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Nigeria’s Igbo tribes are staging a mass evacuation of women and children from the north due to violence blamed on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.
Nigeria’s eastern Igbo leaders are calling for tribal families living in the north to immediately return home so avoid being killed or injured.
At a series of meetings this weekend in Enugu State, tribal elders asked women and children living in the north to travel south to minimize their risk, while the men stay to look after their businesses.
The Igbo community is setting up shelters in the southeast to house the evacuees returning from the north.
Igbo leaders expressed their concern and anger at the spate of killings by the Boko Haram sect and the government’s inability to neutralize the group.
This follows the latest deadly blow from Boko Haram, which staged a series of coordinated attacks, mostly on police stations and government buildings, in the northern city of Kano on January 20th that killed nearly 200 people. A separate Christmas day bombing of a church near Abuja killed more than 30. The attacks have sparked fears of a religious war in Nigeria.
Uche Okafor - a trader from the east - agrees with the decision by some Igbo leaders. “The elders are calling on our fellow brothers - the women and children should come home, and let the men stand and defend their own properties. Let the women come home to preserve the families. To preserve the community; if not they will lose everything. This is necessary because the Igbo nations have suffered a lot and we should not have to suffer like this,” he said.
But not everyone agrees. Some state governors, politicians and others in the southeast have criticized the evacuation call as unnecessary.
Nigeria is about to ask for Compensation from Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), for the major hydocarbon (oil) spill at Bonga, River state that ocurred December 21st, 2011. This was reported by Vincent Nwanma of Bloomberg News Network according to the statement e-mailed from African Union (AU) headquarter at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Jonathan of Nigeria was quoted in a meeting with Ban Ki-Moon at AU headquarter that the request will be "soon" and that will come “with a view to reaching an amicable solution to the problem.” Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary- general was in Ethiopian capital at Addis Ababa to attend 18th African Union (AU) Ordinary Session of the African heads of state and governments.
"A spill last month from the 200,000 barrel-a-day Bonga field off Nigeria, which produces nearly 10 percent of Nigeria’s crude, led Shell to stop production from the facility, the company said on Dec. 21. The export line at Bonga leaked almost 40,000 barrels of crude during a tanker loading, according to Shell estimates, making it Nigeria’s worst offshore spill in more than a decade," reported Bloomberg.
"It's comparable to what happened in 1998 with the Exxon Mobil spill, in terms of the quantity that has been spilled, it's the biggest since then," Peter Idabor, director of Nigeria's National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), told Reuters last year when the spill occured by telephone from the capital Abuja.
For over a decade, The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, Washington's preeminent think tank, have tracked the march of economic freedom around the world with the influential Index of Economic Freedom. Since 1995, the Index has brought Smith's theories about liberty, prosperity and economic freedom to life by creating 10 benchmarks that gauge the economic success of 184 countries around the world. With its user-friendly format, readers can see how 18th century theories on prosperity and economic freedom are realities in the 21st century. The Index covers 10 freedoms – from property rights to entrepreneurship – in 184 countries.
Nigeria’s economic freedom score is 56.3, making its economy the 116th freest in the 2012 Index. Its score is 0.4 point lower than last year, reflecting declines in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, and freedom from corruption, that overwhelmed a modest gain in business freedom. Nigeria is ranked 19th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is below the world average.
The Nigerian government has pursued structural reforms centered on enhancing the management of public finance and improving the efficiency of the entrepreneurial environment. With a strong surge in oil production, the economy has achieved an average annual growth rate of around 7 percent over the past five years.
Nonetheless, the structural changes that are necessary to develop a more vibrant private sector or achieve more broad-based growth have not emerged. The oil sector continues to dominate the economy. Lingering institutional problems hamper activity elsewhere. With the judicial system susceptible to political interference, corruption is prevalent, and the rule of law is weak throughout the country. Cronyism is pervasive, particularly in connection with the oil and gas sector.
