WayForward@ITREALMS

Friday, July 31, 2020

Siemens, Helioz enters deal for Sudan - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

The Siemens and HELIOZ collaborate to provide safe drinking water in Sudan; Siemens will sponsor a “WASH” campaign to provide water to marginalized Sudanese residents; easy-to-use solution for water disinfection, WADI will be implemented

Siemens has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HELIOZ, a Social Enterprise company that is active in the field of water disinfection and development of climate projects, to provide safe drinking water to the marginalized Sudanese residents of Khartoum, where there is no access to potable water.

Recognizing the dire need of clean drinking water in many parts of Sudan, Siemens has engaged with HELIOZ to contribute to changing the water crisis, by sponsoring a “WASH” campaign aimed at providing a solution that will deliver drinkable water to these marginalized communities in Khartoum.

“Clean drinking water is an essential and basic human right. Communities having reasonable access to clean water promotes better health, while preventing the spread of easily avoidable diseases. This solution that we’re bringing to the people of Sudan will provide an improved way of life and will add value to our people,” says Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens, Southern and Eastern Africa.

The project, which is developed by HELIOZ will be rolled out to beneficiaries in two phases. The initial stage will be implemented in the disadvantaged areas of Greater Khartoum where access to safe water is a major challenge. In a second step, Siemens and HELIOZ aim to extend the initiative to Kosti in White Nile State where Siemens is already engaged in the upgrade and renovation of two schools.

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N-power: Delay stipend payment and beneficiaries’ deluge of questions - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS:

The Federal Government of Nigeria’s National Social Investment programme N-SIP with particular reference to N-power for the purpose of this piece which started four years ago, has been welcomed, accepted and adjudged by many as a life-changing initiative of the current administration, led by President Mohammadu Buhari, aimed at lifting many especially unemployed youths out of poverty as well as empowering many in various areas of entrepreneurship.

The above position is predicated on the assertion that many beneficiaries according to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Sadiya Farouq have become entrepreneurs and are doing well in their chosen businesses.

According to Sadiya Farouq, “over 109,823 beneficiaries of Batch A and B of N- Power programme across the country have established businesses in their communities statistics like this give me joy and once again, I want to say congratulations and like I said in my good will message I look forward to hearing amazing testimonials and meeting beneficiaries of this programme who will be doing great things in the future.’’

As laudable as this programme is, it has been faced with unceasing complaints and issues of delayed stipend payment to the beneficiaries since it was put under the control of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development headed by Sadiya Farouq. And to extreme, many N-Power beneficiaries have also continued to questions the delay in the clearance of their backlog of stipends arrears, running to two to three months or more now.

One explanation given by the ministry could be seen from this excerpt written by Joseph Erunke and published by the Vanguard Newspaper on July 23, 2020, “The federal government, Thursday, said it did not pay 14,020 enrollees in the just ended batches of N-Power programme because the affected beneficiaries’ account details were found to be already existing in other ministries, departments, and agencies. The government which noted that the actions of the enrollees were against the established rule of the N-Power programme, regretted that the development affected some genuine and eligible beneficiaries.”

From the abovementioned excerpt, the question agitating most minds of the beneficiaries is; why will dogs eat feces, and goats will then inherit tooth decay? Regretting that the development affected some genuine and eligible beneficiaries isn’t the best way to assuage the feelings, patience, circumstance of the beneficiaries, considering the hard times of nowadays and coupled by the COVID-19 pandemic which has had its toll on most world economies.

In my opinion, the right thing to do is to settle those beneficiaries who are genuine and eligible instead of allowing the 14,020 enrollees’ malfeasance affect genuine and eligible ones.

Again, early March this year, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, explained that the delay in paying N-Power beneficiaries was due to some verification process in the ministry.

Farouq disclosed that the Ministry was out to understand and have a full list of beneficiaries that were paid before she took over as Minister.

In a statement, she signed, Farouq said: “I know we had a complaint in October while we just got the NSIP into the ministry and we needed to understand the programme considering that it has been in existence before we came on board. We needed to understand before we start signing for a large amount of money and that was why we had the delay then.

“Unfortunately, then we were operating with a director who was overseeing the office of the permanent secretary and then in January, we had a new permanent secretary who also had to understand the nature of the programme.”

From available information as this excerpt will suffice, “However, after receiving a complaint of non-payment by some beneficiaries who did same through the ministry, the OAGF (GIFMIS) officially wrote informing the ministry that out of a total of 516,600 N-Power beneficiaries data sent to OAGF for migration in April 2020, only a total of 502,580 data have successfully migrated to the GIFMIS platform, while a total of 14,020 beneficiaries were returned because the beneficiaries’ account details already exist in other MDAs, which is against the established rule of the N-Power programme”, one can therefore say that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development now know the total number of eligible and genuine batch A and B N-Power beneficiaries as well as total number of ineligible and fake batch A and B N-Power beneficiaries. Or are there other excuses, explanations or reasons to be given by the ministry again as to why the eligible and genuine batch A and B N-Power beneficiaries are yet to be paid their June and July 2020 stipends even as their batches come to an end today, July 31, 2020.

The time to act is now, as the batch A and B beneficiaries continue to inundate N-Power social media handles with questions on when their 2020 June and July stipend will be paid.

Hon. Sadiya Farouq over to you.

*Contributed by Nwaorgu Faustinus, a socio-political commentator, blogger, freelance writer and could be reached: ngorokpalaresearcher@gmail.com

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

NNPC uncovers plans to scam FG, berates Samano - ITREALMS

ITREALMS
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has uncovered plans by some international crime syndicate to defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria, reports ITREALMS.
NNPC also denied any missing of alleged sold "48 Million Barrels Of Stolen Crude Oil" through the backdoor.

NNPC through its counsel, Afe Babalola & Co, informed ITREALMS that the attention of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been drawn to several online publications, particularly the Sahara Reporters’ publication of 26th July 2020, captioned “EXCLUSIVE: How Nigerian Government Officials, NNPC Staff Sold 48 Million Barrels Of Stolen Crude Oil, Issued Death Threats To Whistleblower,” sponsored by SAMANO SA DE CV. 

ITREALMS also gathered that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is aware of several television broadcasts and commentaries in respect of the same subject. 

A press statement equally available to ITREALMS by Afe Babalalo & Co, quoted NNPC as saying in part:

"These publications replicate the content of a recent letter forwarded to NNPC on behalf of SAMANO SA DE CV by its Solicitors, Messrs. Lords & Temple.

