Loan For SMEs:Taming The Shylocks. Ojo Akin-Longe

As the Central Bank new initiatives such as the credit card facilities to boost the creative industry, is well thought but should be followed through as loans are issues of concern as many have experienced.

We applied for credit after doing what I thought was a very thorough feasibility report and confident we had a very good business.  Even at that, I knew one of the ‘Big Men’ at the top of the bank whom I could reach should the need arise.  The financing proposition was for the bank to finance part of the equipment purchase, whilst we provide part financing, and as well bear all installation costs and purchase additional equipment locally.  The bank would in effect also make the fund transfer and so they were involved in the transaction.

 In all, it would be a 50/50 funding.  We already had the business going and the additional contribution from the bank would be far less than the current value of the business.  Once we got confirmation from the bank that the credit would be approved, we effected payment of initial 10% deposit amounting to Euro 20,000.  It was our first request for bank financing so we made everything pretty clear and based on what we really needed.

After the initial deposit payment, I was to run after the bank severally.  I followed up, begged and pushed and was really shocked at the attitude.  With delays setting in, the supplier promptly wrote to informed us that we would be surcharged for the delayed payments otherwise they’d cancel the transaction and we forfeit the deposit.  We further begged and pushed and eventually, the bank ‘graciously’ obliged us the credit, they gave us 65% of what we requested.  I felt this didn’t connect so I asked what happened and was told that, that was all the bank could afford.  Caught between losing our deposit and having faith that some miracle could happen we trudged on. 

When the equipment arrived, we started installation and commissioning then I started seeing signs of trouble.  I alerted the bank; they said I should be grateful I got given in the first place.  We channelled all funds we had into the commissioning, essentially using operational funds for capital expenditure.  It wasn’t long before we got stranded.  Repayment time was up and the bank promptly demanded that we start paying.  I took every necessary document to show to them, tried to talk with that we were actually stranded and couldn’t run. 

All the talks seemed to count for nothing.  I called the ‘big man’ yet again, who wondered why we were given less than we requested stating that the practice is that a customer got what is applied for, otherwise they reviewed and agree with the customer to reduce if there were concerns that the request was frivolous or padded.

Subsequently, my banker again, ‘graciously’ announced that the total facility was granted at the first instance and they had deliberately disbursed the fund short to see if we could survive.  I raised the fact that we had been stranded for about four months.   That we had had several meetings with the bank on the situation, and that they mentioned that we were being surcharged 40% default charges and asked if that meant anything to him. He just shrugged off. 

The nightmare didn’t end there.  They eventually released the outstanding funds to us.  Then a new twist, we would now have to repay in 10 months.   We now had two concurrent loans running together with repayments falling due first, in the first week of the month and next by midmonth. It isn’t allthat, the loan amount had now increased significantly as previous unpaid amounts which earlier fell due were now charged at 40% interest for default.

I just stared at them.  I tried having a meeting with them they bluffed me.  The bank resorted to threats and intimidation.  I felt we borrowed the money and we must pay back and I was reluctant to make any case or be seen to be irresponsible, besides we were debtors and some sense of shame, if you know what I mean! Also, I felt I needed to show gratefulness for this bank’s ‘help’! 

At last, I talked with a Lawyer who was appalled at all these and suggested that I have to make the officials  understand that it mattered that they appreciate their culpability and that they couldn’t ride rough-shod over us, and that we would escalate and seek re-dress if need be.  I told him we owed and needed to pay, he said, yes, but responsibly so. 

Then I had one more meeting with the bank executives and very calmly took them through the credit journey showing them e-mails evidences, reminded them of the original request and letting them know that we were committed to paying back but it will have to be within responsible limit.  Expectedly, they backed down.

See my story.  The question is how do you grow an economy without the SMEs? And how do SMEs grow and survive without credit? How do small and medium scale enterprises access credit fairly and easily? How do we get credit within reasonable interest rates? How can we simplify credit application system and process? What thoughts do you have for financial security system that makes borrowers pay?

What changes do we need to make to our legal and judicial system to ensure accelerated judicial and legal process so that the wheel of justice will move in good time and in good speed? Are there venture capitalists out there? How do business people access you? Do banks have dedicated SME funds? What form of social engagement and responsibility can the banks can engage in to prime business knowledge and awareness to help viable and genuine business entrepreneurs build knowledge and capacity to help them better able to access credit? Do you have a successful credit application story? \

 Please tell it.  Is it true that Bank Managers actually own the loan shack businesses giving credit at up to 25% per month?  That they get the monies to their cronies and then direct bank customers to them? I heard so but I don’t know. Folks, how do genuine business people get credit besides getting from some relative or friend or well-wisher?  By the way, my MBA thesis is going to be on a comparative analysis of family and friend’s credit provisions for SME survival against the bank’s effort in this same direction, looking at the Nigerian example and using a special case study.

