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PMB Should Engage Private Sector Urgently to Save Nigeria- Zinox Boss

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Leo Stan Ekeh, chairman of Zinox Group

Leo Stan Ekeh‎ is the chairman of Zinox Group. Ekeh is a serial digital entrepreneur, and a man who carries around with him an infectious passion for the Nigerian project, especially with regards to seeing the country take its rightful place in the comity of industrialized nations by leveraging on the limitless opportunities in the ICT sub-sector. ‎Speaking to ICT journalists in Lagos, he bares his mind on a number of issues including the current economic climate, the education sector and much more. Peter ugwu was there for Nigeria CommunicationsWeek. Excerpts

ICT as a Game-Changer in a Nation’s Economic Development.
That’s correct. I have always told anyone who cared to listen that the way to go when it comes to taking Nigeria to the level of development we so urgently crave is by building a knowledge economy. In this 21st century, no one has a business being poor especially considering the proliferation of Information and Communication Technology tools and the internet which has put the world at everyone’s finger-tips.
Today, you no longer have to physically leave your environment to gain access to formal education.
With a computer and access to the internet, a variety of degrees can be acquired at your convenience. So is access to new information on business intelligence, ideas and concepts which could radically change one’s circumstances. Information is power and it is at everyone’s disposal at the speed of light these days so what business do we still have as a nation being classified as a Third World or developing country? Many years ago, I had realized that the power to liberate millions of our youths lay in the internet and associated technologies hence the decision behind our “Computerize Nigeria” project which we launched in 2001.
The idea is to provide affordable access to ICT tools and processes which, among other things, promoted the digital re-tooling of individuals, institutions and corporate entities as well as the launch of the first computer ownership scheme in Nigeria.
Imagine every Nigerian being able to own a computer which with he or she can access the internet and avail themselves of the huge well of information and intelligence that is evidently manifest therein.
Before long, you will have built a knowledge economy of highly literate and sound-thinking people who can stand on their own and take meaningful decisions in business and life which will undoubtedly rub off on the nation’s fortunes. Understandably, all these will have to go hand-in-hand with improved access to education which is the foundational basis for every developed economy

Improving Access to Education and Building the Knowledge Economy
Education is the bedrock of development, as you have rightly mentioned. While I commend the efforts of previous administrations, it is worth stating that more needs to be done to raise the dwindling standards.
Contemporary realities make it evidently imperative for the government to beam its focus on the education sector as a matter of urgency and the time is now.
The recent budget presentation made by the President which saw an increase in the allocation to education thankfully seems to have taken into cognizance the need to urgently intervene in the sector. Nevertheless, while allocating 5.5% of the budget which amounts to 396 billion and represents the largest sectoral allocation, is a big step in the right direction, more still needs to be done in expanding access to formal education for millions of our youths.
Today, many parents find it hard to support or see their children through school especially at the tertiary level owing to obvious economic challenges and the spiraling cost of access.
This is one area the government should focus on, with a view to finding means of reducing the impacts on especially indigent and economically vulnerable parents. Furthermore, the government needs to do more in the area of reviving our institutions to average standards which is not rocket science, moreso when you consider that what obtains at the moment is at best a watered-down version of what some of us were exposed to back then.

The  Economy, Prevailing Downturn, Falling Price of Crude Oil, Forex
Well, I have always been an optimist. I believe the Nigerian economy can never shut down totally, by God’s grace.
However, the shocks and gaps in the economy at the moment represent our current realities and we must find creative ways to navigate this harsh economic climate. The unprecedented fall in the price of crude oil is a global phenomenon which not even the smartest economist could have predicted.
The only regret is the fact that successive governments failed to save for the present rainy day we are experiencing when prices were at their peak.
Having said that, we must always look forward. I sincerely believe that the current administration has the requisite political will and capacity to see the country through this storm and the new mindset of Nigerians to get things done properly also helps. I also believe that the organized private sector holds the key to a way out of the present quagmire.
As a matter of urgency, President Buhari should engage the private sector to save Nigeria. The three levels of the sector drives over 80% of Nigeria’s economy and certainly, we can only move forward when the government carries them along. Recall that in the run-up to last year’s elections, President Buhari met with representatives of the private sector in Lagos to present his party’s economic plans. This and other engagements certainly went a long way in contributing to his victory at the polls. ‎
It is my considered opinion that the time is right for the President to enlist the support of the sector in finding a way out of the current economic challenges by restating the vision and focus of the government as well as its sincerity to turn around the economy, as eloquently outlined during the electioneering period. In so doing, the President can secure the support of the sector for the vision and plans of his government. For instance, by reaching out to large corporates, influential businessmen and individuals, and even some of our big churches with huge reserves abroad, the government can find a way out of the foreign exchange challenges. These establishments and individuals can lend the government through promissory notes at an interest rate of, say 1.5% per year which will be the highest anywhere in the world and repay gradually over a period of one year. The government can raise money through this means which will provide the needed foreign exchange to enable it meet the numerous commitments and also help it navigate and offset the low price of crude oil in the global market.
Government, on its own part, can reward the private sector by giving them a chance to have a say in government and by looking into some of the challenges being faced by the sector in terms of confiscation of goods by some agencies, multiple taxation from the tiers of government, unconducive business environment especially as they are the custodian of power and they should be accountable to the people who elects them to office.
I am confident that in 18 months, the current challenges will be solved and the economy will rebound.

