By Yushau Shuaib
I arrived at GITEX 2022 in Dubai with the hope of waylaying Professor Ali Ibrahim Pantami for an exclusive interview on politics, alongside the challenges, excitements, disappointments, and accomplishments of his ever-inspiring exploits in public office, particularly since his appointment as the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.
Pantami remains one of the few cabinet members in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration who are highly pragmatic, charismatic, and results-oriented. He boldly builds partners with sincere allies, surmounts hurdles and never shies away from the good fight towards accomplishing what has been described as unprecedented feats in his Ministry. He is truly Nigeria’s Digital Economy maestro.
The results are certainly obvious for many to see: Apart from the digital economy sector now playing a pivotal role in lifting the Nigerian economy out of recession, it is continuously recording the highest growth rate in the country’s public sector.
Just as parastatals under his Ministry are remitting trillions of naira into the coffers of the Federal Government, a lot more in taxes and duties are also being paid by ICT companies and other sectoral players into the national treasury. It’s a case of the golden goose that is being properly tended to and which continues to lay the golden eggs that expand the national fortunes, especially in a period of global fiscal crisis.
I was interested in asking him about the spirit behind the significant number of policies developed and the hundreds of projects executed by his Ministry towards providing an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the communications and digital economy sector.
Rather than being granted what I had expected to be a straightforward interview, the Minister rather got me into covering the week-long activities of the Nigerian delegation at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which he led. This was the 2022 edition of the annual Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX Global), from the 10th of October 2022 in Dubai.
The delegation led by Pantami was a powerful one, having officials from Nigeria’s public and private sectors, including regulators, academics, media practitioners, change makers, and young entrepreneurs. Nigeria has been attending GITEX because of its enormous benefits, especially in attracting foreign direct investment to the country.
Some of the distinguished personalities on the entourage were Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta; Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa; Director General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr Aliyu Aziz; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy Backbone Limited, Professor Muhammed Bello Abubakar, and Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), Barrister Maimuna Yaya Abubakar.
As the Minister went about attending a series of summits, meetings and exhibitions, I had the opportunity of being able to engage him intermittently, and I learnt a lot both from him and in my coverage of some of these events.
While inaugurating the Nigerian exhibition pavilion, Pantami informed the audience of how, in the last three years, the Federal Government had launched several programmes, policies and projects, which have been yielding results in great leaps and bounds that have contributed to the flourishing of the country’s digital economy sub-sector.
Immediately after the inauguration and tours of numerous stands, the Minister led the team to the Startups exhibitions, where at least nine Nigerian young technology innovators had spots in the semi-final of the GITEX tech-invention competition, known as the Supernova Challenge Pitch Competition, organised by North Star Dubai.
The Challenge is the biggest pitching competition in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, where startups have the opportunity to become the next unicorns, with up to $200,000 in cash prizes up for grabs.
The Minister interacted and took pictures with promoters of the startups. He also had words of encouragement for the Nigerian semi-finalists, including Identity Pass, 9JaCodeKids Academy, Floews, Medtech, Paddycover, Pricepally, LiveBic, Technyon Technologies, and Wellness Health Technologies.
On the second day, at the Nigerian pavilion, the Minister received visitors and also held a series of meetings with representatives of governments and big corporations seeking partnerships with Nigeria in the areas of digital identity, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, among others.
Pantami held bilateral conversations and meetings with the Minister of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Omar Sultan Alolama and the Minister of IT and Telecommunications of Pakistan, Mr. Syed Amin Ul Haque, among other top global public figures.
The Minister also met with officials of the Dubai World Trade Center to explore areas of collaboration, as Nigeria is the largest Africa digital economy. A Senior Vice President, MEA of Oracle, Antonio Mesa consulted with Pantami towards the deepening of collaboration with Nigeria on the growth of the digital economy, through universal licences and corporate social responsibility.
A strategic meeting was equally held with Vice-President of Amazon, Isabella Groegor-Cechowicz on a similar level of partnership. A dollar vault of investment opportunities was opened for the start-up community, as the Nigerian team engaged with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
One of the greatest achievements of Nigeria at GITEX 2022 came in the form of the opening up of massive opportunities as the Minister signed, on behalf of the Federal Government, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the global tech giant, Microsoft Corporation. This is for the training of five million Nigerians on high-demand technological skills that are needed for consolidating the capacities of citizens as native players in the burgeoning digital ecosystem and economy.
