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FG Approves N24.2bn For Free Internet At Airports, Schools, Markets

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THE Federal Government has approved free internet services worth N24.2 billion naira at 20 selected airports, 43 universities and six markets across the country.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Pantami, disclosed this after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday

Pantami said that the airports were selected from the six geo-political zones.

“Certain intervention projects are going to be implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Communications Commission of providing Internet in 20 selected airports in Nigeria and higher institutions of learning and also some markets to support micro small and medium enterprises.

“In each geopolitical zone, you have around three airports. In the South-West, we have Lagos and Ondo. For the South-East, we have Anambra and Enugu.

“For the South-South, we have Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom. For the North-Central we have Abuja and Ilorin. In the North-West, we have Kano, Sokoto and Kebbi. For the North-East we have Yola, Maiduguri and Gombe.”

The minister said the markets and 43 institutions which include universities and polytechnics were also drawn from the six geopolitical zones, adding that it will ease e-learning in schools and also enhance the transition to a cashless economy.

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Economy

Amnesty International Goofed!

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The statement credited to Amnesty International (AI) on the 10th of June, 2024, on the alleged treatment meted to Nigerian girls who had escaped from Boko Haram and the ones captured by the Nigerian Armed Forces to safety in order to reintegrated them to their communities is false, unethical, unprofessional, worrisome and cannot stand the test of time.

Infact, the aspersions cast by AI on these efforts by the Nigerian military with the recent report accusing the Nigerian military of illegally detaining the girls and young women who had escaped from Boko Haram captivity because the military believes they supported the Islamist insurgent group should be trashed as lies from the pit of hell orchestrated by AI to smear the hard-earned reputation of the Nigerian Armed Forces once more in their usual tradition.

The AI report as captioned ‘Help us build our lives’ stated that the Nigerian government has failed to uphold their human rights obligations to protect and adequately support these girls and young women. It accused the Nigerian military of detaining and abusing female survivors of Boko Haram in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without access to medical care or legal representation.

The report also highlighted the abuses and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by Boko Haram and the Nigeria authorities. It highlighted the unique experiences of girls and young women who were forced to marry, subjected to sexual violence and domestic servitude.

After critically examining the contents of the Report by AI and its antecedence over the decades against the Nigerian state and military, the Guild of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Equity, Justice and Transparency in Nigeria (GOCMEJ) is compelled to issue the following statement.

That since the present leadership took over the mantle of the Nigerian Armed Forces (NAF) headed by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Christopher Musa, the military image has blossomed on a positive trajectory, a narrative both local and internationally due to their stomping all over the country, the new sense of urgency, direction, patriotism, transparency, rules of engagement that was brought into the fight by the new leadership. The enormous improvement in military accoutrements such as equipment, gadgets, ICT infrastructure, fire power and the overall capabilities, the exotic names given to military operations/exercises all over the country, the string of successes recorded by various military formations and commands culminating in the recapture of the Boko Haram elements, bandits leaders and criminal elements has diminished their fighting ability and power all helped to turn around the image of the Nigeria military across the globe.

Since 2023, Nigerians and indeed the international community have given a pat on the back to the Nigeria’s military for their national sacrifice to keep the country in unity and peace in spite of the daunting challenges faced not only at the war front but in also reducing criminality across the length and breadth of the country.

However, one major factor that has held the Nigerian military force down in spite of their enormous efforts to defend her territorial integrity and safe guard the lives and property of Nigerians is the negative narrative of the amnesty international that have pervaded Africa since the last decade of which Nigeria is not an exception due to its negative framing and consistent bias reportage. Unfortunately, AI has failed to acknowledge in its report the on-going fair trial and conviction of culpable members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and the release of those not found guilty. The number of persons released, re-oriented, de-radicalized and re-integrated with the larger community which is running into millions to date and they are accommodated in a place relatively safer with enough space while providing the detainees with social amenities and three square meals daily has also been left out of the report.

The AI report on the 10th of June, 2024, according to fact finding mission and pool conducted by Nigerians is a systematic campaign of calumny against the Nigerian military and a calculated narrative that have kept even the best of cynics astounded including the international community. “This could be corroborated by inherent lopsidedness in AI’s portrayal of Nigeria, its involvement in local politics and taking side with terrorists and other belligerent groups, to cause internal disorder, which no country can tolerate. The Guild therefore reiterates that the military in this new dispensation has maintained an open-door policy and has been cooperating with all stakeholders in ensuring that the Nigerian armed forces remain one of the best and a proud institution for all Nigerians”. For AI to be making spurious allegations, especially without been substantiated and cogent reasons given, apart from those adduced by the AI itself for the reason best known to it and its collaborators is disturbing and unethical of an international organization that is supposed to stay clear of local politics and to be seen as maintaining neutrality in its reportage of the countries it operates.

