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The composition and in auguration of Nigeria’seconomy management team by President Goodluck Jonathan, has raised an important question on the the ability of the individuals that make up the team to deliver on the electoral promises and economic agenda of the present administration.
Another important question to be considered is the size and composition of the team, and if anything meaningful can be achieved with such gathering of different minds, ideologies and intellects.
Already, concerns have been raised by economic analysts on the size of the team and the decision of the president to appoint cabinet members instead of experts from outside the government as practiced in other economies, such as the United States of America, where only five persons were named as members of the country’s economic team
These individuals appointed by Jonathan, are not new to Nigerians, they have been at the helms of affairs in Nigeria and in institutions across the globe for a number of years and at differnet times.
These individuals have played a number of roles in the economic history of Nigeria and the impact remains to be seen.
The President had named 22 individuals, including himself and the Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo as Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Economic Management Team, to help coordinate policies at both the federal and state levels.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister, is expected to act as coordinator of the team.
Speaking on the inauguration, Jonathan said that it is aware that the states have their own economies but if there is no proper coordination in the management of the economy, between the Federal Government and the states, the country can not move forward.
With the setting up of the team, the stage has been set for the assessment of the present administration in terms of delivery of promises made to Nigerians during the electioneering processes.
It has also provided a platform for Nigerians to have a glimpse of the direction of the government or lack of it in terms of economic development and nation building.
However, he stopped short of mentioning the mandate and agenda of the economic team. It is no longer news that the Nigerian economy is on a continuous downward plunge and on the verge of a crisis situation, especially with the prevalence of corruption, epileptic power situation, declining foreign reserve, instability in the banking and financial sector, high prices of commodities, insecurity, declining value of the countries’ currency, dilapidated roads and transportation system, increasing inflation, declining industrial capacity, and unemployment to mention just a few.
Nigerians expect a new sense of direction, not a lack of direction and repeat or recycling of old ideas that have helped in no small measure in ensuring the continuous stagnancy and retrogression of the economy.
It is also imperative to look at some of the personalities that make up the team, vis-à-vis their roles, thinking and ideologies of Nigeria’s development and transformation.
In this regard, a number of individuals in the team come to mind. Barth Nnaji, a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has on different occasion been a Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Power and Chairman, Presidential taskforce on Power and presently Minister for Power. In his days as Special Adviser, during the early days of Jonathan’s presidency, till date, his presence has had no significant impact for the country, especially in the area of power.
It remains to be seen how he intends addressing the country’s epileptic power situation, especially as the country’s power generating capacity have continually been on a downward trend, dropping from about 4,000 mega watts to about 2,000 mega watts.
This has helped in no small measure in crippling the economy, as more businesses fold up on a daily basis, leading to a skyrocketing of the country’s unemployment situation.
Another member of the team that readily attracts attention is Mallam Sanusi Lamido, Governor of the country’s apex bank. His policies and activities in the banking sector have seen the government taking over the management of eight banks, and recently nationalizing three of them.
This led to a massive retrenchment exercise, in not only the affected banks, but in other banks which were forced to adopt stricter and tighter cash and management policies.
The same can be attributed to a number of individuals in the team, as they have failed to contribute meaningfully in driving the economy of the country to a meaningful level of national development since their appointment, as evidenced in the stagnation currently witnessed in the economy.
Reacting to the setting up of the economic management team, an analyst, Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje, Chief Executive, Resources and Trust Limited said, “I think as an economic ‘management’ team, this 24-person team is rather large. It may end up functioning more as a national economic “consultative” forum.
“Given the large size, I would expect them to create a working sub-committee chaired by Okonjo-Iweala and including Aganga, Shamsudeen, DMO, BPE, Atedo Peterside, Chief Economic Adviser and Special Adviser, Programmes and Monitoring.”
However, Agbaje said further, “The members are suitable and Okonjo-Iweala as coordinator is excellent. I support Nnaji’s power strategy which offers effective and sustainable solutions; the petroleum minister needs to focus on getting the PIB passed; and indeed the NEMT has to review the effects of Sanusi’s policies on employment, financial sector stability and growth; and private sector access to credit.”
In his own view, Mr. David Adonri, Chief Executive Officer, Lambeth Trust and Investment Company Limited said, “Members of the new economic management team have been carefully selected. It is composed of people with sound intellectual and performance pedigrees. I am confident that as people of high caliber, they will bring their distinctive competences into carrying out the team’s assignment to transform the Nigerian economy within the next four years.
“The major challenges that confronts the economy they must tackle are centered around corruption, insecurity and deficit of engineering infrastructure. For the economic management team to generate productive employment and increase wealth creating capacity, after defeating corruption and insecurity, the comatose heavy industrial sector comprising of Metallic, Power and energy industries, destroyed by state ownership must be restored to good health through private finance.
“The team must critically examine government’s fiscal indiscipline exemplified by increasing deficit finance of consumption which continues to pose serious threat to monetary stability of the economy. Finally, the team must stop the current practice of subsidizing consumption and commence the process of subsidizing production as done in industrialized economies.”
Also speaking, another analyst, Mr. Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye,said, “The danger of what Jonathan has put together as the economic team is that it is too wieldy. The President is heading it himself. It reflects a difference without distinction. There are no clear criteria for the selection of its members, and thus it confuses everybody.
“Those unlucky Ministers who did not make this ‘A List’ would be left confused and wondering whether their work would have any relevance for Nigeria’s economic development. Could it be that this is just an opportunity for certain Ministers to have special and enhanced access to the President and Vice President.
“In Obasanjo’s era, he used the composition of the economic team to favor the privileged Ministers and officials, which was how the Minister of Abuja and the Head of EFCC made the list then. Now, Jonathan is showing his own favorites, which could be why the current Minister of Abuja and the current Head of EFCC lost their seats in the team.”
