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How delays mar attempts to relocate Computer Village

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Lagos, a city of over 20 million people, is Nigeria’s economic hub. The city is famed for its ability to allow trade to thrive at any of its corners. Oshodi, Idumota, Yaba, Mile 12, and more are testaments to Lagos’ commercial viability.
Internationally, it is regarded as Nigeria’s commercial capital. According to numerous reports, it has the seventh largest GDP in Africa, larger than that of Ghana and Kenya.
Also, Lagos markets are famed for peculiar commodities. Oshodi (Ladipo) is known for spare parts, Idumota and Yaba (Tejuosho) for clothes, and Mile 12 for foodstuff. Each market in Lagos has an identity, making it a large concentration of specialised trading.
Ikeja Underbridge is to computers what Ladipo is to spare parts. It is the home of computers and mobile phones, including their repairs. It is the convergence of many digital activities in the state and from its gate young men try to convince customers that their devices are the cheapest.
Located in the heart of the city, Computer village is home to about 3,000 information technology small and medium enterprises. A Stears Business report estimates that about N1.5bn is generated daily in the market.
It is the home of technology devices for Nigerians, with major technology firms such as Samsung, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Tecno, and Nokia having physical presence in the market.
But with its popularity, the market is also synonymous with traffic. According to the Public Relations Officer of the Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, Solagbade Olaifa, Computer Village was situated in an area that wasn’t intentionally designed to be a market.
He said the market sprang up as a result of its centrality and in response to the demand for technological devices. However, all this is about to change as the Lagos State Government has since announced plans to relocate the market from its present location to Kantangora in Abule Egba to solve traffic congestion and environmental problems in the area.
Olaifa, said, “The project has been on for a long time. This project started since the time of Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) when they were pursuing a mega city and there was a new plan for Lagos State and particularly Ikeja as the capital.
“At the time, they said they wouldn’t want a market of such magnitude in that environment because it causes a lot of traffic, congestion. So, we were told to look for a place where we can move. We tried to look for vacant land but it was futile until recently when the Agbado Oke Odo Local Government decided to offer us a place so we could build.
“All the documents were perfected between the state and local government after which they put out a bid which Bridgeway won.
“Since then, they have been working. During the Fashola administration, the plan was to relocate the people residing and doing business in Katangora to Amikole, which is another location within Agabado Oke Odo. But when Fashola was governor, he discovered that Amikole had been allocated to another group. This hiccup took another period before it was cleared.
“The Ambode administration told the contractor that they must settle the people already there and still accommodate the new market as well. There are people selling used clothes, around there. So, an area for these traders has been constructed and completed. And the area for the new Computer Village has also been carved out in the area too.”
According to him, the logistics surrounding the project had contributed to the numerous delays over the years. He added that the market was no longer conducive to the environment it was situated at the moment.
He explained that it was causing a lot of menace within the axis as the market was in a privately-owned area with buildings converted to shops.
In 2021, Bridgeways Global Projects Limited, the contractor in charge of the new Computer Village, announced that the first phase of the new ICT market would be completed in 24 months.
The new proposed Computer Village is known as the Katangora Information and Communications Technology Business Park. The Chief Executive Officer, Bridgeways Global Projects, Jimmy Onyemenam, explained that the new area would provide infrastructure for the manufacturing of technology hardware too.
“The Katangora ICT Business Park will also provide the infrastructure to incubate and accelerate the development of technology solutions that can improve development outcomes in Africa.”
According to numerous reports, the project was expected to cost about N40bn. The President, Phone and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, Ifeanyi Akubue, stated that project has been slow paced.
He explained that the project’s site had been fenced and foundation for some buildings had been erected. He stated, “The developer and the market are working towards the project but there has been a delay.
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“I don’t know why there is a delay because the traders are not the ones in charge. It was contracted to a developer. The developer revealed at the launch of the project that in 24 months the site would be ready. This was last year. They promised that in 24 months we might be there. But there has been a delay, and we don’t know why.
“We went there physically to see the place when it began. They were doing perimeter fencing at the time. Then they laid the foundation. The work was going on, but there has been a delay in recent times. I do not know why there is a delay, but I am sure the market is still moving to Katangora. We are on it. We have the forms and are on top of it.
“Some people have invested; some people have bought into it. We are presently waiting on the government and the developer. That is how much I can say as a developer and a leader.”
Akubue said the forms were an indication of intent to buy or lease shops at the new site (Katangora) and people could buy forms and decide on the payment plan for the shop they wanted. He said they could pay outrightly or through the bank (Sterling Bank).
According to him, there were 12,000 businesses in the market presently.
He added, “In terms of capacity, the government has planned that place to have warehouses, residential areas, and many other structures. But the structure we saw when we visited was a three-storey building, which is the first phase of the project. There will be a lot of buildings, but we have seen the first phase which will contain a lot of shops.
“Presently, Computer Village has a lot of businesses. We have visible shops and invisible ones because of online business. We have close to 12,000 businesses which include individuals and companies operating from Computer Village today.
“This move will affect our businesses. But the present Computer Village was not designed to be a market and today there are many roads around the market which is making its expansion almost impossible. The truth is that the market has overgrown where it is today, and we need a better environment and place that will contain so many people.
“Our new site is the last bus stop of the BRT, and all the roads and bridges that are being constructed around the area are towards making that place accessible for everyone. The location of a market isn’t really an issue once it can be accessed from anywhere.”
According to him, there was no timeline for the completion of the project because of a delay from the developer of the project. He stated that the traders were enthusiastic about the move and could not wait for its completion.
However, the Managing Partner, Bodds IT Solutions, Emmanuel Osho, disclosed that a lot of traders were not happy with the intended move as it would impact their businesses negatively. He explained that the current slow pace of the project was because certain bigwigs in the market were kicking against it.
He said, “I am not in support of the move and a lot of traders are not excited about it. A lot of people like where the market is located.
“Moving the market means we would be farther from central Lagos, meaning a lot of people would have to spend a lot of time to get to their workplaces. Also, people would have to think twice before they plan to come to do business with us.
“Ikeja is central Lagos. Now, imagine they need to come to our new location from the Island. Ikeja was already stressful, but this will be an added stress for them and shop owners. People that are situated in Ikeja would have to be shuttling Ikeja to Katangora.
“What will make sense is to try to move people to central concentrations within the market. That is what makes sense. A lot of bigwigs do not want to move, and this is slowing down the project, they are fighting it in their own way.”
When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, promised to get back on the issue but did not do so as at the time of filing the story. Efforts to reach Bridgeway to comment on the story proved abortive.
Nigeria’s ICT sector is witnessing a revolution that is largely driven by the telecommunications aspect of it. Experts believe that other aspects of the nation’s ICT sector can also play a robust role in the nation’s attempt to fully digitise.
Nigeria is a major importer of technology devices – about 63 million devices are imported yearly. Today, Computer Village is a consumer market, producing nothing other than serving as a conduit for finished products. But experts believe it can be more.
However, for it to fully achieve its potential, they agree that the traders need to move to a properly planned space, where manufacturing can also thrive.

