" ITREALMS: August 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

MTN Nigeria set to launch money transfer service - ITREALMS

Largest telecoms firm in the Nigeria, MTN, has concluded plans to launch a mobile money transfer service, reports ITREALMS.

The scheme targets those without bank accounts, according to a source in MTN Nigeria on Thursday under its Yello Digital Financial Services Limited (YDFS), recently licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The Federal Government through CBN, had assured investors especially telecom sectors that the MTN Nigeria can provide banking services to pave the way for inclusion of unbanked millions who do not have account.
ITREALMS recalls that MTN Nigeria was awarded a license by the Central Bank of Nigeria in July to provide financial services.

Majorly owned by South Africa’s MTN Group, MTN Nigeria is home to some 56 million telecom subscribers in the country.

MTN Nigeria’s CEO Ferdi Moolman said its Yello Digital Financial Services Limited (YDFS) unit would extend access to simple money transfer services and other financial services.

More than half of Nigeria’s population of 180 million do not have a bank account.

Shares in MTN Nigeria fell 1.49 per cent to 144.50 naira on Thursday, which saw its value at 2.95 trillion naira ($9.64 billion).
ITREALMS also notes that MTN Group appointed Rob Shuter as chief executive in 2016 to oversee the formulation of a new strategic growth plan and look for new revenue streams as competition and regulation hit profit margins.

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Jigawa Trailer-load of Motorbikes, Riders intercepted in Lagos - ITREALMS

Some of the motorbikes from Jigawa heading to Alaba In't
The joint operatives from the office of the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tunji Bello and his Transportation counterpart, Dr. Abimbola Oladehinde, have intercepted a Lagos bound trailer-load of motorbikes popularly known as ‘okada’ and their riders from the northern state of Jigawa, reports ITREALMS.

The interception, 
ITREALMS gathered, followed a tip-off by spirited and concerned members of the public.

The Lagos State government on a tweet late Friday afternoon, confirmed the interception of the trailer which was taken to the office of the state Environmental and Special Offences taskforce at Bolade-Oshodi .

Accompanying video: https://youtu.be/naPrOw5iK_U

According to source from the Lagos State government, the two men, names yet to be confirmed as at presstime, who were alleged to be masterminds of the outrageous relocation of the riders told officials that their destination was Alaba market, in Ojo local government area of the state, after which they would return to the north to bring in more people.

A press statement available to 
ITREALMS by the state government on the development reads:

“Lagos State Environment Sanitation and Special Offenses Taskforce on Friday intercepted a truck laden with 48 motorcycles and 123 men coming from Jigawa State.

“The truck was seized, following a tip-off by members of the public who raised security concern about the manner with which the occupants of the truck conducted themselves.

“After the interception, the truck and its occupants were moved to the office of the Taskforce in Oshodi for interrogation.

Some of the riders on arrival at Taskforce Oshodi
“One of the detained occupants, Shuaibu Haruna, said he left Jigawa State to work in Lagos with his motorcycle. He claimed to have a wife and a son, but said he needed to double his income to cater for his family.”

Ayo Midele/Editor

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Community Policing, best way to secure Nigeria — IG, Adebanjo, Odumakin - ITREALMS

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has said the hierarchy of the Force has come to the realisation that present day law enforcement requires more than the old ways of things, hence its decision to change the face for community policing.

Adamu, represented by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 11, Leye Oyebade, spoke at the 25th anniversary of the Oodua People’s Congress on Thursday in Lagos.

Adamu said the police was now on the same page with the OPC as far as securing the community is concerned, hence its recent decision to up the level of partnership with the organisation.

Oyebade said at the event put together by the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and National Coordinator of the OPC, Iba Gani Adams: “This is a goodwill message from the Inspector General of Police….

“The police is changing the face for community policing.
“And this is the message of hope we are bringing to you all.
“We are getting policing to the people. 

“And in this process, we are on the same page with the OPC.
“You would have observed that the group has changed its strategy from militancy to diplomacy, authentic dispute resolution.

“So we have to partner ourselves.

“In this country today, the political terrain is tough, the economic environment harsh, so the issue of security should not be taken lightly.

“We need to talk with everybody. Like Aare said, we must partner. 
And in this move, every sector is represented.

“For instance, we have the Zone 11 Stakeholders Forum.
“Everyone that can bring anything valuable to the table should do it. That is the way forward.”

Elder statesman and Deputy Leader of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, equally told the gathering that community policing was the only way to go in resolving the insecurity in the country.

Adebanjo said: “The IG should be told the truth about this.
“There is no other way out.”

He said it remains almost impossible for someone who does not know a terrain well to effectively curtail crime there.

He, however, said the community policing he is talking about is not just arming some people with baton and telling them to go after criminals, but a well funded and armed police team.

He said the police to operate at the community level must not be one influenced by the political class but under a professional.

He said the same should be applicable to the federal police.
The Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, equally backed the call for the swift introduction of community policing.

He, however, said he disagreed with the tag Oyebade gave to the OPC that it had dropped its militancy for diplomacy.

He said both should run together, adding that when the need for diplomacy arises, it should be used, while the door for militancy should not be shut.

“OPC should maintain its vibrancy. Diplomacy good, but OPC should also apply vibrancy where necessary," he said.

Also he called for justice to be done in the case of the killing of three operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team by soldiers of 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army “instead of engaging in useless investigation.”

