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The Council of State, yesterday, endorsed $1 billion to boost agriculture and empower livestock farmers, including the Fulani herdsmen. The council also recommended inter-state security joint operations to flush out bandits, especially those operating from the forests.

Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, alongside Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Willy Obiano of Anambra State, stated this while briefing State House correspondents after over six hours Council of State meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja. Former heads of state, Obasanjo, Gowon, Abubakar exchanging pleasantries ahead of the National Council of State Meeting at the State House, The meeting, which was attended by three former heads of state was centred on security, economy and electoral matters.

The governors said the Council of State endorsed the $1 billion to increase agriculture funding from the current $200 million. The financial assistance to cattle farmers, they said, was not designed to support the rich livestock producers but movement of the existing herdsmen causing problems and incessant clashes with farmers.

The fund will be disbursed through Anchor Borrower and Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, CACS Programmes, to encourage diversification of the economy and promote food security. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State said council deliberated extensively on how to diversify the economy, efforts being made to pull Nigeria out of doldrums, efforts that had been made to move Nigeria out of recession and the progress being made.

He said while council commended efforts that were being made to revive the economy, especially how Nigeria moved from monolithic economy to a diversified one, it advised that agriculture funding should be improved from $200 million to $1 billion. He said: “Council advised that we improve on the funding on agriculture. That the paltry sum of $200 million when compared to what is being pumped into the oil sector is insignificant.

“Council recommended that at least about $1 billion be pumped into agriculture. It noted how Nigeria moved the budget from about N4 trillion to about N8 trillion . It also noted that when this President came in, the prices oil had nose dived from $112 in 2014 to $30 in 2016. Briefing on security, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, said council was briefed by the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungonu (retd). He said:

“On the security situation in the country, we received a very long brief from the National Security Adviser, ranging from farmers/herdsmen clashes, Boko Haram, militancy in the Niger Delta, kidnapping and cattle rustling.” He said after deliberations, a lot of suggestions came forward, adding, “Farmers/herdsmen clashes were discussed thoroughly and we learnt that this takes three dimensions. “First is the real farmers/herdsmen clashes, where the normal herdsman moves around with his cattle and get into a farmers land and eats up his crops.

In some situations it’s pure banditry. Some of the pastoralists that are not herders, attack, steal and kidnap and that has to be defined as such. Some of them rustle cattles and move into the deep forests. “And because of the thickness of the forests responds are usually very difficult. That was also discussed today and solutions were proffered on how to get deep into the forests, to check those bandits that hide and continue to commit havoc. “Third aspect usually classified as farmers/herdsmen clashes is also the settlers and indigenes clashes like in the Southern Kaduna.

Some migrant farmers or herders stay in an environment for a very long time and when you have such clashes, they are also classified as farmers/herdsmen classes. “So we understand and acknowledge these three aspects and all have different approaches in solving the whole problem. And from the discussions today, a lot has been done, solutions have been proffered and the government believes solution is near.

“The minister of agriculture also presented a position on how to resolve the first part of the farmers/herdsmen clashes, that is the actual migrating herdsmen that pass through towns and farms, eats up crops in the farms and create a lot of problems. “He proffered a lot of solutions ranging from those states that have already designated cattle routes, grazing reserves and activating the grazing reserves to ensure the farmers and herdsmen live in harmony.

“That is for those states that have the capabilities to do this. And in the states that do not have the capabilities to do this, ranching was proffered and the federal government has promised to support the states and indeed the Fulanis or the livestock producers to settle in one place and do businesses like it is done in the modern way. “Already, Kaduna State has visited Denmark with some Fulani leaders, to study a kind of livestock production with the aim of establishing same in the country.

“We believe it is possible and profitable to do and those states that want to key into this option can do so. Generally, we believe that every state has its own peculiar problem and each state will be analyzed and solutions will be proffered so that these farmers/herdsmen will be a thing of the past. “That is what has been discussed and we believe that with the commitment shown at the council to bring this to an end is so clear and we believe we will put an end to these frequent clashes as most of the Governor were in council.” The Anambra Governor, Willy Obiano said Council approved appointment of two non-legal practitioners to the Federal Judicial Service Commission and a national electoral commissioner for INEC and the 23 members of National Population Commission.

