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The Australian government pledged $50m and the British, £40m to the global eradication of the scourge
President Goodluck Jonathan, on Saturday in Perth, Australia, announced that the Nigerian Government will commit $60 Million over the next two years to eradicate polio from Nigeria. Speaking at a Global Polio Eradication Initiative event held at the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Jonathan said he will inaugurate a Special Task Force headed by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Pate, to oversee and coordinate a national campaign for the eradication of polio, as he pledged during a recent meeting with Bill Gates. “As a leader, I don’t want to see polio in our children, especially knowing fully well that it is a disease that we can completely eradicate and prevent. We will work with the global community to ensure its eradication,” Jonathan said.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, right, and wife Patience arrive for a banquet dinner during Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. Photo: Rob Griffith, Pool / AP
Queen Elizabeth II, second left, and Prince Philip, left, greet Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, right, and his wife Patience Jonathan at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) banquet dinner in the Golden Ballroom of Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. Photo: Andrew Meares, Pool / AP
Gillard said this was to demonstrate the Commonwealth’s commitment to the global eradication of polio.The event was also attended by the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani.Daily Times
At its conclusion, Jonathan, Gillard, Cameron, and Harper joined other Commonwealth Heads of Government to continue their deliberations at an exclusive retreat in Kings Park, Perth. The summit is expected to end on Sunday, after a concluding Executive Session of the participating Heads of Government, and Jonathan is due back in Abuja early on Monday.
Wanted: A reliable overseas business partner to invest more than $1 billion trapped in Nigeria.
This is not a scam.
Nigeria, the West African nation that has gained notoriety for the illicit e-mail spammers aiming for Western bank accounts, is attracting attention for legitimate financial opportunities — investing its own savings.
In an effort to preserve and increase its oil revenue, the country recently established a so-called sovereign wealth fund, following the path of many resource-rich countries. Now, Wall Street titans like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are courting top government officials, aiming to grab a piece of a portfolio that could eventually be worth tens of billions of dollars.
“The country is at a point of inflection, and what we do in the next few years will set the pace,” said Olusegun Aganga, the former Nigerian finance minister and current minister for trade and investment, who helped create the sovereign wealth fund. “It’s a land of opportunities, which unfortunately has not been tapped well.”
More than half a century after discovering oil in the Niger Delta, the country continues to subsist barrel to barrel. Poverty is rampant. Public corruption is pervasive. And the government coffers are bare, even though Nigeria is the 10th-largest oil producer in the world.
By saving and investing the petro dollars, Nigeria hopes to break the resource curse. The nation, which derives 80 percent of its revenue from oil, created the sovereign wealth fund to buffer its economy from volatile commodity prices and impose fiscal discipline. The government so far has set aside $1 billion for the fund, and it could funnel as much as $2.5 billion a year, if oil prices remain high.
“One of our biggest problems in civil society is the time horizon that we’re operating on — whether election cycles or quarterly reports,” said Ashby H.B. Monk, a research associate at the University of Oxford who studies sovereign wealth funds. “The idea of a sovereign fund is to give government bureaucrats an opportunity to make long-term policy knowing that the buffeting winds of capitalism won’t blow them off course.”
Such funds have become powerful investment forces over the years. Abu Dhabi and Kuwait have amassed hundreds of billions of dollars by plowing their oil riches into stocks, bonds and other global assets. During the financial crisis, sovereign wealth funds provided critical capital to banks and other troubled firms.
To grab a piece of the lucrative business, big banks and asset managers have tirelessly cultivated relationships with governments worldwide and added teams dedicated to sovereign wealth funds. In recent months, bankers, lawyers and consultants flew to the Nigerian capital of Abuja to pitch officials on their services. The government chose JPMorgan Chase as one of its advisers on the structuring of the fund.
In other countries, the Wall Street feeding frenzy has drawn criticism. The Libyan Investment Authority, which was started in 2006, has complained that it lost millions of dollars on several investments, while money managers generated huge fees, according to documents leaked this summer to Global Witness, an advocacy group.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether American money managers, in trying to land business with sovereign wealth funds, violated antibribery laws, according to people with knowledge of the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly about the inquiry. “If you don’t get these organizations designed correctly as sophisticated investment operations, you can lose a lot of money,” Mr. Monk said. “It’s the power of finance — for good or bad.”
Nigeria’s new fund is the brainchild of Mr. Aganga, a Nigerian native who worked at Ernst & Young’s London office before joining Goldman Sachs in 2001. Last year, the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, asked Mr. Aganga to join his cabinet.
As the minister of finance, Mr. Aganga pushed to start a sovereign wealth fund almost immediately. He had helped oversee part of Goldman’s Africa business, and knew Nigeria was among the last oil-rich nations without an investment portfolio.
“It’s important that we have some savings for the future generations,” Mr. Aganga said. “It just makes sense for your economy. You’re completely exposed otherwise.”
But Nigeria has a spotty record managing its money. In 2004, the country started plowing extra oil revenue into a separate account, as a way to build savings. At one point, the portfolio held an estimated $20 billion, analysts say.
The funds did not last long. State and federal authorities leaders regularly siphoned off money to fill budget holes, build utilities or pay for other projects. By last year, the assets had plummeted to less than $1 billion.
“There were no rules about withdrawals or whom it belonged to among the three tiers of government in Nigeria,” said Razia Khan, head of African research at Standard Chartered Bank.
