Archive for June, 2013

 

 Image By Prince Charles Dickson

 

The greatest lesson in life is to know that sometimes even fools are right—Winston Churchill

 

Early this year, I was with Ngozi Iweala and she spoke glowing on Nigeria’s economy, gdp and all those terms. I nodded and smiled.  I recalled our meeting pre-debt relief era and all her talk then…it wasn’t so much of a changed woman.

 

Only a week ago she was again at it with Labaran Maku, the chief talkative as umpire at the ministerial briefing, more and more figures and data of progress, international validation and all that ratings from fitch.

 

Labaran in his usual hyperactive manner praised her as the best thing after slice bread…all talk anyway.

 

For all my little education, my maths is very poor, my knowledge of economics relatively average, and my level of financial know-how is not more than those high-sounding words and those pages of the financial markets in newspapers and those confusing figures and abbreviations on screen.

 

I take it that I am a fool, but on account of the issues I am right.  She has remained like the turtle that just did not know when to keep quiet, a story I would tell us before I close this admonition.

 

Many Nigerians may have forgotten how we waited for madam for months, she resumed office vowing, promising, swearing, meeting, huffing and puffing.

 

She pledged to tighten fiscal policy amid falling oil prices and turbulent global financial markets. With her counterpart in the commerce and industry ministry, it has been all talk, fact is that except the Lebanese and their bread and bombs, these days, Indians who are running our plastic factories, the Chinese and all its inferior phones, Thailand and rice,  these days it’s become bad we enter MOUs with Vietnamese. Who really is investing in Nigeria with sincere motives for mutual benefits?

 

Jonathan had asked and begged Okonjo-Iweala to return to government after ‘winning’ the presidential polls, expanding her mandate to include the coordination of economic policy. Her priority, find ways to meet Jonathan’s goals of increasing investment in power plants, roads and agriculture to help diversify the economy and create jobs. She is supposed to be fresh breath itself!

 

How all NOI figure talk in a nation literally run by a group of political vandals finding plumage in a bird cage of the thieving ruling class and opposition remains a mirage. Because the truth is, there are no jobs, businesses are falling, industries closing and not that these are new stories, government bazaar spending and borrowing continues.

 

While madam reels those sweet looking figures, in the words of the Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina Nigeria is eating beyond its means. “This is not fiscally, economically or politically sustainable.

 

Well, let me share this folklore, once, in a certain lake, there lived a turtle and a pair of swans. The turtle and the swans were friends. They would spend all their free time together telling each other stories, and exchanging news and gossip. The turtle especially loved to talk and chatter, and always had something to say.

 

One year, the rains did not come, and the lake began to dry up. The swans became worried. Supposing it did not rain at all, and the lake dried up completely? Where would they live in that case? But the turtle had a plan. She suggested that the swans fly in search of a lake that still had plenty of water. Once they found such a lake, all three of them could move there.

 

The swans agreed and flew off. After flying for several hours they the perfect lake. They returned to the turtle with the good news. But now another problem arose: the new lake was too far for the turtle to walk. How was the turtle to get there? The swans did not want to leave their friend behind.

 

The turtle thought for a while and came up with another plan. She asked the swans to find a strong stick that they could hold in their beaks. The turtle would then hang on to the stick with her mouth, and the swans could fly with her to the new lake.

 

The swans liked the idea, though they were worried that the turtle might begin talking and fall off the stick. ‘You must be careful not to open your mouth while we are flying with you,’ they warned her. ‘Do you think you will be able to be quiet for such a long time?’

 

‘Of course,’ said the turtle. ‘I will be careful – I know when to stop talking.’

 

So the swans did as she asked. They found a strong stick and each swan held one end of it in its beak. The turtle held on to the middle with her mouth, and away they flew, all three of them.

 

It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to the turtle. She was amazed at the way the world looked so far above the ground. She was longing to say something, but remembered in time to keep quiet.

 

At last they reached the lake the swans had found. It was a beautiful lake, large and blue, with plenty of water. ‘Oh look!’ the turtle began in excitement, remembering much too late to keep quiet. The stick slipped from her mouth and down she fell from the sky onto the rocks below. The swans were sad to see the end of their friend – the turtle did not live to enjoy the lake, only because she did not know when to stop talking.

 

Fact is all these figures in more than many ways are publicity/public relations and image stunts…someone needs to stop talking and act.

 

Like a former finance minister put it, “The issues are: meaningful anti-corruption with a clear even-handedness, across-the- board,…power generation and regular delivery to industry and households; healthcare to citizens at a level and coverage that’s consonant with our resources; significant level of meaningful employment through job creation from the real sectors.

 

Primary, secondary and tertiary, including hard and soft infrastructures; poverty alleviation through a more effective spread of social safety net, and the use of fiscal interventions in public spending at federal, state and local governments.

 

The prerequisites for improving our weak institutions would cover the following: adhering to the basic principles of democratic governance, not just in words, but by deeds!

 

Adhering to the Principle of the Rule of Law; accountable practices in public and private financial dealings. It also calls for a secure environment, and the nurturing of the various freedoms.  Freedom to select and freely vote for candidates, unfettered by political pressure or corrupting influences”.

 

In Brazil, more than 250,000 anti-government demonstrators took to streets in several Brazilian cities and engaged police in some isolated, intense conflicts. Anger over political corruption emerged as the unifying issue for the demonstrators, who vowed to stay in the streets until concrete steps are taken to reform the political system.

 

…This is a Brazil that is seemingly working…Ngozi Iweala, Ms. Sarah of the 60% of Nigerians have water, and the agriculture minister dude of give me your gsm number movie, labaran and co. should get their acts right, and quick too, education is dying a cruel death, regarding electricity, till we see the tunnel at the end of darkness, I may be a fool, but I pray for the sake of millions we are wrong and Jonathan and his transformers are right, only time will tell.

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The Craze Of Dubai Weddings

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

By Olusegun Adeniyi

While many of our idle rich people have for long stopped celebrating their birthdays in Nigeria, preferring to transport their friends and associates to some choice destinations abroad, the new craze in town is that the wedding ceremonies of their children and wards also no longer hold in our country: It is now a Dubai affair!
 
Ordinarily, wedding ceremonies are religious cum traditional affairs between two individuals and two families who would invite their relations and well wishers to share in the joy of the day. And it is usually held, in most cultures in our country, at the location where the parents of the bride reside or the community they hail from. But because of the corruption of our values and all that we once held dear, wedding ceremonies are now being exported to countries that have nothing to do with the family of either the bride or the groom.
 
The latest of such happened recently between the son of one of our subsidy billionaires and the daughter of a top civil servant. Even when the parents on both sides are Nigerians who have done well for themselves here, they did not consider our country good enough for their children to tie the nuptial knot. The father of the groom had to spend a scandalous amount of money ferrying no fewer than 20 senators, numerous House of Representatives members, many bankers and politicians of all hues to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate for the obscene wedding that has now put the career of the bride’s father in serious jeopardy.
 
