More young immigrants may get legal status in U.S.

AS many as 1.76 million young illegal immigrants, including Nigerians could qualify for temporary legal status under United States President Barrack Obama’s deferred action programme, according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute.

That is more than double the Obama administration’s initial estimate of 800,000 people who would benefit from the programme.

Following a recent announcement by Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano that certain young people who came to the country as children and meet other key guidelines could be eligible, on a case-by-case basis, to receive deferred action, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun finalising a process by which potentially eligible individuals could request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.

Initially, only young illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the country as children, graduated from high school and had no criminal record would make the cut. Now, young people who didn’t graduate or receive their G.E.D. can still apply for the legal status as long as they re-enroll in high school by the time they apply.

The government will begin accepting applications online on August 15, and administration officials said the nearly $500 application fee will completely pay for the administrative costs of reviewing the applications. Those accepted will also get work permits, and will have to renew their legal status every two years.

Meanwhile as election day draws closer, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney remain locked in a tight race in the key swing states of Colorado, Wisconsin, and Virginia, according to a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released early yesterday.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama leads by 49-45 per cent in Virginia and 51-45 percent in Wisconsin, while Romney has a 50-45 percent advantage in Colorado.

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Nigeria canvasses regional integration in global trade

MINISTER of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her Trade and Investment counterpart, Dr. Olusegun Aganga have called for implementation of single window system in the West and Central African sub-region in order to promote international trade and ensure cost-effective movement of goods within the sub region.

The call came as the Federal Government yesterday approved the adoption of the single window concept in the nation’s international trade.

Speaking at the opening of a sub-regional workshop organised by the African Shippers Council in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers Council yesterday in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala noted that the Asian nations had witnessed great economic strides through aggressive international trade assisted by the deployment of the single window system, hence the need for cooperation among the nations in the sub-region to ensure that the system was adopted.

The minister who noted that international trade had become the bedrock of economic development in the 21st Century, stressed that any region that failed to trade efficiently would languish in underdevelopment and poverty.

She said international trade demanded efficient harmonisation of flow of physical goods, flow of money as well as information between parties involved, adding that single window system had been designed to eliminate inefficiencies in the logistics involved.

“The establishment of a Single Window System constitutes an important building block in trade facilitation and also serves as a global best practice for One-Stop Shop Operations in cargo clearance as the reduction of personal contacts in trade transactions would enhance the anti-corruption drive of government”.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Finance Minister of Niger...

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Finance Minister of Nigeria, 2003-2006; Managing Director of the World Bank, December 2007-present of May 2010), at the 2004 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his address, Aganga said the major focus of the present administration was the rapid transformation of the economy through drastic improvement in its international trade and the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments across critical sectors of the economy.

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‘Nigeria’s future lies more on diversifying the economy’

The Federal Government has said that Nigeria’s future lies more on diversifying the economy, even as plans are underway to invest N70 million in fish production in Rivers and Bayelsa states, to raise the protein intake of the people and to further create employment opportunities for the youths in the states.

Akinwumi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, disclosed this recently while receiving the Ogoni Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers (OSCTR) led by Barnabas Bagia in Abuja, saying government had already spent N7.2 million to boost the sub-sector in both states.

According to Adesina, the funds would cover brook-stocks, fishing nets, fish feeds, storage and processing, assuring that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration was committed to “sustainable development that will diversify the economy, create jobs and revive the rural areas.”

The minister also assured the delegation of government’s commitment to farmers in Ogoniland and urged them to assist in mobilising the youths to embrace agriculture as a business, saying “we want youths to have access to land and farm inputs because the future of the Ogoni people is in agriculture. No fewer than 4.8 million youths enter the labour market every year and only agriculture can create jobs for them.

“The Federal Government plans to create 3.5 million jobs across all value chains by 2015. Government has moved from making agriculture a development project to a business.”

He informed that rice was one of the value chains being focused on by the government in Ogoniland, adding that the ministry had concluded plans to distribute high-yielding cassava tubers to 20,000 farmers in the two states.

Adesina also informed that no fewer than 5 million farmers would be covered by the new Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme for the provision of high quality seeds and fertiliser to boost harvest in the country. On environmental degradation and oil spillage in the region, the minister assured that the Federal Ministry of Environment was working to put an end to them.

