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PTF Builds its Accountability Record

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PTF Covid-19

By Chido Nwakanma

“As of 25th January, the PTF had received an initial release of N22.1 billion, with only 59.8% of this figure utilized or committed thus far.

This is because of the efficiency in the system plus the support from partners and donors that allowed the government to be judicious with the use of the funds thus far.

The entire PTF funds were expected to be exhausted by the end of September 2020. Based on current projections, these funds may likely last until the end of June 2021 and contribute to the response.” – Information from a PTF insider

As should be expected, there is growing public interest in the funds allocated to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and its management of public resources. The less charitable even throw huge figures in the air either for mischief or as winks in the dark.

Given the country’s experience with public finance, there is justification for the attention and even speculation. It is in everyone’s interest that the Task Force be held accountable and its expenditures closely scrutinized.

Proactively, the PTF has worked with the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), development partners and NGOs to monitor and safeguard its activities.  It would appear that the PTF fully geared up from the beginning to be an example of accountability and good governance.

Yet there is so much publicly available information on PTF activities to serve as basis for rudimentary desktop search. The Task Force publishes a full accounting of the sources and use of funds available to it on its website. The Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and UNDP sponsored transparency portals on which financial and material resources mobilized and deployed are displayed and updated.

The “Resource Mobilisation Tracker” on the PTF website captures financial contributions, material donations received, as well as technical assistance it received. It also provides a list of local manufacturers of various items critical to the management of COVID-19. These include ventilators, PPEs, ethanol, and test kits. There is so much more information on its website – https://statehouse.gov.ng/covid19/.

In fact, on the 15th of January, 2021, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the PTF COVID-19, Boss Mustapha raised the bar of accountability by issuing a detailed statement on the “allocation and management of funds for the national response to COVID-19 by the Presidential Task Force.”

Information on the allocation and management of funds for the national response to COVID-19 is also available. The Federal Government received tremendous support from the international community, the Central Bank of Nigeria, NNPC, Partners and the organised private sector (CACOVID).

Funds from the donors and partners were not expended by the PTF but were used by these donors for activities such as building isolation centers, support for equipment, supplies, trainings, palliatives, supporting staff etc.

Their contributions appeared to have removed the urgency for immediate deployment of government resources and made it possible for earmarked resources to be deployed in a more tactical and phased approach.

As a result, according to the PTF transparency dashboards (as of December 6, 2021), the PTF had spent N7.446 billion of the released N22.1 billion (and not trillions as rumoured) in the 10 months of its existence.

In fact, the N22.1 billion was only the first of three tranches of money totalling N32.5 billion that was meant to be released to the PTF over a 3-month period at the beginning of the epidemic. The balance of N14.4 billion has been allocated and committed for several ongoing activities and are being utilized for the response. Funding continues to be strategically dispensed as the nation grapples with the effects of the second wave.

Sources at the PTF speak of its contributions in saving significant resources for the government by eliminating duplication of funds for activities already funded and subsequently appropriated again under the 2020 Amended COVID-19 budgets. An example is how it worked with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning in late 2020 to reverse over N5 billion that was appropriated for Health Operations, and thus avoided duplication.

Since early December 2020, the global community has focused on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Many countries have joined in ordering and getting available vaccines for their citizens. Nigeria cannot be left behind.

As expected, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 is in the fray of all conversations around the management of the pandemic in Nigeria. This is the case with the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

In early January, Nigeria entered another phase of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the Federal Government announced arrangements for the procurement and delivery of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, likely in the 1st quarter 2021. The sum of N10 billion was also released to enable the operationalization of a public-private vaccine manufacturing facility (for the manufacture of routine childhood vaccines in Lagos).

The PTF will continue to support and coordinate this crucial assignment at a strategic level through existing health structures within the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Federal Ministry of Health.

COVID-19 became a pandemic well after passage of the National 2020 Budget. The Federal Government made a special provision for funds for the multi-sectoral operations of the PTF due to the global emergency. The National Assembly subsequently appropriated funds to MDAs to address the impact of COVID-19 on health and other socio-economic concerns around the mandatory lockdowns.

Vaccines, however, were not included in the 2021 budget or provided for in the PTF’s funding. As a result, the Task Force is coordinating the strategy around mobilization of funds for the vaccine programme in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health and NPHCDA. It continues to assume the critical role of a facilitator and enabler to ensure all aspects of the national response are funded and amply supported.

States and the FCT received Federal Government support with financial resources to prepare them to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The states got N1 billion each; except for Lagos which received N10 billion and Kano funded with N5 billion. All states signed up to an Incident Action Plan that will be implemented with this money and monitored through an arrangement with the Nigeria Governors Forum.

