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COVID-19, 5G Network and the Place of Common Sense in Technological Advancement

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By Jude Ndukwe

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effect on humanity, the world was obviously caught unawares and became distraught. People of this generation had never witnessed such a devastating pandemic of monumental proportions as this. So there had to be an “explanation” for it even if it meant concocting one just to defend the vulnerability and the unpreparedness of the entire world. That was quite understandable!

However, no matter the theory anyone is propagating as the reason for the outbreak of the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the human race to it, such a theory should be factual, evidence-based and scientifically proven. That is because if factual, it will help the world to defeat the virus and defend itself against a similar outbreak in the future, but if not, the world would wallow in the darkness of ignorance concerning it while also losing what should be the huge benefits of the 5G network, a system that has had the misfortune of bearing the blame for what it does not seem to know anything about.

Although there has been theories linking 5G to the global coronavirus pandemic, trends in the world have come to prove that such linking is vacuous and untenable as most countries in the world that have rolled out the 5G network have experienced some of the sharpest and most significant decline of the pandemic even while they are increasing the deployment of 5G.

For example,  South Korea which is one of the countries with the highest deployment of the 5G network, deploying to 85 cities as at January, 2020, did not suffer any coronavirus infection until February 19, 2020 when 27 cases tested positive. The country suffered her highest number of infection, 851, in a day on March 3, 2020, but has since experienced a steady decline to the extent that she recorded no single infection on May 6, 2020, despite not suspending her 5G deployment.

More interesting is that of Sweden which went live with the 5G network since December 2018 but only suffered her first coronavirus infection one year and 3 months after on March 3, 2020 with 15 cases testing positive. The place of common sense here is, if it were true that 5G had any link whatsoever to the COVID-19 pandemic, why then did it wait one year and three months after deployment in Sweden before it started affecting the citizens, and only after the scourge had become a worldwide pandemic? When one also considers the fact that a country would have done testing of the deployment years earlier before going live, then we can safely conclude that 5G in Sweden is not responsible for the outbreak of COVID-19 just like it is not in any country anywhere in the world!

Although Estonia, like Sweden, went live full blast with 5G in December 2018, the country did not record any case of coronavirus until March 5, 2020 when she recorded 3 cases. That was another one year and three months after the launch of 5G in the country. And since then, the country has experienced a rapid and steady decline in the number of people infected by the virus to the extent that on May 10, the country recorded only six cases. This is in spite of the fact that the country has never suspended 5G services. While 5G services are going up, the pandemic in Estonia is going down. This is a clear indication that 5G is never responsible for COVID-19.

On her part, Japan had a target of launching its 5G mobile service in 2020, and her largest wireless carrier, NTT DOCOMO, began its quest for 5G in 2010 with initial experiments. The company rolled out pre-commercial 5G services in September 2019 and with its success, started offering consumers 5G services on March 25, 2020.

In is instructive to note that a country that is as advanced in research, science, technology and medicine would not have been as callous as offering her citizens 5G from March 25, 2020, in the climax of the coronavirus pandemic, if, indeed, 5G had any link with the novel virus. Like many other countries, Japan has since seen her worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic as she recorded her highest infection of 743 on April 11, 2020 but has since experienced decline in the number of infections to the extent that she recorded 114 cases on May 9. The most interesting part of this is that, while Japan started experimenting on the 5G network in 2010, she never recorded any COVID-19 case until 10 years later, in the aftermath of the outbreak worldwide. If 5G was responsible for coronavirus pandemic, it would not wait ten years to strike in Japan.

I am still just trying to make commonsense of this technological advancement

Although China has some of the highest numbers of infection, she has experienced a speedy and steady decline since February 12, 2020 when she had 14,108 cases in a day, and had no single case for a long time despite her 5G services still being very active.

There is no way the United States of America would not have cancelled her 5G services having recorded the highest number of coronavirus related deaths in the world if truly there was any link between 5G and the virus.  These are countries that place premium value on the lives of their citizens and would do anything including outright cancellation of any technology that so much ravages their citizens. It is time to stop being scared of technological advancements, it is time o embrace them tightly.

