" ITREALMS: October 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nigeria’s tax goals: Automation driven small businesses can help

To drive higher levels of payroll and accounting automation among businesses, especially small, micro and medium-sized enterprises, would help Nigeria to achieve its tax goals, says the Regional Director for Sage West Africa, Mr. Magnus Nmonwu, reports ITRealms.

Reacting to the recent comments accredited to International Monetary Fund (IMF) which warned that Nigerian governments’ ability to effectively finance infrastructure and services is constrained by low tax collection, said that despite recent tax reforms by the Federal Government, Nigeria needs to grow tax revenue by registering more tax payers and enhancing collections and compliance.

Initiatives such as the government’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) - hich gives taxpayers an opportunity to voluntarily declare all previously undisclosed assets and income are steps in the right direction, he adds. Higher levels of automation and modernisation among tax authorities as well as increased use of digital filing and payment are also positive developments.

“Another way Nigeria’s Federal and State Governments could enhance compliance is by encouraging businesses of all sizes to use technology to streamline capturing of transactions and automate payroll calculations. These solutions can help minimize the risk of non-payment of tax or incorrect remittances of taxes to the relevant government agencies,” he said, stressing that the ability to generate financial statements, tax certificates, reports and electronic payslips with the click of a button is a major timesaver.
“An automated, cloud-based solution also means that businesses have an audit trail and reliable backups for all of their financial transactions, so that they can demonstrate their compliance with tax laws,” he said.

Such software, he said, could help address some of the complexity Nigerian businesses face in paying tax, as Nigeria aims to move from its current position of 181 out of 189 countries to top 50 on the Ease of Paying Taxes World Report, which means that we will see a lot of reform of the tax system in the years to come.

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Calling off loans: AfDB denies report, says bank strongly supports Nigeria

The African Development Bank (AfDB), has denied calling off loans to Nigeria, saying the bank instead is in consultations with the government on how best to continue its support for laudable economic recovery, reports ITRealms.

Director, Communication and External Relations at AfDB, Dr. Victor Oladokun, told ITRealms that the bank categorically refutes the statement that it has “called off loans to Nigeria”, as reported in Reuters and credited to AfDB Vice-President for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth Amadou Hott.

According to Oladokun, the African Development Bank is highly encouraged by the economic recovery of Nigeria from recession and salutes the government's efforts towards diversification of the economy.

The bank, he also said, strongly supports the Economic and Growth Recovery Plan of the government and efforts to stem corruption as well as strengthen fiscal consolidation and efficiency.

He pointed out that in November 2016, the Board of the African Development Bank approved a $600-million loan to support Nigeria's efforts to cope with macroeconomic and fiscal shocks that arose from the massive decline in price of crude oil.

“An additional $400 million in support could be considered, if requested and approved by the Board, as part of a larger coordinated effort with other development partners, including the World Bank and the InternationalMonetary Fund,” he said.

AfDB, he insisted is in consultations with the government on how best to continue its support for its laudable Economic and Growth Recovery Plan through investment projects that will help address existing structural challenges, including infrastructure, power, agriculture and support to boost private sector and job creation.

The bank further reassures the Nigerian government of its full support for its continued reforms to diversify the economy and boost economic growth and development.

 Remmy Nweke/ED, Ops
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Consolidating Digital Dividends: Elixirs for indisposed communications sector

There have been some momentous events in the telecommunications industry very lately. The visit of Google CEO, Sundar Pichai (following on the heels of earlier visits by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella) readily comes to mind.

Equally significant are the recent approvals of an ICT Roadmap (2017 -2020) which adopts the spirit of the National Broadband Plan of 2013 and is supposed to stimulate the creation of around 2.5 million jobs, boost broadband penetration to 30 per cent and increase ICT contribution to GDP to 20 per cent by 2020, as well as the establishment of a multi-campus ICT University, by the Federal Executive Council.

Also, the internationally renowned mobile operator, Etisalat, pulled out of the Nigerian market and pursuant to this, the local replacement brand, 9mobile, emerged. These events are noteworthy from two perspectives: they revalidate the three key stakeholder segments in the Nigerian broadband ecosystem – the content providers, government and network operators, and also serve as a reflection of the enthusiasm levels of each of the said segments for the industry and the attainment of the broadband goals.

It is unanimously agreed among all stakeholders that the opportunities offered by broadband are virtually boundless. Content providers are excited at the prospect of eager subscriptions and patronage in a massive national market of over 180 million people, over half of whom are under thirty years old. Government, naturally, is bullish about the socio-economic developmental benefits that will accrue from extensive broadband uptake. But while the operators are expected to make extensive investments in building and managing the networks upon which broadband traffic will be carried, every indicator points to the fact that they have strong reservations about the continued viability of their businesses in the face of base-level average revenues per user (ARPU), earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and non-existent profit margins.

The two major local industry associations – the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) – as well as the worldwide body for mobile communications service providers, the GSMA, have consistently offered guidance, for some time now, on this state of affairs which effectively threatens the continued growth of the communications industry and has been reaffirmed somewhat dramatically by the Etisalat incident.

The causes of profit value erosion in the industry have been well-highlighted:  rampant multiple taxation, steady dip in tariffs since industry inception in 2001 as against all other sectors which have since been enjoying tariff increases, heavy import dependencies for network components (most of which have a life cycle of between two to four years), wide foreign exchange variations among others.