To avoid making the same mistakes, Nigeria is earmarking assets for different purposes in a structure that mirrors older sovereign wealth funds. One portfolio, which will invest in stocks and bonds, is focused on long-term growth in preparation for the day when the oil wells run dry. An infrastructure portfolio will support upgrades to the country’s bridges, roads, buildings and railways.
During periods of weakness, the government will have an emergency account to prop up the economy. But officials will be able to access the money only under certain circumstances, like a steep drop in oil prices.
Commitment will be crucial. Some politicians are already grumbling that the sovereign wealth fund will divert assets that the economy desperately needs now, and they are threatening to derail the effort. Such pressure, said John Campbell, a former United States ambassador to Nigeria and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan research center, could prompt the country to “raid the cookie jar” to deal with short-term issues. “Unless there is the political will to live up to those aspirations,” he said, “it’s not going to work very well.”
“My view is, better mute the trumpets for the time being,” Mr. Campbell said.
It will come down to execution, say Nigerian officials and outside analysts. The government is tapping an independent board to oversee the investment process and to ensure compliance. While critics point to the delay in naming those directors as a potential concern, authorities defend their position. They argue that the new finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former managing director at the World Bank, who was sworn in this August, needs time to learn all about existing matters.
The board “will define how effective this becomes,” said Fola Oyeyinka, an adviser to the Nigerian minister of finance. “The flavor of that board will dictate not just to Nigerians but to the world how serious we are.”
The world mourned the passing away of Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011. Described as a "visionary, pioneer and genius in the field of business, innovation and product design", his death, sad as it is, provides a unique opportunity to draw Nigeria's attention to a number of salient truths, especially its teeming youth population in search of new inspiration in the face of crippling unemployment.
Good, this was not lost on President Jonathan as Jobs' name came up during the president's remarks at the official launch of the Federal Government's Youth Empowerment Scheme, tagged "You WIN" in Abuja on October 11, less than one week after the demise of the great pioneer.
But we miss the significance of Jobs' short but very eventful life if we concentrate our focus on what government is doing by way of job creation and stimulation. For Jobs' life and career carry a deeper significance and pose a bigger challenge. By the time of his death, Jobs was the chairman of the board of directors of Apple Incorporated, the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak in the 1970s.
Nurtured by adoptive parents, Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon which he entered at 17 after only one semester, not because he could no longer cope with his studies or pay his way through school, but because he needed to answer to a greater pull. His story in this wise is not much different from that of another great pioneer Bill Gates, whose great life is the subject of global renown and still unfolding before us.
The seed for his short stay at Reed was laid some years earlier when as a high school student; Jobs frequented the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California where he was raised for what was described as "after-school lectures". His adoptive father, Paul Jobs, a machinist, had taught young Jobs how to creatively use his hands as a child. His pioneering spirit had thus been kindled, and he could no longer be satisfied with an everyday, normal career. While he kept tabs with classes at Reed - and that is significant - he followed his heart into what would turn out to be an eventful and most challenging career.
At the time of his death at 56, Steve Jobs had impacted the world through Apple Inc. which he co-founded and administered as CEO, he was also the founder of NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in higher education and business marketing, he also acquired the computer graphics division of Lucas film Limited which he renamed Pixar Animation Studios and whose CEO he was until its acquisition by The Walt Disney Company in 2006 with him emerging as the single largest individual shareholder of the group.
Even if Jobs was on the world's richest list, with a net worth of over 7 billion dollars, that was not his greatest significance. It was in first, living out his dreams and then, creating value on a global scale. For the story of human engineering and personal industry will not be complete without Jobs' name mentioned.
And here is the greater significance for Nigeria and especially her youths. It must be recalled that adoptive parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, raised Jobs. In Nigeria, adoption for couples that have challenges producing children of their own is still a big issue and the few who find the courage and heart to adopt are in some cases treated with scorn and maligned. This should no longer be the case. As Jobs' story has taught us, it can be very rewarding for the adoptive parents, not to talk of the children whose lives are given direction from the very beginning. Even when he became aware of his biological parents, Jobs stuck to his adoptive parents as the only parents he ever knew. In fact, his biological father, Abdul Fattah John Jandali, was quoted in an interview shortly before Jobs passing as saying: "I just wish I hadn't been the selfish man I must have been to allow both my children to turn their backs on me and pray it is not too late to tell Steve how I feel". Even though we now know the circumstances under which Jobs' biological parents put him up for adoption, the pain was no less, for it is Jobs, and not Jandali, that has entered the record books forever!
Another important lesson the Steve Jobs phenomenon offers Nigeria concerns the culture prevalent here over the years, where economic success is nearly always traceable to one form of government patronage or the other. "One must know the Big Man in Abuja or people in the corridors of power before anything can happen in this country. It is the major reason we as a people cannot speak truth to those in power - you don't on your life want to be on the wrong side of power even when you know the truth to be different! This sadly remains the reality even where the indications are that the leader sometimes appreciates being told the truth for a change.
And how the power mongers relish their moments in the sun and want it to last forever. Everybody worships at their feet and their endorsements make people instant millionaires and billionaires, most times from no discernable enterprise. This contrasts sharply with what Jobs sold to the world: intellectual property and creativity- attributes that most great nations of the world leverage on. And if we are to achieve the greatness, which we crave, we must resolve now to change the way we do things.
