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Ericsson: Smart Home Privacy: How to Avoid ‘Data Paparazzi’

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Smart home tablet Data Paparazzi

The paparazzi are known for often taking covert photographs of celebrities and selling them to tabloids or gossip magazines.

In a similar vein, could the increasing number of smart, connected devices coming into our lives start acting like covert “data paparazzi”? And what can we do to avoid it? Find out here.

Today, our devices collect and forward information to all sorts of external parties: our home security alarm provider, our electricity supplier, our fitness watch vendor, our car manufacturer, and so on. Smart assistants listen to our voice commands and take that information to the internet to execute our orders.

But smart devices go beyond the obvious too – they can be anything from a connected toaster to a washing machine, sewing machine, or a toothbrush!

Data from one device may not be a problem, but combining data from several devices could create a pattern that may reveal unwanted information about a user or a business. And with more devices coming into homes, concerns around the way personal data is managed, controlled and used by devices and organizations are increasingly being raised.

Each new device may introduce a new security risk, if not properly managed through its life cycle. The security risks must be handled by all actors in the value chain, including the device owner, regardless if devices are used by consumers, industries, or smart cities.

So what will be important to think about to ensure that users benefit and get value from devices and their related services, but avoid adding security issues? Should we risk unintentionally becoming surrounded by data paparazzi with their viewfinder aimed at us?

In this blog post, we’ll bring some light on to what these factors mean for the device owner and what can be done to confront it.

Smart devices and privacy: the big picture

Many of us already interact with at least 3 to 5 devices daily – a smartphone or even two, a smart watch, a tablet PC, a work laptop, and maybe a smart TV. One estimate is that by 2030, each of us will own 15 connected devices. Some devices, like a connected car or smart meter, are connected by default and typically managed by the company the user is a customer of. They typically rely on cellular connectivity. For many other devices, the users themselves select and provide the connectivity, often Wi-Fi or cellular, and are personally responsible for the management of the devices.

Above all, the network infrastructure and devices need to be secure. It’s important for us all that we can trust how our devices operate and handle data. It will also be important to ensure device security through the life cycle of the devices. With the fast growth and wide of range of smart and connected devices from different brands – that come with different user interfaces and functions – it might be cumbersome to keep all devices up to date in terms of firmware and security status, for example, from the day the device is purchased until its recycled. However, this is a key requirement for enabling a secure and trustworthy IoT environment.

GDPR and similar efforts have raised more attention to privacy from the general public. As people become more informed and want to know how their devices and information are used and managed, there will be an increased need for tools that enable identifying, verifying, and controlling the data the devices are collecting and sharing.

The data paparazzi problem

Let’s now go into some issues that celebrities have to deal with, regarding paparazzi and stalkers, and how similar situations can also occur in the IoT world. We’ll also reveal if similar mitigation strategies can work for both regular, and data paparazzi.

Information availability

While the saying goes that “all publicity is good publicity”, many celebrities wouldn’t agree. They want to be in control of the information shared about them, to build a relevant public image but avoid revealing private relations, unattractive personal habits, or similar.

The same thinking is behind IoT security; information that’s needed to complete the intended tasks of an IoT device should be made available, while the rest of the information should be kept private. However, for IoT there’s often a more fine-grained approach as the information made available should in many cases only be made available to a restricted group of observers on a need-to-know basis.

The stalker problem

Many celebrities might also have to deal with stalkers – individuals who are overly interested in them and may try to gain as much information about them as possible, even using illegal means.

In the IoT space, the same phenomenon could happen to the average Joe. A smart home that doesn’t restrict access to the information it generates can easily become a lucrative target for an attacker; the information generated by the home can be used to gather different information about the inhabitants, which could later be leveraged to commit a cyber attack. Information about when various appliances are used, such as when doors are opened, lights are switched on/off, energy consumption fluctuates, can be a real treasure trove. This also means that potential attackers might not skip a house just because there’s some security applied, rather the security needs to be good enough that it deters attackers from trying, or stops them in their tracks.