"The Management of the Corporation states emphatically that these publications are replete with falsehoods, offensive, gold-digging and a calculated attempt by the said SAMANO SA DE CV (SAMANO) working in concert with its local and international agents to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC. Given the attention which these publications have generated, NNPC deems it necessary to make the following clarifications:

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"In view of the foregoing, NNPC urges members of the public to disregard the publications sponsored by SAMANO. They are at best diversionary and in furtherance of its scheme to fleece Nigeria. SAMANO’s attempt to shift attention from the on-going criminal charges against its Managing Director and agents will not fly. NNPC has instructed Counsel to take appropriate legal actions against SAMANO and its officers for the injury done to the Corporation and its officials by the falsehoods peddled by SAMANO and its agents."

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Senator Ayo Fasanmi is dead - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

ITREALMS gathered that the second republic Senator, he said, was until his death a leader of the Yoruba Socio Cultural Group, Egbe Afenifere (Ilosiwaju Yoruba) and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), passed on peacefully in Osogbo on Wednesday night.

Post COVID-19: OPEC-Nigeria discusses market recovery - ITREALMS

ITREALMS
The OPEC-Nigeria Bilateral Meeting that took place last week ended with a signal of the strong dialogue and cooperation between OPEC and Africa’s biggest producing country, reports ITREALMS.

Such a dialogue, 
ITREALMS gathered, is key for compliance with the OPEC global production cuts deal of April, to which all of OPEC’s African member countries have agreed to. Nigeria’s support to global market stability and energy cooperation is significant and gives confidence to operators and future investors seeking to do business in West Africa.

“African producers and service companies are the hardest hit when there is volatility in the market. H.E. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo and Dr. Ayed S. Al-Qahtani leading these discussions sends a strong message that collaboration and sticking to the principles of a stable market is good for Nigeria, its producers and the economy at large,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber.

“We continue to support the Government of Nigeria, and the country’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources in their effort to improve the environment for investment and getting the industry to rebound post-Covid-19. We believe they are right in making this a priority and we welcome the bold initiatives by Nigeria’s leadership,” he added.

Nigeria’s ongoing Marginal Fields Bidding Round was launched in earlier this year and has already been met with significant success, reportedly attracting hundreds of bidders. The round is expected to result in a new wave of local content development in Nigeria, a country already widely regarded as the most successful example of local content and capacity building across the continent.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor


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What Tinubu said about Fansami - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

A national leader of the All Progressive Congress in the country, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has described the late Pa Ayo Fasanmi, as a progressive to the core, reports 
ITREALMS.
In a condolence message to the family and available to ITREALMS, Tinubu commiserated with the family, associates and progressives throughout the country, the South-west and Ekiti State in particular over the passing of eminent politician, elder statesman and beloved leader of Afenifere, Senator Ayo Fasanmi. 

"With his passing, we have lost someone special and excellent in every way," he said.

As said by him, "Papa’s long sojourn on earth was for the good of all. He walked at the vanguard of all democrats, freedom fighters and believers in true federalism. To have lived to the age of 94 was God’s gift not only to him and his family, but to this nation he loved so deeply.

"A colourful personality, Papa was principled, courageous and honest. He was a loyal and dependable ally of the indomitable Chief Obafemi Awolowo. For all his life, Pa Fasanmi practiced and advanced the virtues he learned at the feet of his leader. He never betrayed those values.

"Like American civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, who was buried today (Thursday, July 30), Papa Fasanmi remained faithful to the truth for which he suffered greatly. Yet, no matter the cost, he never strayed from his principles. A brave man, he never flinched at the prospect of speaking truth to power.

"I had a close relationship with Paba Fasanmi, dating back many years. He was a mentor and role model to me and many others who believe in progressive politics as a means to uplift our society and its people. When Papa was recently admitted to the hospital for age-related sickness, I spoke to him and followed up with his close aide to monitor his situation.

"As Afenifere leader, he was a true believer in the importance of fiscal federalism as essential for the growth of Nigeria. His vision for our nation was a coherent and correct one.

I share in the grief of this moment with his political soulmates, Pa Fasoranti, Chief Bisi Akande, and others. I also commiserate with Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.

Papa Fasoranti devoted himself toward progressive development and democratic advancement. This fine job has not been completed. The Nigeria of our dreams is still a work in progress. Papa Fasanmi struggled for that dream and supported those patriots, like President Muhammadu Buhari, who also toiled for the same goal. Let us all learn from Papa Fasanmi’s example and join hands to move Nigeria towards the safe harbour of peace and prosperity.

We pray that Almighty God grant the soul of Pa Fasanmi eternal rest. May God also guide and comfort his family that they may have the strength and perseverance to continue after him through living by his example. God bless Nigeria.

Ayo Midele/Editor

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Venture Showcase: VC4A, collaborators invite African startups to explore investment options - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
The VC4A and partners are now inviting African startups looking to raise between $150K and $1M to explore their opportunity, reports ITREALMS.

In proud collaboration with technical partner AWS Activate, and network partners AfriLabs and ABAN, VC4A will be hosting the exclusive ‘Venture Showcase - Seed in November as part of a virtual gathering of Africa-focused early-stage investors.

Via this campaign VC4A will select 10 innovative early-stage startups to showcase their business to the world. A requirement is that you are based in Africa and your tech-enabled solution is already on the market, you are able to show some traction and you have expansion plans in mind.

Since 2017, VC4A has showcased growth-stage startups as part of the annual Africa Early Stage Investor Summit, resulting in a number of Series A deals totaling over $100M. Building on this success, the ‘VC4A Venture Showcase – Seed’ track positions deal ready companies as a central component VC4A offers to its Africa focused network of over 150 early-stage investment firms built up over the years. This is an exclusive opportunity for selected entrepreneurs to introduce their companies at once to everyone who’s anyone in Africa’s early-stage investment space.

Ben White, founder and director from VC4A adds: “Based on investor demand we have added a Seed track to the Venture Showcase - now in its 4th year. This exciting addition opens the door to up and coming companies looking to connect with leading investors active across the continent. The Seed track targets ventures with highly scalable business models demonstrating strong traction. We put a spotlight on the innovation coming up across the continent with the aim to capitalize the next generation of great African startups.”

This year cloud platform Amazon Web Services (AWS Activate) joins the Venture Showcase as a technical partner. 

"Through VC4A’s partnership with AWS we offer startups direct access to unparalleled expertise and a global infrastructure for growing and scaling business. The companies in the ‘VC4A Venture Showcase – Seed’ track are well positioned for growth and stand to benefit from our growing networks of partners and capital," says Ben White.

