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My introduction to economic reform in my country really began in 2000 when, at the invitation of President Obasanjo, I took a leave of absence from my job at the World Bank to return to Nigeria for six months to serve as his Economic Adviser. My remit was very specific: advise the president on how to manage Nigeria’s debt so that the country could begin the process of seeking and obtaining debt relief from its largely Western group of official creditors, all members of the Paris Club.

 

I first met President Obasanjo in 1999, shortly after he won the elections but before he was sworn in as president. He had decided to visit important Western capitals to engage in discussions about Nigeria’s problems and to share his vision and his agenda for the country’s economic and social recovery from the “dead” years of General Abacha’s dictatorship.

 

His public relations adviser, Onyema Ugochukwu, a relative and a close friend of my husband, thought that he needed additional briefing on topical international economic issues of the time, as well as specific advice on how to approach Western leaders on issues of concern to Nigeria, such as lifting the country’s debt burden and improving its image.

 

Onyema Ugochukwu phoned me one Saturday morning in March 1999 and asked me to put together a brief that would help President Obasanjo prepare for his proposed world tour. The brief I put together focused on Nigeria’s most pressing economic problems, especially its debt, and on how the international community could contribute to solutions.

 

In particular, I suggested to the president that he might make the case to the international community that their support to solve pressing economic problems in Nigeria would yield the country a much needed “democracy dividend” after decades of military rule. The president liked the brief and the notion of a “democracy dividend.” He used the expression extensively throughout his term in office.

I met President Obasanjo in person when he came to the United States a few weeks later. In January of 2000, he requested that I return to Nigeria as his Economic Adviser for six months. My work in those six months focused on sorting out the extent of the country’s most important financial liabilities (including its US$30 billion in external debt), on getting the seven different offices managing different parts of the debt to cooperate with one another so we could begin to reconcile figures, and ultimately on creating a national Debt Management office (DMO) to bring some clarity and rationality to debt management. This work laid the foundation for my return as Minister of Finance three years later.

 

Building an Economic Team

 

In 2003, President Obasanjo won a second term in office and decided to focus much harder on reforming Nigeria’s faltering economy. He needed a modern and technocratic finance minister who was familiar with the fierce politics of the time. My name was suggested to him by Lady Lynda Chalker, a former International Development Secretary of the United Kingdom based on recommendations from two other reformers-Nasir EI Rufai and Oby Ezekwesili-with whom I had struck a friendship during my short stint at home.

 

Since President Obasanjo was already familiar with my work, I seemed a logical choice, so he rang up my boss-James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank-to ask him to persuade me to resign my job as vice president and corporate secretary of the World Bank to become Nigeria’s Minister of Finance.

 

When Jim Wolfensohn approached me, I was torn and conflicted on both a personal and a professional level. On the personal level, my financial situation was different than it had been in 2000 during my advisory stint at home. Then, I had been able to forgo some of my earnings and benefits to serve because we had only one child attending a university.

 

By 2003, we had two, and a third getting ready to go, and the main question that my husband and I had to confront was how to manage all the financial obligations without going into debt if I went home to serve President Obasanjo. On a professional level, setting up the Debt Management Office had been an eye-opening experience and at the same time a fulfilling one.

 

I thought this would be an unprecedented opportunity to serve my country again, with a new democracy in place and a president who seemed open to change. But I had also experienced firsthand some of the complicated politics of implementing reform.

 

Even with an issue as technical as debt management, there were people who were vested in the status quo and did not want change. It seemed to me that reforming the management of the country’s debt would be a picnic in comparison with the challenges I would face as a Minister of Finance.

 

This time, virtually every aspect of the economy would have to be reformed. A comprehensive strategy would be needed to stabilise Nigeria’s volatile macroeconomic environment, tackle endemic corruption, and redress various structural features of the economy hindering private enterprise. The country’s woeful social indicators and abysmal delivery of basic services such as power, water, and transportation would have to be addressed. The prospects were daunting.

 

Surely designing and implementing such wide-ranging reforms could not be done by one person alone. Were I to accept, I would need advice on how to approach that enormous task. And accept I did, after two weeks of reflection and consultation with family members and friends, many of whom were opposed to the idea because they felt it was too great a risk to my professional reputation. Many felt that somehow, to quote one of my friends, “my reputation would be rubbished” – either by those who would be against me in government or others outside.

 

Jim Wolfensohn proffered a great deal of wise advice that tended to confirm my own feelings that this could be a unique opportunity to give back to my country. Because the World Bank had a rule mandating resignation for those accepting policy-making positions, I resigned from my position there once I had decided to accept the offer from Nigeria.

 

The financial problems were sorted out by President Obasanjo’s approach to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to open a Diaspora Fund similar to the arrangement they had worked out for Afghanistan and other countries.

 

Returning members of the Nigerian Diaspora would be paid their previous salaries for a year or two until they could make adequate financial arrangements to take care of their existing obligations abroad. Several of us returning to Nigeria benefited from this fund, and it made a clear difference in our ability to return at short notice. The arrangement later became controversial.

 

Referred to in the news media as the” dollar salary” saga, it was seized on and played up over and over again by anti-reform elements to imply that I was somehow less than committed to Nigeria because I was being paid more than the other ministers, and in foreign currency.

 

Neither the circumstances in which I took the job, nor the fact that I was not the only official being thus paid, nor even the fact that it was a transitional arrangement and that I gave it up during my last 15 months of work got much play in the media.

 

As I contemplated the tasks before me, there were no manuals to tell me what to do, so I turned to someone who had just had some success in managing economic reforms. Amaury Bier, Brazil’s former deputy finance minister had just joined the Board of the World Bank as Alternate Executive Director after four years of implementing successful  economic reforms under the Cardoso administration. Jim Wolfensohn suggested I talk to him. How did they do it? What practical day to day steps did they take?

