Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Nigeria to build 90,000km fibre-optic to improve internet access — Minister

The Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, has disclosed that the Nigerian government is planning to build 90,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable to ensure that the country has access to quality internet.

The Minister, while disclosing this at the breakout session of the 9th Nigeria-EU Business Forum on Tuesday in Abuja, also said the project will cost about $2 billion to provide everyone in Nigeria with access to quality internet.

The forum was themed, “Investing in Jobs and a Sustainable Future.”Related PostsLasisi Olagunju and Nigeria’s Amorphous ProblemsYou’re future, hope of Nigeria, Gov Makinde tells Corps membersDigital supply chains to transform small-scale farming in Nigeria —NITDA DG

He said, “We plan to lead the investment with 90,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable, which is going to cost us about two billion dollars. But the EU is the first to step forward and say they’ll be more than happy to support us in the necessary studies to ensure we can properly, not just raise this money, but also deploy the fiber.”

The Minister stated that the country is ready to maximize the potential of its youthful population to drive up trade, reiterating that the EU is Nigeria’s largest trading partner.

ALSO READ:Lasisi Olagunju and Nigeria’s Amorphous Problems

“Trade is essential for the development of any nation. Trade makes the world go around, and I think most importantly, when we talk about trade, we are not just talking about imports here, we are also talking about exports. So we actually do sell to the EU, and I’ve had a good working relationship with the EU.”

“The ambition that we have as a nation, where the president has recognized that the opportunity we have to leapfrog development in Nigeria, will require that we think differently and do things differently, which is why as a government, we’re investing significantly in agriculture, for instance.”

“As a government, we are investing significantly in infrastructure because there’s little we can do without proper infrastructure to power what we want to see. But also, things around the rule of law and making sure that people can do business effectively in the country are something the president takes to heart and is constantly supporting.”

He added, “As a very youthful population, there’s also opportunity between our countries, even around the workforce, to ensure that even though Europe has an aging population, we have a very youthful population and there’s an opportunity there for Nigeria to support the future of work in Europe.”

Also, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Samuela Isopi, reiterated that the EU remains Nigeria’s biggest foreign investor with a stock estimated at €26 billion.

Isopi added that the stock represents one-third of Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment stock.

“The EU is Nigeria’s largest trading partner with a total trade of almost €35 billion in 2023, accounting for about one-third of Nigeria’s foreign trade and a balance of over €10 billion in favor of Nigeria.”

She said the forum highlights the importance of international partnerships in promoting sustainable economic development.

“Trade and sustainable investment are not only at the core of the renewed hope agenda, but they are also at the center of the partnership between the EU, its Member States, and Nigeria. And this is not by chance.

“The European Union is by far Nigeria’s largest trading partner with a total trade of almost €35 billion last year, accounting for about one-third of Nigeria’s foreign trade, and a balance – at over 10 billion euros – in favor of Nigeria.

“The European Union is also Nigeria’s biggest foreign investor with a stock estimated at €26 billion, representing one-third of Nigeria’s FDI stock. In collaboration with our Member States and with EUROCHAM Nigeria, the European Chamber of Commerce, we have carried out the first-ever mapping of EU companies present in Nigeria: and the findings are quite extraordinary.”

Isopi stated that the EU and its member states are also top development partners and primary grant donors, covering sectors that are critical to economic growth.

According to her, the European Investment Bank is increasingly active in Nigeria with an important ongoing portfolio, focusing on innovation, renewable energies, and private sector development, with new operations in the pipeline.

She mentioned that there are plans to deepen economic ties and promote additional investments by exploring the potential of a Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreement.

“More could be done to boost our trade relations. On our side, we stand ready to engage, should Nigeria, as the only holdout in West Africa, reconsider its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, an instrument in support of economic diversification and local added value, in line with Nigeria’s industrial ambitions.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director General, Directorate General for International Partnerships, European Commission, Myriam Ferran, said the commission is working with the government and the private sector in the fields of renewable energy, green transition, climate change, transport, digitalization, agricultural value chains, and enablers for human capital development, particularly in education and health.

“Our objective is to strengthen the links between the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, also in the multilateral fora and on the basis of value, and values apply in each and every way of doing things, in the way we conduct digitalization, and it’s why we want to intervene.

“We are very keen to support investment in infrastructure, but we’re equally keen to work with the government in data governance, protection of personal data, to make the use of digitalization human-centric and in respect of fundamental values.

“The rule of law is essential to any investment. So we also support all the reforms of the government to improve the business environment, to make investments easier,” she added.

The event’s highlight was the signing of an agreement for a €300,000 grant between the European Union and the European Business Chamber, aimed at supporting the Chamber’s further development.

“The funds will be allocated to various developmental projects, including capacity-building programs, member services enhancement, and initiatives aimed at improving the business climate in Nigeria.”

“Eurocham Nigeria will also use the grant to organize events, workshops, and training sessions that will benefit its members and the broader Nigerian business landscape,” Ferran said.

By Kazeem Biriowo, Nigerian Tribune

Nigeria to collect 7.5% tax on cryptocurrency transactions

Nigeria government is to receive a 7.5 percent Value Added Tax on Cryptocurrency transactions from users registered in the country from July 8, 2024.

A popular cryptocurrency platform, KuCoin disclosed this in a recent email notice to users in Nigeria.

