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UBA launches Leo on Apple Business Chat

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UBA launches Leo on Apple Business Chat

The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, yesterday, announced that the services of its Chatbot, Leo, is now available for customers on Apple Business Chat, where its users can communicate directly with businesses using the Messages app on iPhone and iPad.

“As a brand focused on providing excellent customer experience, we are always looking for new ways to serve our customers easily and on time; we are therefore thrilled to support Apple Business Chat, which gives us a powerful and engaging connection with our customers,” said Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, Group Managing Director of UBA, who spoke at the launch of the service in Lagos.

He said: “Most of our customers prefer iOS, and we always want to exceed their expectations when they experience UBA. Apple Business Chat makes communicating with us as easy as messaging a friend, so we expect it will quickly become our customers’ preferred customer service channel.”

He explained that UBA customers could use the services of LEO, through the Apple Business Chat to open an account, buy airtime, check account balance, make account transfers and pay bills.

With the business chat, customers can always reach a live person and are always in control of whether they share any contact information with a business.

Uzoka said: “Today, we are covering a segment that has been missing for some time. It is our desire to ensure that we put Leo everywhere, and today it is now on the IOS platform as the users approached us that they needed to enjoy the service which Facebook and WhatsApp users had been enjoying from LEO.

“Consistently, we have been the first in the use of intelligence banking; this is the first time this is happening in Africa. LEO is live in English on the IOS platform, and by the end of October, it will be live in other languages. As you know, LEO is already on WhatsApp and Facebook in English, French, Portuguese and Swahili languages.”

To start Apple Business Chat, customers can click the ‘Chat with Messages’ button on UBA’s website or in mobile banking app, available in the App Store. A conversation with UBA’s agents will open instantly in the Messages app, and users can take their time responding when it’s convenient.

The Group Head, Online Banking, Austin Abolusoro, who spoke at the event, said the bank was always looking for ways to improve on its services to its teeming customers.

“We are leading financial industry AI in Africa. Our customers have been increasingly asking for mobile services that make their lives easier, and Leo has become a growing choice for his convenience and personal solutions, Over a million customers are already on the LEO platform. Before now, customers can only come to the bank, but today we are on social media as well as on the IOS platform, and the launch of LEO has helped customer to get their complaints resolved without physically visiting the bank. Leo makes use of available data to resolve complaints and where more information is needed, Leo will transfer the customer to human agents.”

“As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even continue to give them increased value,” Abolusoro added.

He added that Apple Business Chat is available in beta for users and businesses around the world, and is built into iOS 11.3 and higher. For more information, visit: apple.com/ios/business-chat.

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Envoy: Nigeria, others can halt $35bn food import

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Envoy: Nigeria, others can halt $35bn food import

Nigeria and other African countries have been advised to prioritise the importance of good land governance, effective land administration and sustainable land management within the continent as a way of stopping the over $35 billion spent on food importation from the West annually.

Counsellor for Economic Cooperation at the Germany Embassy in Abidjan, Cote D’ Ivoire, Benjamin Laag, in an interview with this newspaper at the 2019 Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA2019), which held in Lagos, said it was time for governments in the continent to finally tackle the alarming food import bill that has rendered the continent underdeveloped for decades.

Laag said due to technological improvements in agriculture, as well as in geospatial sciences and other relevant land sectors, tools were available to implement policies to ensure fair and sustainable land policies on the continent.

According to him, corruption is behind the continued spending on food importation and unless there is a change in perception towards agriculture development in the continent.   

“Almost every person on the continent has been affected by corruption and very often the distribution and registration of agricultural and urban land is the reason for it. The importance of good land governance as well as effective land administration and sustainable land management is needed for the African continent which spends over $35 billion annually importing food from the West,” he said.

He disclosed that the German Government had supported Nigeria and some other countries in the continent in its efforts to address land corruption in its bilateral and global programmes on land just as it has also supported transparency initiatives such as the Land Matrix and Land Portal, as well as financing Transparency International’s programme on land and corruption in Africa.

“Data and research on the linkages between land and corruption is now available and I am personally looking forward to hearing from participants presenting their findings.

“We need African solutions to African challenges. And in this regard, Germany appreciates the huge effort that the AU is making through the African Land Policy Center and other AU institutions, to promote and implement the AU agenda on land,” he said.

The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, had revealed that Nigeria and other countries in the continent were spending over $35 billion annually on food import.

