Lekan Paul

Cleaning the Augean stable at FIRS, By Kayode Rahman Ogunlana

In the recent change of leadership at the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS,  the present and the more rational question that should occupy our minds in the aftermath of Babatunde Fowler’s exit is, the antecedents and thereby, the capacity of Malam Muhammadu M. Nami, the Executive Chairman to deliver on the job. In other words, is President Buhari putting a square peg in a square hole in picking Malam Muhammadu Nami from among the horde that jostled and lobbied for the coveted office? From a cursory look at his curricular vitae and what transpired as he resumed recently, the picture depicted is that of a man eminently capable.

Born in April 1968, Muhamnad Nami is clearly coming on the job with much more than the vivacity, energy and drive required to cope with the rigors of the tasks of his new assignment. With a childhood rooted and wrought in the agrarian village of Nami in Agaie local government area of Niger state,  it tells much  of his innate sturdy and Spartan character traits of intelligence, perseverance, determination and vision to have gone the mileage to the point that he was found suitable for his latest  appointment. He is widely reckoned with as a renowned, thoroughbred consultant in matters of auditing and taxation.

While announcing his appointment, the Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu crisply  encapsulated Muhammad Nami as a man with highly rated qualifications and licenses from reputable professional bodies with, “practical work experience in auditing, tax management and advisory management services to clients in the banking, manufacturing and services in the private and public sectors as well as nonprofit organisations.” By virtue of his educational qualifications and professional practice, Muhammad Nami is today, either a fellow or a member of several professional bodies. For instance, he is a Fellow of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, CITN; the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria, CIFIPN and, the Institute of Debt Recovery Practitioners of Nigeria, DRPN. He is as well, an Associate Member of the Nigeria Institute of Management and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, ANAN.

Beginning from 1993 when he  embarked on his chosen career in taxation and auditing as a trainee, Muhammad Nami has largely worked in the private sector, progressively as an employee, a partner in joint ventures, CEO of his own firms and as a consultant to individuals, corporate entities,  nongovernmental, local and international organizations as well as government Ministries and several public sector departments and  agencies.

In obvious recognition of his towering professional stature and reputation as a diligent Auditor of impeccable moral rectitude, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him between 2017 and 2018, to serve as a member of the adhoc Presidential Committee on Audit of Recoveries made by government Agencies pursuant to the anti corruption campaign. Among others, the committee was mandated to carry out an audit of all recoveries made by the MDAs, provide a data base and inventory for all recoveries; establish a viable template or, an enduring framework to make for accountability in respect of future recoveries. The nearest that he came to formally working in the public sector,  Nami was said to have made very critical contributions to  the success of the presidential committee’s assignment.  His outstanding performance in that one year stint may have further highlighted the latent and untapped capacity of the self effacing professional and, as it has turned out, recommending him for the latest national assignment.

As it is, Mohammed  Nami is coming on the saddle at the FIRS at a time that the agency is, practically, in the eye of the storm. There is for instance, the widespread allegations of gross acts of financial improprieties by members of its previous management with  the attendant negative public perception of the place as a cesspool of heist.  This may of course appear as the least of the tasks at hand, but it is yet one that must be given urgent  and particular attention. It may well turn out that he will have to first and foremost begin his assignment at the FIRS by engaging in the odious task of cleansing the Augean stable.

The recent changes at the nation’s foremost tax collection institution and which resulted in the appointment of Nami arose from its ever declining quantum of revenue generation to the national coffers. At a time the government embarked on a vicarious, spirited and frenzied policy of diversification of its sources of revenue away from oil, much is understandably expected from the FIRS. Unfortunately, the revenue generation through the Agency has been cascading downward, consistently failing to deliver on set targets in recent years.

The displeasure of the government was manifested in the query issued Mr.Fowler in April this year by the President’s Chief of Staff and of course non-renewal of his tenure.

In the light of the above, the salient but pertinent ingredient in the mandate being given to  Muhammad Nami is that he is expected to turn the fortunes of FIRS around by urgently reinvigorating its revenue generating profile. With an unprecedented federal budget of N10.59 trillion Naira and an ambitious policy of funding it substantially from revenues generated from non oil revenue sources, which translates in other words,  into increased taxation,  the assignment of  Nami cannot be regarded as a tea party.

Various prognoses, remedial measures and suggestions have been advanced for enhancing revenue generation. There has been for example, the view that the country needs to enthrone a more robust regime of taxation based on the fact that a great number of taxable individuals and corporate citizens are currently either being under taxed or, are completely outside the tax net. Those with this view, go on comparative peer group analyses of taxation in Nigeria and other countries in Africa often with the conclusion that we have a very lax, or liberal tax administration.

We can therefore foresee the Federal Inland  Revenue Service under Muhammad Nami having to engage in the expansion of the tax net. A logical, sensible and inevitable panacea in the superior and long-term social and economic wellbeing of the country as it has been argued by exponents of such a paradigm shift, there is yet on the other hand, the strong imperative of taking cognizance of counter opinions. This, in a nutshell is the demand that caution should be exercised to guard against increased taxation giving rise to increased pauperization of the mass of citizens. Related, is the opinion that an unbridled taxation drive has the potential of scarring away prospective investors and of crippling existing industries, ventures and services.

As he steps into his new station, Muhammad Nami is being challenged to unleash the entire gamut of his experience, expertise and management skills. Unlike the usual trend in such high profile appointments, Nami is not known to be coming either on the crest of partisan political considerations and interest groups or, under the wings of a god father. He is expected therefore, to go about his assignment as a thoroughbred professional without the inhibitions and digressions of extraneous forces and interests. History beckons on Muhammad Nami, the otherwise village boy from Nami.

Kayode Rahman Ogunlana is a Lagos based public affairs analyst.

