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Professionals Not Fully Recognised for IT Projects, Implementation

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Aside describing information technology practitioner of non-CPN certification, or NCS membership an impostor, the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) believes that professionals have not been given fair share of IT projects for implementation by successive governments in the country.

Professor Sola Aderounmu, NCS President said it has become imperative for anyone or corporate body bidding for ICT/IT projects must be a member of the professional body, as a measure to curb such projects failures in the country.

The president represented by Iyiola Ayoola, executive secretary of NCS during a chat with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek spoke on critically issues in the IT industry in the country. Excerpts.

Theme for 2017 NCS Int’l Conference
“Over the years, Nigeria has depended on crude oil and this time there must be massive diversification to the information technology which is the mainstream of any economy in today’s world. This informed why NCS choose its theme for this year’s international conference to reflect on ICT and innovation for achieving the SGDs; ICT encompasses every sphere of the economy.

Why Diversifying to ICT Has Delayed in Nigeria
“ICT, as the case may be, it’s not really in the hands of the technocrats or professionals. The implementers are not given the opportunity because everybody is ascribing the responsibility to themselves. That is the bane of ICT development in the country viz-a-viz using ICT for national development. Once it becomes all comers affair, the professionals will be reduced to the background. Only about last three years that other professionals have seen reasons to side the NCS advocacy for us to have ICT/IT in the hands of professionals. If a quack doctor is caught today, everybody will frown at it, but when a quack IT professional is caught, the society tends to easily condone such illegality. It cuts across policy formulators to implementers. The NCS has been on vanguard (advocating) for things be done properly.

“Let us ensure square pegs are fitted into the red holes; unfortunately, the sector has been turn into Tom, Dick and Harry game. Anybody can acquire system from anywhere. A situation where someone who studied Yoruba is implementing ICT projects and when you probe into that, the answer you get is: oh, he is certified in IT. They travel to Dubai, China and other countries, procure hardware and package as their handiwork. That should be discouraged, if we are interested in developing our ICT sector. When government is giving out contract, everybody wants to get a cut from the cake. We are now ‘shouting’ for local content development and recognition.

“It has not been benchmarked; everybody runs to the Presidency to get contract. Come on, who are you! Before now, government would announce for everybody to bid for contracts. And once the contracts are won, most of them are delivered in sub-standard manner.

What is the Standard?
“Anybody bidding for ICT/IT projects must be a member of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). Why do we insist? NCS tries to distinguish who is qualified or not. It is important to know the pedigree of people (in the industry) before they are allowed to deliver certain projects. That’s why most IT projects are delivered half-way or abandoned. The industry must be sanitized in such manner that whoever is implementing project does not import e-wastes, outdated products; who will buy nineteenth century products now! This is the true way for this country to move forward. Continuing without standardization is clinching to under-development.

How Do We Start In Setting Standards For National IT Implementation?
“We partake in Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and other certifications and they have really helped us as a nation. Nevertheless, it will not be out of place if we implement national IT certifications or standardization. Ideally, that is the policy thrust of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and we at NCS are happy that the current DG is seriously looking at that direction. To groom professionals, it behooves on the Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria)-CPN to regulate the industry.

“They ought to be the ‘eye’ of the industry in fishing out professionals who can be presented to the government as credible enough to execute IT projects. ICT/IT professional is the one who is fully registered by the CPN. By implication, you are a certified professional. Without that, you are not considered a professional. CPN has a template to get you certified. And for you to be certified, you must first be a member of NCS. What are our criteria for registration? First, membership. Who are the members? There are three categories of membership- Affiliate, studentship and Corporate. We also have the Fellows as highest echelon of the membership.

NCS Plans to Woo Non-Professionalised IT Practitioners
“It is the CPN that is not doing the job. It is in the CPN Act of 1993 that one cannot practice without been certified by the CPN. If you have not obtained any degree, CPN organizes professional/certification exams. Therefore, CPN needs to sit up; NCS has been the one doing the ‘shouting’ for professionalization of this industry. NCS is the brain behind the formation of NCS. We wanted to be chartered which led to CPN’s creation.

Assessment of ICT Industry in Last Two Years
“We are not yet where we ought to; just setting the process in motion. But, in the last decade we weren’t here. It also depends on the yardstick we are using to measure. We will definitely get there, though the level of progression may not be geometrical. For example, the level of awareness on local content has not been dominant as it is today. Secondly, about eight years ago when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wanted to procure computers for its electoral exercises, we insisted on allowing local OEMs to deliver the machines. Zinox and others bided, but as the process progressed they wanted to sideline Zinox. At a point they said 80/20 foreign to indigenous companies, we still refused.