Mitigation strategies

Celebrities tend to take precautions to hinder paparazzi and stalkers from invading their privacy. This can be in the form of living in gated communities or at least having access control to their property, through walls and gates for example. They might also apply surveillance measures such as motion sensors and surveillance cameras, and even security measures such as guards or guard dogs. When moving about in public, they might have a security guard with them to keep interested parties at least at arm’s length.

The same things need to be considered in the IoT world. For example, in smart homes, access to the internal network and the data generated and stored there should be controlled and protected, monitoring should be applied to pick up on suspicious behaviour, and reactive security measures, such as blocking and logging, should be taken when a breach is detected.

What has been normal for celebrities should now also become the standard for anyone in an IoT environment. When it comes to privacy, active measures should be taken to maintain it. While this might sound scary – and without proper actions, it would be – it’s not something that’s difficult to achieve. Rather it’s about having the right mindset and recognizing that security needs to be built in and considered more and more in the connected world, even for private citizens.

What to protect?

IoT is very much about the data generated and consumed by IoT devices. At first, this data may be seen as producing no risk, but even simple data in a certain context may be sensitive. For example:

  • Power consumption data recorded by a smart meter can provide a lot of information about what’s happening in a home. For example, based on the power consumption profile of TVs, switching on the TV will be visible from the data and if it’s possible to match the time the TV is turned on with the TV guide, that will provide a good indication as to what people at home are watching.
  • Any competent smart lock manufacturer will make sure that the communication with the lock is encrypted and its integrity protected. However, this might not be enough; by observing the traffic generated by a smart lock, one could potentially deduce whether the lock has been opened from the inside or the outside and thereby predict if there’s anyone in the house at any given moment. Other data generated by a smart home, including power consumption and light switch data, can be used to improve the prediction.
  • It’s inevitable that, at some point, an electric device will reach the end of its lifetime and will need to be disposed of. If the information stored on the device isn’t properly removed, a hacker who retrieves the device from a waste bin or who purchases it from a second-hand store could dig out data or credentials, as well as information about the services the device has been connected to. This is information that could be used to spy on the owner in a more efficient way, or even control or modify other devices belonging to the owner from the backend.

The question, therefore, shouldn’t be, “what do I need to protect?”, rather, “what don’t I need to protect?”, meaning “what do I actually need to share?”.

How to avoid unauthorized use of private data

There’s no silver bullet solution to this problem and the complexity is proportional to the number of devices and services that we as individuals interact with. Applying the best security practices is the responsibility of many entities. Device manufacturers and service providers need to provide secure devices/services, with proper control and maintenance for future proof device security.

But there are some rules of thumb that each of us can follow to minimize security and privacy issues related to our devices. By following these recommendations, one can build a system that will withstand a great deal of malicious intent, and deter the vast majority of attackers and opportunists. A few highly skilled and well-connected groups or individuals might be able to get past even the most secure systems, often through social engineering and phishing, that is, human weakness, rather than by technical security exploits. However, with the effort required, “average Joe” is maybe not the typical target.

End-user responsibilities include selecting suitable and secure solutions, and installing and configuring them in a secure way. Well-designed products should make this a relatively easy task, but it can also be done with the help of professionals. Furthermore, there are initiatives such as the Finnish Cybersecurity Label providing security labels for IoT devices, which aim to help consumers select products for which security has been verified.

Another important thing is to remember to update the software of the device.

And based on statistics regarding how a system’s security most often fails, a crucial task for the end-user is to remember to change the default password of all and any devices that are installed.

What can I do as a device owner?

  • Check whether the device manufacturer/service provider offers firmware/software upgrades in case of security issues.
  • Consider what data is generated and how it’s used and stored, for example, locally and/or in the cloud.
  • Check user terms and conditions to find out how data is used.
  • Remember to change the default device password.
  • Remember to keep device software up to date.
  • Remember to wipe the device before recycling.

And remember to consider the trustworthiness of a device and its services before purchase!

More reading

Read about Ericsson’s contribution to IoT security protocol standard OSCORE, which aims to optimize the computational strain on constrained devices, and keep a low overhead, while maintaining a high level of security.