The AfDB chief, therefore, called for land tax for unused agricultural land to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.

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IPPIS: Lecturers restate revulsion for scheme

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IPPIS: Lecturers restate revulsion for scheme

As the battle between Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the latter’s refusal to enroll in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Scheme (IPPIS) remains unresolved, some lecturers have restated their abhorrence for the scheme as it tends to shortchange them in the course of doing their job.

Recall that the Federal Government had directed all lecturers on its payroll to register on the IPPIS platform, warning that any lecturer that refuses to register should forget receiving his salary, beginning from October.

The IPPIS project, which commenced in 2007, is responsible for payment of salaries and wages directly to the bank accounts of Federal Government employees.

It is also in charge of deducting and remitting third party payments from the salaries of Federal Government workers.

Some of these third party deduction channels include Federal Inland Revenue Service, State Boards Of Inland Revenue, National Health Insurance Scheme, National Housing Fund, Pension Fund Administrator, Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions Dues, Association Dues And Bank Loans.

Reacting to the directive, ASUU charged its members not to register under the scheme as it will jeopardise the current arrangement in the university system.

In a chat with our correspondent, a lecturer in Department of Mass Communications, University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Mr. Robert Ezeanwu, said there were some errors in the scheme, which the government should to look into.

He said, for instance, that as regards the age or retirement, lecturers would be forced to retire at the age of 60, as against 65or70, stressing that the scheme also tend to restrict lecturers from moving freely from one institution to another as well as preventing them from sabbatical leave.

Also reacting, Mrs. Edith Ohaja, who is Head of Department, Mass Communications, UNN, said the scheme would centralize a lot of things to the discomfort of lecturers.

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ABP: Association begins N4bn loan recovery from cotton farmers

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ABP: Association begins N4bn loan recovery from cotton farmers

Prior to the disbursement of a N4 billion loan to farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) across some cotton-producing states, the Cotton Producers and Merchants Association (COPMA) has said it is setting out to recover the loan from beneficiaries.

The National President of COPMA, Alhaji Lawal Matazu, explained during the inauguration of the recovery committee that the programme was part of government’s policy to revamp the nation’s agricultural sector to enable farmers get economic freedom.

Matazu stated that recovery of the loan from his members was critical at this period because it shows that government has confidence in cotton farmers to pay back the APB loans. 

He said: “The programme is aimed at providing an opportunity for the common man, the peasant farmer especially, to have access to an agricultural loan at its doorsteps without any collateral or all those conventional protocols and at cheaper rate charges.”

He said the programme engaged 22,000 farmers across the country, and it covered 24,000 hectares of farms with an expected yield of 36,969 metric tonnes of cotton that will cost N4 billion.

“The minimum guaranteed price for the produce is agreed at N150 per Kg. The price is believed to be a reasonable one for the farmers to make a profit after repaying their loan. In the event that the market price of the produce is above the minimum agreed price, the produce will be collected at the rate of the market prevailing price,” Matazu explained.   

The association’s president admonished the recovery committee to use all available and peaceful avenues to recover the loans for the sustainability of the programme as it was designed as a revolving loan.

On his part, National Secretary of the association, Alhaji Kamilu Sheikh Munnir, stated that the programme was initiated by the Federal Government in 2016 for cotton farmers to easily access inputs, as it is designed as a simple loan.

He said: “COPMA came into the programme in 2017 and each farmer/beneficiary was allocated three hectares. All that was distributed to them were in the form of seeds, pesticides and other inputs and the repayment is expected to be with the cotton produced by the farmers, not in cash.”

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Outsourcing: Whyte Cleon to promote entrepreneurial training

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Whyte Cleon Limited, a leading human resource outsourcing and consulting company, has revealed that it will commence an entrepreneurial development training designed for its former employees to make them become solution providers in outsourcing industry.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Mrs. Nireti Adebayo, made this known in Lagos during the company’s pre 10-year anniversary scheduled for the first quarter of 2020.

She stated that entrepreneurial development training was a platform in which the firm wants to give back to the society by equipping its former colleagues with a new mindset that will enable them become more productive in their chosen profession.       

Adebayo said: “Over time, we have delivered unrivalled quality service to our clients and provided practical solutions to our clients assisting them in strategy formulation and execution, talent acquisition, organisational performance and human capital investment.

“The entrepreneurial development training is a platform through which we aim to give back to society by equipping our former colleagues with a new mindset that will enable them become more productive, flourish, and ultimately become solutions provider and employers of labour, thereby helping to lift others out of poverty.”    