“Eventually, they listened and Zinox was given the opportunity. It was a monumental achievement for the industry. Since then, things have improved. Sometime, last year, the Federal Government indicated interest in acquiring 500,000 computers under its employment scheme, and NCS has not rested on its oars to ensuring that indigenous OEMs are given opportunity to supply the sets.

“That is how we can help naira regain its feet. We have technicians, the way-withal to develop solutions to our needs. Nigerians are resilient; rare will you see any international body or intelligent agencies of nations without a Nigerian coding. But within the country so many things are militating against us; chiefly, selfish interest! Otherwise, we have the human capacity to match any nation. That is why we are shouting: allow our professionals handle these projects.

Are We Meeting Up with International Standards?
“Quote me anywhere, as software engineer; our solutions can compete anywhere in the world. I don’t see anywhere in the world we are rated as number two. Go to American defense you will see Nigerians writing codes. In terms of code, we don’t develop substandard solutions. But when you are talking about OEMs, we have not perfected that aspect of development, and the reasons are obvious. The business environment is still hostile. For example, where is our Silicon Valley situated? It is when we have and transform the raw materials that we can beat our cheats and say we are there.

Nigeria En-Route to E-Voting
“Personally, I have been meditating on the technological solutions to multifaceted challenges Nigeria face today. We are a peculiar people living in this country. To be honest with you, IT cannot survive without human beings. The humans factor in Nigeria is making IT not to work. Thank God IT is taking a new dimension where we are talking about artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), Smart cities, machine learning, Big data, etc., these will drastically reduce human interference and ‘corrupting’ of IT efficiency.

“We are all political in our approach to issues. When you introduce politics you would want it to dance to the political inclinations, therefore, manipulations bring marginalization. If that structure is ‘pulled down’ with the help of artificial intelligence, then the human inclinations can be tuned down. But, the ‘cruel’ ways we do things, it will be difficult to implement e-voting in all honesty, at the moment. The step starts with putting structures in place to minimize the interference of humans in our elections.

Where Do We Start to Implementing e-Voting?
“I ask myself such questions daily. It is crucial that we first identify ourselves whether for elections or for security purposes. The data to be generated through national identity numbering must be used in planning. Without that, there is no way you can have a good election or e-voting; it is not going to be possible! The database must be up to 90% ready before INEC can think of e-voting.

“Today, we hear INEC saying anybody above 18 years can vote, then, people are fortifying their ages either for over/under declaration. And such practice can never eliminate dual voting. If you have 2000 voters in INEC database making up a ward, somebody can just declare any age, whereas if the person had been registered under NIMC project, the system will automatically knock him out. That is when the credibility of INEC can be established as far as conducing elections in Nigeria is concerned. Any data/information that cannot be verified is dunk data. That is the basis for our inability to go with e-voting.

Smart City Concepts in Redefining Governance
“To a lay man, smart city is when everything is ‘joined’ together. But smart city entails ‘smart nation’- a society where everything is computerized, networked or talk to each other. Smart city will come as the advent of Internet of Things. NCS is in the forefront of enlightening the community about the concept. In October 2016, the Lagos State Chapter of NCS had a-day workshop where components of smart city where discussed and what the State Government is doing in that regard.

“At the Federal Government level, we are also leading discussion on how to develop a smart nation, starting with e-Governance. The whistleblower is part of the gains of smart city concept likewise the TSA. Do not forget, when the incumbent government came in to office we sent proposals to the SGF’s office and recently we sent others to the Ministry of Communications and they are opening up to discussions.

Need for National Stakeholders Dialogue On Curriculum Redesign
“There is need for declaration of state of emergency in our education system. It does not incline to only ICT; every sphere of our educational curriculum needs overhaul. We have demeaned education in this country; not that what the schools are teaching are not good enough, but how impactful to decision making and relevance to today’s society. Simply put, I support a call for stakeholders meeting where we can define the curriculum we need. The Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Universities, CPN, NITDA are also trying, but we need to do more.

“This is one what we ought to have done in the past twenty years. We have neglected our functions and responsibilities and only now it has decayed we have started thinking. During my days as a lecturer at the university; because I came from the industry I was able to tell the students what are the required in the industry.

“Some of them ran away, while few came closer. The truth is that the act of programming is the nucleus of computer science studies; whether networking or hardware, you must be able to program to synthesize with your solution. Most of the students have not realized this truth; they usually run away because it is mathematical. They want an easy pass to the industry to quickly make money. Things are not done that way.