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Economic and commercial activities boom along the construction corridor of the Lagos–Badagry Expressway

The blaring horns from the heavy vehicular traffic did not deter her nor did carbon emissions from trucks on the road, sometimes released directly on her face, discourage her. Each time she has to run after a prospective customer in a moving vehicle, it is done with such vitality that keeps an onlooker gazing. This is the daily routine that Funmilayo Omokoya, a fruit hawker at the Orile-Iganmu end of the Lagos–Badagry Expressway, has now adapted to.

Omokoya’s trade has now received a further boost with the ongoing Lagos–Badagry Expressway reconstruction project aimed at providing a world-class highway of 10 lanes, a Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, route, and a metro line. The ongoing 10-lane expansion of the road project is divided into three lots. Lot 1 is from Eric Moore in Surulere to Mile 2, which is about 7.5 kilometres. And lot 2 is from Mile 2 to Agbara, which is about 28 kilometres, while lot 3 is from Agbara to Badagry.

The project, being undertaken by the Lagos State government, on completion, will ferry millions of commuters to and fro the outskirts of the state to the heart of the city. According to Omokoya, prior to the commencement of the project, she earned daily revenue of about N300 from selling any fruit in season to motorists held in traffic jam. Now, with the traffic more intense due to the construction work, Omokoya’s revenue has more than doubled, giving her an average of about N15,000 per month. “I thank God for this construction work; it has been a blessing to me as I now sell more than before this work started,” she told the magazine, as she peeled her oranges in readiness for the next customer. From the proceeds she earns, Omokoya is able to pay the school fees of three of her children in a private primary school. Similarly, Moses Ikechukwu, an artisan, has since abandoned his welding work and taken to selling second-hand clothes in traffic along the Agboju axis of the expressway. This was a choice he had to make having realised that lack of electric power had rendered him jobless.

But while the duo of Omokoya and Ikechukwu may be happy with their newly found trade, the earnings are gradually being eroded with the increasing cost of living, especially in property cost, along that axis. Alfa Isah, a resident in Orile-Iganmu regrets that though the road works is a good development for the state, it has led to an increase in the cost of house rent. For instance, Isah explained that prior to the commencement of construction work, a room of 10 feet by 12 feet in the area costs N2,000 monthly. This, he said, has since increased by as much as 50 per cent. Reasons for this are numerous. For instance, with the demolition of houses and other properties along the corridor to pave way for the project, some owners of properties that escaped demolition cashed in on the situation to make higher returns on their property. Our findings revealed that between Orile-Iganmu and Agboju, a room now costs as much as N3,000 monthly.  Besides, the demand for accommodation has since exceeded what is available, thus making house available only to the highest bidder.

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‘Nigeria, Ghana among top three fastest growing global markets’

NIGERIA and Ghana have been assessed to be among the three fastest growing markets among the 25 leading rapid-growth ones in the world in the next two years, a report just released by Ernst and Young has revealed.

According to the global body in its quarterly Rapid-Growth Market Forecast (RGMF), economic expansion in the 25 leading Rapid Growth Markets (RGMs) has started to slow sharply since the beginning of this year but this will only be a temporary blip.

However, Ernst & Young believes that the power sector holds the key to  Nigeria’s economic growth and development.

It stated: “There is a mixed picture emerging across the world. Although Asia is likely to lead the way, Africa remains resilient overall, with Ghana and Nigeria among the three fastest growing of the RGMs this year.

“However, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America are hindered by the slow growth in their key export markets of the Eurozone and United States respectively. If the Eurozone should fall further into recession, RGMF predicts that the Czech Republic and Poland would be pushed into recession, with Hong Kong and Malaysia also hit hard due to their dependence on global trade.

“RGMs, particularly in Asia, have the necessary tools available to ease both fiscal and monetary policy, allowing growth to resume towards the end of the year.”

It added that even with a slowdown in growth, RGMs are likely to weather the Eurozone crisis and will remain the engine of global growth.

According to the report, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to expand by 4.9 per cent this year in stark contrast to the 0.6 per cent contraction, at best, that is expected in the Eurozone. Output in the RGMs is expected to continue to pick up by 6 per cent in 2013 and 6.5 per cent in 2014.