The chief executive officer explained that this initiative, which is the first of its kind by any organisation in the outsourcing space, attested to the status of Whyte Cleon Limited as Nigeria’s fastest growing , “future forward” human resources solution provider.

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Failed contracts: Architects seek professionals’ inclusion in procurement

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In order to prevent cases of failed contracts, poor contractual performances, escalating corruption and incidence of collapsed buildings arising from loopholes in the Public Procurement Act, the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) is seeking the inclusion of  seven professional regulatory bodies in the construction industry.

This is part of a memoranda submitted  by  ARCON before the Senate  Committee on Public Procurement, which conducted a two-day public hearing on three bills (SB 106, SB 109 and SB 158) seeking to amend the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007.

According to ARCON’s President and the Registrar, Dipo Ajayi and Umar Murnai, respectively, the bills amongst their propositions should include all seven professional regulatory bodies in the construction industry to strengthen and sustain effectiveness of the procurement process.

They said it was evident that omission on professional regulatory bodies accounted for failure of the Act amongst other factors, given that over 60 per cent  of the national budget in the last twenty years had gone into construction-related procurement of goods or services or related  expenses.

ARCON’s registrar, in a document signed and made available to New Telegraph in Lagos, said the primary target of the body’s contribution was to improve performance of the construction industry, which, according to him, is second to a agriculture in contribution to National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Murnai said: “As pointed out by the sponsors of the three bills, there are evident failures of the Act after twelve years which shows clearly the limitations and constraints that continue to plague the nation in public procurement circles.

“This has adversely affected the construction industry in failed contracts,poor contractual performances, escalating corruption and incidence of collapsed buildings arising from loopholes in the ACT which allow quackery.”

According to him, the window offered by the sponsors of the proposed bills to amend the Act offered construction industry an opportunity to contribute to the consolidation of the gains of the exercise, which will result to increase in the national GDP, thus leaving a lasting legacy.

The three proposed bills include an Act to amend the national council on public procurement and the bureau of public procurement by Senator Shuaibu I. Lau, a Bill for an Act to amend the provisions of the public procurement Act, 2007, to    increase the mobilisation fees paid to contractors and suppliers, and other matters related  thereto, sponsored by Senator Uche Ekwunife; a Bill for an Act to amend the public procurement Act ,2007 to provide for specific time frame for the procurement process/proceedings and for other matters connected therewith,  sponsored by Senator Sankara Danladi Abdullahi.

Fundamental to the second  bill, the registrar of  ARCON said, was the exceptions sort for ecological funds office and payments terms deemed delayed payments from 60 days to 180 days.

He said: “It is apt to reiterate the importance of the inclusion of the registered professional in respect of all procurement subject matters in the procurement process of the ecological fund and shall be referred accordingly by the procuring entity.

Moreso, he pointed out that a six-month delay to 180 days in payment was financially injurious to any project, its timelines and ultimately the project outcomes.

“Fundamental to the Act and the proposed bill by Senator Shuaibu I. Lau is the omission of all seven professional regulatory bodies in the construction industry as part of the full-time council, he said, pointing out that this was a critical omission.

Apart from this, the ARCON team added that fundamental to the third proposed bill was the time frame for formalising procurement within 60 days; from initiation to completion of the procurement process.

ARCON team pointed out that the 60-day window for project planning of the procurement process by the procurement entity would depend largely on the  technical capacity of the procurement entity to handle the size in terms of number of staff input needed and technical inputs of subject matter professionals.

“Where the procurement entity lacks the capacity then,the input of appropriate professional regulatory bodies shall be sought and  obtained to facilitate the attainment of the 60 days time frame,” Murnai said.

To forestall a gap in the initiation to completion of the process, ARCON proposed as part of the bill, an inclusion of a precondition evaluation template to be used by all procurement entities to ascertain their professional technical capacity, which would make it mandatory for procurement entities to refer to the appropriate subject matter.

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ILO tasks FG over jobs for returnee migrants

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To ensure a balanced society for all, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on the Federal Government to make it possible for migrants, who want to return home, get engaged to enable them lead a decent life and be properly integrated.

Giving the advice in Abuja, ILO Workers Specialist, David Dorkenoo, said government should consider multilateral and bilateral agreements, which provide a framework where people can move and earn decent earnings.

According to him, “they should also be able to make provision for people who are migrating from outside back into the country. Talking about healthcare providers, a lot of them want to come back, but when they come back how are they integrated within the system.”

Dorkenoo, while speaking at a workshop to sensitise trade union organisations on labour migration governance, made it clear that potential and returning migrants in Nigeria and Ghana were protected through fair and effective labour migration governance.

He said the project, “Initiative for Labour Migration, Employment and Reintegration in Nigeria and Ghana (LMER), built on existing efforts to strengthen labour migration governance, enhance employment prospects of potential or returnee migrants and support the reintegration of returnees.”

On the status of internally displaced persons, the ILO chieftain said that IDPs were equally as important as migrants because “when you are looking at migration you don’t only look at migration from the perspective of people flying out of Nigeria to another part of the world.

“But even internally, within the country, where there are challenges, insurgencies and people are displaced equally it is important within the frame work of migration to be able to address the challenges of people that are displaced from their traditional place of abode to other parts of the country in terms of providing place for them to be able to stay.”

Explaining further, he noted that when those who are displaced begin to have access to jobs, “they begin to earn income then they will begin to take care of the basic needs because they can take care of their health, their families and education of their children.”

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Rallying Cassava stakeholders for improved yield

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Rallying Cassava stakeholders for improved yield

In continuation of its strategic intervention in select economically viable commodities, CBN rallied cassava stakeholders for a pact aimed at eliminating bottlenecks stifling the commodity’s growth, Abdulwahab Isa reports

 

 

Nigeria is yet to reap one tenth of the economic values embedded in cassava. Like other high yield commodities with economic value that Nigeria accords less attention, cassava remains a potential goldmine for the country.

To change the tide, the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) is leading a cassava revolution to enable the country earn reasonable income and also create jobs for Nigerians.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is thus rallying stakeholders including  state governors from cassava producing belt, cassava farmers, and  conglomerates using cassava byproducts.

At a meeting between CBN and the stakeholders, including large scale cassava processors, the message at the meeting, which produced  Memorandum of Understanding (MoU),  was primarily conveyed to resuscitate cassava value chain in Nigeria.

Prior to CBN signing MoU with the stakeholders, CBN had included cassava on the forex restriction list.

Untapped potential

Like other commodities of economic potential that are neglected, cassava is one of the economically viable commodities. What is presently derived from it is just one tenth of its untapped full economic value.

At the parley, Emefiele underscored the importance of cassava as an economic commodity.

According to him, “demand for high quality cassava flour in bread, biscuits and snacks is above 500,000tonnes annually while supply  is below 15,000tonnes.  Demand for cassava starch is above 300,000tonnes annually while supply is below 10,000tonnes. Demand for cassava-based constituents in sugar syrup is above 350,000tonnes annually while supply is almost non-existent.

“Potential demand for ethanol in Nigeria as fuel for cooking, power vehicles (E10), and other industrial uses exceeds one billion litres, while production is near zero.  It was on this premise that we included cassava in the FX exclusion list to salvage the industry, encourage farmers to go back to their farms to boost job creation and increase output and improve the capacity utilisation of our processing companies.”

Emefiele noted that the sector had the potential to generate over two million jobs if fully explored.

Tackling bottlenecks

There are obstacles preventing cassava from attaining its economic height. CBN governor noted that without tackling the obstacles, any investment in cassava would amount to economic waste.

He noted that although huge investments were made into the industry during the cassava bread initiative, the industry continues to suffer as a result of low yield varieties, poor farm practices, lack of good quality farm inputs, non-utilisation of available cultivable lands, manual system of production, inadequate funding for small holder out grower schemes and low processing capacity.

“To curtail these challenges and in line with CBNs developmental initiatives, the bank is intervening in the sector through a complete value chain approach. This will involve support to the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association at the production level under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) and support to large scale cassava processors under the CACS and DCRR programmes,” said CBN governor.

To get every stakeholder on board, Emefiele said CBN was collaborating with the private sector, states in cassava producing areas and other stakeholders to join hands towards resuscitating the sector.

“We place a high premium on cassava because the commodity can generally be used for different things along the value chain. The value chain has enormous potential for employing over two million people in Nigeria if well harnessed, due to the diverse secondary products that it offers.

