Life expectancy in Nigeria is now 47 years, making it the lowest among west African countries, Prof. Abdulsalam Nasidi, Project Director, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has said.
He said this in Gusau on Thursday at the commencement of the second Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the state’s chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).
Nasidi who stated this in a paper with the theme “Lead Poisoning: Zamfara Experience” said this position was 30 per cent below the world’s average life expectancy.
He said it was a situation that was attributable to some health factors, including child and maternal mortality, spread of polio virus and other epidemics. “One out of every five children die before the age of five years due to polio and other infections.
“Nigeria is one of four countries where polio is still an on-going epidemic,” the Project Director said.Nasidi said in Zamfara alone, acute lead poisoning had killed more than 400 children and caused brain damage in several others in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas.
He described lead poisoning in the area as the “worst-ever recorded outbreak of its kind in modern times.’’ The Project Director said mass lead poisoning and massive cholera epidemics were tragedies of the 19th century.
“This outbreak and our inability to interrupt polio virus transmission are serious indicators of the state of public health service in Nigeria,” he said. Nasidi said a survey carried out in the affected areas of Zamfara in November 2010 had revealed that more than 85 per cent of the soil had lead contamination.
He said its spread was aggravated through heavy rainfalls. Nasidi said blood samples of infected persons exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency rate by three folds while some blood samples were as high as 100,000 parts per million.
He lamented that in spite of response measures through the collaborative efforts of the state and federal governments, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), illegal mining resumed in the area. The Project Director said this occurred at Dogon Dajin Sarkin Noma village of Adabka ward in Bukkuyum local government area, killing 11 out of every 22 persons since September 2011.
He therefore urged the federal and Zamfara governments to continue to join hands in order to save lives of the people living in the area. Nasidi suggested that government should consider moving the population from the high risk areas as part of the remediation efforts on the affected areas.
Alhaji Ibrahim Mallaha, the state’s acting governor, while declaring the conference open, had earlier urged the participants to come up with an acceptable framework to tackle environmental degradation in the state.The acting governor assured of the state government’s readiness to partner with other agencies and foreign bodies in finding lasting solutions to the problems of illegal mining in the area.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr Kabir Sada, commended the state government in ensuring the comfort of medical practitioners in the state.“This had included the payment of all improved doctors’ salaries and other benefits,’’ he said. The association gave an award of “Health Friendly Governor” to the state governor in view of his successes in the health sector.(NAN)
The FVPMAN chairman, Onitsha branch, Mr. Uzo Godson Nwosu who confirmed this development, said the decision became necessary following the position taken by their Ghanaian counterparts who have banned the distribution of Nigerian films in their country long time ago.
According to him “starting from the first week of August, no Ghanaian film will be allowed to enter the Nigerian market again. We have resolved that no Ghanaian film will be distributed within our controlled market. Our Ghanaian counterparts have long stopped distributing our films in their country, and given this development, we have no choice than to reciprocate the gesture.”
Nwosu who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Guinks Investment said any of their members who failed to compile with this new order will either be prosecuted or have his goods confiscated by the association.
The marketer said the association is finalising plans to storm Ghana any moment from now, particularly to confront those local television stations who are illegally airing Nigerian films without obtaining permission from the right owners.
Pete Edochie, Nollywood movie star
Also, given the problem associated with “second tier market”(where a producer is compelled to observe a three-month grace before releasing his film into the market in a large quality), Nwosu said the association has decided to reversed the trend.
Film owners, according to him, are now free to release their films into the market without necessarily observing the mandatory three months grace before doing so.
They will also be required to obtain censors’ board and copy right commission’s documents in addition to registering the film with the sum of N10,000 with the FVPMAN.
“In order to move the association forward, we have resolved to address the problem of second tier market.” FVPMAN boss further stated.
Thank you, Mr. Permanent Secretary, for sharing your reflections on the BNC.
I would also like to recognize the hard work of the USIP staff, especially Ambassador George Moose and David Smock, and of my State Department colleagues, and of all our very talented Nigerian colleagues, in making this historic meeting of the Binational Commission such a success.
The robust engagement of local and federal government from both our countries over the past two days demonstrates the importance and depth of our partnership. I see enormous promise for Nigeria and for our relationship in the years to come.
But I have been at this for a long time, and so have many of you. We know that relationships like these do not grow themselves. They don’t maintain themselves, either. They demand commitment, patience and sustained effort. Managing big and important relationships like ours is a little like riding a bike; if you don’t keep pedaling forward, you’re likely to fall over.
Over the past two days, we’ve clearly been pedaling forward. Our delegations took the opportunity to review progress made in each of the working groups since the establishment of the Binational Commission in 2010 and to address a range of shared concerns. In particular:
The Governance, Transparency and Integrity Working Group looked toward the 2015 national elections – which mark another milestone in building on the most credible elections in Nigeria’s history last April. Together we identified electoral reforms and opportunities to improve the electoral process. We discussed the importance of interagency coordination and strategies to build capacity and public confidence in Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts.
The Energy and Investment Working Group sought to expand on Nigeria’s progress to date in reforming its power sector. We held constructive conversations on how Nigeria can attract international private investment, including ways to boost output and address energy deficits. We are committed to continuing to support Nigeria’s efforts to create a more effective regulatory environment. And given Nigeria’s important place in the global oil market, we discussed ways to ensure that the natural riches of Nigeria improve the lives of all of its people for many years to come.
The Agriculture and Food Security Working Group discussed Nigeria’s important role in regional food security, and examined areas for growth in Nigeria’s private agriculture sector. We will continue our support for reforms aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s role in regional food security, and we are looking to bolster agricultural lending in Nigeria. As I said, we want to help Nigeria become not just food secure but a breadbasket for the surrounding region.
The Regional Security Working Group discussed strategies to help educate the Nigerian public about the government’s efforts to secure its citizens and prevent the spread of violent extremism. We also had frank discussions about reports of extra-legal activity among Nigerian security forces and the importance of protecting human rights. We will continue to work with our Nigerian partners to improve the capacity of its military and police units, as a part of the government’s overall effort to respond to the needs of communities vulnerable to violent extremism.
We discussed all these issues and many more. But we also committed ourselves to keep turning talk into action. And I am proud to announce, together with the Permanent Secretary, that the United States and Nigeria have agreed to a joint communiqué outlining the next steps for each of these working groups. This communiqué affirms our shared understanding that accountable governance, economic growth, agricultural investment, and security sector professionalization are all important elements in an effective strategy to address the myriad of challenges facing Nigeria. We also committed to hold the working group on the Niger Delta this year, which time and space did not allow during this robust, two-day session.
