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Senate Committee Faults N4.5bn Railway Allocation

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Railway Projects

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, has faulted the N4.5bn earmarked for the Nigerian railway in the 2016 budget, describing it as grossly inadequate to meet the immediate needs of the industry, according to Punch report.

He said this on Tuesday during an inspection tour of the railway facilities in Lagos by the joint Senate and House Committees on Land Transport.

Ashafa said, “What that amount can do in one year for a corporation with an overhead of N399m, I don’t know; this is because the bulk of that sum is tailored towards the personnel cost. For the record, the Nigerian Railway Corporation has a total of 9,700 employees.

“While we are inching closer to where we ought to be as a nation in the area of land transport, we are clearly not anywhere close to the mark. The task of moving from a dispensation of single track railway to the standard gauge and then towards exploring the possibilities of electronic railway depends on all of us present here.”

He added that the inspection tour was in line with the lawmakers’ responsibilities in carrying out the oversight functions of the ministries and departments under their supervision.

Ashafa said it had become imperative for members of the committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives to carry out on-the-spot assessment of all the paper work submitted and defended before them.

The Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Aminu Isa, expressed his delight at the NRC’s achievements and assured the corporation of the House’s assistance.

He said, “This corporation, if given the chance, will do better. We as honourable members intend to intervene and see how we can greatly assist the NRC in this 2016 budget. I hope the corporation will be able to take us to the level where South Africa and Ethiopia are with their railway systems.”

The Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, in his address, said the railway which had been comatose for decades was now back on track.

He said, “Following substantial progress on the ongoing rehabilitation projects, the NRC now operates mass transit trains, intercity passenger trains, cargo trains, excursion and specialised charter trains all over the country.

“We are equally optimistic about commencing the movement of petroleum products from Lagos up the North soonest to further strengthen railway relevance to Nigeria’s economic growth.”

Sijuwade added that the NRC was also involved in the movement of cement from Ewekoro to Minna, Kaduna and Kano for the Lafarge Cement; the movement of wheat and flour products from Lagos to Kano for Flour Mills Limited; and the movement of containers from the Apapa Port to Kaduna and Kano for APMT and ICNL.

The Director of Operations of the NRC, Mr. Niyi Ali, lamented that the lack of funding towards the completion of the Safe Train Control system had slowed down its implementation.

A modern railway signal system, the STC, allows the NRC to monitor real-time movements of trains on the tracks, with the aid of the On Board Computers installed on its locomotives, according to him.

The NRC began a trial implementation of the project last year, he added.

“The problem we have is funding. The contractor has not been paid for over a year. This is one of the projects being funded by SURE P and since its demise, the project has slowed down. A lot of equipment has already been shipped in,” Ali said.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Concerns Mount Over Security as National Identity Card Issuance Shifts to Banks

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NIMC enrolment

Amidst the National Identity Management Commission’s (NIMC) recent announcement that the issuance of the proposed new national identity card will be facilitated through applicants’ respective banks, concerns are escalating regarding the security implications of involving financial institutions in the distribution process.

The federal government, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), introduced a new identity card with payment functionality, aimed at streamlining access to social and financial services.

However, the decision to utilize banks as distribution channels has sparked apprehension among industry stakeholders.

Mr. Kayode Adegoke, Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, clarified that applicants would request the card by providing their National Identification Number (NIN) through various channels, including online portals, NIMC offices, or their respective banks.

Adegoke emphasized that the new National ID Card would serve as a single, multipurpose card, encompassing payment functionality, government services, and travel documentation.

Despite NIMC’s assurances, concerns have been raised regarding the necessity and security implications of introducing a new identity card system when an operational one already exists.

Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, questioned the rationale behind the new General Multipurpose Card (GMPC), citing NIMC’s existing mandate to issue such cards under Act No. 23 of 2007.

Ogunbanjo highlighted the successful implementation of MobileID by NIMC, which has provided identity verification for over 15 million individuals.

He expressed apprehension about integrating the new ID card with existing MobileID systems and raised concerns about data privacy and unauthorized duplication of ID cards.

Moreover, stakeholders are seeking clarification on the responsibilities for card blocking, replacement, and delivery in case of loss or theft, given the involvement of multiple parties, including banks, in the issuance process.

The shift towards utilizing banks for identity card issuance raises fundamental questions about data security, privacy, and the integrity of the identification process.

With financial institutions playing a pivotal role in distributing sensitive government documents, there are valid concerns about potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with this approach.

As the debate surrounding the security implications of the new national identity card continues to intensify, stakeholders are calling for greater transparency, accountability, and collaboration between government agencies and financial institutions to address these concerns effectively.