For sure, there is no law that prevents anybody from taking the wedding of his children to the moon. But there is something immoral about Nigerians who make cheap money here and would not even allow our people to share in the crumbs. Because by their offshore wedding ceremonies, they are cutting off the local event planners, the caterers, the musicians, the photographers and the poor people who ordinarily mill around such events to take home reception leftovers. Beyond all these is the image problems they create for our country.
 
When people associate Nigeria with corruption, it is not that other countries are immune from such sordid practices but rather because here, people flaunt ill-gotten wealth. And with no tax man after them, they can afford to advertise their debauchery since the money they spend is not worked for and no one is putting them to task on how they come about such humongous wealth. Yet we are talking about people who don’t employ beyond drivers, cooks, gardeners, stewards etc.–domestic staff who only minister to their personal indulgences. For instance, I cannot imagine that Alhaji Aliko Dangote will buy flight tickets for about a thousand people to go to Dubai, just for the wedding of any of his children. He won’t do that because he knows the value of every kobo which he works for while he is also conscious of the fact that thousands of families depend on him. But when you can get billions of Naira without sweat, you can as well decide to hold burial ceremonies in Alaska to feed your vanity!
 
Interestingly, President Goodluck Jonathan last week alluded to the debasement of values in our society. Represented by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Amal Pepple, at the official kick-off of the National Christian Campaign on Social Transformation, the president said: “The whole society has failed, that is one reason we have incidents of cultism, armed robbery, murder, ritual killing, drugs, sale of babies, kidnapping and sexual immorality. Indeed, we have lost our moral values and principle; so much has gone wrong in our family life, schools, churches and society in general.”
 
Such is the level of decay that when someone recently gave me details of the private jets owners, I just could not place many of the names. When I sought to know what many of them do for a living, the standard response was, “he is into oil”, which essentially means they are mostly rent seekers who prey on the lack of transparency in our oil and gas industry. It is therefore understandable that they will be taking their birthdays, wedding celebrations and even the naming ceremonies of their children to Dubai. But no society can develop when you have, as Nigeria evidently does, a preponderance of people with such warped values in critical positions in both the private and public sectors.
 
 He can be reached via olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

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By Wole Soyinka

Nigerians who are old enough will surely recall the source of the above title. For others, I ought to narrate its origin. Fortunately, early this year, I delivered a lecture at the University of Ibadan, where I made a passing reference to the true owners of that copyright. Here is the relevant section:

“At the passing of a short-lived dictator, his successor decreed two weeks of mourning, two weeks during which the nation went into a coma. Even the television and radio stations closed down – nothing but martial and funereal music was played, while churches and mosques took over the abandoned air-waves to drown the nation in suras and canticles of lachrymose outpouring. A very sharp group quickly formed something that was called the National Mourners Association – clever lot! While the nation was quarantined and bogged down in the orgy of lamentation, they were touring the world, sponsored by government, to take the gospel of anguish to every corner of the world that boasted a Nigerian diplomatic mission.”

Yes, that was at the death of General Murtala Mohammed. But now, we turn to address the latest progenies of that association, operating in a different clime and context, but cacophonously enmeshed in variations on that ancient tune.

When that day comes that individuals encounter hostility over their sensibilities in dealing with loss in their own way, privately, away from public eye, with or without symbolic public gestures, then we are witnessing the end, not simply of plain civility, but of civilization, and the enthronement of Fascism. It is not the intolerance and excess of a moment’s excitation, but of a cultivated arrogance and will to imposition, one that attempts to dictate the private responses of others to shared events. Once again we are confronted with the Nigerian phenomenon of the egregious appropriation of what is not on offer and thus, is not subject to dispute. Where frustrated, these claimants reel out chapters from their Book of Imprecations.

Let it be stated here, for the avoidance of doubt, that I am a solid believer in the collective rites of Farewell. I believe in Ritual. Humanity is often assisted to reconcile with loss in a collective, and even spectacular mode. The choice to participate or not, however, belongs to each individual, including even those who arrogate to themselves the mission of imposing on others their own preferred mode of bidding farewell. These self-righteous clerics are dangerous beings, especially where they flaunt the credentials of secular learning and gather in caucuses of presumed Humanities. From the herd, the mindless Internet fiddlers for whom the landing of a planetary probe, or a medical breakthrough is simply distraction from fraudulent internet mailing, nothing less is expected. What menaces the collective health of society is when the deserving highs of intellectual application of the former, become indistinguishable from the loutish low of the latter.

I do not pander to the expectations of the sanctimonious. I can absent myself from any event, for reasons that are personal to me. I can absent myself as the result of a mundane domestic situation, as legitimately as from a visceral rejection of occupancy of the same space, at the same time, in the same cause, with certain other participants. I may absent myself for the very reason of my disdain for that breed which is certain to cavil at the very fact of my absence. Such specimens pollute the very space they claim to honour. Sputter and rage they may, but even the most illustrious of that ilk cannot control that choice, neither will they be permitted free passage to encroach upon, and abuse the private spaces of human responsiveness.

I shall speak to them directly: your psychological profile is commonplace. It is not the honour to Chinua that agitates you, no, it is your own self-regarding that seeks to be reflected in the homage to a departed colleague. It does not take a psycho-analyst to recognize this phenomenon of greedy acquisitiveness, even of immaterial products. Like emotional parasites, you feed off others, but you have never learnt to value what others give, or be thereby nourished. I recognize you, atavistic minds – was it not your type that once disseminated an unbelievably primitive accounting for Chinua Achebe’s motor accident? Here goes the story, for those who seek light relief from ponderous unctuousness:

What happened was that I found myself unable to return to Nigeria for a Colloquium in honour of Chinua’s sixtieth birthday. My dramatic mind immediately scrambled for some striking manner of compensation. So I telephoned a business friend who had some agricultural connections in Delta State and told him: find the chunkiest, spotless ram in Delta State – all white or all black, but a thoroughbred of striking physique. Find a leather pouch, tie it to its neck with the following message and deliver it at the venue of the Colloquium. I no longer recall the exact dictated wording, nothing inspirational, just the usual felicitations and injunctions to turn that ram into asun for general feasting.

Those who attended the event will recall the grand entry of the gift – as reported by one and all, including the foreign visitors, and Chinua’s reported reaction, seated on the podium. He shook head and said, “Typical of Wole”. The ram was then led off to meet its destiny at the hands of the gathered. (As a side note, it was I who took a gift away from his seventieth at Bard University – a sobering flash of time past that resulted in my ELEGY FOR A NATION. I had that poem re-published to mark the day of his funeral.)

Our story is only beginning. On the way back from that celebration, Chinua had his accident and was flown to the United Kingdom. At the first opportunity, I made my way there and called up the High Commissioner, Dove-Edwin, who was certain to know the hospital location. It turned out that he also planned a visit that afternoon, and he agreed to give me a ride. We waited – I was joined by two others – waited, and waited, then a phone call came from him that the visit had been called off. The High Commissioner would explain why, on arrival – over a promised dinner, as compensation.

That explanation was this: Dove-Edwin had received communication that some of “Chinua’s people” – a university professor among them, who was named – had pronounced publicly that “Chinua should have known better than to accept a spotless ram from his enemy” – yes, that was the word used – “enemy”. I verified this report from various other sources. Later, an alternative diagnosis surfaced: “Chinua had been too long away from the chieftaincy politics of his hometown, otherwise he would have realized that the title that he took was coveted by some others – and these were deeply steeped in traditional psychic combat”. In short, those rivals “did him in”. Both diagnoses competed for dominance for a while, petering out eventually.

