*Issues As African Airport Managers Examine Industry In Abuja
By Nosa Osula-Aituamen
The Airport Council International, Africa Regional conference, is an event that brings African airport managers together to share ideas, interact and proffer solutions to improving services rendered to passengers and other customers at airports.
This year, it was the turn of Nigeria to host the event, this was the first time Nigeria would be hosting such an event since the ACI inception in the early 1990's. The event took place at the International Conference Center in Abuja, September 13-17, 2010. The 5-day event was well attended with delegates from other African countries, including delegates from Nigeria, the host country, represented by Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The first day of the event was a disaster according to delegates who told AviationReport that they were confused as to where to go to be attended to. Papers for various presentations came in after they were presented, according to reports. Problems were further compounded in the afternoon with the meal which was badly prepared and organized - with frowning faces, delegates reluctantly ate the meal but not without complaints to the organizers. The second day was better as amendments were made after the show of shame the previous day. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria.
Then came the fourth day, Thursday, the D-day for the conference to be declared opened by the Minister of Aviation Mrs.Fidelia Njeze, delegates were well seated waiting expectantly for the program to commence but this did not happen until after two hours when the Minister came in to kick start the event. The usual protocol was observed, the result was that some papers were hurriedly presented and the usual question and answer session was skipped.
Questions and answers at previous conferences helped delegates to bare their minds on certain issues and often resonate solutions to problems with answers given. Unfortunately this was absent in this year’s conference. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze
After the repetition of what journalists have heard in the past of what had been done and will be done at the nation’s airport to make it safe and secured, came the time to eat lunch after the boring presentations. This time the meal was manageable but not sufficient. Some staff of FAAN could not hide their disappointment as they bitterly complained to some senior managers who in turn said it was beyond them.
As if that was not enough, one of the “Oyinbo” delegates had stomach upset, visiting the toilet frequently. The ugliest side of the event was the disappearance of some delegates' laptops, carted away by unknown persons despite the large number of FAAN security brought to the event, everywhere you turn, they were there. Can one say bringing them along was worth it?
The Gala-Nite that same day was superb, those who attended applauded the efforts of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority who hosted the nite as there was plenty to eat and drink unlike what happened in the afternoon. NCAA came to the rescue. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Imo State.
Well, few companies exhibited what they had, most of them where foreign ones, the exhibition stand was not only scanty but there were no Nigerian airline exhibiting, except NCAA again who was there with the consumer protection department personnel and Maevis showcasing what they had.
I hope Nigerians would start seeing changes at our airports with the number of those from FAAN who attended the conference, though it was a FAAN affair, their number was more than those who came from other countries and even other stakeholders.
Though many have said this is a litmus test for FAAN, it is hoped that FAAN would borrow a leaf from NCAA in the organization of such International conferences and avoid pitfalls. The question now is: Can FAAN Management candidly say that the N150 million invested in the conference was justified?
Nosa Osula-Aituamen (AviationReport)
*Tags: Nigerians, Airport, Managers, Abuja, Lagos, African, Masterweb
By Lateef Lawal
The Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria(ATSSSAN) has advocated the retention of the “Pay As You Go” regime, recently introduced by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), if government was desirous of assisting agencies in the aviation industry. Speaking at the National Executive Council of the association meeting held in Ibadan, ATSSSAN President, Comrade Benjamin Okewu said the system should be introduced in all the parastatals for the survival of the aviation sector. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: An Airborne Plane
Comrade Okewu noted that only the newly introduced ‘Pay As You Go’ system of payment for services would save the agencies from collapse as nearly all the agencies in the aviation sector were at the verge of collapse adding that NAMA before now had found it difficult to meet up with its statutory obligations as a result of debt owed it by airlines. “We are happy that up till now, the political juggernauts have not been able to penetrate the federal government or the presidency to give counter directive on that particular policy,” Okewu said.
He said workers welfare could only improve when agencies were paid by end users and urged all those owing various agencies to settle their debts for the survival of the industry. Okewu lamented the absence of succession plan in the aviation sector, which has made it very difficult for future planning in the sector. The ATSSSAN president said aviation was the mainstay of some economies in the world and regretted that the absence of succession plan has kept the industry backward. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nigeria.
On Category1 Safety Status attained by the country, Okewu said it was a herculean task that has been bestowed on the country with higher responsibility. He said it was time to get it right in the sector to ensure its sustenance without dropping from the category. “NCAA, has to be up and doing to ensure that we don’t drop from that category and that we maintain it. NCAA has to go further to ensure that within the shortest period of time all our airports especially the major international airports are certified in good categories” Okewu declared.
He also warned airlines on the dangers of neglect in the training of pilots, adding that the future would be bleak if airlines refused to train their employees. “All they want is to use the available human capital for maximizing their own profit and you that was not the situation when Nigeria Airways existed. So there is practically what we called a professional guilt in the aviation industry, so much so that sometime we get scared that in the next five years, you might be able to count the number of Nigerian Pilots, their captains and pilots” Comrade Okewu said.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
*Tags: Nigerians, Pay, As, You, Go, Agencies, Air, Navigation, Commercial, Flights, FAA, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
*EFCC Keeps Watch On Nigerians With High Profile Cases
By Lateef Lawal
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) is keeping a very close watch on people involved in high profile corruption and fraud cases at various courts across the country to forestall their foray into contesting the 2011 Elections. To this end, the anti-graft agency has on its list not less than 15 former governors and several other ex-ministers and chief executives of federal agencies. The EFCC list includes those standing trial or have their appeals pending before either Appeal Courts or the Supreme Court.
First on the high profile cases watch-list is the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, who has a 51-count charge of corruption pending against him since 2007; next is former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, whose N700 million alleged fraud case will come up on 27 October, 2010.
Others are Alhaji Saminu Turaki, ex-Jigawa State governor who was arraigned before the court over a N36 billion alleged fraud, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, ex-Abia State governor who was granted bail since 2008 in N5 billion alleged fraud case, former governor of Taraba, Jolly Nyame who is standing trial over a N1.3 billion corruption charges, Chimaroke Nnamani, ex-Enugu State who is facing N5.3 billion fraud charge, Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi, former governor of Nasarawa State who was arraigned on a N15 billion charge of fraudulent enrichment and corruption and Haliru Bafarawa, former Sokoto State governor who stands trial on N15 billion fraud charge. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: EFCC Operatives
Still on the high profile cases watch list, a re-Ms Adenike Grange whose N300 million corruption charges come up at the Federal High Court on 27 October, 2010, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello who stands trial on similar charge of N10 million corrupt enrichment, former governor of Plateau State, Michael Boatmang, standing trial for allegedly corruptly enriching himself with State funds in the tune of N1.5 billion.
Roland Iyayi, former Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) is standing trial along with the one time Aviation Minister, Professor Babalola Borishade over the N5.6 billion Safe Tower project scandal. Femi Fani-Kayode, also a former Aviation Minister charged for alleged fraud totaling N270 million, but this particular case was struck out at the lower court but EFCC won the continuation of the trial at the Federal Appeal Court, however the ex-Minister has appealed against it at the Supreme Court. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officers and police prepare to bust a Cyber Cafe in Lagos, Nigeria.
Boni Haruna, ex-governor of Adamawa’s N254 million corruption case comes up again in November 2010, same with that of ex-governor Rasheed Ladoja’s N6 billion. The rest are- Kenny Martins charged over N774 million Police Equipment Fund alleged swindling. The case is to be heard on 9 November, 2010, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai standing trial on 8-count charge of corruption, Prince Ibrahim Dumuje N774 million corruption case, Senator Nicholas Ugbade and others standing trial on 158-count corruption charges totaling N5.2 billion, Dr Yuguda Manu Kaigama, chairman of Taraba State Civil Service Commission arraigned over N17 million fraud, while Chief Joe Musa, the Director General of National Art Gallery and others have their trial slated for November 19 and 20, 2010 over N1.012 billion alleged conspiracy and fraud.
