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Interswitch Employees Donate Salaries to Fight COVID-19

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Interswitch

In the wake of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, a lot of our realities have changed. New emotions have been evoked in us daily, amidst the disturbing depiction of the disease with all the disruption, death and fear it leaves in its wake.

Gradually we have imbibed new ways of interacting and new hygiene routines, among other things. However, one important outcome of the disease the world over, is a renewed sense of value, especially in relation to fellow humans.

Across the globe we have witnessed how good spirited individuals and organisations have donated to various governments at local, national and international levels, to support the fight against COVID-19.

These donations have ranged from cash donations, to the provision of much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, logistical resources, infrastructure, and so on. We have also witnessed retired medical practitioners taking the risk to return to work to fill up the manpower gap. The outpouring of love is unprecedented…well, the impact of the pandemic is also unprecedented!

In Nigeria, the private sector intervention efforts started with the Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID), an initiative that was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The coalition has helped set up isolation centres, renovated hospitals, sourced and provided medical supplies, fed indigent homes and inspired more people to make their honest contributions.

On the corporate side, one corporation that has indeed been inspired and risen to the occasion is the Interswitch Group, along with its employees.

The over 800 employees of the pan-African integrated payment and digital commerce company, agreed to sacrifice 10% of their monthly salaries for 3 months, as their own contribution to the on-going efforts to fight the scourge.

What we had seen prior to this was privileged individuals and corporates making donations, and of course that is to be expected.

What we however did not see coming was the employees of an organization deciding to voluntarily give up a percentage of their remunerations, to help others through these trying times. No, that is unusual. But that was what staff of Interswitch Group did.

The staff of Interswitch together raised N75 million, and then the organization and the board complemented that with their own contributions, bringing the total sum to N305 million. This huge sum will be deployed to support the COVID relief efforts of 23 state governments across the country.

Part of the money is also being used to provide relief food items to indigent members of the Interswitch immediate community.

Yet and another part will be set aside to support health workers on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic.

In a press release announcing this financial intervention, the Interswitch Group stated that its employees agreed to make this unusual gesture because they had the inspiration to make a difference in the fight against the pandemic.

And what a difference they are making! They have pooled together their little amounts of money to build a substantial mass of funds that is being deployed to make significant impacts in the lives of many.

While no individual donation might have amounted to millions, their collective donations amounted to quite puddle, and then attracted further donations from the board and the company, bringing the total amount to over N300 million.

In the bid make a difference, the Interswitch employees have redefined how we could all contribute to support the efforts to curb the virus.

They have shown how every amount of money is significant towards the fight against the disease. They have demonstrated that everyone can contribute, not only the billionaires.

The have made it crystal clear that every intervention worth its salt requires sacrifices, and for them, it is 10% of their monthly earnings for three months!

Mitchell Elegbe, the Group Managing Director/Founder of Interswitch said that the efforts by the company and its employees was consistent with the company’s mission of enabling the prosperity of individuals and communities across Africa.

With such sacrifice, the staff of Interswitch are indeed ensuring that the pandemic is checked, as well as safeguarding enabling environments and interactions that will bring about inclusive prosperity across the continent.

In a time where people are unsure of their future, careful about their spending and saving every extra kobo, these heroes are forfeiting part of their earnings to take care of their fellow citizens, providing support for their government and leaving an indelible mark in the sands of times.

So, as Nigerian workers take the center stage once again, and we celebrate them and their contributions to the economy, let us reflect on the sacrifices of this incredible workforce.

While this year’s celebrations will understandably be devoid of the usual pomp and pageantry, short on the usual speeches and demands from the trade unions, let us lift our glasses to these extraordinary workers of Interswitch, who are not making demands of their government or employers today, but instead are actively providing support.

Let us give it up to these heroes who will not be negotiating with their employers for pay rise, but will rather be voluntarily taking pay cuts, to help the indigent among us.

