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Govt plans $500m investment in technology for youths



To encourage creativity among youths, the Federal Government, in partnership with some international organisations, is mobilising $500 million for investment in technology and creativity.

This was made known yesterday by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). It was at  the 2021 National Gold Award Presentation, organised by the International Award for Young People (IAYP) at the State House in Abuja.

The event is an initiative of the IAYP, the Nigerian version of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IAYP is Mr. Olawale Edun.

Describing the youth as Nigeria’s most valued assets, Osinbajo said the Federal Government valued their contributions to national development, adding that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing everything to encourage their creativity.

Osinbajo said the African Development Bank (AfDB), which is at the fore-front of raising the technology and creativity development fund, had already pooled about $170 million, adding that another initiative of the administration, the Nigeria Jubilee Fellowship Programme, will provide internship opportunity for 20,000 youths yearly for five years to hone their professionalism.

He said: “As part of the requirements for achieving the gold award, they undertook shared purposeful experiences with people who are not their usual companions in a residential setting. They undertook their residential projects in various locations, including engaging in wildlife conservation at the National Children’s Park here in Abuja. Athletics trainings, I’m told, at sports camps, leadership training at various youth, events, volunteering at various orphanages and hospitals.

“A recipient, Faith Iwuh, wins gold for her residential project, volunteered at the Renaissance Hospital in Enugu State, and I think we’ve heard about that, having observed that the hospital was experiencing a shortage of staff, she resided in the hospital for a month, volunteering as a health worker, and support staff to the hospital.

“Meeting you all today is a reminder of the many achievements of young people across Nigeria. Daily, we have Nigerians in our armed forces, leaving behind family and friends to serve our country in various internal security operations. We have seen how young Nigerians rallied in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and designed various technology solutions to support the government.

“We’ve seen young Nigerians break new ground and earn global acclaim in innovation, in technology, in sports and the arts and entertainment. So, it’s clear to us that our young people are our most valuable assets and the Federal Government believes that they must be encouraged and supported in every way, which is why we’re currently raising about $500 million to support technology and creativity.

“The project is led by the African Development Bank, which has already committed $170 million to the enterprise and this will be supported by the Federal Government, Islamic Development Bank and the French Development Agency.

“Last year, Mr. President launched the Nigeria Jubilee Fellowship Programme. This is a programme supported by the UNDP and the European Union and private sector and many people in the private sector. It will run for five years and it will give well paid work experience opportunities to 20,000 young Nigerians every year in select private sector and public sector organisations.

“The idea is that these interns will gain relevant career and life skills that will enable them to transition seamlessly into the professional, business or public sector, while also earning good pay during the period of their internship. I hope that many of you that, our gold award winners, will participate in that program and will be a part of that program and experience all of the benefits of the program”, he said.

IAYP Board of Trustee Chairman Edun, explained the process of participating in the programme, which he said, had produced 44 young Nigerians who have reached the apex of a long race to the peak.

The said the programme had produced more than million young participants globally, mentored through the process by more than 200,000 adults

“What we have just witnessed with the in the presence of His Excellency, the vice president of the Federal Republic, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is the Gold Award Ceremony, where the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award was conferred on 44 youngsters who have achieved that level in this programme, which is of full curricular, non-formal, out of the classroom education. It’s a worldwide platform and brand and it just empowers youngsters.

“Alongside their formal education, it gives them the skills and confidence to go out into the world and to increase their employability, their chances of success in the world. So, it is very gratifying and very encouraging for the youngsters that no less a personality than His Excellency, the Vice President, was there to recognize their achievements and confer upon them the award itself.

“The award itself was founded by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, who as we all know, was the husband of the Queen of England and since then, over a million youngsters worldwide have participated in the event. In addition to the youngsters, there are the adults. In order to put young people through this program, and not only ensure that they benefit from it, but they have the opportunity to have fun, to have adventure and to enjoy themselves as young people, you need adults and about 200,000 adults have mentored them through this award.

“It’s a combination of the whole society, the young people, but also the adults, the financial supporters, for those who can’t afford for their parents to pay for them to go through the world, we have corporate sponsors, you have individual Nigerians and people generally supporting the ability of young people to go through this unique program”, he explained.

Asked if there is any mechanism of monitoring the progress of participants, Edun added: “They are mentored through it and they have to meet standards. Before you can get to gold, you have met the highest of standards. So yes, the whole initiative has clear standards and objective measurements that are set and it’s only those that achieved that high standard that achieve the gold award and they are measured and benchmarked, not just in Nigeria, but internationally”, he said.

The event, which drew attendance from graduands, their parents and teachers, former participants and others, was graced by British Deputy High Commissioner, Jill Atkinson.

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Governors, Labour kick as NNPC presents N3tr subsidy bill to FEC



The controversies surrounding continued payment of fuel subsidy may not have ended as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, yesterday, presented a bill of N3 trillion for deliberations at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, N3 trillion is the amount required to continue to subsidise petroleum products for the 18 months extension recently approved by the Presidency.

Ahmed, who broke the news to State House correspondents, explained that FEC considered the request so as to make additional funding provisions that will enable government meet incremental fuel subsidy payment in the 2022 budget.

According to her, only N443 billion is currently available in the 2022 budget meant to accommodate subsidy from January to June.

