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Inside Abuja

FG tasks Commonwealth scholars to help develop Nigeria

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The Federal Government has advised the Commonwealth scholars to be a good ambassadors of the United Kingdom and use the knowledge gained from their studies for the development of Nigeria. Director of the Federal Scholarship Board, Fatima Ahmad, stated this in Abuja at a reception by the British Council for members of the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowship Plan Alumni network in Nigeria. Ahmad, who charged the scholars to compliment government’s efforts in the development of the education sector in the country, said that government was set to have their database through which it could also reach out to them. She disclosed that her office was working closely with the Federal Ministry of Education to harness the available skills of Nigerian youths for positive development of the country.

“We were already thinking of getting the data base of commonwealth scholars, so that we know when they returned, where they are, and then look for a framework within the government sector to absorb them. We know that employment is not automatic but at least, if we have their database, the tertiary education and other government institutions including research institutes may help and get some of them employed.

“So that we can move the country forward we are working on that to ensure that the skill they acquired under the commonwealth scholarship is not wasted. We will look into how to fix them into the transformation agenda that education for change is after. “My counsel to the scholars is to let us have their data base to see who is engaged and who is not engaged and the areas of skill assets they have.

Then, we engage them with a view to seeing where they can contribute to development of the sector as well,” she said. The British Deputy High Commissioner, Harriet Thompson, said that the Commonwealth Scholarships was one of the most visible institutions of the Commonwealth of Nations. According to her, the alumni are very important to the UK because they are ambassadors of UK education system. She said that, “as leaders in their various capacities and sectors, they offer an influential network to the UK. “The British Government is keen to remain in contact with the alumni and engage with them through events like these for a number of reasons.

The simplest one is building and maintaining connections with individuals who share core Commonwealth values of international peace and security, tolerance, respect and understanding and sustainable development,” she said. Country Director, British Council, Lucy Pearson said that the Council’s involvement with the scheme over the years has evolved from supporting scholars prior to their departure. Pearson said the Council was also involved with the scheme while on the scholarship award to supporting the scholars on return to their home country.

She said that the Council had supported the growth of the Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows Alumni Association of Nigeria. According to her, this is expected to be instrumental in demonstrating the impact of the scheme and promoting Commonwealth values in Nigeria.

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Inside Abuja

Confronting unemployment with skills acquisition

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As unemployment continues to fester in the country, governments and other stakeholders, who are bent on winning the battle, have continued to evolve new strategies for more effective attack against the common enemy. CALEB ONWE reports

 

The creation of three million jobs annually was one of the campaign promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party in Nigeria. Now, the fulfilment of that promise in the fashion that would meet the expectations of the masses, appears not to have been feasible.

 

The expectations of Nigerians, especially those in the labour market was a magical expansion in availability of white collar jobs in the government establishments, oil companies and other private corporations.

 

These expectations, however, became a mirage, following ‘ the technical recession’ that almost crippled the economy. Instead of the upsurge in employment opportunities, job losses came like an unwanted harmattan wind, blowing across all sectors of the labour market.

 

All of a sudden, a new realisation dawned on the stakeholders, that if ” the desirable is not available, the available can become the desirable”. This could be the motivating factor behind the new wave of skills acquisition training that is swiftly blowing across the country.

 

The realization that the scourge of unemployment would be better tackled by helping people to get relevant skills have started gaining considerable space in the public domain. It appears that both the old and young are seeing the need to change their orientation about employment by laying emphasis on job creation rather than waiting for non existent white collar jobs.

 

 

NEPAD’s skills training

 

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Nigeria, recently graduated 300 persons, including rural women and youths in its skills acquisition training programme.

 

These vulnerable members of the society were trained on various skills such as beads-making, cake-baking, soap-making, hair cutting and make-up artistry.

 

Coordinator of NEPAD, Nigeria, Mrs. Gloria Akobundu, said the training programme was part of its core mandate. NEPAD, Nigeria, Akobundu said, has a mandate to identify policies, projects and programmes of government aimed at promoting good governance, poverty eradication, youth and women empowerment and sustainable growth and development.

 

“This skill acquisition training is a way of alleviating poverty in the society and reducing the level of unemployment amongst our youths. It was designed to empower women with information necessary for driving economic development.

 

 

“Over 300 of you that have acquired various skills in beads, cake, soap making, make-up and barbing will justify the resources government has spent on you in the course of your training with a view to making sure that government achieve its objectives. However, due to paucity of funds, we would not provide starter-packs for all of you except the 150 participants in beads, cake making make-up and barbing classes who were outstanding during the trainings” , she said.

 

 

Akobundu told Inside Abuja at the graduation ceremony, that the main targets of the programme were the rural women, and it was being driven by the ideology of ‘ train a woman, train a nation’, which the present administration in Nigeria believes is one of the propelling forces of economic development.

 

She said that the skills acquisition training would be sustained as a crucial economic empowerment booster in government’s fight against poverty and insecurity in the country. Akobundu also noted that the programme was designed to provide rural women with information necessary for economic emancipation.

 

Inside Abuja also learnt that NEPAD had included a plan in the blueprint of the training, to ensure that beneficiaries were not abandoned in the ‘middle of the sea’, especially for those of them who may not be able to navigate the economic environment without a guide.

 

 

Akobundu disclosed that her agency has a Department of Monitoring and Evaluation that would track the progress of those trained and empowered to establish at least in a micro scale the trade they have learnt.

 

Inside Abuja’s investigations revealed that not all the 300 beneficiaries of the training got the starter-packs. According to available records, only 150 best performing participants in the programme got the starter packs.

 

Akobundu explained that “due to paucity of funds, we would not provide starter-packs for all of you except the 150 participants in beads, cake making make-up and barbing classes who were outstanding during the trainings”

 

 

The beneficiaries

 

Inside Abuja sought the views of some of the participants, who seemed to be happy that the yoke of unemployment have been broken in their lives. Though some expressed mixed feelings, others however were grateful for the opportunity.

 

 

Those who were not given the starter- packs, complained bitterly about the exclusion, saying that they were disappointed by not getting something that could boost the knowledge they gained from the training.

 

Though, they said that the hope of getting either money or material from NEPAD as an initial grant was not lost, they appealed that the value of the training should not be allowed to waste away by neglecting one of their greatest needs, which is access to finance.

 

One of the beneficiaries of the programme, an 82-year-old woman, Mrs. Rita Onuekwusi, who claimed she spent all her life in Britain, disclosed that her decision to join the skills acquisition training, was not because she lacks entrepreneurial skills, but that she needed to get acquainted with what is obtainable in the Nigerian society.

 

The octogenarian also said she keyed into the programme to inspire other women who basically waited for their husband’s or children to provide all their needs.

 

“I joined this programme to inspire other women, who are depending on their husband and children to provide for them always. Such life style is not encouraged in the place where I am coming from. Women should acquire skills that will empower them and make them independent, even at old age. At my age, I have many skills with which I am using to encourage other women,” she said.

 

 

Another beneficiary, Ibenene Ebelechukwu, a journalist by profession, said she attended the training to acquire some skills in make-up artistry. She said the training gave her a boost to become her own boss, instead of allowing her time to be controlled by employers.

 

She told Inside Abuja that she had already established the trade with the knowledge she got from the training. Though, she could not open a shop for the business, but she has attached herself to another makeup artist, just to further hone her skills and products.

 

“I want to thank NEPAD and the Federal Government for giving us the opportunity to get the training. I don’t have a saloon of my own but have attached to other people and I am already getting calls from customers who are beginning to demand for my services;” she said.

 

 

The last line

 

From Inside Abuja’ observation, most of the beneficiaries of the training may never be able to get loans to start the trade. Though, there was excitement written on their faces over the new skills they acquired, the poverty alleviation process would be not complete if they do not have access to start-up funds to run their small scale businesses.

 

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Inside Abuja

Saving them from self destruction

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Angwan Tivi in Ruga community, a sex den for a good number of men in Abuja, is slowly turning into a HIV-infested den. REGINA OTOKPA reports on a unique case and efforts of a concerned NGO to change the tale of the community

 

Seventeen-year-old Christiana David (not real name), is five months pregnant and currently infected with the Human Immune Virus (HIV). She is one of the young women engaged in illicit sex trade activities at Angwan Tivi, a settlement within Ruga community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

 

Growing up like every other child, Christiana never envisaged her life would take this turn until two years ago when her mother, Sarah (not real name), whose husband is late, introduced Christiana and her two sisters into the business of prostitution at the brothel where she has been selling food since 2015.

 

Showing no remorse her children were involved in such trade, she told Inside Abuja her husband was late and she and her daughters must hustle to survive.

 

Inside Abuja checks revealed that one of the sisters presently has a child, unsure of whom the father is, while the second recently had an abortion from an unwanted pregnancy.

 

 

Meanwhile, Christiana, who still engages in the act with her five-month pregnancy, has not been able to assess antenatal care. It was also observed that men flock in from all parts of Abuja, including Utako, Asokoro, Gwarinpa and the likes, to patronise these ladies. Running free HIV counselling and test for the women engaged in the illicit trade, the Wanda Adu foundation recorded 25 positive cases.

 

 

Most of the women and young girls hail from Benue State, but have found their way into the city with the aim of making a living for themselves.

 

Worried by the developing trend and committed towards changing the tale about Angwan Tivi, founder of the foundation, Wanda Ebe, has commenced a two weeks training and empowerment exercise for 62 girls and women, to equip them with necessary information and materials on chemical classes for liquid soap, Dettol and cream production.

 

Also, the training would cover bead making, teach the ladies how to tie head scarf(gele), as well as pedicure and manicure .

 

Ebe, who recently trained 20 women in Mpape, told Inside Abuja that the idea behind making the ladies learn and acquire vocational skills was to assist them become self sustained and to teach them to always believe in themselves by engaging in different types of business rather than relying on the men for their means of survival.

 

 

“It is more honourable to have a means of livelihood and grow a business than to rely on the government or individuals to meet their needs on a daily basis.

 

 

 

We are seeking for ways of empower- ing them and making them better individuals. This will give them an opportunity to choose from all the skills they learnt at the end of the training and be able to stand out on one particular skill.”

 

Committed to ensuring those free from HIV protect themselves from contracting sexually transmitted diseases and other forms of disease affecting females, Ebe took time, advising the ladies on preventive methods.

 

 

Taking a step further, sanitary pads, condoms, antiseptic and liquid soaps were distributed to the ladies. “It is very essential to use condom when engaging in sexual activity with your partner.

 

Do not hesitate or wait till tomorrow as you cannot detect disease with mere eyes. We have provided means of doing voluntary counseling and testing through AIDS healthcare foundation (AHF), which will give you follow up treatment after the diagnosis,” Ebe said.

 

 

She urged Nigerians not to judge women who indulge in sex trade from afar, saying that,”we should learn to show love to them and not chastise them, because we don’t know where they are coming from and what they have been through.

 

 

Most of these ladies happen to start this kind of life due to being single mothers ” Capitalising on the Valentine

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Business

Post-recession: Savouring gains of diversification

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With the recent economic recession over, the Federal Government has shifted focus to non-oil sector with emphasis on agriculture and solid minerals where lies huge economic potential. reports Abudlwahab Isa

 

Many are of the opinion that the last economic recession was self-inflicted, induced by over dependence on crude oil and absence of elaborate plan for diversification.
With the economy out of the woods due to rapid deployment of various policy instruments and miraculous rebound in crude oil price, there is a renewed push to escalate the huge potential in the non-oil sector of the economy with agriculture and solid minerals taking the lead.
Interestingly, the Federal Government, having seen the danger of relying predominantly on crude oil with all its unpredictable vagaries, initiated reforms in these alternative sectors for economic value addition.
Besides the steps taken to boost the agric sector and the gains derived therein so far, a major policy thrust put in place to enhance the sector’s potential is the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020 document otherwise known as “The Green Alternative,” which is the outcome of an intensive consultative process starting in November 2015 through April 2016 and involving multiple stakeholders.
From farmer groups to investors to processors to lenders to civil servants to academics, many stakeholders provided detailed input, commentary, and support.
While commenting on the initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expressed gratitude for the resources, energy and intellect put at the disposal of the ministry by parties too numerous to mention for their continued dedication and resolve to build a next generation agribusiness economy in Nigeria.
“Building on the successes and lessons, the vision of the Buhari administration for agriculture is to work with key stakeholders to build an agribusiness economy capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, and supporting sustainable income and job growth.
“Therefore in 2016 to 2020, Nigeria’s policy now needs to be readjusted to solve the aforementioned challenges. The go forward federal priorities (in partnership with state governments) will be the following four: food security; import substitution; job creation; and economic diversification,” FMARD noted.

Solid minerals
On the other hand, is the sold minerals sector with large deposits of about 44 minerals located in different parts of the country.
These include glass sand, limestone, salt, shale, ball clay, galena, granite, marble, laterite, bentonite, phosphate, kaolin, pyrite, feldspar, lignite, gypsum, sphalerite, clay to mention just a few.
Sadly, these minerals were long abandoned in preference for crude oil until recently when concerted efforts are being made to give them priority attention.
Going by the current economic blueprint, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the Federal Government envisages to grow the solid mineral sector’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) to N141 billion at an average annual growth of 8.54 per cent between (2017- 2020) from the N103 billion in 2015.

Streaming revenue profile
The revenue stream from solid mineral sector is still low compared to earnings from crude oil. However, it is steadily improving on the strength of reforms and overhaul of the sector. Unlike previous dispensations when solid minerals paid no dime to the federation account, it is a different ball game today.
For instance, the sector remitted about N14. 6 billion in to the federation account in the last eight years.
A breakdown of the remittances to showed that in 2009, solid minerals revenue paid to the federation account was N931.7 million, N1.2 billion in 2010; it increased to N 1.3 billion in 2011 and N1.8 billion in 2012.
Similarly, the sector’s remittance stood at N 2.037 billion in 2013, N2.3 billion in 2014, N2.085 billion in 2015 and N2.8 billion in 2016.
As recent as last December 2017, revenue performance report of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) showed that the sum of N413 million was collected and paid to the federation account, an amount higher than November figure of N397.4 million.
The December figure was higher than the ministry’s monthly target of N262.22 billion by N150.77 billion indicating an increase of 57.50 per cent. Outstanding balance in the revenue account as of December 2017 stood at N8.5 billion.
Commenting on the huge potential of solid mineral sector at a recent interview with New Telegraph, Acting Chairman, RMAFC, Alhaji Shettima Umar Abba Gana, said the commission’s effort to achieve resource diversification was paying off.
Abba Gana confirmed that as applicable to oil producing states, 13 per cent derivation was currently being paid to states whose solid minerals revenue is paid into federation account.
“The result has been very positive. The reason we took that line was simply because depending on only one source, oil, for revenue has opened Nigeria to vicissitude of oil price fluctuations. If we are going to diversify, the revenue commission has identified two veritable sources of income. The solid minerals and agriculture.
“Apart from their high potential in Nigeria, the two sectors are conveniently available in every state and every local government in equal proportion. That means unlike oil, which is located in five or about six states, there is presence of solid minerals everywhere. Every local government and state will benefit from derivation fund. The commission for the first time about two years ago worked out the 13 per cent derivation of solid minerals.
“About N15 billion was collected as taxes and royalties from solid minerals and included in the sharing formula as applicable to the 13 per cent of oil revenue. We wanted the states to see the benefits of allowing solid minerals to be developed because they will also earn 13 per cent of whatever revenue that comes out of solid minerals so developed. That was the main reason why we pursued the diversification of revenue across states and local governments.”

Blocking revenue leakages
To ensure maximum revenue is raked in by the Federal Government from the sector, government is leaving no stone unturned in blocking leakages.
It has therefore engaged the services of about 100 revenue consultants to work on areas of leakages in revenue accruing from the mining sector, with a view to shoring up earnings.
The consultants to be deployed to the six geo-political zones of the country in the coming week are to examine financial and production records of companies involved in mining activities in the last six years in order to determine whether appropriate royalties were remitted to government.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed the new step recently during the opening of a three-day induction and training for the revenue consultants in Abuja.
He said the main target of the ministry was to ensure that the Federation Account gets its fair due in royalties and taxes.
“Our expectation of this project is that the ministry would emerge as a lead revenue agency for the Federal Government of Nigeria in line with the growth projections of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which recognises the mining sector as one of Nigeria’s most promising growth sectors and acknowledges that its contribution to GDP doubled from N52 billion in 2010 to N103 billion in 2015.
“The ERGP further projects that revenue from the mining sector would grow from N103 billion (2015) to N141 billion (2020) at an average annual growth rate of 8.54 per cent (2017-2020)”
Dr Fayemi said he was optimistic that the ministry would surpass these targets, as all stakeholders work collaboratively to ensure the success of the R.O.V. Project, resulting in improved levels of voluntary compliance of operators.
The minister admitted that leakages in government revenue was a big challenge in the mining sector, a development, which, he said, the ministry was determined to redress with the ROV Project, following its approval by the National Economic Council (NEC).

Challenges
The biggest headache troubling the mining sector, however, remains the activities of illegal miners. While their activities pre-date the current administration, the minister in conjunction with other stakeholders have mapped out plans to get rid of them. Quite a number of culprits, who were nabbed, are currently facing prosecution.

Last line
There is a refreshing confidence that given the level of reforms in both agric and solid minerals sectors to ensure their economic viability and make it attractive to genuine investors, both have the potential of becoming Nigeria’s next cash cow and capable of replacing crude oil.

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