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Ekeh, Zinox Boss Urges FG to Infuse ICT in Transformation Agenda

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The federal government has been urged to make information and communications technology (ICT) part and parcel of her visionary transformation agenda to achieve even and sustainable development.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who on April 16, 2011 won a pan-Nigerian mandate that swept through the North and South of the nation; ran on a promise to radically transform the nation and overhaul every aspect of the national life.

Leo Stan Ekeh, chairman, Zinox Group, said that the present administration has earned a lot of regards and respect with the transformation agenda but urged the government to make bold hearted interventions in technology just as it is doing in aviation and energy.

Ekeh said that the development of the capacity of the ICT industry will empower the vast majority of Nigerians towards productivity and growth.

“The government needs to exploit the pivotal role of technology in national development by providing the environment for technology to nurture to fruition the various initiatives that the President has taken in other sectors” Ekeh added.

According to Ekeh, the federal government should have seized the opportunity of President Jonathan’s landmark state visit to China to use ICT to consolidate on the gains recorded in aviation, infrastructure and energy.

The President, who made exhaustive use of the social media in his election campaign, has reaffirmed his belief in technology as a harnessing platform for his development initiatives by his establishment of the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications.

Expectations from ICT stakeholders are that the mastery of ICT tools and the social media displayed by the President during elections would translate to a retooling of the citizenry sooner than later. 

Ekeh said that “I must admit that the importance of ICT appeared restored recently with the inauguration of a 19-man Broadband Council to ensure the execution of an ambitious plan by the Federal Government to promote the diffusion of high-speed internet access expected to foster economic growth in the country.

The plan earlier released by the Minister of Information and Communications, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, is a five year programme which seeks to achieve a fivefold increase of broadband penetration by the end of 2017, up from the present 6% level. The plan, among other things, would provide security for broadband infrastructure, encourage a reduction in the costs of deploying infrastructure, use the regulatory bodies to ensure better performance levels of broadband services and use existing national assets to create access for communities for digital literacy” he added.

According to the Zinox boss, the definite steps being taken by the federal government to deepen the penetration of ICT and broadband are welcome and timely.

“They indicate awareness that ICT and broadband penetration are central to the success of the President’s transformation agenda, the attainment of the MDGs in 2015 and the vision 20 2020. The Onus is on the Council to respectfully pressurize the government to move beyond the setting up of the Council to practical interventions that would improve the living standards of our people”  he said.

For example, the entire nation would come aflame if the federal government were to deploy wireless infrastructure for subsidized or free internet in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna.

Ekeh said that millions of new jobs would be created, decent wealth would abort corruption, and new digital lifestyles would be adopted as the levels of creativity and productivity reach unimaginable proportions.

He stated that “If Nigerians in these geo-political centers had heavily subsidized access to internet, it would trigger off a new era of fairly even development that would heal ethnic jealousies. The wireless infrastructure provided would then be complemented by the provision of subsidized laptops or tablets to all serving members of the National Youth Service Corps”

“In actual fact, I have said at some other forums that the Nigerian State needs to deploy a minimum of 25,000,000 PCs, in the next 3 years, 3,750,000 for each of the 6 geo-political zones and 2,500,000 in Abuja, or forget the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  These PCs would be targeted at youths who leave secondary school with 6 ‘Alphas’, all graduating students from the Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, and Universities. This generation closely interconnected by satellite television, social media and the internet would give rise to a new ICT based work culture, increasing productivity and self sufficiency; reducing corruption and the kinship that leads to ethnicity; and enabling a self interpretation of faith that would undermine religious extremism” the Zinox boss also added

The intervention would immediately arrest the high mortality rate among indigenous ISPs, and PC manufacturers, and give rise to a new tier of technologists.

The number of start-ups in Nigeria would run into tens of millions, the quality of education would become globally competitive, and business processes and procedures would improve drastically because of the increased opportunity to compare notes with things happening outside our borders.

The essence of promoting ICT is for employment creation as the largest platform for creating employment all over the world. ICT also helps a nation to build a new set of affluent citizens whose wealth can be defended as corruption free.