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Chain Reactions, St. Ives Partner in #SmearMyWoman Campaign to Fight Cervical Cancer

In further demonstration of commitment to Corporate Social Investment, Chain Reactions Nigeria, a leading public relations and integrated communication consulting firm, is partnering with St. Ives, a leading multi-specialist hospital to reduce the scourge of cervical cancer in the country. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

Chain Reactions is commemorating the Cervical Cancer Awareness/Prevention Month with an initiative titled, ‘A Smear in Time Saves My Woman.’ The initiative is infused with an awareness campaign tagged #SmearMyWoman, and an activation part: “100% Cervical FREE” that will deliver Free Cervical Screening to 100 less privileged girls and women who otherwise might not be able to afford the test. This is to enable early discovery and treatment of the disease.

Speaking about the campaign, Managing Director/Chief Strategist, Chain Reactions Nigeria, Israel Jaiye Opayemi, said: “Women are gatekeepers of life. They contribute to every part of our lives as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, friends and colleagues offering support to men and the family. At Chain Reactions Nigeria, we celebrate our women, which is why all of us male executives are championing this cause to share their experience, to empathise with women who are going through cervical cancer. Truth is, whatever affects the women in our lives, affects every one of us”

Females from the age of 14 to 65, especially when they become sexually active, can contract the disease. This puts over 50 million Nigerian women at risk of cervical cancer, which remains the number one cause of all cancer deaths in Nigeria among women of reproductive age (15 – 44).

Globally, cervical cancer kills 720 women daily; that is one woman every two minutes. In Nigeria, out of the 14,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, about 30 of them die from the disease on daily basis, totalling over 10’000 daily.

Strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is the major cause of cervical cancer. 95% of cervical cancer diagnosis is attributed to lack of knowledge and failure to undergo pap smear screening, hence, the reason for Chain Reactions Nigeria partnering with the St. Ives Healthcare group.

More details about the #SmearMyWoman campaign and 100% cervical free screening initiative, can be found at www.smearmywoman.comChain Reactions, St. Ives Partner in #SmearMyWoman Campaign to Fight Cervical Cancer

In further demonstration of commitment to Corporate Social Investment, Chain Reactions Nigeria, a leading public relations and integrated communication consulting firm, is partnering with St. Ives, a leading multi-specialist hospital to reduce the scourge of cervical cancer in the country. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

Chain Reactions is commemorating the Cervical Cancer Awareness/Prevention Month with an initiative titled, ‘A Smear in Time Saves My Woman.’ The initiative is infused with an awareness campaign tagged #SmearMyWoman, and an activation part: “100% Cervical FREE” that will deliver Free Cervical Screening to 100 less privileged girls and women who otherwise might not be able to afford the test. This is to enable early discovery and treatment of the disease.

Speaking about the campaign, Managing Director/Chief Strategist, Chain Reactions Nigeria, Israel Jaiye Opayemi, said: “Women are gatekeepers of life. They contribute to every part of our lives as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, friends and colleagues offering support to men and the family. At Chain Reactions Nigeria, we celebrate our women, which is why all of us male executives are championing this cause to share their experience, to empathise with women who are going through cervical cancer. Truth is, whatever affects the women in our lives, affects every one of us”

Females from the age of 14 to 65, especially when they become sexually active, can contract the disease. This puts over 50 million Nigerian women at risk of cervical cancer, which remains the number one cause of all cancer deaths in Nigeria among women of reproductive age (15 – 44).

Globally, cervical cancer kills 720 women daily; that is one woman every two minutes. In Nigeria, out of the 14,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, about 30 of them die from the disease on daily basis, totalling over 10’000 daily.

Strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is the major cause of cervical cancer. 95% of cervical cancer diagnosis is attributed to lack of knowledge and failure to undergo pap smear screening, hence, the reason for Chain Reactions Nigeria partnering with the St. Ives Healthcare group.

More details about the #SmearMyWoman campaign and 100% cervical free screening initiative, can be found at www.smearmywoman.com

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AHI Trains 60 Girls Leaders In Lagos

Acknowledging the role and importance of adolescent girls in achieving inclusive and sustainable development is crucial to ensuring progress especially in all issues affecting them directly such as their education, health, human rights and dignity.

As part of effort in amplifying girls’ voices, Action Health Incorporated (AHI) with support from Rise Up trained sixty (60) girl leaders ages 13-18 from across Lagos State on leadership and public advocacy during a 5 Days’ workshop held in Lagos. 

The training was focused on strengthening the capacity of the girls on evidence-based advocacy, media engagement, storytelling, public dialogues to raise discourse and demand for change on girls’ issues in Lagos State.

Speaking about the training, Funso Bukoye, Programme officer AHI, said that over times; girls’ voices have been clamp down especially on issues that concern them. But this training has raised a new generation of girls that will speak up for themselves and other girls in their communities.

Following this training, these girls are expected to engage decision-makers and policy-makers at multiple levels on girls’ issues in Lagos State.

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Alleged Conviction Of DSP Ovie Omo-Agege By Court In The USA

Over the past few days, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege visited the United States of America and Canada for personal and official reasons respectively, holding aloft the beacon of progressive ideology and an agenda for improving Nigeria’s image internationally.

On the contrary, an unscrupulous band of mischief makers at home calling itself a ‘youth group’ purportedly led by one Solomon Adodo is seeking to mislead gullible people with lies and propaganda by calling for the immediate resignation of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, over a spurious and malicious allegation of a conviction by a Californian court.

Ordinarily, we would have ignored this latest effort by political jobbers to drag the name of the Distinguished Senator into disrepute.

However, in a political environment like ours where silence could be misinterpreted as consent and evidence of guilt, we make haste to dismiss the entire allegation as not only unfounded and illogical; it is the residue of the warped imaginations and misleading rumour peddled without conviction some years back.

While the distinguished Senator remains completely unperturbed by the nattering nabobs of negativity and their faceless sponsors, it remains clear that this is another feeble round of mere shadow- chasing that ultimately amounts to nothing.