Accountability and transparency appear to be central pillars of success and areas of strength in the performance of the PTF. Nothing less should be expected given the calibre of technocrats from various fields charged with implementing the Task Force mandate.

A large team of public health experts from local and international institutions have assisted the PTF in advising and monitoring the impact of public health measures that so far has helped the country escape the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The technical teams supporting the incident management pillars of the Task Force continue to play a critical role in strengthening the infrastructure and human resources capacity required to manage a major pandemic, including:

Expanding and upscaling critical health infrastructure, in particular, the addition of 70 molecular laboratories (at least one per state from just 5 in March 2020) to improve access to diagnosis and prompt management of COVID-19 cases.

Building capacity in the health system through the training of over 35,500 health workers nationwide including over 5,500 doctors, about 6,000 nurses and about 20,000 allied health workers, including community health extension workers at the Primary Health Care level.

The establishment of 43 Rapid Response Teams across Nigeria.

Coordinating the provision of 131 accredited isolation centres across the country by the private sector consortium CACOVID, state governments and individual donors.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge countries across the globe, and Nigeria is not an exception in this regard. The PTF has a lot of work to do before we can overcome the epidemic. However, all hope is not lost – with prudence, accountability and determined focus, they can deliver and flatten the curve once again.

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Money, Society, Development and Economics

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By Nneka Okumazie

For some people, all they will ever become is what money can make them.

For them, the power of everything money can do makes everything about money.

They often measure to money and measure for money. They talk for it and ensure it is what is seen about them.

Many of these people have money above all culture in some of the countries the people there have described as unbearable.

In most of these countries, the same reason government does not work is the same thing outsiders are about, bringing the country to a contiguous halt.

Government is all about who can grab for self and interests, around power, resources and money.

This same reason is why many organized crimes exist and several kinds of harmful practices across the private sector.

Money will never develop any country. Though some continue to say money is what is lacking.

Money will never change anything about anyone because if there are real changes at any point, money may have enhanced it but was never cause.

Things that look like changes that money made does not change; they are just more of how money keeps itself important.

For many things done because there was money to do it, they are many times purposeless. There are also others that should be been important, but because money was more important in that project, it also became purposeless.

If in some developing country, someone lives in a nice apartment or drives a cool vehicle, making that individual seem important, the importance of the individual is to whom, and what purpose does it serve, and for what it serves, what does it change, affect or improve?

The comfort that is lived in many of these places is a false peak.

It keeps them there and there is rarely much else to find meaning for.

Money continues to dictate how to be seen to have it, going around in circles, absent of progress, but ensuring participants are unaware.

Money, for what it can, makes people become a sunset. Money stays important using people as tools to itself.

[Ecclesiastes 6:7, All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.]

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5 Tips for Tackling Imposter Syndrome

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Aisha Pandor CEO SweepSouth Imposter Syndrome

By Aisha Pandor

Imposter syndrome is something that most of us have felt at one time or another. Even if you know you have all the right qualifications and experience to be in a position, it can be all too easy to feel like you don’t belong.

Whether it’s someone dismissing your work or even just casually telling you about something you’ve never heard of as if it’s common knowledge, it can be an incredibly difficult space to climb out of.

Imposter syndrome can be especially insidious among entrepreneurs, who already have to deal with ecstatic highs and crippling lows. In fact, a 2020 study found that 84% of entrepreneurs and small business owners experience imposter syndrome. Many also worry that they’ll be “found out” for their lack of knowledge and ability.

That chimes with my own experiences as an entrepreneur and investor. When Alen (my husband) and I first started SweepSouth back in 2013, I had no experience as an entrepreneur. I’d come from an academic background and everyone at the various startup events and pitching competitions we attended seemed so much calmer and more confident. I couldn’t help wondering what I was doing there and why I’d sacrificed a potentially comfortable life for something I was certain everyone else was doing better at.

While that feeling occasionally rears its head again, I’ve learned a number of strategies over the years to effectively tackle it. Here are five of them.

Remember that your journey is your own

For entrepreneurs especially, imposter syndrome can be fuelled by comparing yourself to others. It can strike when a business that started at the same time as you gets a batch of great write-ups in the press or when they raise a massive funding round. At times like that, it’s important to remember that you’re on your own business journey, no one else’s. By trying to match someone else’s success because it makes you feel inadequate, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Remember, if you’re making progress, you’re doing the right thing. Many of the entrepreneurs who seemed so confident at the early events I went to have seen their businesses not perform as well as they’d hoped. The same is true of those who raised headline-grabbing early funding rounds. If I’d let comparisons to them cause me to waiver from my focus, SweepSouth would be in a very different place today.

