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FIRS boss harps on education tax as funding source for Student Loans disbursement

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…As Tinubu orders expansion of student loan scheme

Chairman of FIRS, Zacch Adedeji has disclosed that the Federal Government will fund the Student Loan Scheme recently initiated by President Bola Tinubu’s administration through the Education Tax under the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Speaking to State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, Adedeji, who was flanked by the Executive Secretary of the Board, Dr. Akintunde Sawyer, said the deployment of the education tax fund into the scheme is one way the government can be accountable to taxpayers in the country.

“Mr. President is permanently solving the problem of funding for education in Nigeria. By the directive of the President, the Education Tax Fund is being reviewed to additionally cater to the needs of our university students across all local government areas in the country as they seek to access vocational and traditional university education. Funding for the programme will be adequately covered,” he said.

He said that there will be zero human interference as the applicants will access the loan scheme through an application that will require their national identity card and their Bank Verification Number, BVN.
Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu has also ordered the management of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) to expand its focus area by extending interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skill-development programmes.

The President issued this directive at the State House on Monday after a briefing from Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, Executive Secretary of NELFUND, on the build-up to the launch of the programme later in the month.

The President said it is important for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue university education, noting that skill acquisition is as important as obtaining undergraduate and graduate academic qualifications.

“This is not an exclusive programme. It is catering to all of our young people. Young Nigerians are gifted in different areas. This is not only for those who want to be doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It is also for those who aspire to use their skilled and trained hands to build our nation. In accordance with this, I have instructed NELFUND to explore all opportunities to inculcate skill-development programmes because not everybody wants to go through a full university education,” he said.

President Tinubu emphasised the need for equity and inclusivity in the management of the programme, stating, “No matter how economically challenged you are, accredited and qualified students will and must have access to this loan to advance their education in higher institutions. There is no compromise in our commitment to the disadvantaged citizens of this nation.”

In his presentation to the President, Executive Secretary of the Fund, Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, said the loan application process will be technology-driven, limiting human interface and “eliminating any possibility of maladministration in the programme.”

“By design, this is a perpetual programme and will not terminate. The funds, earmarked for bona-fide Nigerian students, will be disbursed directly to the institutions in the initial phase through electronic transfer. Our students will be catered to in a way that bypasses human interference through the full utilization of available technological platforms, in adherence to Your Excellency’s stated objectives,” he said.

He also said NELFUND has developed a robust risk-mitigation mechanism to address potential risks that may arise from the programme.

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NASENI lauds Gov. Idris for allocating land for Agric. Institute construction

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The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, (NASENI), has commended Gov. Nasir Idris of Kebbi for donating 10 hectares of land to the agency for the construction of an Agricultural Machinery Development Institute in the state.
The Director of Procurement of the Agency, Dr Muhammad Aliyu, gave the commendation after formal allocation of the land to  NASENI by officials of state government on Sunday in Birnin Kebbi.
Aliyu, who thanked Idris for providing the land at a choice area, explained that the  project would commence within the next two weeks.
H e assured that all engineering, architectural, civil and electrical designs had been completed.
”We have the bill of quantity ready and every approval needed from the government for the project has been obtained,” he said.
The director affirmed that funding for the project had been captured in the 2024 appropriation bill already assented to by  President Bola Tinubu.
”We will start with what we can accommodate this year and we will continue next year.
“We have funds to begin the basic infrastructural construction,” he assured.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Alhaji Dahiru Zaki, who led other state government officials to hand over the 10 hectares of land to NASENI, explained that the land was earmarked for the agency in 2022 for the construction of the agricultural machinery center.
”The machinery center is to serve as a Regional Office for the production of agricultural equipment and we are happy that today, we have handed over the land to NASENI.
“I believe that Kebbi was selected in the North-West region because of its huge potentials in agriculture, particularly rice production and other crops,” he said.
Zaki expressed appreciation for the governor’s  kind gesture to the agency, tailored to provide job opportunities to youths and further bolster agricultural production in the state.
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Lassa Fever outbreak at Army Hospital sparks response 

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The recent outbreak of Lassa fever at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, prompted a collaborative response with Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) and Federal Ministry of Health.

Prof. Reuben Eifediyi, Chief Medical Director, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, and lead of the response team, said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), confirmed that Lassa Fever was responsible for the death of three health workers and one patient at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, (44 NARHK).

Four of the six blood samples from suspected cases at the hospital sent to the Bayero University Teaching Hospital, Kano, were confirmed for Lassa Fever.

While 25 close contacts of all the cases were being monitored and were placed on prophylactics (preventive medication). 

Eifediyi said that the outbreak resulted in the deployment of a specialised emergency response team, which was made up of experts in Lassa fever management and infection prevention.

He said that though there were initial challenges, including inadequate resources and staffing, the response team successfully contained the outbreak through real-time laboratory testing, isolation, and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Real-time PCR testing was conducted, leading to the identification and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Three confirmed cases were successfully treated and discharged, with no further fatalities, “ he said.

He said that the incident underscored the importance of effective partnerships and rapid mobilisation of expertise in addressing public health emergencies.

He said that health workers at the hospital went through training on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), measures.

He recommended structural improvement, staffing, training, equipment provision, and hygienic measures.

He also made recommendations for capacity building and the establishment of a biosafety molecular laboratory at the hospital.

 Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents or contaminated persons.

Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, chest pain.

In severe case, there are unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and other body openings.

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Why some airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace – NAMA

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Many airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace because of difficulties encountered in communication with air traffic controllers, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) confirmed on Sunday in Lagos.

Its Managing Director, Mr Farouk Umar, told newsmen at Ikeja that the agency was consequently eyeing more investments to rejuvenate the communication systems to match emerging air traffic trends.

He explained that there was the need to improve the weak communication system, which had been demand-saturated as the industry grew and more routes were opened.

He said huge investments were required of the Federal Government as more routes opened needing more stations to have signals to cover the entire country.

He added that the presidency recently budgeted N40 billion to address some of the issues at the airports, but the money had not been accessed.

Umar assured that as soon as money was made available, the agency would tackle critical safety challenges at the various airports.

“The entire communication network has been re-designed to ensure that every blind spot is covered because if one system fails today, air traffic controllers would not notice.

“We realised also that our radios are working well and well-positioned and we have addressed the challenges we met on ground, but then, we are still having issues.

“The issues have nothing to do with our radios, but with electricity supply which had been a national challenge that government had been working assiduously to fix.

“We have decided to deploy solar energy to some of our facilities to complement electricity supply from the national grid and from generators so that they can function well,’’ he said.

Umar noted that the International Civil Aviation Organisation frowned at even a second’s blackout at any airport and Nigeria could not afford to flout the regulation.

“For an average electronic system, the lifespan is about 10 years. Most of the communications electronics at the airports have been working for the past 15 years to 20 years. Their performance would be below standard, expectedly.

“We are replacing some of the equipment and we have done almost 80 per cent. The contractors are still working, however,’’ he assured.

Umar also told newsmen that Terminal Control Centres (TRACON) were still having challenges because since 2014, there had not been enough spare parts to fix the obsolete equipment there.

“The Federal Government has approved the modernisation of the TRACON system. 15 per cent of the fund has been paid and we are hopeful that more installations will start soon.

“We are also hopeful that at the end of it all, the system will go back to optimal performance,’’ he said.

Umar lamented that NAMA had been charging airlines N11,000 as navigation fee per flight since 2008 when fares for local flights were N16,000, whereas airfares had risen to N150,000.

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