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Dear Miss Leah Sharibu! By SOC Okenwa

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Dear Miss Leah Sharibu,
Ordinarily I should be sending you a happy sixteenth birthday wish but that should not be the case here for obvious reasons. Ordinarily, again, I should be dropping these few lines with great delight given what yesterday represented in your young life but fate has decided otherwise.

Therefore, I am writing you this open letter with heavy heart given what you are passing through whereever you are right now which cannot be attributed to you as a misdemeanour or juvenile delinquency.

As you marked your sixteen years as a compatriot in solitary captivity we remember how you got there and why you are still there against your wish. And our collective wishes as parents and Nigerians at home and abroad.

On February 19, 2018, it would be vividly recalled, some Boko Haram terrorists had stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state and carted away 110 school girls — including you, of course! Few days later following global opprobrium over the kidnapping (on 21 March 2018) after negotiating with the terrorists, the Nigerian federal government announced the release of all (except you) of the abducted school girls.

The Nigerian government negotiated and paid ransom reportedly running into millions of Dollars for the release of your colleagues excluding you as a devoted Christian.

You were held back and not negotiated for on account of your faith. According to reports online you were refused freedom because of your refusal to convert to Islam as others would have easily done.

What a girl and what an audacity of faith! For 450 odd days now you are still languishing  in the camp of terrorists with no one knowing for sure your physical, mental or psychological state. But you have made a name for yourself around the world with your courageous decision to remain a Christian even in the face of death lurking menacingly around. Nigeria remains a secular state and that is constitutionally guaranteed, Boko Haram or no Boko Haram, terrorism or no terrorism!

For refusing, at your young age, to renounce your Christian faith you are indeed a study in pride for every believer and a source of inspiration to us all. We laud your dogged refusal to deny Jesus Christ even as Apostle Peter did three times before the cock started crowing in fulfilment of the prophesy.  But that was then; our generation have learnt our lessons in redemption.

As I write this missive some demented Islamic terrorists are still attacking our brothers and sisters of the Christian faith. In Burkina Faso recently close to a dozen Christians (including two priests!) had been gruesomely murdered inside churches in the northern part of the Sankara country. In Nigeria (especially in the middle belt and north-eastern regions) the faithfuls are being daily or weekly assassinated and their churches burnt down with our security forces looking helpless. 

When you add that to the Fulani herdsmen terrorism, armed robberies and kidnappings across the length and breadth of the federation you would know that our country has been thrown to the dogs. No one (except President Buhari and his ruling APC party henchmen) is safe any longer anywhere!

Sister Leah, your determination, even faced with satanic pressure, to remain a Christian is as remarkable as heroic. Renouncing your faith through intimidation of terrorism would have diminished our great religion. Though we believe in one universal God the same Immortal One would have been disappointed if you had hearkened to the terrorist diktat by converting to Islam. The Creator above Himself frowns at forceful conversion, so He must be satisfied with your dogged refusal to join the barbaric forces in their ‘Allah Akbar’ balderdash! Allah cannot be great in your situation. Hell no!
My dear Leah, even if you die in the jihadist gulag you would go down in global history as that little girl who looked death in the eyes and refused to blink first. In such unwarranted event you would die a heroine, a martyr! Please stay strong and hold on to your faith. We remember you and pray and fast for you hoping that reason would prevail in the end.

Those we elected to secure our lives and properties are busy junketting around the world taking good care of their health while abandoning us all to the perfidious whims and caprices of satanic agents. But be rest assured that a revolution is imminent, one capable of altering the course of our terrible national history.

Miss Leah, we feel your pain and carry your cross!  We are convinced that the Supreme Being is well aware of your case and the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, had publicly intervened by calling on the animals holding you captive to let you go. Our Christian faith teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves and live and let live. As Christians we do not engage in conversion by the force of arms but by superior religious argument backed by scriptural evidence of truth.

Your captors may be raping you, torturing you or subjecting you to all manner of abuses in order to break your will but we urge you to hold on to your faith! Remain steadfast and never bow to the uncircumsised criminal elements. Having endured for more than a year you can still endure more. Please, keep the hope alive!

