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2023 Polls: Buhari Urges Candidates to Adopt Issue-focused Campaigns

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Buhari APC crisis

By Adedapo Adesanya

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to facilitate a free, fair and transparent electoral process in next year’s general elections.

This was disclosed by Mr Buhari on Sunday morning during his 2022 Democracy Day speech.

He noted that this will be done to honour the memory of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, the late MKO Abiola.

In a televised broadcast, the President called on political parties, candidates and the electorate not to see the elections as a do-or-die affair, adding that democracy is about the will of the majority.

“There must be winners and losers,” he said on Sunday.

Mr Buhari expressed his satisfaction with the primary elections conducted across various political parties ahead of next year’s general elections, saying the primaries had set the tone for peaceful polls next year.

He said, “Fellow Nigerians, this is my last Democracy Day speech as your President. By June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, you will already have a new President. I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.

“It is important for all of us to remember that June 12, 2023, will be exactly 30 years from the 1993 Presidential elections. In honour and memory of one of our national heroes of democracy, Chief M.K.O Abiola, GCFR, we must all work together to ensure this transition is done in a peaceful manner. I am hopeful that we can achieve this.

“The signs so far are positive. Recently, all registered political parties conducted primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general elections. These primaries were peaceful and orderly. Those who won were magnanimous in their victories. Those who lost were gracious in defeat. And those aggrieved opted to seek judicial justice as opposed to jungle justice.

“I followed the party primaries closely from the state level to the presidential level. I was very impressed to see across all the political parties that most candidates ran issue-based campaigns. The language and tone throughout were on the whole measured and controlled.

“I am promising you a free, fair and transparent electoral process. And I am pleading with all citizens to come together and work with government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.”

Mr Buhari called on candidates in next year’s elections to imbibe an issues-based approach and desist from character assassination as campaigns officially begin in September.

“As we move into the general election campaign season, we must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a do-or-die affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.

“I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue running issue-focused campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity. As leaders, you must all showcase the high character and never forget that the world is watching us and Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide an example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers,” Mr Buhari said.

He said his government, in the last seven years, had made “significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard votes.”

While saying that his government was doing all within its power to safeguard the nation and protect citizens, Mr Buhari urged Nigerians to play their part as security agencies could not shoulder the burden alone.

He added, “On this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers. I am living daily with the grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. The security agencies and I are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.

“If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction. I will conclude this Democracy Day speech, my last as President, by assuring you of my commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies from within and outside.”

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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ICPC Uncovers N7bn Padded in Budget as Empowerment Projects

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ICPC Uncovers N7bn Padded in Budget as Empowerment Projects

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Bolaji Owasanoye, has disclosed that the agency has discovered the fraudulent insertion of over N7 billion in the budget by some politicians as empowerment projects.

He made this disclosure at the 4th National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector held at the State House Conference Centre on Tuesday, in Abuja.

“Just last week the commission in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders met with some MDAs on the recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to improving the budget process. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary allocation for direct benefit. In one case, a PEP successfully increased the budget of an agency in order for the agency to buy a property from him. 

“In another case the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7 billion for a catchment population of about one million people in the name of empowerment. Both cases are under investigation,” Mr Owasanoye revealed at the event.

He further said that the intensified scrutiny of personnel and capital cost of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) by ICPC has led to proactive restrictions of surpluses or duplications in the budget, decrying how some unscrupulous persons undermined the system by abusing the budgetary process for their gains.

He said ICPC reviews of special funds meant to improve education delivery such as UBEC and TETFUND has also revealed continued abuses and breach of procurement standards and compromise of statutory mandates while a System Study and review on SUBEB in six states for 2019-2020 revealed that the intention of UBE law to support states to improve basic education is frustrated by lack of commitment by state governments in not providing matching grants amongst other defaults.

The ICPC boss also disclosed that the commission, in support of government’s effort to improve revenue generation, has recovered N1.264 billion tax in 2022, maintaining that the organisation would continue to investigate diversion of tax and other statutory revenues.

The keynote speaker and former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, decried how some reform policies formulated with good intentions are often circumscribed by endemic in the education sector. 

He listed such reforms to include Procurement Act 2007 which requires that contracts of certain threshold should seek approval either at the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) or at the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), requirement by members of the National Assembly that every Vice Chancellor must appear to defend their budgetary proposals before funds would be appropriated and the recent requirement  by the federal government that no university should recruit any staff, even to fully existing vacancies, without at least three layers of approvals by the Federal bureaucracy at the NUC, Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. 

“All these three policies/measures, in spite of the good intentions, which may have underlined them, not only undermined the relative autonomy of the universities, but have also introduced extraneous relations and influences laden with corrupt practices. Submissions made by Vice Chancellors to, especially, MTBs often returned with reversed contract awards for extraneous and inexplicable reasons,” he said.

“In the past, the NUC presented and defended the budget for federal universities, and appropriated funds were shared/allocated to universities transparently, using a widely known formula. Nowadays, VCs who go to the National Assembly to present/defend their universities budgets are ‘compelled’ or ‘induced’ to make deals, in order to, either prevent cuts in their budgetary proposals or so as to get substantial padding in their appropriations, for projects to be executed solely by the Senator who negotiated the deal”

“With regards to obtaining approval, prior to recruitment or replacement of staff, there is evidence to suggest that VCs have to guarantee slots for the approving authorities to secure approvals. In filling those slots, no regard is paid to advertised vacancies and required qualifications for the positions and, almost invariably, more unrequited non-academic staff are employed, further distorting the ratio of non-academic staff to academic staff in the NUC guidelines,” he added.