Explaining on the way the money should be utilised, Governor Amosun said, And the way this money is to be disbursed is through what CBN has been doing and what the minister of agric is doing. There is this CACS program. there is ANCHOR Borrower, a lot of program they are bringing up such that people are guaranteed that as a farmer, whatever you grow somebody is there to take it from you, to process it and turn it to money. “Besides that, it is good for us to have food security.

Imagine if we cannot feed ourselves that is what is happening. But these days now the story is changing and positive too. So it is not that somebody is just going yo take money like that. You will do the application, you will go to your state assembly they have to approve, procedures and conditions must be met, nobody is just going to give you money to go and throw away. “CBN in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture and trade and investment all of them are putting heads together to help our small and medium scale enterprises.

All these our small holder farmers, we are helping them now. “Indeed it was even mentioned that the $1 billion may not be okay, we are looking at maybe $2 billion, but of course, one billion dollars will be the starting point as against in two years now it was about $200 whereas if you compare what is being pumped to subsidies our oil and all of that it runs to even trillion.” Speaking on the details on how to arrest insecurity in the labd, Governor Badaru said, “There are so many discussions on this ranting from how do we reduce out of school children, how do we create more employment, how do we bring youths to agriculture and other trades.

“The social intervention, how do we use it to create more employments, to create more jobs, to create self employment so that the level of youths in the States that might be used for one crime or the other will be reduced. “And also we discussed the issue on those bandits that attack and go back to the forest. Usually before each state operates on a state by state basis. But because the forests are long and covers so many place, if operation is being taking place for instance in Kaduna, they move through the forest to Zamfara or Katsina.

“So it is advised now to have joint and sustained operation so that they will be flushed out of those forests, after that, see how best to create activities in the forests to prevent people from either kidnapping or rustling or stealing and run back to the forest and hide there. “The challenges being faced by the military and other security agencies have been discussed and even the proliferation of different agencies that are not inter connected working together was discussed, all solutions were preferred and I believe those solutions will turn into almost permanent solution to the security challenges in the country and so also in the Niger Delta.”

On why government should support rich livestock producers, he said, “For those States that have grazing reserve, they will have support to provide veterinary services and other small services for the already existing herdsmen. “For those States that have not enough land to do that, there will be some solution if they so desire by the federal government to create those ranches and the same group of Fulani will be there and not new livestock producers will be invited and be given support to develop new businesses. “But we are just saying that $1 billion will be used to support agriculture. Livestock is part of that and I am sure these monies are being given as credit to the farmers to develop their own businesses and it is done for two reasons. “First to boost the economy, second to act as import substitution mechanism so that we will stop to import milk, beef, chicken and all those things that come into the country. “So it is not purely designed to support the rich livestock producers but to support the movement of those existing herdsmen that cause this problem and these clashes.”

BUSINESS

Heritage Bank Empowers 2000 Female Entrepreneurs Via Financial Inclusivity Initiatives

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Taking into consideration the importance of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to the economy, Heritage Bank Plc has continued to structure financial inclusivity initiatives in empowering over 2000 female entrepreneurs towards economic enablement and self-realization.

This move is in line with the people-oriented policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Heritage Bank Plc is partnering with a Non-Governmental Organization, Prime Women Builders Foundation of Nigeria (PWOBFON) in providing skills training to the female entrepreneurs.

At the graduation ceremony/ certificate award ceremony held at Ikeja Local Government headquarters over the weekend, the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo said the bank is keen on cultivating real partnerships with Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Sekibo, who was represented by the Head, Brand Management & Sustainability Ozena Utulu explained that the lender is interested in initiatives that encourage people to start their own businesses and gradually grow them into conglomerates.

According to him, the partnership with PWOBFON is vital in many ways particularly in the area of job creation, economic empowerment and financial inclusion.

His words: “apart from skills training, the women have been told the importance of record-keeping in business, savings culture and the benefits of having bank accounts as a gateway to accessing other financial services.”

He said Heritage Bank has been a leading Nigerian bank with an excellent service culture hinged on working with each customer to create a name, wealth and heritage.

Also speaking, President/Convener Prime women Builders Foundation of Nigeria, Kemi Olofinkua applauded the bank for its support, and urged other corporate organizations to take a cue from the lender in supporting grassroots women empowerment.

She explained that through the support from the Heritage Bank and the Ikeja Local government, the women, based on their choices, have been equipped with 15 vocational skills covering event decoration, small chops making, baking, pastries, bead making, computer training , soap making, makeup, tailoring, digital marketing, Photography, hairdressing among others.

