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How COVID-19 is Helping to Entrench Cashless Economy

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By Joel Popoola

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, but we are pretty old-fashioned when it comes to money.

Although many Nigerians are used to receiving money electronically from relatives overseas, at home the vast majority of people prefer physical money to digital payments and would rather queue up at a kiosk for cash than pay for something using their phone.

It’s not smart. And in the time of COVID-19, it’s not safe.

By 2025, almost two-thirds of Nigerians will own a smartphone, but right now only 6% of us use digital technology to make financial transactions.

In Kenya, meanwhile, the number is 73%

Digital payments save businesses and consumers time and money: think of the time and effort it would save Nigerians in remote rural communities from not having to travel to go to the bank!

More importantly for digital democracy campaigners like me, electronic money is much easier to keep track of, increasing accountability and transparency and reducing corruption and theft.

So why don’t we work towards becoming the first nation on earth to abolish cash?

This might sound like a ludicrous dream, but in the time of the coronavirus, it might not be as far-fetched as you think.

Reducing the handling of cash to a simple way of slowing the spread of this and other viruses – and social distancing is almost impossible in a kiosk or bank queue.

And Nigerians are getting used to the idea of digital payments. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many Nigerians had no choice but to switch to digital banking when bank branches were closed. And they liked it. There were even reports of shops refusing to take money.

Making the change to a cashless Nigeria would require intensive effort, but the chances such a move could pay for itself. When Mexico made state worker salary payments, social welfare and pensions electronic, it saved the equivalent of 491 billion Naira.

Then, there is also the informal economy.

According to the IMF, the Nigerian informal sector accounted for 65% of Nigeria’s 2017 GDP. A move away from a cash-in-hand culture could lead to a very helpful increase in the government’s tax revenue.

Nigeria is already making more progress towards becoming a cashless society than you might think.

The COVID-19 crisis also saw the government utilise digital-payment platforms to distribute financial support for those affected by the lockdown.

This followed on from earlier efforts to establish payment service banks, which see telecom companies permitted to provide financial services.

Other government targets could be achieved too. The payment service banks were one of the initiatives aimed at meeting targets set in 2012, for 80% of Nigerian adults to have a bank account by 2020. These ambitious targets have been missed (the figure is currently around 60%) but a 2015 report prepared for the G20, the world’s largest 20 economies, highlighted the potential of digitised payments to rapidly increase access to financial services.

The journey towards a cashless Nigeria would require significant government commitment and investment. But the government could start tomorrow by aiming to making all government payments, such as Conditional Cash Transfer, digital by default.

And doing so would be hugely beneficial for our democracy.

Physical cash is dirty money in more ways than one indeed.

Transparency and accountability are almost impossible to achieve with cash payments which are anonymous and untraceable. And this has huge implications when it comes to making sure public money is spent were it is supposed to be spent.

When the Indian government started making pension payments through digitally instead of using cash bribe demands almost halved. I’m sure almost every Nigerian would dearly love to see that here.

At the digital democracy campaign we are determined to improve accountability and transparency in Nigerian politics.

We have created a free app called Rate Your Leader, which allows voters to contact directly with their local elected representatives. The Rate Your Leader app helps politicians engage directly with people who elected them, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them, get important information directly to them and build relationships of trust with the electorate.

We did this because in 2020, democracy is digital. Communication is digital. Commerce is digital.

Our money should be digital too – not least in the interests of public health.

Far from being a fantasy, perhaps a cashless Nigeria is an idea whose time has arrived.

Joel Popoola is a Nigerian technology entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is the creator of the Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via @JOPopoola

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Bisi Olatilo Recovers from COVID-19, Discharged

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Famous veteran broadcaster, Prince Bisi Olatilo has now been declared COVID-19 negative and has been given an all clear by his doctors.

Fondly called Uncle B by admirers, the polyglot and Chairman, BISCON Communications in a message sent to  The Boss revealed “Thank God The Doctors say I am fully recovered infact discharged already heading home any moment from now”

This is cheering news for Prince Olatilo who only a few weeks back had to dispell wicked rumours that he had died as a result of the virus.