Contrary to the rumours making the rounds, it is not true that Switzerland “has placed an indefinite moratorium on the use of 5G network because of health concerns”. In fact, according to Swisscom, the largest telecoms firm in Switzerland, a whopping 90% of Swiss population already enjoys 5G services with such cities as Lutzelfluh, Bern, Davos, Nyon, Zurich, Burgdof, Basel, St Moritz and Estavayer already covered with over 2,000 antennas installed last year alone. Only few cantons in the country have expressed concern about placing the 5G equipment in their locality, hence, prompting the country’s Environment Agency to write the government on what steps to take with further testing in order to assure the few cantons that have expressed concerns.

Denying placing a blanket ban on 5G in Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment described reports of such ban or suspension as misleading. It went further to say that although it wrote a letter to the government, such letter did “not contain any recommendation to stop the permitting of 5G base stations. Rather, it sets out how the cantons can proceed with the permitting of 5G and adaptive antennas until FOEN’s enforcement aid on adaptive antennas is available.”

In all these, the advantages of having the 5G network cannot be overemphasised. It will certainly change how we do things radically, making life easier and better. With unprecedented speed of up to 10Gbit/s over time, a response time that will fall from the current 25 to 35 milliseconds to just a few milliseconds, with more devices enabled to transfer far more data which could mean we can transfer as much data in a day as we currently do now in one week, its efficiency and many other merits of the new network, it would be economically suicidal, socially asphyxiating and technologically retrogressive if we allow the rest of the world to leave us so far behind because of some unfounded fears over a technology that we should be racing to embrace rather than demonise.

The coronavirus pandemic like every other pandemic that has hit the world in the past will soon pass. When it does, the 5G network will remain and the world would be better for it. The earlier we embrace it, the better. While I understand the fears of people and sympathise with them on their fears for 5G, evidence from around the world where 5G has since been in operation show that the network is innocent of all the charges leveled against it.

—jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk; Twitter: @StJudeNdukwe

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BUSINESS

Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte canvass use of tech to rescind effects of Covid-19, tackle fraud

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, Director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.

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Banking

Heritage Bank’s MD calls for more impactful role in banking to aid speedy economic recovery

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In the quest to aid speedy economic recovery and impactful service delivery to stakeholders caused by macro-economic headwinds and Covid-19, banking sector’s players have been charged to maximize the opportunities by re-strategizing its roles that will address emerging risks.

The MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo made the call during the 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN) with the theme “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” held virtually on Microsoft Team’s platform, which was organized and hosted by the Heritage Bank, at the weekend.

Sekibo who was represented by his Executive Director, Jude Monye, whilst addressing internal auditors of banks, inquired from the bankers on the readiness of the Internal Audit function to lend the necessary support in exploiting and maximising the opportunities without impairing their independence.

He, however noted that with the rapid changing developments forced by the pandemic sweep across globe that have upended organisations in every sector of the economy, banking inclusive; internal auditors would notice that their modus operandi are outdated.

To this end, he stated that this was the most auspicious time for Chief Audit Executives to rethink how they perform various aspects of their audit assignments.

Sekibo suggested that auditors must “become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

He further hinted, “Embracing new processes and tools to modernize and maximize the audit function helps not only with the perception of internal audit’s value, but also the reality of its contributions. Opportunities to evaluate include virtual auditing, electronic workflow management, and distance team-building and development.”

According to him, it becomes imperative for audit teams to embrace change, harness it and use this season to strategize on what internal audit can be in the future, whist noting that only Chief Audit Executives that maximize the opportunity to refresh and reposition will make their role more relevant and impactful for stakeholders.

Meanwhile, he commended auditors for their contributions to the industry including inputs made in shaping policy directions by regulators and the fight against fraud and other financial crimes which helped in no small measure in deepening confidence of the banking public.

In the same vein, the Chairman of ACAEBIN, Yinka Tiamiyu, reiterated the need for internal auditors to maximize opportunities of the current challenges facing the industry, as each day brings new developments that directly influence the likelihood and potential impact of banking future.

According to him, there are challenges on our part as Bankers in meeting up with the needs of our customers and the general public, and we must ensure that such challenges are surmounted.

He stressed on the need for regular annual audit plan to be reviewed quarterly to address current events that have significant impacts on the business, whilst ensuring that the key players continuously provide banking services to customers in a convenient and safer way.

“On our part, the need for improvement in service delivery and safety of customer’s funds as we digitalized our product offerings are concerns facing the industry, as such we must not relent in our efforts to get strong authentication mechanisms as we make our services more convenient and easier for Customers.  Banks should strive to find solution to the problems associated with identity theft as we pursue digital products and inclusive banking. This is to ensure that customers are happy with us and complaints minimized,” Tiamiyu urged internal auditors of banks.

