Archive for August, 2013

By Prince Charles Dickson

In 1976, writing under the topic “Initial resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Northern Nigeria”. Both Fawcett IW, Watkins BJ stated that

“of 61 isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis form patients in Northern Nigeria denying any previous treatment for tuberculosis 7 (11.5 per cent) yielded resistant cultures. Four (6.6 per cent) were resistant to isoniazid, 2 (3.3 per cent) to PAS (1 also to thiacetazone), and 1 (1.6 per cent) to streptomycin. No mycobacteria other than M. tuberculosis were isolated from these patients. These results suggest that the level of initial drug resistance in Northern Nigeria may be lower than that found in other African countries.

Today it is far different, Nigeria ranks fifth among the world’s high-burden countries, with a number of tuberculosis (TB) cases of 450,000. The TB incidence is at 311/100,000 and the rate of new sputum smear positive disease is approximately 137/100,000. And it is far worse in the North of Nigeria due to the crisis that has ridden this part of the nation.

More than 90% of new TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. And Nigeria is one, we rank 10th among the 22 high-burden TB countries in the world. WHO estimates that 210,000 new cases of all forms of TB occurred in the country in 2010, equivalent to 133/100,000 population.

There were an estimated 320,000 prevalent cases of TB in 2010, equivalent to 199/100,000 cases. There were 90,447 TB cases notified in 2010 with 41, 416 (58%) cases as new smear positives, and a case detection rate of 40%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Tuberculosis (TB) a global emergency in 1993 and it remains one of the world’s major causes of illness and death.

TB is an air-borne infectious disease caused by bacteria, which primarily affects the lungs, and it is both preventable and curable.

One third of the world’s populations, two billion people, carry the TB bacteria. More than nine million of these become sick each year with active TB that can be spread to others. Latent TB disease cannot be spread.

TB disproportionately affects people in resource-poor settings; particularly in Africa and Asia…Northern part of Nigeria really mirrors such resource-poor settings

TB poses significant challenges to developing economies as it primarily affects people during their most productive years.

The main goal of Nigeria’s TB program is to halve the TB prevalence and death rates by 2015.

Despite this intention, Nigeria has been slow to recognize the gravity of the epidemic and to mobilize the required commitment and resources for a sustainable national response. While progress has been made in policy development and strategic planning at the Federal level, provision of care, treatment, and prevention services remains inadequate and the level of unmet need continues to increase. And conflicts and killings North of the country has become a barrier.

39 years old Ibrahim Sulieman (not real names) was leading a happy normal life with his wife and 3 children. He was working with the Borno state government as a driver in the Ministry of Information in the Bama area when, way back in 1999, he suddenly vomited blood one day. The doctor diagnosed him with pulmonary TB on the basis of a chest X-Ray and put him on a 6 month Anti TB Treatment under DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course).

Ibru as his friends call him, was presumably cured and remained okay for a year and a half. Meanwhile he had been transferred from Bama to Jere. There his problem recurred and he vomited blood again.

He was put on treatment once again in this new town, but this time he was not very regular with his medicines and even missed some doses due to his own carelessness, even as he was transferred once again from Jere to the Borno capital Maidugiri. He would stay healthy for some time and then again become sick. He then went to a private doctor and took medicines for 9 months and felt completely cured although financially devastated– he had to spend around N100,000 on his treatment in the private sector.

By 2009 a lot had change, Borno had become the hot bed of Boko Haram activities, no one was safe from the self-acclaimed Islamist group.

Ibru lost one of his daughters in an attack on her school by the group.

Apart from the shock, after remaining healthy for several years, Ibru took ill once again in February 2012. This time because of shortage of drugs and personnel, he was referred to the teaching hospital in Plateau state, an eight hours trip because of bad roads and military checks every few kilometers. He arrived Plateau and went to a treatment Centre in Jos University Teaching Hospital in Jos and was put on medication.

Simultaneously his sputum was sent for culture, the report of which came in April 2012 and devastated Ibru completely. The disease had returned with a vengeance in the form of Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB).

He clearly remembers the date of 12th April 2012 when the teaching hospital had referred him to National Hospital in Abuja the Nigerian capital. The doctors there sent him to their Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis experts for pre-treatment evaluation and treatment initiation.

Ibru is drained financially, he had sold his farmland for peanuts, nobody buys anything in good price, the Boko Haram terrorists have turn the state’s economy up side down, and his kids are in and out of school for fear of attacks, delays in salaries by his employers have made it all too difficult.

Just last June 2013 when he had come for his three monthly follow-up. He told me excitedly that he has been testing negative from the fourth month of treatment onwards and was now in the continuation phase of treatment. The ordeal of daily injections was over and he was well on the path of recovery.

As a matter of precaution, he had stayed in a local hospital, away from his wife and 3 children, till his sputum culture report tested negative. Now he stays at home and practices all infection control methods.

He has since become a TB advocate and if he comes across persons suffering from persistent cough and fever he urges them to go to a health center for a free checkup and treatment there. His message for other TB patients, “treatment in the Government setup is free and very reliable. This is a plus for poor people like me and we should make use of the government facility if we unfortunately happen to contract the disease. The medicines for TB are very expensive in the private market, although the problem is that all the fighting and killings pose big problems” he said

“I myself spent around N200,00 while seeking treatment in the private sector and yet was not cured—rather I developed a worse form of TB. One must take the medicines regularly, eat nutritious food and stay away from alcohol and cigarettes.” He added.

He equally tells me “it is all too difficult because doctors are leaving Borno and many parts of the North, the drugs are difficult to come by and again because of similarities in terms of loosing weight, most people first think you are HIV positive and even distance themselves from you”.

Ibru is lucky; he has a high school level equivalent education. Many cases of the cases are illiterates, there is a dearth of primary health workers–international aid organizations and their workers see no need to risk their lives and avoid Borno.

Hospitals in Borno, Yobe and other flash points have not been attacked, but several doctors have been killed. Three Korean doctors were killed in February this year in Yobe state. While 9 health workers helping with polio were killed in the Northern city of Kano.

Note: This story is the first in line of a possible series, Tuberculosis, The Burning Bush, and North Of Nigeria

The names of all patients, doctors have been changed to respect their freedom of anonymity, given the huge social and internalized stigma connected with the disease and associated with other factors such as poverty and illiteracy).

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By Prince Charles Dickson 

“Ridiculous distortion” that was the phrase Christopher Kolade used in Katsina state last week to refer to the reports of plans to ‘smuggle’ pension for life for principal officers of the National Assembly into the constitution.

Strangely, if the likes of Christopher Kolade is not sure of the truth regarding what the National Assembly ‘smuggles or smokes’ into the constitution who will know? It was the same week that Oby Ekwesili was engaging the same National Assembly to the debate over the one trillion naira she claimed they have earned doing nothing.

The House of Representatives had taken up the Oby challenge, whether the debate holds or not, will only serve up our appetite to take our minds of the fading deportation drama and the aftermath of the FFK VS Igbos imbroglio, after all the underage marriage matter is dead, and we have left Obama and his gay drama.

Same week, Oil Producers Trading Section (OPTS), disagreed with the figures in public domain as regards the number of barrels of oil lost to illegal bunkering. 

The body said at an event in Abuja that Nigeria actually loses 49,000 barrels per day to illegal bunkering as against 490,000 barrels per day as the public is made to believe.

 
A representative of OPTS, Ayobami Olubiyi, at a roundtable meeting on Voluntary Principles, organized by Global Rights, explained that while 49,000 barrels are lost, 350,000 barrels are lost to production shut-ins. Production shut-ins the amount of oil lost to non-production as a result of vandalized pipelines.

According to him, the figures lost to illegal bunkering vary from day to day depending on the “scale of sabotage that occurs at each section.

Bottom-line is that Nigeria is loosing oil whether by shut in, shut out, or bunker in and out. This explanation mirrors part of all that is wrong with this nation, just like Kolade put it, all distortions, we have a Department of Petroleum Resources, a ministry of petroleum and various committees on the oil sector and yet we just cannot get it right.

Same week Health workers started their own strike action, joining ASUU, while the PDP NEC was meeting and the APC had an extra-ordinary meeting in Abuja. Strange people indeed, I mean just a distorted mentality, no one will really do anything, so we continue in the status quo of suffer and smiling.

