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Monday, 19 December 2016

OYEGUN'S DOCTRINE: IF THEY PUSH YOU,PUSH THEM AND IF THEY SLAP YOU,SLAP THEM BACK

There is an Igbo proverb that says: "Onye nnaya duru ohi, na eji ukwu agbawa uzo",translated to mean that a son whom the father sends to go and steal, uses his legs to break down the door. He goes in full confidence, without a care trusting that if anybody challenges him, his father will be handy to extricate him. This is exactly what played out in Rivers State at the recent  second rerun of legislative elections. The first rerun ended in-conclusive because of alleged violence inspired by desperate politicians who insisted that they must win Rivers State.
   Largely because of fear of violence or so as they claimed, INEC delayed the second rerun and perhaps was considering leaving it completely till 2019 until the Senate issued an ultimatum forcing them to announce a date for the second re-run. In the view of some political grandmasters of Rivers State, they would feel better and much more relevant, if Rivers State had no representatives in the National Assembly than having another party win the seats. But somehow, they were compelled to come down from their high horses by the ultimatum of the Legislators.
  And then the sambre beating started. Accusations and counter accusations filled the airwaves. The embattled and combative Governor Wike raised serious alarms and several red flags of how the APC had planned to undermine the elections. INEC was under fire and the security forces, especially the Police were alleged to be mustering to work in favour of the APC. Of course the APC leader in Rivers State, former Governor Amaechi fired back and accused Wike of stock-piling arms to rig the elections. The atmosphere was hot and you did not know whom to believe as it is usual for politicians to accuse each other, with or without any iota of substance. So we began to pray that none of these will come to be.
 Suddenly and unexpectedly, the 77- year old Chairman of APC, Chief Odigie Oyegun declared his doctrine: "If they push you, push them, if they slap you, slap them back, the whole Federal might is here"I was shocked beyond measure. Encouraged by this violence-inspiring doctrine by a former state Governor and elder statesman, Amaechi declared that "this is an election for our lives". For their lives? That was like saying it was a do or die election. I cringed in my bones. Then the governor of Kano State, Mohammed Ganduje who was leading the campaigns drove the doctrine home, shorn of all pretences: "If they shoot you, shoot them back" and since Amaechi had earlier indicated what his army friend told him, that if you hear the sound of a bullet, then it means that the bullet is not for you, then every one should go into the fight without fear!
 A serving state governor directing civilian supporters of a Democratic Party to fire back if fired at. Now may I ask, with which weapon ? and who would provide the weapon? Have weapons been stockpiled or were they part of the federal might? I was completely dumb-founded that senior Party and Government officials were preaching war and hate and urging citizens to embark on violence! What a real shame! Just because they must win the elections?
  Even if it was true that the opposition Party PDP and its combative Governor Nyesom Wike had made plans to push, slap and shoot the APC supporters, it could never justify this Brazen invitation to chaos and violence by otherwise respectable political leaders. What then was the point in the IG sending thousands of police men to Rivers State? Why then did the military move hundreds of their combat ready soldiers, some from operation 'crocodile smile' and some from 'operation Python dance' to Rivers State? Was it just to smile and dance? If their supporters were already armed to defend themselves or to fight back, we did not need those security agents except they were there to replenish supply. 
  It is my considered opinion that these men should rather have advised their supporters to be vigilant and to report any malfeasance to the horde of security officers that came as part of the Federal might. Asking the supporters to take the laws into their hands and practice " teet for tart" showed a loss of confidence in the ability of the Security forces to maintain peace and deal with law breakers. If the party of the government in power and who amassed the legion in Rivers had no confidence in the capacity and ability of the forces to perform, then how would anybody expect the same security forces to enjoy the confidence of the opposition, an opposition that raised so much alert and alarm concerning the partiality of the Security agencies, especially the Police.
  The Rivers legislative elections re-run happened against all odds and as primed, the worst happened. Blood flowed. Governor Wike last week personally led a protest march of PDP supporters against the Police after calling for a thorough review of the conduct of the elections and insisting that the Police was used to compromise the elections, including killing their supporters. Thereafter, the APC also undertook a protest march around the streets of PortHarcourt in support of the Police, saying that the Police did very well. What a shame as the police now seems to be again caught up in Rivers State Politics, just as it was in the days of officer Mbu! 
 Actually nothing has changed. The prospects are that future elections will be more violent as many Politicians buy into Chief Odigie Oyegun's doctrine. If Gold will rust, what will iron do?As it stands, only God can help us!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