It is indeed a new lesson in giving which we hope will be imbibed, and further promoted, by many others, even as we all join forces to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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About Governor Douye Diri’s Silent Touch

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Douye Diri’s Silent Touch

Hiding in the shadows and doing things under the cover of his easy-going nature, Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa has set his state alight with his work.

About 365-plus days in office and the former Senator representing Bayelsa Central is still a son of miracles. Indeed, who else could have gotten so much done in so few days?

He is neither stiff-necked, needlessly ceremonious, nor likely to peg an award for taking office shots or blaring his many good deeds. Diri is not that sort of man. Where one finds him is where he prefers to be: at work, thinking up ways to polish the fortunes of his Bayelsa people. Not afraid, not dawdling, not denting his work table with an anxious head.

So much executed, so little praise sought! In the beginning, the assumption – based on his phenomenal mode of obtaining the gubernatorial chair – was that he would laze about, or commandeer new projects and abandon old ones. But old ginger is spicier, as experienced minds can tell that Diri is no slouch.

From the projects of the past administration to those he approved of himself, the Miracle Governor has left nothing unturned. It is to the merit of this boundless sense of propriety that some formerly-ongoing projects have been completed and commissioned; that some formerly-derelict constructions are currently underway and nearing completion.

Is the completion of the water project in Ovom Town, Yenagoa LGA, not deserving of a glass raised to Governor Diri in salute? How about the Kaiama Referral Hospital; or the state-of-the-art Incinerator at the Bayelsa Medical University Complex; or the Imiringi Community Bridge in Ogbia LGA — all, aside the Ovom Water Project, were commissioned on the same day!

What about the ongoing projects? The complex to harbour Radio Bayelsa, Niger Delta TV and New Waves Newspaper is underway. So is the construction of the Elebele Community Bridge (Ogbia LGA), and the Igbedi Road in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA that stretches 4.5km.

Then there are the ‘deserted’ roads (from the past administration) that Diri has taken up: Glory Drive Road from Igbogene to Onopa; Igbogene to Elebele/AIT Outer Ring Road; Sagbama-Ekeremor Road; Yenagoa-Oporoma Road; Isaac Boro Express Road; and several others.

To think that Governor Diri was recently accused of taking a laissez-faire approach to his duties!

That Bayelsans can rest easy for the next three years is an occasion for satisfaction, and something the rest of Nigeria can look forward to discovering in their own State Governors.

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Africa Polling Institute Partners NBS on Disability Data Project

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Disability Data Project

By Adedapo Adesanya

An Abuja-based think-tank, Africa Polling Institute, has disclosed that it will collaborate with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to collect data on people living with disabilities in the country.

This was disclosed by Mr Bell Ihua, the Executive Director of the research institute in a statement signed by Head of Corporate Services, Mrs Amarachi Charles, on Friday in Abuja.

The executive director, who led a delegation on a courtesy visit to the NBS, said that the collaboration was important in order to achieve the Nigeria Disability Project.

According to Mr Ihua, the project is aimed at gathering evidence-based data on gender and people living with disabilities in the country.

“The Nigeria Disability Project is a new development effort led by the Africa Polling Institute, which is aimed at gathering evidence-based disaggregated gender and disability data in the country.

“We are excited at this opportunity of collaborating with the NBS on this project, which is supported by Ford Foundation.

‘’I believe this will be the first of more collaborations between both organisations,” he said.

In his speech, Mr Simon Harry, Director, Corporate Planning and Technical Coordination at NBS expressed the bureau’s readiness to work with the institute.

“NBS as an agency is mandated to produce statistical data for the whole country and is always open to collaborating with the public, private and international development sectors, in order to achieve this mandate,” he said.

API is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan opinion research think-tank that conducts opinion polls, surveys, social research and evaluation studies at the intersection of democracy, governance, economic conditions and public life; in order to support better public policy, practice and advocacy in Africa.