Speaking further, he said, “Alternatively, we may be witnessing a nasty consequence of the quota system, under which Ministers are to be selected from every state in Nigeria regardless of their individual merits.
“The President seems to have been forced to have two cabinets. The first cabinet is the one he was forced to create based on quota system. Let’s call that the shadow cabinet (sorry for the well-founded British concept). Then there is the real cabinet, comprised of people that the President believes are capable of performing.
“Similarly, Obasanjo’s economic team had El Rufai and Ribadu as members, while Jonathan’s does not have Farida Waziri in the Team. The President sets this group of Ministers aside as the real cabinet, but calls them the Team. He does not even wish to hide the fact that the Team would be working with him closely. Hence he heads this alternative cabinet directly.
“If this was the thinking of the President, why not just call the spade a spade. Or one must be forced to admit that the system cannot work without massive deception and gaming. The President should really return to the drawing table or simply explain to Nigerians what this is all about.”
The emergence of S&P as a political watchdog may weaken trust and confidence in the global market
There was a manifestation as Standard & Poor's downgrade US credit rating to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA' . The revelation is that the mandate of Standard & Poor's is beyond financial observation and evaluation but also political. Among the numerous reasons given by S&P on the downgrading of the world largest economy is its cumbersome political process and slow policy formulation in Washington. Standard & Poor's stated , "More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policy making and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011."
This latest development maybe beyond the agency's mandate which is to verify whether an entity be it a sovereign nation or corporation can meet its financial obligations without default. In this case to verify whether United States can redeem and pay interest on its treasury securities without default. There are no signs that United States will default, therefore the downgrade may not be logical and probably without merit.
S&P in a statement emphasized that, “The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.” Therefore this has turned a financial agency into a political watchdog. As S&P journey into this route, the prime ramification may connotes the waning of its grip on the global market. Maybe the next time around China political structure may come into question by S&P. That’s why it is necessary for S&P not to go beyond its original mandate of evaluating the ability of a nation to pay its bill.
The perceived notion of most people is that S & P is solely a credit rating institution that relies on financial and economic evaluations to make its decisions and overviews. But with the decision it made with the downgrade shows that it has expanded its responsibility to become a political watchdog. The agency has every right to do whatever their heart desires but it is unfair to change the rules of the game at the heat of the game. What S& P did to United States is unfair. There is no logic in the downgrade of the global largest economy from its AAA to AA+. United States is the anchor of global economy; it is the stabilizing fulcrum in global market economy.
According to Wikipedia, "Standard & Poor's (S&P) is a United States–based financial-services company. It is a division of the McGraw-Hill Companies that publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds. It is well known for its stock-market indices, the US-based S&P 500, the Australian S&P/ASX 200, the Canadian S&P/TSX, the Italian S&P/MIB and India's S&P CNX Nifty. The company is one of the Big Three credit-rating agencies, which also includes Moody's Investor Service and Fitch Ratings. As a credit-rating agency (CRA), the company issues credit ratings for the debt of public and private corporations. It is one of several CRAs that have been designated a nationally recognized statistical rating organization by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It issues both short-term and long-term credit ratings."
The history of and about Standard and Poor's never mentioned its political quest, "With offices in 23 countries and a history that dates back more than 150 years, Standard & Poor’s is known to investors worldwide as a leader of financial- market intelligence. Today Standard & Poor’s strives to provide investors who want to make better informed investment decisions with market intelligence in the form of credit ratings, indices, investment research and risk evaluations and solutions. Most notably, we are known as an independent provider of credit ratings. In 2009, we published more than 870,000 new and revised credits ratings. Currently, we rate more than US$32 trillion in outstanding debt. Standard & Poor’s is also widely known for maintaining one of the most widely followed indices of large-cap American stocks: the S&P 500. In 2007, the S&P 500 celebrated its 50th anniversary."
It further explained its role with strong financial bearings, "Additionally, the S&P Global 1200 covers approximately 30 markets constituting approximately 70% of global market capitalization. Approximately $1.1 trillion in investment assets is directly tied to S&P indexes, and more than $3.5 trillion is benchmarked to the S&P 500 – more than any other index in the world. Moreover, Standard & Poor’s independent equity research business is among the world’s leading providers of independent investment information, offering fundamental coverage on approximately 2,000 stocks. We are also a leader in mutual fund information and analysis."
Standard and Poor's should set up a political department that have the best minds and analysts that can do it right, if it decides to add politics as one of the factors to make credit rating decisions; at least make an effort to do it right. US raucous policy making according to S&P contributed to the downgrade and this have exposed the cluelessness of the agency about the workings of Washington. The agency may have proven that it does not understand United States political system. Standard & Poor's should once more be reminded that United States is a democratic system with a functional congress and presidency. In the democratic system of United States the president do not make political decision and impose it to the congress and neither vice versa. In takes time to make decision, sometimes with gridlocks because it was built into the system.
Therefore to downgrade US to AA+ is showing lacking of understanding of United States especially the political structure and governance methodology. The S & P may have weakened its global acceptance by its move it made on US credit rating. The world economy is gradually coming out from recession and everybody is feeling good about American leadership. The whole world respects American leadership including China and European Union. The Chinese products were open to American market and United States played a constructive role in bailing out Greece from its financial mess.
No one is saying that United States will not adjust its spending, deficit and debt. But United States has never defaulted in its financial obligation since World War II. For since 1917 United States has been a AAA nation. There is no sign that US will default on paying its interest on its debt and there is no reason to think otherwise.
Standard & Poor's inability to foresee subprime loan debacle at Wall Street is not something to write home about. S&P may not be thorough and efficient as it led many to believe, afterall many of the mortgage security firms that were involved in the Wall street's subprime loan debacle were given high credit ratings. Therefore S&P may have made a mistake too in downgrading US credit rating to AA+. The Obama's administration shows a great leadership in finally bringing the congress to pass a bill to avert a default. But for the S&P to turn around and downgrade it is not a prudent decision. That is not the right way to get the attention of the policy makers in Washington. The S&P may finally end up with a different result, it has brought instability to stock market and Dow has plunged to more than 635 points in last Monday’s market and gyration continues. But thanks to the rest of sensible marketers, traders and nations the treasury market was even experiencing a surge. By this act the world is giving a thumbs up by buying US securities in spite of S&P judgement.
