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Democracy At 15: The Leaders’ Perspective

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How time flies!
Just like yesterday. It is exactly fifteen years today when Nigeria returned to democracy. The present democratic dispensation, mid-wifed by ex-Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, has produced three presidents, starting from President Olusegun Obasanjo (May 29, 1999-May 29, 2007), late President Umar Yar’Adua (May 29, 2007-May 5, 2010) and now President Goodluck Jonathan.
While reflecting on the past 15 years of Nigeria’s democracy, our Abuja Correspondent, Justus Awaji spoke with some eminent Nigerians who fought for the enthronement of democracy and their opinions were so candid, vintage, succinct, challenging and thought-provoking!
They include the leader of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation  and a chieftain of the opposition party, the  All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), Prof Jerry Gana; former Deputy Senate between 1999 and 2007, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, as well as two elder statesmen, Chief Jim Nwobodo  who is a Second Republic governor of the old Anambra State and Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, a former Inspector General of Police.
Chief Adebanjo, a frontline member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought the vicious Abacha regime, does not recognise May 29 as Democracy Day. As far as he is concerned, ‘Democracy Day’ is ‘June 12’ in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, reputed as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria. That election was won by late M.K.O. Abiola.
The vocal, fearless and irrepressible political/ socio-cultural activist told The Tide, ‘’I have never been a supporter of Democracy Day on May 29. I am a June 12 advocate. And I believe if there is any Democracy Day, it is June 12. Without June 12, there can’t be democracy… The federal government is still hesitant to acknowledge that. Those of us who fought for it during Abacha era will still remember that Democracy Day is June 12 and not May 29. May 29 is the military democracy day’’.
On whether democracy, as practised in Nigeria, conforms with what he and other pro-democracy activists  envisaged when they were in their ‘trenches’ fighting for democracy, he was emphatic: ‘’No, we have not had democracy, the way it should be practised. We’ve only had civilian administration because there is a lot of anti-democratic measures being put in place, particularly under ex-President  Olusegun  Obasanjo, when the government would not obey court orders’’.
Adebanjo also wrote off democracy as being practised under the incumbent administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing the government of doing things that are contrary to democracy.
‘’There is no doubt that arbitrary things are being done under this government, contrary to what obtains under a purely democratic government’’, he said.
On the way forward, Chief Adebanjo  said that the way forward lies in the implementation of whatever report the ongoing National Conference will come up with, adding, ‘’I believe that this incumbent administration should do everything to implement the recommendation of the National confab. My own view is the implementation before the (general) elections (next year), he should do the next election on the basis of the recommendations and this nation will move forward’’.
Adebanjo said although the national confab may not be perfect, as there are ‘certain procedural inadequacies’ in it, he believes if its recommendations are implemented, it will advance the course of democracy in the country. He wants the National Assembly to give the confab’s recommendations legal teeth, even if it means invoking  the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to ensure it is fully implemented in the interest of the nation.
But Jerry Gana, a professor of Geography and politician of no mean repute toes a different line from Adebanjo’s, in his assessment. He thumbed up for democracy at 15, giving a verdict of ‘so far, so good’, though there is still room for improvement.
