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Lagos set to restart economy with now ‘Register-to-open’ guidelines



‘We’ve Sacrificed Our IGR To Prevent Job Loss’ – Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Government has set the process of re-opening its economy in motion, with the rollout of Register-to-Open guidelines. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the State Government daily battles the reality of balancing reactivation of economic activities and the continuation of the State’s response to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Governor said the battle to stop the ravaging virus in Lagos had subjected the State to a delicate situation of having to manage hunger resulting from weeks of slowdown in economic activities and also the movement of consumer goods to keep the economy afloat.
He said the four-page Register-to-Open guidelines were the major part of the measures initiated to achieve phased re-opening of the State economy, adding that Government had offered incentives that will affect its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in order to prevent job loss in critical industries that provide employment for a large number of labour.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed this development while speaking at a webinar organised by First Securities Discount House (FSDH) Group, with the theme: “A Global Pandemic: Local Realities and Peculiarities – A View from the Frontlines”. The Governor was a panelist in the online discussion that also featured Governors of Kaduna and Edo states, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i and Godwin Obaseki.
The webinar had about 1,200 people who participated from across the globe. 
Sanwo-Olu said the State Government remained committed to tackling COVID-19 and breaking the cycle of its transmission, but added that there was need to address hunger and job loss that could arise from prolonged lockdown of the economy.
He said: “We have been caught in a very delicate situation between managing COVID-19 on one hand and managing hunger and sustaining an economy that is not only depended on commercial activities in Lagos alone, but also other States across the federation. We have had weeks of engagement with players in fast-moving consumer goods sector and part of the measures we are taking is that, we are giving them additional clearance to work for longer hours.
“Besides, we initiated what we called Register-to-Open, which is a thorough guideline to help the residents ahead of the full re-opening. Some of the things we will be seeing in the four-page guideline is, how we want to manage space at various places of business and what numbers of personnel and clients we expect at a given period, which must be based on the sizes of the facilities. As we prepared for this phased re-opening, we are giving priority to sectors that have higher number of labour.”
The Governor, however, maintained that the re-opening would not be done in haste, but said construction and manufacturing sectors would be accorded high priority for full re-opening, given the large number of employment they generate. He added that entertainment, hospitality and aviation industries would be considered in the second phase of intervention.
Sanwo-Olu said the weeks of inertia in the economy also had significant impact on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), stressing that millions of small-scale businesses operating in the State could completely fold up if the economy is not fully reactivated. 
In addition to granting three-month moratorium to MSMEs that applied for loan facilities at the Lagos State Employment Trust Funds (LSETF), Sanwo-Olu said the State Government had started to compile data of registered MSMEs in the State for operational support that would cushion the effect of economic slowdown on their businesses.
He said: “The other part of our intervention is our conversation with big corporations in various sectors on the requirements they may want from us to ensure that they do not retrench their staff in this emergency period. This conversation is very important. The companies have given us a retinue of incentives they want us to give and these are the things that will affect the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). We are willing to make this sacrifice to prevent loss of livelihood for millions of our citizens.” 
In the course of the lockdown, Sanwo-Olu said the State Government provided palliatives for over 800,000 households, pointing out that there was need to bring succour to residents that live on daily wage. 
The Governor said people must trust the Government on the management of the coronavirus and data being churned out.
Answering a question on the biggest consequence which COVID-19 had on State economy, Sanwo-Olu said: “Lagos has been affected both on the healthcare and economy sides. We have had to take a deep dive into our budget and have about 25 per cent cut, which is not very good number for us. This is the time we need to continue to spend to stave off pressure on our citizens. However, we need to be prudent at this time and cut unimportant expenditures. Salary is one thing we cannot even touch.
“In terms of direct economy, entertainment industry, hospitality, land transportation and aviation businesses have been affected significantly. These sectors are large employers of labour. We are thinking through on how to reset these sectors in a graduated manner and bring back the economy on the full swing.”

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Shell Nigeria Gas to build gas pipeline infrastructure in Oyo



…as Govt, SNG sign MoU

The Government  of  Oyo State and the Shell Nigeria Gas have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which will see the company extend its gas pipeline infrastructure to the state.

Speaking shortly after signing the MoU, Governor Seyi Makinde stated that the partnership was an indication that the policies and programmes put in place by his administration to expand the economy of the state are beginning to yield positive fruits.

He explained that the project is timely and that it will aid the industrialisation drive embarked upon by the government, adding that the Gas Pipeline Infrastructure Project will be run on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis for 15 years.

The SNG’s Managing Director, Ed Ubong, who signed for the company, said the development will aid the industrialisation effort of the state amid the ongoing efforts by the Governor Seyi Makinde administration to expand its economy.

Ubong, who maintained that the partnership with Oyo State is an opportunity to further promote gas as a more reliable, cleaner and cost-effective alternative to liquid fuels in the state, said “gas is the key to boosting industrialisation.”