Engagements are ongoing within the industry ecosystem and with government to address a good number of these issues, and the aim of this piece is not to focus on same.  Rather, the purpose is to project that in the face of these unrelentingly constricting market conditions, after having voluntarily implemented various cost-saving practices like outsourcing, infrastructure sharing and staff-streamlining in recent years which have not ipso facto translated to profitability, in line with trends in more established markets, the next logical step for the network operators will be to go into “market self-correction” mode, to effect a reduction in the number of market players in order to remedy certain structural in-balances therein and re-energize market growth and, consequently, the attainment of the broadband aspirations.

Typically, this will be effected through mergers and consolidations as the market landscape presently displays the trappings of a consolidation-ready environment  seen from the presence of multi-operators who are mostly in negative financial health and having disparate subscriber numbers as well as random frequency spectrum holdings.  

The benefits of this option would include ensuring that  existing investments are fully protected, the network and operating assets of the consolidating parties fully optimized/deployed to deliver more robust services to subscribers, and the emergent consolidated entity will have more subscribers as well as a larger market share than the component entities. The bottom line from these will be that the consolidated entity will be a much more profitable enterprise than its progenitors and therefore be attractive to additional investments for further expansion to facilitate the provision of truly world-class broadband services.

it is axiomatic that frequency spectrum is the oxygen which gives life to 4G LTE mobile broadband networks and so there must be assurances to investors who seek to consolidate incumbent networks that this resource will be available for the use of the re-engineered emergent entity. This is even more so in a situation where one of the consolidation targets owns  slots of spectrum which are the points of attraction for the transaction. Assurance of availability will be in the form of prompt regulatory confirmation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) of the right of the emergent entity to use the frequency spectrum that had been assigned to each of the component consolidating networks without let or hindrance, upon due diligence inquiry. Such assurance will also be offered by the instant withdrawal of the “digital dividend” spectrum of 700/800mhz from the broadcasting industry by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) and allocation of same to the communications sector, followed by the publication of a transparent process for its assignment to the operators for the provision of 4GLTE services within a definite time frame as has been advised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which had prescribed two  separate cut-over dates that Nigeria has been unable to meet.  Such institution of certainty and predictability should also arrest the incidence of indiscriminate acquisition of slots of the said frequency spectrum by eager operators, as has been witnessed in recent times.

The importance of frequency spectrum availability as a success factor in the  merger of mobile companies has been underscored in various jurisdictions in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa where changing market conditions such as are currently being witnessed in Nigeria have driven such consolidations. Our summation is that this internationally recognized trend will also play out here and so urgent steps need to be taken by the relevant government offices to address the issues around frequency spectrum availability as outlined above. To this end, pursuant to the commendable work it is doing in the area of spectrum use reform via the ongoing spectrum trading and active infrastructure sharing consultations, the NCC will be required to publish rules around frequency spectrum administration in a consolidated market while the NFMC, working with the Ministries of Communications and Information (which have responsibility for telecommunications and broadcasting respectively) effects the devolution of the “digital dividend” frequency spectrum to the NCC (and retrieval of irregularly held slots of same) for transparent assignment to operators.

The implementation of these measures will certainly infuse the promoters of the incumbent network operators and prospective fresh investors with the confidence to commence definite discussions around the merger and consolidation of the operating companies. The result of successful consolidations will be beneficial to not just the investors who will enjoy enhanced returns but also to the content providers and other sub sectors in the service delivery value chain in the form of greater business volumes, the subscribers by way of modern and world class service offerings as obtainable in other more developed markets. Equally and more importantly, government stands to gain specially – directly and indirectly - as its broadband target and other relevant goals which are set out in the National Broadband Plan  and the ICT Roadmap will be attained. This will therefore be a win-win for all stakeholders in the ecosystem.

The operators and investment community are expectant of the implementation of the  afore-highlighted frequency spectrum availability proposals by government as a green light for the commencement of discussions on consolidation.

*Courtesy: Osondu C. Nwokoro who is Director External Affairs, ntel.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Finally Buhari sacks Babachi, Ayo Oke, names Boss Mustapha new SGF

The President, Muhammadu Buhari has sacked the elsewhile embattled Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr.  Babachir David Lawal and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, over corruption allegations, naming Mr. Boss Mustapha to replace Babachir, reports ITRealms.

Special Adviser to the President, (Media and Publicity), Mr. Femi Adesina, confirmed this to ITRealms in a press statement, saying that Buhari named Mr. Boss Mustapha new SGF after  studying the report of the panel headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, which investigated allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir David Lawal, and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.

According to him, Buhari accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr Lawal.

ITRealms reports that Mr Mustapha appointment takes immediate effect.

Also, he revealed to ITRealms that Buhari approved the recommendation to terminate the appointment of Ambassador Oke, and has further approved the setting up of a three-member panel to, among other things, look into the operational, technical and administrative structure of the Agency and make appropriate recommendations.

ITRealms  gathered that before Mustapha, born in Adamawa State, he was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Inland Waterways Authority.

Mustapha attended Hong Secondary School, in Hong, Adamawa State and North East College of Arts and Sciences Maiduguri, Borno State. He completed his Secondary School Education in 1976 with WASC and HSC certificates.

