By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
Small businesses are important for many reasons be it nano, micro, small, or medium-sized enterprises; on one hand, as an important contributor to any economy, and as the lifeblood of many developing and underdeveloped economies.
Small businesses can equally provide many essential opportunities that cannot be overlooked because as they scale, they impact innovation, job creation, economic diversification, poverty reduction, wealth creation, and income redistribution within the country.
Hence, the core attribute that makes small businesses achieve all these and more is the agility that the founders/owner-managers provide. This makes this form of business nearly inseparable from the founders.
This inseparability makes the decision-making process and flexibility within the businesses much faster than that of large corporations. More so, coupled with the agile management that exists in small businesses, adaptation to current realities and changing economic circumstances is much easier in small businesses.
Research finds have also shown that the agility that exists in small businesses is the direct involvement of the founders, and the business owners. They can provide quick decisions and also react to changes in the environment easily.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has added to small business challenges around the world. A lot has happened with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has fuelled a lot of economic, livelihood, and business disruptions with more grave consequences on developing countries like Nigeria.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has brought about the untimely loss of loved ones, colleagues, associates, neighbours, friends, and prominent Nigerians. While many died as a result of COVID-19 complications, some died due to accidents, age-long sicknesses and others died as a result of economic pressures.
The painful truth is that most of them held key roles in the entertainment industry, sports, politics, and in particular many held key roles in businesses around before they succumbed to death drawing from context observation.
As it stands and relying on worldometer and the World Health Organization (WHO) figures, as of January 2022, coronavirus deaths, since the pandemic began, stand at 5,575,367 and 3,116 in Nigeria.
The figure seems underreported for Nigeria because the common knowledge is that most deaths go underreported and most times not captured and unrecorded with the necessary authorities. Families do not see reasons to formalize closures by visiting the hospital for proper attestation, getting death certificates, and having the deaths captured.
As a reminder, since small businesses and the founders/owner-managers are inseparable, it is easy then to conclude that we may just be losing businesses as part of the huge consequences of the COVID-19 situations.
Agreeably, the rate at which obituaries come up in the newspapers these days has been very alarming and disturbing, many are unaware that most of these late individuals are business owners and key decision-makers in these businesses.
Therefore, what happens to the business when a founder dies or is incapacitated? This usually creates a leadership vacuum in the businesses, survival and continuity is highly threatened which may lead to liquidation of the business.
In fact, research finds corroborate that many businesses could suffer long-lasting and significant negative impacts if the founders/ owner-managers die untimely. Though no reliable data to substantiate this claim in Nigeria, it is evident that a large portion of the population lives on income from small businesses which account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of jobs in the country.
Coupled with the current demography of Nigeria, the prevalence of deaths of founding entrepreneurs or owner-managers may negatively impact many of the businesses and worsen the unemployment situation in the country. Though small businesses have different forms of incorporation, from a partnership to sole proprietorship, or Private Limited Company (Ltd) and Private Unlimited Company, the reality is that founders /owner-managers rarely put such business structures in place.
So, upon the owner’s death, who has a clear vision and goals for the business, a leadership and decision-making vacuum is created almost immediately. A clear recent reference was the November 2021 collapse of a high-rise block of luxury flats under construction in Ikoyi Lagos State. At least 42 people died including the property developer, who also is the MD/CEO and owner-manager of the building.
Since the unfortunate incident and the demise of the founder/MD/CEO of the company, no detailed communiqué or press release has been issued in respect of the building collapse by the company -an incorporated limited company.
What we have in the public space is the investigations and evaluation of the state of things by the Lagos State Government. Contrarywise, the project’s website has been shut down by the company, therefore, it is easy to tell that as capital intensive the project is, the company behind it lacks an adequate business structure.
Most times, this is usually the trend with small businesses in the country, the businesses disappear or experience significant operational decline following the death of the founder or key owner-manager, regardless of the form of business incorporation.
Chief Moshood Abiola and Chief Henry Fajemirokun’s stories and a host of others are well known. They had investments in critical sectors of the economy with business interests from aviation, agriculture, sports, bakery, real estate, publishing, and communications but after their death, the businesses fizzle out gradually.
It starts with business struggles, the overall performance of workers and staff dwindles and the family of the founder who most times have no knowledge of the business steps in, which further compounds the misfortune of the businesses. Contrary to what the majority thinks is right, a business owner’s spouse is never a co-owner of the business just by virtue of marriage unless it is expressly stated in the incorporation documents.
