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NITDA DG Reiterates Agency’s Commitment to Grow Region’s Tech Ecosystem

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In view of the relatively low visibility of the Innovation ecosystem in Northern Nigeria, despite being a region with hub of innovators, creatives, startups and several success stories, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, has reiterated the Agency’s commitment to support, and catalyse the emergence/growth of the region’s innovation ecosystem.

Inuwa said this while delivering a Keynote Address during a ‘Stakeholders’ Engagement on the State of the Northern Innovation Ecosystem’, which held in Abuja.

Describing the event as “‘setting the sense of urgency for something to be done in favour of the Northern Innovation Ecosystem’, the Director-General noted that the timely call amplifies the opportunities, challenges as well as the need to build strategic partnerships toward achieving the overall goals.

“This platform has spurred the necessary conversations that we need to have in order to tackle some of the bottlenecks that have over the years stifled the growth of the ecosystem in the region”.

“As an Agency under the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, we are here to add our collective voice and render relevant support targeted at fostering economic growth and development in the North and Nigeria as a whole”, Inuwa affirmed.

The DG Aligned the thrusts of the discussions to the Federal Government’s ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’ and one of the Priority Areas of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Adminstration, which is ‘Accelerating Diversification through Industrialisation, Digitisation, Creative Arts, Manufacturing and Innovation’.

According to the DG, the involvement of NITDA in the quest, further aligns with some pillars of  the Agency’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan, which deal with ‘Nurturing an Innovative and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ and Forging Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration amongst others.

Inuwa expressed the hope that the Northern Innovation Ecosystem will be used to create jobs, solve agricultural problems, healthcare, transportation, education and many more in the region.

“In the North and Nigeria in general, our biggest opportunity is the large market and expansion we have, because we have a young population where more than 60% is under 25, which means they are digitally natives”.

“Given the fact that our greatest resource as a country is human capital, we therefore, want to harness this population to make Nigeria a talent net exporter”, the DG avowed.

The NITDA Boss who took time to explain the Strategic Blueprint (five Pillars) of the Ministry and of course the Agency’s eight Pillars of the SRAP document, and how they directly address some of the issues raised, urged for the need to co-create and co-design the solutions with the ecosystem, in order to build trust between the ecosystem and the government.

“We want them to know that the government is here to handhold and support them in terms of interventions, building the talents, and infrastructures in unserved and underserved communities, as well as providing the incentives for them to grow”, Inuwa assured.

Inuwa however challenged Northerners not to allow the identifed challenges in the area to hinder their innovative ideas, as there are silver linings in each difficulty.

“Lack of funding is always one of the issues, yes, but we can start with the small we have. It is not enough to always mention the challenges, let us also look for innovative ways to tackle them”, Inuwa urged.

Inuwa informed the audience that the Agency is conceptualising the idea of establishing Technology Development Zones, one in each geopolitical zone of the country, adding that there are plans to also have an average innovation hub in every state of the federation.

“To sustain and deal with the recurring challenge of monopoly of the hubs by some facilities in Universities, we are trying to come up with a framework where we can build innovation hubs outside of Universities, then sign an M.O.U with the ecosystem to bring in anyone that is willing to manage the facility, we will give the person targets and KPIs to aid the management of such hubs”.

“It is an idea we are trying to conceptualise and we are open to co-designing it with the ecosystem, so anybody who is interested can reach out to us, so that we can figure out how to achieve that”, the Director-General said.

Head of Experimentation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamila Mohammed, while speaking on the essence of the meeting, maintained that the whole idea around having the conversation with the stakeholders for the northern innovation ecosystem is to begin to engage key players in the innovation space to come together and help in positioning the ecosystem, in order to address developmental challenges in the region.

“The essence of all this is to galvanise action to catalyse action, to be able to disrupt the way innovation is done in the region itself”.

“There is a need for us to pull all our resources together to be able to position the resource system to accelerate the SDGs, because we know we are far behind in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and there is that urgency to be able to come up with new methodologies, and solutions that will take us to that promised land”, Ms. Jamila noted.

Other stakeholders took turns to share their thoughts, as they unanimously affirmed the fact that the Northern Ecosystem Working Group (NEW-G) which was established in collaboration with UNDP remains a significant rallying point to nurture and fuel the Northern Ecosystem’s emergence with strategic levelling up initiatives.


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Students Loans’ Beneficiaries to Start Repayment 2 Years after Graduation-  NELFUND:

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Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) has said that students in tertiary institutions and approved vocational centres would start repayment of the loan two years after graduation.

