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Recession hits Newspaper firms, owners slash salaries by 50%

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Nigeria has boasted to have the freest and most outspoken press among other African states, though the industry has consistently been the target of harassment by past military dictatorships, and even in some cases, by democratically elected Governors and Presidents. Many journalists have been imprisoned, exiled, and tortured.

As we speak, the industry and practitioners are facing a different kind of torture. This time around, not by any political office holder, but by a looming recession that has befallen the industry. Though the industry had been battling with several hurdles before the advent of Coronavirus, the pandemic is threatening its survival amid other uncertainties.

The sector, according to some journalists and industry watchers, is currently grappling with several problems, ranging from COVID-19 pandemic, depleted funds due to the lockdown across major cities, loss of revenue due to lower ad sales, looming job loss, and salaries slashed, among others.

The staff of most of the print news platforms are going through bad times. While a lot of them were informed of salary cuts from April 2020 till further notice, some have lost their jobs as their employers embarked on ‘Operation Cut Cost at all Cost’.

The unfortunate thing is that the sack is on-going. What that means is that anyone that was not sacked in April should not be over-confident, as the firms are rolling out more letters of dismissal or slash in staff salaries.

In separate interviews, some staff of The Nation, BusinessDay, Punch Newspapers, Television Continental (TVC), and Cool FM, among others, lamented over fears of either losing their jobs or suffering more salary cuts.

A lot of them told Nairametrics that their managements had told them that it would never be ‘Business as usual’, as no one could tell when the COVID-19 pandemic would be over.

In the case of The Nation, findings revealed that the medium is currently serving some staff across departments letters of disengagement. Already, over 100 out of about 500 workers (across Nigeria) have been sacked and still counting.

One of the medium’s managers, who claimed anonymity, told Nairametrics that the management told employees that the exercise would continue until the company stabilized, a time which no one can tell for now.

That is not all, The Nation has also slashed salaries of everyone earning over N60,000 by 50%.

He said, “It started when the company reduced the pages of the Newspaper from 48 to 32 pages and the excuse then was that it was due to the lockdown, which crashed the readership of the newspaper.

Another notice followed that a certain percentage of the staff strength would be reduced.

“As if that was not enough, we got another notice that salaries would be cut by 50%, which was the final straw. We got confused because we had thought if people are sacked, there wont be a pay cut.

This is indeed a bad time for the industry and for us here because if more people are sacked, few of us left would have to do their jobs with less pay.”

For Punch, one of the reputable and widely read newspapers in Nigeria, this is indeed a trying period. After exploring other options like slashing pages of the dailies from 62 to 32 (depending on the numbers of advertisement), the Ademola Osinubi led-management also took a COVID-19 induced decision and informed its staff beforehand. Here is an excerpt of the memo Osinubi sent to all staff:

This pandemic has dealt with our business telling and severe blows. Our circulation and advertisement revenues dipped dangerously, compounding the operational and revenue challenges birthed by the migration of a majority of print newspaper readers and adverts to digital platforms.

“I am not at liberty to disclose all of the measures that the management has taken so far. But the ones that could be made public include an immediate reduction in print pagination; staff furloughing to comply with government and expert advisories on social distancing; the temporary shutdown of the sports newspaper; and significant financial reengineering.

“All projections point at a bleak and uncertain future for the media industry and the economy. Notwithstanding, the company’s commitment to the welfare of its staff remains cardinal, hence, the decision to pay 100% salaries in the month of April and fulfil all annual leave obligations, despite the dip in revenues.

All staff, including our colleagues, asked to stay away from work in April, have been paid their full salaries.”

But does that mean the workers should not expect full salaries in the month of May?

“Considering the fact on the ground and the body movement of the board, full salaries may not be paid in May and some people, especially in the newsroom, would be forced to resign.

“The management has started from the Sports desk and would soon move to other desks. The idea is to concentrate more on the online version of the platform and start a significant financial re-engineering,” a source in the company told Nairametrics.

The Nation and Punch Newspapers are not the only firms that have either slashed salaries or dismissed staff. While Tribune Newspaper reduced pages from 46 to 32, and slashed salaries between 10 and 35% depending on the level of the staff, BusinessDay also reduced the pages of its Monday editions, which is its major product, from 65 to 32, and New Telegraph dropped pages from 48 to 32 among others.

In the broadcast sub-sector of the industry, the workers of AIM Group, owners of Nigeria Info, Cool FM, Wazobia and Arewa, have to swallow the bitter pills too.

While trying to ensure that the majority of its staff are retained, the group had no choice but to let some of the staff embark on unpaid leave.

The Head, Human Resources of the Group, Oyinkan Adeniyi, in an internal memo seen by Nairametrics,  said:

The Management of AIM Group has had to weigh a lot of options that can be taken during this trying times to minimize the negative impact the pandemic has had on our operations, ensure the majority of our staff are retained while still meeting up with financial obligations to you our highly esteemed employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.