Expectations of NCS as Construction of Headquarters Commences
“When the incumbent president was inaugurated he listed three key agenda. He has actually vigorously pursued the agenda: advocacy, which has been massive; improved membership registration and the NCS physical (presence) which is refereed to having a structure on ground that can be identified with Society. It is called the centre for innovation and incubation. NCS family is happy that the project which its groundbreaking was conducted last year, work has commenced in earnest.

“Plans for the project commenced in 2005. For now, we cannot say how much it will gulp because of the economy has not been stable. Prices of building material keep changing. Only determination will see us through, even as we rely on our corporate members and government agencies like the NCC and NITDA.  The project is massive on the six floor building.

NCS’ Innovation & Incubation Centre
“We called it innovation and incubation centre in the sense that we realized that university ‘products’ are not abreast with the industry requirements. Therefore, we want to be incubating them from here with the help of industry (corporate) members. It is a centre where industry needs shall be met; once you tell the fresh graduates/undergraduates what you need they put hands on it”. 

 

 

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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Umudioka Awka to Commission ICT Centre Next Week

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Prototype ICT centre

Okolobia Umudioka, Awka, a body of youths in Umudioka Community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra state will next commission its information Communications Technology (ICT) centre to empower youths in the community.

 

The ICT centre situated at the village community hall, will support, empower and up-skill youths in the area, leveraging on ICT.

 

The centre equipped with handy tools for learning and computer appreciation was made possible by the joint efforts of all the age-grades and some well-meaning individuals.

 

Anyaor Obiakor, chairman, Okolobia Umudioka, Awka, said that the centre would generate digital activities that would drastically reduce the number of youth restiveness.

 

He also solicited support from government and other well-meaning Nigerians as well as corporate bodies to make the centre a model in Nigeria.

 

The Umudioka ICT centre still requires amenities like standby electricity supply; as well broadband internet access the would create tremendous networking opportunities and lead to digital activities that would generate employment and income.

 

Apart from ICT centre, youths on their own have also embarked on palliative road maintenance; community security and mentorship programmes

 

 

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CBN Mulls New Credit Mechanism for Real Sector @ Single Digit

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To encourage banks to give credit to the real sector of the economy, at single digit rates, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has offered to complement the effort of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) through a mechanism to support banks that lend to corporate entities at single digit rate.

Addressing journalists at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) Meeting in Abuja, which saw the retention of all monetary rates, the CBN Governor Mr Godwin Emefiele disclosed that the mechanism “is not meant to bring competition among Deposit Money Banks, but it is meant to complement their efforts.”

According to Emefiele, “the most important thing is that we want to see to it that we achieve a single digit rate. We believe this will work because rather than the banks keeping the money in the reserves they can key into this and promote these transactions as long as they meet the terms and conditions.”

Specifically, Emefiele said “a differentiated dynamic cash reserve requirement regime will be implemented to direct cheap long term bank credit at nine per cent and a minimum tenor of seven years and two years moratorium to the employment elastic sectors of the economy.”

Details of this framework he said are being worked out by the banking supervision and the monetary policy departments and will be released very soon stressing that more details on this new mechanism “will be provided soon for the banks and everybody to know.

MPC was concerned that credit to the economy was sliding and we looked at means to incentivize the Deposit Money Banks to increase credit to the real sector.”

The MPC was of the opinion  that while it is difficult to encourage job creation in an environment within deficit infrastructure, the committee believes that the bank should continue to encourage Money Deposit Banks to increase the flow of credit to the real economy to consolidate economic recovery.

To achieve this, Emefiele noted that two approaches were considered: the first approach, in order to achieve the objective of lowering interest rate particularly to those priority sectors- manufacturing sectors, agric sector, the CBN “will encourage large corporates to issue commercial papers/note to the market and there will be a memorandum that will detail explanations of what they are going to do with that money.”

In order to complement the effort of the banks, the CBN he said “will expect that this commercial papers will come at low rate of single digit of 9 per cent or below that and for long tenor at least a period of 7 years with a specific purpose for that loan.”

If central bank sees that kind of notes in the market, Emefiele noted that the “CBN will complement the effort of the banks through a mechanism to support that bank that lends to that corporate at single digit rate.

It is not meant to bring competition in the money deposit banks, it is meant to complement their efforts. The most important thing is that we want to see to it that we achieve a single digit rate.”