OPPOSITION PARTIES LEAD WEST AFRICA'S NEW POLITICAL EVOLUTION
 It was the President of Sierraleone who said a few years ago that" if Nigeria sneezes, the rest of West Africa catches cold". That statement only confirmed what has long been known that it is Nigeria that is keeping West Africa down. Any day Nigeria decides to rise, West Africa will automatically rise with it. Indeed it is Nigeria that is delaying the rise of Africa itself. South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria determine the fate of Africa. South Africa is doing ok, Kenya is doing great, Egypt is flagging and Nigeria is gasping. While this may be disputed by some, everyone agrees that the fate of West Africa is in Nigeria's hand- for good and for bad.
  So during the 2015 elections an opposition party-an alliance between Tinubu's ACN and Buhari's CPC glued together by the new PDP swept the Nigerian elections to cruise to victory, beating an incumbent President and displacing a ruling party, it was clear that a revolution was on the offing. And then the unthinkable happened. The incumbent President- Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan conceded defeat without a whimper. He did not challenge the result in Court and actually persuaded his party not to either. There was then initiated the smoothest transition in Nigeria's political history. Though some uncharitable Nigerians thought nothing spectacular about this phenomenal development, others more discerning knew that Nigeria had made enviable history and had set a precedent that was most likely to be repeated elsewhere in Africa. An entrenched African party, in power for 16 years, allowed an electoral system to work without interference in its favour and even when there was speculation that the electoral umpire was sympathetic to the opposition, the ruling party still accepted the result without any form of disputation and gave up power meekly. 
  Just as it is easy to copy bad behaviour, it also easy to emulate good Behaviour. When the Majors over threw the Nigerian Civilian government in January 1966, Ghana followed suit in February and subsequently the  military took over power in several West African And other African Countries such as Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, the Gambia, Guinea, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt and the Congo. Because Nigeria returned to democracy, many of these countries also returned to democracy, including following Nigeria's example where former military rulers transmuted into Civilian rulers, and where Ruling parties 
Perpetuate themselves in power. PDP once boasted it would rule for 60 years!
  About two weeks ago, the World woke up to be greeted with the wonderful news that the opposition party has won the election in The Gambia. Mr Adama Barrow, a real estate baron had defeated General, Alhaji, and Dr Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh the maverick military turned civilian has ruled Gambia for 22 years with strong hands and was gunning for the 5th term as President before Mr Barrow led the opposition to win the election. The greatest miracle was that the strongman of Gambia was quick in conceding defeat. A pity that he was subsequently afflicted with 'buyer’s remorse' which made him recant his earlier conceding of defeat. He now wants the election repeated. Though the margin of defeat which was originally 45.5% vs 36.7% later narrowed to 43.3% in favour of Barrow, it is evident that Jammeh's defeat was decisive. It is my hope that with pressure from Global Political leaders, Nigeria inclusive Jammeh will back down or be persuaded to go to court rather than ask for outright cancellation of the election results. 
   Following in Tow with the emerging political evolution in West Africa, news came over the weekend that the veteran politician Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has defeated the incumbent President of Ghana- John Dramani Mahama and his National Democratic Congress(NDC) with a decent margin of 53.8% vs 44.4%, and also winning a majority of parliamentary seats. Traditionally, Ghana and Nigeria seem to have their fate tied. Nana Akufo- Addo is in his 70's as Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. Akufo-Addo became President at his 3rd consecutive attempt,whilst Buhari became President at his 4th consecutive attempt. In line with the example that Dr Goodluck Jonathan set, Dr John Mahama conceded defeat before the final results were announced by the electoral umpire. Just as Dr Jonathan succeeded Umaru Musa Yardua who died in office, so did Dr Mahama succeed Professor Evans Atta- Mills who also died in office and Just as Jonathan failed to make what some called his 'third term' having stood for election either as Vice President or President for the third time, so has happened to Mahama . Some call it tying of fate between Nigeria and Ghana and some say we are Siamese twins.
  Whatever may be the case, it is exciting and shows a good level of political maturity that opposition parties can win elections in West African Countries. This will help to redeem the political image of Africans and will also dampen political desperation and delinquency. It is so nice to think that in Africa, we can remove a non- performing Party after four or eight years. This will help to put pressure on political leaders to do their best to retain the confidence of the electorate conscious of the fact that power now belongs to the citizens and no longer to the barrel of gun or to political god-fathers with their corrupt electoral umpires who write results that negate the wish of the People. 
 Now that Nigeria has shown a good example which is being emulated by other countries especially the West African Countries, my prayer is that we do not regress. The stories we have read concerning what transpired in the recent State elections in Nigeria, where votes were being sold and bought in the open are not cheering. I believe that the Challenge the opposition parties which have won elections have is to ensure that they further improve and sanitize the electoral system so that the matter of spending billions of Naira in post-elections judicial contests with its corrupting tendencies will be eliminated. That is the way to strengthen this new evolution of Political plurality and maturity, ensuring the sanctity of citizen votes.
 Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 



Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CONFRONTING NIGERIA'S CRITICAL ECONOMIC CHALLENGE



  Very often, we say that the way to solve our economic problem is to diversify our economy. But the truth is that Nigeria's economy is fairly diversified right now. Current GDP figures give credence. As at half year for example, non-oil was contributing about 90% of our GDP, leaving the 'almighty Oil & Gas' with only a paltry 10%. 
  The key contributors to our GDP were Agriculture( 19.7%), Trade-wholesale & Retail ( 21.55%), Manufacturing(9.93%)-close to oil & Gas;Construction( 3.99%),Real Estate( 6.46%); other services including Telecommunications and financial services( 4.08%)
  Today, the structure of our economy gives an impression of a sophisticated economy where Services contribute more to the Economy than Industry  (  50%vs 21%)
  The tragedy of our economy today is that oil & Gas which contributes only 10% to GDP is the one we depend upon for about 90% of our Foreign exchange. Which is to say that the non- oil sector which contributes nearly 90% of GDP contributes less than 10% of our foreign exchange inflow. Therefore our critical economic challenge is how to make Agriculture, Manufacturing, Refining, Solid Minerals,Trade,
Construction, Real Estate , financial services ,Entertainment, etc begin to yield foreign exchange. In other words how do we internationalize our productive activities. Foreign exchange inflow from crude oil and Gas amounted to $394.7 Billion between 2011-2015 while Total inflow from non-oil was a paltry $28.39 Billion for the same time frame.
 In my view therefore, given that scarcity of foreign exchange is the most critical challenge that we have, our policy focus should be primarily on how to bridge the supply gap and over time bring overal reduction in demand. I believe that where to start is to review our traditional sources of foreign exchange and evaluate which can be enhanced in the short, medium and long terms. Between 2011-2016, the ten biggest foreign exchange earners for the country were: Crude oil & Gas( $394.7bn), Workers Remittances( $103.12bn), Portfolio investment( $ 43.98bn), Foreign Direct investment( $ 30.95bn), Non-oil( $ 28.39bn), other investments ( $ 13.28bn), Current transfer- General Government( $ 9.28bn), Investment income ( $ 4. 35bn), Transport freight( $ 3.28bn), Transport others( $ 3.07bn ). Other two significant contributors were Government Services( $ 2.80bn) and Travel services( $ 2.68bn )
  The critical work by our government is to take each source and find ways to motivate increased inflow from such source. As I have repeatedly counseled we need to take a hard look and work with industry experts to see how each sector can be stimulated to increase inflow of foreign exchange to cushion the decline from oil and gas. It must again be re-emphasized that central to all this is the creation of an investment friendly environment. And much of that can be achieved with some sensible policies. Some of the recent pronouncements of the Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade seem directed in this direction. I believe for example, that the resuscitation of the Export Expansion Grant( EEG) will spur increased foreign exchange earning in the non oil sector. Being the major component of our GDP, focusing on getting the real sector - Agric Export, Export- led manufacturing and Solid minerals export should help to truly diversify our foreign exchange sources and help us confront Nigeria's economic challenge.
   On the reverse side, we need a medium to long term strategic plan to reduce the foreign exchange out flows by focusing on domestic development of alternative sources and capacities. In the same time frame that we looked at above( 2011-2015), the major beneficiaries of the foreign exchange earned mainly from oil were: Financial services( $78.35bn), Oil sector( $ 46.42bn), Industrial sector( $41.63bn), Food Products($ 24.22bn), Manufactured products( $22.86bn), Transport sector( $8.02bn), Business services( $7.89bn), Transport services( $5.74bn), other services( $5.63bn), Minerals( $2.89bn). Other sectors that consume significant volumes of our foreign exchange include, Communication services( $2.74bn), Agric sector( $1.68bn), Education sector( $1.58bn), and  Environmental services( $1. 33bn)
 What will be most expedient is again to involve the experts and stakeholders in each of these sectors and do a painstaking review of a deletion, replacement and forbearance strategy that will progressively allow the Nation source as much of these foreign exchange-guzzlers from within or from less forex-demanding sources. It is indeed gratifying that some effort seems to be directed in this direction. The increased focus on increasing local production of Rice for example will help reduce food imports. Same can be done in other sectors in a systematic and phased strategy that is agreed by stakeholders. I recently  heard that the CBN is considering assisting local investors to produce some of the 41 items it banned from accessing forex from the foreign exchange market. While this sounds good, but it looks like putting the cart before the horse. An agreed deletion or replacement program would allow manufacturers a smooth transition and would have avoided the un salutary shock the ban gave and continues to give to Nigerian manufacturers.
  Nigeria needs to improve productivity and increase investment into the economy-Public but  especially Private investment. But in doing this, a well honed strategy laden with incentives that will expand Foreign exchange inflows through many sources, with a medium to long term view of reducing imports in a systematic and well phased manner becomes imperative and must receive prime attention from our economic managers
 Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 28 November 2016

THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT CRIES FOR JUSTICE IN NIGERIA

Often, many people have wondered what is the cause of the trouble with Nigeria. And many have come up with several reasons why we are where we are. Why we seem to move one step forward and two steps backwards. Why a country with so much wealth and talent will house one of the greatest numbers of poor people in Nigeria. Why a country born with so much hope in 1960 is unable to achieve adulthood in 2016. Last week on this page I had indicated that about 50% of Nigerians are classified as miserable by the World and 68% are regarded as operating below the poverty line. The distinguished Chinua  Achebe wrote a book with the title: "The trouble with Nigeria " where he also identified many of the issues but concluded that the central problem with Nigeria is poor leadership.

Professor Chinua Achebe was right that Nigeria's critical challenge is leadership. So also are the other Nigerians who have proffered other reasons why things are not working the way they should in Nigeria. Some have blamed our problems on the petroleum curse, others on tribalism, yet some others on corruption.But when we carefully interrogate these issues, something fundamental seems to be at play here. First, most Nigerians who are old enough agree that Nigeria between 1960-1965 was the kind of Country they like to live in. The Leaders were responsible and till date, they are regarded as the best we ever had. In all parameters of measuring growth and development, Nigeria was ahead of the curve. Nigerians lived and did business in every part of the Country and felt at home. The Country was respected all over the World, regarded as the rising star of Africa. Our Agriculture was world class prompting Malaysia to come and borrow our Palm oil tree which has helped that Country catapult into the World leading producer and exporter of Palm oil and its derivates over many years now, while Nigeria is currently unable to satisfy domestic need.  Our educational system attracted students from other parts of Africa. Our few Universities were some of the best in the World. Our rudimentary health system functioned well and Nigeria enjoyed peace in almost every part of the Country.

Then we began to shed innocent blood and the centre began to give way. The Jan 15th coupists  set the ball rolling and then the July 29th counter- coupists took it to a higher level, then the progrom directed against the Igbo, during which the stomachs of innocent pregnant women were ripped open. Then for nearly 3 years, over two million Igbo were killed and some murdered as the Nigerian state used every means including Strafing of Innocent women and children in market squares with Airforce jets and starvation to force Biafra back to Nigeria.

Since the Nigeria-Biafra War ended,the blood of innocent Nigerians have been shed  ceaselessly by state and non state actors. The blood of the innocent in Odi Bayela State and Zaki Ibiam in Benue State shed by agents of the Federal government stand out as sour thumps. Then the carnage Firstly on Christians and subsequently on all( Christians,Muslims & Animists) by the Boko Haram terrorists in the North of Nigeria deepened the ocean of the blood of innocent Nigerians before the militant Fulani herdsmen caused it to overflow mostly in the middle belt and South East Nigeria.

But when it comes to unconscionable state murder of innocent Nigerians, the report I read last week and the Videos I watched, released by the Amnesty International( AI) about the cold-blooded murder of unarmed young Igbo youths under the auspices of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra( IPOB)who were either peacefully protesting or praying for the release of their imprisoned leader by the military in Onitsha and Aba reaches a heart-wrenching low point in this satanic inspired shedding of innocent blood in Nigeria.

According to AI in a report it released last Wednesday, after analyzing 87 Videos, 122 photographs and 146 eyewitness testimonies, relating to demonstrations and other gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016 confirmed that the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse the crowd of IPOB members. AI claimed in the report that it also found evidence of mass extra-judicial executions by security forces. It concluded that not less than 150 pro- Biafra activists were killed by security agencies especially the military between August 2015 and August 2016.

Why the military will prefer to use the ammunition bought with the tax paid by citizens to murder unarmed citizens just because they were expressing their views in a democratic Nation, instead of using the same ammunition to fight the illegally armed and violent Boko Haram insurgents, the illegally armed Fulani Herdsmen,  armed robbers and kidnappers who have made living in Nigeria today, such a perilous experience baffles me. And since the federal government seems not to be taking any action on this and such earlier extrajudicial killings of the unarmed and innocent in Nigeria, it may be assumed that the government does not have a full understanding of the impact and consequences of this rampant and unjustified murder of the innocent.

 If investments and Foreign exchange are not flowing into the Country as we would wish, if we are slipping from recession to depression, if our Nation is not respected as we expect, may be I should remind the government that the World is watching and reading reports like this recent AI report. But this is small matter when we consider the spiritual implications of continuously shedding the blood of innocent citizens. I wish that the people who govern this nation understand that the blood of the innocent cry everyday for Justice like the blood of Abel. If they did, they would halt this dastardly exercise immediately, bring the perpetrators to Justice speedily and get the likes of General Gowon to intensify his " Nigeria Prays" Program pleading for God's forgiveness and mercy. I wish they did! But until they do, what we sow, that we shall continue to reap!


       Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 


Monday, 21 November 2016

THE DILEMMA OF THE TRILEMMA: GROWING BASKET OF THE MISERABLE

Last week the National Bureau of Statistics( NBS) released the bad news that headline inflation has hit 18.3% and has thus doubled in under one year, since we closed 2015 at about 9.5%. In some climes a 100% growth in inflation could cause riots. At the same time, the Naira exchange rate has depreciated by nearly 60% in the official market while it has more than doubled in the parallel market. Interest rates which came down, close to single digit at the end of 2015 has remained high and growing. Since July the Monetary Policy rate ( MPR )has been at 14%, though actual bank interest rate is about 25%.
Similarly, unemployment has continued to rise from quarter to quarter. Gross unemployment which came low to about 6.4% in Q1 of 2015 has exceeded 15% by Q3 this year. When added to Underemployment it reaches 31%. In the youth population this comes to over 42%.

This Trilemma of rising inflation, rising exchange rate and rising interest rate has created a dilemma for the government. Superimposed in this Trilemma are economic contraction called Recession and the growing unemployment. The Fiscal authorities, represented by the Minister of Finance want an interest rate cut so as to make money available to the Business class to help expand the economy and work ourselves out of recession. The Monetary authorities represented by the CBN Governor, whose primary mandate is to keep inflation down, so as to strengthen the purchasing parity of the Naira is alarmed by the galloping inflation and insists on using the classical instrument for curtailing inflation- Interest rate hike.

The dilemma is that this classical instrument may complicate matters for the economy. Rise in interest rates will reduce the ability of Small & Medium Scale Enterprises( SMEs) to borrow or service existing debt obligation. Now when they can not borrow, they are bound to cut down on their operations. This becomes imperative in view of the fact that due to the halving of the value of the Naira, most of them need doubling of the quantum of Naira that they need to import raw materials and other production inputs including machinery and spares. And because they can not print Naira by themselves( as it is illegal), they have to go and borrow. And when they borrow, that is if they can find banks willing and able to lend, considering that the Banks themselves also have their operating capital halved by the same devaluation of the Naira, the borrowed money can not buy much in the domestic market, because inflation is galloping everyday .

Thus, they soon default in repayment, complicating the problem of the banks as they have to make provisions monthly for non- performing loans and every provision made reduces loanable funds of the banks, making it more difficult to lend to other potential borrowers except they are willing to pay higher interest rates to enable the banks recover the loss from those who could not pay. And when they borrow at these high interest rate, because they are desperate to borrow, they raise the prices of their goods and services so they can recover the high interest rate. In the process they cause further increase in the inflation rate. Soon nobody can pay the very high prices, because nobody has had pay increases and purchasing power is low, the guy either sells at a loss and tries to pay back what ever he can recover and thereafter shuts down, or he tries very hard to reduce his costs so that he can squeeze out a margin to pay back to the bank. Either way, he sends workers home, increasing unemployment. Similarly the Banks also 'shed weight' because those who borrowed are not paying and their balance sheet is shrinking and capable borrowers are diminishing. Under this scenario, who wants to be the CBN Governor?

In July this year the Misery index of Nigeria climbed to 47.7%, making us the 5th most Miserable Country in the World. As at October, with an 18.3% inflation rate Nigeria's Misery index climbed further to 49.3%, making us the 4th most miserable country in the World. That is to say that about half of Nigerians( 85 Million) are considered miserable. What a growing basket of the Miserable! Who wants to be Minister of Finance or indeed who wants to be President of  a Country of largely Miserable People. Let us Pray.


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 


Thursday, 17 November 2016

THE PHENOMENAL TRIUMPH OF TRUMP: LESSONS FOR THE WORLD


Last Tuesday, Donald Trump defied most political pundits, most pollsters and stunned the World with a largely unpredicted landslide victory over Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party . Many reasons are being adduced for this phenomenon, none of which can successfully explain why a man who came from outside, never gone through an election before, never held a public or political office of any kind and who broke all the rules of political competition and engagement, became the President of the World's largest democracy and economy at the first shot. I believe that the best we can make from this historic outcome at this time is to make some common-sense deductions and learn a few lessons.

 1. BYE TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS 
Mr Trump seemed to have rewritten the rules for political competition. Standard wisdom all these years suggested that there were several things one must not say, several positions one must not take openly if one wanted to win elections. Mr Trump said all things, printable and unprintable, was prepared to fight his opponents and party leaders alike, abused any one who stood on his way, refused to respect data that did not favor him, offered no apologies, demystified the impact of the media and still rode to astounding victory.
  The lesson is that one needs to dig deep to understand the anger and frustrations of the majority and then champion their views, even if they run counter to what the society regards as normal. Often, politicians are afraid to offend the so called political heavy weights or powers that be and are afraid to identify with issues that are regarded as offensive or divisive. For example, in Nigeria, many Politicians from the South East have either been dismissive of or afraid to even identify with the cry for Justice and self- determination of the Igbo Youth. Same with our Northern Politicians who are mortally afraid to condemn or even speak about the menace of the militant Fulani-Herdsmen though their people are victims as well. Trump was not afraid to confront anybody and fought and clawed his way from the primaries to the General elections. Time for the World to set itself free and think and speak the unthinkable. Linear logic now stands on its head and so bye bye to political correctness .
 2. UNRAVELLING OF GLOBALIZATION AND RETURN TO NATIONAL PROTECTIONISM
Since after the Second World War and the birth of the United Nations( UN ), the World has moved progressively towards globalization and by the Close of the 20th Century, the World had become a global village. With it came the breaking down of barriers- both for human movement, interaction and for trade. Regional groupings like the European Union( EU), the North African Free trade Agreement ( NAFTA), South Asian Association for Regional Coperation( SAARC), Euro-Asian Economic community ( EAEC), ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreement( AFTA) African Union( AU), Arab League( AL), Pacific Island Forum( PIF) and sub-regional Trade groupings like the Economic commission of West African States( ECOWAS), East African Community( EAC)South African Development community ( SADC), Common Market for Eastern and South Africa( COMESA),etc, became the 'federating' units of a global economy.
  But there has recently been a move to return to National sovereignty, National borders and National protectionism. The movement started in Europe and after years of pushing, the British( one of the supposed leaders of a global World), surprised the World by opting out of the EU, and effectively pushing for the demise of the European Union. In tow, several right wing extremist parties in France, Germany and else where are pushing for the Brexit option.
  Donald Trump rode to victory on a popular plan to cancel NAFTA, reintroduce and raise tariffs, and to limit trade, especially trade with China. The Threat to build walls on the Mexican Border and walls on the Atlantic Shores indicate a Nation( another supposed leader of a global world) repudiating globalization  and reintroducing National protectionism. The implications of this emerging trend must be fully considered by the World. One thing is certain, that there will be a decline in global trade and with it further destabilization of a struggling global economy. America, and UK will be the first victims of this looming economic crisis that may be worse than what the World saw in 2008/2009
 3. EMERGING VACANCY FOR NEW WORLD LEADER
Leadership will always involve Sacrifice, self denial and altruism. When a leader becomes unwilling to make sacrifices and becomes self-fixated and self-indulging, then such a leader is on his way to losing the right to lead. America has become the World leader, not only by the strength of its Military, nor by the size of its economy, but more so by its willingness to make sacrifices for the World. When a President who plans to stop supporting the defence of NATO Countries, who plans to deport immigrants, stop new immigrants, reduce aid and who wants to reassert white-supremacy, rides to victory overwhelmingly  as Donald Trump seems to have done, then it is clear that the days of American moral leadership are counted. The World may soon be searching for a new leader, except if our fears and deductions fail to concretize. 
4 THE BUSINESS MEN ARE COMING
Very many successful business men all over the World but especially in Africa have wished they had the opportunity to offer political leadership. Many have retreated from pursuing this type of ambition because they have felt that the political space was constricted by professional politicians who always frowned at outsiders venturing to occupy high political offices. Often you hear such things as" Do you think Politics is the same thing as Business?" or as they told the late Chief M.K.O Abiola" the Presidency is not for sale!"
 With the  phenomenal success of Billionaire Donald Trump at the first shot for the biggest political office in the World, I foresee many business moguls launching into political contests soon. Would that be a good thing? Well the World is watching to see how things work out with Mr Trump. He may well surprise with his unpredictability!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 7 November 2016