Read our blog post on evolving SIM solutions for IoT. Such solutions allow the use of the well-established identity management features of mobile networks also for IoT deployments where manual SIM card handling isn’t feasible.

Explore Ericsson telecom security and security management.

Learn more about our research into the future of network security.

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Christianity, Epigenetics, Hunter-Gatherers, Fittest Survival and Evil

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forest tribes

By Nneka Okumazie

There’s a good chance that in the next century, or just beyond, most of the knowledge agreed, about whom hunter-gatherers were, or were about would have changed.

Not because scientists chose to be deliberately wrong, but because it is difficult to be certain of any measurement in retrospect.

Fossil records or whatever else may seem like incontrovertible evidence, but the measure of their dating and characteristics aren’t.

This is what we know based on what we used to check.

What we know, or think we know and agree to – changes with new measures and evidence.

So, why should what has changed – in the last few centuries, albeit in a similar direction, not be subject to change in another direction in the coming centuries?

There are other questions about hunter-gatherers, but one possible error is to think that going to some isolated village, or some Amazonian tribe is reflective – or similar to hunter-gatherers.

Most likely not, though the basic existence of people in those places is fascinating to those who watch or study them – they are not like the hunter-gatherers that “evolved” to current peoples.

With the said dominance of hunter-gatherers, it is unlikely that preference for expansion would have jumped – in what became major areas, and later development.

The life was basic enough – and satisfactory [without option] that to build something new may have been support-stricken, sabotaged, abandoned and strenuous beyond their imagination.

Their default option [or say epigenetics], though breakable, would have likely crept back – letting them stick to personal survival and not survival of development.

But say nothing is impossible, and they emerged to create advancement, today’s isolated tribes, supposed to be a reflection of them, continue to protest the encroachment of civilization – in different forms, showing that in the presence of an established option, they want their stay.

For hunter-gathers, there have been studies on their religion, culture and more.

There has also been chatter about how morality came without Christianity.

How about evil?

When did evil begin?

What were the causative factors?

Asking about evil is easier than the more complex question of languages – that even in some remote places, they have their own language – established beyond what could have been possible to string together as an invention, in those times.

When did evil start and why did evil survive?

The question of evil for hunter-gatherers – is vital, because they’d have been a perfect society if they didn’t.

Or maybe evil came as they emerged to develop.

If so, was it a good tradeoff for them?

The evil [or not] of hunter-gathers society is the question in their evolution.

For now, the ubiquity if evil – everywhere, says that the only reason evil has not taken over the world is not morality, or good always triumphs locution, but because of the Possessor of All.

There are often small and major stories of bitterness, hate, evil, wickedness, greed, lust, crime, envy, deception, etc. with some victories, but since many hearts think these, and often hurt about some disadvantage, it should have been a world – by far of evil, wiping out good.

But the Creator has not allowed – even though evil is substantially present.

So, why this world, why this suffering, why not just nothing, or care, or selfish pampering as wished?

Questioning the Creator – because no one alive has the full picture of everything – is like accepting that the laws of physics can’t just be broken, but seeking to break the laws of an immeasurable realm.

God is a spirit.

There are things in this world that just work – to conquer evil, some kind of triumph that would have made it impossible if it passed that time.

There is the Almighty – Jehovah, the force that keeps the good.

[Psalm 106:2, Who can utter the Mighty acts of the Lord? who can shew forth all His praise?]

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Russia’s Lavrov and Togo’s Dussey Share Views on Bilateral Economic Cooperation

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Mr Robert Dussey (Togo) and Mr Sergey Lavrov (Russia)

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

In order to strengthen political dialogue and promote economic relations, Professor Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad, held diplomatic talks on February 16, 2021, with his Russian counterpart Minister Sergey Lavrov in St. Petersburg.

According to reports, Professor Dussey’s visit was on the invitation by Moscow, and came on exactly one year after their last meeting on February 15, 2020, in Munich, the third-largest city in Germany.

