President Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned security agents against harassing young people with laptops.
Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy, conveyed the president’s warning on Wednesday.
Pantami assured that with the signing of the Start-up Bill 2022 into law by Buhari, the issue of nationwide harassment of innovative youths carrying laptop computers will come to end.
Recall that President Buhari had on Wednesday assented to the Start-up Bill and is to the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council that would oversee the operations of the young innovators.
This came just as the government set up N10bn investment fund for young innovators and also makes provision for incentives and tax holidays to encourage local innovators.
Briefing State House correspondents after the signing ceremony at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Pantami said rather than the Minister lobbying law enforcement agencies to stop the act, the chairman of the council only needs to give a directive and it will be obeyed by those who misconstrue them for internet fraudsters.
He said, “The main institution to address the issue is the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council to be chaired by Mr President. The number one mandate of the Council is to listen to the challenges of our young innovators and direct relevant institutions there and then address the challenge. So, with that council, I believe the issue will be resolved.
“At a personal level as a minister, I have written many letters to EFCC to IG, to the Minister of Police, they have been addressing the challenge, but not consistent. If they address it, because of their intervention, after a month or two, the issue will re-emerge, but if the President happens to be the chair of the Council, he cannot lobby the way I lobby, he can only direct and that is why the Council is critical to address that issue and any other challenge that may come up in the future.
When President directs, it must be implemented. And I believe the Council will do that.” He said in recognition of the efforts of the Nigerian government in Information Communication
Technology (ICT), Microsoft has decided to train about five million Nigerians on high demands skills geared towards job creation. Speaking on the Gitex event he just attended, he explained, “There were many participants from Europe, Asia, and from all the developed countries and we defeated them, and they (innovators) came from Nigeria, this is a success story.
“Secondly, some of the young individuals we took from Nigeria, Federal Government-sponsored eight of them. Then the organizers also sponsored four, and the Lagos State government sponsored 15. Among some of them that I met, on the first day of the event, a company signed an MOU with them to invest $20m in that start-up.
“Thirdly, it is there during the event that we concluded our discussion with Microsoft that they will come to Nigeria and train five million citizens on high demand and cutting edge skills in the digital sector. Five million Nigerians and this is one of their corporate social responsibilities.
“Even today, before I came here, I signed a letter conveying to Microsoft the proposed date for the commencement of the training. So for you to get that opportunity for five million Nigerians to train.
“I know those basic digital skills are in high demand. They partook in an investigation evaluation, they discovered areas where there were opportunities globally.
So, the forecast where there is a job before that, our citizens will be trained in this area. These are only a few of the major achievements in addition to many more.
“At the international level, our modest effort in Nigeria in the digital economy sector was appreciated. I had a parliament with ministers and other high government officials from all over the world. I was called upon and I have presented an award without any prior knowledge about it.
And there and then, they commended the effort of Nigeria in the digital economic sector.”
Speaking further on the signing of the bill, Pantami stated, “Mr President has assented to the bill, and also conveyed to the relevant institutions of government for gazetting today and we are all ex-
cited, knowing the benefits that our economy is going to generate from the bill.
“If I’m permitted to comment further on it, this bill is an Executive Bill, meaning the federal government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, initiated the bill through the collaboration of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, on one hand, and the Office of the Chief of Staff to Mr President on the order.
“These two offices coordinated and established the foundation for the Nigeria Start-up Act, 2022, and the approach we adopted was to allow our young start-ups, our young innovators all over the country, to identify the challenges they were being confronted with, when it comes to intellectual property, financing, regulation, incentive among many others. That is the organic approach, meaning the bottom-up approach.
“So, young innovators who are engaged in every geopolitical zone of Nigeria, where we engaged them to voice out their challenges when it comes to enabling environment for business. From their input, we discovered there was a need to have Nigeria Start-up Act in place so that the Act will provide the enabling environment for them
to continue to thrive and be successful.”
Noting the remarkable contribution of the digital sector to the economy, Pantami observed that Nigeria is blessed with young innovators that are making the nation proud. He added, “With the government policies we have in place, before assenting to the bill today, a lot has been achieved when it comes to providing the enabling environment for our young innovators.
“This law is all about consolidating and providing the legal and strategic framework for the growth of the sector. For example, today in Africa, we have around seven unicorns, five of which originated from Nigeria.
“On behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, three months ago, I was with them and I visited the unicorns to have an engagement with them so that we will hear from them their challenges and all these issues were accommodated in the bill.
“Unicorn is an ICT company, a local ICT company that has a market value of a minimum of 1 billion USD and all these. Five of them attained this position of unicorn during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, it is because of this we engaged them, we identified their challenges and we came up with this Nigeria Start-up Bill, to provide the legal framework so that the sector will continue to grow and be successful.”