As we opened this dialogue, I shared my belief that the stakes of our effort extend far beyond the progress of any one of its working groups. Nigeria’s challenges are Africa’s challenges. By the same token, its success will position it to continue to take a vital leadership role as the most populous African nation in a region full of “emerging-emerging powers.”
Six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa – Nigeria among them. In five years, the IMF predicts it will be seven of the top ten. The need to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of our people has never been greater. Neither has the depth of our dialogue or the momentum behind it.
Nigeria’s future, full of promise and risk, has no shortage of unknowns. But let me close with one certainty: that future will be brighter if we approach it together. Thank you for a successful dialogue and for your friendship with the United States.
"We have been working very hard to improve the aviation conditions in this country, so this particular incident is a major setback for us as a people," President Jonathan said as he toured the crash site just north of the airport. I am here with members of the national assembly, because we will thoroughly investigate this... at the end of the day, we will make sure that this will never repeat itself again in this country."
-Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of Federal Republic of Nigeria
“This is really a horrific moment for us here and we sympathise and give condolences to all the victims and families,. “There are no) words to express our pain and grief. It is saddening, it is simply too much.”
-Gov. Fashola, Governor of Lagos State
"Nigeria has been used as a model of what can happen if you have a government determined to improve safety - by giving autonomy to the civil aviation authority to do whatever is necessary to improve safety within the country, I hope the president will ensure that the investigation of the cause of this accident is thorough and then they can learn lessons from there which should be implemented as soon as possible and fully."
- Elijah Chingosho, the secretary general of the African Airlines Association
“This is one of the worst tragic experiences of Nigeria in 21st century. In this singular air crash, our country has lost enormous human resources. This air crash claimed 153 talents and productive individuals. The time has come for Nigeria to invest in aviation infrastructure in-order to safeguard air travel and to ensure that incident like this will not happen again. Nigeria must invest in human resources that will be capable of managing our aviation industry”
- Chief Ike Stephens Nsika, Chairman Umuoji Improvement Union, Houston Branch USA
"The search and rescue and recovery has been going on steadily. Today, a large number of bodies have been recovered. More are still in there, and they're working tirelessly to get them out."
-Tunji Oketunmbi, the spokesperson for Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau, told the BBC.
"We still don't know the numbers killed on the ground, They were scattered in different places and we have yet to differentiate the passengers from others."
- Shuaibu, A Nigerian
"To be fair, the number of similar incidents has reduced in recent years, which has a big operation in Nigeria. However, it was only a matter of time before something tragic happened. Security is poor on domestic flights, some of the planes are from another age, maintenance is questionable."
-Samir Gadio, London-based analyst at Standard Bank
“I just retired home. There was no one left in the church. I suddenly heard something fell on our roof. I raced out.And saw people, including children, running around. And then I heard a loud explosion and a huge smoke. The whole place was covered in huge smoke. Then there was another explosion. I heard about five explosions.”
-Pastor Patrick Akingbe of Mispem Bible Church
"The plane touched this tree here, then it entered into that compound. Boom! I watched for five minutes, not knowing what to do. I wanted to call someone but I didn't know who to call.The roof of his house was also scraped by the plane. The shock was too much. Before I knew it I heard two blasts from the plane."
- Emmanuel Shoyimi, a Nigerian businessman
"As usual, there will be a probe to determine the cause of the crash - even though we all already the cause. White papers will be issued, which the government will sit on - after broadcasts assuring implementation of recommendations. At the end of the day, Nigerians will return to "business as usual", with families packing themselves into 50-year old planes flying in and out of airports with malfunctioning instruments and corrupt officials making underhanded deals to ensure that these coffins keep flying. A sad tale for a sorry nation."
- Felix Oti, International consultant and social commentor
"A commercial airliner crashed into a densely populated neighborhood in Nigeria’s largest city on Sunday, killing all 153 people on board and others on the ground in the worst air disaster in nearly two decades for the troubled nation. The cause of the Dana Air crash remained unknown Sunday night, as firefighters and police struggled to put out the flames around the wreckage of the Boeing MD83 aircraft. Authorities could not control the crowd of thousands gathered around to see the crash site, with some crawling over the plane’s broken wings and standing on a still-smoldering landing gear." - Associate Press
The bodies of victims are carried from the scene of a plane crash in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, June 3, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer
Soldiers disperse onlookers on June 3, 2012 at the scene of the crash of a Dana Airline plane that plunged onto a plot containing a church, a two-storey residential building and a printing shop in Lagos. The plane carrying 153 people from Abuja to Lagos plunged into the Toyin residential area of the Iju Ishaga neighborhood of Nigeria's largest city, with all those aboard feared dead, an inferno igniting at the scene and buildings badly damaged. Besides the passengers feared dead, a number of others on the ground were also believed killed. An emergency official said around 10 burnt bodies had been removed from a damaged building and were thought to be separate from passengers. President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning for victims of the horrific crash and pledged an investigation as rescuers rushed to pull out survivors from the neighbourhood near the airport. EMMANUEL AREWA/AFP/GettyImages
Residents in the area offering help
Credits: Reuters, Photo news, AFP, Getty images, Pilot
Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority Harold Denuren confirmed that all the passengers on Sunday's Dana Air flight died. He did not say how many were on the flight. However, the Lagos state government said in a statement that 153 people were on the flight going from Abuja to Lagos.
The plane crashed in a densely-populated neighborhood near the airport.
A spokesman for Nigeria's national emergency management agency said there were likely more casualties on the ground, but the number was unknown.
Several thousand gathered at the site as firefighters tried to put out flames and carry out survivors.
People gather at the site of a plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria, Sunday, June 3, 2012. The passenger plane carrying more than 150 people crashed in Nigeria's largest city on Sunday, government officials said. (Credit: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said they were still trying to get an official manifest on the flight. Sometimes flights in Nigeria issue paper tickets and don't record all passengers via computer.
"I don't think there will be any survivors," said witness Praise Richard. "It would take a miracle."
Richard said he was watching a film when he heard a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb. He rushed outside and saw massive smoke and flames rising from the crash site around 3:45 p.m.
The Dana Air flight was flying from Abuja to Lagos, according to the head of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Denuren.