 

The first piece of advice Amaury Bier gave me was critical. “You will need to form an Economic Team of like-minded people who can stick together to fight the tough battles,” he emphasized. In Brazil, he had learned the hard way, a team was essential to bring different perspectives and expertise to the design of the reform program, but, more important, to help push through the cabinet the approval of proposed reforms.

 

Without team members supporting one another in cabinet, important reforms displacing vested interests could easily be blocked, he emphasized. He also counseled that building team spirit and keeping the team working together would be important as the reforms began to bite, since some people would be interested in dividing the team and fomenting dissension. To avoid this, Bier urged, the team should meet frequently-at least once a week-to discuss progress and problems.

 

A second piece of advice Bier gave was equally important: there was need for a comprehensive strategy that would set out major challenges and the reforms needed to turn these around. In particular, it would be important to build in the sustainability of such reforms right from the start to avoid later reversals. One good tool was the enactment of legislation to underpin reforms.

 

Armed with this advice, I flew to Nigeria in May 2003 to discuss the scope of my job and to get President Obasanjo’s agreement on the formation of a Presidential Economic Team. The president readily agreed to the team, noting that I would lead it and he would preside over it as chair.

 

Working with him, colleagues and I came up with a list of twelve members representing the areas of expertise that various reforms would require. These twelve people – with expertise in macroeconomics, microeconomics, debt management, privatisation, private-sector development, governance, anti-corruption measures, civil-service reform, and budget management – became the core of the team.

 

One appointment of particular importance (because he or she would have the ear of the president every day) was that of Economic Adviser to the president. We needed a sound macroeconomist-something Nigeria had not had in many years – who would reinforce the importance of the reforms. I nominated Charles Chukwuma Soludo, who later became a Central Bank Governor.

 

The  team faced many challenges and tensions in keeping together, some of these stoked from outside. One early challenge occurred in July 2003 right after cabinet members had been sworn in. The president invited all the new members and other top officials and presidential advisers to a one-day retreat to explain his priorities and objectives for the administration and also to familiarise most of us who had never been in government with the main public service rules and imperatives.

 

Most of the new members of the Economic Team were there. We sat close to one another in some kind of solidarity. The retreat was well under way when the president announced (completely out of the blue, to me) that he would be moving the Budget Office of the Federation, normally part of the Ministry of Finance, to the Office of the President, along with the new budget director, who was also a member of the Economic Team.

 

I could hardly believe what I had heard, and turned to a team member to double check if I had heard correctly. It

was already evident that drastic reform of the budget process and of budget priorities would be central to the reforms. It would be important to link such reforms to changes in the financial management system in the finance ministry. Removing the Budget Office was akin to ripping the heart from the chest.

 

I felt that this would make major changes impossible to achieve and would furthermore deprive the Ministry of Finance of a central economic and political function. I was also in shock because the president had not discussed this with me. I thought, as the Minister of Finance, that he would at least mention such a major change to me, and maybe even ask my opinion of it. The fact that he had not done this was a major eye opener.

 

I felt two things. First, I could not be Minister of Finance with a major function removed. It would be a hollow job. I would be unable to complete the reforms I had come to Nigeria to complete, and therefore there would be no need for my services. Second, the president evidently did not trust me.

 

Otherwise, why would he not even have mentioned such a momentous change? I was angry and confused. To shield my feelings from public view, I got up and left the meeting hall. Other members of the Economic Team followed me out of the hall in concern and solidarity. By the time I walked out, I had resolved to leave.

 

I went ahead and wrote my letter of resignation. I then called the president’s office and asked if I could see him after the retreat. I as granted an evening appointment. I took my resignation letter with me and handed it to the president in an audience filled with tension.

 

He flung the letter at me and said I was free to resign and leave. I took that at face value, thanked him, and left. I later found out that the flinging of the letter was a sign for me to apologise and withdraw my resignation, but I was as yet untutored in presidential mannerisms and probably still would have resigned had I known what the gesture meant.

 

That evening, several people came to see me and to put pressure on me to withdraw my resignation. I refused. At the same time, two important members of the president’s inner circle – Principal Secretary Steve Oronsaye and Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – put pressure on him to reconsider and find a way out.

 

The president asked me to come back to see him the following morning. I attended the meeting with my father for support. At that meeting, the president told me that he had decided that the Budget Office could stay in the Ministry of Finance but the budget director would be reporting to him.

 

Mapping out the reform strategy

 

Even before the reform team had coalesced, some of us who formed the core of the reformers had begun to brainstorm on a strategy that would encapsulate the reforms. Nigeria was really not short on strategies, plans, or visions. We had Vision 2010, which attempted to articulate a way forward for the country’s development.

 

But this vision was actually not successfully translated into a medium-term program that could be implemented and monitored. We knew that we had to produce a medium-term plan that would pass three tests. It needed a sound diagnosis of the country’s socioeconomic problems; it needed to propose solutions; and it needed to translate the solutions into specific actions that would produce results and could be monitored.

 

We also knew that, in view of skepticism in the country about reforms and change, we would have to achieve some early victories that would signal change. My training at the World Bank, where I had worked on many reform matrices for a variety of low-income and middle-income countries, would come in handy.

 

The impetus for quick work on the  strategy came from a meeting scheduled for September 2003 between President Obasanjo and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss Obasanjo’s quest for debt relief and for a return of public assets that had been stolen from Nigeria and lodged in the UK.

 

The president had proposed that the Economic  Team accompany him to this meeting to explain Nigeria’s proposed new economic reforms. I solicited written inputs from members of the Economic Team already working on important areas of reform – privatisation, budget monitoring, and price intelligence linked to public procurement reform.