To underscore the importance of women empowerment, the CBN had earlier set aside 60 per cent of its N220 billion MSMED Fund for providing financial services to women.

According to Olofinkua, this training is important because when women are positively occupied, the level of poverty will reduce and great achievements will be recorded not only on the home front, but on several sectors of “our national life.”

“Heritage Bank has been very supportive and our desire is to see participants of PWOBFON Empowerment Day, doing great in their various vocations. Each and every one of us must deliberately find something to occupy us and bring good profit. There are lots of vocations that each and every one of us can excel in; so that we will not be frustrated along the part of life,” Olofinkua stated.

The executive chairman, Ikeja Local Government Development Council, Dr. Mojeed Alabi Balogun, represented by his vice, Yomi Mayungba said the local government is interested in the initiative because it is in line with its grassroots skills training program . According to him, this is a way of keeping not only women, but men also out of the streets.

He disclosed that the first batch of trainees started from Ikeja and this is the 10th year anniversary. “The local government is delighted to partner with the NGO, Heritage Bank and other interested parties,” Balogun said.

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iCreate: Sterling Bank Tackles Unemployment Through Africa’s Biggest Skills Olympics

Gbemileke Ajayi

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iCreate Africa, the organiser of the iCreate Africa Skills Festival, has said Nigeria’s best artisans will converge on Lagos from December 4 -5 to compete for laurels at the grand finale of the festival following the conclusion of the regional finals in Kaduna and Enugu.

The festival which is the biggest of its kind in Africa is in its second edition.

Sponsored by Sterling Bank Plc, from inception, the festival also enjoys support from Bosch Nigeria Limited, GIZ, Trace TV, Siemens, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), and Universal Learn Direct Academia Limited (ULDA), among others.

Speaking at a press conference in Lagos recently, Chief Client Engagement Officer of Sterling Bank, Mr. Moronfolu Fasinro, said the bank is partnering with iCreate Africa to boost acquisition of technical skills because it is committed to solving the unemployment challenge among young people on the African continent.

He said the way to resolve the unemployment challenge going forward is through skills acquisition by young men and women rather than focusing on white-collar jobs, adding that “We know that youth employment is a key part of creating a society that is harmonious and productive.”

Fasinro noted that vocational jobs are what move an economy in its day-to-day operations and iCreate was bringing various people together to work on how to change the narrative about the labour market.

“We are very happy to partner with iCreate to produce this sort of opportunity so that these people could change the face of employment on the continent in the future,” Fasinro said.

Also speaking, Chief Marketing Officer of Sterling Bank, Mr. Dapo Martins, said Nigeria needs to also focus on the export of skills instead of concentrating on the export of crude oil and agricultural products alone. He noted that most Nigerian graduates who travel abroad either find themselves washing plates in restaurants or doing other menial jobs.

He lamented the situation whereby skilled technicians are usually shipped in from outside the country because they are not available locally.

Also speaking, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of iCreate Africa Skills Festival, Mr. Bright Jaja, explained that it was clear to him at the beginning of the journey that the idea of the festival was different and unique, and would probably not make sense to a lot of people.

“But we were consistent because we understood the concept and background. Having done thorough research on the employment situation in Nigeria, we realised that the only solution to the challenge was to rebrand jobs away from the existing perception and notion that if one is not a medical doctor, lawyer or an engineer, he has failed,” he said.

Jaja noted that over time a lot of young people had to go through tertiary education under stress and depression even though they knew that the courses they were studying were not what they wanted or had the interest to pursue.

The Founder/CEO said the objective of iCreate was to create five million jobs in five years by empowering about one million people who would, in turn, employ at least five people in their businesses.

He said the strategy is to rebrand the way society perceives vocational skills and get young people to be interested or attracted to what they have passion for in the overall interest of the economy.

Retail Marketing Manager of Bosch Nigeria Limited, Mr. Samson Ajayi, said the iCreate Skills Festival was pivotal to the company because it addressed a lot of structural issues in the Nigerian economy, adding that as an engineering company that makes mechanical parts, the festival provided a unique avenue for the company to contribute its quota to the Nigerian economy.

Also commenting, President of Universal Learn Direct Academia Limited (ULDA), Engineer Olawumi Gasper, said the company was very happy to work with iCreate and congratulated Mr. Jaja for inspiring young Nigerians to develop a passion for skills acquisition.

