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Nigeria, Microsoft Partner to Digitally Upskill 5m Nigerians – Osinbajo

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria is to partner tech giant, Microsoft Corporation, to accelerate the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) on a deepened digital economy.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Monday, in Abuja, said that the vice president said this at the virtual formalisation of the partnership.

The vice president said the partnership would leverage Microsoft’s experience in the utilisation of technology as an enabler for the delivery of public and social good.

Under the partnership, no fewer than 5 million Nigerians would benefit from a digital upskilling programme.

The partnership, anchored on connectivity, skilling and digital transformation, was sequel to discussions between both parties led by the by the vice president.

Osinbajo, in January, had a virtual meeting with the Microsoft Corporation President, Mr Brad Smith, where discussions covered areas of intersection between technology and governance, to enhance Nigeria’s digital transformation.

Locations in each of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria will also enjoy active internet connection and cloud services courtesy of this digital transformation plan.

“Government is committed to leveraging innovation and technology to bring better outcomes, across a wide area of governance concerns.

“Indeed, it is with this in mind that we have sought constructive partnerships that would bridge the knowledge, skills and technology gap that exist in most of our communities.

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“This launch is indicative of our commitment and will involve collaboration with various Government agencies as implementing partners.

“These include the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Institute of Cultural Orientation, and various other local partners.

“We intend that these initiatives become institutions in their own rights and make a real impact in the lives of our citizens going forward.”

Osinbajo said that the partnership would focus on two pillars– Connectivity and Skilling, and Digital Transformation.

He said there were plans to connect under-served communities in each of the six geo-political zones with access to internet and cloud services.

The vice president said that the project was a critical component of expanding broadband connectivity, which was by itself, a major pillar of the ESP in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Working with Microsoft, we intend to upskill 5 million Nigerians through this increased internet access, over the next three years, in various digital skills which will increase both employability and entrepreneurship.

“The multiplier effect will bring opportunities in rural and urban areas to many young people and will help us deal with unemployment problems, made worse by the pandemic.

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“Leveraging Microsoft’s Technology tools which can be deployed to minimise governance risks and block loopholes.

“Working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), we will seek to use cutting edge analytical and case management tools to plug holes in our public sector system as well as confront white-collar criminality efficiently.

“Our focus is of course the Nigerian people; with over 80 million regular internet users, there is no question that Nigerians have fully embraced technology, the internet and their various uses,’’ he said.

On his part, Smith said that the company believed in the future of Nigeria and was excited to add the country to its investments.

“In 2018, we partnered with Tek experts to create a Customer Support Centre, a center in Lagos that employs over 1,600 people.

“And then we had another opportunity to broaden our investment even more by creating our African Development Centre.

“A centre that, by the end of this year, will employ over 200 software developers and engineers, people who are creating technology and Microsoft products to serve not only the people of Nigeria but the people of the world.

“All of these are giving us the kind of confidence to want to invest even more.

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“And one of the things that we have recognized as a company is the need to grow with communities and countries and not just buying for ourselves,” he said.

He added that Microsoft would embark on a series of broad-based, really multifaceted investments to better serve Nigeria in three areas of internet connectivity, digital skilling and digital transformation.

According to him, the company will be providing digital skills to 5 million Nigerians over the next three years, and along the way, creating 27,000 new jobs during the same period. (NAN)

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No Tax Waivers for Local, Foreign Investors-FIRS

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By Joseph Chibueze, Abuja

The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has said it had no policy that grants tax waivers to any local or foreign investors in the country as its enabling Act did not empower it to grant such tax breaks.

 


Executive Chairman, Mohammed Nami disclosed this Abuja on Friday in during his appearance before the House of Representatives’  Public Accounts Committee investigating alleged tax waivers granted to three foreign firms operating in the country.


 The firms are Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Ltd and OIS Indorama Eleme Port-Harcourt.


“The FIRS does not have the power or responsibility of facilitating or implementing incentives to local investors or investors coming through the Foreign Direct Investment platform, which is the sole prerogative of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC)”, a statement from FIRS by Director of Communications and Liaison, Dr Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad quoted Nami to have told the panel.

 Nami pointed out that “the investigation of the three foreign firms, Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Ltd and OIS Indorama Eleme Port-Harcourt, started way back in 2015. The committee in charge of the investigation has consistently been furnished with all required documents by the FIRS”. 

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He further stated that the companies under consideration “have been variously granted pioneer status between December 15th, 1997 to 2016 for the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd and between 2017 – 2020 for the Indorama Fertilizer and Chemicals Ltd respectively”. According to him “upon expiration of the pioneer period and conclusion of post pioneer Audit, the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd company’s tax file was returned to the Large Tax Office (LTO) Port Harcourt.

Thus far, the company has filed its annual returns up to 31st December 2019 with relevant Self-Assessment and paid its attendant liabilities”.


He, therefore,  pleaded with the Public Accounts Committee “to always avail itself of the opportunity to work closely with the custodians of FIRS records, such as the Coordinating Directors, Directors and Tax Controllers as do other House Committees like the Committee on Finance, to enhance its investigation at any time.”