She made the declaration after she took oath of office, even as President Jonathan said that Dr Okonjo-Iweala and other ministers who were formerly based abroad before being invited to join the cabinet will not be paid salaries and allowances in foreign currencies. Meanwhile, the President has also constituted the National Economic Management Team, NEMT, which will be inaugurated today with Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the Co-ordinator of the team. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala taking oath of office as Minister of Finance during the Federal Executive Council meeting Wednesday in abuja. Photos--state house.
Okonjo-Iweala who fielded questions from State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, was not comfortable with a question from reporters on the ongoing reforms of the banking sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, stating that the CBN doesn’t have any reform, apart from President Jonathan’s reforms. “There is no reform package by the CBN and no reform package by the Ministry of Finance. There is a reform package for Nigeria which is being led by President Goodluck Jonathan. We are here to make sure that his priorities are met. CBN is dealing with monetary, currencies and exchange rates policies and the Finance sector is fiscal policy. The two have to come together in order to make a whole so there is no division”, she said.
“But let me say this first the whole thrust of what the president wants for now is the creation of jobs so everything that we do in terms of pushing the economy forward has to be geared around how we can have a true job growth of the economy. So we are going to be working on that”, she added.
According to her, “those micro economic structure reforms and investments in key sectors that need to be done in order that we create job for our youths would be the critical thrust but we can expand on that later”. On the issues of the debt, she said, “first we have to look at the fiscal issues in the country studying possibilities of fiscal consolidation and that includes looking at our debt level. As you know, I am somebody that believes we should have a prudent approach to our debt. But we will be able to tell you more later when we have started the process of looking at the budget”.
Announces 3-point agenda
As she assumed duties yesterday at the Ministry of Finance secretariat, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, set for herself and the ministry staff, a three-point agenda of “efficiency, effectiveness and delivery.”
Exuding confidence, she said the various challenges of the Nigerian economy could be successfully tackled with determination and readiness of spirited Nigerians to ensure the success of the needed reforms.
She urged all staff of the ministry to work hard, explaining that she could be a “very demanding” person.
The former World Bank Managing Director told the top management that the execution of government’s policies would be based on hard work and that she was determined to ensure that Federal Ministry of Finance was at the lead in that regard. It is essential that all team members work together to deliver on the agenda”, she said, adding that she did not have all the solutions alone.
She described her appointment into the cabinet as an honour that humbled her immensely and that “nobody is too big to serve his or her country. My decision to serve my country is because of my love for my country. I love Nigeria with a passion”.
According to her, “Nigeria can do better than it is doing currently only if all those saddled with the responsibility of implementing the policies play together as a team”.
In a brief remark, the Minister of State for Finance, Alhaji Yerima Lawan Ngama identified a successful execution of the Vision 20:2020 as critical to the realization of the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s transformation agenda.
No pact to pay Okonjo-Iweala, others in US dollars—Jonathan
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has announced that contrary to reports, he has no pact with any of the cabinet members sourced from the diaspora, including the immediate past World Bank second highest officer, to earn wages in US dollar.
Said he: “The question the media ask and I know, for Ngozi, it was quite embarrassing when you accepted to serve; it was in the media that you gave conditions to be paid in dollars. Let me formally announce to Nigerians that she accepted to serve just like any other minister and indeed others who came from the diaspora have not asked us for dollar salary. They are going to receive salary and allowances like others in the cabinet. They are coming to serve the country and are not coming because of their personal aggrandizement.
“For today’s ceremony, there is the need to make one or two statements. First let me welcome Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on board, a very familiar terrain. She was here before most of us here, as a minister of finance and minister of foreign affairs briefly before leaving”.
He thanked the new minister for accepting to come and serve again, “because considering the position you were holding at the foremost world bank, it is difficult for you to come back to serve as minister in a country”.
“And I am saying this with all pride because when your name was made known and it entered the media, anywhere I go, heads of state and governments were wondering why you would even agree to come; and they were appreciative of me, especially the African presidents that I did well to pull you back home to help solve the African problem because they know your worth in the world Bank
“Let me also thank the World Bank, particularly Zoellick for allowing you to come, for co-operating with us and promising to support us. It is an opportunity for us to thank the world bank and also thank the president especially. People wonder why we want her back, we want her back not just to manage the Ministry of Finance but we are opportuned to have her as somebody who is quite vast in economic issues and we want her back to play a key role in the economic issues in the country.
“Of course, you also know that in the immediate past, she also introduced the idea of Economic Management Team during Obasanjo’s time and we followed up- the late President Yar’Adua and myself.” The President disclosed that NEMT is to be inaugurated this morning at Council Chambers of the State, even as he promised to expand the team as the need arises.
“This time around we are expanding the Economic Team because we believe the country is one. Yes, the states have their own economies but if there is no proper coordination in the management of the economy between the federal government and the states, we cannot go anywhere as a nation. And that is why the economic team, this time around, will have some governors as members.”
But specifically, he said: “Ngozi is brought in to coordinate all economic activities of the federal government and of course by extension, help the state. Let me also thank other ministers brought in from the diaspora, we know it is quite challenging to move from developed countries to Nigeria”.
“For you, the expectation, not just from Nigeria, but the whole world, is quite high. People expect so much from you, some people feel you have the magic wand to wave and change everything. I believe with your level of experience and with the support we will give you, and of course cooperation of your colleagues, all of you collectively will help to change our own country. You will help to work to make sure that our transformation agenda move smoothly and get to the destination expected.
