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Customers TO Pay N6.98 Per USSD Transaction – CBN, NCC

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that customers will now pay a flat rate of N6.98 per transaction every time they use the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data.

The apex bank and NCC said the new charges effective Tuesday was part of the agreement reached when banks and telecommunication operators met on Monday to discuss the N42bn debt.

“Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks) and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction,” CBN and NCC spokesman Osita Nwanisobi and Ikechukwu Adinde said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion. This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.”

Telecommunications operators had earlier threatened to withdraw the USSD service from banks following the refusal of the banks to pay the accumulated debt of N42 billion, which have accrued in the last eight months.

The Telcos, under the aegis, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) claimed that since the USSD Pricing determination by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which resulted in a price review of USSD service by its members, banks are yet to pay them the accumulated USSD transactions costs.

The apex bank and NCC said the settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by the Mobile Network Operators (MNO), is being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.

“ MNOs and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) shall discuss and agree on the operational modalities for the implementation of the new USSD pricing framework, including sharing of Application Programme Interface (API) to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing,” the statement read.

“ DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services.”

They noted that the impending suspension of banks from the USSD channel is hereby vacated as they would no longer be disconnected from the USSD channel.

CBN and NCC said the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts.

“Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel,” the statement reads.

“With the above resolutions, The general public is reminded that the USSD channel is optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs may be used for financial transactions.”

Government

Lagos- Ibadan Rail Project Delayed Due To Technical Issues- Amaechi

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The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday attributed the delay in inaugurating the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to infrastructural and technical issues within the seaport in Apapa.

This, according to him, would be resolved at a meeting involving all stakeholders and experts to proffer solutions to the problem.

Amaechi, during an inspection tour of the project within the seaport axis yesterday in Lagos, said he could not say exactly when the project would now be launched.

He said: “This project is very technical. If I have given you a timeline, how would I have found a solution to the customs building, so we are working hard to find these solutions; it is only after when the engineers have come up with proper solutions and time-based solutions that I can speak on time. Now I cannot speak on time until when that happens.

“You know, you can actually commission this project without that because it is not just one track, there are several tracks; that is one of the tracks we are going to fix. I am not an engineer, am just a policymaker; I am the head of the ministry.”

Amaechi, however, expressed the determination of the government to complete the project despite the challenges.

“All I am doing is to make sure that out of the three tracks one or two can get to the quays so that we can commission, pending when the other ones are completed as a result of challenges we are meeting inside the seaport. It means this is the difficulty we are having and we want to face them. The fact that we have not gone to other places means other places are functioning. But this one we have this crisis and we have to find a solution to it.

“We are going to have a meeting now, and in that meeting, everybody will be there both the experts and once we make a decision, then we can convey it to the public. We have about three tracks coming into here, is only one that we are having problems with.”

Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fridet Okhiria, expressed the need to have the rail fully operational at the seaside of the port.

”The essence of the rail is to move freight, passengers and to provide service and we have to get to the port meaningfully, not just getting to the port. We have to get to the seaside so that the ship can load directly to reduce multiple handling of goods and by doing so it will reduce the cost of the movement because presently we now get ourselves in multiple handling.

“You have to pay for a truck to take it to the railway head that is why the minister is insisting that we must get to the seaside and which is the best way to go for Nigeria. We should earn more revenue and reduce cost and the goods will get to the market and eliminate double handling of goods,” he said.

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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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