Not left out is the former boss of Intercontinental Bank, Dr Erastus Akingbola standing trial over N27 billion fraud, Sanni Lulu and three other members of Nigeria Football Federation arraigned over N1.5 billion fraud and Professor Innocent Chuka Okonkwo, the ex-Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, standing trial with others over N145 million fraud which is already slated for trial in November 2010.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
*Tags: Nigerians, EFCC, Election, Watch, Personalities, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
By Ikechukwu Enyiagu
At last, and after half a century, Nigeria is beginning to sound like a country without a pseudo undertone. From the days of our early fathers to the Roman age, corruption was not viewed only as the degradation of human pride but an open war by an individual or group of persons against their immediate community and established kingdom. Such people, no matter which class or rank they may belong, were suddenly and totally removed from among the people to deter others from breaking ranks.
Mismanagement of state funds and power were seen as direct opposition to the very meaning of that given state, and the perpetrators knew that the end result of their actions meant just one thing: death. But as psychology gained ground in the society, it became less wasteful and more frightening a message to sentence dissidents and state enemies to any given number of years than outright executions.
Human rights came into play, not only to defend the accused, but to help the law in determining what a real offense is and the proper punishment to be apportioned. And democracy is the father of human rights. But as democracy gives everyone a voice and human right gives everyone the right, without the third party to balance the definition of democracy where human right is concerned, the country eventually degrades to the unavoidable end-war. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Tafa Balogun, Nigeria's former Inspector-General of Police in cuffs being taken to court by EFCC April 4, 2005, after arrest for corruption.
The ignorance of this in our country made highly corrupt and evidently evil persons come into political power, mess with the treasury, and be re-elected without satisfactorily accounting to the people for previous leadership. And the effect of this is that it turned Nigeria into a nation of lawlessness where only the financially incapable are guilty of any and every crime that may be imposed. Enemies of our state ruled and ruled again; now they are staging a comeback because the force that resonates between democracy and human right seemed absent or asleep. It is one thing when an individual steals from his neighbor and renders him broke, but it’s another thing, and more terribly so, when a king starts stealing from his subjects: it narrows a kingdom, if unchecked, down through an autonomous community to just a living witness.
The primary quality of a state seeking for self-rule is the ability to manage resources-all recourses, no matter how little or large, and maintain an organized authority in its respective hierarchies. A state ceases to define its vision the moment responsibility and accountability among different levels of governance are no longer viewed as paramount to its foundation and sustenance. Through the years, as Nigeria tries to live up to its dreams, several agencies and bodies have been introduced to balance the workings in a functional democratic setting. But, as always, the root has proven too tough to dig at that we invested half a century into it. Now that EFCC has learned to speak, I believe that our land, Nigeria, will speak again. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officers and police prepare to bust a Cyber Cafe in Lagos, Nigeria.
Now that EFCC has begun to act, I see democracy and human rights, functioning side by side with the law. The emergence of EFCC, like any other before it, was greeted with misgivings from different quarters. However, we seem to have been able to discipline, to a greater margin, the roots of the Nigerian corruption through the EFCC.
Recently, and speedily, the underground work of EFCC has begun to bear fruits that everyone would be able to have more than a bite at its ripeness. As slow as the body’s results may seem in coming, the progress is unmistakable and promising: The banking sector, which is the messenger of corruption when it wants to be, has been rightly targeted for a start. The final nailing of this epidemic of corruption and money laundering in Delta state, followed by a successful disqualification of corrupt politicians from all parties to contest, will redefine leadership in Nigeria before those who would stop at nothing to be elected.
I urge other relevant bodies like ICPC etc, to join forces with EFCC in regaining Nigeria’s political sanity and, as a result, the entire nation and its people. As I praise EFCC as deserved, I equally ask that they stop at nothing in following through with their mandate. It’s really not enough to indict corrupt individuals; Nigeria demands that the guilty be brought to justice and the public be made aware of it.
Nigeria demands that every case that was shabbily treated and closed be opened in due cause. Nigeria demands also that the “untouchables” be touched, and the “above the law”s be forced to bow before the law. Nigeria demands that the Nigeria Police Force be completely shaken and restructured, with the evil die-hards brought to justice. Nigeria is saying that the force and authority to deliver it lies solely in true sacrifice. However, considering where we, as a nation, are coming from, I’m sure that most will agree with me that EFCC of today is the miracle we have been waiting for.
Ikechukwu Enyiagu can be reached at
*Tags: Nigerians, Efcc, Creation, Nation, Goodluck, Jonathan, Political, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
*Nigeria: Dearth of ATC Worries NAMA
By Nosa Osula-Aituamen
The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) says the shortfall in Controllers across airports in the country is cause of worry to them, adding that dearth of Air Traffic Control personnel could make nonsense of the Federal Government's effort in the improvement of Navigational aids in Nigeria. This and other issues were the subject of discussions at the 39th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Nigeria Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) held in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
The AGM with the theme: “Air Traffic Control Human Capital Development; Collaborating for Global Air Safety,” focused on the dwindling number of air traffic controllers in the Nigerian aviation sector and seemingly inability of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, to provide succor. The event which brought together seasoned controllers and aviation experts from Nigeria and beyond, showed that Nigeria still operate with less than 300 controllers as against the world aviation regulatory body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO’s stipulation for a minimum of 400. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nigeria.
A Retired Director of operations in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Adebisi Adedara noted that the rate of attrition in the department had reached alarming state, stressing that there may be need for the Nigerian College Aviation Technology, Zaria to shorten the course duration for controllers so as to fast track ongoing efforts to bridge the gap.
Adedara noted that the shortage in the number of controllers had led to over-labouring the few at hand, many of whom he said were already on their way to retirement. “The rate of attrition in the air traffic control department is very high. While we are currently having 280 controllers as against the mandatory 400, about 45 percent of them are already on their way to retirement. The effect of this is that the few controllers at hand are overworked, stressed up, cannot socialize, even as they work in an unconducive environment. 75 percent of controllers in Nigeria wear glasses as they stay glued to the screen for several hours,” he noted.
He however attributed the situation to a stop gap of about nine years in the production of controllers by NCAT which he said created a vacuum, just as he said that there had not been a conscious succession plan by government and past chief executives of the highly regulated sector. “For nine years or thereabout, there was no single controller produced by the NCAT. Also at a time when the shortage in manpower in the department became too transparent in the early 90s, a set of about a hundred controllers were at the same time injected into the system, all the 100 controllers are on there way to retirement at the same time now,” he stressed. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Imo State.
Corroborating this, NATCA president, Jibrin Haske said there was need for government to take urgent steps towards capacity building among controllers even as he commended latter for recent moves in the area of equipment upgrade. He urged government as well as NAMA management to match the drive towards modern equipment acquisition with human capacity development for an effective and efficient result.
According to him, the recent moves by government in the sector portrayed strong indication that the future of aviation in Nigeria is bright. “Our association has repeatedly stressed the often forgotten fact that aviation practice, particularly air traffic control, is human centered. While we have consistently demanded for the procurement, installation and maintenance of modern and efficient air traffic management infrastructure in our airspace for the safe and expeditious conduct of operations, it does not in any way detract from the imperative to engage personnel who have to skillfully apply these tools to achieve the objectives of air traffic services.