We must wean ourselves of the patronage culture that has eaten deep into our national psyche and stifled our creativity as a people. We must now begin to cultivate a new thinking on the road map for genuine economic success.
We must stop regarding elective office, political appointments or access to those in power purely as avenues to wealth and riches. We must distinguish "illegitimate success" from genuine success that is validated on the basis of its ethical foundations. This means that we must go back to our basics, starting with our school system; positioning our institutions of learning to build moral, disciplined and creative minds that would embrace the doctrine of "principled guided conduct and propriety as a way of life". This would empower them to harness the genius needed to unlock the immense but trapped potentials of our dear nation.
While programmes like the government's Youth Empowerment Scheme which had been referred to earlier have their merits, it is more important that the school system prepare our youths better for present and future challenges. Near estimates put our unemployment figures today at over 40million with 75 percent of that number in the youthful brackets. Now, how many of these figures can government directly or indirectly employ, given present revenues. This is why if we are to learn any lasting lesson from the life and career of Steve Jobs, the curricula of the school system, from primary to tertiary levels have to be reworked to bring the best out of their beneficiaries. If you doubt this, go and check out our public schools. The present and future health of a nation can be told from the state of the public school system. It is as simple as that!
Graduates from our school system are becoming increasingly unemployable and unable to create employment. The orientation from Day One is to look up to government and other employers of labour for employment. This implies that governments should not merely pay lip service to the School curricula but take concrete steps to ensure that the schools are structured and equipped to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st Century. How much of our budget is going to education? And how much of what is budgeted is actually committed? Jobs, as a young boy, benefited from the "after-school lectures" at Hewlett-Packard. Are there any such after-school places for our school children? What this simply implies is that our educational system must afford our youths proper training in vocations relevant to today's needs. Anything short of this is a waste of their precious time and creative energies, which is presently the case at great cost to the nation.
Anyiam-Osigwe is of the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation.
MC Hammer's WireDoo: Can it take on Google and Bing?
MC Hammer, the Oakland rapper/dancer/preacher/spokesman, is looking to take on Google and Bing in one of the most competitive segments of the tech industry -- online search -- with a new start-up called WireDoo. Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Kirk Burrell, announced WireDoo at O'Reilly Media's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. He described the project as a search engine that offers a level of "deep search" and related topics that Microsoft's Bing and Google don't offer.
So how does WireDoo, which is still in a closed pre-beta stage and nowhere near ready for the public, plan to offer deep search and challenge some of the world's largest tech firms? Hammer explained to O'Reilly writer Alex Howard at Web 2.0 (in an interview that can be viewed in the YouTube clip below) that WireDoo would offer different results and thus a different product than current search engines.
"The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query and then package it consistently in one environment," Hammer said. "Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it's a car ... it's not just about the word 'car,' but it's about insurance, it's about the specs, it's about mileage, it's about style, it's about all these things. So that's the way it works." Hammer told Howard that WireDoo would pull such related data from across the Web and public records, so if someone enters a search query for a ZIP Code, they'll find results that include information on the schools in that ZIP Code, education levels of the residents of that area and other results tied to public information that can give a user a better understanding of what's going on in that community.
Those interested in trying out WireDoo can submit their name and email address. Hammer's team will eventually open up the site to a select number of beta testers. Skeptical? Well, you'd have the right to be. Bing, which is widely considered Google's biggest threat in the search engine market, has grown, but so far it has failed to really rival Google's dominance in the space.
Google's biggest threat at this time might actually be Facebook, which is increasingly becoming a place where people consume media, play games, share photos, search for information on companies, celebrities and bands and even read, watch and listen the news.
How big a threat is Facebook to Google's business? Just look at Google+.
WireDoo clearly has some steep mountains to climb before seeing success.
M.C. Hammer on his iPhone during a town hall meeting with President Obama this year. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)
Muammar Gaddafi is dead http://rt.com/news/gaddafi-captured-sirte-wounded-289/ (see video)
(Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi is dead, Libya's new leaders said, killed by fighters who overran his home town and final bastion on Thursday. His bloodied body was stripped and displayed around the world from cellphone video. Senior officials in the interim government, which ended his 42-year rule two months ago but had labored to subdue thousands of diehard loyalists, said his death would allow a declaration of "liberation" after eight months of bloodshed."We confirm that all the evils, plus Gaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in Tripoli as the body was delivered, a prize of war, to Misrata, the city whose siege and suffering at the hands of Gaddafi's forces made it a symbol of the rebel cause.
"It's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya," Jibril added. "One people, one future." A formal declaration of liberation, that will set the clock ticking on a timeline to elections, would be made by Friday, he said later. Western leaders, who had held off cautiously from comment until Jibril spoke, echoed his sentiments now that Gaddafi, a self-styled "king of kings" in Africa whom they had lately courted after decades of enmity, was dead at 69.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who with French President Nicolas Sarkozy was an early sponsor of February's revolt in Benghazi, said: "People in Libya today have an even greater chance after this news of building themselves a strong and democratic future." The new national flag, resurrected by rebels who forced Gaddafi from his capital Tripoli in August, filled streets and squares as jubilant crowds whooped for joy and fired in the air.