 

For example, over a weekend, using their inputs, I produced a 17-page paper outlining the major economic and social problems and especially highlighting the problem of Nigeria’s huge external debt overhang, which was a drag on investment and economic growth.

 

I proposed a set of macroeconomic and structural reforms focusing on budget management and priority setting; fiscal reforms; liberalisation and deregulation of important economic sectors; privatisation of important public enterprises; governance and institutional reforms, including public service reform; and anti-corruption actions, especially concerning public procurement.

 

After completing the first draft, I invited comments and inputs from team members, then translated the paper into a PowerPoint presentation for the president’s review and comment, including a set of matrices of specific reform actions with a timeline.

 

I presented the plan first to a joint UK technical team from the Department of International Development and the Treasury, which wanted to make sure we had something serious to share with the prime minister, and then to the prime minister himself.

 

Prime Minister Blair also invited World Bank president, Jim Wolfensohn to the meeting to get his views on Nigeria’s reforms. With a successful presentation, we knew we had the basis to deepen the analysis into a full-fledged program of change for the economy, incorporating action in essential sectors, including agriculture, education, and health.

 

During that visit to the UK, the Economic Team stayed late into the night further debating the content and even the name for the strategy. We bandied various names around. It was Nasir EI Rufai who came up with the name that we would eventually use for the strategy: the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts Boston Receives Monumental Boost To African Art Collection

"The Museum of Fine Arts Boston recently received a collection of extremely rare sculptures from Benin, adding new depth to their African art collection. Until now, the museum only owned a single piece from Benin -- though it opened its African Art section over twenty years ago. The pieces are prized for their sharp detail and scarcity, as a majority of the works were destroyed during colonialism. Now the Boston MFA is the proud owner of 28 bronze statues and six ivory pieces.New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, great-grandson of a founder of Lehman Brothers, is behind the gift. He purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s, and ultimately chose to part with his prized collection, according to the Wall Street Journal, because they "would make a real difference in Boston."

With great skill and clarity the works give a realistic view of West African history through its people's own traditional artwork. Metalworking was a key component of the King's court during Benin reign, and Benin people were especially fond of working with brass, which symbolized the continuity of kinship because its resistance to corrosion. The musical instruments, weapons and ornaments on display shed new light on a rich history that is rarely discussed in America today." -Huffington Post

 

Horseman Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 16th century Copper alloy

Commemorative head of an Oba (King) Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, late 16th century Copper alloy

Pectoral showing two officials Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 16th-17th century Copper alloy

Portuguese rifleman Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 16th century Copper alloy

Relief plaque showing a dignitary with a drum and two attendants striking gongs Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 1550-1650 Copper alloy
Saltcellar Sapi peoples, Sierra Leone and Guinea, late 15th-early 16th century Ivory
Pendant showing an Iyoba (Queen Mother) with a gong Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, late 17th-early 18th century Ivory
Relief plaque showing a battle scene Edo peoples, Benin
kingdom, Nigeria, 1550-1650 Copper alloy
*Robert Owen Lehman Collection
*Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Since the 1973 oil embargo imposed on United States by Arab oil producing nations, United States has not relented in pursuit of strategies to make America energy secured and sufficient. The energy security was paramount to United States because of its dependency on foreign oil especially in the troubled Middle East. American modern industrial complex is run on oil and she cannot afford to be vulnerable to the instability in Middle East, its primary source of oil. Finally, the formulated strategy is bearing fruit in a big way and United States has apparently reached the promised land of energy sufficiency and it will soon export crude oil by 2014.

 

Earlier, United States strategic interest was extended to Nigeria where the supply of sweet ebony crude oil was more reliable. Nigeria was a good alternative to Middle East where political insecurity and instability are threat to oil shipment to United States. The energy policy makers and business community in America does not want to rely solely on the Middle East oil. Therefore looking beyond Middle East was a smart strategic move, not that they abandon oil supply from that part of the world but they diversify their sources of oil supply to include Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, Venezuela and many other places in southern hemisphere.

 

But even with the myriad sources of oil supply to America, it has not abandon oil drilling and exploration within continental America. It is a goal and principal task among oil explorers in United States to make a quantifiable difference in supply of energy for internal consumption. With innovative technology, strategic planning and implementation, they are beginning to win the battle.  The technology and cost that hampered local exploration of oil deposits have been improved and scientifically uplifted. The cost of production is managed brilliantly with insight and innovations that are now bearing fruits.

 

With intensive research and development, United States has struck gold with discovery of fracking process for recovery of ‘lost’ oil embedded on rock formations in deep underground. Since 1951 US discovered a large oil deposit at Bakken formation which is at the landscape which encompassed Montana, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan. But the rock formation was difficult to extract oil from but with fracking procedure US will soon become an oil exporting nation that will rival Saudi Arabia and OPEC. The 1920 Mineral Leasing Act which restricted oil export in United States may be abrogated.

 

Chris Swann, Reuters Breaking views columnist, writing on this subject put it this way:

“America’s energy boom is spurring a clash between the realms of politics and economics. Meaningful exports of oil have been banned for almost a century. But with output surging and crude fetching a 20 percent discount at home, producers want to ship it overseas. BP, Royal Dutch Shell and four others have applied for limited licenses to do just that. Unblocking trade could benefit everyone.

The 1920 Mineral Leasing Act allows producers to sell only tiny amounts of black gold abroad. Even shipments to Canada require a special license – BP has just secured one. At present America exports just 47,000 barrels a day, against imports of over 8 million barrels. Yet production has shot up 32 percent since 2008.

The output surge has been gradually helping to make America more energy self-sufficient. The only drawback is that there’s not as much demand at home for the light sweet crude generated by new fields – and many U.S. refineries are configured to process heavy sour crude. On top of that, the pipeline network for transporting domestic crude is inadequate.”