Did I tell the uninformed that the ASUU talks was deadlocked severally with even the President supposedly a one time ASUU member threatening thunder, brimstone and the whim of a puppy all to no avail. 

 
The House of Rep committee on Education was begging ASUU, ASUU was begging, parents were begging and the students, for those that had not taken to other vices, because even education in Nigeria is a vice, were begging—What a distortion!

As all these continued, FG and the other two tiers of government in this feeding bottle styled federalism shared N715.8B for the month of July. Before we bother and lament regarding where all these monies go, take a visit to ‘their’ garage, luxurious cars litter them, kids schooling in Alaska, and girlfriends and concubines drawing allowances from the billions.

The media had no choice, as all the news was politics, 2015, If Obasanjo was not raining curses, Danjuma was the kite for a Christian Northern Presidency; an uninformed joke. Tukur continued his battle with his kinsmen governors, while Dame and Amaechi did the stage performance of “you did not condole me”.  We played snake and ladder with whether the man with nine lives Abu Shekau was dead or not, between STF, and Defense Hqtrs., it was story-story even as everyone became an expert on the man who only threatened Obama on CNN few days before he was proclaimed dead—It’s the land of ghosts and disappearing acts so don’t be scared, it is all part of the distortions.

We have professors everywhere, experts, PhD holders, consultants, gurus and revered men who claim to see or talk to God regularly, yet no headway, the best we get is grammarians who take ipads to farms and hoes to board meetings.
 

The Wednesday FEC contract meeting held and as usual another slice of the national cake was chopped off.

 
Attend any event with the Maitama Sules, Braithwaites, Jakande, Onosode, Lar and co. generation, we hear of the good old days, and sadly we are living witnesses of the current days of Tinubu, Rufai, Utomi and co. Nigeria is neither a practical nor theory not on human or auto pilot, neither a zoo, at least the animals are caged and know their limits. We are just a huge distortion.

Did I tell you it was the week FG made more millions, no I mean billions selling PHCN while a third quarter of the nation was in darkness.

We have all become part of one huge joke where all comes, and no one goes beyond talk shops: even when we put the pegs right in the holes they should be, one wonders are we cursed, by whom and for whose benefit. We are enmeshed in greed that defies creed, and religion, yet encapsulated in a feisty fight of rights rested on religion and ethnicity.
 

Our democracy is just a huge distortion, a few steps forward, massive strides backwards because representation at all levels, from local councils to National Assembly, governors, ministers, and those we are refer to as ‘they’ are plagued by a disease called ridiculous distortion, as mirrored by Afis Odidere :

“They cannot debate.
They are pretentious.
They are intellectually lazy.
They are foolishly religious.
They demand respect.
They cannot reason on a straight line.
They are too touchy and too personality conscious.
They love to parade useless degrees instead of demonstrating Intellectualism.
They tell stories of how they were schooled, but when they discuss issues, they lack analytical prowess.
And for those who showcase their PhDs, they lack research skills.
They are never prepared when coming to a meeting (never used their acquired skills for the Group’s benefit, only used their acquired skills as Weapons of Mass Destruction)”. 

We know the problems, the solutions are there, we are just toying with reality, and ridiculously distorting our future. A weapon one doesn’t have in hand won’t kill a snake…all these distortions, whether there is hope–Only time will tell
with compliments

 

 

By Olumide G. Adeyinka

 

In the next few essays of mine, I will delve into a very sensitive part of the Church and ministry life that will nonetheless make me a victim of vicious attack from members of the pulpit and the pews in the Church. I have no choice, since my ultimate loyalty is to God and Christ Jesus my savior. I have friends to lose and some to gain, but that in itself is not important. I will remain loyal to God and my commitment to expose the errors and the wrongs in the Church of Christ, not minding the popular acceptability of it. I am not a pioneer of what I am standing for in this stride, but I am going to be as exhaustive as life and knowledge can afford me. Let me first of all ask that strife should not attend this writings. I have no greater ambition than to see the truth of the gospel dispense in the right aroma of God’s intent. This is not targeted at anybody or denomination but an attempt to infuse some truth into the very popular discourse. I challenge all Pastors to look into issues raised here and address tithe or tithing in the best interest of the truth and Christ!

 

There is no bigger error of judgment, no bigger error of intent, no bigger error of commission, no bigger error of omission, no bigger error of interpretation, no bigger error of sound doctrine, simply, there is no bigger absolute error in the Church of Christ than the issue of tithe and tithing as being religiously practiced and preached in the Church of our days. I was ordained a Pastor in the early part of the 90s, pastored some Churches, paid tithes and have collected tithes too. I have done it all, when it comes to ministry and tithe or tithing. I believed it as I grew up in the Church and so I practiced it. I sincerely believe in God, and so His words. So I did what I was told without questioning anything for a long time, because, tithe or tithing is said to be out of rational human and constructive verification. “You cannot question God neither can you understand the mysteries of tithing” was the popular mantra behind the drivel of the casuistic and very cosseted argument to keep error in the rings of divine compulsion just to satisfy surreptitious practices. The capricious countenance that goes with any contrary opinion, even when justifiable evidence and clear-cut positions are advanced, is not only strange but suggest there are hidden agenda around the message of tithe. The hebetudes, the lassitude and the simplicity of the folly with which the pew buys into it almost foreclosed the case for sanity. The truth is, the congregations are frazzled! Nobody wants to be seen as a rebel or be addressed as ‘anti-Christ’, so everyone just dance around the topic even though many are not convinced of its legitimacy. I am ready to be called names, probably taken for a lost soul or a problem for the practices of the church. I am more than convinced I have a mandate to join other voices and make what seems too muddled up clear, and at least present a good opportunity for some people to understand the topic of tithe or tithing.

 

I am not against raising enough money in the Church to meet obligations and perform the task of evangelism and outreaches. I am not fighting against the idea of having everyone within a congregation contribute his or her quota to meet the needs of the vision set for such congregants. I know the Churches, especially the evangelicals, have very tall dreams of showing off. It is in our message of “manifestations of the sons of God”. We have the wrong notion that mundane activities are part of the spiritual necessities of a Church that Christ will come for as a bride. In that quest, a lot of what drives the Church are worldly undertakings that makes finances always unavailable, and then makes certain ungodly and menacing messages of the compulsion of tithes, and what offerings should be, unavoidable. I have heard it all, and probably have said it all. The difference between my today and my past is that I came to a point in my search for the truth where it does not matter what I was told and heard, there is a need to check, and bury my head to ascertain what the truth is through God’s word. I have just come to believe in Christ much more than man and his understandings. I came to a point where I no longer clap and get excited anyhow, not by the preachments of a Bishop or a Pope. My confidence is no longer in the flesh, neither is my trust nor loyalty. I have not stopped respecting those that deserved it, no, not at all. I diligently paid my tithes in those days and believed what man told me and shown me in the Bible, but I did not apply my heart to wisdom, neither did I challenged my doubts even though I had plenty of it then. I just did what I was told to do and was expecting the reward of obedience for years and years, and it was like my heart was heavy every time I did what I was told. That wasn’t a right feeling to have in obedience. I couldn’t find peace even though it was the ‘right’ thing to do then. My heart rends and my soul was searching for how to please my God. I had a thirst and an eternal hunger within me like a shallow lake will envy a flowing river. I was empty, was dry, was tormented, was harassed, was intimidated, was tortured, was threatened, was pushed, was made obsequious of man, sometimes roguishly offended, and always feeling empty even though I thought I was doing the right thing. There was a serious need in my bosom, but then I could not discover or define it then. I just knew something was sincerely amiss! I was giving my tithes with all joy and all religious compulsion with a mix of feelings difficult to define. It was like the more I do it the less I find solace in doing what was right. Then in the late 90s and the early 2000s, some more strange messages started to come around about giving God tithes of 90% of what you owned. I thought may be God wanted me to do more and give more, so I can have peace that I have done what was required. I tried to do a little above the 10%, and it was getting worse. Remember, this was a choice I made out of no compulsion but certainly influenced or indoctrinated by the new messages I have heard (not so much of enforcement but of the drivel of assertiveness). The more I try to do what was ‘right’ the more I sink down in the abyss of emptiness of my soul. The first call of wisdom ran through my mind sometime in 2005, when I realized God was worth much more than my money and the money of all men put together. I started listening to messages on tapes, TV, in Churches, videos etc, and started to listen more attentively and pay enough attention to the driving force behind the message much more than what was preached by man about God. I then saw the subtility of the love for money behind many a message.

