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774,000 federal jobs get January 5 date

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The 774, 000 Special Public Works (SPW) jobs will now commence on January 5, the Federal Government said on Sunday.

Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, told The Nation on Sunday in Abuja.

The programme, designed for artisans to do public works for three months for N20,000 per month, suffered setbacks in commencement date because of internal wrangling between the minister and a former Director – General of the  National Directorate of Employment, Nasir Ladan, who was sacked last week by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister said the programme ran into some “hiccups” hence the delay in the commencement date earlier announced.

The “hiccups” may be connected with the struggle for the control of the programme by the sacked Director – General who was at loggerhead with Keyamo over the implementation of the programme.

The sacked Ladan, it was gathered, worked with the National Assembly to undermine Keyamo who is the supervising minister following the fallout between the minister and the lawmakers.

Both the government officials couldn’t bring themselves to work together on the programme as Ladan continuously flouted the directives of the minister while cozying up to the National Assembly members.

Twice, the Federal Government announced a new date for the kick-off of the programme designed to employ 774, 000 Nigerians in the 774 local government areas.

On Sunday, Keyamo told our reporter that the work would officially commence in January, 2021 and that an official announcement will be made on Wednesday after the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

The minister added that he expects the programme to go on smoothly with the removal of Ladan.

He said: “We have taken a firm decision to begin on January 5, 2021 but I am going to make an official announcement after FEC on Wednesday. We had a few hiccups in December but we have taken a decision to begin January 5 which is a Tuesday.

“The programme will run from January to March 2021 which is pure dry season. So, we are ready. All the obstacles have been removed.”

The minister also said only banks approved by the president would be used for the payment of the participants’ stipends.

Keyamo said the six banks  – Zenith, Access, Fidelity, FCMB, UBA, and Heritage bank enlisted for the programme have successfully opened a special accounts and captured the biometrics of successful applicants for the job.

The applicants, the minister said will be paid through their bank accounts using their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) to avoid fraud and double payment.

Keyamo said: “As we go into the field, we need to make a few clarification. The reason this programme was delayed in the last few weeks was because as minister, who is in charge of the implementation and supervision of this programme, we got reports from all over the country that certain unscrupulous persons were generating alternative lists, different from the ones that I approved as minister and which I directed the implementation in strict compliance with Mr president’s directives.

“The clear directive of Mr. President to me was that to ensure a fraud-free process, we should ensure that there is a clear audit trail of all payments made to all beneficiaries and as such we needed to engage selected banks who can share data with us and we needed to open special accountants for all participants in such a way that there will be an audit trail of all payments made through these selected banks.”

The minister also said there is no implementation committees anywhere contrary to reports.

He urged Nigerians to disregard such committees, saying the only committees for the programme, are the state selection committees which he inaugurated to pick applicants.

Keyamo said: “However, what happened was that people began to generate separate lists across the country, using NDE officials at different levels and in clear disobedience of my directives, and in clear case of insubordination. So we had a problem of potential clash if we had started this programme…

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5G: NCC Carries out Successful Mock Auction of 3.5 GHz Spectrum

…Sets Stage for Main Auction on Monday

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has successfully carried out a mock session for the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum auction for the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) network in the country.

In a statement signed by the commission’s Director, Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, the simulated auction, which took place on Friday, December 10, 2021 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, was preparatory to the main auction scheduled to take place on Monday, December 13, 2021 at same venue.

NCC said the conduct of the simulation exercise was in line with the requirements stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) for 3.5 GHz spectrum auction. The IM is a document that defines the process for the licensing of the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, earlier published on the Commission’s website at the inception of the auction process.

Using the Ascending Clock Auction System for the mock session, the three qualified bidders for the 3.5 GHz spectrum, namely MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd, participated in the software-based simulated auction exercise.

The mock auction was witnessed by the Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande; the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska and the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu.

Others, who witnessed the mock auction include representatives from the bidding companies, senior management staff from relevant departments of the Commission, technical consultants, software consultants, legal consultants and other external observers.

Following the successful mock auction, the stage is set for the Commission to license two slots in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, expected to be picked by successful bidders at the end of the Main Auction on Monday, December 13, 2021.

The auction on Monday will mark a turning point in Nigeria’s determination to harness the benefits of 5G for the nation’s socio-economic growth, as concrete roll-out of 5G commences in 2022.

In a brief remark at the Mock Auction, Danbatta said the Commission had taken all necessary steps to ensure due diligence on the credibility of the consultants and to safeguard the integrity of the software solution being used to carry out the implementation of this historic national assignment.

“This is consistent with the open, credible transparent and fair manner by which the Commission is known to have conducted previous auction processes, which have been locally and globally applauded,” Danbatta said.

In order to ensure a fail-proof process, the Commission also carried out a simulation of the manual process of the auction, aside the electronic mock. This is to ensure that bidders are also familiar with the manual auction in case of any circumstances on the Main Auction Day that may warrant a need to switch to the Manual Auction. It is pertinent to note that the two forms – electronic and manual – are clearly stated in the IM and they follow the same process.

Representatives of the bidding companies, the Commission, the consultants and other observers at the Mock Auction expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the simulation exercise, which also provided opportunity for the Commission to perfect the auction process ahead of the Main Auction.

The Commission had commenced the process for the auction of the 5G spectrum in the last quarter of the 2021 and had, since then, carried out a number of activities ahead of the Main Auction.

October 7, 2021, the Commission had published the Draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the auction of the 5G spectrum on its website (www.ncc.gov.ng) and issued a public notice in major channels, including print, electronic, and new digital media. Comments on the draft IM were received by the Commission up until October 28, 2021.