And you know, interestingly, it comes back to us all, the banks, the SMEs and the economy.  It works well, and we all benefit; a vibrant economy, more jobs, people off the street and yes, a safer world.

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Seaports Shut As Maritime Workers Begin National Strike

The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has directed its members to withdraw their services and commence a nationwide industrial action over unpaid wages to dockworkers, among other issues.

The action is expected to substantially shut down ports operations leading to huge losses in terms of revenue to government and organizations especially in the upstream oil and gas operations.

Addressing officials and a cross section of dockworkers at the Dockworkers’ Branch of MWUN, Lagos, president general of the union, Adewale Adeyanju, threatened that the industrial action would not be suspended until all outstanding payments accumulated for over a year were fully liquidated along with the resolution of other workers’ welfare issues.

MWUN had on June 11, 2019, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to compel the International Oil Companies, IOCs, to pay all outstanding wages to Dockworkers, among other issues or face nationwide industrial unrest.

 The leaders of the Union had, last week, set up a strike coordinating committee and directed its officials in all port formations nationwide to begin a massive mobilization of members ahead of the planned strike.

Explaining why the Union had resorted to industrial action, Adeyanju contended that non-payment of government-appointed stevedores/dockworkers by the IOCs contravened Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Act 2007.

He lamented that several efforts made to get the IOCs to comply including the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, failed. 

 He stated: “Some of the affected dockworkers have passed on prematurely due to economic hardship, while those that are alive have been forced to live like destitute. As a responsible union, we cannot continue to hold our arm and watch our members die prematurely because of the nonchalant attitude of the IOCs toward the welfare of our members.

In view of the foregoing, we gave a 14-day ultimatum/notice to the Federal Government, through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation to prevail on the IOCs to do the needful by paying our members. Ahead of the expiration of the ultimatum, which was Friday, June 28, 2019, we issued a reminder letter dated June 27, 2019.

\”The three days’ reminder elapsed and we are, therefore, directing that all ports operations nationwide should be shut and our members should begin an indefinite strike until all payments are made and other issues resolved. That is, if at the close of work today, (yesterday) no evidence of payment is seen, our members shall withdraw services in all the nation’s seaports until all issues in contention are resolved.”

Part of the complaints of the Union in the letter to the government says, “It is on record that on June 1, 2018, the NPA appointed stevedoring contractors to provide stevedoring services at various off-shore jetties and on-shore locations to the International Oil Services and other operators. It will be necessary to inform you that NPA had held several meetings with these operators to grant access to the government appointed stevedoring contractors, process their invoices and effect payment. Unfortunately, the operators have refused to comply with the NPA directive after one year that the stevedoring contractors were appointed.

 “We commend the managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority for the NPA management has made to compel the IOCs to engage the services of appointed stevedoring and registered dockworkers in their stevedores and registered dockworkers in their stevedoring operators.

In fact, at stakeholders meeting held on February 28, 2018, organised by the NPA at Victoria Island, Lagos, to sensitise stakeholders, i.e., IOCs, jetty owners and terminal owners, that the NPA appointed stevedores and registered dockworkers are empowered by law to solely handle discharged and loading operations at the ports, jetties and oil platforms.

“The position of the operators on NPA directive is worrisome and very surprising because the same operators had processed and paid the former stevedoring contractors since 2010 through a foremost terminal operator. So, why are they refusing to cooperate with the newly appointed stevedoring contractors since the modus operandi remains the same?

 “The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has been monitoring the chain of events on this matter since last one year, and noted that the implication of the operators defiant attitude amongst others is untimely death of some dockworkers while awaiting the payment of their wages, because they could not meet their family obligations like payment of house rent, children school fees and hospital bills, to mention but few. We can no longer continue to watch our members die prematurely because of the defiant attitude of the IOCs.

“Consequently, we are constrained to give the Ministry of Transportation that superintends the appointment of stevedores two weeks (14 days) to prevail on the management of the IOCs to pay all outstanding bills to our members, failing which we will be compelled to withdraw our services and shut down operations in all the Nations Sea Ports.”

Although the  NPA, yesterday claimed it was holding a meeting with the union leadership in the bid to avert the strike, President General of MWUN,   Adeyanju denied knowledge of such meeting.

The General Manager, Corporate Communications of NPA, Mr Adams Jatto, said the Authority had called the Union for dialogue earlier yesterday morning. He stated: “There was a meeting, the meeting is not over, but even if the Union decide to go ahead, NPAs operations will not be affected because the issue is with the IOC, and I believe the strike will only affect the upstream. This ultimatum has been hanging and those directly involved have failed to respond. It is not the Authority’s problem in the actual sense, we are only trying to mediate.”

 But Adeyanju denied any meeting, insisting that only evidence of payment of the outstanding wages would stop the strike, saying all four branches of the Union, comprising of Dockworkers, Seamen, Ship Chandelling and NPA would comply fully as they had been mobilised for an effective nationwide strike from today.

