Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


You might have read that the federal government has pulled the SURE document that listed the projects that would be undertaken from the gains from the removal of fuel subsidy. The president said the SURE document is an old and un-implementable.
As expected there are people who feel that the president is being sincere and Nigerians should not expect any subsidy gains because we cannot have our cake and eat it. On the other hand, there are those who believe that the administration is just trying to play “smart” and did not intend to implement any of the projects. That the President could state on record that the document was hurriedly conceptualized says something about those who lead us.

That said, I have some questions.
  • Why should this government be trusted? I remember Mrs. Iweala defending the SURE document during the strike and stated that the document was not hurriedly put together and that it was put together in November- well the President has made her a liar.
  • Why waste money printing and distributing a plan that the government knew would not be implemented?
  •  The strike was suspended about 6 weeks ago, how come the “new realizable” document has not been written and produced?
  • What is the SURE board to supervise now?
  • Is SURE still sure?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Answers anyone? 1

Photo credit: Pictures retrieved from “the ibompulpit”

The first lady has convened a retreat on Women Development, Peace and National Transformation. The retreat currently ongoing is themed: “Galvanizing, empowering, and energizing women as change agents for national transformation, peace and development: A win- win option”. The proceedings and programme of the retreat are yet to be released but first ladies and female lawmakers are in attendance.  Speakers at the conference include Leymah Gbowee, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Oby Ezekwesili. However, Oby Ezekwesili’s one of the speakers tweeted parts of her speech at the retreat. She said:
“imagine if the first lady, wives of the vice-president, governors, National Assembly, local government and all women in public office form Women Demand for Good Governance Forum? Why would such a forum be a viable proposition? Because those who swore to uphold integrity in public office are your husbands, sons and daughters as the case maybe, but for you to have the moral credence to demand good governance boldly would require that you first stop being a beneficiary of the gains of corruption”.
These tweets taken together with Mrs Fayemi’s article on First Ladies raises the question: does the solution to Nigeria’s governance issues lie with the women in government especially wives of our leaders?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Taskforces and committees!!

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours- Milton Berle

  At the last count, the Jonathan administration has set up at least 5 committees and task forces to address Nigeria's petroleum issues. The way committees on this oil palava have sprang up brings to mind the joke that if you want to kill an idea, set up a committee. At the last count, there is the Subsidy Reinvestment Board, chaired by Dr Christopher Kolade, Special Taskforce on Governance and Controls in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Parastatals under the ministry of Petroleum, chaired by Mr Dotun Sulaiman. Others are Petroleum Industry Bill task force and technical committee chaired by Senator Udoma Udo Udoma; National Refineries Special Taskforce- chairman- Dr Kalu Idika Kalu and the Petroleum Revenue Taskforce- chairman- Nuhu Ribadu.  Nigeria's petroleum issues have moved beyond setting up task forces and  committees. There are probes concluded and ongoing in the House of Reps and the Senate on this oil production and subsidy issue.
This proliferation of committees with duplicate functions and terms of reference shows the lack of willingness to tackle the rot in the petroleum industry.
Can the government please take concrete steps and address the country's oil production issues?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Can Africa trade with Africa?- Ermmm not yet

At the recently concluded AU summit, the talking point was boosting intra- African trade as a tool for the economic development of the continent. Advocates of intra-African trade listed reasons why Africa should trade with Africa. One of the strongest voices was Oby Ezekwesili who made a case for this trade. She said,  “increased intra-African trade is an area of potential growth and as the global economy deteriorates, it is important that Africa discovers Africa”. Supporters of intra-African trade also frame it as a tool for regional integration.
First what is trade? Simply defined, trade is buying and selling. International trade is buying and selling across borders. Ok, that’s not all. International trade is the exchange of goods and services and human capital (not human trafficking) across borders. International trade contributes a significant amount to a country’s GDP.
Trade barriers- high import tariffs that exist in most African countries, restrictions of movement across borders, infrastructural deficits especially in transportation and corruption (where would Africa be without corruption!) have been identified as factors that inhibit intra- African trade. An issue that is not usually mentioned is that most African countries have parallel economies, Nigeria has yams, Ghana has yams, what kind of trade can they have? Of course, they would export their yams to Europe, America, and Asia.
That said, I wonder why intra-African trade is the trade policy tool African leaders are focusing on considering that most African countries are mainly primary producers. Africa’s economy is mainly made up of raw agricultural produce and crude minerals such as oil, diamond and gold. We do not manufacture as such – South Africa and countries in Northern Africa manufacture goods (e.g textiles) but not in significant amounts. Africa’s population is about twenty percent of the world’s population (over a billion), thus the logic of intra-African trade is plausible. I submit that for intra- African trade to truly work as a means of economic development, African countries need to shift from just being primary producers but also manufacturers i.e diversify our exports. We can do this by refining what we produce. Imagine, other African countries importing petroleum from Nigeria rather that Venezuela or Nigeria importing clothes from Egypt. How about producing our own  crockery rather than exporting raw steel?
Individual countries have to rework their economic policies and lay the groundwork for the needed infrastructure or as Norman Girvan advised “come together share services and undertake joint activities in order to reduce costs and achieve synergies” (He calls this functional cooperation).
As an aside, African leaders and policy makers seem to forget that most of their economies are comprised by the informal economy. World Bank statistics state that this sector’s contribution to Africa’s GDP ranges from 25-40%. If Africa wants to drive her economic growth, she needs to look inwards and integrate the informal economy with the formal economy.
How can this be done?
·         1) Provide legal, political, social structures that would enable the emergence of decent jobs and business opportunities and ultimately drive innovation and inventions ( History shows that the development of most first world countries was a result of innovation, inventions and patents and China, India and most East Asian nations followed the same track)
·         Implement pro poor policies that would include and incorporate informal workers especially women.
·         Reinvent and simplify economic and business processes such that there are no prohibitive and restrictive barriers to entry mainly for uneducated business owners
If Africa has to trade with Africa, African leaders must walk their talk by creating an enabling environment for the social and economic development of their individual economies. Then, Africa can trade with Africa

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Justice: Crime and Punishment

Many remark justice is blind; pity those in her sway, shocked to discover she is also deaf.  - Unknown

Lady justice is blind but should she be? Justice is synonymous with fairness and the notion of getting what one deserves. That said, these are interesting times for Nigeria’s judiciary. In the last week, Patrick Ekeh was sentenced to death for stealing a car stereo and Al-Mustapha and Lateef Sofolahan were also sentenced to death for their roles in the murder of Kudirat Abiola. Both cases demonstrate the unnecessary delays that occur in our judicial system and just how blind justice is.
It is disheartening that the Nigerian State has laws that make petty armed robbery punishable by death- see section 402 of the criminal code while armed robbers in high places are not penalized.
First, why are offenders punished? Offenders are punished as a form retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, or condemnation. The factors are taken into consideration during sentencing for crimes.
However, laws and sentences such as this reveal not only the economic but the social inequalities that exist between the “haves”- especially the illegitimate ones- and the “have-nots”.  There are many stories in our society of punishment not being commensurate with the crime. I remember the story of a man that was jailed (I don’t know if he is out now) for stealing a shoe! At the time I heard his story, he had spent about five years in jail.
I wonder if our justice system is a reflection of our values as a society. Still in my wondering state: in what country are thieves rewarded with national awards, elected, and hold government positions and someone is to die by hanging for stealing a car stereo? (I am not trying to justify the crime but…)
Objectivity is not neutrality or blindness. It is time for madam justice to open her eyes well and be truly just.