After their closed-door discussion, Lavrov told the joint news conference that there is a mutual interest in intensifying and deepening the entire scope of bilateral ties, including trade, the economy and investment, and have agreed to look for specific opportunities for joint projects in areas such as energy, natural resources, infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

Regarding issues on the African continent, Lavrov re-emphasized that African problems (of which there are many) require African solutions.

“We strongly support the African Union, the G5 Sahel, and the sub-regional organizations in Africa, in their efforts to resolve numerous local conflicts and crises. We specifically focus on supporting the fight against terrorism, which poses a real threat, including for our friends in Togo and other coastal countries in the region of the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

In fact and as always, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s commitment to continue to act actively in pursuing peace and, to this end, called for the peaceful settlement of all kinds of differences, and reaffirmed support for sustainable development there in Africa.

Regarding issues from the last summit held in Sochi, Lavrov stressed: “We are interested in developing the resolutions of the Russia-Africa summit. We spoke in detail about the implementation of these agreements. The coronavirus pandemic has required adjustments. Nevertheless, the results of implementing the Sochi agreements are obvious. This year we will actively continue these efforts.”

The Association for Economic Cooperation with the African States was created in Russia following the 2019 Sochi summit. It includes representatives from the related departments and major Russian companies. The Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, which is a political association, was created, its secretariat is located at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The primary tasks of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum include the preparation and organization of the next Russia-Africa summit scheduled for 2022. The venue to be chosen by African leaders.

“We are still slightly behind other states, but trade between Russia and the African countries has been growing quite rapidly lately. I think we will soon make up for the time we lost in the years when, at the dawn of the new Russian statehood, we were too busy to maintain proper ties with Africa. A very strong foundation was laid in Soviet times, though,” Lavrov said further at the news conference about the current situation with relations between Russia and Africa.

It has always been the wish of both Russia and Africa to have an excellent quality of cooperation and partnership relations between the two regions and to diversify and deepen them as best as possible in order to provide an appreciable geopolitical influence and strategic power balance in Africa.

Russia and Togo, as with many other African countries, have had long time-tested relations over the years. The most recent high-level meetings were between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe during a sidelined bilateral meeting in October 2019, when Gnassingbe participated in the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, and on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018.

With an estimated population of about 7.9 million, Togo is among the smallest countries in Africa. Its economy depends highly on agriculture. Togo pursues an active foreign policy and participates in many international organizations. Relations between Togo and neighbouring states are generally good. It is particularly active in West African regional affairs and in the African Union.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is a versatile researcher and a passionate contributor, most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media

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The UNILAG’s Post UTME Crisis

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UNILAG

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Similar to every new invention which comes with opportunities and challenges, when candidates preparing for the University of Lagos Post UTME, got the news about the university’s management decision to allow candidates write the test from any location of their choice, it elicited two sets of reactions.

For a better understanding of the piece, UTME stands for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), a computer-based standardized examination for prospective undergraduates in Nigeria, designed to assess the problem-solving, critical thinking knowledge of each of the students.

For some, joy flashed on their faces. They and their parents were particularly happy because such a development will assist in saving both time and resources for the student that resides outside Lagos state.

Chiefly, It will save parents from inherent discomforts and risks associated with travelling on Nigerian roads which includes but not limited to; road mishaps, armed robbery attacks and kidnapping.

To the rest, the development was viewed with scepticism and fears. The crux of their fears is that the well thought out programme and intention will be destroyed by what they called ‘the Nigerian factor’. These worries were given a boost and further fed by arguments which bothered on lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude to work by an average Nigerian civil servant-and inability of regulators to go extra miles to ensure that the given assignments are perfectly executed.

But looking at the gamut of complaints within few days into the exercise, of how unreliable, inefficient/effective the UNILAG online portal has become as it randomly shut out students without prompting or recourse to stipulated time, coupled with highhandedness, lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude of the staff, and other instincts coming from the candidates, the fears raised earlier by some can no longer be described as unfounded but a word made flesh and now dwells among us.

