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FirstBank records 27,000 banking agents, deepens financial inclusion - ITREALMS

ITREALMS : Nigeria’s premier bank and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has announced that it now has...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

FirstBank records 27,000 banking agents, deepens financial inclusion - ITREALMS

Nigeria’s premier bank and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has announced that it now has over 27,000 Agents on its Firstmonie Agent Network, reports ITREALMS

This feat reinforces the Bank’s steering role at promoting financial inclusion in the country. The over 27,000 Firstmonie Agents are present in almost all Local Government Areas across the country.

In line with the Financial Inclusion objectives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to bring financial services closer to Nigerians, Firstmonie Agent Network is a unique channel designed by FirstBank to solve the challenge of access to financial services. Firstmonie Agents are empowered with secured digital channels to provide basic financial services such as account opening, Cash-In, Cash-Out, Funds Transfer, Airtime topup, and Bill payments to customers across the country.

FirstBank, through this Financial Inclusion drive, is making very impressive impact on job creation, women and youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship development – fundamental pillars of overall economic development.

Alhaji Bashir Aliyu Muhammad Rimin-Gado, a Firstmonie Agent operating from Rimin-Gado area in Kano State said, “I have been with Firstmonie since they started and I can say that it has been a life changing experience, I have been able to build trust of the communities around me as many workers in my area have forgotten the last time they visited any bank branch for basic banking services. I am a proud employer of labour and as a result my staff are well paid and comfortable.

Sharing his excitement on the impact FirstBank Agent Banking has had in his immediate community, another Firstmonie Agent in Abia State, Ephraim Osinachi of Jozzy NetComputer Services. Nig Limited, said, “FirstBank’s Firstmonie has created an enabling opportunity for dwellers of my immediate community and neighboring towns to carry out banking transactions with less time, money, resources and risks as people don’t have to waste time embarking on long journeys to the city, added to the dangers of being robbed on the highway."

"My experience as a Firstmonie Agent has been a rewarding one, as I receive hundreds of Thank You and God bless you from customers each day, because of the relief the Agent Banking gives to them. The people of Ukwa will always remain grateful to CBN and FirstBank for bringing banking to their door step with Agent Banking”, he concluded.

On the back of its drive to deepen inclusion through Agent Banking, FirstBank has also partnered with National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). The (NURTW) partnership seeks to leverage the human traffic and commercial activities at various motor parks across the country to ease access to financial services. First Bank is also in partnership with Azuri Technologies Limited, an off-grid power distribution company to make access to off-grid power easy, especially in rural communities, as well as other institutions, who are seeking to provide resources to cushion the effects of economic and social shocks on low income individuals.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan “Our Firstmonie Agent Banking network, spread across the nook and cranny of the country, is a demonstration of our resolve to promoting financial inclusion and business in the country. This indeed has been achieved with the concerted effort and commitment of our partners and registered Firstmonie Agents to taking banking to Nigerians regardless of where they are. With them, we are committed to leave no stone unturned at bolstering the economic involvement of many more Nigerians, especially through our robust electronic services like *894# USSD banking, Firstmobile, Firstonline and ChatBanking on WhatsApp”

FirstBank recently announced that over N1 trillion Naira had been processed through the Agent Banking Network. The First Bank to achieve this milestone.
Remmy Nweke/DoP

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University of Manchester signs up for Slave-Free Alliance - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
As part of its commitment to meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, The University of Manchester has become the first higher education institution to become a member of Slave-Free Alliance, reports ITREALMS. 

Raising awareness on the issues of human trafficking and forced labour is a key part of the University’s work to promote responsible procurement.

Slave-Free Alliance is part of Hope for Justice, a Manchester-based charity which exists to bring an end to modern slavery by preventing exploitation, rescuing victims, restoring lives and reforming society.

By joining Slave-Free Alliance the University has joined a global movement, demonstrating commitment to raising awareness of modern slavery and working to promote a zero tolerance approach to the practice in our supply chains.

A key benefit of joining Slave-Free Alliance is to independently review, benchmark and develop responsible University systems and processes to combat modern slavery.

“As a University with social responsibility as a core goal, joining Slave-Free Alliance helps bolster our existing approach in this important area,” said Director of Finance Steve Dauncey.

“The opportunity to join a Manchester-based charity that puts victims first by removing them from situations of exploitation, and also working to prevent individuals from becoming enslaved, is a great fit for us. The potential to engage more widely with our staff and students on this issue is very significant.”

“We are thrilled to see The University of Manchester becoming the first higher education institution to join Slave-Free Alliance, and we hope this will encourage the rest of the sector to take notice and take action,” said Ben Cooley, CEO of Slave-Free Alliance and Hope for Justice.

“It is a clear sign of the University’s commitment to working towards a slave-free supply chain, helping ensure that the products it buys and the services it uses have not been tainted by the barbaric crime of human trafficking for forced labour. We look forward to working closely with the University over the coming months to further develop this partnership.”

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BringCom comes to Uganda, leapfrogs Africa’s innovation agenda with local cloud solutions - ITREALMS

The Pan-African connectivity provider, BringCom, in partnership with science and technology investor, Imprimatur Capital, and European edge cloud software company, GIG Technology, have together birthed what is to provide the African technology industry with cloud sovereignty – afriQloud, reports ITREALMS.

Launched in Uganda, afriQloud will provide, at internationally competitive rates, local and foreign customers with an innovative and secure distributed edge cloud service.

Hans van Linschoten, founding partner of Imprimatur Capital Africa and CEO of afriQloud “We see significant potential in the growing African cloud market where an estimated $2 billion is being spent in cloud this year, and we’re excited to bring this service to the continent. By the end of 2019 we will complement the few developed markets clouds with a powerful and local distributed cloud in at least 15 countries. This ensures data sovereignty for institutions and governments within Africa’s shores.”

Most of Africa’s content on the internet is currently hosted on servers outside the continent. Implementation of edge cloud computing services in Africa has been adversely affected by lack of reliable and secure connectivity from various service providers. The cost of setting up ICT infrastructure with improved data latency and minimized downtime has also contributed to the slow adoption of cloud solution across the continent.

Mark Simmonds, Chairman of GIG Technology: ”Although cloud adoption is predominantly private, the African markets are generating a growth of 30% in public cloud sales. Few other ICT market segments in the African tech ecosystem have the potential of adding an incremental $2 billion in top line revenue over the next 5 years.”

