘Letter to the Editor’, the Presidency stated,

“Your article, ‘Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports (15 August), suggests the Nigerian Government is restricting the import of agricultural products into the country.

“This is simply incorrect. To be absolutely clear, there is no ban – or restriction – on the importation of food items whatsoever.

“President Buhari has consistently worked towards strengthening Nigeria’s own industrial and agricultural base. A recent decision sees the Central Bank maintain its reserves to put to use helping growth of domestic industry in 41 product sectors rather than provide FOREX for the import of those products from overseas.

“Should importers of these items wish to source their FOREX from non-government financial institutions (and pay customs duty on those imports – increasing tax-take, something the FT has berated Nigeria for not achieving on many occasions) they are freely able to do so.

“Diversification of FOREX provision towards the private sector and away from top-heavy government control, a diversification of Nigeria’s industrial base, and an increase in tax receipts, are all policies one might expect the Financial Times to support.

“Yet for reasons not quite clear, the author and this newspaper seem to believe the president’s administration seeks to control everything – and yet do so via policies that relinquish government control.

“We look forward to the next instalment of Mr (Neil) Munshi’s bizarre and puzzling article series.”

In its own article earlier, the Financial Times wrote that Buhari’s directive to the CBN could send food prices “skyrocketing.”

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A part of the publication read,

“Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is coming under fire after calling for the central bank to stop providing the foreign currency needed to pay the country’s vast food import bill.

“Mr Buhari this week ‘directed’ the central bank to cease providing dollars and other currencies to importers as part of his efforts to spur domestic agricultural production and attain ‘full food security’ for Africa’s most populous nation.

“But he drew withering criticism from economists and analysts who said the move threatened to send food prices skyrocketing and brought the central bank’s independence into question.

“Since 2015, the central bank has enforced a controversial policy that denies foreign currency for dozens of imported products from cement to toothpicks to rice, but Mr Buhari’s call would represent a vast expansion of the prohibition.”

 

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Don’t bottle-feed your children, practice exclusive breastfeeding, Abia Govt official tells mothers

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Dr. Chinagozi Adindu, the Executive Secretary, Abia Primary Healthcare Development Agency, has advised nursing mothers against bottle-feeding their babies, saying it discourages healthy child development.
Adindu gave the advice in an interview with the Newsmen in Umuahia, in commemoration of the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanize action on themes related to breastfeeding.
According to WABA, an Online publication, WBW is celebrated every Aug. 1 to 7 in commemoration of the  1990 Innocenti Declaration.
It started in 1992, with annual themes: including healthcare systems, women and work, theInternational Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes,  community support, ecology, economy, science, education, and human rights.
Since 2016, WBW is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, a  World Health Assembly resolution endorsed WBW as an important breastfeeding promotion strategy,” WABA said.
Adindu urged mothers to ensure proper breastfeeding of their children, saying it has many advantages.
“In all our 722 facilities in the state, when mothers come for their ante-natal or post-natal, we usually use that opportunity to educate them on the need for proper breastfeeding.
“We dissuade them from bottle-feeding their babies. In fact, we confiscate such things, if they come to us with the bottles,” Adindu said.
He highlighted the importance of breastfeeding, saying, “it is nutritionally sound and helps the baby to develop very well”.
According to him, breastfeeding helps to strengthen the baby’s immunity against diseases as well as its cognitive development.
The medical doctor said that proper breastfeeding would also help the mother to lose weight, child spacing, maternal bonding, and cheaper.
Adindu said that, in commemorating the week, the agency had held Town Hall meetings, sensitization meetings, road walks, and as well engage the media to create awareness on the need for mothers to breastfeed their children.
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Expert urges shipowners to negotiate with AMCON to forestall foreclosure

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Dr. Chamberlain Peterside, a Financial Expert, has urged maritime stakeholders to come together and aggressively negotiate with the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to forestall their foreclosure.