 

 After every great message on hope, after every great message on faith, or the beatitudes of the virtues humanity should possess, after every sound doctrines of humility, righteousness, redemption, salvation and brotherliness in a world of self, then comes a few minutes when all that was good was poisoned with the short message on giving. Whoever takes the offering and tithe comes with a big sledge and brake to pieces great messages by simply summarizing all the good stuff with tithe as the only way to show your accountability to God. I found it almost everywhere, and it occurs to me that the timing for taking money was strategically opposing to what one can relate to in the scriptures. It was always after a sound message, and then it is “offering time and blessing time”. In the days of the Bible, offerings are first made before any other mandatory services of the tabernacle are done. That in itself is not an abomination, but just an interesting one to note.

 

All kinds of threat are used to get everyone give, sometimes people do it beyond their means, not out of trust but obedience to the collector. Tithe is said to be what you must set aside, must not be touched and it should be minimum of 10%. It is to protect what you have, something like a comprehensive insurance premium. Offerings are raised as something well beyond the tithe because that is how God will approve of your love and affection to Him. So they expect a minimum of 20% of all income of the congregations into the offering box to be used for sundry matters outside God or His treasured possessions. It is very possible to misunderstand my writings as of a man that is mad or jealous or rebellious to the Church as a whole, especially in regards to money in the Church. I have no problems with money in the Church, but I have a big problem with two things. How the money gets to the Church and how the money is spent on behalf of God who was the means of the collection effort.

 

At this point, I had some peace in my heart. It was like I found a new gold on my ground. Joy of the Lord sprang from my heart but I also knew it was not full. I started feeling a little free in my soul and it was obvious there was so much more to find out. So I started to research very vastly on tithe. Why? How? Where? When? What? I was so determined to get the truth, and it will not matter where it falls, will be my pride possession forever as the truth. I had to listen to both sides of the argument first without doing a private and very exhaustive study myself. Both sides seem to make good peripheral arguments on the perimeters of the doctrine of tithe. I then decided to ask God to empower me do my own study and guide me through with understanding and wisdom.

 

There were eternal truths revealed by God’s word, and from His word I gleaned a lot beyond my search. God needed my attention, and so something that detoured me in life happened as a result of the answer to my prayers to God. I wanted to know God with all my heart. God saw it and I have never been the same ever since. I am not bitter about the detour of life, as it has enabled me to see beyond my envisaged dream and push me to a realm I would have never thought I would be in life. Honestly, if I had continued with the way I know and was taught ministry, by now I would have been one of those prowling around in big cloak of error. God gave me a dose of what it takes to be effective in such pursuit, but somehow God allowed something to happen to me, which has changed my perspective of life and ministry. Please do understand that I am not claiming perfection of any sort. My flesh would not allow that, but grace has given that to me in Christ. I am a man full of his own errors but speak of the little I have come to know of my God. If you had been reading my essays on the Church in the last few years, you would be tempted to feel I am above errors myself. No, I am not. I simply strive to be better day after day, but there is a fire burning in my soul for the Church of Christ and the nations on earth.

 

To my co-minister of the gospel, my seniors and juniors (if there is anything like that), to those who have been a blessing to me along the way, those who have contributed to make a part of the person I am today, please do not see my writings in the past as an effrontery but as a point to have all of us see where we have missed it. My intent is not to placard the Church into a new truth, the truth is older than all of us put together. I believe the error of tithe and tithing has hindered the Church from getting a robust harvest of latter day saints, harvest of God’s influence on the heart of men and women to give what they have willingly and beyond the vision we all have for God on earth. The mordancy and acerbity with which we carry along errors in the face of very obvious contradictory facts and truth, is repulsively malignant, atrociously enslaving, perfidiously recalcitrant to the truth of the gospel of Christ. Please and please, let us return to the center of our calling and build trust in God as the only supplier of the needs of the vision He has given us. To trust and boast in men to supply our needs is against what we preach and how we should live. I am pleading by the grace of our Lord that we come back home and retrace our steps. No one gets the glory but God, not even this stench of a flesh – me.

 

Peace and grace to all.

 

Olumide G. Adeyinka can be reached at nigardgroup@yahoo.com  

 

Seyi Olu Awofeso

 
 

NIGERIA’S Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced last year that between 2007 and 2010, it recovered stolen assets nearly worth two (2) trillion Naira.

This teary figure of thefts will trench close to N4.7 trillion – equivalent to past year’s federal budget – if additional recoveries made in 2011 and 2012 are totalled up, considering that N1.7 trillion was stolen under Nigeria’s Oil Subsidy Subvention Scheme in the year 2011.

On these figures, Nigeria is direly miring in a theft pandemic of un-precedented proportions.  For openers, no country of its size can survive this level of banditry, with its government officials living by plunder, and, with a middling and mostly poor 160 million plus population seething on edge.

According to Forbes magazine of last September the impact of stolen wealth in Nigeria is telling. ““The acquisition of private planes in Nigeria since civil rule began with General Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 has been unprecedented,” said Forbes magazine. “Over 130 new private planes were acquired since 2007 at an average cost of $50 million per plane. Between March 2010 and March 2011, in just one year, Nigerians spent $225 million on private jets. But while a few dozen Nigerians are spending millions of dollars apiece for private jets, the poverty level in Nigeria is on the rise; with almost 100 million Nigerians, out of a total population of 170 million, living on less than one dollar a day.”

Paradoxically, along with Kenya, the Nigerian government was the early bird to sign on the first day – December 9, 2003 – in the city of Merida, Mexico, when the United Nations Convention against Corruption was laid on the table for countries’ voluntary signatures. Nigeria’s National Assembly later ratified it a year later, on December 14, 2004. By jumping ahead to sign and ratify, the Nigerian government flattered to deceive, by suggesting a readiness to stop stealing and start living up to the creed of its definition as “a government”.

But after well-nigh on ten years since signing the Merida Convention, Nigeria instead soared into stratospheric thefts, facilitated by “public officials”.  For hardly had its signature ink dried than the government returned to its stealing ways.  Now, whether by telepathy or conspiracy, no court of law in Nigeria has invoked the Merida Convention as its guiding, never mind governing principle. So, the Merida Convention seems officially deemed in Nigeria as mere rhetorical flourish – like an international law the Nigerian government only charily signed to fulfil all righteousness, without intending to obey its ban of official thievery.

Article 3 of the Merida Convention applies to all signing countries in the “prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, and to the freezing, seizure, confiscation and return of the proceeds of offences established in accordance with this Convention”. But pertaining “prevention” of corruption – as Merida Convention’s first injunction – Nigeria blithely ignores that, with no effective measure emplaced to stop thefts occurring in Nigeria’s government offices. In consequence, thefts and bribes in the 36 states of Nigeria now overwhelm the putatively under-staffed EFCC, as official thefts soared to dizzying levels in Nigeria, with entire sub-treasuries being shovelled away in incredible thefts.

“The situation in Nigeria is long past the happy hour. Nigerians pray for good Nigeria every day and this prayer translates into curses on their executioners because these do not want Nigeria to progress given how they are relentlessly raping her present and looting her future. It will soon be season for purgatory in Nigeria. When the hour comes, ignorance in leadership will not be acceptable in extenuation of damnation, and, this will be regardless of which ethnic group a criminal leader hails from,” Quansy Salako, an American resident, wrote on December 12, last year.

As instance of this counter-intuitive escalation of thefts, after signing the Merida Convention, Nigeria’s Police’ 32 billion Naira pension fund was entirely shovelled away last year by John Yakubu Yusufu, a former Director of the Police Pension Office. “His was let off by the Judge and fined N750, 000 (about $5,000). The rich irony of stealing from the Nigerian police aside, the opportunity cost of this grand larceny to the commonwealth and well-being is astounding”, said Tunji Lardner, a newspaper editor in Nigeria.

“I ran some numbers indexed against Nigeria’s 2012 national budget and came up with these figures. Yakubu’s haul is 536.89% of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Police affairs and 777.31% of the budget for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which in lay terms means that Mr. Yakubu can personally afford to run the Police Affairs Ministry and the ICPC for five and seven years respectively – two of the instruments of state expressly designed to uphold law and order and put criminals like Yakubu behind bars for a very long time. Equally stupefying is the fact that this one man (Yakubu) and his cronies stole the equivalent of 48.07 of the National budgetary allocation for Universal Basic Education, which means that perhaps half of Nigeria’s school age children running into the tens of millions could technically be denied an education because the system we have co-created allows and encourages people to steal from the commonwealth with no real fear of consequences”, Tunji Lardner added.

Indeed, in Nigeria, ten years since signing the Merida Convention, no concrete legal consequences follow official thefts. A former Edo state Governor, Mr. Lucky Igbinedion was just one of the two ex-Governors convicted so far, but whilst the other convict later received laudatory presidential amnesty with full pardon, Lucky Igbinedion was immediately let off with a slap on the wrist in 2008, equivalent to a judicial wink, added by a fine of a mere ₦3.5million, equivalent to 21,000 United States dollars, for an admitted indictment of 25 billion Naira fraud, equivalent to 167.5 million United States dollars.

Till date, there’s no official statement on whether the 25 billion Naira he made away with has been recovered. As a policy, accounting for recovered thefts has proved impossibly difficult for Nigerian government officials for any number of reasons. For example, there’s no straightforward financial account of the money recovered from Nigeria’s past head of state, General Sani Abacha, who stole $5 billion, equivalent to the annual budget of Nigeria’s federal government. “The money was likely re-stolen by the Obasanjo administration”, a canny foreign observer wryly rasped, after detecting no precise figure officially admitted as received by the Nigerian government which instead continually diverted attention by jousting endlessly with Swiss government on some alleged remainder sums, asserted by Nigeria, but denied by Switzerland, as the outstanding “Abacha loot” still cached in Swiss banks’ vaults.

This criminal culture of routine non-accountability suggests sheer shambles inside Nigeria’s government offices as much as it indicates an overarching fraudulence which already has robbed Nigerian officials of slenderest credibility for honesty. “The financial revenue Nigeria received for the whole of last year (2012) from the sale of crude oil is more than the total foreign aid the entire sub Saharan Africa received in that same year. So, where is the money? Where is the improvement in Nigeria?” asks British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in obvious exasperation at Davos on 23rd January this year.

“The educated ones are now the fools in Nigeria. They are dreaming. But go and read ‘This house has fallen” written years ago by a Jewish man who was opportune to go through Nigeria for some weeks. A country without laws is no longer standing. A country without infrastructure, non-functional power, no water, no road, no economic future, is a dead place. And your educated ones still can’t read the handwriting on the wall. You are fools!” howled a blogger, Nathaniel Okonkwo, on 19th January this year.

A few months ago at a Senate hearing, incorporation papers filed in 1998 by Malabu Oil Limited were officially declared stolen from inside Nigeria’s Company Registry – styled the Corporate Affairs Commission, entrusted by the Companies Act of 1990 to keep all charter papers of incorporated companies in perpetuity.  Once that news broke, foreign banks took notice that in Nigeria it is possible to advance a loan to a Nigerian company which may later turn out to be non-existent.

“We talk about corruption as if it is the cause of our problems in Nigeria”, said Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan. “No – yes, we have corruption in this country; but the government has also been fighting corruption, and, we have discovered that most of the issues called corruption are not corruption. I remember the last meeting we had with the Chief Justice of the federation. This was when i tried to bring the heads of the three arms of government together to see how we will collectively suppress corruption. And of course, we analysed the cases in court and discovered that about 80 per cent of them are not corruption cases. Sometimes, the way we mention corruption makes it look like when indigenes of some villages in the Niger Delta blame the death of a person on the activities of witches or spirits.”

But in reality though, official fraudulence scuttles business confidence in Nigeria, even as Nigerians shrug and carry on in false courage as if nothing doing, despite that similar paper fraud had wiped out two-thirds of Nigerians’ investments in the country’s stock-market in 2008, matched then by alleged technical insolvency of half a dozen commercial banks which illegally trafficked their own shares to create a false market so as to bolster share prices even as their capital dwindled through internal thefts by their directors.

The Chief Executives of Oceanic and Intercontinental Bank(s) were arrested and indicted in court for personally fleecing 2 billion United States dollars, but since 2008, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has not accounted for recovery of the bankers’ stolen funds, claiming it wishes to preserve common law confidentiality of the legal fees the CBN paid its hired lawyers to pursue recovery, despite a judicial order issued by the High Court to the Central Bank to forthwith tender the account in court – such judicial order legally overriding any common law attorney-client privilege.

Demurring, and rather than render account to the court, the Central Bank chose to pay lawyers more legal fees to file an appeal for a non-disclosure injunction against any duty to account. Meantime, the Central Bank struggles to minimize the infamy of a whopping two billion Naira stolen away from its subsidiary security printing presses, early this year.

Such far-ranging murkiness beclouding Abacha’s loot, the Malabu Oil incorporation papers and Cecilia Ibru’s recovered stolen assets, together, only further worsen Nigeria’s image as a country governed by thieves. But who cares?

“As a people we must abhor corruption – the cancer that now afflicts all of us, which, if allowed to persist, will destroy us,” Ahmed Joda, a former federal permanent Secretary said warningly on 15th January, to show he cares even if most other Nigerian officials rather hug stealing as a way of life. “The examples of our present leadership to the younger generations – whether in the executive, legislature or the judiciary can only ruin us. As a people, we must make clear to our leaders that we can no longer tolerate their unbecoming conduct. We must not leave the situation unattended for street mobs to impose the solution.”

Well, Nigeria’s federal parliament also hollered mid last month to show it cared, as the House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, noisily ordered all past EFCC Chairpersons to appear before a House Committee and account for all recovered assets. “Tambuwal’s directive is of course a no-brainer”, a British journalist quipped. “The duty to account correlates with official duty capacity which no past EFCC Chairperson has.”

By that token, it follows there are but odd chances of Nigerians ever getting value for tax money, for so long as a duty to render honest financial account to the taxed public is officially refused by Nigerian government officials, elected and appointed.
“Nigeria is a country perhaps,” a witty observer tartly mused.
 

Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja

 

By Tim Newman

 

Okay, so now I’ve got a post about Melbourne out of the way it’s time for me to say a little something about Nigeria.  With the exception of a week in October when I need to clear out my apartment, I’ve pretty much left Nigeria.  My assignment there officially finished on 31st July, although I will have to return for business trips over the course of the next 3 years because the project I am on in Melbourne is for Nigeria.

Somebody once said that there is much to write about Russia, but when one tries you can never find the words to write the first line.  Nigeria is much the same, and indeed there are many similarities between the two countries.  I have tried to describe Nigeria to people who have never been there, and failed on most occasions.  A colleague of mine stopped telling people back home about the place because he was getting a reputation as somewhat of a bullshitter, even though he didn’t exaggerate anything.  I was at a seminar in Paris some time ago and I was describing the working life in Nigeria to a group of Frenchmen.  One of them quipped that I was exaggerating and that “it couldn’t be that bad”, which prompted another Frenchman, sitting beside me, to nudge me in the ribs and remark “wait until he does his Nigerian assignment”.  He was based in Port Harcourt.

Nigeria has a reputation, and I knew about it before I arrived.  Most of what I’d heard proved to be completely true.  Almost all of it, in fact.  To get a general picture of Nigeria, just read the news, and you’ll not be far wrong.  It isn’t a place like Russia, the US, or France which surprise visitors when they see the contrast between what they’ve imagined (based on exposure to their tourists or foreign policy) and the individuals they encounter.  But beyond the general picture, there are some subtleties worth mentioning.

It’s first important to understand that degree is as important as form.  Russians, faced with criticism of corruption in their country, often retort that corruption is found everywhere, even in the UK.  Which is true, but in many countries it does not infest every authority, office, and institute like it does in Russia.  It is the degree, or extent, of corruption which makes Russia different from the UK, not the form.  Understanding this concept is important in describing Nigeria.