Above all, the Government and the President would get credit for kick starting modern Nigeria. The funding of these patriotic ideas need not give us sleepless nights – the Federal Government should liaise with the national assembly, create a special ICT and Broadband penetration fund, and persuade corporate persons to pay a 1% tax over the next 5 years or alternatively fund this from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the next 3 years.

What other countries are doing: The advantage among nations is now measured by the level of ICT and broadband penetration.

As recently as 2010, in spite of the fact that nearly 200 million Americans had broadband access in their homes, the USA developed a National Broadband Plan, with the objective to ensure that at least 100 million US homes have affordable access to high speed internet as would make the United States the world leader in mobile innovations, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks on earth. In pursuit of this goal the USA set up the Connect America Fund, CAF, to finance the provision of affordable high speed internet and the government approved the spending of $15.5 billion over the next ten years from the existing Universal Service Fund, USF.

 In addition, the US Government approved incentives to encourage investors to achieve broadband penetration to the unreached and underserved.   
It is instructive that smaller countries are already implementing various ambitious ICT Broadband interventions.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced at his swearing in – a laptop for every Kenyan school leaver. Thailand, the small Asian country that supplies Nigeria with rice is currently the cynosure of all OEMs with the intended supply of 1.5 million laptops to boost the economy.

Access to the tools of knowledge is the only way to ensure sustainable development through the creation of millions of intellectual merchants and entrepreneurs who can defend their wealth in the 21st century.

If smaller countries including Ghana can do it then Africa’s giant cannot afford to allow this opportunity to slip by. Recently, a Ghanaian company partnered with the Osun State government to produce tablets for their schools.

That Ghanaian company was recently empowered by a loan of $20 million from China, underwritten by the Government of Ghana. That is the kind of incentive that Nigerian OEMs need to go global.

Conclusion:
No nation is an Island unto itself and today’s peer review mechanism has made it easier for nations to learn from one another.

Nigeria must learn from what other developing nations are doing. The race for development is like a 100 metre dash and the front runner, by size and resources, cannot afford to be lethargic or minnows will overtake him.

All is not lost yet and Nigeria still has ample time to wake up to her manifest destiny as the giant of Africa. Mr. President should be consoled by the cliché that the thank you for hard work is more work.  I rest my case.
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NCC Board Chairman Alleges Threat to His life by Agents of DG

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Tonye Jaja, chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has raised the alarm over alleged threat to his life by agents of John Asein, director general of the agency.

NCC Board Chairman Alleges Threat to His life by Agents of DG

He disclosed that an unnamed member of the NCC Governing Board had threatened his life through phone calls and SMS messages.

The Board Chairman, who made the claim in a statement, titled: “Notification of threats to my life and reputation in the line of duty as chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission,” ‎said the development followed statements he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission as part of ongoing investigations into allegations against Asein. ‎

According to Jaja, Asein is being investigated over alleged conflict of interest and abuse of office, among other offences.

The chairman of the NCC Governing Board also alleged that Asein and his agents have vowed to destroy his reputation through publications in the media.

The statement read: “Yesterday, I received a verbal threat during a telephone call and an SMS from one member of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright (NCC).‎

“In a nutshell, he threatened that he will use online newspapers and other means to disgrace me and rubbish my reputation.

“His annoyance and threats is not an isolated incident, it is part of a coordinated onslaught of threats, publications of propaganda and other acts of reprisal targetted against me in my capacity as the Chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).

“The persons behind this have gone to the illegal extent of forging certain documents and leaking government official documents to Online newspapers in their desperate attempts at smearing my hard earned reputation.

“The Office of the Inspector-General of Police is currently investigating one of such incidences.

“All this smear campaign is because I ‎was invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau and the ICPC as part of their investigation of Mr John Asein the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) whom they are investigating for allegations of conflict of interest and abuse of office, etc.

“‎As a responsible and law-abiding citizen,  who could not disobey the invitation of the ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau, I went to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and deposed to an affidavit to confirm the veracity of the written and oral statements that I submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

“Instead of these persons to apply the same steps of going before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) or any other court of Justice in Nigeria to swear an affidavit and oath on the pain of perjury, in support of any statements they are making, they have resorted to peddling fake news, falsehood and false, unsubstantiated allegations through the pages of online newspapers and other social media platforms.