“We have reached a very difficult position of placing all staff who are currently at home, not working since the commencement and who will not be working now that skeletal services will be commencing on a Furlough (unpaid leave) until things normalize.

This means that while staff who are home now and not working remain our staff, they will not be paid salaries for the period not worked and until they are recalled back to the office.”

How long it will take the media organizations to rebound, and re-engage their employees to work optimally, depends on how early the nation survives COVID-19 or how soon the Federal Government offers bail-out to operators in the industry.

Though, the bail-out option may be a tall order, stakeholders are optimistic that the industry may soon be out of the woods.

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Business

How to access N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund

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When the Federal Government approved the establishment of the N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), hundreds of thousands young Nigerians were excited about the innovation. They believe it could reduce the increasing unemployment rate, which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, in the country.

However, most of them are ignorant of how to access the investment fund and the purpose the fund was actually designed to address. Below are steps to access the facility and all you need to know about the scheme.

How to access loan

* Potential beneficiaries are expected to have a fundable business idea.

* Registered business

* Must be a citizen  of Nigeria

* Present recognised means of identification and guarantors.

* Also, the Ministry of Youth and Sports claim that the safeguards built around some specifics being crafted around the fund will ensure that potential beneficiaries do not need to know anyone or be “connected” to access the fund.

Note: All processes are handled by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.

Who qualifies?

It is meant to cater to the investment needs of those 18-35. An individual and group can apply for the loan.

Who provides fund:

The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (MFBNP) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will provide the financing to kick-start the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF).

Loan range

The Loan, whose aim is to meet 500, 000 youths from 2020-2023, ranges approval will range from N250, 000 to N50million with a spread across group applications, individual applications, working capital loan set as one year and term loan set at three years with a single-digit interest rate of 5%.

A minimum of N25 billion each year in the next 3 years, totalling N75billion will be required to ring-fence the NYIF. For the remaining parts of 2020, N12.5 billion will be needed to kick start the NYIF. It is expected that successive governments will keep the fund alive.

Disbursement

It would be disbursed through various channels like Micro Credit Organisations across the country under the Central Bank of Nigeria supported by BOI, Fintech Organisations and Venture Capital Organisations registered with the CBN.

Why it is different

NYIF provides a single-window of Investment Fund for the youth thereby creating a common bucket for all Nigerian youth to access Government support. Providing less cumbersome access to credit and finance for the average Nigerian youth and help lift thousands of the youth out of poverty and birth a whole generation of entrepreneurs.

Click here for further details

Last Wednesday, Nairametrics reported that the Federal Executive Council approved the establishment of a N75 billion NYIF to support enterprise among 68 million Nigerian youths between ages 18 and 35.

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, explained that the funds will not just be randomly distributed among youths, but will be used to assist the most qualified ones with genuine business ideas.

“For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the Federal Executive Council today approved the establishment of the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) to the tune of N75 billion,” he said.

He explained that qualified youths who fall within the stipulated age bracket and have genuine business ideas “can approach any of the 125 micro-credit banks across the country to access it.

“This fund is meant to create a special window for accessing credit facilities and financing on the part of our youths that will help to fund their ideas, innovations and also support their enterprise.”

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Business

How to curb corruption at the port

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Former President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr Babatunde Ruwase, says the issues of corruption at the nation’s ports can be checked by automation.

Ruwase made his view known at a webinar organised by the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), with support from Siemens AG and in partnership with the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) on Thursday.

The topic of the webinar was,’Corruption in the Cargo Clearance Process at the Nigerian Port’.

He said that what should be done to address the problem was to automate the system, have a single window that would ensure checks on what one was doing.

“Presently in the port, the system is so structured that you cannot do something without paying your way out and the various reforms put in place have not gotten the required impact.

“We need to get out of this manual inspection, have timelines, an ombudsman system, and ground rules that are clear to eliminate corruption in the port,” he said.

In his contribution, Dr Kayode Opeifa, Vice-Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa, said there was a need to know those involved in cargo clearance at the ports.

“There are people called ‘Movers’ in the port and also some calling themselves stakeholders who do not have business at the port, but their activities have led to corruption and this needs to be checked.

“All stakeholders must show interest if we want to remove corruption at the ports, we should not allow touts to take over,” he said.

He said that the standard operating procedure of all involved in cargo clearance should be looked into, as some organisations have the policy, but on paper and not implemented.

Mr Olayiwola Shittu, former president, Association of Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) said discretionary powers of officials who run cargo processes and unwillingness to tackle issues fuel corruption at the nation’s ports.

Shittu, also the Managing Director, Borderless Alliance, said that the unwillingness to tackle issues arising from cargo clearance and the delay which led to extra cost made some people to cut corners.

“I have been in the port business since 1969 and there have been issues of corruption in the port, it is a very difficult issue that has been tackled by various stakeholders, all to no avail.

“It is so unfortunate because there are so many determinants to corruption in the port, such as the shippers and their agents, terminal operators, security agencies, transport and haulage companies and government agencies.