TODAY,WE ARE ALL AMERICANS


Chido Onumah recently published a new book titled: " We are all Biafrans". In the book, he seemed to be talking of the Biafran spirit- the Igbo spirit of enterprise, creativity, hardwork and excellence that yearns for Justice, Equity and fair play for all. In essence he believes that many People in Nigeria and may be elsewhere share similar sentiments, which is why many objective commentators classify the current Biafran agitation as a cry for Justice for Ndigbo.It is therefore reasonable to suggest that a way to deal with this agitation is to give Justice to Ndigbo, just as other people all over the World who feel discriminated against, marginalized or oppressed deserve to get justice. That therefore gives the Biafran agitation a global attraction.
  Today, November 8, 2016, Americans go to the pools to elect the 35th President of the United States of America. And today we are all Americans, even if we will not all vote. This is because the American election has a global attraction. Most people outside the USA  have taken unusual interest in the elections and the preceding campaigns for one main reason. Most non-American citizens are disturbed about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the next US President. Except for his rabid supporters, many people are frightened that Donald Trump will cause a lot of trouble for the World should he become President of the most powerful country in the World. His rhetoric while resonating with his right wing supporters is repulsive even to the main stream Republicans- the party he has hijacked to bring America down to the level that most of the developing World can identify with. Donald with his fiery, essentially off the Cuff vitriolic has not only demystified America but has brought the worst side of America to public glare.
   America has been seen as the most matured Democracy in the World, where the institutions are strong and a-political. America has represented to the World the dream land built by immigrants where people achieve their dreams, irrespective of where you are coming from or where you started from. The plurality and diversity of the American society in unparalleled . It has always represented a refuge for the oppressed and maligned. Every Nation in the World has their indigenous communities in America. America has remained a bastion for freedom fighters and all people who need space to contribute to the emancipation of their societies. America has received Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Iraqi, Myanmarn, Egyptian and dissidents from all over the World who have emigrated to America to escape repression from tyrants at home. America has been the World defender of civil liberties and a promoter of global trade, prosperity and peace. Many developing Nations depend on American aid- human, material and financial, that they will go down economically should America recoil into its shelf as Trump seems to be preaching. 
  But the World stands alarmed that one man, called Donald Trump wants to unravel all that. He has promised to build walls, rather than bridges between America and its Neighbours. He has threatened to send home all so called illegal immigrants including Children born in the USA. He has spoken against immigrants especially Latinos and Arabs,African Americans , Muslims and against Nigerians. He has a plan to weaken NATO and to repeal NAFTA and indeed all global trade agreements. Mr Trumpet( according to my wife) has low morals, despises women, mocks the disabled, is biggoted, distrusts the objective media,is clannish and seems to have a megalomaniac view of himself and his business achievements. He seems not to have control over what comes out of his mouth and has to be compelled to read written scripts otherwise he would veer off to inanities and self praise. How can such an unstable man( loose canon according to Hilary)provide leadership for the world's most admired and most powerful democracy?
 It is true that Americans want change. Just as Nigerians wanted or is it want change. But we have seen how easy it is to get change. All the cheap talk of 'making America great again' will soon collapse into denials, prevarications and somersaults as we have seen in Nigeria. Therefore those who have the right to vote today, must do their best to manage their emotion. America has had a great economic rebound after the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. Most  objective analysts will recognize the great Job done by Obama in the last eight years to sustain American growth even in the face of sustained global economic challenges . Job growth in America has been phenomenal,and Obama has managed the deficit, cutting back on defence spending and giving their supporters and partners all over the World the opportunity to take greater responsibility for fighting  their own battles. America under Obama has used soft power to win the admiration of most global leaders. 
   Looking at the tone of the campaign in America, I am reminded of what happened in Nigeria's 2015 elections. I thought we got very low but I have been surprised pleasantly though, that American politicians and some of their supporters motivated by Trump have gone lower than we did. I have heard Donald repeatedly speak about rigging the elections even before the votes are cast. Rigging? I thought that word was invented  by African Politicians, perfected by Nigerian politicians until Goodluck Jonathan,  but which has now resurfaced. I have heard Trump say repeatedly that he will only accept the result if he wins. What a debasing statement and invitation to anarchy as we saw in Nigeria after the 2011 elections and which was threatened in 2015.  Now FBI jumps into the fray to influence the direction of the election! Is there any semblance with EFCC & DSS? With that America fully levels with the rest of us. If these can happen in America, our dream democratic country, then may be we have not done badly after all. Indeed we may all just be Americans! 
   Nevertheless it is my hope and prayer that voting Americans will make the right decisions today to vote for political and economic stability and calm the nerves of the rest of the World who stand wondering what has happened to the leader of the World. Hilary Clinton may not be the best possible for America. But truly she is heads and shoulders above Donald Trump, with so much experience and will certainly do better for American economy and global peace and harmony. Today, we stand with Hilary. But may the Perfect will of God be done. Amen
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Friday, 4 November 2016

NIGERIA & CORRUPTION: OPENING THE PANDORA BOX

To be sincere, I am truly excited with the way the war against corruption is gathering steam. My prayer is that PMB would not allow the momentum to decline. Up till two weeks ago, the focus seemed to have been on the past government. Then enter the Judiciary and the pandora box seemed to have been opened. Justice ADEMOLA blamed his problems on the Attorney General of the federation, Mr Malami. He had ordered the arrest of Malami for professional misconduct when he was in Kano. Though he eventually discharged Malami because of the intervention of the NBA, he was sure, the senior advocate of Nigeria, now AGF had been looking for an opportunity to take his pound of flesh. 