“I am quite happy with the ministers on board because this time we are emphasizing the cluster arrangement even though the economic management team has not been formally inaugurated, I am aware that the core economic ministers have been meeting in the minister of petroleum resources office.
They have been holding meetings to see how the ministers can work together. So your job is easier because even before you take the oath of office, already people are doing the work and they are working together. So the spirit is already there for you people to work together; and I will give all the ministers the political support to what they are meant to do and I believe all of you will succeed”.
Ministers to brief President
President Jonathan directed that as from next week, “probably after the Sallah celebrations, various ministries will give us comprehensive briefings on where we are and where we want to go”. Issues of financing our project for the next four years will be key and of course you will be in all the briefings because the issue of the briefings usually ends with money. There is only one minister that told me and I pray that it should be so that Mr. President after one year the government would not need to spend money in my sector, we would be able to generate enough funds to drive my sector; and I said, if we can get that kind of ministers in all the sectors, it would be lovely.”
He said “so we are quite hopeful that you (Okonjo-Iweala) have the team of ministers that are really ready to transform this country. I am quite pleased with the interactions I have been having with few of them for now both the ministers and the ministers of state, they have the spirit, the willingness to work hard to change our country. I think I would be one of the luckiest presidents that would have this kind of cabinet. So let me once again thank you and indeed all the ministers for accepting to serve our country.”
National Economic Management Team constituted
The 24-member National Economic Management Team, NEMT, constituted by the president will be inaugurated today. The President is the Chairman of the team with Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo as Vice Chairman, while Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy is the Coordinator of the Economic Management Team.
Other members are: -
Minister, Nat. Planning
Minister, Trade and Invest
Minister of Power
Petroleum Resources Minister
Minister of Agriculture
Minister of Works
Minister of Education
Minister of Health
Minister of State, Finance
Minister of State, Health
SA Monitoring and Evaluation
DG, Debt Management Office
DG, Bureau for Pub Procurement
Gov of Adamawa State
Gove of Anambra State
Mr. Atedo Peterside.
Nigeria's inflation drops to 9.4% in the third quarter of 2011
A good and encouraging record trickled from National Bureau of Statistics that inflation rate receded to 9.4% in July, the lowest so far in three years. This is a significant improvement from persistent inflation that was surging upward that compelled the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) to aggressively tighten monetary policy. As of June the inflation rate stood at 10.2% and this made the Sanusi's CBN to raise the interest rate to 8.75%. There is no doubt that the monetary policy of restraining and mopping up liquidity at the monetary base aided to slow down the rising inflation.
The governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido has promised earlier to hold down inflation rate at less than 10%, but for a while it appears futile. Therefore the apex bank of the land, CBN gets into muscular mood by increasing the interest rate at numerous times to rein in the run away inflationary trends. Many observers of Nigerian economy and market including investors were little skeptical about the usage of the aggressive tightening of the monetary policy to achieved the targeted goal.
Financial writer at Thisday, Obinna chima observed that, "The CBN had always expressed disdain for double-digits inflation rate in the country. This has seen the apex bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), adjusting various monetary policy instruments to achieve that ambition. The MPC which has operational independence in setting of interest rates in the country had increased the benchmark interest rate – the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) four times since this year. The benchmark interest was raised from 6.5 per cent in January to 7.5 per cent in March, 8 per cent in May and to 8.75 per cent at the July meeting. Other monetary policy tools such as Cash Reserve Requirements (CRR) had also been reviewed upward."
In reality the issue of taming inflation in Nigeria must go beyond monetary policy but should involves the presidency's fiscal policy to help in the struggle to control inflation. Central Bank of Nigeria should be probably elated with the recent development as inflation now stood below 10% but the struggle is not yet over. The increasing of interest rate to dry up the market excessive liquidity in order to achieve the desired goal of restraining inflation may have a reverse effect at some point. As the interest rate increases it will dampened economic growth by making the availability of credits and loans to tighten. The scenario may once again usher in credit crunch and the financial flow of liquidity in the capital market. This is not the result that CBN is trying to achieve, that it is why a comprehensive outlook is needed to continuous wrestle down inflationary trends.
The economy is cruising at 7.9 - 8 % and that is phenomenal by any standard. The growth must be jealously protected from the rising inflation that can quickly dent the economic growth and reverse the trend. The injections of surplus money into the circulation by the bailing out of the failed banks have in the past contributed to inflation. The continuous and excessive borrowing by Nigerian government by selling of the bonds must be done in way that too much money will not overheat the economy. Nothing is wrong with a country selling bonds and T-bills to investors but the raised funds must be diligently funneled into the economy by the way of investments.
Another methodogy that can be used to checkmate inflation is for Nigeria to live within its means. By this a planned budget must be sensible and it must be successfully implemented. When a government dabbles into excessive spending that will increase its current expenditure and in the long run have untold consequences. The ramifications may come in the retarding of the economic activities and the surging of inflation rate due to excessive liquidity in the market. When Nigeria lives within its means, there will be no need to aggressively raise the interest rate to combat inflation.
When the interest rate was raised to 8.75% at end of CBN's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) session, it issued a statement that, "The Committee observed that the inflation outlook appears uncertain owing to the expected implementation of the new national minimum wage policy and the imminent deregulation of petroleum prices. Significant injection of liquidity from FAAC in the third quarter coupled with the impact of AMCON recapitalizing intervened banks to the tune of N1.6 trillion will both add to inflationary pressures." That is supposely the case but it is not the whole story; the excessive government spending and borrowing played a role to the state of inflation.
Investment in this case means to put money and resources on things that will enable the creation of wealth possible. Investments should go into the provision of infrastructures and social amenities that are needed by the citizens and capitalist for further creation of wealth and upliftment of the wellbeing of the society. The Nigerian government should do its best possible to provide electricity, good roads and security. The security in this case becomes imperative for the protection of life and property, which is the most important function of a given government.