VC4A works closely with the African early-stage startup community involving investors and incubators in both the referral, screening and selection process. Through the partnerships with AfriLabs - representing 202 innovation centers across 46 African countries - and ABAN; representing 60+ angel investor networks - the Venture Showcase promotes (co-)investment opportunities for their members. Participating investors will work with the selected companies to prepare their participation in the showcase, and to ensure the companies are representative of the best investment opportunities.

The 10 selected startups get:
To participate in the VC4A Venture Showcase deal room, including 150+ early-stage investment firms
Professional edited 3-minute virtual pitch videos
30-minute deep-dive sessions with investors in a private room
Mentorship and pitch training by early-stage investor organizations
Amazon Web Services credits from AWS Activate worth $10,000, as well as tools, resources, and more to get started quickly on AWS
To join the Showcase alumni network and gain exclusive access to fundraising opportunities

Interested entrepreneurs are invited to apply via this page (https://bit.ly/3gbC8Fv) before 11 September 2020. Investors who wish to refer to a company can contact Thomas van Halen at thomas[at]vc4a.com.

The Venture Showcase program consists of 2 tracks this year. The Seed track and a Series A track. More information on the Series A track here: https://bit.ly/3f8YFl5

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Dean, African Diplomatic Corps applauds President Adesina - ITREALMS

ITREALMS
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB) has now been completely exonerated and of any wrongdoing by a high level panel of eminent persons led by Her Excellency Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland, reports ITREALMS.

The panel was established to review the report by the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors of the African Development Bank that had previously reached the same conclusion that Dr. ADESINA had not engaged in unethical practices or misconduct.

On behalf of the African Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Serge Mombouli, warmly thanks the panel led by Mary Robinson for their excellent work; congratulates Dr. AKINWUMI ADESINA, President of the African Development Bank Group, and commends him for his visionary leadership and the outstanding development results attained by the Bank under his tenure.

He notes that the election of the President of the African Development Bank is planned to take place on August 27. 2020 and calls for the re-election of Dr. Adesina be done in unison by acclamation. Dr. Adesina is the sole candidate and has received the full endorsement of the African Union.

Ambassador Serge Mombouli, Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, further extends his appreciation to the Board of Directors, the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors, and the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank for their courage and maturity in establishing an independent and transparent process, which confirms the excellent governance of the Bank.

The African Diplomatic Corps accredited to the United States urges the United States of America, the largest non-regional shareholder, and all other shareholders, to continue to strongly support the President of the Bank and the African Development Bank Group, going forward, especially at this period of global Covid-19 pandemic.

The African Development Bank will continue to play a crucial role in bringing African economies back on the trajectory of growth and sustainable development.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor

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Polaris Bank, Facebook in capacity building deal for SMEs - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

The Polaris Bank has partnered with the global social media giant, Facebook to provide free digital marketing training to SMEs in Nigeria, reports ITREALMS.

The Bank explained that this move is intended to equip Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) who are focused on leveraging social media tools to drive business and sales.

According to the Bank’s Group Head, Products & Market Development, Mrs. Adebimpe Ihekuna, “This partnership is part of Polaris Bank’s non-financial offerings to SMEs in their bid to scale up to the next level".

“As an enterprise positioned to meet the challenges of the digital age, especially in the era of COVID-19, we want to assist as many SMEs as we can to ensure they remain relevant in their line of business,” she stressed.

This virtual training is scheduled for August 3rd—August 7 and will hold for 5 days with a maximum of 2 modules daily, at different time intervals (i.e. morning and afternoon) while a repeat session will hold the following week for the next set of SMEs who were not accommodated in the first week.

Participants will among other things, learn how to find new customers and build business communities using digital tools. They will also be exposed to strategies to grow their business internationally, build an online business presence with Facebook, use WhatsApp to grow their business, learn how to create Facebook Ads, and scale advertising with Ads Manager and unearth tools to drive their business.

It would be recalled that the Bank in conjunction with Digivate 360 ran a similar training across eight (8) locations: Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Kano, Ilorin, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta and Benin in October 2019 through which 723 SME’s (existing and non-existing customers) were trained.

Polaris Bank is a future-determining Bank committed to the delivery of industry-defining products, and services, across all the sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Ayo Midele/Editor


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Sterling Bank, Clickatell up solution for lenders, investors - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
Sterling Bank Plc, Nigeria's leading commercial bank, in collaboration with Clickatell, a global leader in mobile communications and chat commerce, has unveiled a unique and very personalised banking experience for existing customers and prospective account holders through the popular messaging app - WhatsApp, reports ITREALMS.

Customers can now initiate bank transfers, and airtime and bill payments, check balance and BVN enquiries, as well as statement generation directly on WhatsApp with the aid of Kiki, a new personalised financial assistant.

The financial assistant also connects customers directly to customer service, making dispute resolution seamless.

Designed to provide personalised service to every customer of the bank, Kiki possesses conversational intelligence and will answer questions related to personal finances once prompted. Kiki makes initiating banking transactions as easy as chatting with friends through the bank's verified WhatsApp number - +234 906 000 6449.

Oladipo Alabede, Group Head of Digital Banking at Sterling Bank, said “Delivering banking on WhatsApp for instant messaging is desirous by our customers who want a reliable, convenient, and safe medium to perform basic banking transactions on their mobile devices. It eases the stress of moving between apps before transactions can be concluded.”

According to Alabede, WhatsApp is easy, safe, fast and secure. “It has improved security that prevents fraud and enables customers to have access to all their accounts. The service is designed for self-service registration and the customers can sign on from any location. The current features of the app include Sterling to Sterling and Sterling to other banks' transfers, airtime top-up, bill payments, balance enquiry, BVN enquiry and statement generation, among others.”

“We are pleased to help Sterling Bank enable chat banking on WhatsApp, making banking services available to its customers anytime and everywhere on a channel they use daily,” says Samson Isa, Director – West Africa for Clickatell. He added, “Chat banking is the future of financial services with bank customers preferring the channel for conducting routine banking, as it is fast, simple, and secure. We are proud to be leading this shift in financial services, along with customers like Sterling Bank.”

For a customer to get started, Alabede explained that he or she would need to follow three simple steps.
Firstly, the customer would have to save the mobile number +234 906 000 6449 as a contact on his/her device and should remember to save the number as "Kiki."
Secondly, once the number has been saved, the customer should start a conversation by typing “Hi," “Hello” or "Hey," among others, and sending the message to Kiki.
Lastly, the prospective customer should agree to the terms and conditions by sending “I AGREE” followed by the account number to Kiki. Thereafter, an OTP will be sent to the registered mobile number for validation. The customer is also expected to set a transaction PIN using his/her debit card.