Before the promotion of that alternative cause-and-effect however, Dove-Edwin had re-scheduled, and we had a most bracing, optimistic afternoon with Chinua. Yes, our patient was eventually told the cause of the earlier postponement, and he had a good laugh. On my return to Nigeria, I could not wait to take the opportunity of a public lecture to invite all desperate enemies to please send me their rams of choice – spotless, spotted, piebald, striped or nondescript – so I could treat starving writers to free meals in my home for the rest of the year. And I promised to taste a piece of each ram before serving.

Yes, it is that same breed that continues to sow poison in the minds of the susceptible. Alas for you, it so happens that some of us insist on our own way of commemorating, of being there, even when absent. You, by contrast were never there, however ostentatiously you position yourselves at the event, or at vicarious gatherings to denounce, attribute sinister motivations, and inseminate hate against those whom your pedestrian vision cannot see. Your very loudness proclaims your absence. You were always absent. You will always be absent. So, this communication is not really meant for you but for those potential almajiri – whose minds you corrupt daily with your jeremiads in that accomodating madrassa known as Internet. As a teacher, I lament your failure to use the opportunity of the passing of a revered writer to turn your younger generation in enlightened directions. You have chosen instead to coarsen their sensibilities and breed in their minds misunderstanding, suspicion and above all – hate!

You will have understood by now how I have come to view you as no different from the homicidal clerics who arm youths with kerosene and match, cudgel and knife, a few Naira in their beggars’ bowls, and dispatch them to set fire to structures of comradely cohabitation, of reflection, of mind enlargement, and destroy communities of learning. Your gospel of separatism goes beyond the geographical – in which I have not the slightest interest! – but the humanistic. The difference is in the weapon – in your case, poison, mind corrosion. The means – Internet, and its wide open, undiscriminating generosity. That is where you lay spores of poison, and doom future generations to a confinement of human relationships within the darkest corners of the mind.

You are beyond pity. Kindly absent your selves from my funeral, when that event finally intrudes.

By Prince Charles Dickson

“You can only go round a pepper tree, you cannot climb it”

The crab may swim across big and small rivers but it will eventually end up in an old woman’s soup pot.

“How are you celebrating Yoruba democracy day.’They’ like the man but no gree make dey change ‘unilag’ to his name. Na UNN name dey want make dey give am”

The above was sent to me by my friend, on June 12, as I read it I recalled that phrase “oso abiola” (refers to how ibos reacted in the aftermath of the elections) the date was like any other day except it has become a reference point for some of the nation’s many fairy tales.

IBB has been our pillar–Abiola’s family. Misquoted, or misrepresentation. It tells it all, it is a true, and it is a lie. Already I seem to enjoy the tragi-comedy in the Abiola family, on who is the greatest and the revelation that even Obasanjo gave some ‘smart’ members of the family a few million to keep body and soul.

I have gone through countless opinions, commentaries and figments of June 12. This is my admonition…

There are several hundred stories about June 12, so there is about Nigeria, depends on who is telling it. Whether it is about Vatsa or IBB, or it’s about Idiagbon or Ojukwu, the document that says we should split by 2014. How Ironsi was killed or was Balewa shot?

Rumors, and small facts, myths and outright moonlighting tales and the actors keep dying one after the other. Former example anything said against Abacha, no Abacha to defend it… And how about that document that killed June 12, signed by the Sule Lamidos, Ciromas, Dongoyaros, Marks, Gusaus, Musa Yar’adua, Rimis, Nwobodos…and some several dozen fellows dead and alive to establish the ‘fi edi ha’ (take small part of yansh siddon) interim govt.

When a woman has ten children, there is nothing that happens in the night that she does not know about

I have used the term ‘rumors’, because most important events about Nigeria are only available at elite men parties and commoners’ beer parlors and palm wine joints.

A sizable amount of Nigerians believe that MKO got what he deserved, after his long romance with the military with business interests that were largely fronts for top military brass. All these businesses are dead today anyway.

Rumors: that once upon a time, despite all that claim of Nigerians voted for the first time a Muslim/Muslim ticket. Many Christians and others till tomorrow believe that folklore of him ‘sinking’ a ship load of bibles. Or wait that he and IBB basically put Nigeria into Organization of Islamic Countries.

Many Nigerians benefited from the MKO salt, wrapper, sugar and monies, but why did IBB and his men not stop the process when they could–forget that lame excuse of ‘pressure’ to hand over as promised.

If there was a particular group so against MKO emerging president after the military class. It was the Yoruba elite that fought against him. And while everyone who claimed NADECO went on to better their lot via asylums that came like VISA lotteries, the man died alone.

Many elite would say, after all he stabbed Awo and worked for Obasanjo to stop the Yorubas and was rewarded with money for Concord to fight Tribune…His bakery served ECOMOG and was responsible for that ‘wheat policy’…so?

How strange that our democratic symbols are rife with all manner of controversies, MKO was labeled International Thief-Thief by none other than Fela, a democracy without democrats and caricature activists.

I recall this factual tale, from an inside player that what hurt Abacha was the fact that after the brouhaha, he met with MKO and made him an offer (some big sum). MKO accepted, only to renege.

Most Eastern and South-South states don’t care about June 12 and whatever it stands for, just as Tofa Bashir (the man MKO beat) has said June 12 should be confined to the cemetery, dead, buried and of no-value. Is it not an irony NADECO today is headed by Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, an Igbo son?

But again the fact that it is celebrated in Southern Western states speaks volumes of our so-called unity. I have stopped since to preach our false unity, preferring to engage on the strength of our diversity. We are not one, cannot be one and the earlier we face that rumor the better.

While some celebrated the dictator that Abacha was, some even rate him higher than Jonathan in all spheres, after all even his looting records have been broken by the current crop.

If anyone had the chance of immortalizing MKO, it would have been Obasanjo, but here’s a man that has never hid his scorn for the name MKO for reasons only more tales can tell.

Just before you ask me my drive in this admonition, my take or stand. I will tell you, 80% of Nigerian young people aged around the 35year point don’t understand June 12, and these include the Akokites that prefer their ‘sexy’, name Unilag against some MAU-MAU acronym.

Many young Nigerians beyond book theorization do not know themselves or Nigeria except rumors, fairy tales and perceptions, few real, but many largely false.

I say categorically the problem with Nigeria is not PDP, nor APC but a politically bankrupt class and a grossly diminished intellectual yard.

That Nigeria itself is a tale celebrated and argued based on ethnic groups and religion, whims and caprice of a few that will continue to lord it over us because we are yet to find out whether MKO drank a poisoned cup of tea or Abacha ate poisoned Apple.

One of the many reasons Amaechi is being fought, is the political calculus that why should he connive with some Hausas to fight his ‘inactive’ brother. Would an Hausa man fight another sitting Hausa president to be vice an analyst from you know where asked me?