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NSE to Ring Bell for Gender Equality Monday

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Gender Equality Symposium

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

On Monday, March 8, 2021, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) will join securities exchanges all over the world to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.

The day will culminate in a digital closing gong ceremony and members of the stockbroking community, analysts, regulators, media and other interested participants have been urged to register via http://bit.ly/nse-iwd-2021.

A statement from the exchange disclosed that the 7th annual Ring the Bell for Gender Equality will have several personalities in attendance.

Confirmed speakers include Mr Abimbola Ogunbanjo, President, National Council, NSE; Mrs Catherine Nwakaego Echeozo, second Vice President, National Council, NSE; Mrs Fatimah Bintah Bello–Ismail, Ordinary Member, National Council, NSE; Mrs Erelu Angela Adebayo, Ordinary Member, National Council, NSE; Mrs Opunimi Akinkugbe, founder, Director, Bestman Games; and Mr Oscar Onyema, the CEO of the NSE.

Others are Ms Tinuade Awe, Executive Director, Regulation, NSE; Mr Bola Adeeko, Divisional Head, Shared Services, NSE; Mr Kevin Njiraini, Regional Director, Southern Africa & Nigeria, International Finance Corporation (IFC); and Mrs Oluwasoromidayo George, Chairperson, United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Network Nigeria.

In addition, the programme will have in attendance Mr Lansana Wonneh, United Nations (UN) Women Deputy Representative, Nigeria and ECOWAS; Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director/Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria; Ms Ivana Osagie, founder, Professional Women Roundtable (PWR); and Ms Eme Esien Lore, Nigeria Country Manager, International Finance Corporation (IFC).

On that day, there would be a webinar to be held in collaboration with the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, United Nations (UN) Women, United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and IFC themed #ChooseToChallenge.

The webinar will also feature a special focus on the peer-to-peer learning programme under the Nigeria2Equal programme, a three-year project towards which the IFC will collaborate with the NSE to reduce employment and entrepreneurship gaps in Nigeria through the private sector.

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Why We Can’t Create Electoral Constituencies Now—INEC

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INEC officials

By Ahmed Rahma

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday explained its inability to create new electoral constituencies.

The explanation was given in a statement issued in Abuja by the National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye.

The electoral umpire, which said it was responding to recent reports regarding its responsibilities in the division, revision and adjustment of electoral constituency boundaries in Nigeria, noted that while the division of the country into electoral constituencies for Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly was its responsibility, once they are established, subsequent revision of the constituencies and/or adjustment of their boundaries are the joint responsibilities of the agency and the National Assembly.

According to Mr Okoye, any such revision or adjustment must be passed by a resolution of the two houses of the National Assembly, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives.

He said, “As a result, the commission has been in discussion with the relevant committees of the National Assembly to arrange a meeting with the leadership of the Assembly to address some of the difficult issues in the division, revision and alteration of electoral constituency boundaries in Nigeria.

“Some of these issues, which the commission had previously brought to the attention of the National Assembly, include the following: ‘The 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not place an obligation on INEC to revise or alter the boundaries of constituencies every 10 years, as has been canvassed by some opinions in the media. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 73 (1) of the Constitution provides for that to happen at intervals of ‘not less than 10 years.’

“This implies that it can only happen from 10 years and above. Therefore, the commission is not in breach of the Constitution, since the revision could happen in 10 years or more.

“The Constitution also provides that the commission may embark on revision and adjustment after a national census, creation of States or by an Act of the National Assembly [Section 73 (2)].

“None of these conditions actually exists at the moment. The last population census was conducted in 2006, about 15 years ago. The commission feels that revising and/or altering constituencies based on 15-year-old population data is inappropriate because the well-known rapidity of population changes in Nigeria would make nonsense of any outcome.

“In any case, the National Population Commission (NPC) is working on conducting another census and it seems reasonable to await its outcome.