Ayo Midele/Editor

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Adeduntan says FirstBank is reducing poverty, deepening financial inclusion with 31,000 agent network - ITREALMS

In its quest to deepen financial inclusion, FirstBank is channelling its resources to reach those at the bottom of the pyramid through its agency banking.

The tie-one bank has over 31,000 agents spread across Nigeria with 9,000 assigned to provide financial services to the highly excluded Northern region.

According to Adesola Adeduntan, the MD/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the bank took it upon itself as part of their strategic plan to be the bank that can be the right partner to the CBN and the government by helping to achieve the right social impact.

“If there is that bank on ground to help the country to address the seeming geographical gap in terms of financial inclusion, it is FirstBank, because we are already doing a lot,” Adeduntan said.

With over 125 years of unbroken existence in Nigeria, the lender has the largest branch network in Nigeria with over 750 branches spread across the country.

Nigeria has an exclusion rate of 36.8 percent as at December 2018; this translates to about 36.6 million Nigerian adults who are not included in the formal financial net.

The Central Bank of Nigeria plans to ensure it drive that number to 20 percent by the year 2020. But with less than five months to the deadline, the regulator has about 16.8 percent exclusion gap.

“So with over 31,000 agents and 750 branches spread across all the LGAs in Nigeria, FirstBank is indeed a frontrunner at not just providing banking to all Nigerians but importantly improving their respective businesses and developing the Nigerian economy,” Adeduntan noted.

According to Emeka Onwuka, CEO, Parkway Project, a Lagos-based Fintech company known for its popular ReadyCash product, when it comes to financial inclusion, the distribution is really “where we have the problem.”

“It is not about wallet rather it is about the touch point where people can actually go and have access,” Onwuka added. In January 2019, the central bank unveiled a revised version of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in which it projected that it will enroll about 500,000 mobile money/bank agents available to serve about 105 million adult Nigerians by the year 2020. The figure translates to about 476 agents per 100,000 adults.

Less than five months to the projected deadline, Nigeria’s financial institutions have however enrolled a joint 65,753 mobile agents, data obtained from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) showed.

This is 86.85 percent less than the 500,000 mobile agents which are going to serve about 105 million adult Nigerians. If the industry regulator is to meet the target by 2020, it would have to enroll about 434,247 agents in five months.

According to data by EFInA, a huge population of Nigerian adult still lack access to financial products and services. The number is however highest in the northern part of the country.

Compared to other regions of Africa’s most populous nation, the northern part of the country reported more unbanked people owing to high illiteracy level, insurgency in some parts of the region coupled with high poverty rate, as compiled from BusinessDay survey.

“Currently we have up to 9,000 agents specifically in the northern part of the country and the same thing goes for the statistics of our ATM,” Adeduntan said.
*Okafor Endurance/PR

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Stolen Funds: Prosecute Okorocha Now says Orlu elders - ITREALMS

Elders of Orlu Senatorial zone of Imo State, under the aegis of Orlu Elders Council have called on Governor Emeka Ihedioha to probe and prosecute the immediate past Governor of the State, Chief Rochas Okorocha.

In a 3-page address read by the Chairman of the Council, Professor Francis Dike SAN, during a courtesy visit to the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Engr. Gerald Irona, the group accused the former Governor of leaving a legacy of Garnishee Orders and indescribable looting of the state treasury.

The group lauded the Imo State House of Assembly and Attorney General of the State for taking steps towards adopting the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in the state, describing it as capable of improving the course of criminal justice in Imo state.

They used the occasion to urge the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress-APC in the 2019 elections, Senator Hope Uzodimma to end his litigation against Governor Emeka Ihedioha, in the interest of the state.

The elders also used the forum to call on the state Governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha to reinstate His Royal Majesty, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya as Chairman, Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, in obedience to judicial pronouncements.

“For eight years, nowhere in Imo State did we see billboards of Client- Government of Imo State”, Contractor- Y, X Contractors. Everything was done at shameless quotation of money by Okorocha and his family members, acting as alter ego of Imo State. Today, Billboards are seen at construction Sites. This government should be ready for probe when it leaves and that is why we ask for probe, prosecution and sentence if found guilty for Okorocha and his running dogs.”

“We are aware of thousands of Garnishee Orders bequeathed to this administration as legacy of the shameless past government. Let Rochas say to Imo State that there were no Garnishee Orders when he left government. Let him deny that his administration operated over 260 bank accounts which we know were conduit pipes for looting Imo State. Congratulations for arresting this by instituting the Treasury Single Account within 30 days.”

“We applaud the Hon. Attorney General and members of Imo State House of Assembly under the speakership of Rt. Hon. Chijioke for the domestication of the Criminal Justice Act and urge that it should be passed as a matter of urgency. We are of the firm belief that it will give more muscle to the Ministry of Justice to file Hon. AG’s Information against any and all persons not under Immunity for Criminal Acts perpetrated in Imo State against Imo people and by extension those who aided and abetted and those who benefited, for receiving stolen property. This will sanitize our society and make those barefaced liars think.”

“We take this opportunity to applaud our Great Son, Hope Uzodimma for the indefatigable work done in APC and say that it is time to sheath the sword and give and accept Olive branch so that Imo State, which now ranks between 32 and 34 in development in Nigeria can assume her pride of place in Nigeria.”

In his reaction, Deputy Governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Engr. Gerald Irona commended the elders for rising to the challenge, by speaking out on issues concerning the state.