Alabede said the customer must use the mobile number registered on his/her Sterling account to enjoy the service.

He added that a new set of features will soon be enabled, as the bank is exploring ways to serve customers better with the introduction of micro lending, micro investment, account opening, card request, and credit rating, among others.

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NIS: Digitalisaiton enthrones transparent, quick, effective services says Babandede - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
Some 57 years ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria promulgated a law to establish Immigration Department now known as Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). In this interview with a team of migration journalists, the Comptroller-General of NIS, MUHAMMAD BABANDEDE, asserts that digitalisation has enthroned transparent, quick, effective service delivery in the agency, aside impacts on the economy
Excerpts:


NIS has come of age since August 1, 1963, how will you rate its impact on the economy?

During the colonial era many people assumed immigration was all about stopping the ‘enemies’ from entering, and on the other hand prevent citizens from exiting the nation. As the global economy progresses, immigration develops links with the economy. In last few years that I have been on board as Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI), we have been looking at the relationship between the economy and immigration. 

Although, we are not revenue generating agency, however, if you look at what we have been able to generate in last five years, we have made appreciable impacts on the economy. The NIS internally generated revenue in Naira was N25 billion in 2015. After I assumed office in 2016, we generated N36 billion. In 2017, we netted N38 billion, in 2018, it was N39 billion and in 2019, we made N52 billion. 

While we are not operating like a business agency, we are helping to build the economy through remittance to the national pulse and partnership with Nigerian companies generating revenue for the government. Aside that, we have been able to contribute to the growth of foreign exchange earnings such that between 2015 and 2019, we made $29 million, $30 million, $29 million, $36 million and $41 million respectively. All went directly into the government pulse. A very interesting dimension is the introduction of 79 visa categories by the NIS that is encouraging income to nation.

How has the visa increment from six to 79 categories improved the immigration policy and the economy, also what informed that decision?

Governance in the 20th century encompasses review of socio economic policies. During the colonial era, aliens were regarded as people who were not citizens of Commonwealth nations in Nigeria. When I became the CGI, we changed that political concept to migrant which is the global language of migration to determine people who are coming here for whether short, temporal or permanent stay. Simply put, if you are not a Nigerian citizen here you are a migrant. In relation to visa categories, for example, for those coming to fix machines for industries, we created short visit visa for them so also business people have their visa classifications, ditto for sports, health, religion and others with work permits. While selecting these categories of people, we have a duty to pick those who will make sense to the economy. Visa on arrival can be accessed by any qualified persons instead of traveling back to their country of resident or national. This is a major economic development between the immigration service and investors.

With huge investment and energy put into digitalization at the NIS headquarters, how do you intend to cope with the challenge of maintenance?

I agree with you that there are challenges of electricity and internet connection, but we have solved the problem of power to a large extent by connecting to the solar energy and electric inverter. For interment, though, we rely on Galaxy Backbone, but we are sourcing for other alternatives. Concerning maintenance and sustainability, I am happy to inform you that all our machines and equipments are now being installed and managed by the NIS officers because we have built their capacities to a level that we don’t need to look for consultants to do most of our services in relation to that. The brains have been developed and they are now working for us.

Many Nigerians at different times have expressed concern over porous nature of the nation’s borders in some areas, how is immigration addressing this?

When we talk about digitalization of NIS operations, border management is also involved. Frankly, one cannot address the challenges involved through manual approach only. We digitalized because we want transparent, quick, effective actions and services. There is no way the 25,000 immigration officers in Nigeria can patrol the verse land and sea border posts without digital equipment. To address the issues, we have developed a curriculum for land and sea border by training the border patrol corps specially. We now have as many as 84 management posts. We also have established additional 15 Forward Operational Base 
(FOB) stations equipped with patrol commanders, domestic facilities, patrol vehicles, armory and digital devices connected to the national grid where officers can reside while manning their different border posts. 

Now NIS operates e-border government approval. Border strategic plans and policies developed by the NIS for 2019-2023 are being implemented. As the first contact at the border, if there are issues beyond us we are in a position to involve the navy, military and the police. The border management system is such that accommodates biometrics of migrants and capture their identities. At different times, several people have been tracked and arrested for trying to either enter or leave Nigeria illegally via digital process. This month alone, 37 of them were arrested and have been prosecuted. In all we do, we also relate and carry along the border communities too.

Last year, the American government pronounced suspension of issuance of non-immigrant visa to Nigerians over failure to comply with certain security details, how was the matter resolved?

America did not ban Nigeria from accessing their visa categories rather they only restricted certain classes of people from being employed. We have done what they required from us. For instance, the issue of lost and found passport to invalidate the use of such document anywhere had been complied with. Once you appeared at the border, all the features about your data would be revealed accurately. We have complied with the security details as requested and they were satisfied. Nigeria now uploads on Interpol base on data relating to passports matters. It is a credit to our country that we achieved such feat even though America imposed it.

Thousand of NIS officers are being promoted under your leadership, what are other things to expect?

We have done well by promoting thousands of officers, by building barracks, commands, local government offices and the FOB as transit camps for officers at the border. All these were not there before. Every worker desires promotion even some that have retired got promoted because while in service they sat for promotion exams but for one reason or the other could not be approved for next rank. We have elevated them accordingly because it was not their fault. Out of 29 Assistant Comptroller Generals (ACG), 15 of them have retired but they still got their ranks and we are proud to do that. I will continue to sustain promotion and build accommodation units to make officers comfortable. We have identified a company with pedigree after due diligence that has fashioned out mortgage plans for officers that will make them own their own houses as they progress in the service. This is a year of enforcement of all our visa rules. Every migrant in Nigeria must comply with the dictate of the approved visa. For example you cannot come into Nigeria with a visa to install machine in a company and you are doing the opposite, we shall follow up on you and ensure that you are returned to your country immediately. I had personally arrested Indian selling things at Kano market on this. So, all the Comptrollers and senior officers including the CGI Special Monitoring Team as backup to keep commands on their toes must rise to the visa enforcement. Nigerians’ labour and jobs must be protected.

What is driving force behind your achievements so far?

I believe leadership should not be by accident. I became the CGI in May, 2016 and by July that year, I had already formed a team and we went for a retreat in Kano. When I assumed office I was dissatisfied with the state of facilities at many of our state commands. I set a target of completing and commissioning at least two new immigration offices in a year. In 2017 I was able to complete offices in Kano and Jigawa states. In 2018, we completed that of Plateau and Abia states. In 2019, Adamawa and Zamfara states offices got commissioned. In 2020, we had commissioned NIS office in Kwara state. As I speak with you Enugu and Nasarawa states’ offices and three others are ready for unveiling. What I am saying in essence is that a leader must have a plan and must be able to task himself with a deadline to achieve because success doesn’t happen by accident.