While another tale is that, it’s all about Namadi Sambo, Shema and Yuguda, just like Obasanjo was compensation to Yorubas for Abiola, the idea is Sambo will be dropped, he has no clout, infact he is from Agenebode, like Murtala was from Edo and IBB from Ogbomosho and Gowon (sef na like me) from many places and the battle is for the veepee post.

So like Americans say it, we are so full of ‘shit’. The truth is far from us, our critics including me are just more or less exercising our nuisance value, go ask Reuben and Ribadu, ask all those PDP soon to be APC chieftains—the exercise is called June 12-ing and next year, there will be more tales to tell.

We are not a united nation; we are not even a nation, we never may become one, till we are ready to move forward with the truth, stop all the tales, start to appreciate our diversity and ‘steal less’ and ‘lie less’ ever year we will keep June 12-ing–only time will tell.

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Burningpot Sources

Since President Goodluck Jonathan presented his administration’s mid-term report and score card on May 29, many people have continued to ask for more facts and figures to enable them make an objective assessment of the performance of the country’s economy, which the government insists is doing well. In this detailed report, Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, with contribution from the Minister of State, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama, provides details of the performance and health of the economy, backing it up with facts and figures. Happy reading.

I want to begin with what it is that the Ministry of Finance does. I want to remind people of our mission. Our mission is to manage the nation’s finances in an open, transparent, accountable and efficient manner that delivers on the country’s development priorities. There are four basic things we do in managing these finances and helping to manage the economy. The first is macroeconomic management. It’s the job of the Ministry of Finance, working with the Central Bank, to have a stable macro-economy. If there’s no stability, if things are moving, exchange rate is volatile, inflation is high – we have experienced it in this country before – what happens? You cannot even begin to think of development of the economy. So, that’s one of our jobs.

The other, of course, is managing the finances and mobilising finances for the real sector of the economy; meaning the other sectors that create jobs can grow. Then we also have the job of supporting enabling reforms that make this economy move. And finally, we have the job of supporting job creation indirectly and directly. So, we’re going to talk about what the Ministry of Finance does and has achieved in those four areas.

Let me start with something that we said during the mid-term report. The first is, on the macro-economy, I want to report that the economy is strong and stable. But of course, it faces challenge of inequality and inclusion; meaning that even though the economy is strong, we have problems with jobs and unemployment. We have problems with working to eradicate poverty. We need to move faster. We need to grow faster in order to tackle these problems. So, we are not saying that everything is solved, or that everything is great, but it’s strong; and that stability provides the platform on which we can use to solve the other problems.

What do I mean? We talked before that if you notice – everybody follows the exchange rate between the dollar and the naira – it has been relatively stable in these past two years at 155 to 160. At least, that is something you can evidence for yourself and attest to. It has been stable because we have also been able to accumulate reserves. People wonder why we are saving these reserves that are now almost $50 billion – we’re at $48 billion now. It’s very important because the reserves are what make the exchange rate stable. When the reserves are going down, that’s when you experience that instability and people can come and attack your currency. So, we have managed, working with the Central Bank – I also want to give them credit for good monetary policy – to be able to grow these reserves, stabilise, so that now, we have an exchange rate that can allow people to plan and allow people to do their work. As the Honourable Minister of Information said, inflation is coming down; from about 12.4% in May 2011, it has slowed to about 9.1% now and these all form the bedrock of this stability.
We have made savings. Part of our reserves is also the Excess Crude Account savings that we talk about. We have had about $4 billion in May 2011. We grew it to about 9 billion dollars equivalent at the end of 2012, and now we’re about $6 billion. Why are we down? Because the Excess Crude Account helps us to manage the economy and keep growing even when we experience shocks like when oil production comes down because of either oil theft, or leakages from pipelines and so on. You know, the money we have saved enables this country to keep going and we have enough to keep us going even in the face of shocks for another four to five months whilst we try to solve our problems. This is something that Nigeria did not have before and we are very proud of it. In the past, when we experience shocks, what did we do? We would have to go to the IMF or World Bank to go and look for money – the IMF in particular to shore up the economy, to shore up our balance of payments (that’s what economists call it). But now, even through all the ups and downs that we have experienced, have we gone there? No. Because Nigeria has now put itself – with the existence of this Excess Crude Account – in a position where in the event of any shock, we can go there to stabilise ourselves. That’s why Nigerians must support this account, the saving of this money; the Sovereign Wealth Fund. This country like a family must be able to put money aside so that if you experience shock, you don’t go around begging, you can stabilise yourself with your own savings. That’s what we manage to do.

The second thing I want to talk about is about GDP growth. This stability has enabled the economy to grow. Certain sectors are growing – I will come to that. Overall, this economy is growing and growth is projected at 6.75% by us; by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2013. Even the IMF has projected higher growth, but we’re being very cautious. Over there [referring to a slide], you will see how we compare with some other countries; with the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, they are growing at 5.6%, so we are much higher; even the emerging markets, we’re higher than them. And you can see Brazil, China, South Africa – South Africa at 2.8%, we at 6.75% et cetera – so we are doing well!

The GDP Illustration
Now, I want to spend one minute on something very important, because after we talk, people will say, “GDP growth, what is GDP growth? It’s not important; that’s not what we will eat.” But let me explain to you that without that growth, you cannot even begin to solve the problems of this economy. Let me illustrate to you. [She picks up a cake]. This cake symbolises our income, our GDP or your income within your household. GDP is nothing but the income of the country – the amount of cake you have to eat; you and your wife and children – the same with a country. So, let’s say this is the amount of cake we have to eat.

Now, these are four people sharing this cake – four people: a man, his wife and two children, or Nigeria with a population of let’s say 167 million people. So, this is the cake we have. You have this cake. Having this cake does not mean that every problem in your household is solved. Is it? It doesn’t mean that your income can now take care of all your relatives in the family who still have problems. It doesn’t mean that in your household, you don’t have problems of people not being employed, but you have this cake that you’re sharing. Now, what happens if we add three more people? Suppose, as a family, you marry another wife and you add one wife and three more children. How many are you now? (Answer: Seven). This is the cake. What will happen if this cake doesn’t grow? All of you will be suffering. Isn’t it? When you marry that wife and have more children, or even if you have four and you have another three or four; you will want your cake to grow. That is the same way we want GDP to grow – right? So, this is the first cake. What happens if the cake doesn’t grow is that all of you will start suffering. [She takes up another cake].

Supposing you now have a bigger cake; put all the people on top and you now have the seven people; would you not be better off? What if you have an even bigger cake? You see this biggest cake? You can put so many more people on top. [Speaking to assistants to collect illustrative materials: “give me all the people, give them to me, all of them will be there”]. And what will happen? That means you will have even more food. So, is it not false when people say that growing the cake does not matter? It matters; because if you have the same cake and your size is growing, what will happen is that you become even poorer and poorer; isn’t it? If it is not growing, you will suffer even more. Now, Nigeria has a cake – our GDP – and our population is growing at 2.5% per annum. If we don’t grow this, we will stay with the same cake and it will become worse and worse. So what we want to do is grow this cake as fast as possible, as large as we can, while solving the other problems. Note that I didn’t say growing the cake solves all the problems; but if we don’t grow the cake, we are going to suffer.

