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INEC Engages EFCC, FIU In Tracking Campaign Funding

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It is no longer business as usual for political parties and their candidates as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has kept a tab on their campaign funds. INEC specifically engaged the services of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) to track the campaign funds of all the parties and their candidates featuring in the 2019 general elections. The electoral umpire has also drafted the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and four other organisations to collaborate with the anti-graft agencies to do a thorough job. These revelations were made yesterday in Abuja during the inauguration of the Inter-agency Campaign Finance Monitoring Group by INEC national commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Okosi-Simbina. She said that the report of the 2019 campaign finances would be released immediately after the upcoming general elections. According to Okosi-Simbina,”we will check newspapers advert, TV, radio, billboards and we must see to the conclusion. Those who spent beyond what the legal framework provides for or spent outrageously will have themselves to blame.” The INEC chief declared that “vote-buying must be monitored too. And those reports must be published after the election. Unlike what happened in the past, six months will be too late for the report to be released. We will ensure compliance with the Electoral Act.” She said all the 10 groups engaged for the tracking of the campaign finances will be working with the electoral finance and party monitoring department of INEC. Similarly, INEC assistant director, Campaign Finance Tracking Unit, Ishaq Garba Aliyu, said that they recorded a milestone in the 2015 campaign finance tracking, adding that the commission would not leave anything to chances in 2019. “We have built the capacity of the staff members. They reviewed the tracking forms to include separate forms for candidates and political parties. The tracking ends on the day of the election,” Aliyu stated. No Politician Teleguiding Our Operations – INEC Meanwhile, INEC has dismissed the insinuations that its management led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was being teleguided by some politicians. INEC administrative secretary in Ekiti State, Dr. Muslim Omoleke, stated this yesterday in Ado Ekiti. He said that the commission under Yakubu is truly independent. Omoleke maintained that “no one controls INEC because we are empowered by laws to enjoy financial and administrative autonomy. It is no longer easy for them to control us.” He disclosed that 14 political parties in Ekiti State would participate in the National Assembly elections holding across the country on Saturday. Overall, 73 political parties are featuring in this year’s general elections. The INEC official assured the voters that the smart card readers would record zero failure during the polls, unlike what obtained in past elections, where commission’s personnel had to resort to incident forms for persons who fell victims of the malfunctioning machines. Omoleke added that politicians would be disappointed on Saturday if they rely on the strategy of vote-buying to win elections, saying the polling booths would be arranged in such a way that would counter such electoral heist. “We want to assure Nigerians that we will be fair to all parties. To us in INEC, no party is big or small, they are the same and it is with that spirit we are going to deal with them on the day of elections,” he said. On the issue of vote-buying, Omoleke said, “politicians won’t find it easy this time. We have mapped out our strategies and we are working closely with the security agencies to make perfect arrangements in our polling booths in such a way that no one can know where and who you actually voted for. “Apart from vote-buying, politicians also resort to ballot box snatching to win elections. This can no longer work because anywhere such an incident is recorded, the poll will be cancelled and repeated the second day. “Perpetrators of such have nothing to gain because they will automatically lose such votes to cancellation and if they are caught during ballot snatching or identified by security agencies, they will be prosecuted”, he warned. Votes Will Count, INEC Insists Also yesterday, INEC insisted that votes cast in the 2019 general elections would count. While receiving the Commonwealth Election Observer Team, INEC chairman (Yakubu) said that the off-season elections conducted by the commission were adjudged free and fair, adding that the commission would ensure that the conduct of the polls conforms with the international best practices. Yakubu said: “The elections on the 16th February and 2nd March, 2019, will be free, fair and credible. The votes will count,” stressing that INEC invited the Commonwealth to observe the election and not to monitor. He said: “I learn that the Commonwealth has deployed people to many states of the federation. The 32 recommendations the Commonwealth made after the 2015 general elections are being implemented administratively.” The INEC boss explained that recommendations which require the amendment of the constitution and the Electoral Act would be implemented when the laws are repealed. “The last recommendation of the Commonwealth Mission was accreditation and voting at the same time. The 2019 general elections will witness accreditation and voting simultaneously,” he said. Former President of Tanzania, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, who led the delegation, said that they were in the country to observe and not to monitor the election. He said: “We want to know INEC preparedness on the election because we will be visiting many places. After the election, we will prepare a comprehensive report. We have already prepared a preliminary report on the election,” Kikwete said. DSS Warns Against Hate Speech, Fake News In another