With the changing economic circumstances of businesses, a non-economic factor such as the deaths of founders, decision-makers, and key entrepreneurs may further impact negatively on the small businesses that are already burdened with challenges.
The going concerns of many of these businesses may just be threatened because of the negative impact of the pandemic and any loss of owner-managers. Consequently, with the silently ravaging pandemic and untimely deaths, family businesses and small businesses may just need to adopt strategies to stem the tides.
On the part of businesses, attention should be paid to the effective implementation of businesses structure, good governance, business risk analysis, succession planning, mentorship, and transitions because these are the most prevalent factors leading to leadership vacuums. Stakeholder management is equally important customers, employees, vendors, and investors contributions, feedback, and initiatives should be honoured and appreciated for different situations at all times.
To reduce the vulnerability of small business closure with the demise of the founders, government, policymakers, and SMEDAN need to intensify their efforts to disseminate information on business continuity, capacity development, technology usage, and other needs for SMEs to continue to make the desired positive impact in the country. So, a lot of support and development of interventions from the government is required for small businesses to go beyond mere survival.
On a final note, government interventions can transform small businesses, into vast employers of labour, tax generators, which will contribute to government revenue, and ultimately the growth of the economy, but again right structures have to be in place. Good luck!
How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?
Dr Timi Olubiyi, an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria, is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, for any questions, reactions, and comments.
Competing for Service – a Customer’s Choice
Ask any staunch modernist, and you’ll hear them say that the last 100 years have far outpaced the previous 1,000 in terms of human invention. They will say that to define modernity is to acknowledge recent advancements in technological innovation, urbanisation, and globalisation and how they have accelerated financial exchange through fintech and other inventions.
We live in a time where the same generations who are always ready to whip out their cheque books and those who grew up completely digital bank with the same service provider or shop at the same retailer. So while we see today’s innovations across the retail, technology, banking, and travel sectors, for example, it begs the question of whether today’s innovations compete with traditionality.
When UNCTAD released its findings on e-commerce sales earlier this year, it described the growth of online sales as having increased “markedly in value”. At the same time, 46% of respondents in Raydiants 2022 Consumer Behaviour Report said that given the choice, they still prefer to shop in-store.
Like in online retail and in-store shopping, the biggest difference between traditional forms of payment or traditional banking and online banking is physical presence. As it goes, the same consumers who prefer shopping in physical stores likely still prefer the human interaction that goes with traditional banking.
That said, not everyone has access to a personal bank or financial advisor who can help with savings and investment decisions. However, data released by mobile industry insights company Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) shows that smartphone adoption stands at 64 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to grow to 75 per cent by 2025. The report also reflects that $155 billion of economic value added will be generated by mobile technologies and services by 2025. In 2020, transactions on mobile money platforms reached $490 billion.
“It’s not surprising that we have seen a proliferation of established players in mobile banking and payments. We expect these mobile solutions to extend to savings options, with the emergence of platforms that will make it easier for anyone with access to a smartphone to explore various investment and saving options,” says Tony Mallam, managing director of upnup, a micro-savings and investment platform.
There are, of course, still businesses and consumers that prefer using cash. And for consumers who prefer making payments using bank notes, the old saying of ‘nothing is more powerful than habit’ remains king. Eventually, as a home services marketplace, SweepSouth’s co-founder Alen Ribic comments market forces and market demand will be the deciding factors behind the financial behaviour of businesses and consumers.
“Our offering has always been a case of creating products according to customer needs and what the market demands. We don’t assume to know a customer and then launch new products or offerings based on that,” notes Ribic. “We know that a different market will add new variables into the equation and using a combination of market data with local, on the ground, team presence we assess what is in demand and what would be a suitable additional offering for our customers.
In fact, the very way that brands and consumers interact and learn with each other has changed. Today, most consumers will have researched a product online before making a purchase. More brands are using customer data gained from online behaviour and purchases to dictate their offerings.
Salesforce reports that while 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only 32% of retail executive respondents say their organisations have the full ability to turn data into personalised prices, offers, and products in real-time across channels and touchpoints.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online travel booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou.says, “Innovations are coming in thick and fast but the key is to meet your suppliers and customer base where they are. Each generation has their own way of approaching business, but to stay on the pulse – you have to meet them where they are most comfortable.”
Google’s Travel Insights portal notes that destination popularity can change in an instant. For the most current information on those changes, travel businesses should rely on travel data to determine service offerings. Today this type of trend analysis is far more useful than gauging the number of customers physically visiting travel agencies to pick up travel brochures.