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Fuel transporters halt strike as FG intervenes

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The about two-day suspension of operations with respect to the lifting of petroleum products by the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners has been called off by the oil transporters.

NARTO confirmed this in Abuja on Tuesday evening after the intervention of the Federal Government through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri.

Lokpobiri as well as the President, NARTO, Yusuf Othman, told journalists that stakeholders in the downstream oil sector had reached an agreement to increase the freight rate of petroleum transporters, and to gradually settle other concerns raised by the tanker operators.

Aside from the minister and his team, and NARTO officials, other participants at the meeting in Abuja include officials of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, led by their Chief Executive, Farouk Ahmed; representatives of the Major Energy Marketers Association of Nigeria; Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria; and others.

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The meeting among parties had been ongoing since Monday. Participants could not reach an agreement on Monday, and had to continue on Tuesday before resolving to meet some of the demands of NARTO.

“We have reached some agreements and members of NARTO have agreed to resume operations so as to reduce the plight faced by Nigerians with respect to getting petroleum products,” Lokpobiri stated.

The two-day suspension of operations by NARTO led to fuel queues by motorists in many states and the Federal Capital Territory on Monday and Tuesday.

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Recall that on Friday, The PUNCH reported that Nigeria might witness another round of fuel scarcity as NARTO had vowed to stop lifting petroleum products beginning from Monday due to the high cost of operations.

NARTO members have repeatedly raised concern over the high cost of diesel required to power their trucks for the transportation of petroleum products across the country.

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Oil marketers had told our correspondent on Thursday that diesel price was between N1,250 to N1,400/litre depending on the area of purchase.