For those that hitherto praised the initiative, such eulogy has like light faded, and jeer has since overtaken the cheers while hatred for the initiative, and fears about what becomes the admission fate of their children looms. They have come to the conclusion that as an unchained and uncontrolled torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so, has the UNILAG online post-UTME serves but to destroy student’s ambition, serve them with bleak admission opportunity and cause dropping spirits among parents.

As a matter of fact, each passing day at the university brings more evidence that the school is facing serious administrative emergencies-that demand immediate actions.

Out of many, this piece will accommodate ‘testimonies’ from three affected candidates to assist the university management look inward, reflect critically on their own role, and identify the ways they often advertently or inadvertently contribute to the problems and then change how they act by addressing the present debacle.

Going by their accounts, at about 11.a.m on Tuesday, February 15, 2021, one of the candidates, a male, (name withheld) arrived at a business centre located somewhere around Ketu part of Lagos. He got connected via the system to the UNILAG portal as a signal was established.

After the preliminary protocols, the system electronically generated the first subject. And he gladly and promptly attempted questions one and two. As he was expecting the number three question, what he got to his greatest surprise was a message from the portal signalling that he exited the examination page/sheet.

The experience of the second candidate was not quite different from the first. Everything started very fine but at about the 7th minute into the journey, the portal for inexplicable reason got him disconnected.

But if these accounts are considered a challenge, the experience of the third candidate is a crisis.

First, he successfully logged in to the school portal and just immediately, he got a message ordering him to remove his earpiece which he promptly complied with. And in a matter of seconds, another instruction popped at the portal directing him to remove his face cap. As he raised his right hand to comply with this second directive, the next message that followed to his greatest dismay was that he has exited the examination port. These are verifiable facts.

This discomforting accounts aside being a reality Nigeria and Nigerian must worry about, it will necessitate the posers as to; how many of the youths in Nigeria would be affected? Who will stop UNILAG from this disappointing arrangement? And who will be the judge? Or must we allow this injustice like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes in the nearest future?

Certainly, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our schools work and our children properly educated at the right time. But in this particular case, if the University of Lagos management and other concerned arms of government fail to do the needful, it will again dispatch another sign of a nation unmindful of the fact that our children enjoy the right to education as recognized by a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognizes a compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, as well as the progressive introduction of free higher education/obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.

We must not also fail to remember that very recently, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in line with its mandate to promote and protect human rights has established the right to education as a thematic area of focus to drive its vision of having all children enrolled in school as well as to ensure that the culture of human rights is promoted and maintained in schools.

Certainly, this piece holds the opinion that they (candidates) reserve the right to hold the nation and leaders alike accountable if they (government) fail to provide this traditional but universal responsibility to the citizenry which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and the election of leaders confer on them particularly now that their future/ civilization is hanging in the balance as a result of such failures.

Another urgent reason why the school authority and of course the Federal Ministry of Education must reassess this process and address the present injustice are the threat that keeping brilliant children on the waiting list for university admission for too long could pose to the nation. Idleness could make them take to the street.

As we know, the streets are known for breeding all sorts of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat such as armed robbers, thugs, drug abusers, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society.

Ideally, this is not the best time to glut over the cost implication of organizing fresh examination for these candidates as no amount of investment in the education sector will be considered too much. We also need to face the fact that the traditional progressive solution to societal problems is to redouble emphasis on education.

This fact has made education an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of society’s ills. In an age where information has more economic value than ever before, it is obvious that education should have a higher national priority.

As Nigerians and the watching world await UNILAG’s decision, If we do nothing about this, it simply means our youths/nation by extension are faced with a bleak future. But then, one point to remember is that bringing a radical improvement or achieving sustainable development in a way that both protects the rights and opportunities of coming generations is overwhelmingly urgent. These teaming students are knowledge-hungry. What they innocently ask for is another opportunity for examination delivered in an environment that works.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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New EFCC Boss Abdulrasheed Bawa: A Fair and Thorough Professional

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Thorough Professional

By Sunday Adebayo

It is no longer news that Abdulrasheed Bawa is on his way to becoming the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) as nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari, pending the Senate’s approval.