‘’First of all, we thank God for over a decade of democracy. We came back into democracy in 1999 and this is the first major stretch of democracy in Nigeria without interruption; for that, we should thank God! Secondly, it’s very clear that democratic governance has become the order of the day in Nigeria. Nigerians love democracy and what we should do is to make democracy to continue to produce results’’, he said.
Gana told The Tide that in the last fifteen years of democracy, ‘’a lot has been achieved.’’ He chronicled the achievements as: restoration of peace and order even though the nation is currently experiencing  insecurity, infrastructural development at state and local government levels; as well as restoration of education and health, among others.
As  the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos who has visited the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and others, he was emphatic that, ‘’ intervention in the education sector is beginning to bear fruits, such that there is qualitative improvement  in terms of the infrastructure.
“And of course, it is important for us to emphasize the fact that the major structures of democracy are now in place in Nigeria. We’ve done it in the last fifteen years, it’s very, very good. Over these fifteen years, the executive is in place, the legislature is in place, the judiciary is in place; the electoral system, electoral instruments are in place, civil society is growing, democracy is now ready to move in a very positive way and I think this is good’’.
Mantu shares Gana’s views. According to him, the democracy journey  is, ‘so far, so good’.
His reason:  “This is the first time in the history of Nigeria’s political experiment that democracy has been left to last this long”.
He   recalled that in the First Republic, democracy lasted for just six months; Second Republic, four years and Third Republic, two years, saying, “this time, we are now in the 15th year of fledgling democracy’’.
Mantu, however, admitted that the country’s democracy falls below international standard as it is immersed in what he calls “our local democratic principles”, which in his view, is derailing the process.
He said: ‘’In the country today, no matter how popular you are, you cannot even become a councillor no matter how vast you are, if you are not in the limelight of the governor of your state. So, governors have taken full control of the party (machinery) in the states. It shouldn’t be so.
‘’Democracy is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people, but when you now allow a few powerful individuals to pocket it, it is no longer the rule of the people, by the people, for the people. But sad enough, this is how we practise democracy in Nigeria’’, he lamented.
To Chief Nwobodo and Alhaji Gambo, fifteen years of democracy has not adequately resolved the intricacies associated with power on one hand, and current security challenges on the other. Nwobodo reviewed the power sector while Gambo frowned at the state of the nation, including the alarming rate of insecurity, in spite of democracy.
Nwobodo’s verdict: ‘’We have feared very well, considering where we are now, with where we were and where we want to be. To me, it is so far, so good’’.
He said the nation may not have arrived yet, but there is improvement. One area he wants the government to really focus on is power supply.
“In the case  of power, it is okay, but there is more to be done; everything should be done to provide the megawatts which government pledged before the end of the year, about 6,000, or about 4,000 recommended by the National Confab Committee on Power,’’ Nwobodo said.
Jimeta on his own assessment, took the federal government to the cleaners. He minced no words when he said: “These past 15 years of democracy were characterised by bad leadership, corruption, impunity, deliberate neglect of the citizenry, and a total insensitivity to the laws of the land. We saw a situation where a police commissioner refused to take orders from the governor of the state where he was serving.’’
In reference to Boko Haram insurgents, he said, “When such happens, no matter how long it takes, it will manifest itself in the breakdown of law and order in the country, therefore a nation collapses.’’

