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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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140 Days after, Nigeria loses N3bn on suspended Kaduna-Abuja train service



The federal government has lost over N3 billion in revenue since it suspended Abuja-Kaduna train services in March, this year.

Besides, the businesses of hundreds of people who earn livelihood around the railway corridor have collapsed.

The stoppage of the service followed the March 28 attack on Kaduna-bound train which was bombed after explosives planted on the rail track by terrorists went off between the Dutse and Kakau areas of Kaduna State.

The train, which took off from the Idu Train Station in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) hit the explosives about 30 minutes from the Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna.

About 970 passengers were on board the train, out of which the terrorists killed some and abducted over 60 others.

Subsequently, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the indefinite suspension of train service on the Abuja-Kaduna railway line.

Although a number of the passengers have been released after unspecified amounts were paid as ransom, some of them are still languishing in the kidnappers’ den.

Meanwhile, NRC recently reiterated that until all the passengers currently in the custody of the terrorists were released to their families, the Abuja-Kaduna train service would not resume.

N3.024bn ticket revenue lost so far

Checks have shown that for the past 140 days since the train service was suspended, NRC has lost about N3.024bn revenue, which could have been raked from ticket sales.

The coaches, which ply the Abuja-Kaduna rail line have the capacity to carry between 900 and 1,000 passengers per trip.

About eight trips were also recorded daily between Rigasa in Kaduna and Idu in Abuja.

An average economy ticket before the suspension sold between N2, 800 and N3,000 while VIP tickets sold for N6,000.

A breakdown of daily ticket sales shows that the NRC makes a minimum of N2.7m per trip at N3,000 a ticket for a train that has the capacity to carry 900 to 1,000 passengers.

Consequently, for the eight trips that the Abuja-Kaduna train does in a day, a total of about N21.6m is realised. Subsequently, this amounts to about N151.1m in seven days (one week).

As such, for the over four months that train services have been suspended, the federal government has lost nothing less than N600m monthly.

Some other services tied to the train services that have been crippled include shop owners at the train stations, especially Idu, Kubwa and Rigasa.

Some of these small businesses, which are unable to move to other locations outside of the train stations have sacked their staff.

“I closed my shop a day after the train was attacked,” said Halima Abubakar, a restaurateur at the Idu train station in Abuja.

“Everything has stopped…I asked my staff to go because I am unable to find another place,” she said.

The booming taxi services and pool buses have also been crippled.

Ambrose Alex, a taxi driver at the Idu station called on the government to do the needful.

“We have all been displaced with the closure of the train service. I took a loan to buy my car and was operating from the station. Things are really tough now because some of us are only doing town service instead of shuttle service, which brings more money,” he said.

It was learnt that the NRC is also losing out on rental fees as these businesses will have to be either refunded or be allocated the exact months they have lost since the facility was shut down.

Another significant loss is to the ticketing firm, SevureID Solutions, which got the concession at N900m to operate for 10 years.

Because they are no longer earning on the train service, they may be forced to lay off their staff. They may also have to renegotiate the terms of the deal.

Commenting, Dr Frank Ojiadi, a faculty member at Lagos Business School, and an expert in transportation and logistics, said the continued shutdown of the train service was not only a loss to the government but to citizens who had built an economy around the train corridor.

He said while the risks associated with aviation were there, different from rail transportation, it is unlikely the aviation industry would be shut down for “This long in an event of a terror attack because of many factors.”

He said with the robust insurance packages in aviation and the critical nature of aviation to a country’s economy, the airport won’t remain shut down in perpetuity because of a terror attack.

He advised NRC to ensure its trains across the country are insured.

He explained further that the impacts of the sustained shutdown of the rail service were not economic and social.

On the economic impact, he said the government would lose huge revenues as NRC suffered downtime since no train was running that route. He also said the facilities (tracks and trains) might deteriorate with non-usage.

He noted that “The equipment not being utilised might lead to depreciation. Also, the roads will be pressured more with more usage. The train took so many vehicles off the road.”

He added that more people would be exposed to attacks by terrorists and bandits on the Abuja-Kaduna highway.

On the social impact, he said the train had opened up business activities in the corridor by the locals, especially around the train stations.