“We are writing to inform you of an important regulatory update that impacts our users from the Republic of Nigeria.

“Starting from July 8th, 2024, we will begin collecting a Value-Added Tax (VAT) at a rate of 7.5 percent on transaction fees in each trade for users whose KYC information is registered in Nigeria.”

According to official data, cryptocurrency transaction volume is $59 billion yearly.

Meanwhile, Ray Youssef, director of NoOnes, a cryptocurrency platform said peer-to-peer business is worth $500 billion.

In February 2024, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso raised the alarm that a suspicious $26 billion was funneled through Binance without a trace.

By Ogaga Ariemu, Daily Post Nigeria

Related story: US lawmakers say Nigeria is detaining American to extort Binance


Thursday, June 27, 2024

Starlink Mini Dish Revolutionizing Internet Connectivity in Nigeria

 SpaceX is on the verge of launching the highly anticipated Starlink Mini dish. This revolutionary device promises to transform internet availability, particularly in underserved areas. It is set to provide satellite-based internet connectivity to people in remote locations where physical connections are impossible and mobile connections offer limited bandwidth.

The Starlink Mini is a game changer. With dimensions measuring 11.4 inches by 9.8 inches, it is significantly more compact and portable than the current 23.4-inch by 15.07-inch Starlink dish. The device is designed to fit comfortably in a backpack, providing users with unprecedented flexibility and convenience. This portability makes it an ideal companion for remote workers, travelers, and those living in isolated areas.

The integrated Wi-Fi router in the Starlink Mini supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11b/g/n/ax) and operates over the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It features 3×3 MIMO built-in antennas, enhancing the connectivity experience. The device has only two connectors: a DC barrel for the external power source and an RJ45 network connector, allowing users to connect up to 128 devices. Weighing only 2.4 pounds (or 3.4 pounds with the kickstand and DC cable), the Starlink Mini is lightweight and easy to set up.

Since TD Africa, the leading distributor of tech products in Africa and the major distributor of Starlink products in Nigeria, introduced Starlink into the Nigerian market, the company has captured the public’s interest with its ubiquitous satellite service. In fact, the latest Internet Service Provider (ISP) data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed that Elon Musk’s internet company, Starlink, has emerged as Nigeria’s third-largest ISP by subscriber number in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023.

For Nigerians eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Starlink Mini, the wait is almost over. Immediately after Starlink launches the Mini, Konga, Nigeria’s leading e-commerce group and Starlink’s exclusive shop-in-shop retailer, will ensure it is available nationwide. The device will be offered on at the best prices. This partnership underscores Konga’s commitment to providing cutting-edge technology solutions at affordable prices.

Rest assured, the Mini delivers impressive performance. Based on a speed test screenshot shared by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Starlink Mini offers a robust 100 Mbps download speed and a respectable 11.5 Mbps upload speed with a latency of 23 ms. These capabilities are more than enough to power multiple 4K video streams, video calls, seamless voice chats, and speedy file downloads. Users can expect a seamless and high-quality internet experience, regardless of location.

For users needing to extend coverage to a broader area, the Starlink Mini is compatible with Starlink mesh, allowing it to pair wirelessly with another Starlink router. There is also an Ethernet port for those who prefer a direct connection. This versatility ensures that the Starlink Mini can adapt to various user needs and environments.

One of the most attractive aspects of the Starlink Mini is its affordability. The device is likely to be sold at half the price of the standard dish, making it accessible to a broader audience. This pricing strategy is expected to significantly boost adoption rates, particularly in Nigeria, where cost has been a barrier to accessing high-speed internet.

The launch of the Starlink Mini signifies a significant step forward in democratizing internet access. Whether you reside in a remote location, crave internet on the go, or simply yearn for a more affordable and reliable internet solution, the Starlink Mini is here to bridge the gap. With TD Africa and Konga at the helm, a brighter and more connected future awaits Nigerians.

By Ugo Onwuaso, Nigerian CommunicationWeek

Related stories: Musk’s Starlink to disrupt ISP market as hope rises for 25m unserved Nigerians

Nigeria becomes first country in Africa to have Starlink

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Deaf students in Nigeria boost their coding skills – and their self-esteem

In a one-room apartment in Jos, Nigeria, instructor Wuni Bitrus and almost a dozen students gather around a table cluttered with equipment – a toolbox, a 12-volt adapter, a coding panel, a set of jumper cables, a mix of colored wires. The students’ idea: to build the prototype for a “smart” door that opens with the touch of a finger.

The students chat back and forth in sign language, and Mr. Bitrus signs back. The group discusses using Arduino, an open-source electronics platform, and one student wonders how fingerprints can be stored. Mindful of Nigeria’s electricity problems, Mr. Bitrus genially advises the group to use a battery-powered keypad lock system first and incorporate a fingerprint feature later.

“It works well, rather than waste time reinventing the wheel,” Mr. Bitrus says. After nodding in agreement, the students excitedly start working.

This is just another afternoon in a club run by the Deaf Technology Foundation, a nonprofit co-founded by Mr. Bitrus in 2017 that trains Nigerian children and young adults who are deaf in computer programming and robotics. The students also work to improve their reading skills, and receive career guidance and counseling to help them believe in themselves.

Mr. Bitrus’ driving force? “Compassion,” he says, because deaf people in Nigeria “are limited in so many ways.”