Emphasizing that “incessant negative report on Nigeria in general and the armed forces in particular by AI in condemnable by all well-meaning Nigerians who have seen and appreciate what the military and other security agencies have done to decimate Boko Haram terrorists and contain other criminal elements.

“As much as the military welcomes comments, criticism and observation that could help the institution to grow higher for the interest of our nation, the activities of the AI to say the least, is far from being noble, AI has negative mission in Nigeria”, the Guild asserted.

The military has operated within the strict guidance of the rules of engagement and the code of conduct for troops, according to the GOCMEJ, what needs to be clear is that we have observed a consistent attack pattern on the institutions charged with the mandate to protect the nation against every form of insecurity. The AI has consistently with other agents worked against our nationhood, tried fruitlessly to incite the populace against the military through various malicious publications in the past and “In spite of their distractions, Nigeria has forged ahead and decimated Boko Haram and the military has worked assiduously to improve on its civil-military relations, the result of which is manifest in the unparalleled support, accolades and encouragement received from Nigerians today”. It is appalling that “this position seems to have disappointed AI and their allies, adding that, it is sad that when our national security institutions are gaining traction, these agents after fabricating their reports, sits back and push Nigerians to make the reports known to the public to give it a national colour of some sort”. It is very despicable indeed.

Nigerians must rise up and stand against this subtle and increasing national framing and reportage, for we all have a role to play in this direction. “Our national Institutions must be strengthened, it is our responsibility to do so, no one can love Nigeria better than Nigerians, we only ask the media, to shine their eyes”.

Consequently, after our investigations, we found that the Defence Headquarters have made concerted efforts for years to reach out to AI but all to no avail. The deliberate falsehood peddled by AI could cast the nation and its security apparatus in bad light. The frequent accusations and counter accusation of the military by the human rights body, is becoming appalling and worrisome and Nigerians are beginning to think that AI has an axe to grind or has clandestine plots against the military class. Amnesty International does at mean well for Nigeria going by their previous antecedents and reputation of denigrating the armed forces anytime they make gain against the forces of evil to incite the Nigerian public and international community against the military.

The Guild is emphatic and reiterates for the upteempt time, that the Nigerian people looks at the AI as an organization established to embark on an orchestrated campaign of calumny against the Nigeria military and undermine the laudable achievements against insurgents which have formed the narratives over time, that have happened over the years. Nevertheless, looking at some of the critical allegations of AI on most of the nationalistic operations carried-out by the military, it seems that the AI are not interested in a united and indivisible nation like ours, but are out to denigrate the institution of the military and stop the funding by the western nations knowing full well that the same report from AI had stopped the funding during the Obama’s era.

Nigeria has suffered greatly over the decade based on AI reports on human rights violations and others including the initial refusal of America and its allies to sell critical military weapons to the country to fight the insurgency few years ago. As the AI has advertised itself more as aligning into the agenda of non-state actors, than the interest in protecting the dignity, rights and the rule of law, of law-abiding citizens in a country that has accorded them so much hospitality and respect.

Analysts, pundits and discerning Nigerians posit that protecting the human rights of Nigerians has been the signpost of the Nigerian military in all its operations. The brash and crude force applied by the military soldiers in internal assignments have been replaced with amiable, friendliness with host communities which has brought to the fore the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of the military to its host communities in critical areas of needs and operations. The Nigerian military have followed international best practices and rules of engagement during war as the military is determined at sustaining its constitutional mandate of defending the territorial integrity of the nation, as well as, commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security of the country. Therefore, the 10th June, 2024, report of AI should be disparaged, condemned, discountenanced and dismissed by well-meaning Nigerians as’ lies from the pit of hell’ and a propaganda tool to frame reportage against our national institution.

We therefore call on the military hierarchy not to be distracted by the AI’s report but to remain steadfast and focused on its constitutional assigned mandate and the Guild therefore, overwhelmingly, Pass a Vote of Confidence on the leadership of the Nigerian Armed Forces (NAF),for it’s repositioning and rebranding efforts in making the Nigerian Armed Forces 21st century compliant.