“On the other hand, no new states have been created in Nigeria since the Constitution came into effect in 1999 nor is there an Act of the National Assembly requesting INEC to activate the relevant sections of the Constitution on division, revision and alteration of electoral constituencies.

“On the state constituencies to be created in each state of the federation, the Constitution provides that the number for each state should be three or four times the number of its federal constituencies (seats in the House of Representatives), subject to a minimum of 24 and a maximum of 40.

“The problem is that some states presently have three times the number of their seats in the House of Representatives, others have four times; others have the minimum of 24 and yet others have reached the maximum of 40.

“For some, their present number of State Assembly constituencies is neither three nor four times the number of their House of Representative seats. This motley distribution calls for more clarity in the division, revision and alteration of electoral constituency boundaries, which in fact may require constitutional amendments.

“There is also the question of the so-called suppressed constituencies. Essentially, these are constituencies that existed prior to the coming into force of the 1999 Constitution. The canvassers for these constituencies argue that they have been “suppressed” in the present dispensation.

“Forty-two cases were filed in various courts across the country requesting INEC to be compelled to ‘restore’ 62 constituencies. The Commission has consistently argued that the idea of ‘restoration of a constituency’ is both legally questionable and practically improbable.

“It is questionable to ask INEC to restore constituencies that existed under an old constitutional order in the present one. For example, the present Constitution provides for the maximum seats in the House of Representatives and the multiples of that for State House of Assembly constituencies. Restoring all old constituencies from a different constitutional order would definitely mean that the number set by the present Constitution may be exceeded.

“Besides, there have been many previous constitutional orders, each with its own specification of limits on the number of constituencies. Furthermore, which of the old constitutional provision should we restore? Perhaps, some people may even ask for the restoration of the four constituencies in Calabar and Lagos created in 1922 following the Clifford Constitution.

“Also, it is a misnomer to talk of suppressed constituencies because some of the constituencies have been divided territorially as a result of state creation and boundary adjustments, creation of Local Government Areas, as well as the creation of the subsisting electoral constituencies.”

Mr Okoye further noted that while some of the court judgments in the cases on these so-called suppressed constituencies have agreed with the position of the commission, others have gone for the “suppressed constituency” canvassers and that in yet other cases, the commission has appealed the judgments.

“These are some of the challenges that have constrained the commission on the question of revision and adjustment of electoral constituencies.

“Yet, the commission is not oblivious of the importance of balanced constituency delimitation on the democratic and electoral processes. However, these are complicated legal, political and practical issues.

“This is why the commission has requested for a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve these issues and build the necessary consensus that will ensure that any revision of electoral boundaries will be passed by the National Assembly, unlike in the past when the Commission’s proposals on revision and alteration of electoral constituencies received no response from the Assembly.

“The commission is presently preparing a comprehensive discussion paper on these issues to assist in its engagement with the National Assembly.

“The commission wishes to put on record the frank and open discussions with the leadership of several committees of the National Assembly and their support on these issues and also appeals for public support to ensure that the right atmosphere exists for the commission to continue to do its work in this regard.

“For emphasis, the Commission also wishes to state that the issue of electoral constituencies is separate and distinct from the ongoing consultation on voter access to polling units in Nigeria”, he added.

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Buhari Orders Tighter Security Around Borders

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Buhari address the nation

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Security agencies, especially the immigration service, have been given a directive to tighten security around the nation’s borders.

This directive was given on Thursday by President Muhammadu Buhari during the virtual commissioning Ceremony of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) technology building.

The President also said there should be improved surveillance and control around the borders to weed out criminal elements who use the means to perpetrate evil.

The NIS was also asked to collaborate with international security organisations like the INTERPOL in safeguarding the borders, noting that the country’s Global Security Index must be improved.

“It is imperative that our ranking in the Global Security Index improves and I am using this medium to call on all security agencies to step up their activities towards achieving this goal. I assure you that the administration will give the much-needed support to you in your operations,” Mr Buhari said.