 

President Goodluck Jonathan and Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

President Goodluck Jonathan and Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Justus Unye-Awaji, Abuja

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Entertainment

Transforming Nigeria Through Movies, Music, Arts

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Oil since its discovery in commercial quantity in Nigeria has dominated the nation’s economy, oil exports have contributed 98 percent of the Federal Government’s revenue. This over dependence has made the Nigeria’s economy unstable, non-static and has displayed a large over dependence on oil incomes.
It is on this premise that studies have been carried out to identify other sectors of the economy that could minimise the over dependence and mono economy syndrome of the nation. One of the veritable sectors is the entertainment industry, also known as the creative sector which comprises the movie, music, comedy, arts and culture, among others.
As Nigeria celebrates 60 years of independence from colonial rule, an indepth analysis of these eventful years reveals that the creative industry is dynamic and has not only generated unprecedented wealth for the country, but has also created employment opportunities for her citizens, contributed immensely towards transforming the country into a leading nation in Africa as well as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world.
After Nigeria’s independence in October 1,1960, the cinema business rapidly expanded. In 1972, the indigenisation Decree issued by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon encouraged the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinema houses from their foreign owners to Nigerians resulting in more Nigerians playing active roles in cinemas and film businesses.
Today, Nigeria’s film industry popularly known as Nollywood is adjudged the third largest film industry in the world after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India and contributed 2.3 percent (N 239 billion) to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016. It is one of the priority sectors identified in the economic and recovery growth plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a planned $ 1 billion in export revenue by the end of 2020.
In the music sector, music has become Nigeria’s new export, in November 2017, Nigeria’s music star, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards held in London, the first for Africa-based artistes. At the same MOBO Awards, another Nigerian super star, Davido, took home the Best African Act Award for his song “IF”, a love themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and RnB.
Since its release in February 2017, the official IF video has raked in up more than 60 million views on You Tube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African
Across the African continent, other musical groups such as Kenya’s, boy band, Soto Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal.
Reuters news service calls Nigerian music,’’ a cultural export’ and the Nigerian government is now looking towards the creative industry including performing arts and music to generate revenue.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics Report that the local music sector grew in real term by 8.4 percent for the first three months of 2016 and that in the first quarter of 2017 the sector grew by 12 percent compared with the same period one year prior.
The Price Water Cooper (PWC) reports that the global attention the Nigerian music scene has received in the past three years has been accelerating. There is no better time for Nigerian artistes to use data and insight to reach billions with their musical content which will help to reposition the country.
According to the vice president, International Strategy and Sperations Warner Music Group, Mr. Temi Adeniyi,” the promise of what could be achieved by Nigeria’s booming music industry in the next decade is awe-inspiring especially if the industry focuses on the critical issues of adequate compensation and piracy.
In Arts, the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe noted that” culture is the new revenue driving sector which can serve as an alternative to the oil sector in Nigeria “
He stated this at the official opening of the 13th edition of Akwaa Travel and Tourism fare in Lagos in 2017. He maintained that culture was a viable alternative revenue generating sector that could help to boost the economy.
According to a recent entertainment and media output report by PWC, Nigerian entertainment and media industry is expected to rise from $4.46 billion in 2018 to $10.8 billion by the end of 2023.The report which was released in October 2019 disclosed that the market is dominated by internet revenue as it presently contributes about 61 percent of the sector’s revenue followed by television and radio which is expected to push towards $1billion in revenue by 2023.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “We are ready to explore and exploit the new oil. When we talk about diversifying the economy, it is not just Agriculture or solid Minerals alone, it is about the creative industry, about the films, theatre and music”.
The minister made the comments ahead of a Creative Industry Financing Conference held in Lagos in 2018.He noted that the Nigerian government is already providing incentives in the sector including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians preparing to set up business in the creative industry.
He also said, “The country is allowing the industry pioneer status, meaning that those inventing in motion picture, video and TV production, music production publishing, distribution exhibition and photography can enjoy a three to five years tax holiday.
Other incentives such as government backed and privately backed investment funds are also been implemented. The minister noted that with the impressive performance so far recorded, the creative industry has been viewed as a sector that could help the government reach its goal of diversifying the nation’s economy away from oil.