 

At the Bakken formation  there is a reliable crude oil deposit up to 4.3 billion barrels and together with other oil spots in America, there will be no need for America to import sweet light crude from  Nigeria because the land mass at Bakken Formation contain essentially sweet light crude.

At the present United States imports 15 percent of its oil from Nigeria and it was projected to import about 25 percent of its oil consumption from Nigeria by 2015. But with discovery of fracking process and with the large deposit of crude oil at Bakken, Nigeria has to look for another market for its oil export and consumption.

Energy security and sufficiency has been United States priority and it can now join the family of oil exporting nations. United States did a great job in energy conservation, together with Natural Liquefied Gas, and other energy alternatives in a mix; it propelled US to achieve energy sufficiency.

 

Nosedive of price and oil glut


Nigeria policy makers and National Assembly were squabbling over $75 pegging of oil benchmark for 2013 budget but they come short of realistic strategic econometric forecasting of oil price by 2014. In the next couple of years the price of oil will come down but no expert can say for sure how much it will be but there are chances that price of oil will dramatically nosedived with United States exporting oil and competing with OPEC on the world stage.

 

Another leverage United States will enjoy over Nigeria and OPEC nations is its ability to refine its own crude oil. Although, many of the oil refineries in United States were technologized to process high sulfur oil; but US will overcome the shortcomings by building refineries geared for sweet light crude refining, while simultaneously getting a helping hand from nearby Canada.

 

Nigeria will feel the heat and may lose more than other OPEC members because she failed to diversify her economy and leverage oil generated revenue for development.  The Nigeria’s economy still depended on oil for 95 percent of its foreign exchange; the economy is not diversified but rather ridden with 'chop chop' corruption. The economy lacks the incentive that it needs to attract a large and enduring capital that will make a difference in the life of an average Nigerian. The core social and physical infrastructures that enable the wealth creation to be sustainable are absent because Nigeria failed to have a clear cut priority. Buying  private jets, drinking expensive wines and siphoning  money abroad will not cut it. Nigeria cannot boast of  uninterrupted  supply of water and electricity for a full day. That is incredible!

Nigeria does not have seasoned leaders and patriots to turn the country around. As the President Jonathan said, one person cannot do it alone but at same time Nigerians must not be waiting to be invited to build their own nation.

 

Nigeria‘s future Market


The appropriate thing to do is to look for market in Far East especially in China, Japan and India. These nations are already doing business in Nigeria; China for one is not a stranger in Nigeria, where she is playing an important role in oil exploration. This can also be said of India; the truth is that things are going to change because United States will not abandon those markets for Nigeria and OPEC nations. With all the internal insecurity bubbling in Nigeria: the kidnappings, killings, corruption, unreliability; China and India may even prefer to buy oil from United States that is more reliable, without rancor and instability.

 

Therefore Nigeria must stop and look at internal market for its energy consumption especially within Nigeria and West Africa. But, first and foremost, building more refineries are quite essential to cease refining oil abroad. Nigeria has the internal market for its energy consumption. Building electricity plants that are run with its own energy which are in ample supply is the way forward. The good thing coming out of this, is that the time has come for Nigeria to look inward and appease the energy demand in the economy rather than sending those resources off shore.

 

Emeka Chiakwelu,  Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Nigeria's Foreign Reserve Hits U.S.$42 Billion

 

Nigeria's foreign external reserves last week hit $42 billion as international rating agency, Fitch put the country's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'BB-' and 'BB' respectively with a Stable Outlook.

 

The reserves had been rising consistently over the past few months in line with the Coordinating Minister of the Economy's aims at building the reserves to $50 billion before the end of the year (2012), so as to serve as cushion for the economy in case of any global economic recess.

 

The presidency and the legislative arm of government are currently at odds over what the oil benchmark should be with the National Assembly settling for $78 per barrel benchmark against the finance minister's benchmark of $75.

 

According to Fitch, "The combination of a tighter fiscal stance, the reduced petroleum subsidy and a tightening of the subsidy payment system and other foreign exchange transactions, have resulted in a month-by-month increase in foreign exchange reserves this year of a cumulative $9.1 billion.

 

"This goes some way towards replenishing the buffer to withstand future oil price shocks. However, reserves still represent only 4.5 months of current external payments, compared to almost eight in 2008. The inauguration of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority could herald a stronger mechanism for saving above budget oil revenues. However, it is not clear when it will begin receiving regular inflows", the rating agency said.

 

Fitch further said the ratings of the country reflect progress on a number of fronts including a tighter fiscal stance, an improvement in electricity supply, increased agricultural output which has helped reduce imports, and an increase in international reserves.

 

However, it said the "reinvigoration of structural reforms has yet to feed through to a higher growth rate and weaknesses including a vulnerability to oil price shocks, high inflation and governance challenges weigh on the rating."

 

The rating agency noted that despite the various reforms of the government, "he reforms have yet to have a noticeable impact on GDP growth. Growth has slowed this year, averaging 6.2 per cent in first half of 2012, compared to an average 7.4 per cent in 2009-2011."

 

Fitch said it believes the slowdown is temporary, affected by security and weather problems which have particularly affected agriculture. "A recovery to 7 per cent or more should be possible next year. However, there is no sign yet that growth is moving to a higher plain, which should happen as the reforms take hold. The banking system is also still convalescing, with credit growth barely positive in real terms due to high interest rates, limited lending opportunities and improved risk management.

 

Nigeria's rating is constrained by long-standing structural weaknesses including a per capita income well below both 'B' and 'BB' medians. A likely substantial upward revision to GDP due to rebasing will not fundamentally change this metric. Even after this, and with nominal GDP growth of up to 20 per cent per annum for the next two years, per capita income would remain well below the 'BB' median.

 

Other constraints include weak governance, a poor business climate, and relatively high and volatile inflation.