 In the reminder letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Union lamented that there was no evidence that the issues raised were being addressed.

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CBN Reveals Five-Year Strategic Plan …Eyes Double-Digit Growth, Single-Digit Inflation

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this in Abuja, Monday, while briefing the media on his agenda for the next five years. According to him, the 2004 recapitalisation undertaken by former CBN Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo has weakened, substantially.

His words, “In the next five years, we intend to pursue a program of recapitalising the Banking Industry so as to position Nigerian banks among the top 500 in the world. Banks will therefore be required to maintain higher level of capital, as well as, liquid assets in order to reduce the impact of an economic crisis on the financial system.

 “It was Governor (Chukwuma) Soludo, in 2004 who did the last recapitalisation we had. Moving the capitalisation from N2 billion to N 25 billion. “I must commend that effort because it resulted in positioning Nigerian banks, not only in Africa, but to become among top banks in the world, in terms of capitalisation.”It also increased helped the strengthen the banks to take on large transactions and those are the things they badly needed. The wrong way to defend the naira(Opens in a new browser tab)

 “Today, when you relate N25 billion in 2001 exchange rate, which was about N100/$1, N25 billion was about $200 million . Today if you relate N25 billion at N360/$1, you can see that it substantially lower than $75 million . “What we are trying to say is that the capitalisation has weakened quite substantially and there is need for us to say it is time for us to recapitalise Nigerian banks again. ‘Kudimoney’ gets CBN license, rebrands to ‘Kuda’(Opens in a new browser tab).

 “It is a policy thrust which will be discussed at the Committee of Governors’ Meeting and of course the frame work for the recapitalization of Nigerian banks would be unfolded for the whole world to know.”

 . The governor said that in the next five years, his team would work closely with the fiscal authorities to ensure a stable macro-economic stability, double-digit growth, single-digit inflation and greater access to finance for businesses.

Emefiele said, “Working closely with our fiscal authorities, we pledge to target a double digit growth by the next five years and at the CBN, we commit to working assiduously to bringing down inflation to single digit; while accelerating the rate of employment.

 “Put succinctly, our priorities at the CBN over the next 5 years are the following; First, preserve domestic macroeconomic and financial stability; Second, foster the development of a robust payments system infrastructure that will increase access to finance for all Nigerians thereby raising the financial inclusion rate in the country; Third, continue to work with the Deposit Money Banks to improve access to credit for not only small holder farmers and MSMEs but also Consumer credit and mortgage facilities for bank customers.

 “Our intervention support shall also be extended to our youth population who possess entrepreneurship skills in the creative industry.” On the management of the foreign exchange, he said , “We will continue to operate a managed- float exchange rate regime in order to reduce the impact which continuous volatility in the exchange rate could have on our economy”

The CBN, the governor said, he would support measures that would increase and diversify Nigeria’s exports base and ultimately help in shoring up our reserves, particularly by supporting domestic industries and creating jobs on a mass scale for Nigerians.

The Governor said, “We intend to aggressively implement our N500bn facility aimed at supporting the growth of our non-oil exports, which will help to improve non-oil export earnings. “Will launch a Trade Monitoring System(TRMS) in October 2019, which is an automated system that will reduce the length of time required to process export documents from 1 week to 1 day. This measure will help support our efforts at improving our non-oil exports of goods and services.

“We will also work with our counterparts in the fiscal arm in supporting improved FDI flows to various sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, insurance and infrastructure. These measures while supporting improved inflows into the country, will help to stabilise our exchange rate and build our external reserves.”

Mr. Emefiele said that his team would boost productivity growth through the provision of improved seedlings, as well as access to finance for rural farmers in the agricultural sector, across 10 different commodities namely: Rice, Maize, Cassava, Cocoa, Tomato, Cotton, Oil-palm, Poultry, Fish, and Livestock/Dairy.

He said, “Our choice of these 10 crops is driven by the amount spent on the importation of these items into the country, and the over 10 million jobs that could be created over the next 5 years if efforts are made to expand cultivation and processing of these items in Nigeria. So far, we have held series of engagements with importers and producers of these products.

“Most of them have committed that they would install or expand their production capacities in Nigeria. We believe these measures will help to boost not only our domestic outputs but also improve our annual non-oil exports receipts from $2 billion in 2018 to $12 billion by 2023.”

He added that CBN would support an aggressive embroilment of prospective banking customers in the informal sector on to the BVN system and move the current enrolment of 38 million unique banking customers to 100 million over the next 5 years.

Emefiele said that the consumer credit programme would be pursued more vigorously, including mortgage at 9 per cent interest.

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‘Online Kitchen, Innovation In Catering Services’

The Vortex features correspondent Manasseh F. Paul-Worika speaks with Clinton Treasure Diseye. Diseye, an indigene of Sagbama in Bayelsa State and a 400 level student of Sociology at the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, Bayelsa State, is the Chief Executive, Tee’s Kitchen.

