The tech industry is embattled, writes Sonny Aragba-Akpore
Tech stocks which were the toast of investors in the United States (USA) have nosedived in the last one month creating a major nightmare for investment in this sector in 20 years.
From Amazon to Meta and now Twitter and 72 other tech companies, no fewer than 35,000 tech workers have been laid off this month alone adding to a total of 120,000 tech jobs lost this year.
As it appears right now, the days of moonlighting are over as each company tries to grapple with its own realities. The companies making public statements now cite at least one of two major reasons for the crisis.
Some hired many workers during the pandemic, when people were extremely online and so needed more hands.
But now the internet boom is over as offline life has picked up, and those new employees seem too expensive to manage.
Besides, the global economic downturn has not helped matters making it impossible for brands reluctance to spend on digital ads–a source of revenue for many tech companies. High interest rates are also said to have put an end to the cheap-money era of venture capital.
So in reality, companies have returned to the drawing boards to rejig operations if they must survive and continue in business. “My way or the highway” according to new Twitter Chief Executive and owner Elon Musk concluded, a predictable nightmare for workers at Twitter as he began mass layoffs about a week ago.
This approach to motivate workers appeared to be a wrong message at the wrong time for workers who were working feverishly in an environment less familiar than what they knew.
Musk had fired 3,700 employees believed not to be meeting expectations as expected by the new owners.
In reality those remaining are said to be the company’s top performers, the ones with a track record of getting stuff done.
Musk told them to “work harder.” But that was where the romance ended as mass resignations ensued last week over a purported oath taking ceremony for loyalty to work for long hours without complaining.
The oath taking was a bitter pill to swallow especially in a system where many talented people will want to make a choice at a time when there’s roughly two openings for every job seeker.
Musk literally told his best remaining workers that they can either sign a loyalty oath pledging to work epic hours under intense pressure for a mercurial boss who could fire them at a moment’s notice … or they can have three month’s pay and find better jobs.
Having paid $44billion to close the Twitter acquisition deal, Musk has had a long reputation for managing with sticks rather than carrots and those who have worked for him knew his antics and these Twitter workers were prepared for the worst.
By last week Friday, Twitter closed its offices after hundreds of employees rejected the new oath taking offers to stay on at the company only if they committed to an “extremely hardcore” work schedule of “long hours at high intensity.” Twitter’s message to its staff on Friday was specifically to inform them that, “effective immediately, we are temporarily closing our office buildings” until Monday this week. It told the staff to “continue to comply with company policy by refraining from discussing confidential company information on social media, with the press or elsewhere”.
While Twitter was battling its staff to take the oath or accept a three-month pay and hit the highway, Meta Incorporated Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg sent an emotion-laden mail two weeks ago announcing mass layoffs as a result of poor financial showing of the company whose platforms-Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were said to be running against financial tides.
In a terse message to its staff Zuckerberg wrote that he was “sharing some of the most difficult changes we’ve made in Meta’s history. I’ve decided to reduce the size of our team by about 13% and let more than 11,000 of our talented employees go. We are also taking a number of additional steps to become a leaner and more efficient company by cutting discretionary spending and extending our hiring freeze through first quarter of 2023”.
He blamed the downward trend in business to Covid, which rapidly moved online and the surge of e-commerce leading to outsized revenue growth.
He told the beleaguered workers that many people predicted this would be a permanent acceleration that would continue even after the pandemic ended. He said he was worried too, so took the decision to significantly increase “our investments.” “Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected. Not only has online commerce returned to prior trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition, and ads signal loss have caused our revenue to be much lower than I’d expected. I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that,” he lamented.
Meta was moving to a new environment hoping to become more capital efficient by shifting more of its resources onto a smaller number of high priority growth areas — like it’s Artificial Intelligence (AI ) discovery engine, the company’s ads and business platforms, and the long-term vision for the metaverse.