But there are also coming attractions to the economy according Samir Gadio, an emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank Group Ltd that makes outlook on inflation “uncertain.” Those coming attractions include the doubling of "the monthly minimum wage to 18,000 naira ($116) and to deregulate fuel prices, central bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said last month. Core inflation, which excludes food, will probably accelerate in the second half of the year." These activities have the propensity to increase inflation.
Nigeria must look into the cutting down of importation of food commodities especially rice that can be grown in Nigeria. The less reliance on importation, less spending and less borrowing can bode well for a sound economic standing devoid of higher inflation.
Irrespective of a damning United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report which says it would take 30 years and $1 billion to clean up the mess in Ogoniland, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) will soon restart production on the 30 Shell oil wells in the community.
A senior source at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told THISDAY at the weekend that NPDC had not shelved its plan to commence production on the wells abandoned by Shell in the wake of the crisis that greeted the hanging of former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight of his kinsmen by the then military administration.
He said the re-entry plan was at an advanced stage and the NPDC would ensure that various stakeholders were carried along in whatever decision that would be reached at the end of the day. The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs at the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, also confirmed in a telephone chat Sunday that the re-entry plan was on course.
He said NPDC would begin production from the oil wells after the necessary arrangements had been put in pace. “The re-entry plan is in progress. We have not shelved the idea because of the UNEP report. The NPDC will take over the operatorship of those oil blocks, but with a different philosophy. The philosophy will be that of unity, oneness and respect for the host community,” Ajuonuma said, adding that the corporation would have to appeal to the Ogoni people that producing oil in their community would improve their lot.
The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the corporation, Mr. Austen Oniwon, had in January disclosed that NPDC would soon commence oil production from the abandoned wells in line with NNPC’s mandate to produce 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2015. He said to achieve the set mandate, the NPDC had grown its asset base three-fold preparatory to becoming a big player in the upstream sector, while the enabling environment had been provided by the Federal Government.
The news of the planned re-entry had elicited reactions from the Ogoni people who vowed to resist any attempt by NPDC, Shell or any company for that matter to restart oil exploration in the area. The Ogoni had also criticised the report that Shell and the NPDC, its appointed operator, were close to signing an agreement on the operatorship of the fields without the consent or approval of their people. A prominent Ogoni leader, Mr. Ledum Mitee, had told THISDAY that the Federal Government was yet to contact the Ogoni people on NPDC’s plan to restart oil production in their area.
He said any company that would be allowed to explore oil in Ogoniland must be acceptable by the people of Ogoni, pointing out that government should first consult the Ogonis on whoever would take over the operatorship of those oil blocks. "I have not been contacted about the plan by the NPDC to begin production, although the government was considering appointing it the new operator. Our position as always is that Shell must be replaced. So it is important that government first discusses whoever will be coming with us. I should expect government to contact us for discussion first and for us to know who is coming, what the company stands for and what they are bringing to the table. We don't want Shell or something like Shell or a company that will work for Shell,” Mitee said, adding: "The people of Ogoni should know who the company is, what the company stands for and what it is putting on the table, before being allowed to operate in their area.”
The Federal Government had on June 4, 2008, announced that oil fields abandoned by Shell in Ogoniland would be handed over to another operator. Government reasoned that since there was a total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell, the best thing was to allow an operator acceptable to them (Ogonis) to take over exploration activities in the area.
The pronouncement had pitted Shell against the Federal Government, with the oil giant insisting that it would not hands off those blocks to any operator other than a Joint Venture partner. Shell had faulted government’s decision and resisted initial plans to hand over the control of the Nigerian oil fields to Chinese oil companies.
However, the appointment of NPDC as the new operator had received the commendation of Shell, which said it would continue to be a shareholder in the Ogoniland operations even though NPDC would become the operator. UNEP recently indicted Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in a report that showed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta had caused serious environmental contamination and threat to human lives in Ogoniland, Rivers State.
The landmark report set out scientific evidence for the first time of devastating pollution in Ogoniland, part of the country's main oil-producing Niger Delta region, where Shell operated. It said the pollution might require the world's biggest ever clean-up, while detailing urgent health risks, especially badly contaminated drinking water. Shell faced criticism from UNEP, which said: “Control and maintenance of oil field infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate.”
The SPDC’s Managing Director, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, however pledged that the oil giant would take "seriously" the UN study on unprecedented pollution, but reiterated that the company was not to blame for most of the spills.
"It's important for me to emphasise that we are taking the UNEP report very seriously," Mutiu Sunmonu told AFP in an interview after the report was released. "We are looking at it in greater detail. We are taking a comb through the report to see exactly what necessary follow-up actions will be required of SPDC." The House of Representatives over the weekend said it would take very “keen interest” in the proposed clean-up lands as well as the restoration of all other communities affected by oil spills in the Niger Delta.
The lower chamber of the National Assembly said it would put in place effective oversight mechanisms to monitor the restoration of the devastated lands and waters and provide sustainable legislative solutions to guard against a reoccurrence of the phenomenon.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who disclosed this, stated that the 7th session of the House would intensify the current efforts to re-enlist the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and ensure the passage of the legislation as soon as possible. He said the House would remain committed and unwavering in its determination to ensure that the principles of good governance, corporate social responsibility and international best practices were brought to bear in the oil and gas industry in the overall interest of oil-bearing communities and Nigeria at large.
“The passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill will be given expeditious attention when the House resumes from its recess, among other result-driven measures that would be taken to ensure that corporate actors and relevant government departments and agencies in the oil and gas industry do not shirk their responsibilities to reclaim and protect the environment in which they operate and as well as improve the lives and living conditions of the inhabitants,” he said.
Ihedioha described the submission of the UNEP report to the Federal Government as the first step in redressing the despoliation of affected communities in the oil rich Niger Delta. He however warned against the current attempts by operators and stakeholders in the petroleum sector to pass the buck rather than taking responsibility for their actions and inactions that resulted in the devastation of the environment. Ihedioha said all those involved must take full responsibility for the consequences of oil exploration and production activities as it is the case in developed countries where some of them also operate.