The event took place at the Exco Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Agodi, Ibadan.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as saying that the state is open for business and has always tried to do things in a transparent manner.

The governor said: “Oyo State is open for business and we try to transact our business transparently. We allow our decisions and actions to be driven by logic and data. So, we know for a fact that Shell Nigeria Gas coming here to extend the gas infrastructure to Oyo State is a decision that should have been taken a long time ago. I personally participated in the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project, and if it is good for Ghana, it should be better for Oyo State.

“Of course, this is a challenging period for us as a country and also for Oyo State, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much around. We are also faced with an economic meltdown. Is this a period to undertake a big project? I will say yes, because the pandemic is going to go away and there will be post COVID-19 activities. I think the timing is appropriate and I thank the management of Shell Nigerian Gas for being bullish about the economic potential of Oyo State.”

The governor added that the project will  fast-track ongoing efforts of the state government to industrialise and expand the economy, saying “most of our industries generate power using diesel. So, we believe if we convert them to gas, Oyo State would have become part of the states that are helping the country to monetise its gas resources.

“We have what will make it possible here. We have the Independent Power Plant, IPP, which we are already looking at. If we have gas here, things will just flow seamlessly. People used to think that Oyo State is too far away from the centre of industrialisation in Nigeria, talking about Lagos. But things are rapid. We have the rail line. We also have an Airport in Ibadan that we are trying to upgrade and the Lagos-Ibadan Express road construction, which is ongoing. Though it is not finished yet, it is better than what it used to be. So, all of these coming together mean that Oyo State can take on a whole lot of activities, be it industrial or others and we can assist Lagos and Ogun states.

“I am glad that SNG is willing to be our partner on this journey. I have sat down with a former governor of this state. They have had this project in the pipeline for quite a while. The state was going to set aside funds to execute the project before now but it did not see the light of the day because something funny happened.

“Now, we are being creative in project delivery structure. So, what we are looking at now is to build, own, operate and transfer. I am sure SNG will look for the money to build the gas infrastructure. SNG will own and operate it for 15 years and it will later be transferred to Oyo State.

“Truth is, we have to be creative if, as a government, we don’t have the resources, yet we have to bring development and industrialisation to our state. We are glad that SNG has confidence in us and we will do everything, within the spirit of the MoU that has just been signed, to deliver on our own part.”

Also speaking, the state’s Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Barr. Seun Ashamu, said: “The negotiation and signing of this MoU with Shell Nigeria Gas is an effort to increase the economic potentials of the state through the availability of gas and this will assist us to attract big businesses and will aid in industrial development and also securing our state.

“An international company like Shell coming to Oyo State shows the ease of doing business, the investment potentials of the state, and the type of administration that the governor is running.”

He added that as part of the achievements of the Governor Makinde administration, the SNG will assist the state government to develop its gas masterplan, which is intended to cover the state and be driven by demand, while the state will also benefit from a percentage of growth revenue from the gas sales.

In his speech, the SNG MD promised that the company will carry Oyo State Government along in terms of employment and skill development, adding that the project will create employment for the citizenry, create more means of livelihood and also increase the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state as a result of industrialisation.

He said: “I am proud that SNG is here. The vision of the governor is to see how we can rapidly industrialise the state and with a clear vision and support, we will get that done. We will do all we need to do to ensure we can realise the terms of this MoU.”

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Lagos Govt, Uber operators finally agrees on new regulations





Lagos state government and the E-hailing taxi operators have now reach a compromise as regarding the new Lagos State Government’s guidelines for the regulations of e-hailing taxi services in the state.

This was settled in a meeting between the State Government and representatives of the ride-hailing operators on Friday.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu attended the three-hour discussion held at the State House on Marina.

Briefing the media on the outcome of the meeting, Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladehinde, disclosed that the State Government and the operators had unanimously adopted the new regulations, after all parties jointly reviewed and fine-tuned some of the contentious items in the framework.

He said the new regulations were not initiated by the Government to extort the operators and drivers in the business; he stressed that the Government was moved by the necessity to regularise the ride-hailing operations in line with security measures.

From the communique read out after the meeting, the enforcement of the new regulations will now take off from August 27, 2020 instead August 20 initially announced by the Government. By implication, the operators now have additional seven-day extension to comply with the Government’s regulations.

Oladehinde said the State Government and the operators had reached an agreement on the controversial service tax, which is to be known as Road Improvement Fund. He said e-hailing operators would be paying N20 as Road Improvement Fund and it is to be levied on each trip all their drivers make in a day.

The Commissioner said Governor Sanwo-Olu offered a duty incentive to the operators, reducing their statutory operational licencing fee and renewal fee by 20 per cent. This implies that each e-hailing firm will now pay N8 million per 1,000 cars fresh licencing and renewal, instead of N10 million initially announced.