Justice John Inyang Okoro said Minister Amaechi is behind his own problems. Amaechi asked him to influence the governorship election Supreme Court appeal judgements on Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia States. Amaechi insisted he was conveying the wishes of PMB and his party APC. Before that, the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom- Mr Umana had visited with a pastor to persuade Justice Inyang Okoro to decide the case in his favour. Umana promised to 'settle' all the Justices in the Supreme Court. The 'holy Pastor' who took Umana to Justice Okoro rebuked Umana for talking of 'settling' the Justices. What a righteous pastor, who thinks that going to persuade a Judge to pervert Justice is not corruption as long as money was not exchanged! God help us with this type of ' Man of God '

Then enter Justice Ngwuta and he drags Amaechi again into the fray. Amaechi tried to coerce him to decide the EKITI governorship appeal in favour of APC . Minister Ogbonnaya Onu is also mentioned in the matter. Both Justices apparently refused to do the bidding of Amaechi and Onu and perhaps that's why they got the DSS to invade their homes and arrest them at such unholy hours. As expected both Ministers have denied the accusations. But will that be the end of the stories? I hope and pray not. The Ministers need to clear their names! I support the threat by Amaechi to sue the Judges. I urge him to do so immediately before something else happens.

Last week, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo made a very remarkable statement" All the institutions of government are corrupt, I mean the executive,Legislature and the judiciary are corrupt. What we need is reorientation. That was why the present Federal government is intervening. If we refuse to, every facet of the Country will fail" Damning and redemptive at the same time. This statement is the type that shows that the VP is indeed a man of God. He takes out the sophistry and hypocrisy that seemed to say" All else is corrupt but we are not. It is the PDP that is corrupt but the APC is clean. It is the legislature that is corrupt but the executive are all saints"

His statement essentially tallies  with that of Prime minister David Cameron who said that Nigeria is "Fantastically corrupt". Our redemption will begin when we all humble ourselves and accept that we are all corrupt. Maintaining a 'holier than thou' attitude will only complicate our problems, because God can not be deceived. Yes I accept that a small percentage of Nigerians are not corrupt but I am approximating to the nearest whole number! 

Now that we have this understanding, the question is, how soon are we going to turn the search light on the executive? Some onslaught has been made on the Legislature, though it has been very narrow and shallow. Hon Jibrin should be made to prove his accusations. Now the searchlight is on the judiciary,again, apparently skewed to those judges and Justices that gave unacceptable judgements against government or the party in power. It seems natural to always begin with the enemy! So my question is, how soon are we going to turn the light on the executive? If this war must succeed, then we must not allow anybody to be seen as a 'sacred cow' or untouchable.

The President has actually been dragged into the Arena by Justice Okoro Inyang's deposition.  So should we not investigate to remove any aspersions on our President? Our President's name must be protected. I believe that this should be an issue which Prof Itsay Sagay's  committee should look into and recommend investigation to clear the President's name. I believe this will be a better thing to do in support of this critical war than berating the Justices for speaking their minds or defending themselves. If any one is accused of corruption, it is the work of the anti-corruption committee to recommend investigation to prove or disprove such allegations, more so when important members of the executive are mentioned. If the allegations are untrue or frivolous, then the accuser should face consequences of false accusation. 

I believe that Prof Sagay's committee should not act as if they are biased or out to protect the executive while prosecuting the other arms of government. That in itself will undermine the war. If you ask me, I should ask the committee to encourage any one who has any evidence of any corrupt action against anybody to come forward with their accusations and then provide evidence to the Court. They should not wait till they themselves get into trouble before they begin to sing as the Judges and Hon Jibrin are doing now. That is why I congratulate Jimoh Ibrahim who has boldly declared that INEC demanded a Bribe of One million dollars from him before they could recognize his candidacy for the Ondo state gubernatorial elections coming on soon. That is the way to go. Now the EFCC should not wait one more minute,  to enter into the matter and bring INEC and Jimoh to Court to prove or dis prove their stands. If the DSS, is less busy, they can also do a mid night invasion on the INEC people, though the surprise element may have varnished as things may have been moved around after the invasion of the Judges' premises. The war seems to  require this kind of impunity and it looks like many Nigerians love the drama and justify it including lawyers! But let us please keep the police out of this corruption matter. They have too much on their plates already. Let us be consistent. We can not use the EFCC or the DSS on the legislature and judiciary and then use the police on the executive. What is good for the gander should also be good for the goose  or is it the other way round?

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 12 September 2016

CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME CAMPAIGN : IMPERATIVES FOR SUCCESS

 Last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB)launched the new National Orientation campaign called: Change Begins with me. That same day, INEC was ' compelled ' to postpone the Edo gubernatorial election. In his address at the launch, PMB said " We must resist the temptation to fall on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our Country for so long" I believe that postponing election for partisan reasons is one of those things that PMB was preaching about. Interfering with the independence of INEC,CBN and such other regulatory agencies is part of our 'poisoned' past.

I am one of those who have called for a national reorientation and the broadening and deepening of the fight against corruption. I had fully agreed with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron that Nigeria was fantastically corrupt and opined that merely focusing on the alleged corrupt election funding of the former ruling party was only scratching the surface. So I must congratulate PMB for launching this campaign. I am making this contribution because I wish that the campaign succeeds. And if it must succeed, then the government must first be aware of the following:

. PREACHING ALONE WILL NOT DO
If preaching or sermonizing alone could change Most Nigerians and make them imbibe "the long cherished and time-honoured, time tested values of honesty, integrity, Hardwork,punctuality,good neigbourliness,abhorrence of corruption and patriotism" we will not need PMB at all. Nigeria has one of the greatest number of Churches, mosques and other religious houses in the whole world. Our Pastors and Imams preach and sermonize every Sunday or Friday,including at mid-week prayers and crusade grounds, yet we can not see any difference in the moral tones of many Nigerians between 1983 & 2015. So,we need to do more than preaching or sermonizing. We must remove that 'thing' in our system that makes many people abandon the fear of God when they leave the worship centres.