How are you looking forward to the future?
My dream is to produce a better person to succeed me as CGI. That will be my greatest achievement. If the institution did not produce someone that is better than me, then I have not succeeded. Development of NIS as an institution is paramount to me as officer in charge now. All the senior officers from the rank of comptroller and above, I have ensured that they all partake in leadership training in the area of emotion intelligence and other skills to prepare them for the future.

*Editor

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Corruption fight: Buhari administration recovers excess of N800bn - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

The President Muhammadu Buhari's administration has recovered funds in excess of N800 billion and recorded 1,4000 court convictions, reports ITREALMS.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made this assertion on the administrations fight against corruption in Abuja, Tuesday.

"This administration's fight against corruption is as strong as ever, and we have the records to back up this claim," he said.

As said by him, Buhari's administration has recorded over 1,400 convictions, including high profile ones, and recovered funds in excess of 800 billion Naira, not to talk of forfeiture of ill-gotten properties, which he described as "no mean feat."

The fight against corruption, he also said, is not about loot recovery or convictions alone, stressing that FG is putting in place enduring institutional reforms that will deter acts of corruption.

"Here we are talking about the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Whistleblower Policy, the expansion of the coverage of the Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System as well as the Government Integrated Management Information System and the Open Government Partnership and Transparency Portal on Financial Transactions, among others," he said.

The minister noted that Nigerians have recently been inundated with allegations of monumental corruption in a number of government agencies, including the NDDC, NSITF and the anti-corruption agency, EFCC.

"Many, especially naysayers, have misinterpreted these developments as a sign that the Administration's fight against corruption is waning. In fact, the main opposition PDP has latched on to the developments to call for the resignation of Mr. President, a call that is nothing but infantile!
 
"Let me state here and now that the fight against corruption, a cardinal programme of this Administration, is alive and well. President Muhammadu Buhari, the African Union's Anti-Corruption Champion, who also has an impeccable reputation globally, remains the driver of the fight and no one, not the least the PDP under whose watch Nigeria was looted dry, can taint his image or reverse the gains of the fight. Anyone who disagrees that the anti-corruption fight is alive and well is free to dare us.

"What the revelations of the past few weeks, especially the investigation of the nation's anti-corruption Czar, have shown is that this Administration is not ready to sweep any allegation of corruption under the carpet; that there is no sacred cow in this fight, and that - unlike the PDP - we will not cover up for anyone, including the members of our party and government, who faces corruption allegations.

"Our fight against corruption is blind to party affiliation, position in government and any other consideration. If the nation's anti-corruption Czar can be investigated, then the fight against
corruption cannot be deemed to be fake, neither can it be said to be waning.

"I am not prepared to go into the details of the various corruption allegations - whether at the NDDC, NSITF, EFCC or any other agency - because they are all still under investigation. However, I wish to state that the allegations of corruption in NDDC, for example, are not new. What is new is the speed and seriousness with which this administration has tackled, and is still tackling, the allegations.

"Had such attention been paid to the running of the NDDC by previous Administrations, the Commission would probably have avoided its present predicament. Is it not a sad irony, then, that those under whose watch the alleged freewheeling spending by the Commission started are now the ones accusing those who are cleaning up after them of corruption?

"As I said earlier, this Administration's fight against corruption is as strong as ever, and we have the records to back up this claim," he said.

He let me also mention the ICPC's Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group, aimed at tracking performance of publicly-funded projects, and the Commission's escalation of the use of administrative sanctions in the public service by periodically submitting, for sanction, names of public servants who are being prosecuted. There is also the review of the personnel and capital fund expenditure of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

"Therefore, those who are celebrating the so-called waning of the Administration's anti-corruption fight are engaging in wishful thinking, and are not looking at the full ramifications of the fight," he said.

As the nation plans to mark the 59th independence anniversary of the country, ''This Administration has
fought against corruption by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources. We have empowered teams of prosecutors, assembled detailed databases of evidence, traced the proceeds of crimes and accelerated the recovery of stolen funds....The policies that we are putting in place today are to ensure such criminal and unpatriotic acts do not go without
consequences.''

Remmy Nweke/DoP

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Group asks Buhari to halt sale of oil wells worth $25b - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

The President, General Mohammadu Buhari, retired, has been asked to halt the planned sale of some four oil wells in the country. The oil wells already put up for sale are worth $22.5b dollars.

Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) in a statement on Tuesday asked the Federal Government to halt the sales until due process is ascertained. The oil wells are ) OML 24, OML 98, OML 122, OML 110, OML 88, OML 62, OML 11, OPL 292 and OPL 258

In a letter dispatched to Buhari, marked "Urgent Intervention" the HEDA petition signed by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju stated that "the total cost of the oil wells run to about 12billion dollars. We want to know why these oil wells are being put up for sale. Who are the prospective buyers? Where will the proceeds of the oil wells go? How will Nigerians benefit from the sale of the oil wells?"

Suraju said oil wells have been used over the years for political patronage and sold to individuals by fiat. "This should stop. The resources belong to Nigerians and they should not be sold without prior and informed consent of the people."

The group said selling the oil wells at a time the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) is undergoing probe is even more suspicious.

The foremost anti-corruption group stated "Nigerians have the right to determine what the Federal Government is doing with the oil wells. The decision to sell the oil wells can only be taken after due consultation with relevant stakeholders and active participation of the civil society organisations, media and labour to understand and verify the beneficial owners of the bidding companies."

HEDA said Nigeria is home to some 159 oil fields and 1481 wells in operation, citing the Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR). It said the most effective of the oil wells are located in the Niger Delta, which remains one of the poorest regions in the country. The Niger-Delta alone has 78 oil fields out of the 159 oil fields in Nigeria.

The most productive region of the nation is the coastal Niger Delta Basin in the Niger Delta or "South-south" region which encompasses 78 of the 159 oil fields. With the recent revelations of insider dealings, compromise and contract benefit by parliamentarians, ministers accused of corruption and illicit assets beyond legitimate means, public perception is not at all in favour of this surreptitious sale of these oil fields.

"Selling national assets is not a decision to be taken by a few people. Selling of these oil wells will have longterm implications for the future of Nigeria beyond the tenure of those who wish to sell the oil wells. This is the reason why the Federal Government should not sell the oil wells without constructive engagement of the people but rather the employment of a Consultant as middlemen for the sale of these oil block. The process must be transparent and Nigerians must know who the buyers of the oil wells are and on what conditions."