QUICK FACTS ON NIGERIA
6.9% 5-year compound annual growth
$2,422 per capita
After the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in May 2010, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president. He was re-elected in April 2011. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, with an estimated population of over 150 million. It is also Africa’s leading oil producer, although sabotage of oil facilities and pipelines and violent attacks on foreign oil workers in the Niger Delta impede output. Oil and gas account for about 90 percent of export earnings and 80 percent of government revenue. The informal economy is extensive, and a majority of the population is engaged in agriculture. Ethnic, regional, and religious violence has taken a heavy toll in parts of Nigeria, aggravated by the imposition of Islamic law in several states.
Rule of Law
The legal system suffers from political interference, bureaucratic delays, insufficient funding, and the lack of a document-processing system. One of the world’s least efficient property registration systems makes acquiring and maintaining rights to real property difficult. Enforcement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks is deficient. Corruption is endemic at many levels of the public sector.
The top income tax rate is 25 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 30 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) and a capital gains tax, with the overall tax burden amounting to 6.9 percent of total domestic income. Government spending has increased slightly to a level equivalent to 30.4 percent of total domestic output. The budget deficit has been over 5 percent of GDP, although public debt remains below 20 percent of GDP.
The business environment has improved only marginally. The entrepreneurial environment remains burdened by time-consuming and costly regulatory procedures. The minimum capital requirement for starting a business has been eliminated, but completing licensing requirements still costs over five times the level of annual average income. Much of the formal labor force is employed in the public or energy sectors. Inflation has been high.
The trade weighted average tariff rate is quite high at 10.6 percent, and onerous non-tariff barriers further deter dynamic growth in trade. Most sectors are open to private investment, and regulations formally treat foreign and domestic investment equally. However, the investment regime lacks efficiency and transparency. The economy remains largely cash-based, and the state continues to influence the allocation of credit.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, is from all evidence being systematically thrown into chaos and a state of civil war. The recent surprise decision by the government of Goodluck Jonathan to abruptly lift subsidies on imported gasoline and other fuel has a far more sinister background than mere corruption, and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is playing a key role. China appears to be the likely loser along with Nigeria’s population.
The recent strikes protesting the government’s abrupt elimination of gasoline and other fuel subsidies, that brought Nigeria briefly to a standstill, came as a surprise to most in the country. Months earlier, President Jonathan had promised the major trade union organizations that he would conduct a gradual four-stage lifting of the subsidy to ease the economic burden. Instead, without warning he announced an immediate full removal of subsidies effective January 1, 2012. It was "shock therapy" to put it mildly.
Nigeria today is one of the world’s most important producers of light, sweet crude oil—the same high-quality crude oil that Libya and the British North Sea produce. The country is showing every indication of spiraling downward into deep disorder. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States and twelfth largest oil producer in the world on a par with Kuwait and just behind Venezuela with production exceeding two million barrels a day.
The curious timing of IMF subsidy demand
Despite its oil riches, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s poorest countries. The known oilfields are concentrated around the vast Niger Delta roughly between Port Harcourt and extending in the direction of Lagos, with large new finds being developed all along the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.Nigeria’s oil is exploited and largely exported by the Anglo-American giants—Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco. Italy’s Agip also has a presence and most recently, to no one’s surprise, the Chinese state oil companies began seeking major exploration and oil infrastructure agreements with the Abuja government.
Ironically, despite the fact that Nigeria has abundant oil to earn dollar export revenue to build its domestic infrastructure, government policy has deliberately let its domestic oil refining capacity fall into ruin. The consequence has been that most of the gasoline and other refined petroleum products used to drive transportation and industry, has to be imported, despite the country’s abundant oil. In order to shield the population from the high import costs of gasoline and other refined fuels, the central government has subsidized prices.
Until January 1, 2012, that is. That was the day when, without advance warning President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan announced immediate removal of all fuel subsidies. Prices for gasoline shot up almost threefold in hours from 65 naira (35 cents of a dollar) a liter to 150 naira (93 cents). The impact rippled across the economy to everything including prices of grains and vegetables.
In justifying the move, Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi insisted that "The monies will be used in provision of social amenities and infrastructural development that will benefit Nigerians more and save the country from economic rift."President Goodluck Jonathan says he is phasing out the subsidy as a part of a move to "clean up the Nigerian government." If so, how he plans to proceed is anything but apparent.