In a video message at the time, he confirmed that he had contracted the virus and was undergoing treatment. He stated that he was not in any danger and was recovering steadily.

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Truck Crashes: Oyeyemi Deploys Safety Engineers to Akungba

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Owing to the renewed vigour and rejigged operational strategies the Federal Road Safety Corps embedded into tactical eradication of road traffic crashes in the country, the Corps Marshal , Dr Boboye Oyeyemi has deployed Safety Engineers to Akungba to ascertain the causes and recommend solutions to incessant trailer crashes that have bedevilled that particular route of the highway. This is in addition to an Ambulance rescue point earlier established close to the notorious spot for prompt rescue operations.

According to Bisi Kazeem, the Corps Public Education Officer, the deployment of the personnel came as part of strategic proactive step by the Corps Marshal to mitigate incidences of crashes on the highways, following the fatal multiple crash that killed several passengers with others sustaining various degrees of injuries on Saturday, 23 January, 2021 along Ikare-Owo road by Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba

The Corps Marshal who spoke on the readiness of the Corps to bring road traffic crashes to an end in Nigeria lamented the fatalities recorded in recent times on our roads, promising that the Corps will double its efforts to eradicate crashes, particularly those by articulated vehicles.

While recounting the number of people affected by the multiple crash, he said that the crash which was caused by break failure that resulted in loss of control, involved a Dangote truck, a Suzuki mini bus (XB973KAA) and a Lexus saloon car (KWL 522 AY) conveying a total of 18 passengers comprising of 11 female adults and 7 male adults.

Out of the afforementioned number of persons on board the 3 vehicles, a total of 09 persons comprising of 5 female adults and 3 male adults were killed while a total of 09 persons comprising of 5 female adults and 4 male adults, sustained various injuries.

The FRSC rescue team deposited the remains of 06 of the passengers who got killed at Ikare Specialist Hospital Morgue and took 06 injured for urgent medical attention at the emergency ward of the same hospital. While the rescue team of the Nigeria Police Force deposited 3 dead and 4 injured at Iwaro General Hospital. The entire rescue operations was carried out by a combine efforts of the FRSC, NPF, Big Army, and the DSS.

Oyeyemi expressed satisfaction with the growing synergy and friendly collaboration of security agencies in Nigeria, as he praised the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Army and the Department of State Services who played a vital role in assisting in the evacuation of the victims and ensuring adequate deployment of men to control traffic around the crash scene.

“With the deployment of these professional and certified safety engineers, I am optimistic that the general factors responsible for road crashes on that route will surely be ascertained, and when that is done, necessary actions will be taking by appropriate agencies” he concluded.

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Army Announces Opening of NDA Admission Portal For 73rd Regular Course

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The Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) has announced the opening of its portal for admission into its 73rd regular course for prospective applicants to apply from Jan. 23 to April 24, according to the Registrar of the Academy, Brig.-Gen Ayoola Aboaba.

Aboaba, who made the disclosure in a statement issued on Sunday night, in Kaduna, said admissions were open for both eligible male and female Nigerians.

”Interested candidates should log on to the application portal, rcapplications.nda.edu.ng, select “Purchase Form” and pay for their application via REMITA in the sum of N3,500.00 only.

”Please note that only payment against RRR Codes generated via the application portal would be accepted”, the statement counseled applicants.

Aboaba also said: ”all Instructions/guidelines for the 73rd Regular Course application is on the application portal (rcapplications.nda.edu.ng) and interested candidates are advised to download and read the instructions/guidelines carefully.”

He stated that applicants applying for admission into NDA, must also apply to Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) and must select NDA as their first choice institution.

Similarly, Aboaba said such applicants would be expected to sit for the JAMB Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UMTE) and obtain a minimum score for the course of choice, adding that entry requirements for various undergraduate degree programmes are also detailed on the NDA website/applications portal.

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