Fabrice Langreney, CEO of BringCom: “Opening up of the global market will require African companies and organizations to be equally competitive in deployment of e-solutions, scalability, secure data accessibility and connectivity in line with international standards.”

afriQloud is also building bridges to the African incubators and tech hubs. More than 440 tech hubs are available today and more funding is being raised by tech startups across the African continent. The aim of afriQloud is to have the Edge Cloud installed in cities and tech hub ecosystems which hosts a high number of startups and developers. Now present and operational in Uganda, afriQloud will be spreading its services further into the different regions of Africa this year.

Willem Hendrickx, CEO of GIG Technology: “We believe in partnerships and the creation of local economy using our cloud technology. Having assessed the cloud readiness of different African markets, we are thrilled to launch in Kampala.”

Hans van Linschoten: “We have hit the ground and we intend to keep up the pace. This service in Africa is long overdue. In a few months, we will expand our service in East Africa - Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia will be afriQloud active very soon. We are working through channels in Southern Africa as well - Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique are our next target markets. And of course the West African region is good and ripe for the plucking. 

"Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon – we’ll be present in all these countries this year! We’re very much looking forward to working with tech startups, MNOs, ISPs, government institutions, banks and financial institutions, universities – there is much to be done, and the time to begin is now.”

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104 families benefit from Ekiti multiple birth trust fund - ITREALMS

The Ekiti State Multiple Birth Trust Fund, which provides support for families with multiple births has been revitalised in the State after a four- year break, with the disbursement of products to 104 families by the First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, reports ITREALMS.

Erelu Fayemi who made the first tranche of the disbursement in Ado-Ekiti on Monday, expressed her happiness that the Trust Fund is was back. She also congratulated parents who gathered at the ceremony organized by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in collaboration with Office of the First Lady.

Cash gifts, baby foods and other family support products were distributed to families with multiple births at the event.

Erelu Fayemi said the Multiple Birth Trust Fund was initiated in 2010 to provide assistance for families who have been blessed by God with Multiple births, but who were finding it difficult to cope because of their circumstances.

"We were receiving many reports of mothers giving birth to twins or triplets in the hospitals and the fathers running away because they were scared of how they were going to settle the bills of their obligations, she said.”

She said the the Multiple Birth Trust Fund supported no fewer than 740 families between 2010 and 2014. “While some of these families received cash and products support from the administration, investments were also made on behalf of some of the families who had triplets”, she added.

The investments, according to her, were created to support the children through school on a long term basis.

Erelu Fayemi expressed her sadness for the non-continuation of the initiative post-Kayode Fayemi administration, hinting on the need to institutionalise the trust fund.

“I was deeply saddened to note that this initiative did not continue in the post-Kayode Fayemi administration. It is, therefore, my pleasure that it has commenced now as part of the Social Investment Programmes of JKF2. However, I am also using this opportunity to alert the public that we are going to be working on ways to ensure that this program is institutionalised, so that it is not done at the discretion of incoming administration but is done as a matter of cause, as an obligation to Ekiti people.”

The state Commissioner for Women Affairs, Chief (Mrs) Moji Fafure, said over 700 multiple birth parents benefited from cash disbursed during the first term of the Fayemi-led administration.

She urged them to utilize the amount given to them for the care and upkeep of their babies.

Mrs Oriowo Victoria who spoke on behalf of the beneficiaries lauded the First Lady for the initiative while describing it as unprecedented.


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ATCON gets new venue for 5th Telecom Executives forum – ITREALMS

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has gotten a new venue for its 5th edition of the Telecom Executives and Regulators forum, reports ITREALMS.

ATCON Executive Secretary, Ajibola Olude disclosed this to letters to valued stakeholders made available to 
ITREALMS.

According to him, ATCON writes to inform stakeholders that the 5th Edition of Telecom Executives and Regulator's Forum slated for July 11, 2019 will now hold at Lagos Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

“We are constrained to change the venue because of lack of some facilities like exhibition and parking space.

“We regret any inconveniences this may have caused you,” he appealed.

Remmy Nweke/DoP
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Monday, June 24, 2019

TSA: FG remit to Remita – ITREALMS


Feature@ITREALMS:
That the Federal Government owes a locally grown multinational Financial Technology solution provider, SystemSpecs millions of Naira, over the adoption of its Remita for the Treasury Single Account (TSA), is least demeaning writes ITREALMS’ REMMY NWEKE, who argues the debt is a much ado shadow over local content and ‘ease of doing business’ mantra.
Excerpts:

PMB on TSA: Four years after:Reviewing the four years of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB’s) administration in Nigeria, an instance that left many industry watchers and stakeholders’ agape was the fact that Federal Government (FG) still owes SystemSpecs millions of Naira over the adoption of its Remita for the FG Treasury Single Account (TSA) via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

ITREALMS recalls that as soon as this administration came to power in May 2015 and shortly after the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) and by end of first quarter of 2016 came up with a report rejecting Remita contract by CBN.

This led to the 2016 controversies on TSA which ranged for weeks with the Senate submitting that FG’s contract with Remita, a proudly locally-developed and globally acknowledged software solution by SystemSpecs be terminated and overtly paying lip-service on issues of local content in Nigeria as it may affect Financial Technology (FinTech) evolution in the country.
With this, industry stakeholders, including the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), expected that FG and NASS will review the report positively till date to reflect the so-called ease of doing business in Nigeria.

As at last quarter of 2018, ITREALMS gathered that FG still owes SystemSpecs in respect of Remita, allied banks and other service providers in the ‘TSA value chain’ payments in excess of N10bn for services provided and which as at the time of filing this report may have increased.

Understanding what Remita offers:Investigations by ITREALMS showed that Remita is an electronic payment (e-Payments) and e-Collections solution on a single multi-bank platform. Presently, Remita is in use by many individuals, public and private sector organisations that process over 500 Billion Naira worth of transactions on a monthly basis.

Adopted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the payment and collections of funds on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Remita is currently used by all 22 commercial banks and some 400 micro finance banks. Some countries beyond Nigeria have shown interest in adopting Remita, for instance, a delegation from the Gambia, were in Nigeria to understudy more closely how to optimise Remita and Treasury Single Account.

Developed by SystemSpecs Limited, Remita has been severally voted as Nigeria's Software of the Year, and indeed a success story as well as a pride to Africa, and has no doubt contributed immensely in revolutionizing the e-payment industry in Nigeria and beyond, just as it comes with an optional Payroll and Human Resource (HR) solution for full integrated processing.