He recalled the rapid global response which greeted the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, United States of America last year and expressed hope that the Federal Government would waste no time in driving an implementation process that would address the grave environmental issues raised in the UNEP report on Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta.
Source: ThisDay Newspaper
Happy Birthday Senator Chris Ngige, Let us Sing And Dance
Love him or detest him, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige remains a classic to be deliberated in the annals of Nigerian politics. And yet more volumes flood in as he continues in his crusade to liberate the state of Nigerian politics from its condition of desuetude, to one where politicians and leaders seek and invest in advanced ideas to salvage their people from the artificial restraints of inequality and poverty.
This has surely earned him great foes, vicious and mean men in high places. Yet he has as well a place in the hearts of the ordinary man and this is proven by the fact that he never rents a crowd, but has charmed the people with his past works, native intelligence and simple way of life, his heartbeat is in synch with that of the farmer in Anam and Anyamelum areas, the trader in Onitsha and Nnewi Markets, The Corn Sellers in Ekuke, the Nursing Mother in Abagana, the student population in Uli, Igbariam and Awka, the Pensioner in Ebenebe, Awba Ofemili and Otogo Nnewi. He surely feels their pains and has vowed to lift such weights anywhere they are found.
Unlike certain demagogues who like to announce to the whole world their harebrained projects as indubitable achievements, for it is only in Anambra that a government announces with shameless hilarity and animation that it has carried out immunization in the state! Or given out ambulances, to non functioning clinics, spending millions of Naira on bill boards, leaflets, TV and radio advertisements in self praise, using many gifted in the art of the spin doctors as Mephisto to this Faust, that even when they fart, they immediately claim it has a wonderful deodorizing appeal.
Dr. Ngige needs no spin doctors, as an Ex Governor and savvy administrator his works as governor reveal dimensions to the man, his philosophy goes beyond windy platitudes and political banality. Whereas he spent only 33 months as Governor amidst iniquitous sallies from the Obasanjo government, a determined Chris Uba and his acolytes and even the Anambra Electoral Petitions Tribunal, Ngige managed to work, performing excellently. This is even acknowledged by his strongest foes that despite their astringent thoughts about him, they still look at his projects with admiration and unconsciously mutter, Chi Gozie Nwa Ngige! In English Language it means, God Bless Ngige's children. This trend alone nullifies out rightly one of President Jonathan's strong arguments for tenure elongation.
Now as a Senator one has no fears that we will once again be exposed to his joie de vivre in the Senate, a Senate lacking in vim and vigor since the days of the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. In Senator Ngige, there can never be a dull moment, for the people of Anambra Central, Igbo land and Nigeria as a whole, President Goodluck Jonathan's transformation agenda may obtain a speedy vehicle with his likes in the Senate.
Let me state that the cause for celebrating Senator Chris Ngige today, is not limited to partisan politics, nor tribal sentiments. Ngige's fan base cuts across the four cardinal points of the Federation, reaping the respect and the admiration of millions of Nigerians at home and abroad. His trademark beard and jaunty cap remain symbols of his struggle for emancipation amongst the youth.
But how can we forget Ngige's labours, it is with us even when we seek at other things, pushing back, obtruding our inner most thoughts like a flood turning into a torrent or a breeze becoming a gale. Such a situation is hardly surprising, for Anambra state had in the years past been bereft of any semblance, even a pretence to good governance by past leaders, bad governance was a like a norm, a way of life an inclination before he came on board. Even his coming as governor was simply viewed as the continuity of such an ugly trend, many dismissed our diminutive hero as a prisoner in the Chris Uba scheme to continue the hemorrhaging of Anambra state, Senator Ngige's rise from such an invented prison and his capacity in overcoming the trials and tribulations unleashed on him, even in the face of unsaid defeat proved them wrong. In his 33 months of governance we were reminded of our heroic reaction to the triple onslaught of war, starvation and blockade engineered against the Igbo people and other ethnic minorities during the Biafran war.
Senator Ngige is compared to our avowed Igbo leader, General Emeka Ojukwu. Senator Ngige built 44 Inter Local Government, State and Federal Roads, spanning all Local Government Areas in the State, 14 township roads in Onitsha, 10 Township roads in Awka, 8 at Nnewi, with a dualisation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, thus when a spin doctor like Val Obienyem accuses Senator Ngige of building roads which led only to his Alor country home, one is immediately taken aback at such an attempt at tactless revisionism. It is again a fact that when Senator Ngige's administration came onboard, they met an empty treasury, yet when he was leaving, the state coffers boasted of 12.8 billion Naira in its accounts, an act unprecedented in our state or national history, yet such a noble act was irrationally described by Victor Umeh the APGA National Chairman as a landmine of sorts!
It was Ngige who cleared the backlog of pensions, paid striking teachers and members of the civil service arrears of salaries owed them by the Mbadinuju administration.
It was Ngige who asked the University administration of the Anambra State University to reduce the tuition fees from N30, 000 to N18, 500 and also refund the N5, 000 collected from the students in order to have the University accredited. Today the fees in ANSU have been increased by 110 percent a gesture by the present state government to show that it loves education. This governor even had the audacity to mock the students, saying that university education was for only those who could afford it and that if they really wanted to attend ANSU; they ought to tell their mothers to sell their wrappers as he claims his mother did. Pray my most learned reader, how many wrappers would your mother sell today to raise 130,000 annually for school fees, asides books, accommodation and other financial involvements.