He obtained his Law degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and was called to bar in 1980.

Ayo Midele/GEE

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MRA inducts Federal Ministry of Agriculture into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has inducted the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, reports ITRealms.
FMARD, ITRealms gathered was indicted for failure to implement the FOI Act 2011 and its “unjustifiable assault on the rights of citizens to demand information from public institutions.”
MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Chioma Nwaodike informed ITRealms, that the Ministry was not only in complete breach of all its obligations under the FOI Act, but had also exhibited an inexcusable intolerance for the rights of citizens and civic groups to hold public institutions accountable in accordance with the Law.
FMARD, ITRealms reports, is charged with performing regulatory functions in the areas of agricultural research, agriculture and natural resources, forestry and veterinary research all over Nigeria, thus the supervisory ministry for some 46 Federal parastatals across the country, made up of 13 agencies, 17 agricultural research institutes and 16 Federal Colleges of Agricultural Education.
“The question that comes to mind is how a regulatory institution, primarily funded by the Federal Government, which claims to focus on measures to maximize the full participation of stakeholders in its activities, including farmer’s associations, cooperatives, NGOs, CBOs, CSOs, development partners and the private sector, canwillfully and persistently refuse to comply with its statutory duties and obligations under the FOI Act, a key instrument that can facilitate and enhance such stakeholder participation and inclusiveness,” she said.
Nwaodike observed that despite the Ministry’s admission that it is primarily funded by the Federal Government, it is not known to have responded positively to any FOI request made to it, including a number of requests by civil society organizations such as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).
On the contrary Ms Nwaodike recounted, on July 24, 2016, the Ministry, through the office of its Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, launched an unwarranted and scathing public attack against the CSJ for exercising its rights under the FOI Act.
The CSJ had written to the Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, under the FOI Act, asking him to release details and a copy of a N25 billion egg production contract he signed with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited, information on how Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited was selected for the contract, and if the contract was advertised in any newspaper in compliance with the provisions of Public Procurement Act, a request which was ignored.
Following the Minister’s refusal to respond to the request or provide the information sought by CSJ, the organization filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act, seeking to compel the Minister to provide it with the information requested.
The Minister’s office thereupon issued a statement on July 24, 2016, evidencing its contempt for the rights of citizens to seek information under the FOI Act, asking Nigerians to disregard the “outbursts of a group acting under the pretext of fighting in public interest by trying to sue the Honourable Minister.”
Describing the CSJ, which is a registered and highly respected civil society organization in Nigeria, as “the self-styled civil rights group, that addressed itself as Centre for Social Justice”, the Minister’s office said “the group, acting on mere imagination and insinuation, without any fact check, is seeking to ask the Minister to release details and copy of the N25bn contract he signed with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited.”
For its audacity in exercising its right to seek information under the FOI Act, the Minister’s office described the CSJ as “a mechanism for distraction to bring discontent against the laudable initiative of the Honourable Minister who understands the problems of the poultry sector and has come up with a private sector-led solution to increasing egg production in Nigeria.”
Also, Ms Nwaodike observed that over the last six years, the Ministry has failed to perform one of its key obligations under the FOI Act, which is to proactively publish information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution, information containing applications for any contracts made by or between the institution and another public institution, as well as the names, salaries, title and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution; and other information which it is required to disclose in accordance with Section 2 of the Act.
She also noted that “in the six years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the Ministry had failed woefully in complying with the provisions of Section 29 of the Act, which requires the Ministry, like all other public institutions, to on or before February 1 of each year, submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation a report of its implementation of the FOI Act covering the preceding fiscal year.”
“Despite the provisions of Section 13 of the FOI Act, there is also no indication that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has at any time in the last six years provided the required training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or to equip relevant officials with the skills to ensure the effective implementation of the Act,” she said.
Besides, Ms Nwaodike said, the Ministry has not complied with Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act, which requires the agency, as a public institution, to designate an appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent and to proactively publish the title and address of the officer.
Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame focuses attention on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions. 

Ogochukwu Nebenanya/GEE 
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Nigerian companies can uniquely leverage business processes

There’s a golden opportunity for Nigerian companies – one that turns their delay in investing in outsourcing and shared services into a unique strength. By plugging directly into the delivery machine of an experienced business process services provider, they can sidestep many of the challenges endured by earlier adopters. This enables businesses to leapfrog competitors and drive business value – rather than being a back-office function.

The world of business process outsourcing (BPO), broadly defined, has undergone multiple incarnations. Pure facilities management preceded data and infrastructure outsourcing; thereafter came application support. We’ve now moved into a new era, however – that of business process support (BPS) – allowing an external partner to manage everything from finance, to HR, sales support, credit and collections, as well as digital marketing.

Local companies have been reluctant to rely on third-party delivery of key services – in many cases due to fears around loss of control, where there is a legacy thinking of ownership equalling control. That said, Nigeria has not been left untouched by traditional BPO – the application and IT areas have matured more rapidly over the past five years, nonetheless only one conglomerate has taken a bold BPO step in Nigeria. Going forward, however, as we begin to see major moves towards drivers such as As-a-Service, increased automation and artificial intelligence, for forward-thinking Nigerian companies, leapfrogging competitors is going to be all about taking advantage of those next-generation capabilities today.