Tell us about your outfit, Tee’s Kitchen.

Tee’s kitchen is an online kitchen that offers professional catering services for busy individuals, corporate organizations and families. Irrespective of your location, you can place an order and we have your meal delivered to you on time and at affordable rates. We also render outdoor catering services for occasions such as, birthdays, weddings, matriculations, convocations, etc.

Inspiration behind Tee’s Kitchen

Tee’s kitchen was birthed out of my passion for cooking. Growing up, I had always loved cooking and trying out new things in the kitchen. Things weren’t smooth after I lost my parents and I said to myself instead of depending on people or engaging in illegal businesses, why not start up something. At first, I started with selling Zobo, making doughnuts and chin chin with capital I got from my savings.

It got to a point I needed to expand my business and the idea of Tee’s kitchen came. Initially I started alone, but now, I have about 8 persons working with me and it has been awesome. No matter where individuals are, once we receive their orders, we deliver right on time. Recently, we had a job to cook for over 100 persons in a child naming ceremony in Benin.

One other thing that inspired me into starting up Tee’s kitchen is the economic situation in Nigeria. The spate of unemployment and poverty is alarming and we can’t depend on the government anymore to provide jobs for the teeming youths.

What can the government do to tackle unemployment?

Truth remains that the spate of unemployment has led to many vices in the country like, armed robbery, kidnapping, etc. The government should focus on building industries that would employ graduates.  They should also create conducive environments that will make businesses thrive.

How does Tee’s Kitchen operate?

Due to academic activities, I advertise Tee’s kitchen on social media platforms particularly on my Whatsapp Status indicating the meals for a particular day and what time we are open to receiving orders. And we do just home delivery for now since we don’t have a physical restaurant. Although there are plans for that. Tee’s Kitchen also organizes online and offline cooking classes. We’ve put up seven online cooking classes where interested individuals pay a token to get full practical training to boost their cooking skills.

We’ve also organized about five offline classes free of charge. But in this case, we ask individuals to just provide the ingredients needed and we teach them how to cook.

What challenges do you encounter?

Well, my biggest challenge has been turning down customers demand because of academic work. It’s really a big challenge.

How do you manage business and academics?

It hasn’t been easy I’d say; but in all I give thanks to God for the wisdom and direction. I’ve learnt to manage my time effectively and even if academic work seems to be a challenge, it doesn’t affect me badly. There are days I assign my workers to handle some jobs when I’m too occupied and they still deliver perfectly.

How has your business helped you?     

It has helped me financially.  At least I can now assist myself academically and not depend on anyone for livelihood. It has made me bold and confident and has also made me stand out.

What are your projections?

I’m working on having branches of my businesses in many cities with competent hands to manage them. The idea is to make Tee’s Kitchen a household name within Nigeria in the short and medium term and the world in the long term.

How has competition from others influenced you?

I wouldn’t say I have been in any form of competition with any business owner or those in my line of business. I know what I can offer and consistently make customer satisfaction my priority. I ensure that what I give my customers is healthy, nutritious, delicious and superb. So each day, I make conscious attempts to improve and work on my delivery and the packages I have for my customers.

Advice to youths waiting for white collar jobs

For those talented in different areas, don’t sit idly. Get something doing. You can learn painting, designing, hair braiding, or any other thing that can earn you a living. Relate with people who are professionals in a skill and learn from them.

With this, you’ll have something to fall back to instead of engaging in criminal acts in the name of waiting for white collar jobs. Start from somewhere; don’t fold your hands anymore.

Advice to young entrepreneurs?

So many persons tend to give up once they notice their business seem to be generating returns. They allow complacency creep in and at the end of the day, they end up shutting down the business. There will be challenges.  All you need is to stay strong, hold on and believe that it won’t end there. Keep doing what you love doing and always seek the wisdom of God to lead you.

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Nigeria Spends $4 Billion On Textile Imports Yearly …Imports 47% Of LPG From US, Others

The Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA) has said the country spends $4 billion annually to import textiles and readymade cloths.

The Director-General of the Association, Mr Hamma Kwajaffa, said in Abuja that most of the imported textiles could be found at Kantin and Kwari in Kano and Balogun and Oshodi in Lagos.

According to Kwajaffa, “Influx of smuggled goods continues to flood major textile markets in Lagos and Kano states; textile importation do not only undermine the local Industry but steal our jobs. It deprives government of revenue; it is a drain on Nigeria’s precarious foreign exchange reserves,” he said.

He said that Nigeria had the potential to produce for the local market and to export to the ECOWAS market of 175 million people.

He said that Nigeria also have the potential to produce for the United States under AGOA and EU GSP scheme which Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar and a numbers of African countries are already exploiting.

Kwajaffa said that textiles used to be Nigeria’s foremost industry, being the second largest Employer after government and utilizing indigenous raw materials such as cotton.

However, he said that despite government’s intention to revive the sector, the reality on ground continues to be worrisome.