While religious tensions are gradually rearing its head in Anambra state, we remember with nostalgia how meritocracy was built as an altar in Anambra State under Senator Chris Ngige, here a catholic governor in Ngige had more Anglicans in its cabinet.In other sectors, despite the mantra of developing all sectors simultaneously of the current state government, the Ngige Legacy in Anambra thumps whatever Mr. Obi presents, in style, planning and delivery. Such great achievements will build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold. I am unstinting in my judgement of him
As Ngige clocks 59 today being August the 8th 2011, let us celebrate the man whose greatness is essential to the hopes of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a nation, let us roll out the drums, sing and dance. Happy Birthday Sir.
Igboeli Arinze Napoleon writes from Abuja.
Former World Bank chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mr Olusegun Aganga minister of Trade and Investment as well as Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi are expected to spearhead Nigeria’s economic recovery, but how the two ministers deal with tensions between them and the CBN will determine their success.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is expected to take up the role of Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Monday 15, an expanded version of the role she held between 2003 and 2006 when she successfully secured Nigerian debt relief. Dr Okonjo Iweala is believed to have negotiated with the President clear terms on which she would be willing to return to serve in government, including being given broad powers over economic management and freedom from political meddling.
Dr Okonjo Iweala and Olusegun Aganga are big personalities that are well respected internationally. Sanusi the CBN Governor has in recent time spread his remit well beyond the fundamental role of the central bank which may lead to a clash of personality in not too distant time.
However, the creation of the Ministry of Trade and Investment seems to be paying off for the country as local and international investors are buying into the programme of government raising hope for multi-million dollar investments in Nigeria.
When the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr, Olusegun Aganga, was appointed to drive the new initiative, the Organised Private Sector saw the appointment as strategic, especially considering the fact that his wealth of experience in investment and real sector matters, which he displayed even as the Minister of Finance, was more needed in the industry than anywhere else.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Chief Kola Jamodu, alluding to this fact recently said the organized private sector was indeed happy that Aganga had been posted to conclude the good works he started as the country’s finance minister, even though he wished that the Ministry of Trade and Investment could have been expanded to accommodate the name “industry”.
The captains, majors and generals of the Nigerian business community at the maiden interaction between the ministry and the local business community in Lagos two weeks ago was the first sign that the country is about to witness a remarkable change in real sector activities. The Group Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman Ikeja Hotels, Mr. Goodie Ibru; Chairman, Nigerian Bottling Company Plc, Segun Akpata; Chairman, HoneyWell Group, Oba Otudeko, among other notable industrialists pledged investments running into trillions of naira in critical projects that will impact positively in the living standards of Nigerians in the next four years.
Some banks, including First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Stanbic IBTC bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, among other strong banks; have also indicated willingness to invest in key sectors of the economy that will help to drive the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Notwithstanding the usual perception of policy inconsistency in the country and the poor infrastructure snag in investment matters, foreign investors have also continued to show keen interest in investment opportunities in Nigeria. ‘Deep pocket’ investors from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China and other countries have visited the trade and investment ministry to seek for investment opportunities that can be explored for mutual benefits. Experts have said that Aganga’s Goldman Sachs background was a key factor that has raised the confidence of the international community in the Nigerian economy.
With Aganga driving real sector growth and the momentum gathered in preparation for job and wealth creation, the job of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, another star cabinet member of Jonathan’s administration, may be much easier.
Notwithstanding the misconception about the two key appointments in some quarters, a frontline industrialist, who asked not to be named, because he could not comment publicly on the matter, said Okonjo-Iweala and Aganga were friends coming from the Diaspora with the same passion about their country, Nigeria, adding that, with their belief in each other’s abilities, the Nigerian economy would be the better for it.
“From what I know about the two key ministers’ capabilities as well as the good relationship they have going for them, I think this is the time to really expect a turnaround of the Nigerian economy,” the industrialist, who spoke with journalists recently in Lagos.
To meet the target set for unlocking capital and growing the real sector of the Nigerian economy, taking the trade and investment minister began his job with a three-day retreat with the directors and chief executive officers of the ministry.
The retreat was targeted at making the staff of the ministry key into the new drive with a view to changing their orientation in preparation for the hard work ahead. Aganga noted at the retreat that the whole idea of the transformation agenda was to create economic growth in the country and ensure the creation of jobs, stressing that the ministry would focus on the implementation of mandatory skills transfer to Nigeria by foreign construction companies as well as develop industrial clusters for the real sector.
The Bank of Industry, Department of Trade in the ministry and the other parastatals and agencies under the ministry have also mapped out clear plans to create additional three million jobs in the next three years as the first step towards the eradication of poverty in Nigeria. This was one of the highpoints of the communiqué issued at the end of a three-day retreat of the ministry in Abuja.
According to a statement from the ministry, as part of the strategies towards achieving this, the different departments and parastatals will develop a comprehensive backward integration programme aimed at improving innovation and productivity for rice, sugar, wheat, yam, potatoes, starch and palm produce, among others. The statement said the ministry would establish model industrial clusters in each geo-political zone across the country.
It said, “In line with the mandate to lead the nation’s investment, job creation and economic growth aggressive investment drive, the ministry must be refocused and repositioned in order to effectively serve as the flag and hub of industrial revolution that will help Nigeria take its rightful place in global affairs. In this regard, departments, agencies and parastatals under the ministry have pledged to create not less than 3,100,850 new jobs within the next three years.
“To achieve effective export promotion, participants agreed on the need for increased efforts towards streamlining the nation’s export produce and documentation as a way of facilitating trade through stronger collaboration with all relevant trade facilitation.”
With the right awareness campaign and the momentum already being gathered for investment growth, the stage is set for Okonjo-Iweala to perform in the right direction.
BY BOOTING out Royal Dutch Shell in 1993, the 500,000 inhabitants of Nigeria’s Ogoniland hoped to take the first step towards cleaning up their homeland, a small region within the creeks and swamps of the vast Niger Delta, Africa’s biggest oil-producing region. Almost 20 years later, a new report from the UN says it could take 30 years and at least $1 billion to rid the poisoned mangroves of a thick, black carpet of crude.