The huge unexpected price hike for domestic fuel triggered nationwide protests that threatened to bring the economy to a halt by mid-January. The president deftly took the wind out of protester sails by announcing a partial rollback in prices, still leaving prices effectively double that of December. The trade union federation immediately called off the protests. Then, revealingly, Goodluck Jonathan’s government ordered the military to take to the streets to "keep order" and de facto prevent new protests. All that took place during one of the bloodiest waves of bombings and murder rampages by the terrorist Boko Haram sect creating a climate of extreme chaos.
The smoking gun of the IMF
What has been buried from international accounts of the unrest is the explicit role the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) played in the situation. With suspicious timing IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was in Nigeria days before the abrupt subsidy decision of President Jonathan. By all accounts, the IMF and the Nigerian government have been careful this time not to be blatant about openly announcing demands to ends subsidies as they were in Tunisia before food protests became the trigger for that country’s Twitter putsch in 2011.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde
During her visit to Nigeria Lagarde said President Jonathan's 'Transformation Agenda' for deregulation "is an agenda for Nigeria, driven by Nigerians. The IMF is here to support you and be a better partner for you." Few Nigerians were convinced.On December 29 Reuters wrote, "The IMF has urged countries across West and Central Africa to cut fuel subsidies, which they say are not effective in directly aiding the poor, but do promote corruption and smuggling. The past months have seen governments in Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon and Chad moving to cut state subsidies on fuel."
Further confirming the role US and IMF pressure on the Nigerian government played, Jeffery Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, during a meeting with President Jonathan in Nigeria in early January days after the subsidy decision, declared Jonathan's decision to withdraw petroleum subsidy "a bold and correct policy."
Sachs, a former Harvard economics professor, became notorious during the early 1990s for prescribing IMF "shock therapy" for Poland, Russia, Ukraine and other former communist states, which opened invaluable state assets for de facto plundering by dollar-rich western multinationals.
Even more suspicious is the manner in which Washington and the IMF are putting pressure on only select countries to end subsidies. Nigeria, whose oil today sells for the equivalent of $1 a liter or roughly $3.78 a US gallon, is far from cheap. Brunei, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia all offer their petrol very cheap to their people. The Saudis sell their oil at 17 cents, Kuwait at 22 cents. In the US gasoline averages 89 cents a liter.
That means the IMF and Washington have forced one of the poorest economies in Africa to impose a huge tax on its citizens on the implausible argument it will help eliminate corruption in the state petroleum sector. The IMF knows well that the elimination of subsidies will do nothing about corruption in high places.
Were the IMF and World Bank genuinely concerned with the health of the domestic Nigerian economy, they would have provided support for rebuilding and expanding a domestic oil refinery industry that has been allowed to rot, so that the country need no longer import refined fuels using precious state budget resources.The easiest way to do that would be to expedite a two-year-old deal between China and the Nigerian government to invest some $28 billion in massive expansion of the oil refinery sector, to eliminate need for importing foreign gasoline and other refined products.
Quite the opposite—the criminal cabal inside the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Government making huge profits on the old subsidy system are suddenly making double and potentially triple more to maintain the old corrupt import system, and, of course, to sabotage Chinese refinery construction that could put an end to their gravy train.
Cutting their nose to spite the face…
Rather than benefit ordinary Nigerians as the IMF proclaims to want, the elimination of the subsidies has further pauperized the 90 per cent living on less than $2 a day, according to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Nigerian Central Bank governor. An estimated 40 million Nigerians are unemployed in the country of 148 million.
Because transport costs are a significant factor in delivery of food to the cities, food price inflation has soared along with costs of public transportation for the majority of poorer Nigerians. According to the Nigerian Leadership Sunday, "prices of commodities which shot up as a fallout of the fuel pump price increase have refused to come down." Everything from street vegetable sellers to carwashes to roadside photographers are feeling the shock of the rise in fuel prices. Unemployment is rising as small businesses fold.