Massive Job Cuts and Losses Being Experienced
I am sure no employer will be happy to embark on retrenchment, right-sizing or down-sizing, as the case may be. It is a reaction to the prevailing circumstances as businesses try their best to remain afloat. Government agencies are also not left out as they are also heavily involved. Down-sizing or job cuts have a huge, negative multiplier effect on the economy as it not only affects the individual who is laid off but also affects families and other dependents while creating a myriad of social problems. Statistically speaking, there are well over 23 million unemployed and under-employed Nigerians who are looking up to the government to provide employment opportunities for them.
Although little can be done by businesses but the President can appeal to large corporates and even small and medium companies to leverage on reserves by also offering some tax incentives for the next 18 months so that employees are not unnecessarily retrenched in the short term. This is the time for shareholders to cut their dividend expectation for the economy to survive because if there is no economy, we do not have a business. I frankly believe things shall turn around sooner than is being speculated.

Next Big Sector for Employment
I have been saying it in the last 20 years. It is technology, technology and technology. If past administrations invested heavily in this sector, the ICT sector would be earning more revenue than oil with solid hopes of prosperity for the majority, mostly for those from poor homes who have the brain power. Do we expect miracles from oil? The answer is no. Global statistics has shown credible trend in countries resolving their employment challenges through structured investment in the ICT sector. Is it that our leaders and their advisers are too blind to see future measureable wealth? The Devices, Software, Solution and E-commerce sector could employ well over 45 million Nigerians with solid future and could also bring a minimum revenue of $150billion every year. I am not sure what we are still waiting for to save this nation. Is it not a shame we are all waiting for oil prices to move up for the nation to survive? We are ignoring what we have control of and putting all our hopes on nature in this 21st century.

Make-up of the President’s Team
I must state here that I appreciate the calibre and quality of Ministers President Buhari has assembled to pilot the affairs of the nation. It is a very good team of seasoned men and women who can stand the test of integrity and service delivery. ]Having said this, they must be encouraged and made to work and put in their utmost best for the country to bring about the positive change Nigerians are yearning for.
 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world.

So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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 CSO Sends FoI Request To NCC

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Following the alleged plans to block online news sites, the Paradigm Initiative has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Nigerian Communications Commission asking the Commission to provide it with information on the matter.

The request was filed by the digital rights advocacy organisation on Friday at the Abuja headquarters of the Commission, giving the Commission seven (7) days as stipulated by the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act 2011, to release information on the alleged attempts to block domain names of online newspapers.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian Tribune exclusively reported on Sunday, October 5 2017 “that the government, through the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), has engaged the services of a firm in Lagos to block the domain names of “several identified websites threatening national security.”

The newspaper further alleged that Commission wrote a memo to the firm, directing it “to immediately take steps to restrict access within the Nigerian cyberspace in respect of 21 (twenty one) additional websites by blocking the domain names. (The list of websites is attached).”

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager, “the phrase “additional websites” in the memo indicates that there are other websites already marked for illegal censorship through an equally illegal blockage of their domain names. If this is true, then this would be a clear indication of this government’s anti-free speech agenda”

“It has been six days since Tribune published its story and NCC has not come out to deny the story. This is why we have filed this FoI request. NCC cannot wish this report away; the commission has to come out and address Nigerians on the issue”

In the FoI request, Paradigm Initiative asks NCC to provide it with answers to the following questions: Is the Nigeria Communications Commission or at of its agents in the process of taking steps or block or restrict the domain names of certain websites? If yes, what websites would be affected? What criteria were employed in selecting these websites? Under what legal provision is this being carried out?

