By Joel Popoola
We called on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, to give our children free data; he offered us a price cut in five years!
The British government recently promised a “New Deal” to kick-start its economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling to mind the vast investment in jobs and infrastructure designed by former American President, Franklin Roosevelt, to save America from the Great Depression.
When details of this “New Deal” arrived, it turned out that the people of Britain (649,000 of whom have lost their jobs due to COVID-19) were being offered £10 (4000 Naira) off restaurant bills for 14 days in August.
Not so much a New Deal as a meal deal – it would be like the Nigerian government trying to rebuild our economy with discounts in a fast food joint!
It was hard for me not to feel the way the people of Britain must have felt when they heard this as when I heard Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami announce government ambition for a 40% cut in data prices by 2025.
Two weeks ago, I called on Dr Pantami to require telecommunication firms to exempt educational resources from data charges to save a generation of Nigerians from having their education permanently disrupted by COVID-19.
Data is a luxury many Nigerian families cannot afford. Education is a necessity. A 40% price cut in five years time will not help Nigeria’s lost generation one little bit.
In the same speech Dr Pantami announced that government plans to “promote digital economy and improve the living standard of the citizenry” with an emphasis on “skill acquisition”.
This is music to my ears, but during the speech, the minister also boasted that broadband penetration in Nigeria has risen to 40.18%.
Dr Pantami spoke of targeting a rapid rollout of 5G capability across Nigeria – but we have yet to achieve significant 4G penetration! Indeed, with government projections stating that by 2025 only 70% of Nigerians will have any sort of internet.
The youth of Nigeria will never develop digital skills if less than half of them are able to access the internet, and those who are cannot afford to.
Dr Patami’s goals are the right ones and I genuinely applaud both his efforts and ambitions. And there is not getting around it – universal broadband takes time to deliver.
But our children need action now, especially those unable to access education.
One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is Nigerian. 10.5 million of our 5 to 14 year-olds are not in school. This is a national disgrace. And that was before COVID-19 robbed so many more children of months of education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised digital and online education as lessons move online across the world.
But in Nigeria, many homes are not equipped to adapt to these new methods of learning. This means children who have fallen behind will never catch up, and Nigeria will continue to feel the effects of the coronavirus for long after the pandemic is over.
About 170 million Nigerians have a mobile phone subscription, but many of those with smartphones cannot afford the data fees to make the most of the opportunities of the digital age. Many Nigerian parents will be burning through data trying to use online resources to help with their children’s schooling. When the data ends, so does the learning.
As head of the Digital Democracy campaign, Rate Your Leader, I am calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to tell our telecommunication companies that this isn’t good enough.
Our app allows registered voters to directly contact their local politicians – building trust, transparency and accountability, and allowing a two-way flow of information which educates and benefits both parties. We know Nigerians want this – so tell your local leaders!
All of this is done with the touch of a smartphone button from the comfort of the home. It would take next to nothing for children otherwise unable to access education to learn the same way. But while Rate Your Leader requires minimal data, online educational resources do not.
As for the telecommunications companies themselves, free data for education should not be seen as an act of charity, but a sensible business decision. It is companies like them who stand to gain most from a more digitally-skilled workforce and wider internet access. For any of our telecommunication companies with consistent modest, profit after tax for decades, this modest investment would pay for itself many times over.
Nigeria’s lost generation needs free data for education now, not a price cut in five years
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is the creator of the free Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via Joel@rateyourleader.com @JOPopoola
Accept COVID-19 Vaccines, TB Joshua Tells Nigerians
The founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Temitope Joshua, has appealed to Nigerians to accept the approved COVID-19 vaccines as a way of ending the pandemic.
Mr Joshua, in a video made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, said he has received thousands of emails concerning the safety of the vaccines expected in the country by the end of January.
“Concerning the ongoing situation in the world, I have received thousands of emails on the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr Joshua said in the message broadcast on his Christian channel on Emmanuel TV.
The video and its content was sent to PREMIUM TIMES by a freelance journalist, Ihechukwu Njoku.
Mr Joshua noted that many conspiracy theories are surrounding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.
He, however, said federal authorities are only making efforts to put an end to the pandemic which has claimed millions of lives worldwide.
“No doubt, there are many conspiracy theories surrounding this vaccine. However, my belief is that our governments are only trying to look for a way out of this very challenging situation, although there may be bad faith in certain quarters,” he said.
“Many people have complained of some negative reactions but this is always the case with vaccines of this nature. I remember I used to have such reactions whenever I took chloroquine,” he continued, citing his personal experiences.
“That does not mean chloroquine is bad. It works positively for many. At this time, our governments need our support and our cooperation – because the world is in a dilemma,” he said.
The Nigerian government said it is expecting at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January through the COVAX co-financing public-private facility.
Evidence on ground at the country’s vaccine facility showed that there are three Ultra-cold freezers needed to store the vaccines when they finally arrive the country.
But health authorities have expressed fears over growing vaccines hesitancy caused by misinformation which leads to doubt of the efficacy of the vaccine.
One of such was recently demonstrated by a Nigerian governor discouraging people from taking the vaccines.
“…They want to use the (COVID-19) vaccines to introduce the disease that will kill you and us. God forbid!” Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said in a video circulating on social media.
