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FG partners Microsoft to build high-speed internet infrastructure

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The Federal Government has entered into a partnership with an American multinational technology company, Microsoft, to accelerate digital transformation in Nigeria.

Microsoft said it had identified three key pillars to help build strong foundations for a digital economy in Nigeria: connectivity, skilling and digital transformation.

Six regions in the country have been earmarked for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure, following discussions with the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and local partners.

Microsoft President, Brad Smith, was quoted as saying, “We believe in the future of Nigeria, and we are excited as a company to add to our investments.

“Together, we have an enormous opportunity to put technology to work, create jobs, to foster the technology ecosystem across Nigeria, and to use technology to preserve the best of the past and take us into the future.”

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said, “With over 80 million registered internet users, there is no question that Nigerians have fully embraced technology, the internet, and their various uses. But there’s still so much to be achieved.”

Microsoft’s said its Airband team would work closely with local partners to improve broadband connectivity in these communities while also assisting with the design and implementation of hyper-scale cloud services.

Microsoft has also committed to upskilling five million people in Nigeria over the next three years. To help reach this goal, 1,700 trainers will provide blended online and in-person training courses to the country’s youth as well as government workers.

“Government will also be given the tools to digitally transform skilling, education, and employment methods to match job seekers with the right employers. In doing so, we hope to create over 27,000 new digital jobs in the next three years,” Microsoft said.

It added. “The final pillar, digital transformation, will initially be made up of two initiatives.

Microsoft, in collaboration with local partners, will support the design and implementation of cloud-based tools to further enable government’s fight against corruption.

“Microsoft will partner with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to apply technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to help identify potential risk, highlight them, and reduce corruption.

“The second initiative will help protect Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, as Microsoft will look to deploy artificial intelligence tools to safeguard these treasures for future generations,” the statement added.

“Through a newly formed partnership with the National Institute of Cultural Orientation, Microsoft will support the organisation’s efforts to preserve and revive Nigeria’s three major indigenous languages: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.”

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Oil Prices Continue to Climb on Supply Disruptions As Brent Hits $78/1

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Brent crude futures rose more than 1% to above $78 a barrel on Friday, the highest since October 2018 and widening a weekly gain to 3.6 per cent amid global supply concerns following storms in the US that damaged facilities on the Gulf coast.

WTI crude rose for the fifth consecutive week, with futures up almost 3 per cent to an 8-week high of $73.98 a barrel boosted by growing fuel demand and falling US crude inventories.

Disruptions in US Gulf Coast production following Hurricane Ida and other storms have led to sharp draws in US and global inventories. EIA data showed US crude stocks fell by 3.5 million barrels to 414 million last week, the lowest since October 2018. Capping some gains was China’s first public sale of state oil reserves. State-owned PetroChina and private refiner and chemical producer Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totaling about 4.43 million barrels.

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Buhari: Five million homes to get solar power by 2030

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Nigeria is working on an ambitious energy plan including decentralised solar energy solutions that will substantially reduce the energy shortcomings by the year 2030, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

The President spoke on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York on the High-Level Dialogue on Energy.

Spokesman for the President, Mr Femi Adesina, in a statement Friday night, quoted Buhari as saying, “Nigeria’s commitment to a just transition is reflected in our ambitious Energy Compact, which includes the government’s flagship project to electrify five million households and 20 million people using decentralised solar energy solutions.

“This is a major first step towards closing our energy access deficit by 2030. Nigeria’s commitment is also reflected in the development of our Energy Transition Plan, which was developed with the support of the UK COP26 Energy Transition Council.”

He called for support from developed countries to unlock the financing needed to accelerate a just energy transition for all.

“The focus of our discussions on transition must now evolve how we help countries develop detailed energy transition plans and commitments to mobilize enough financing to empower countries to implement those plans,” he said.

The President said the scale of financing required for Nigeria to achieve net-zero would amount to over $400bn across the Nigerian economy in excess of business-as-usual spending over the next 30 years.

He said, “This breaks down to $155bn net spends on generation capacity, $135bn on transmission and distribution infrastructure, $75bn on buildings, $21bn on industry and $12bn on transport.”

Buhari, however, said that gas would continue to have a big role to play before phasing it out, explaining that solid fuel cooking was still wreaking havoc in Africa:

He said, “As a global leader on the energy transition, it is imperative that I flag a major risk to development that stems from the current narrative around the energy transition, particularly on the role of gas and the lack of financing.

“Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan has laid out our road map to reach net-zero and highlights the scale of the effort required, which includes the development and integration of renewables into current grid infrastructure at tremendous scale and electrification of all sectors.

“This is challenging for any country, especially a developing country. On our development objectives, gas will have a key role to play here for some years before being phased out.”

President Buhari noted that these plans must also take into account the provision of access to electricity and clean cooking solutions for those in Nigeria and around the world currently without access.

He also stressed the essential role of gas in addressing clean cooking challenges.

“Globally, there are 2.6 billion people who lack access to clean cooking – which is unacceptable. Even more concerning is that solid fuel cooking in Africa causes almost 490,000 premature deaths annually, making it the second-largest health risk in Africa,” he stated.

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States can’t collect VAT, it’s on exclusive list – Malami

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State governments are not empowered to collect value-added tax (VAT) in the country because it is on exclusive legislative list, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said.

The AGF gave this position on Friday night in an interview with Channels Television.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service has been at loggerheads with Rivers and Lagos State governments over VAT collection. And the matter already receiving the backing of some other state governments is current in court.

Malami, who said the collection of VAT in the country is under the exclusive legislative list, posited that only the National Assembly could make laws on VAT.

He said, “A lot has precluded the state from collecting value-added tax. One, generally speaking, as you rightly know, the issue of the value-added tax is an issue on the exclusive legislative list.

“And the implication of being in exclusive legislative list matter is that only the national assembly can legislate on it. The question that you may perhaps wish to address your mind on is whether there exists any national legislation that has conferred the power on the state to collect VAT. And my answer is ‘no’.

“In the absence of a law passed by the national assembly in that direction, no state can have a valid claim to collection of value-added tax.

“The responsibility, right and constitutional powers to legislate on collection of VAT are exclusively and constitutionally vested in the National Assembly and not in the state.

“Where the national assembly has not passed any law in that regard authorising the state to collect VAT, then it goes without saying that no state can arrogate unto itself the powers to collect VAT.”

According to the minister, it will be reckless for any state to go ahead to collect VAT, despite the court’s decision asking parties to maintain the status quo.

He said, “I don’t see any state perhaps taking the law unto its hands without allowing the judicial process to take its natural course and in breach of the prevailing legislation.

“I don’t see the states acting arbitrarily and setting a very bad precedence as far as governance is concerned with particular regard to the fact that the matter is receiving judicial determination.

“I can’t understand. I can’t perhaps bring that thought into consideration that I believe it could amount to a high level of recklessness on the part of any state government to be operating in breach and to be operating a lawless governance style as far as the Nigerian state is concerned.”

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