So, don’t listen to those who say, “What is GDP growth – it doesn’t matter.” It is not true; it matters tremendously. It’s with this growing cake that you can now call those people in your family or village who say you are not helping them. Isn’t it? If your cake is growing, you can call them; help them with their health problems, help them with food, help them with other things. But if you say cake does not matter, then you cannot help them at all. This is what GDP growth is about. I want Nigerians to understand this so that we don’t have this challenge of, “What is GDP?” In fact, we need to grow at almost 8 to 10 percent per year. In fact, Vision 2020 projects 13 percent in order to solve unemployment and other problems that we have. I’m sorry I spent some time on this, but it’s about time for the Nigerian population to stop being deceived by people who are not telling them the truth about what happens in the economy.

Now, let me quickly pass to other things. The first thing this country does, of course, is prepare the budget and everybody knows about it; to manage the finances and we have the DG Budget here. We’ve had problem with getting budget preparation done on time, and I want to say that for the first time, the 2013 Budget was prepared in record time and also passed by the National Assembly in record time on 20th December 2012, just before Christmas. Now, this should give us the year to implement; but of course, you know that we have some challenges with implementation and some things that we need to agree with the National Assembly in order to make the budget hold. For this year, we have been working on it but it has not stopped us from moving forward. We released first quarter capital – 400 billion; didn’t we? And work is going on. We released second quarter capital – 200 billion – so we will continue to implement to the best our ability, and it’s the job of Finance to make sure that we get that money in.

But the money that we get in also depends on what happens with the sectors of the economy. So, Finance does not print money. We don’t manufacture money. We only can disburse money that comes into our coffers; that the country genuinely earns from its oil and gas, from agriculture, from all the other aspects, the money it gets from taxes that it collects even on non-oil revenue and Customs taxes. So, once we get all those in, we disburse them. But if anything happens and we experience a shock, for example, this year, Customs is a little bit down in terms of collection because importation has come down, especially importation of rice; partly because we are growing our own, more of it as we said in the midterm report; but also because people stocked up last year in anticipation of what would happen. So, when we have these things happening, then the income reduces and Finance has to manage whatever comes in. So, I want people to know when they’re feeling very stressed out that there’s not enough money, Finance does not have money hidden somewhere in the safe; it is what it gets that it disburses.

Now, let me move quickly to one of the things we have delivered. Nigerians have complained that the cost of government is too high; we are spending too much on recurrent budget. What have we developed in Finance? With the support of the President and all of you, we’ve managed to take expenditures down from 74% recurrent of the total budget to 68% in 2013, and we’ll continue to take it down to the best of our ability. We have the envelope system. People don’t understand it but it enables us to engage other ministries and agencies in the management and setting of the budget. That allows them to put forward their priorities in a way that we can engage them in a conversation and to prioritise especially in terms of completing uncompleted projects of which we have about six thousand in this country and these are some of the systems that we’ve put in place to make that work. I talked a little while ago about the fact that imports are down. Whilst that means that some of our revenue are down, but we’re happy because we want to diversify this economy. Nigerians don’t want to keep importing. So, non-oil imports have decreased – things like textiles, plastic, rubber – things we’re making here; and those things have even increased in terms of exports. I’m sure that the Minister of Trade and Investment will say more about that. But I also want to mention our waiver and tariff policies to just let you know that Mr President has insisted on a policy of not doing individual waivers. So this ministry is doing sectoral waivers. When we give a waiver now, it is to encourage a whole sector not just to encourage an individual; and those kinds of policies; we’ve done them for aviation, for agriculture, for solid minerals. They can import spare parts and equipments at zero duty. And this is all designed to spur the rest of our economy.

Quickly, let me move on to talk about debt. On Friday, I think it was on the back page of This Day, I wrote an article about our debt because there are so many misconceptions about it. I want you to know that no one in government – neither Mr President nor the Ministry of Finance, the debt management office and the legislature – we don’t support that Nigeria becomes an indebted country again. So, what are we doing? The ministry is delivering a very prudent and strategic debt management approach to the country. I want you to look at some of the numbers. You know, we say that our national debt is low; and that is true because if you measure us against so many indicators you will see. If you look at that, you will see that domestic debt is really the issue. And if you look at the flow of domestic borrowing, you will see that it spiked in 2010 where we increase salary by 53% at once.

Now, I’m not against increase of salary, so don’t let anybody go from here and misquote me. But it has implications; and in order to cover it, domestic borrowing spiked. Bonds had to be floated. It’s not that good to borrow for things like recurrent expenditure and consumption. So, part of our new strategy is not to do that; to start lowering domestic borrowing. One of the things Mr President said to us is, we have to bring it down and we’re doing it. From N852 billion in 2011, we went down to N744 in 2012, and for 2013 budget, I think to N588 billion, and we’ll continue to bring it down. That’s part of the new strategy.

At the same time, we’re slowing down the growth of the debt stock. So, it’s not that the debt stock won’t grow, but it will grow much more slowly than before; and you can see it. The debt stock, total debt is now at about 7.5 trillion naira made up of 6.49 trillion domestic and about 1.0 trillion external and we will slow that down by trying to retire the bonds that are coming due instead of rolling them over at high interest rates. I’m very proud to say that in 2013 we retired 75 billion in bonds and that’s the first time we’ve done it in so many years. That is part of the overall strategy.

The last part is that we have also developed a sinking fund and every year we put in 25 billion in it so that we can continue to retire this debt and not grow it at a very fast pace. We will be borrowing, but it will be for very prudent things that really make a difference on the ground for Nigerians and it will be at a much slower pace. Now, quickly, the ministry has worked hard – Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Customs Service – to try and bring in more revenue into our coffers. And of course, they face challenges. We have to improve in terms of our tax collection and I want to tell you that we are launching a tax drive for non-oil revenue taxes to increase; and you will be seeing very soon, adverts from FIRS to push this on. The Customs is also modernising its operations with an objective to become a modern Customs system that can manage destination inspection and all the things that Customs does by the end of this year.

The objective is that we shouldn’t only look at the expenditure side all the time, we must also look at growing our revenues in the country; and this is what Finance has done.

I want to spend just one minute before handing over to my colleague on a few things that Finance is delivering to make public financial management more efficient and more transparent. We have to step away from the manual management of our finances whereby, for instance, for payments, we used to send money in bulk to ministries to pay their staff, to pay for their expenses. We have now put in place three electronic platforms that we are introducing and implementing at the moment. The Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management System is in place and it is allowing us to pay staff straight through biometric data means, we can check and pay them directly. Now, we haven’t done all MDAs; we’ve done about 215 and this exercise has helped us weed out about 45,000 ghost workers and save ourselves about 118 billion naira. That’s a lot of money.

Now, people say to me, where are these ghost workers and who is responsible? I just want to say here that we’ve looked and we’ve found that in almost every ministry, department and agency we had series of these ghost workers and it is identifying who to pinpoint, that’s what we’re looking at now. But it is very difficult because with people coming and going within ministries, it is not easy. The important thing we are facing is to get them out so we can save the money and put in place systems to make sure that this does not occur. That’s what Finance is doing.