“Skilled and resourceful air traffic controllers are an asset to every country at all times hence the need to prioritize the maintenance and retention of their skills and proficiency.“In this vein, we acknowledge and commend the World Bank and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency for the massive training programme of radar controllers in USA. We are equally delighted that the first set of ATCOs attending the PPL course in the United States would depart before the end of October,” Haske acknowledged.
In order to make the demands a reality, Chairman of NAMA’s board of Directors, Alhaji Abubakar Barrage Kawu implored all end users of the agency’s service to assist government through prompt payment for services rendered to them.
He noted that since the agency could only discharge its duties optimally when it is financially buoyant, it behooved on the airlines to be prompt in the payment of services rendered to them by NAMA. Kawu, who doubles as the National General Secretary of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stressed that government on its part had made it a matter of priority to ensure that the pay-as-you-go mode of payment, recently adopted by the agency worked, so as to enable it meet up with its pressing obligations.
Nosa Osula-Aituamen (AviationReport)
*Tags: Nigerians, Cocaine, Trial, Court, Rejects, Bail, Application, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
*Nigerian Court Rejects Bail Application in N4.2b Cocaine Trial
By Nosa Osula-Aituamen
The bail application brought before Justice Okon Abang by five accused persons in connection with unlawful importation of 450.400kg of cocaine worth over 4.2 billion naira has been dismissed even as hearing resumed October 11, 2010. The judge assured the matter would be given accelerated hearing. According to Justice Okon, the trial had commenced and there had been no delay by the prosecution and the defence. In line with the ruling, the accused persons would remain in prison custody pending the determination of the case. The defence counsel Mr. Benson Ndakara so far has not issued a statement regarding an appeal on the ruling.
In rejecting the bail application, the Judge noted that the international community is interested in the case and that the quantity of exhibit involved is colossal. He equally stated that some of the accused may jump bail being foreigners and promised to further expedite action on the trial. Already seven NDLEA witnesses had testified out of 13, and more witnesses are billed to testify within the week. NDLEA principal witnesses that have testified include a forensic expert, exhibit officers and some investigators that participated in the operation. ( Continues below..... )
NDLEA prosecuting team led by the director of prosecution and legal services Mr. Femi Oloruntoba who had argued against the bail application on the ground that no enough materials have been placed before the court said the ruling was a welcome development. He equally reiterated the prosecution’s preparedness for speedy trial. The seizure is the second single largest made by the anti-drug Agency since its creation 20 years ago
The accused persons include a Taiwanese Fong Chui Sen, 54, a timber merchant, a Chinese, Richard Wang, 62, an importer of textiles and shopping bags as well as three Nigerians who are clearing agents Alhaji Inua Mohammed, 56, Ezeala Kingsley and Godswill Asomugha. They were recently arraigned by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) over their alleged involvement in the 450.400kg of cocaine seizure. All five accused pleaded not guilty to a four count charge of conspiracy and unlawful importation of 450.400kg seizure of cocaine made at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.
The first count states that, Fong Chui Sen and Wang Richard male adults, between the months of March and July 2010 at Ibadan and Kano, Nigeria, without lawful authority conspired to import 450.400 kg of cocaine into Nigeria from Republic of Chile and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14 (b) of the NDLEA Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation 2004. ( Continues below..... )
Second count read that Fong Chiu Sen male adult, on or about the 22nd day of July 2010 at Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, without lawful authority imported 450.4 kg of cocaine from the Republic of Chile into Nigeria and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11 (a) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation 2004.
Count 3 states that Inua Mohammed, Ezeala Kingsley, Godswill Asomugha male adults, on or about 22nd day of July 2010 at Lagos, conspired to aid one Fong Chiu Sen and Wang Richard to import 450.4 kg of cocaine from the Republic of Chile into Nigeria and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14 (b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation 2004.
The last count states that Inua Mohammed, Ezeala Kingsley, Godswill Asomugha male adults, on or about 22nd day of July 2010 at Lagos, aided one Fong Chiu Sen and Wang Richard to import 450.4 kg of cocaine from the Republic of Chile into Nigeria and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14 (b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation 2004.
Nosa Osula-Aituamen (AviationReport)
*Tags: Nigerians, Cocaine, Trial, Court, Rejects, Bail, Application, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
By Lateef Lawal
The Total VHF Radio Coverage of Nigeria is almost complete with appreciable progress recorded on several key ground stations of the country’s air navigation chart.
Competent sources informed NigerianAviationNews that the VHF equipment installed at Lagos, Abuja, Ilorin and Port Harcourt are now tested and deployed for use by both pilots and air traffic controllers on frequency 120.9MHz since September 25th 2010. In addition, it was learnt that similar installations have been completed in Jos, Maiduguri and Sokoto, with Abuja station already integrated with existing system in the Northwest on 128.5MHz and Jos integrated with the systems in the Northeast on 124.1MHz of the Northern sector with appreciable improvement in the coverage of both sectors. ( Continues below….. )
However, it was gathered that there are some delays in the installation of the Wukari node of the north east equipment. While the building and the mast to accommodate it are ready, the new Kano Control Tower is not ready.
The delay is attributed to the inability of the contractor to immediately offset the Custom Duty payment and transport to Kano the Control Tower cap from the Lagos Port. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze
The contract for the VHF Coverage of Nigeria’s airspace was awarded at a cost of N400m to a Nigerian firm-DaeoMakro Nigeria Limited and a foreign partner, ParkAir of UK.
The near-completion of the total radio coverage is coming on the heels of the recently completed Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria(TRACON) which is scheduled for commissioning shortly.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
*Tags: Nigerians, Airlines, FAA, Airspace, Completion, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
*ICAO Elects Nigerian 1st African President
By Lateef Lawal
The Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority [NCAA] Dr. Harold Olusegun Demuren, was elected president of the 37th General Assembly of International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] held in Montreal, Canada from 28th September to 8th October, 2010. ICAO is an organ of United Nations
The appointment which was unanimously endorsed by all the delegates from the one hundred and ninety  member states of ICAO made history. This was the first time an African was elected to preside over ICAO General Assembly, the United Nations global aviation Agency.
This development which cane under Agenda Item 4 of the second plenary meeting, also had the nomination of the Chief Delegate of the United States, seconded by the Chief Delegate of Australia and eventually the Assembly elected by acclamation Dr. Harold O. Demuren, Alternate Chief Delegate of Nigeria, as President of the Assembly. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Dr. Harold Olusegun Demuren
As put forth by the Chief Delegate of Brazil, seconded by the Chief Delegate of Colombia, the following nominations for the posts of Vice-President were also approved by acclamation. They included: First Vice-President Mr.Cãtãlin Radu, Alternate Chief of Romania, Second Vice-President, Mr. José Tomas Pérez, Alternate Chief Delegate of the Dominican Republic, third Vice-President Mr. Valeriy Okulov, Chief Delegate of the Russian Federation, Fourth Vice-President, Mr. Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Delegate of the United Arab Emirates.
With regards to Agenda Item 6, on the nomination of the Chief Delegate of Malaysia, supported by the Chief Delegate of Canada, the Assembly approved by acclamation the following nominations for Chairpersons of Commissions: Technical Commission Mr. Sameh El Hefny, Chief Delegate of Egypt. Economic Commission- Ms. Silvia Gehrer, Alternate Chief Delegate of Austria Legal Commission Mr. Levers Mabaso, Delegate of South Africa ,Administrative Commission Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Delegate of India. The remainder of the meeting was devoted to general statements delivered by the delegations of Belgium, the European Union, China, India, United States, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Colombia. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze
As President, Dr Demuren presided over the 37th ICAO General Assembly which discussed latest issues in Aviation Safety, Aviation Security and Environment. In attendance at the second plenary meeting were Honourable Ministers responsible for Civil Aviation Authorities from all the 190 contracting states, Aircraft manufacturers, International Air Transport Association [IATA], Airport Council International [ACI] and other Aviation Stakeholders.
The Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze was at the head of the Federal Government delegation to the Assembly. The delegates cut across Chief Executive Officers and top management staff of parastatals in the ministry namely the NCAA, the Nigerian Airspace Management agency [NAMA], the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria [FAAN], the Nigerian Meteorology Agency [NIMET], the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology [NCAT] Accident Investigation Bureau [AIB] and Airlines. Nigeria will be seeking re-election into the ICAO Category II Council in the course of the Assembly.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
*Tags: Nigerians, Airlines, FAA, ICAO, Elects, NCAA, Harold, Demuren, Abuja, Lagos, Africa, Masterweb
By Ifeatu Agbu
What a way to mark a nation’s golden jubilee. As few rich Nigerians clinked glasses and popped champagne for the country’s 50 years of nationhood, a vast majority were not sure where the next meal would come from as they wallowed in abject poverty. Is it not an irony that a nation blessed with abundant resources, including the black gold – oil, is helplessly hugging the lower rungs of the poverty index? Finance Minister, Mr. Olusegun Aganga calls it a paradox. How else can one explain a situation where government officials reel out statistics all the time that our economy is growing while unemployment and other poverty indices are galloping at an alarming rate? Aganga recently told a meeting of the National Economic Management Team, the World Bank and employers that, “real GDP has been measuring six per cent or higher in the past five years”. Yet, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that unemployment increased from 11.9 per cent in 2005 to 19.7 per cent in 2009, the highest since 2000.
The biting unemployment situation has made it imperative for governments and their agencies to explore all possible job creation strategies, especially as some experts have listed job creation as Nigeria’s greatest challenge. This is more so in the Niger Delta, where joblessness has become an incubator for youth restiveness and militancy. According to Mr. Volker Treichel, a Lead Economist with the World Bank, more than 40 per cent of the youths in the country are unemployed, a situation that has made the country a hot-bed for youth restiveness. “Youth unemployment is rising in the country causing unrest and other social problems,” he said. Another official of the Bank, Mr. Richard Sandall, laments that despite Nigeria’s oil wealth, the job market has continued to shrink, noting that it was only with job growth that the country could meet its commitments to poverty reduction. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
At a recent international conference in Oslo, Norway, leaders from government, labour, business and academia tackled the rapid increase in unemployment and underemployment since the 2008 global financial crisis. Most of the speakers canvassed a broad international commitment to a job-focused policy response to the global economic downturn. The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn summed up the views thus: “The international community must respond to the very real impact the crisis has had on working people. Tackling the jobs crisis is not only critical for a meaningful global economic recovery, but also for social cohesion and peace.”
Available statistics from the International Labour Organisation, ILO, show that unemployment has gone up by more than 30 million worldwide since 2007. IMF and ILO representatives agreed at the conference to work together on policy development in two specific areas. First, they agreed to explore the concept of a social protection floor for people living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, within the context of a medium-to long-term framework of sustainable macroeconomic policies and strategies for development. They also agreed to focus on policies to promote employment-creating growth.
Taking a cue from what is happening at the international arena, a senior economist with the World Bank in Lagos, Dr. Ismail Radwan, declared that job-creation was the need of the hour in Nigeria. “Only the private sector can do this. Government can empower and facilitate,” he stated, supporting his position with sobering statistics. According to him, 50 million youths were underemployed and three million new job seekers joined the unemployment queue each year.
According to him, the rate of unemployment in the Nigerian economy is currently one of the highest in the world at 19.7 per cent. “Over 50 per cent of the youths in the urban areas are unemployed. It is a very disheartening situation for parents who labour strenuously to educate their children. The state of affairs has assumed the dimension of an economic and social crisis. There is a relationship between rising criminality and unemployment. We should do something urgently to create jobs,” he said. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Scene from Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militants' Abuja bombing of Nigeria golden jubilee independence celebration. In the photo, security, paramedics and emergency personnel stand beside a damaged car following the blasts.
The message for Nigerian policy makers is that we are in dire straits and remedial actions must be taken to avert the looming catastrophe for our society. The development agencies, which include the oil companies, the federal, state, local governments and the Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC], must pay more attention to job-creating programmes. Although, agencies like the National Directorate of Employment [NDE] have a mandate to combat mass unemployment and articulate policies aimed at developing work programmes, they have not made sufficient impact. The same can be said of the National Poverty Eradication Programme [NAPEP], which was set up to create jobs so as to decongest the labour market.
Recently, NAPEP and the NDDC reached an accord to join forces to fight poverty with programmes that will support economic activities in communities in the Niger Delta. The National Co-ordinator of NAPEP, Dr Magnus Kpakol, said the only way to succeed in the fight against poverty is for institutions to leverage the advantages which exist within them. The over 50 per cent of the country’s population which is out of the production process must be empowered to contribute to economic national development, he said.
He told the NDDC management during a courtesy call at its headquarters in Port Harcourt that NAPEP had programmes which could make the communities engines of economic activities. "One of such programmes is the Village Economic Development Solutions Scheme through which anchor processing activities are being established across the communities.” Mr. Chibuzo Ugwuoha, the NDDC Managing Director, said that the tasks of NAPEP and that of the commission dovetail into each other so well that it would be very easy for the two institutions to work together. He assured that the two agencies would collaborate in the fight against poverty.
He noted that the NDDC had already embarked on educational and skill-acquisition programmes to enhance the capacity of Niger Delta youths to acquire the requisite empowerment that would make them competitive in the present global setting. There is no doubt that the youths put through skill acquisition programmes need proper mentorship and monitoring to effectively say goodbye to poverty.
Over the years, various agencies of development and different tiers of government have engaged in a number of skill acquisition programmes. The major reason why the impact of such endeavours has not been felt is that the graduates are usually not given seed money to start their own businesses. For that reason, many beneficiaries of such schemes end up again in swelling the labour market, having failed to utilise what they have learnt.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
*Tags: Nigerians, Niger Delta, Poverty, Abuja, Lagos, Jobs, Africa, Masterweb
*Coming To Nigeria
By Jide (Oso-) Alabi
In the 1988 film Coming to America, starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, there is a scene where Lisa Mc Dowell asks Akeem (Eddie Murphy’s character) how he, an obviously well respected person back home, can come to America and cope with having to work in a restaurant in order to pursue his dreams. He replies something along the line of “One must first learn to crawl before he can run”.
This is no doubt a truism which holds not only for people but also for all nations everywhere and in all generations. For nations what might be different and thus of interest to us is the manner and speed with which this transition is made from socio-economic infancy to full fledged developed nation status. For while some make the journey of a thousand miles in a mere fifty steps, others have much preferred the Israelite intercourse. As we celebrate Nigeria’s 50th independence, if we are to make progress in our national life, it is critical that we take inventory of our national stock profile-falling in this case within the time frame of the last decade, in order to map a winning strategy for the future.
As always discussing Nigeria is never an easy task. On one hand while there are a thousand issues which one must consider –dispassionately, on the other there is equally the obligation one feels to ignite the phoenix flame, the Caleb zeal in ones fellow man. This nominal challenge is compounded by the limited space given me here to work with. Accordingly for the sake of brevity and clarity, I have elected to divide this article into three parts. One- a review of the past ten years of Nigeria’s socio economic life, two- the problems we still face now as a nation and three- the way forward.