An NTC fighter looks through a large concrete pipe where ousted Gaddafi was allegedly captured. Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images
One possible description, pieced together from various sources, suggests that Gaddafi may have tried to break out of his final redoubt at dawn in a convoy of vehicles after weeks of dogged resistance. However, he was stopped by a NATO air strike and captured, possibly three or four hours later, after gun battles with NTC fighters who found him hiding in a drainage culvert. NATO said its warplanes fired on a convoy near Sirte about 8:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. EDT), striking two military vehicles in the group, but could not confirm that Gaddafi had been a passenger.
Accounts from his enemies suggested his capture, and death soon after from wounds, may have taken place around noon. One of Gaddafi's sons, heir-apparent Saif al-Islam, was at large, they believed. NTC official Mlegta told Reuters that he was surrounded after also trying to flee Sirte. Another son, Mo'tassim, whose arrest was announced earlier in the day, had been killed resisting his captors, Mlegta added. He said that the elder Gaddafi had been wounded in both legs early in the morning as he tried to flee in the convoy which NATO warplanes attacked. "He was also hit in his head," he said. "There was a lot of firing against his group and he died."
There was no shortage of NTC fighters in Sirte claiming to have seen him die, though many accounts were conflicting. Libyan television carried video of two drainage pipes, about a meter across, where it said fighters had cornered a man who long inspired both fear and admiration around the world.
After February's uprising in the long discontented east of the country around Benghazi -- inspired by the Arab Spring movements that overthrew the leaders of neighboring Tunisia and Egypt -- the revolt against Gaddafi ground slowly across the country before a dramatic turn saw Tripoli fall in August.
An announcement of final liberation was expected as the chairman of the NTC prepared to address the nation of six million. They now face the challenge of turning oil wealth once monopolized by Gaddafi and his clan into a democracy that can heal an array of tribal, ethnic and regional divisions he exploited.The two months since the fall of Tripoli have tested the nerves of the motley alliance of anti-Gaddafi forces and their Western and Arab backers, who had begun to question the ability of the NTC forces to root out diehard Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte and a couple of other towns.
Gaddafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians, was toppled by rebel forces on August 23, a week short of the 42nd anniversary of the military coup which brought him to power in 1969. NTC fighters hoisted the red, black and green national flag above a large utilities building in the center of a newly-captured Sirte neighborhood and celebratory gunfire broke out among their ecstatic and relieved comrades.
Hundreds of NTC troops had surrounded the Mediterranean coastal town for weeks in a chaotic struggle that killed and wounded scores of the besieging forces and an unknown number of defenders. NTC fighters said there were a large number of corpses inside the last redoubts of the Gaddafi troops. It was not immediately possible to verify that information. The death of Gaddafi is a setback to campaigners seeking the full truth about the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland of Pan Am flight 103 which claimed 270 lives, mainly Americans, and for which one of Gaddafi's agents was convicted.
"There is much still to be resolved and we may now have lost an opportunity for getting nearer the truth," said Jim Swire, the father of one of the Lockerbie victims. Swire has never believed in the guilt of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi who was convicted of the bombing in 2001 and sent to serve a life sentence in a Scottish prison. Al-Megrahi was released and sent back to Libya in 2009 because he was thought to only have a few months to live.
"Although we have not a scrap of evidence that Gaddafi himself was involved in causing the Lockerbie atrocity, my take on that was that at least he would have known who was," Swire told Sky TV. "I would have loved to see Gaddafi appear in front of the International Criminal Court both to answer charges against the gross treatment of his own people ... and to hear what he knew about the Lockerbie atrocity."
(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by David Stamp)
President Obama authorized the deployment to Uganda of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to help regional forces “remove from the battlefield” – meaning capture or kill – Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and senior leaders of the LRA. The forces will deploy beginning with a small group and grow over the next month to 100. They will ultimately go to Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the permission of those countries.
The president made this announcement in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Friday afternoon, saying that “deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.” He said that “although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”
The president said that for more than two decades the LRA has been responsible for having “murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and continues to “commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
A senior Defense official says the 100 military personnel will be mostly Special Operations Forces and that they “will be traveling out to field locations in the areas affected by the LRA where they can interact with and advise those forces that are actively pursuing the LRA.” The official stressed, “they will not be engaging in direct combat against the LRA.” The US has been helping the four African nations counter the LRA for several years by providing local militaries with training and equipment. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the US helped train a light infantry battalion deployed to fight the LAR and over the last three years in Uganda the US has provided $33 million to help Uganda’s military.
This 31-year-old woman from Niangara was abducted and mutilated by the LRA on April 13, 2010. After clasping her lips together with pliers, the LRA combatants forced a 16-year-old Congolese boy, abducted during a previous attack, to slice off her lips and her right ear with a knife. © 2010 Human Rights Watch
When the president signed that letter in May 2010, he said the bill “crystallizes the commitment of the United States to help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa. The Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival. It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts. By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.”
The act passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming support on May 10, 2010 with language that included “providing political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
More from Human Rights Watch on the infamous LRA.
As CBN raises Benchmark interest rate to 12 percent, inflation rose to 10.3 percent in September from previously 9.3 percent in August
Once again at the beginning of fourth quarter, the country’s Federal Reserve Bank; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) raises the monetary policy rate (interest rate) to a new high of 12 percent from previously 9.25 percent. There is no surprise with the new hike knowing quite well that CBN has been aggressively engaged in the tightening measures of its monetary policy and assiduously mopping the monetary base liquidity. But the margin of the hike at 2.75 percent from the previous rate was astounding. The capital market was anticipating at least a 10 percent hike but the muscular CBN jumped interest rate to 12 percent.
The reason given by the Governor of Central Bank, Mr. Lamido Sanusi for the hike was to strengthen the relatively malleable Nigeria’s currency naira. Although naira is weakening but it is not necessarily in a dire straight either it is totally collapsing to require such a drastic hiking of the interest rate to 12 percent. Subsequently Naira responded and appreciated against dollar due to the aggressive move; it did rally in the market and closing good the next day after the hike of the interest rate.
Vanguard Newspaper reported that “naira opened at 157.40 against the dollar at the interbank, firming from Tuesday’s close of N158.90 and up six percent from the record low of 167.8 reached before the CBN imposed several monetary tightening measures at an emergency meeting on Monday.” It was reported that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at auction market sold $519.67 million at price rate of N150 for a dollar. On the previous day before the recent interest rate hike $400 million was traded at N156.91.
Other than the strengthening of naira, the unmentioned reason for the interest rate hike might be to get the economy ready for the removal of fuel subsidies. The idea is to utilize the monetary tightening policy as bulwark from the eventual higher inflationary trends as the subsidies are removed.There is no doubt that inflation will spike momentarily for a short time as fuel subsidies become history. Although Sanusi’s CBN was mum on fuel subsidies as propelling force for 12 percent monetary interest rate, but the writing is on wall. The development buttressed that the removal of fuel subsidy is a sure banker and there is no more orbiting around it, the government has finally made up its mind.
But the move to fix naira from its fall by CBN is not sustainable for the ‘shock therapy’ cannot solve the problem of naira permanently. The Sanusi’s CBN appears to be riding on momentum rather on fundamental; Nigeria has a structural imbalance that the tickling by CBN is quite minuscule to make a long term impact on the monetary affairs of the country and the strengthening of naira. Nigerian economy is based on oil and such an economy without diversification lacks the strong fundamental to sustain a viable and strong currency. When Nigeria sits up and makes the necessary changes in the way she runs her economy, the malleability of naira can be checked. The reactionary posture by policy makers is not the panacea to the falling naira.
The source of foreign exchange to Nigeria’s economy is limited. The major source of dollar to the economy is through the export of crude oil and remittance coming from Nigerians in Diasporas particularly from North America. Another weakness in the economy is its inability to sustain or hold to those dollars flowing into the economy. This is because the economy and country lack the necessary infrastructures that can hold on to the dollars in the economy. Paucity of social infrastructures, poor security and underdevelopment contributes to capital flights. The country is becoming unattractive to foreign investments and dollars.
The problem with Nigerian economy and particularly with Naira is akin to football team that never soccer a goal in matches and always loses due to lack of training and planning.Although a team might have some good players but without training, planning and coordination it will never succeed. Nigeria has intelligent men and women but it has failed to map out a pragmatic and strategic framework to transform the nation’s economy.
In September inflation rose to 10.3 percent and this shows that the tightening monetary measures employed by CBN maybe waning. There is so much CBN can do with its monetary policy and if care is to be taken the success that CBN achieved may even reverse. This is why it is important that propping of naira and the battle against inflation must come with comprehensive strategy and economic reforms spearheaded with the executive fiscal policy.
Another thing sticking out with the 12 percent hike is the underpinning contradiction coming from CBN policy makers. The appreciation of naira will result in a sharp demand of dollar and CBN may not satisfy the demand. A contradiction that arises from the strength of naira is contrary to devaluation of naira that CBN is planning for near future. It is not logical to make naira stronger, simultaneously planning to devalue the currency in near future. The withdrawal from the country’s foreign reserve to defend naira has lowered the Nigeria’s reserve from $31.75 billion at the end of September to $30.86 billion as of October 7. The battle to save naira is expensive to the country therefore Nigeria must look beyond monetary tightening measures.
"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." ~ Mahatma Ghandi
Economists, policy makers and economic observers know that fuel subsidies as being implemented in Nigeria since 1970s is not sustainable. But one thing that policy makers and stake holders including the executive and legislative arms of the government together with the bureaucrats and technocrats must comprehend is that the weaning out from the milk and honey of fuel subsidies must not come to abrupt termination without comprehensive strategy. There must be confidence building steps the government must initiate and implement, thereby preparing the poor masses before the removal of the fuel subsidies.
Reuters reported that, “Nigeria plans to end costly fuel subsidies in the 2012 fiscal year to release funds for infrastructure projects and to create jobs, while overall spending next year is likely to rise, according to plans sent for lawmakers approval. Subsidising the cost of fuel, mainly diesel, petrol and kerosene, costs the government 1.2 trillion naira in lost revenues but removing the support will be unpopular with many Nigerians who see it as the only benefit they gain from living in an oil-rich country. “
Without doubt the monetary cost of the fuel subsidies are enormous and no fiscally responsible government can allow that to continue. But if we can be honest to our selves, Nigeria is a special case. The level of poverty and deprivation are humongous in Nigeria and this quantifiable abject poverty with shameful numeric indices can be a threat to democracy and nation building.