Executive Orders vs NCS Lamentation:
The worrisome indebtedness led to a lot of assumptions including that the Federal Government (FG) may have set aside its own Executive Orders 003 and 005 by refusal to pay SystemSpecs and likes of Chams plc, though these two orders were reputed as landmark when they were signed by Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as part of the three orders signed on May 18, 2017, which encouraged government businesses and operations to be conducted in the country, especially in support for local content in public procurement by the Federal Government.

The President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, bemoaned the alarming indebtedness in a chat with ITREALMS, urging FG to lead by example. Noting that local content contributions especially from ICT sector to the economy cannot be over-emphasised due to the number of jobs they offer for the teeming youthful population.

He asserted that “This is integral to Nigeria’s economic revival,” lamenting that compliance to the orders is not 100 per cent, thereby raising doubts and questions about full commitment to the much needed prioritization of local content development. Maintaining that one of the pertinent cases was that of Remita, a payment gateway adopted by the Federal Government for its Treasury Single Account (TSA).

According to NCS President, “Up till now the FG has not been able to fulfil its obligation with regard to the services rendered to her through Remita software.” This is despite official declarations, these in practical terms showed extremely low commitment to the implementation of the ICT Local Content Policy.

“It does not show much evidence exists of a structured approach to ensure Nigerian ICT firms are prepared by Government to take advantage of emergent National ICT opportunities,” NCS president bemoaned.

Between CBN and TSA:
Precisely on November 18, 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) proclaimed via circular No. BKS/CSO/CON/DIR/04/043, addressed to all deposit money banks; the Managing Director, SystemSpecs Ltd; and all Licensed Payment Solution Service Providers (PSSPs); intimating them of increase in the service charge on Remita on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the burden carefully passed on to end-users.

According to CBN the guidelines for payment for services rendered under the e-Collection programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria, stipulated thus:

I. That all Payers using other channels, apart from Cards (Bank Transfers, Mobile Payments, Bank teller points, USSD and all other channels) shall pay the sum of N150.00 (One Hundred and Fifty Naira only), per transaction. Hitherto, the Federal Government, through the OAGF has been bearing the charges on behalf of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the revenue payers

II. That all Payers using Cards are to be charged N150.00 (One Hundred and Fifty Naira only) plus 0.75% of the amount being paid, subject to a maximum of N1,200.00 (One Thousand Two Hundred Naira only), per transaction.

III. The application of these charges is effective from 1st November 2018

It is necessary to note that this directive is without prejudice to the provision of Section 2.4.5.5 of the CBN Approved Guidelines on Operations of Electronic Payment Channels in Nigeria (April 2016), which stipulated that “A merchant shall under no circumstances, charge a different price, surcharge a cardholder or otherwise discriminate against any member of the public who chooses to pay with a card or by other electronic means.”

CBN stressed that this directive only relates to payment of MDA’s revenue, taxes, levies, penalties, etc to the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the TSA scheme.

Core notes from the circular deductible include was that FG hitherto borne the cost of the charges per transactions on TSA but has since November 1, 2018 decided to pass it to users despite no public enlightenment on this.

Industry observers described the new charge as “a uniform flat fee of N150 + VAT irrespective of the amount being paid to the Government, through any bank in Nigeria.” Although it was still argued that based on the flat rate, like obtained with the N65 on the use of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in the country, no matter which ATM or Bank ATM in use, it’s a welcome development.

PMB commends TSA:
This came at a time, President Muhammadu Buhari in his address to the 2018 e-Nigeria Conference organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja last November, disclosing that FG saved about N24.7bn per month as a result of the implementation of the Treasury Single Account and the elimination of ghost workers from the civil service.

“In addition to the consolidation of accounts and elimination of ghost workers that resulted in a combined monthly savings of about N24.7bn, the TSA facilitated the recovery of huge sums of money including the recent N1.6bn from a single account,” PMB said.

And if based on the above monthly income and supposed “1 per cent charge by Remita” according to the contract terms, it could be safe to say that between May 2015 and May 2019, that the Federal Government, for instance, is owing SystempSpecs via Remita, the sum of N247,000,000 (Two Hundred and Forty-Seven million Naira only), which seems to be the bone of contention when looked at the monetary value rather than the revolution, service, job creation and development such value added by Remita offers. This argument is not far away from those posited by the Senate in 2015 who seemed ignorant of the processes and deserves some education.

For the record, this 1 per cent revenue from every TSA transaction is shared between SystemSpecs, Banks and CBN on the ratio of 50 per cent, 40 per cent and 10 per cent in that order over some 40 months culminating between September 2015 and December 2018, as at the time of this report.

Submission:
Despite Remita commendations by Mr. President, it is no longer news that the government of the day is not living out what its preaching with regards to ease of doing business, moreso with the consequence like lack of job creation that should have emerged from support services across the states and effects on the economy, industry watchers look forward to a time Federal Government will, repent by seeing local solution developers like SystemSpecs, as the real engine of the economy in this age.

Another set of renegotiation with the likes of Remita developers, SystemSpecs among others playing in this space cannot be over emphasised by taking the local content mantra of this administration seriously, and the Federal Government consciously remitting to Remita what is due to it.

This will encourage a lot of local solution developers in Nigeria, that after all, there is hope for them to create more jobs, with a listening government.

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UN partner with IFC, ARC, AAISA towards creating African disaster risk insurance market - ITREALMS

A consortium of international development agencies including the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), the African Risk Capacity (ARC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Association of African Insurance Supervisors (AAISA), opened a two-week training event on index and disaster risk insurance, on Sunday, reports ITREALMS.

The training, ITREALMS gathered would help build the knowledge of African governments, the private sector, and the international community to better carry out financial planning necessary to protect vulnerable populations against climate shocks, disasters, and other crises.  

Index and disaster risk insurance products help protect agribusinesses, farmers, and other low-income populations against environmental risks such as drought, floods, irregular rainfall, natural disasters and other effects of climate change. Access to these types of affordable insurance products will help the affected population mitigate the effects of these climate-related shocks, protecting them against catastrophic losses and unlocking access to finance.

The training workshops – offered in English the first week: from June 24 – 29; and in French the second week: June 30 – July 6, 2019 – will allow participants to discuss ways of exploiting their relative strengths to successfully implement these innovative types of insurance in their countries.

In his remarks, UN-ASG and Director-General, ARC, Mohamed Beavogui said, “Capacity building is key to our efforts in working with Member States. ARC and its partners work with Member States to provide development insurance instruments by determining risk profiles, customization of its tools, and development of a contingency plan that fits into a country’s broader risk management framework. This helps to strengthen resilience and protect development gains from being wiped away by weather-related risks.