Weighing up the benefits of traditional versus digital should not be seen as a war of which is better, but rather pose the question of how businesses can leverage mixed customer demand for services. Business owners should use data to educate themselves on trends and preferences for the generational mix of consumers with purchasing power that we see today. Whether you choose to be exclusively online or to satisfy various markets, there’s no doubt that, for now at least, both traditionality and modernity are here to stay.
African Marketers Simply Cannot Afford to Ignore Snapchat: Here’s Why
By Alistair Errington
Over the years, Snapchat has consistently defied its most ardent critics. The platform has grown from strength to strength rather than fading away as existing social networks mimic its features, and new ones, such as TikTok, target the same audience. This illustrates how people want more options and choices when it comes to social media (something that its critical advertisers understand).
As recorded by Statista, Snapchat boasts 347 million daily active users in Q2 2022, up more than 50 million from the same quarter in 2021. Data Reportal also sheds light on Snapchat’s presence, with a total advertising reach of more than 617 million people. This puts it in the top 10 social networks globally. It is, in other words, a platform that advertisers simply cannot afford to ignore. This is as true on the African continent as it is anywhere else.
In Nigeria, for example, Snapchat has more than 9 million users in addressable reach for advertising. This puts it on par with Instagram and well ahead of platforms such as LinkedIn.
With this in mind, it is worth looking at what makes Snapchat so popular, why it’ll continue to be a good marketing option, and how advertisers can best take advantage of it.
Embracing technological evolution
The key to Snapchat’s success in recent years has been its willingness to continue evolving and embracing new technologies as they emerge. In particular, it utilises augmented reality (AR) to appeal to its user base. Snapchat is a camera-first app, encouraging its audience to create personal, authentic content featuring themselves.
For instance, some 250 million users use AR tools that allow them to add 3D experiences in the real world and overlay graphics on images every day. But the platform’s AR ambitions go far beyond augmenting the world only for entertainment. Earlier this year, Snapchat announced updates to its AR shopping features which make it easier for users to try out AR versions of a retailer’s product and to buy directly from the AR experience on Snapchat.
As a result, Snapchat isn’t just a place where brands can advertise to their customers. In fact, it’s more like a virtual showroom that allows people to see what products would look like on them or in their homes. ‘Product trial’ has a whole new meaning.
But even its more prosaic offerings give advertisers a lot to work with. Take Spotlight, its short-form video offering, for example. Spotlight offers a place where an infinite stream of full-screen videos can be engaged with, tailored to the user’s interests. It saw instant success, growing 60% in activity year on year since mid-2021. Based on this growth, Snapchat announced earlier this year that they were testing ads on Spotlight, having successfully rolled them out in a revenue-sharing model with Snap Star creators.
Hyper-connected digital natives
It’s also important to highlight that Snapchat has been developing its technology for 10 years, and its followers have remained loyal through that evolution. Retaining a community that has grown with the app, Snapchat capitalises on the millennial generation and is constantly accruing a younger generation of users due to the cutting-edge experiences it offers.
Zooming into Africa, these younger generations are becoming the centre of attention for Africa. The majority of purchasing power will reside in this audience, not to mention how connectivity in these countries becomes ubiquitous. Nigeria serves as a prime example of a market that is well positioned for digital growth – both in digital users and an audience to be capitalised on. With the combination of internet penetration currently sitting around 51% and over 70% of the users on Snapchat being 21+ in Nigeria, the opportunity for advertisers is there in the short term to bring returns and prepped for the long term to invest in. Bundle this with a median age of 18 and the expected addition of 35 million more internet users by 2026 in Nigeria, and Snapchat anchors itself in the helm of a booming economy.
There is also a very exciting convergence taking place in the digital sphere with this spike in internet users: by 2025, nearly 75% of the global population and all social/communication apps will be frequent AR users. Right now, Snapchatters spend over 3 minutes a day engaging with AR experiences alone and more than 30 minutes on the app everyday – nevermind the fact that they open the camera over 30 times a day resulting in 2.4M snaps every minute around the world. And one of the most interesting nuggets to these behaviours is that it’s done by an audience barely found anywhere else. On any given day, 95% of Snapchat users aren’t on TikTok, 84% of Snapchat users aren’t on Twitter and 47% of Snapchat users aren’t on Facebook. Snapchat hosts a unique audience.