The Microsoft representative, Mr Deen Yusuf, said the gesture is bound to enlarge knowledge bases, and capabilities, and create massive spinoff potentials that will enhance careers, livelihoods and the national fiscal well-being. Commending the tech giant for the prospects, Pantami said Nigeria would continue to provide an enabling environment and ensure that regulatory instruments are developmental and flexible for Microsoft and other businesses to flourish.
The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Obafemi Hazmat met with the Minister and discussed how Lagos could benefit from the Microsoft offer. Lagos is the only state from Nigeria that sponsored startups to #GITEX2022.
It is necessary to state that out of over 800 applications received for the Supernova pitch competition from 37 countries across 13 categories, nine Nigerian startups emerged among the 140 semi-finalists. The 26 that made it to the finals of the Supernova competition also had two Nigerian startups. Eventually, ShapShap, from Nigeria, emerged as Global Best in the Mobility and Smart Cities category, winning a cash prize of $8,000.
The Minister was elated by the success stories of Nigeria’s participation at this year’s event. Apart from the award to the winning startup, NITDA was equally honoured with the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) Most Valued Partnership Award in recognition of the agency’s extraordinary dedication and service at the startup and tech event.
Similarly, at the end of a discussion on Digital Inclusion: Aligning Regulators and Network Providers to Bridge Digital Divide, Professor Pantami was presented with the prestigious DWTC Leadership and Commitment Award 2022, in recognition of his commitment towards advancing the digital economy at both the ATU and ITU this year. He was the only person honoured with the highly prestigious award this year.
Speaking at the Summit, the Minister said Nigeria has a lot of policies to close the digital divide and promised that the government would soon pass the Start-up bill into law for enlarging the vibrancy of the sector.
Less than a week after his assurance to the global community at GITEX 2022, on the eve of Professor Pantamis 50th birthday, President Buhari signed the Startup bill into law. Not only was this carried out as a tribute to the significant achievements of the Minister, the President said: “The appointment of Pantami was one of the best choices I have made because he has added tremendous value to good governance.”
Buhari went further in his testament that Pantami’s depth of knowledge of complex issues was amazing and remarkable, and his loyalty and dedication to duty were worthy of emulation. I also join numerous well-wishers in praying that may Almighty Allah continue to guide, protect and bless the Minister with good health and wisdom in the service of the country and humanity.
Yushau Shuaib is the author of An Encounter with the Spymaster
Military’s Face of the Nation, You Must Not Devalue It – GOC 81 Division, Gen Ajunwa
The General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, comprising Lagos and Ogun States, Major General Obinna Ajunwa, has warned against devaluing the military, saying that such action has a chain reaction, as it reverberates on the collective existence of the people, and affects what the country holds dear in terms of internal unity, national cohesion and international recognition.
Ajunwa made this remark while playing host to a cross section of the Executive members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) in his office on Monday. The General noted that the army, and by extension the military, is the face of the nation, and by no means or circumstance should be rubbished, because an attack on the military through false reports is an attack on the very essence of the people and the nation itself.
“The Military is the face of the nation. If we rubbish it we are rublishing our face. The Army belongs to us as Nigerians. In the Nigeria society, and even elsewhere, the strength of the people is the military. And when the top is dropped, it will definitely affect the other component parts.
He maintained that the military will continue to strive to to keep the peace and security of the nation, while calling on the citizenry, especially the press to assist in the patriotic act through verified publications, and most importantly publications that has national security and interest as consideration
“False reports devalues the military, Nigeria and the people. Once you devalue the military, every other persons in the nation is devalued. Always endeavour to report correctly and avoid false information as it could destroy the nation and paint it in bad light, thereby giving a signal of negativity.
“We must understand that when a country’s military is tainted with negativity, it spiraled on other aspects of that country’s endeavours. That is why the military is the face of the nation, and must not be devalued,” Ajunwa said.
Earlier, the leader of the NAOSNP delegation and President of the Association, Mr. Samson Oki, has briefed the GOC and his team of officers on the need for the division to synergise with the Association to curb the initiation and spread of fake news, which is detrimental to the psyche and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.
“It is our intention to cooperate with the military, and the army in particular to further engender military/media relationship to continue to fight the war against fake news, which is capable of causing mayhem, for the good of the people.
“Our Association is known for discipline, professionalism and dedication to the Nigerian project, and in the best position to understand that national interest supersedes parochial or personal interest, and that is what we have sworn to uphold,” Oki said.
In his vote of thanks, the Public Relations Officer of NAOSNP, Mr. Eric Elezuo, appreciated the Nigeria Army for the job well done, which have remained their hallmark in recent times, and the GOC 81 Division, Ajunwa, who has been exemplary since he assumed office in August 2022.