HEDA said it is also important to know when and where the bids were advertised and what is the level of competence of the bidders. The organisation threatens to seek appropriate and available legal means to reverse any action by the government considered to be inimical to public interest and accountably transparent.

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Access Bank excites female SMEs Womenpreneur season 2 - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
Leading retail bank in Nigeria, Access Bank Plc has unveiled the second edition of its Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton programme, reports ITREALMS.

The Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton Africa 2020 Campaign is designed to provide female owned businesses across Africa an opportunity to access to finance and world-class business trainings as well as mentoring opportunities. 

This programme has been designed to create an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Speaking at the launch of the second edition of this initiative, Ayona Trimnell, Group Head W Initiative, said, “Access Bank has been a leading advocate for women’s economic empowerment in Nigeria and this is the key motivation for the ‘W’ Initiative which caters to the women economy particularly in the areas of capacity building and creating networking opportunities for women”. She further stated that the Pitch-a-ton is an expansion of the Womenpreneur Business Workshop, under the Bank’s women proposition, the W Initiative. “We launched the Pitch-a-ton initiative last year in line with our value proposition as the No. 1 Bank of Choice for women in Nigeria, and we got a tremendous amount of applications with innovative business ideas. This year we want to do more and we want to reach out to more female entrepreneurs not just in Nigeria but across Africa. “As a responsible financial institution with huge presence in other African countries, we want to give the same opportunity to other female entrepreneurs in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia as well as Sierra Leone, Gambia, & Congo to apply and participate in this year’s edition of the programme.

MONTAGE LINK https://www.instagram.com/p/CDJKEAdg5wR/?igshid=1xg15k9rd2jia



TESTIMONIAL LINK https://www.instagram.com/p/CCvgHv6AjzJ/?igshid=16lscva2zx1vu



The Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton Africa 2020 will provide up to N9 million financial grant and a unique capacity building program aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs. The programme is designed as a 3-month period incorporating pitching sessions and 8 weeks of mini-MBA training in collaboration with the IFC. Interested persons from Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Rwanda as well as with extension to Sierra Leone, Gambia, & Congo who meet the criteria are required to fill an online application. The five hundred candidates selected from this pool will then send in a sixty seconds video pitch which will be screened by a credible panel of business experts to select fifty finalists.

As part of the graduation requirements, the fifty finalists will pitch their businesses, infusing learnings from the mini-MBA and will stand an opportunity to win financial grants up to N5 million.

As a leading commercial bank in Nigeria, Access Bank has made significant investments aimed at enhancing growth in the Small and Medium-size Enterprise sector. The Bank is also a major advocate for women in business through innovative offerings like the W Power Loan, a discounted financing at 15% interest per annum, for women to grow their business as well as other Business Support Services.

The Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton is the first women-in-business support initiative of its kind in the industry. Please click HERE to know more.



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89% of Nigerian parents use gadgets to entertain their children - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
Latest survey has shown that Nigerian parents largely use their gadgets to entertain their children, reports ITREALMS.

Kaspersky latest survey throws a light on some travel patterns of parents and their children on the go.

According to the “Responsible Digital Parenting” survey1, 89% of the parents in Nigeria use their gadgets to entertain their child when they travel. Furthermore, 33% of the respondents try to calm down their children with the help of devices and 22% aim to gain some spare time for themselves. As a result, there is a chance that children are often left one-on-one with the gadgets. 

What is more, 56% of Nigerian children have their own smartphone or tablet, according to the survey. Among such a big number, the majority of children were 2-6 years old when they first got their own device. Nevertheless, 31% of Nigerian parents have not discussed safety rules on the Internet with their child. It means that the children are not always aware of how to behave themselves safely online.

“Most parents give their children gadgets in order to entertain them, spare some time for themselves or calm down their kids. However, they shouldn’t use digital devices uncontrolled. It has been estimated by Kaspersky that 19% of Nigerian parents would like to monitor their child’s digital life better. This can be done by limiting screen time and holding conversations; however, a security solution is needed as well,” states Andrey Sidenko, Head of Child Safety at Kaspersky Network.

In order to teach children to use their gadgets in a beneficial way, to safeguard them from inappropriate content, take the following advice:

Explain to your child the ethics of the Internet (not to write anything offending or insulting, not to post embarrassing, indecent photos, etc.) and safety rules on the Internet (not to respond to strangers, not to publish too much private information etc.).

Communicate with your child. Discover his or her interests and suggest suitable materials and video bloggers. Ensure them that you are a modern parent who understands them and to whom they can always come for a piece of advice.

Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Safe Kids to monitor your child’s activity successfully.

Chuks Egbune/Editor

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WHD 2020: Find the missing millions - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

Every year, July 28 is marked as World Hepatitis Day (WHD). It is a day dedicated to increase the global awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes.

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a group of viruses known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E virus. The liver is the largest internal organ and has several indispensible functions such as: removal of harmful substances from the blood, break down and storage of many of the nutrients absorbed from the intestines as well as production of the chemicals that prevent excessive bleeding from cuts or injuries.

Worldwide, 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Globally, infection with Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) or Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is the main cause of liver cancer, making hepatitis a target disease of the Big War Against Cancer, the current focal cause of ↑↓GivingTide.

Globally, viral Hepatitis causes 80% of deaths from liver cancer which is diagnosed in more than 800,000 people annually. Liver cancer is also a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for over 700,000 deaths each year (over 1,900 deaths daily). In Nigeria, 14 people die of liver cancer every day.

Yet, hepatitis and liver cancer are largely preventable. A major contributor to the sad hepatitis/liver cancer statistics is lack of awareness. With better awareness and understanding of its preventive measures, much of these life-threatening conditions could be eliminated.

The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is “FIND THE MISSING MILLIONS", a clarion call for everyone to take action and raise awareness to find the ignorant multitudes who are unaware of their hepatitis infection. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

First, it is important to let people know the mode of transmission, the symptoms and preventive measure of hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. It is spread through contaminated blood, intravenous drug abuse and sexual contact with an infected person. In highly endemic areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth (perinatal transmission). In addition, infection can occur during medical procedures, tattooing, or through the use of razors and other sharp objects that are contaminated with infected blood.

Most cases of hepatitis are asymptomatic. When symptoms do occur, they may include yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue and fever.