Faheen Allibhoy, IFC Country Manager for Senegal, said: “The World Bank Group is committed to working with the African Union and UNECA to create new, sustainable agricultural and disaster risk insurance markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Working together, we can achieve greater combined results that contribute to the development goals of all three institutions.”

One of the sponsors of the training, the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), is UNECA’s training institute. It is responsible for providing capacity development and training programs aimed at improving public sector management and development planning in support of member States’ structural transformation. Also, it contributes towards strengthening the capacity of member States to develop and adopt better approaches to development planning, economic policy formulation, management, monitoring and evaluation.


The training workshop in Dakar is the first of a series of activities that will be run jointly by the three institutions. Participants include representatives of ministries of agriculture and finance, insurance regulators, the media, as well as insurance companies offering (or planning to offer) index and disaster risk insurance in Sub-Saharan Africa, from Chad, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

Remmy Nweke/DoP 

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Building collapses in Oshodi-Lagos, Eight injured

ITREALMS:
A total of Eight persons were on Sunday injured during a building collapse on Ibraham Adesanya Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi in Lagos State, reports ITREALMS.

Confirming this to 
ITREALMS, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency [LASEMA] response unit stated in a tweet post that, “the building was undergoing illegal renovation before it collapsed this morning.”

Also, LASEMA stated that “there is an urgent need for complete demolition of the building before it causes any further disaster” to ensure the safety of people living in the area.

The Agency noted that integrity tests will be carried out on adjacent buildings to ascertain their suitability and durability.

Fortunately, no death was recorded although the occupants have been evacuated as the building is expected to be pulled down.

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Day Oguta Stood Still For Ugboma - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS:
Thursday, 13th June, 2019 marked a new beginning in the annals of governance and representation in Imo State. It witnessed the inauguration of the 9th Imo State House of Assembly.

The Assembly came to life, following a proclamation by the Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, represented by the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona.

The twenty seven members of the State House of Assembly took their oath of offices, heralding the commencement of the 9th Assembly. But that is not the story. The gist is that the lawmaker representing Oguta State constituency, Hon. Frank Ugbomah got an overdose of honour and celebration after his inauguration, as the entire Oguta Local Government Area was literarily locked down, following celebration of his inauguration.

The celebration got to a head when people from all walks of life gathered at St. Mary’s primary School, Orsu Obodo, Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, in honour of their own and member representing Oguta State Constituency in the State Assembly.

It was a roll call of who-is-who in the area. From the Deputy Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona and his adorable wife, Ogbuefi Vivian Irona, to other political leaders, Religious and Traditional Rulers, members of the academia, among others.

In his remarks, Deputy Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona congratulated the lawmaker for emerging victorious at the polls, urging him to do his best towards fulfilling his electoral promises to people of the area.

He reiterated the resolve of the administration of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha not to interfere with the activities of the Legislature, promising that the principle of separation of powers shall guide the present administration in all that it does.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the inauguration, a political leader in the area and former Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Imo State, Hon. Williams Ejiako described Ugboma’s emergence as divine, urging him not to disappoint his people.

Speaking earlier, member representing Oguta State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Frank Ugbomah reiterated his commitment to ensuring effective representation of the people at the State Assembly.

He expressed gratitude to the people of the area for the confidence reposed in him to represent them, promising not to disappoint them.

According to him, “my stay in Imo State House of Assembly shall witness effective representation of my people. Lawmaking is serious business and I will ensure the strengthening of the legal framework for massive development of our area. I will ensure that quality laws are introduced to promote good governance in Imo State. I can assure you that gaps identified in existing laws will be closed and new laws made for the good of Imo State. I am impressed by the quality of lawmakers I have interacted with so far and I can assure you that there are a lot of sound minds in the 9th Assembly. We shall make Imo people proud.”

Commenting on the person of the lawmaker, a legal practitioner from the area, Chief Kingsley Njoku described Hon. Ugbomah as an honest and brilliant gentleman, whose footsteps are worthy of emulation.

“I have known Ugboma for nearly twenty years now. I have had several dealings with him. He is brilliant, objective, honest and thorough. When I learnt that he emerged the lawmaker representing Oguta State constituency, I had a sigh of relief, knowing that we are back to the days of quality representation of Oguta State Constituency in the State Assembly. You can see for yourself what is going on here. You can see the mammoth crowd and quality of persons that attended his inauguration reception. You can hear what people are saying. All these show that we made the right choice in Frank Ugbomah.”

“History shows that our House of Assembly members hardly go more than once. But watch it. Ugbomah may break the record in Oguta Local Government area. If it is about quality representation, forget it, Oguta people should go to bed with their both eyes closed.”

“With Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona as Deputy Governor and Hon. Frank Ugbomah as our House of Assembly member, the age-long prayers of Oguta Local Government have been answered. Indeed, good governance has come.”

The highlights of the reception were special cultural and masquerade dances, speeches, presentation of gifts, among others.

The event was attended by many important dignitaries, among whom are: Oguta-born Deputy Governor of Imo State Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona and his wife, Ogbuefi Vivian Irona, Interim Management Committee Chairman of Oguta Local Government, Hon. Hilary Eberendu, Hon. Williams Ejiako, Dr. Walter Duru, Hon. Uchenna Ogbonna, Oguta Local Government Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Fred Opia, Traditional and Religious leaders and members of the academia.

Others are: Barr. Charles Jaja, Princess (Lolo) Queen Igwe, Professor (Eze) Dele Odibo, Traditional Ruler of Nkwessi ancient Kingdom, Eze (Dr.) Asor, Traditional Ruler of Obudi, Agwa, among others.

With this development, Hon. Frank Ugbomah is indebted to people of the area. The debt is good governance, through effective representation in the State Assembly.

To whom much is given, much is also expected. Considering the encomiums showered on him by stakeholders in the area, it is obvious that his people trust and believe in his ability to deliver. He must not fail.

The only language people of the area want to hear is good governance and effective representation. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

In addition to making outstanding laws that will enhance the living standards of the people, the lawmaker must ensure periodic meetings with critical stakeholders in the area, particularly, core professionals, with a view to informing them of his activities, while also getting their opinion on issues that affect them.

Effective representation requires regular consultation with the people. The entry point is to conduct a stakeholders’ mapping and evolve strategies for engaging each of the stakeholders.