“Some of the products include high quality cassava flour, starch, sugar syrups & sweeteners, chips  for domestic livestock feed and for export to China, ethanol/bio-fuels, high fructose cassava syrup (HFCS), fuel ethanol (E10) as well as animal feed from cassava waste among others,” he told his audience, which included Ekiti State Governor, Dr.Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and Deputy Governor of Ogun State and representatives of big conglomerates like Nestlé, Flour Mills, Promasidor, Unilever and cassava farmers.

It was to deal with issues retarding progress of the commodity that informed the bank’s decision to bring all stakeholders together to agree on a framework for modern production and processing.

“This is by ensuring that we identify and tackle all major challenges in the value chain from seedlings production, land clearing, planting, harvesting, processing, marketing and provision of extension services among others,” he added.

Securing buy-in

Transformation envisaged in cassava value chain is not what CBN alone can achieve. All stakeholders, including state governors, cassava farmers and conglomerates using the commodity must come together to achieve it.

As landlords, governors of cassava producing states are required to make land available to unemployed youths to embrace cassava farming and processing.

Reacting, Fayemi, who is also the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, thanked Emefiele for spearheading the revolution in strategic key sectors of the economy.

He said: “I am happy that this initiative of dealing with farmers who are the out growers. It’s also dealing with the product itself-improving the yield because the CBN governor spoke to us about working with Umudike and working with IITA in Ibadan. If we expand the land available, what will make this more profitable for our growers is yield. The yield per ethanol is very low; we can increase it if we get the right steps for our farmers and if  we also ensure that we reclaim the land for them by clearing the land by  ensuring we give them support in terms of  security.”

Also, Akeredolu said: “Today looks a fulfilling day for us because we have waited for this time to come. We know that CBN has several interventions and on the issue of cassava we have advantage. We have been talking and I want to thank the governor of CBN. He has accepted to look at the issue of cassava and cocoa too.

“Cassava is what we have come here to discuss today. We have so many growers. In Ondo State today, we have an industry that is almost consuming all the cassava that we have and they are still buying from outside.  So it is important that if we are able to have so many people to grow cassava as we intend to do with these facilities we are talking of.”

On his part, National President Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, Pastor Segun Adewumi, lauded the initiative. He said Nigeria cassava growers were equal to the task save for threat posed by Fulani headers.

He commended Fayemi for making Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) available for 6,000 hecters of land allocated to cassava growers in Ekiti State.

Last line

The quest to revive neglected commodities that are economically viable entails an all-inclusive approach. To redirect cassava to its economic fortune, every single stakeholder connected to it must get on board, charting a new path.

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Border closure: Unravelling local investors’ pains

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Border closure: Unravelling local investors’ pains

Members of the organised private sector (OPS) are worried over report that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region has started rejecting Nigerian goods, apparently as retaliation against Federal Government’s land border closure policy. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

In many fora, private sector groups comprising Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), National Association of Small Industries (NASI), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and others have made their positions known to the Federal Government on the partial closure of the country’s borders.

According to them, no matter the gains assumed from the decision, it remains counter-productive to the country’s economy despite the vision by the Federal Government to promote consumption.

It is on record that trade among ECOWAS countries, including Nigeria, has been in existence since the formation of the regional body in 1973, and it has brought economic fortunes to member-states, with different trade treaties meant to foster liberalisation.

However, following poor implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), not less than 80 per cent of West African countries do not comply with the ECOWAS protocols.

Besides, over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s trade with the West African sub-region is by road. This implies that the border closure has severely affected distribution of goods within the sub-region, culminating in friction among member states.

Economic implications

There is no doubt that the closure of Nigerian land border for a while now has come with benefits and costs; upsides and downsides.

In fact, reports so far show a drastic reduction in smuggling of rice, poultry products and sugar. The smuggling of petroleum products out of the country to neighboring countries has also declined considerably. With this in place, the private sector appreciated these outcomes.

However, it is also important to reckon with the costs to local investors as they have suffered untold losses as a result of the closure.

Corporates, large number of informal sector players and individuals doing legitimate businesses across the borders have become victims of the closure. This poses a dilemma. Government means well, but there are many innocent casualties.

Yes, the country could be celebrating the benefits on one hand, but, there is also need to count the costs, in relation to job losses, skyrocketing prices of goods, halting of legitimate exports to the sub-region, cutting off intermediate products for some manufacturers, as well as delinking of some multinationals companies from their sister companies in the sub-region.

In fact, this has brought about more harm to players involved in the movement of goods via the land border axis.