Recall that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts had written a letter of invitation dated 27th May 2021 to the Executive Chairman of the FIRS to appear at its public hearing slated for 9 June 2021 on alleged revenue leakages involving the three foreign firms. However, the FIRS Executive Chairman could not honour the Committee’s summons on that date due to other pressing engagements which included Board meetings.

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Appearing in person on the rescheduled date,  Nami noted with satisfaction the cordial relationship between the FIRS and the legislators since he assumed office in December 2019.
 He seized the opportunity to reiterate that “the mandate of the FIRS is to assess, collect and account for tax revenue.” This mandate, he stressed, “is clear and unambiguous.”


  Nami used the opportunity to call for a continuous cordial working relationship between the National Assembly and the FIRS  “especially in this critical time when tax revenue has become crucial to the operations of the three tiers of government.” He assured that the FIRS under his watch “is very keen on collaborating with the Honourable Members of the Committee and other critical stakeholders in the National Assembly on the Automatic Exchange of Information on tax evasion, tax avoidance and other related issues.”


  Nami concluded his remarks by emphasising that he remained focused on the task of revenue collection which the Federal Government had assigned him to undertake. This task, he noted, “has its challenges, more so with the ravaging impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses and the overall economy. The Management of FIRS is working assiduously to achieve the revenue target set for it by the Federal Government and is not relenting in that objective”.

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Nexim Bank Launches $50m Export Programme for Women, Youths

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CBN Plans to Recapitalize the Banking Sector Soon – Emefiele
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By Joseph Chibueze, Abuja and Haruna Aliyu Usman, Birnin -Kebbi

The Nigeria Export Import (NEXIM) Bank has lauched a $50 million
export lending programme for women and youths in Kebbi State.


Managing Director of the bank, Alhaji Abba Bello in his speech at the
launch which took place at Birnin Kebbi on Thursday said apart from
providing funds for the beneficiaries, the bank was also going to
provide training for them.


He said Kebbi State is the second place the bank was launching the
programme after Abuja. According to him, the choice of Kebbi was
because of the enthusiasm shown by some group of young enterprenuers
whom he said already had their business plans ready.


He explained that women and youths have been denied opportunities like
this because of lack of capacity to prepare bankable business plan.
The NEXIM Bank boss said the scheme which is a collaboration between
Nexim and Afriexim banks have made available $50 million dollars to
build capacities of potential exporters to make them becomes export
gurus.

He noted that, they intend to cover the entire country but with more
emphasis on women and youth who already forms almost 85 per cent of
the country’s population.

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“When the country is fully covered Nigeria will witness a huge export
boost within the next few years,” he said adding that every citizen
especially youths and women who can come up with reasonable business
plan, Nexim bank is ready to provide the needed financing.


He challenged the youths and women to come forward with bankable
business ideas to access the available funds.

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Nigeria to Earn $700m Annually from Sugar – Dangote

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Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc has said Nigeria could earn 700 million dollars foreign exchange annually through implementation of the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) from sugar production.

Chairman, Dangote Sugar Refinery, Aliko Dangote, said this at the company’s 15th Annual General Meeting yesterday in Lagos.

Dangote said that allowing for distortions in the sugar masterplan framework would adversely affect the target of the nation attaining self-sufficiency as projected.

He said the policy would not only reduce imports of raw sugar but save the nations enormous foreign exchange used for importation.

Expressing his delight with the BIP, Dangote, however, noted that if the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan was fully implemented and the players adhered strictly to the rules, Nigeria would save between $600 million and $700 million annually as foreign exchange.

“The backward integration policy of Dangote Sugar Refinery is recording appreciable progress and we will remain committed to the policy,” he said.

Addressing shareholders, he said, in spite of the disruptions in the economy occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced an increase in production volume which rose by 13.7 percent to 743,858 tonnes in the review period from 654,071 tonnes in 2019.

Dangote noted that the company posted a group turnover of N214.3 billion against  N161.1 billion in 2019.

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He added that the sugar group posted a 6.9 per cent increase in sales volume from 684,487 tonnes in 2019 to 731,701 tonnes in 2020.

Hence, the board of the company declared a total dividend payment of N18.22 billion to the shareholders, amounting to N1.50 per ordinary share of 50k each.

He explained the improvements were attributable to operations optimisation strategy in spite of the disruption caused by civil unrest in last quarter of the year.

“Our growth continued to benefit from the sustained efforts to drive customer base expansion and several trade initiatives and investments.

“Gross profit increased by 40.4 percent to N53.75 billion, compared to N38.29 billion in 2019 while group profit after tax for the year increased by 33.2 percent to N26.70 billion against N22.36 billion in 2019, reflecting management’s unrelenting goal to deliver consistent shareholder value,” he said.

Dangote said the company had revised its sugar production target to 550,000 metric tonnes achievable by 2024 in line with the revised plan of the BIP by the Federal Government.

The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ravindra Singhvi, speaking on the results said the sugar group continued the growth path with commitments to improve performance and generate value for all stakeholders.

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Singhvi explained that this was reflected in the sales volume delivery of 731,701 tonnes, and production of 743,858 tonnes being 6.9 per cent and 13.7 per cent increase in volumes over the comparative year 2019. (NAN)

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