Buttressing the position of the government, she said with current realities on ground, especially the poverty rate on the part of Nigerians, the NNPC presented a request for N3 trillion to the Ministry of Finance for 2022.

“What this means is that we have to make incremental provision of N2.557 trillion to be able to meet subsidy requirement, which is averaging about N270 billion per month.

“In 2021, the actual under-recovery that has been charged to the Federation was N1.2 trillion, which means an average of N100 billion, but in 2022, because of the increased crude oil price per barrel in the global market, now at $80 per barrel, and also because an NNPC’s assessment shows that the country is consuming 65.7 million litres per day, we will end up with an incremental cost of N3 trillion in 2022.

“Having taken into account the current realities; increased hardship in the population, heightened inflation and also that measures needed to be taken to enable a smoother exit from the fuel subsidy regime are not yet in place, it was agreed by Council that it is desirable to exit fuel subsidy at a conducive time.”

She revealed that the Council directed the ministry to approach the National Assembly for an amendment to the fiscal framework, including the budget.

BUT the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have blamed the NNPC for the mismanagement of the proceeds accruing from oil.

They have also resolved to enter into working partnership to investigate consumption and distribution figures released by NNPC regarding petroleum products. The NGF disclosed this, yesterday, at its meeting with labour leaders, led by NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, to deliberate on the fuel subsidy removal issue.

A statement by NGF’s media adviser, AbdulRazaque Bello Barkindo, disclosed that “both parties agreed that the lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the forefront of the mismanagement of the proceeds that accrued therein.”

Delivering his opening remarks at the meeting, which was also attended by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) president and a host of other leaders of organised labour in the country, NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, argued that the nation’s economy is at the precipice and that it has become necessary for the two groups to carefully verify all NNPC’s estimates, to ensure that whatever action is taken on subsidy will be to the benefit of the people and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies.

The NGF chairman, who led a delegation of governors Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, to the meeting, stressed that governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, arguing that all the countries surrounding Nigeria, including Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump price at the equivalent of a U.S. dollar.

“Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar and is uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.

“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about, because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy,” Fayemi said.

He added that only about eight states are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own.

Commenting, Obaseki warned that the country has a choice of continuing to behave “like Father Christmas (Santa Claus) or take concrete actions on a problem that is permanently with us rather than throwing away N3 trillion on subsidy.”

The Plateau governor, who like Obaseki, joined the meeting virtually, recalled that the NGF had spent three years on this matter. He stated: “We must find options and create opportunities that address the hardships that stare our people in the face.”

The unionists, according to the statement, argued that the conflicting figures that always came from managers of the petroleum sector had always tended towards inefficiency, which have remained, and to organised labour, completely objectionable.

Wabba and TUC president, Quadri Olaleye, wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in secrecy on the part of government.

Also, NLC National Deputy President, Comrade Bello Ismail, has advised the Federal Government against any attempt to increase the pump price of petroleum products during the tenure of this administration that would terminate in 2023.

Ismail, who addressed Kaduna State workers on the outcome of the suspension by the Federal Government of its initial plan to hike the pump price of petrol, said labour would continue to watch any action of the Buhari administration and ensure it did not increase pump price of fuel in future.

MEANWHILE, the Presidency, yesterday, reiterated the concerns of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that Nigeria would have to pay a price to continue subsidising petrol, adding that the country may be left with no other choice than to continue borrowing to shoulder its fiscal overhead.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said this when he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme yesterday. He said petrol is not deregulated by the Federal Government, as the price is sold at between N162 and N165/litre at filling stations, far lower than the actual cost of the commodity.

In June 2021, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, stated that petrol price should be more than N280/litre, while the commodity had been subsidised and sold at N162/litre since last year.

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Gunmen kidnap Ex-President Jonathan’s cousin in Bayelsa



Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Jephthah Robert, has been abducted by gunmen at his residence in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.

It was learnt that the abductors had yet to contact the family since his kidnap on Monday.

The police spokesman in Bayelsa State, SP Asinim Butswat, who confirmed the abduction, said they were intensifying efforts to rescue the victim and arrest the abductors.

Though the detail of the abduction was sketchy, the rate of kidnappings in Bayelsa State has been on the increase recently.

Just last Monday, the state Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Federal Otokito, regained freedom after spending five days in the kidnappers’ den.

He was said to have been kidnapped by the cartel operating illegal refineries in his community for trying to obstruct their operations.

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FEC okays proposed amendments to 2022 budget



The Federal Executive Council has approved a proposed amendment to the 2022 budget following the initial adjustments made by the National Assembly to the proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2021.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the approved amendments to be transmitted to the National Assembly would request to repeal clauses 10 and 11 concerning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit operations in the 2022 budget and as well restore what the lawmakers had deleted amounting to N103bn.

She said: “Clause 10 is referring to a provision that has been made that will enable the EFCC and NFIU be able to take 10% of whatever collections that they recover.

“We’re asking for that to be repealed because this is in direct contrast to the Acts of these two agencies and also it is in contravention of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Finance Act 2021.

“Clause 11, on the other hand, is a provision that has been made that says that the Nigeria embassies and missions are now authorized by this Appropriation Act to expend funds allocated to them under Capital Components without the need to seek approval of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She said FEC also ratified an instrument on diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa with the coming of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Agreement.

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