The right messaging with the right partnerships
Of course, advertisers can’t simply hope to slap their existing messaging onto Snapchat templates and expect great results. They have to ensure that the messaging matches the platform and that they’re reaching the people they want with it.
Here, the right partner can help. Brands should look to work with a media sales partner that not only understands platforms such as Snapchat inside out but also has extensive experience working in growth markets like Nigeria.
In doing so, they can reap the full benefits of being on a rapidly growing platform that’s becoming increasingly significant on the African continent.
Alistair Errington is the Snap Partner Director at Ad Dynamo by Aleph
Nigeria at 62: A Critical Analysis
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Going by historical events and developments starting from 1914, it is evident that Nigeria is not a natural country, state or nation but an artificial creation via a marriage of two unwilling brides who had no say in their forced and ill-fated union- an amalgamation of the northern and the southern protectorates on the 14th February 1914, a day set aside to celebrate love all over the world, by Sir Lord Lugard.
The British colonial overlords probably intended the protectorates to operate symmetrically with no part of the amalgam claiming superiority over the other. This arrangement conferred on the fledgling country the form of the Biblical trinity.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria became a federation, resting firmly on a tripod of three federating regions-Northern, Eastern and Western Regions. Each region was economically and politically viable to steer its ship.
Shortly after the independence, but before the country became a republic, precisely in 1961, something that qualifies as a setback happened.
According to a report, Southern Cameroun, which was then part of Eastern Nigeria, agitated that it wanted to leave Nigeria to rejoin their French Cameroun brothers. The United Nations resolved the matter by conducting a plebiscite to determine whether it was the wish of the majority of the Southern Cameroon people, then part of the British Colony, to leave the independent nation of Nigeria.
An overwhelming majority, said to be around 90% of the people, agreed to leave Nigeria, and they did in 1961, thereby reducing the geographical size and population of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, a clear warning of a possible separation of Nigeria’s constituent ethnic nationalities from the Nigerian Federation.
That was not the only early warning signal that something was fundamentally wrong with the federation.
Take, as an illustration, the federating units were meant to enjoy some level of independence, yet mutual suspicion among them was rife as regional loyalty surpassed nationalistic fervour, with each of the three regions at a juncture threatening secession.
The late Premier of the Western Region once described Nigeria as a “mere geographical expression” and later threatened “we (Western Region) shall proclaim self-government and proceed to assert it”, a euphemism for secession.
In the same vein, the Northern Region under the Premiership of the late Ahmadu Bello never hid its desire for a separate identity. Just before independence, the region threatened to pull out of Nigeria if it was not allocated more parliamentary seats than the south. The departing British colonial masters, desirous of one big entity, quickly succumbed to the threat.
In fact, the north at that time pretended it never wanted anything to do with Nigeria. For example, the motto of the ruling party in that region at that time was “One North, One People, One Destiny.” And the name of the party itself, “Northern People’s Congress (NPC),” was suggestive of separatist fervour and distinct identity.
It has also been said in several publications, which no one from the north has refuted till today, that the primary reason for July 29, 1966, bloody revenge coup carried out by young soldiers of Northern Nigerian extraction which led to the massacre of thousands of Igbo soldiers and civilians, including Nigeria’s first Military Head of State, General Thomas Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, was primarily to pull that region out of Nigeria.
But of all the secession threats since independence, it was the one issued by the Eastern Region in 1966-67 following the bloody counter-coup of July 1966 and subsequent genocide by northern soldiers and civilians in which thousands of easterners living in the north lost their lives or were maimed, and the failure of Gowon to implement the Aburi Accord which was aimed at settling the crisis, that was much more potent.
This also explained the massive ARABA (secession) protests that rocked the region shortly after the coup. The result was the declaration of the Eastern Region independent country with the name “Biafra” on May 30, 1967, by the then Military Governor of the Region, the late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in compliance with the Eastern Nigeria Consultative Assembly resolution and mandate of May 26, 1967.
The proclamation ended with the emotional ‘Biafra Anthem,” The Land of the Rising Sun rendered in the beautiful tune of ‘Finlanda” by Sibelius, symbolising the end of the struggle to assert the self-determination of a new nation.
The scene was set for a confrontation between the new state of Biafra and the balance of the ethnic nationalities that made up the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to resolve the question of the unity of the Nigerian states by use of force (see the report titled Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra).
Without a doubt, today, the war ended over 50 years ago, but its effects and fears remain and stare on our faces.