“We’ve cut costs across our business, including scaling back budgets, reducing perks, and shrinking our real estate footprint. We’re restructuring teams to increase our efficiency. But these measures alone won’t bring our expenses in line with our revenue growth, so I’ve also made the hard decision to let people go,” he reasoned.Meta will pay 16 weeks of base pay plus two additional weeks for every year of service, with no cap. Everyone impacted will receive their November 15, 2022 vesting. Workers laid off will get Health insurance to cover the cost of healthcare for them and their families for six months with a provision of three months of career support with an external vendor, including early access to unpublished job leads.
Amazon said last week that layoffs had begun, even though it did not state in clear terms the number of employees affected.
The online retail and cloud computing platform plans to lay off 10,000 workers in both technology and corporate jobs. “After a deep set of reviews, we recently decided to consolidate some teams and programs. One of the consequences of these decisions is that some roles will no longer be required,” in the words of Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services published on the company’s website.
Recently, Amazon employed more than 1.5 million full-and part-time workers around the world, many in warehouses. The 10,000 expected layoffs would comprise about 3% of Amazon’s corporate workforce.
The cuts reportedly will focus on Amazon’s devices division, including Alexa, the company’s virtual assistant technology, as well as its retail and human resources divisions. Earlier this month, the company said it was freezing hiring new hands.
“We’re facing an unusual macro-economic environment, and want to balance our hiring and investments with being thoughtful about this economy,” according to Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of people experience and technology.
With these mass layoffs, the tech industry appears embattled but new approaches to the industry especially startups may come to its rescue.
Aragba-Akpore is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board
Fuel scarcity will linger till January, say marketers
The frequent appearance of queues of desperate motorists at filling stations in search of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, could affect the Christmas and New Year festivities, oil marketers stated on Friday.
It was also gathered that oil marketers were now free to sell petrol at any rate as the Federal Government was no more restraining them from dispensing the commodity at a regulated price.
Fuel queues have continued to appear and disappear since January this year despite the hike in the cost of the commodity by oil marketers without any approval from the Federal Government or sanctions imposed on them.
Rather than speak on the matter, the Federal Government, through its Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, chose to remain mute.
Officials of the agency neither answered calls, nor replied to text messages sent to their mobile phones on issues of the scarcity of petrol nationwide.
Similarly, the sole importer of PMS into the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, has refused to make any comment on the development.
The NMDPRA, in its report on product sufficiency on Thursday, however, claimed that there was 33.17-day sufficiency of PMS in the country as of November 24, 2022. It also stated that about 2.1 billion litres of petrol was in stock despite the widespread queues nationwide.
But oil marketers countered the government as they argued that there had been concerns around logistics and the supply of products by the national oil company and sole importer.
They also stated that some new charges had been introduced in the downstream oil sector, which had given rise to a hike in the ex-depot price of petrol, adding that all these concerns could further make the current fuel queues to linger beyond December.
“Recently, there have been a lot of charges that marketers pay. There are some charges that the NNPC adds to the pump price, but recently we were told to be prepared to bear freight charges and others,” a major marketer, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.
The official added, “Also, pipeline charges that used to be 50 kobo before, are now N1 per litre. Now, these charges force depot owners to increase their ex-depot rates as against the one proposed by the NNPC.
“These and more concerns have led to the crisis in the downstream sector and it may stretch till December or even beyond if nothing tangible is done to address the challenges.”
Asked if the government was no more concerned about the pump price of petrol, the marketer replied, “Nobody cares about how much you sell now. That is why you cannot see the NNPC ex-depot prices to be the same in all the depots.
“There are some changes in rates now, which the NNPC cannot accommodate and they have to push it to marketers to absorb. This is why you see people sell at different rates.”
The National Public Relations Officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, said the scarcity of foreign exchange was also a setback to petroleum products supply.
He said, “There was a time you interviewed me some months ago, and I told you that fuel would sell for N200 per litre. You were really not comfortable with that statement.
“After that publication, many stakeholders called you to react to it. Some of them also called me to say why did I say fuel would be sold at that price? But I was only discussing based on the indices of the industry at that time.