The plane did not to appear to have nose-dived into a building, but seemed to have landed on its belly. It first crashed through a furniture shop and then into residential buildings next to the workshop in this densely packed neighborhood.
The nose of the plane was embedded into the three-story apartment building, damaging only one part of the structure. Fire still smoldered everywhere as a group of men stood atop the landing gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobile phones.
At the crash site, an Associated Press reporter saw parts of the plane's seat signs scattered around. Firefighters tried to put out the smoldering flames of a jet engine and carried at least one corpse from the building that continued to crumble. Several thousand people looked on.
Two fire trucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site after the plane went down. Some of those gathered around the site helped firefighters bring in the water hoses from their trucks.
The Nigerian Red Cross arrived, as well as Nigeria's air crash safety investigators.
A military helicopter flew overhead. The sound of the crowd was also occasionally punctuated by the noise of aircraft still landing at the airport.
Lagos' international airport is a major hub for West Africa and saw 2.3 million passengers pass through it in 2009, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
In August 2010, the U.S. announced it had given Nigeria the FAA's Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation's domestic carriers to fly directly to the U.S.
The Nigerian government said it also now has full radar coverage of the entire nation. However, in a nation where the state-run electricity company is in tatters, state power and diesel generators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens go blank.
1. One year ago, I was privileged to stand before you, to take the oath of office as President of our dear country, the third to serve you as President since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Today, I remember that day and the processes leading to it with profound gratitude to God Almighty and to all Nigerians who have worked very hard to enrich our journey from military dictatorship to inclusive democratic governance.
2. For the past 13 years, we have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, bu twe have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people.
3. As we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, I pay tribute to all the men and women who have made our democratic experience meaningful: the ordinary people who resisted militar yrule, and have remained resolute in their embrace of democracy; the army of Nigerian voters who, at every election season, troop out in large numbers to exercise their right of franchise; the change agents in civil society who have remained ever watchful and vigilant.
4. I pay special tribute also to all patriots who are the pillars of our collective journey,most especially, our armed forces who have steadfastly subordinated themselvesto civil authority in the past 13 years. They have continued to demonstrate a great sense of professionalism. They have discharged their duties to the nation with honour and valour. In a sub-region that has witnessed instances of political instability, authored by restless soldiers, the Nigerian Armed Forces have remained professional in their support of democracy.
5. When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to PresidentOlusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable. This is what we remember. This is what we celebrate. On this day, I recall especially the martyrdom of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, whose presumed victory in the 1993 Presidential election, and death, while in custody, proved to be the catalyst for the people’s pro-democracy uprising. The greatest tribute that we can pa yto him, and other departed heroes of Nigeria’s democracy, is to ensure that we continue to sustain and consolidate our democratic institutions and processes, and keep Hope alive.
6. Let us individually and collectively, continue to keep the spirit of this day alive. No task is more important. We must continue to do well as a people and as ademocracy. We must remember where we are coming from, so we can appreciate how far we have travelled.
7. When I assumed office as Acting President, in 2010, on account of the health challenges suffered by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was so much anxiety in the land. The tone of public debate was febrile. Some persons sought to use the situation in the country to sow the seeds of discord. My primary task at that time was to do all that was humanly possible to ensure stability within the polity. With the support and commitment of patriotic Nigerians from all walks of life, and the grace of the Almighty God, we were able to do so.
8. On May 6,2010, following President Yar’Adua’s death, I assumed office as substantive President. I subsequently presented myself as a candidate for the 2011 Presidential elections, with a promise that under my watch, the elections would be free, fair and credible. We kept faith with that promise. On May 29, 2011, I was sworn in as President, the fifth elected leader of Nigeria since independence. The success of the 2011 elections and the international acclaim that it generated was due to your patriotic zeal and commitment. I will like to seize this opportunity to thank all patriotic Nigerians who stood by us, and have remained unwavering in their support.
These Nigerians understand one thing: that we all have a duty to protect and promote our country, and that this country belongs to all of us. Electoral contest is about values. We must not lose sight of those values that strengthen us as a people. As long as I am President, I will do my utmost to continue to work hard in pursuit of the common good.
9. There are challenges, yes, but we are working hard to address those challenges. And, by God’s grace, we will succeed. My confidence is bolstered by the results which we have achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months.
10. Our democracy is stable. Its foundation is strong and firm. Its future is bright. Last year, I had spoken about the policy of “one man one vote, one woman, one vote,one youth, one vote”. I am glad to see that the Nigerian people in all elections have continued to respect the principle of fair play. Since this administration came into office, we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission. There are still persons who believe that elections should be violent and unhealthy, but they are in the minority. They will not derail our democracy because the majority of Nigerians will not allow them to do so.
11. Following the spate of violence, in some parts of the country, after the 2011 elections, our administration set up a committee on post-election violence to among other things, investigate the causes and nature of electoral violence and make appropriate recommendations. We will be guided by the White Paper, on that committee’s report, in dealing more firmly with electoral violence and fraud. This will include the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence. We cannot afford to treat the success we have recorded withour democratic experience with levity. Electoral reform is central to our administration’s transformation agenda. I urge all political parties to embrace this reform.
12. Our successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria’s foreign policy. More than ever before, Nigeria’s achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition. We have continued to build on this by further showing leadership in the sub-region and the African continent. Under my watch as Chairman of the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, and subsequently, Nigeria was in th eforefront of the efforts to ensure democratic stability in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, and particularly at a critical moment in Cote d’Ivoire. Our foreign policy process has proven to be dynamic and pro-active. Nigeria’s place is secure among many friends in the comity of nations. We are building on that friendship to open up opportunities for foreign investments in the Nigerian economy and to provide necessary support for the vibrant community of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
13. We will continue to work hard, to turn domestic successes into a source of motivation for greater achievements in the international arena. We are fully aware that it is only when our people are happy and confident that they would be in a good position to walk tall in relating with others.
14. Today, I want to talk about what we are doing and what we have done. I want to reassure you that we are making progress. But we can also do a lot more. We must. And we will.
15. Our economic outlook is positive. When I assumed office last year, there were still fears about the impact of the global economic recession, and implications for investments. Many Nigerians were worried about the growing rate of unemployment. In order to set Nigeria on a sound and sustainable path toward economic growth, this administration unveiled a set of priority policies, programmes, and projects encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda. These programmes and policies are aimed at consolidating our budget, fostering job creation, engendering private sector-led inclusive growth, and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive for the ultimate betterment of the lives of Nigerians.