 

Sopurce: Leadership Newspaper

 

 

 

 

The economic linkages between sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, and the rest of the region, and  how developments in these countries can affect other countries in the region.

 

Developments in one economy can spillover to other countries through several channels, depending on the depth of the underlying economic linkages. Key channels include: (i) trade in goods and services, both formal and informal; (ii) financial sector interconnections; (iii) flows of capital, whether in the form of foreign direct investment, portfolio flows, or loans; and (iv) labor movements and (in the reverse direction) remittance flows.

 

Institutional factors can also play an important role: examples include the revenue-sharing arrangements in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU); the regional bond market that has been established in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU); and the exchange rate arrangements of the Common Monetary Area in southern Africa, where the three smaller member countries have long-standing exchange rate pegs to the rand. Quantifying the significance of these channels in sub-Saharan Africa is challenging given data limitations: trade statistics fail to capture what are often large volumes of unrecorded informal trade; data on capital flows and stocks are often of very poor quality; and information on labor flows and remittances typically understate the scale of activity involved by sizable margins. That said, some facts can be noted:

 

credit: Wikepedia Nigeria green, SA brown

 

• South Africa plays a significant role in the structure of intra-sub-Saharan African trade. Recorded exports to South Africa exceed  ++1 percent of domestic GDP for at least a dozen countries, with links most noticeable for countries in the SADC sub-region .

 

•Some clustering of trade flows can also be seen between Nigeria and its closest neighbors and within eastern Africa. The large amount of informal (unmeasured) cross-border trade in these sub-regions, particularly in agricultural goods, suggests closer ties and linkages than indicated by official trade statistics.

 

•Although trade within the region remains modest as a share of countries’ total trade, the ratio of intra-regional trade to national GDP has generally risen significantly in the past decade (Figure 2.1). Going forward, improved regional infrastructure and vigorous implementation of existing free trade agreements—including the use of less restrictive rules of origin and eductions in non-tariff barriers—would likely produce a further sharp increase in the scale and importance of such trade.

 

•The expansion of investment within the region by South African companies and institutions— both financial and nonfinancial—has brought with it a deepening of trade and other linkages within sub-Saharan Africa, while also helping to diversify the market orientation of South African exports.

 

•Banking groups headquartered in South Africa and Nigeria have rapidly expanded their operations across the region in recent years— although the business models used (focusing on local funding and lending) may act to contain the scope for financial contagion within the region.

 

Although available data on remittances suggest quite modest financial contributions from migrant workers to their home countries, estimates of migration across African borders point to large, mostly informal flows. Adverse shocks to host countries, such as South Africa and Nigeria, would likely lead to a fall-off in transfers in cash and in kind to the migrants’ home countries and at least some return of migrants.

 

•Domestic policies such as highly distortive tax and subsidy regimes, and institutional arrangements such as  customs revenue-sharing arrangements, can play important roles in transmitting shocks between countries.

 

 

 

 

Friday, 05 October 2012 14:35

Nigeria: Jonathan Appoints Service Chiefs

 

President Goodluck Jonathan appointed new top military bosses, but retained the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Onyeabo Azubike Ihejirika in his possition.

 

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahimn, is now the new Chief of Defence Staff, succeeding Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin who has retired.

 

Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh from Adamawa State is appointed Chief of Air Staff replacing Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar who has also retired.

 

Chief of Administration at the Defence Headquarters Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba from Delta State is the new Chief of Naval Staff.

 

Defence chief Ibrahim is expected to be promoted to the rank of admiral by the President while naval chief Ezeoba will be elevated to vice admiral and air force chief Badeh to Air Marshal.

 

The former service chiefs had since served out their two-year tenure and the new appointments have now ended months of media speculations about their fate- whether they should all go because of the continuing security challenges.

 

Military sources said the president reserves the right to reappoint them, but in the end he exercised that discretion in favour of the Army and the defence chiefs Chiefs.

 

Vice Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim

 

Vice Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim 52 from Kwara state was a graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, he trained with the Royal and Indian navies. He holds the Bachelor of Laws Degree from Ahmadu Bello University and a Masters Degree from the Department of War Studies and Public at the King's College University of London. In February 2009, he was appointed as the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, the appointment he held till his elevation to the position of the Chief of the Naval Staff on September 8, 2010.


Lt Gen Onyeabo Azubike

 

Ihejirika was born in Ovim in Isuikwato Local Government Area of Abia State on 13 February, 1956. Gen Ihejirika has held many appointments in the staff, instructor and command categories. He was a Directing Staff (DS) at both the junior and senior divisions of the Command and Staff College, Jaji where he earn the prestigious psc(+). At the staff level, he was Staff Officer Grade 1 at the Army Faculty, Command and Lt Gen Ihejirika a former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division in Lagos and later Chief of Defence Logistics before his became army chief on 8 September 2010.


Rear Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba

 

Rear Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba was born on 25 July 1958 in Jos, Plateau state and hails from Ibusa in Oshimili- North Local Government Area of Delta State. A graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna Regular Course 22 and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, he trained at various times with the United States, Royal and Indian navies. Rear Admiral Dele Joseph is a Navigation and Direction Specialist and holds a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan.

 

Rear Admiral DJ Ezeoba also served as the Director of Operations and later as the Chief of Training and Operations at the Naval Headquarters. It was from this appointment that he was appointed as the Deputy Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Chief of Administration at the Defence Headquarters, the appointment he held till his elevation to the present appointment of the Chief of the Naval Staff on 4 October 2012.


Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh

 

Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh was born in Vimtim, Mubi North Local Government area, Adamawa State on January 10, 1957. He attended the Villanova Secondary School, Numan Adamawa State. He was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy as a member of the 21 Regular Course on 3 January 1977, and was commissioned pilot officer on 3 July 1979. He was promoted AVM on 3 January 2008.

