OBINNA EZUGWU

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of leading companies in Nigeria, with offices in Lagos, under the umbrella of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), have raised alarm over the rising spate of police extortion in the state, noting that police check-points have turned to extortion points where police officers extort money from residents.

The CEOs who raised the alarm during their second virtual meeting on Covid-19 with Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday, also raised concerns about the worsening security situation and risk of escalated civil disturbance in the state.

The meeting which had in attendance, 28 MDs and CEOs of organised businesses and companies in the country, government led by Sanwo-Olu, supported by the Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, was coordinated by the Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale,

In his opening remarks, the Director-General of NECA, Dr. Olawale expressed appreciation to the Governor for making out time to speak with the business community. He thanked the Governor for taking proactive steps to address the challenges of businesses in Lagos State.

In his response, the Governor also expressed his appreciation for the support so far given by the Business community in Lagos State and expressed his willingness to further collaborate with organized businesses, post Covid-19.

Among the issues brought to the governor’s attention, according to a communique issued at the end of the meeting were, “Worsening security situation and risk of escalated civil disturbance, elevates risk to business , properties and Staff: Risks of attacks on branded company trucks by hoodlums in highly populated areas and the need to protect staff and company properties, Dwindling supply to Retail Malls and outlets: For the Retail markets, the inability of Suppliers to transport supplies to Shopping Malls and Retail outlets remain a big concern, in view of the worsening security situation.”

Others were, “Publicity of the 28 School to Markets Initiative : Need for Government to step up publicity of the 28 emergency markets set up in different schools as patronage has been low in those markets.

“Stimulus for Businesses: Is the Government considering specific stimulus and palliatives to businesses in Lagos State?

“Need for Banks to scale up / increase operation scope: Most of the Banks have been offering skeletal services and this hinders smooth business operations. Also, with the volume of cash transactions that is on-going, it will be necessary for the Governor to speak to the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria to suspend the charges on cash deposit and also relax the embargo on cheque clearance.

“Concern whether the foods and materials donated will reach the target group of most vulnerable and elderly.

“Access to Packaging materials: Companies in need of packaging materials, especially pharmaceutical, are facing paucity of materials as all the companies producing the packaging materials are not allowed to operate.

“Customs Services: It is important for Customs to give priority to clearing of foods raw materials, drugs, pharmaceuticals. This is presently not the case.”

The CEO said noted that, “Most of the Police check-points are now extortion points. There have been reports of frustration of company trucks and delivery vans by the Police, even when necessary means of identification are provided. There is urgent need to stop the excesses of the Police.”

They also called for Support for Wholesalers, noting that, “As most of the markets are closed, there is the need to assist Wholesalers to take their products from warehouses in the closed markets to the retail outlets.”

They further noted that “There is the need for the Governor to assist in reaching out to other State Governments on lockdown to ensure free movement of essential goods and provision of security for organizations.”

In his response, Sanwo-Olu noted that the security crisis was not unexpected.

According to him, he had informed all critical stakeholders in Government on the need to be proactive

“The Agege crisis, he said, “was more of territorial war between rival clans and cults.”

He assured, however, that, “From today, there will be additional deployment/presence and patrol (24/7) of Mobile policemen, the Military and paramilitary personnel in Lagos State.

“The security architecture is being led by an AIG. The security agents have been briefed to act professionally and responsibly.

“Businesses were encouraged to be more security conscious and take pro-active steps to protect their staff and properties.”

Read full minutes below:

SUMMARY OF THE 2ND VIRTUAL MEETING OF CEOS WITH THE LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR ON COVID-19 BUSINESS CHALLENGES AND SUPPORT, HELD AT 11.00AM ON WEDNESDAY, 15TH APRIL, 2020.

The meeting had in attendance 28 MD/CEOs of Organised Businesses/ Companies in Nigeria and was coordinated by the Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale, under the umbrella of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA).

The Government team was led by His Excellency, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, supported by the Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo.

OPENING REMARKS

The Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale expressed appreciation to the Governor for making out time to speak with the business community. He thanked the Governor for taking proactive steps to address the challenges of businesses in Lagos State.

In his response, the Governor also expressed his appreciation for the support so far given by the Business community in Lagos State and expressed his willingness to further collaborate with organized businesses, post Covid-19.

ISSUES AND ON-GOING CHALLENGES BROUGHT TO THE GOVERNOR’S ATTENTION BY THE CEOS.