Peterside made the appeal on an Instagram live program on Saturday organized by Mrs. Ezinne Azunna of the MaritimeTv.

The program had the topic, “State Guarantees, Sovereignty Clauses and all Borrowers in the Maritime Industry Need to Know’’.

According to him, the protracted action by AMCON to come after indigenous shipowners to try to repossess or foreclose them will cripple the already weak indigenous shipping industry.

He proposed a set-aside, urging stakeholders and government to see the industry as a special case as presently the coronavirus pandemic had caused more havoc and the need to protect indigenous shipowners.

“Yes there are some defaults but they should not take a strictly commercial view in this. We are not saying they should walk away but AMCON should cool down and work things out.

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“AMCON has to understand the trend of the industry and if the need is in the negotiation, the executive council should be involved.

“The indigenous shipping industry should be taken as a special case because if it is crippled, the multiplier effect will be very huge,” he said.

Peterside noted that presently discussions in the industry were about Cabotage, developing indigenous capacity, helping the industry grow, saying that already people who had taken the risk and had emerged would suffer.

The finance expert said that as regards borrowing now, it was not advisable to advocate for any measure for capital campaign till the end of the year.

He advocated that shipowners should let the dust settle due to the pandemic so that people would know where the market was heading and also the global economy as prices were rebounding.

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“At the level, things are right now, there is still a lack of comfort. The International Oil Companies (IOC) do not feel too comfortable to make key decisions and so the need to watch the IOC’s body language.

“Shipowners should be thinking of diversification. Those in the business of hauling cargoes for IOCs should consider other assets that they can invest in,” he said.

Peterside pointed out that the industry was a very capital intensive one and unfortunately, raising funds was burdened with few lapses such as operational, environmental, regulatory framework, and also risk profile.

He noted that the only sector that had the least risk in Nigeria was the natural resources sector.

He said that as regards guaranteeing Shipowners, a portion of their services should be guaranteed, like a set-aside, an intervention fund which was done all over the world.

Peterside called for the deployment of the cabotage funds which could be used as an intervention fund to create an avenue where indigenous players could tap from.

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“The government is already over-burdened and so cannot guarantee and the Cabotage fund should run very efficiently and on a commercial basis so that it is not frittered away,’’ he said.

He said that another way of generating funds for the industry was to concentrate on cargo and services instead of vessels because one could leverage cash flow.

Peterside noted that as regards banks funding the sector, they needed to have the expertise to be able to operate the trends as the sector was exposed to the global market.

He added that lack of expertise would lead to default in loan servicing, non-performing loans, saying that unfortunately, a lot of indigenous players did not have financial buffers to withstand loan cancellation, suspension of service, or any disruption.

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ExxonMobil Nigeria gets new chief executive

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ExxonMobil on Saturday announced the appointment of Richard Laing as Chairman and Managing Director of its three affiliates in Nigeria.
Mr. Ogechukwu Udeagha, Manager, Media, and Communications, ExxonMobil confirmed in a statement in Eket.
The three affiliates are Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria (Offshore East).
Udeagha said that the appointment takes effect from Aug. 1.
He said that Laing replaced Paul McGrath, who has been appointed Vice President, Global Projects for ExxonMobil in Houston after more than three years in Nigeria.
“Prior to his appointment, Laing was executive director of oil and gas production and related support groups for all of the ExxonMobil affiliates in Nigeria.
”Laing joined ExxonMobil in 1989 and has held a variety of engineering, planning, safety, and managerial positions in upstream and downstream operations while working in the U.K, Qatar, U.S., and Nigeria,” he said.
Udeagha said that Laing holds a bachelor’s degree in Mining and Petroleum Engineering from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Master’s in Petroleum Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
Responding, Liang said; “It is a privilege to lead the ExxonMobil team in Nigeria and build on the work that Paul McGrath had done over the last three years.
“I look forward to the work that lies ahead and continuing the company’s outstanding relationships,” Liang said
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