He used the occasion to explain certain policies and programmes of the present administration in the state, assuring the delegation that the administration of Chief Emeka Ihedioha will not fail Imo people.

“I am glad that Orlu elders have risen to the challenge. It is true that we met a decayed Imo. Imo is in a very deplorable condition. We have decayed infrastructure. We are operating in a make-shift office. They stole everything before leaving. Those of us from Orlu zone in this government will show that Okorocha’s actions are not part of the character of Orlu people.”

“At the end of our administration, we will show Imo people that we were ready for governance. The first thing we are doing is to restore public confidence in government. We have set up a public procurement system, aimed at ensuring that there is a robust procurement process in Imo State. We shall live by example and we will remain accountable to people of the state.”

“Flood is a major issue in Owerri and some other parts of the state. We have engaged professionals and other relevant stakeholders and a lasting solution is underway. Part of the problem is that Owerri Master plan was distorted. People built on and blocked waterways. The menace of erosion is being tackled. We have paid Imo state counterpart fund of Five Hundred Million Naira, through New Map, a World Bank assisted project. They have mobilized to site.”

“When we came in, we were confronted with litany of petitions bothering on land. Many complained that their lands were taken forcefully, even when they had Certificates of Occupancy. We have constituted a Judicial Panel of enquiry on lands to look into issues around land acquisition in the state. Please, no one is targeted. We even went beyond former Governor Okorocha’s administration. We assure Imo people that we will not allow any Kobo of the state mismanaged to go unaccounted for. We will not allow any meter of land not properly acquired to go unaccounted for. That is Imo under the watch of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.”

Those in attendance at the meeting were: former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Dr. Douglas Acholonu, former Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, Prof. I.C. Okonkwo, Chief M.O.Obioha, His Royal Highness, Igwe E. Obiako, Chief Emma Izuegbu, Chief H.C. Onyekwere, Chief S.O.Ukadike, Chief R.I.Agbarakwe, Barr. A.N. Ukwuegbu, Adviser, Communications to the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Dr. Walter Duru, Hon. A.E. Onunkwo, Chief G.G. Iheka, Chief Ejike Uche, member, representing Ohaji/Egbema State Constituency in Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Heclus Okoro, Special Adviser to the Governor on inter party affairs, Hon. Jeff Ojinika and Special Adviser to the Governor of Political matters, Hon. Jones Onyereri.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor

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2019 Convention: Jehovah’s Witnesses explore power of love - ITREALMS

With love as the focal point of this year’s conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses holding in several cities across Nigeria and in the South West precisely, the convention series start this Friday, August 30, at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ota and Daluwon, both in Ogun State, reports ITREALMS.

Conventions will also be held in other cities such as Akure, Ibadan, Ilesa, Ilorin and Okitipupa from September.
The three-day conventions featuring the theme “Love Never Fails” will be concluded in the region on Sunday, December 15. Conventions will be held in English, Pidgin West Africa, Yoruba, Igbo and Nigerian Sign Language.

“These events will illustrate the positive influence that love can have to bring people together

from diverse backgrounds,” Afolabi Odeyemi, a regional spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in a statement.

On the convention programme highlights, Odeyemi said: “The convention programme will examine how Bible principles help people in practical ways. The Friday programme will address how love can help people surmount obstacles such as a troubled upbringing, chronic illness, or poverty. Saturday’s programme will consider how Bible principles help husbands, wives, and children to show love for one another. Sunday’s programme will include a public Bible discourse entitled “True Love in a Hate-Filled World—Where?” that will address overcoming prejudice and hatred.”

The statement stressed that conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to the public and that no collections are taken.

It noted that “Love Never Fails” is one of the largest global conventions in 2019, spanning

six continents and over 200 countries and presented in over 400 languages. “Times and locations for these public conventions can be found on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, jw.org,” the statement said.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Bandits kill Catholic priest, Fr Tanko in Taraba - ITREALMS

Suspected bandits have reportedly ambushed and killed a Catholic priest, Reverend Father David Tanko at Kufai Amadu in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, setting him and his vehicle ablaze, reports ITREALMS.

The cleric was said to be on his way to Takum for a peace meeting with his fellow clergymen on how to resolve the lingering Tiv, Jukun crisis when he was attacked and killed.

The chairman of the council, Shiban Tikari, disclosed that after killing him, the attackers set him and his car on fire.

*Uboshe Uboshe with additional report from Channels TV.

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Tinubu condoles Olukoya over Mum's death - ITREALMS

All Progressives Congress national stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has commiserated with the General Overseer of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries Worldwide, Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, over the death of his mother, Mama Janet Olukoya, at 95, reports ITREALMS.

A condolence letter on Thursday to Pastor Olukoya, Asiwaju Tinubu urged the General Overseer and the children Mama left behind to take solace in the fact that she lived a life of service to God and humanity, and also died at a ripe old age.
The APC leader said in the letter he personally signed: "Please accept my deepest sympathy and condolences over the death of your mother, Mama Janet, at 95.
"The loss of any of our parents is always a painful thing. I know how it feels because I have experienced that before. But we must always take solace in the lives our parents lived and recall memories of the times we shared together.

"I understand Mama was a devout Christian who lived a life of service to God and humanity. We must thank God that she lived to a ripe old age and left behind good children.
"My condolences also go to other family members and all worshippers at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries over the demise.

"My prayer is that God Almighty accept her soul and grant her everlasting rest. May He also grant you and all the children Mama left behind the strength to carry on with her good deeds".