We still have to complete the rest of the MDAs by the end of this year. We’ve also put in place a government integrated financial management system and, in the beginning, this has slowed down the transfer of resources to ministries. Bear with us, this will improve. But what this means is that transparently we can connect the MDAs, be able to see all our money and be able to pull it back. So, all those who may be contemplating this, I think you should revise your thinking because transparency is on the way.

Now, to stem leakages and improve our finances, we also worked very hard in the ministry to totally change the way we do business in terms of paying subsidies. We audited N1 trillion in subsidy payments under the presidential task force led by Aig Imokhuede, and we found N32 billion questionable. We have recovered N14 billion as we speak and we have tightened the payment process, so that there is more independent verification of how that is being done. The other thing the ministry has delivered is the cleaning up of the contributory pension scheme. This is something very painful to Nigerians that they would work and then people would steal the money that should be for their pension in their old age. This is not acceptable. So, to reform this, the President gave us permission to implement a section of the Pensions Reform Act which had hitherto been blocked; it had not been implemented, to bring all these pensions – the defined benefit systems – under one roof, under a pension transition administration department, and that will enable us to keep a hold on this fraud and to keep it at bay because these things will be managed under one roof transparently. The implementation of this is now underway.

The contributory pension scheme is fine, we have more than N3 trillion there, it’s working well and I want to reassure Nigerians of its good health. So, it’s only people who are still under the old scheme which we are reforming that are affected. We are implementing a more transparent system. Within the next six months, by God’s grace, we’ll have everything together with biometric systems in place so we can also pay our pensioners directly.

So, let me just say to you that all this, as was said by the Minister of Information, have been validated; all these things we’re doing, which amalgamate to underpin a stable economy have been validated outside. You don’t have to listen to me or Mr President or even the Minister of Information. Just check what the rating agencies are doing. Nigeria is one of the few countries being upgraded and rated as stable in an environment where other countries, including some close to us here in Africa, are being downgraded, and I think that Nigerians, even if you’re critical of government, you have to accept external evidence that we have a stable economy. The grading does not say that we’ve solved all the problems of our economy – no country ever does that – but it says that we’ve got the platform with which to do it.

Now, just before I hand over, I want to say one word on SURE-P, the subsidy reinvestment program. We promised Nigerians, at Ministry of Finance, that we will share with them the money that comes into this program transparently and what it is being used for transparently so that they will see because Nigerians were sceptical that this money will be put to good use. You can see on the screen. We have published every single month; we’ve kept faith with Nigerians. Every single month in the newspapers, we publish how much money comes in and you can see that; in 2012, N180 billion came in to Federal Government, the states got N154.6 billion, local governments, N76.4 billion. In January to May 2013, we have received N75 billion, state governments N64.4 billion, local governments N31.8 billion so far, and we have been publishing it.

And what has it been used for? We said, go and check for yourselves. We have used it for social safety nets for our women and children, to strengthen and improve immunisation for our children, to strengthen and improve safe delivery for our women. I know that no man here wants his wife to die; no woman wants to die in child birth. We have the names of every woman in every ward that has benefitted from this scheme. So, for those who say, “Ah, no one in my place has benefitted” you can verify it. We have it. If you want it, ask me. I will give it to you so you can check that people are really benefitting and they’re getting cash transfers.

When they come for pre-natal care, they get cash transfer of two thousand naira. When they come to have attended delivery, when the child is brought for immunisation; that is what we call conditional cash transfer program and, so far, in the present Saving One Million Lives program, more than 400,000 women’s lives and children’s lives have been saved through the money used by SURE-P.

In addition to that, we have been working on transportation and I know you heard from the Minister of Transport on roads and bridges built using this money; so I will not dwell on it. My intent was from the Finance point of view to just show you that we kept faith with Nigerians, we have been transparent, you can verify and we’ll be happy to give you all the information.

Minister of State takes over
I am also not going to waste time. I am going to talk about what the ministry has been doing to actually ensure that we have reformed the financial sector. All the banks in Nigeria are fully capitalised. And we’re also happy today that the level of non-performing loan has come down to only 5%. Nigerian banks are the healthiest you can find in Africa and this has been shown. You remember 3–4 years back, most of the banks have reported losses, but today they are reporting profits that they never reported prior to 2008. And for those who have been following, the highest profit ever recorded in the history of Nigerian banking system was reported last year – N97.58 billion made by Guaranty Trust. You look at Zenith making 90 billion. Profitability has returned to the Nigerian financial system and people can now safely go and get finances.

The problem we have is the cost of borrowing. After now, interest rate is relatively high and we need to have lasting solution for it. That’s why we’re now restructuring and strengthening our development financing institutions so that they can give concessional loans to the critical sectors of the economy. To strengthen them again, the President set up a committee to look at how to solve the problem of development lending and we are going to establish a wholesale development finance institution that will be well capitalised which will lend wholesale money to the development institutions so that they can lend to the real sector. We are also inviting the private sector to come and invest in some of our development institutions. As you can see already, our infrastructural bank has some private sector and we are now trying to make sure that we get some private sector capital into that of agriculture.

Back to the capital market, last year, Mr President magnanimously approved forbearance to all our stockbrokers. Our stockbrokers are those who actually make the market perform and all of them have lost their capital. Most of the borrowing they did, they actually put in their money to borrow on the margin. They lost that investment. Yet, as far as the banks are concerned, they have to pay the nominal value of the debt while the real value of the shares that are underlying the debt are almost 20% of the loss they have taken. There is no way the capital market will actually progress with that kind of situation. Mr President magnanimously approved that forbearance and our stockbrokers are now healthy. They are now relieved of all these debts, they are now free to borrow more. And they’ve also regained confidence that yes, the Nigerian government can really support the stock broking companies, and you know that 60% of the money comes from international portfolio investors. Now, what we have done to our own domestic companies told them that we are really out to support our people. Therefore, they have more confidence in our market; money is now flowing.

From last year when we got the forbearance to date, the capitalisation of the market has increased by 70%. This has never been recorded anywhere. Everybody knows that in Nigerian insurance, you only do it under compulsion because people don’t have any confidence in the insurance sector. We know that this is a big problem and we went ahead to strengthen the regulatory authorities in order to bring sanity to the insurance sector. One thing we did in insurance, people just hook policies, report their own premium and declare profits where cash is not collected. So we came with No Premium, No Cover policy. At first, most of the brokers were not happy because the broker wants to make his money whether the man pays his premium or not. But today we say No, if you take insurance cover, nobody should recognise income unless cash is paid. So now, insurance is done on cash basis. Last year, we had a backlog of unpaid insurance of N55 billion; today, it is zero. All insurance are cash covered and that gives confidence to the policy holders.

When we came in, we had only 700 thousand. Now we have about 1.5 million policy holders and more equity is coming from abroad. We now have a lot of FDIs. About 10 companies have come into Nigeria and Nigerian companies can now even give insurance cover to oil and gas sector. There is 48% local retention of all the policies issued in that sector and this has actually improved our insurance industry and it will enable the industry to raise a lot of resources because in some countries, insurance companies have more money than banks. They even fund banks. We are encouraging our own so that they grow and we mobilise enough resources for investment in the real sector.