A fundamental shift from BPO to BPS

Once, outsourcing meant taking as many people as possible and setting them up in a delivery centre. That is changing. A combination of the on-tap liquid workforce, robotics, access to industry expertise, cloud technology and artificial intelligence – that’s where the sphere is headed. Fixed costs are declining steeply; you now buy services as required. Digital is remaking outsourcing – ‘outsourcing’ as a term in fact is no longer accurate. It’s all about business process services and the way BPS enables more effective, intelligent decision making.

There are more exciting changes. Whereas cost reduction once lay at the core, the key driver is now business outcomes – selling more products, improving account usage and increasing revenue. Another relates to a mindset shift. A service such as finance or procurement – when managed by an external partner – is now no longer simply a back-office process. Analytics function becomes capable of shaping how a business thinks about itself. Utilizing an expert service provider means that those in both middle and upper management are free to think more strategically.

Ololade Raji went further, saying, “given the benefits, it’s hard to understand what’s been preventing companies in Nigeria from taking the plunge, although lingering fears around the ownership-control continuum may continue to play a key role. At first blush, it appears to some that loss of ownership of a function means loss of control over it. In fact, the converse is often true – particularly in the sense that a more arm’s-length relationship often results in better decision making. Interestingly, utilizing an expert provider like Accenture can give you greater control through deep expertise and a commercial arrangement giving committed performance and business outcomes”.

Crucially, having largely side-stepped the shared services model, Nigerian companies are now better positioned to take a ‘long-jump’ approach to BPS: moving straight from in-housed disparate functions to plugging directly into an expert partner’s value delivery machine. Many businesses in developed economies will, by contrast, have undergone a longer, ‘triple-jump’ process, having worked on a shared services basis in between, and endured the associated restructuring and upheaval.

The value of going direct

Ololade further stressed that, “companies in Nigeria will no doubt begin to increasingly realise the value and gains business process services enable – fixed costs decline as services are bought as needed; migration into cloud platforms powers both scalability and ease of access. The liquid workforce means high skill at reduced, flexible cost. Moreover, there are the benefits made possible not only by automation, but increasingly, by cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. The list goes on.”

As the drive around efficiency, flexibility and reactivity reshape the global business landscape, successful companies will need to realise operational efficiencies and access the strategic insights made possible by expert partners. It just so happens that Nigerian companies may be uniquely well positioned to do so.

*Contributed by Ololade Raji, Accenture FMCG, Operations in Nigeria

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TD Mobile lands in Ghana, partners Nokia

The acclaimed sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest mobile devices distributor, TD Mobile has landed in the city of Accra, capital of Ghana, just as it partners Nokia to boost penetration, reports ITRealms.

This, ITRealms gathered, commenced with the official launch of its operations in Ghana, even as TD Mobile was appointed exclusive distributors of Nokia mobile phones in the West African country.

The event held at the Villa Monticello Boutique Hotel, Airport Residential Area, Accra on Friday October 27th 2017, ITRealms also gathered, witnessed who is who across the representatives of key government functionaries from the Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Business Development, Ministry of Trade and Industry, captains of industries; major telecoms companies and stakeholders in the smartphone reseller and consumer space.

Equally present was the Chairman, Zinox Group, Dr. Leo Stan Ekeh, the Lithuanian Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Joseph Syme; Managing Director/CEO, United Bank for Africa (Ghana) Ltd., Abiola Bawuah; CEO, Ghana Free Zone Board, Michael Bafi and a host of celebrities from the movie and entertainment industries.

With the official launch of TD Mobile in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, expectations are rife of an astronomical rise in smartphone penetration which currently hovers around 21 per cent in Ghana. Hopes are also high for improved access to genuine quality mobile devices at the right prices for the majority of Ghanaians.

Further fueling the sense of excitement is TD Mobile’s signing of a major partnership agreement with HMD Global as sole distributors of Nokia mobile devices including the much-anticipated Nokia 8 and the re-born version of the iconic Nokia 3310, among other eye-catching models recently unveiled by the brand.

A subsidiary of ICT distribution power-house Technology Distributions Ltd., TD Mobile will add the Nokia brand to a growing list of premium Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) represented in line with its status as the biggest mobile devices distributor in the West African sub-region. Some of the major brands represented in the TD Mobile stable include Infinix, Samsung, Tecno, Lenovo, InnJoo and Transcend, among many others.

“We are extremely delighted to extend our operations to Ghana which remains one of the most prominent markets in the West African sub-region. We are also excited with our appointment as exclusive distributors of Nokia mobile phones in the country,” Managing Director, TD Mobile, Mrs. Gozy Ijogun enthused. 

“With a predominantly youthful population, stable political system and an admirably aspirational mindset among its people, there is so much potential in Ghana.  We are optimistic that, with the launch of TD Mobile and the unveiling of new lines of products and partnerships here, the rate of technology diffusion and smartphone penetration will reach unprecedented levels. The positive effects of these on the economy and the standard of living in the country are huge and we are so excited to be a part of it,” she concluded.

Also speaking at the event, HMD Global’s General Manager, West, East and Central Africa, Mr. Joseph Umunnakwe, expressed delight with the company’s partnership with TD Mobile which in his opinion, will provide more options and real value for resellers and consumers in Ghana’s mobile devices market space.