 

He started his flying career at the 301 Flying Training School on the Bulldog primary trainer aircraft in 1979. He attended the Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base in the United States Air Force between January 1981 and September 1982. He is a Qualified Flying Instructor and has accumulated over 6000 flying hours on the Bulldog 123, Do 128-6, Do 228, Hawker 125, Hawker 1000, Falcon 900 and Gulfstream 5 airplanes.

 

He attended the National War College Nigeria as a member of course 14 and obtained Msc in August 2006 from the University of Ibadan.

 

AVM Badeh was a Directing Staff and Director National Military Strategy and the National Defence College, Chief of Policy and Plans Headquarters Nigerian Air Force. He was the Air Officer Commanding Training Command Nigerian Air Force Kaduna before he was appointed as air force chief.

 

. Ola Ibrahim is new CDS

 

. Ihejirika remains COAS

 

. Badeh is new Chief of Air Staff

 

. Ezeoba is new Chief of N/Staff

 

 

Source: Daily Trust

 

 

 

 

Nigeria @ 52:  Strongholds of Nation Building - Determination and Patriotism Are Lacking in the country's polity

 

Here we are again, another independence anniversary and this time around Nigeria is 52 years.  What is Nigeria has to show for this middle age of 52?   Two third of Nigerians are living in abject poverty, surviving with less than one dollar a day.  This implies that many of our fellow country men and women especially children go to bed on hungry stomachs. In most cases, the food are not adequate and are lacking in nutritious value needed for maintenance of a healthy life style.

 

Nigeria is a nation rich in natural resources and wealth but corruption is the bane of the society.  Revenues from oil export can be best utilized for wealth creation by providing infrastructures not for readily consumption. Then stability and modern infrastructures will attract capitals and investments for further wealth creation.

 

Nigeria has failed to provide electricity and drinking water, the simplest things of existence to her citizens that many people in different parts of the world have taken for granted. The streets and corners of Nigeria are overflowing with refuse and debris. The ramification of environmental deterioration, degradation and negations come with a big price - a rapid decline in the health being of the nation. Malaria, water borne diseases and air borne diseases are having their ways in Nigeria.

 

The environmental devastation in Nigeria is overwhelming. There is desert encroachment in the North, massive flooding in the West and gully erosion in the East. Nigeria is gradually but steadily eating away by environmental challenges.

 

The state of health infrastructure is burdensome, HIV/AIDS are killing Nigerians in millions and many of the citizens have not grasp the danger of this devastating disease due to lack of effective communication and educational awareness.

 

Nigeria's educational system used to be the envy of the world, but at the moment many first degree holders in Nigeria are unemployable because they are poorly trained. Many of the advance degree holders are unemployed and to add salt to injury, many of the graduates are turning to petty jobs including truck driving, cooks and house servants for survival.

 

Criminality and insecurity are engulfing the young nation. The youths are turning to life of crime and criminal enterprise due to lack of jobs and break down of morality. The level of corruption in Nigeria can be successfully compared to that of the defunct Roman Empire. Nigeria has been described as the center and home of internet scammers and e-mail criminals.  There are tribal, sectarian and regional disorders and violent eruptions, things are falling apart and the center is giving up too. Life is becoming cheap and massive deaths are recorded in hands of terrorists and criminals.

 

What's up Nigeria?

 

There is so much a nation can take before it breaks down and falls apart.  But this is not time to bury our face in the sand and act indifferently and nonchalantly to these existential problems. In the words of Chinua Achebe, it is "morning yet on creation day" and Nigeria can still recover and fulfill her destiny.

 

Nigeria must go to the root of the problems which are principally the lack of the strongholds of nation building - determination and patriotism.

 

Let start with Determination. A nation building is a conscious decision and iron-will determination made by men and women of goodwill and strong will to build a new nation. Nigeria must not be exception to the rule, for she must be determined to give it her best to build a nation worthy of passing down to the posterity. There is no miracle and there is no quick path to nation building.  The path to a great nation is paved with determination, strong will and hard work.  Nigerians must not delude themselves that nation building and stable nation can come easy without commitment and industry.

 

Nigeria must ask herself these questions and must be willing to answer them adequately:

What is Nigeria?

How is Nigeria?

Where is Nigeria?

When is Nigeria?

Who is Nigeria?

Why is Nigeria?

These questions are the basis for nation building and failing to meet their requirements can spells an immeasurable and incalculable doom for a nation in making.

 

Patriotism is the most powerful tool against corruption and when citizens are without them, no progress can be made in building a new nation. This is not the time to give lip service to patriotism while at same time sabotaging the cause of building a nation. When resources and funds marked for public projects are mismanaged, siphoned and stolen, then  strongholds of nation building have been betrayed and compromised.

 

The greatest commitment to a country is patriotism, Nigeria need patriots whose love for the country transcend their own self interest of primitive accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of their fellow country men and women.

 

This article is dedicated to the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the only detribalized national leader ever produced in Nigeria.

 

Emeka Chiakwelu, Analyst and Principal Policy  strategist at AFRIPOL

 

 

 

 

Published in Emeka Chiakwelu

 

Okonta still remembers  that morning when a neighbour rushed to the colonial  residence of Dr. Harrison at Ikoyi, Lagos, where he worked to announce to him that his wife Mariana  had been delivered of a bouncing baby boy. Okonta was dressed in his well- starched  khaki uniform in the colonial house when the cheery news got to him.

 

He made merry and entertained his friends to celebrate the birth of his son and named him Harrison after the whiteman in whose household he served as a servant.

 

The birth of  his only son coincided  with  the celebration of Nigeria’s independence on October 1, 1960.

 

Today, Harrison is 52 years and lives in Lagos. He has no  regular job  after  graduating from the university several years ago.