Another function we do is to ensure that all federally collected revenues are distributed to the three tiers of government according to the revenue sharing formula. In the past, FAC actually made it acrimonious; a lot of issues were there. We actually ensured that all outstanding issues that we met have been cleared. Today, when we come to FAC, we have turned it into committee where problems are solved, to committees where we educate ourselves, where we encourage others to copy the good practices of other states. We do peer comparison and we also ensure that we adopt the best practices and that’s why we’re just introducing the IPSAS – the International Public Sector Accounting Standards which all the states, parastatals and Federal Government are going to adopt so that our accounts are transparent and comparable to others. We have already ensured that we always hold FAC on time because holding FAC on time has a very serious implication on payment of salaries. And you know in Nigeria, unless salary is paid on time, workers are not happy. And you can agree with me that today, our workers are happy because we ensure that at least, Federal Government workers get their salary before 20th of every month and now with the electronic payment system, it is now – at least some get about 18th or 19th of the month and this has brought relative industrial harmony to Nigeria.

We also have a skill in the Federal Ministry of Finance for encouraging export of non-oil products. Before, few people know about the Export Expansion Grant. What we do, is in order to diversify the economy away from oil, all non-oil exporters get a grant based on the export proceed that they expatriated back. So, if you now produce anything non-oil and export, when you bring the money back we calculate based on certain parameters and you can get as much as 20% of the value of your export being given to you free by the government. Why are we doing that? It is because the cost of production in Nigeria is higher than the cost of production internationally. So, we have to make up for the cost of production to make our own manufacturers competitive. We have been doing that, yet we have some glut. We have the glut because growth in export has been growing very fast and we have to revise the system. We have parameters we have actually looked at and we realise that export growth is no more our problem in Nigeria because the target we set for our exporters; 71% of all exporters are growing higher than 10% every year. So, that has been solved. Re-investment of export growth; also 68.9% of our exporters are re-investing the money they get from the bank to develop their own companies. So, that is not also our problem.

Today in order to get the EEG (export expansion grant), you have to do well in the area of employment and you have to do well in the area of value addition. We are now reducing the weight for export and retention because we have already succeeded there. I think I will call on the CME to continue
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CME Continues
Let me just mention a couple of other areas quickly. The ministry supports; we are of finance but we’re also about making sure that the real sectors of the economy work. So in addition to the budget which we manage, we also have the task of mobilising resources for the sectors of the economy and I’m not going to go through all that I wrote; they can quickly roll it through the screen.

I’m very proud to announce that we have been very active to mobilise – sometimes zero interest – very low interest concessional financing for our sectors; money that is zero interest, 40 years to repay, 10 years of grace – the type that you cannot find easily anywhere. So we have been very careful to do that and 12 billion dollars worth, almost every sector. Agriculture – from China Exim Bank, from the World Bank, we have mobilised money. Environment: 450 million from the World Bank for environmental issues; transport. You know, we’re doing even guarantees so that we can have some of our infrastructure developed; for example, a letter of comfort to develop the Lekki deep sea port. So when you see all these things being developed, you know that Finance has done some work to make resources available or guarantees that make it work. Second Niger bridge – we’re now working on a private-public partnership arrangement where we’re going to co-invest with some investors that have been identified from outside with PPP to make sure that this bridge gets built. As we speak, they’re already on site trying to do some of the initial groundwork. We work with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development bank and other banks to try to make this happen.

So, you can see, in health, in power, we are going to go to the market very soon to raise a Eurobond of about a billion dollars for the power sector. We know that power is what we need in this country; that’s what we have focused on. So, all that money will make gas available to fire the power and the emergency gas plan of the Minister of Petroleum Resources has already been yielding results in terms of making gas available to make our power situation better. But we want to support them to improve even more. So, we raise resources for that.

And the education sector – we’ve also raised money for states that have challenges: Bauchi, Ekiti, Anambra – so many of the states to benefit from that. In ICT we’ve raised resources. And aviation, housing – I can just say almost every sector of the economy – I’m proud to say we’ve done that. The Nexim Bank has also used resources to support trade for our economy; export-import bank which is under the Ministry of Finance. Let me just mention one interesting thing. We have supported the empowerment of women in the ministry through devoting some resources – 3 billion naira – to specific programs in five pilot ministries like Agriculture, Health, Water Resources, ICT and so on that focus on works, focus on delivering for women. For example, the Ministry of Works said that they will make more women contractors, sub-contractors. They will increase the number that will get contracts and jobs because women are not favoured and we have said that when they do it, we will support them with additional disbursement from this N3 billion. So we are encouraging support for women within this budget and that is something that the President really supports. So, these are some of the things we are doing.

Finally, we are supporting job creation. We are managing some job creation programmes apart from what we are doing for the real sectors of the economy, mobilising money for them in addition to the budget to create jobs like the 3.5 million jobs targeted by Agriculture in 2015. It’s the resources we help mobilise that will help them deliver that. But we are also managing some direct job creation being undertaken and implemented by government. Just a couple of examples which you know – we have the program that was mentioned by the Honourable Minister of Information, the YouWIN program of Mr President – this is his program – and I’m happy to tell you this is one of the most popular programs in Nigeria. From the first round we did, we have already created 14,000 jobs all over all parts of the federation. This is just the first survey. The second survey, maybe another 14,000 – that’s almost 30,000. The second round we just launched for women only and the third round we’re going to launch for men and women, the target of 80,000 to 110,000 jobs is easily reachable.

This program is surpassing our expectations in terms of job creation and we’re very proud of our young entrepreneurs who are doing this. We are also managing the Graduate Internship Program. Our objective there is to place 50,000 graduate interns with private sector. Over 1,000 private sector firms have applied. We have placed so far 1,309 graduates and we’re working very hard to speed up to place all the 50,000 who have been processed as qualified to participate in this scheme. And of course, we were previously supporting the community services program designed to create 370,000 jobs a year. We’ve moved that to the ministry of labour now, but I want to tell you that 178,000 jobs have already been created. And people who have seen these people working in the field, building ditches, doing drains, maintaining buildings have reported that they’re there and the jobs are real. So, these are some of the things that we have tried to do within the ministry to support the job creation agenda. I could go on and on.

We actually need more time but let me just stop here and say that Ministry of Finance is a multi-faceted ministry that is delivering day by day on the budget, on the additional finances for the sectors of the country, on managing direct job creation programs and on supporting the sectors – I haven’t even told you the things we do to support power through the bulk trader, to manage the debts of NEMCO, to push the various sectors along. We are doing so much more than we have time to share today and we are achieving results.

•This is a transcript of Okonjo-Iweala speech (excluding courtesies), at the Ministerial Platform held at Radio House, Abuja, last Monday, June 11, 2013.

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By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

This week, two sensational, high-profile stories have helped to push the epidemic of sexual harassment of female students in Nigerian universities to the forefront of public consciousness. As a university teacher myself and the father of two daughters, I am disconcerted that sexual harassment has been left to flourish luxuriantly on Nigerian university campuses.