16. Today, progress has been made. The country’s credit rating is positive, in contrast with many nations being downgraded. In2011, our economy grew by 7.45%. As at mid-May 2012, our foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months. We have stabilized and improved our fiscal regime. We brought the fiscal deficit down to 2. 85% of GDP from 2.9% in 2011. We reduced recurrent expenditures from 74% to 71% and reduced domestic borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billionin 2012. We cut out over N100 billion of non-essential expenditure and increased our internally generated revenue from N200 billion to N467 billion.
17. For the first time in over a decade, we now have a draft Trade Policy which provides a multi-dimensional framework to boost our trade regime and facilitate the inflow of investments. We have generated over N6. 6 trillion worth of investment commitments. The total value of our trade is also much higher than the value estimated the previous year due to deliberate government policies. To facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we have a policy in place to make visa procurement easier for foreign investors, with safeguards to prevent abuse.
18. The goal of our administration is to ensure that every Nigerian can find gainful employment. Given my dissatisfaction with the prevailing unemployment situation in the country, our administration has embarked on an ambitious strategy of creating jobs and job-creators through the launch of several initiatives mainly targeted at the youths and women.
19. In October 2011, we launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. Over 1, 200 Nigerian youths have benefitted from this initiative. We have also launched the Public Works Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, which is designed to employ 370,000 youths per annum, with 30% of the jobs specially reserved for women. Let me make it clear here that our You WIN programme is designed to nurture and mentor young entrepreneurs to become major players, employers and wealth creators in business.
20. We are gradually reducing the footprints of government in business activities through privatization, liberalization and deregulation based on our recognition that the private sector should be the engine of growth in our economy. To ensure that the private sector is well positioned for this task, our administration has embarked on key structural reforms in the Power Sector and at the Ports.
21. To improvereliable power supply, our administration is judiciously implementing the Power Sector Roadmap, which is at an advanced stage, to fully privatize power generation and distribution while reducing the cost of electricity to rural households and the urban poor.
22. The commitment of this Administration to the provision of regular and uninterrupted power supply remains strong and unwavering. We all agree that adequate and regular power supply will be the significant trigger to enhance this nation’s productive capacity and accelerate growth. It is for this reason that I remain optimistic that the reforms we have initiated, the decisions we have taken so far and the plans we intend to faithfully prosecute will yield the desired results.
23. To underline this commitment, three weeks ago, I convened a special session on Power and gave specific instructions on the fast tracking of gas production and delivery to ensure improved availability of power. I also directed that the power sector reforms must continue on schedule and that privatization of the sector must be completed according to plan.
24. Our approach is two-pronged: First, is the immediate repair of power plants, as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure in the short term. The second is the building of institutions and the provisionof enablers to attract investors. We have revived and are accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. We are also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of sub stations. We have completed the design for the construction of both Mambilla and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid.
25. By mid 2010, the national power output was about 2, 800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. A National Gas Emergency Plan has also been launched to redress the problem of gas supply which are essentially due to poor planning.
26. For long-term power availability, we have strengthened a number of key institutions such as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Bulk Trader, the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, and others. We are also working with the World Bank to provide guarantees for gas and power providers. The signing of MOUs with World Leaders in power equipment – General Electric of USA and Siemens of Germany as well as US and China Exim Banks for financial investment, is a clear indication of the level of confidence which the world investment community has in our power sector road map.
27. In addition, the privatisation programme has attracted expression of interest from 131 companies across the globe. Our decision to bring in the private sector is clearly intended to achieve our target of generating and distributing sufficient and reliable power within the shortest time possible. With the measures we have put in place, we will surely achieve success in transforming the power sector.
28. We have also focused our efforts on Ports and Customs reforms to ensure efficiency in the handling of ports and port-related businesses. Our administration has streamlined bureaucratic activities at the Ports by reducing the number of agencies from 14 to 7. We have also reduced the time for the clearance of goods from about a month, to seven days, with the long-term objective of ensuring that cargoes are cleared within 48 hours in line with international best practice. In the meantime, our ports, for the first time, now open for business for 24 hours.
29. In the Oil and Gas Sector, our Administration has charted a new course that will ensure enduring transparency and accountability. We are re-drafting the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure it meets the aspirations of all Stakeholders given the current realities and future expectations in the global energy landscape. Work on the PIB will be concluded in June 2012 and formally submitted to the NationalAssembly. Additionally, Special Task Forces dealing with Governance and Control, Petroleum Revenue and National refineries are finalizing their work to ensure probity across the oil and gas sector, and self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.
30. In the DownstreamSector, the Nigerian Content Development Act, since inception in 2010, has boosted the local production of line pipes, in-country fabrication tonnage and engineering support services. As a result, retained in-country spend has grown from approximately US $1bn to a current estimate of US$4bn, and over US$3 billion Foreign Direct Investment has been brought in for upgrading and building new yards, altogether generating over 120,000 direct and indirect jobs.
31. Capacity utilization of existing domestic refineries has greatly improved from 30 to 60 percent. We have commenced the phased plan to return the refineries to 90 percent capacity utilization with the expected completion of the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery by the end of 2012, to be followed by Warri andKaduna refineries in 2013.
32. In the Upstream Sector, the April 2012 commissioning of the Usan Deep Offshore Field has increased crude oil production capacity by 180 thousand barrels per day. Also,Government continues to support the National Oil Company, NPDC, by assigning 55% equity in 8 divested blocks which has resulted in increase in reserves from 350 million barrels to 2.1 billion barrels and 160, 000 barrels of production. We have also made significant progress in gas infrastructure development, investing close toUS$1bn for the construction of some 1000km of pipelines, gas supply growth and stimulation of gas industrialization. Between now and the third quarter of 2013, Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) will be made on gas-based industries, such as the petrochemicals and fertilizer plants at Koko, the Central Processing Units(CPF) in Obiafu/Obrikom, and the gas growth projects. Also, the sum of N11 billion is provided in the 2012 Budget for Hydro-Carbonexploration in the Lake Chad Basin.
33. The Gas Revolution initiative will fully support and sustain domestic power, whilst creating Africa’s largest gas based industrial park, which on completion will underpin the creation of over a million jobs and attract over US$16 billion in Foreign Direct Investment. To protect the gains of these initiatives for all Nigerians, we are aggressively addressing the increasing incidents of crude oil theft and other criminal activities in the sector.