“All these determinants have their various functions and powers, and as long as they have discretionary powers and no way of being challenged, it becomes a problem and leads to facilitating of corruption in the port,” he said.

Shittu said that there was need for a Central Ministerial Intervention Agency to harmonise decisions in the port, as time wasted in the supply of cargo was the fertile ground that created and facilitated corruption.

Mr Muda Yusuf, Director General, LCCI, said that service system and systemic issues made it difficult to tame corruption in the ports.

According to him, there is problem of impunity and there are no structured, reliable and dependable processes of redress.

He said that in the chamber of commerce, it had been a very frustrating experience trying to intervene in some matters, and they had approached the authorities most times without making headway.

Yusuf said that trade facilitation with a form of measurement should be the Key Performance Index (KPI) for all involved in cargo clearance, rather than revenue.

Mr Vivek Menon of the MACN said that they had embarked on a project with the Federal Government to achieve port efficiency and address challenges.

“We did a Corruption Risk Assessment and came out with a Standard Operating Procedure of the various agencies such as the Customs, Port Health that come on board for inspection and decided on best way to harmonise them to reduce time.

“Also, there is a Grievance Report Mechanism whereby one can lay complaints to be addressed and we have been able to successfully tackle eight cases last year,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that MACN is a global business network working towards the vision of a maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of society at large.

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Business

How to access CBN’s new Non-oil export fund

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Emefiele

The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued a guideline to access its Non-Oil Export Stimulation Facility (NESF). The fund was introduced to diversify the revenue base of the economy and to expedite the growth and development of the nation’s non-oil export sector.

This was disclosed in a document published on the apex bank’s website. The facility, according to the document, will help redress the declining export financing and reposition the sector to increase its contribution to economic
development.

Objectives of the Facility

*  Improve access of exporters to concessionary finance to expand and diversify the non-oil export baskets;

* Attract new investments and encourage re-investments in value-added non-oil exports production and non traditional exports;

* Shore up non-oil export sector productivity and create more jobs;

*Support export-oriented companies to upscale and expand their export operations as well as capabilities; and
* Broaden the scope of export financing instruments.

Who qualifies for the fund

* Firms that are duly incorporated in Nigeria under the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and have verifiable export off-take contract(s).

* Satisfactory credit reports from at least two Credit Bureaux in line with the provisions of CBN Circular BSD/DIR/GEN/CIR/04/014 dated April 30, 2010.

* All applications shall be in compliance with CBN circulars BSD/DIR/GEN/LAB/07/015 and
BSD/DIR/GENLAB/07/034 on “Prohibition of Loan Defaulters from Further Access to Credit Facilities in the Nigerian banking System” and “Guidelines for Processing Requests from DMBs to Extend New/Additional Credit Facilities to Loan Defaulters and AMCON Obligors” dated June 30, 2014 and October 10, 2014, respectively.

Eligible Transactions

* Export of goods processed or manufactured in Nigeria;

* Export of commodities and services, which are allowed under the laws of Nigeria and do not violate the principles of non-interest banking and finance;

* Imports of plant & machinery, spare parts and packaging materials, required for export-oriented production that cannot be sourced locally;

* Resuscitation, expansion, modernization and technology upgrade of non-oil export industries;

* Export value chain support services such as transportation, warehousing and
quality assurance infrastructure;

* Working capital/stocking facility; and

Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs)

* Non-Interest Banks (NIBs).
* Non-Interest Development Finance Institutions (NI-DFIs).

Features of the NESF

* Financing Limit Term financings under the Facility shall not exceed 70% of verifiable total cost of the project subject to a maximum of ₦5,000,000,000.00.

Tenor

The NESF shall have a tenor of up to 10 years and shall not exceed the 31st December, 2027.

Working capital/stocking facility shall be for one year. Where applicable, the facility can be rolled-over twice on a reducing balance basis of 33.3% of the original amount.

Repayment

Repayments of principal and return shall be quarterly and in accordance with the agreed repayment schedule.

Moratorium

* Moratorium shall be project-specific and shall not exceed two (2) years.

* In case of construction, additional moratorium of up to one (1) year may be allowed, subject to approval by the CBN.

* Rates of Return: The Facility shall be granted at an all-inclusive rate of return of 9% per annum.

Application Procedures

A PFI shall submit application to CBN on behalf of its customer in the prescribed format.

In the case of financing syndication, the lead bank shall submit application on behalf of other banks. All correspondence with respect to the application shall be with the lead
bank.

Each request for a facility is to be accompanied by the following documents:
a) Written request from the project promoter to a PFI seeking financing under the NESF.

b) Completed application form.

c) Certified true copies of documents on business incorporation.

d) Three (3) years tax clearance certificate.

e) Audited statement of accounts for the last three (3) years (where applicable) or the most recent management account for companies less than three (3) years in
operations.

f) Feasibility study/ business plan of the project.

g) Relevant permits/ licenses/ approvals (where applicable).

h) Verifiable export orders/ contracts or other export agreement and arrangements/ commitments.

See details of the guidelines here

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