For the umpteenth time, we would like to reiterate the fact that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege was cleared of all charges in the said case and he was never a convict in the USA as being alleged; till date, he travels freely to and within the country without any hint of harassment.

We publish herewith details of our response to the same spurious allegation on September 25, 2018: “To this extent, by way of ‘fair commentary’ only, we will speak to the non-existent criminal conviction knowing that the matter is now in court and therefore subjudice. We will meet the blackmailer in court.

The fact is, at a point in his brilliant and bright legal career in California, USA, Senator Omo-Agege (then a young attorney) was alleged to have broken the law in California but in the end, he was found not guilty.

“Accordingly, he was declared innocent by the honourables Lance A. Ito (who presided over the popular O.J. Simpson murder trial case) and G. Magnera of the Court of California, County of Los Angeles. Omo-Agege had to fight hard for his innocence and God vindicated him against the expectations of evil men like the most sadistic blackmailer in the world.

“Today, he remains an active member in good standing at the State of California Bar Association – an impossibility if a valid and subsisting conviction were hanging on him. These are verifiable public facts and truths.”

We state, without any equivocation, that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is committed to his mandate and would not be distracted by the antics of disgruntled and defeated politicians hiding behind a so-called ‘youth group’ without any meaningful antecedent, seeking to stir up confusion through mere mischief and without facts.

Let it be put on record that while his media office has been strictly instructed not to descend into the gutter to play their piggery games of petty mischief, the Senator has nothing to hide and he would continue with his passionate desire and populist dynamism, towards making Nigeria a better nation for future generations.

Signed:

Yomi Odunuga,
Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Deputy President of the Senate.

13-01-2020

End.

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Alaafin of Oyo Confers ‘Akosin Of Yorubaland’ Chieftancy Title On Habeeb Okunola

The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, has conferred the chieftancy title Akosin of Yorubaland on Habeeb Okunola, MD/CEO TILT Group of Companies Limited.


The conferment of the Chieftancy title was reached after the Alaafin consulted the Oyomesi (the King makers and traditional cabinet of the Alaafin), a statement issued by Solomon Adetekunbo,  – Corporate Communications and CSR Manager of TILT Group of Companies Limited, revealed.

It was gathered that after rigorous exploration into the personality and activities of Okunola, who is also the Founder of Habeeb Okunola Foundation, he was found a worthy and thorough bred Yoruba son who is culturally inclined to wear the toga of the Yoruba royalty and traditionally oriented to promote the Chieftancy institution of Yorubaland.


“The Chieftancy title, Akosin of Yorubaland is interpreted as the first person in Yorubaland to perform an extraordinary feat; an illustrious accomplisher/ leader worthy to be celebrated. The prestigious title which is deeply rooted in the  origin of the Old Oyo empire, bestows it’s holder enoromous legitimate authority across all the Yoruba Kingdoms.


“The Akosin of Yorubaland Chief Habeeb Okunola has for a long time remained a frontline business leader of international repute committed to fostering grassroots development in underserved urban-slum and rural communities across Africa,” Adetokunbo said.


He added that “Okunola is a shrewd serial entrepreneur and global philanthropist; whose work and charitable activities across Africa have distinguished him as one of the leading entrepreneurs under 40, in the continent. He sits atop a major conglomerate and financial empire with stakes in real estate, construction, energy, engineering, agriculture, media and technology. 


“He is a certified businessman of international repute, whose experience in conceiving business transactions has given him access to Presidents, Prime Ministers, and leaders of International organisations. 

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A Letter From President Buhari At New Year

My Dear Compatriots,

NIGERIA’S DECADE

Today marks a new decade. It is a time of hope, optimism and fresh possibilities. We look forward as a nation to the 2020s as the opportunity to build on the foundations we have laid together on security, diversification of our economy and taking on the curse of corruption. These are the pledges on which I have been twice elected President and remain the framework for a stable, sustainable and more prosperous future.

Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. I salute the commitment of the millions who voted in peace last February and of those leaders who contested for office vigorously but fairly, submitting to the authority of the electorate, the Independent National Electoral Commission and judicial process. I understand very well the frustrations our system has in the past triggered. I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections. But I am determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria and across the region, where several ECOWAS members go to the polls this year.

As Commander-in-Chief, my primary concern is the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens. When I assumed office in May 2015 my first task was to rally our neighbours so that we could confront Boko Haram on a coordinated regional basis. Chaos is not a neighbour any of us hope for.

We have been fighting on several fronts: violent extremists, cultists and organised criminal networks. It has not been easy. But as we are winning the war, we also look to the challenge of winning the peace, the reconstruction of lives, communities and markets. The North East Development Commission will work with local and international stakeholders to help create a new beginning for the North East.
The Federal Government will continue to work with State Governors, neighbouring states and our international partners to tackle the root causes of violent extremism and the networks that help finance and organise terror. Our security forces will receive the best training and modern weaponry, and in turn will be held to the highest standards of professionalism, and respect for human rights. We will use all the human and emerging technological resources available to tackle kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery.

The new Ministry of Police Affairs increased recruitment of officers and the security reforms being introduced will build on what we are already delivering. We will work tirelessly at home and with our allies in support of our policies to protect the security of life and property. Our actions at all times will be governed by the rule of law. At the same time, we shall look always to engage with all well-meaning leaders and citizens of goodwill to promote dialogue, partnership and understanding.

We need a democratic government that can guarantee peace and security to realise the full potential of our ingenious, entrepreneurial and hard-working people. Our policies are designed to promote genuine, balanced growth that delivers jobs and rewards industry. Our new Economic Advisory Council brings together respected and independent thinkers to advise me on a strategy that champions inclusive and balanced growth, and above all fight poverty and safeguard national economic interests.

As we have sat down to celebrate with friends and family over this holiday season, for the first time in a generation our food plates have not all been filled with imports of products we know can easily be produced here at home. The revolution in agriculture is already a reality in all corners of the country. New agreements with Morocco, Russia and others will help us access on attractive terms the inputs we need to accelerate the transformation in farming that is taking place.

A good example of commitment to this inclusive growth is the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the creation of the National Action Committee to oversee its implementation and ensure the necessary safeguards are in place to allow us to fully capitalise on regional and continental markets.
The joint land border security exercise currently taking place is meant to safeguard Nigeria’s economy and security. No one can doubt that we have been good neighbours and good citizens. We have been the helpers and shock-absorbers of the sub-region but we cannot allow our well-planned economic regeneration plans to be sabotaged. As soon as we are satisfied that the safeguards are adequate, normal cross-border movements will be resumed.

Already, we are making key infrastructure investments to enhance our ease of doing business. On transportation, we are making significant progress on key roads such as the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos – Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja – Kano highway. 2020 will also see tangible progress on the Lagos to Kano Rail line. Through Executive Order 007, we are also using alternative funding programmes in collaboration with private sector partners to fix strategic roads such as the Apapa-Oworonshoki Express way. Abuja and Port Harcourt have new international airport terminals, as will Kano and Lagos in 2020. When completed, all these projects will positively impact business operations in the country. These projects are not small and do not come without some temporary disruption; we are doing now what should have been done a long time ago. I thank you for your patience and look forward to the dividends that we and future generations will long enjoy.

Power has been a problem for a generation. We know we need to pick up the pace of progress. We have solutions to help separate parts of the value chain to work better together. In the past few months, we have engaged extensively with stakeholders to develop a series of comprehensive solutions to improve the reliability and availability of electricity across the country. These solutions include ensuring fiscal sustainability for the sector, increasing both government and private sector investments in the power transmission and distribution segments, improving payment transparency through the deployment of smart meters and ensuring regulatory actions maximise service delivery.

We have in place a new deal with Siemens, supported by the German government after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited us in Abuja, to invest in new capacity for generation, transmission and distribution. These projects will be under close scrutiny and transparency – there will be no more extravagant claims that end only in waste, theft and mismanagement.

The next 12 months will witness the gradual implementation of these actions, after which Nigerians can expect to see significant improvement in electricity service supply reliability and delivery. Separately, we have plans to increase domestic gas consumption. In the first quarter of 2020, we will commence work on the AKK gas pipeline, OB3 Gas pipeline and the expansion of the Escravos – Lagos Pipeline.

While we look to create new opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing and other long neglected sectors, in 2020 we will also realise increased value from oil and gas, delivering a more competitive, attractive and profitable industry, operating on commercial principles and free from political interference. Just last week, we were able to approve a fair framework for the USD10 billion expansion of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, which will increase exports by 35 percent, restore our position as a world leader in the sector and create thousands of jobs. The Amendment of the Deep Offshore Act in October signalled our intention to create a modern, forward-looking industry in Nigeria. I am confident that in 2020 we will be able to present a radical programme of reform for oil and gas that will excite investors, improve governance and strengthen protections for host communities and the environment.

We can expect the pace of change in technology only to accelerate in the decade ahead. Coupled with our young and vibrant population, this offers huge opportunities if we are able to harness the most productive trends and tame some of the wilder elements. This is a delicate balance with which many countries are struggling. We are seeking an informed and mature debate that reflects our rights and responsibilities as citizens in shaping the boundaries of how best to allow technology to benefit Nigeria.

During my Democracy Day speech on June 12, 2019, I promised to lay the enduring foundations for taking a hundred million Nigerians out of mass poverty over the next 10 years. Today I restate that commitment. We shall continue reforms in education, health care and water sanitation. I have met international partners such as GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who support our social welfare programmes. I will continue to work with State and Local Governments to make sure that these partnerships deliver as they should. Workers will have a living wage and pensioners will be looked after. We are steadily clearing pensions and benefits arrears neglected for so long.
The new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will consolidate and build on the social intervention schemes and will enhance the checks and balances necessary for this set of programmes to succeed for the long term.

I am able to report that the journey has already begun with the passage and signing into law of the 2020 Appropriation Act. As the new decade dawns, we are ready to hit the ground running. Let me pay tribute to the Ninth National Assembly who worked uncommonly long hours to make sure that the 2020 budget scrutiny is both thorough and timely. The close harmony between the Executive and Legislature is a sharp contrast to what we have experienced in the recent past, when the Senate kept the previous budget for 7 months without good reason just to score cheap political points thereby disrupting the budgetary processes and overall economic development plans.

Our policies are working and the results will continue to show themselves more clearly by the day. Nigeria is the most tremendous, can-do market, offering extraordinary opportunities and returns. Investors can look forward with confidence not only to an increasing momentum of change but also to specific incentives, including our new visa-on-arrival policy.

They can also be certain of our unshakeable commitment to tackle corruption. As we create an environment that allows initiative, enterprise and hard work to thrive, it is more important than ever to call out those who find the rule of law an inconvenience, or independent regulation an irritation. We are doing our part here in Nigeria. We will continue to press our partners abroad to help with the supply side of corruption and have received some encouragement. We expect more funds stolen in the past to be returned to us and they will be ploughed back into development with all due transparency.

This is a joint initiative. Where our policies have worked best, it has been because of the support of ordinary Nigerians in their millions, numbers that even the most powerful of special interests cannot defy. I thank you for your support. Transition by its very nature carries with it change and some uncertainty along the way. I encourage you to be tolerant, law abiding and peace loving. This is a new year and the beginning of a new decade – the Nigerian Decade of prosperity and promise for Nigeria and for Africa.