NARTO’s President, Yusuf Othman, had in a statement he issued in Abuja on Thursday, said the statement was an official announcement from the association’s headquarters that members of the group would park their trucks from Monday.

“Why? It is because what we spend on operations is more than what we get in total, both in local and bridging,” he stated.

But after the meeting on Tuesday, he confirmed that the strike by the association had been called off, and urged NARTO members to resume operations.

“The suspension of operations has been called off because we have reached some agreements and there is going to be improvement in our freight rate going forward. So we urge our members to resume operations to reduce the plights of Nigerians,” Othman stated.

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Senate to probe Buhari govt, Emefiele over N30tn CBN loans

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The Senate on Tuesday resolved to probe how the N30tn Ways and Means loans of the Central Bank of Nigeria was obtained and spent by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Ways and Means is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the government’s budget shortfalls.

The senate stated that the reckless spending of the overdraft collected from the CBN under Godwin Emefiele largely accounted for the food and security crises the country was currently facing.

The red chamber then resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate what the N30tn overdraft was spent on by the immediate past government, noting that the details of the spending were deliberately not made available to the National Assembly.

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The ad-hoc committee which will be constituted on Wednesday (today) will also probe the N10tn expended on the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the $2.4bn forex transaction out of the $7bn obligation made for that purpose as well as other intervention programmes.

The development came as biting food crisis, rising inflation, naira depreciation and worsening insecurity continue to take tolls on Nigerians.

President Bola Tinubu and his economic team have come under intense criticism after his last year’s fuel subsidy removal and exchange unification policy unleashed harsh economic conditions on citizens.

Tinubu’s cabinet members have continued to argue that the current crises were exacerbated by the gross mismanagement of the Buhari regime, arguing the current reforms were meant to right the wrongs of the past administration.

The latest move by the Senate is expected to unravel the ways the country and its resources was allegedly mismanaged by the Buhari administration.

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Buhari had in a letter to the National Assembly in January 2023 requested that the N22.7trn Ways and Means loan should be converted to a 40-year bond with a moratorium of three years.

He also requested approval to borrow an additional N1trn to fund the N819.5 billion 2022 supplementary budget which the lawmakers approved last December.

Following the request, the House of Representatives on May 4, 2023, approved the conversion of the N23.7trn loan to a long-term bond for 40 years at the rate of nine per cent per annum.

The bond has a moratorium of three years.

The lower chamber approved the consideration of the report presented by the House Committees on Finance, Banking and Currency and Aids, Loans and Debt Management.

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The Committee of Supply, chaired by the then Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, considered the recommendation in the report and approved it.

But the 9th Senate was thrown into a chaotic session after some lawmakers opposed Buhari’s request to approve the CBN loan as they demanded the details of his proposal.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Adeola Olamilekan, attempted to present the report of the president’s request when Rivers senator, Betty Apiafi, raised a Point of Order and said the president’s request was not constitutional.

She was, however, ruled out of order by the then Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who asked that Olamilekan present the report before contributions are made.

Citing relevant laws from the Constitution, the CBN Act and the Senate Standing Rules, Rivers senator, George Sekibo, argued that the request was not in line with the Constitution.

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‘’It will be a disservice that we have spent that money on behalf of Nigerians. It will be an abuse of our personal sense and against our privileges if we approve this request without details of the expenditure,’’ he insisted.

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Many lawmakers who opposed the president’s request either said it was against the laws or wondered why the National Assembly was not notified when the amount was taken from the Central Bank.

Senate’s new probe

However, the Senate’s resolutions on Tuesday followed the consideration of the report of its Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Appropriation on State of the Economy after interactive sessions held with the Federal Government economic management team.

But the consideration of the report during the plenary was stormy with accusations and counter-accusations by Senators on how the N22.7tn Ways and Means was passed by the 9th Senate in May 2023.

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The lawmakers were also miffed by the passage of N7.2tn on December 30, 2023, by the 10th Senate.

Specifically, the Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume (APC Borno South), in his contribution blamed the Senate for approving the request without details from former President Buhari.

Ndume said, “When the N22.7trn Ways and Means approval request was brought before the 9th Senate, I insisted that details of spending made with it should be provided before approval but the Senate then went ahead and approved it.”

However, the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, countered that the decision taken then was a collective one with the caveat that the executive should provide details later, which was however not provided.