“As a PRO of IPMAN in Nigeria, I can read the policies of the government towards the distribution of products in the downstream oil sector. You look at the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira, some foreign interruptions and the price of diesel.
“All these are factors that definitely affect petroleum products’ prices since we are not producing refined products in Nigeria. We cannot sustain the importation of petrol.
“Otherwise, we will continue to see ghost queues every month and this may continue till the end of this year. The major solution now is to speed up the repairs of our refineries. However, we are meeting and looking for quick interventions.”
On his part, the Deputy National President, IPMAN, Zarma Mustapha, stated that the queues would likely continue till December, but noted that efforts were on to address the hitches.
He said, “The on and off queues are due to issues of logistics in terms of supply of the commodity to the retail outlets from either the mother vessel to the private depot owners, and from there to independent and major marketers’ stations.
“There are a series of logistics issues as regards the supply chain. But the government and stakeholders are engaging in order to get a solution to these issues. However, we believe that this will be addressed, though it may drag beyond December.”
Also speaking, the Secretary, Abuja-Suleja IPMAN, Mohammed Shuaibu, stated that the current challenges of poor distribution and supply shortage of petrol might lead to widespread queues for PMS during the festive period in December.
“Our worry as marketers is that the festive month is at hand and if nothing is done quickly to address the current concerns around supply, I am afraid that it will escalate during the festivities, because it has started,” he stated.
Shuaibu described the situation as very precarious, stressing that it was the government that had the capacity to address it through the NNPC.
“We are in a very precarious situation and we pray it does not escalate beyond this. But then, the government has to wake up to its duties, because as you know, none of the four refineries is productive. They are more or less obsolete,” he stated.
Shuaibu called on the government to act fast in getting the refineries functional, describing this as the “most sensible solution at this moment.”
Lagos, Ogun situations
In Lagos, queues of motorists spilled to most major roads and hawkers made brisk business hawking the product in jerry cans.
The product sold for between N175 and N220 in many of the filling stations along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
In many parts of Ogun State, especially in Abeokuta, Mowe, Ibafo and Sango, the pump price of petrol ranges between N210 and N220.
There were long queues at many filling stations on Friday, spilling onto the roads and impeding free flow of traffic.
A motorist, Ridwan Adeyanju, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Abeokuta, lamented the pain and suffering he had suffered in the course of getting fuel.
“I have gone through some pains while looking for fuel. They are selling it for between N210 and N220 per litre,” he said.
An attendant at the Royal Gate filling station, Abeokuta, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her employer instructed them to sell petrol for N210 per litre .
N259 in Edo
In Edo State, a litre sold for between N220 and N259 on Friday. However, the NNPC fuel stations were selling at N179 per litre with motorists queuing for several hours before they could buy the product.
A motorist, who identified himself as Godwin Ikpowonsa, said it was sad that the government had not been able to bring down the price of fuel. He said Nigerians were in for a torrid time if the situation continued till Christmas.
He said he had to queue at the NNPC filling station for over four hours to get his car tank filled up.
Ikpowonsa said, “It has been a harrowing experience since the scarcity began, which led to the increase in price.
However, fuel is available now but you can only get it at close to the official price at the NNPC outlets.
I have had to queue at the station for several hours on many occasions to get fuel. I have also bought at other stations, where it is sold between N220 and N259.
“I hope the government will find a solution to this problem before the Yuletide; if not, many people will suffer. The situation has led to an increase in the prices of goods and services, which is a sorry situation.”
N230 in Ondo
Many filling stations in Akure, the Ondo State capital, were under lock and key on Friday, while vehicles queued up in the few stations that had the product to sell.
In many parts of the state, petrol was being sold for between N200 and N230 per litre by independent marketers.
However, it was observed that only the major markers were selling the product for N180 per litre.
A commercial driver, Mr Ibitolu Sam, said he spent hours at a filling station owned by a major marketer.
A station manager, who identified himself simply as Mohammed, said the scarcity came about following the problem at the depot where they were buying the product from, adding that a litre was being sold for N210.
“I was instructed to shut down our operation because it is not profitable again; we are not getting the product at a normal price again. So, it is what we buy that we sell,” he said.
Ekiti motorists groan
Motorists in Ekiti State are groaning under the pain of the non-availability of PMS in most of the filling stations in the state, particularly Ado Ekiti, the capital city.
At the few petrol filling stations where the product was available on Friday, it was either the queues were long or the pump price had been hiked.
At the NNPC filling station along Ado-Iworoko Road and Matrix on Adebayo Street, where the product was sold at N179 per litre and N180 per litre respectively, there were long queues of vehicles.
But at the stations of the independent marketers, there were no queues, but the product sold for between N210 and N230 per litre.
A motorist, Ademola Akindele, who said it took him over one hour to get fuel at the NNPC station, wondered when Nigerians would be free from suffering over fuel supply.
Another motorist, Mrs Adesewa Olorunda, said, “I bought fuel at N230 per litre from a station along the old Ado-Iyin Road. The situation is worrisome. Are we going to spend all our income on fuel?”
Situation in Kwara
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, petrol was being sold at between N220 and N240 per litre at filling stations on Thursday and Friday.
It was observed that many of the private stations were selling fuel to motorists with little or no queue.
It was also observed that stations such as Bovas, Abanik, Total and MRS, which were selling fuel at between N180 and N185 to motorists in the last two weeks, did not open on Thursday.
A mini bus driver plying the Post Office/University of Ilorin route, Mallam Tijani Ajao, told Saturday PUNCH that acute fuel scarcity had not been witnessed in Ilorin, adding that motorists were entering petrol stations and buying the quantities they wanted.
“We buy petrol at between N220 and N240 per litre in filling stations and there is no queue; you will not spend time but if you want to buy at the control price of N180 per litre, you will spend between 45 minutes and one hour before you buy the product. Today, filling stations like Bovas, Total and MRS don’t have fuel, they are not opening their stations,” he said.
Kogi queues reduce
The pump price of fuel in Kogi State has hovered between N230 and N250 for the past one month.
The Rainoil by the NTA roundabout, Lokoja, witnessed drastic reduction in vehicular queues in front of the filling station.
A motorist, who did not want his name in print, told Saturday PUNCH that he had been buying the product for between N220 and N250 in the last one month.
“It looks like this has become official as no one has challenged them or asked questions on how they come about that price even though the pump price is still N175,” he said.
Abia motorists lament
In Abia State, the commodity had been selling for between N240 and N250 per litre for over a month.
An Umuahia-based motorist, Nkemjika Nwachukwu, said he was feeling bad “that I am buying fuel at N250.”
According to him, to fuel his car with eight litres of fuel for the day’s business means that he is spending N8,000 on fuel each day.
“How much do I earn in a day? I can’t cover it,” he lamented.
He advised the government “to look into the issue and encourage Dangote’s private refinery.”
Nwachukwu stated, “The government should also sit up and fix our refineries to avoid importing fuel at the current naira exchange rate.
“Nigerians are suffering and the Minister for Petroleum, the President, is even helpless.”
Delta price hike
Motorists in Delta State are lamenting the scarcity and high cost of fuel in the state.
One of our correspondents, who moved around Asaba on Friday, observed that most of the filling stations were closed down, while the few that opened were dispensing fuel at N250 per litre.
Motorists, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, frowned on the situation of petrol sales in the past two months.
A bus driver plying the Asaba-Illah route, Monday Okonkwo, said the situation was unbearable.
He stated, “We are buying at the rate of N250 and the queues are so much that you will be frustrated.
“Some of the major marketers sell for between N220 and N230 if they open at all. The queues in all the petrol stations are also unbearable.”
Another motorist, Emmy, lamented that the annoying thing was that the government had refused to address the scarcity and high cost of fuel.