Aso Rock officials said both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will take the COVID-19 vaccines live on TV to allay the growing vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, who addressed journalists in Abuja after meeting with President Buhari recently said he and his colleagues will also take the vaccines on live television. “We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work,” he said.
“Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors Forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience,” said Mr Fayemi, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum
Police Arrest Killers of Immigration Officer, Six-Year Old, Others
Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force Intelligence Response Team IRT have arrested one Friday Domozu, 23 years native of Jarkama Village, Bassa LGA of Kogi State, the leader of the kidnap gang responsible for the abduction and killing of a six year old, Farida Yahaya ‘m’ at the Gabije Area of Kogi State on 2nd November, 2020.
The victim was abducted alongside one Abdulraheem, ‘m’ 14years old who narrowly escaped from the kidnappers den.
Investigations by the Police team revealed that the kidnappers demanded a huge sum as ransom from the family of the little girl before she could be released, but eventually killed her owing to the inability of the family to meet up with their demands. Efforts by the Police team to rescue the little girl led to the arrest of the principal suspect, Friday Domozu who led the Police Team to a deep forest at Gabije area of Kogi State where the remains of the little girl were recovered. The Police Team also exhumed the decomposing body of another victim later found to be that of one 40years Ibrahim Madaki earlier declared missing. The remains of the victims have been deposited for autopsy. Friday Domozu also revealed to the Police team that he is an ex-military trainee who was declared unfit and subsequently withdrawn 5-months into training based on medical grounds. Efforts are being intensified to arrest his gang members still at large.
Similarly, the Police Team arrested one Halidu Usman ‘m’ of Akwanga, Nasarawa State, the gang leader of the group responsible for the killing of an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, Late ACI Salisu Usman at Gudi area in Akwanga LGA, Nasarawa State on 15th June, 2020. The suspects stormed the house of the victim, killed him and his younger sister, Sa’adatu Usman, a final year medical student of the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto State. The killers also abducted the wife of the victim, Asmau Salisu and collected ransom from the family before her release. The suspect is assisting the police team in the investigations and arrest of other members of the group still at large.
Police operatives also arrested four (4) kidnap/armed robbery gang members responsible for the recent series of kidnapping of some staff of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and their families. The gang members; Abubakar Aliyu a.k.a Maigiwa, ‘m’ 27years, Aliyu Bello ‘m’ 18years, Ishaku Kabiru ‘m’ 30years and Abubakar Yakubu a.k.a Dogo ‘m’ 23years, were arrested following police investigations and rescue operations for the kidnap victims. The arrest of Abubakar Aliyu a.k.a Maigiwa led to the arrest of the other three (3) gang members. Abubakar Aliyu is a security staff of ABU Zaria who provides information to the gang on the movement and lifestyle of the victims. Some of the victims were rescued during the operation and reunited with their families.
Also, in a follow-up on investigations and information provided by a kidnap victim who identified and raised alarm on citing one Ibrahim Idris a.k.a Naira as a member of the gang responsible for his kidnap and collection of ransom before his release, the Police Team on 7th January, 2020 arrested the suspect which led to the arrest of two other gang members; Abubakar Yusuf a.k.a Ndalati ‘m’ 42years and Abubakar Ahmodu ‘m’ 20years. Investigations reveal that Abubakar Ahmodu is responsible for spying on and identifying potential victims of kidnap for the gang. As a matter of fact, he provided intimate details about his father which led to the kidnap and eventual extortion of a ransom of Two Million naira from his biological father.
All the suspects will be charged to court on conclusion of investigations.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has reiterated the commitment of the Force to cracking down on perpetrators of violent crimes in the country. The IGP expresses his sincere appreciation to the citizens for the useful information they avail the Police with which no doubt have continued to yield positive outcomes as seen in the arrest of the twenty-five suspects. He seeks further cooperation and assures that the Force will remain resolute to ensuring a safe and more secure country for all.
Kidnappers of Lagos Deputy VC Demand N20m
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Anchor University, Lagos State, Prof. Johnson Fatokun, has been kidnapped.
Anchor University is a faith-based institution in Ayobo, Lagos, owned by the Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the victim left Lagos on Sunday to drop off his two children, who were schooling in the North.
He was said to be returning on Monday when his vehicle was attacked by the gunmen in Nasarawa en route to the airport to return to Lagos.
A source said the assailants were in police uniform.
The source said, “The professor had dropped his son at the Deeper Life High School in the morning. He also went to drop the daughter at a federal university in Jos.
“He was returning from Jos to Keffi, Nasarawa State, late in the evening when they encountered the gunmen on the road. The driver, however, manoeuvred his way and sped through them. The gunmen started chasing the vehicle and shooting.
“There was another set of kidnappers right in front of them. They succeeded in stopping the vehicle. They beat up the driver, who managed to escape. The professor begged them for mercy, because those people were angry. That was how they whisked him away.”
Our correspondent learnt that the kidnappers had been speaking with some leaders of the victim’s church in Nasarawa.
It was gathered that the gunmen demanded N20m as ransom.
“They are talking to his colleagues and some leaders in the church. The negotiation is ongoing. We hope he will be released soon and unhurt,” the source added.
An official of the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the development.
He, however, said prayers were being offered for the safe release of the professor.
Fatokun is a professor of Computational Mathematics and Numerical Analysis, and was the pioneer Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, before joining the services of Anchor University in 2017.