On June 10, several of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers shared the disquieting story of a Delta State University lecturer by the name of Ifeanyi Ugwu Raphael who was caught red-handed while attempting to have sex with his female student whom he’d promised to give a passing grade in return for sexual favors. Pictures of the lecturer’s scroungy, naked body now litter Nigerian cyber spaces.The story was that the lecturer, as was his wont, made several sexual advances to the female student, which she serially rebuffed. The lecturer then “got even” with her by failing her. This happened when she was in her second year. Now that she is about to graduate and needs the course to satisfy her graduation requirements, she approached the lecturer to ask what it would take to pass his course. As expected, he asked for a tryst.

The student informed her male friends about this, and her friends encouraged her to invite the lecturer to her apartment. Like sheep to the slaughter, the lecturer visited the student in her apartment, immediately took off his clothes, and was salivating in anticipation of what he thought he was going to do when the student’s male friends barged in and stopped him dead in his tracks. His naked pictures were taken and splashed all over the Internet.

A day later, we read the story of a 66-year-old Professor Festus David Kolo of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria who was sentenced to two months in prison for sexually harassing a pregnant married woman. After pestering the woman, who is a postgraduate student, with numberless phone calls, sexually explicit text messages, and unrelenting verbal entreaties, he invited her to a guest house for a liaison. Unknown to him, the police and the woman’s husband had been informed and were lying in wait for him.  Like Raphel of Delta State University, he was caught pants down—literally—with the pregnant married woman.  In an interesting twist, the woman’s husband, Muhammad Isyaku, is also a lecturer at a different institution.These two cases are only samples of the culture of flagrant sexual harassment of female students that has taken deep roots on Nigerian university campuses. Our university campuses have become malodorous moral cesspools where lewd, degenerate lecturers prey on female students with impunity.  There is no parent of girls in Nigeria who is not profoundly concerned about sending their girls to Nigerian universities. It’s almost like sending sheep to a pack of wolves.

And it keeps getting worse every day. Lecturers don’t just sexually harass or rape their students; some now pimp them to rich men. I am familiar with a particularly perturbing case of a lecturer who was found guilty of pimping his pretty female students to top military officers in exchange for handsome financial reward. The military officers would go and “survey” the female students in his class. They would then let him know which girls caught their fancy. The lecturer would call the students and tell them to go have sex with his “clients.” Students who spurned his command were threatened with permanent “carry-over.”

One day, one female student who had had enough of the lecturer’s shenanigans decided to report him to the chair of his department. The case went up to the university senate and scores of students came forward to testify against the pimping lecturer. In the end, he confessed to his transgressions. Shockingly, however, he only received a warning from the university authorities. I hear the man still pimps his female students but does it in more careful ways.

Of course, not all university lecturers take advantage of their female students. Many lecturers, in fact, are conscientious, morally upright people who would never demand sexual favors from their female students or pimp them to rich folks. But this fact does not vitiate the truth that our universities are beset by a disturbing culture of sexual harassment and that female students, especially good-looking female students, are a vulnerable group on Nigerian university campuses.

This is so because there are no clear, unmistakable laws against sexual harassment in the statutes of our universities. And because there are no explicit boundaries for what constitutes sexual harassment or laws against it, there are no consequences for engaging in it. At the very least, lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment should have their appointments terminated outright.

That is the way it is in America where I teach. A teacher cannot be romantically entangled with a student he or she teaches even if the relationship is consensual. Similarly, a lecturer cannot make sexually suggestive comments, jokes, or gestures to a student—any student.

Doing so constitutes grounds for termination of appointment if found guilty. That is why on June 11, an appeals court upheld the firing of a professor here who made sexually explicit jokes to his students when he took them on a study-abroad program in Spain in 2010.The professor, identified as Robert Ammon Jr., had had a little too much beer and, in a moment of intoxication, said one of his female student would be his favorite student “if she sucked my d–k.” That was it. His university, the Slippery Rock University in the state of Pennsylvania, fired him for sexual harassment. He appealed against his firing, but an appeals court upheld it on June 11.

That is how it should be. Being put in a position to nurture the minds of young people is a sacred responsibility. There should be grave consequences for betraying this responsibility. I hope the National Universities Commission and the Academic Staff Union of Universities will consider the criminalization of sexual harassment a priority before our universities turn into graveyards for women.


 
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

I have been on Nigerian websites for a few days. In all these times, there seems to be a competition to identify what is wrong with the only country we have. The competition also calls for the identity of who is responsible: the tribe and the individual. One would think that as we evaluate the country, that the evaluators would say what is wrong and give a nod to what is right and ipso facto give a little complement to those who have made the right decisions.
 
The nod is completely absent and the round about complement to the tribe and individual comes grudgingly from those who are merely defending the blame placed on their tribe and their tribal chieftain. The few extremely small acknowledgments of the good in the country seem to come from a handful of people like Mr. Nwosu and Mr. Kassim and one or two others. Sometimes I wonder if the
se are real people for when they give the nod, strong tornadoes with winds gusting over 300 MPH is sent their way. They are called names and we are told of their sordid pasts and how they are prostituting themselves for some crumbs from the masters table.
 
They seem to survive for I still read them.
 
I believe that many things are wrong with Nigeria. I also believe that in order to solve a problem one must recognize its existence and its magnitude. But I also happen to believe that in other to affect the best solution one must also recognize that which is good. For then one would only remove what is bad while holding on to the good. To do other wise we may throw away the baby with the bath water.
 
The evidence of what is good can be seen by the fact that there is still one Nigeria since 1960. This one country has survived a civil way, many army led coups and, and many corrupt leadership. There must be something good that is holding us together. There is even more interaction between citizens. I went to visit my sister this past weekend and my sister was hosting a room mate of her
days at ABU, a Nupe woman. She came from Nigeria. They graduated over two decades ago and have kept in touch through marriages and children. They know each other’s family very well.
 
I am God father to three Yoruba children and my family has Yoruba in laws. There are business partners of all possible combinations. They are living together in many cities and towns and villages. They are not held together by evil machinations but by love and good will. There must be some goodness in all of us.
 
There must be good in the system that makes such relationships work.
 
I will venture to hypothesize that what is wrong with Nigeria may be the educated elite among also. Those who hold some kind of PhD in some exotic field. These people have seen the world and liked the progress being made in their fields of specialization and bemoan the fact that Nigeria is not South Korea. They become jealous and antagonistic to the country that gave them birth. Both the
jealous and the antagonistic outbursts are good if only they would channel them and communicate them in
a friendly language. Their outbursts make many of us not to pay the attention they are seeking. Many of them sometimes see only goodness in their ethnic units and nothing but evil in the other ethnic groups. Many seek the salvation of “their people” and wish doom on all others. The Igbo have a prayer: “ugbogiri zoro m; zoro nwunye dim m”, a loose translation is May good harvests come to me and to my husband’s other wife.
 
We all know about “the other wife.” The reason for the payer for good harvest wish to the other wife (the enemy) is because if both have good harvest the ‘wife’ would enjoy her rich harvest in peace.
 
Nigerians could do well to learn this Igbo prayer and pray it so unceasingly.
 
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
Boston, Massachusetts
June 14, 2013