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “it goes without saying that blocking the domain names of newspapers is a brazen violation of the right to Freedom of Expression as guaranteed not only by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but also by international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.”

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Web4Africa Celebrating 15 Years of Operations In Africa

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By peter oluka

Web4Africa, the Pan African Web Hosting Company, has reached a milestone this October, celebrating 15 crystal years of business.

The company, offering web services physically from Nigeria, has grown from the dreams of the founders, serving 40,000+ clients across over 120 countries.

Today, the giant strides of Web4Africa is felt across the region with the peculiar nature of customer-centric services to hundreds of domain types as well as hosting solutions from four datacentres across Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Established in 2002, Web4Africa is one out of the only two ICANN Accredited Domain Name Registrars in Nigeria and boasts of young- professional team (average age of 28) who are skilled and motivated deliver a happy experience to the clients.

“It gives me great pleasure in joining Web4Africa employees, clients and host of business partners South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana; in fact, across the Continent, in celebrating the company’s 15th anniversary. We have come a long way since commencing operations in 2002 and are very excited about our future as the company continues to thrive in these difficult economic times,” said Oluniyi Ajao, the President and CEO, when discussing the celebration.

Web4Africa’s ability to engineer solutions based on customer’s specific needs has helped the company to continually grow over the past 15 years. For instance, the Company is among the few that accepts Bitcoin, Perfect Money, Skrill, Payza, and more for Domain Registration, Web Hosting, VPS Hosting, Dedicated Servers.

“Our strongest area has always been the mass market. It so happens that to cover that large number of people, our price has to be reasonable. We make our pricing to be within reasonable range to attract the right people”, Mr. Ajao said, while speaking on 25% discount offering to customers as part of packages to mark anniversary.

Clients’ fondness for Web4Africa’s is not far-fetched, but due to its affordability and cost-effective carrier-neutral environment; local cloud hosting (in Nigeria), offers promise for future growth and 100% uptime.

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Sunday Dare honored with Democracy Heroes Award

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Organisers of Face of Democracy Nigeria Award (FDN) on Sunday night honored Mr. Sunday Dare, Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), with Democracy Heroes Award for his decades of consistency in promoting democracy in Nigeria.

Face of Democracy Nigeria (FDN), now in its fifth year said Mr. Dare has acted in manners worthy of emulation by Nigerian youths.

Therefore, they urged young people to step out to participate in the democratic process by contesting elections in order to represent the people of Nigeria conscientiously.

The FDN team leaders, Olufunsho Ajagbonna and Vivian Lam were emphatic that all the awardees were honoured to enable young people to draw inspiration from their courage, consistency and selflessness.

The event, which was over-subscribed, held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel and ended past midnight, featured series of dances and other artistic displays representing the diversity of Nigeria.

Among those who received awards at the event last night were former Governor of Kano State and serving Senator, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; Senator Gbenga Ashafa, APC Lagos; Actor-turned-politician, Hon. Desmond Elliot; Chief Dele Momodu, Publisher of OVATION Magazine; and.Dr. Chimaobi Anyaso, an entrepreneur with investment in oil & gas and financing among others.

Prior to his appointment as an Executive Commissioner in NCC, Mr. Dare – a multimedia journalist, author, social entrepreneur and development enthusiast – was the Convener of the Social Media Clinic, a media/ICT initiative focused on educating the citizens about ICT utilisation.

Earlier, Dare had a beautiful career at the Independent Network Communications Limited, publishers of TheNEWS, Tempo, AM and PM News, one of the leading media outfits in Nigeria that deployed its professional resources to challenge the callous authoritarianism of the Military regimes of the 80s and early 90s in Nigeria.

For 8 years, he was the Chief, Hausa Service, African Division of VOICE OF AMERICA in Washington.

In 2010, Mr. Dare was listed as one of the 50 successful Nigeria professionals in America.

He had also recently combined the role of Special Media Adviser as well as Chief of Staff to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Emeritus Governor of Lagos State and APC National Leader.

In this regard, his work was central to the victory of the Party in the 2015 elections.

The FDN team is of the opinion that Mr. Dare’s almost three decades of journalism, advocacy, strategic political thinking and impeccable managerial skills has set him “apart as an emergent leader in Nigeria today”.

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