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FG seeks NURTW's support on tackling insecurity - ITREALMS

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called on the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to support the government in its ongoing efforts to rid the nation’s highways of violent crimes, reports ITREALMS.

The Minister made the call in Abuja on Thursday at the 9th Quadrennial Conference of the NURTW.

“Let me use this important occasion to once again call on you to support this government as it evolves innovative measures to tackle the challenge of insecurity on our roads.

''The Union can specifically support the government in the fight against insecurity by providing timely information to the security agencies, particularly on all the black spots on the nation’s highways. Whether on intra or inter-state journey, your members crisscross the length and breadth of this vast nation and, collectively, have great access to information that can help to make our roads safer.

“As government continues to frontally tackle the menace of insecurity, it is incumbent on all of us to collaborate in order to address the kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of insecurity on our roads,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed, who said he is aware that the NURTW has borne the brunt of the years of infrastructural decay, especially in the area of roads, and insecurity on the highways, commended the organization for its abiding faith in the country as it has persevered against all odds.

He said the Buhari Administration is reversing the trend of insecurity and infrastructural decay by evolving innovative ways to fight insecurity and making massive investment in the provision of critical infrastructure.

“The security agencies are adopting creative ways, including the deployment of technology, to stem the tide of insecurity on the highways. The government is also investing massively in the provision of critical infrastructure to enable you to discharge your duties effectively and efficiently. As a matter of fact, no government has invested more in infrastructural development than the Buhari Administration. As I speak, there is at least one federal road under construction in each of the country's 36 states and the federal capital territory,” the Minister said.

He said the setting up of the $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Fund is aimed at accelerating the ongoing construction work on the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East-West Road, Abuja-Kano Expressway and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Project.

“There is no better demonstration of President Buhari’s commitment to deliver on critical infrastructure across the country,” Alhaji Mohammed.

The Minister also tasked members of the NURTW to always ensure the safety of their passengers by obeying all traffic rules and regulations, shunning drug abuse and thuggery.

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NCC assures on pervasive broadband penetration - ITREALMS

The conscious of the pivotal role pervasive broadband penetration will play in actualizing deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices ad Smart Services in any economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has developed a framework to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the country, reports ITREALMS.

The Executive Vice Chairman (ECV/CEO) of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, dropped the hint yesterday at the opening session of the First Digital Africa Week organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and hosted by the NCC in Abuja.

Professor Danbatta told the gathering of global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts, that the NCC framework for broadband infrastructure has led to the licensing of six infrastructure companies (Infracos) for North East, North West, South East, South West, South-South and Lagos.

The Process for licensing a seventh infraco for the North Central including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has been concluded and the licence ready for award very soon.
The infracos will deploy metro and intercity fibre and broadband point of access with a minimum capacity of 10 gigabits per second (10 Gbps) across the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria.

“With the development of Smart Cities Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by the ITU, it is imperative to have a pervasive and ubiquitous broadband infrastructure across all our towns and cities to achieve the objectives of making them Smart,” Danbatta said.

Prof. Danbatta told the experts with excitement that “Nigeria has not only achieved but exceeded the 30% penetration target set by the National Broadband Plan (NBP) (2013 – 2018) and at the end of July 2019, our broadband penetration stood at 33.72%,” he further submitted, adding that the NCC will continue to work hard to ensure that all citizens of Nigeria have access to affordable broadband connection irrespective of location.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Appointment: NIG, CECAD salute Pantami - ITREALMS

Acclaimed oldest internet advocacy entity in the country, the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and the Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD), have thumbed-up President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Dr. Isa Ali Pantami as the Minister of Communications, reports ITREALMS.

This came as NIG tasked the new Minister of Communications to drive the country’s broadband penetration to appreciable level before the expiration of this administration.

For the President of CECAD, Dr Bayero Agabi, the appointment of the former Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA is a testament of his enormous achievement at the agency.

“Pantami is the first Director General of any of the agencies within the Ministry to be elevated to the position of the Minister of Communications. What that implies is that he will need little or no introduction nor will he be learning the mandate or direction of the Ministry afresh. Without doubt, given his familiarity and good knowledge of the IT and Communications industry, Pantami will hit the ground running” Bayero enthused.

While referring to some of his positive works at NITDA, the veteran of the IT broadcast media assured the new Minister that as a watchdog of cyber space with dedicated commitment to promoting cyber responsibility, CECAD remained focused at ensuring that Nigerians desist from fraudulent use of the internet space and habit of fake news which he said continues to malign the image of the country which the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has worked tirelessly to restore since inception.

“Given his recent antecedents and wealth of experience as well as immense contributions to the growth of the sector in particularly the Information Communication Technology industry where he raised the bar in Local Content implementation, we are not in doubt that your choice is a welcome development that will help Mr President to achieve his next level objective for Nigeria," he said.

The Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development is an advocacy, training, public education and development non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) established and incorporated with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); with the aim of promoting cyber responsibility by Internet users at the local, regional, national and international levels.

In a related development, Nigeria’s foremost internet advocacy interest body, the Nigeria Internet Group has called on the new Minister of Communication to help drive the country’s broadband penetration to appreciable level before the expiration of this administration. While congratulating Pantami, the President of the group, Mr. Destiny Amana, said the task before the Minister is clearly one that is full of expectations especially because he is not a new comer on the saddle.

“Stakeholders are anticipating a significant boost in the sector because he already has the administrative experience and understating of the issues affecting the growth of the industry, he has to create an investment-friendly business environment that will drive innovation and job creation via clearly articulated digital roadmap and policy direction”.