“While partnering with you in this task of nation building and defence, we must acknowledge your success stories in the field and with the civil populace. The army has distinguished itself, and remained above board. We also acknowledge the giant strides Major General Ajunwa has taken since he assumed duties about three months ago. We are not oblivious of these milestones, and ask that they be sustained,” Elezuo said.
In attendance at the meeting were ranking military officers including the Commander 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Brigadier General Kingsley Nwoko; Commander 81 Div Provost Group, Brigadier General ML Abubakar; Commander 55 Signal Brigade, Brigadier General EO Oshunsan; Chief of Staff HQ 81 Division, Brigadier General MB Wabili and Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Colonel JK Maigari.
Other members of the NAOSNP team in attendance were Miss Ebere Obinagwam, Mr. Kazeem Bakene, Mr. Friday Etim and Mr. Femi Arikawe.
‘We Hold You in High Esteem’ – NAOSNP Celebrates Lagos Speaker, Obasa at 50
The National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) has congratulated the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Mudashiru Obasa as he celebrates the golden age of 50.
According to a statement signed by the Association’s Public Relations Officer Mr Eric Elezuo, the association holds the ebullient lawmaker in high esteem, and prays the Almighty continues to shine the light of greatness in his path as he effortlessly leads the legislative arm of Lagos State government to enviable heights.
“It is with deep sense of camaraderie and appreciation for your stupendous achievements that we, the members of the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) celebrate you on your landmark age of 50.
“We pray that the God will continue to lead you in the paths of righteousness as you continue to work assiduously to better the lives of Lagosians and humanity in general,” the statement revealed.
Mr Elezuo further described the speaker as an intellectually oriented administrator, whose warm and cordial relationship with governors during his tenure, has helped in telling the success story of Lagos State till date.
“As one of the longest serving Speakers in the country, we have noted with admiration how you have synergized with different governors of the state to build and continue to make Lagos a progressive place for all and sundry irrespective of religion, ethnicity or party,” Elezuo noted.
The statement also quoted the president of the association, Mr. Samson Oki, as adding that the group, an integrity based security publishers, will continue to give the distinguished speaker every assistance in the positive discharge of his duties for the state and humanity.
Philanthropist Donates N10m Luxury Bus to Disability Foundation Home
By Eric Elezuo
Renowned social entrepreneur and philanthropist par excellence, Hon Hareter Babatunde Oralusi, popularly known as HBO, has donated a luxury bus worth over N10 million to the Home for Children with Disabilities, a project of the Focus on Disability Foundation, founded by United Kingdom based Mr. Abiodun Paseda.
Hon Oralusi, a native of Osun State, who is also based in the United Kingdom, is the Chairman, Board of Directors, LifeCome Group Limited and Foremedia Group Limited, United Kingdom, is according to Paseda, a man of integrity, whose stock in trade is giving back to the society and extending his God-given blessings to all and sundry, especially the under privileged.
Expressing his appreciation while speaking to pointblank.ng, Paseda said “This is to show our appreciation over and over again to our loving and supportive daddy, Hon Oralusi. We thank and appreciate you for the donation of this bus for the children’s use. It will be used in taking the children to school and bring them back everyday. Once again, we say thank you and God bless you.”
The Focus on Disability Foundation, founded in 2010, is a non for profit organization, saddled with the responsibility of creating and providing new life and hope for people living with disabilities. In 2021, t has scored another high in its unmatched efforts at looking after the disabled, with a magnificent edifice to accommodate diverse people living with disabilities.
The multi-roomed bungalow with modern and recreational facilities, which is situated in Odogbolu Local Government of Ogun State, was commissioned in the presence of dignitaries from across the length and breadth of the state, who took turns to inspect the facility, and applaud the visioner, and Founder, Focus on Disability Foundation, Mr. Abiodun Enilari Paseda.
Paseda is known for his passion to uplift the standard of living of people living with disabilities across the globe, especially in Nigeria, Ghana and England where his impact has been greatly felt so far. He has supervised the provision of sundry humanitarian assistance to people living with disabilities across Nigeria and the African continent with special mention to England, his place of residence.
“Disable people are the most neglected in the world, especially in Africa. There were no disability laws to protect them as in the UK and other European countries. This aroused my passion to help them and other less privileged,” he says.
Hon Oralusi joined the long list of prominent Nigerians, who have identified with the good work of Paseda, in ensuring the people living with disabilities have a good life.