Students Loans’ Beneficiaries to Start Repayment 2 Years after Graduation-  NELFUND:

However, NELFUND management specifically stated that the repayment of the loan would commence if the students secured a job or went into business.

Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, managing director, NELFUND, said the Act specify a moratorium of two years after graduation for the students to begin repayment of the loan.

Sawyerr said if the students start work, his employer would be expected to remit 10 percent into NELFUND dedicated account.

He added: “The loan does not have a specified repayment tenure. It makes it easy for students to apply for the loan. NELFUND would pay according to the documents provided by the institutions. We cannot put tenure on the loan; some will die, drop out, ‘Japa’ or refuse to pay. While those who went into business would pay into same account.

“It is a revolving a loan. We will not put students under pressure to get the loan and we are not going to state a tenure because it is not a commercial loan.’’

According to him, the loan is meant for students in public universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and vocational institutes, who apply via NELFUND portal and are expected to present their JAMB admission letter, NIN and BVN.

He explained that non-students would not have access to the loan and that NELFUND has put the necessary machinery in place to ensure that beneficiaries can be reached when the need arises.

His words: “We are using technology to run the new system. The process of application is online through our dedicated portal and we are limiting human contact as much as possible. Once you have a Bank Verification Number (BVN) and National Identification Number (NIN), which are parts of the requirements, we will have access to your data and all your accounts. This will also help us to know if you are qualified or not,” Sawyerr stated.

The MD disclosed that students already in institution are eligible to apply for the loan at any level of their study and must be at the beginning of each academic session.

He noted that such students would have to provide their admission and matriculation details in addition to BVN and NIN.

Sawyerr added that about 1.2 million Nigerian students in tertiary institutions and government-recognized vocational centres would be among the first batch of beneficiaries and that the figure would increase as time goes on.

The NELFUND boss disclosed that the scheme would be funded from one per cent of the total annual revenue by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which would amount to N194 billion if the agency meets its projection.

Sawyerr observed that the loan would be paid in two segments, the first, being the school fees, which would be paid directly to the institutions while stipend would be paid into students’ account for their day-to-day upkeep.

He added that the amount individual students would access varies because of the course of study, school fees and geographical location of the institutions.

“You don’t start paying back the loan until two years after your National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and you have secured a job or business. A beneficiary can defer repayment if he has not secured a job, but if after due diligence, he/she defaulted, then the student becomes a criminal and we will work with government agency that can help us get the money back, for example, EFCC, ICPC,” Sawyerr stated.


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GPA Raises Alarm, Says Malaria Vaccine Can Cause Meningitis

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Global Prolife Alliance (GPA), global health organization, has told the National Assembly that the intended malaria vaccine currently proposed by Bill Gates, American billionaire, for Nigeria can trigger meningitis in the populace.

GPA Raises Alarm, Says Malaria Vaccine Can Cause Meningitis

Dr. Philip Njemanze, chairman of GPA, gave the warning in a statement released to newsmen in Owerri, the Imo state capital.

Njemanze, known for being pro-health in the Catholic church, charged the national assembly not to be in a hurry to succumb to the pressure of the bill currently before the house.

He said the vaccine may trigger the deaths of millions of Nigerian children prone to cerebral meningitis, especially in the northern part of the country.

Part of the letter read “Among the side effects is a tenfold increase in cerebral meningitis. Nigeria is endemic for cerebral meningitis. A tenfold increase could cause the deaths of millions of children, especially in northern Nigeria.

“Please intervene and call for a public hearing, for an open public discussion on the pros and cons with expert opinions from both sides. This will help the Nigerian people to be better informed about granting or withholding consent for the vaccination.

“Your intervention could save millions of lives, especially in northern Nigeria, where meningitis is most endemic, particularly at this time of serious insecurity,” Njemanze warned.

 

 


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NERC Cedes Regulatory Oversight of Enugu Electricity Market to State Government Agency

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has ceded the regulatory oversight of the Enugu electricity market to the Enugu Electricity Regulatory Commission (EERC), which is owned by the state government with effect from May 1, 2024.

This is the first-ever transfer of regulatory powers from the NERC to a state government electricity regulator.

“On completion of the Transfers under subsections (2) and (3), whichever occurs later in time, the Commission shall have no further regulatory responsibility whatsoever for electricity market activities carried on entirely within the State to which regulatory responsibility has been transferred and for which the Additional Successor Company has been incorporated and conferred with assets, liabilities, employees, rights and obligations,” NERC said in a statement signed by Sanusi Garba and Dafe Akpeneye.


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