One thing that is clear in the view of many is the consensus that the industry remains a critical game changer and economic mainstay hence it is pertinent that everyone joins hands with the Minister to fast track its growth.

Chuks Egbune/Editor

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N1b loan: Why Ekeh intervened in Imo State - ITREALMS

Some reasons have been adduced on why the Chairman, Zinox Group, Dr. Leo-Stan Ekeh, declared a three-year interest free loan of N1b to petty traders and small and medium businesses in Imo State, reports ITREALMS.

Ekeh, a native of Imo State, ITREALMS gathered, made the latest intervention to reduce hardship, stimulate business activities and give hope to majority of the people in the state.

Also, Ekeh who launched an educational support project for indigent but intelligent students of the state, said this will enable them acquire proper university education. 

"For this, Ekeh set up a non-interest revolving loan scheme of N500m," source close to the chairman told ITREALMS.

He made these disclosures at the flag-off/groundbreaking of the construction/rehabilitation of rural roads by the Imo State Government on Tuesday, August 27th at Ubomiri, Mbaitoli Local Government, which had in attendance, the Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha and in company of 
traditional rulers as well as partner agencies from the World Bank and French Development Agency (AFD).

According to 
ITREALMS reports, indigent students will benefit from the revolving loan scheme to further and complete their education. Graduates from the scheme will also be exposed to employment opportunities.

Subsequently, the graduate-beneficiaries will be expected to refund the loan once they are gainfully employed at zero interest. This will ensure the sustenance of the scheme and allow others to benefit from it.
ITREALMS further gathered that First Class graduates will be exempted from repayment of the loans as reward for their sterling performance. Conversely, students whose grades drop to third class will be ejected from the scheme.

Ekeh believes that in the next 10 years, the interventions and the government's commitment in these respects will reposition Imo state as the envy of all. Additionally, the serial digital entrepreneur revealed that Imo State is being used as a model. He disclosed that if it works, the efforts will be replicated in more states in Nigeria.

The Zinox boss equally donated 20 laptops and a set of printers to the Imo State Government.

"I am very sure other well-meaning Nigerians will borrow same strategies to replicate in their communities. This is not the age of free money and bad wastages. The 21st century is the age of privileges and opportunities.

"Nigerians must imbibe the culture of earning a living and paying back so that others can benefit. Cash is not inexhaustible. What I have done is use myself as a personal collateral in addition to putting up some of my assets to try and bail out a percentage of my people.

"Indeed, if it works, the multiplier effects shall be far-reaching. If they fail me, it is a disaster but that is life. I have done same in the ICT sector in the last 15 years with over N10b and it is still working. Most successful people in the world did not receive cash from their families so how did they become globally successful?"

Ekeh, a global advisor to Microsoft, revealed that he has not slept in his mansion in Owerri in the past six years.

"Each time I visit home, I often leave depressed. This is because of the state of things and the money I have to spend to help out those in dire conditions. With these interventions, I am confident that things will take a positive turn soon," he affirmed.
In his speech at the event, Gov. Ihedioha expressed appreciation to Ekeh for the humanitarian and noble gesture, even as he expressed pride in the Zinox Boss.

"Imo State is proud to have a son like Leo Stan Ekeh. I am aware he put up some of his assets in order to raise the funds for the projects he has announced today. May God continually bless him for all that he does for humanity. I am hopeful that other well-meaning Imo indigenes will join us to rebuild the state."

Speaking at the event, Chief Victor Emeto heaped encomiums on the Zinox boss.

"Leo Stan Ekeh is the next to God not just in Imo State and our town Ubomiri in particular. He carries all our responsibilities from school and church building and maintenance to raising nursery schools in every church.

"He has an annual budget for every church in the community and does not limit it to Catholics only. Same with the education of our children and electricity. What is more disarming is his humility and quietness with which he does these things.

"In fact, he picks every phone call from anybody from this town, no matter how small. Any time he is home, he sits on the floor with us to discuss our problems."

Also lending his voice was the oldest man in the Ubomiri community, Nze Moses Duru.

"Chief Leo Stan Ekeh is God-sent to Imo State. We are aware he supports other states in Nigeria. That is why we continue to pray for him and he does things without making noise."

Nze Duru ended by disclosing that Ekeh was equally responsible for facilitating the electricity in the village.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor

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Reciprocity Policy Wahala: FG forced to reduce visa fees for Americans - ITREALMS

The Federal Government (FG) on Wednesday approved the reduction of visa charges payable by United States of America (USA) citizens in line with the reciprocity policy, reports ITREALMS.

This came on the heels of the United States hike of the cost of visa application for Nigerians.

Nigerians are required to pay a fee called visa ‘issuance fee’, or ‘reciprocity fee’, for all applications for non-immigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications.

RELATED STORY: Breaking: America hikes Visa fees for Nigerians - ...

The issuance/reciprocity fee is different from the application fees as this will be charged in addition to the non-immigrant visa application fee.

Reacting, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola in a statement by the Director Press and Public Relations, Mohammed Manga, said that “the Ministry acknowledges that there were engagements with the United States Embassy on the issue and in the aftermath, a Committee was set up to conduct due diligence in line with the Ministry’s extant policy on reciprocity of Visa fees.

“The Committee had concluded its assignment and submitted a Report but the issuance of authorisation for its recommendations was delayed due to transition processes in the Ministry at the policy level.