I cannot end this letter without informing you that my young daughter, Stella Akuehute, 8, is in the know of your terrible situation. I had told her about you before hitting the keyboard and she asked me to tell you that you are her heroine! Stella is as fearless, beautiful, intelligent and assertive as you. She was born outside our shores in a peaceful environment and she is in primary school and doing fine.

Happy birthday in ‘hell’, dear Miss Leah Sharibu! We hope and pray fervently to the Almighty that by the time you turn seventeen next year you would have the ‘privilege’ of celebrating at home, free, with your parents, friends and well-wishers. Then, Stella might return home during the long vacation to be among your well-wishers. 

Happy birthday Leah Sharibu! We stand in solidarity with you and wish you God’s protection.

SOC Okenwa
soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

 

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Four Reasons For Optimism On Economic Inclusion In Nigeria By Joe Abah, Nate Bourns, And Brigit Helms

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Viewed in isolation, statistics on the Nigerian economy paint a bleak picture. Having emerged from the 2017 recession, Nigeria is growing at an anemic 1.5 to 1.9 percent per year—against population growth of 2.6 percent. Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world where poverty has worsened—90 million of its citizens languish in absolute poverty. With the median age stuck at 17.9 years, some say a “youth bomb” has already detonated; certainly, youth unemployment is unacceptably high at 43 percent. And development indicators around health and education leave much to be desired: 30 percent of Nigerians are unable to read or write, according to the Minister of Education.

Yet we are optimistic. Why? Because we see Nigeria not in isolation, but in context. We recently sat down with Nigerian stakeholders to talk in depth about how to build a more inclusive economic system. Together, we sense a new version of capitalism emerging. Instead of equating business with extracting economic value, a new generation of entrepreneurs and policymakers is focused on creating value for Nigeria—by increasing access to vital services and jobs.

We find at least four reasons for optimism if we take collective action now.

The Explosive Potential of the “Youth Bomb”

Aging societies in the West know that young people are the key to growth. Nigeria’s army of young job seekers could be readily transformed into an army of job creators, according to young entrepreneurs like Sam Immanuel, founder, and CEO of Semicolon. Africa, a training ground for young “techpreneurs” in Lagos’ “Yabacon Valley.” Semicolon’s 12-month programs train promising young people not only how to code but how to solve some of Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problems and build sustainable business models around them. Job opportunities for this new generation are global in reach and potential scale.

The U.K. Department for International Development’s Women for Health project in northern Nigeria has shown that even the most difficult-to-reach young women working in the most challenging conditions can leverage technology to make a difference. By enabling young women in primarily conservative Muslim communities to access digital health worker training, W4H is creating sustainable and culturally appropriate solutions to fill serious gaps in healthcare availability for women in the region.

Digital Dividends

The digital economy could revolutionize both service delivery and job creation, the two main pathways out of poverty. The GSMA indicates Nigeria has 97.5 million unique mobile subscribers, meaning roughly half the population has a mobile subscription, and half of this group accesses the mobile internet, making mobile the main driver of internet access. More than half of GSMA’s projected growth in new mobile subscribers in West Africa by 2025 will come from Nigeria. While access remains highly uneven—rural Nigerians tend to be excluded—the growth trend is clear. At the same time, fixed broadband access, while limited by State and local right-of-way regulations, is 22 percent (compared to a 30 percent target for 2018) but on the rise, and Federal and State governments increasingly understand that expanding access is the only way to go.

In terms of job creation, the tech conglomerate, incubator, and investor Lofty Group has demonstrated that tech startups can grow into major job creators. Companies such as Andela, Flutterwave, and Paystack have attracted heavy hitters in the investment world and created thousands of jobs. While some observers suggest fintech and payments services receive too much attention, overall this ecosystem shows that tech innovation is alive and well in Nigeria. Imagine putting that energy to work, at scale, for healthtech, edtech, energytech, govtech, or any other tech you can think of.

