Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in review

2014 was the year:

The continent saw Ebola coming yet failed to take action till it ravaged and ravages West Africa
Over 276 girls were kidnapped and 219 of them who were unable to escape remain in captivity. Our government has moved on.
The chickens came home to roost for Nigeria's crude oil and its price. Unfortunately, the government will not give up its lifestyle. Nigerian consumers have to pay
We discovered selfless Nigerians ala Dr Adadevoh
Stomach infrastructure was  redefined
CBN stopped defending the Naira and it got devalued
Nigerian students in the US were recognized as exceptional
Nigerian Football Federation refused to put its house in order
Impunity reigned

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goodluck 2015?

As expected, President Goodluck Jonathan bowed to the wishes of the people to run as president in the 2015 elections despite his public claim that he would not run in 2015. 
That the president is standing as a candidate for next year's election is not an issue. He has the right to. The concern is the volte face and lack of principle that has become a characteristic of Nigerian politics. From governors and legislators who switch political parties for personal interests to Mr President who declared in 2011 that "I would have loved that the Nigerians in Diaspora vote this year but to be frank with you, that is going to be difficult now. Presently, the law does not allow the voting outside Nigeria and so this year Nigerians in Diaspora will not vote but I will work towards it by 2015 even though I will not be running for election.",changing their minds is a constant. A constant that is a disservice to the people they claim to represent. 
In 2010, when the sitting president first declared his intention to run he stated all the policies he would put in place to take Nigeria to Canaan. Not so long after he was elected, the fuel queues and petroleum issues he promised to address returned and thanks to him, fuel prices increased by 100% before protests brought it down to NGN 97. The corruption he vowed to tackle is no longer Nigeria's major problem because what Nigerians regard as corruption is mere stealing. In 2010 he promised to fight crime and now in 2015 he is promising to punish suicide bombers. Mr President sold Nigerians hope but hope is not enough. That he progressed from someone without shoes to a President is not and will not be the reality for many people in similar circumstances that he was in because the ineptitude of his government means that those in his shoes may never get out of their situation save for a miracle. Yes, Jonathan is neither the cause of the problems in Nigeria nor the problem with Nigeria. However, he has contributed in no small means to deepening the problems and challenges Nigerians face in their quest for a decent life. Nigeria’s problems have from just a tear to big hole that gets harder to mend.
By failing to perform the basic duty of government, which is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens irrespective of where they are from, his government cops out of its responsibilities by blaming the opposition and tarring every criticism as the work of those who do not mean Mr Jonathan well. 
The President need not campaign if the attacks in Northern Nigeria was decisively tackled and an example was of the so-called opposition that sponsor the violence. The return of the Chibok girls will be a great start. Prosecuting those who pillage the nation's common wealth will be a great follow-up- starting with those who benefit from the oil-subsidy scam to government officials in military and public institutions. Delivering on the promise of constant electricity- which is 31/2 years overdue will further spur the growth of our economy- where citizens survive inspite of the enormous hurdles they face and revitalizing our healthcare systems (both the people and infrastructure).
These achievements will speak for him and "fans" of the president will not spend the huge amounts currently being spent to sell his "successes".
In his declaration speech for 2015, the president, unlike in 2010, makes vague promises. His declaration is empty and showed no direction for the future .
In 2010, he said, "if I’m voted into power within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I am there for the next four years.”
Does this president deserve to repeat his term?

Monday, December 08, 2014

PU 016- Lekki 1

My attempt to register to vote in the 2015 general election has given newer insights into the collective mindsets of Nigerians. With this understanding, and all I want to do is throw my hands up and surrender. First thoughts are where does one start with addressing the issues we face? 
I went to register on Saturday  and I was impressed by the number of people waiting to register. As at the time I left- about 1pm, there were about 300 names written but no INEC official to register anyone (Registration should hold between 8-4).
Today I resumed the quest to vote at 2.30pm and it was full of drama

Act 1, Scene 1
People struggled to write their names and get ticket so they can join the queue and register- apparently, if you were willing to pay or was  brash you could buy or browbeat your to  the capture point.People lashed out at guy handing out numbers. He left  to come back about 30 minutes later- everyone needs a break.  The process of issuing tickets stalled. After a while, someone started selling tickets, and the polling unit turned violent, some guys began fighting each other and some bystander police officers intervened. After hustling for over an hour, I finally got a number and proceeded to the point of capture.