The Guild further maintained that the several commentaries against the Nigerian military are unnecessary, distractive, unfair and doesn’t represent the true disclosure on re-orientation, de-radicalization and re-integration of Boko Haram inmates and estranged wives/captives. The amnesty report smacks of bias and is capable of undermining the results from the hard-fought war by the military against insurgents, demoralizing the Nigerian Armed Forces personnel in the performance of their constitutional mandate.

Signed.

Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele

President,

Guild of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Equity, Justice and Transparency in Nigeria (GOCMEJ)

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Ighodalo is capacity, competence personified – Abhulimhen

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The candidate of the of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the soon to be conducted Edo State governorship election, Dr. Asue Ighodalo has been described as the only one who embodies the qualities of capacity, competence, character and experience amongst other candidates.

A chieftain of the party, Chief Ehizokhale Abhulimhen who spoke on the heels of a community mobilisation activity on Saturday in Illeh, Ekpoma in Esan West Local Government area of Edo State told everyone in the community that the PDP candidate is way out of the league of anyone on the ballot as far as the election is concerned.

Describing him as having a distinguished career in the corporate world, and has proven himself time and again as a leader with solid mental and moral qualities that set him apart from the crowd. “As the chairman of various boards of banks and multinationals such as the Dangote Group, Okomu Oil, Sterling Bank, including establishing and running one of Nigeria’s largest law firms, Dr. Ighodalo has demonstrated unparalleled competence and efficiency with strategic vision and sound judgment driving positive outcomes for decades. Under his leadership, organizations have thrived, achieving sustainable growth and profitability even in the face of challenges.”

According to him “As governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Ighodalo brings an amazing wealth of experience and expertise to the table. His expertise as both an economist and a lawyer with a solid background in corporate governance has equipped him with a unique perspective on addressing complex economic challenges – a quality that is particularly crucial in the current economic turmoil facing Nigeria as a whole and Edo State in particular.

“With his wealth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Ighodalo is well-positioned to steer the state towards a path of sustainable development and prosperity. As a matter of fact, as a leader in the corporate world, Dr. Ighodalo’s track record speaks for itself. This he will replicate as governor.

“As edolites file out to elect their governor come September, 2024, two options are before them. They will choose between a man that Is ready to lead like Dr. Asue Ighodalo or settle for a mediocre with barely any education or exposure to his name, nor any pedigree and who brings nothing to the table and who has gone missing in action, hiding from the people he wants to lead. As a people, we have seen what it means to enthrone a half baked mediocre. The people of Edo State will surely choose competence and capacity to deliver. The last two Governors from Esan extraction were all Professors. The Esans have a knack for putting forth their very best. They can’t lower the bar and in following this age long tradition, they have put forth Dr. Asue Ighodalo, a distinguished Esan son.”

He insisted that the people of Edo State look towards the future, rest assured that Dr. Asue Ighodalo is the leader they need—a visionary, a strategist, and a beacon of integrity who will lead with wisdom, courage, and grace.

“With his unparalleled competence and unwavering moral compass, Dr. Ighodalo is poised to make a lasting impact on the state and its people, ushering in a new era of prosperity and progress for all, he added.

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Economy

CWAI Names NITDA As Dev’t, Regulatory Agency that Encapsulates Other Sectors

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) established by the NITDA Act of 2007 to regulate standards, guidelines and frameworks for the development and standardization of Information Technology practices in Nigeria, is also clamouring for the actualization of the Bill at the National Assembly for the last five years (since 2021).

The NITDA Bill, first proposed in 2021, seeks to repeal the National Information Technology Development Act No. 28 of 2007, and enact the National Information Technology Development Agency Act.

The amendments in the proposal include provisions for new license categorizations, licensing fees, 1% profit-before-tax levies for companies with revenues higher than 100 million naira, and prison sentences for defaulting parties.

In 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) considered the Bill and moved a step further for its entry to the National Assembly. On December 23, 2022, at the National Assembly, a public hearing was held where stakeholders in Nigeria’s technology ecosystem weighed in on the Bill.

Since its announcement that year, the Bill has generated a healthy amount of controversy surrounding its purpose and compatibility with other technology-related bills, most notably the recently proposed startup bill.

Among the various submissions at the National Assembly are that Section 6(a) of the existing Act provides that NITDA is both a development and regulatory agency in the ICT sector.