His desire to change the prospects of Nigeria’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community was sparked in 2014 by his encounter with a 13-year-old girl while he was teaching as part of the National Youth Service Corps in Zamfara state. Mr. Bitrus had noticed that the teen faced discrimination, and he became determined to learn sign language and teach her to use a computer. Three years later, he marshaled the resources, including funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to form the Deaf Technology Foundation.

Call her Mama Robotics

One of the darkest memories that Mercy Samson Grimah, a foundation student, has about growing up is looking at the faces of people around her and recognizing insults and negative energy directed at her.

“That hurt me so bad because I knew in my heart that I could do anything. They just see us as lesser human beings,” she says. “I wanted to show them that deaf people can become whatever they want to be.”

(Mr. Bitrus interpreted the students’ comments for this article.)

Ms. Grimah says her private secondary school did not formally teach sign language to her, nor much of anything else. But there was one teacher who knew how to sign, and she taught Ms. Grimah. When Mr. Bitrus visited Ms. Grimah’s school to promote the work of the Deaf Technology Foundation, she was happy to see that “he could sign,” too.

She dropped out in her third year because her parents could not pay her school fees, but fortunately, she had already formed a bond with the Deaf Technology Foundation.

“I had never touched a laptop before in my life,” she says. Now, she wants to become a computer scientist – and answers to the nickname Mama Robotics.

Five years ago, Ms. Grimah and several other students made a road trip from Jos to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to compete in MakeX, a robotics contest. The team had practiced for about 18 hours. In the end, it built robots to perform tasks such as cleaning trash in a model city. Although Ms. Grimah’s team was not chosen to go on to represent Nigeria in the international competition, it emerged fourth among about 15 teams.

“Our team was the only one made up of the deaf,” says Ms. Grimah, her eyes lighting up.

Her father, Grimah Samson, adds, “What they are doing changed her. The day we are not able to transport her here [to the Deaf Technology Foundation for club activities], she isn’t happy. We pray that God opens doors for her and the other children to make something of themselves.”

Shut out of the sciences

Mercy Sale wanted to study to become a computer scientist, but her school told her that, as a deaf student, she could not.

In October 2019, Ms. Sale was part of a Deaf Technology Foundation team that flew to the Netherlands. It was among teams from 10 organizations around the world that competed for the Nothing About Us Without Us Award, which goes to nonprofits working with marginalized or disadvantaged communities.

“I started seeing the reward for where technology can take me,” Ms. Sale says. Now, she wants to be a web developer.

Joy Yusuf, another Deaf Technology Foundation student, had wanted to become a doctor. But she was moved to a new school where the principal and staff said there was no way that could happen, even though the school welcomed students with disabilities.

“It was a blow for me,” Ms. Yusuf says. “I cried. I had to call Mr. Bitrus and my father to beg them, but [the principal and staff] still refused. For me, Deaf Tech is the only way I can have anything close to [studying] medicine.”

Now, she, too, wants to become a web developer.

The Deaf Technology Foundation’s major challenge is a lack of funding. There are only two paid tutors for computer programming and robotics, and the number of students keeps growing. Thirty-four students on average attend classes four days a week, but that number can rise to 70 when students are on breaks from their regular studies. To loosen up, they all gather twice a week for sports and dance.

In addition to the three clubs that the Deaf Technology Foundation has started in Jos, it has one each in Zamfara state and Abuja. Most of the foundation’s volunteers are older students who help conduct sports activities for club members on a temporary basis, Mr. Bitrus explains.

“This is what I love doing,” he says, adding that he hopes, in time, to see his students train others.

To scale up, the foundation aims to take advantage of the technology boom in Nigeria, particularly in the robotics sector. It hopes to partner with Jos-based companies on, for example, self-driving car technology and automated wheelchairs.

Lengdung Tungchamma, co-founder of Jenta Reads, a community initiative that aims to improve reading skills in impoverished areas of Jos, has worked with the foundation for a couple of years.

“The most important thing about Deaf Tech is the passion of its leaders and founders,” he says. “Giving people with [disabilities] skills that they can use to earn an income and make a future for themselves is the best thing anyone can do.

“People need to see that disability is not a death sentence or the end of life. ... That’s what Deaf Tech does. It just gives hope to people.”

By Nathaniel Bivan, The Christian Science Monitor

Related story: Video - Braille trained pushing for education for the blind in Nigeria

Friday, June 7, 2024

US lawmakers say Nigeria is detaining American to extort Binance

US lawmakers have accused Nigeria of wrongfully detaining an American staff member of cryptocurrency exchange Binance in an attempt to extort money. They urged President Joe Biden and the State Department to quickly intervene in the case.

Tigran Gambaryan, 40, and a company colleague were arrested by Nigerian security authorities in February while on an official visit to the country.

Gambaryan is facing charges of tax evasion, money laundering and engaging in unlicensed financial activities, in a trial that began in May.

“Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life,” read a letter dated June 4 and signed by 16 members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“It is crucial to emphasize that the charges against Mr. Gambaryan are baseless and constitute a coercion tactic by the Nigerian government to extort his employer, Binance,” stated the letter, which also said he had been subjected to harsh treatment and called for swift action to save his life.

