Daily Watch – New electricity tariff only postponed, Port congestion drives cashew smuggling

7th January 2020

The new electricity tariffs in Nigeria shall become enforceable from April 1 this year, the Power distribution companies said on Monday. The new tariffs ordered by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission are expected to cater for revenue shortfalls in the sector, the Discos explained through their umbrella body, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors. The tariffs which have remained the same since 2015 will be gradually increased until full increment is completed by the end of 2021. The Discos explained that the NERC was empowered by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act to carry out minor reviews of the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2015 twice a year. The NERC had announced the immediate upward review of electricity tariffs in the country from the 1st of January. The reviews for all categories of consumers, except those consumers classified as residential, ranged from 59.7 percent for consumers in Ikeja to 77.6 percent in Enugu.

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said that once the country’s Finance Bill 2019 is signed into law, companies that make a turnover of less than ₦25 million will be exempted from Companies Income Tax while those that have a turnover of between ₦25 million and ₦100 million yearly will pay 20 percent as companies income tax. She added that those earning over ₦100 million would continue to pay the extant 30 percent of their profits as CIT. However, all companies are currently expected to pay the Federal Government 30 percent of their profit as Companies Income Tax. This move, the minister said, will not only encourage small businesses to do more because they are not paying taxes, but also give room for people in the informal sector to become formalized as the finance ministry is working with the trade authorities to see that registered businesses are doing well. On passage of the bill, Ahmed said the National Assembly had already forwarded it to the President for assent and the President had sent a copy to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to cross-check the provisions.

14 state governments in Nigeria have increased the cost of Right of Way for telecommunications infrastructure levy paid to state governments for laying of optic fibre on state roads. As a result of this, subscribers in the country may pay more for data and voice call services. The minister of telecommunications and digital economy, Isa Pantami, said he has written to state governors to comply with the national economic council’s resolution on the Right of Way. The states which hiked the levy are Lagos, Kano, Anambra, Ondo, Cross River, Kogi, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi and Gombe. The cost of RoW on federal roads at present is ₦142 per linear metre. The fourteen states, however, increased RoW fees from between ₦300-₦500 per linear metre to between ₦3,000-₦6,000 per linear metre. The new management of the Lagos state infrastructure maintenance and regulatory agency increased RoW fee from ₦500 per linear meter to ₦5,000 per linear metre. A single telecoms operator needs RoW covering thousands of kilometres. According to the special adviser on innovation and technology to Lagos state governor, Tunbosun Alake, the issue of Right of Way has always been a challenge between state governments and telecoms operators who seek permission on RoW to expand their networks and infrastructure. Telecoms operators across the country have previously blamed the poor service experience of subscribers on the refusal of federal and state agencies to grant RoW licence to lay more fibre optic cables in cities. The operators had told Thisday that they had envisaged heavy surge during the festive season and had long requested for RoW licence that would enable them to expand their networks by laying more broadband fibre optic cables. Their requests were however rejected by the various government agencies, forcing them to maintain the available network infrastructure which is insufficient for peak periods.

Cashew smuggling is on the increase in West African countries despite the closure of Nigeria’s land borders. A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Finance told The Nation that smugglers of the commodity are having a field day as for instance, Ivory Coast has surpassed the $9990 million on cashew exports due to the nefarious activities of the smugglers. Ivory Coast, with its small population, is said to be producing 750,000 tons or $1.5 billion, while Nigeria’s cashew production is estimated at 260,000 tons or $520 million as the international selling price is about $2,000 per ton. It was learnt that buyers from Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast were rebranding Nigeria’s cashew nuts for export. Nigeria’s biggest buyers for cashew nuts in 2018 were Russia, Netherlands, Vietnam, India, and Tanzania due to its high quality. However, the smugglers have been selling the nuts to neighbouring exporters because of the gridlock at the port roads, which made the nuts to be affected by fungi and other diseases before they get to the port after spending several months on the roads.