This relatively unknown young man appears to be the perfect match for the country’s fight against corruption, both in the low and high places, going by his antecedents.

This was contained in a letter by President Buhari on Tuesday, February 16 to the upper chamber of the House of Assembly, as a matter of constitutional urgency, to confirm Bawa in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part 1, CAP E 1 of the EFCC Act 2004.

A lot of controversies have surrounded the office of the anti-graft agency over various tenures, from preferential treatment to not following due process, unfair judgment in its investigations, cherry-picking who to take to the slaughter, and the likes. That seems to be the very ‘vices’ Bawa has come to nip in the bud.

For the first time in history, after so much drama surrounding the sack of the immediate past chairman, Ibrahim Magu, an officer who rose through the cadet of the agency is going to be leading the war against corruption. This is vital as he already knows and understands the terrain, which is going to be key in its leadership operating style going forward.

So, age and youthfulness are not just the things that stand Bawa out in this highly revered position. Bawa, who rose from being the pioneer cadet of the commission, is a maven when it comes to financial crimes investigations, having gone through several pieces of training in the agency institution in addition to his first degree in Economics, Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy while currently pursuing another degree in Law.

Those who know him well tell tales of his bravery, dedication, fairness, and balance in his investigation expertise and well known for seeing through any case he hits with his teeth.

His thorough stand for the truth, interest in hearing both sides before taking a stand are some of the features that distinguish him in his wealth of experience in the institution.

The 40-year-old was the brave brain behind the famous Deziani crude oil swap, Atlantic Energy, and petroleum subsidy fraud investigations by the country’s formidable anti-corruption institution, recovering millions of dollars worth of properties in the UK, Switzerland, U.K., U.A.E., U.S.A., Canada including 92 of such assets in Nigeria and billions of naira, prosecuting many companies.

The former Ibadan-zonal head of the EFCC was said to have run the notorious yahoo boys in the area out of town, before moving to Port Harcourt to wage war against oil bunkers.

He has also been part of the prosecution of advance fee fraud, bank fraud, official corruption, money laundering, and other economic and financial-related crimes.

Bawa, who has been in the anti-corruption fight for about 17 years now, is also said to be putting to bed the impression that some people are untouchables as he is said to be taking the war to the house of ‘the bouillon chief’, former governor of Lagos and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is also chesting the investigations against the former governor of Niger State, Muazu Babaginda Aliyu, who is currently facing trial.

Prior to his appointment, Bawa, who is the youngest ever to lead the EFFC, the commission has been without a substantive chairman since Ibrahim Lamorde in 2015. The immediate past chairman, Ibrahim Magu, operated in an acting capacity from 2015 to 2020, after the Senate failed to confirm him and was later removed in controversial circumstances.

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Abdulrasheed Bawa: Setting the Pace in Fight Against Corruption

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Abdulrasheed Bawa

By Wole Arisekola

The appointment of 40-year-old Abdulrasheed Bawa by President Muhammadu Buhari as the head of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), no doubt ushers in new dawn at the anti-graft agency that has over the years been riddled with leadership crisis since its establishment many years ago during the second term of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The nomination of the youthful and very thorough security operative to replace the embattled and suspended former chairman, Ibrahim Magu, will obviously set a new pace for the commission, what with Bawa’s track record of inimitable achievement as a groundbreaker.

Since the laudable appointment of Bawa who is a Chief Detective Superintendent, mixed reactions have continued to trail his new office on account of those who dread what he can do if allowed to hold sway without any encumbrance.

As one of the earliest recruits into the commission at inception, without a police training and background, Bawa has assiduously worked in close contact with all the previous Chairmen of the commission, unblemished and diligently. His coming on board now as the chairman of EFCC comes with a varied wealth of experience in the fight against the hydra-headed monster of corruption and other financial vices.

Against the background that those before him as chairman of EFCC came from their privilege background as top police officers with insights into the workings of what goes on in high places viz-a-viz corruption, Bawa is coming in from a totally different and fresh background without being an appendage to anyone in the corridors of power, and may just be the breath of fresh air needed in the fight against corruption without fear or favour, a development that is giving many a reason to believe that the fight is already a win-win battle.