Nigeria’s government, responding to the accusations, said it is following due process. “Prosecutors are confident of their case, based on the facts and evidence gathered. Binance will have every opportunity to defend itself in court against these severe charges of financial crimes,” Information Minister Mohammed Idris said on Wednesday.

Gambaryan’s representatives and Binance have demanded his release, stating that he has no decision-making power in the company. They say he should not be held to answer to any alleged company offenses.

Nigerian authorities this year renewed their crackdown on crypto, arguing that trades on platforms like Binance helped weaken the local naira currency even as it evades paying taxes on earnings from its activities. Idris, the information minister, claimed Binance had “a turnover in Nigeria of over $20 billion” in 2023.

The central bank lifted a ban on banks enabling crypto transactions last December but restrictions remain in effect as no institutions have been licensed to carry out crypto transactions in the country. Internet service providers have maintained restrictions imposed in February on user access to the apps and websites of crypto companies, including that of Binance.

The US lawmakers’ claim of extortion mirrors those Binance made in May. Richard Teng, the company’s CEO, said executives were asked by an agent of a Nigerian legislative committee to make “a significant payment in cryptocurrency” to settle allegations of tax violations after a meeting in January this year. Binance declined to make the payment, Teng said.

Gambaryan’s trial will continue in a court in Nigeria’s capital Abuja this month. He has been remanded in the city’s Kuje prison, a maximum security facility that has previously been used to detain alleged extremists affiliated with the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.


Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, Binance’s billionaire founder and former chief executive, began serving a four-month sentence in a prison in California this month and will be due for release in September, according to the US Bureau of Prisons website.

The 47-year-old Canadian pleaded guilty to violating US money laundering laws and was sentenced in April. The company also pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and agreed to pay a $4 billion fine by the Justice Department.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen denounced Binance for “willful failures [that] allowed money to flow to terrorists, cybercriminals, and child abusers through its platform.”

A group of former prosecutors and federal agents in the US also wrote to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, urging him to “step up” efforts to secure Gambaryan’s release, Axios reports.

By Alexander Onukwue, SEMAFOR

Related stories: Binance executive collapeses in court in Nigeria - Trial pushed to June

Court in Nigeria adjourns Binance, executives' tax evasion trial to June 14

Friday, May 24, 2024

Binance executive collapeses in court in Nigeria - Trial pushed to June

A Nigerian court on Thursday adjourned a money laundry trial against cryptocurrency exchange Binance and two of its executives to June 20 because one of the defendants was not well enough to stand trial.

Binance and executives Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, have been charged with laundering more than $35 million and engaging in specialised financial activities without a licence.

They have all pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges.

Gambaryan, who has been in detention since February, is "very ill and requires comprehensive medical attention," his lawyer said in a letter to trial judge Emeka Nwite.

"The applicant broke down yesterday and the medical facility gave him intravenous treatment for malaria," the letter said.

Gambaryan, who also faces four counts of tax evasion alongside Binance and his colleague Anjarwalla, did not appear in court on Wednesday for that trial.

Judge Nwite ruled that Gambaryan should be treated at the hospital requested by his lawyer or any other recommended by prison authorities. He adjourned for the trial to continue on June 20 and 21.

Nigeria blamed Binance for its currency woes after cryptocurrency websites became the platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages and the currency fell to a record low. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

Related story: Nigeria rejects Binance CEO's bribery claim

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Court in Nigeria adjourns Binance, executives' tax evasion trial to June 14

A Nigerian court has adjourned a tax evasion case against Binance to next month for possible arraignment of the cryptocurrency exchange and two of its executives after a trial stalled on Wednesday, the judge said.

The matter stalled because authorities failed to bring Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance, to court. No reason was given for Gambaryan's absence in court.

On Friday, an Abuja court ruled that Gambaryan could stand trial in the tax evasion case on behalf of Binance.

The CEO of Binance Richard Teng in May accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the country and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto. The company is challenging the trials on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

Binance and its executives Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is Binance's regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion, including failure to register with Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service for tax purposes.

Anjarwalla escaped custody in March but is still listed on the case, without indicating he was 'at large' - a factor that could stall trial given that Nigerian law requires that parties must be served before the case can proceed, Gambaryan's lawyer Chukwuka Ikwuazom said.

The revenue service lawyer Moses Ideho said Gambaryan was supposed to have been produced in court by Nigeria's prison service and that he did not know why he was not in court.

Judge Emeka Nwite adjourned the possible arraignment of Binance and Gambaryan to June 14.

In addition to the tax evasion trial, Binance and the executives have also been charged with laundering more than $35 million by Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A money laundering trial will be heard on Thursday.

Binance has said it is working closely with Nigerian authorities following the detention of Gambaryan. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

Related stories: Nigeria rejects Binance CEO's bribery claim

Monday, May 20, 2024

Starlink Becomes Third-largest ISP in Nigeria Q4 2023

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, Starlink Services, LLC, is Nigeria’s third-largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) by subscriber count in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023. The satellite internet constellation company has an aggregate of 23,897 active subscribed customers, cementing its status as one of the leading ISPs in the country. In addition, the NCC’s data showed that Starlink had 11,207 customers as of Q3 2023. The Q4 figure represents a 113 per cent increase in customers quarter over quarter.

However, the Nigerian-based internet provider Spectranet leads with 113,869 active customers, followed by FiberOne with 27,000 active subscribers. In 2022, Starlink services were approved to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband internet in Nigeria, with a monthly subscription of USD 110 and USD 599 for the complete Starlink kit.