Established with a keen eye on the future of smart technologies and as a timely response to the dynamic and changing face of the industry and end-user requirements; TD Mobile has quickly acquired a reputation as the biggest distributor of smart mobile devices in the West African sub-region.

With its wide reach and presence in major cities and other West African capitals, TD Mobile possesses the latent capacity to take every brand on its stable to every nook and cranny in the hinterlands and to every action station in any metropolis.

In addition to pioneering the use of online serial number confirmations which allows user authentication of all mobile devices, TD Mobile has also carried on the legacy of its parent company by distributing only genuine products sourced directly from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

Riding on its renowned reputation as an undisputed source of genuine mobile devices, TD Mobile has grown rapidly from a position of strength to become a by-word for reliability in the West African mobile devices market.  

Ogochukwu Nebenanya/GEE
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Pix: TD MOBILE launches in Ghana: R-L: Managing Director, TD Mobile, Mrs. Gozy Ijogun; HMD Global’s General Manager, West, East and Central Africa, Mr. Joseph Umunnakwe; Board Chairman, Volta River Authority, Mr. Kweku Awotwi; Managing Director/CEO, United Bank for Africa (Ghana) Ltd., Abiola Bawuah; Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh; Managing Director, Alliance Marketing, Mrs. Hanannah Ibrahim; Managing Director, Atlantic Phones, Kwesi Nitri and representative of the Minister of Trade/Industry and Head, Communication and Public Affairs in the Ministry, Mr. Boakye-Boateng Prince during the official launch of TD Mobile and unveiling as exclusive distributors of NOKIA mobile phones in Ghana at the Villa Monticello Boutique Hotel, Airport Residential Area, Accra on last Friday.

PDP Chair: Group berates South-West unpreparedness, supports Uche Secondus

Adding new dimension to the race for the PDP chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Oodua PDP Alliance has berated the South West, saying they are ill-prepared and drummed support for Prince Uche Secondus, reports ITRealms.

Leader of the group who is also a leader of PDP in Osun state, Hon Hakeem Ogunsola, the group affirmed that South West has proved its unpreparedness for the party leadership, affirming that "the leadership should go to South-South, the main base of the PDP.

"We want to note that rebuilding the PDP and winning power back in 2019 demand a chairman with solid home base, deep experience and capacity to face the power of incumbency. We need Prince Secondus to lead this electoral and political battle to rescue Nigeria and change the fake change" the statement noted.

While condemning the discordant and rancorous competition among South West chairmanship aspirants, the group said "South West does not need party chairmanship.If anything we should rally round Prince Secondus and seek better offer in arrangement of national offices.

"How can you be going for chairmanship when there are better bargaining to strike ? How can you hope to lead the party when your zone is  not a stronghold of the PDP? How can you even be taken seriously when many of your aspirants carry heavy baggages? We don't want party chairman in South West. Let Secondus have it" the group opined.

The group which claimed to have members across the six south Western states announced its resolve to mobilise the Yoruba axis of the PDP for Prince Secondus ,describing the Rivers state politician as "tested, experienced and competent to lead the party.

"Secondus has party leadership experience nobody can rival. He has the boldness ,the national recognition ,the will and the passion to pilot the affairs of the party.He is the best to lead the party at this critical times.

"With this press statement, we are putting the whole nation on notice that we align with South South and Prince Secondus. We have commenced advocacy and mobilisation and we urged South West aspirants to drop their ambitions and bargain for better  national governmental positions " he submitted.

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Edo State keen in addressing teachers shortage, applauds Igbanke Forum

The government of Edo State has said it’s taking decisive steps to solve the problem of shortage of teachers in some schools in the state, applauding the efforts Igbanke Unity Forum (IUF) on improving education in the community, reports ITRealms.

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, made this disclosure at Igbanke in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state, when Igbanke Unity Forum (IUF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), donated 4,500 branded exercise books to three schools in the area, at the weekend.

Governor Obaseki, represented by the Commissioner for Education, Hon. Christopher Adesotu, said though the shortage of school teachers was not peculiar to Igbanke, the state government has set the machinery in motion to address the matter.

He said his administration appreciates the partnership with NGOs, corporate bodies, and old students’ associations, adding that such collaboration helps in checking the challenges in the educational sector.

Adesotu said Obaseki’s administration has a strong commitment to revamp basic education in the state, and lauded the philanthropic gesture of IUF members in giving back to their community.

Spokesman for the group, Edomaruse Collins said the forum has over 4,000 members spread across the world and its membership is open to indigenes of Igbanke only.

“IUF embarked on this project as a deliberate move to support your government’s bold steps so far taken to revamp the state’s basic education. No government, no matter how benevolent, can single-handedly provide all the educational needs of its citizens”.

He said members of the IUF are motivated to contribute their quota to the development of schools in Igbanke because they were uncomfortable with the state of some of the schools.

He said the books are for three schools in Igbanke, which include, Igbanke Grammar School; Igbanke Mixed Secondary School and Omolua Mixed Secondary School.

He appealed to the state government to fix the decrepit school buildings as well as address the shortage of teachers in the three schools as the ratio of teachers to students was not encouraging.