The second approach he said is “if a bank lends money for new projects and planned expansions, verifiable not refinancing, to a project for seven years inclusive of two years moratorium at 9 percent interest rate, that the bank providing this evidence and verified by the central bank, we will go into that bank’s CRR and release equivalent of that cash from our CRR at zero kobo spread.”

Emefiele explained further that “in this case, that bank earns its 9 percent of that money. We feel this is novel; it is something that we should give a chance.

In the past we have reduced CRR and release liquidity into the market but the liquidity was not channeled properly to the high impact corporations – we mean employment generating sectors or output improving sector of the economy.”

Updating journalists on the Chinese Currency swap deal, the CBN Governor revealed that they “opened the first auction last week Friday and the result from that auction will be released on Friday, but from the preliminary information I heard is that it was a successful auction. The details will be unfolded by Friday.”

About the declining foreign reserves from $47.7 billion in May to $47.2 billion in June, Emefiele said “this has nothing to do with politics. What is happening is as a result of US Fed normalisation.

Since the interest rate has gone up in the US, and other advanced economies, in an attempt to stimulate their economies, these money that moved into the emerging economies have now being taken back and this means there will be so much outflow of cash than inflow of cashflow, and of course we have our own share of it.”

He noted that “Nigeria has performed better than other emerging market around the world, with a stabilized exchange rate that has remain stable because we have been able to build enough buffer to support our currency and that is why the exchange rate has remain stable.

Countries like South Africa and others have had their currencies depreciated but the Naira remains stable at N360/$ at this time.”

Speaking on the outcome of the MPC meeting in general, Emefiele said “MPC commended the approval of the Federal Government’s 2018 budget and called for the accelerated implementation to further support the fragile growth recovery.”

The committee also called for sustained implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to further stimulate output growth.

However, the MPC was “concerned about the liquidity impact of the 2018 expansionary fiscal budget and increasing FAAC distributions due to rising prices of crude oil as well as the buildup in election related activities.”

Exactly two years after the MPC decided to hold rates at 14%, at the end of Tuesday’s  meeting, MPC again voted to retain the: Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 14.0%; Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 22.5%; Liquidity Ratio at 30.0%; and Asymmetric corridor at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

Defending the MOC’s decision, Emefiele stated that “in the discussion for a hold, it was noted that risk to the macroeconomic and financial environment appears fairly balanced with improvement in output growth and inflation.”

Holding policy at the current stand he said “will support growth and further moderate inflation. However, committee noted the appetite of the public for loosening and concern that hold MPR at 14 per cent since July 2016 and considering the dynamic nature of the market, the rates might have lost its signal effect on the market, hence dampen market expectations.”

“The argument in favor of maintaining the current policy stand, is to monitor the magnitude of the liquidity impact of the fiscal injections and elections related expenditures ahead of the 2019 elections” he explained.

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Illegal Charges: CBN Orders Banks to Return N65Bn to Nigerians

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Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it has ordered banks in the country to refund some N65billion to Nigerians.

 

The money were recovered from the banks as wrongful deductions and charges from customers’ deposits and other transactions in the last six years.

 

Mr Isaac Okorafor, acting director, Corporate Communications, CBN, explained that the recovery was made between 2012 and now, stressing that the funds had since been returned to customers, who hitherto complained of wrongful charges and deductions by commercial banks.

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“We have recovered and returned to customers over N65bn out of complaints by people over acts of treatment on customers, wrong charges, wrong deductions and others since 2012/2013 when we started,” he said.

 

He stated that the purpose of the fair was to have a face to face interaction with customers and critical stakeholders in order to understand their challenges and proffer solutions.

 

Okorafor added that hawking of various denominations of the naira was an offence punishable under the CBN Act of 2005, and warned that the apex bank would not tolerate the breach of its Act, and called on those involved, particularly its staff members, to desist from the practice as they would be dismissed if caught.

 

He, however, blamed the police for the lack of prosecution of offenders who were caught hawking naira during various raids in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Ibadan and other cities.

 

He stated, “The CBN is very committed to making sure that people do not hawk the naira, because it is an offence punishable under the CBN Act of 2005. We have made it clear to any of our staff involved in the practice that they will be dismissed.

 

“We have also made it clear to banks that any of them caught doing it will be severely punished. We are a regulator and not a law enforcement agency. It is the duty of the Nigerian Police to enforce the law. We have collaborated with them at different times.

 

“We have had raids in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Ibadan and so on, and we will continue to do that, and people have been caught and money confiscated. We are waiting on the police to begin to prosecute those people.”

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