“In recent times, their anger and onslaught has intensified because their attempts to “kill” and “bury” the investigations proved abortive considering that the ICPC, the EFCC and the Code of Conduct Bureau continued with the investigations which they had previously in an online newspaper described as the petition against Mr. John Asein as jokers.’”

The Governing Board Chairman added that anybody who is sincerely interested in knowing and verifying the truth of the allegations against Asein can make Freedom of Information requests to the Department of State Services, ‎Chairman of the ICPC,‎ Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Inspector-General of Police through the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Charge of the Federal Investigations Bureau.

 


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Health Plus Accuses Foreign Firm of Attempt to Fraudulently Takeover Business

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Health Plus, a pharmaceutical company, has accused Alta Semper Capital, a foreign private equity firm (PEF), of a fraudulent attempt to take over its business.

Health Plus Accuses Foreign Firm of Attempt to Fraudulently Takeover Business

In a rejoinder to a press release earlier issued by the PEF, Health Plus dismissed the appointment of Chidi Okoro as chief transformation officer and the claim that Olubukunola Adewunmi George, chief executive officer, remains a director and shareholder

Health Plus stated that it entered into a five-year partnership with Alta Semper Capital in 2018 to inject fresh capital to further grow the business.

George, the rejoinder stated, was prepared to give PEF a controlling stake in order for them to realise their investment.

However, it added, PEF started working of schemes aimed at taking over the business after seeing the vastness of the Nigerian market.

PEF, according to Health Plus, deliberately starved the company of funds, neglected its obligations to the business, appointed Okoro as CTO and was running the company in utter disregard for George’s wishes.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors was said to have resigned two days ago while another director resigned five weeks ago over the debilitating effect of the impasse on the company.

The rejoinder stated that George had, in May 2020, instituted a suit at the Federal High Court (FHC/L/CS/609/2020) seeking to stop HealthPlus Africa Holdings Limited (the investment vehicle used by Alta Semper Capital and which they control) and their nominee directors from continuing to run and manage the company with disregard to her interests as a member of the Company.

After being served the court summons, PEF appealed for a mediation of the crisis outside court, a process frustrated after three meetings in three months.

Alta Semper thereafter filed an arbitration claim in England.

“Alta Semper’s latest actions, including the arbitration claim that it has now filed, constitute a serious affront to the authority of the Court seised of the suit, a desecration of the integrity of the Nigerian judicial system and a gross violation of Nigeria’s extant legislation.

“The General Public, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, our Staff, loyal Customers, Vendors, Landlords, Bankers and all Stakeholders are advised to totally disregard and ignore the earlier unauthorised Press Release from those who have no real stake in the Company, its employees or Nigeria.

“Mrs. Bukky George remains the Founder & CEO of the Company and is focused on preserving and growing this national treasure,” the rejoinder read.

 

 

 


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Labour Vows to Shut Down Airports, Banks, Others from Today

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Organised Labour in Lagos State has said all sectors would be shut from Monday.

Labour Vows to Shut Down Airports, Banks, Others from Today

Amaechi Asogwuni, deputy vice president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), spoke at a news conference on Sunday, said airports, banks, and offices would not be allowed to function.

“No airport will be in operation in Nigeria; banks are not expected to function, so no business owners should risk himself, for Nigerian workers have taken that decision”, NAN quoted him as saying.

“We are the workers and we are withdrawing our services; we have the right to do so because protests are our constitutional right. And I believe we will enforce it; schools shall remain closed until this action ends.”

The labour leader appealed to Nigerians to join the protest.

He reminded them that it was part of their quota to democracy.

On the increase in petrol price, Asogwuni said the federal government should have engaged the organised labour and other stakeholders.

“The government did not do that at a time it ought to; it failed in its duty to engage labour before time. On the issue of electricity, the government had earlier had an interaction with labour in Kano and we discouraged it from proceeding.”


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