There is no getting away from the fact that corruption in Nigeria has infested almost every aspect of life, work, and society.  I can’t think of a single area where I didn’t encounter a scam of some sort.  Some of them were pretty normal – policemen hassling motorists for bribes, for example – with others being less common elsewhere.  Filling brand named alcohol bottles with local hooch was widespread practice.  Not so bad in itself, but these were being sold through supposedly legitimate suppliers and turning up in established bars.  Others were unique to Nigeria.  I knew a guy in charge of oil shipments for a foreign oil company who received a call from somebody in the authorities saying he was not going to release the multi-million dollar cargo until somebody had bought his cousin $10 worth of phone credit.  My acquaintance found himself going to the shop, buying a phone card, and handing it over to some scruffy bloke who showed up at his office in order to allow his crude oil out of the country.

The corruption, theft, and graft can take many forms: falsifying a CV (I don’t mean enhancing, I mean pretending you’re a Lead Piping Engineer of 12 years experience when actually, until yesterday, you were a fisherman); selling positions in a company; stealing diesel from the storage tanks you’re paid to protect; issuance of false material certificates; impersonating an immigration officer to access an office, from which you then tap up the people within to fund your latest venture; selling land which isn’t yours; deliberately running down the country’s refining capacity in order to partake in the lucrative import of fuels; falsifying delivery notes of said refined fuels in order to receive greater government subsidies; deliberately restricting the country’s power generation capacity in order to benefit from the importation of generators (which must be run on imported fuel); theft of half-eaten sandwiches and opened drink containers from the office fridge; tinkering with fuel gauges at petrol stations to sell customers short; conspiring with company drivers to issue false receipts indicating more fuel was supplied than actually was; supplying counterfeit safety equipment; falsifying certificates related to professional competence (e.g. rope access work); paying employees less than stipulated in their contract (or not at all); cloning satellite TV cards, meaning the legitimate user gets their service cut off when the other card is in use (the cards are cloned by the same people who issue the genuine cards); the list is literally endless.  There is no beginning or end to corruption in Nigeria, it is a permanent fixture.

Nepotism is rife: family members are employed and promoted before anyone else.  Outright theft is rife: from a pen lying on a desk, to billions from the state coffers. Dishonesty is rife: from the state governors to the street urchin, lying to enrich yourself is the norm.  You name the scam, it is being done in Nigeria.  Eventually, nothing surprises you.

As I said before, you’ll find such practices everywhere, but to nowhere near the extent found in Nigeria.

Apparently it wasn’t always like this.  There was a time, probably from around the 1970s to 1990s, when Nigeria had a reasonably diverse economy.  Besides the oil and gas, they had agriculture, manufacturing and assembly (Peugeot set up an assembly plant in Nigeria in the mid-1970s), brewing (there is a both a Guinness and a Heineken brewery), refining, construction, and pharmaceuticals.  Some of these survive today.  There were decent universities, and students wishing to graduate had to apply themselves.  Security wasn’t much of a concern to the average citizen.

I don’t know the details, but at some point in the 1990s one of the military dictators decided to flood the place with oil money in order to buy support.  This had the effect of drowning every other form of enterprise and ensuring that oil and gas was the only game in town.  This is bad in itself, but by no means unique to Nigeria.  What was worse is that this quickly instilled a mentality across Nigeria that there was a lot of money up for grabs, and getting your hands on it wasn’t in any way related to honest efforts or applying yourself to something constructive.  Nigeria became a place where if you’re not getting your hands on some of the oil money, either directly or indirectly, then you’re going nowhere.  With oil money washing over the whole country like a tidal wave, soon everyone was trying to secure their own piece of the action, using fair means or foul.  Imagine throwing a huge box of sweets into a playgroup shouting “Grab what you can!”, and the chaos that ensues will be similar to what happened to Nigeria on a national scale.

At least, this is what I gather happened – I may be wrong – but for sure, the current situation reflects what I’ve described.  The economy is funded almost exclusively from oil and gas revenues, and everything else is merely feeding off that.  The new hotels in Lagos, the growth of capital city of Abuja, the importation of luxury goods, the Audi and Porsche dealerships, the sky-rocketting real estate prices, the money earmarked for infrastructure projects, the increase in flight passengers, all of it is directly or indirectly linked to the oil money.  Okay, maybe there is some hyperbole in there.  Agriculture still makes up the lion’s share of GDP, and the services sector is booming.  Advertising is a big industry in Lagos, although the most common thing you see advertised is advertising space.  But nobody is going to get anywhere herding cattle, picking pineapples, or working in a sawmill.  Even the owners won’t be earning that much, not if that’s their only income.  There is very little opportunity to get rich, or even advance, unless you are somehow connected to the supply of oil money.

One of the results of this national free-for-all is the formation of groups, societies, associations, and unions whose raison d’être is to obtain as much money and benefits for their members as possible.  This isn’t much different from Europe in respect of trade unions, but groups and subgroups form at micro-levels with sometimes comical precision.  The Lagos Association of Road Maintenance Engineers, Roundabout and Lay-by Division, 4th Department.  The Nigerian Association of Water Truck Drivers, Lagos Chapter.  Membership of one or more of these associations is both essential and compulsory: essential because an individual would get trampled very quickly in the general melee of Nigeria, and compulsory in the sense that you have almost no chance of being allowed to quietly ply your trade without paying dues to some group or other.  It’s not clear what the legal standing of a lot of these groups is, but it’s often hard to tell how they differ from a standard extortion racket.  One of the most powerful unions in Lagos, the transport union, used to shake down any okada (motorcycle taxi) driver passing through their checkpoints, claiming the money was used “to protect them from the police”.  I doubt the money was used in such a manner, but people do need protection from the police in Lagos.  Not that the okada drivers had any say in the matter: membership was automatic, and the union muscle would beat any non-compliant driver or confiscate his vehicle.  The power of the oil and gas workers unions is legendary, ensuring their members enjoy pay and benefits which are the highest of any local staff in the world, and often outstrip those of the expatriates.

This in itself might not be so damaging, but ubiquitous to all competing factions is a rapacity the likes of which I doubt can be found anywhere else on such a scale.  There is a culture so prevalent that it is a defining characteristic of Nigeria whereby no amount is ever enough, and no sum too small to be pilfered.  There comes a point in the career of most people who have gotten rich, either legitimately or otherwise, where they stop chasing the small stuff and are only interested in adding to their pile if the increase will be substantial.  The police chief of a sizeable Thai resort town has his fingers in many pies, but he’s not interested in shaking down street vendors.  His minions might in order to supplement their salaries, but generally once the boss has his cut of most of the action, he’s not interested in sweeping up every last baht.  As a result, commerce can continue relatively unmolested.  The same is roughly true amongst the Sheikhs of the Middle East.  Bung the Crown Prince a few million for the contract, and he’ll allow the project activities to go ahead pretty freely.  He’s not interested in making an extra $10k by insisting you hire his brother’s lorry fleet to transport the gravel.  Such restraint may also be practical: the dodgy official in the UK isn’t going to be interested taking pennies if he risks getting fired or going to jail, he’ll have a minimum price he’ll work for.

But Nigeria has the same problem I saw in Russia: an almost pathological insistence of securing for yourself 100% of everything that is available, and not a kopek or kobo less.  I have observed before that Russians would rather have 100% of nothing than 50% of something, and the same is true – but on a far greater scale – in Nigeria.  The inequality in Nigeria is horrific.  The middle-classes are tiny, those who are neither stinking rich nor mired in poverty.  As it happens, most of the Nigerians I worked with fell into this category: lucky enough to have well-paying jobs, but not ordering Porsche Cayennes for each family member.  Statistically, almost all Nigerians are dirt poor.  A very few are stinking rich.  Again, a manageable problem in itself, but the rich haven’t finished yet.  Indeed, they’re only just getting started.  I spoke to a couple of Angolans in a seminar once, and they said that although their ruling classes had enriched themselves immeasurably, they were at least spending some money on the country, and improvements were noticeable.  The reason the Russians accept with a shrug the siloviki helping themselves to millions is because they (rightly) feel this is inevitable and – more importantly – life is actually improving in Russia and has been doing so since they came to power.  Sure, it’s a slow improvement and life is still hard, but they are at least moving in the right direction (for how long is a discussion for another post).  There have been improvements in infrastructure in Russia, the new Sheremetovo airport to name one example.