A trained security operative with a vast experience in investigation and prosecution of Advance Fee fraud cases, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering and other economic and financial crimes, Bawa holds a BSc in Economics and a Masters in international affairs and Diplomacy. He is one of the pioneer EFCC cadet officers when the commission was set up in 2005. He has undergone several specialized trainings in security and investigating matters both at home and abroad.

Perhaps these sterling qualities and the very impressive and intimidating dossier is what is giving many of his traducers the jitters since his appointment as they have begun to run series of clandestine campaigns of calumny against him to frustrate him even before he hits the ground running as he is always won’t to be.

But those who know Bawa well will tell you that he can never be intimidated or arm-stronged to bow to anyone’s whims and caprices as he remains undaunted to take his job very seriously without minding whose ox is gored.

Here are 10 things to know about the incoming EFCC boss:

* He was born in Jega, Kebbi State, 40 years ago. This makes him the first person to be appointed to the EFCC job from anywhere in Nigeria other than the North-East zone.

* ️Bawa is the first career operative to head the EFCC. His appointment puts to rest agitation by “core EFCC staff” to have one of their own to head the commission.

* Bawa served under all EFCC past chairpersons, starting with Nuhu Ribadu, who recruited the first set of civilians into EFCC (including Bawa) in 2005.

* The operative started work with EFCC from its Lagos office, after his recruitment in 2005. He went on to work at the headquarters in Abuja, and for a year in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

* ️He was educated at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2001 and Master’s in International Relations and Diplomacy in 2011.

* ️He is a Deputy Chief Detective Superintendent, a position he was promoted to in 2016.

* ️Bawa has led a number of key corruption and financial crimes investigations including the infamous case of former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, the case of former Niger State governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu and that of the controversial crude oil swap. He was also involved in the investigation of petroleum subsidy fraud (2012-2015).

* ️Bawa has headed EFCC zonal offices in Ibadan and Port Harcourt between June 2018 and December 2019.

* ️From Port Harcourt, Bawa was posted to Abuja as head of Capacity Development Division of the EFCC Academy, Karu.

* ️Bawa was trained by the FBI, KPMG and many other institutions in the UK, United States and Nigeria.

The coming of Bawa will definitely bring a new dawn to the long protracted fight against corruption which has defied all known measures to nip it in the bud. Bawa is set to break records if confirmed by the Nigerian Senate to lead the commission.

Wole Arisekola, a businessman, writes from Lagos

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Nano, Micro, and Small Businesses: Path to Growth with Government Services And Contracts

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Timi Olubiyi Recession and Pandemic

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

In today’s turbulent business environment, predominantly with the economic recession, inflation, and the disruptive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, strategy becomes the main source of competitive advantage for businesses and organisations.

However, for a strategy to be meaningful, a business must have a reliable and working business and organisational structure.

The fundamental problem that occurs in most businesses particularly the nano, micro, and small-sized enterprises in the country is that they operate informally and how to establish a successful and profitable enterprise in a way to satisfy the common and personal interest is complicated.

I am delighted to correctly inform you that this issue revolves around sound business structure planning. Hence, when a business and its activities are divided, organised, coordinated, and controlled without duplications and are hassle-free, it is said to be structured.

An organisational structure can be seen as ways in which responsibilities and power are allocated and work procedures are carried out in a business by operators and workers.

From context observation small businesses in Nigeria are rarely structured, usually, they have a small working group and face-to-face communication is frequent, this generally undermines formality, business growth, and productivity.

A point to note is that this informal arrangement is prevalent in the country and is a worrisome culture amongst start-ups and small businesses.

Thus, this piece is to share the importance of business formalisation and the need to have organisational procedures, established rules, and responsibilities assigned, regardless of the business size, employee size, revenue generation, or the range of the business function.

Having a business incorporated or registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and setting up a business account in a commercial bank are only the starting points of formalisation of business, structure involves a whole lot more.

