Archive for December 2011

NIGERIA: AGENDA 2012   4 comments

With a myriad of challenges viz., the rising wave of insecurity occasioned by the violent bombings of the terrorist Boko Haram sect, looming social unrest arising from the planned fuel subsidy removal, the worsening poverty rates, declining power supply, decaying infrastructure and the rot in the education sector brought to the fore by the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), 2012 promises to be a tough and decisive year for Nigeria on many fronts.

This write-up attempts to investigate how some of the key issues confronting Nigeria in the New Year will play out.

To begin with, upcoming gubernatorial elections – in Adamawa State on January 14, 2012; Bayelsa State on February 11, 2012; Sokoto State on March 10, 2012; Cross River State on April 14, 2012, and Edo State on July 14, 2012 will significantly test the new-found but not yet firmly entrenched confidence in the nation’s electoral umpire, INEC. INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has already promised significant improvements from the April 2011 general elections. Nigerians will be hoping he doesn’t disappoint.

With security gulping the bulk of the 2012 budget and with President Jonathan indicating recently that he will shake-up the generally underperforming security agencies in the wake of more violent bombings on Christmas Day 2011 and following, by Islamist militia, Boko Haram, Nigerians can hope that the President is genuine in his resolve to tackle the terrorist menace which is now a frequent occurrence in various parts of the country. Key to Jonathan’s efforts, however, should be the need to identify and prosecute the sponsors of the sect as well as to implement the other outstanding recommendations of the probe panel he set up on the same.

Also, relations between the state governors and the federal government could be abrasive in 2012. The creation of a sovereign wealth fund is the latest bone of contention. It is intended to insulate Nigeria from the boom/bust cycle of the oil economy – to “smoothen revenues and expenditures” as Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, puts it and to keep oil revenues away from crooks at every level of government. But in the eyes of the governors it reduces the amount of money allocated on a state-by-state basis, centralising it in the federal government’s pockets. A new revenue allocation formula will be discussed in 2012, while another tussle between state and federal levels is likely over closing the financial loophole of the special joint account between local governments and states.

Key to President Jonathan’s national economic ambitions is the technocratic team led by Okonjo-Iweala. Though the 2012 budget doesn’t reflect it, her priorities are to cut recurrent spending, and boost capital investment while bringing the budget deficit under control. Deregulating the oil and gas sector to encourage foreign investment is central to the plan, but government will struggle to persuade trade unionists, opposition parties and civil society that its “social safety nets” will cushion Nigerian masses from the inflationary effects of the controversial fuel subsidy removal.

There will be more complex political ructions over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which could finally be passed in 2012. The passage or not of the much-delayed PIB will decide the health of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector for the foreseeable future. Until it is passed, several multi-billion-dollar investment decisions will remain stalled.

A recent improvement in power delivery is welcome but barely touches the problem. The privatisation programme may help: six power plants and eleven distribution companies are supposed to be sold off by the first quarter of 2012 but government targets of 15,000MW generation by 2015 are no doubt optimistic. Power minister, Barth Nnaji, said in November 2011 that meeting the government’s target would require $50billion of fresh investment.

Elsewhere, local champions such as Dangote Flour Mills will thrive especially with recent legislation rewarding Nigerian companies with local manufacturing facilities. Service-sector industries are flourishing, with telecoms companies making a great deal of the running.

In agriculture, the Jonathan administration will seek to encourage the substitution of high quality cassava flour for wheat flour in bread-baking. With effect from March 31, 2012, the importation of cassava flour will be prohibited so as to further support this programme. Also, all equipment for the processing of high quality cassava flour and composite flour blending will enjoy a duty-free regime. In addition, from July 1, 2012, wheat flour will attract a levy of 65% to bring the effective duty to 100%, while wheat grain will attract a 15% levy and by December 31, 2012, rice millers should move towards domestic production and milling of rice, as the levy of 50% will be raised to 100%. No waivers or concessions will be entertained for rice and wheat importation. However, like all things government in Nigeria, the tricky part is always the implementation.

Another non-oil sector which has a huge potential for development but which has often not been accorded the attention it deserves, is tourism. Nonetheless, in 2012, the tourism minister, Edem Duke, has promised to break the jinx by launching a Travel Nigeria 2012 initiative to “get Nigerian legislators and other government functionaries to spend part of their holiday within the country” in a bid to boost domestic tourism and help attract Nigerians from outside and other foreigners to Nigeria.

