Business

High energy cost forces companies to run skeletal services

..as First Bank reduces operating hours.

As the Russia and Ukraine war rages, Nigerian firms continue to take ‘the bullets’ as most local companies are gasping for survival. Findings during the week showed that nearly all firms from the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises MSMEs) and bigger firms have reduced their operating hours from 24 hours to about eight or 12 hours.

While banks, insurance, agencies and other service support firms have cut their working hours from eight to about five hours daily, most MSMEs and manufacturing firms now run one shift of 12 hours instead of 24 hours and two shifts.

Some firms that use heavy diesel-powered generators have now bought smaller generators that use petrol.

Checks by The Trumpet showed that instead of some organisations using one heavy-duty generator that uses diesel now resulted in buying smaller generators that use petrol to cut costs.

Findings by The Trumpet also showed that some of the smaller generators are unable to power most of the equipment and heavy air-conditioners, while some categories of employees have been asked to work from home as others have been asked to report for work for three days per week.

Investigations also revealed that many workers were being asked to go home until the situation improves.

It would be recalled that crude oil that was sold for about $70 in early February 2022 rose sharply to about $140 per barrel at the commencement of the Russia and Ukraine war in late February and although a barrel of crude oil now sells for about $120, diesel is currently sold for between N600 to N700 per litre.

The high cost of diesel also occurs during the period the country is experiencing constant collapse of the national grid, just as checks showed that the national grid collapsed four times between March and April this year, which threw the entire country into total darkness for several days.

While the high cost of diesel and epileptic power supply threaten businesses in the country, Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Olusegun Ajayi-Akadir, told The Trumpet in a telephone interview that the epileptic power supply and high cost of diesel have wiped away the little gain the manufacturing sector recorded last year after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He disclosed that many of his members were daily closing their shops due to the harsh operating environment. He, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to assist the manufacturing sector and businesses in the country by ensuring that the challenge of the national grid is settled once and for all.

Nigeria, Africa’s highest producer of crude oil and one of the top 15 global major crude oil producers, has been unable to refine its abundant crude oil and provide stable public supply despite spending huge amounts of money on its energy sector over the years.

Meanwhile, First Bank Nigeria Limited has reduced the time of business transactions with its customers in most of its branches across the country to cut its energy costs.

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A few days ago, the bank sent an SMS to some of its customers about its plans to review its business hours in most of its branches, with effect from Monday, April 11, 2022.

In a statement issued by the bank, it stated the time review was staggered and subjected to the volume of operations across different branches and outlets of the financial institution.

“We have revised our banking hours across all our locations. The revised opening and closing hours will be effective from Monday, April 11, 2022. Our alternative and digital channels are available and accessible 24 hours per seven days anywhere and anytime to meet your banking needs,”‘ the bank said in its communication.

Findings showed that some branches were to open between 8:00a.m to 1:00 p.m daily, others were to open between 8:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m.

Findings by The Trumpet during the week showed that, while some banks in Ikorodu and its environs opted to close at 2:00 p.m, some of the branches in Ikeja and its environs closed at 3:00 p.m.

Reports have it that some branches across the country were operating between 8:00a.m and 1:00 p.m.

Some customers of the bank who did not receive the SMS on the bank’s directive were livid when they visited their branches only to be told that the bank had closed for the day instead of the normal 4:00p.m closing hour.

A source in the bank, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, explained that the management of the bank decided to reduce the operating hours due to the high cost of diesel, which is the alternative source of power.

“With the current price of diesel, it only makes sense to review our operations and the number of hours we do business daily. As you know, most of our branches run on alternative power supply, otherwise, we will be failing in our services to our customers and the banking public, hence the decision.

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