Seventy percent of Nigerians survived with less than one to two dollars daily according to World Bank statistics and two third of Nigerians cannot boast of three square and balanced meals daily. Under this climate of penury and massive poverty; citizenry economic inadequacy culminated by drastic depravity of day-to-day resources for survival must be put into consideration. Therefore the quick and immediate withdrawal of a social net that the poor found solace will be a big blow.
Nigeria has been described as a nation rich in oil and natural resources but the majority of the compatriots have never really drink from golden cup of the black gold –oil. Many things that many countries take for granted are lacking and missing in Nigeria. There is constant darkness in the country due to paucity of electricity, there is no sufficient supply of drinking water and boreholes together with ‘pure water’ sachets have replaced the normal and expected tap water.
Afterward the ‘pure water’ sachets are littered every nooks and corners of the country. There is no adequate housing especially in the urban areas. The poor transportation facilities with visible pot holes that populated the few drivable roads are health hazards and brought about the unnecessary road accidents. The health facilities are not accessible to the poor masses and diseases that can be easily treated are killing children and senior citizens.
The only thing that most Nigerians can point as a show of the country’s oil wealth is affordable fuel including petrol and kerosene. The price of kerosene is affordable to mothers due to the subsidies. Now can the government in all its wisdom go ahead and interrupt such a program without first make another provision to the suffering masses?
In democratic nation the power reside with people and the masses voted the politicians into power and authority. The government elites and leaders should seek the ear of the people and listen to their voice before making any consequential decision. The policy makers and political leaders cannot afford to speak to one another and turn around and make this drastic decision for the stake is too high. The voices of the people are not in synchronizing to the removal of fuel subsidies.
Although the Federal Government of Nigeria pledges to increase the budget by 7 percent to off set the ramification of the removal. According to Nigerian government the removal “will free up about 1.2 trillion naira in savings, part of which can be deployed into providing safety nets for poor segments of society to ameliorate the effects of the subsidy removal." But an average Nigerian probably will not believe that his government could re-investment in the people without obstruction by the roaring corruption.
It is the truth that Nigeria must rein in spending by having a sensible budget that must be prudently implemented. The monetary policy cannot do the trick of holding down inflation and promoting sound economic management with the presence of incoherent fiscal policy. Nigeria must do the right thing for the economy but at same time the government will not become fiscally sound by balancing the budget on the back of the poor people. The people are desperately poor and without social nets for their welfare, wellbeing and safety nets the polity may drastically deteriorated to uncertainty.
The only fuel subsidy that allow poor women and mothers to buy kerosene at affordable price for their families cannot be taken away without acknowledging that the poor masses have nothing else to do or turn to. That will be a great injustice and the weakening of the social contract with the populace. The softening of the social fabric of the country can be stopped from further hemorrhage when people’s welfare becomes the utmost quest and highest ideal in the polity. Nothing is amiss with economic reforms and oil liberalization but it must come with human face and dignity to the poor.
The masses too have the responsibility of recognizing that the fuel subsidies cannot last for ever and they must begin to see that the privilege is not a right, and subsidy is not a sacred cow that is untouchable. Even the subsidized Kerosene for a while has been so scarce that citizens have to line up in a long line for a litre of kerosene. Kerosene continued to be rationed in some parts of the country.
End subsidy diligently by incremental procedure
At a point in time fuel subsidy will be definitely removed but the immediate removal will have untold suffering to the poor masses. Nigerian policy makers should construct a comprehensive framework pathway in order to justify the removal of the fuel subsidies. First and foremost a responsible timetable should be established stipulating the incremental frequency and steps to accomplish the targeted goal. Take for instance, five years maybe timetable allotted for the final removal of the fuel subsidies. In the first year 20 percent of the subsidy may be removed and that will proceed incrementally until the whole subsidies are completely removed. By this methodology the government will diminish and escape the ‘shock and awe’ operation associated with the immediate removal.
Another aspect of the comprehensive procedure for the removal of subsidy is the needed ‘cause and effect’ operation. By this the money extracted from the incremental removal will be invested variably on the much needed social and health infrastructures that people desperately needed. The money from the subsidies will be invested in building maternity clinics to cut down on infant mortality, deaths associated with childbirths and provision of drinkable water to eradicate deadly water borne diseases.
The government may gradually remove subsidy progressively - one year after another. The government may particularly remove petrol subsidy but allow kerosene subsidy to stay put. Why? The removal of kerosene subsidy will affect almost all Nigerian poor including women and children.
There is sociological-economic implication of removal of fuel subsidies that must be taken into consideration. More or less inflation is the bane of economic growth in Nigeria, despite its recent slowing down with the aggressive application of the tightening of the monetary policy. The removal of subsidy without doubt will spike inflation higher in the short run except when a deliberate and comprehensive framework is set in motion to rein in inflationary trends. The transportation industry will be adversely affected with higher price of petrol. They will pass down the burden and cost to the consumers. The prices of food and consumer items will go high and so is inflation.
The scenario of the government pledging to increase its budget by 7 percent may not be effective. This will not do any good to anybody for the spending increase will not trickle down to the poor. Nigeria has never really gone after its way to stimulate the disposal income of its poor and do not have the infrastructures do that even if she wants to. The increase in the budget becomes a threat to the integrity of the economy by triggering inflation. That will not be good news to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that has been lately enjoying some success in keeping inflation below 10 percent.