. MEDIA CAMPAIGNS ALONE WILL NOT CUT MUCH ICE. 
Certainly the Minister Of Information has contractors primed to print flyers, posters and sundry documents to promote the campaign. Our airwaves will soon be filled with all kinds of messages on the 'change begins with me ' theme. Before long, government owned media like Radio Nigeria and the NTA will be carrying loads of slogans and advertorials in an effort to create awareness. If fliers, documents and radio jingles alone could be successful in stopping Many Nigerians from " dishonesty ,indolence, unbridled corruption and wide-spread impunity", we will not need to spend our limited budget on such activities. All the Bibles, Quarans, Television & Radio evangelism, and religious literature preach the same message. Then all the investment made in fliers ,Radio & TV Jingles by the National Orientation Agency( NOA) from the days of Prof Jerry Gana through the years of Prof Dora Akunyili to this day will have made some meaningful impact. There must be something fundamentally wrong with our system that undermines these efforts.

. ROAD SHOWS ALONE WILL NOT MAKE IT HAPPEN
Soon the Ministry of information and its parastatals like the NOA will embark on series of road shows, with music, drumming and dancing, perhaps with comedians and Nollywood artists to promote the campaign, similar with our newly learnt social mobilization tactics of Town Hall meetings. Nigerians will enjoy the music and drama, they may even struggle to get copies of  the fliers, brochures or mementos but the impact will be minimal if at all.

. PATRIOTISM CANNOT BE LEGISLATED OR ENFORCED
To make Nigerians love their country and wish to die for it,can not be forced and achieved by propaganda. If they are cheated and discriminated against by their own country, they probably will prefer to be cheated and discriminated against because of their  skin colour in other countries . If their Country loves and cares for them, they will love their Country back.
I say these, because we have tried all these from the days of MAMSER to these days and many people believe that Nigeria's moral tone is worsening. Have we really undertaken a proper study to find out why, before starting out with this new campaign?. May be or may be not, but I will proffer the following imperatives.

1. UTMOST SINCERITY
Because of the failed past attempts and the deep-seated skepticism of the Nigerian populace, the Leadership must be very very sincere in handling this very critical project. Such statement as" in other words,before you ask' where is the change they promised us', you must first ask how far have I changed my ways" may be interpreted in different ways. For some people, it will sound as if PMB  was now passing the buck for the change he promised to Nigerians, that they must change before expecting to see the change he promised!

2. LEADERSHIP FROM THE POLITICAL CLASS
Nigerians look up to their political leaders to lead the change. If they refuse to change,then we may have great difficulty achieving any change in the populace. When the political leaders act in ways that show them up as essentially seeking their own and their group's selfish interests, when the political class terrorize and push out poor Nigerians from the roads with their motorized and militarized convoys or when the roads and airports are closed for hours just because the President wants to visit his farm, rather than inspire change, make ordinary Nigerians bitter. When ordinary Nigerians are loosing their jobs and businesses and having difficulty feeding properly, to see political leaders keep theirs and continue to swim in affluence and pageantry will not inspire change!

3. GOVERNMENT AND ITS AGENCIES MUST JOIN THE QUEUE 
Literally speaking, government officials, including the police, the military and regulatory officials must join the queue. They can not inspire change when they beat queues, drive against the traffic, disobey court rulings, involve in extra-judicial executions and perpetrate impunity.  The government must be hard on itself and agencies to lead a successful "cultural" or behavioural  change.

4. MOTIVATE CHANGE BY ADOPTING CARROT & STICK
In Management sciences we speak of motivating change,encouraging good Behaviour  and discouraging bad Behaviour. What incentives are we putting in place to make people see the benefit for change and what deterrence do we have to make people regret bad Behavior? Without these, the change we desire may not be sustainable. At the minimum we must be even-handed in enforcing existing laws and regulations. How do we make the interest of the ordinary Nigerians to align with the interest of the Nation? That will be the game changer. Normal people do not destroy what they own nor work against their own interest.

5. RUN A SYSTEM WHERE JUSTICE , EQUITY & FAIR-PLAY REIGN SUPREME
Many Nigerians who are unruly,indisciplined,discourteous and dishonest at home become law abiding and well behaved when they travel or live abroad. Why? They operate in systems that are well ordered,where one rule applies to all( big & small, poor & rich); where you get what is due you without crying and groveling and where you get knocked back on line if you misstep.Secondly, we must enthrone a system that is fair to all sections of the Country. When a President or Governor or even business leader chooses to discriminate against a section of his constituency, or goes on to appoint predominantly people from his own area to high offices, he can not be inspiring patriotism amongst those who feel discriminated against, cheated or ignored.

In conclusion, I am for the 'change begins with me campaign'. But since the fish begins to rot from the head, then it follows that if the head can be kept fresh, then the other parts of the body will remain fresh. So the repair must start from the head. That is the true challenge and my prayer is that God will grant wisdom and humility to our leaders-Public & Private, Military & Civilian to know that the change must start with us and then descend downwards and not the other way round. It is after we have seen this change amply demonstrated by our leaders that we can then begin the preaching, roadshows and media campaign. Otherwise, the campaign may go the way of operation feed the Nation, the green revolution, Better life for the rural women, Health for all, War against Indiscipline, Great Nation-Good People and such failed National programs.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 5 September 2016

WAY OUT OF RECESSION: COURT INVESTMENT AS IF OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.


Last week, the cat was let out of the bag, the woman who had been hiding her pregnancy was delivered of a baby in a market square, leaving nothing to imagination. From a technical recession we emerged into a real, true and official recession. From a -0.36% contraction of GDP in Q1, we landed to a -2.06% contraction in Q2. Thank God for democratic governance and more for the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the professionalism of the NBS management,may be, the figures will have been dressed up, which was the fear of some people as it seemed to have taken the National Bureau for statistics( NBS), much longer time than usual to release the Q2 report. It was the 'jazzing' up of economic data that has led to the impeachment of the Brazilian President last week .