Address your weaknesses

Sometimes the feelings associated with imposter syndrome come about because someone brings up a legitimate issue that your business needs to address. It might, for instance, be something that a potential investor brings up. The trick is not to take it as a sign that you don’t belong, but as something fixable that you can address. Every person and every business has weaknesses. That doesn’t mean they don’t belong or shouldn’t exist.

Remember your accomplishments

Write them down if you have to. Chances are you’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where you are. This is especially important if you don’t look like everyone else in the room. If you’re a woman, for instance, nothing about your male peers’ maleness makes them any more suited to their jobs or running a business.

Have a support network

Remember that stat from the beginning of the article about 84% of entrepreneurs suffering from imposter syndrome? That’s not an indictment on entrepreneurs but an opportunity. By joining a local, regional, or even international entrepreneurs’ organisation, you expose yourself to people who’ve been through the same things as you (including imposter syndrome) and who can guide you through any issues you might face.

Turn it on its head

Finally, remember that real imposters are unlikely to feel imposter syndrome. Being a successful imposter depends on outsized levels of confidence. So, if you’re feeling like an imposter, you can take it as a sign that you’re probably on the right track.

Aisha Pandor is the CEO of SweepSouth

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Reminiscing on the Loss of a Friend, Dreams Deferred, and Bold New Beginnings

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Chris Ihidero loss of a friend

By Chris Ihidero

One evening some eight years ago, my good friend Steve Babaeko walked into a mutual friend’s office looking a little less than his usual uber-confident self.

You won’t find many people who can claim to have seen Steve looking any less than assured: He consistently cuts the picture of a supremely confident man and his achievements are a testament to how that confidence has been well earned. But that evening in 2012, Steve had just put in his resignation as Creative Director of 141 Worldwide, the advertising agency he helped build from scratch and made a market leader. He would have to start all over again and the future held no guarantees. We broke out a bottle of cognac and toasted to new possibilities. As our mutual friend said that evening, “What’s the worst that can happen? You may fail, but at least you would have tried.”

When Amaka Igwe passed on in 2014 just as we were about to launch the TV channel we had been working on for about four years, it soon became clear to me that if I was going to have any shot at realizing the dream we shared, I would have to say goodbye to Amaka Igwe Studios. AIS was my home for eight years. I started out as an apprentice TV director and rose to become Chief Operating Officer. It was the place that built me. On the day I made the decision to leave, I stood in the building we had just furnished for the TV station, gazed at the transmission equipment we had installed and knew I was walking away to start all over again. Walking into a future with no guarantees.

Like Steve that evening, I was a lot less assured.

It’s been seven years since that decision and I have had an incredible run. It hasn’t been a sunset stroll in the park but I’m grateful for my contributions to the TV and film industry in Africa so far. While I worked for different TV networks, wrote, produced, directed and consulted on many film projects (and continue to do so), I started quietly building PinPoint Media. I knew what had to come next. I knew what I wanted to do with my life was to build a content delivery machinery that delivered excellence repeatedly.

In September 2019 we cranked on the content machinery we had been working on for a year and hit the set to deliver the first product off our production line, season one of Man Pikin, a family comedy series. Man Pikin is my nod to Fuji House of Commotion, Nigeria’s longest running and highly popular family comedy series I was privileged to direct for five years.

Man Pikin is the story of a man’s daily struggles with raising his kids after his wife’s passing. We shot 26 episodes for a first season and recently, IROKO TV acquired the rights for broadcast on their ROK Channels, as well as a french version for francophone Africa on NollywoodTV. It premieres on the 12th and 20th of December respectively.

In Q3 2021, we shot season two, another 26 episodes, and that’s not all we’re working on. But for COVID-19 actually, we would have rounded off the first year of our PinPoint Content Fund execution with 104 episodes of TV series in the bag. That target will now be met in 2022, starting with season three of Man Pikin and season one of a new series. Three feature films will also be shot in 2022, and we will also deliver a digital TV channel. Yeah, we have been very busy!

As I watched final edits of the episodes of Man Pikin before shipping off to our distributors in France recently, I reminisced on the loss of a friend and dreams deferred. This propels me forward as I focus on polishing and further knocking our content machinery into shape in order to deliver a five-year plan that culminates in the production of five thousand hours of content yearly from five production centres across Nigeria and Africa.

Scary, right? Well, that was the dream I once shared with an amazing woman and now I must trudge on scared, but confident that we will deliver the reference point for TV/film content excellence, whatever the challenges we will face, because, like the original soundtrack for Man Pikin says “Every day we keep moving forward ooh ooh ooh, ‘cos someday our dreams will come true ooh ohh ooh, man pikin go fall but will stand up ooh oooh ohhhh, for together we are strong and we’ll always have each other, ah ah.”

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