34. As a deliberate move, our goal is to transform Nigeria from a mono-modal economy, to a diversified one. The sector that we are focusing onto diversify our economy – and one in which Nigeria has huge comparative advantage – is the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of our GDP and over 70% of all employment. Increases in agricultural productivity will drive down rural poverty and revive our rural economy.
35. In this regard, we are aggressively pursuing an agricultural transformation agenda. Agriculture is no longer a development programme. We are now treating agriculture as a business, one that can generate wealth and create jobs for millions of our youths.
36. We have implemented major reforms in the sector, notably in the fertilizer sub-sector. We have ended the practice of Federal Government procurement and distribution of fertilizers. This we did because only 11% of farmers get the fertilizers that are bought and distributed by government. The old system encouraged rent seekers to collude and deprive farmers of access to fertilizers, while some of the fertilizers ended up with political farmers and in neighbouring countries.
37. Now, the procurement and commercialization of fertilizersand seeds have been fully deregulated to the private sector. We have ended the culture of corruption in fertilizer procurement. We must also end the era of food imports. Nigeria spends over 10 billion dollars every year importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish alone. This is unacceptable.
38. Our agricultural transformation agenda is directed at promoting local production, substituting for imported foods, and adding value to our locally produced crops. We are recording successes already. Government’spolicy to ensure rice self-sufficiency by 2015 is already paying off. New rice mills are being established by the private sector to mill locally produced rice. Ebony Agro Industries located in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has rolled out its high quality parboiled rice. In Kano, Umza rice mill has taken off and can hardly meet demand, while in Benue State Ashi rice has hit the market. Consumers are buying more of Abakaliki and Ofada rice too.
39. To further accelerate the local production and milling of high quality rice, government is facilitating the import and installation of 100 new large scale integrated rice mills across the country. This will allow Nigeria, for the first time in its history, to have the capacity to mill all of the rice that we consume.
40. Our cassava policy is working, as we accelerate the pace ofutilization of cassava to create markets for millions of our farmers. Our goalis a bold one: we will make Nigeria, which is the largest producer of cassavain the world, to also become the largest processor of high value cassavaproducts in the world.
41. To further encourage cassava utilization and value-added products, government will support corporate bakers and master bakers across thecountry to use high quality cassava flour for baking. Last year I announced anincrease in tariff and levy on wheat.
To encourage the cassava flour inclusion policy, I now direct that part of the levy and tariff on wheat be set aside tosupport the promotion of high quality cassava flour and composite cassava bread. This will include support for needed enzymes, technical training and equipment for corporate bakers and master bakers, as well as accelerated cassava production.
42. We have also secured markets for cassava outside Nigeria, and for the first time ever, Nigeria will export this year 1 million metric tons of dried cassava chips to China. This will earn Nigeria 136 million USdollars in foreign exchange. Last week we also successfully started the commercial use of feed grade cassava grits, produced locally, for use in ourpoultry industry.
43. We are reviving our lost glory in cocoa, with massive distribution of 3.6 million pods of high-yielding cocoa varieties for farmers all across the cocoa growing states of the country. The pods will be provided free of charge. We are reviving cotton production in the North, as well. I have directed that all seeds for cotton should be provided, free of charge, to allcotton farmers.
44. Let me reiterate my personal passion and commitment todriving the agricultural transformation for Nigeria. The prosperity of Nigeria must start with improving the living standards of our farmers, and revitalizingrural economies across the nation. The newly inaugurated Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, which I personally Chair, will further drive our continued revolution of the sector. Our goal is to add 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015 and create 3.5 million jobs. To achieve this, the appropriate infrastructure to support all-year round farming through irrigation is being rehabilitated and developed across the country.
45. We must use our population to create markets for what we produce. We must grow local, buy local and eat local. To promote this, I have directed that all official functions of government serve local foods, especially ourlocal rice and cassava bread and other foods. In the State House, I amfaithfully keeping to my promise of eating cassava bread and local rice.
46. Our administration is committed to the rapid and beneficial development of our country’s Minerals and metals potential. In the last year, we recorded remarkable achievements in Mines and Steel Development. We increased the number of investors in the mining sector due to the transparent manner in which titlesare now issued on a “first come-first served and use it or lose it basis.”
A total of 2,476 active mineral titles were issued compared to 666 titles issuedout in the previous year, thereby reducing, significantly, illegal mining activities. About 350, 000 additional jobs were created, arising from theactivities of newly registered operators. We have initiated a programme tosupport private steel production outfits. This has resulted in an increase inproduction figures for steel and other metals to over 1 million tonnes.
47. It is our collective desire as Nigerians to improve the standard of education. We are particularly aggressive in addressing this challenge. As a former school teacher, I know that it is not enough to create jobs; we must develop human capacity, and train a generation of Nigerian children with better competencies and skills. This will grant them the edge that they require to compete in a skills-driven globaleconomy, and by extension, strengthen our national competitiveness index.
48. I want every Nigerian child to have an opportunity to receive quality education and acquire useful skills. We are reforming the education sector from basic to tertiary level. The Federal Government recently launched the Almajiri Education Programme to reduce the number of out-of-school children which currently stands at about 9 million. Similar programmes will soon be introduced in various parts of the country. At the tertiary level, it is the policy of this administration that every State will have a Federal University.
49. To this end, we have established within the last year, nine (9) new Federal Universities and licensed nine (9) new private universities, bringing the total number of universities in the country to 124. Even with this, there is still the challenge of getting adequate admission space for prospective undergraduates. While we are addressing this, the Federal Government is also conscious of the fact that our universities need to be better equipped, particularly with well trained teachers. Government is, therefore, working on aprogramme to provide scholarships for Nigerians who are interested in academics,to enable them obtain their Doctorate degrees within and outside the country.
50. In addition, the Federal Government has launched a Special Presidential Scholarship Scheme for our best and brightest brains. We are selecting the best out of our First Class graduates in various disciplines, especially engineering and science. They will be sent for post-graduate studies in the best universities in the world, with the expectation that this will lay the foundation for a desirable scientific and technological revolution that will take Nigeria into Space in the not too distant future.
51. One of the first steps taken by this administration was the creation of a Ministry of Communications Technology. Its mandate includes the design of programmes and initiatives to deploy ICT as a driver of sustainable growth and the training of skilled manpower. For our country to remain relevant, we need to adequately educate our people, as it is through education that we can turn our people into assets that can help Nigeria compete globally, and create jobs in the new knowledge economy.