To recapitulate, some of the projects Nigerians should expect to come upstream from 2020 include:

47 road projects scheduled for completion in 2020/21, including roads leading to ports;
Major bridges including substantial work on the Second Niger Bridge;
Completion of 13 housing estates under the National Housing Project Plan;
Lagos, Kano, Maiduguri and Enugu international airports to be commissioned in 2020;
Launching of an agricultural rural mechanisation scheme that will cover 700 local governments over a period of three years;
Launching of the Livestock Development Project Grazing Model in Gombe State where 200,000 hectares of land has been identified;
Training of 50,000 workers to complement the country’s 7,000 extension workers;
Commissioning of the Lagos – Ibadan and Itakpe – Warri rail lines in the first quarter;
Commencement of the Ibadan – Abuja and Kano – Kaduna rail lines also in the first quarter;
Further liberalisation of the power sector to allow businesses to generate and sell power;
Commencement of the construction of the Mambilla Power project by the first half of 2020; and
Commencement of the construction of the AKK gas pipeline, OB3 gas pipeline and the expansion of the Escravos – Lagos pipeline in the first quarter of 2020.

Thank you very much!

President Muhammadu Buhari
State House,
Abuja.
1st January, 2020

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RE: Humanitarian Affairs Minister Refuses To Approve School Feeding Program Payment For Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue States

Our attention has been drawn to an Exclusive Story by Sahara Reporters written on the 25th of December, 2019 on the alleged Failure of; The Hon. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to approve payments for school feeding in some states and Npower Stipends for October/November 2019.

It is pertinent to note that the story is unwarranted or unfounded

The Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiyya Farouq, assumed office, she had gone about handling the transition of the affairs of the Social Investment Programmes from the Presidency to the new Ministry, with the support of the programme administrators and the Cluster Heads.

During this period, she has had to receive briefings from the NSIO and the different clusters concerning the implementation and status of the programmes, successes and challenges. Where she needs additional information, she has sought further clarification in a bit to ensure that the implementation process fulfills the intended mandates of the SIPs.

It should be noted that the former accounting Ministry, which is the ministry of Budget and National Planning has to put on hold all processes of payments after the presidential instruction of the movement of the SIP. Hence, the need for new procedures and policy guidelines inline with the public service rules needs to be set up in the new ministry unfortunately, these briefings delayed payments.

However the issues and briefings on procedures has been resolved and payment had continued unhindered.

Regarding the delay in the stipends of N-Power volunteers for two months (October and November), the Hounourable Minister, in a Press Conference on the 2nd of December 2019 explained the reason behind the delay, and also pledged that beneficiaries would receive their backlog payments on or before December 20th, 2019. This was done.

These actions clearly indicate that, contrary to what some media houses are putting out, the Honourable Minister is not acting in any inimical manner toward the Programme. She has cleared all request that have to do with payments of vendors and stipends that has reached her table.

The Honorable Minister and the National Social Investments Programme are focused towards using the SIPs as an impactful tool towards actualizing the President’s mandate to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

Signed:
Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed
SSA-P
Social Investments Programme

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The Successful Onboarding Of Over 2.5 Million Petty Traders On The Trader Moni Scheme: The Untold Story Of Data, By Ifeayolu Nnaedozie

By making financial services open at moderate expenses to all people and organizations, regardless of total assets and size, financial inclusion aims to deliver answers for the requirements that exclude individuals from participating in the financial sector. You would concur that nations with more profound degrees of financial inclusion have more grounded GDP development rates and lower-income disparity.

According to the EFINA report, Access to Financial Services survey findings released, revealed that 36.8% of the adult population in the country is financially excluded. According to regulators and other key players in the economy, the survey also showed that Nigeria has a chance to achieve the 20% exclusion rate target for adults by 2020. This translates to a population of 36.6 million adult Nigerians who are excluded, with 44.1% male and 55.9% female.

Also, Nigeria had a total adult population of 99.6 million, with 39.8% as the banked population which translates to 39.7 million. The unbanked population is 60.1 million with 71.3% of mobile phone users that are adults among the excluded. From the analysis, 63.3% of the population is financially served with 38.7% in the banked category (39.5 million). This suggests in outright terms, that Nigeria still has a huge unbanked populace, hence the CBN financial inclusion goals.

The patterns and behaviors poor households’ exhibit around financial management sheds light on the complex financial lives they lead to survive on variable low incomes. While the federal government and CBN are focused on access to credit, poor and marginalized groups require access to a full range of financial services to effectively manage their economic lives. Financial inclusion growth tools in a diverse country like Nigeria in recent times must hence be identified as a spectrum of progress, to encapsulate the different dimensions of the populations they have serviced.

THE TRADER MONI PROGRAM
Armed with the knowledge that millions of Nigerians, at the base of the economic pyramid lacked access to credit facilities in 2016, the Federal Government initiated the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP). Also, in the quest to support the 20 million petty traders in Nigeria who are in dire need of capital to expand but are unable to access loans to trade, the government introduced TraderMoni, one of three microcredit products of GEEP.

The TraderMoni scheme is a collateral-free loan program which allows petty traders the opportunity to access an initial capital of N10,000 which upon successful repayment, grows into an interest-free credit up to the sum of N300000.

According to Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the 23rd Convocation Ceremony of the Lagos State University, LASU – “A greater challenge was when we started our TraderMoni microcredit loans to reach two million petty traders across the country. We didn’t look beyond young Nigerian innovators. He added that the first challenge was on how to enumerate two million petty traders; we got two Nigerian technology based companies MobileForms and Generating Demand Management Group (GDM). MobileForms was founded barely three years ago by two young Nigerian graduates, Damilola Ayorinde and Oluwatomi Ayorinde.

The company has created a platform that enables businesses and governments to crowdsource data from across the African Continent. These young Nigerian entrepreneurs delivered the largest Social Investment Programs of their kind in Africa faultlessly.” The primary problem was the accessibility to the petty traders by way of properly documenting their biodata being that the petty traders had limited education, hence there was not enough information about them or financial history.

With the MobileForms application, an electronic form application that functions on a smartphone or tablet device, which enables users to collect data using mobile devices, CrowdForce enabled the creation of digital identities to over 2 million petty traders across Nigeria under the federal government’s TraderMoni project by employing over 100,000 agents in all 774 local governments in Nigeria to carry out its market research activities.

On the TraderMoni project, CrowdForce facilitated services like digital lending, loan disbursement, and recovery. Mobile Forms was developed by a team of engineers at CrowdForce with a very simple goal; to empower youths, retailers and business owners with opportunities to make extra income to improve their lives. Youths are empowered to work as agents in enumerating retailers who become beneficiaries of government and NGO initiatives like TraderMoni. Business owners are armed with the data to test the market by way of researching product-market fit, the purchasing power of the target market and so on.

According to Uzoma Nwagba, the Chief Operating Officer of GEEP, the operation of the program does not mirror its target demographics. He stressed that “the more illiterate or unsophisticated our beneficiaries are, the more sophisticated our operation has to be. All the complexity must be absorbed by us and taken out of the trader’s experience. We have a highly technology-driven program.” Agents who use the Mobile Forms initiative on the field confess that it makes it easier for them to seamlessly register, gather information and on-board the TraderMoni beneficiaries.”


“MobileForms, thank you for the payment today… for me, the traders’ payment is much more important to me because that’s why I did the enumeration for them. I want them to benefit like the previous social investment programs,” Emmanuel Oluwafemi?, an agent with CrowdForce, said.

This was affirmed by Coleman Damilola?, another agent on the CrowdForce platform who had been out of a job for a couple of months, his joy was evident as he declared “special thanks to Mobile Forms Limited, a job of one month earned me an N135100 salary.”

Although massive strides have been taken in the race for financial inclusion, there remains more to be done. For example, during the TraderMoni enumeration scheme, data on 2.5 million traders were captured and only a minuscule 16,000 had functional Bank Verification Numbers (an 11-digit number that uniquely identifies every customer across the Nigeria Banking industry using biometric details).

The Central Bank of Nigeria has a financial inclusion strategy that targets above 500,000 financial access points as well as a financial exclusion rate 0f 20% in Nigeria by 2020. Currently, many financial servicing companies are serving this market and Crowdforce is not left out as they also have a solution for this, called Payforce.

MOBILE MONEY
The lack of access to formal banking in the mass market in Africa has opened the door for technology driven companies to build successful mobile payment services. Capitalizing on the phenomenal number of agents under Crowdforce, the company developed Payforce to actively deploy mobile banking services to tap the demand from the large unbanked population in Nigeria. There is strong evidence that their services have improved access to formal financial services in Nigeria. Crowdforce’s PayForce Agent Network helps banks and Fintech start-ups with the right network to scale, render digital services and capture digital identities via local merchant stores. It enables people to digitally send and receive money, and by creating simple financial access for the unbanked and the underserved population across Nigeria. Payforce has records of over N2billion daily transactions with 687active agents spread across Nigeria. As a CBN licensed Super-agent Company, Crowdforce aims to cover more places in Africa.

The importance of data goes way beyond decision-making and optimization. It goes as far as impacting the inclusivity and journey that Nigerian economy will take.

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Nigerians In Diaspora Critical In Driving Marional Development – Osinbajo

Nigerians in the Diaspora can contribute more to the growth of the nation’s economy and other sectors through the sharing of ideas and investment opportunities with relevant agencies of government, according to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Speaking during a meeting on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with a delegation from the Nigeria Diaspora Group for Good Governance led by Dr. James Fadel, Prof. Osinbajo further stated that harnessing the contributions of Nigerians in the Diaspora was a major reason why the Buhari administration established the Diaspora Commission.

According to him, the establishment of the Diaspora Commission is an important milestone for government where all the activities of Nigerians in the Diaspora could be well coordinated for national development.

The Vice President added that the Federal Government, through the Diaspora Commission, with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports alongside other relevant MDAs, will create platforms similar to Focus Labs, to further engage Diaspora investors and experts on very specific initiatives so as to take the ideas from the Diaspora to the next level.

The Focus Labs, organised by the Budget & National Planning Ministry, provided an avenue where investors and government agencies held detailed meetings over a few weeks to sort out issues mitigating effective investments.

According to the VP, such initiatives would help take some of the many ideas from the Diaspora community forward, noting that both the government and the people from the Diaspora have to move the ideas forward towards implementation.

He said, “I think one thing we have to do with the Diaspora Commission is to bring up these investors and the relevant agencies of government into the same room to share ideas. Some of these investors may be having difficulties in getting funds.

“What we need to do is to set up a structure to enable us meet with these investors so that we can take it step by step on how this (Diaspora) group can contribute more to the development of the country.”

Continuing, the Vice President said the Federal Government has achieved significant milestones through its Social Investment Programmes, including the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme where almost 10 million school children are being fed a free, nutritious meal daily, and the N-Power Job scheme which has engaged over 500,000 young Nigerians nationwide.

In the agriculture sector and agricultural value chain, Prof. Osinbajo highlighted the growth of local rice production, noting that the country needs to consolidate on its gains in the agriculture sector for further development.

Speaking on technical education, the VP said the N-Power programme of the federal government is embraced by every state of the federation and what is needed now is the coordination of the activities in the states.

In his remarks, the leader of the delegation, James Fadel, said, “The Vice President has captured the admiration of Nigerians at home and abroad and we have come here to support you with the best, according to our capabilities as Nigerians in the Diaspora.”

Fadel added that the Diaspora group aims to invest in areas such as infrastructure, primary healthcare, skill acquisition in various sectors, so as to contribute to improving the living standard of Nigerians.

Also at the meeting were the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, and Dr. Sule Yakubu Bassi, who represented the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

Bassi expressed delight that Nigerians in the Diaspora are willing to make various contributions in the areas of education, primary healthcare, etc, adding that the Commission is linking up with other groups and aims to provide vocational training for Nigerians nationwide.

Also, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, highlighted the needs for skills training for Nigerian youths.

‘Laolu Akande

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

Office of the Vice President.