At the beginning of the present republic, Nigeria’s economic performance wasn’t so much bad as it was uninspiring. Although the naira was not doing too badly at between N90-N92 to a dollar, the figures did not add up. Unemployment was high. From the mid nineties highs of 70 percent, inflation had decreased to 6.1 percent but industrial growth was only moderate. On the other hand, the populace was still yet to recover from the SAP austerity measures of the early nineties as poverty remained endemic. To make matters worse Nigeria had only just recently emerged from the damning designation of a pariah state and as such was yet to get to grips with the realities of the world or indeed to change the mind set of nations who had for so long associated it with only two things-football and totalitarianism. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria showing its 36 states and capital (Abuja or FCT)
With the handing over however, of power by the military via the General Abdul Salami administration to civilians on the 29th of May 1999, there arose real hope for change across all decks. As it turned out however the first four years being a period of transition from military to civilian rule, was spent by the Obasanjo administration largely on securing civilian control of government institutions- the armed forces etc, and ensuring stability of the polity. Thus from 1999 ,although the Nigerian economy expanded as the non-oil GDP grew at an annual rate of 5.8 percent, improvement was most noticeable after the 2003 elections and during Obasanjo’s second term in office.
For then armed with an economic team of technocrats and managers, the government established the main economic objectives of (1) Macro-economic stability and (2) reducing vulnerability to oil shocks. These factors and the rising oil revenues caused revenues to surge. At the same time public spending was reduced from 47 percent of GDP in 2001 to 35.4 percent in 2004. This coincided with the increment in non-oil growth to 7.4 percent (2004). These factors resulted in a surplus budget of 7.7 percent of GDP for the year, up from deficits of 4-5 percent of GDP in 2002-2003. Thus placing Nigeria on a much better fiscal position than Ghana (3.6 percent deficit, Cameroon (0.7 percent deficit) and LI-SSA (4.6percent average). By 2005, non oil growth had increased to 8.2 percent and 8.9 percent in 2006. Over the same period GDP per capita in US dollars more than doubled. In 2003, GDP real growth was at 3 percent. This jumped to 7.1 percent in 2004; fell to 6.2 percent in 2005, further still to 5.3 percent in 07, but by 2008 had risen back to 6.4 percent. Unfortunately, with the economic crunch, by 2009, it had fallen once again to 5.3 percent and further still to 3.8 percent in 2010.
Unfortunately, the GDP real growth pattern was equally reflected in the industrial growth rate. In 2003, it was 4 percent, in 2004 2.3 percent; in 05 it dropped to 1.8 percent but rose to 3.8 percent in 2006. In 2007, however with the consolidation drive in the banking sector completed, it shot back to 3.2 percent. No matter the case, on a 2008 country comparison of West African states- Ghana (8.1 percent), Niger 5.1 percent; Senegal 4.5 percent and Cameroon 4.2 percent, all performed better than Nigeria. This was not helped by the poor business environment, most particularly electricity supply, infrastructure and high banking rates. It is perhaps for this reason that the statistics show a marked improvement in the performance of these West African states precisely at the period of Nigeria’s declining economic performance, as erstwhile Nigerian companies moved into other parts of the sub-region in a bid to cut production costs and stay competitive.
With respect to these and other factors contributing to the poor business environment, electricity has been a major culprit. Although production increased steadily from the estimated2003 figure of 15,670,000,000 to the projected 2010 22,000,000,000 kilowatts figure, a sizable amount of this was lost during transmission and distribution to bad equipment. Moreover compared to Nigeria’s 140 million plus population, this was only a pittance in the collective bowl of Nigeria’s energy need. It would also explain the progressive deterioration in investment numbers from 27.7 percent and a ranking of 23 in 2004 to 17.1 percent and a ranking of 124 in 2010. To compound issues, from the second Persian Gulf War surplus of 2003/04, budget expenditures had come to exceed revenues. Thus the 2009 estimate for expenditure was 18.08 billion whilst revenue was a mere 10.49 billion.
Reflecting this was the fact that while oil imports increased marginally from 154, 300 bbl/day in 2008 to 170,000 bbl/day in 2010, oil exports dropped marginally from 2,470,000 bbl/day in 2008 to 2, 327,000 bbl/day in 2010. Oil consumption on the other hand shot up from 15,680,000 bbl/day in 2004 to 32,820,000 bbl/day in 2009. As such governments drive since the early days of Obasanjo’s second term to deregulate the down stream sector of the oil industry became more pertinent. Luckily for Nigeria a situation that might ordinarily have spelt disaster for other nations was greatly ameliorated by the fact that not only was Nigeria’s proven oil and gas reserves burgeoning (Nigeria as at 2010 occupies the 8th position of countries in the world ranking of proven gas reserves), but in line with the improvement in production related technology as well as the Federal governments ban on gas flaring, natural gas exports had increased to take up some of the slack. Thus from 7,830,000,000 cu m in 2004, it grew to 21,200,000,000 cu m in 2009 before falling to 20,550,000,000 cu m in 2010. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria
The same trend is mimicked by non-fossil fuel exports. Nevertheless, the government continues to have problems with a burgeoning domestic debt profile and as such has increasingly resorted to the selling of debt bonds in order to finance its expenditures. For example on Wednesday (September 15th), Nigeria sold ₦105 billion ($700 million) of 20-year, 5-year and 3-year sovereign bonds at its seventh debt auction of the year, as reported by the Debt Management Office (DMO) on Thursday. Other economic indices also paint a mixed picture.
Statistics show for example that banking rates increased from 2008’s 15.4 percent to almost 17 percent while central bank discount rate hovers at around 9.75 percent. Again while Nigeria’s external debt was $29.7 billion in 2003, in the aftermath of Nigeria’s $12 billion debt buy back from the Paris club of lenders, by 2005/06 it had fallen to 6.3 billion. This grew to $10 billion in 2010. Also vastly increased was Nigeria’s reserve of dollars and gold at the value of $46,540,000,000 from the 2004 figure of $7,128,000,000. Again foreign direct investment in the country increased from 33,640,000,000 to 71,590,000,000, a change of over 100 percent. The stock exchange was an equally exceptional player in 2007 but by 2008 with the crisis in the banking sector it had crashed by almost 70 percent and so lost much of its 2007 value.
In the services sector telecommunications technology an undisputable aid to business and thus development, moved in leaps and bounds. From a mere teledensity of about 500,000 fixed phone lines, with the introduction of GSM telephony in 2003, by 2010 figures had jumped to some 75.9 million. This placed Nigeria with respect to subscribership first in Africa with South Africa placing a distant second. The same trend is reflected in internet users with figures for Nigeria hovering on the, in my opinion grossly under-estimated 11,000,000 mark as against Egypt’s 8.6 and South Africa’s 5.1 million. In the area of transportation there were also marked improvements, although more still needs to be done. For Instance, in the merchant marine division Nigeria is bested in West Africa by only Sierra Leone in terms of number of ships. Unfortunately the International Maritime Bureau reports the territorial and off-shore waters in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea as high risk for piracy. Nevertheless, it should be noted that with the coming into effect of the late president Umaru Musa Yar’Aduas 2008 amnesty to militants, conditions in these areas did greatly improve.
Militarily, Nigeria remained strong throughout the decade under consideration with perhaps the most experienced peace keeping force on the continent. Note also that Nigeria has great numbers of its people fit for military service. Being a contributory factor to economic development, statistics equally show a marked improvement in the area of knowledge of HIV/AIDS prevention, retroviral drug use and at 3.1 percent, low HIV morbidity. In the same vein there has been improvement in child health with widespread infant immunizations and anti-malarial drugs usage. However, there could be more improvement in maternal health.
