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High Exchange Rate: Foreign scholarships may be suspended for 2 years — TETFUND …says FG is owing agency N323b … borrowed over N371bn since 2013, paid N48b so far

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By Lateef Bamgbose

Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Mr Sonny Echono, dropped a hint of the planned suspension of foreign scholarships for two years due to the high exchange rate.

He said that consultations were ongoing on the issue.

He also said that the Fund was owed the sum of N323 by the federal government having borrowed over N371.3 billion out of which it has paid N48 billion.

Echono spoke at a public hearing organized by an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on the alleged missing N2.3 trillion in TETFUND.

It will be recalled that the House had last Tuesday set up the Committee, headed by Hon. Oluwole Oke, to investigate the alleged abuse of N2.3 trillion generated from the Tertiary Education Tax by the Fund from 2011 to 2023.

He said that it was difficult accessing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) even though the proceeds of their tax accruals generated on their behalf by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is domiciled in the apex.

According to the Fund, the CBN always insisted they sourced their own forex to pay fees for scholars abroad.

Echono therefore urged the panel to intervene on their behalf.

He informed that the Fund will resort to local institutions for scholarships trainings.

He said: “We operate a system where our forex is being sold on our behalf at an official rate and we apply like anybody else to get it, sometimes it leads to additional cost.

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“Currently, as I speak, we are in consultations with all our stakeholders to suspend foreign training for a year or two. This is because of the recent exchange rate adjustments, we are unable to continue based on our disbursement guideline. The money we allocated in naira cannot cover the dollar requirement for training.Those who are currently there, we now need more naira to pay for the dollar that is required for their annual fees. We are trying to put a hold.

“Most of our training now will be done locally through our experienced, first-generation universities and other specialized universities based here. This way we can retain our resources in house and cope with the change of foreign exchange variation.

“Some of the scholars that have been sponsored, unpatriotically when they go, they enjoy our scholarship, acquire a higher degree, they refuse to come back, it has become a major crisis.

“We are working with the staff unions for stringent and effective measures to be taken; currently before you are sponsored, you are made to sign a bond.

“The scholarship requires that you will come back. It is required that you have a guarantor and in many cases the guarantor has suffered undue hardship because when you disappear, we hold the guarantor to pay all the money expended on your behalf but that has not been effective.

“We believe that a system where we work with our embassies and the institutions, we can enforce the repayment for those who insist they will not come back.

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“If they don’t, we will declare them ‘persona non grata’. We will write to the embassies and they will make it available to those countries and they will not be able to get jobs. They will be seen as fugitives of law from their countries.

“We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.

“It is a huge number that we cannot afford and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back.

“We are not against people looking for greener pastures but do so on your own, not through our scholarship or through our sponsorship”.

Speaking on alleged missing of N2.3 trillion in TETFUND, Echono said the allegations were unfounded.

According to him, the actual sum generated from education tax from 2011 to 2022 was N2.476 trillion out of which the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) retained N99 billion as cost of collection.

He said that the government had since 2013 borrowed N371.3 billion from the Fund out of which it has paid N48 billion so far.

“We do have challenges but these challenges and they have nothing to do with fraud. They are basically issues of governance and I would start by explaining what the challenges are. First in absolute terms so we have a clear picture of what we are talking about. From the year 2011 to 2022 total education tax collected by the FIRS as presented to us in their documentations, as confirmed from the statements we received from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which we have also attached for the Committee to peruse is N 2, 476, 733, 181, 679.75.

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“Out of this amount, a total sum of N99 billion were retained by FIRS as cost of collection, leaving a balance of N2.37 trillion. So, the total fund that had hit education pool account at the CBN is N2.3 trillion from 2011 to date

“However, the FG over time in the course of governance and to meet pressing needs has borrowed funds from these accounts. The total borrowing is approximately N371.339 billion. These borrowings happened over time and most of the borrowings started in 2013.

“The FG acknowledges that it was borrowing and we have full documentation of this and all the correspondences that accompanied it. Other borrowings since then are being tabulated and given to you. We did secure presidential approval for the refund of this borrowing since 2015 and the FG has been refunding albeit in piecemeal.

“To date, total borrowing is over N371 billion. But total repayment to this date is about N48 billion. Last year N12.8 billion was given to us, this year another N12.89 billion was given to us. They are just paying. God knows how long this will take to defray the principal amount”, Echono said.