The argument of the IMF and the Jonathan administration is that by freeing fuel prices, funds would be available to more social services and rebuilding Nigeria’s "infrastructure." Both the IMF and the government know it would have been far more economically viable to replace the current corrupt system of importing refined gasoline and fuels with investing in rebuilding Nigeria’s domestic refining capacity.
Son Gyoh of the Nigerian Awareness for Development organization asks, "Would it not be more expedient to pressure government to service the refineries to full production capacity, given the implications on overhead and competitiveness for local industries?"
Gyoh pointed to the source of the problem: "Why have successive governments left the refineries in a state of disrepair while spending huge on subsidy? Is there any chance that the savings from subsidy withdrawal will go directly into rehabilitating the refineries? Does deregulation imply NNPC will no longer operate a monopoly in importation of refined petroleum product, or is this lobby a self-serving lifeline to continue its monopoly? " He concludes, "In any case, there is good reason to doubt subsidy removal will solve the fuel scarcity problem as the cabal will only regroup to change tactics, a fact Nigerians are only too aware of."
After Nigeria partly nationalized its oil sector in the late 1970s, it also took control of Shell Oil’s Port Harcourt I refinery. In 1989, Port Harcourt II refinery was built. Both refineries fell into serious disrepair after 1994, when the Abacha military dictatorship cut the "take" of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company NNPC from domestic sale of refined oil products such as gasoline from 84% to 22%. That caused a cash crisis for NNPC and a halt to refinery maintenance. Today only one of four refineries operates at all.
What developed since was a system of NNPC importing foreign gasoline and other refined products for Nigeria’s domestic needs, naturally at a far more expensive cost. The price subsidies were to relieve that higher import cost, hardly a sensible solution but a very lucrative one for those corrupt elements in the state and private sector making a killing, literally, off the import process.
NNPC criminal enterprise
The IMF is well aware of the real cause of Nigeria’s fuel industry problems. A Nigerian legislative committee examining the sources of the industry’s problems recently released a report documenting that at least $4 billion annually is taken from taxpayers in fuel industry corruption with the state Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) at the center. According to the commission, "every day, fuel importers drop off 59 million liters of fuel. The country consumes 35 million liters daily. That leaves 24 million liters of oil available for smugglers to export, paid for by government fuel subsidies. This costs the Nigerian people roughly $4 billion yearly, according to Reuters."
The Nigerian government has said that the 7.5 billion dollars spent yearly on fuel subsidies could be used to provide desperately needed infrastructure. But they omit any mention of the rampant siphoning off of $4 billion of oil by black market smugglers, reportedly with connivance of high NNPC government officials, to sell to neighboring countries at a hefty profit. The refined imported fuel is reportedly smuggled into neighboring countries like Cameroon, Chad and Niger where petrol prices are far higher, according to Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Deputy Governor of Kano State.
China as IMF target?
One major geopolitical factor that is generally ignored in recent discussion of Nigerian oil politics is the growing role of China in the country. In May 2010, only days after President Jonathan was sworn in, China signed an impressive $28.5 billion deal with his government to build three new refineries, something that in no way fits into the plans of either the IMF, or of Washington, or of the Anglo-American oil majors.
China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCEC) signed the deal to build three oil refineries with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in the biggest deal China has made with Africa. Shehu Ladan, head of NNPC, said at the signing ceremony that the added refineries would reduce the $10 billion spent annually on imported refined products. As of January 2012, the three Chinese refinery projects were still in the planning stage, reportedly blocked by the powerful vested interests gaining from the existing corrupt import system.
A report in China Daily last November quoted Nigeria’s Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, the minister of trade and investment, that Nigeria was seeking added Chinese investors for its energy, mining and agribusiness industries. Last September on a visit to Beijing, Nigeria central bank governor Lamido Sanusiannounced his country planned to invest 5 per cent to 10 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves in China's currency, the renminbi (RMB) or yuan, noting that he sees the yuan becoming reserve currency. In 2010 China's loans and exports to Nigeria exceeded $7 billion, while Nigeria exported $1 billion of crude oil, Sanusi stated.