By Deborah Faboade, SPACE IN AFRICA

Related stories: Musk’s Starlink to disrupt ISP market as hope rises for 25m unserved Nigerians

Nigeria becomes first country in Africa to have Starlink




Thursday, May 9, 2024

Nigeria rejects Binance CEO's bribery claim

Nigerian authorities on Wednesday denied allegations from Binance's CEO of soliciting bribes, saying the claim was a "diversionary tactic" and an "act of blackmail" aimed at undermining ongoing criminal charges against the company.

Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, and two of its executives face separate trials on charges of tax evasion and laundering more than $35 million, which the company is challenging.

Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance's head of financial crime compliance, remains in custody while British-Kenyan Nadeem Anjarwalla has fled the country.

CEO Richard Teng in a blog post accused unidentified Nigerian officials of demanding a $150 million cryptocurrency bribe to halt the investigations.

In a statement on Wednesday, Nigeria's Information Ministry spokesperson Rabiu Ibrahim said the claims "lack any iota of substance". He accused Binance of attempting to undermine the country's legal proceedings.

"It is nothing but a diversionary tactic and an attempted act of blackmail by a company desperate to obfuscate the grievous criminal charges it is facing in Nigeria," Ibrahim said.

"The facts of this matter remain that Binance is being investigated in Nigeria for allowing its platform to be used for money laundering, terrorism financing, and foreign exchange manipulation through illegal trading," he said.

Nigerian authorities claim the bribery allegations are part of a wider campaign by Binance to discredit investigations against the company, citing similar legal troubles in the United States.

Binance did not immediately comment, but in a statement on Tuesday accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited for talks and then detained as part of a crackdown on the crypto industry.

Teng's blog is the latest in a dispute that has already seen Binance close in Nigeria.

Nigeria blamed Binance for its currency problems after cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages.

Binance said in early March it was stopping all transactions and trading in naira.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related story: Bail Hearing in Nigeria for Jailed Binance Exec Postponed Until May 17

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Microsoft Shuts Down Engineering Centre in Nigeria

Microsoft may have taken a business decision to shut down its African Development Centre (ADC) located in Ikoyi, Lagos, a development that will affect over 500 jobs that are directly linked to the innovation centre.

Although no reason was given by Microsoft for the decision to close down the innovation centre in Lagos, but sources close to Microsoft Nigeria said Microsoft informed the staff on Monday of its decision to close down the innovation centre, which also houses the Microsoft Garage, where local solutions are developed and nurtured to maturity.

THISDAY spoke with a senior staff at Microsoft yesterday, who neither denied the information nor accept it as truth. The senior staff however said Microsoft would soon react to the media information.

Another source close to Microsoft, however said the decision to close down the Microsoft Innovation Centre could be linked to the tough business environment in Nigeria, coupled with the harsh economic realities of the Nigerian economy. The source said no investor would be ready to lose money from any investments and that when an investment is fast losing money, it would be in the best interest of the investors to shut down the business to avoid further loss of money.

Microsoft had in 2019, initiated the innovation centre, with the purpose to create centres where technology solutions would be developed from Africa to address the African challenges as well as global challenges. Pleased with the initiative, Microsoft went ahead to establish the $100 million African Development Centres in Nigeria and Kenya, but decided to shut down that of Nigeria, leaving Kenya’s centre to still operate in Kenya.

THISDAY, had last month, observed what appeared to look like a desolate area in the building housing the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Lagos. The entire seven floors of the building were without staff and the few staff members on duty were the front desk staff and security personnel that kept watch over the place. The absence of staff was an indication that Microsoft may have taken the decision earlier to shut down the innovation centre. 

By Emma Okonji, This Day

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Nigeria to Ban Person-to-Person Crypto Trade in Battered Naira

Nigeria vowed to ban person-to-person cryptocurrency trading in the naira, taking its latest step to corral an industry which the West African nation blames for harming the battered local currency.

Securities and Exchange Commission Director General Emomotimi Agama also told a meeting with fintech professionals on Monday that new rules would be rolled out “in the coming days” covering crypto exchanges, digital asset custodians and other corners of the sector.

“The thing that needs to be done is delisting the naira from the P2P space in order to avoid the level of manipulation that is currently happening,” Agama said. “Recent concerns regarding crypto P2P traders and their perceived impact on the exchange rate of the naira has underscored the need for collective action,” he said in a statement released by the Abuja-based SEC on Monday evening.

Peer-to-peer platforms allow crypto investors to trade directly with one another, rather than via a central intermediary. In such transactions, the traders themselves negotiate the price.

The warning follows Nigeria’s ban on Binance Holdings Ltd., the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and the arrest of two of its executives when they visited the country in February.

One of them fled but the other, Tigran Gambaryan, has been jailed at the Kuje correctional center in Abuja and will go on trial this month where he faces charges of tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering.

“Manipulations and all forms of activities that undermine our national interest would not be acceptable,” Agama said.

Africa’s most populous nation has seen residents flock into crypto assets as a hedge for weakness in the naira, which has lost 65% of its value against the dollar since the government eased currency rules in June to make the unit more attractive to foreign investors.

Central bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso in February accused Binance of allowing illicit transactions in the naira on its platform, which the authorities subsequently blocked.