The idea of structure in a business is for efficiency and effectiveness because it affects the safety of assets, fundraising, taxation, customer experience, governance, and engagements.

The smooth continuation of any business upon ownership change or succession and the financial information of the business is also affected by the structure in the business. Business requires structure chiefly for continuity, growth, and profitability.

In my view, the efficiency of a business can be measured by how well the business is structured. Therefore, for a business either large, small, or nano to fulfil its purpose and have a mechanism constructed to achieve the purpose, a functional structure has to be in place in the business.

More importantly, functional structure affects business operations in two ways. First, it provides the foundation on which standard operating procedures and routines rest.

Second, it determines which individuals get to participate in which decision – making processes, and thus to what extent their views shape the business operations.

To substantiate the perennial issue of informality and lack of structure among businesses, a survey was conducted on MSMEs in Lagos State, the commercial nerve centre of the country – (The computer village Ikeja, Alaba International Market, and within some market associations (Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers-ASPAMDA and Balogun Business Association) to get more insights.

The survey revealed that a large percentage of close to 97.4 per cent of the respondents who are business owners and SME operators have organic structure (no accountant, no operating software, no technology usage, no rules, and procedures) in their businesses.

With the survey, a high number of poorly run businesses with little or no structure were identified and this is a huge challenge to business continuity.

Some of the issues they face as a result of this informality include high employee turnover, and hiring problems, low productivity, high number of low skilled staff, lack of bookkeeping, and in most cases no accounting or customer/sales data.

However, such data could be used to gain insights into sales, profitability, patronage, and for strategy, implementation to stay ahead of the competition.

More so with such data sets (business and customers) if available, it can help to identify areas of weakness and strength of the business and also ensure no part of the business operation or customer experience is overlooked.

With good structure, businesses can provide exceptional customer service experience and audited financial statements useful for government procurements, services and public contract qualifications.

For a business to have a good structure, these components; the board, the management, business goals, vision, operations, governance, accounting, bookkeeping, human resources, and technology usage have to be defined. Because they have a significant effect on the way the organisation performs its activities and if one component does not fit, the performance of the whole business will be hindered.

For instance, improper accounting systems and bookkeeping can result in financial disaster for a small business or even cause a business failure.

In addition, governance structures and leadership is equally important because it is the frameworks that can help businesses achieve long-term success for all their stakeholders.

Significantly, to improve the structure and efficiency of a business the most central formalisation tool available is the technology and the organizational chart.

We live in an age of high technology development in various sectors and industries, this increasingly improves the adoption of automation for businesses and is, therefore, a more logical way to support business structure. Business structure with technology will reduce operational cost; provides standardized procedure, accountability, and clear reporting among others.

For several reasons, large firms may have a comparative advantage over small businesses however mainly on business and organizational structure.

Nano, micro, and small businesses are poorly structured all across the country, therefore formality and adequate structure are advised for business sustainability and growth. It is also apparent that SME operators need to adopt good governance, prepare a financial statement as at when due, and keep proper records.

It will help such small businesses take other opportunities such as taking part in government services, procurements, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and contract exercises.

Recall, the government is the biggest procurer of goods and services, operating in the public sector space should be a target, however, it requires adequate formality and structure. If this part of your business is sorted it will be easy to identify and qualify for opportunities within the government and public space. This can provide a leverage considering the current economic realities.

Other opportunities include raising funds in the capital market, attracting foreign direct investment, seeking a loan from the bank, and so on.

Raising long-term funds with low cost through the stock exchange should not be a daunting task for small businesses if a structure and good governance are in place.

In conclusion, to stem the tides of the effect of this current reality and harsh economic climate, businesses need to innovate from an organic structure to a functional structure and divide the organisation into units, based on their function.

When a business environment changes, the organisational strategy needs to change, structure, roles, objectives, and functions should realign with the new realities.

The big question is, has your business acted? If you have a structure, have you done a performance review or done a technology upgrade? If it becomes increasingly difficult to re-engineer or structure your business where necessary, the engagement of knowledgeable professionals can make a substantial impact on your business operations and for strategy advice. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is also a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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