Act 1, Scene II
There were two INEC officials registering residents on two lines. I joined a queue and when I noticed we were stationary,  I went to the front to check what was happening. I was told by a resident we had   hustled together that there was no queue, people were shunting and I should stand beside him. From that point, people pushed and shoved to get in front of the registration official and series of fights broke out. At a point, some thugs came with wooden sticks to scare people into running away to form another line- they succeeded but those on the main queue came back and refused to budge. Registration at the desk stalled. At the other desk, people pushed and shoved and the same area boy began to bring people who had dropped something to register. Those on the queue protested but their protest was in vain.Things never calmed down. People continued to jostle, push and shove to get registered till the officials signed out at 5:50pm.

What led to the signing out? The INEC driver came to pick them and one lady who had wrestled her way to  register picture would not print. The printer malfunctioned when it got to her turn and people begun to joke that she had a "bad head". She got up for someone else to register and the person was able to do hers successfully, she sat and the system went off. Then the jokes began.

The takeaways from that experience has made me ask questions like:

1) Why we treat ourselves like animals that have to be shoved and beaten. Why are we  unable to be orderly and just do things the right way. The registration process itself was simple and would not take more than 5 minutes. However, because people refused to be orderly, nothing was done and we ended up going home without registering. This is similar to the way we drive and cause needless traffic because people are impatient and would not give way for other drivers.
2) Why do we need to lie to get ahead. Some people claimed to have brought and fueled the generator used to power the capture process.  This  was false. People had excuses/ reasons why they should get priority registration
3) The major causes of the fights that broke out were  the result of a 'we-them' mentality. At a point it became a case of 'you think because you are rich, are educated or  dress well think you can intimidate me'. The "rich" and the "poor" began to  exchange words and threw jabs at each other. If the proletariat can openly put each other in a caste, what hope do we then have?
4)If we channelled the vehemence and brute force we use  on each other to hold our governments accountable, we will be better off now. That belief that we must  be assertive, be feisty, that we must shout to get what we want explains why we  are uncivil to each other.  Try talking to a junior officer say a security man, and the first instinct is to shut you down.

As a country we have a long way to go. Where do we start? Which do we start with?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The rat trap

At the Africa Development Bank Annual Meeting in May, a commentator asked a high level panel comprising those who should know what is being done to contain the spread of Ebola because the much touted Africa rising and growth can be wiped out by an epidemic. This commentator was dismissed and I recall another commentator in the audience retort that Ebola cannot spread or cross borders. 2 months later, the story is different. The disease has spread from Guinea (430 deaths/ 648 cases) to Sierra Leone (422 dead/1026 cases), Liberia (694/ 1378 cases) and Nigeria (6 deaths/ 17 cases) and now Senegal.  
The outlook of the region reminds one of the rat trap fable where the animals who refused to help destroy the trap set by the farmer for rat ended up being killed as food for mourners when the farmer's wife died from injuries.
The outbreak of this virus has affected businesses and commerce- especially the foreign investment Africa desires. The effects of the disease is evident and may continue for a while. Ergo, the Continent's economic outlook is diminished- at least for 2014. In Sierra leone, farming and mining activities ( the country’s new frontier and employer)  have been adversely affected and there fears that inability to farm will affect the country’s food security. Liberia has also suffered a similar fate as Sierra-leone. It appears to be worse off as the level of stigmatization is high and some victims are left to die. 
 Though the disease is yet to reach epidemic proportions in Nigeria and its effects almost insignificant, some businesses have issued travel bans to and from Nigeria. The nation’s saving grace may be the gains airlines and business make from the region hence the continued business.Yet that Nigeria was looped in this Ebola cycle illustrates the consequences of ill-preparedness. In March 2014, Nigeria’s minister of information stated that the Country has vaccines to combat Ebola  and is ebola-ready. In July (2-3), there was a WHO meeting in Ghana  for Health Ministers on how to  combat Ebola and Nigeria’s health minister was missing. 
But for the proactiveness and selflessness of Dr Adadevoh and First Consultants Clinic, Lagos may have experienced an outbreak. Even with the sub-optimal state of Nigeria’s health facilities (I have it on good authority that that medical supplies for doctors who are usually first casulties in epidemics as this  e.g covers, gloves etc are not sufficient).
For those who downplay Dr Adadevoh’s ethics and sacrifice, the spread  of the disease in Port harcourt, the unknowns- how far has it spread, who has slipped through the radar-  shows the need for personal integrity and ethics. The late Port Harcourt according to reports was aware the patient had Ebola, did not report it and supposedly took precautions. Unfortunately for him, he his late, has endangered the life of his immediate family and a state with population of about 6 million residents. The Federal government also shares the blame in the spread of this virus as they were away that 2 people under surveillance slipped away and failed to track them.
As a region, the outbreak of this Ebola strain offers lessons which include:

  • The need to follow rules and systems. First Consultants on discovering the Ebola index case carried the virus informed the authorities. If only Dr. Enemuo had towed a similar path
  • Greed,corruption and its sister attitudes- see-no-evil; let-it-be- are a scourge that has to be addressed because it kills. 
  • There can be no growth and development without a healthy population. Though cliche health is wealth and sick population cannot be productive. The same attention that is being given Ebola should be accorded similar diseases like Malaria and Polio.