“SEC will not hesitate to utilize all the powers within its mandate to handle issues that are negative and pose a threat to national interest,” Agama said. “We ask that those involved in sharp practices that undermine national interest should cease and desist.”

By Emele Onu, Bloomberg 

Related story: Video - Detained Binance executive appears in court in Nigeria for tax, money laundry charges

Friday, April 26, 2024

Nigeria launches first multilingual LLM trained in local languages

The Nigerian government has launched the country’s first multilingual large language model (LLM) that will reflect its diversity and play a major role in its national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy.

Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Bosun Tijani announced the new LLM at the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop.

The new LLM will be trained in five “low-resource local languages and accented English to ensure stronger language representation in existing datasets for the development of artificial intelligence solutions.”

The language model is the product of a partnership between the government and the private sector. Awarritech, a local AI firm, and, a global data democratization initiative by Mastercard (NASDAQ: MA) and the Rockefeller Foundation, represent the private sector. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) represented Nigeria’s government in the development of LLM.

Additionally, the government relied on over 7,000 fellows from its 3MTT Nigeria program, which targets 3 million graduates who are fully proficient in technical courses, from AI and cybersecurity to cloud computing and machine learning.

One of the greatest challenges facing AI is bias. While policies can help reshape AI to be more inclusive, diversity in AI input will have a greater impact. One key solution is to develop localized LLMs that incorporate language and cultural nuances, resulting in AI that promotes connections globally.

In addition to the new LLM, Tijani announced the launch of the Nigeria AI Collective, a community of industry players pushing for AI development.

“We are inviting AI researchers, practitioners, academia, government, civil society organisations, startups, entrepreneurs, students and AI enthusiasts in general to join the collective to harness the power of artificial intelligence,” the minister said.

Tijani further relaunched the NCAIR, a subsidiary of NITDA focused on developing the two sectors.

By Steve Kaaru, CoinGeek

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

AMN Deploys Starlink Connectivity in Rural Villages in Nigeria

Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) has deployed the company’s first base station in Nigeria that has connectivity via SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, AMN announced last week.

AMN has deployed over 4,000 base stations for cellular backhaul via satellite across Africa and Latin America since 2018. Last year, the company signed a commercial agreement to use the Starlink Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation to connect its mobile network base stations with high-speed, low-latency broadband services.

The company said that with Starlink terminals providing low-latency satellite backhaul, the company was able to deliver the full capability of its multi-carrier radio access node (the ARN) with 3G and 4G as well as 2G. AMN said LEO backhaul also paves the way for AMN to deliver 5G services, targeted before the end of the year.

Installation of new sites continues throughout 2024 in Nigeria, DRC, Cameroon, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Benin and Rwanda.

By Rachel Jewett, Via Satellite

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Bail Hearing in Nigeria for Jailed Binance Exec Postponed Until May 17

Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan will remain in prison in Nigeria until at least May 17, following an Abuja court’s ruling to postpone a scheduled bail hearing until after he is tried on money laundering charges.

Gambaryan, an American citizen and former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agent, is Binance’s head of financial crime compliance. He and a colleague, Binance’s regional manager for Africa Nadeem Anjarwalla, a dual U.K.-Kenyan national, were arrested and detained on Feb. 26 after flying to Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja to meet with the Nigerian government at the government’s request.

The Nigerian government had previously accused Binance of enabling currency speculation that crashed its currency, the naira. At first, Nigerian officials denied that Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were under arrest, but the pair were put under house arrest upon arrival and, along with Binance, charged with money laundering and tax evasion a month later.

Gambaryan was moved to the notorious Kuje prison – which also houses suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist group – after Anjarwalla escaped and fled the country under mysterious circumstances. In a cell phone video filmed after Anjarwalla’s escape on March 23, a distressed Gambaryan said he had no knowledge of his colleague’s escape plans and asked the U.S. government for help.

The government’s response to Gambaryan’s imprisonment has been tepid. According to his family, Gambaryan has received only one visit from the U.S. embassy staff since being moved to Kuje prison and has limited access to his legal team.

“There is no justice in what is being done to my husband. I am in a constant state of grief and anxiety, not knowing what other injustice he is going to be put through,” Gambaryan’s wife Yuki Gambaryan said in a statement. “It is outrageous that Tigran, an innocent man, continues to be kept in a prison cell and the ruling on his bail will not be made until after the trial starts…This is just pure cruelty.”

Both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have filed suit against Nigeria’s National Security Advisor, Nuhu Ribadu, and the Economic Financial Crimes Commission for violating their human rights.

Gambaryan has pleaded “not guilty” to all of the charges against him, which his family has called “bogus.”

The money laundering trial against Gambaryan and Binance will begin on May 2. The tax evasion charges will be tried separately beginning on May 17.

According to Gambaryan’s family, he will spend his 40th birthday in prison.

By Cheyenne Ligon, CoinDesk

Related story: Video - Detained Binance executive appears in court in Nigeria for tax, money laundry charges

Monday, April 22, 2024

Cybercrime reforms in Nigeria leave journalists at risk

The officers treated journalist Saint Mienpamo Onitsha as if he was violent and dangerous. Guns drawn, they arrested him at the home of a friend, drove him to the local police station in Nigeria’s southern Bayelsa State, and then flew him to the national capital, Abuja.