Until now Nigeria has held some 79% of her foreign currency reserves in dollars, the rest in Euro or Sterling, all of which look dicey given their financial and debt problems. The move of a major oil producer away from dollars, added to similar moves recently by India, Japan, Russia, Iran and others, augurs bad news for the continued role of the dollar as dominant world reserve currency. Clearly some in Washington would not be happy with that.
The Chinese are also bidding to get a direct stake in Nigeria’s rich oil reserves, until now an Anglo-American domain. In July 2010, China's CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation) won four prospective oil blocks – two in the Niger Delta and two in the frontier Chad Basin, with plans to become core investor in the Kaduna refinery, and construction of a double track Lagos-Kano railway. China’s oil company, CNOOC Ltd also has a major offshore production area in Nigeria.
The IMF and Washington pressure to lift subsidies on imported fuels is at this point in question, as is the future of China in Nigeria’s energy industry. Clear is that lifting subsidies in no way will benefit Nigerians. More alarming in this context is the orchestration of a major new wave of terror killings and bombings by the mysterious and suspiciously well-armed Boko Haram. This we will look at next in the context of Nigeria’s recent transformation into a major narcotics hub.
F. William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order
The AU's Chinese-built base is not only a source of controversy but also a symbol of the challenge facing African enterprise
Sleek and glinting in the sun, combining a traditional office tower with a more unusual spherical conference centre, shaped like a flying saucer, the new African Union(AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, is an impressive symbol of modernity.
Some, however, harbour mixed feelings towards the complex, which is scheduled to be opened by President Hu Jintao on Saturday, the eve of the Au summit. Why was it, they ask, that the 20-storey main office building and conference centre, which can seat more than 2,500 people, was built by a Chinese company with Chinese labour, rather than by Africans?
The new AU building, the physical embodiment of China's complex links with the continent, is thus both a source of pride and reproach for Africans.
"It's a beautiful, beautiful building full of grandeur and it will save a lot of money because it will help in the co-ordination of the AU's business," said Michael Orwa, a project co-ordinator for State of the Union (Sotu), a group of NGOs that wants the AU to live up to its rhetoric of unity and progress. "It's a shame the AU was not able to build it itself."
China has made its presence felt throughout Africa, building a bridge in Niamey, Niger, constructing a "super-highway" in Nairobi, Kenya, digging for oil and minerals from South Sudan to Zambia, and flooding the continent with cheap goods. The last of these activities is a source of concern to officials at the African Development Bank (AfDB).
"Cheap Chinese goods cause a lot of damage," said Gerald Ajumbo, principal trade officer at the AfDB. "They hurt consumers as they can be substandard – a battery with a very short battery life, for example. They hurt producers, who lose market share. And they have an impact on government revenues, as governments do not collect tax on these goods."
There is suspicion that China is dumping its goods in Africa, but so far no African governments have made any official complaint to the World Trade Organisation, the trade watchdog. This may be because such cases are complex and costly to pursue, because governments do not want to offend a powerful benefactor, or – more likely – both.
The African Union's Addis Ababa headquarters, scene of the AU summit, are a source of both pride and reproach for Africans. Photograph: AU Commission
AfDB economists bemoan the lack of competitiveness and productivity of Africa's private sector, reproaching private companies for their reluctance to invest and reliance on governments to do so instead. One way to boost competitiveness and productivity, they say, is to increase trade between African countries – precisely the theme of the AU summit.
Most African exports are still sent to markets in industrialised countries; only 10-12% go to other African countries. This is less than half the level in other emerging markets, and half the continent's intra-regional trade occurs within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), dominated by South Africa. The AU has set an ambitious timetable of 2017 to realise a Cape-to-Cairo free trade zone encompassing 26 countries, 525 million people and $1tn in output.
It is a grand plan and, given the precarious nature of the global economy, a timely one.
"It is a good time to increase intra-Africa trade and generate badly-needed jobs," said Alex Rugamba, director for regional integration and trade at the AfDB. "There is a huge opportunity at a summit like this; much depends on the leaders gathered here to provide the momentum for us footsoldiers."