52. By the same token, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is providing training opportunities for the youths in the Niger Delta. In the past year, a total of 704 youths have been sent for training, abroad and locally, in various fields of endeavour, including agriculture, petroleum engineering, commerce, tourism, and maritime studies. Nine skills centres are being built, one in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta; three of them will be completed this year.
53. An efficient and affordable public transport system remains a priorityof this Administration. Our transformation agenda in the road sector which seeks to deliver better and safer roads to Nigerians, as well as to link the six geo-political zones in the country with dual carriageways, is very much on course. There has been increased construction activities in the ongoing dualisation of Abuja–Abaji–Lokoja Road, Kano–Potiskum–Maiduguri Road; theBenin–Ore–Shagamu Expressway; the Onitsha–Enugu Expressway; and the construction of the Loko–Oweto bridge, across River Benue.
54. Work has been slow on the East-West road due to budgetary constraints, but government will discharge all liabilities to contractors before the end of June, and funds for the remaining part of the year, will be provided to accelerate the pace of work. In other parts of the country, about 21 other road projects arein different stages of completion. These include the Yola–Numan road, Aba–Owerri road, Owerri–Onitsha expressway, Oyo–Ogbomosho old road, and the Gombe-Potiskum road. Many others are at different stages of completion.
55. Government is also currently rehabilitating about 3,000 kms out of the3,505 km existing narrow gauge rail lines across the country. The Lagos-Kano corridor will be completed this year, while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri corridor, which has equally commenced, will be completed by the end of2013. We have also commenced the construction of the Abuja–Kaduna segment of the Lagos–Kano standard gauge rail lines, while the Lagos–Ibadan segment will be awarded this year. The Itakpe–Ajaokuta–Warri standard gauge rail line is nearing completion with the entire tracks completely laid.
56. To enhance sustainability in the rail sector, this Administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric (GE) to establish a locomotive assembly plant in the country. Our goal is to make Nigeria a major hub in West and Central Africa.
57. Within the last 12 months, we completed the capital dredging of theLower River Niger from Warri (Delta State) to Baro (Niger State) to boost our inland water transportation. This year, work will commence on the dredging of the River Benue in addition to the construction of River Ports at Baro (NigerState), Oguta (Imo State), and Jamata/Lokoja, (Kogi State). The Onitsha River Port in Anambra State, equipped with modern cargo handling equipment, has been completed and I shall be commissioning the project in the next few weeks.
58. The Aviation sector remains pivotal to our economic growth. Within the last year, we have developed a road map for the restoration of decaying facilities and infrastructure, some of which had not been attended to since they were first constructed over 30 years ago. Currently, we are renovating airports across the country and have begun the development of four new international terminals at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja. We have also reviewed our Bilateral Air Service Agreements to ensure improved service delivery, and more customer-friendly processes. We are working to ensure that within the life of this Administration, the aviation sector in Nigeria will be transformed into aworld class and self-sustaining provider of safe, secure and comfortable air transportation.
59. Globally, the role of women in governance has assumed great significance. In Nigeria, it is also widely acknowledged that women who constitute about half of the Nigerian population are great and invaluable assets, in both the public and private spheres. On our part, we have demonstrated serious commitment in further empowering women and projecting their role in public life. Out of the 42 members of the Federal Executive Council, 13 are women, heading major Ministries of Government.
60. Last week, I appointed the first female Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission. In the Armed Forces, female cadets have been admitted into the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy, an institution that was hitherto an exclusive preserve of men. The first set will graduate in 2016. This year, we reached a significant milestone as the Nigerian Air Force produced the first Nigerian female combatant pilot. Our administration will continue to empower women and the girl-child as a focal point of our Transformation Agenda.
61. More than anything else, health matters. We are upgrading the country’s tertiary health facilities to bring them up to international standards. We have increased funding for health-related MDGs. We are also committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality, and to eradicating polio completely by 2014.
62. I want to reassure all Nigerians that this administration remains committed to waging a sustained battle against the menace of corruption. In the last one year, we have taken specific steps to reduce opportunities and avenues for corruption, and to strengthen the capacity and integrity of our institutions. For example, our ports reform programme has reduced the number of agencies at the ports which hitherto frustrated the speedy clearance of goods at the ports. We have also cleared the stretch of trailers and lorries blocking the Apapa Expressway. We have put an end to the fertilizer and tractor scam that once dominated the agricultural sector. Our review of the pension payment system has also blown the whistle on corrupt practices which are now being addressed.
63. Within the last one year, we set up a committee to identify leakages and waste in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies. I am confident that the implementation of the recommendations of that committee will help to eliminate corruption channels within the system, and improve the efficiency of the public service. In January, we announced a policy of deregulation in the downstream sector, but this was misunderstood by naysayers and reduced narrowly to a fuel subsidy removal initiative, whereas the policy was designed to completely eliminate the grand corruption in the downstream sector, and create the necessary incentives for private sector investment.
64. We have strengthened the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Both agencies are being re-positioned for more effective service delivery. We will continue to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies for optimal performance. We will also need the support of our courts. The courts have to do more.
65. Terrorism, a new menace, totally alien to our way of life and culture,has reared its head and is posing a serious challenge. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of the terrorist attacks, andtheir families.
66. As President, it is my solemn duty to defend the Constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect life and property. We are doing everything possible to check the menace of terrorism. In this regard, we are determined to review some of the existing laws, to further strengthen the national counter-terrorism strategy. Coordinated joint action among our security agencies has now assumed greater importance. We have developed a new security architecture to strengthen the security environment.
67. I wish to reassure every Nigerian that we will confront this threat against our collective peace and security, and bring the perpetrators to justice. We will confront the few misguided persons who falsely believe, that through violence, they can impose their agenda of hate and division on this nation of good people. We must confront all those who think they can derail us by engaging in indiscriminate violence and mass murder, perpetrated in places of worship, in markets and public places, against the media, and security personnel. Nigeria is a nation of resilient people. We will never yield to the forces of darkness. Nigeria will never, ever, disintegrate.
68. Let me end this address at the point where I began. What matters most to all of us, is Nigeria. It is what binds us together. We have a duty to be loyal to our country. If we believe this to be a sacred obligation, it will not matter whether we are Christians or Muslims, or politicians, irrespective of political parties or divide. It really will not matter whether we are civil society agents, social activists or union leaders. What matters is Nigeria. This nation exists because we are one. We must, therefore, remain as one family, and work together to defend our country.