In his defence, the former Senate President, Lawan, claimed that the Ways and Means was in the past and urged the Senate to focus on the present.

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Lawan said, “All of that is in the past, we must focus on the present which is the fact that people are hungry and they are crying. That’s what we should focus on.”

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, said as recommended by the committee and supported by most of the Senators, a thorough probe must be carried out on the N22.7tn Ways and Means approved in May 2023 by the 9th Senate which later increased to N30trn, with the passage of the N7.2trn accrued interest forwarded to the senate for passage last December.

Akpabio said, “The food and security crises confronting the nation now are traceable to the way and manner the said Ways and Means were given collected and spent. Details of such spending must be submitted for required scrutiny and possible remedies because what Nigerians want is food on their table which must be given.”

He added, “Other recommendations made by the committee on the need for a thorough investigation of the N10trillion Anchor borrowers programme, and other intervention programmes running into billions of dollars must be investigated.

“But as rightly recommended by the joint committee, security agencies should, as a matter of national urgency, combat all forms of insecurity across the country for farmers to access their farms for required food production highly needed in the country now.”

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According to the executive summary of the report by the Senate’s joint committee, a copy of which was obtained by one of our correspondents on Tuesday, the Nigerian economy is currently facing challenging times “largely caused by distortions resulting from major fiscal and monetary policy actions of previous governments notably the huge direct lending to the Federal Government by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the tune of about N30 trillion, the operation of an opaque fuel subsidy regime and a raft of interventions by the Central Bank which seemed not well targeted.”

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The report stated that this had led rising inflation especially food, and persistent naira depreciation.

In reaction to the current economic hardships being faced by Nigerians, the Joint Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other financial Institutions, Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Appropriation, had held an interactive session with the key members of the Federal Government’s economic management team.

The aim was to ascertain the true state of affairs of the country’s economy, the nature of the challenges and measures being put in place to address them within the shortest possible time.

According to the report, what has emerged from the interaction is the urgent need to bring down inflation, boost food production and stabilise the economy through proper coordination of fiscal and monetary policies.

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The report further read, “The current state of the country’s economy is very challenging and has resulted in widespread suffering for the average Nigerian across the country. At the forefront of Nigeria’s economic challenges is the alarming surge in inflation rates, with headline inflation soaring to a staggering 28.92 per cent as of December 2023. This inflationary pressure is more evident in the essential sector of food, with food inflation now as high as 33.93 per cent leading to cost-of-living crisis and rendering basic necessities increasingly unaffordable for many Nigerians. The inflationary spiral not only erodes the purchasing power of households but also exacerbates poverty and inequality across the nation.

“One of the main drivers of inflation in Nigeria today is the volume of money in circulation. As at December 2023, the country recorded an unprecedented money supply of N78.74tn, and a 51 per cent year-on-year increase when compared to money supply as at December 2022. One of the driving forces of this significant increase in money supply was the N30tn Ways and Means or the direct financing extended by the CBN to the Federal Government which has only weakened the balance sheet of the central bank. In addition to the inflationary pressures, the country is also battling with acute shortages of food items.”

The report noted that the naira has continued to weaken against the dollar overtime, adding that “In January 2024, the naira depreciated against the dollar by 37.6 per cent which has contributed to the inflationary pressures in the country, increased the cost of goods and services and also led to increased foreign exchange speculation.”

The Senate probe panel is expected to begin to summon some key members of the previous administration’s cabinet members.

PDP welcomes probe

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The People’s Democratic Party has urged the National Assembly to follow through with the proposed probe and investigate Buhari’s administration

The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the current hardships facing Nigerians were a result of both “the actions and inactions” of the former President Buhari.

Abdullahi stated, “You know, that’s what we have always clamoured for. If there is any modicum of integrity in this government, then Buhari needs to be probed. It is not just about probing his government; Buhari himself should be probed. I am sure he does not enjoy any immunity now.

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“Nigeria cannot continue like this. Fifty years after independence, we are still stuck in the same place. Any Tom, Dick, and Harry will take over leadership for years, and after inflicting untoward hardship on the citizenry like Buhari did in his eight years, then the individual will go free, and nothing will happen.

“The PDP is supportive of the Senate’s proposed probe of Buhari’s government, despite our lack of belief in it. However, it signifies a development aimed at restoring the faith of Nigerians in the system. Buhari should be subjected to a tribunal or panel to account for everything he did during the last eight years.