There has been some progress. Two of Africa's eight regional trading blocs, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC), already have tariff- and quota-free trade. Efforts have been made to cut down time at border crossings. Zambia and Zimbabwe have reduced the time trucks spend at their border crossing at Chirundu from a week to three hours. Work is progressing on a north-south highway between Durban, South Africa, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Free trade zones would also help deal with cheap Chinese products, since a tariff belt around African markets would have the effect of making Chinese goods more expensive.
A Cape to Cairo market sounds like a great idea for African producers and consumers. For Orwa, the trick is to make it happen. The proposed African grand freetrade area, which would encompass 26 countries, 525 million people and $1tn, risks becoming another flight of fancy and rhetoric that goes unmatched by concrete actions. Pointing to the looming humanitarian crisis in the Sahel, Orwa argues that if the African countries had lived up to their previous pledge of spending 10% of their budget on agriculture, perhaps the continent would have achieved food security by now. In another example of unfulfilled promise, he points to a failure to ratify and implement a protocol on a code of justice, creating an African version of the International Criminal Court. If that had been the case, Kenya would not have suffered the humiliation of sending Kenyans to stand trial at the Hague.
"We want the AU to go beyond trophy projects like this new headquarters," said Orwa. "We want the AU to ratify and implement policy declarations and instruments so that Africans can see tangible benefits. We want an AU of the people, for the people and not just for states and leaders."
Mark Tran, a reporter at The Guardian on international news, previously worked as a correspondent for the Guardian in Washington (1984-1990) and New York (1990-1999).
The chaos of Nigeria's largest city of Lagos gets boiled down to prose as a narrator notes "how unpretty" its sprawl looks, with "its unplanned houses sprouting like weeds." Another author describes the madness of the commute, how six roads meet and "there is no traffic light."
These vivid descriptions come from Nigeria's new generation of authors, whose novels and short stories are gaining the international acclaim once reserved for postcolonial literary heavyweights such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe who earned the West African nation a reputation as a hub of classic African writing.
While Nigeria serves as a muse, many of these new authors must live abroad or tap into Western networks to earn a living from their writing. The international attention helps them secure a reputation in Nigeria and allows their books to be published here too.
"Unfortunately, no matter how well the book is written, writers who come into prominence, come into prominence because they are recognized by the West," says Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
After independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria became one of the continent's top suppliers of literary talent. Soyinka was honored with a Nobel Prize for Literature for his plays, essays and books. Achebe received acclaim for his novel "Things Fall Apart" and other writings examining the failures of post-independence politics.
The new generation of Nigerian writers, while examining politics, appear more focused on the feeling of daily life in Nigeria, a multiethnic and religious nation of more than 160 million people where electricity remains scarce and there is a widening gap between rich and poor.
Achebe, Wole, Adichie, Funso & Sarah
Those new voices include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose book "Half of a Yellow Sun" focused on the breakaway Republic of Biafra and the nation's 1960s civil war that saw 1 million people killed. Another book, a collection of short stories titled "The Thing Around Your Neck," recounts the experiences of Nigerian characters living at home and abroad.
Like Adichie, who lives part-time in the U.S., most of these Nigerian fiction writers live in Western countries for much of the year, returning home to Nigeria frequently where they also research and observe. Their publishers and most of their readers are also in the West, where industry experts say African writing has in the last decade gained new interest from major publishers. Meanwhile, fiction publishing at home struggles to find its feet.
Kaduna Chapter of Nigerian Authors Association
For many years, self-publishing was the only hope for Nigerian writers to realize their dreams within a country where a long military era had imposed a publishing lull. More than a decade since Nigeria returned to civilian rule, only a handful of local publishers will brave the difficult environment to champion fiction writing.
Poor distribution networks and high printing and shipping costs are some of the setbacks bogging down the local publishing industry, forcing most book lovers to search for novels in the thinly stocked second hand bookstands on the edge of busy markets. When booksellers do sell new books, they tend to prefer religious, educational and self-help books to fiction titles considered slow-selling.
Even writers living in Nigeria need the Western seal of approval to make good sales, said writer Nwaubani.
