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COVID-19: Experts Advocate Collective Approach to Public Affairs Function

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public affairs

Communications and Public Affairs experts have advocated for collective and strategic engagement efforts to mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on businesses and governance. 

They also emphasised that Public Affairs function as a management function has become the new deal breaker for organizations that want to thrive during this COVID-19 crisis period.

These were some of the resolutions advanced at a webinar held on June 10, 2010 and hosted by Re-Ignite Public Affairs Limited with the theme Managing the Public Affairs Function Post COVID-19.

The carefully selected panellists who are authorities in the field of communications, government relations, stakeholders’ engagement, financial communication, policy research and analysis representing various sectors shared their experiences with hundreds of participants from across the continent.

They included Sade Morgan, Corporate Affairs Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc; Ade Adefeko, Vice President, Corporate & Government Relations, Olam Nigeria; Emeka Oparah, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, Airtel Nigeria; and Olufemi Awoyemi, Founder/ Chairman Proshare Nigeria.

The session was anchored by the President of African Public Relations Association APRA and Group Managing Director of CMC Connect Limited (Perception Managers), Yomi Badejo-Okusanya.

The panellists emphasized how core programmes under the Public Affairs function have become handy in moving businesses forward, engaging various stakeholders, creating corporate relevance and reinforcing brand equity in the face of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on the effect of the lockdown on her organisation, Sade Morgan, Corporate Affairs Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc described their experience in terms of “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

“This period has challenged the organizations to work differently with stakeholders. We have seen a lot of changes in the way we work; going digital as a country and this has brought about a lot of efficiency.

“This crisis has particularly put corporate affairs at the heart of the business, because we came in strategically to being at our optimal best for the growth of the business.

“By engaging our external stakeholders, we are securing business continuity in different ways; we are delivering communications on various internal engagement platforms to keep our human capital motivated,” she said.

With regards to Government Relations “we need to understand that government cannot do it all. To drive business continuity and keep economic activity going, Public Affairs role is to ensure that government has full visibility of what is going on with us in the private sector” Morgan pointed.

In his own submission, Olufemi Awoyemi, Founder/Chairman of Proshare Nigeria posited that the Public Affairs function, during this pandemic, has been at the heart of some of the most important issues of the day.

With lives at stake, the private sector has worked closely with government, which has been in a full listening mode, to address the challenge of lives at stake and livelihood palliatives to be delivered through such private sector led coalitions like the CaCOVID. Those who did nothing will be called out at a later date, he said.

“This is a teachable moment for anyone involved in the craft to understand that the rules of the game has been rewritten already and that public communications is back as No. 1, and that enhanced state involvement is here to stay. Putting a dedicated person in charge of governmental affairs reflects or engaging a dedicated Public Affairs professional is the best understanding that to get anything done now, and in the future, will require government engagement. For the professionals, this is a two-way street that is less travelled.

“For the Public Affairs function, it is now, more than ever before, about reputation management (not brand management) and being a deal broker; a minder for the firm”, Awoyemi stated.

For Ade Adefeko, Vice President, Corporate & Government Relations, Olam Nigeria, lobbying and engagement are key to business survival. “There is nothing that you need to get done in the future that will not require government engagement,” he said.

Adefeko debunked the wrong notion equating lobbying as bribery. “Lobbying is an accepted engagement tool that must be done professionally without pecuniary consideration. I have been doing this successfully for years.

“To do it effectively, you must bear in mind the end game from the beginning. Your objective must be defined, and your communication specific. Your set goals to what needs to be achieved must be highlighted.

“However, there is need for public affairs professionals to understand the mandate of government agencies for them to be able to design appropriate strategies in engaging the government”, Adefeko advised.

While Emeka Oparah, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, Airtel Nigeria, charged public affairs managers to collaborate and coordinate at this trying time.

“This period has taught us to engage more, we can exchange contacts and resources. As a public Affairs person you should know what you want and where to go and get it. You should have a network of people of influence within your network.

“There is need for you to understand your organization and its people in order to be able to articulate issues for seamless business operations,” he said.

The moderator Badejo-Okusanya cued in some participants for their views and they included, Abdul Waheed Patel, Chief Executive Officer of Ethicore Political Lobbying, South Africa; Temitope Oguntokun, Director, Corporate Affairs + Legal at ABinbev; Tony Ojobo, immediate past Public Affairs Director of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); and Anthony Chiejina. Group Head, Corporate Communications for Dangote Group.