development, the Department of State Services (DSS) has warned Nigerians, especially politicians to desist from hate speech, fake news and other activities capable of causing trouble before, during and after the 2019 elections. The DSS, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Peter Afunanya, said that “the Service will not condone fake news, incendiary or hate speeches designed to whip up dangerous ethnic, religious and/or political sentiments capable of stoking the embers of violence. “Consequently, prospective lawbreakers are forewarned to steer clear of acts capable of undermining national security and stability. The Service will, however, not stand idly and watch miscreants and mischief makers bring avoidable chaos and disorder upon the nation,” Afunanya said. He said that “politicians and the youths are expected to shun all acts of violence the same way observers are urged to keep to the fundamentals and principles of election monitoring as allowed by law and global best practices. “Without doubt the Electoral Act is clear on the roles of stakeholders. The common aim of all and sundry should be for Nigeria to hold successful elections that will be adjudged free, fair, transparent and credible and accepted nationally and internationally. Everyone is urged to conduct his or herself properly before, during and after the elections and avoid actions that may cause the breakdown of law and order.” According to him, “the DSS will professionally discharge its statutory mandate which, among others, is to detect and prevent threats and crimes against the internal security of Nigeria. Also, it will appropriately engage stakeholders. This is for the protection and success of the elections. Therefore, ensuring security that will make the electoral process noble and acceptable to participants and their supporters is uppermost to the Service. In this regard, the Service is determined to identify and arrest criminals and their collaborators whose activities are counter to the national objective of achieving peaceful and orderly elections.” Court Asked To Disqualify Atiku From Presidential Poll And five days to the presidential election, a group, the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa, has sued the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over his claim of Nigerian citizenship. The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 and dated February 11, 2019, was filed on behalf of the group by Mr. Kayode Ajulo. In the suit, the plaintiff wants an interpretation of section 25(1) and (2) and 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended). Other defendants in the suit are the PDP, INEC, and the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice. The group wants the court to determine, “whether section 25 of the 199 Constitution (as amended) is the sole authority that spells out ways by which a person can become a Nigerian citizen by birth? “Whether by the provisions of section 131(a) of the same constitution, only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? “Whether by the combined interpretation of sections 25(1) and (2) and 131(a) of the same constitution and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of the 1st defendant, he can be cleared by the 2nd and 3rd defendants to contest for the office of the president of Nigeria?” If the answers to the aforesaid questions are resolved in favour of the plaintiff, consequently, the group prayed for the following reliefs: “A declaration that by the provisions of Section 131(a) of the Nigerian constitution, only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of the president of the country. “A declaration that by the combined interpretation of sections 25(l) and (2) and 131(a) of the constitution and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of the 1st defendant, he cannot be cleared by the 2nd and 3rd defendants to contest for the office of the president of Nigeria. In an affidavit deposed to by one Michael Okejimi, a legal practitioner in the law firm of Kayode Ajulo, he averred that Atiku was born on the 25th November, I946. “That from the 1st defendant’s own testimony that is gazetted and published in most national dailies in circulation, he is from Jada town in Adamawa State and Jada used to be in Ganye local government area in Adamawa State. “That Ganye is regarded as the mother of the whole Chamba tribe. “That Ganye, however, was never part of Nigeria legally as at the date of birth of the 1st defendant. “That the area had been entrusted to Britain by a League of Nations mandate in l919 and later as Trust Territory by the United Nations in l946. “That with the defeat of Germany in World War I, Cameroon became a League of Nations mandate territory and was split into French Cameroons and British Cameroons in 1919. “That while France integrated the economy of their part of Cameroon with that of France, the British administered theirs from neighbouring Nigeria, making 1st defendant’s Jada, a British franchise. “That a plebiscite was held in British Cameroons to determine whether the people preferred to stay in Cameroon or align with Nigeria. “That while Northern Cameroon preferred a union with Nigeria, Southern Cameroon chose alignment with the mother country. “That on June 1, I961, Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria, and on October 1, 1961, the Southern territory dissolved into Cameroon. “That Ganye, which incorporates the 1st defendant’s birthplace of Jada was the headquarters of British Cameroons, but it joined Nigeria following the plebiscite. “That when the lst defendant was on November 25, I946 born to a Fulani trader and farmer Garba Abubakar, Jada village and other parts of Chamba land in the then Northern Cameroon were still known as British Cameroons. “That none of the lst defendant’s parents or grandparents was born in Nigeria. “That the Ist defendant’s father died a citizen of Northern Cameroon in I957 prior to the referendum of June 1, 1961, that made Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria.”