The Nigeria-based author had to get a foreign literary agent before she could publish her satirical novel on Nigerian email scammers titled "I Do Not Come to You By Chance." She said her novel gained the most attention after it was reviewed by the Washington Post and then won the London-based Commonwealth Prize. The book has also been translated and sells more in German, a language she doesn't speak, than it sells in English in Nigeria, she said.
"My book is only available in five Nigerian cities and only a handful of bookshops in those cities," Nwaubani said. "In Umuahia, the town where I come from and where my book is set, there isn't any place where my book is sold."
Some critics, however, have questioned the reliance on Western recognition and audiences, and the indirect influence it may have on Nigerian literature, saying the authors are often edited to suit Western tastes.
"There is nothing wrong with having a publisher that's not here (Nigeria)... because we are aware of the fact that there are limitations to what's happening in Nigeria," said Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole. "But then what's incumbent on us is to try to support the work that's happening here."
Cole recently traveled to Lagos for research on a new book about the African megacity. His first published book was set in Nigeria and his second one, set in New York, was listed among The New York Times' 100 most influential books for 2011.
Western publishing also overlooks a vast body of non-English writing in a country where more than 150 languages are spoken. Hausa-language literature that is self-published, for instance, has thrived in Nigeria's north, but is unheard of by non-Hausa speakers, said scholar Carmen McCain teaching at Bayero University in Kano.
But the oversights of Western publishing perhaps offer a window of opportunity for local publishers.
Chinelo Onwualu, the editor at Cassave Republic, a small Abuja-based fiction publishing house, is hopeful for Nigeria's future in publishing.
"It's really tough publishing in Nigeria right now, but once somebody discovers that golden formula to make it work in our environment, some very exciting things are going to take place," she said.
Sure, clean energy, the return of manufacturing, a boost in education spending and saving the domestic car industry are awesome ways to revive the American economy. But another tactic President Obama might consider is more singing.
Because a week after the falsetto singer-in-chief unleashed his version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" at an Apollo Theater fundraiser, sales of the good Rev.'s most iconic hit have taken off.
President Obama singingat the Apollo Theater Shahar Azran/WireImage
According to Billboard magazine, the viral video of the president singing the first line of the #1 hit from 1972 boosted sales of the song by 490 percent. In fact, the tune had its best week since SoundScan began tracking digital sales in 2003, with 16,000 downloads. The YouTube video of the impromptu recital has been viewed more than 4 million times.
The Office of the presidency at Aso Rock has announced that President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked the Inspector of Police Mr Hafiz Ringim and his six deputies. The sack of the top police came a week after the suspect that was allegedly involved in December 25th Christmas Day bombing escaped from the police custody
Accoding to the statement from the presidency (ASO ROCK), "President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has approved the appointment of Mr Mohammed Abubakar as Acting Inspector General of Police as a first step towards the comprehensive reorganisation and repositioning of the Nigeria Police Force. Mr Abubakar who is currently an Assistant Inspector General of Police replaces Mr Hafiz Ringim who proceeds on terminal leave with effect from today."
A committee has been set-up by the presidency to revamp the Police Force and "To determine the general and specific causes of the collapse of public confidence in the police and recommend ways of restoring public trust in the institution ... examine records of performance of officers of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to identifying those that can no longer fit into the system."
The Telegraph reported that, "Police arrested Kabiru Sokoto in connection with a Dec 25 bombing last week and while they were taking him from police headquarters to his house in Abaji, outside Abuja, to conduct a search there, their vehicle came under fire and he escaped. Security sources said it was a "dangerous and suspicious" way to handle a suspect. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, the deadliest of a series of a attacks on Christmas."
Wall street Journal stated, " The militia, Boko Haram, has killed more than 500 people over the past 12 months in campaign of shootings and bombings that has targeted Nigeria's police and soldiers and destroyed government buildings. In the northern city of Kano, terrorist attacks killed at least 185 people on Friday.Public confidence in the police remains low in Nigeria, a country of 167 million people, where the police are widely seen as corrupt, incompetent and often brutal. Many of Nigeria's officers themselves say they are terrified of Boko Haram. In Kano, hundreds of police officers have gone into hiding, abandoning checkpoints and changing into civilian clothes."