 

He had tried to sustain himself as a self-employed businessman but his business at Tincan Island suffered from excess custom duties and multiple taxations. Harrison couldn’t  cope with the blows that fate had severally dealt on him. At 52, he has no house he could call his own.

 

He has no regular  means of livelihood despite his B.SC in Business Administration and Masters  Degrees in two other Disciplines. He has no home  and has transversed severally between being an okada rider and a tricycle driver. On many occasions , he has served as a bus conductor and the finesse he acquired through education has given way to a crude, frustrated, middle-aged man.

 

But Harrison Ogbonna is not the only Nigerian whom fate has dealt with badly. Across the 36 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, there are many Harrisons who have been battered by fate but only few  were able to make a success story from  the school of hard-knocks.

 

The above story sounds like the typical Nigerian story. From what they taught us in history,  the pathway to Nigeria’s 52 years of independence  was littered with broken  promises.

 

Nigerians are people  suffering from battered egos and damaged psyche. Ab initio, our leaders had envisaged prosperity for the country, given  the country’s enormous resources but that had been mere dreams. As a nation very rich in oil resources, we have  receded from oil boom to oil doom.  Nigeria  has become  a giant with mosquito legs.

 

The elders of the country left good legacies. But their successors could not match the strength of the sages.

 

Sir Ahmadu Bello, former Premier of Northern Nigeria at our independence in 1960 said that the freedom of Nigeria from British rule  is not the freedom of the jungle, where might is right.

 

“We are not free to molest others  less strong than ourselves or to trample on their rights simply because we are in a position of authority over them. Independence brings with it heavier and new responsibilities.

 

The eyes of the world are on Nigeria now and there are many friends who hope that we shall be the leading nation in Africa. Let us say with all emphasis at my command that we shall never attain this goal if there is suspicion and mistrust among the peoples of Nigeria.

 

Such an attitude cannot benefit anyone and can easily lead to strife as has been the painful experience of other independent nations in Africa and elsewhere.”

 

It is obvious that Nigerians of today  never heeded the wisdom of the sages . In today’s Nigeria, deceit holds sway ! Almost every year, we lament our situation , wondering if  achieving nationhood is such an unrealistic and unworkable project.

 

From all indications, many have come to accept the reality that ours is a society where the morons are the barons; a society where thieves are kings;  a  society  where the monkey works and the baboon chops; a society where might is right and injustice the order of the day.

 

Today, ours is  a kingdom against itself. Things are  falling  apart and the centre can barely hold. Anarchy appears to have let loose upon  the nation. Insecurity, corruption in high places and other vices are building strongholds. These are felt in every facet of our daily life.

 

For years, we keep questioning ourselves about what went wrong  with our country but each year, the questions increase but there are less answers. We are forever  preoccupied with how to redesign the Nigerian project after 52 years of self-governance because of  the folly and greed of those who took over the affairs of modern Nigeria.

 

Beginning from 1966,  the country recorded eight military regimes. The final military regime left power on May 29, 1999 in between interjections of civilian regimes.

 

The military government came to power in pretence of restoring sanity in government but today, Nigerians know better.

 

Celebrating Nigeria at 52 is only to fulfill all righteousness. At least,  the country has been able to sustain civilian government  without interruption of the military government since 1999.  With her avalanche of social economic cum political challenges, the country is still rated as a major key player in the global economy.

 

The present  Nigerian leaders should see this independence celebration as time to reflect on our  past so as focus on the political emancipation of the country; restore security and the confidence of the populace.

 

 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 17:31

The Stranded Whale Called Nigeria

OPINION

In any other nation except our disjointed and hopelessly marooned federation, the fact that the central focus of discourse in the choice of our leaders at all levels anytime elections are about to hold is often reduced to the accident of their geographical origin should be a matter of serious concern to its elites. And if the matter is still the topical issue in the choice of our leadership more than fifty years after our independence it should be a deep source of worry and deep embarrassment, assuming, of course, that Nigerians as a collective, are still conscious of the meaning of shame!

 

To the eternal shame and embarrassment of the entire black race, fifty years after the departure of the British, Nigeria is still nothing more than a 'geographical expression', to recap the words of one of the Trojans of First Republic politics. Sadly, even today, the talk is always about the Yoruba nation, Igbo nation, the fabled Hausa-Fulani Oligarchy, an imaginary distinctive Middle-belt, and the South-South.

 

Whatever gains our colonial experience bequeathed on us in terms of organization and a value-adding public service system have been abused and hopelessly compromised possible beyond redemption.

 

We have been reduced to a nation of big dreamers and little achievers, and here, permit me to take a swipe and indeed enjoy a hearty laugh at the principal objectives of our much vaunted Vision 20:20 Plan.

 

From every indication, the plan was conceived without the slightest contemplation of the crucial role of those expected to faithfully implement the plan itself. And the last time I checked, those 'crucial human resource' to drive the plan called not changed their nationality. They are still Nigerians.

 

They are the big men and women of gargantuan egos and limited vision, especially when the issue affects Nigeria as an entity. They love big parties and big masquerades. It does not bother them in the slightest that their nation has remained stunted in growth for as long as their own statures, so obscenely Omni-present in midst of unprecedented poverty, remains undiminished.

 

And for that reason, they can see no hope for single, united and prosperous Nigeria. They want state police as a first step towards the unbridled cannibalization of the nation. They mock and ridicule every intelligent argument intended to pull the nation out of the quagmire into which their criminal ineptitude had condemned and constantly play the ethnic and religious card because it is the only guarantee for the perpetuation of their primitive hegemony.

 

And for that they are fully prepared to deploy every trick and strategy in the world to ensure that their principal victims - the long suffering masses of Nigeria - whether they lived in Yanagoa, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Ibadan or Owerri are not educated or enlightened enough to question their crass ineptitude and poverty of leadership.