All panellists also agree that relationship management is key for a successful Public Affairs function and network of influence are part of critical success factors for Public Affairs practitioner.

Participants thoroughly enjoyed and indicated interest in participating in future public affairs webinars by Reignite Public Affairs.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Ogun Promises Proper Use of World Bank $300m

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Ogun State Security Trust Fund

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Ogun State government has made plans to utilize a financing partnership agreement worth over $300 million signed with World Bank to fund Ogun Economic Transformation projects.

This was disclosed by Governor Dapo Abiodun when the 56th Governing Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), led by its President, Mrs Onome Adewuyi, paid him a courtesy visit at his Oke-Mosan office, Abeokuta.

The Governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr Dapo Okubadejo, said the project, when completed, would further place the state as one of the fastest-growing economies in Nigeria.

On her part, the President of ICAN lauded the state Governor for receiving the delegation, noting that the visit would enable the government and other stakeholders to champion ways of sustaining growth and development of the State and the country at large.

The project development objective (Project ID: P164031) is to increase the participation of the private sector in the economy of Ogun State, with a focus on improving the business-enabling environment, strengthening agri-food value-chains and upgrading skills.

The credit from the multilateral lender has a maturity period of 30 years with a grace of five years.

In support of Ogun State’s development objectives, the project has three core areas of implementation, which are the creation of enabling business environment, strategic technical and vocational skills and development as well as agricultural value chain development. These will all rest on a pillar of strengthened governance capabilities as areas such as statistics, procurement, monitoring & evaluation and planning are bolstered through the program.

Efforts were first advanced during the outgoing tenure of Senator Ibikunle Amosun in April 2019, he, however, noted that then the incoming Dapo Abiodun-led administration already has a ready-made support to enhance the delivery and good governance of the project.

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Nigeria Determined to Eradicate Malnutrition—Minister

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children malnutrition

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has said the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has shown a strong commitment to eradicate malnutrition in the country.

She said this was why the government has come up with various policies to drive massive investment in agriculture and boost food security in Nigeria.

“In recent years, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition. This is happening through the adoption and domestication of policies and costed strategic plans, which emphasise increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach (comprising government, CSOs, private sector and donors); backed by sustained high-level political commitment,” Mrs Ahmed at the dialogue on the United Nations (UN) food systems summit held recently.

She further said the government has also put in place “the national strategic plan of action for nutrition, the national policy on food and nutrition, the innovative national social investment programme (which includes the home-grown school feeding programme), the basic health care provision fund, and the National Council on Nutrition, and the development of various food and nutrition sector plans.”

According to her, the implementation of the National Food Summit Dialogues is critical to the achievement of the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) and the Nigeria Agenda 2050.

The Minister further said that the outputs of the various food summit dialogues would form a critical component for the conclusion of the MTNDP and the Nigeria Agenda 2050, and would, as well, contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.

“The NNFSD is required to improve nutrition security, reduce hunger and prevalence of malnutrition in line with the national food and nutrition policy for Nigeria.

“It is envisioned to create more inclusive, healthier food systems and encourage a collaborative approach towards building a sustainable food system,” she added.

“We in Nigeria are at a critical crossroads. While we have seen some improvements in recent years, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breastfeeding, we know that in order for these improvements to yield results, malnutrition (and other public health issues) must be addressed through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies,” she said further.

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Apapa Gridlock: NPA e-Call-up System Thrills Sanwo-Olu

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NPA e-Call-up System

By Ahmed Rahma

The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has commended the management of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) for using technology to address the traffic logjam at the Apapa area of the state.

Mr Sanwo-Olu, who spoke when the Managing Director of the NPA, Mrs Hadiza Bala Usman, paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House in Alausa, Ikeja, on Tuesday, said he was excited with the introduction of an electronic call-up system.

The system, according to the NPA, would ensure that trucks are allowed on the Apapa corridor via a booking system. The initiative would be launched this Saturday and it is one of the ways put in place to tackle the perennial gridlock in the area.

Governor Sanwo-Olu expressed optimism on the transparent electronic call-up system, saying the move was the beginning of the end of Apapa gridlock.

He said the call-up platform would be complemented with virtual dashboards that will be placed in strategic locations around the seaports, where all stakeholders will monitor the scheduling of container movement.

The Governor praised NPA for the innovative approach towards tackling the truck menace around ports, pledging that the state government would sustain the effort with strict enforcement of traffic regulations along the Apapa corridor.