“The Honourable Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has approved the decrease of Visa charges payable by US citizens in line with reciprocity policy as recommended by the Committee.

“Accordingly, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, has been directed to implement the decrease in Nigeria’s Visa charges to US Citizens with effect from Thursday, 29th August, 2019”.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor

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Fidelity Bank's YEA5 lands in Kano, empowers youth - ITREALMS.

Consistent with its unbridled commitment to youth empowerment in Nigeria, Fidelity Bank Plc, in partnership with Gazelle Academy and Bayero University Kano at the weekend concluded an entrepreneurship training programme for over 200 students in Kano State, reports ITREALMS.

Organised under the Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy stream 5 (YEA 5), the week-long training programme seeks to equip undergraduates with requisite skills, know-how, and capabilities needed to take start businesses even whilst in school.

Participants received training in various skill areas including, Fashion Designing, Makeover, Henna Design, New Media Marketing, Baby Bag Making, Bead Making, etc.

This empowerment programme, which is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, is primarily targeted at creating a new breed of entrepreneurs amongst Nigeria’s boisterous youth population.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the fifth edition of the YEA 5 held in Kano State, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Mohammed Balarabe said that the skills acquisition programme seeks primarily to offer undergraduates of tertiary institutions with vocational skills and enterprise training needed to become thriving business owners.

Whilst stating that the programme teaches students vocational skills as an alternative to white-collar jobs, Balarabe explained that the initiative will guarantee financial independence among the youths and ultimately alleviate poverty.

“Since its inception, four editions have held successfully at institutions in Enugu, Birnin Kebbi, Anambra and Rivers states with over 2,000 participants. In essence, we have succeeded in making entrepreneurs out of students who will be financially responsible and independent”, he said.

Balarabe commended the students for their commitment and performance during the course of the training programme. The DMD while quoting John Maxwell said, “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” He challenged the students to go out there and fulfill their dreams.

The Director, Public Affairs of BUK, Malam Ahmed Shehu who commended Fidelity Bank for the initiative called on other corporate organisations to emulate the bank in giving back to the society through laudable youth empowerment programmes like YEA5. Shehu also lauded the bank for consistently delivering unmatched financial services to the university community and the citizens of Kano State.

Speaking in the same vein, Muna Onuzo, Founder, Gazelle Academy thanked the participants for their zeal and active participation as evidenced by the number of things ranging from bags, clothing apparels, beadworks, cocktails that were made by them and on display for visitors who thronged the school to witness the closing ceremony.

“We give our students the ability to stand and build their business. We start by teaching them the skills of the trade and then we empower their mind so that the inner disabilities won’t limit them from actualising their true potential. We also teach students how to run a business that is clean, sustainable and viable,” she explained.

Uj. N. Dominic/Editor

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Scroll Report ready to host confab on 'Fighting Corruption and Insecurity: The Way Forward' - ITREALMS

The Scroll Report Online Publication is set to host a one-day conference on 'Fighting Corruption and Insecurity: The Way Forward' in Lagos, reports ITREALMS.

According to the publisher and CNN award-winning journalist, Mrs. Janet Mba-Afolabi, the confab would hold this Thursday, August 29, at Sheraton Hotel Ikeja, Lagos by 10 am.

The theme of the conference, which is “Fighting Corruption and Insecurity: The Way Forward” she said, was chosen to assess the fight against corruption and the prevailing security situation in the country. 

"Due to insecurity about two million Nigerians are estimated to have fled their homes, the refugee crisis has entered its sixth year and there is conflict induced food insecurity and malnutrition, hence, about 3.5 million Nigerians remain food insecure despite government and humanitarian aid," she said.

Mba-Afolabi also said that media has a role to play in ensuring the sustainability of democracy by seeking solutions through conferences, workshops and seminars.

Discussants, she said, have been drawn from different works of life and are expected to be at the conference to proffer the way forward in the fight against corruption and insecurity.

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Breaking: America hikes Visa fees for Nigerians - ITREALMS

Effective worldwide on 29 August, Nigerian citizens will be required to pay a visa issuance fee, or reciprocity fee, for all approved applications for nonimmigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications, reports ITREALMS.  

The reciprocity fee, ITREALMS gathered, will be charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application.  Nigerian citizens whose applications for a nonimmigrant visa are denied will not be charged the new reciprocity fee. Both reciprocity and MRV fees are non-refundable, and their amounts vary based on visa classification.

U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validity periods to be based on the treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by foreign governments, insofar as possible.  Visa issuance fees are implemented under the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposes additional visa fees on U.S. citizens, the United States will impose reciprocal fees on citizens of that country for similar types of visas.  Nationals of a number of countries worldwide are currently required to pay this type of fee after their nonimmigrant visa application is approved.  

The total cost for a U.S. citizen to obtain a visa to Nigeria is currently higher than the total cost for a Nigerian to obtain a comparable visa to the United States.  The new reciprocity fee for Nigerian citizens is meant to eliminate that cost difference. 

Since early 2018, the U.S. government has engaged the Nigerian government to request that the Nigerian government change the fees charged to U.S. citizens for certain visa categories.  After eighteen months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria has not changed its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants, requiring the U.S. Department of State to enact new reciprocity fees in accordance with our visa laws.

The reciprocity fee will be required for all Nigerian citizens worldwide, regardless of where they are applying for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States.  