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“Already, Buhari’s actions have been a form of self-investigation. We’ve been witnessing revelations, and some of us have been vocal about it even during his tenure. He was steering Nigeria backward due to a lack of ideas and offered nothing to Nigerians, yet some forces imposed him on us. We endured a harrowing experience during his eight years in office.

“They claimed he had Nigeria’s best interests at heart. How? The Senate should investigate him, and we support them wholeheartedly, hoping it won’t be another futile arrangement as we’ve seen in the past. Let them match words with action.

“Nigerians are receiving it the hard way now. Everybody is surviving miraculously, insecurity has taken a toll on this country. What we are going through these days, the upheavals in the country and the hardships are the fallout of what Buhari has done with this country within eight years.”

LP speaks

Also, the Labour Party described the Senate’s plan to probe Buhari’s administration as a welcome development, doubting however whether the Senate would follow through.

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LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, expressed this view in an interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, likening the Senate to an appendage of Tinubu’s All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government.

He stated “If they actually want to walk the talk, then it is a welcome development. But also know that Nigerians do not have trust in this present Senate, because they are like an apron to President Bola Tinubu’s government. They have virtually approved any request by Tinubu’s government. So they don’t trust them

“The question is, do they have the political will to investigate APC? This government is a continuation of Buhari’s government and the APC is known for condoning corruption. So it is not likely they will carry out that threat. Because we know they are birds of the same feather and they flock together.

“So in summary the Labour Party thinks it is a good thing, but whether they will carry out that probe, is something else. Because the current Senate leadership does not have the political Will to investigate anybody, not to talk of the past government.”

Meanwhile, attempts to get comments from the former Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, were unsuccessful even as the counsel to Mr Emefiele, Mr Matthew Bukka, did not take calls to his mobile line at press time.

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FG seeks $10bn to stabilise exchange rate as naira tumbles

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The Nigerian Federal Government is planning to raise $10bn to improve liquidity in the foreign exchange market. On Tuesday, the naira fell to an all-time low of 1,850 per dollar at the parallel market.

President Bola Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, disclosed this at the inaugural Public Wealth Management Conference in Abuja on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Finance Incorporated organised the event with the theme “Championing Nigeria’s Economic Prosperity”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Communications, Stanley Nkwocha explained, “The Federal Government set a goal to raise at least $10bn in order to increase foreign exchange liquidity, a key ingredient to stabilise the naira and grow the economy.

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“At the core of this is ensuring optimal management of the assets and investments of the Federal Government towards unlocking their revenue potential. This includes our bold and achievable plan to double the GDP growth rate and significantly increase the GDP base over the next 8 years.”

The President further emphasised transparency and accountability as key principles, believing that improved corporate governance, innovative partnerships, and attracting alternative investment capital would significantly increase returns.

He noted that these improved returns will then be directed towards “crucial funding for education, healthcare, housing, power, roads and other areas vital to lifting millions out of poverty and stimulating sustainable economic development and job creation for the youth”.

Meanwhile, Theheute learnt that exchange rate volatility continued across the country on Tuesday despite the heavy presence of security personnel at the Wuse Zone 4 currency market in Abuja.

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Currency traders in Abuja quoted the buying price of the dollar at 1,820/$ and the selling price at 1,850/$, leaving a profit margin of 30.

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A bureau de change operator, Ibrahim Taura, predicted that the rates might reach an all-time low of 2,000/$ if proper measures were not put in place.

“The police filled everywhere in the market today but that still didn’t change everything. Today’s rate finished at 1,850/$ and I will buy it at that rate right now because there is demand,” he stated.

Another operator said he could only buy at the rate of 1,700/$, adding that the market was not suitable for good business.

However, the naira appreciated by 1.48 per cent to 1,551/$ at the official market, following an improved forex turnover of $117.32m.

This came after the local weakened for three consecutive days at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange.

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The country has been battling with a lingering forex shortage due to a decline in oil production and foreign inflows.

According to data from FMDQ Securities, a platform that oversees foreign exchange trading in Nigeria, the local currency hit an intra-day trading high of 1,701/$ and a low of N1,100 before closing at N1,551/$ on Tuesday.

In June 2023, the Central Bank of Nigeria floated the naira after unifying all segments of the forex market, which has resulted in significant devaluation of the local currency.

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