69. Within two years, it would be exactly 100 years since the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated and Nigeria was born. We need a lot more introspection, even as we look forward. We must take steps to heal the wounds of the past and work together, as a people with a shared destiny underone flag. We must strengthen our collective memory, draw strength from our history, and build bridges of unity to take our country to greater heights.
70. This is what we should do. And we must. As a starting point, we must draw strength from our history and work to ensure that the labour of our heroes past is not in vain. It is partly for this and other reasons, that I have directed, as part of the activities marking today’s Democracy Day, that all due processes should be initiated for the building of a Presidential Museum in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. This Museum will document the lives and times of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of Government since 1960, and remind us, by extension, of the high points of our national history.
71. It is also in this regard that the Federal Government has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured,for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth. Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was. We need in our land, more men and women who will stand up to defend their beliefs, and whose example will further enrich our democracy. After very careful consideration, and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s accomplishments and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos, is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. The Federal Government will also establish an Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance in the University.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, is the Executive President of Federal Republic of Nigeria
The two-day meeting of Central Bank of Nigeria's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) ended with a lukewarm outlook, projection and pronouncement on the state of the economy by the Governor Sanusi, the head of the country's apex bank. Sanusi noted that national economic growth may encounter some hiccups in the absence of "structural reforms". The head of the country's Reserve institute buttresseed his comment by pointing to the slight reduction of the economic growth from 7.45 percent in 2011 to the projected 6.5 percent for 2012.
It may not be fair to the monetary policy committee to ascribe the two-day summit as futile and ineffective but that may be the case. Before the meeting there were already standing facts that remained unchanged. At a whopping 12 percent interest rate, even at the face of the surging inflation rate at 12.9 percent, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cannot afford to jack-up the interest rate.
The tightened of monetary policy to mop up liquidity in the monetary base may have become unresponsive and waned. Therefore monetary policy committee retained the monetary interest rate at 12 percent. The further hiking of the interest rate may result into unintended consequences. A higher interest rate may probably appreciate capital market, but at same time, it will constrict credit and liquidity in the hands of business community. And such a scenario and development comes with the slow down of economic growth. It is beginning to look like, that the interest rate at 12 percent is gradually slowing down economic growth.
Moreover the further intensification of liquidity mopping can result in the slowing down of the economy. The only alternative left to the monetary policy committee is to look beyond tighten of monetary policy. The executive arm of the government should inject fiscal policy to complement the actions of the monetary policy committee. Sanusi was underlining the forthcoming weakness of the economy, emphasizing the needed structural reform of the economy. Sanusi was probably alluding to fiscal policy application.
When Asia was experiencing higher inflationary rate in 2011, at a point monetary policy tightening was becoming waned, HSBC Global Research advised Asia to tighten fiscal policy. HSBC Global Research stated that:
“Monetary policy, in its usual form, no longer works. Raising rates simply draws in more capital, leaving financial conditions highly stimulative. Currency appreciation, of the size needed to cut off those funds, would be too disruptive. Capital controls could square the circle, but these are never watertight. Meanwhile, to some, regulatory tightening has become a valid alternative, yet this is difficult to calibrate and best serves as a complementary, rather than primary, tool to tackle inflation. In short, the hands of central bankers are tied.”
INFLATION RISING ABOVE 15 PERCENT
The slowing down of the economy may be partially attributed to lack of structural reforms as was enunciated by Sanusi. But the crust of the matter was the partial removal of the fuel subsidy that brought about the increase of cost of living and production. The country's economy is run on fossil energy and by removing the subsidy it triggered higher inflation rate which now stood at 12.9 percent. Sanui's Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) anticipated inflation rate to rise and hover between 14-15 percent in 2012 but that will not be so. With the economic trends and the way things are going inflation rate will accelerate over 15 even up to 16 percent by the end of the year. And if the fuel adjustment program continues and the total removal of fuel subsidy becomes imminent the inflation rate may rise above 16 percent. With such an increase in the inflation rate, the country's economy will definitely slow down even below the projected 6.5 percent for 2012.
Nigeria has not yet appreciated how fickle the economic growth and inflation can become. The targeted mission of the policy makers both at CBN and presidency should be to maintain a healthy balance between monetary and fiscal policy in order to checkmate inflation and safeguard economic growth. There is so much CBN can do with the tinkering of the interest rate and with quantitative easing. These monetary tools are limited in action when faced with an accelerating inflation trends and undiversified economy like that of Nigeria.
The state of the country is becoming un-conducive for a sustainable economic growth apart from oil sector of the economy. The growth in agriculture is expected to "declined to 4.15 per cent compared with 5.54 per cent in Q1 of 2011 and 5.74 in fourth quarter 2011," as CBN governor said at the end of the two-day meeting. And “crude oil production was estimated to have declined by 2.32 per cent in quarter one 2012 compared with the decline of 2.41 per cent in the corresponding period of 2011. Non oil real GDP growth estimated at 7.93 per cent in Q1 of 2012 was much lower than 8.73 per cent recorded in Q1 of 2011.”
This is not good news for Nigeria. The social unrest and political turbulences are making investors anxious and their comfort level and commitment on Nigeria's economy is diminishing. This will encourage capital flight and fear for investing in Nigeria, moreover indigenous capitalists may even recoil their commitment for further capital investments in the economy.
The only good news coming from Sanusi's CBN is the Nigeria’s external reserves which increased from $36.66 billion in April to $38.72 billion in May. The buildup of the reserve is a good thing. Reserve can become a war chest against currency speculators and Naira appreciation can be enhanced with an increasing foreign reserve. But it is important that some of the resources coming from the sale of oil should be diverted to Nigerian sovereign wealth fund and provision of infrastructures. Nigerian sovereign wealth fund should be investing in a well tested market where risk is at lowest minimum for a good return to the country.
The legislature move to remove the autonomy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is a bad news. The country needs an independent monetary policy institute that does its job without control from the executive and legislature. Look around the world there is no advance and developed economies without independent Central Banks. When the power of Central Bank is compromise and weakens by outside interference, investors trust on the economy will virtually dissipate and disappear. The decisions and monetary policy coming from Central Banks will not be acceptable as real when Central Bank depends on the whims of the executive and legislature arms of the government. The quest to remove CBN's autonomy is "no go area". A bastardized and compromise CBN is good for nothing institute, that is why that it is intrinsic that the autonomy of CBN must remained in tact.