The Federal Government has touted the transformation agenda as working in the area of employment- though statistics beg to differ-. The Minister of Finance stated that 1.2 million jobs were created  in 2013 but this only visible in government realms. The reality is that  existing unemployment levels is increasing and as Bola Tinubu mentioned it is a ticking  time bomb. Gullible job seekers are being defrauded and corruption in the Federal service  is engendered thanks to norm of allocating existing vacancies to staff members who then sell their slots to jobseekers.
I understand that there is a company located in Surulere that operates illicit recruitments and despite reports to the police, no action has been taken. Stories of job seekers who  employed as sales officers,required to give advance payments for machines that are yet to be delivered and promises of roles for certain prices. According to those who have experienced this fraud, they are those this position available for NGN 25,000, that job for NGN15,000, after they pay no jobs are given. 
For the Federal government, the NIS recruitment scam and the NGN 1000 paid by applicants is mild compared to what is the norm in other government agencies. Civil servants have become HR when recruiting as they are given slots for open positions which they sell for as high as 400,000. Here, the job is guaranteed but for the highest bidder. However, the repercussions of this method of recruitment is 1) the wrong person more than likely gets the job and that will affect performance. 2) considering that the take home pay of civil servants say NSDC is insignificant, an individual that pays 400,000 for a job will definately recoup that cost from customers- citizens

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dangote 1: Lafarge: 0

Standard Organization of Nigeria’s change of all-purpose cement grade from 32.5 to 42.5 is killing a fly with a sledgehammer. The cement war between Nigeria’s major manufacturers (LafargeWAPCO and Dangote) crystallized when the House of Representatives and SON called it in favour of Dangote. In a economic competition that is profit driven and has no benefits for consumers of cement (in terms of significant price drop) this intervention is unsavory and sends foreign investors the message that Nigeria is protectionist in a circuitous manner
Cement importers and West African Portland Cement Plc. (WAPCO, established 1959), which transitioned to Lafarge/ WAPCO after a takeover by Lafarge SA in 2001 dominated Nigeria’s cement industry. WAPCO and Cement importers set prices for cement. For a large market like Nigeria, business was lucrative for WAPCO in spite of its limited production volume (4.5 million metric tonnes annually) and high energy costs – especially as the facilities lacked gas pipelines. The importers even had higher profit margins, as the cost of importing is less than production cost. By  2012, there was a glut of cement and cement importation was banned in 2013. 

Few points to note:
·         WAPCO was profitable because of the 32.5 cement grade that it produced. Cement is produced limestone rock, chalk, shale, or clay and additives such as Pozzolana, fly ash (industrial waste) and limestone. Nigeria has limestone in industrial quantities and is the preferred additive for manufacturers.
·         There are 4 grades of cement- masonry cement which is used for plastering, 32.5 cement which was all purpose and up till May 2014 was acceptable in Nigeria for constructing commercial and residential buildings.  Most buildings such as Cocoa House, my office, my house and your house- if you live in Nigeria- were built with 32.5 cement grade. 42.5 grade is used for bridges and heavy construction while 52.5 grade is used in countries like the UK and US because of their weather. The difference in all these grades is the proportion of additives i.e. limestone used in the production. 32.5 have more additives than 42.5. Currently, both grades are produced by cement manufactures in Nigeria in different quantities with Lafarge producing more of the 32.5 grade because of its capability.
·         Dangote supposedly became a player in the cement industry due to influence by the Obasanjo administration when it pursued a policy to encourage cement manufacture rather than importation considering that Nigeria has requisite materials to produce cement. In 2000s, Dangote acquired a new production facility in Obajana with a capacity of 10 million metric tonnes. Earlier this year, another facility with similar capacity was commissioned at Ibese. Also, in 2013, production at the outdated facility at Gboko was discontinued
With Nigeria having 2 major players competing for cement market share one will think that both manufacturers would produce the 32.5 and compete for buyers. However, it will be unprofitable for Dangote cement  to produce 32.5  because its facilities will be underutilized and there will be no economies of scale.    Like eggs, the amount of energy used to boil 1 egg will boil 10 eggs so it is more efficient to boil 10 eggs. For Dangote cement, it is more profitable and efficient to produce a higher grade of cement than "cooperate" and produce the same grade of cement with its competitors. According to reports, it costs Dangote $3 to produce a 50Kg bag of cement sold at $9.
 Without the government’s regulation, it will have been a survival of the fittest contest between Dangote and LafargeWAPCO. Rather than let the markets and consumer preferences decide, spurious associations and claims were made blaming the occurrence of building collapse on grade of cement. If a building collapses, it is likely that substandard materials were used. It is unfortunate that the government was partisan in this issue and made decisions on the partisanship. Also, the government should have plainly said it is adopting a protectionist policy in Nigeria's cement industry. Countries protect certain industries and no one blames them for it. This deception connotes that Nigeria is not a fair playing ground and sends a wrong message to the investors we seek to attract. There is absolutely no need for the deception. The appearance of partisanship in this matter is unnecessary as both companies are moving on from just competing for the Nigerian market to Africa's market. Lafarge recently announced a merger of her Nigeria and South African units, whilst Dangote cement has also shown interests in markets in Uganda and other parts of Africa. In a purely economic-business interest matter, the companies will survive and still make their profits. Question is do we have government that will vigorously pursue the interests of her people as it protects the interests of business allies?

