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Govt Targets $35bn Diaspora Remittances for Housing Development

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The several billions of dollars being remitted annually by Nigerians in Diaspora may be the target of agencies of the Federal Government for use in developing the country’s housing sector, OKECHUKWU NNODIM reports

In its bid to cut down the 17 million housing deficit in Nigeria, reduce corrupt practices and ensure adequate use of foreign exchange sent home by Nigerians in other countries, the Federal Government has commenced moves aimed at using part of the billions of dollars remitted annually by Nigerians in Diaspora for the development of houses across the country.

The initiative, which is spearheaded by the Federal Housing Authority, in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, also has a target of providing a sustainable forex inflow of at least $10bn annually into the Nigerian economy.

According to the FHA, government’s intention is to use funds sent back home for the construction of what could be termed Diaspora cities in different locations across the country.

It stated that over 15 million Nigerians were in Diaspora and that individual remittances hit $21bn in 2013, adding that with a secured housing programme in place, it could be as much as $35bn.

Speaking on the significance of using Diaspora funds for housing development, the Chairman of the ICPC, Mr. Ekpo Nta, stated that a lot of Nigerians living abroad were often defrauded whenever they sent money home for the construction of houses or for other forms of investment.

In a bid to address this disturbing issue, he said his agency had decided to partner the FHA to help Nigerians in Diaspora channel their funds to projects that could be guaranteed as well as help grow the economy and increase the amount of forex coming to Nigeria annually.

Nta, who spoke in Abuja, said, “By way of introduction, I want to state that I was invited by Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation sometime in 2015 to come to their meeting in Germany. At the end of that exercise, I came back home and did a lot more investigations and discovered that they had two main problems. First, in 2015, they sent back to Nigeria $25bn as remittance.

“Now, when you break down this money that they sent home, it is generally to secure accommodation for themselves either by building through relations or developers; to give allowances to their parents; or to start up businesses. And in all three cases, the findings I had through my organisation were that their aspirations were not met.”

He added, “Most of the money meant for buildings, if they wanted a duplex, the people would deliberately build stores; and when they complained, those who built the structures would take them away just like that. And sometimes these people created artificial security problem so that those in Diaspora won’t even come home to ask for the money they sent. For the brave ones that decided to come home, they were kidnapped and when released, they didn’t come back home again.

“Some others went through developers in cities like Abuja, Lagos and other places and had same experience. So we had all kinds of problems and that set me thinking.”

The ICPC boss said he had to come up with a Memorandum of Understanding between the anti-graft agency and Nigerians living abroad on how to invest their remittances to Nigeria gainfully without being defrauded, as well as contribute to the national economy positively.

He said, “So, I decided to do an MoU between the ICPC and Nigerians in Diaspora, starting from the German chapter. And with that MoU, I told them that if they wanted property and let the ICPC to know their developers, we could help do the land search and verification for free as part of our anti-corruption drive.

“And for their business partners, we could do a security check on them, because if the total foreign reserves of Nigeria as of last month were $30bn for the whole country, and a group is sending $25bn, you don’t ignore that kind of group. And for 2016, remittances to Nigeria from Nigerians in Diaspora moved up to $35bn. These are verifiable things from official sources.”

He added, “After the MoU, I made contact with the FHA boss and told them that the agency could tap into this because the people need good accommodation and they have the funds. I have also gone to the banks on this issue, for if you are transmitting $25bn to your country and Western Union, for example, is taking 0.1 per cent of that, then that is huge.

“So, why can’t Nigerian banks key into it? I’ve sold the same idea to our banks and told them that if they could not set up as individual banks, they could form a consortium of banks and work out their remittances. We need to tap into this to not just build property, but also improve our forex inflow and grow our economy.”

A report by the FHA and the ICPC on Nigerian Diaspora Housing Programme stated that the office of the vice-president would serve as the project facilitator; the ICPC, the promoter; while the authority would serve as the developer and owner.

It stated that the pilot projects, which would be in phases, would be constructed in Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt and Lagos in 2017, adding that its second phase would be in Enugu, Kaduna, Asaba and Ibadan/Ota in 2018.

A total of 15,680 housing units are to be constructed in the pilot phase, while $630m or N232bn is needed to finance this stage of the construction work.

“The figure is expected to double in the second phase to N1.88tn and with sales revenue, total inflow will be estimated at $6bn or N2.5tn,” the housing authority stated in the report.

Commenting on the development, the Managing Director, FHA, Prof. Mohammed Al-Amin, said the government had commissioned some consultants to seek ways of attracting forex into Nigeria and noted that with the initiative of building Diaspora cities, there was hope in actualising the target.

He further stated that the FHA had held meetings with the ICPC and Osinbajo on ways to drive the initiative and that the two Federal Government agencies had agreed to work together in achieving the set target.

Al-Amin said, “After extensive meetings with the ICPC chairman on the needs of our citizens in Diaspora, we saw it as a golden opportunity to partner the commission. We then formed a small a small committee here in the authority and articulated how we thought the housing project for Nigerians in Diaspora can be actualised.

“We submitted the draft and he went through it and I think that was the basis of how he generated much more interest in what we do here to link us up with Diaspora Nigerians and to ensure that we are able to help them attain their aspirations.”

He also said, “Nigerians need to know that the Federal Government had commissioned some consultants to find out how it could attract more foreign exchange into the country, because as we speak, there is paucity of forex within our economy.

“The consultants came with the idea that the resources being remitted by our citizens from Diaspora are huge opportunities if government will encourage those remittances on sustainable basis through housing. This is because one of the things that the consultants mentioned was that a large chunk of the remittances actually goes into homeownership.

“Unfortunately, these remittances mostly end up in wrong hands or wrong decisions are being taken on them. For out of every 10 Diaspora citizens, hardly will you find five that have not been victims of one issue or the other.”

To address this problem, Al-Amin said the office of the vice president had to intervene and the intervention was to ensure that the remitted funds were used to develop houses with guarantee for Nigerians in Diaspora.

He said, “The Office of the Vice President picked interest in the issue of housing our Diaspora citizens, assisting them to get accommodation and handling issues of homeownership as well as encouraging them to start thinking of coming back home. This will ensure that we have vast experience and bring resources that will be invested back home.

“Based on that, we had another fertile collaboration and recently, we had a meeting in the Presidential Villa with Osinbajo as the Acting President where we discussed this project. The finance ministry too is looking into the issue. Part of what we discussed is captured in the Nigerian Diaspora Housing Programme.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election

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Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.

He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.

The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.

“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.

He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.

“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.

“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.

“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.

“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.

According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.

He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.

“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.

“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.

He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)

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African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity

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African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.

“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.

The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.

Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.

The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.

The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.

Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.

The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.

The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.

Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”

The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.

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ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research

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The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.

The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.

He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.

According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.

“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.

“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said

The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.

“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.

He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.

Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.

“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.

“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.

“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.

The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.

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