 

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LAGOS RED RAIL LINE NOW AT COMPLETION STAGE – SANWO-OLU

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.Governor, again, inspects State-owned metro project


AJAGBE ADEYEMI TESLIM

Sponsored by: H&H

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Sunday, again went on an extensive inspection of the ongoing construction activities around the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) Red Line project. 

It’s the fourth time in a year the Governor would be inspecting the pace of work on the 37-kilometre-long rail infrastructure wholly started by his administration, with Sanwo-Olu assuring Lagosians that the rail project would be delivered on its scheduled completion date.

The transport infrastructure being developed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) will have the capacity to transport over 500,000 passengers daily when it becomes operational in the first quarter of next year.

The Red Line will traverse on standard gauge from Agbado to Oyingbo, in the first phase, while terminating at Iddo in the second phase. It has eight stations and it is expected to reduce travel by over two hours.

Sanwo-Olu, joined on the project tour by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and members of cabinet, first stopped at the multi-level Agege Terminal, where he inspected completion work on the facility. 

The Agege Red Line terminal shares the same yard with Babatunde Raji Fashola Station built by the Federal Government, but stands about 300 metres apart.

The Governor also inspected the staff quarters built by the Lagos Government for the railway workers in the employment of the Federal Government.

Sanwo-Olu, thereafter, led the team to the iconic Ikeja Station of the Red Line, where 80 per cent of the civil work had been completed. The Governor also checked the progress of the overpass being constructed on Awolowo Way axis to ensure non-interference of vehicular movement on the rail passageway. 

The Governor stopped at Mushin terminal, to inspect the station and overpass, which stretches between Kayode and Ogunmokun streets, being developed there, before proceeding to Yaba and Oyingbo stations. 

After the exercise that lasted for four hours, Sanwo-Olu expressed satisfaction on the quality of the work done, disclosing that most of the difficult tasks had been completed. 

The entire construction, the Governor said, has moved into the finishing phase in which precast beams and other concrete fittings are being coupled to the constructed structures. 

He said: “The Red Line is a project conceived and started by our Government, which will be delivered in the lifetime of this administration. We have given our commitment to ensure the project is completed by the end of this year as promised. This is our fourth inspection trip on this project within the year alone and each time we come, there is significant progress that the contractor achieves along the rail corridor. 

“Along the rail corridor, there is massive regeneration that is taking place and we have paid extensive amount in terms of compensation, far more than anyone else, for those affected by the construction activities. That is why we don’t have problem with members of the communities on this corridor. After inspecting the Agege station, we went on to check the Ikeja terminal, which happens to be the iconic station of the Red Line. Its size is almost about the size of three football fields together.

“As we have seen, all the stations inspected are at the roof level, moving into the completion stage. The civil work has been completed, it’s just the finishing job we are doing at the moment. All the activities are on schedule and we are hoping the best entire project will be completed by the end of the year. There are places that were particularly challenging for the contractor to do drilling due to high vehicular density. All the challenges have been overcome; what is left is concrete in-situ and placing of precast beams.”

Sanwo-Olu said the construction work on the overpasses were at different stages of completion but assured that all work would be done by December.