“The prevailing unprecedented harsh environment has dealt serious on the already fragile industry. Unless government takes urgent steps to address key issues raised by the industry, the ray of hope that had arisen from the recent government Initiatives may get extinguished.

“Other developing countries are helping their textile industry in many ways due to its high employment potential. Nigeria’s huge population of over 165 million people represents a large natural market for textiles.’’

According to him, India, which is the second largest textile producer in the world after China, recently announced 1 bn dollars incentive package for the textile and apparel industry to create 10 million jobs in three years.

“We commend the interest shown by the government in reviving the Nigerian textile industry in the past 6 months.’’

He said the industry has listed eight specific issues to the notice of government to intervene within the ambit of existing policy framework whereas some require new initiatives.

“ Re-scheduling of the CTG loan facility by the Bank of Industry to 10+2 years was agreed by the government and for this to be effective, a notification is still awaited.’’

He called on government to review the tariff on gas supplied to the industry in Naira to make it affordable.

He said that scarcity of black oil has crippled the operations of the textile mills in the North, adding that there is need to ensure availability of the oil to the textile mills through direct allocation from Kaduna and other refineries.

He also called for consistent supply of certified seeds to ensure adequate supply of cotton to local textile industry.

Under the dual exchange rate policy being currently pursued by the industry, the director general called on CBN to allocate forex at official rate for the industry to import of essential raw materials by the textile mills.

He charged the government to persuade its MDA’s to source all their uniforms from the local textile mills.

He also called on government to checking the influx of smuggled goods and action against counterfeit textiles which fake the Nigerian trade marks in an effective manner.

According to Mr. Jaiyeola Olarewaju, the former Director General of NTMA, said the benefits from a competitive textile industry in Nigeria are numerous.

Olarewaju said that greater demand for cotton would boost the income of Nigerian farmers.

“Government needs to walk the talk and fulfill the assurances given to the sector.’’

Meanwhile nearly half of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas, also known as cooking gas, consumed in Nigeria in the first three months of the year was imported from India and five other countries.

The country, which is home to the largest natural gas reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, has continued to suffer supply shortage over the years.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that 47 per cent (146.14 million litres) of the LPG supply in the country in the first quarter of this year was imported while 53 per cent (164.71 million litres) was produced locally.

The United States accounted for 46 per cent (67.10 million litres) of Nigeria’s LPG imports in the period, while India, Trinidad and Tobago, Algeria, Argentina, and Equatorial Guinea supplied the remaining one per cent.

Nigeria imported 61.39 million litres of LPG in January, while 33.22 million litres were produced locally. The country imported 26.60 million litres and 58.15 million litres in February and March respectively while 55.72 million litres and 75.77 million litres were produced locally in February and March respectively.

It bought 12.95 million litres of LPG from India in January; 12.95 million litres from Algeria in January; 14.64 million litres from Argentina in February; 21.74 million litres and 4.69 million litres from Equatorial Guinea in January and February respectively; and 17.59 million litres from Trinidad and Tobago in March.

The US exported 19.29 million litres, 7.26 million litres and 40.55 million litres of LPG to Nigeria in January, February and March respectively.

According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the country has around 202 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves plus about 600 trillion cubic feet unproven gas reserves.

“Out of 8.5bscfd of natural gas production in Nigeria, only 18 per cent of natural gas produced is being utilised by the domestic market. A large percentage of the gas produced is used for the export market. Re-injection is 32 per cent and flared gas stands at seven per cent,” the Group Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, NNPC, Mr Saidu Mohammed, said at an industry event last month.

Last month, the Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers commended the Federal Government for the removal of Value Added Tax on locally produced LPG.

The marketers and other industry stakeholders had over the years complained about the VAT being charged on locally sourced LPG, saying the tax made the cost of buying the locally produced LPG high, compared to imported cooking gas.

The President of the association, Mr Nosa Ogieva-Okunbor, said, “The clamour for VAT removal from domestically produced Liquefied Petroleum Gas has been of perennial concern to members of our association. The good news received by our association and the LPG industry is that the Federal Government has finally signed the approval of VAT removal on LPG and gazetted same which makes it an official pronouncement.”

He said the increased awareness of LPG usage had seen consumption in Nigeria grow from 50,000 metric tonnes in 2007 to over 600,000MT in 2018 with more indigenous investments in LPG bottling plants.

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Changing To Fit A Changing World

The world is changing.  That’s not the issue.  It is the pace of change, too rapid, pushing so many things into obsolescence too quickly.  Chaos is fast becoming the order and norm of living.  To gain foothold on the razor thin margin of profitability, businesses are changing the way things are done.  Processes are reviewed all too frequently.  New technologies are introduced.  Optimisation is the word.  Companies are squeezing the last drop so nothing is wasted.  Innovation is cutting across hardware and on to soft issues, and there is so much innovation in business processes and systems.  Research and technology companies are building on new innovations, adding new features, and new capabilities and at cheaper cost.