From the foregoing it can be seen that Nigeria’s economic performance over the past decade has been a mixture of hits and misses. Thus for instance while there has been significant growth in telecommunications, banking (before the banking crisis and credit crunch), gas production and export, some like electricity production has remained stagnant relative to population and industrial growth. On the other hand, others such as industrial growth has positively plummeted. Accordingly, on a scale of 1-10, I would give Nigeria 5. To conclude therefore, economically speaking, Nigeria’s great potential in the last decade has been grossly underutilized and much of the people’s aspirations as at 1999 left unattained. Several factors constitute the cogs in the wheel of progress.
They are areas that must be resolved if Nigeria is to make any appreciable move forward. Namely 1) Banking ; sustenance of banking sector reforms, decrease in interest rates and resumed lending of loans, particularly long term loans to businessmen and industrialists, 2)Power; improvement in power generation, infrastructure and supply. 3) Science and Technology; a new emphasis on, support and encouragement of science and technology education and vocation as the industrial base for any successful modern economy. The case of the Chinese, Indian and Asian tigers. 4) the problem of corruption; the enactment of The Freedom of Information Bill.5) Value system reorientation and more pro-active use of economic ideologies that work, whether they be capitalist or Socialist. In addition to these, it should be noted that government policy should be consistent and investment friendly yet protective of certain local industries. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Nigerian Naira Notes *Current Exchange Rate(14/10/10) = N151.00 to $1.00
Lastly, there needs to be political reforms with respect to how our governments are run and our public officers chosen. This is cardinal to the success of any measure instituted to move the nation forward. For after all, a law or system is only as good as the people who run it.
Along with telecoms, the banking sector could be ascribed with much of what verve the Nigerian economy can be said to have been moving over the past few years. However, all of that came to a halt with the sudden crisis in the banking sector and world economic crunch. According to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s Central Bank governor, 8 main interdependent factors were responsible for the crisis. They are; 1) Macro-economic instability caused by large and sudden capital inflows, 2) major failures in corporate governance at banks, 3) lack of investor and consumer sophistication,4)inadequate disclosure and transparency about financial position of banks,5)critical gaps in regulatory framework and regulations, 6)uneven supervision And enforcement, 7)unstructured governance and management processes at the CBN, 8) weaknesses in the business environment.
Expanding on point one, Sanusi maintained that as oil prices and thus revenue increased steadily between 2004 and 2008, the amounts held in Nigerian deposits increased with it. The economy was not able to absorb the excess liquidity from oil revenues and foreign investments in productive sectors. This resulted in significant flows to non priority sectors and the capital markets mostly in the form of margin loans and proprietary trading camouflaged as loans. This set the stage for a financial asset price bubble particularly in bank stocks. At the same time there was an unprecedented failure in the observation of corporate governance standards at banks. Insider abuse was rampant and in many cases a lot of the capital supposedly raised by these so called mega banks was fake capital financed from depositor’s funds. Part of CBN reforms which I totally agree with to preventing such future occurrence include limiting capital market lending to a set proportion of a banks balance sheet; prohibiting banks from using depositors funds for proprietary trading private equity or venture depositors investments. In other words better monitoring and regulation of bank activities. Also exchange rate policies are being designed to limit exchange rate volatility which has been shown to reduce growth.
Most importantly though and I believe this is the way forward, government needs to assume a more direct interventionist policy with respect the economy via the CBN and the banks. Nigeria needs to promote linkages and strategic ones too, between her raw and natural resources, production capability and industry. Some have opined that it is the continued lack of this linkage between the oil and gas sector and industry which has largely been responsible for the oil and gas sector exogenous to the rest of the economy. TO do this the government may implement the deregulation of the down stream sector of the oil and gas industry. The problem with this though is that without an adequate safety net to cushion the effect of such on the general populace, it may eventually prove destabilizing of the country.
One, as the purchasing power of peoples naira diminish owing to the multiplier effect of greater energy cost forcing prices up, and two as workers embark on industrial action aimed at salary increment to combat that trend. One way round that would be to compensate industrialists by improving the business environment. In other words there must be provision of better power supply, infrastructure and lower bank rates, so that industrial production can be more cost-competitive and thus profitable. Thus whilst reducing consumer prices, it would at the same time ensure that people have more money in their pockets-the result of a thriving economy, to spend or save as they wish.
Without doubt the epileptic nature of electricity supply in the nation has been a bane to development. Due to the lack of electricity, most businesses have had to rely on generators which are very expensive to run. This has forced many companies to close shop or relocate because they can no longer remain competitive. The Manufacturing Association of Nigeria estimates that the imperative of providing alternative power supply in the face of power shortages adds up to 40 percent to the cost of factory products.
Currently, Nigeria produces about 3,000 mw of electricity having been unable to deliver on former president Umaru Musa Yasr’Aduas promise of 9,000 mw by year end 2009. It has been estimated variously that Nigeria needs between 80,000-100,000 mw of electricity to become an industrialized country, or more specifically to achieve its aim of becoming one of the 20 biggest economies by 2020. This would require an annual supplementary provision of about 7700mw annually for the next 10 years to supplement the current capacity.
In fact besides the$16 billion so far spent on the power sector since 1999, it has been estimated that Nigeria needs $85 billion of investment in its power infrastructure in order to produce electricity 24 hours a day. This is 17 times the mount announced by government, it intends to spend on the power sector and four and a half times the country’s oil savings. So on current figures coming close to even achieving this would entail the exclusive devotion of all government revenues to the project. This is impracticality as that would bring other sectors of the economy and the nation to a stand still. Indeed a much preferable and workable solution would be to supplement electricity generation in the country with a drive by the CBN to bring interest rates to a single digit preferably between 4-7 percent as a panacea to industrial rejuvenation.
Moreover because as records show 25 percent of the electricity produced in Nigeria is lost to the poor transmission and distribution networks this too-electrical infrastructure needs to be rehabilitated. Moreover electricity generation, distribution and transmission in the country needs to be fully deregulated. States need to be allowed to do all three within their territory as against the recent grant to them of generation and distribution minus transmission. If the revolution in the GSM telephony in 2003 is anything to go by, not only will foreign investors come into the Nigerian market bringing much needed foreign direct investment, help create jobs for Nigerian citizens and contribute to the transfer of technology, as time goes on competition will ensure that power generation and supply becomes affordable for more and more people.
Moreover as a further measure to safeguard the interest of the majority of Nigerians who are poor government can provide a pricing policy or framework for energy companies, which they must follow in setting just energy prices. For example in the state of Alberta, Cananda, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) regulates investor owned natural gas, electric and water utilities to ensure customers receive safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates. At the same time as opined severally, because the vast majority of Nigerians will not be buoyant enough at the initial stages to afford this electricity, government must provide incentives to power companies in order to attract foreign investment in Generation, Transmission and Distribution (GTD).
Presently in Nigeria there is a tax holiday of 5 to 7 years for investments in the sector. More however needs to be done to further encourage private participation. In 2004 the government implemented the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) with a goal of building new generating plants: numerous transmission and distribution projects as well as gas pipelines and other related equipment infrastructure. These projects have however been held back by various challenges and few are on schedule. One of the major reasons for the poor state of power sector performance in the country is that there is not enough gas available to run gas powered plants, these being continuously exported. Further Nigeria is still tied to multi-year contracts to supply gas to international companies.