He queried whether the government was still subsidising fuel for the citizens against the N180 approved pump price
Situation in Katsina
Petrol currently sells for between N253 and N270 per litre in many filling stations in Katsina State as residents seem to be coming to terms with the scarcity of the product.
Many filling stations in the state, especially the major ones, were without the product on Friday, while the few ones with the product did not experience long queues of motorists.
Operators of commercial tricycles and passenger vehicles in the state were patronising the black market known as ‘Bunbulutu’, where four litres of fuel sold for N2,000.
A commercial bus driver, Halilu Akilu, said he and many of his colleagues were now buying fuel from Kano and Gusau since the product was scarce and more expensive in Katsina.
Sokoto motorists groan
Motorists and commuters in Sokoto State have continued to lament the continuous scarcity of petrol in the Sokoto metropolis, with a litre of the product selling for N280 on the average.
One of our correspondents gathered that most of the major marketers, including A. A. Rano, Total, Matrix and Oando as well as the NNPC mega stations had not been dispensing fuel for some days.
Some motorists, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, condemned the attitude of the major marketers in the state, accusing them of diverting fuel meant for their stations for selfish interests.
Alhaji Nasir Bello, a driver with the state transport corporation, described the fuel supply situation in the state as worrisome.
He said, “What amazes me most is why it is always difficult for the major marketers to have fuel to dispense, while the independent marketers continue to dispense.
“The most annoying part is the black market filling stations, which have never ceased to sell fuel since this scarcity began.”
Mr Yahaya Sa’idu, a commercial driver plying the Sokoto-Kebbi Road, appealed to the government to enforce the official pump price of the product in the state.
Also in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State capital, the situation was not different as other than the NNPC mega station and two of its other outlets located along the bye-pass and Government House Road, and only Shafa Oil was selling at official rate.
Other filling stations in the metropolis sold the product for between N260 and N270 per litre.
Court stops Nigeria Air indefinitely, adjourns case till 2023
A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, stopped the establishment of the proposed national carrier – Nigeria Air, by the Federal Government.
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa reordered the Federal Government and domestic airlines to maintain status quo in their suit relating to the establishment of airline.
The judge made the order pending the determination of the suit filed by the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria and five others in the aviation industry.
The four other plaintiffs include Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited and Topbrass Aviation Limited, who were the first to sixth plaintiffs.
The first to fourth defendants include Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Senator Hadi Sirika (Minister of Aviation, Federal Ministry of Aviation) and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
This came as the Federal Ministry of Aviation declared on Thursday that it would deploy every necessary step to vacate the order that had stopped the ongoing work towards to establishment of the national airline.
Thursday’s event at the court was in line with The PUNCH’s exclusive report on Tuesday which revealed that lawyers representing the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines would battle at the Federal High Court.
After series of legal work, the judge, on Thursday, ordered that the national carrier should be halted and subsequently adjourned the case till February 2023. Our correspondent who was at the court reported the story.
Also, a fresh suit was instituted by one of the Chief Executive Officers of the domestic carriers, Captain Edward Boyo, seeking the name of the Board of Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria to be removed from the suit on the grounds that members of the association did not agree to sue the Federal Government over the national carrier project.
Two “intervenors/applicants” filed an application begging the court to strike out the name of The Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria as a party in a suit, arguing that its inclusion in the suit “is invalid”
On November 15, 2023, the court granted the plaintiffs an interim injunction restraining the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines from proceeding with the establishment of Nigeria Air Limited.
Justice Lewis-Allagoa also ordered all parties to the suit to maintain the status quo following the plaintiffs’ motion ex parte in Suit FHC/L/CS/2159/2022.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, Nureni Jimoh, SAN, appeared for the airline operators.
Jimoh’s bid to move his motion on notice for an injunction against the defendants was opposed by Seun Oriowo, for Nigeria Air and Minister of Aviation; Raji Rasaki, for the AGF, and Ajibola Salisu for the intervening applicants.
The judge turned down Rasaki’s argument for an adjournment for lawyers from the AGF’s Abuja office to take over the defence, rather than those from its Lagos office.