Rejections

Notwithstanding the revenue increase the Nigerian Customs Service claimed it has generated for the country with the closure, local exporters are also counting their losses as countries within the ECOWAS sub-region have started rejecting Nigerian cargoes, apparently as a form of retaliation against the land border closure.

Latest developments, according to the exporters, indicate that the border closure is gradually crippling their businesses.

Speaking in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, Multi-mix Academy, an export oriented institution, Dr. Obiora Madu, disclosed that Nigerian exports within the ECOWAS region was decreasing due to the border closure.

He said: “It is definitely impacting negatively on the economy as the exports done within the ECOWAS region and our neighboring countries are now in decrease. These countries that benefit from the open border, since we have closed it, even though we used to export to them before, you don’t expect to get the level of cooperation that we are getting before because they are hit hard by these closed borders.”

He further admitted that exporting generally is becoming difficult as cargoes are now undergoing careful examinations before leaving the shores of the country. This, he said, had also impacted negatively on the volume and speed of export.

“The fact is that it definitely has impact on volume, it will also impact on speed and it will not be as swift as it used to be because of scrutiny,” he noted.

Revenue losses

Speaking with this newspaper, the LCCI Director-General, Muda Yusuf, explained that the country was losing a lot of money as most of the country’s products have these West African nations as export destinations.

To him, the complete shutdown of cross border trade between Nigeria business and their counterparts in the West sub-region is having grave consequences for investments and jobs.

According to him, many industries have invested in products registered under the ECOWAS ETLS, adding that these are investors whose business models were anchored on market opportunities in the ECOWAS.

He noted that these investments had been completely disrupted and dislocated.

“Majority of the victims of the border closure are small businesses, most of them in the informal sector. Their means of livelihood has been put in great jeopardy. This class of traders does not have the capacity to move their products by sea because of the modest scale of their operations. Supply chain of some business has been completely disrupted.

“Maritime sector investors have been denied opportunities offered by transit cargo destined for landlocked countries which normally comes through the Nigerian ports. The closure has triggered an unprecedented hike in prices with a devastating impact on the poor,” he said.

Why close borders

Indeed, Nigeria became the latest African nation to close its borders, following similar actions by Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan in recent months.

The borders have been closed for various reasons including diplomatic disputes, security concerns, health precautions and economic considerations among others.

The closure, especially by Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, is a slap in the face of continent’s integration efforts.

The recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area agreement provides for free movement of goods and persons across African countries.

However, findings have shown that economic gains and trade dominance are the reasons behind the closure of borders in Africa.

Last line

The private sector insisted that the rejection of goods from Nigeria by ECOWAS states will definitely take a large slice dip off the country’s revenue generation and the GDP in general.

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Nigeria’s certified cyber security experts rise to 3,500

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Nigeria’s certified cyber security experts rise to 3,500

…as losses to crime hit N288bn

 

Nigeria’s capacity to fight the surging cybercrime against businesses and government increased in the last year as the number of skilled and certified cyber security experts rose to 3,500 from the initial 2000.

However, while this is the largest in Africa, the country is said to have the lowest in terms of experts per person based on the estimated 190 million population.

According to Africa Cyber Security Report just released by Demadiur Systems Limited, while countries like Kenya and Uganda have 1800 and 400 cyber security experts respectively, with their population of 46.7 million and 38.3 million in that order, they have more experts per person than Nigeria.

This means that Nigerian businesses are more prone to attacks than other businesses in Africa. Already, the shortage of expertise is said to have contributed largely to the rising cases of cybercrimes in the country, leading to a loss of about N288 billion ($800 million) by businesses in 2018.

The losses in that period were incurred mostly by commercial banks, government, and telecommunications operators in the country, according to the report. Before now, the Federal Government had said that the country loses N127 billion annually to cybercrimes.

Presenting the report in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, Demadiur, Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, said: “In the course of our study, we found out that the country is ill-equipped in terms of cybersecurity experts to address the challenges facing her. This is in spite of the fact that the number of experts in the country has grown from about 2000 to 3,500.”

According to him, with the cost of cybercrime increasing every year across Nigeria, lack of local cyber security skillset is a big challenge to businesses and governments in the country.

“From our analysis, we identified that this skill gap comes from two major sources, few skillset in the nation and the inability of companies to have a cyber security team and strategy. With the number of SMEs and large organisations in the country facing cyber security threats compared to the 3500 certified security professionals in Nigeria, it is clear that Nigerian businesses are easy targets for both local and international hackers,” he said.