More dangerously, after 62 years of independence, a wave of secessionist sentiments is still sweeping across the country, with restive youths in the north and southeast as the main gladiators. Some groups in the southwest and south-south have also joined the fray to demand the marriage of 1914 be ended as the basis for its continued existence has severely been weakened.
For example, at the return of democracy in 1999, Ralph Uwazurike, an Indian-trained lawyer from Imo State, ignited a passion for Biafra among southeast youths via his separatist platform Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
MASSOB and its founder enjoyed tremendous following and respect among mostly youths of the region and it almost became an alternative government in the southeast. The group’s sit-at-home orders were religiously obeyed, just as the one declared by IPOB on May 30th was a monster success.
Uwazuruike’s support base has since drastically waned following dissent in MASSOB. But from the ashes of MASSOB’s bye-gone years of strident pro-Biafra agitation came Kanu and IPOB, a much more vitriolic but charming personality and organisation.
Kanu happened in the national and international limelight through a pirate radio called Biafra, which he used as a vehicle to promote the agitation to actualise the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) quest for independence. Two factors have so far worked for Kanu in his separatist agenda: his long incarceration by the Buhari government over Biafra and the recent quit notice given to the Igbo residing in the north by Arewa youths. Both factors, apparently unknown to President Buhari’s handlers, have helped and still helping IPOB and Kanu’s cause. One, his incarceration for almost two years helped to project him to his supporters, a mass of Igbo youths, and the international community as a prisoner of conscience and freedom fighter.
Secondly, the thoughtless quit notice by northern youths to the Igbo resident in the north has not only made Biafra more attractive to most south easterners and portrayed Kanu as a messiah of the Igbo but has triggered off a chain of secessionist sentiments in the southwest and south-south.
While those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign by any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria, the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the south-east, south-south, north or south-west, and resurgent demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation.
Evidently, Nigeria has not fared well as a nation in all sectors of national endeavours. Let’s look at the particulars of this claim.
Fundamentally, there is no denying anymore that presently, life in today’s Nigeria, quoting Thomas Hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short as Nigerians diminish socially and economically, and the privileged political class on their part continues to flourish in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will.
Again, even as we celebrate, it remains a painful commentary that presently, no nation on the surface of the earth best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace. As a nation, Nigerians have never had it so bad.
Nigeria is a nation soaked with captivating development visions, policies and plans, but impoverished leadership and corruption-induced failure of implementation of development projects on the part of the political leaders is responsible for the under-development in the country. Today, mountains of evidence support how seriously off track the present administration in the country was taking the nation with their deformed policies, ill-conceived reforms and strategies,
Lately, the greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state today is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditated, well-organized and orchestrated killings across the country.
The country’s economy, on its part, has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land (eighty per cent of Nigerians are living on less than two dollars per day – according) to the African Development Bank (AFDB) 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook. Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries in the world.
Sadly, according to a report from Brookings Institute, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the world’s largest number of extremely poor in early 2018. At the end of May 2018, Brookings institute’s trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute.
In Education, 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest in the world. Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for most of our people. The University students have been at home for nearly seven months or more. No thanks to the incessant industrial action which currently characterizes the nation’s university system.
The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution, which stipulates forcefully that the economy’s commanding heights must not be concentrated in the hands of a few people.
The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators are deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. It has been shown that adequate investment in this area is clearly not the priority of those in power.
As a result, our hospitals, whether state-owned or federal-owned, have become veritable death centres where people go to die rather than to be healed. The absence of basic items such as hand gloves and masks indicates decadence and rot in the country’s health National Budget recommended by the United Nations.
With regard to the criminal justice system, our people, especially the poor and vulnerable, continue to suffer unprecedented acts of intimidation and violation of rights at the hands of security agencies across the country. Extra judicial killings, lack of scientific-based investigation of crimes and corruption in the judiciary contribute to acts of injustice against the innocent. Our prisons have become places where prisoners are hardened rather than places of reformation of prisoners for reintegration back into society.
As to the solution to these challenges, this piece and, of course, Nigerians with critical minds believe that leadership not only holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria but to sustain this drive, leaders must carry certain genes and attributes that are representative of this order.
Thus, as the nation celebrates, one point Nigerians must not fail to remember is that only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness.
This, as argued elsewhere, will help ensure adequate social infrastructures such as genuine poverty alleviation programmes and policies, healthcare, education, job provision, massive industrialization, and electricity provision, to mention a few. It is critical to jettison this present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people.
The only way this can be done is to work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture. Only then can we truly resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com/08032725374
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