On the whole, the IMF has lowered its earlier forecasts of overall economic growth to 6.6% for 2012 but there is optimism that, despite the substantial influence of the oil sector, a significant degree of growth is at last being seen in non-oil GDP and this trend should continue once the stumbling blocks to infrastructure investment are removed. It remains to be seen, though, if this would translate into tangible economic gains for Nigerians especially in the domain of jobs. Talking jobs, the Federal Government has assured unemployed youths in the country that over two million jobs will be created in 2012 through the Ministry of Science and Technology cluster concept but as always, implementation will be the deciding factor of success.

Foreign policy-wise, it is expected that Nigeria will stand her ground in the face of threats by Western governments led by the UK and the US to cut aid to those countries that deny gay rights and make lawful the bill criminalising same-sex marriage which has already been passed by the Senate and will soon get the consent of the House of Representatives. However, it would be a tough call for the Jonathan administration given how much foreign assistance his government may need in tackling Boko Haram.

Still on the foreign field, there’s a looming diplomatic tussle between Nigeria and South Africa in January 2012 on the question of who emerges the next chairperson of the African Union Commission. South Africa’s candidate and former foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will need to persuade Nigeria to back her against the incumbent, Jean Ping, whose strength is his natural Francophone Africa constituency. Nigeria may not be keen on Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature as that could mean the loss of their influence in the AU to their main continental rival, South Africa. Besides, a South African diplomat has argued that, “Ping’s chief of staff is Nigerian [ambassador Kayode Shinkaiye] and they [the Nigerians] fear Nkosazana coming in with a clean broom.”

Also, if the question of Palestinian statehood comes up for a UN vote in 2012, it would be interesting to see how Nigeria votes, having remained mum over that ever since.

In all, President Goodluck Jonathan has a plate full requiring his undivided attention in 2012. How he attempts to deal with the pressing security, unemployment, power, infrastructure and corruption challenges facing Nigeria in 2012 will go a long way to helping Nigeria make much-needed socio-economic progress.

References:
-“Palestinian Statehood: Nigeria mum on voting preference” from vanguardngr.com, October 5, 2011
-“Same-sex ban law: Nigeria adamant as world’s ire mounts” from nationalmirroronline.net, December 13, 2011
-“Major Policy Directions from President Jonathan’s Proposed 2012 Budget” from facebook.com/buildupnigeria, December 13, 2011
-“Federal Government to create 2m jobs in 2012” from vanguardngr.com, December 30, 2011
-“2012: A New Year, new challenges, old problems” from vanguardngr.com, December 31, 2011
-“Boko Haram: It’s fight to the finish, Jonathan vows” from punchng.com, December 31, 2011
-“Wish you were here!” says Nigerian [tourism minister], New African magazine No. 512, December 2011
-“Nigeria: Yet another season of travails”, New African magazine No 512, December 2011
-“African Union: A showdown in Addis Ababa”, The Africa Report magazine No 36, December 2011-January 2012
-“Nigeria: Tiny steps of a giant nation”, The Africa Report magazine No. 36, December 2011-January 2012

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Posted December 31, 2011 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

GEJ’S DECEMBER 23, 2011 MEDIA CHAT: THE VERDICT   4 comments

Yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan had his second media chat with some elements of the Nigeria press. In what was akin to an elaborate press conference, the president took questions from the panel and responded accordingly. However, at the end of it all, reactions by Nigerians from near and far started flooding in on social network sites notably facebook and twitter. In the following compilation, I have picked out some telling and objective comments from twitter, including some of mine that can rightfully be construed as comprising a significantly representative verdict on GEJ’s second presidential media chat.

@Raymond_Eyo (Me): GEJ messed up at the Presidential Media Chat! It was a show of mediocrity on his part and a proof that he’s rather learning on the job!
@Raymond_Eyo (Me): NTA must also be chastised for their phone line blunder during the Presidential Media Chat. No single call went through! What a disgrace!
@Ibiphil (Kunle Phillips): Believe me sincerely we all got [it] wrong when we allowed [GEJ] to be our president; he [was] never worth it.
@YadomaMandara via @hanatubams (Yadoma Mandara): Does GEJ know anything? All his answers [began] or [ended] with “I don’t know exactly”.

There was this brilliant question by Oluwaseun Fakuade @seunfakze: “Leaders inspire their followers when they speak, how did you feel listening to GEJ tonight?” To it were the following responses:

@babaesir (isah72): “Listening to GEJ, I was totally downcast, wondering what the future holds for the giant ship left without a captain.”
@uzomac (Charles Uzoma ): “GEJ doesn’t inspire confidence.”
@tasamu (S. Aliyu M): “I finally lost hope!”
@deboadejugbe (Debo Adejugbe): “Watery [and] dry [together]”
@WordsworthGwary (Al-Mustapha Gwary): “Demoralised!”
@Mukhtar_Dotun Ijaiya (Dotun Mukhtar): “Depressed and hopeless!”
@Qamaludeen (Arch. Kamal Bappa): “Enveloped by [a] feeling of hopelessness!”
@Lukrauf (Lukman Abdulra’uf): “Disgusted!”