• *Security:
Worsening security situation and risk of escalated civil
disturbance.
• Elevates risk to business , properties and Staff:
Risks of attacks on branded company trucks by hoodlums in highly populated areas and the need to protect staff and company properties.
• Dwindling supply to Retail Malls and outlets:
For the Retail markets, the inability of Suppliers to transport supplies to Shopping Malls and Retail outlets remain a big concern, in view of the worsening security situation.
• Publicity of the 28 School to Markets Initiative :
Need for Government to step up publicity of the 28 emergency markets set up in different schools as patronage has been low in those markets.
• Stimulus for Businesses:
Is the Government considering specific stimulus and palliatives to businesses in Lagos State?
• Need for Banks to scale up / increase operation scope:
Most of the Banks have been offering skeletal services and this hinders smooth business operations. Also, with the volume of cash transactions that is on-going, it will be necessary for the Governor to speak to the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria to suspend the charges on cash deposit and also relax the embargo on cheque clearance.
• Concern whether the foods and materials donated will reach the target group of most vulnerable and elderly.
• Access to Packaging materials:
Companies in need of packaging materials, especially pharmaceutical, are facing paucity of materials as all the companies producing the packaging materials are not allowed to operate.
• Customs Services:
It is important for Customs to give priority to clearing of foods raw materials, drugs, pharmaceuticals. This is presently not the case.
• Police Check-Points:
Most of the Police check-points are now extortion points. There have been reports of frustration of company trucks and delivery vans by the Police, even when necessary means of identification are provided. There is urgent need to stop the excesses of the Police.
• Support for Wholesalers:
As most of the markets are closed, there is the need to assist Wholesalers to take their products from warehouses in the closed markets to the retail outlets.
• Engagement of other State Governments:
There is the need for the Governor to assist in reaching out to other State Governments on lockdown to ensure free movement of essential goods and provision of security for organizations.

GOVERNOR’S RESPONSE

A) SECURITY:

 The crisis is not unexpected. He had informed all critical stakeholders in Government on the need to be proactive.
 The Agege crisis was more of territorial war between rival clans and cults.
 From today, there will be additional deployment/presence and patrol (24/7) of Mobile policemen, the Military and paramilitary personnel in Lagos State.
 The security architecture is being led by an AIG. The security agents have been briefed to act professionally and responsibly.
 Businesses were encouraged to be more security conscious and take pro-active steps to protect their staff and properties.

B) BUSINESS CONTINUITY ISSUES

 The LASG will consider a review of the lock-down situation after 7 days. Strategic relaxation of the lock-down may be implemented. However, more access will be given to businesses as more lock-down relaxations are instituted.
 The Governor will speak to the CBN Governor to address the issues of charges on cash deposits and cheque clearing, especially during the lockdown period.
 More assistance will be given to organizations involved in packaging to enable them support other essential sectors.
 The Governor will speak to the MD of NPA with the view of fast-tracking clearance of essential raw materials.
 The Governor promised to speak to his colleagues in the Governor’s Forum later today to facilitate ease of access for businesses in their States.

C) PALLIATIVES:

 There is on-going engagement with over 200 local food vendors in Lagos to provide at least one meal a day to people in densely populated neighborhoods.
 Government has identified religious and political leaders in all LGAs and LCDA. They will serve as distribution points for bulk food stuff. This is to decentralize the food distribution activities of the LASG and also complement the efforts.
 Data collection is ongoing using the TELCOS and other means with the view of facilitating cash-transfers to youths and residents of Lagos State.
 Free treatment of pregnant women at all State hospitals is on-going.
 Interest waiver for 3 months for all SMEs and MSMEs under the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund.
 All arrested and impounded vehicles during the period of the lockdown will be released at the end of the lock-down without payment of any penalty / free of charge.
 Day-to-day food delivery to the most vulnerable and elderly is still on-going.

D) CONCLUDING REMARKS BY THE GOVERNOR

• The Governor sought assurance from the Business community that:
– Supply and distribution of essential goods and products will continue
– Businesses were urged to ensure stability of prices during this critical period and post covid 19 period as the purchasing power of the masses would likely be weak / adversely impacted by the scourge
– Businesses should as much as possible also endeavour to ensure Job security is guaranteed.
• The Governor will be open to further collaboration and suggestions(in writing) from organized businesses on how to drive growth and development in Lagos State.
• The Government has set up Post-Covid 19 Economic Stimulus Agenda with the view of fast-tracking economic recovery.
• The Governor will invite organized businesses to a Breakfast or Lunch session within one month after the Covid 19 pandemic to discuss and review how to strengthen the collaboration.
• He thanked the management of Nigerian Breweries for making available the ICT infrastructure to drive the meeting.

E) CONCLUDING REMARKS BY THE DG, NECA

• The DG appreciated the Governor and his team for the leadership provided and support for organized businesses in this critical time.
• In response to the Governor’s proposed Breakfast meeting, the DG noted that the Business Community will be willing to host the Governor rather than him hosting the business community. This is to allow for a more inclusive attendance/ for other CEO’s that could not attend the meeting participate in the Breakfast or Lunch meeting.
• The DG also appreciated the Management of Nigerian Breweries Plc for their support