Uj. N. Dominic/GEE

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Pix: His Royal Highness (HRH), the Enogie of Oligie-Igbanke, S.E. Osunde (left); Collins Edomaruse, BoT Member, Igbanke Unity Forum, a Facebook group (2nd from left, 2nd row); Commissioner for Education, Edo State, Hon. Christopher Adesotu (in suit); Hon. Mike Nmoka, and Comrade Uwagbai Eric, with students from Igbanke community during the presentation of 4,500 branded exercise books to three schools in the community by the Igbanke Unity Forum (IUF), at the weekend.

Gwarzo and Chicken Chasers

Constructive criticisms are sometimes necessary for the smooth running of organisations. They help to keep the executives on their toes and call their attention to mistakes as they occur. Criticisms can also become pernicious and debilitating when they are made in bad faith. They are worse when they are based on false information and outright lies.

Mr. Mounir Haliru Gwarzo since he was appointed the Director-General (D-G) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on May 20, 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan in a letter signed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has had a feel of the effect of evil manipulation of information. He assumed office as D-G after serving as a member of the board of the commission for more than two years in the capacity of an Executive Commissioner having been appointed on January 2, 2013.

The Director General of the Commission is, to all intents, a political appointment that must have to pass through the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for screening and eventual approval. The candidate for the job does not necessarily have to be a career staff of the commission. With his appointment as the D-G of SEC, he left from the board of the commission as a full time member and Commissioner as soon as the appointment was made. And if he had served for a minimum of two years on the board, he was entitled to ALL his benefits. A simple arithmetic will prove that from the time Gwarzo was appointed to the board and the time he was lifted to the position of D-G, he had put in two years and six months.

The board of the commission, at a meeting held on July 11, 2002 (eleven years before he was appointed to the Board of the Commission), approved, inter alia, that a permanent commissioner who has spent a minimum of two years is entitled to full benefits which can be monetized when leaving that office.  In the extracts of this board meeting, it was specifically mentioned that the benefits should accrue to permanent commissioners who have served for a minimum of two years of which the D-G was listed as one. To that extent, therefore, he is entitled to the benefits paid to him for his service as the Executive Commissioner of Operations Directorate. Mr. Gwarzo has not denied that these entitlements were duly paid to him as they were, indeed, his rights because they are attached to the office and not necessarily to the individual who occupies the office.

Although a certain legal opinion was made public. But the fact is that in corporate governance, the decision of the board is binding on all. If there are contrasting views, opinions or objections and any other matter that is inconsistent with the decision of the board, the decision of the board renders those a nullity to the extent of the inconsistency.  Interestingly, the position of the Acting Head of Legal department relied upon by the mischief makers were dismissed by a counter opinion proffered by the Acting Executive Commissioner Legal & Enforcement and the Executive Commissioner Corporate Services of the Commission, both of whom are seasoned and senior legal practitioners. Regrettably, these counter opinions were not made public by the chicken chasers as they make clear the true position. 

The mendacity of the allegation is further demonstrated by the fact that the benefits were not approved by the D-G for himself as canvassed, but approved by the Executive Commissioner Corporate Services, whose statutory duty it was. It is, therefore, a deliberate act of mischief for anyone to adjudge the payment to him as illegal or that it contravenes any known law of the land.

It is on record that Gwarzo as SEC D-G, supervised the purchase of three cars from Stallion NMN Limited, manufacturers and distributors of Nissan automobiles, as project vehicles. Once again, the mischief of the chicken chasers is exposed as records exists which shows that those vehicles were purchased in 2013 and not during Gwarzo’s time as Director General. At the time, all necessary approvals on the bidding process, purchase and other procurement guidelines in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act were obtained from the Bureau of Public Procurement. The vehicles were duly assigned to the various offices as project vehicles. They were never at any time assigned to or used by the person of the Director General or any other Executive Commissioner as private vehicles. Till date, the project vehicles assigned to the offices of Executive Commissioners which are vacant are packed in the premises of the Commission.

It is often said that a mischief maker is like someone drowning who desperately clutches to any available straw just to stay afloat. In their bid to cast slur on the excellent job the SEC D-G is doing since he assumed office, the chicken chasers (apology to Prof Chukwuemeka Ike) have been looking for tell-tale signs of abuse of office. And when one does not exist, it must be contrived somehow.  Government rules are clear on what a functionary should do in relation to other business interests.

The matter is considered settled when the functionary in question resigns from or withdraws his interests in those other businesses. There is nothing in the statute books stopping those businesses as corporate entities from doing business with that or any other government agency. The intendment of the law in insisting on this is to avoid any conflict of interest.
Before his appointment as Executive Commissioner, Mr Gwarzo had interests in two companies owned by his family, Outbound Investment Limited and Medusa Investment Limited. He withdrew his interests in them before his appointment into the board of SEC. That was on December 12, 2012. As for the other companies his traducers are hinging on to blackmail him, they are companies doing business with SEC as an entity with no connections whatsoever to the D-G as a person. The Public Procurement Act empowers the D-G as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission to approve contracts within certain thresholds.

However, to ensure transparency in the procurement process of the Commission, the D-G has delegated every procurement exercise of the Commission to the Minor Tenders Board, completely excluding himself from the processes.