The report, the most extensive, scientific research carried out in the Niger Delta, found that some families were drinking water contaminated with 900 times as much benzene, a carcinogen, as is deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. It said areas that Shell had said were clean were in fact still polluted. It also exposed serious failures on the part of Shell and Nigeria’s national oil company NNPC, which it says failed to follow their own best operating practices. Some infrastructure, the report said, was unsafe and could cause further spills. Shell said the “report makes a valuable contribution”, and that it was reviewing its practices.
Shell pulled out of Ogoniland under pressure from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), founded by a writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa, who focused international attention on Ogoniland’s woes, fell out with Nigeria’s then-military government and was hanged in 1995 along with eight other dissident tribal leaders. Without admitting guilt, Shell agreed to pay £9.6m in an out-of-court settlement of a legal action that accused the company of collaborating in the executions.
Legal pressures on the company are increasing. The UN report came in the same week the European oil giant admitted liability for the first time under British jurisdiction for two big leaks in the delta. After half a century of working in Nigeria, Shell is pulling back. It is close to selling four productive oil blocks. It also paid out $1.7m in compensation to groups in the delta affected by spills.
After half a century of hostility to Shell and disappointment at broken promises from the government, MOSOP has so far shown little interest in the UN report. But Mr Saro-Wiwa’s son is more upbeat. “The report is a belated vindication of the allegations my father raised 25 years ago,” says Mr Saro-Wiwa Junior. “I think and hope that an important psychological barrier has been broken.
KANO, Nigeria — US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Thursday began long-awaited compensation payments to families over a 1996 drug trial blamed for the deaths of 11 children and disabilities in dozens of others.
But even as the compensation process began, the company faced further criticism since only four families were paid in the initial disbursements, while some 200 children participated in the trial of meningitis drug Trovan.
Parents of four of the children who died received cheques of $175,000 each at a ceremony in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, where the trial took place.
A dispute over whether DNA testing should be used to verify the identification of victims had held up compensation payments.
Thursday's payments followed the release of eight results of DNA tests of 546 saliva swabs of claimants, said Abubakar Bashir Wali, who heads the claims verification committee.
"Out of these eight results, four died as a result of their participation in the clinical trial and each is entitled to ... $175,000 as full and final settlement of compensation," Wali said at the ceremony.
The other four claimants suffered deformities and would be paid compensation commensurate with their disabilities, Wali said.
"We are pleased that these four individuals, the first group of qualified claimants...have received compensation," Pfizer said in a statement it issued from New York.
The statement described the initial payments as a "milestone in the implementation of the settlement agreement reached by Kano state government and Pfizer".
"The compensation cannot replace my loss, but will only cushion the hardship the drug trial caused me and my family," Hauwa Umar, who lost a child, said between sobs.
Outside the ceremony, a group of claimants accused the compensation committee of unnecessary delay in the verification and payment of claims.
"It is frustrating that 10 months after taking over 500 swabs for DNA tests only eight results have been released despite assurance that the results would be out within six weeks," Surajo Hassan said.
Hassan said his nephew suffered deafness from the trial.
"The procedures contained in the settlement agreement are quite cumbersome, and we appeal to all stakeholders to be patient...," Wali said at the ceremony.
The payments were part of a $75 million out-of-court-settlement reached between Pfizer and Kano state government in July 2009 over the drug trial.
The trial occurred during a meningitis epidemic that, according to Pfizer, killed nearly 12,000 people.
Pfizer says it was given approval from government authorities and about 200 children were involved in the trial, half of whom were treated with Trovan. It has argued that Trovan helped save lives. But France-based medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which was at the time urgently trying to treat meningitis victims in Nigeria, has harshly criticised Pfizer over the trial.
On Aug. 5, 2011, Standard & Poor’s lowered its sovereign credit rating on the U.S. to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA' and removed the rating from CreditWatch negative. The outlook is now negative. In this CreditMatters TV segment, David Beers, Standard & Poor's Global Head of Sovereign Ratings, and John Chambers, Chairman of the Sovereign Ratings Committee, explain our rationale for lowering the rating. Topics include the rising trajectory of U.S. debt over the past decade, peer comparisons, and what could lead to further rating actions.
PRESS RELEASE BY STANDARD & POOR'S
Standard & Poor’s Clarifies Assumption Used On Discretionary Spending Growth
New York, Aug. 6, 2011. In response to questions, Standard & Poor’s today said that the ratings decision to lower the long-term rating to AA+ from AAA was not affected by the change of assumptions regarding the pace of discretionary spending growth. In the near term horizon to 2015, the U.S. net general government debt is projected to be $14.5 trillion (79% of 2015 GDP) versus $14.7 trillion (81% of 2015 GDP) with the initial assumption.
We used the Alternative Fiscal Scenario of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which includes an assumption that government discretionary appropriations will grow at the same rate as nominal GDP. In further discussions between Standard & Poor’s and Treasury, we determined that the CBO’s Baseline Scenario, which assumes discretionary appropriations grow at a lower rate, would be more consistent with CBO assessment of the savings set out by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Our ratings are determined primarily using a 3-5 year time horizon. In the near term horizon, by 2015, the U.S. net general government debt with the new assumptions were
projected to be $14.5 trillion (79% of 2015 GDP) versus $14.7 trillion (81% of 2015 GDP) with the initial assumption – a difference of $345 billion. In taking a longer term horizon of 10 years, the U.S. net general government debt level with the current assumptions would be $20.1 trillion (85% of 2021 GDP). With the original assumptions, the debt level was projected to be $22.1 trillion (93% of 2021 GDP).
The primary focus remained on the current level of debt, the trajectory of debt as a share of the economy, and the lack of apparent willingness of elected officials as a group to deal with the U.S. medium term fiscal outlook. None of these key factors was meaningfully affected by the assumption revisions to the assumed growth of discretionary outlays and thus had no impact on the rating decision.
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