He said the work on the bridge on Awolowo Way onto Agege Motor Road and inward Mongoro Bus Stop remained on track and would finish by the end of October.

Sanwo-Olu said the Mushin overpass, which crosses from Kayode Street at Ikorodu Road to Agege Motor Road in Mushin, and the one at Yaba from Tejuosho exiting onto Murtala Muhammed Road, would be completed by November. 

To eliminate human interference with the rail corridor, the Governor said the rail passageway would be walled off the residential areas. This, he said, would also prevent encroachment and unapproved commercial activities around the corridor.

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LIRS Partners Deloitte To Boost Transparency In Tax Administration With Whistle-Blower Initiative

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AJAGBE ADEYEMI TESLIM

Sponsored by: H&H

The Lagos state internal renue Service (LI

RS) has said its Whistle-Blower Initiative will deepen transparency, and accountability and uphold a high standard in the administration of the tax system in the state.

The Executive Chairman of the LIRS, Ayodele Subair, at the official launching of the initiative in Lagos on Friday, said the platform was introduced to encourage the reporting of illegal actions or financial crimes, through the appropriate channel, with a view to correcting the violations and optimally boost the tax administration in the state.

He said the scheme, an initiative of the state government, will be driven by Delloite Anonymous and the Confidential Whistle-Blowing facility, a platform run by a globally recognised accounting and audit firm, Delloite Nigeria.

He added that the whistle-blowing facility will promote the reporting of acts of commission or omission that borders on unethical conduct of the LIRS employees, management and other stakeholders through the designated channels to the authorities. 

“The facility is designed to ensure that concerns about wrongdoings or malpractice observed in the LIRS administrative and operational activities can be raised by any stakeholder without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage or dismissal.

“This facility does not only provide the avenue to report but ensures the credibility of reports through investigation, feedback to the whistle-blower and ensures protection for such whistle-blower from possible reprisals or victimisation for all disclosures made in good faith.”

“The whistle-blowing initiative is a two-way affair; even though it is aimed at exposing the LIRS staff involved with misconduct, employees of entities who want to report employers who circumvent tax laws or even members of the public who wants to raise the alarm on persons or entities who willfully commit financial crimes leading to revenue loss for the state can make use of the whistle-blowing platform,” he said.

Subair said Deloitte’s engagement as an independent assessor was to ensure an objective and unbiased review of issues raised.

Also speaking at the event,  the Commissioner for Finance Dr Rabiu Onaolapo Olowo said the Whistle-Blower Initiative of the LIRS is a pilot scheme of the Lagos State Speak-Up programme aimed at encouraging feedback mechanism from the general public, boosting their confidence and trust in the operational activities of government.

Dr Olowo said it is logical to choose the LIRS as the pilot scheme for the initiative because it is responsible for more than half of the revenue generated by the state and due to its multifaceted interactions with the members of the public, the Lagos government could use the channel to boost its message of openness and transparency.  

He said: “In our pursuit to make transparency, accountability and openness count in governance in the last three and half years, this is one step to help us to wrap up some of the things we have been doing to take government down to the people. We have to appreciate Governor Babajide Sanwoolu for approving this Speak-Up initiative. It will further help us to effectively discharge the policy thrust of this government and we believe it will promote and engender trust and citizen engagement.

“The reason we have chosen the LIRS as the pilot MDA for this scheme is quite obvious because it is the major revenue-generating agency for the state. Today, LIRS accounts for almost 75 per cent of Lagos’s revenue and it engages with the public at multi-faceted levels. Thousands of people across the world see infractions every day but they decided to remain silent because they feel there is nothing they can do to change the situation, but today, we are launching a channel that will encourage and remind people of their civic responsibilities to speak up when they observe unethical behaviour, especially in the process of conducting their businesses with the government.”

Joining the conversation, the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Samuel Egube, believes citizen participation in governance invariably stimulates public trust which consequently enables the government to make the right investment decision on behalf of the people.

He stated that the channel will further open the Lagos State government to scrutiny and the openness and transparency that the initiative generates will lead to more development.