 

Only last week, the Chairman of the Nigerian Universities Commission was credited with the report that Nigerian parents now spend an average of 160 billion Naira annually to train over sixty thousand Nigerian students in Ghana alone! By the time the statistics for the our students in tertiary institutions in Dubai, Ukraine, Turkey, Cyprus, India, Sudan, and China among others are factored in, the statistics in terms of the overall cost to our economy would, of course, be stupefying. And all that because of the embarrassing failure of our government to fix our own educational system which remains in deep chaos.

 

As I write this, two of my son's have just graduated from secondary school with good grades in their WAEC Examinations, thanks to the excellent work the Army is doing with the Command Secondary School in Suleja. Now it seems the bigger challenge is finding a befitting university for the two to pursue their dreams. One wants to become a doctor, and the other a lawyer. But if take the word of my good friend who is a Nigerian university don, even the thought of sending them to any of our public universities is not even an option! He knows the system inside-out and has warned me against the notion.

 

So it seems am also condemned to join the ranks of frustrated Nigerians who must starve so that their kids can realize their dreams abroad! It baffles and increasingly irritates me that our leaders do not even realize that risk we run by subjecting our future to such uncertainties!

 

For every promising Nigerian kid compelled to study abroad, there is every likelihood that he may never return to our shores again to contribute to national development. Among the few credible Nigerians conferred with national honours yesterday was a certain Jelani Aliyu who is the shining star in the renaissance of America's General Motors for his brilliance at designing cars! He had left for America for further studies after completing a diploma course in Nigeria. We are now left to contemplate what would have been if Nigeria had also kept pace with the development of nations like India and Brazil who have thriving automobile industries!

 

Jelani's story, like others before him, easily explains why our best brains continue to troop abroad whether they are scientists, doctors, or promising students, because our broken system and visionless leaders have contrived to make our local environment unattractive to them.

 

We import virtually everything we use in this country including toothpicks and used under-wear. We export every useful products and natural reserve only to import them at a premium because we lack the wherewithal and commonsense to refine the same products for effective national development. Sadly as the case of Jelani, and the endless stream of Nigerian students for better education has shown, such exports are not only restricted to prostitutes, but ultimately our most gifted brains crucial to effective national development. The other word for it of course, is brain drain!

 

The other worrying factor in the face of the current mess we have found ourselves in is the fact that managers of our economy can even dare to think about stabilizing the Naira in the face of such alarming capital flight. Shouldn't it be a cause for serious concern when the amount of money spent to by Nigerian parents to train their kids abroad annually is greater than our yearly vote for education? Do our leaders have blood running in their veins at all?

 

The way I see it, the only way the authorities along with our elites can be compelled to develop the critical patriotic zeal needed to urgently overhaul our health and educational systems for the good of the general citizenry were if there could be a form of legislation to prohibit all parents without exception from sending their kids to foreign institutions, and another for a total ban on overseas medical trips. But I doubt if that can ever happen.

 

Ours, like I wrote earlier, is a nation of big men in a hollow firmament called Nigeria. The nation must remain hollow so that their hegemony can endure. The big men are much more important than the nation itself. And the two are not mutually compatible. Our experience has proved that beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

That is why we celebrate the biggest political party in Africa when in reality it is not more than a dwarf compared to its peers in Africa and the rest of the developing world. Their greed is only matched in size by the evidence of their alarming mediocrity in all spheres of our national life. But we must not lose hope. Ghana was also like that before God used Jerry Rawlings to arrest the drift.

 

Before Rawling's decisive intervention, more than half of Ghanaian women had been forced into prostitution. Their graduates also served as house helps in Nigeria. But now our nation increasingly resembles a stranded whale; rich in potentials, but held down by bad leadership at all levels. We pray for God arrest the accelerated drift of our dear country towards the deep abyss.

 

Source: Daily Trust

China is offering Nigeria $1.1 billion in loans to help the West African nation build airport terminals, a light rail line for its capital city and communication system improvements, the country's Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

 

The loans reflect the deepening economic ties between oil-rich Nigeria and China, which already is involved in building major road and railway projects in the nation. However, similar deals with China have fallen apart amid corruption allegations, problems that persist today and could potentially put this new deal at risk as well.

 

The light rail project for Abuja, the nation's central capital, would bring commuters in from suburbs surrounding the city's distant international airport and from neighbouring Nasarawa state, the finance ministry said. That project would cost about $500 million, the ministry said.

 

Another project, valued at $100 million, part of a loan deal already signed involving the light rail, would go toward improving Nigeria's Internet capability, the ministry said.

 

The 20-year, 2.5 per cent interest loan for those two projects has a grace period of seven years before payment is required, the ministry said.

 

Separately, another $500 million loan will go toward building airport terminals in Abuja, Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt, the statement read. Airports in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 160 million people largely sit in disrepair as most were built in the 1960s and 1970s.

scmp.com

Chinese diplomatic officials in Nigeria could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

 

The loans come as China increasingly looks across Africa for raw minerals and supplies to fuel a massive economy that has slowed in recent years during the economic downturn. Addax Petroleum, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned oil producer Sinopec Group, already pumps crude oil from Nigeria, although it is a relatively small amount compared to other Western companies operating there.

 

China also has been mentioned as a possible bidder for oil blocks in the country, though experts believe past Nigerian governments only have used the Chinese interest to force Western firms to increase their own bids.

 

Recently, Chinese workers helped reconstruct parts of Nigeria's moribund railroad system and have built roads and other projects in the country. But other projects haven't fared as well. In 2006, then-President Olusegun Obasanjo signed an $8 billion deal with the Chinese to repair his nation's railroads, with no visible effect.

 

 

 

 

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