update 1: Dangote cement recently launch 32.5 grade cement.
update 2: Earlier in November, Dangote slashed the price of its cement to NGN 1000. I am with  a Sola Salako who  wrote below
“I hear Dangote just singlehandedly, crashed the price of cement to N1,000 from N1,700! Obviously, this is another move in the attempt to stifle competition coming on the heels of getting SON to re-grade cement classification in its favour via political patronage.While this seems like a benefit for consumers in the short term, I fear it is very inimical to growth in that sector in the long term. The few competing brands may eventually close down if they don’t survive the price war after emerging bruised from the pseudo classification battle. More unemployment looms…Just as Dangote has the singular power to determine pricing downwards, who will challenge him when he pushes price to N3,000 after he has successfully run competition out of the market? This is akin to a rat nibbling away at your feet and blowing soothing air so you don’t feel it…until it hits blood!Nothing to rejoice about here if we are long term oriented people, unfortunately, Nigerians are not, so….”

Nigeria has been plagued with a leadership that thinks her citizens are incapable of basic comprehension and thinking skills. This thought pattern has permitted various officials to make incredible claims and get away with such statements. The incredulity continues. On the13th of August, the Federal Ministry sent a circular (below) announcing the sack of resident doctors. Less than a week after, the minister of health boldly claimed that no doctors were sacked. Seriously!

From the airports to offices, everyone is on an Ebola alert. You see airport officials and security men brandishing thermometers to take temperatures before entry. This will be normal if it was not amusing. In the past week my temperature and those of my colleagues has ranged from 25 to 34 degrees; yet we are allowed to enter the office premises. When I mentioned that the thermometers were not right, I got a "I-am-here-to-take-temperature-not-interpret"response. Colleagues returning to Nigeria also share the same experience. An interesting study will be to study the effect of lack of acuity and wit on our society. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Case You Missed It

Source: Anonymous art of Revolution

As it is in Nigeria so it is in the US. Nigerians have become familiar with police brutality in their approach to citizens and blatant corruption.The US also experiences similar issues though their's is shielded by policy. The New Yorker gives a descriptive account of police militarization in the US. It is a good read. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Citizens cannot afford to be sentimental and apathetic where elections- legislature, local government, state, schools and police board and commissioner elections- are concerned. The people elected into these positions exert influence that affect the daily lives of ordinary citizens- ordinary citizens like you and me

In the course of the week, it was reported that about 100 boys were kidnapped in Borno on the 10th of August. 85 of these captives have been rescued by Chadian military forces. This swift rescue illustrates the importance of quick response to attacks. The 3 week denial and lapse in Nigeria's response to the abducted school girls has led to four months of these young women as hostages. The results of the examination these  kidnapped girls were writing has been released, yet they are still nowhere to be found. Sadly, the lives of these women and their families has been politicized  by the government- through the tried and failed method of throwing money at a problem- and the Northern Elders Forum, who  appear not to have the interest of their people at heart. 

Whilst Chadian troops were rescuing our people, our DSS( Department of State Security) joined Nigeria's political parties in the game of mudslinging. The DSS spokeswoman without any evidence accused an unnamed political party of offering security agents 14 million Naira ($87,500) and coyly thanked God that APC won. Political parties may get away with smear campaigns against each other. Civil servants and government institutions should not. That Nigeria's DSS is politically vocal is a unfamiliar experience that should not become a norm because agencies like the DSS should be seen not heard.