6th December, 2019

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E- Nigeria: And The Evolving Role of ICT in a Digital Economy, By Ayo Akanji

Going digital is no longer an option, it is the default – Natarajan Chandrasekaran

Over the last decades, the great diffusion of information and communication technology (ICT) has caused a dramatic transformation of the world into an information society. Thanks to ICT infrastructure such as fixed-line telephones, mobile phones, Internet, and broadband, people, firms, and governments now have much better access to information, knowledge, and wisdom than before in terms of scale, scope, and speed.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in Nigeria is one that has not fully exploded, but has a tremendous potential to provide jobs for million of Nigerians and spur the economy.

However, the little gains it has recorded is evident. According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that in Q2 of 2019, ICT contributed an impressive 13.85% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the 11.22% contribution it made in Q2 2018.

It is important to note that, the recent introduction of the Nigerian E-government Masterplan will further consolidate on the successes and increase interoperability among the different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) of government and with a mandate to develop and implement a harmonized and well-coordinated digital economy policy and strategy for Nigeria.

The Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who understand the role of ICT in the economy opined that. “The economy is driven by Data and Information. Therefore to survive in this disruptive world, you need to provide developmental regulations” Excitingly this regulatory instrument is the Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR).

An urgent need for synergy between relevant stakeholders and the provision of a platform where ICT problems and solutions will be offered.

This is what eNigeria, an annual summit by (NITDA) offers. In collaboration with key players in the ICT industry, the platform provides the requisite awareness in ICT sector, creation and implementation of the necessary framework and goals that will boost the country’s position in the global information society.

Conversely, Mr President in his open remarks on the strategic importance of ICT, notated that “Globally, the Digital Economy is expanding at a very fast pace. In just a few years, this platform has transitioned from being a luxury to an absolute necessity”. President Buhari disclosed that FG had saved over N16.8 billion through the activation of key digital assets – which strengthens the fight against corruption.

The theme for this year summit was “Achieving National Digital Economy” and for Nigeria to fully benefit from the cybersphere we need to strengthen our digital laws and protect critical digital infrastructural assets. It is reported that financial services, government agencies operational in Nigeria lost about $800 million in 2018 to cyber crime in a report conducted by the foremost Africa CyberSecurity report.

The report indicated that the country lost $649m to cyber-attacks in 2017, representing a 23% increase in cost, Nigeria has one of the highest levels of cybercrime in Africa and in the world, this indeed is alarming.

Every year, the summit takes on, with the support strategic partners like Oracle, MainOne Services, CyberDome, to mention a few brands. Strategic issues with the general aim of bettering the overall cyber experience of the average Nigerian and digital assets should be the crux of the partnership.

CyberDome is a cyber security company in Abuja with branches in the US and Isreal. It offers cyber security services like analysis, critical infrastructures, defense mechanisms, and other cyber solutions, to their various clienteles which cuts across government agencies and the private sector. Clients are offered platforms to easily spot out and respond quickly and effectively to cyber-attacks and data breaches. It maintains a database of threat intelligence from all over the world and the real-time discovery of cyber-attacks, this brand is leader in this field.

Some of the services Cyberdom offers which are in line with NITDA’s mandate includes; penetration testing, network access control, anti-phishing, anti-ddos, risk assessments, governance risk and compliance, digital forensics, next generation firewalls, web application firewalls, vulnerability management, cloud security, endpoint security, user behavior analytics and the provision of capacity building services to clients on cyber related issues and customizes these trainings to the client’s needs.

It is constantly adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations to it’s working structure. It’s topnotch Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP), is the only facility in the country that offers a two-fold 247/365 security monitoring, advanced services on the prevention of data breaches, and a full service portfolio for all cyber security risks.

CyberDome emphasizes on the importance of collaboration in cybersecurity, as the best way of mitigating further attacks in line with NITDA directives and other industry eggheads. Collaborations thusly will be instrumental in lowering the levels of cybercrime in Nigeria. It will do a lot in reducing the number of unresolved cyber security incidences in the country.

Moreover, CyberDome is pushing for the emergence of a robust cyber policy laws for the Nigerian cyberspace. Awareness is an important part of cybersecurity, CyberDome’s Academy offers awareness trainings to workers at an organization to enable them come to full grasp with cyber policies and world best practices.

The Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami constantly emphasises on the importance of local contents in Nigeria’s cyberspace. CyberDome ticks that box effectively.

Furthermore, the clamour to diversify the country’s economy continues to hit new heights every day. ICT can provide a solid alternative to oil, making Nigeria a global player in the digital economy.

This can only happen when all stakeholders like NITDA, NCC, GalaxyBackbone, CSO’s and strategic partners like CyberDome collaborates.

Ayo Akanji is a businessman and cyber security enthusiast, he writes from Abuja.

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Dauda Lawal And The Philosophy of Service In Politics, By Ayo Akanji

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

It was on a Wednesday evening, I was reminiscing on the outcome of the political intrigues in Zamfara State, on how the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the chance of forming the government at the state, the failure was hinged on the schemings among the APC aspirants in the gubernatorial elections which enabled the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secure victory without firing a shot – through the court pronouncement. I wanted to have a chat with Dr Dauda, who incidentally like me, graduated from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). I reached out to Femi, his responsive aide for a chance of having an appointment with him, wanted to use the opportunity to discuss politics in his state and other topical national issues in the country.

I was glad when the aide informed me of a time for the rendezvous with Dr Dauda, who I call the financial Mozart, walked into his office and met him waiting for me with a steamy cup of tea in his hand, the atmosphere around him could be aptly described as serene, and reassuring, alongside his radiant mien.

Most notably, Dr Lawal Dauda, is the former Executive Director, Public Sector, North of First Bank Plc. Born to a humble family in Gusau, Dauda obtained a degree in Political Science from Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria in 1987. He bagged an M.sc in 1992 from the same ivy league. He completed the academic cycle by obtaining an honorary PhD in Public Administration from Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

Always daring for more, he transversed various continents, honing his business skills in some of the world’s prestigious learning centers like Havard Business School, Boston, London School of Economics, London Business School, Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, Lagos Business School among others.