“We believe this channel will enable citizen participation in governance which will surely stimulate the trust of the people in what we do with their investment. You cannot talk about development in South Korea, Singapore or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates without working out how that is connected to the United Nations Citizen Participation Index which states the line of relationship between the citizens and government and this is what this channel has addressed. Since we have launched the 30-year development plan works,” he said.

Beulah Adeoye, Partner, Deloitte Nigeria, said the whistle-blowing service provides multilingual, multiple reporting channels including a 24-Hour toll-free hotline (0800TIPOFFS and 0800 847 6337).

He said users can also use Delloite’s web portal (https://tip-offs.deloitte.com.ng); Email (tip-offs@deloitte.com.ng) or download the app (Deloitte Tip-offs, and Anonymous App) on the mobile app store.

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CBA FOUNDATION TAKES INTERVENTION AMONG UNDERPRIVILEGED WIDOWS TO THE NEXT LEVEL, WITH THEIR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE INITIATIVE

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If indications from two separate but related events that were held few months ago are anything to go by, then one of Nigeria’s most vulnerable groups may be on the verge of experiencing better times. The events, hosted in two separate states/regions and split by a 20-day interval, held at a time when self-splurging by many young Nigerians was at octane levels, and saw young men and women behind an NGO that caters to the welfare of underprivileged widows and their vulnerable children, passionately putting the widows’ needs above their wants.

The NGO, CBA Foundation, its dedicated and passionate staff, some supporters and donors came out in their numbers on two dedicated days to give widows in selected communities in Lagos and Anambra a treat. The Lagos outreach benefitted, in a unique way, widows in six communities in Ibeju-Lekki, namely: Badore, Iberekodo, Museyo, Magbon Alade, Okunola Ilado and Magbon Iga.

CBA Foundation seized the opportunity of the outreach to launch a new initiative it tagged Social Enterprise Initiative. The Initiative, which is aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of all efforts to protect and promote the welfare of widows as well as their children, is to cater to the financial, mental and physical health needs of beneficiaries. The Initiative is designed to provide comprehensive support, including health interventions, skill acquisition, business set-up, food and drinks, clothes and shoes.It also includes general support for all affected widows.

The Founder/CEO of CBA Foundation, Mrs Chinwe Bode-Akinwande explained the reason for the Foundation’s shift to the new Initiative: “We have been doing outreaches and it has been non-stop, but the essence of this Social Enterprise Initiative is for the widows to have something that will sustain them even for a longer period, something that will give them hope, knowing that they have a sustainable source of livelihood and activities that remind them that they need to keep going.”

Continuing, she reveals when the idea for the new initiative began: “When the lockdown came during the peak of covid 19, we realised that there was a need again to have something sustainable for these women. With the Social Enterprise Initiative, we identify the skills they need to possess, and what they are passionate about, we also empower them with the necessary training and then set them up with all they need for the business. At the end of the day, they won’t have to wait daily for the CBA Foundation to give them food or clothing.”

Mrs Bode-Akinwande noted that the Initiative had been informed by a rigorous analysis of the data in their database, gathered over the years on widows whom they have reached out to and the support they have been receiving from both individual and corporate donors. She said that they had dimensioned all the critical issues from widows with critical needs, where the Foundation needed to begin its interventions, to widows who needed to be set up in business and to several widows’ children who needed to be reinstated back in school.

She also remarked that plans were underway at the Foundation to take the skills acquisition training further, beginning with adire-making (tie and dye). She announced that the Foundation would have a line of products that would be its adire pattern, displaying its unique signature. When sold, the net proceeds would be ploughed back into the Foundation as a constant stream of income.

The idea, the Foundation’s CEO stressed, would inspire the widows who show a keen interest in adire-making as they would be involved and exposed to its value chain which is essential to optimising their execution after their training. So, the adire-making training followed with tutorials on the step-by-step processes involved in it, materials needed and how to identify them, necessary safety precautions, various tie and dye techniques, packaging and distribution and how to make a living from adire-making.