He said, “This is the beginning of a better journey time for our citizens within the Apapa seaports and environ.

“This electronic system has a limited interface with security operatives and unions, which usually cause the gridlock problem.

“It will be a simple case of possessing electronic clearance. If you don’t have it, you don’t have any reason to be around the seaports.

“In enforcing the new regulations, we are deploying more than enough towing vehicles to impound erring trucks.

“The huge amount to be paid as fine for flouting the call-up system will be a deterrent for drivers not to repeat it.

“The stakeholders need to understand we are serious about ridding Apapa of the menace that has brought pains to our citizens living and doing businesses along the corridor.”

Mr Sanwo-Olu said the state government would be deploying 500 officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to work collaboratively with NPA and enforce the new call-up regulation, directing the state’s agency not to spare any effort in achieving free flow of traffic in Apapa.

On her part, Mrs Usman reaffirmed that from Saturday, February 27, 2021, the movement of trucks in and out of the Lagos seaports will now be organised through a transparent electronic call-up system that will be based on first-come-first-serve basis.

With the new system, no container-laden truck is expected to go on Apapa corridor without clearance from the call-up platform. Any truck that flouts the electronic roster and park along Apapa corridor will be impounded by the taskforce.

Mrs. Bala Usman said the visit to the State House was to brief the Governor on the status of the electronic call-up platform before it would be fully launched.

The NPA boss said the electronic system had addressed the excuses usually given by truck drivers for parking their vehicles on the highways, stressing that any truck found around the ports without electronic clearance would be impounded.

“The deadline for the commencement of the electronic call-up system is February 27, 2021 and we are here to strengthen collaboration with the Lagos State government on implementation and compliance as we commence the process.

“The new system will be done in collaboration with the State. We have worked seamlessly to ensure Apapa is rid of the menace of trucks,” she said.

“All truck owners and stakeholders have been briefed about the new development over the past months. Any truck found in Apapa corridor without call-up clearance will be impounded and Lagos Government will provide the platform with which any fine payment will be collected,” she added.

Mrs Bala Usman said the era of individuals depositing empty containers in the seaports was over, noting that empty containers must now be deposited with the shipping companies, which are expected to keep the containers in their holding bays at no cost to individuals who own the shipment.

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MSMEs Expert Seye Olurotimi to Speak at THC’s Unscripted Live

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Seye Olurotimi unscripted live

By Dipo Olowookere

An expert in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) space in Africa, Mr Seye Olurotimi, has been invited to speak at the flagship midweek event organised by The Harvestworld Church (THC) tagged Unscripted Live.

THC is a church led by Pastors Yinka and Nike Adesanya. The place of worship, which is located around Charly Boy Bus-Stop on the popular Anthony-Gbagada Expressway, Lagos, is a church for the 21st-century urban dwellers, with the sole purpose of making you a person of influence in our world.

Every last Wednesday of the month, the church brings notable business-oriented persons to inspire its youthful members and others for the Unscripted Live programme.

The event was specially designed to dissect everyday real people, real issues and real solutions of young people in the urban areas in an interactive manner to boost their daily living, elicit wholesomeness (spiritual, emotional, financial, relational, etc.) and get direction critical to their aspirations in the market place.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Mr Olurotimi, who is also a notable business coach and the CEO/Founder of MSME Africa, has been invited to speak on Managing Your Business for Profit from 6pm.

A statement from the organisations disclosed that this edition is intended to share with the young participants, emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs the basics of how to overcome the challenges in the current business space with the sole aim of achieving profitability amidst the changes occasioned by the global pandemic.

Unscripted Live started on July 5, 2017, with the most sought-after Mr Tonye Cole, the co-founder and executive director of Sahara Group.

Since then, several personalities have graced the platform including ace Sports Analyst and former Super Eagles Media Manager, Mr Toyin Ibitoye; the CEO of BudgeIT, Mr Seun Onigbinde; the publisher of The CableNG, Mr Simon Kolawole; the CEO Africa Operations for Inlaks Ltd, Mr Femi Adeoti; gospel singer, Tope Alabi; author, speaker and CEO 5th Gear, Mr Niyi Adesanya, amongst others.

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IITA, SANO Foods Promote Cultivation of Improved Cassava Varieties

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Improved Cassava Varieties

By Ahmed Rahma

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with SANO Foods Limited on Monday began a public-private sector initiative to promote the cultivation of improved cassava varieties in Nigeria.

