Govt, bank pump N68b into textile, others
On the release of the textile fund expected to be disbursed in the coming year by the bank, he said BoI has assumed the management of cotton, textile, and agreement scheme as well as the rice processing development fund set up by government to boost the two sectors in which virtually all parts of Nigeria have comparative advantage.
The bank, he said, has been able to expand its operations without compromise of quality in its risk assets as evidenced by its Portfolio At Risk (PAR) that declined from 65 per cent in 2005 to less than 21 per cent in 2009.
Udenwa who commended the development impact of the bank’s operations, noted that the number of jobs created by its subsidiary companies grew from 150,000 in 2005 to more than 815,000 in 2009.
He said: “The bank’s recent performance was driven by paradigm shift which includes allocation of 85 per cent of its resources to financing MSMEs that utilise local raw materials, especially agricultural produce and have high employment generation and export potential.
“Other paradigm shift that enhanced the performance of the bank include promotion linkages between MSMEs and those promoted by women, as well as deepening the bank’s credit delivery process by lending to cooperative groups under collective guarantee arrangement and the establishment of microfinance banks.”
However, through the non-oil exports in the first nine months of 2009, he said, the country has realised $900 million as against $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion generated from the sector in 2007 and 2008 in that order.
The minister who expressed belief that the sector could have generated more than what was realised in the three quarters of 2009, lamented that low standard of the Nigerian export products has been a hindrance.
He however said the Nigerian Export Processing Council (NEPC), the agency saddled with the responsibility of promoting the country’s products, in collaboration with Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has intervened to improve the situation.
The minister further explained that NEPC has also partnered with NEZIM Bank to provide some relief to the exporters by connecting to cheap source of export finance as part of the effort to address the prevailing problems of non-access to fund.
Udenwa said the Federal Government was making efforts to ensure that cement is within the reach of the common man by ensuring drastic reduction in price come next year.
While stating that, “the cost of cement is high because of high cost of production which is a spin-off of power problems, transportation, among others, the minister expressed hope that as soon as there is improvement in the infrastructure and other factors responsible for the increase, the price will crash.
In another development, the Action Congress (AC) has accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government of exhibiting a callous attitude towards Nigerians by allowing the crippling fuel scarcity to continue without any concrete mitigating action.
In a statement issued in Ilorin yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the government had crossed the line from incompetence to sheer insensitivity towards the plight of Nigerians, who daily face harrowing times just to get fuel.
It said the scarcity of fuel has led to a huge rise in the cost of living, while it is now virtually impossible for millions of Nigerians to travel home for the Christmas and New Year festivities.
In addition, AC charged, the stifling scarcity has led to many avoidable accidents, both on the roads and in homes, with fatal consequences as motorists load extra fuel in their vehicles and store them in their residences.
“What sort of government is this that sits idly by as citizens go through untold hardship? Is it not a shame that a government that could not meet its promise to Nigerians to deliver 6,000 megawatts of electricity by the end of the year has now inflicted more pain on them by its inability to even guarantee abundant fuel supply? For how long will Nigerians have to endure this multiplying hardship?
“This recurring instances of fuel scarcity, which usually worsen by the end of the year, must stop forthwith, and if the government has run out of ideas on how to end it, it should simply step down,” the party said, adding: “This year alone, we have counted at least six instances of fuel scarcity.”
It wondered whether the scarcity, which has always made Africa’s largest oil-producing nation – Nigeria – a laughing stock in the comity of nations, was indeed orchestrated by the government (as being insinuated in certain quarters) just to force the bitter pill of deregulation down the throats of Nigerians?
AC added that those who have been boasting that the government is functioning at full blast – even in the absence of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua – can now see the hollowness of their self-serving claim, they can see that the country is “gradually grinding to a halt and Nigerians becoming increasingly overburdened, no thanks to a clueless, insensitive and uncaring government!”
However, Ekiti State government has warned residents of the state against storage of petroleum products at home.
The State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mr. Taiwo Olatunbosun, who gave the warning in Ado Ekiti in a chat with journalists, described storing flammable materials such as petrol at home as very dangerous and irresponsible especially, during harmattan when everywhere is dry.
Olatubosun reiterated the commitment of the Oni-led administration to the safety of lives and property of the people in the state, stressing that the people however have a civic responsibility of being vigilant and reporting any action that may be detrimental to the general wellbeing of the people to relevant security agencies.
The Information Commissioner lamented that some petrol dealers were taking advantage of the situation to hoard the product and subsequently sell at arbitrarily high pump price, warning that whoever was caught would be made to face the wrath of the law.
The commissioner advised commercial vehicle drivers and other vehicle owners not to engage in panic buying of petrol, saying that it may compound the situation and assured that government would do everything possible to ameliorate the system towards achieving a long lasting solution to the intermittent scarcity of petroleum product in the country.