Universal ID Is Coming

Without a verifiable, credible identity, it’s difficult to participate in the formal economy. While some Nigerians lack any form of formal identity, many can avail themselves of a wide range of identifications. However, none of them is standard nor ubiquitous, and the National Identity Management Commission is working to harmonize these various forms. Shifting from a card-based approach to a universal digital ID holds enormous promise for growth. A recent report on digital ID from McKinsey estimates that over the next decade, Nigeria could unlock value equivalent to 5 to 7 percent of 2030 GDP by ensuring ubiquitous digital identity, most of that value accruing to consumers, microenterprises, taxpayers, and beneficiaries of public initiatives.

The commission strives to enroll 5 million people in digital ID per month, up from around 500,000 historically, to reach universal identity within three years. Some 35 million numbers have been distributed so far. While these targets sound daunting, there is a precedent. In India, under the Aadhaar scheme, the government distributed biometric identification numbers to 1.2 billion citizens in less than seven years. The Aadhaar number is now vital for Indians to access bank accounts, subscribe to mobile services, pay taxes, and receive government payments, among other things.

Movement on Mobile Money

Past policy choices have frozen most Nigerians out of the mobile money market, with major ramifications for economic inclusion. For example, only around 6 percent of the adult population are active mobile money users, compared to 73 percent in Kenya. A decade ago, Nigerian authorities determined to limit mobile money operations to banks, as opposed to the telco-led models in East Africa. Given the low levels of formal financial inclusion, this decision inhibited the growth of mobile money. However, the Central Bank’s new digital financial services policy of 2018 may remove those brakes, allowing mobile network operators to enter the fray more directly.

The Federal government, through the National Information Technology Development Agency and other stakeholders, seems to be taking digital and economic inclusion seriously. The benefits of digital inclusion—job creation, GDP growth, new industries, business innovation, workforce transformation—have captured the attention of policymakers. At the State level, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has put the digital economy on the policy agenda. From ICT regulation to cybersecurity to digital jobs to increased local content, the question now is how to act on it.

More broadly, our discussions exemplified the fact that economic inclusion in the digital age has struck a chord with Nigerians across the spectrum, not just with Federal and State government but also with the private sector, civil society, development partners, and the media. One thing is certain: no single entity can solve this problem on its own. Collaboration—often among uneasy bedfellows—is critical, and that collaboration will have to be more committed, more energetic, and more tangible than ever for Nigeria to achieve a truly inclusive economic sysem in our lifetime.

Dr. Joe Abah is DAI Country Director for Nigeria and former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms in the Presidency, Nigeria.

Nate Bourns is DAI Vice President, Global Operations and Adjunct Professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.

Brigit Helms is DAI Vice President, Technical Services and a founding management team member of CGAP, the global center of excellence for financial inclusion.

 

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Udom Dismisses Two Top Government Officials In 24 Hours

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Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State Governor, has relived two of the government top officials of their duties in less than 24 hours.

Uduak Udo-Inyang, Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Sufficiency was sacked on Tuesday while Valentine Attah, Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, was suspended by the Governor on Wednesday.

While no reason was given for the sack of Udo-Inyang, Attah was suspended for alleged unauthorized recruitment into the state civil service.

Announcing Udo-Inyang sack through a statement, Emmanuel Ekuwem, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), noted that Nse Essien, Commissioner of Science and Technology would oversee the affairs of the ministry.

Ekuwem, in another press statement released on Wednesday, said an audit would immediately be carried out to check the recruitment done by Attah.

It was also announced that “the appointments of those who benefited from the said recruitment are hereby declared null and void.”

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BREAKING: Senate Confirms Emefiele’s Appointment As CBN Governor

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The Senate has confirmed Godwin Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank Of Nigeria.

The confirmation is coming after President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption administration ignored numerous corruption allegations leveled against him, most recently documented in an audio tape with the apex bank confirmed as authentic.

Emefiele was screened yesterday by the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions sequel to a request put forward by President Buhari asking the Senate to confirm Emefiele for a second term of five years.

More to come.

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