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News

Oil Exploration And Niger Delta Environment

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From the first crude oil export in 1958 to the exploration of its associated products such as gas, the Niger Delta region for the past 60 years has not fared well in terms of sustained development despite being the source of the nation’s means of livelihood.
According to reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the region generates between 65% to 75% of all Federal Government’s revenue especially after the end of the Civil War in 1970.
But today, although oil and gas and its associated products still run the nation’s economy, its bye-products and impact on the region are quite devastating on both environment and the socio-economic life of the people of the area. The aquatic life, forests and farmlands have been so degraded that some areas are now devoid of human and animal habitation. Diseases and sickness are now prevalent with some communities are facing great health challenges.
Worried by these hazards, the late renowned playwright, and novelist, Kenuule Saro-Wiwa raised alarm in the late 1980’s about the fast paced degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta region. Although he was eventually killed during the struggle to find an equitable solution to the problem, the fight for a comprehensive study and remediation of the environment continued unabated despite the obstacles placed on would-be environmental activists.
The region is also described as one of the most polluted in the world. It is estimated that while the European Union experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, Nigeria recorded 9,343 cases in 10 years which could be described as a deliberate effort to slowly eradicate life from the area through poisoning of the environment.
Following the long agitations and protests from the area, the Federal Government in 2016 finally gave the nod for the implementation of the long awaited United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report beginning from 2016.
In a foreword to the report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as a case study, UNEP had this to say: “The history of oil exploration and production in Ogoni land is a large complex and often painful one that till date has become seemingly intractable in terms of its resolution and future discussion.”
It also says, “It is also history that has put people and politics and the oil industry at loggerheads rendering a landscape characterised by lack of trust, paralysis and become set against a worsening situation for the communities concerned.”
The situation in Ogoniland is peculiar to the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State was the beginning of the environmental crisis bedeviling the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the agitation for environmental reparation of the Niger Delta region dated back to the colonial times.
The agitations led to the setting up of the Willinks Commission of inquiry into the fears of the minorities. Although the commission amongst others, recommended the granting of special developmental status to the Niger Delta, the recommendation was never implemented by successive Nigerian governments after independence.
The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Niger Delta region can be said to be of mixed blessings to the region.
On the one hand, it improved the per capita income of the region through the creation of middle and high income earners. But on the other hand, it has led to series of environmental pollutions, thereby depriving communities in the region of their sources of livelihood.
This situation has led to series of crisis in the region such as the Ogoni crisis of 1990 to 1993, the Kaiama Declaration which led to the creation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the crisis in Umuechem in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and others.
Similarly, the development of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta has also been blamed for contributing to the recent acid rain and black soot in the environment.
Although the Nigerian authorities may have taken some measures to ameliorate the sufferings caused by oil explorations in the region, through the creation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) which metamorphosed into Federal Ministry of Environment, the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); inclusion of derivation into the Constitution and the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have not been able to provide the much-needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta as the problems still persist.
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta to the environmental degradation of the region. At a recent Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo shared a documentary of the current situation in the Niger Delta, adding that the region has remained backward despite its huge economic contributions to the Nigerian nation.
Ambassador Toyo who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration said, “it is frustrating to know that the context has not changed as these challenges still stare the region in the face.
“The Niger Delta is still very much degraded as issues such as the following are still debated upon: gas flaring, abject poverty, militancy, crude oil theft, unemployment, cultism and organised crime, poor state of infrastructure and underdevelopment,” she said.
She also said; “apart from lack of opportunities in the region, there is also the breakdown of law and order in the communities.
“Communities often fight over who gets what when development opportunities arise as seen in some communities in Ogoni with regards to the clean-up,” adding that such fight can scare investors away and the region will continue to suffer underdevelopment.
Also in its policy brief note on insecurity in Rivers State, the Niger Delta Dialogue Secretariat says, “there is an environmental dimension to insecurity in Rivers State. For several years now, Port Harcourt and its environs have been covered by soot.
“This is as a result of increased artisanal refining of crude oil and other forms of pollution in the state.
“These pollution-inducing activities from both illegal artisanal and legal oil production has increased environmental insecurity in Rivers State.
“This has negatively impacted on the quality of life in Rivers State,” it said.
Also speaking on the issue, a civil society activist, Ambassador Christy Iwezor said the Nigerian nation has not done enough for the Niger Delta.
She said 60 years down the lane, some oil producing communities have no water to drink and cited the example of some communities in ogoniland in which sources of water have been polluted.
Also speaking, another civil rights activist, Prince William Chinwo stressed the need for a policy that will incorporate the polluters pay principle into the Nigerian law.
According to him, if multinational companies are fined for pollution, they will be more careful in their operations.
He also blamed environmental problems on sanitary conducts.
“The problems of environmental degradation in Nigerian is caused by poor sanitary conduct of Nigerians and inefficient use of local government council workers on environmental sanitation.”
According to him, local government councils must also wakeup to their responsibilities of ensuring improved level of hygiene in their various communities.
The question is after 60 years of independence, have we really made any meaningful progress in the Niger Delta compared to similar environments across the globe where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy. It would be noted that the gulf countries where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy have gone far ahead in terms of environmental remediation.
The 60 years anniversary should provide the opportunity for the country to further look into the Niger Delta issues.