Change is good but can be inconveniencing.  Change can be costly at the initial instance but tends to give overall benefit in the long run.  Change adds variety and spice to people and business lives.  I think change helps efficiency and effectiveness.  To be oblivious of change or to ignore it can leave destruction in its wake, remember the dinosaurs! For businesses, change is the constant.  Constant adaptability to changing technologies and businesses processes has to be the norm.  We usually get designs from clients by e-mail or on some saving device but I just got a 2 terabyte storage device with server capability and web access.  It came quite cheap, at least by my consideration.  My clients can log on to it, drop their design and we pick locally and go to press.  I wouldn’t need to open my mail to access their designs.   It is out there for them to access and right here with me, like one of my local drives.

The changing world makes things smarter and faster.  I don’t have to make all my designs from the scratch anymore.  In the new innovative world and global village we now live in, I buy into several freelance designs, pick, amend and bingo! I get an exquisite design, my clients says it’s cool. But I really didn’t do too much.

The new world of change has a wider reach.  Social networking sites like facebook, MySpace and others are building a whole new community of virtual residents who are alive at all times.  Talking! Sharing! Exchanging pictures and videos! Selling! Advertising! And blogging!  The virtual community without boundaries are redefining our sense of communal living where we all have a say and we all get heard.  I have had to put up my advert on facebook and direct same to a particular region for the effect I wanted.

A vey hype world, the new world ensures you aren’t bored any moment.  Music, video and entertainment on demand, no letting up on any dull moment.  The new world is making news available up to the minute and on-demand too.  I track news on my phone. I use my ipod to bits on music and on the go! Waiting times at airports are occupied with one activity or the other, Ipod, laptop, games on phone, wirelessly logon to office network and may be work while waiting. 

The world has now changed the way we trace our locations. They ensure we never really get lost. Google map! And several route maps.  I find this interesting honestly.  You know how we look at things here, like they won’t work.  I travelled eastwards, on the outward journey, we took a rather long route.  Our friend advised we take another route on return. Somewhere we got confused and I took out my phone went for the ‘drive’ route map, you bet, it worked in the remote east of Nigeria. We didn’t ask anyone for guide and direction we just drove through.  Folks, it is a changing world.  I saw it, I used it!

We hear the statement ‘global village’ every now and then, but we really have gone global.  The earth hasn’t shrunk but we have brought everything closer together with new tools. Lots of product information on table tops and palm tops.  Inquiries on the go. The consumer is more empowered and can ‘talk’ with the seller thousands of miles away, can even see him or her.  Ebay, Amazon, you-tube, facebook have become real phenomena. I buy online.  I have an abode online ‘cos I’m on facebook.  Feels like a global citizen in a new world that confers citizenship to all who will log on!

The new world is also changing the way we consume.  Yes the way we consume nature’s own.  It has become imperative that we think of the generation unborn, so we have to think about how we use water. Our carbon footprints! Better and more efficient way to generate power. Recycling! Harness nature’s own better and so on and so forth.  For me, I don’t know, but I am considering alternative power generation system that could power our offices while side-stepping the power service providers.  It helps me considering the fact that they are inefficient anyway.  I am considering using solar energy in the very near future.  I am fitting into a new world. 

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NCAA To Demolish 7000 Masts For Air Safety

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), yesterday, issued a 30-day ultimatum to owners and operators of unlicensed masts and towers around airports nationwide to either comply with the rules or face demolition.

This is as the aviation apex regulator has marked over 7000 masts, largely owned by Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) service providers, a development that would cause disruption of communication activities in and around the airport areas where they are located.

NCAA, at a parley in February, had warned telecoms operators and owners of high-rise structure around airports to remit their outstanding debts to the body or face sanctions.

The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, gave the order during a meeting with the Association of Licensed Telecommunications operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, Tuesday, said NCAA is left with limited options when the telecommunication providers fail to obtain the statutory Aviation Height Clearance (AHC).

“Without Aviation Height Clearance, all these masts and towers constitute a danger to safety of air navigation,” Adurogboye said.

Under the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, Section 30(3) (1), the NCAA is empowered to prohibit and regulate the installation of any structure which by virtue of its height or position is considered to endanger the safety of air navigation.

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part also states that no person or organisation shall put up a structure (permanent or temporary) within the navigable airspace of Nigeria unless such a person or organisation is a holder of Aviation Height Clearance Certificate granted under this Regulation.

Adurogboye added that contrary to the regulations, “the promoters of GLO telecommunication and other defaulters have failed to obtain the mandatory Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is considered as a violation of safety Regulations.

“Several letters and entreaties sent to Globacom Limited and other GSM providers by the Authority were not responded to despite being duly received by the relevant executives and acknowledged. In addition, Letters of Investigation (LOI) were written and delivered to them with no response recorded till date,” he said.