The déjà vu of 1980s of IMF structural adjustment is gradually creeping into the present polity, as government technocrats and bureaucrats are prescribing the neo-liberal policies including monetary tightening policy and cutting of social programs targeted to the poor. They are talking about the budget restrictions, the removal of fuel subsidies and even the devaluation of naira when oil price falls.
Nigerians recognized that over spending, over borrowing and wastefulness must be restrained, controlled and restricted. But we must also acknowledge that inspite of all the economic theories of sound management; Nigeria has a sizeable majority of her people that live in poverty and massive depravity. These people must be attended to; therefore the mopping of liquidity and removal of fuel subsidies must not have preference over human suffering.
Nobel Peace Prize Winners - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, women's rights activist Leymah Gbowee from the same African countr and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen — the first Arab woman to win the prize
Africa's first democratically elected female president, a Liberian campaigner against rape and a woman who stood up to Yemen's autocratic regime won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of the importance of women's rights in the spread of global peace.
The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was split three ways between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, women's rights activist Leymah Gbowee from the same African country and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen — the first Arab woman to win the prize.
The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told The Associated Press that Karman's award should be seen as a signal that both women and Islam have important roles to play in the uprisings known as the Arab Spring, the wave of anti-authoritarian revolts that have challenged rulers across the Arab world.
"The Arab Spring cannot be successful without including the women in it," Jagland said.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
He said Karman, 32, belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group "which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy." He added that "I don't believe that. There are many signals that that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution."
Yemen is an extremely conservative society but a feature of the revolt there has been a prominent role for women who turned out for protests in large numbers. The uprising has, however, been one of the least successful, failing to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh as the country descends into failed state status and armed groups take increasingly central roles. In Libya's and Syria's uprisings, women have been largely absent. And while there were many women protesters in Egypt's revolution, few had key leadership positions.
Karman is a mother of three who heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. She has been a leading figure in organizing the protests against Saleh that kicked off in late January. "I am very very happy about this prize," Karman told The Associated Press. "I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people." Citing the Arab Spring alone could have been problematic for the committee. Libya descended into civil war that led to NATO military intervention. Egypt and Tunisia are still in turmoil. Hardliners are holding onto power in Yemen and Syria and a Saudi-led force crushed the uprising in Bahrain, leaving an uncertain record for the Arab protest movement.
Jagland told AP it was difficult to find a leader of the Arab Spring revolts, especially among the many bloggers who played a role in energizing the protests, and noted that Karman's work started before the Arab uprisings. "It was not easy for us to say to pick one from Egypt or pick one from Tunisia, because there were so many," he said. "And we did not want to say that one was more important than the others." Karman "started her activism long before the revolution took place in Tunisia and Egypt. She has been a very courageous woman in Yemen for quite along time," Jagland said. No woman had won the prize since 2004, when the committee honored Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who died last month at 71. 2004 was also the last year the prize went to an African.
Liberia was ravaged by civil wars for years until 2003. The drawn-out conflict that began in 1989 left about 200,000 people dead and displaced half the country's population of 3 million. The country — created to settle freed American slaves in 1847 — is still struggling to maintain a fragile peace with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. Sirleaf, 72, has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University and has held top regional jobs at the World Bank, the United Nations and within the Liberian government.
In elections in 1997, she ran second to warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, who many claimed was voted into power by a fearful electorate. Though she lost by a landslide, she rose to national prominence and earned the nickname, "Iron Lady." She went on to became Africa's first democratically elected female leader in 2005. Sirleaf was seen as a reformer and peacemaker in Liberia when she took office. She is running for re-election this month and opponents in the presidential campaign have accused her of buying votes and using government funds to campaign. Her camp denies the charges. The election is Tuesday.
"This gives me a stronger commitment to work for reconciliation," Sirleaf said Friday from her home in Monrovia. "Liberians should be proud." Buttons from her presidential campaign say it all: "Ellen — She's Our Man." Jagland said the committee didn't consider the upcoming election in Liberia when it made its decision.
"We cannot look to that domestic consideration," he said. "We have to look at Alfred Nobel's will, which says that the prize should go to the person that has done the most for peace in the world." African and international luminaries welcomed the news. Many had gathered in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday to celebrate Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday.
"Who? Johnson Sirleaf? The president of Liberia? Oooh," said Tutu, who won the peace prize in 1984 for his nonviolent campaign against white racist rule in South Africa. "She deserves it many times over. She's brought stability to a place that was going to hell." U2 frontman Bono — who has figured in peace prize speculation in previous years — called Sirlaf an "extraordinary woman, a force of nature and now she has the world recognize her in this great, great, great way."
Gbowee, who organized a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia's warlords, was honored for mobilizing women "across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women's participation in elections." Gbowee has long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters who preyed on women throughout Liberia during 14 years of near-constant civil war. Gbowee works in Ghana's capital as the director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa. The group's website says she is a mother of five.
"I know Leymah to be a warrior daring to enter where others would not dare," said Gbowee's assistant, Bertha Amanor. "So fair and straight, and a very nice person." Karman is from Taiz, a city in southern Yemen that is a hotbed of resistance against Saleh's regime, and now lives in the capital, Sanaa. She is a journalist and member of Islah, an Islamic party. Her father is a former legal affairs minister under Saleh.