However, the argument that NITDA is not a regulator was noted to be incorrect, and a total of thirty-one (31) stakeholders made submissions and presentations on the Bill. But out of this number, seventeen (17) were in support of the Bill, while fourteen (14) were opposed to it.

Those in favour based their support on the reason that the Bill provided for the development of the measures that would adequately regulate digital infrastructure, fast-track Nigeria’s transition into a leading digital economy, foster innovation and creativity, empower businesses in the country, improve the process of issuing and authenticating good character certificates and promote the use of technology in education and other sectors.

The Committee recommended to the Senate that the Bill be passed after considering the comments and opinions of stakeholders therein. The Bill states that the Senate Committee on ICT and Cyber Security was referred to as “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Information Technology Development Agency Act No. 28, 2007 and Enact the National Information Technology Development Agency Act to provide the Administration, Implementation and Regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practices, as well as the Digital Economy in Nigeria and for Related Matters, 2023 (SB1082), having considered the same, report favourably thereon recommended that the Senate pass the Bill as amended,” as stated in the Committee’s report during the second reading.

There was no time that the Bill was meant to usurp the powers of other regulators and make NITDA a super regulator in the ICT industry. A lot of stakeholders also said the Bill has the potential to reverse the gains delivered and made in the digital economy already. However, some stakeholders, on the other hand, agreed that the Bill has a lot of merit and that it would sanitize the industry and bridge the knowledge gap between Nigeria and other developed nations in digital economy.

The Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI), a civil society organization that champions accountability, good governance and transparency in Nigeria, believes that the Bill, if passed into law, has the enormous positive impact to the telecommunication and ICT industry in Nigeria, as it will ultimately lead to increase in the confidence of both local and international investors in the telecom and ICT sector of the Nigerian economy, thereby transforming the development agency to a regulator which will enhance the activities of other sectors concerned like the banking, financial services, insurance, healthcare, commerce education, agriculture, telecommunications, etc.

The role of NITDA under the proposed Act would have no direct conflicts with other regulators in the industry as being canvassed by naysayers. Accordingly, NITDA 2022 Bill will stabilize the regulatory environment in the telecom sector in Nigeria and attract the much needed foreign direct investments as well as domestic investments in the telecom and ICT sector in the country.

In a press release signed by the Executive Secretary of CWAI, Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, he asserted that from their investigation, the Bill seeks to enact an Act that will empower NITDA to provide for the administration, implementation and regulation of information technology systems and practice in Nigeria, which will automatically transform NITDA from a mere development agency to a regulatory agency in the sector that needs all the support, cooperation of Nigerians and stakeholders.

It is the first of its kind in the annals of history that will bridge the digital knowledge base of the country and impact the growth of the sector holistically in all spheres. The statement further added that the essence and purpose of the Bill is to create an effective, impartial, and independent regulatory framework for the development of the Nigerian information technology sector and digital economy.

Having been convinced about the proactive essence of the Bill, CWAI categorically states that the proposed NITDA Bill is focused on tax startups and in Part VI, Section 16, the Bill provides for the creation of the NITDA Fund, which will be used holistically for the “advancement of digital economy and related purposes,” and nothing more.

CWAI also notes that the skills deficit in human capital that hinders the country from thriving in the global digital economy would be overcome once and for all, as well as this would raise global digital competence in the country in the future, thereby expanding the service sector.

In view of this, CWAI enjoins the tech-ecosystem and techpreneurs to raise their voices and join the clarion call for all hands to be on deck for Nigeria to be able to achieve a large value chain that facilitates youth engagement, entrepreneurship development, the MSME development and women empowerment; which will provide and empower a rich, vibrant local industry of digital training providers with globally recognized standards attainable that can best compete anywhere. Therefore, recognizing and giving NITDA the required stakeholders’ support and engagement to drive this new initiative that will make the actualization of the Bill possible and acceptable to all.

CWAI therefore recognizes that NITDA has consistently driven an information technology policy that is geared towards the enhancement of Nigeria’s global acceptability and certification in the digital economy, where the country’s local, foreign partners and stakeholders are carried along in an effective, efficient and affordable value chain for the growth of the ICT sector and the telecom industry, creating and empowering Nigeria’s digital potentials and creating jobs for millions of youths in the country and the economic diversification for emerging technologies.

CWAI is holistically in support of NITDA’s drive, innovation, and ideas in the formulation of digital policies that will put Nigeria on the global arena and marketplace of the future. CWAI, therefore, advocates for NITDA’s regulatory status so as to accelerate other growing sectors of the economy.

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