Like hepatitis, liver cancer is also asymptomatic in most cases until the later stages of the disease. However, liver cancer can be diagnosed early when treatment is most likely to be helpful, if the doctor is seen as soon as symptoms are noticed. Some of the most common symptoms of liver cancer are: weight loss (without trying), loss of appetite, feeling very full after a small meal, nausea or vomiting, belly pain or swelling, itching, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). For people who have chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, worsening of their usual symptoms or just changes in laboratory test results may indicate progression to cancer.

One of the most successful ways of preventing Hepatitis is vaccination against hepatitis B. The first dose is now being given at birth. The vaccine is safe and effective, protecting from HBV infection for life and preventing the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to HBV. Adults can also benefit from the vaccine. Although vaccination for HCV is currently unavailable, antiviral medicines can cure HCV infection.

Other preventive measure include: avoid sharing of sharp objects like needles, toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors and screening of blood donation products. Safer sex practices, including minimizing the number of partners and using barrier protective measures (condoms), also protect against transmission.

Screening and early diagnosis can prevent health problems that may result from viral hepatitis infection and prevent transmission of the virus. Treatment with drugs, including oral antiviral agents can decrease the risk of liver cancer.

In line with the theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day, ↑↓GivingTide hereby invites all Nigerians to ACT! (Attack Cancer Together! Attack Cancer Today!! Attack Cancer Totally!!!). This could be done through advocacy and by donating towards scaling up of the on-going pilot phase of the mobile health system operated by the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP) of mass medical mission. This is being carried out using the Mobile Cancer Centres (aka the PinkCruise), the complementary Mobile Eye Centre (aka PinkVISSION where “VISSION” stands for Voluntary Integrated Sight Saving Initiative of Nigeria) and the Mobile Dental Centre (aka PinkDentist). These mobile units are deployed for free health campaigns, targeted mainly at the under-privileged. Through the mobile eye screening, individuals with eye signs of hepatitis such as jaundice can be picked up at an early stage.

Efforts are currently underway to establish the first Comprehensive cancer centre (CCC) for the optimal care of confirmed cancer cases, including liver cancer. A CCC is a tertiary health institution that is focused exclusively on cancer care in all its departments. The current COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need to ensure that there is a CCC in Nigeria. We invite you to join us and be a voice for the 700,000 lives that succumb to liver cancer every year!

*Dr. Abia Nzelu, Executive Secretary, GivingTide international; info@givingtide.org

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Monday, July 27, 2020

DSS warns against plans to destabilize Nigeria - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
The Department of State Services (DSS) has uncovered plans by some persons and groups desirous of taking advantage of latest developments in parts of the country to destabilize it, reports ITREALMS.

Some prominent personalities and socio-cultural groups have resorted to divisive acts through inciting statements aimed at pitting individuals, groups and ethnic nationalities against another. The Service is, without doubt, aware of these plans and their sponsors.

Disclosing this to ITREALMS, the Public Relations Officer, Department of State Services (DSS), National Headquarters, Peter Afunanya, Ph.D, said in Abuja that consequently, DSS warns that it will no longer tolerate the orchestrations by subversive and unscrupulous elements to cause a breakdown of law and order in the country.

In this regard, he said, DSS is working assiduously with relevant authorities and sister security and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the sinister objective is not achieved.

The Service reiterates its commitment to the internal security of Nigeria and will, within the confines of the law, decisively deal with planners of the mayhem.

Law abiding citizens are urged to go about their normal businesses and disregard the antics of agents of destabilization.

They should, however, avail the Service and related agencies with useful information about the activities of criminals and groups intent on instigating violence in the country.

Uboshe Uboshe/Editor

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Buhari names railways stations after prominent Nigerians - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:
*Saraki family extols President

Following the conclusion of some rail projects in some states the President of the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval, minister of transportation Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has named the railway stations along the Lagos -Ibadan corridor and others on the Itakpe /Ajaokuta /Aladja-Warri after some deserving Nigerian citizens.

A statement by the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations (DPPR), Mr. Eric Ojiekwe noted that the deserving citizens have contributed to the progress and development of their respective communities and the nation at large.

The Saraki family described the President's action and conferment on late Abubakar Saraki as a commendable recognition of his contribution to national development.

According to the statement, for the Lagos-Ibadan with extension to the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa railway station, the beneficiaries are, Bola Ahmed Tinubu( Apapa station), Mobolaji Johnson(Ebute Metta Station), Babatunde Raji Fashola( Agege station), Lateef Jakande( Agbado station) and Prof.Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola station).

Others are Funmilayo Ransom Kuti (Papalanto station), Prof. Wole Soyinka(Abeokuta station), Segun Osoba (Olodo station), Ladoka Akintola (Omio-Adio station) Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Ibadan station) and Chief Alex Ekwueme (Operation Control Centre).

For the Itakpe-Ajaokuta/Aladja-Warri Railway, the names are, Alhaji Adamu Attah (Itakpe station), Dr Olusola Saraki(Ajaokuta station), Admiral Augustus Aikhomu(Itogbo station), Brig. General George Innih (Agenebode station), Anthony Eromosele Enahoro(Uromi station), Chief Tom Ikimi(Ekehen station) and Brig. Gen Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia(rtd), (Igbanke station).

Others according to the statement include; Dr.Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Agbor station complex), Brig. General David Ejoor (Abraka station), Micheal Ibru (Opara station), Alfred Rewani (Ujevwu station) and Chief Mike Akhigbe (Railway village, Agbor).

Meanwhile, the family of late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki has expressed deep appreciation to President Muhammad Buhari for naming the Ajaokuta Train Station after our beloved father and renowned statesman.

The statement signed on behalf of the family by the Minister of State for Transportation,Senator Gbemisola Ruquayah Saraki reads as follows:

"The people of Kwara and Kogi have for long been closely tied by history and culture. Naming the Ajaokuta Train Station after our late father is a most welcomed initiative.

"We have no doubt that the construction of the Ajaokuta Train Station by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will contribute immensely to the economic development of our beloved country, Nigeria.

"The late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki ardently dedicated his life to true service of the federation and indeed the people of old Kwara state and bestowing this honour is a recognition of his contributions in the development of Nigeria and one Kwara as a whole.

"We commend the President's leadership and commitment to resuscitating the rail transportation in the country and we plegde the support of the family in the realisation of these laudable efforts", the statement noted.

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Top 50 finalists emerge @2020 Africa's Business Heroes - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

Top 50 finalists were selected from over 22,000 applications across all 54 African nations; The finalists represent 21 African countries, half are female, and work in 18 sectors including agriculture, Artificial Intelligence (AI), e-commerce, fashion, healthcare, renewable energy and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), reports ITREALMS.