"The reciprocity fee is required for each visa that is issued, which means both adults and minors whose visa applications are approved will be charged the reciprocity fee.  The fee can only be paid at the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General.  The reciprocity fee cannot be paid at banks or any other location," a press statement made available to ITREALMS read.

The complete reciprocity fee schedule, organized by visa classification, can be found below. 

The reciprocity tables displayed on travel.state.gov will be updated to reflect the changes above. 

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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FirstBank spotlighting opportunities in agro value chain - ITREALMS

In 2017, the Nigerian agriculture sector witnessed a revolutionary discourse on the economic benefits of sustainable agriculture value-chain as an alternative source of economic development and foreign exchange with the launch of FirstBank Agric Expo.

It was a first-of-its-kind initiative that afforded the bank the opportunity to aggregate top players in the agricultural sector under one roof for easy relationship establishment, as well as, enlighten customers and prospects alike about FirstBank’s readiness to support their Agricultural businesses.

The event, which was oversubscribed by 100 percent in its maiden edition because of its relevance, also positioned the bank as a thought leader in the agricultural financing space in the country. For leading that discourse and opening the agricultural financing space, the bank’s agric portfolio recorded a growth of N11.65billion as a direct impact.

Riding on the success of the maiden edition, the bank has gone ahead to further engage key policy influencers, agriculture service providers, primary producers, exporters and top players in the agric value chain, among others in the 2018 edition, as well as promising a better engagement in this year’s edition of the expo.

Considering the falling oil prices and the urgent need to diversify the economy, the FirstBank Agric Expo is imperative. Expressing his delight on FirstBank’s leading role at not just promoting Agriculture but diversifying the Nigerian economy, Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, sees opportunities beyond economic diversification in the non-oil sector, which agriculture leads. “As Nigeria expands opportunities in its non-oil sector, especially Agriculture, we remain committed to the growth of the agricultural sector and its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product”, the CEO said.

Also, the bank is venturing into the agric financing space in order to promote entrepreneurship and employment opportunities bearing in mind that agriculture has potential to take millions of unemployed off the streets when the right investment are made and thoroughly coordinated.

So, the bank is using the FirstBank Agric Expo, which is now in its third edition to “build the agribusiness economy, which is capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, supporting sustainable income and creating employment opportunities”, Adeduntan assured.

Ironically, Nigeria, according to Audu Ogbeh, former Minister of Agriculture, spends about $22 billion annually to import food into the country.

But with sustained gains from the Agric Expo, more funds would be available to agric entrepreneurs to improve production, and reduce the high importation of food that has negatively impacted Nigeria’s Balance of Trade.

With more funding, the bank assured that Nigeria can be self-sufficient in producing things it has comparative advantage on, especially rice, the staple food, which can be grown across the country.

As well, improved funding in the agric sector will result in more entrepreneurs, more investments, more hands in the farms, more food produced, huge foreign exchange earnings from exportation, as well as, less crime in the country. 

Though the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report stated that the value of agricultural exports rose by 115.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, the country can double the value if agric entrepreneurs are financed and guided, which makes the First Bank Agric Expo very imperative.

As a continuous financier of credit worthy agro-allied businesses, the bank is rolling out the drums once again to hold the third edition of the agric expo. Like the previous editions, the expo will hold on August 30, 2019 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos with the theme, “Agricultural Value Chain – Spotlighting Opportunities and Managing Risks” and would have Professor Benedict Oramah, president, AFREXIM Bank, as the keynote speaker.

It will host over 600 delegates and over 60 exhibitors who will display the latest technology in farm equipment, tools and machineries, as well as, packaged finished agricultural produce, logistics and supply, thereby keeping the participants and sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with new opportunities in the Agricultural industry.

Besides the plenary session, the expo will feature three masterclasses with in-depth analysis on specific areas of Agribusiness, facilitated by enterprising Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The masterclass facilitators include; Leonard Anyanwu, Group Executive Director, Saro International Limited; Segun Ogunwale, Team Lead, Kominity Digital and Bamidele Ayemibo, Managing Director, 3T Impex Trade Centre, who will provide insight, as well as, share success stories and experiences.

For the agric entrepreneur looking to grow your business, there are many reasons to be at the expo as FirstBank has a large base of agribusiness clients across Nigeria who you will likely meet.

*Contributed by Obinna Emelike @BUSINESSDAY
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Monday, August 26, 2019

ALERT CBN warns of fraudulent loan offers - ITREALMS

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has raised an alarm over fraudulent messages on the social media requesting loan seekers and owners of small-scale businesses to apply for loans provided by the Federal Government through an e-mail address (empowermentcbnloan@gmail.com) purportedly being handled by CBN, reports ITREALMS.

A disclaimer from the CBN, made available to 
ITREALMS and endorsed by Isaac Okorafor, Director, Corporate Communications on Monday, August 26, noted that while the bank, “indeed, has several development finance intervention programmes from which different categories of businesses have benefited (and still benefit), the Bank does not do so through direct interaction with prospective applicants.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, there are clearly spelt out procedures for accessing CBN intervention funds, which are disbursed through Participating Financial Institutions, PFIs, such as Deposit Money Banks, DMBs, Development Finance Institutions, DFIs, and Microfinance Banks, MFBs.

“Members of the public, particularly youth and owners of small-scale businesses, are therefore advised to disregard any message requesting them to send their personal details, including mobile phone numbers, to emails such as empowermentcbnloan@gmail.com or any other one that may be contrived. These messages are fake and anyone who enters into correspondence with them does so at his or her own risk.