He further said, “As a security agency, I charge you to be relentless in carrying out your statutory duties of keeping our borders safe while you ensure that criminal elements don’t find Nigeria as a safe haven to hide and perpetrate their criminality.

“I urge you to actively collaborate with international security organisations like the INTERPOL, in safeguarding our borders. Remember that a safe border is a prerequisite for a safe nation.

“You must develop strong working relationships and ties with the international community and friendly nations as it relates to migration management; adopt and implement workable strategies from them while also sharing your best practices.

“Frontline workers and operators should remember that they are our windows to the world. They must show the best face of Nigeria at all times.”

President Buhari commended the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, for consistently pushing for the completion of the building, which will serve as the command and control centre of the NIS, as well as the repository of personal data of Nigerians and expatriates resident in Nigeria.

In his remarks, the Minister assured that the security challenges facing the country were temporal and surmountable, pointing out that the “weakest link” had been the land borders and the technology building will play a pivotal role in the control of illegal migration.

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Survey Shows Nigerians Don’t Trust Media, Government

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Media and Buhari

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Trust is one element some individuals and corporate organisations and even governments try to build because, without it, it will difficult to achieve believability.

When someone or an organisation cannot be trusted, there is trouble and for the government, it could spell doom as its policies would meet a brick wall, which could scare away investors and plunge the economy into crisis.

In Nigeria, the different administrations have struggled to build trust and this has left citizens to trust foreign organisations more than their government.

Are things getting better? The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Report seems to emphasise that no improvement has been made.

The survey showed that out of the four institutions of government, business, media and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Nigerians trust civil society organisations the most, with businesses coming second.

On the other hand, most Nigerians expressed distrust for the media and returned the lowest trust quotient in the world for government with 24 per cent.

Conversely, Nigerians overwhelmingly placed the highest trust in their employers and in the process revealed their expectations for CEOs and business leaders to be more pro-active in speaking out on societal issues (92 per cent) and driving positive change (79 per cent) rather than wait for government.

At the virtual unveiling of the report by Edelman and its exclusive Nigerian affiliate, Chain Reactions Nigeria, in Lagos on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, Mr Laolu Akande, the media aide of Nigeria’s Vice President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, explained that the distrust of government is a result of Nigerians’ natural cynicism and the testy historical relationship between government and citizens.

“Distrust in government is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, the government does have the responsibility to up its game in communication, to demonstrate responsibility and responsiveness,” Mr Akande said, citing the acclaimed National Social Intervention Programmes, and the COVID-19 Survival Fund as some evidence of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s unprecedented responsiveness to Nigerians.

During the presentation of the report by the CEO of Edelman Africa, Mr Jordan Rittenberry, at the event themed Pandemic’s Ongoing Impact on Trust, a foremost journalist, Mr Reuben Abati, while speaking on the finding that Nigerians’ distrust the media, explained that the twin problems of ownership and unfavourable conditions of service combine to make newsmen themselves victims to various agendas.

“Absolute objectivity is utopian. How do you expect journalists to earn trust? It is really embarrassing these days with journalists denied salaries for maybe 10 or 12 months, while some blogs are becoming more authoritative than the mainstream media. And you find the mainstream media, even relying on blogs due to a lack of resources,” he submitted.

On NGO’s emergence as the most trusted institution, the Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, noted that “we have always been connected to the people as civil society organisations.

“And during the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 last year, we mobilized against a number of issues and demanded accountability. Some organisations stood in place of government; in terms of palliatives, in terms of support. They went to areas the government couldn’t reach.”

Commenting on how institutions can further build trust, the Senior Director, Global Government Relations for Africa at Procter & Gamble, Temitope Iluyemi, identified inter-sectoral partnerships and communication.

“We believe in over-communicating. P&G adopted a two-way communication strategy, we held town halls and bottom-top meetings to provide credible information to our employees and take feedbacks.

“We also leveraged the use of data for our marketing strategies, and this translated into deeper connections with staff and customers.”

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