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Education

Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure: The Imperative of Cybersecurity in a Digital World

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By Ojo Emmanuel Ademola

The increasing reliance on digital technology and interconnected systems has transformed the way we operate, bringing efficiency and convenience to our daily lives. However, this heightened connectivity also brings with it a range of cybersecurity risks. The recent Global IT outage on July 19th, 2024, serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities present in both public and private sector IT infrastructure. In this context, ensuring robust cybersecurity measures becomes imperative to safeguard critical infrastructure and prevent similar disruptions in the future. Essentially, sustainable solutions today and going forward in light of Cyber secure the critical infrastructure where they could be in running our computers remains an ever-dynamic investment.

The Global IT outage of July 19th, 2024, brought to light the significant vulnerabilities and risks faced by both public and private sectors in terms of cyber security of IT infrastructure. This event highlighted the need for more robust security measures and a collective effort to address these challenges.

One of the key issues in cyber security is the increasing sophistication of cyber threats and attacks. These attacks are becoming more frequent, more complex, and more damaging, posing a serious threat to the integrity and security of IT infrastructure. Furthermore, the reliance on interconnected systems and networks makes it easier for cyber criminals to exploit vulnerabilities and launch large-scale attacks.

In response to this growing threat, organizations need to adopt a proactive approach to cyber security, rather than a reactive one. This involves implementing comprehensive security measures, such as encryption, authentication, access controls, and threat detection mechanisms, to prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks. In addition, regular security audits and vulnerability assessments are essential to identify and address potential weaknesses in IT systems.

Collaboration and information sharing are also key components of a sustainable cybersecurity strategy. Public and private sector organizations need to work together to share threat intelligence, best practices, and resources to strengthen their collective defences against cyber threats. Government agencies can play a crucial role in facilitating this collaboration and providing support and guidance to organizations in enhancing their cyber security posture.

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Sustainable solutions-focused synergies involve a multi-faceted approach to cyber security that combines technology, processes, and people. Organizations need to invest in advanced security technologies and tools, such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and endpoint protection solutions, to protect their IT infrastructure from cyber attacks. However, technology alone is not enough – organizations also need to develop robust security policies and procedures and train their employees to recognize and respond to security threats effectively.

Reflectively as such, the Global IT outage of July 19th, 2024, serves as a wake-up call for organizations to prioritize cyber security and take proactive steps to protect their IT infrastructure. By adopting a comprehensive approach to cyber security, leveraging collaboration and information sharing, and investing in technology and training, organizations can enhance their resilience against cyber threats and ensure the safety and security of their digital assets.

The global IT outage on July 19th, 2024, was caused by a security update that was corrupted, leading to widespread disruptions in both public and private sector IT infrastructure. This incident highlighted the critical need for robust cyber security measures to be implemented across all sectors to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

The issue of security updates being corrupted is a significant concern as these updates are meant to patch vulnerabilities and strengthen the overall security of IT systems. However, if these updates are compromised, they can instead introduce new vulnerabilities and create opportunities for malicious actors to exploit.

To address this issue and prevent future incidents, there needs to be a greater focus on ensuring the integrity and reliability of security updates. This can be achieved through the implementation of strict quality control measures, including thorough testing and validation processes before updates are deployed.

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Additionally, organizations should prioritize the implementation of security best practices, such as regular security audits, penetration testing, and employee training on cyber security awareness. This can help to identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious actors.

Collaboration and information sharing between public and private sectors is also crucial in addressing cyber security threats. By working together, organizations can share threat intelligence and best practices, as well as coordinate responses to cyber incidents more effectively and efficiently.

Intriguingly, the global IT outage of July 19th, 2024, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of robust cyber security measures in protecting IT infrastructure from potential threats. By implementing strict quality control measures, prioritizing security best practices, and fostering collaboration between sectors, organizations can work towards sustainable solutions to prevent future incidents and ensure the security of their IT systems.

Consequently, to ensure the cyber security of critical infrastructure and protect IT systems from potential threats, several sustainable solutions can be implemented both today and in the future. Here we go:

1. Continuous monitoring and threat detection: Implementing robust monitoring systems that can detect any unusual activity or potential threats in real time is crucial in preventing cyber attacks. This can help organizations identify and respond to threats quickly, minimizing the impact on critical infrastructure.

2. Encryption and data protection: Utilizing encryption technologies to protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit can help prevent unauthorized access and ensure the confidentiality and integrity of information.

3. Implementing multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification before gaining access to IT systems. This can help prevent unauthorized access, even in the event of compromised credentials.

4. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments: Conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments can help identify and address any weaknesses in IT systems before they can be exploited by malicious actors. This proactive approach can help strengthen the overall security posture of critical infrastructure.

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5. Employee training and awareness: Educating employees about cyber security best practices and raising awareness about potential threats can help prevent human error and mitigate risks. Employees should be trained on how to identify phishing emails, secure their devices, and follow security protocols.