The spokesperson recalled that at the February meeting, Globacom representatives were present, and were asked questions concerning GLO’s refusal to obtain Aviation Height Clearance Certificate. In response the delegates demanded to be furnished with the location of the masts. A booklet containing the coordinates and location of the masts has since been made available to the organisation.

“As a result of the meeting, other telecommunications providers have implicitly demonstrated considerably compliance by duly obtaining the requisite height clearance from the Authority except for these few defaulters.

“A 30-day ultimatum has, therefore, been given to Globacom Limited and other defaulters to regularise their operations with NCAA forthwith. However, if there is similarly no response, NCAA will immediately embark on mass decommissioning and demolition of all their masts and towers in Nigeria,” Adurogboye said.

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What Nigeria Loses To Illegal Lottery Operators

The Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila, disclosed that the nation loses billions of Naira to illegal lottery operators practicing on different platforms across the country.

Gbajabiamila, who raised the alarm in Abuja on Wednesday, warned that anyone caught operating illegal lottery scheme will face the wrath of the law

“The Federal Government is losing billions of naira to the illegal operators. We are sanitizing the industry because it will be unfair to allow the ponzi scheme scammers to continue to defraud Nigerians. If we allow the scammers to continue, it will affect the operators. Our zonal offices across the country have been fully equipped to monitor the activities of the illegal operators”.

The DG who spoke at the opening of a two-day training programme for staff of the NLRC and other stakeholders, said his Commission had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Communication Commission (NCC) to check the activities of the illegal lottery operators.

According to him, with the measures being put in place by the NLRC and the NCC, it would be difficult for illegal operators to defraud unsuspecting members of the public without being apprehended.

His words “We are committed to enforcing the laws and ensuring that the operators comply with the regulations. We still carried out some enforcement last week and we will continue to do that. We are actually after the online operators because many of them are operating illegally.

“We have signed an MoU with the National Communications Commission to knock out any illegal operator that is not registered with the NLRC. The NCC has been mandated to shut the illegal operators down on our behalf”.

He said lottery has advanced in terms of technology, to the extent that it could be done on mobile phones anywhere rather than going to any retail centre to play it.

Also speaking, Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Festus Dauda, said lottery has continued to gain acceptability in the country.

The “gambling” stigma, he said, attached to lottery players is now being relaxed, especially in the Northern part of the country.

According to him, “Lottery includes sports betting and promotion activities by manufacturers and network providers. Lottery is bigger than the oil industry that the nation has in stock, a lot of wealth that is yet to be tapped.

“I believe that if we focus our energy on lottery, and make sure that the entire citizenry are well aware of the activities of lottery and the gains that abound in lottery, the sky will be our starting point and lottery will even overtake the oil industry in contributing its quota to the treasury.

“The Federal Government is trying its best to make sure that lottery gets its rightful place so that we would be able to tap into the abundant resources that are there in lottery.

“Government is doing everything possible to make sure that the illegal operators and quacks in the industry are eliminated. That is why we have the regulatory commission in place which is now putting in place, measures to make sure that all the illegal operators and quacks would be apprehended and prosecuted”, the Permanent Secretary further said.

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On-line Business In Nigeria: Scam, Ruse, Reality

First, I’d easily classify myself as a local home boy.  I mean, home is Nigeria.  I am not very likely to want to relocate and take residency elsewhere outside of Nigeria.  Rugged place to stay I must say, but I think that there is something that blends the home psychology with individuals and makes it so home and draws the bond and connection. 

Besides the psychology, there is just so much to do here.  Economy is far cry from what and where the rest of the world is going; the socio-polity has so much room for creativity; and the business economy is a gaping gap that requires filling.  I do have some patriotic fire in me, but not sure if that is the key drive.  I‘d score the business drive more. I have this funny assumption that you do not need to be too smart to do well in business in this part of the world, the gaps are all too many and do create market potential – my plain simple thought.  Local, as I am, I do however have such strong desire to play in the international business place, that’s why I use the internet and buy overseas.  Now this brings me to the issue for the brief today.

I was reading online entries on a trade site and there was this ‘trade expert’ advising on doing business with Nigeria and Nigerians.  This ‘expert’ had posited that as much as possible, Nigeria was no go area for any kind of business, as everyone there is either a scammer or a fraud.  He was such an expert and had so much to say about doing business with Nigerians.  There were several contributors, a lot of these saying the same things. A few entries dissented from the view and gave instances of their business dealings with Nigeria and how it went well.  I spent a great deal of time on the site and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. 

Some experience also hits one below the belt too.  I severally needed to make some on-line purchases, and when I want to enter country of origin, I see that there is no provision for Nigeria.  I started off transactions and only to be declined when the supplier get to know that I’d be buying from Nigeria. I push a transaction up to a point and then the supplier tells me that they don’t know how to do business with Nigeria and if they are indeed permitted to sell to Nigeria.  At other times, Supplier would plainly tell you that all payment must clear into an account before they could despatch.  In some cases, Nigeria originated letters of credit are not accepted.