The parties, Oladehinde said, also agreed on procurement of comprehensive insurance by the e-hailing companies to cover their drivers and passengers.

He said: “We have just concluded a three-hour meeting which was attended by Governor Sanwo-Olu, Ministry of Transportation officials and representatives of the e-hailing ride operators. After the meeting, we jointly developed a communique to which all parties agreed in relation to the new regulations for e-hailing ride business.

“The regulations for the e-hailing companies will take effect from August 27, 2020. We have given an additional one-week extension for all operators to comply. Given that most of the drivers on the e-hailing platforms have third party insurance, the companies will have comprehensive insurance for each driver while the driver is working with them. The insurance will also cover passengers, which amounts to double insurance for the driver.

“We also discussed the issue of service tax, which was initially defined as 10 per cent charge. We have come to resolution that the levy will become a flat fee of N20 per trip. We no longer call it service tax; we now call it Road Improvement Fund, which will be levied per trip. We also came to resolution that there will be reduction in operational licence by 20 per cent. Likewise, the renewal fee has been reduced by 20 per cent, going forward.”

Oladehinde said the State Government had granted all drivers on the e-hailing platforms an extension of 90 days to perfect all documents and licences, required for operation, including driver’s licence and Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) cards.

The Commissioner disclosed that the Government would create a special office for the drivers to fast track necessary registration and documentation before the deadline.

He said the operators acceded to the Government’s position on thorough background check on the drivers for security and improved service delivery.

“We also agreed that there must a background check on drivers. One of the reasons why we came up with this communique together is to ensure that every resident using the e-hailing mobile application is safe. All forms of checks must be carried out to ensure the right people driving on the platform. This is paramount to the Government.”

He said all parties agreed to checkmate bypassing of e-hailing mobile apps by unscrupulous drivers, who take passengers offline to collect cash. He warned drivers to desist from the fraudulent act, saying the Government’s enforcement team would go after defaulters.

Speaking on the controversial issue of data, Oladehinde said: “We are not asking the e-hailing companies to release detailed data. All we are asking from them data for trip movement, so that we can calculate the right charge and levy due to the Government. This data is to be supplied every week.”

Oladehinde said there was no burden of additional levy on passengers that will be using the e-hailing services, noting that residents’ interest has been protected by the Government.

He urged the e-hailing companies to work with stakeholders in the business for better relationship.

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said there had been no strained relationship between the e-hailing operators and the State Government, pointing out that the new regulations were not to bring up a tax burden on the business.
He said: “There is not iota of truth in the speculation that Lagos Government is introducing a new tax regime. Introduction of the new regulations is about security and smooth running of the business. It’s all about ease of doing business in the State.”

National President of Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association (PEDPA), Comrade Idris Sonuga, praised Governor Sanwo-Olu for listening to the demands of the operators, saying the new regulations would enable the drivers to go on their businesses without harassment by law enforcement agencies.

“The meeting was successful. Governor Sanwo-Olu has done justice to all the grey areas. I use this opportunity to thank the Governor; he means well for the e-hailing community,” Comrade Sonuga said, urging drivers to comply with the regulations and the deadlines given by the Government.

Chief Executive Officer of BMP Car, Mr Ezekiel Ojo, who spoke on behalf of the e-hailing companies, confirmed all the operators were in agreement the outcome of the meeting.

Other representatives of e-hailing firms that attended the meeting include Abisola Odukoya of Bolt Nigeria, and Tola Odeyemi of Uber Nigeria

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See why twitter may consider permanent work-from-home model for employees




The microblogging site, Twitter, announced on Tuesday that it could allow employees to continue to work from home indefinitely even after the end of the coronavirus crisis.

Twitter said it is one of the first companies to actualize the stay-at-home model toward the beginning of March and the choice to permit workers to proceed with telecommute much after the COVID-19 pandemic follows the way that its work-from-home measures during the lockdown had been a triumph.

Human resource personnel for the tech giant, Jennifer Christie, disclosed this in a Twitter blog post.

She said if employees were in a position to work from home and they wanted to continue to do so forever, Twitter would make it possible.

Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jack Dorsey, also confirmed this in an email sent to the employees, on Tuesday.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a work from home model in the face of COVID-19, but we don’t anticipate being one of the first to return to offices.

“We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere.

“The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” Christie’s posted.

She also noted that in the next few months, opening offices will be the decision of the tech company, when and if the employees come back, will also be theirs.

“With very few exceptions, offices won’t open before September. When we do decide to open offices, it also won’t be a snap back to the way it was before. It will be careful, intentional, office by office and gradual.

“There will also be no business travel before September, with very few exceptions, and no in-person company events for the rest of 2020. We will assess 2021 events later this year,” Christie added.

According to media reports, several other tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, have adopted the work from home model.
The company said offices would remain closed until at least September, “with very few exceptions.”

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