By contrast – and I challenge any Nigerian reading this to disagree – there have been no discernible improvements in Nigeria in the past decade (outside of Abuja, where all the politicians happen to live).  The infrastructure is crumbling, electricity shortages abound, Lagos airport is a national disgrace, project after project gets sanctioned but rarely started, never mind completed, before the funds disappear, and unemployment is rocketing.  I heard somewhere that 2m people are added to the workforce every year in Nigeria.  To do what, exactly?  There are no jobs.  One source of employment for young men was to drive okadas, until they abruptly got banned in Lagos last year.  The roads are now much better, but you now have tens of thousands of young men with no source of income and no hope for a job.  Since the ban came into effect, crime – robberies, car-jackings, burglaries – have increased by an order of magnitude, even in the rich neighbourhoods of Lagos previously thought to be safe.  It’s not difficult to see why.

Meanwhile, Nigerian senators – of whom there are 109 – enjoy an official package worth $1.5m per year, which they recently requested to be increased to $2.2m per year.  By contrast, the US President gets an annual salary of $400k.  Given the unofficial incomes of a Nigerian senator through graft and backhanders is probably 3-5 times that, we can probably estimate most of these guys are taking home something in the order of $4-5m each year.  Yet they put in for a 46% increase, in a country where 45% of the population lives beneath the poverty line.  This is hardly surprising for a group of politicians, and far from unique to Nigeria.  The problem is, this behaviour is repeated through every strata of society from the very top of the government to the lowest street urchin: whatever is there, I want all of it; and I want more.  I saw wealthy middle-class Nigerians move to ensure drivers did not enjoy a fringe benefit worth about $10 per week.  If you threatened to report a low-level official for corruption, he would usually tremble with fear of his boss finding out: not because his boss shuns corruption, but because he will want to know why the proceeds of this particular scam haven’t been coming to him.  We already had the example of a multi-million dollar oil cargo being held up until somebody’s relative received a kick-back worth $10.  If any amount of new money arrives in the economy – due to a new oil project, for example – those who are already wealthy, via their societies, organisations, unions, and political connections will ensure 100% of that new money will go to them.  Insofar as sharing and dividing the spoils goes, it is between groups who are already of the same wealth.  If any trickles down to the next layer, it is almost by accident, and to be corrected at the first opportunity.

I came to the conclusion about 2 years into my assignment that Nigeria is probably the only genuinely classless society I have seen.  Class is very different from wealth.  Upper class people can be dirt poor (bankrupt dukes) and lower class people can be fabulously rich (Russian oligarchs).  Class is about behaviour and attitudes, not wealth (a point made very well in Kate Fox’s excellent book Watching the English).  And insofar as behaviour goes, I didn’t see a shred of difference between the top politicians, down through the officials in the national authorities, through the middle class professionals, through the service providers, right down to the area boys.  The behaviour was identical across all strata: I want more money, and I will do absolutely anything to get it.  If you were to replace the politicians – let’s say our 109 senators from before – with 109 random people from the Nigerian citizenry, you would get no change in behaviour.  You could repeat the experiment a thousand times, and you would get no change.  There is no ruling class in Nigeria, there is just a set of rulers.  Where any change is expected to come from I don’t know.

I believe one of the root causes is the bizarre situation where being dishonest is not socially frowned upon.  Not really, anyway.  If somebody is caught with his hand in the till, he is not shunned by his peers.  The whole situation is treated with utter indifference, and sometimes admiration (if the scam is particularly imaginative).  Societal pressure plays an enormous role in shaping the behaviour of a population, probably more so than the brute force of the law, and whilst all Nigerians complain about the crime and dishonesty so prevalent in their country (it affects them far more than the expats), they remain utterly silent when a perpetrator is identified from within their peer group.  At best, you’ll get a shrug and a statement to the effect of “that’s just how it is”.  If you’re a Nigerian caught running a scam against your employer, your colleagues aren’t going to think any less of you.

In fact, the only behaviour I managed to identify which would cause a Nigerian to be shunned by his peers and made an outcast, is if he decided he wasn’t a believer and therefore wasn’t going to be showing up in church (or mosque) any more.  I don’t think I met a single Nigerian who didn’t attend either church or mosque, and religion plays an enormous – possibly the key – role in Nigerian society.  I’m not going to go into this topic, mainly because I’m not reflexively anti-religion, but I do suspect that a lot of Nigerians justify unsavoury behaviour during the week by going to church on Sunday and washing themselves of sin.  In this respect, the place is very similar to the Gulf States.

Now a reminder of what I said at the beginning of this post.  Degree matters.  You will find every type of individual in Nigeria, including the kind, funny, generous, honest, and everything else that is good in a person.  You’ll find lots of them too.  I had the pleasure of working with some great individuals, who were genuinely skilled, could apply themselves, held positions on merit, and were extremely well-mannered and respectful.  The team of Nigerians I managed was one of the nicest bunch of people you’d ever hope to meet, and easy to manage as well.  (My theory is that engineers are often like this: if you’re bone-idle and want to earn money dishonestly, there are easier things to do than an engineering degree.)  The problem these decent people have is that they are vastly outnumbered by those who are not.  For every Nigerian who is honest, well-mannered, and diligent you’ll find a hundred whose only goal is to get some money whilst expending the minimum amount of effort possible.  If they can use personal connections, lies, or trickery in lieu of learning a useful skill and applying it, they’ll take that option every time.  It’s a numbers thing: if 50% of Nigerians were more like 10% of them, the country would be okay.  And that’s the fundamental problem of Nigeria summed up in one sentence: way too many dickheads.

When I was bored in our morning meetings – which was on most days – I would canvas my team’s opinion on certain things, often the state of the country.  They were by and large in despair.  Nigerians are famously optimistic, but this is often through desperation.  Nowhere was this better demonstrated than on the occasion when a bank put a Christmas tree up on a roundabout with “presents” at the bottom, and the next morning all the presents had been ripped open.  If somebody thinks a box under a tree on a roundabout contains an X-Box, then you’ve gone way beyond optimism and into desperation or delusion.

My lads were a happy enough bunch – as Nigerians usually are – but had no hope of things getting better any time soon.  I ventured the suggestion that a return to military dictatorship might be on the cards, and I got no objection.  One of them explained that during the times of military dictatorship, it was only a handful of people at the top creaming off money.  Now, with democracy, it’s tens of thousands.  And during the military dictatorship, crime was much lower, and few had concerns about personal security.  Democracy is all well and good, but I’ve often said that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  I am sure the world will howl with outrage and impose sanctions should Nigeria undergo another military coup, but few can deny that democracy is failing to deliver peace, prosperity, and basic services to Nigeria.  I remain far from convinced that many Nigerians would not welcome such an event.

So what did I think of my time in Nigeria?  In truth, I didn’t like it, but not for the reasons you might think.  The worst thing, by far, was not being able to go anywhere and do anything at the weekends.  The security situation did not allow us to travel beyond a very restricted area of Lagos, and even if we could there wasn’t much to do.  I like walking about with a camera, camping, exploring by going to a town and drinking lots, skiing, driving around, visiting people, riding a bike, and hill walking.  There was no scope to do any of that in Lagos, for reasons usually related to security.  That meant for weekend after weekend after weekend there was nothing to do but watch sport on TV, go to the gym, and lie by the pool.  Those with families did whatever families do; the single guys went to bars and clubs and picked up Nigerians girls; guys like me – married, single status – didn’t do very much at all.  I used the time well, learned French, read countless books, improved on the guitar, and got fit.  Nigeria has excellent weather, and even better pineapples, but I would much rather have spent my time doing something else in another place.

Those restrictions were by far the worst aspect of my Nigerian assignment.  Insofar as the daily life in Lagos went, with all its challenges, that was manageable.  You get used to anything eventually, and at some point I was able to shrug off almost everything Nigeria had to throw at me.  I never quite got used to the traffic, so used to plan my day to avoid the worst of it.  Dealing with the Nigerians took some getting used to, a process that was eased considerably when I figured out they weren’t the most difficult factor to consider.  There’s rarely any point in getting upset about locals anywhere, because they are the raw material you have to work with.  If you go to Nigeria, you will have to work with Nigerians, so deal with it.  Some aspects of it were frustrating no doubt, but what can I do?  Nothing.

What infuriated me more was that some of the expats I encountered were hopelessly unqualified and too inexperienced to be there.  Nigeria is a difficult place to attract talent to, and as such – like a lot of oil towns worldwide – those who end up coming are usually way below the standard that should be demanded.  Unbelievably, incompetence and stupidity seem to be imported at great expense into Nigeria.  This annoyed me considerably, as it did when I encountered a similar state of affairs in Sakhalin.  If you are going to come into somebody else’s country on the basis that you have skills they don’t, you’d better make damned sure you have those skills and they are on full view.  If I had a quid for every time I’ve seen somebody fail this basic test in the oil business, I could retire and bump yachts in Monaco with Roman Abramovich.  I’m pretty sure I upset a few people in Nigeria, and maybe there were a few who didn’t want me there, but nobody could accuse me of not adding value.  Nobody could point the finger at me and ask “Why, exactly, do we keep this guy?”  If nobody else, the lads in my team didn’t mind me.  I gave them direction, support, and cover and got somewhere close to the best out of them.  What infuriated me more than anything was coming across a Nigerian with a reputation for being useless, and on further investigation learning that they’d never been given a job description, never been given any meaningful direction, had no understanding of the context of their job in the department or the department in the company, and had just been plonked at a desk and expected to do something.  I came across this far more than I should have, and it pissed me off.  Fair enough, if somebody is useless then call them useless; but first you have to give them every opportunity to succeed, and only then can you call them useless if they don’t perform.  Hey, you could even call this practice management!  There was a serious lack of it in Nigeria.  How many half-decent Nigerians are shoved in the corner of an office and written off as useless in this manner I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s a lot, and it does the place a serious disservice.

As final proof that I didn’t dislike the place that much, I signed up to another 3 years of involvement when I had the opportunity to get out away from Nigeria for good.  I learned some things during my assignment in Lagos, and that knowledge is useful.  I know Nigeria, and what it’s like to work with Nigerian companies and Nigerian people on a Nigerian project.  A lot of people don’t.  I’m used to it, it doesn’t hold any mystery or reason for fear as it did when I first arrived almost 3 years ago.

I’ll be back there at various points in the future, but honestly I hope I don’t have to live there permanently again for the reasons I stated.  I don’t consider it 3 years wasted – far from it – and I didn’t hate it.  There were moments, plenty of them, where I positively enjoyed it.  And as assignments to Nigeria go, that’s not too bad.

By AMB. Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

The Nigeria Customs Services on the 13th of August, 2013 showed the
Nigerian government and other government agencies the right way to
address the risks associated with the social media in conducting
government businesses using the medium when it organized a Workshop on
Customs and Social media, highlighting the risks and benefits.

The Nigeria Customs also used the opportunity of the gathering to
introduce THE NIGERIA TRADE-HUB (http://www.nigeriatradehub.gov.ng/),
an introduction to international business in Nigeria. The Trade-hub is
a mainly portal meant to for Nigerian and international business men
and women doing import and export to get correct information to enable
them make decisions about doing business in Nigeria and outside the
country.

Before we go into the details of the Nigeria Trade Hub, let me divert
a little to talk about cybercrime and the social media.

It is true that the advantages and benefits of the social media far
surpasses it disadvantages, this is evident if one takes a look at the
increasing success stories of social media practitioners, ranging from
people who had secured jobs through this medium, to those that meet
old school mates, get business connections, secure admission through
social interaction, hook up with lovers and many goodies too numerous
to mention. But apart from this set of beneficiaries of the social
media, there are others who had equally benefitted through other
means.

For example, in a popular testimony story across the U.S, It was
stated that, the reason why Barrack Obama won the U.S presidential
elections in 2008 and 2012 respectively were because he made
appropriate use of the social media more than his opponents. While
Obama effectively utilized the social media in the build up to the
2008 U.S presidential election, his opponent John MCaine didn’t. He
took the social media with less importance and he paid dearly for it
because it greatly influenced the outcome of the election in favour of
Barrack Obama.

Also in 2012 presidential election, although, Obama’s opponent Mitt
Romney had seen the effect of the social media and he also made
adequate use of it as Obama himself, but what counted in favour of
Barrack Obama was his list of social media contacts that was already
built in the previous elections.  While his opponent Mitt Romney was
busy building social media contacts to execute his online campaigns,
Barrack Obama was already engaging the already built list in his
previous elections. That made a slight difference in favour of Obama.

Coming down to Nigeria, the situation is not so different in terms of
political usage of the social media to achieve great accomplishments,
as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan having realized the
importance of the medium took to the social media to declare his
ambition to run for the 2011 presidential election and it greatly
helped his campaign team to reach out to a considerable millions of
electorates which counted in his favour. But, just as President
Jonathan enjoyed the benefits of the social media, the risk associated
with the medium also catch up with him, as the same social media he
once enjoyed its benefits was equally used to mobilize Nigerians
against his policy to take to the street in January 2012 to protest
the removal of fuel subsidy which shut down the entire country for
some days. Till date, the President’s Image never recovers from that
damage.

President Jonathan himself recently noted that, he his the most abused
president in the world, but I recall that, the president was once the
most loved president on the social media, but suddenly, he became the
most abused president by the same people who had previously loved him.
What a social media.

What  i am saying in essence is that, the impact of the social cannot
be over emphasized, as this revelation simply point to the fact that,
no amount of money spent on image making on the traditional media can
counter the effect of the social media. Any wise establishment, be it
government or private shouldn’t think twice before engaging the social
media administrators and use their medium to their advantage.

It is important to state that, the adoption of social media for
government and private organizations became imperative to help tackle
the challenges of uncontrollable spread of information and the damages
it cause online and also, it could be used to further promote and
develop good public interaction and image making, as it seems very
obvious that we cannot stop the spread and flow of information on the
social media by the public, but we can influence and manage it to our
advantage.

The traditional media may be able to send information across to the
public, but the only place where the public dialogue, analyse and
conclude on the information received through the traditional media is
on the social media. In terms of getting adequate response in regards
to information released to the public, the traditional media would be
helpless, considering the fact that, in addition to spreading
information, interaction and making firm decision after online
discussion, the social media also creates its own news content and
spread it around to reach far more people.

It is worth to equally note that, it is on social media that the
people agree and disagree on issue, explain and analyse situations and
at the end, maintain a stand on the actions of government and its
agents or other social and political issues. The social media is where
images get damaged or get polished in recent times, and this is beyond
the scope of the traditional media. This explains the reason why the
traditional media also went partial electronics to stay in business.

However, as beneficial as the social media is, it is almost impossible
to come across anyone with access to social media that hadn’t come
across a prospective cybercrime tendency situation in form of scam
messages of love and auction, fake job offers and businesses,
fraudulent messages of humanitarian assistants and support for refugee
or victims of wars in some countries afar. And with the numerous
examples and personal experiences encountered, it is appropriate and
safe to conclude that, Cybercrime is not only real, but also a threat
to every social media user.

But as the saying goes, a child cannot be thrown away with the dirty
water. In as much as the social media is not only greatly important in
this 21st century, it is also inevitable for every business and
government establishments to fulfil its responsibilities and carry out
their businesses, but just like every other good thing in life, it
also has its negative sides.
It is in recognition of the importance of the social media and the
risks involved that the Nigeria Customs services under the leadership
of the Controller General Dikko inde Abdullahi, organized a workshop
to engage social media administrators to discuss means on how to
prevent users from being victims of fraud and cybercrime and I was
privileged to be at workshop.

At the workshop, Mr Wale Adeniyi, Customs Public relation officer
revealed that, countless fake Facebook accounts had been opened in the
name of the Nigeria Customs and the Controller General Dikko inde
Abdullahi to defraud innocent Nigerians seeking for jobs among other
things.

He listed some of the fake accounts on facebook which include:
1. Nigeria Customs Auction SALES Customs warehouse Badagry
2. Nigerian Customs Auction Gwangi Habib Street (Maiduguri, Borno State)
3. Nigeria Customs Auction, Auction House, Seme Boarder
4.  Nigeria Custom Service on Auction Cars
5. Customs Community page about Cars. NCS Babanawa barracks seme
6. Auction Customs, The Nigeria Customs Service Auction Outlet
7. Nigerian Customs Linked to – 6331 likes
Others are weblinks and websites which include:
1. http://www.nigeriacustomsgov.webbs.com Babanawa barracks seme Boarder
2.www.portharcourtcustomsauction.webs.com
3. http://www.classified.dailypost.com.ng (Nigeria Customs Authorized 2013 cars)
4. http://www.nigeriacarmart.com (Nig Customs Authorized 2013 cars & Trucks
Auction sales.