Bassey Attol, for Ethiopian Airlines, informed the court that he had filed a response to Jimoh’s application, while Salisu’s prayer for an adjournment was opposed by Jimoh, on the ground that “the intervening applicants are not a party to this suit. They are interlopers here to disrupt proceedings.”
In his ruling, Justice Lewis-Allagoa held, “I’ve reviewed all the applications before me. In the circumstances, the proper thing to do is for the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of this suit.”
The two intervenors/applicants, in their November 23, 2022 application seen by The Punch include Capt. Edward Boyo, and Capt. Nogie Meggison.
They prayed for an order “striking out the name of the 1st Plaintiff (The Registered Trustees of Airline Operators of Nigeria) as a plaintiff in the suit, for want of due authorisation and/or sanction from the Registered Trustees qua National Executive Council of the Association.”
Among the grounds for their prayer was that “there was no meeting of either the members, the National Executive Council or the Board of Trustees of the 18 plaintiff wherein any decision/resolution was taken to institute this present suit.
“The decision/resolution and/or authorisation of the National Executive Council comprising the Registered Trustees is a condition precedent to the proper institution of any suit in the name of the 1st plaintiff.
“The inclusion of the 1st plaintiff as a party to this suit is invalid.”
Consequently, the judge adjourned the case till February 13, 2023.
Meanwhile, while reacting to the order of the court on Thursday, the media aide to the Minister of Aviation, James’s Odaudu, told one of our correspondents that the ministry was law abiding but would do what was necessary to vacate the order.
“If the court ruled that the status quo should remain, we are law abiding citizens,” he said.
When told that the aviation minister recently said no court would want to stop the national carrier project, Odaudu replied, “A lot people misinterpreted what he (Sirika) said, by reporting that the minister said no court can stop the airline.
“The minister did not say no court can stop the establishment of a national carrier. Rather he said no rational court would stop the establishment of such airline in Nigeria.
“This means that the courts have it at their discretion. So it is wrong to say the minister said no court can stop it. He did not say so.”
The minister’s aide, who served as the immediate past Director of Communications at the Federal Ministry of Aviation, further stated that the FMA would take all required steps to contend with the court order.
“But, of course, the ministry or the government will also take whatever step that is necessary to vacate it (the order),” Odaudu stated.
The PUNCH reported on Tuesday that the Federal Government had assembled a legal team to challenge the suit filed by domestic airlines seeking to stop the establishment of the national carrier.
The PUNCH had also exclusively reported on November 14, 2022, that the national carrier project might be stopped by the court as domestic airlines had taken the Federal Government and its foreign technical partner and majority shareholders to court.
Domestic airlines had alleged that the sale of shares of the proposed airline violated the Companies and Allied Matters Act, as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
JUST IN: CBN begins distribution of new naira notes, see penalties for abuse
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has begun distributing new naira notes to its branches around the country.
The new currency will be delivered by the CBN to business branches across the country. According to Vanguard, the Director of Currency Operations, Bello Umar, made the announcement in Abuja.
“From Thursday, that is tomorrow (today), we will start distribution to CBN branches across the country. So that whenever we are set to launch, maybe at a later date, we already have the notes across the country.”
When will Nigerians begin to use new naira notes
The new notes are expected to be in circulation before December 15, 2022, and will circulate side-by-side with the old notes until January 31, 2023, when the latter would cease to be legal tender.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele revealed this at the unveiling of the new notes.
Penalties for naira abuse
The Central Bank of Nigeria has again threatened to effect the law against Nigerians defacing or abusing the Naira. Also Read:See the new Naira notes unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerians are known to fold Naira or spray the currency into the air during parties, leading to people stamping their feet on it.
To dissuade the culture of defacing the notes in such a manner, Section 21 of the CBN Act 2007 was constituted to protect Naira.
Persons caught mutilating or defacing the notes will be made to pay a fine of N50,000 or face a jail term of six months.
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