Falling water levels at hydro-electric plants have also been blamed for lower power generation. Over the years many plans have been introduced and suggested to rectify the sector without much appreciable results. In the offing now though is a new plan by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), governor Lamido Sanusi which might bring some real change to the electricity situation. The CBN recently announced its intention to extend a N500 billion (U.S. 3.3) facility for investment in emergency power projects dedicated to industrial clusters. The funds are to be channeled through the Bank of Industry for on lending to the deposit money banks. ( Continues below..... )
Some federal government power projects will be covered under this facility subject to them being restructured into bankable ventures. These projects include power plants in Lagos (500mw); Kano (250mw); Onitsha/Nnewi (200mw); and Maiduguri/Gombe/Bauchi (200mw). Other projects currently being financed by banks may also be financed from the fund. However, banks will be required to secure the funds drawn with securities. No doubt Independent Power Projects (IPPs) hold the key to improved power generation in Nigeria and they should be actively encouraged. Companies who have successfully or should be completing Independent power projects soon include Oandos 12.5mw platform built to service the Lagos Waterworks Corporation, Geometric Power’s 6,000mw producing plant for Aba and Paras Energy and Natural Gas Resources Limited’s planed 8mwplant to service a Lagos industrial cluster.
For a fact, the sources of electrical energy are largely influenced by a country’s location and the resources available to it. As such according to Adesiji Rabiu , a good approach to solution should include the following phases.
1. Government, leadership must commit to positive actions, a) including reviving worn down and neglected electricity infrastructure b) defining and strengthening institutional and regulatory jurisdictions, c) providing a required subsidy to those who need it.
2. Following this government must identify generation options that are in tandem with National Energy Strategy. Thus it might consider solar and wind as complements to oil and gas generated electricity.
3. Lastly the next steps must include actions and policies to further strengthen her National Energy in the long term. This may apart from investor targeted incentives include forming alliances and partnerships with local and foreign power generation and transmission companies.
CORRUPTION AND THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL
As a constituent to the poor business environment within Nigeria, corruption in government is perhaps the foremost problem. According to the Transparency International Corruption Index, Nigeria is the sixth most corrupt nation in the world. Although Nigeria’s score card of 1.9 is a slight improvement over its previous score, in relative ranking, it means that Nigeria is more corrupt than LI-SSA on average, Ghana or Cameroon. As such a prerequisite for achieving the above stated objectives i.e. power generation etc, is curtailing endemic corruption.
During his tenure, the Obasanjo administration instituted several government agencies geared towards battling this. And these, namely the ICPC and EFCC would get much of the accolades for the steady improvement in Nigeria’s score from 1.0 in 2000. Unfortunately that administration was later criticized as using these agencies to fight its political enemies. More recently though, excepting the prosecution of former MDs of several Nigerian banks for financial improprieties, there is the feeling that momentum has slowed and that the EFCC and ICPC have lost the engagement of the average Nigerian. Whatever the case one sure aid to fostering greater accountability, transparency and thus less corruption in Nigeria would be the adoption and enactment of The Freedom of Information Bill.
According to Longe Ayode of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a Lagos based NGO “if these secrecy laws are not there, people will sit up. If you know the public will get access to your fraudulent acts, you will not do it’ This bill also called the FOI bill has had a long and chequered history. In 1993,MRA joined forces with the Civil Liberties Organization and The Nigerian Union Of Journalists to push for freedom of information legislation in Nigeria. A draft bill - The Access to Official Information Act was produced by the MRA in 1994. This drat became the predecessor of the current Freedom of Information Bill which submitted to the National assembly in 1999 failed to get legislative approval during that arms first four year term. Its attempted Re-incarnation in 2003 equally proved elusive despite widespread support by media groups, business interests and human rights organizations.
In the light of recent accusations leveled against certain members of the Nations House of Representatives just to site an example, it is perhaps not surprising that that situation holds. Indeed, it was opined by Lanre Arogundade a member of the International Press Centre (IPC) that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a key opponent of the bill. “The president is afraid that the bill will give too much power to probe the activities of those in government”. Cast your mind back to the Obasanjo/Atiku PTDF scandal of 2006/07 and that might not be too far from the truth. In the light of Nigeria’s development aspirations for the 21st century, it becomes imperative that the bill is passed. For as one time American president Thomas Jefferson said, information is the currency of democracy. And as we all know democracy practiced well is one sure way to development.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Today in Nigeria, it is rather unfortunate that what serves as inspiration to most youth is the entertainment and arts related disciplines. Today we have so many pageants, reality TV shows artist wannabees and the like. Often times these have left possible careers in the science fields to pursue a career in a field seen as potentially more lucrative. Ironically, it is observed that the opportunities abounding in these places only come about as a result of the sponsorships and endorsements by companies whose raison d’être is founded on the breakthroughs in science and technology . For instance the GSM companies and microwave technology. Accordingly, is it a wonder then that the ongoing boom in the Nigerian music industry for example coincides with the introduction into the country of the GSM technology just a few years ago.
In America too, there has been a noticeable apathy for the hard core sciences, with many opting for careers in finance, business and entertainment. Many contrast the mood now to that post the lunar landing of 1969 which inspired a generation of Americans to later become Physicists, rocket scientists and ancillary science and technology professionals. Professionals who formed the industrial intelligence base for Americas technological leap in the nineties. The new dispensation contrasts sharply with the Chinese and Asians in general who emphasis math and science education and whose students outshine Americas regularly on the global chart of student peer performance. Keeping in mind the historical rise of nations, from Babylon to Rome, from Europe(Spanish, British, French, Germany, Russia) to America, is it then a wonder today that the nation to more keenly watch is not America but China? Research shows that this nation churns out more scientists (that is science graduates) per head than America or Europe for that matter. Unsurprisingly, China recently overtook Japan as the second biggest economy in the world.
On the down switch, history equally shows us that the slide from pre-eminence in the natural empire life cycle of a nation is usually evidenced by either its penchant for or over emphasis on entertainment, for instance the Roman Empire and its gladiators. The irony of the whole thing here is that Nigeria seems to be evidencing signs of this latter stage without having ever gained its zenith. This is a dangerous trend. What then is the way out? What is needed are incentivized strategies to turn the mind of the youth to science and technology. Since we live in a society which is highly materialistic and short of the present consensus that value re-orientation is needed to address much of this, the monetary factor must also be considered, if you will, to lure the youth back to the sector. The national value for science and technology must be quantified not only in intellectual terms but also a monetary one. Giving lip service or mere intellectual expositions on its merit will only effect an equal and sometimes opposite reaction-No real action will be taken.
What I propose is the introduction of a culture of science and technology market driven invention festivals and competitions. Now although we do have a few national science and technology competitions (I have seen reports of these a few times on the NTA), these need to be structured in such a way that 1. The youth across all sectors are adequately engaged, 2. It takes on the prominence of say the Lagos International half Marathon, Obudu race or the many science festivals around the world (British Science festival, World science festival, Edinburgh International science festival,, U.S.A. science and Engineering festival, Austin Energy Regional Science festival, Fete de la Science, Scifest Africa-South Africa’s science festival, just to name a few). This must be done through timely and adequate pr, awareness for the programme and sponsorship. Sponsorship can come from corporate organizations like GSM companies, oil companies, banks and the like. What is also important here though is to show prospective participants that their efforts will not only be adequately compensated but to actually compensate them. If the winner of the Project Fame West Africa can be given an S.U.V., a recording contract and millions of naira, a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire a chance to win 10 million naira and the winner of the Miss Nigeria pageant an S.U.V and cash prize, I see no reason why the same cannot be done for the science and technology sector. Every youth seeks fame and fortune and the facts of industrial history show us that the best brains will always go where their talents or skills will be most appreciated. From the corporate perspective of sponsors, this may not be easy to swallow since these tend to support projects that will highlight their brand in a flashy and attention grabbing way-hence the focus on projects with entertainment appeal.