The partnership under the Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) began with a joint public exhibition of fortified foods and cassava varietal display in IITA, Ibadan.

The IITA Deputy Director-General (Partnerships for Delivery), Dr Kenton Dashiell, noted that the partnership was to promote consumption of locally produced products in Nigeria.

He said part of the deal was to create awareness on the newly released cassava varieties as a means of bridging the current cassava productivity gap on the continent, adding that it was also to draw consumers’ attention to the availability of locally made and nutritious foods designed to tackle malnutrition.

Mr Dashiell said breeders were making great progress in the development of crop varieties but needed the inputs of other stakeholders like the government and processors, who would add value to the research products.

According to him, the final development needed partnerships and collaborations with the private sector to add value to these crops.

“I believe that is what SANO is doing and I’m sure we’ll get to learn more from them,” he said.

On the part of the Director of Development and Delivery Office of IITA, Dr Alfred Dixon, he described the SANO-BASICS-II partnership as a “win-win collaboration.”

Dr Dixon stressed that private sector-led cassava development in Nigeria was essential for the transformational change of cassava in the country.

“Together, we will create an economically sustainable cassava value chain where every actor will have a space and benefit from cassava.

“We will raise awareness and trigger the adoption of these varieties by farmers,” he said.

He harped on the need to harness the potentials of cassava as a poverty fighter to create jobs, fight food insecurity and boost the nation’s economy.

Similarly, Prof. Lateef Sanni, IITA BASICS-II Project Manager, said the collaboration with Sano Foods would advance the Cassava value chain.

In his remarks, the Acting General Manager of Sano Foods, Mr Solomon Ojeleye, pointed out that SANO’s vision was to provide foods that are healthy and rich in vitamins.

He identified Turmeric garri (cassava flakes) and OSFP garri as two products the company developed through research to add nutritional value to cassava.

“We have over 39 products in the market and all of them are organic because we put the health of our consumers first.

“We use puree, flour and roots of yellow cassava, Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato, yellow maize and other crops for the production of several confectioneries which includes varieties of bread, cookies, cakes, and baby food,” he said.

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NDPHC to Export 70MW Power to Togo

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NDPHC

By Ahmed Rahma

The Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) is working to export 70 Megawatts (MW) of power to the Republic of Togo.

The executive director of the organisation, Mr Kassim Abdullahi, disclosed this on Monday via a statement signed by the NDPHC’s Head of Communication and Public Relations, Mrs Olufunke Nwankwo.

Mr Abdullahi revealed that the power would be exported through the Calabar Power Plant.

Speaking at an inspection of the Calabar Power Plant in Odukpani, Cross River State recently, the executive director said the company already had a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to supply 70 Megawatt (MW) of power to Togo, a West African nation from the power plant.

While stating that the firm was also in discussion to supply another 100MW to Paradise City in Calabar, he assured Nigerians of improved power supply through the eligible customer framework.

“This is the way to go; we are working tirelessly in getting more eligible customers to ensure that this available stranded power that we have in most of the power stations are dispatched.

“More especially, most of the power stations that we have in NDPHC today are limited in their operations because of the dispatch challenges.

“We are hardly doing the full capacity because of grid constraints but with the eligible customers’ framework we are able to commence some serious drive and engagements with willing buyers of our power,” he said.

The NDPHC boss said that the plant, wholly owned by NDPHC under the Nigerian National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) programme, had five units Gas Turbines with a total designed capacity of about 600MW.

He described the plant as one of the best amongst NDPHC plants with uninterruptible gas availability and a good dispatch network.

The executive director explained that the inspection was part of the routine maintenance done on all power stations.

He said when all three units are firing, the Calabar power plant has a total capacity of 560MW available power for dispatch.

Also speaking, Mr John Oyewale, Chief Operating Officer of Calabar Power Plant explained that the plant had remained the best through the support of NDPHC management and the operation and maintenance team.

“Even though there are lots of challenges, we are able to surmount them because of the cooperation between NDPHC and us.

“With the experience, we have gained over time from other power plants, we are able to keep the plant going because of the existing cooperation in the Operations and Maintenance team,” he said.

He thanked the company’s management for supporting the team, saying “each time we want something from them they quickly get it to us and allow us to progress”.

Mr Oyewale said that at the time of the inspection when two units were working, the plant was sending 225MW to the national grid due to frequency control.

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