Consumer Quality Will Benefit Nigeria’s Economy, Says Philip Morris Boss

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 In this interview with Olaoluwakitan Babatunde, Coskun Dicle, Managing Director, PMINTL Nigeria, talks about why the Nigerian economy remains attractive to global brands and how his company intends to compete here

Why should any global brand consider coming to Nigeria now?

Beyond Nigeria’s position as Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria is also home to a consumer population that is both sophisticated and discerning. Nigerians recognize and appreciate quality while placing significant importance on the value-for-money proposition. This type of environment is one where Philip Morris International and its products can add value and thrive.  In fact, we estimate that our employment footprint will reach approximately 2,000 Nigerian talents, through direct and indirect employment.

Furthermore, through our global efforts on tobacco harm reduction and reduced risk product development, which we hope to make available in all of the markets where we operate, we are committed to meet the market’s demands for the best quality, innovative products, now and for many years to come.

Are there immediate challenges?

We recognize that both the opportunities and challenges in Nigeria are great – not least of all the highly competitive nature of our industry. However, we have invested considerable time and resources to better understand the market and how to work in it. As a result, we are confident that with fair competition and a level playing field, we will be able to operate with integrity in Nigeria and provide meaningful contribution to the community while delivering long-term sustainable growth.

On allegations of irregularities in business practices in Nigeria

These allegations are false. PMINTL Nigeria Limited, the PMI affiliate in the country, was incorporated in December 2014 and during 2015 received all regulatory approvals required at the time to commence operations as a tobacco company in Nigeria. PMI is the largest international tobacco company in the world and is committed, above all, to operating with integrity.  We are proud to apply the highest standards everywhere we operate. Whether it is in the quality of our products, manufacturing process, conduct of our staff, treatment of our stakeholders, adherence to the rules, laws and regulations in all communities where we operate, PMI provides a benchmark on responsible business conduct.

But why would anyone make such allegations? 

I cannot speak to the intentions of those who made such allegations.  However, I can tell you that we are committed to operating with integrity in every market where we operate, and strongly advocate for fair competition and a level playing field – as this competition is what drives the best quality, choice and value to the consumers.

 How do you hope to compete, being relatively new here?

Quite simply by providing better products at a better value than those that are currently available to Nigerian consumers.  This consumer quality-and-value proposition, along with our commitment to maintaining the industry’s highest standards, is in our DNA and is what has helped PMI to become the world’s largest international tobacco company.  These are values on which we never compromise and which will allow us not only to compete in this market, but to thrive in it.

Additionally, with our global efforts on tobacco harm reduction, including the development and commercialization of products with the potential to reduce individual risk and population harm in comparison to smoking cigarettes, and which we hope to make available in all of the markets we operate, we believe we can change the face of the industry.

What would PMI do differently in Nigeria?

PMINTL Nigeria intends to have significant positive, long-term impact on the Nigerian market.

First, we expect that the work that we are doing in tobacco harm reduction will transform the tobacco industry.

Next, we have already created approximately 500 direct and indirect employment opportunities in the country and are still creating new ones with the hope to grow our footprint by as much as four times in the near future. To aid in this, and in pursuit of our long term investment plans in Nigeria, full-scale local manufacturing of our brands will begin before the end of the year through strategic partnerships.

Additionally, we have started exploring the possibility to produce in Nigeria, with key partners and local farmers, tobacco and/or other agricultural crops for the local and international markets.  We would work with local business partners to share our know-how and help to ensure good agricultural practices to obtain good quality crops, high yields and good income for farmers, while minimizing environmental impact and fostering sustainability. PMINTL

Nigeria, through our investment plans and commitment to Nigeria, will be a significant tax payer – contributing to the government revenue, providing foreign direct investment into Nigeria, creating sizeable direct and indirect employment opportunities to Nigerian talents with ongoing focus on education and development. Overall, we are committed to contributing to the local communities, while operating with integrity, and look forward to becoming a major player in the Nigerian economy to establish a long-lasting presence. 

BEDC Attributes Low Supply to Low Generation

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enin Electricity Distribution Plc. (BEDC) has attributed the degenerating level of electricity supply to customers in Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states to low power generation from the national grid occasioned by gas shortage due to pipeline vandalism.

This was contained in a statement from BEDC signed by its Chief Corporate Services Officer, Mrs Kunbi Labiyi. She said BEDC’s Chief State Head, Edo State, Engr. Fidelis Obishai made the explanation during a meeting between BEDC management and Governor Adams Oshiomhole in Benin. Obishai said: “We take no joy in not giving power supply to the people but due to the present low power generation, we are constrained”.

He said the serious drop in power generation was affecting BEDC’s ability to distribute power to customers despite its installed capacity of 800 megawatts, stressing that what it gets as a distribution company hovers between 130 to 150 megawatts daily and as such this was responsible for the poor supply.

On disconnected communities, Obishai told the Governor that any community disconnected was based on non-payment of electricity bills, adding that once such is paid power supply would be restored immediately.

“We do not disconnect indiscriminately but those who are owing debts. For instance in the case of Auchi, there was a violent protest in Auchi that resulted into damage of 9 operational vehicles and offices and there is a recorded threat to life which is a major challenge. BEDC is very disposed to engaging such communities in dialogue on best way to resolving such issues no matter the level of grievances,” he added.

According to him, BEDC has submitted a formal petition to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Federal Ministry of Power and the Edo State Commissioner of Police.

The Governor had complained over poor supply to Edo State and the recent disconnection of some communities in Edo north, urging BEDC to ensure the possibility of reconnecting the affected communities.

He equally lamented over what he referred to as the high billing of customers, and  wide metering gap, adding that “blackout has put untold hardship on Edo citizens and worsened economic activities and we have received worrisome signals that private people pay in excess of what is consumed”.