He is a fellow of a number of reputable professional bodies like Institute of Credit Administration of Nigeria and the Civilian Institute of Democratic Administration of Ghana, African Business Roundtable, to mention a few.

Starting out as a Political Education Officer with the defunct Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance Social Justice and Econimic Recovery MAMSER, a policy of political orientation in Nigeria implemented by the Babaginda regime in 1987. MAMSER was eventually renamed National Orientation Agency with a huge presence spanning across all 774 local governments in Nigeria.

Dauda moved on to Westex Nigeria Limited where he worked as the AGM. His career path took him to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC and he became part of the team which reorganized the consular unit for Nigerians to have confidence in sending their passport for visa processing, he rose to the position of chief protocol officer before retiring for a more daunting task.

Looking for something challenging he decided to return to Nigeria and had various offers; either to work with the Port authority or the banking sector, he choose the latter, a tough terrain but with sheer determination he understood the pathway of the banking sector with training here and there, growing from a manger to the exalted position of Executive Director.

When I asked him why he joined the Governorship race – he quipped “I got into politics trying to reform Zamfara state, I contested to try and change the economic fortunes of the state. It was my first time joining politics, I’m happy that even though I did not win, my campaign was able to raise the bar in the political history of the state”. He always wanted something challenging, in an opinion poll conducted online, he resonated more with the youth than other aspirants.

As valuable as it, Dauda is a man who has over years, maintained the relationship he has with his people in Zamfara. He is a philanthropist through and through, his continuous work of philanthropy has placed him above his peers, signifying his ability to help his people and the willingness to do more with a larger platform.

He built hostels at the School of Health Technology, Tsafe. He dualised a road at the Federal University Gusau and built classrooms for School of Nursing in Tsafe. He has instituted a number of schemes that benefited SME’s. His commitment to a better learning environment for students spurred him into donating lecture halls to his former department in ABU.

One thing about Dauda is his passion to serve the people made him contest the governorship post in Zamfara state. He did not scale the last hurdle but that has not stopped him from service to humanity. For Dauda, acts of philanthropy are not seasonal. To be human is to feel the pains of other humans. This sentience has guided him throughout his life.

Conversely, debating on national issues we delved into the border closure, code-named ‘Exercise Swift Response’, through which Nigeria Customs Service generates N8billion daily.

He seems to align with the border closure by the Federal Government, noting that Nigeria is a dominate player in the African economy and our population serves as a comparative advantage – he interjects that “Benin Republic accounts for 40% of cars coming into Nigeria”. On rice, he spoke of governments incentives for our local farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Anchors Borrowers Programme, a formidable polices of government ensuring food security.

On revenue generation, he believes there are so many avenues to generate revenue, from traffic rules in big cities such as Abuja, Lagos, to vehicle registrations and simultaneously licenses given, can also be used to generate funds, and combat insecurity.

He’s of the opinion that the private sectors need to come in managing the roads and applauded the re-introduction of electronic toll gates in the country as extra form of generating revenue and maintaining our roads, stakeholders need to compliment governments efforts to build strong institutions for the benefit of the country.

Finally, passing the baton to the younger generation and those who look up to him as a role mode, he stated the three key habits towards success as; honesty, hard work and determination – in his words, “if you combine these you would make a career in anything you set out for”.

Ayobami Ismail Akanji is a public affairs analyst and writes from Abuja

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Is the Nigerian First Lady A Realist? By Farida Akanji

?Realism is described as a systematic mode of thought with distinctive principles clearly opposed to every form of subjectivism and idealism (John Wild: 1947). From the above assertion, a realist individual never believes in illusion or imagination as guiding principles. An individual who is a realist understands the source, the use and management of power. This knowledge of power guides his/her actions or reactions to issues.

?In another development, a realist is a truthful and objective individual who stands on a platform made of unshakable facts to act or react. Some of those unshakable facts are: no leadership lasts forever, no political party rules forever, no presidency lasts forever etcetera. A realist is therefore an individual who does things, having in mind the likely repercussion of actions or reactions. And those repercussions could either be positive or negative.

?The First Lady, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari believes that support for the President should not be based on sentiment. Hence, she uses constructive means to express support for the President , Nevertheless such support is being misinterpreted in some quarters. However, she has remained determined and committedto the success of the present Administration. These are reflected in her efforts to continuously draw the attention of the stakeholders of this government to sensitive issues that need urgent attention in the interest of Nigerians in general.

It is also obvious that, the First Lady does not support the crusade tagged “My Husband must Rule”. She prefers leadership embedded in integrity. That is why she is always critical on issues of political leadership such as transparency, fairness, justice etcetera. No wonder she is always drawing the attention of the President to delicate issues.

Notable it is to mention that, she always expresses her mind with courage. Her honesty in promoting national interests to the best of her knowledge places her above those who clamour for regime interest only. For instance, in Africa and the world at large, most First Ladies grab the presidency as if it is a permanent position, whereas no condition is permanent.

Political ideology has not yet taken its rightful place in the Nigerian politics. The First Lady is one of the hardened advocates of political ideology in Nigeria which according to her, will enthrone discipline in promoting women in politics, party politics and national politics.

Mrs Buhari also demonstrates patience in the face of political challenges which is depicted in her formidable way of downplaying boiling issues, for example, she goes to the extent of apologising when the need arises.

It is important to reveal that the First Lady is mindful of the less privileged Nigerians and she is contributing her quota in addressing their challenges through her Future Assured project. Several less privileged Nigerians benefitted and are still benefitingfrom her empowerment programmes in all the geopolitical zones. Her capacity of discernment and her leadership posture point to her hope for the present Administration to have a soft landing at the end.  

This article is derived from a critical appraisal of her utterances, her cautious use of power, her commitment to fairness, justice and equity. Therefore, the First Lady Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari is a realist.

Farida Funmi Akanji.

Coordinator, Nigerian Youth Organisation for Good Governance

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