By Dipo Olowookere
Traders at the Creek Road Market in Port Harcourt have been assured by the Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, that the market would be reconstructed.
The Governor made this known when he inspected projects in the area on Monday.
During the visit, Mr Wike appealed to some of the market women trading on the middle of the road to immediately vacate the road.
He explained that he had to personally interface with the market women because the contractor handling the road complained that the traders were obstructing ongoing construction work.
According to the Governor, there was no need to apply force because the construction of the road would be beneficial to the market women.
“I am here to personally appeal to you to stop trading on the middle of the road. This will allow the contractors to continue with their job.
“The contractors must finish this job. It will not be wise that the state’s money is lost because you are distracting the contractors. Please assist me by leaving the middle of the road, so that they can work,” he appealed to the trader.
In a related development, in line with the directive of Governor Wike, engineers from Julius Berger and the State Ministry of Works started preliminary work at different flood impacted locations in the state.
It will be recalled that the Rivers State Governor inspected flood impacted locations on Sunday where he directed immediate remedial measures.
Brent Falls Below $80 on Fresh Rate Hike Concerns
By Adedapo Adesanya
Brent fell below $80 per barrel as economic indicators raised fears and concerns about higher interest rates amid Europe’s plans to continue restricting Russia.
The international crude benchmark depreciated by $2.23 or 2.7 per cent to $79.94 a barrel, as the US West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) pointed south by $2.49 or 3.3 per cent to trade at $73.39 per barrel.
Prices fell to over three-week lows in a volatile session after strong US jobs data raised concerns about higher interest rates and as investors sought more clarity on the imminent EU embargo on Russian refined products.
It was a tough week for the commodity as Brent registered a 7.8 per cent decline this week while WTI dropped 7.9 per cent.
Job growth in the US accelerated sharply in January amid a persistently resilient labour market. However, analysts note that a further moderation in wage gains should give the Federal Reserve some comfort in its fight against inflation.
The strength in hiring, which occurred despite layoffs in the technology sector as well as in sectors like housing and finance that are sensitive to interest rates, doused market expectations that the US central bank was close to pausing its monetary policy tightening cycle.
The US central bank on Wednesday scaled back to a milder rate increase than those over the past year, but policymakers also projected that ongoing increases in borrowing costs would be needed.
Market analysts noted that the increases in interest rates in 2023 are likely to weigh on the US and European economies, boosting fears of an economic slowdown that is highly likely to dent global crude oil demand.
Also, European Union countries agreed to set price caps on Russian refined oil products to limit Moscow’s funds for its invasion of Ukraine.
EU diplomats said the price caps are $100 per barrel on products that trade at a premium to crude, principally diesel, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil and naphtha.
Ambassadors for the 27 EU countries agreed on the European Commission proposal, which will apply from Sunday.
The price caps, together with an EU ban on Russian oil product imports, are part of a broader agreement among the Group of Seven (G7) countries.
It follows a $60 per barrel cap on Russian crude that G7 countries imposed on December 5 as the G7, the EU and Australia seek to limit Russia’s ability to fund its war in Ukraine.
Both caps prohibit Western insurance, shipping and other companies from financing, insuring, trading, brokering or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price caps.
The Russian government said the EU embargo on Russia’s refined oil products would lead to a further imbalance in global energy markets.
In US supply, energy firms this week cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs by the most since June 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said. US oil rigs fell 10 to 599 this week, their lowest since September, while gas rigs dropped by two to 158.
IGP Orders Arrest, Prosecution of Sellers of Naira
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Usman Alkali Baba, has directed the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department and the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Intelligence Bureau to begin the arrest and prosecution of sellers of Naira, as well as the abusers.
In a statement on Friday by the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Mr Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the police chief said violators would not be spared.
He said efforts would be made to enforce the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act as the country boils over the swapping of the old banknotes for new ones.
There had been a scarcity of cash in many parts of the country over the Naira redesign policy of the central bank.
There have been reports of people buying the new currency notes at exorbitant rates, triggering anger in some places.
But the statement from the police today said, “In furtherance of the federal government’s policy and drive to uphold the provisions of the CBN Act, 2007, and dignify Nigeria’s currency,” the IGP has ordered the placement of place officers and men of the department and the bureau across the nation “on high alert and to carry out the arrest, and subsequent prosecution of all individuals engaged in the sale or abuse of the Naira notes issued by the CBN.”
“The IGP has similarly charged all supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police in charge of police commands and formations to carry out full enforcement of the provisions of Sections 20 and 21 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007, which criminalises, amongst other things, the hawking, selling or otherwise trading, spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira notes, falsifying or counterfeiting of bank notes, refusal to accept the Naira as a means of payment, tampering with the coin or note issued by the CBN,” the statement added.
It said Mr Baba has reiterated the mandate of the police “to enforce all laws and regulations without any prejudice to the enabling Acts of other security agencies and urged all and sundry to cooperate with the NPF as it brings the long arm of the law to bear upon all violators of the provisions of the CBN Act, and other extant statutes in Nigeria, with a view to having a well-policed society in all ramifications within the country.”
Employment Growth Quickens Amid Efforts to Deal With Workloads
The Nigerian private sector registered a slight loss of growth momentum in January, with output and new business rising further markedly, though at softer rates than at the end of 2022.
On a more positive note, firms raised employment at the fastest pace since June 2018 as part of efforts to complete work on time.
On the price front, rates of inflation of input costs and output prices softened in January but remained elevated.
Analysis by Stanbic IBTC Bank showed that the headline figure derived from the survey is the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI®).
Readings above 50.0 signal an improvement in business conditions in the previous month, while readings below 50.0 show a deterioration. The headline PMI dipped to 53.5 in January from 54.6 in December. Although still signalling a solid monthly strengthening of the private sector and the thirty-first in consecutive months, the rate of improvement was the softest since August 2022.
Business activity increased at a much slower pace at the start of the year, despite the rate of growth remaining marked. The latest rise was the weakest in five months. Demand continued to improve, but some firms reported a moderation in customer numbers.
Activity increased across each of the four broad sectors covered by the survey. The rate of expansion in new business also softened in January but remained sharp nonetheless, again reflecting higher demand from customers.
A desire to try and complete projects on time led companies to ramp up their hiring activities at the start of the year. Employment increased at a solid pace that was the fastest since June 2018.
Despite expanded staffing levels, backlogs of work increased for the first time in three months. Firms reported having been hindered by issues with machinery and power supply.
Higher workloads and positive expectations regarding the outlook for activity led companies to expand their purchasing activity sharply again, with the rate of growth unchanged from December. In turn, stocks of purchases also rose further. Efforts to secure inputs were helped by improving supplier performance.
Competition among vendors, quiet road conditions and prompt payments all contributed to a shortening of delivery times, one that was the most pronounced in four months. The rate of input cost inflation softened for the second month running in January, and was at a one-year low.
The slowdown in overall cost inflation largely reflected a softer rise in purchase prices, albeit one that was still substantial. Purchase costs increased on the back of rising fuel and raw material costs, exacerbated by currency weakness.
Meanwhile, staff costs rose at the fastest pace in 11 months as companies increased pay in line with higher living costs. Output price inflation also remained elevated as higher cost burdens were passed on to customers.
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