This should go beyond party leanings. The time to act is now!

*Contributed by Dr. Walter Duru, a Communication and Public Relations expert. He can be reached on: walterchike@gmail.com

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Reekado Banks comes to town with 'I am' - ITREALMS

Trace live has advanced the representation of live music and entertainment that continues to breed ultimate satisfaction to the music audience in Nigeria and beyond, reports ITREALMS.

This time, Reekado Banks takes the center stage in bringing us his youthful vibe come Friday, 28th June, 2019 at the Terra Kulture Arena Lagos State. Reekado banks would take the audience on a swirl of becoming: I AM.

An energetic and fun filled performance is promised for this Trace Live. The musical connection between the audience, the artist and the instruments, promises to be pronounce and Reekado with his youthful aura is bound to bring more of the latter, bringing the youthful experience to this year’s Trace Live.

Ayoleyi Hanniel Solomon (REEKADO BANKS) a singer/songwriter is the last child to a music inclined family, where he has his elder brother as a music producer and his elder sister as a song writer. It is no surprise that we see Reekado doing good works. Reekado banks explains that the idea behind his name comes from his actual birth name meaning “strong ruler”

Reekado started his music career at an early stage through guidance from his brother who was a producer, helping him produce his music and also teaching him the keynotes of music and song writing.

He flourished under MAVIN record label for a limited time-frame but then broke away from it to find his own path, he currently heads his own record label known as “Banks Music” while he was at Mavin records, he had hits such as; KATAPOT, LADIES AND GENTLE MEN, JEJE and also featured with FALZ THE BAHD GUY, TIWA SAVAGE, VANESSA MDEE, SKIIBII.

Although, riding solo is demanding, this is a position that he embraces with joy. ‘To find yourself, you must first think for yourself’ this applies to Reekado banks in more ways than one, referring to his co-dependency while he was in Mavin records to his independent movement with his own record label, “Banks Music” it is evident that with great power, comes great responsibility, which he embraces genuinely.

On this note, he is aware that every decision he makes regarding his music career from now on can either make or mare him. To be independent comes with a price which he has accepted and is taking him steps closer to making a revolution for himself.

Trace live is an intimate live show that has provided a platform for artistes to own the center stage, showcase the instrumental ensemble of their songs through a live performance with the support of a live band and also made it possible for each artistes to tell the story of their journey.

Trace live with Reekado Banks is one of the most highly anticipated event as it promises an evening of exceptionally mixed cocktails, social networking, glitz, glamour, and the epic sounds from Reekado Banks.

Trace live has evolved comparing from the first of its kind to the most recent. It’s is partnered by Bolanle Austen Peters and Cabal Entertainment and proudly sponsored by Lord’s gin, Pepsi, Tom Tom and Munch It.

Reekado Banks’ fans and indeed lovers of good music can get tickets here at or attempt to win on our social media here

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Almajiri proscription not total says Presidency - ITREALMS

The abrogation of the Almajiri, a Qur’anic learning system associated with begging on economic and religious grounds peculiar to some Northern states, system of education remains an objective but there is no immediate ban of it by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, as widely reported by the media.

ITREALMS reports that the Presidency, therefore, calls for caution in responses to the pronouncements by President Muhammadu Buhari on free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria, during his speech on Thursday, June 20, at the inauguration of the National Economic Council (NEC).

The Presidency notes that while the Buhari administration is committed to free and compulsory education as a long-term objective of bringing to an end, the phenomenon of out-of-school children, any necessary ban on Almajiri would follow due process and consultation with relevant authorities.

Indeed, the Federal government wants a situation where every child of primary school age is in school rather than begging on the streets during school hours.

At the same time, we don't want to create panic or a backlash.

Reports that there are plans for massive arrest of parents are definitely out of place. Things have to be done the right and considerate way.

Free and compulsory primary school education is a requirement of the Nigerian constitution and any individual or group not in compliance with this is violating the law of the land and liable to be punished.


Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu quoted Mr. President as saying in his speech at the inauguration of NEC, without equivocation, that the country’s children have rights and must be given their due rights and protection under the law.

As many have stated in their views, the Almajiri phenomenon represents a security challenge and a scar on the face of Northern Nigeria.

In that speech, the President said:

“On education, I want to stress in particular the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education. Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.

“Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.

‘‘It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.

“This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum.

‘‘If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.”

This statement by President Buhari is well within the law of Nigeria.

But in addition to relevant consultations, State governors need to put in place structures like schools and educational materials for pupils; otherwise, they also, are complicit in violating the law of the land.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor


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Breaking: Henry Nkemadu emerges new Director Public Affairs @NCC - ITREALMS

Dr. Henry Nkemadu has been appointed as the new Director Public Affairs at the nation's telecommunication body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), reports ITREALMS.

A public statement made available to ITREALMS for NCC affirmed this, saying it has been approved by the management of the commission.

ITREALMS gathered that Dr. Nkemadu, a graduate of veterinary medicine from the University of Nigeria, has traversed the length and breadth of NCC acquiring experiences that qualify him for this new role.

Nkemadu, a former Controller of the Lagos Zonal Office - NCC's largest Zonal Operation, he worked in the Departments of Economic Analysis and Corporate Planning (EACP); Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis (PCEA); Research and Development (R&D); and Projects.

Further, ITREALMS gathered that a fortnight ago, Nkemadu became a full Director at the Commission and until this morning, he was Head, Special Intervention Projects at the Projects Department of the Commission.

His appointment as Director Public Affairs was announced to the participants at the ongoing annual Workshop for Judges taking place at Enugu where he (Nkemadu) is participating as part of the Commission's delegation.

Dr. Henry Nkemadu, himself a serial achiever, dutiful, pragmatic and intellectually ecclectic, is wearing the shoes left behind by an amazing tribe of accomplished and distinguished public servants.

ITREALMS recalls that Dave Imoko, the avuncular and uncommon torchbearer handed over to the technocrat Tony Ojobo, while Nnamdi Nwokike, the acclaimed leader of the 12 'disciples' succeeded Ojobo as Director Public Affairs.

Nkemadu is expected as an inheritor of a motley experiences and landmarks to be deployed shortly to project NCC as a leading public sector brand.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa: Class 3 graduates in Lagos, new applications opens - ITREALMS

The batch three of the Launchpad Accelerator Africa class has graduated today in Lagos, with a total of 12 startups, reports ITREALMS.