While speaking on the negative consequences of corruption in the education sector, Professor Jega observed that its solutions cannot be found in isolation saying strategies for its resolution would necessarily have to be in the context of a comprehensive grand strategy for addressing corruption in the wider public sector. 

He also called for active citizenry in the demand of quality education for their children saying doing so would make the sector accountable.

The high point of the summit was the presentation of Public Service Integrity Award to Superintendent Daniel Itse Amah, a police officer who rejected a bribe of $200,000 from armed robbery syndicate, and the presentation of a plaque and a painting made by an ICPC officer,  Mamman Kuru John, using the most recent and modern mode of painting known as impacto.

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Spleet Raises $2.6m to Spread Rent Offerings, Products to Nigerians

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Spleet

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigerian prop-tech startup, Spleet, has closed a $2.6 million seed round to scale its residential rent-focused products.

The funds were provided by MaC Venture Capital, Noemis Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Assembly Fund, Ajim Capital, Francis Fund, as well as Metaprop VC and HoaQ Fund.

This fresh injection followed the $625,000 pre-seed funding round raised by the company in March.

Since its inception, Spleet has processed millions in rent, housed over 1,000 tenants and onboarded over 35 individual and corporate landlords.

With the funding, the startup plans to expand its product offerings to include Collect, a service that automatically receives rent payments on behalf of landlords; Verify, a tool that enables landlords and real estate agents to vet and carry out adequate background checks on tenants before offering lease agreements; and Rent Now Pay Later, a no collateral, affordable-interest rate rental loan product.

The Rent Now, Pay Later, which has been in the testing phase since December, gives renters access to no-collateral loans up to N3 million with an interest of about 3.5 per cent monthly to finance rent payments.

It is built on the back of payroll access, with a handful of users who make a one-month down payment while the company finances the remaining 11 months.

Speaking on the funding, Mr Tola Adesanmi said, “This funding would go into deepening our product offerings for landlords, real estate agents and tenants across Nigeria and testing out new markets.”

“The housing crisis is an enormous problem that impacts us at a global scale, and Africa is no exception,” said Mr Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital.

“In countries like Nigeria, the requirement for tenants to provide 12-to-24 months of rent payment in advance creates a barrier for large parts of the population in accessing the rental market and essentially renders them homeless. MaC is proud to partner with Spleet as it continues to bring forward a comprehensive solution that effectively serves both sides of the housing market and makes true deposits to combating homelessness,” he added.

Founded by Mr Adesanmi in 2018 from the need to find rentals with flexible payment options in Lagos as opposed to the usual one or two-year upfront payment options, Spleet allows homeowners to rent their apartments to vetted individuals while also helping people easily find places to stay.

The startup enables landlords to verify and scrutinise tenants and also automates rent collections. Its nonperforming loans ratio recorded so far stands at 1.2 per cent.

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Nigeria Inaugurates Mini Grids Programme to Expand Clean Energy Access

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Mini Grids Programme

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has inaugurated the Africa Mini Grids Programme (AMP) to support access to clean energy in Nigeria.

Mr Ayang Ogbe, the Director of Promotions at REA, said this in a statement in Abuja, noting that the four-year project was being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria.

He said that the programme aims to increase the financial viability and promote scaled-up commercial investment in renewable energy mini-grids, focusing on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.

According to him, the renewable energy mini-grids are with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.

“The programme is active in 21 African countries, and the Nigeria national project implemented by the REA is the first to commence implementation following the official inauguration at an inception workshop.

“The workshop was hosted in collaboration with representatives from the UNDP, GEF, Federal Ministries of Power, Environment and Agriculture as well as other key stakeholders in the rural development space,” he said.

Mr Ogbe said that the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria was designed as an enabler project of the REA’s Energising Agriculture Programme (EAP).

He said that EAP aims to advance one of REA’s strategic priorities of focusing on the unserved and underserved to increase economic opportunities.

”Through agriculture and productive sectors in rural communities across the country, this objective is in line with the mandate of the REA to catalyse economic growth and improve the quality of life for rural Nigerians.

Speaking on the project, Mr Mohamed Yahya, the UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, said that the UNDP was delighted with the inauguration of the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria with the REA as the project’s implementing partner.

He said, “access to reliable, sustainable, affordable energy is a catalyst to socio-economic development, and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

“By scaling up solutions such as renewable energy mini-grids, we will be able to close the energy access gap and unlock opportunities for people in Nigeria and across the region,” he said.

On his part, Mr Jonah Stanley,  GEF Operational Focal Point at the Federal Ministry of Environment, emphasised the significance of the programme, which he sees as central to issues.

“Such as security, climate change, food production and strengthening economies while protecting ecosystems.”

The statement quoted the Managing Director of the REA, Mr  Salihijo Ahmad, “commending the collaborative spirit of the agency’s partners and stakeholders that enabled the activation of the programme.”

Mr Ahmad said that the Africa mini-grids programme would serve as another catalyst for improved access to sustainable energy and equitable and inclusive impact on livelihoods by unlocking agricultural value addition opportunities from electrification.

He said, “this sectoral approach is in line with the agency’s focus on programmes to advance the electrification targets and broader social and economic development objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The statement also quoted Mr Sanusi Ohiare, the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund (REF) at the REA as saying, “there is the need to enhance the viability of mini-grids and the impact of electrification”.

“To this end, the programme will deploy pilot mini-grids to achieve the electrification of rural communities and agricultural value chain.”

Mr Ohiare said that the project would also establish the most appropriate solutions and business models while amplifying the knowledge gained to catalyse private investment.”

The AMP in Nigeria will contribute to SDG 7, which is  (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 13 (Climate Action) and  Goal 5 (Gender Equality), with an estimate of 70,063 direct project beneficiaries, out of which 34,559 are women.

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