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Special Edition

How ICT Can Push The Envelop In National Dev

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If it was just for information and its gathering, processing and transmission, it can be said without any fear of equivocation that Nigeria has never lagged, especially in the context of the development of that sector within sub-Saharan Africa. After all, the first crop of the country’s political leaders was among the best journalists and newspaper publishers in the region, namely Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and Anthony Enahoro, among others.
Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and the Western Nigeria Television inaugurated in 1959 by Awolowo served to inform, educate and entertain the people while also effectively galvanizing them for the Independence struggle of the time.
At that time, radio broadcasting had already been dominated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). All the people did was to cluster around their short-wave radio sets for an hourly dose of news from London. Private radio stations were not a common sight, if they existed at all.
Cinema was a luxury then as the mobile cinema units of the various regional information ministries travelled around to entertain mostly rural dwellers who had little or no access to electricity and television. A community was considered lucky if it enjoyed such visitation as many as three times in one year.
On the other hand, telecommunication and its associated technology did not develop as rapidly, being the more expensive. For a long time after attaining Independence on October 1, 1960, Nigerians depended on whatever communication infrastructure their British colonial masters left behind. This consisted of the local town crier system, postal and wire services (including land telephone, telegraph and cable telegram). The Post and Telecommunications (P&T) Department saw to the provision of the latter services. It was later split into the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), now privatised as NTel.
Foreign companies like the International Telephone and Telegraphs (ITT) won major contracts for the development and rehabilitation of communication infrastructure, especially after the Nigerian Civil War in the early 1970s. Recall that the late politician and business mogul, MKO Abiola, once rose to become its chief executive officer for the African region.
It is widely believed that not until the introduction of the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) on August 6, 2001 by the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led civilian government did the face of ICT change in Nigeria.
The government took the decision to deregulate the telecom sector through its policy on adoption of ICT in 1999 by licensing such international mobile phone service providers as ECONET (now Airtel), MTN, and Etisalat (9Mobile) to set up shop in Nigeria. They were later joined by an indigenous telecom firm, Globacom, as a Second National Operator (SNO).
It could be recalled that the entry of Globacom into the telecom industry was at a time when call cost was N50 per second. The firm immediately introduced a pricing system that charged 11 kobo per second, thereby forcing a crash in the cost of mobile telephony as the competition was practically whipped into line. As if that was not enough, it soon undertook the laying of underwater international fibre-optic cable for superior service delivery.
Private Telephone Operators (PTOs) like Starcomm, Reliance Telephone (Reltel), Multilinks and Visafone were also licensed to provide mobile phone services but mainly on the fixed wireless GSM and CDMA platforms.
With regard to its social and economic impact on the nation, industry experts are agreed that the GSM revolution has led to massive employment generation. From the ubiquitous roadside under-the-umbrella call centres to the street corner cybercafés and cell phone retail shops the nation had never witnessed such rise in the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Additionally, available statistics indicate that the overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the telecoms sector stood at $32 billion in mid-2015; second only to the oil and gas sector. Others have even posited that, with the collapse of crude oil prices between 2015 and 2017, activities and earnings from this sector may have seen to Nigeria’s quick recovery from the recession of those years.
In terms of policy and regulatory oversight, ICT in Nigeria is said to be conducted under three major policy documents, namely: the National Mass Communication Policy of 1990 which implementation falls under the purview of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); the National Telecommunications Policy of 2000 with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) as chief executor; and the National Policy for Information Technology of 2001 to be executed by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
NBC is the main regulator of the broadcast industry in Nigeria. Some of its activities include the issuance of broadcast licences, allocation of transmission frequencies, establishing operational standards and ensuring compliance with the broadcast code.
The Commission is, by law, required to report to the Presidency through its parent ministry (Information and National Orientation).
The NCC which came into existence via an Act in 2003 has regulatory authority over activities in the telecommunications industry. It has powers to license operators, encourage competition, ensure quality service, monitor tariffs and protect consumers, among others.
The NITDA came on board through a 2007 Act and is charged with the planning, promotion and development of IT penetration and projects across Nigeria.
There are four other policy implementation and regulatory bodies within the ICT sector. They are: the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA); NIGCOMSAT; National Frequency Management Council (NFMC); and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).
The non-ICT sector has also recorded some significant gains arising from developments in information and communications technology. For instance, the use of presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint in schools and corporate boardrooms, computer spreadsheet for accounting, e-learning, e-library, e-banking and e-commerce are some popular applications that have yielded good social and commercial dividends.
The use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale (POS) terminals and mobile money transfers have helped to decongest banking halls and also save man-hours that would ordinarily have been wasted in long queues.
Another benefit of ICT was made even more manifest at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were abruptly shut down and children who could afford it engaged in virtual learning from their homes. Even some of their parents were forced to work from home using whatever ICT means available to them.
Also, the New Media which is powered by ICT and includes Internet publishing and social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have significantly enhanced real-time information sharing and social interaction with people across the globe.
Personnel management and remuneration systems have been made easier with the advent of biometric exercises, electronic time-keeping and integrated staff records and payroll methods long adopted by the private sector, and more recently, the federal, state and local governments. Even the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the systems upgrade steadily being undertaken by some of its agencies are ICT-driven.
In agriculture, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration used GSM phones to dislodge middlemen while distributing fertilizers and other farm inputs directly to beneficiaries in the rural areas. This may have served to boost food production.
After successfully emerging from the latest economic recession, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration drew up a four-year Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan (ERGP). In this plan was included an ICT Roadmap 2017-2020 which it hoped to achieve through activities of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and which seeks to create two million jobs by the end of 2020.
Overall, the ICT sector still has the potential of yielding more positive results if only the government can follow through with some of its lofty roadmaps, especially those that aim to establish ICT Centres and Innovation Hubs in selected states across the country.

 

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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