6. Collaboration and information sharing: Collaboration between organizations, sectors, and government agencies is essential in combating cyber threats. Sharing threat intelligence, and best practices, and coordinating responses to cyber incidents can help strengthen cyber security defenses across critical infrastructure.

7. Secure supply chain management: Ensuring the security of the entire supply chain is essential in preventing cyber attacks. Organizations should vet suppliers and partners for security measures and implement strict security requirements in contracts.

Summarily, by implementing these sustainable solutions and investing in cyber security measures, organizations can better protect critical infrastructure and ensure the security of their IT systems both today and in the future. It is crucial to continuously adapt and evolve security measures to address the ever-changing cyber threat landscape and safeguard against potential risks.

In conclusion, the Global IT outage of July 19th, 2024, underscores the importance of prioritizing cybersecurity in our increasingly digital world. With critical infrastructure under constant threat from malicious actors, both public and private sector organizations need to implement robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard their systems and data. By adopting sustainable solutions, fostering collaboration, and staying proactive in addressing cyber threats, we can ensure the resilience of our IT infrastructure and protect against future disruptions. Only through a collective effort and a commitment to cybersecurity best practices can we build a secure and reliable digital ecosystem for generations to come.

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Kogi LG Election and Oganenigu Marginalisation: A Demand for Chairmanship Ticket

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By Comr Husseini A Aloko

As the 2024 Kogi State Local Government election approaches, the debate over zoning of the chairmanship ticket among the various wards in Dekina Local Government has taken center stage. The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and other major political parties must consider the historical context and ensure fairness in their decision.

Oganenigu Ward, in particular, has suffered severe political and economic marginalization since the creation of Dekina Local Government. Despite producing leaders in the past, the ward has been excluded from chairmanship positions and other political offices since 1999. This imbalance must be addressed.

A review of past leadership positions shows that various wards have had their fair share of representation. Abocho produced URA AJIBILI as Chairman in the 80s, while Olowa in Dekina Ward produced Hon. Rapheal Omojo Ihiabe, and Ogbabede produced Hon Simon Okai Maha. Even Oganenigu Ward produced Bar Joshua Igonor as Chairman. However, since 1999, the ward has been marginalized.

Other wards have produced chairmen, House of Assembly members, and even a Senator. Dekina Ward has produced two-term chairmen and a House of Representative member. Anyigba has produced two-term chairmen, four-term House of Assembly members, and two-term federal House of Representatives members. In contrast, Oganenigu Ward has only produced a chairman in the 90s and a House of Assembly member in 1999.

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The demand for zoning of the chairmanship ticket to Oganenigu Ward is a child of necessity. Political inclusion is essential for democracy to thrive. Rotational chairmanship may not be constitutionally written, but it is desirable for justice and fairness.

I urge the chairmen of leading political parties to zone the Dekina chairmanship ticket to Oganenigu Ward for equity, fairness, and justice. This will ensure all wards have a sense of belonging and promote inclusive democracy.

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Education

Nigeria Is Ndumed!

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By Jarlath Opara

He walks up to me, please I need food stuff. My stomach pains. For days I have not eaten anything and no hope of eating anytime soon.

I don’t have food stuff I replied but I can give you some money to buy things. No! I need food! What can money buy now. Money doesn’t have value anymore. I need food no matter how small.

Sadly, I am not the only one that have experienced this recently. Many had, an indication that “water don pass garri”. People hadly ask for money.

They want food. Hunger is everywhere. We pray we don’t get to the point of people finding human flesh something they can find delicious and crave for it.

This country is serially NDUMED. It seems there is no escape route. Each day that dawns and dusks, the profound reality of the Ndumed nature of this country becomes obvious.

There is cry of pains and deprivations everywhere. Cry that touches the heart with nothing around to bring succour, smiles and good life to the wailing, broken and shattered souls.

In the dungeon of life we are, covered with the duvet of corruption, impunity and nepotism by those who pledged to protect and provide for us.

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Our country is highly NDUMED ( Neglected, Disgraced Under Mismanaged Economic Disaster)

How can this be explained to a sane soul that a country rich in minerals, rich in human resources, rich in vegetation etc is NDUMED? (Neglected, Disgraced Under Mismanaged Economic Disaster) Sadly this is our funny reality, stuck in this mud, sinking daily to its very bottom. However we cry, their ears appear blocked.

Beyond God’s help what else can we do? Fold our hands and watch this country NDUMED in this manner with impunity by our leaders? Living in luxury and affluence and calling our bluff in this valley of hunger?

What else can we do apart from looking unto God?

Jarlath Opara Jarlathuche@gmail.com

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