Mr Wale urged Nigerians to never patronize any of these pages, noting
that, the Nigerian Customs Service doesn’t sell recruitment forms
online; neither does it offer appointment letters via social media or
any other online platform.

The Customs PRO further explained that, the Scammers ploys are
numerous, but he gave the most prominent example.

Social media Fraudsters create fake Facebook accounts in the name of
the Controller-General of the Nigerian Customs, Dikko inde Abdullahi.

Job seekers or their friends and families are therefore deceived into
believing they are chatting with the ‘’Controller General of Customs
or other customs officers, they sometimes refer prospective victims to
another fake fraudulent officer in the supposed public relation Unit,
Human resource Department or any department of the service for job
employment in exchange for a certain fee which they sometimes call,
administrative or form fee.
The Custom PRO warned that, any discussion that will eventually lead
to a request that you pay some money into some private account is pure
scam. Don’t patronize them.
Many have been deceived, many have been scammed, but don’t be a mugu, be smart.
He also stated that, the Nigeria Customs service doesn’t conduct any
auction sales of vehicle or any goods via the social media or any
other social media platforms. Don’t be a mugu, think before you click.

Returning back to the trade hub, the trade hub provides information
about all the Nigerian regulatory agencies like NAFDAC, CUSTOMS,
NCC,NDLEA, SON and others along with their contact details, processes,
documents, fees and processing time that an importer and exporter will
need to liase with to obtain the necessary important permits,
documents and certificates required to ensure compliance.

The trade hub has various tools to help you get the right information
about your choice import or export business in Nigeria. It also have a
24/7 customer service live chat, where you can ask an officer for any
information you couldn’t find on the portal and this service is
absolutely free.

Tool of the Trade-Hub include, the HS Code classification tool, an
intuitive tool to assist importers with the correct classification of
their products for both import and export. Once the correct HS code
for an importation product is obtained, the tool provides necessary
regulatory information about the product including regulating
agencies, control measures, prohibition status, ETLS status depending
on the country of origin, documents requirements, related duties and
fees and processing times. For exports products, the exporter on
selection of the country of export is presented with the exportation
country’s market access information including the relevant HS code and
the rates of duty t will attract upon entry to the country. Other
useful tools include the duty and fees calculator, the CPC code
directory and the currency converter.

The Nigeria Customs had also created a Facebook account for the
trade-hub (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nigeria-Trade-Hub/195651647260022
), where it supplies daily useful information that would be helpful to
business men and women doing import and export, information like the
new trade and bilateral agreement between Nigeria and other countries,
reduction of export dues in certain countries and so on.

In conclusion, the Nigerian government and it various agencies should
approach the Nigeria Customs for directory on means to associate with
the social media administrators and positively engage them to use
their means to project good image of the country, assist security
agencies on suspects and spread helpful information to prevent
securities bridges.
They could assist in preventing the wide circulation of fake
government agencies websites and prevent scam; circulate the genuine
government agencies websites to ensure the fake once are revealed to
prevent defrauding innocent job seekers among other things.

This is the right way to go and not denying the existence of the
reality on the social media.

AMB. Abdulrazaq O Hamzat writes from Abuja and can be reached on
discus4now@gmail.ccom

Nigeria’s Failing Education—Who Stole The Meat…

By Prince Charles Dickson

I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands and say “This has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can.” ~ Ani DiFranco

I am a man of simple faith. I do not care so much about definitions. When I see that something works I say so, when it does not work I also say so. I stand on the side of truth. Although these days, the truth is equally part of the problem…

Last week at the 15th Convocation and Investiture of new fellows for the Nigeria Academy of Letters, held at the University of Lagos, it was speeches, professors, academics, researchers, lettered men/women and white hairs everywhere, the verdict was nothing new—Summary: Nigeria was in trouble, the picture was bleak, we were under-developing, we had lost our past glory, and the raison d’etre was “education”.

This is the umpteenth time I am writing on the nation’s educational decay. In the next few paragraphs of this admonition, I would make some pertinent points/rants. The issues have been clothed with full bloated AIDS–primary/tertiary education: NUT/ASUU-P/NASU, teacher quality, JAMB/WAEC: admissions, strikes, tuition, infrastructure, sex for marks, plagiarism–an endless list.

First and very quickly I find it very unbelievable for all the intelligence, the ingenuity and you name it, after some 30 years the best ASUU can do is strikes, the argument that all the FG listens to is strike—strikes me as lame, But I will leave that for another day.

With almost a 150 universities plus institutions of degree equivalent awarding status all producing graduates every year. The statistics of jobless graduates is all too staggering. Need I add the quality of the graduates remains another matter?

We have a system that places plenty of emphasis on “come to the interview with your certificate.” So the desire to acquire these colorful, ribbon crested paper called certificate continues to contribute in large proportions to the bastardizing of the whole system.

Quiet amusing that graduates of universities of Agriculture in Benue, Abia, Ogun, and so on would be walking the streets looking for job when we have available land for farming. Agricultural science is a theoretical subject and schools do not even have farms no more, Universities of Agriculture take more students for law than Agricultural Extension courses.

We are there acquiring all manners of certificates from B.sc, MBA, PDP to APC, yet a man who emerges from the university as a chemical engineer is looking for a job, when we need several thousand chemists or is it Business Administrators to go into the Ogogoro or Sapele water market (local gin) and give it a semblance of respect through proper distilling and packaging. Our education lacks orientation, a mind orientation, instead we are saddled with graduates with the odious idea that to get a job you must hold a certificate.

Today what is the value of the education given to a young man who is doing his mandatory service year or lives in a guinea worm infested area and yet is incapable of causing a revolution in the lives of the villagers by transforming their drinking water into healthy supply?

Please what is the use of education given in physics to a young girl when the lights go out, she does not know what to do to get light again. I know a Nigerian who added a Boys Scout Merit Certificate as part of his educational certificates…

What we have today, in spite of innovations and the bold attempts to re-orientate it, remains, orthodox, slow foot, and myopic. The current ASUU strike holds no solution to the numerous problems.

Our once sharpened the head to near pin end quality educational pride is fading and even this was famed for making the possessors limb atrophied by long disuse.

Today how many young persons want to go home and at the beginning of the year cut the bush in readiness for the new year’s planting; all the values kids see are big cars, big mansions and reality shows, add the football leagues of Europe.

The ASUU strike action will soon be over, the nation’s tertiary institutions have been closed for two months, and they will ‘just’ resume like nothing happened, students go back to lectures like a rainbow that appeared without rain. In some schools, exams would be conducted in the following weeks. All really like nothing happened!

Our system has been abused, misused, disused and left in a state of disrepair. Show me a leader, a politician with so called popular mandate and I will show you an Oga at the top’s wife with her own private Montessori and international schools with fees from the outrightly outrageous to the unbelievably murderous, and off course they patronize themselves. It seems but a fact that the act is intentional, because you educate the children of today and you guaranty a future for tomorrow. But the reverse is the case; they educate their kids, by all means necessary and guaranty a future, a continuous oligarchy of crooks.

The technical and crafts schools have been bastardized, degraded and left in a coma, with little or no hope of regaining life.

We are a nation of largely intelligent illiterates so we do not bother about statistics, we have scholars who have built reputation for ‘xeroxing’ texts of others word for word as handout on a ‘buy and pass basis’, that is when the teacher is not a Mr. Lecturer insisting that Bimbo must go the whole length of her skirt to pass. We smile at the number of school dropouts; we feign ignorance at the number of school age children that are not in school. We are ignorant of the rate at which some of our institutions produce pirated literate, unproductive literate and in many cases full illiterates.

Government at the center is confused, one minute it is 6-3-3-4 system, now its 9-3-4, for uniabuja were medicine is about ten years its 9-3-16.

In my daily routine with Newspapers I am beseeched with adverts from schools offering ‘better?’ education, from Uganda to Belize to Ukraine.

I can say that tomorrow, certainly is bleak; we don’t know who stole the meat from the cooking pot, so let the stealing continue. A nation where anything will always go—will this be the last ASUU strike, only time will tell.

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