Google’s regional startup accelerator programme, Launchpad Accelerator Africa reports 
ITREALMS, runs out of a dedicated space in Lagos since 2017 committed to training 60 African startups over 3 years, representing over $3-million in equity-free support, working space, and access to expert advisers from Google, Silicon Valley, and Africa.

Participants also receive travel and PR support during each three-month programme.
ITREALMS also gathered that part of the programme run by Google as part of its ongoing efforts to support entrepreneurship on the continent, Launchpad Accelerator Africa Class 3 comprised 12 startups from six African countries selected form Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda - 58 per cent of which have female co-founders.

All of the teams participating in Class 3 have been trained in machine learning technologies and are implementing AI in their offerings as a result.

“This represents an alignment towards building AI-first startups powered by Google technology. The startups in this class have raised close to $9-million in funding, created more than 120 jobs and their products and services have over 270 000 users," said head of startup success and services, Launchpad Accelerator Africa, Fola Olatunji-David.

Also, he said, “We know that Africa is awash with entrepreneurial potential. If that potential is to be transformed into job creation, startups founded by those entrepreneurs need to grow. This programme is about giving them the best possible chance of achieving that growth.”

He stressed that the graduating startups now form part of Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa’s alumni along with the 23 startups from Classes 1 and 2 who between them have created 385 direct jobs and raised over $19-million before, during and after they participated in the programme.

“The growth of entrepreneurship in Africa is critical to the survival of our continent. We’re currently as a region creating about 3 million jobs per year while more than 11 million job seekers are entering the market. Google believes that empowering entrepreneurs and startups is essential to drive employment growth and enable both economic and social development on the continent. Google thrives when other business thrives,” he said.

Further, Fola confirmed to 
ITREALMS that Class 4 will kick off later this year, even as the application has opened today, Friday, June 21 through July 26, this year, which will see some 12 African startup completing the three-month acceleration programme.
ITREALMS gathered that the 12 startups that graduated Friday include 54Gene (Nigeria): Improves drug discovery by researching multiple genetically diverse African populations; Data Integrated Limited (Kenya): Automates and digitises SME payments, connecting the street to high finance; Instadiet.me (Egypt): Connects patients to credible nutritionists and dietitians online to help them maintain a healthy and optimal weight. Kwara (Kenya): Provides a rich digital banking platform to established fair lenders such as credit unions or savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), with an open API to enable and accelerate their inclusion into the formal financial ecosystem; and OkHi (Kenya): A physical addressing platform for emerging markets that is on a mission to enable the 4 billion without a physical address to “be included”.

Equally, include PAPS (Senegal): A logistics startup with a strong client-care orientation, focused on last mile delivery in the domestic market that features live tracking, an intelligent address system and automatic dispatch; ScholarX (Nigeria): An education startup that connects high potential students with funding opportunities to help them advance in their studies; Swipe2pay (Uganda) - A web and mobile payments solution that democratizes electronic payments for SMEs by making it easy for them to accept mobile as a mode of payment; Tambua Health Inc. (Kenya): The Tambua App turns a normal smartphone into a powerful, non-invasive diagnostic tool for Tuberculosis and Pneumonia. It uses a cough sound acoustic signature, symptoms, risk factors and clinical information to come up with a diagnostic report; Voyc.ai (South Africa): Voyc.ai's CX Research Platform helps companies understand their customers by turning their customer research into insights, personas and customer journey maps; WellaHealth (Nigeria): A pharmacy marketplace for affordable high-quality disease-care (such as malaria treatment) driven by artificial intelligence; and

Zomila (formerly Zelda Learning) (South Africa): Provides free online career guidance for students looking to enter university and then links them to funding and study opportunities.


Remmy Nweke/DoP

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Jibrin: Undisputed kingmaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS:
The story of the emergence of former Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his successor, Femi Gbajabiamila, will be incomplete without adequate mention of the exploits of Abdulmumuni Jibrin, an influential member of the House of Representatives from Kano State. 

Jibrin has succeeded in “installing” two different speakers of the House of Representatives in two different circumstances, first through a rebellion against the establishment; and the other in enforcing the position of same establishment.

In 2015, the youthful Jibrin, who only joined the House in 2011, played prominent role in the leadership tussle between then Equity Group headed by Dogara and the Loyalist Group headed by Gbajabiamila. That struggle eventually produced Dogara as Speaker, thereby causing a major rift within the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Fast forward to 2019. Jibrin, who served as the Campaign Director General for the election of Gbajabiamila, like he did for Dogara in 2015, has also delivered the incumbent Speaker. This is a feat exclusive to him as no one person has delivered two speakers consecutively in the history of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.

Who is Abdulmumuni Jibrin?
Abdulmumin Jibrin is a Nigerian politician and a third term member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives from Kofa, Bebeji Local Government Area of Kano State. He is 42 years of age. He was at various times chairman House Committee on Finance, Appropriation and Land Transport with oversight on Nigeria’s revenue, expenditure, railways and rail projects respectively.

He is a globally trained business executive, academician turned politician. He holds a BSc, MSc and PhD in Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations from University of Abuja and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was at various times trained at the London Business School, Harvard Business School and SBS - Swiss Business School - Zurich Switzerland where he obtained SEP, PLD and MBA respectively. He is an Alumnus of the Harvard, London and Swiss business schools.

Prior to joining politics, Abdulmumin played an active role in the private sector as Chairman/ CEO Green Forest Group LTD running a Nigerian conglomerate in diverse fields. He served as Chairman (Nigeria) of Turkish construction giant Tasyapi and Chairman Abuja branch of Nigeria-British chamber of commerce. He also lectured at the university with publications to his credit.

A consummate mobiliser, Abdulmumin was the Director, Media and Strategic Communication of the Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team and most recently, Director General of Femi Gbajabiamila for Speaker campaign council. He is a public finance and foreign policy expert and has shown significant interest and contributed to improving Nigeria’s revenue and expenditure process. He has won numerous awards and he is a fellow of many professional bodies including the Chartered Institute of Finance and Control.

He is a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary international. He holds the traditional tittle of Jarman Bebeji conferred on him with the approval of the Kano Emirate Council. It is a tittle reserved for the courageous and generous.

Political Career:
Prior to his emergence on the federal parliamentary scene, Jibrin had been involved in national politics especially during the presidential campaigns in 2003 and 2007. In 2011, Jibrin won election to represent Kiru/Bebeji Federal constituency under the Platform of the PDP, and later decamped to the newly formed All Progressives Congress in 2014. It is worth noting that he led the first set of 37 lawmakers who defected in a massive swoop that shook the political landscape. Not surprisingly, he won re-election into the House under the new platform in 2015.