The new acting police chief "Abubaker, 53, has been in the police since 1979. Like Ringim, he is a Muslim from the north of Africa's most populous nation, where Boko Haram's violence has mostly been carried out. Jonathan is a Christian from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta," The Telegraph reported.
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
January 24, 2012
The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in the city of Kano and Bauchi state in Nigeria over the past several days. We extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this senseless violence. We call for a full investigation of the attacks and for those responsible to be held accountable.
This is a time for all Nigerians to stand united against the enemies of civility and peace. Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity is a source of strength for the country and those who seek to undermine that strength with divisive tactics cannot succeed.
The United States remains strongly committed to working with Nigerian officials to find a way to bring peace to the north through both security and political responses and to work with the Nigerian government and others in the international community to promote greater economic development and long-term growth throughout northern Nigeria. We reiterate the importance of protecting innocent civilians in any law enforcement response to such attacks. These issues are at the center of the regional security cooperation working group meeting taking place in Abuja January 23-24, as a part of the U.S. – Nigeria Binational Commission.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria denotes a big country that has all the hallmarks of a great nation but has sadly failed to make the transition from bigness to greatness.
It is big in several ways.
It has the biggest population in Africa, affording it the ability to declare to anyone who cares to listen that out of every four black men and women, one is Nigerian. It is the biggest oil producer on the continent. It has arguably the biggest army, one that has been active in providing solutions in troubled areas.
Yet it has remained just that — big; greatness has eluded it.
There are many reasons for this state of affairs and each one of us can hazard an explanation or two.
Basically, Nigeria is not very different from other African countries whose diverse populations were cobbled together by the colonial powers in their own interest. No colonial power ever embarked on the creation of a national state that would function as one after decolonisation.
All our countries had this experience, and those founding fathers — and mothers — who embarked on efforts to build a nation-state out of the colonial units bequeathed to them did so on the understanding that even in bondage, friendships are struck up and synergies are built and common futures plotted.
Nigeria was not alone in failing to take concrete steps toward the unification of all the disparate ethnic and religious communities into one nation, but its failure has been demonstrated more dramatically than in most other African countries.
Since the first coup, dubbed the Ibo coup, in 1966, that killed premier Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and many prominent northerners, and through all the subsequent coups and futile attempts to entrench a civilian democracy, mutual trust among the various groups has been in short supply, and this has led to a mechanical modus vivendi in which the differences, rather than being done away with, are written into the Constitution.
For instance, by his own admission, Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state, by the mere fact of being stationed in several different states as a young officer, has had children born in those states.
But if these children want to apply for a job in the civil service or the army, they have to go back to Yoruba land where their father hails from. This has meant that there will not be a truly common citizenship.
My dear departed friend, Tajudeen Abdulraheem, had somehow been unique in this in that he was, incredibly, both Yoruba and Hausa, his father having migrated to the north and taking him along with him.
Maybe if he had not died at such a young age, he would have been the one true Nigerian to unify the others.
When, in 1975, a group of young officers (including Obasanjo and Joseph Garba) led by Murtalla Muhammad took over the country and sounded like they were determined to make Nigeria make sense and take its rightful place in Africa, some of us were elated.
I remember vividly the way Murtalla and Garba marched into Africa Hall, Addis Ababa, in early 1976 to change the course of the debate over the recognition of the People’s Republic of Angola, which had divided the continent down the middle. Even Idi Amin, who was chairing the session, realised that the big boys had arrived.
But Murtalla was assassinated before the year was out. Another opportunity seemed to offer itself with the election of Moshood Abiola in 1992, but he was not allowed to govern and died in prison in the custody of perhaps the most sinister of all the plotters in that plot-drunk country, Sani Abacha.
Is this big country once again on the verge of civil war and possible collapse?
The scars of the Biafra war have never healed completely; Nigeria desperately needs a transformational leadership that will pull it in the direction of nationhood.
JENERALI ULIMWENGU writes from The East African