News Roundup

What to know as Nigeria detects COVID-19 Omicron variant
Nigeria has recorded its first cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, days after it was first discovered in South Africa, and suffered a travel ban from some countries. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday announced it identified and confirmed three cases in individuals with travel history to South Africa. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in these persons after the NCDC mounted genomic surveillance on inbound international travellers at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja, and a network of other testing laboratories. The disease police said it is now racing to complete sequencing of samples of coronavirus collected recently in positive travellers from all countries, particularly those that have reported the Omicron variant. In the bid to beef up public health response against the new variant, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 revised the national travel advisory to now require a negative COVID-19 test result done not more than 48hrs before departure from all inbound travelers to Nigeria. All outbound passengers are also required to present evidence of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not later than 48 hours before departure. “We appeal to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols and other public safety measures to protect themselves, families, friends, the community at large,” the NCDC said in a statement signed by Ifedayo Adetifa, director-general.

Subsidy removal: Govt, citizens must agree – World Bank
The Nigerian government and the citizens must agree on the removal of the petrol subsidy that will cost Nigeria over N3 trillion by the end of 2021, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri has said. Nigeria’s rising fiscal deficit is yet another sign of the country’s ailing finances and makes a mockery of Abuja’s insistence to continue with a wasteful petrol subsidy regime that gulps over a trillion naira per annum among other overly expensive ventures of a cash-strapped government. To solve this, Chaudhuri said “there has to be a consensus within and among the political elites which he insists is the main reason Nigeria has not achieved its potential as Africa’s biggest economy. “There has been no consensus agreement between the elites and everyone else on how best to solve this subsidy problem,” Chaudhuri said during a visit to BusinessDay’s corporate office in Lagos on Tuesday. He called on the Nigerian government to consider the opportunity cost of its continued fuel subsidy and decide whether to end the policy completely or maintain the drain on its scarce resources. “People are aware of the social risk of civil unrest attached to the removal of subsidy,” Chaudhuri said. He added, “other countries have gone through risks as well. They trade-off some choices. What we have said is, again on this, there is need for agreement and recognition”.

High prices pinch Nigerians amid slowing inflation
Inflation rate has slowed for seven straight months but Nigerians still feel the pinch with ravaging hunger levels and rising poverty. According to the World Bank’s latest Nigeria Development Update report, inflation has pushed 8 million Nigerians into poverty between 2020 and November 2021. This is an increase from 7 million reported in June 2021. According to the report, before inflation started rising steadily from September 2019, there were 83 million poor Nigerians, but the number has risen to 91 million as a result of price shock. At 15.99 percent in October 2021, Nigeria’s inflation rate is far from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s desired 6-9 percent range. Economic output in Africa’s biggest oil producer has lagged the pace of population expansion of about 2.6 per every year since 2015, a sign of worsening poverty levels. Idowu, a housekeeper, told BusinessDay that her children have dropped out of school and they now find it hard to eat twice a day now. The widowed mother of four explained they used to eat three times a day, but no longer afford that due to the rapid increase in the prices of food items. Experts say a decline in inflation rate is not an indication that prices have dropped. “When they say inflation rate is coming down, what is coming down is the rate at which prices are growing. It is not that prices are coming down, Omotola Abimbola, a macro-economist at Lagos-based Chapel Hill Denham said.

Read also: Omicron could have originated in HIV patients – German expert

Experts urge stakeholders to fix challenges facing financial inclusion
Lagos Business School in partnership with BusinessDay Media has called on key players, regulators and consumers to address the challenges facing the financial sector with the aim of achieving an inclusive digital financial ecosystem. The overall financial inclusion target was 80 percent by 2020. According to Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), data shows that only 64 percent of Nigerian adults were financially included by the end of 2020. This means that 36 percent of Nigerian adults, or 38 million adults, remain financially excluded. In emerging markets with positive financial inclusion outcomes, partnerships and strategic alliances contributed to their success, even as actors leveraged each other’s capabilities. Partnerships and alliances can enhance product innovation, optimise resources and improve delivery at the last mile. However, these partnerships and strategic allegiances have not emerged due to several challenges including limited capacity of the intending partners, inhibitive regulatory policies, and conflicting motivations and objectives of the partner institutions. The experts also addressed disputes associated with unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) and experts say partnerships are not always hunky dory, sometimes particularly in the digital finance spaces, there will be some measure of arbitrage. And so people go into partnerships to quickly leverage on technology, neglecting the implementation of effective tools of partnership. “Initially, when the USSD cost issues were raised, banks and telcos, especially relating to the end user especially charges that were the bone of contention in that period, as a regulator, we had to play a role to try and arbitrate and bring these two parties who are fundamentally sometimes within different regulatory space,” Head, Financial Inclusion Delivery Unit, CBN, Paul Oluikpe said.