2015 speakership election...
In 2015, the APC just like in 2019, zoned the position of Senate President to the north-east geo-political zone and specifically chose Ahmed Lawan while the post of Speaker, the south-west zone was favoured with Gbajabiamila anointed. However, the rebellion against the party's position led by immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Equity Group in the House of Representatives, where Jibrin played prominent roles, eventually led to a defeat of the choices of the party. Suffice to say that it was same Jibrin who nominated Dogara for the post on that historic day thereby culminating months of chaperoning an arduous campaign that eventually paid off. 

In the political preambles to the election, Jibrin reportedly led a walk out of the mock primary organized by the party at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. This much was amplified in an apology letter he wrote to former APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, in 2018, when he needed forgiveness and a relaunch into reckoning after a political drought that almost ended his public life. 

He wrote then: “I recollect with deep regret and pains and can still hear the echo of your voice in the make-or-mar meeting at the ICC shouting ‘sit down Jibrin, sit down Jibrin, Jibrin sit down,’ ‘you dare not walk out of this hall Jibrin!’ Sen Lawali Shuaibu watched helplessly with the box of ballot meant for the mock elections as I forced myself up, stood my grounds, made my points, held the hands of Yakubu Dagara, and pulled him out of the hall.”

Jibrin and his group were able to garner votes across the two political parties to pave the way for Dogara to emerge speaker. After the election, he was offered the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee of the House, a position that became the springboard to the travails that bedeviled him for much of that 8th assembly.

Budget controversy and suspension from the House...
Jibrin’s journey into the wilderness kicked off with his resignation as the Chairman House Committee on Appropriation as announced by the Speaker on July 20, 2016. He described the speaker's speech announcing his exit as the chairman of the committee as “a misrepresentation of the facts, false, mischievous, unfair and a calculated attempt” to bring his name to “disrepute.” That disputation led to weeks if not months of rancorous exchanges between him and the leadership of the House.

Between late July and early August, 2016, Jibrin visited several law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies of government including, the Department of State Services, tEconomic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the Nigeria Police with a wounding petition that contained purported gross misconduct on the part of the accused lawmakers. 

But it was unclear if any of the agencies acted on the documents submitted with so much fanfare.
Before he was eventually banished by the House, Jibrin was left in the cold as 10 principal officers of the House rallied in support of Dogara and denounced Jibrin. Incidentally, Gbajabiamila, then Majority Leader, who was at the time thought to be a political enemy of the Speaker as a result of the previous, bitter speakership battle that lead to the emergence of Dogara, also joined the body of principal officers in denouncing Jibrin. It is however, worth noting that the Lagos lawmaker, now speaker, had spoken against the suspension of his Kano counterpart, describing the decision as illegal and unconstitutional.

Furthermore, Jibrin’s party, the ruling APC, warned him to ceasefire but Jibrin was defiant and continued his onslaught against the House leadership. He even refused to appear before a disciplinary committee set up in September, 2016 to investigate his claims of budget fraud against the leadership claiming the investigation was a witch-hunt. On September 28, 2016 the grand finale of the Jibrin saga played out as the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions swiftly concluded its investigations and submitted its report a week after the commencement of the probe.

The Committee’s recommendation that Jibrin be suspended for 180 legislative days was adopted by the entire membership of the House in plenary. He was also barred from positions of responsibility in the House till the end of the 8th assembly. Like the fighter that he is, Jibrin filed an action in court to challenge his suspension.

Whistle-blower banished to the cold...
Despite his suspension and subsequent “relocation” to London, Jibrin refused to pipe down on his attacks on the leadership of the House and maintained forthrightness on the matter.

Even when Jibrin completed his suspension, he still could not resume his duties as a federal lawmaker as the House insisted on an apology which he bluntly refused to offer.
However, on March 13, 2018 Jibrin finally decided to end his long drawn battle with the House leadership.

The following day he was ushered into the green chamber in a manner that demonstrated conciliation and mutual forgiveness. On his return, Jibrin said: “Lessons were learnt by both parties; the leadership and the victim. Lessons on the part of leadership and lessons on the part of members.” 

Incidentally, the court at about this time, ruled that his suspension was unconstitutional. He was subsequently appointed as Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport and his entitlements hitherto withheld, paid in full.

2019 elections and the Parliamentary Support Group...
Upon resumption at the House in 2018, Jibrin convened the Parliamentary Support Group PSG, with the mandate of full loyalty to President Buhari. Notably, the group was already in existence in the Senate. It was seen as a demonstration of courage by his colleagues. 

Thus, Jibrin even led over 100 members of the House to pay solidarity to the President in 2018 at a time when the National Assembly Joint executive session issued a 13-point demand to the President. Jibrin had earlier described it as a “PDP executive session” prompting a reproach from the House. 

Former member, Sunday Karimi, moved a motion calling for sanction against Jibrin who just returned from suspension.
Interestingly, the new group also had a subtle leadership tussle with Gbajabiamila who in his position as the Leader of the House, was automatically leader of the APC caucus. The PSG reportedly made attempts to undermine Gbajabiamila, even though jibrin, in a tweet attempted to diffuse the tension by saying: “Against the back drop of the media reports, I wish to state that there is no crack in the APC caucus. We have internal issues, and there is nothing unusual about it. However, the issues will be resolved internally. We have one caucus, and Femi is the leader.”

2019 election and Jibrin's declaration not to re-contest
Jibrin won his re-election in a resounding fashion. He took to Twitter to declare that he will not be re-contesting the post of House of Representatives member again, saying: “Victory against all odds…the hardest in all elections I ran. Exhausted and utterly worn out! It’s additionally an emotional exit as this shall be my final contest for the House of Representatives.” 

For Jibrin, the 2019 election was not without some controversy as he was arrested in connection with an alleged attack on Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso’s convoy.

The 2019 speakership election
Jibrin supported the aspiration of the current Speaker and was promptly offered the position of the Director General of the Campaign in recognition of his knack for political dexterity, hard work and antecedence of success. Off to work he went, canvassing, persuading, and deploying carefully crafted political strategies that eventually paid off on June 11, 2019.

Jibrin perhaps gave the longest nomination speech ever when nominating a Speaker, engaging in a charm offensive to woo members across party lines on the day of election. Although many pundits predicted the 2019 tussle for speaker would replicate the 2015 scenario, but it turned out the rebellion had lost a fighter in Jibrin.