A week later, they charged Onitsha under the country’s 2015 Cybercrimes Act and detained him over his reporting about tensions in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. This was in October 2023. He was released on bail in early February and is due to appear before a court on June 4.

The Cybercrimes Act is tragically familiar to Nigeria’s media community. Since its enactment, at least 25 journalists have faced prosecution under the law, including four arrested earlier this year. Anande Terungwa, a lawyer for Onitsha, described the law to me as a tool misused to “hunt journalists”.

For years, media and human rights groups had been calling for the act to be amended to prevent its misuse as a tool for censorship and intimidation. Then, in November last year, Nigeria’s Senate proposed amendments and held a public hearing to help shape changes. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), alongside other civil society and press groups, submitted recommended reforms.

On February 28, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu signed amendments to the act, including revisions to a section criminalising expression online, according to a copy of the law shared with me by Yahaya Danzaria, the clerk of Nigeria’s House of Representatives. The changes, which have yet to be published in the government gazette, have buoyed hopes for improved press freedom, but the law continues to leave journalists at risk of arrest and surveillance.

“It’s better, but it’s definitely not where we want it to be,” Khadijah El-Usman, senior programs officer with the Nigeria-based digital rights group Paradigm Initiative, told me in a phone interview about the amended law. “There are still provisions that can be taken advantage of, especially by those in power.”

One of the primary concerns has been Section 24 of the law, which defines the crime of “cyberstalking”. It is this section that authorities repeatedly used to charge journalists, and it is one of the sections that was amended.

Under the previous version of the law, Section 24 criminalised the use of a computer to send messages deemed “grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”, and punished such offences with up to three years in prison and a fine. The same punishment applied for sending knowingly false messages “for the purpose of causing annoyance” or “needless anxiety”. In practice, this meant journalists risked jail time based on highly subjective interpretations of online reporting.

The amended version maintains the heavy penalty, but refines the offence as computer messages that are pornographic or knowingly false, “for the purpose of causing a breakdown of law and order, posing a threat to life, or causing such messages to be sent”. While the narrower language is welcome, the possibility for abuse remains.

“It could have been more specific in wording,” Solomon Okedara, a Lagos-based digital rights lawyer, told me after reviewing the amended section. He said it was an improvement because the burden of proof to bring charges is higher, but still leaves room for authorities to make arrests on claims that certain reporting has caused a “breakdown of law and order”.

It remains to be seen exactly how these changes will affect the cases of journalists and others previously charged under now-amended sections. “It is now for the lawyers to use,” Danzaria explained. “You cannot use an old law to prosecute somebody…if [the case] is ongoing, the new law supersedes whatever was in place.”

For Onitsha’s case, Terungwa said he would seek to incorporate the amendments into his defence in court. CPJ continues to call for authorities to drop all criminal prosecutions of journalists in connection with their work.

Another issue with the law – even after the recent amendments – is how it may permit surveillance abuses. Section 38 of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act fails to explicitly require law enforcement to obtain a court-issued warrant before accessing “traffic data” and “subscriber information” from service providers. This oversight gap is particularly concerning given how Nigeria’s police have used journalists’ call data to track and arrest them.

“I’m looking towards a future cybercrimes act that respects human rights,” El-Usman emphasised, noting the need for laws that guard against abuses, not just in Nigeria, but across the region. From Mali to Benin to Zimbabwe, authorities have used cybercrime laws and digital codes to arrest reporters for their work. Journalists’ privacy is also broadly under threat.

Jonathan Rozen, Al Jazeera

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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Nigerian govt unveils mobile app to track MDAs’ performance

The Federal Government of Nigeria has launched a mobile application that allows citizens to track the activities and performance of ministries and government agencies using their deliverables and key performance indicators.

The mobile application, which is tagged: “Citizens’ Delivery Tracker,” was unveiled by the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Policy and Coordination and Head of the Central Coordination Delivery Unit (CDCU), Hadiza Usman, at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, on Monday, 8 April.

Ms Usman said the new application is an upgraded version of the previous Delivery Tracker, which would provide a strong feedback loop between the government and the people.

Ms Usman speaks

According to her, the CDCU aims to build public trust in the government and promote transparency and accountability at all levels with the delivery tracker.

“In arriving at the deliverables and key performance indicators, the CDCU, supported by development partners and consultants, held numerous bilateral meetings with all the Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, and their respective technical teams over six weeks.

“The bilateral sessions looked at the mandate of the respective ministries in line with the Presidential Priority Areas and arrived at the final deliverable and KPIs,” she said.

Ms Usman listed some of the areas of priority including reforming the economy to deliver sustained inclusive growth; strengthening national security for peace and prosperity; boosting agriculture to achieve food security, and unlocking energy and natural resources for sustainable development.

Others are to enhance infrastructure and transportation as growth enablers; focus on education, health, and social investment as essential pillars of development; accelerate diversification through industrialisation, digitisation, creative arts, manufacturing, and innovation, and improve governance for effective service delivery.

The presidential aide also noted that the CDCU would ensure that data and information released on the app to the public are accurate and credible.

She added: “We are working to ensure that people cannot decline, dodge, or dispute our data. So, we are looking to have data from the NBS and work in collaboration with MDAs to ensure accuracy.

“Part of citizen engagement is for citizens to point out our errors, allowing us to query our own data whether credible or not.