“Prospective applicants are advised to approach their respective banks or the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, branch nearest to them for clarification on the procedure for accessing any of the CBN-related loans,” he said.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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IHS Towers enters deal with UNICEF for rural Nigeria - ITREALMS

IHS Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of IHS Towers, has entered a deal with UNICEF in support of a Child Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI) on which UNICEF is working with the Government of Nigeria to empower and strengthen the capacity of local governments and rural communities, including local development councils, religious and traditional leaders, to adopt child-centred attitudes, behaviours and practices and improve access to basic services that promote child well-being and development, reports ITREALMS.

Children and women in Nigeria face multiple deprivations and challenges, many rooted in poverty and inequality, with millions of them vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, lack of education and numerous violations of their rights. UNICEF aims for the Child Friendly Community Initiative to help accelerate tangible and sustained improvements for children in rural Nigeria who are consistently experiencing the highest levels of deprivation and poverty, with a view towards Nigeria achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“Vulnerable children tend to suffer from multiple overlapping deprivations that are often mutually reinforcing”, said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, adding that “UNICEF believes a holistic and integrated approach is required that actively supports communities and local government with child-centred planning and service delivery, informed decision-making and corresponding attitudes, behaviours and practices that lead to better outcomes for children.”

Speaking at the signing event, Mohamad Darwish, IHS Towers Co-founder, Senior Vice President and IHS Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, commended UNICEF’s efforts in driving this initiative. He said, “Our four pillars - Ethics, People, Environment and Education – have been critical in driving our sustainability efforts within local communities in which we operate throughout the country and we are delighted to partner with UNICEF to continue addressing the needs of the most vulnerable individuals in-line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

A child friendly community is one where every child receives the nutrients, dietary diversity and stimulation that they need to develop; where every child is fully immunized, has a birth certificate, is protected from violence, exploitation and abuse, has access to quality health care, education and clean water; where the community is certified as open defecation free; and where parents, caregivers, young people and community leaders are informed about and actively engaged in promoting the well-being and development of children.

Communities will be sensitized on child rights and child-centred attitudes, behaviours and practices and means of improving access to basic services that promote child well-being and development. Community level structures and institutions will also be strengthened through training to actively plan, manage services and maintain/sustain created assets.

“The Child Friendly Community Initiative will be accelerated across Nigeria with the active engagement and support of a diverse range of stakeholders; the private sector has a key role to play as well. We are delighted that IHS shares this vision and is the first company to join the initiative, demonstrating how the private sector can help boost development for children.” said Peter Hawkins.

Chuks Egbune/Editor

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Africa Finance Corporation boosts 9mobile with $230m - ITREALMS

Efforts by the new Board and Management of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS), trading as 9mobile, to reposition the company have started yielding positive results as the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), has approved a $230 million (two hundred and thirty million US Dollars) loan facility to help it attain its long-term growth plans, reports ITREALMS.

The AFC is a pan-African multilateral development financial institution established to bridge Africa's infrastructure investment gap through the provision of debt and equity finance, project development, technical and financial advisory services.

Convinced by the initiatives so far taken by the Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero-led Board and management headed by Acting Managing Director, Stephane Beuvelet, to return the multi-award-winning company to the path of growth and profitability through cost efficiency, innovative product development and network efficiency, the AFC announced the approval of the loan on Friday, August 23.

In a letter addressed to both Bayero and Beuvelet, the financial institution said, "Africa Finance Corporation is pleased to inform Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services that it has received full Board approval to support the turnaround strategy of EMTS through a US$230 million super senior debt investment."

The facility divided into two tranches would, among others, be used to repay historic vendor obligations, finance costs and an interest reserve account and payment towards quick win capex initiatives.

Commenting on the approval, the Board Chair, Alhaji Ado Bayero, expressed happiness that EMTS' effort to recover previously ceded ground through an innovative growth plan is being supported by a prestigious Pan-African financial institution as the AFC.

"We can only express gratitude to the AFC for approving this loan facility that would not only help our business sustainability but also grow it to serve our teeming and loyal customers in Nigeria better. We have completely reviewed our operational, regulatory, financial and technical architecture to ensure we deliver quality services and this facility would go a long way in giving best in class services to Nigerians," he said.

Ado Bayero further assured of the company's resolve to continue its aggressive enhancement of network capacity and innovative features to guarantee optimum value to customers. He added that "our turnaround efforts are well and truly underway. We had promised when we took over that we would justify the confidence in our brand by making significant investments that will improve the value Nigerians get for using 9mobile. This is part of fulfilling our promise."

Also commenting on the transaction, 9mobile’s Chief Financial Officer, Phillips Oki said, “the success of this transaction by way of the approval of the Board of Africa Finance Corporation is a sound affirmation of our belief that the fundamentals of the 9mobile business are indeed strong. It is also an attestation to the fact that the operational restructuring and financial reengineering we have done since we assumed ownership have launched 9mobile on the path of growth and profitability. With this facility, our subscribers, staff and vendors should get ready to switch on to better days with 9mobile. We will reclaim every lost ground in the market in the coming months.”

It will be recalled that the new Board led by Alhaji Bayero took over 9mobile in November 2018 following a successful acquisition by Teleology Nigeria Limited.

Other members of the Board include non-executive directors, Asega Aliga, Mohammed Edewor and Winston Ndubueze Udeh. Executive Director, Abdulrahman Ado and Acting Managing Director, Stephane Beuvelet.

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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