Long an advocate for human rights and freedom of expression in Yemen, she has been campaigning for Saleh's ouster since 2006 and mounted an initiative to organize Yemeni youth groups and opposition into a national council. On Jan. 23, Karman was arrested at her home. After widespread protests against her detention — it is rare for Yemen women to be taken to jail — she was released early the next day. Karman has been dubbed "Iron Woman, "The Mother of Revolution" and "The Spirit of the Yemeni Revolution" by fellow protesters. During a February rally in Sanaa, she told the AP: "We will retain the dignity of the people and their rights by bringing down the regime."
The peace prize was in line with Norway's development aid strategy, which is often focused on women's rights. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called the award "important and worthy." In his 1895 will, award creator Alfred Nobel gave only vague guidelines for the peace prize, saying it should honor "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The peace prize is the only Nobel handed out in Oslo, Norway. The other five awards — in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics — are presented in Stockholm. Last year's peace prize went to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Krista Larson in Johannesburg, Robert Reid and Sarah El-Deeb in Cairo, Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia and Ahmed Al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed.
The argument put up by state governors for the removal of oil subsidy is not only sickening but exceedingly disdainful to the teeming Nigerian masses.
The governors, suddenly waking up to the reality that they might have bitten beyond their capacity to chew by promising to pay the N18,000 minimum wage, have been agitating for the removal of oil subsidy. Some of them have said without the removal of the subsidy, which would translate to an increase in their monthly allocation from the federation account, they would be unable to pay the new minimum wage. Bunkum. Some of them have even contended that the subsidy encourages corruption as the billions of naira put into the exercise always end up in private pockets and the poor, who are supposed to be the beneficiary of the gesture, are short changed by corrupt officials. Balderdash.
The import of the two positions canvassed for the withdrawal of subsidy from petroleum products, sadly, is that many of those who rule us are nescient of the essence of their high offices.
Let’s start with the second position. If the government has a programme for the citizenry and its officials abuse the programme, is the discontinuation of such programme, irrespective of its importance to the citizenry, the next line of action? Should the citizenry bear the brunt of the greed, incompetence and irresponsibility of government officials? If the system of the government is so lax as to allow government functionaries or a coterie to profit unjustly from a process, should the government further compound the woes of the masses by removing the little benefit that accrues to them from the common patrimony?
Stretching the argument further, will the government cancel its education programme because a clique has devised a way of cornering part of the funds allocated to the sector or because some people get question papers before the examination? Will the government stop funding its health care programme because some groups in the system have perfected a means of stealing drugs from the hospitals? So, what is the meaning of asking the federal government to remove oil subsidy just because some unidentified people are ripping off both the government and the people?
What the government should do, unless it is abetting the culprits, is to find a solution to the menace and that is not Herculean. According to experts, money is the easiest thing to follow in the world. If money meant for the subsidy leaves the government coffers and fails to arrive at its pre-determined destination, it is easy to know where it is detoured. Let the government do what it is supposed to do and stop annoying the masses continually by drawing our attention to its incompetence.
What’s more, all of this talk about subsidy would not have become an issue had the government been alive to its reponsibility. Between 1999 and now, the federal government realised over $500 billion from the sale of crude oil. I am told that what it costs to build a brand new refinery is less than $20 billion. So, why have we not built new refineries? If only a fifth of the sum had been invested in new refineries, we would have had five new refineries by now.
Governance, to my mind, is about solving societal problems for the good of the majority, not looking for an excuse to deepen the problems of the citizenry. The government should find a way to solve the problem of its saboteurs without further pauperising the people.
Now to the first issue raised by the governors. They need to know that they were not elected merely to pay salaries. The people that elected the governors did so in expectation that their rulers would improve their lot, not that they would make life more difficult for them. At the moment, majority of Nigerians cannot point to any benefit they enjoy from government. Many people provide their own water, electricity and even roads. The government has abdicated its responsibility in many respects. If oil subsidy is removed, it would make life more unbearable for the majority, especially the downtrodden masses as they will have to pay more for virtually everything. Now, the cost of food items has sky rocketed. By the time the oil subsidy is removed, it will go beyond the reach of the masses.
I will be the first to admit that the administration of subsidy in our country needs a review but the review will not be necessary until the government does what is right. Subsidy is essentially for the poor, not the rich; it is for those who are in deprivation, not those in abundance. So, before there can be talks about oil subsidy removal, there must be a system that will take care of the poor. There must be an effective mass transit system, the railway system must be functional. The removal must have a minimal negative effect on the poor. Until an effective mass transit system is in place, it will be out of place to talk about removing oil subsidy.
In 1978, the United States of America government came up with a flight subsidy to encourage airlines to patronise small communities with low air travellers.
Through the programme, the government pays up to 93 per cent of the cost of a flight. For instance, for a round-trip from Lewistown, Montana to Billings, a passenger pays $88, while the government pays the balance of $1,343. The subsidy was initially planned for 10 years because the government believed that the number of passengers would increase considerably over a period of 10 years. But the programme has continued for about 33 years and the subsidy has not been cancelled because of the convinction of the government that if it stops the subsidy, the communities would suffer as contrary to its expectation that there would be an exponential increase in the number of passengers, there has just been a marginal increase. Billions of dollars has gone into this programme that benefits just a fraction of the US community, yet the government has continued to support the programme at a huge cost because of its commitment to the good of the people.
How I wish Nigerian leaders would have such commitment to the people.