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Energy

Lagos Explosion: How BBC Ignored NNPC Explanation

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A plot may be afoot to damage Nigeria’s interests by attacking the integrity of certain institutions of government to discredit them for yet unknown reasons.

A recent report by the BBC Africa Eye on the pipeline explosion that occurred in Sabo, a Lagos suburb, on March 15, 2020 appear to fit a pattern of media blackmail of critical government institutions, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

The report said the BBC Africa Eye had obtained new evidence which contradicted NNPC’s official explanation on the cause of the explosion which claimed 23 lives.

NNPC had claimed at the time that the explosion occurred as a result of a truck that hit gas cylinders around the petroleum pipeline, where people had turned into a residential and commercial area contrary to regulations and in blatant disregard for the pipelines right of way.

But the media house said its evidence – a five-minute video and three sources (said to be experts in petroleum pipeline safety) – showed that there was a leak of “vaporized liquid” from the point of explosion on the pipeline.

The media house then said the evidence indicated that there was inadequate protection of the pipeline from soil erosion and that the NNPC failed to maintain industry standard.

The BBC Africa Eye, in the tradition of true journalism, sent a questionnaire to the NNPC requesting for the Corporations response to the allegations, including claim that victims of the explosion were not compensated.

But the medium breached all rules of balance and objectivity when it published the report of its investigations without reflecting the position of NNPC to all the allegations raised.

The media house portrayed the report as premeditated when it sent it out to some local media in Nigeria, including this website, with a plea to help republish.

But the NNPC response to the BBC Africa Eye questionnaire, dated August 28,  obtained by this website, contained details of its own investigations and conclusions which were ignored.

The Corporation responded to all the five allegations put to it in details, insisting on its initial explanation that the explosion was caused when a truck heavily laden with stones hit gas cylinders around the pipeline..

In a detailed response addressed to Marc Perkins, editor of the BBC Africa Eye, the Corporation insisted that a truck, heavily laden with stones,  was in the vicinity of the explosion, which clearly “indicated that it was instrumental to the explosion. A close look at the area would show that most of the people carrying out their businesses there were in breach of the Corporation’s Pipeline Right of Way which is 15 meters on either side of the pipeline.”

The NNPC stated further that residents of the area engaged in LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) vending, saw-milling, cement trading, auto repair, cooking, roasting  and  other activities inimical to a pipeline right of way.

“The eye-witness reports we got indicated that the explosion occurred when the above-mentioned truck hit cylinders at the LPG shop,” the document stated.

On the claim that there was a leakage on the pipeline which released vaporized liquid that caused the explosion, the Corporation stated that there was no leakage of PMS or any other vaporized liquid from its pipeline at the point of the explosion prior to the incident.

Instead, it said, “At about the time of the explosion (0852hrs to 08S7hrs), a pressure drop from 42 to 8 bar was observed during our pumping operations and the pipeline was immediately shutdown. Any leakage prior to the incident would have resulted in a drop in pressure. But that was not the case.

“It must also be noted that both Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) are petroleum products that essentially burn the same way. Since there was an LPG vending shop at the location, it is more likely that the incident was caused by LPG explosion. The incident was typical of gas explosion.”

But curiously, a report on the explosion circulated in the local media by BBC Africa Eye made little or no reference to the official response of the Corporation, but instead repeated claims made by its sources which were at variance with the official explanations it requested from NNPC.

Its only reference to Nigeria’s official explanation was to its third and fifth allegations that the pipelines were not well protected and that the Corporation did not pay compensation to victims of the explosion.

But even the NNPC’s responses to the allegations were largely ignored, and got only a passing mention.

The Corporation had described claims of inadequate protection of the pipeline against erosion as incorrect, and that the pipeline was not exposed at the vicinity of the explosion, but that “the pipeline was excavated to enable repair works after the incidence and the area has since been restored and the pipeline re-commissioned for operations.”

According to the document, the Corporation insisted that its pipelines were designed “operated and maintained in strict compliance with the safely and regulatory guidelines of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and API/ANSI/ASME standards,” maintaining there was no issue of negligence in terms of ensuring the integrity of the pipeline.

In conclusion, the Corporation stressed that despite the fact that the explosion was not caused by any  negligence on its part, it still worked “closely with the Lagos State Government in  providing a  N2billion relief  fund for the  victims,” contrary to the allegation made by the media house.

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