With the low-security expertise, Nnamani said the study conducted in Nigeria also revealed that more Nigerians were going into cybercrimes as attacks from the country have increased.

“We found out that locally engineered malware experts on the rise, which indicates that more Nigerians are going into the crime.

“In 2016, there was one cyber security expert for every 124,587 Nigerians, while this marginally improved to one expert for every 106,048 Nigerians in 2017; in 2018, it abysmally stood at one expert for every 103,093 citizens. There is a need to have people well trained in that space and also to have a certification process to ensure that the right skill needed is acquired,” he said.

Nnamani, however, noted that the country had improved in terms of awareness about cyber security.

“We noticed that there is now more awareness, compared to previous years; management and boards are beginning to take cyber security more seriously. We also noticed that the number of successful prosecution has gone up,” he said.

The Demadiur CEO added that banks had also increased their investments in cybersecurity in recent years, but noted that there was still a high level of ignorance about cyber security among SMEs in the country.

Speaking on the report, the Chief Executive Officer, Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria, Mr. Remi Afon, said Nigeria had a Cyber Security Strategy and National Cyber Security Policy, which were published in 2014 to drive the fight against cybercrimes. He, however, lamented that the policies have remained mere documents.

“The documents cover vast areas of cyber security domain, which if implemented would have strategically positioned Nigeria in a good place in terms of managing and mitigating cyber security threats we face as a nation. Unfortunately, the strategy and policy documents have remained electronic documents, which not only need to be reviewed five years on but also deserve proper implementation,” he said.

Afon added that while private businesses were trying their best to employ cyber security experts, the Nigerian government had remained non-committal to cyber security.

“Except for a few government agencies that have a functioning cyber security department, most government agencies do not have any department set aside for cyber security function. So, clearly, they lack information security professionals and rely on the IT department to carry out all their information security-related duties,” he said.

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Telcos connect 4.7m broadband users in one month

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Telcos connect 4.7m broadband users in one month

Nigeria’s broadband penetration recorded a huge leap in October as telecommunications operators added 4.7 million new customers.

This brought the total number of broadband users in the country to 72.2 million from 67.5 million recorded in September.

According to the latest industry statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s broadband penetration stood at 37.8 per cent as of October 2019.

The growth may not be unconnected with the telecoms operators’ aggressive push for deployment of 4G service across the country.

Broadband, in Nigeria context and as defined by the country’s National Broadband Plan (NBP 2013-2018), refers to internet access with a minimum speed of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps).

While the number of Nigerians with 2G and 3G internet access has been on the increase, broadband growth has been limited as it requires the operators to deploy more infrastructures across the country.

According to a World Bank study, a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration will increase GDP growth by 1.21 percent in developed economies and 1.38 percent in developing ones.

While the country exceeded the target of 30 per cent penetration by December 2018 as set in the NBP 2013-2018, stakeholders have been clamouring for a new plan to give the next direction for the industry.

However, in the absence of a new policy from the government, the operators said they were targeting 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2023 through the rapid deployment of 4G infrastructure.

To increase the penetration level, NCC said it was focusing on ensuring that all new base stations to be built by the mobile network operators (MNOs) were 4G-compatible.

According to the commission, 56.4 per cent of the country’s population is on 3G, while some are still on 2G.

However, while highlighting efforts to deepen broadband penetration at a forum in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta, said the commission had been encouraging the operators to upgrade their 2G base transceiver stations (BTSs) to 3G while ensuring that their new sites are 4G.

“Through effective regulatory oversight, which the Commission is known for, we are ensuring that all new sites to be built by the mobile network operators (MNOs) are Long Term Evolution (LTE)-compatible. We also strive to ensure the implementation of harmonised Right of Way (RoW) charges on state and Federal Government highways at the cost of N145 per linear meter to encourage faster rollout of telecoms infrastructure.

“We are also working with relevant stakeholders to ensure the elimination of multiple taxation and regulations; encourage the spread of 3G coverage to, at least 80 percent of the Nigerian population over the current 56.4 percent of the population covered with 3G networks,” the EVC said.

He added that the commission was also ensuring that there is efficient allocation of spectrum resources through re-planning and opening up of some spectrum bands as well as development of framework for the utilisation of unused broadcast spectrum known as television white space (TVWS) for the provision of affordable broadband services in the rural, underserved and unserved areas of the country.

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