Finalists will advance to the next round of selection and will participate in an exclusive virtual boot camp on July 28.

The 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, a flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), has shortlisted the top 50 finalists from stage one of the selection process. The fifty entrepreneurs will continue their journey in the competition, for a chance to become one of the ten entrepreneurs that will compete in the grand finale later this year.

The top 50 finalists were selected from a pool of over 22,000 applications received from all 54 African nations. The diversity of the finalist roster reflects the aim of Africa’s Business Heroes to be inclusive and grassroots, providing entrepreneurs from all over Africa with a platform to showcase their talent and business ideas, regardless of nationality, industry, age or gender. The 2020 top fifty finalists come from twenty-one countries (Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe) and eighteen sectors, such as: agriculture, AI, Big Data, business services, construction, education, engineering, e-commerce, fashion, financial services, healthcare, ICT, logistics, manufacturing, management services, retail, renewable energy, and transportation.

The average age of the cohort is 37 with the youngest candidate aged 22 and the eldest aged 64. 50% of the candidates are female – a 24% increase from the debut competition last year, and 32% are francophone, reflecting this year’s competition opening applications in French for the first time.

Over the past month, a panel of 140 highly skilled and experienced judges reviewed the submissions, evaluating applicants’ leadership and vision, their ability to translate their innovations and ideas into sustainable and robust business models, and their commitment to create positive impact to uplift their communities. Judges, whose unrivalled knowledge and industry expertise has brought immense added value to the selection process, represented a variety of key sectors in Africa, such as agriculture, tech, retail and e-commerce, education, healthcare, finance, logistics, and tourism.

Before stepping into the second round of selection, which will determine the top 20 finalists, the fifty selected entrepreneurs will be invited to join an exclusive virtual boot camp hosted by the Africa’s Business Heroes team on July 28th. The boot camp represents a further opportunity for aspiring candidates to access unparalleled knowledge and insights from across the ABH network. It also aims to build up finalists’ management and leadership capabilities and ultimately increase not only their chance of progressing to the next stages of the competition but to further develop as entrepreneurs.

During the boot camp, they will have the chance to receive feedback from round 1 judges such as Rafeh Saleh, Director of the Founder Institute and Omolara Awoyemi, Senior Program Manager at Facebook. Participants will also have the opportunity to attend interactive workshops with industry and business leaders, who have been partnering with ABH this year, including Abdelhameed Sharara, Founder & CEO of RiseUp; Patrick Awuah, Founder & President of Ashesi University, and Sebastien Nony, General Partner of Janngo Capital. It will also feature a few of the 2019 finalists who will provide advice and insights on their own journeys.

The selection process to spotlight the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes finalists will continue throughout the summer. Following round 2 interviews and the semi-finale pitch, the top 20 and top 10 finalists will be announced in August and September respectively. ABH will culminate in a grand finale show later this year, where the top 10 finalists will take the stage to pitch business legends – including Jack Ma – for a chance to win their share of a US$1.5 million prize pool.

A number of round 1 judges commented on their experience with Africa’s Business Heroes, noting:

“I am thrilled to have served as a judge for the Africa's Business Heroes competition. It's been an honour to help identify business heroes from Africa that are genuinely committed to changing the game in their respective industries. In these challenging times, getting to discover how the ABH applicants manage to turn challenges into opportunities, with a real sense of purpose and dedication to improve the conditions of people in their communities strengthens my belief in the promise of entrepreneurship in Africa." said Isadora Bigourdan Bryden, Team Lead at Agence Française de Développement.

“Driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship, the tangible benefits of social good, and a strong sense of community pride, this startup competition is special - showcasing many promising ideas and a diverse group of African startups. It's been inspirational to see these founders, deeply rooted and passionate, create change in their world.” commented Triane Chang, Silicon Valley Startup Advisor.

“It is truly heartwarming to see that so many young entrepreneurs are working passionately to drive high-impact social projects across the African continent. The judging process was not an easy task as all participants submitted very high-quality applications with compelling business propositions. As the competition progresses, I look forward to following the finalists' journey and how they will use their talent and skills to generate positive change in their communities and beyond.” added Firas Ezzeddine, Manager, Group Strategy at Philips.


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COVID-19: FirstBank offers support to SMEs - ITREALMS

ITREALMS:

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Education Sector to cushion the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. Mr. Bankole Adediran, Head, Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, made this known at the Bank’s SMEConnect webinar with theme: “Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies”.

Adediran said that the Bank was ready to partner with SMEs in the education sector through the period of the novel coronavirus pandemic to sustain their businesses.

“FirstBank, as an institution, is very passionate about education, and will continue to support the sector,” he said.

He said that the Bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.

Adediran said that the Bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in the period of COVID -19.

He said SMEs in the sector could key into FirstEdu Loan targeted at private nursery, primary and secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in medium and long terms.

According to him, the product provides funding advancement of up to N20 million for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.

Adediran said that, with the product, school owners/proprietors could stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.

He said the Bank had launched various interventions and initiatives to support the sector to navigate through challenges occasioned by COVID -19.

He noted that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they would be academically engaged while at home.

Adediran also said that the Bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructure projects.

He added that the Bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State Government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.

Adediran urged schools must learn from the COVID -19 pandemic by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.

Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, who was a panelist at the webinar, commended the Bank for donating 20,000 devices with six months data, to the state for e-learning.

Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic and that FirstBank came to its aid.

She disclosed that all the schools were not prepared for the situation, noting that most children in public schools did not have device and data for online learning.

“This pandemic has been a terrible thing, and one lesson from it is that we have not invested enough in solutions we can deplore at a time like this,” Adefisayo said.

She said that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovative, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.

Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, saying that COVID -19 had changed learning.

Also, Dr. Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), said the association had responded greatly by interfacing between government and its agencies since the beginning of the pandemic.

Otubela said the Central Bank of Nigeria was working out modalities for palliatives for schools and teachers who had not been receiving salaries since the pandemic started.

He noted that there had been an increase in rape, kidnapping and robbery as a result of COVID -19.

Mr. Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG), said the pandemic had impacted negatively on many sectors of the economy, especially education.

Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural, social and policy challenges.

He said many SMEs in the educational sector could be out of business due to the pandemic, thereby increasing unemployment rate.

Mr. Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom, Microsoft Nigeria, said the company had introduced a lot of products to make online learning easy and interesting.

“COVID -19 is a very unique period for everyone, change has come and we will continue to experience change.

“We must be more proactive than reactive,” Vaughan urged.


*Chinyere Nwokeoma, NAN/Editor

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