He advised that even when the train resumed, it must not run at night as the risks were higher then.

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Priest, seminarian abducted near military checkpoint, N50m demanded



Gunmen have kidnapped the Deputy Registrar of Spiritan University, Nneochi, Fr Chinedu Nwadike.

Nwadike, a Catholic priest, was kidnapped on Friday on the Enugu-Okigwe Road.

The priest was abducted alongside a seminarian, Emmanuel Nwafor.

It was gathered on Sunday that their abductors had established contact with their relations and demanded a ransom of N50m.

A family source said, “Rev. Fr. Dr. Chinedu Nwadike from Umuezeanoruo Eziama, Nkwerre LGA, Imo State, and a young seminarian, Emmanuel Nwafor, were on Friday kidnapped on their way to Enugu State, Umunnochi axis, along Enugu-Okigwe Road.

“Both are members of the Holy Ghost congregation missionaries, living their lives of sacrifice and selflessness in service to a better society.”

Another source said it was the second time the priest would be attacked by kidnappers.

“In the first attempt, they shot directly at him but he managed to escape. This time, they succeeded and are said to be demanding a ransom of N50m. Curiously, a military checkpoint is around the place,” the source added.

The priest’s younger brother, Chikezie, said the family was praying for the safe return of his younger brother and the seminarian.

The Director, Catholic Communication, Enugu Catholic Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Benjamin Achi, confirmed the incident.

Although he did not provide details, he simply said, “Yes, father was kidnapped.”

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Monkeypox spreads to 27 states, cases hit 172



The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has confirmed the number of monkeypox cases has risen to 172 in the country.

The centre’s Week 31 reports indicated the spread has reached 27 states since January.

From January 1 to August 7, 2022, NCDC said four deaths were recorded from four states – Delta (1), Lagos (1), Ondo (1), and Akwa Ibom (1).

The report also showed that there were at least 473 suspected cases of the disease in the country.

The report read in part, “60 new suspected cases were reported in Epi Week 31, 2022 (August 1-7, 2022) from 19 states.

“Of the 60 suspected cases, 15 new confirmed cases have been recorded in Epi Week 31 from 10 states – Imo (3), FCT (2), Ondo (2), Rivers (2), Abia (1), Anambra (1), Ebonyi (1), Edo (1), Ogun (1), and Nasarawa (1).

“From  January 1 to August 7, 2022, there have now been 473 suspected cases with 172 confirmed cases (115 male, 57 female) from 27 states – Lagos (20), Ondo (16), Adamawa (13), Rivers (13), Delta (12), Bayelsa (12), Edo (9), Nasarawa (9), Anambra (7), FCT (7), Imo (7), Plateau (6), Taraba (5), Kwara (5), Kano (5), Abia (4), Cross River (3), Borno (3), Oyo (3), Gombe (3), Katsina (2), Kogi (2), Ogun (2), Niger (1), Bauchi (1), Akwa Ibom (1), and Ebonyi (1).

“Overall, since the re-emergence of monkeypox in September 2017, 985 suspected cases have been reported from 35 states in the country. Of these 985 suspected cases, 398 (40.4%) were confirmed (263 male, 135 female) from 30 states.

“12 deaths have been recorded (CFR = 3.0%) since September 2017 in nine states—Lagos (3), Edo (2), Imo (1), Cross River (1), FCT (1), Rivers (1), Ondo (1), Delta (1), and Akwa Ibom (1).”

The NCDC, however, said there are ongoing efforts to strengthen surveillance at the national and sub-national levels, to increase awareness, and to promptly detect and respond to the outbreak.

Speaking with The PUNCH, the Ondo State Epidemiologist, Dr. Stephen Fagbemi, said people need to visit the hospital once they notice the symptoms.

The symptoms, according to him, are fever, swelling of lymph nodes, back pain, intense headache, muscle aches, and lack of energy.

“There is a need for increased awareness on the steps to reduce the virus exposure and people need to report to hospitals once they notice the symptoms.”

Also, the Senior Vice President for Africa, Human Health Education and Research Foundation, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, said Nigerians must ensure that they protect themselves against the disease.

“You must ensure you wash your hands thoroughly, and always avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus, including sick or dead animals. Personal hygiene is always important,” Nsofor said.

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