The same manner he was at the forefront of the action in 2015, he was at the forefront of action in 2019. Bringing energy, doggedness and organization to the Campaign, something probably missing in 2019.

Maybe learning from the 2015 election of speaker, Jibrin in an interview with Channels Television, disclosed that he had no agreed compensation deal with Gbajabiamila. He even ruled himself out of the post of Leader of the House, the next most powerful position after Speaker and Deputy Speaker. 

In a further show of humility and modesty, he related his feeling in a tweet thus: “Twice lucky…it’s fair to say hard work, courage and commitment BUT honestly I have been so many times lucky…really nothing special about me. Just your regular guy! Best wishes to Yakubu Dogara and congrats to Femi Gbajabiamila. God has been so gracious…humbled!”

Political future…..
After the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker, all eyes have been on Jibrin. What does he want? What will he be offered? Insiders in the Gbajabiamila camp revealed that everyone is confused about what to do with Jibrin. He has held the two most important committees of Finance and Appropriations consecutively with a wide scope of oversight covering almost every sector. The two committees are even referred to as the 11th and 12th Principal Officers in the House. 

There is also strong whispering within the House that the Kano Born politician may consider an immediate return to his private business or the university to pursue his professorial ambition. The next few days or weeks will tell.

In the long term however, there are other options for Jibrin: maybe he would seek to be governor of Kano or choose to go to the senate. Whatever choice or moves he makes, one thing is certain: opponents will only underestimate him at their own peril.


*Contributed by Idris Omolabake from Abuja.

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PTSD: Nigerian soldiers in combat suffer mental illness in silence - ITREALMS

•Veterans warn on drug abuse among soldiers
A retired Nigerian Army officer, Brig-Gen. Gbenga Okulate, has harped on the need for military authorities and commanders to pay attention to the mental health of soldiers fighting insurgency in the North East,  warning that some of them suffer combat related mental disorders in silence.

Okulate who is a specialist on mental and psychological health, made this revelation on Wednesday in Abuja at a symposium on insurgency in the Northeast and the effects of PTSD on soldiers, their families and society/ Book Presentation with the theme: 'Identifying Potent Threats To Our Peaceful Coexistence'.

The symposium, which was organized by Green Heroes Foundation and supported by the African Centre for Strategic Studies (Nigerian Chapter) was also used to unveil the book on 'Nigerian Air War in Sierra Leone', authored by Air Commodore Abayomi Balogun (rtd) with special emphasis on adverse but neglected effects of PTSD on Nigerian military personnel.

Okulate noted that the most common mental disorders among soldiers are drug abuse, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), adding that most of the victims do not know about and continue to suffer in silence while still deployed to battle.

The General  while lamenting that drug abuse is highly prevalent among soldiers fighting in the North East insurgency, further warned that the trend will result in bigger problems for Nigeria when the war is over. 

According to him, there would "be a repeat of post civil war problem the country faced if nothing urgent and drastic is done to address it".

He said: "There have been noted cases of soldiers relying on p drugs for agility, competence, boldness during battle. There are also rumours that army commanders give soldiers drugs before they face the enemy. 

"We are going to have a serious mental issue after the war like we had after the civil war where hospitals were filled with psychiatric patients, which took 15 years to phase out that hospital."

Okulate also noting that the battlefield is a very stressful environment meaning that there are high possibilities of war veterans experiencing combat related mental disorder.

He added that even serving soldiers who suffer the disorders have often contemplated suicide.

He further explained that the victims suffer recurrent thoughts including flash images of combat action, experience nightmares, emotional numbness, bipolar disorders and have even resulted in broken homes as wives of the soldiers complain about change in their behaviour leading to domestic violence and eventually, divorce.

He advised that soldiers who become unduly angry, insubordinate or exhibiting other attitudes, should not just face court martial but be brought in for proper diagnosis.

He stressed that early detection and referral is very important  in dealing with the condition.

To this end, he urged the military authorities especially army commanders in battle field to pay attention to mental condition of soldiers before deploying them for battle.

"The military should care for soldiers in combat and  ensure soldiers don't stay too long in combat area. Commanders need to be educated on this because mental injuries cannot be seen. But  because of  manpower problem and the pressure to optimise manpower, these soldiers are redeployed", he said.

Also Lt-Col. S J Dibal of the Nigerian Army space Command, who spoke extensively on the effects of war on soldiers and the society, regretted that soldiers who suffer combat related mental illness such as PTSD don't come out to seek clinical or financial help.

Dibal revealed that the stigma, peer and societal pressures that come with PTSD as well as the fear of being perceived as weak often discourages them. According to her there is a very big stigma attached to the myriads of traumatic disorders and diseases suffered by the military personnel.

To this end, she advised that soldiers  in combat needs to be encouraged to boost their morale in fighting for peace.

Speaking, Air Commodore Balogun who is also the founder of Green Heroes Foundation,  said the foundation was established to cater for war veterans, which according to him have been ignored especially those with combat induced mental illness.

He said: "I fought the wars in Liberia and in Sierra Leone, and we the officers could take care of ourselves, but soldiers couldn't take care of themselves, they suffered from side effects from PTSD. Since nobody was paying attention, we felt we could not continue to leave them idle and alone. The government is not looking in this direction, which is what we are trying to do.

"PTSD has to be treated in phases, the first is through the mind of the soldier, then the next is to give them orientation then rehabilitation before reintegration. And we, Heroes Foundation want to let Nigerians know that we could have a serious challenge in future if we don't pay attention to these soldiers."

The veteran Alpha Jet Pilot Aggregator 08 who also launched his book on Nigerian Air War stressed on the effects of war on soldiers at the event,  saying the "book discussed difficulties soldiers faced during combat, and contains experiences of the Nigerian Army who fought the war in Sierra Leone and Liberia which was won".

He said the essence is to draw  lessons from what was done during the war that that can be replicated to help win the war back home in the North East and other parts of the country with internal security challenges.

According to him, Nigerian military succeeded  in the war in Liberia and Sierra Leone but have not won the war in Nigeria.

He added that the book also drew attention to the welfare of the soldiers.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai and former Minister of Defence, Amb. Thomas Agu-Iyi Ironsi were represented amongst other dignitaries present at the symposium including the Special Guest of Honour and Aggressor 01, Air Commodore JO Okoiye (rtd); Air Vice Marshal  Mohammed Audu-Bida and President of Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (Nigeria Chapter), Maj-Gen. Shehu Yusuf (rtd).

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