Over the weekend, the police in Kaduna State confirmed the abduction of Isa Rambo, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Suleja Area Command, Niger State. Rambo was abducted on Saturday 19 October at about 1530 hours, around Kanock bridge, a border area between Kaduna and Nasarawa on his way to Jos, Plateau. While the kidnappers demanded a ₦50 million ransom, he was rescued on Monday by a combined team of police officers from Kaduna, Niger as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Police spokesman, Frank Mba said two suspects were arrested and investigations are ongoing.

The FG is considering introducing an excise duty on carbonated drinks, the finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, has said, on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. The FG, the minister said, is working on maximising existing revenue streams by ramping up enforcement in order to expand the tax base as well as identify new revenue streams to expand the revenue base. Ahmed, however, said that the FG would follow the process of including the proposed excise duties, which will involve a series of consultations and amendments of some existing laws and regulations. The finance minister described the funding of the previous budgets in Nigeria largely with oil revenue as an anomaly and added that several cost-cutting measures embedded in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative were being considered. Under current regulations, the Nigeria Customs Service charges an excuse duty on non-alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, beer, stout and alcoholic beverages.

The Tolaram Group of Companies, makers of Indomie noodles, has signed a $1 billion deal to build a port in Nigeria. The financing is to close this week for what is expected to be West Africa’s biggest port. According to the Singapore based entity, the project would be the biggest development Tolaram has ever undertaken and represents a long evolution from its roots as a textile trading firm founded by Indians in Indonesia in the 1940s. The firm’s Managing Director for Africa and grandson of its founder, Haresh Aswani, said doing project financing of this scale is “a real game changer” for the company. The new port will be financed with $630 million from the China Development Bank, and $470 million in equity from the state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company, which has a 52.5 percent stake and will build it, he said. This means that 22.5 percent will belong to Tolaram, while the Nigerian Ports Authority (5 percent) and the Lagos state government (20 percent) own the remaining equity in the project. The company’s fear, according to Aswani, is over Nigerian government policies that could adversely affect it, as it did four years ago when raw palm oil imports were restricted just after Tolaram had completed a million dollar palm oil factory. Tolaram first entered the Nigerian market when it started exporting Indomie from Southeast Asia in the late 1980s and has since developed into a multinational company with operations in nine countries and annual global sales of $1 billion. Nigeria is the 11th largest consumer of instant noodles in the world.

Kasapreko, the manufacturer of the popular Alomo Bitters beverage, has lost about $2 million in revenue as a result of the closure of Nigeria’s land borders with its neighbours. The Ghanaian company said this in a report signed by its Head of International Business Development, Francis Holly Adzah. According to the report, the company had managed to transport three loaded trucks to the Nigerian market moments before the border was closed. The other trucks loaded with products have, however, been grounded at the border and its products are wasting away. The firm said it lost $1 million in September to the closure, while as the end of October draws near, their checks show a loss of another million dollars, an unsustainable situation, according to Adzah. The company said the border closure has necessitated it looking to other West African markets, including Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Togo, Benin as well as Europe to offset the loss incurred from serving the Nigerian market. Kasaprenko has a huge market share in Nigeria as its beverage, Alomo Bitters, is widely consumed by Nigerians. According to reports, in 2018, the company sold 580,000 cartons or 13.9 million bottles of Alomo Bitters in the country.

Commentary

  • Despite the efforts of the Inspector General of Police’s Intelligent Response Team (IRT), traveling on the country’s highways remains a risky endeavour due to the high number of kidnappings for ransom that occur even within marginally safer urban and semi-urban areas. While Zamfara, once a hotbed of kidnapping and other forms of banditry, has been relatively quiet in recent weeks, their activities have increased in Katsina and other parts of the North Central and North West, as well as pockets of the South West geopolitical zones. There is also the worrying aspect of kidnaps increasingly being directed at officials of the state. In August, a Divisional Police Officer was kidnapped along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway. He was freed after reportedly paying a ₦3 million ransom. In May, two officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) were kidnapped in Osun. Just this week, a Taraba state government official was kidnapped, a day after a Federal High Court judge was kidnapped in Ondo. In the light of speculation that these kidnappings are being carried out as part of fundraising efforts for jihadist groups, the need to intensify efforts to neutralise such groups from the top has never been more imperative. Even more important is improving border security as porous land entry points aid the easy movement of illegal arms and persons into the country.
  • The current tax drive from the FG is a necessary action considering the reality of the country’s revenue situation. This specific tax is also an acceptable move. However, within the larger context of recent policy, there have been some less than ideal new tax measures by the government that are certain to drive more of the economy into an informal sector that remains largely invisible to official planners. There are two sides to the equation: a revenue side and an expense side – the government is yet to show any serious expense side policies targeted at reduction and that is a crucial component of finding a way out of the country’s current fiscal crisis. A revenue side effort that is not balanced with expense side initiatives will always be perceived as unfair and the moral force that government needs to drive voluntary compliance will be all but lost.
  • Tolaram has identified what is perhaps the biggest risk to this project – government policy. Relevant governments own a stake that roughly equates to a full quarter of the project and we sincerely hope this is enough to invest them in making sure the project works. The second biggest pain point of the project is the roads that will support these ports; responsibility of which primarily lies with the government. The government will need to fulfil this commitment in order to make the port viable and it remains to be seen if they can do so, have the will to do so, and perhaps most importantly, have the resources to do so. The Lekki-Ajah-Lakowe axis, where the port will be cited, is already groaning under the challenge of being served by a single 8-lane highway posed and the new port is sure to increase the amount of both industrial and overall vehicular traffic in the area. While these challenges are not insurmountable, they are also not trivial. Addressing these concerns is critical to ensuring that this port comes online and the good work of decongesting the existing ports in the Greater Lagos area gets underway.
  • Supporters of the government’s border closure policy will say Kasaprenko’s woes are a victory for Nigeria and Nigerians should drink local alternatives to Alomo Bitters. However, let us consider the bigger picture – the border closure not only restricts imports, but it simultaneously restricts exports from leaving the country. The Ghanaian Union of Traders Association has already called for a total boycott of Nigerian goods exported to Ghana, a worrying sign considering our positive balance of trade with the subregion’s second biggest economy. Nigeria imported $80.96 million worth of goods from Ghana in 2018, but exported three and a half times more – $303.94 million – to Ghana in the same year. In a situation where Nigeria is unable to export to Ghana as this border closure has practically ensured, Nigeria stands to lose much more than Ghana. Those are the bare facts.