On November 3, 2021, the Commission held a stakeholders’ engagement forum in Lagos at which comments received from a broad segment of stakeholders, including the major operators, were exhaustively discussed and considered.

On November 10, 2021, the Commission published the Final IM, and Stakeholders’ comments thereon on its website and the national dailies, and set the deadline for the submission of bids on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

As a responsive regulator, the Commission also proceeded to accommodate concerns raised by some stakeholders, due to social disruptions, and extended the date for submission of the bidding applications to Wednesday, November 24, 2021 to Monday, November 29, 2021.

On December 1, 2021, the NCC announced the three companies – MTN Nigeria Limited, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd – as having successfully submitted their bids in line with the requirements of the IM.

The Commission therefore wishes to thank all stakeholders for all the support, collaboration and partnership they have offered to get to this stage, and implores all stakeholders not to rest on their oars until the bidding processes are concluded successfully. Thereafter, the Commission, as it has now become its culture, will rally stakeholders into the next phase of the implementation of the 5G policy.

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Lagos first lady seeks transporters’ involvement in the fight against gender-based violence

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Lagos State First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu on Thursday urged members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to key into the fight against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and become ambassadors of the advocacy to stamp the menace out of the society.

She spoke at the State Headquarters of NURTW located in the Oko-Oba area of Agege during a sensitization visit organized by her office for over 1,000 transport union workers in line with the ongoing global 16 days of activism against SGBV.

“We have been moving across the state with this advocacy. This time around we decided that we are coming to meet our brothers and sisters of the NURTW here. This is the first time I am coming here and I am happy to be with you. We are reminding everyone that we should not be involved in domestic violence and sexual violence.

“These are things that are wrong and we should not take them lightly. We must kick these crimes out of Lagos State. When a woman says no, her no should mean no and it must be respected. When you see something, you must say something and do something. You all must be our ambassadors against the menace,” she said.

The First Lady said like all other professions, it was unlikely to have one or two bad eggs among transport workers, adding that others must work to expose and shame such members so that they do not continue to soil the collective image of the transport union.

She said the State Government had enacted a law that supports the Sex Offenders Register to name and shame perpetrators of sexual crimes, just as she spoke against encouraging intake of all sorts of sachet alcoholic beverages and mixtures which could trigger mental health and SGBV issues.

She said in addition to the earlier unveiling of signposts against SGBV in some Local Government Areas, efforts would soon be made to declare car parks and bus parks as Rape Free Zones, among other initiatives to stamp out the menace.

Also speaking, the Wife of the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Oluremi Hamzat urged parents to wake up and be vigilant in protecting their children against sexual predators, saying it had been observed that abuse of minors was now rampant.

In his welcome remarks, the State Chairman of NURTW, Alhaji Musiliu Ayinde Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo commended the First Lady for the advocacy against SGBV, saying members of the union were happy to receive her.

He said it was gratifying to note that hooliganism and the sale of alcohol have now become history in the bus parks controlled by the NURTW, adding that no efforts would be spared to sustain peaceful conduct by members of the union.

“Personally, I have never tasted alcohol in my life. I have never smoked cigarettes as well. I will never be in a position to encourage drug abuse and sexual abuse by our members.

“It is also worthy to note that the issue of hooliganism especially during the change of leadership in the parks is now a thing of the past in our Union. We also have children who we are praying to God to be successful in life. Therefore, we will continue to speak out against acts of violence in any form,” Akinsanya said.

At the advocacy visit, an expert on SGBV matters and a retired director in the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Mrs. Ibudunni Alakija-Ladapo anchored a special lecture on SGBV, while various information materials were distributed to members of the NURTW who were drawn from across the state.

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Consumers worry over hike in price of cooking gas

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By Michael Dibie

Some consumers in Nigeria have expressed concern over the current high prices of cooking gas urging the government to intensify measures to address the situation.

They say the price has increased 4 times in the last 2 months adding that the situation is making life unbearable for citizens.

“As a customer, it will affect me because I have a budget for the month that I spent on gas but it has tripled from N3400 (about $6), today I am buying for N7500 (about $14). We just have to plead with the government because gas is the safest means of cooking,” says Nana Abubarka, a customer.

“Well we all have to cook eventually with an increase or decrease but it is becoming unbearable even the prices of food stuffs have increased,” said Ifeanyi Brown, another Customer.

Plant consultant and Managing Director, Lubgas, Bright Ugwu says there are lots of factors attributing the hike in prices of gas.

“The price of LPG is sold at the international price while we make the transaction in local currency. The devaluation of the currency also contributed to this. There are also other factors like infrastructural issues and it is not just the price of gas alone that has increased but also accessories of cylinders have also increased,” he added.

A dealer and sales person says some customers are very angry with the new increase in prices.

“Some of them threaten not to come again saying they will go back to using charcoal or firewood and at the same time, some can’t afford it any longer, it has also made sells decreased, so they react badly to it because the price has gone up,” said Martha Opkara, Sales person.

However, authorities in Nigeria have attributed the rising cost of cooking gas to poor investment into the sector over the years.

According to Bright Ugwu, the government of Nigeria is making efforts to ensure that there is an increase in supply of the product. He says there is a huge gap between demand and supply.

“The government of Nigeria has invited other investors to come and invest and other people that have local production plants in Nigeria to convert gas flaring so that there will be more LPG for the consumers,” Ugwu reiterated.

According to experts in the sector,  the increase may worsen further if nothing is done to remedy the situation.

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