The government must rekindle its effort to reassure investors, capitalists and citizens that protection of life and property is its utmost duty by the country's leadership. The upgrades of electricity infrastructures must be speed up for Nigerians are sick and tired of living in darkness at the dawn of 21st century. The provision of social infrastructures, political stability and quantifiable peace must be in place for sustainability of economic growth. The heavy lifting of structural reforms should come into play but the rudimentary steps to the reforms are to provide and build on the basic tools that are needed for a growing economy.
NIGERIA: Review of GDP and Inflation for 2011
Gross Domestic Product:
In 2011, the Nigerian economy grew at an estimated real rate of 7.36 percent . This was slightly lower than the 7.98 percent recorded in 2010. In 2011 on a quarterly basis, the economy grew by 6.68% in the first quarter, down by 0.64 percentage points year-on-year. In the second quarter, the economy grew by 7.61% down marginally from the 7.71% posted in the corresponding quarter a year earlier. The economy recorded growth rates of 7.30% and 7.68% in the third and fourth quarters of the year respectively, down by 0.66 percentage points and 0.92 percentage points year-on-year.
Mangoes on display at Zuba Fruit Market in Abuja.NAN Photos
The country’s headline inflation rate trended lower in 2011 compared to 2010, even though 2011 was an election year with the potential for large monetary inflows within the economy. The average inflation rate for 2011 was recorded at 10.9%, down from the average of 13.8% in 2010, which had witnessed a year-on high of 15.6% (year-on-year) in February of 2010. As shown in Figure 4, the headline rate ranged between 9.3% (August) and 12.8% (March) settling at 10.3% by December 2011. This was 1.53 percentage points lower than December 2010 and a further 3.65 percentage points lower than December 2009
The “all items less farm produce index” (also known as the “core” index) which excludes prices of more volatile agricultural products peaked in May of 2011 at 13.0% and trended lower till the end of the ycpear. By December 2011, the rate settled at 10.8%, down marginally from the 10.9% recorded in December 2010 and 0.4 percentage points lower than the 11.2% recorded in December 2009. The reason for the early build up in the core index was as a result of increases
in prices of household items, building materials and kerosene prices. Towards the end of the year, the upward pressure on prices appear to have been moderated by the relatively late release of allocations to federal state and local governments, as well as end of year sales in various parts of the country. Proactive but very restrictive monetary policy implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the early part of last year also appears to have countered possible fiscal effects in the latter part of the year.
The Food index which records prices of agricultural products climbed higher during the earlier part of the year to reach a maximum of 12.2% in May 2011 before generally trending downward. The increases in prices were partially as a result of the planting season. Prices receded between May and July of the year to reach a low of 7.9% in July. Prices then climbed higher to end the year at 11.0%, albeit 1.7 percentage points lower than the 12.7% recorded in December of 2010 and 4.5 percentage points lower than the 15.5% recorded in December of 2009.
Nigerian businessman Godwin Patrick took a three-week holiday to the U.K. this month to visit cousins. It wasn’t the only reason. “I’m here to shop,” the 38-year-old says as he strolls down London’s Oxford Street, clutching bags from Marks & Spencer (MKS) and Associated British Foods’ (ABF) Primark containing trousers for himself and dresses for his family in Lagos.
London retailers are big fans of Nigerian shoppers such as Patrick. The African country was the fourth-biggest contributor to overseas tax-free shopping in the U.K. last year, behind only China, Russia, and the Middle East, according to Global Blue U.K., a company that helps foreign shoppers claim a refund of Britain’s 20 percent value-added tax. (Foreigners get the break on most purchases if they take them outside the European Union.) A growing Nigerian population in the U.K. and more frequent direct flights between the countries has led to an influx of visitors who have more to spend because of the former British colony’s booming oil-driven economy.
“Nigerian travelers are very particular to the U.K.; you’d never see them as a top 10 nationality in other markets,” says Global Blue Vice President Richard Brown. As a group, Nigerians spend more than Americans do, he says. (Visitors from the U.S. are the sixth-largest shopping contingent.) Foreigners account for a third of spending in London’s high-end shopping district of Bond Street, Oxford Street, and Regent Street and will spend more than £2 billion ($3.2 billion) this year, according to the New West End, an organization of 600 retailers in the area. Spending by Nigerians in British shops rose 32 percent last year, according to Global Blue.
Russian and Middle Eastern tourists mostly seek luxury goods in Britain, like those sold at tony merchants such as Harrods or Burberry (BRBY). Nigerian visitors also spend heavily at mass-market chains such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams (DEB) that have more selection, higher-quality products, and better prices than stores back home. “In Nigeria, there is very little formal retail,” says Siemon Scamell-Katz, global consulting director at researcher TNS. “So in terms of retail, Primark and Marks & Spencer is quite something if you haven’t come across much retail before.” Patrick agrees. “We don’t have the same standard of retailing,” he says.
Nigerian visitors spend an average of about £450 per individual transaction, compared with more than £1,000 by Middle Eastern customers, Global Blue says. At a Debenhams store on London’s Oxford Street, Nigerians provide the biggest source of overseas spending as they seek out perfume and moisturizer gift sets, British-themed products such as a Union Jack-printed teapot for £20, clothing, and shoes, according to company spokeswoman Ruth Attridge. One sign of how important the African shoppers have become: Multilingual signs advertising discounts at Debenhams are printed not only in Chinese and Arabic but also Hausa, a language spoken in Nigeria.
The popularity of Britain as a shopping destination for Nigerians partly reflects the growth in the number of people from the country living in the U.K. About two-thirds of shoppers are on holiday or visiting family and friends, while a third are traveling for business, according to Global Blue. The U.K. Office for National Statistics estimates that 174,000 Nigerians lived in the U.K. from July 2010 to June 2011, the ninth-largest nationality. That’s an increase of 34,000 compared with three years earlier.
Daily flights from the capital, Lagos, to London on British Airways and starting on May 16 on Air Nigeria are also fueling shopper journeys. The carriers know their customers: BA allows Nigeria-bound passengers to check an additional 23-kilogram suitcase gratis unlike the majority of its flights, leaving plenty of extra space for all those purchases.
The bottom line: Thanks to their nation’s oil wealth, Nigerians are the fourth-largest group of foreign shoppers in Britain. Each spends $725 on average.
Sarah Shannon is a reporter for Bloomberg News in London.