Senior Economic Adviser to Ernst & Young’s Rapid Growth Markets Forecast, Carl Astorri explained: “The RGMs are well placed to weather the major risks facing the global economy at the present time, given that they have the space to relax fiscal and monetary policy. This has already happened in some RGMs including in all of the BRICs. It is likely that there will be further easing of monetary policy in the months ahead, particularly if the global economy deteriorates further.”

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Stoping daytime transfer of empty containers to Lagos and Tin-Can Island Ports complexes…

RETURN OF THE BUGBEAR

The order by the Presidential Committee on Port Reforms to stop daytime transfer of empty containers to Lagos and Tin-Can Island Ports complexes, has ignited congestion at both ports

The problem of congestion at the Lagos ports is on its way back. Major container terminals at the Lagos Port Complex, LPC, and the Tin-Can Island Port Complex, TCIPC, both in Apapa, Lagos, are presently filled to the brim. Maritime stakeholders fear that if the trend continues, the congestion will surely flow to the bonded terminals. Obviously, that would affect the operation and movement of vessels.

The problem of congestion at the ports were partially solved after the terminals were concessioned. Before then, vessels had to queue for about 45 days to find berthing space. This led to the imposition of congestion surcharges on Nigerian ports by major shipping lines under the aegis of the Europe West Africa Trade Agreement, EWATA. The surcharge amounted to over $100 million per annum, but the Nigerian economy was saved the huge cost by private terminal operators who promptly instituted measures that eliminated the vessel queues. The congestion at the Nigerian ports also led to diversion of vessels to other neighbouring West African countries and resultant loss of revenue.

Newswatch findings showed that the build up of containers at the ports which has recently congested the ports started after the Presidential Committee on Port Reforms ordered the stoppage of daytime transfer of empty containers into the two major seaports in Lagos. This order, meant to decongest the port access road, has inadvertently led to the build up of containers inside the ports, leading to an unprecedented level of congestion never seen at the ports in recent times. The build- up of containers has been a gradual process in the past few months after the presidential committee on port reforms cleared the port’s access roads of trucks and trailers parked indiscriminately on the roads. The access roads were cleared without an alternative parking arrangement for the trailers and trucks.

As a direct consequence of the Presidential Committee’s directive, there are too many trucks at present carrying empty containers into the terminals at night. Many of the trucks which are not attended to before dawn are turned away by security officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA. The trucks so affected have to wait till the following night to try their luck again. The fear in the maritime industry is that if drastic action is not taken, the congestion would intensify in a few weeks from now.

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Much Ado About Cement Alternatives

In view of the high cost of cement, government once again explores alternative building materials, but whether this will deliver mass housing to Nigerians is still in the realm of conjecture

Over the years, Nigerians have been agonising over the high cost of cement, which has curtailed their hope of building houses. But government is striving to rekindle the hope of these Nigerians, or so it says. If all goes well, these Nigerians would be able to build their houses with ease soon. Danladi Matawal, director-general, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, NBRRI, who made this known recently said the agency was developing a cheaper alternative cement which would reduce the cost of building and ensure housing for all in no distant time.

According to Matawal, “The alternative cement basically is a product of waste and environmentally polluting items like rice husk ash, groundnut husk ash, volcanic ash, among others. It is being regenerated for alternative cement using appropriate procedures.” The alternative cement is being tested by the agency, whose responsibility is to develop standard building technology for quality roads and housing construction in the country, and would be made available to Nigerians after certification. But Nigerians would not have to wait for long to access the affordable cement as the agency has assured that the technology to make housing affordable would be available next year.

Going by NBRRI’s calculation, a three-bedroom bungalow could be built with N1.5 million. This would be a drastic reduction from N3.5 million to N5 million, which is the present cost of such building less the cost of land and furnishing. In view of the acute shortage of accommodation in both urban and rural areas of the country and the yearnings of the people to build their own houses, Nigerians should be celebrating this ‘breakthrough.’

The ever-increasing cost of cement has always been responsible for the inability of Nigerians to own houses, as cement constitutes 35 per cent to 45 per cent of the building materials used for building construction. But the price of cement has increased by over 200 per cent since 1999 when it sold for N500 per 50-kilogramme, kg, bag. A 50kg bag of cement now sells for between N2,500 and N3,000 depending on the location. Even cement manufacturers in the country have tried to crash the spiralling price of cement but could not, due to the high cost of production and transportation. This unfortunate situation has kept cement out of the reach of most Nigerians, 70 per cent of whom are classified as living below the poverty threshold.

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