The paramount importance of safeguarding citizens’ personal information and ensuring the integrity of the identity verification process cannot be overstated, especially in an era of increasing digital interconnectedness and heightened cybersecurity threats.

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Israeli President Declares Iran’s Actions a ‘Declaration of War’

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Israel Gaza

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has characterized the recent series of attacks from Iran as nothing short of a “declaration of war” against the State of Israel.

This proclamation comes amidst escalating tensions between the two nations, with Iran’s aggressive actions prompting serious concerns within Israel and the international community.

The sequence of events leading to Herzog’s grave assessment began with a barrage of 300 ballistic missiles and drones launched by Iran towards Israel over the weekend.

While the Israeli defense forces managed to intercept a significant portion of these projectiles, the sheer scale of the assault sent shockwaves through the region.

President Herzog’s assertion of war was underscored by Israel’s careful consideration of its response options and ongoing discussions with its global partners.

The gravity of the situation prompted the convening of the G7, where member nations reaffirmed their commitment to Israel’s security, recognizing the severity of Iran’s actions.

However, the United States, a key ally of Israel, took a nuanced stance. President Joe Biden conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, given the limited casualties and damage resulting from the attacks, the US would not support retaliatory strikes against Iran.

This position, though strategic, reflects a delicate balancing act in maintaining stability in the volatile Middle East region.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian cautioned against further escalation, emphasizing the potential for heightened tensions and provocative acts to exacerbate the situation.

In response to the escalating crisis, the Nigerian government issued a call for restraint, urging both Iran and Israel to prioritize peaceful resolution and diplomatic efforts to ease tensions.

This appeal reflects the broader international consensus on the need to prevent further escalation and mitigate the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

As Israel grapples with the implications of Iran’s aggressive actions and weighs its response options, President Herzog reiterated Israel’s commitment to peace while emphasizing the need to defend its people.

Despite calls for restraint from global allies, Israel remains vigilant in safeguarding its security amidst the growing threat posed by Iran’s belligerent behavior.

The coming days are likely to be critical as Israel navigates the complexities of its response while international efforts intensify to defuse the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.

The specter of war looms large, underscoring the urgency of diplomatic engagement and concerted efforts to prevent further escalation in the region.

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NIMC Announces Launch of Three National ID Cards to Boost Identity Management

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has unveiled plans to launch three new national identity cards.

These cards are aimed at providing improved access to government services and bolstering identification systems across Nigeria.

The three new national identity cards, as disclosed by Ayodele Babalola, the Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of NIMC, will include a bank-enabled National ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

Babalola explained that these cards are tailored to meet the diverse needs of Nigerian citizens while fostering greater participation in nation-building initiatives.

In an interview, Babalola outlined the timeline for the rollout of these cards, indicating that Nigerians can expect to start receiving them within one or two months of the launch, pending approval from the Presidency.

The bank-enabled National ID card, designed to cater to the middle and upper segments of the population, will offer seamless access to banking services within the specified timeframe.

Also, the National Safety Net Card will serve as a crucial tool for authentication and secure platform provision for government services such as palliatives, with a focus on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians supported by current government intervention programs.

This initiative aims to streamline the distribution process and ensure efficient delivery of social services to those in need.

Furthermore, the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card will provide an optional identity verification solution, facilitating cross-border interactions and promoting regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The announcement comes on the heels of NIMC’s collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to develop a multipurpose national identity card equipped with payment capabilities for various social and financial services.

This collaborative effort underscores the commitment of key stakeholders to foster innovation, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness in service delivery.

Babalola stated that the new identity cards aim to address the need for physical identification, empower citizens, and promote financial inclusion for marginalized populations. With a target of providing these cards to approximately 104 million eligible applicants on the national identification number database by the end of December 2023, NIMC is poised to revolutionize the identity management landscape in Nigeria.

The implementation of these programs aligns with broader efforts to drive digital transformation and improve access to essential services for all Nigerians.

Babalola highlighted the multifaceted benefits of the new identity cards, including their potential to uplift millions out of poverty by facilitating access to government social programs and financial services.

While the launch date is set tentatively for May pending presidential approval, NIMC remains committed to finalizing the necessary details to ensure a smooth rollout of the new identity cards.

The introduction of these cards represents a significant step forward in NIMC’s mission to provide secure and reliable identity solutions that empower individuals and contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Efforts to reach Kayode Adegoke, the Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, for further insights on the initiative were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.

As Nigeria gears up for the launch of these innovative identity cards, stakeholders express optimism about the potential positive impact on identity management, financial inclusion, and socio-economic development across the country.

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