 By the way, I got a card from my bank not too long ago, and I went on to do a transaction online, and gave the card details. Everything went well, or so it seems, and then days later, I got a note saying payment was declined!  Another Nigerian scammer they would say! Fact though, is there is a lot that is true about what they are saying.We‘ve got a lot of scammers and fraudsters here.  The internet use is not well regulated.  Identities of online scammers are not easily trace-able.  The legal and judicial systems are not doing enough to address these issues and on and on. 

But there are far more genuine business people here than there are scammers!   Chaos is not the norm; there are some levels of orderliness here! We do still track down some of these criminals and so many have been brought to book.  I admit we do have a lot to do.  We have a lot to do to get things in order, and putting things in the right perspective.  We do have a lot to do in the area of criminal justice.  We have a lot to do in the area of effective payment systems and guarantees. We need a lot to do educating ourselves locally and our overseas customers and clients. 

Our banking system have to find more ingenious ways of partnering with overseas businesses, bankers and financial institutions to shield them from the menace of financial crimes and criminality originating from Nigeria.  Our Government must understand that the world is moving and we cannot be scum of the earth and that they should be in a hurry to institute legal and judicial systems and processes that actively and effectively combat these crimes.  Our society must step back and treat criminals and those who benefit from criminal activities with scorn and have them repent.

 We must teach our younger ones that there is a lot of value and dignity in hard work.  We must collectively show disdain for the wrong and stand for the right!   We must individually choose to do right.  By the way, I will pass the payment through whether with card or with bank transfer because I believe I should pay for services rendered to me and tell a good story as well.

Besides the above rhetoric anyway, tell me, isn’t there something some smart savvy business person can do?  Can’t we find out how we can creatively provide a clearance system for Nigerian originated businesses which can be a channel and a clearing house for all payments, so we do the confirmations and give guarantees?  Can’t we do something?  Do we need Government for everything?  Can’t the banks get together and provide some platform for overseas trade that is credible and the banks can rely on? Can we set up something that checkmates crimes and criminality by applying the full wrath of the law?

For those who have been hurt in these scams, I must say sorry, so very sorry.  Interestingly, I get such scam letters too.  But we do have very good Nigerians and Nigerian business people.  We have people with genuine intentions and passion to have things move forward.  Good people who wouldn’t take gain that is not theirs.  People who mean well, they abound, they actually form the bulk majority of the Nigerian people.

Take a listen to Vanessa William’s ‘Colours of the wind’, especially the line that says, “ …you think the only people who are people who look and think like you …”  we have real good people, I can’t help but say it!

Akin-Longe, Business consultant and Managing Director of T&D Presss Ltd, Port Harcourt.

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‘Every New Business Needs Publicity To Succeed’

In this edition, The Vortex features correspondent, Manasseh Paul-Worika speaks with Miss Emmanuella James Okpu, from Imiringi town, Ogbia LGA in Bayelsa State.  A 400 level student of Pharmacy at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State, Emmanuella is the Chief Executive Officer of ELLAH’S STITCHES.

What’s your job About

I make crotchet bralette and halter tops. My products are specifically for ladies who need an alternative to the conventional brassieres. The amazing thing about my crotchet bralettes and halter tops is that they are made of wool and knitted by me.

How long have you been in the business?

Professionally, I started 3 months ago (January 2019). But before I started fully, I went through several personal trainings to ensure I master the craft. I decided to start my own brand this year. And so far, I have delivered a good number of my products to clients.

What makes your crotchet bralette different?

Crotchet bralettes gives the comfort conventional brassieres wouldn’t give. It’s comfortable, customized to fit the clients taste and since it’s made of wool, there are enough openings to permit flow of air.

How do you cope as a student?

I’ve not had a serious clash with my academic activities. Besides, if jobs clash with my academics, I’ll decline such jobs because at this stage, my academics is more important.

I also believe good planning has helped me in handling some situations.

How has your business helped?

I’ll say I’ve been surviving with the gains I make from my business. It has made me financially independent and at this level, I’m able to assist myself academically (fees, course materials, etc.)

Challenges so far?

For now, I’ll say publicity. Every “baby business” like mine needs a good publicity strategy to bring the business to limelight. As we all know, the most effective means of publicity in this era is the social media. Although I have a challenge with publicity, I’m not leaving any stone unturned. I’m leveraging on the opportunity presented by social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to push my business to the public at minimal cost.

Your advice to youths?

I believe there’s something every youth can do. We’ve gone past the age when it’s all about your certificates; it’s now about what skills you have that can get you a living.

I’ll leave with this quote from an anonymous writer, “your certificates may swell your heads, your certificates may magnify your tiny ego. Only skills to perform excellently on the job and capacity to deliver outstanding results will guarantee continuous patronage and swell your bank account.”

Invest in a skill!

For capital, it’s never a crime starting at a small rate. Just get started and have a big picture.

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