Other pungent comments comprised the following:
@AlikoA (Ahmed Aliko Ahmed): We’ve never had it this bad. This is supposed to be the most powerful man in sub-Saharan Africa or one of the most powerful.
@omojuwa (J Japheth-Omojuwa): If this was an exam, they’d have arrested the president for attempting questions meant for people with brains.
@omojuwa (J Japheth-Omojuwa): The President was instinctively defending the cabal and contractors. It was so subconscious even he didn’t realise it.

In what can be considered a conclusion on the matter, prominent political blogger and analyst, Japheth J. Omojuwa, said the following @omojuwa:

– When presidents speak no matter how poor the economy, you find inspiration. This one causes you depression.
– If you must dance naked, dance in the privacy of your room. President Jonathan should avoid media chats
– Give this president 10 years to rule and he’d still not have a clue what being president is. He is incurably clueless.
– No question on national security, no question on public officers’ pay, but then even [if] they asked him he’d have mumbled nonsense.

Finally, and on a mildly positive note, former FCT Minister and public affairs analyst, Nasir El-Rufai, @elrufai said, “The Media Chat has come and gone…let us pray hard for our nation…for the end to our daily traumas…let GEJ be, he needs prayers too…”

GOD bless Nigeria!

Posted December 24, 2011 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa

HAPPY 15TH ANNIVERSARY, AIT!!!   1 comment

AIT Logo

Nigeria’s premier private television broadcasting house, the Africa Independent Television (AIT), clocks 15 years of existence today. In 15 years, AIT, the first TV station to run 24-hour broadcasting in Nigeria and Africa’s first-ever Satellite TV station has come of age and is worth being celebrated.

Indeed, AIT was born in the last years of military rule in Nigeria and played a significant role in erasing the last autocratic vestiges of the same as well as in building consciousness around the quest for democratic rule then which materialised in 1999.

More importantly, AIT has since been in the vanguard to constantly improve on Nigeria’s democracy by providing credible reporting on the issues that matter most to Nigerians. I have personally enjoyed watching programs like “Focus Nigeria” with Gbenga Aruleba, “Democratic License” with Imoni Amarere,“The Money Show” with Nancy Iloh and “Kaakaki” with Oloyede Oworu and Usama Ugbiko and others.

Sincerely, it won’t be too much to say that AIT has also contributed immensely to strengthening the media in Nigeria and helping to position it as the veritable ‘Fourth Realm of the Estate’ with all the attendant obligations that that entails.

I therefore join well-meaning Nigerians to commend and celebrate with Dr Raymond Dokpesi, the founder and chairperson of AIT’s governing body, Daar Communications, on this amiable milestone in our country’s private broadcasting history as well as with all the directors, reporters and journalists, technicians and other staff of AIT.

Going forward, I pray GOD blesses AIT with even more wisdom, dynamism and improved performance. GOD bless Nigeria!

Posted December 6, 2011 by Raymond Eyo in Celebrating Nigeria

PRESIDENT JONATHAN TO CURB BUREAUCRATIC EXTRAVAGANCE ON FOREIGN TRIPS?   1 comment

I just read that, miffed by the extravagant lifestyle of some key government officials [particularly] during foreign trips, President Jonathan has said he would introduce new initiatives which would monitor the spending habits of all principal office holders while abroad, and that the presidency will today [could be any other day] hold a conference for governors, ministers, directors of ministries, council chairmen and other key government officials to acquaint them with the need to be more accountable and reduce extravagance especially while on foreign trips. To read the full article, visit: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/jonathan-moves-to-stop-reckless-spending-/104284/.

However, and strangely, the memo announcing this fundamentally administrative resolve was issued by the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azize instead of by the Secretary to the Federal Government or the Presidential spokesperson.

Nonetheless, more serious is the fact that, whilst the idea is laudable, it has to be said that a simple and strong-worded Presidential directive to the various government officials and stakeholders would have served the purpose. This approach of having to hold conferences even to address basic bureaucratic lapses is not only bad but in this context; it is also another valve for more wasteful spending of the nation’s resources.

Needless to say, the resolutions that will be churned out by this conference notwithstanding, their implementation will require the President’s resolute and decisive political will to ensure that these officials henceforth adhere to standards expected of them. Sadly, for a president generally perceived as weak and whose directive to restrict the use of sirens to a particular cadre of state officials has been flagrantly flouted by even cabinet members, that would be too much to ask! GOD help Nigeria!

Posted December 5, 2011 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa