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Excitement as funding hope rises for Nigerian startups at GITEX 2018

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… As NITDA bags DWTC award

Beyond the six technology entrepreneurs currently showcasing their products at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) 2018, there is now funding hope on the horizon for many technology start-ups in Nigeria. This was the result of a well-packaged investment forum organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the global technology show, where the Nigerian delegation took turns to advertise huge potentials for investments in the country’s ICT sector to potential investors from across the world.

Funding has been a major challenge confronting many start-ups in the country, however, investors from across the world have indicated interest in exploring the potentials in Nigeria ICT ecosystem, especially, start-ups. Specifically, a Venture Capital (VC) currently based in Mauritius, ArifSaiyad & Associados Ventures, with a $15 million fund for African start-ups has expressed interest in investing part of the fund on Nigerian start-ups. Founder and CEO of the VC, Mr Arif Sayad, said he had seen a lot of potentials in Nigeria and would be looking viable start-ups in the country to invest part of the VC fund in.

Another VC from Egypt, Endure Capital also expressed satisfaction with Nigeria’s pitch at the investor forum, adding that Nigeria is a place to be for the venture. Partner at the company, Waleed Khalil said the company would be partnering with other companies in Nigeria to invest in start-ups.

Other investors who listened to pitches from the six Nigerian start-ups in Dubai were impressed by the innovations of the young entrepreneurs and promised to engage them further to see how they could partner with them.\

NITDA in its bid to grow the ICT sector with local capacity has been empowering tech start-ups in many ways. Part of such efforts is the international exposures being given to the young entrepreneurs by sponsoring them to GITEX and other international events. This year, the agency had sponsored six start-ups, each from the geo-political zones in the country to participate Future Stars event holding alongside GITEX.

In his opening speech at the forum, the Director General of NITDA, Dr Isa Pantami , highlighted the potentials and opportunities in Nigeria for investors. According to him, Nigeria has a ready pool of young “digital natives” awaiting investors in the ICT sector. “With a population having an average age of 18.2 years, Nigeria is the 22nd youngest country on earth. The youthfulness of our population is an asset and the fact that many young Nigerians are ICT enthusiasts even makes it better. Investors can be assured of accessing a large pool of youthful and skilful employees at a fair-price, more cost-effective than engaging employees in other parts of the world” he said.

“Innovation is part of our DNA as Nigerians and there are several stories of innovation across the globe that has the imprint of Nigerians. HopStop, an online city transit App acquired by Apple for a whopping $1billion, was owned by a Nigerian-born Entrepreneur. In August 2018, a team of Nigerian teenagers won the first place in the junior division of the Technovation World Pitch Summit that took place in Silicon Valley. A Nigerian entrepreneur also developed Mekamon, the world’s first gaming robot, with the special ability to customize the gaming bot to perform personalized functions. He got a dream deal with Apple pricing each unit at $300 and putting them in nearly all their stores in the United States and the United Kingdom” Pantami added.

He pointed out that while African startups raised $560 million in 2017, Nigerian startups accounted for $114.6 million of the amount. “These investments and stories of innovation underscore the viability of the Nigerian startups and the capacity of Nigerians to conceive ingenious ideas. We invite you, our potential investors, to take advantage of this massive talent pool as you invest in Nigeria” he said.

Giving a total assurance to the potential investors, members of National Assembly present at the forum said they would do everything possible to terms of legislation to ensure that investors enjoy smooth operation in Nigeria. According to the Vice Chairman Senate Committee on ICT, Senator Foster Ogola, the lawmakers would be ready for suggestions on any area requiring legislation to address challenges confronting investors in the country.

Meanwhile, the organisers of GITEX, Dubai World Trade Centre have commended NITDA for its consistency in promoting ICT development in Nigeria. This feat earned the agency the DWTC award which was presented to NITDA’s DG at the end of the Africa Investment Forum in Dubai. According to DWTC has been playing significant roles in in the growth of ICTs in Nigeria and deserved a commendation.

-Culled from New Telegraph

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THE NATION

Don’t abuse offer of scholarship, Amnesty Office tells beneficiaries in varsities

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The Presidential Amnesty Programme is set to graduate no fewer than 137 persons trained in different vocational skills, its Official has said.

Presidential Amnesty Programme has warned Niger Delta youths offered scholarship on compassionate grounds to study in universities across the country not to take the gesture as a right, but rare privilege to enable them acquire tertiary education and better their lives.

The Amnesty Office said being from the Niger Delta is not an automatic qualification to enjoy the benefits of the Programme, as its mandate mainly covered the management of 30, 000 persons captured in the database of beneficiaries.

Murphy Ganagana, Special Assistant on Media to Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, said in a statement on Monday that the warning became necessary in view of an unruly behaviour exhibited last week by some non beneficiaries of the Programme offered scholarship on compassionate grounds at the Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State.

He expressed dismay that rather than concentrating on their studies and show gratitude to the Coordinator of Amnesty Programme for providing them succour after they were fraudulently and illegally deployed to the university in March, last year by a former official of the Amnesty Office in the previous administration, the students who are not bona fide beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme engaged in acts that breached the peace in the university.

Ganagana said reports on the cause of the incident indicated that the students were simply being mischievous by demanding to be granted same allowances meant for beneficiaries of the Programme on scholarship duly captured in the database, not minding the fact that they are not beneficiaries and were illegally sent to the institution through the back door.

Part of the statement read: “We wish to clarify that there are two categories of persons in the March 2018 deployment of delegates to universities onshore for various educational programmes which was illegally carried out by a former staff of the Amnesty Office under the immediate past managers of the Amnesty Programme. This became a subject of investigation by relevant security and anti-graft agencies.   The discovery of illegal deployments followed a verification exercise ordered by the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo on assumption of office.

A committee set up to ascertain the number of beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme hitherto deployed to universities onshore for various educational programmes discovered that an alarming figure of students enrolled in universities under the Amnesty Programme were not captured in the database at the Amnesty Office. This was against the backdrop of huge tuition fees forwarded to the Amnesty Office for payment by some universities in the country for supposed beneficiaries deployed in the institutions for study.

For instance, while a new university (identity withheld) forwarded a list of 62 pre-degree students to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuitions fees, the committee discovered that only 14 of them were captured in the database of beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme. Only 34 out of 201 first year students in another university in the Southeastern part of the country were also cleared as beneficiaries in the Amnesty database. In the same vein, names of 200 first year students out of a total of 290 sent to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuition fees by three universities in the South-south (names withheld) could not be verified on the database of beneficiaries. Only 90 names from the three institutions were verified.

However, the Coordinator, Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo was deeply concerned over this worrisome development, especially the plight of the affected students who are also from the Niger Delta, and therefore, explored means to address the situation after meeting the management of the affected institutions, rather than sending those not captured in the Amnesty Programme database out of the universities. Consequently, the Amnesty Office took responsibility for payment of tuition and accommodation only for persons illegally deployed in March 2018 who are not captured in the Amnesty Programme database, and paid all entitlements including book allowance, ITA, tuition and accommodation for those deployed same time, but are captured in the database and therefore, bona fide beneficiaries of the Programme.

It is therefore uncharitable and irresponsible for Niger Delta youths who are not duly captured in the database of the Amnesty Programme but offered conditional scholarship on compassionate grounds to demand full privileges accorded genuine beneficiaries of the Programme. Being from the Niger Delta is not an automatic qualification to enjoy the benefits of the Programme, as its mandate mainly covered the management of 30, 000 persons captured in the database of beneficiaries.

The Coordinator, Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, is passionate and determined to effectively deliver on his mandate. Payment of stipends and allowances to beneficiaries of the Programme, including those deployed in educational institutions onshore and offshore is top on his priorities, and the Amnesty Office has wholly discharged its financial obligations to beneficiaries promptly since Prof. Dokubo took over the mantle of leadership”.

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THE NATION

Abebe vs Statoil: Defence witness shocks Statoil at forgery case hearing

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The evidence being dangled before the Special Offences Court in Ikeja, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in its prosecution of the Chairman of Inducon Nigeria Limited, Dr. John Abebe over allegation of forgery, could soon prove to be spurious if the latest submissions made at the court were anything to go by.

For the record, Dr. Abebe facilitated the coming of British Petroleum (BP) into Nigeria and helped to secure three deep offshore oil blocks with OPL 213,217 and 218 for the BP-Statoil Alliance in 1991. Reportedly, BP later vacated the block and the alliance with Statoil, but Statoil currently enjoys proceeds made from the oil blocks. Abebe has since 2010 been in court claiming the agreement was for him to be paid 1.5% of the net profit made from the venture.

The Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal have both ruled in Dr Abebe’s favour on the main suit and Statoil has appealed these judgments to the Supreme Court since 2012. However, allegations are rife that the alleged forgery case is the latest move by Statoil to stop the Inducon Chairman from having his entitlement.

The EFCC had last July arraigned Abebe, younger brother to the late former First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, before the court on a four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence and attempt to pervert the course of justice levelled against Abebe by Statoil Nigeria Limited. According to the charge sheet, the defendant was accused to have on June 22, 2010 knowingly forged a letter dated November 30, 1995 and belonging to BP Exploration Nigeria Limited to that of his company, Inducon Nigeria Limited. The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.