Nevertheless, there is no reason why a marriage of sorts cannot be contracted between these two sectors (science and Technology, and entertainment and the arts). For instance a TV reality science competition show could just as easily be produced to engage audiences whilst encouraging science and technology, entrepreneurial and indigenous manufactures development. I have several formats for this. Lastly inventions and discoveries from these should be encouraged to be Nigerian market oriented so that such festivals and competitions can eventually serve as bases for industrial development and launch of products. Lastly owing to its high,vibrant english educated youth population, Nigeria should also consider going into the call centers and software manufacturing industry as currently enjoyed by India so as to equally enjoy the opportunities available therein.
Value System re-orientation and pro-active use of economic ideologies. It has variously been noted that we need a values re-orientation in Nigeria. That is no lie, and to be candid the assertion applies in equal measure to individual and leadership behavior in so far as it impacts on the economy. Let me go straight to the point. We need to de-emphasise the culture of materialism, the worshipful attitude we have to money and those who have it irrespective of how it is got. Such a system inadvertently breeds corruption. In a sense, we need to bring honour and dignity back to play. In addition government needs to put up sweeping measures to restrict importation on certain items. Quality issues notwithstanding, this is the only way to not only encourage local manufactures, but also curb the taste and orientation of our people for imported goods. Secondly and in relation to the foregoing, Nigeria and Nigerians need to imbibe the savings culture. Currently what subsists is the culture of consumption. The average Nigerian believes greatly in “enjoyment”.
Once he gets his salary, a high proportion of that is set aside for merry making. This is wrong. The rate at which any economy-capitalist, socialist, feudal, fascist or what have you can grow is dependent on how much of its production is saved and invested, rather than consumed. Contrast this to the high savings rate in Asia- as high as 60 percent and their attendant high annual economic growth rate-Japan in the past, China now at 10 percent and you will get the picture. Collins, Bosworth and Rodrick (1996) did a research in which they concluded that as against TFP (Total Factor Productivity), savings and investments had a greater role to play in the success of these East Asian countries. This conclusion was also supported by Lau and Kim (1996). Their own analysis of the sources of growth for the Asia-Pacific countries and the Industrialized Western Countries (IWC) show that capital accumulation was the major source of growth in the Asian region while technical progress was the major source of growth for the IWC.
There are legitimate reasons for this which space will not allow me here to explore. However they did predict that sustainable growth is not possible with capital accumulation due to diminishing returns to the factor of production. So the future growth of Asian countries will depend on the research and development work from within the Asian region. Nevertheless, Nigeria having more similarity in its traditional economy with the Asian countries, should accordingly lean more towards their developmental path. At the same time however as earlier explained, it should not neglect to build up its science and technology capabilities, so as to be better equipped to make use of its surplus savings when these do become available. Government will be key to co-coordinating this dual objective. Indeed many successful markets, emerging and otherwise have seen pro-active government actions to ensure that the financial sector contribute to the real economy. One lesson which the recent financial crisis has taught us is that one need not and in fact cannot continue the slapdash followership of the some what laissez faire economic orthodoxy of the Washington consensus. We need to find an effective halfway house. The case of Japan is classic. Against conventional capitalist designation, Japan should be perhaps better termed a non socialist centrally planned economy. To over-simplify a bit, it is a centrally planned capitalist economy.
It is in one way that the socialization of the commanding heights of the economy without a total Gosplan-style takeover, as advocated by the likes of Hugh Gaitskill in his “mixed economy” has been attained. This aspiration was misinterpreted in classic socialism which understood the commanding heights to be basic industries like coal, steel and railways. The problem with this however, is that these industries do not command the economy. They do not constitute a lever by which the economy as a whole can be controlled. The supply of capital to business, however does and this is under state control in Japan.
The Japanese government deliberately channels savings into a limited number of financial institutions under its control simply by making sure there is nowhere else to put the money. For example it has seen to it that the Japanese cannot just open a brokerage account at Merril Lynch and invest their money in the American stock exchange.( It is needless to say here that the Chinese example is even more severe). Nevertheless in Japan, this huge torrent of savings flows to a handful of major banks, which the government has under its thumb because banking in Japan is extremely regulated, enabling regulators at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to crack down on any bank at any time they see it doing something they don’t want it to.
So the banks are subject to the whim of the government which then controls the economy by controlling how the banks allocate all this capital. What the MOF is able to achieve by this is essentially its aim- the supply of huge quantities of cheap capital to Japanese industry to build up its long term productive capacity. The MOF wants capital to be paid a low return so that Japanese companies will enjoy the competitive advantage of access to cheaper capital than their European, Asian and American competitors. And so in Japan interest rates are as low as 1 percent. On the other hand in Nigeria, its as high as 25. This therefore needs to change, for in capital intensive industries like the advanced manufacturing in which Japan specializes and which Nigeria one day hopes to attain, this is a huge advantage.
Taken along with the more severe Chinese example one lesson can obviously be learnt from all this and it is that a planned economy can work. What is needed is the sincere and experienced leadership to give it direction and focus. Honest, disciplined, focused leadership and consistent policy woven round a non-socialist centrally planned economic ideology. Taking from both sides- capitalist and socialist, elements that work and marrying them to our purpose. As far back as the sixties, China drew our attention to the advisability of closing our markets in some strategic industries to the west and building up our productive capacity from the ground up. We paid no attention. Today not only is Nigeria in terms of general manufactures at Chinas mercy, but also too are the traditional western powers Britain and America which we have for so long looked up to. The paradigm has shifted. In this global world economy, as Leke Alder once remarked generally of the world- he who dares, wins. China has been daring and it is now winning.
Once again the ball is in our court. The question is, will Nigeria dare to win? As a nation, the lesson of non least the world financial crisis is that we don’t have to come to America before we find our land of Canaan. In fact that might prove disastrous. Like the proverbial farmer who sold his land to prospect for diamonds in far off lands, only to find out much later that one of the richest deposits ever had been all the time under his feet. We, like him only have to look, get our minds right, focus and apply our natural energies to extract it from the ground. Of course in doing so we may call for the advice of successful fellow travelers. We may borrow their implements and ideas of extraction. But we should remember too that our terrain is different and as such may call for a differing approach, perhaps even, an hybrid extraction method.
We must remember that loyalty lies not with any one system but the ends for which these systems are applied. Accordingly if that entails some implements assumption of both Farmer Smith and Farmer Chan, so be it. Ultimately man was not made for theories or systems, but systems for man. The defining element in most circumstances is the quality of leadership a country is able to bring to bear on issues at those critical points in time. Population wise, the right 1 percent if you like, of the 100. And so with that right 1 percent at the helm of affairs in Nigeria, anything the nation sets its mind to can be achieved. Let that be done and believe you me, one day Nations everywhere too will dream of coming to Nigeria. Thus as we approach the 50th independence anniversary of the nation, the rallying cry which should draw all Nigerians together should be a vote for the right crop of leaders. Irrespective of where they come from, a vote for the right 1 percent. Some 50 years ago, it took men of similar character to win us our political independence. Today we need men of some what similar brand to win us the economic one. 2020 is round the corner-a vision of economic greatness. Will that vision be met? Maybe not exactly then, but… Nigeria WILL get there.
Jide (Oso-) Alabi can be reached at
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