AjeVerse to build first African utility Metaverse
AjeVerse, African block-chain based Start-up is set to lead a unique utility in the Metaverse space, positioning Africa as a leading player in the new technological evolution. Metaverse is a vision of what the future could be, a digital world where you could lead a digital life without leaving your home, and where the real and virtual worlds would eventually merge. Metaverse will enable users to work, go out, study, and meet with relatives virtually. The new technology will represent the sum of all the processes and protocols that power the internet and the emerging Web3, and are merging into a central and interoperable space. In this future realm, communications, finances, game worlds, personal profiles, Non-Fungible Token (NFTs), and more are all part of a larger online experience. According to the project white paper, the metaverse will pioneer time travel in the metaverse, in delivering a story-driven experience that unfolds during your trip. The paper noted that time travel is no longer a dream or movie as there is now technology and experts to take people to places and moments in history. “Life is all about stories and human experiences, so imagine not only being able to immerse yourself into a time in history or in the future and take in the sights and the sounds but also to witness these remarkable moments as they play out,” It said. Aje which is the Afriverse version of the metaverse is a decentralized metaverse built on the Binance Smart Chain that allows users to create, explore and trade in Africa’s first-ever virtual world owned by its users and holders of its native token ($AJE); with NTFS you can own, trade or transfer.

MTN Nigeria launches retail offer road show
MTN Nigeria has announced the launch of a nationwide road show to engage interested retail investors in the on-going offer by MTN Group for shares in the local unit. The first event of the road show was held in Abuja on Wednesday. Mcebisi Jonas, MTN Group Chairman, and Ralph Mupita MTN Group President and CEO, attended the road show, which was held on the sidelines of the state visit to the Federal Republic of Nigeria by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Both countries are also participating in the 10th Bi-National Commission. Jonas said the offer to retail investors to buy shares in MTN Nigeria was a milestone. “We are delighted to be here to mark this momentous event and would like to express our thanks to the regulator and MTN Nigeria’s broader stakeholder base for their support over the years. MTN is a pan-African company which works to deepen inclusion and create shared value.” He said. According to Karl Toriola, CEO of MTN Nigeria, the offer had been structured to be available to as many Nigerian investors as possible. “Today’s road show in Abuja is the first in a schedule that takes us to every state of the Federation over the next two weeks. It is really important for us to provide Nigerians across the country with the opportunity to engage with us as we build a shareholder base that is nationally representative.” Toriola said. The offer opened at 8 am today and will close at 5:00 pm on 14 December 2021. The minimum subscription is for 20 shares and lots of 20 shares thereafter. The offer includes an incentive in the form of 1 free share for every 20 shares purchased, subject to a maximum of 250 shares per investor. The incentive is open to retail investors who buy and hold the shares allotted to them for at least 12 months after the allotment date.

12-year-old beaten to death for refusing to join cult
A 12-year-old boy, Sylvester Oromoni Junior, was beaten to death for refusing to join a cult group in Dowen College, Lekki Phase One, Lagos. Tweets by a relative of the deceased @Perrisonoromoni revealed that the 12-year-old was battered on Friday but died on Tuesday after a series of tests and X-rays indicated that he sustained internal injuries. Before his death, the school management had reached out to Sylvester Oromoni, the deceased’s father, a Delta state politician, claiming the boy sustained injuries while playing football at the school. “We’re from Delta State, but he goes to a boarding school in Lekki. They called my uncle that his son was injured when he was playing football. Reaching the hospital, it was confirmed that he was being bullied and beaten up, causing internal damages,” the relative tweeted.
However, in a statement on Wednesday, the school denied all allegations stating that Oromoni was neither bullied nor beaten but only complained of hip pain after playing football. @perrisonoromoni tweets revealed that while on the hospital bed, Oromoni Junior informed his parents that the school’s cult members threatened to kill him if he reported them. He also mentioned names of the students who bullied him before his death. Reactions from Nigerians on twitter have suggested the family takes up the case, get the kids mentioned by the 12 year old before his death, torture them and record their confession and take the matter to the court. Others said the school should be shut down until thorough investigation has been done to avoid recurrence of such incidents.
BusinessDay research shows that Dowen College had blocked its comment section on social media, as well as there have been no comments from the parents or guardian since Oromoni’s death was announced by @perrisonoromoni.