But at the recent sitting of the Special Offences Court, a defence witness and Deputy Director of the National Archives, Mrs. Roseline Ovesuor, informed the court that based on the provisions of sections 37 and 38 of the National Archives Act, it was an offence for companies registered in Nigeria to take their records outside the country. She made the revelation at the resumed hearing of the case before Justice Mojisola Dada.

Flowing from the argument, Mrs. Ovesuor, who said she has been working there for more than 30 years at the Department of National Archives of Nigeria, stated that by the provisions of sections 37 and 38 of the Act, it was an offence for a Nigerian company to take its records outside Nigeria.

The witness, who testified under examination-in-chief led by Counsel to Abebe, Uche Nwokedi (SAN), said the Department of National Archives is responsible for the management and preservation of documents of historical value in Nigeria for federal ministries, parastatals, agencies, commissions as well as private companies, institutions, multinational companies and individuals. She added that the National Archives is also mandated to assist ministries, agencies, departments at the federal level, state level, private organisations, and business houses to establish their archives when necessary.

The defence witness testified that the National Archives Act is the law that regulates their activities and was promulgated in July 1992. She explained that in every organisation, public or private, there exist three levels of records: that is, current, semi-current and non-current. She noted with an organisation, private or public, incorporated in Nigeria and is functioning in Nigeria, the law states such records must be housed by the organisation within the country where that organisation was established and is operating.

Under cross-examination by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, she pointed out that she was not aware of the facts of the charge against the defendant and that she had not seen the documents that were tendered in court in this matter. When she was shown all the exhibits that were tendered in this case so far, the defence witness testified that she had not seen them before as they were not archived with the National Archives.

It will be recalled that in the course of proceedings on the alleged forgery, the EFCC through the Managing Director of Statoil Nigeria Limited, Paul Piche, who is the prosecution witness one (PW1), and PW2, Joanne Cross, who works with British Petroleum (BP) United Kingdom Plc, had produced documents before the court to allegedly prove the charge against Abebe.

The documents, which were prepared by BP Exploration Nigeria Limited and Inducon Nigeria Limited (both Nigerian companies), were said by PW2 to have been produced from a privately managed archive in London known as Iron Mountain.

But in part of Abebe’s case as argued by Nwokedi in his no-case submission which was dismissed by Justice Dada, he contended that the act of exporting or sending the documents to the United Kingdom for archiving is an offence prohibited by Nigerian law.

The counsel stated that the action contravenes the provisions of sections 37 and 38 of the National Archives Act, and that the documents were legally inadmissible for proving the charge against the defendant.

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THE NATION

Amnesty Programme empowers 2,190, trains 800

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The Presidential Amnesty Programme is set to graduate no fewer than 137 persons trained in different vocational skills, its Official has said.

Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has empowered 2,187 already trained beneficiaries in small and medium scale business enterprises.The beneficiaries are spread across Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Edo, Cross River, Abia and Imo states.

 Over 110 vendors and contractors were engaged by the Programme through execution of business contracts on various businesses and trades, which include wood and carpentry, fish farming, commodity shop, building materials, building and construction, fashion designing, hair dressing, catering, timber mill, event management, restaurant and bar.

 Others are: rental service, bead and knitting, creative art work, foodstuff sale, provision store, electronic materials sale, electrical materials sale, music production, poultry, mini distributorship, block moulding, baking and confectionery, tiling and interlocking, ICT and cybercafé; welding and fabrication, film making, cinematography, cassava milling, barbing salon, kerosene sale, auto spare parts, supermarket, auto mechanic, agricultural farming and marine transportation, among others.

 Also, a total of 800 delegates are currently receiving vocational training in various skills facilitated by qualified contractors with a duration of about six months.

 The trade areas include welding, aluminium fabrication, oil and gas power system, abrasive blasting, scaffolding and rigging, mechanical fitting, industrial painting, greenhouse farming, fashion designing and tailoring, leather works, ICT, poultry farming, fish farming, installation and maintenance of tricycles as well as ice cold engineering and fabrication.

Coordinator of the Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo said plans have reached advanced stage to fast-track the training and certification of more beneficiaries, as well as exploring job placement opportunities for them.

“Niger Delta is now known for peaceful development because there is no development without security. Amnesty Programme is now into more of training so that our beneficiaries can develop a skill after being trained, and then work. We are now focusing on getting jobs for some of those we have trained. That is the last aspect of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the reintegration phase,” Dokubo emphasized.

Towards this end, the Job Placement unit of the Amnesty Office has intensified profiling of qualified beneficiaries for possible jobs. 60 beneficiaries were recently profiled for employment in the nation’s public sector. 

Dokubo has also approved the inclusion of NAEC trainees as resource persons for Amnesty Programme after approving office set up component of the project for implementation across the nine Niger Delta states following the DFID-funded Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE) project that facilitated the training of 20 delegates in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State recently, through the Nigeria Agricultural Enterprise Curriculum (NAEC).

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