“We are trying to strengthen the NBS’ capacity to ensure credibility. So, that means anything outside of the approved government data will not be recognised. The government needs to invest in data, recognise the need for data integrity, and hold on to that”.

She said the platform is currently available as a web link on the CDCU website and will soon be available as an app for download.

By Beloved John, Premium Times

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Friday, April 5, 2024

Video - Detained Binance executive appears in court in Nigeria for tax, money laundry charges

One of the two executives from Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, detained in Nigeria appeared in an Abuja court on Thursday to face tax evasion and money laundering charges.

Binance and two of its executives Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance's head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is a regional manager for Africa, have been charged with four counts of tax evasion and with laundering over $35 million.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were detained on Feb. 26 in connection with a criminal investigation into Binance's activities in Nigeria when they arrived in the country. Anjarwalla escaped from custody and fled the country.

Gambaryan was served with the charges for the first time since his detention during his court appearance and did not take a plea. He will be formally arraigned for the money laundering and tax charges on April 8 and 19, respectively, when his plea will be taken.

Binance itself has not been charged by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has argued Gambaryan could face the charges on the exchange's behalf.

Gambaryan's lawyer Chukwuka Ikuazom objected, saying he was "neither a director, partner nor company secretary" and had no written instructions from Binance to face the charges on its behalf.

Ikuazom also argued that since Binance and Gambaryan were jointly charged, he could not take a plea until the exchange, the first defendant in the case, had been served, according to Nigerian law.

Binance, which was not represented in court and had no immediate comment, said on Wednesday that it respectfully requested that Gambaryan, who had no decision-making power in the company, was not held responsible while discussions are ongoing with the Nigerian government.

Gambaryan has asked a Nigerian court to release him.

Nigeria blamed Binance for its currency woes after cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira currency, as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

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Video - Nigeria detains Binance executives

Friday, March 29, 2024

Detained Binance executives sue Nigeria's security adviser, anti-graft agency

Two executives from Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, have sued Nigeria's national security adviser's office and the anti-graft agency for violating their fundamental rights and asked the court to set them free.

Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance's head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is Binance's regional manager for Africa, flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites and were detained on arrival on Feb. 26.

Anjarwalla fled the country last week and now faces the prospect of an international arrest warrant.
On Thursday, Gambaryan appeared in a Federal High Court in the capital Abuja requesting Judge Iyang Ekwo declare his detention and seizure of his passport by the National Security Adviser and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) "amounts to a violation of his fundamental right to personal liberty" as guaranteed by Nigeria's constitution.

The executives, who said they had not been informed of any offences committed, requested an order to release them and return their passports, a public apology and a restraining order from further detention.

The judge adjourned the hearing to April 8 without making a ruling because lawyers for the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the EFCC were not in court.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were caught up in a crackdown following a period during which several cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian currency, as the country battles a chronic dollar shortages. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

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Detained Binance executive escapes detention in Nigeria amidst probe

Monday, March 25, 2024

Detained Binance executive escapes detention in Nigeria amidst probe

 Nadeem Anjarwalla, one of the two Binance executives detained in Nigeria has reportedly escaped from lawful custody, according to sources.

These sources revealed that Anjarwalla, aged 38, escaped on Friday, March 22nd, from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were being detained, Premium Times reported.

Guards on duty escorted him to a nearby mosque for prayers as part of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

The British national, who also holds Kenyan citizenship, is believed to have departed Abuja via a Middle Eastern airline.

The circumstances surrounding how Anjarwalla managed to board an international flight despite being in custody and his British passport being held by Nigerian authorities remain unclear.

Authorities are reportedly working to uncover Anjarwalla's intended destination to apprehend him and return him to custody.

According to an Immigration official, the Binance executive fled Nigeria using a Kenyan passport. However, authorities are trying to ascertain how he acquired this passport, as he did not possess any other travel documents apart from his British passport when he was detained.

Before now, WIRED reported that Anjarwalla fell ill while in custody, possibly due to malaria, although the precise nature of his symptoms was unclear.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance's regional manager for Africa, along with Tigran Gambaryan, Binance's head of financial crime compliance and a U.S. citizen had travelled to Nigeria after the country banned several cryptocurrency trading websites to halt what the CBN described as continuous manipulation of the forex market and illicit movement of funds.

Upon their arrival on February 26, they were arrested by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), and criminal charges were filed against the two executives.

Binance was instructed to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with detailed data and information regarding all Nigerian traders on its platform.

According to Yemi Cardoso, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), over $26 billion passed through Binance Nigeria from unknown sources. The government even hit the exchange with a $10 billion fine amidst a crypto exchange probe.

On February 28, 2024, the court granted the EFCC an order to remand the duo for 14 days. Due to Binance’s refusal to comply with the order, the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days to prevent them from tampering with evidence. The court then adjourned the case till 4 April 2024.

By Adekunle Agbetiloye, Business Insider Africa

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Nigeria files tax evasion charges against Binance

Nigeria's tax agency has filed tax evasion charges against crypto platform Binance, it said in a statement on Monday.

The cased filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in Abuja accuses Binance of four counts of tax evasion.

Binance was not immediately available to comment.

The charges include non-payment of value-added tax (VAT), company income tax, failure to file tax returns, and complicity in aiding customers to evade taxes through its platform, the FIRS said.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

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