In the public service, there is a saying “if you don’t train them, don’t blame them”. It was in keeping with this aphorism that the Executive management of SEC considered the training of some its staff on some specific areas of its core operations. It is, therefore, surprising that staff training should be counted as a sin committed by the D-G. The initial plan was to assign that programme to a foreign trainer. But because of the exorbitant cost implication, the foreign trainers’ fee actually came to N700, 000 or its dollar equivalent per participant. The management, to cut cost, engaged the services of local trainers including the Lagos Business School (LBS) and were paid less for the same programme. Some received as little as N150, 000 except for LBS that got N300,000. 

If updating the knowledge base of the staff is considered a sin, then it is a sufficient ground to assess the intentions of those alleging inappropriate conduct on the D-G especially with regard to what they think of SEC as a key play in the nation’s economy.

The circular restricting chief executives of government agencies to economy class in air travels was issued on November 2, 2016. Gwarzo travelled to Hong Kong for the IOSCO board meeting in October of the same year. He received payment for his airfare for that trip and travelled on Business class. Considering the time he travelled in October and when the circular was issued on November 2nd, only someone out to course mischief will allege misdemeanour on the part of the D-G. It is obvious that his trip to that Chinese city predated government restrictions on air travels and as such could not apply to that trip. This leaves me perplexed at the extent to which a person would fabricate tales to tarnish the integrity of another.

 Every corporate organisation, be it public or private has its own ways of appreciating staff leaving service meritoriously. For SEC, it was called The Golden Hand Shake, a retirement scheme designed by the commission for certain categories of staff. Upon assumption of office as D-G, the Gwarzo led administration noted that the Commission was top-heavy and rolled out this scheme, to encourage staff within the cadre of Senior manager - Director to voluntarily exit the system with certain benefits. 

The scheme was accessed by 47 staff of the Commission within those cadres and duly approved by the board and funded from the commission’s budget. Instead of citing anonymous sources, the mischief makers should have referred to the relevant sections of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007 that empowered the board to approve the commission’s budget as well as to establish and maintain a fund the proceeds of which it may apply to meet its financial obligations.  The Golden Hand Shake organised by the D-G was carried out in line with statutorily laid down rules of the commission. 

Till date, some staff of the Commission have expressed regrets in not assessing the scheme at that time and have at various forum agitated for the re-opening of the scheme. Interestingly, the SEC is not the only organization to have rolled out the Golden Handshake as sister organizations such as the Central bank of Nigeria implemented a similar scheme which is tagged as Operation Eagle.

As pointed out earlier, any chief executive will cherish constructive criticisms including from members of his own team. Raising false alarms on situations that does not exist can have diversionary effect that is not conducive for management practices. Gwarzo is human and like every human is susceptible to errors. When those errors are imagined, they are bound to be counterproductive. That is why they are frowned at especially in a sensitive corporate organisation like SEC. 

Given that these allegations possess no merit of any sought, I would be amazed that a respectable institution such as the SEC makes any response, because in my opinion, these mischief makers do not deserve the attention of the apex regulator of the Nigerian capital market.

*Courtesy: James Ume, who wrote in through james@channelkoos.com

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USPF Changemaker 2017: Team Nicademia emerges 1st prize winner

The 2017 edition of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) Changemaker Challenger ended at the weekend with the emergence of Nicademia team as star prize winners, reports ITRealms.

The event which held at Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) Lagos,  an outlet of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); with the team comprising Chidinma Ezekwe, Valentine Ubaluo, Seriki Toluwalese, topping the list of finalists.

The Nicademia team, ITRealms gathered, developed educative cartoon application for easier learning of arts and cultures in different native languages and in English for the children. This could best be described as “African inspired cartoons made in Nigeria.”

ITRealms reports that Nicademia emergence followed pitching of the platform to the panel of judges among over 200 others.

The Nicademia team also went home with the sum of N1,000,000.00  star prize in addition to accepting participation in incubation programme . The Team Jiggle and Kano Magenta  respectively emerged second and third places with N750,000 and N500,000 prizes in that order.

ITRealms equally gathered that some  226 applications from the six geopolitical zones of the country were received for the contest by the judges including Prof Olusegun Okunnu, Mr. Yele Okeremi, Mr. Chinenye Mba -Uzoukwu, Dr Mrs. Amina Sambo Magaji and others were

Earlier in his address to the occasion, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta reiterated NCC’s resolve to measure development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigeria which speaks to the principle behind the creation of the Universal Service Provision Fund.

The EVC represented by the Head, USPF Strategy and Corporate Performance Monitoring unit, asserted that despite the remarkable success of the competition, NCC would continue to promote application of local innovation processes in ICT to boost employability of Nigerian youth, connection of government to the citizens, education and business entities for accelerated actions aimed at improving growth and development of the country.

Uj. N. Dominic/GEE
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Saturday, October 28, 2017

ISOC Nigeria elects Dewole Ajao, president, six others

The Internet Society (ISOC) Nigeria Chapter has elected Mr. Adewole  Ajao, as its president for the next two years, reports ITRealms.

According to Mr. Wale Adedokun of ISOC Nigeria Chapter Election Committee, the winners emerged after obtaining a majority of votes for the various positions.