For widows with impaired vision at the event, they were able to have free consultations with an ophthalmologist, get free eye tests and free reading glasses, courtesy of a partnership between FirstBank and Vision Spring. What followed when beneficiaries had the free reading glasses fitted and could see clearly were scenes similar to ones where people had experienced supernatural miracles. The ecstatic joy was palpable.

Take 59-year-old Hassanat Oyewunmi, for example. Tears of joy rolled freely from her eyes as she remarked that her farsightedness challenge had been addressed. She confessed excitedly that she felt “better, much better now with the glasses, and I can even see everyone clearly. It is good to know that we are not forgotten.”

Olabode Sadiat, 62, could not contain her joy as she wore her glasses and pointed in the distance, while indicating that she could see everything in her line of sight. She had suffered from a blurry vision that made reading her Bible difficult. “Nothing is more painful than not being able to read your Bible,” she had noted following the medical intervention.

The widows also received food, drinks, clothing and other materials that were distributed during the outreach. They were also given a final charge by Mrs Bode-Akinwande in which she reminded them that they were not alone and could always count on the support of the CBA Foundation.

In all, 165 widows across the six communities of Ibeju-Lekki benefitted when the Lagos outreach was held. The Anambra outreach, on the other hand, benefitted 75 widows from four communities in the Nnewi area of the state.

Food items and financial empowerment constituted the bulk of the support CBA Foundation gave the Anambra widows to celebrate the festive season. The Anambra initiative has enjoyed tremendous support from a donor who has been consistent over the past four years. The Founder of the Foundation expressed gratitude to the donor while remarking that the outreach is a source of enablement for the underprivileged widows and their children.

She continues: “We give hope to the hopeless. We are driven to support underprivileged widows to have a positive outlook on life despite the problems they experience by losing their loved one, mostly the breadwinner of the family.”

Both Lagos and Anambra outreaches were in some sense CBA Foundation’s way of giving underprivileged widows a “December to Remember” treat annually. Of course, that treat would at best be modest compared to how people who were not in any known vulnerable categories took care of themselves and themselves alone. Even with the best of intentions, CBA Foundation could only work with donations received from donors and supporters at a time of the year when most (young) people were dedicating more resources to the self-splurging that December has come to represent.

While it may not be in one’s place to dictate to others how they should spend the money they have worked so hard to make, one cannot help but try to point them to ways they could better dispense their hard-earned cash that would be in their enlightened self-interest. Or what sense is there in spending on oneself so lavishly and ostentatiously as though spending was going to go out of fashion at any moment only to provoke the have-nots to make one the target of their misdirected anger in a society that is largely dysfunctional?

A similar question should be addressed to the government and public officials: What sense is there in expending huge public resources on projects that have no direct bearing on the welfare of vulnerable groups when it only widens the gap between the haves (including public officials) and have-nots and exacerbates the conditions that heighten security concerns among the haves? At what point will the government, public officials and the privileged class start acting in their enlightened self-interest by committing genuine efforts to narrow the gap between those who have and those who can only wish?

It is high time public officials and the privileged began building strong coalitions and partnerships with groups and organisations that have been working to protect and support as well as advocate for the vulnerable for years now. They must begin to key into and support the organisations’ laudable initiatives that show great potential in helping to narrow the frightening gap.

CBA Foundation’s Social Enterprise Initiative represents one of such laudable initiatives. It is a well-thought-out initiative capable of transforming the existing arrangement for care and support of vulnerable groups such as underprivileged widows and their children and taking their welfare to the next level. The Government, individuals as well as corporate organisations must join hands with the Foundation if the Initiative is to have any chance of success.

Through its avowed commitment to “touching lives, giving hope…” not in mere words and empty promises but genuine and visible action on the ground (see ample examples captured on its website: www.cbafoundation.org), CBA Foundation has already demonstrated its readiness to do more with additional support. It has shown that it is living true to its #CareIsAction DNA and can thus be trusted with more support. The Social Enterprise Initiative, therefore, will be delighted to have interested partners (individuals and corporate bodies) to send an email to: cbafoundationng@gmail.com to partner with the Foundation in the drive to take the welfare of underprivileged widows to the next level where its long-term sustainability is guaranteed.

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