The press conference was attended by other stakeholders including Trace TV, Fashion Academy, House of Tara, and Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).

The iCreate Skills Festival is a platform that promotes skills excellence, showcases skills standards and careers, demonstrates benchmarks of excellence in teaching and learning and creates interest in public sector agencies and private organizations to invest in skills development.

The 10 winners from the first edition represented Nigeria in Russia in 2019. They include Otareh Alvin who won in the cooking category, Nejo Tolulope (graphics), Silas Adedoyin (web design), Patrick Obafemi (app development), Barnabas Kudi (robotics), Afolabi Caleb Kayode (art), Ms. Malissa Onojo (tailoring), Yusuf Abdullahi (barbing), Kingsley Ihejirika (hairdressing), Ms. Faiza Usman Adamu (make-up), Joshua Olalekan (carpentry), Oladoja Peter (tiling), Kumshuan Talgang (plumbing) and Prince Isitua (bricklaying).

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Heritage Bank Identifies High Prospects In Nigeria’s £4bn Gold Market

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider, disclosed that Nigeria’s Gold market is worth £4 billion Pounds with high prospects of profitability for all players in the subsector.

The MD/CEO, Ifie Sekibo, who stated this at the Nigeria-Canada Investment Summit, held in Abuja, yesterday also disclosed that the enormous potential of the industry was one of the reasons why Heritage Bank delved into the mining sector despite enormous risks.

According to him, the bank has Dukia Gold as its partner that would facilitate access to local miners and artisans to get value for their commodity at international market price after being registered with Dukia Gold.

Sekibo, who was represented by the Team Lead, Agric Finance and Export, Adelana Ogunjirin, explained that prior to now, local miners of Gold found it difficult to trade their commodities favorably but with the involvement of Dukia and its partner, Heritage Bank, a Quality-and-Quantity test will be conducted based on the arrangement they made with Dukia Gold and that will lead to added value to the smallholder miners. He explained that this will leverage the small miners the opportunity to also trade their commodities at the international market price.

He further stated that a metric tonne of gold is currently valued at $30million adding that it is worth investing in the industry, especially as gold is a kind of commodity that does not easily lose its value.

He said: “Mining sector is an area which has not been fully tapped in terms of the potentials around it, as there are quite a lot of opportunities around that sector. Recently we secured a $1 billion funding line with our funding partner AfreximBank, which also is to support areas like solid minerals.

“Now with respect to this we have looked at the value chain of this space and we have looked at the opportunities that are there. A lot of fund providers have not really delved into this and it is because of the lack of understanding of the market.

“In terms of value, gold is an area where you can enhance the value. You hardly see Gold losing value and you see that in different exchanges you even trade those commodities.

“Looking at it in terms of trend, you see that gold is something that will appreciate definitely. So in terms of the profitability of this business, we have looked at it, the crunch, the numbers we see that is a space that the Bank will definitely earn a lot of income.”

He also expressed optimism that other banks would like to come into the Nigerian mining sector but maybe studying to understand the sector properly.

“Definitely other banks will come into the sector. For us, we are leading, but the truth is they need to play in an area and space that they understand, as not everybody would be able to play in that space.

“Heritage Bank has already carved a niche for itself in agribusiness space, just like the Gold commodity, this would be exported. So, in terms of export proceeds too, there are opportunities to be explored. Generally, looking at the Nigerian outlook, in the long run, this will also enhance the country’s external reserves. There are multiplier effects of what we are doing today and that is why we are also moving in this direction,” the MD noted.

Also speaking, Managing Director, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, Abba Bello, revealed that the bank had gone into high-level discussions with heavy equipment manufacturers and suppliers that would lease equipment to miners for exploration and processing, adding that this was expected to make the equipment accessible and affordable.

Bello said, “For equipment supplier or outright purchase of equipment, we have gone into discussions with Bluecare and now Mantrac for the supply of heavy equipment for gold processing or exploration on lease basis and, it is something that does not exist currently within the industry.

“Barrick Gold and Bullion Mart is something that happens in the mining world. You don’t have to own the equipment, but there are vendors who supply the equipment for explorers to hire.

“Discussions have gone very far with the equipment suppliers and very soon we will announce the programme.”

Meanwhile, the Country Manager, ITM, Nigeria, Habibah Waziri, raised concerns on human resources development that would sustain the sector.

Waziri also said there is a need to formalize the sector and also invest in human capital in the sector for growth and development.

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