He also announced that Mr. Ajao would be joined in the ISOC exco by Prince  Iniobong Eka as the Vice President; Auwal Alhassan Tata as the Secretary General, Mary-Jane Sule, Treasurer; Fawole Bukola as the Financial Secretary, and Ogundele Olumuyiwa Caleb who was elected as the Programme Secretary as well as Akinbo Adebunmi Adeola, who emerged the Public Relation Officer.

While congratulating all the elected candidates, Adedokun also extended ‘a very big thank you to all the other candidates,” describing it as a worthwhile exercise.

Nonye Dom/GEE

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Nigerian youths and surging drug culture

Weekend Sermon@ITREALMS:
One hit is too much and a thousand is not enough - Austin Okere
Photo by Timothy Hale; Source: Flickr
I feel deeply compelled to write about this growing phenomenon of drugs and our youths. Much as I could join in playing the proverbial ostrich and draw false comfort by burying my head in the sand, I choose to call it out the way it is. This compulsion is deepened by the recent happenings in our promising Youth Music scene, with the deaths of three young people in just five days in Lagos, Nigeria.

It seems that we are speedily careening into the crazy drug & pop culture of the sixties fueled by a newfound liberalism, epitomized by Bands such as the Beetles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and such icons as Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Fela Kuti et al.

In more recent climes, there have been notable drug casualties; Whitney Houston, more lovingly referred to as ‘the voice’ for her incredible talent was found dead in her bath at the Beverly Hilton Hotel after a cocaine overdose. Ironically, this happened on the eve of the Grammy Awards at the same hotel, she was just 48 years old. Her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, just 22, died a few months later while in hospice care. She too was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Georgia home after a drug overdose.

41-year-old Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who had spoken about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction was found dead apparently by suicide, by an employee in his private residence. His close friend, singer Chris Cornell also killed himself just before his 53rd birthday. Purple Rain singer, Roger Nelson, best known as Prince died of an opioid overdose in an elevator at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota, aged just 59.
There are scores of others, not nearly as popular, but nonetheless part of the growing statistics of those who have succumbed to the ugly scourge of hard drugs.

“One hit is too much and a thousand is not enough” these were the words of a pretty, young woman miraculous saved from the clutches of drug addiction and featured on the Jubilee edition of Turning Point, a testimonial TV series. Undoubtedly, one of the very lucky few. She just wanted to try it out of curiosity and experimentation; and then again and again until it became a controlling habit.

Once you yield, you yield total control. Drugs always have the superior power of addiction, as has been proven time and again. There is a hard drug variety called crystal meth, where just one hit gets you totally hooked and has an accelerated path to mental destruction and painful death. As if this is not bad enough, fentanyl is said to be far worse, and 50 times more potent than heroin.

I see millennials as great architects of our future. That fearless generation at ease with technology & entrepreneurship, and fostering relationships across all divides regardless of race, nationality or class.

It is this same fearless adventurism that makes them the perfect target for hard drug experimentation and eventual dependency. This is not helped by the so-called mythical concept of a 'legal high' and other such deceptive tags on hard drugs; whether they be cannabis or crystal meth. They all have the same destructive potential.

The mulling of legalizing marijuana in many countries in the developed world bodes a potential ill wind. It could massively affect our youths and destroy our collective future.

We need to be a bit skeptical about sending children away from our sphere of influence too early in their development. Should there be a need, It should be when they have attained sufficient maturity to stand on their own and have become comfortable in their own skins.

Many children sent overseas at great financial sacrifice by their parents for 'superior' education have run into trouble under the influence. Many have been rusticated from their schools with their parents none the wiser. They keep carrying on as if they are still in school, sinking deeper and deeper into bad company and ill influence until it is virtually too late for redemption.

It is expedient to insist on the school report of your ward detailing their progress in learning and character, and their current student status before wiring off next term’s fees. This is not a task to be delegated.

On a note of caution, however, it is not only in these climes of relative wealth that drug abuse among the youth is rampant. The scourge has also become pervasive in erstwhile transit countries on the west coast of Africa. Children as young as in secondary schools (aged 16 years and below) have free access to drugs and do use them frequently to the blissful ignorance of parents and guardians. Youth Parties and Concerts tend to be high indulgent centers.

The amount of "ordinary looking" over the counter drugs that kids are popping to alter moods is shocking. The popular Anna Nicole Smith died from a prescription drug overdose at the Hardrock Hotel in Hollywood. Legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson, suffered the same fate.

There is, unfortunately, a sense of invincibility or false confidence about these kids that it cannot happen to me, notwithstanding the contrary evidence out there. How do we help our youth and especially the millennials guard against this scourge?

Perhaps we should be closer to our children and note any changes in behaviour that should alarm us. Talk with them regarding their friends, and make every effort to meet them. Create an environment where they can come to us in times of perplexity and the need to talk to someone. If we abdicate this responsibility, the vacuum created will be occupied by other influences, not the least peer pressure.

We need to create time to play our parental roles and imbue into our children a moral compass with which they can properly navigate their way in life. Show by example rather than just talking; because children are extremely perceptive and tend to more easily copy our vices than following our advice.
We should all join hands to take drastic steps to tackle this problem before it consumes our children and our future. America has taken a step by declaring an emergency on this opioid crisis.

Courtesy: Austin Okere is the Founder of CWG Plc & Entrepreneur in Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship and on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network based in Washington DC.

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