Last week, before the official confirmation of the recession, I had advised on this column that we needed a single minded focus on Agriculture and Manufacturing as a means of working ourselves out of the recession. My slant was essentially from the National economic policy perspective . But the other critical and related issue is investment. We need to attract investment and drive it into critical sectors of our economy. The expected intensive public sector spending as espoused in the 2016 Budget must be feverishly complemented by Private sector investment, both domestic and foreign. 

Investment inflow into the Country has been declining since 2013 but assumed alarming proportions in the last two years. Nigeria recorded a total decline of $11.68 Billion in investment inflows in the last three years. From an inflow of $21.32 billion in 2013, capital importation declined to $20.72 billion in 2014, then nose-dived to $9.64 billion in 2015. Nigeria which was the highest recipient of Foreign Direct investment( FDI) in Africa went from a high of $2.27 Billion in 2014 to $1.44 billion in 2015 while Portfolio investment which reached a high of $17.37 billion in 2013 was only $6.01 billion in 2015. 

 If those figures are worrying, what is happening in 2016 has become distressing. In Q2, capital importation dropped from $710 million(Q1) to $647million representing an 8.95% decline. Thus total half year investment inflow comes to a paltry $1.36 billion. If we should extrapolate it to full year 2016 at current rate of accretion, then we could end with $2.72 billion which will be a colossal 72% decline over 2015. Against Q1, FDI declined by 23.9% and has reached a 37% decline year on year. Portfolio investment declined 9.49% in Q2 but has reached a frightening 88.76 % decline year on year.

I have gone through this detailed analysis to draw our attention to a frightening trend. Of course, the main cause of this disturbing trend is the very significant fall of the price of crude petroleum in the global oil market which has drastically reduced National income. In addition it has precipitated a scarcity of foreign exchange. But this can not in all honesty explain the whole problem. Our recent policy choices and speed of action have also contributed. Certainly this is not the first time, Nigeria is passing through this turbulent patch in its life of mono cultural economic dependancy, but we have never come this low in about 27 years.

Usually, we have tried to cushion the drop in revenue with investment inflow- Foreign direct, portfolio, home remittances and others including loans and Bonds. The price of crude oil is not expected to improve very significantly in the short run, though some stabilization is projected for next year. This is why I think we should court investment as if our lives depend on it. And it might well be! Because investments create enterprises and projects which in turn create jobs and create wealth. The question is how?

MAKE OUR ENVIRONMENT MOST INVESTMENT-FRIENDLY
With or without oil revenue, we can make Nigeria an investment friendly country- a preferred investment destination. This I believe is in our hands and is doable if we are minded to do so, if we are truly convinced and accept that we can bridge the impact of the revenue fall by attracting investment. The various foreign trips of our President, Ministers and Governors seem to suggest our desires. But we must match intentions with actions.

 Enthrone Law and order 
Let us make law and order to reign supreme. Government and its agencies must obey the law and all court pronouncements. Due process must become our first nature and every law in our statute must be rigorously enforced with out fear or favour. Regulatory agencies must follow the law and be facilitative to business and not clogs. Our judiciary must urgently reform to win investor confidence. The sanctity of contracts must be assured. My heart was palpitating when I read an open letter to the President by a Chinese investor who is experiencing hell with the Ogun State government bothering on the unilateral repudiation of contract by the government. This is anathema to attracting investments.

. Create well-thought through and stable Policy environment .

We must have a stable, business promotive policy environment. No dilly daling, no prevarications, no policy flip flop.The impact of every policy on business must be evaluated before policy announcement. Implementation must be on a level playing ground. Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships to be given impetus.

. Secure Lives and Property
The security of lives and property is a sine qua non for the attraction of any sort of investment. We must reinvent our police. We must take arms away from non-state actors and ensure that all security breaches are quickly punished. Our Nation must show in words and actions that we value human lives and that it is the governments primary responsibility. If Nigerian Nationals are killed everyday and foreigners are regularly kidnapped for ransom, we can not seriously be courting investments.

. Sustain the War against Corruption
Nigeria must intensify the good fight against all forms of corruption- political, electoral, financial, administrative, security and regulatory in a holistic manner. The world must continue to see and feel our revulsion to all forms of corrupt practices at all levels of the society-public & private, governmental and non-governmental.Witch hunting or political vendetta will undermine the war.

. Maintain Macroeconomic stability
Sensible policies must be taken both by fiscal and monetary authorities to return the nation to a state of macroeconomic stability. Exchange rate, interest rate and inflation rate can all be moderated by sensible and co-ordinated policies. Investment flows preferentially to macroeconomic stable environments that actually seek, welcome and reward investors. Let us welcome more Mark Zuckerbergs please!

. Create irresistible Incentives
To compensate for our current infrastructural deficit, our poor score in the global ease of doing business index etc, we need to introduce mouth-watering and irresistible incentives- tax holidays,lower corporate tax, lower cost of transferring & registering property, elimination of double & multiple taxation, sustenance of the export expansion grant( EEG),establishment of many industrial estates, parks and Free trade zones, tax-deductible energy costs,etc

Urgent action is mandated. It won't be easy but we must give it our all.To spend and invest our way out of this recession is a task that must be done!


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

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Monday, 29 August 2016

WAY OUT OF RECESSION: KEEP THE FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE & MANUFACTURING

 That our economy is in recession has been established and the symptoms are crystal clear. I identified some of them last week. The question I believe that the government and the people of Nigeria must be asking is how do we recover from recession and restore growth to our economy?First, I believe that the bullish and reflationary 2016 budget( though some disagree that it is reflationary) was crafted with this in mind. The government clearly saw the direction the economy was going and decided to borrow to spend our way out of recession. With further decline in revenue the borrowing may be more than projected 2.2Trillion Naira if the budgeted goals must be achieved. But there are a couple of challenges. Are we actually able to find lenders within the time frame of Budget 2016?. How soon will the spending be done and how quickly will the impact be felt? . The rumored 'emergency powers' being sought by President Muhammadu Buhari must be directed to this end. If this is only to shorten procurement processes and allow virement of budgeted sums, I will support the move. But nothing more because I think the President already has enormous authority and discretion to fire the economy on all cylinders.
  We have long spoken about Agriculture as a major and present opportunity to grow and diversify our economy . Though we have largely been short in action for a long time, it must be admitted that some action was seen during the stewardship of Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina as Minister of Agriculture. He seemed to have pursued a lot of initiatives captured under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda( ATA). Agriculture was being projected as a Business, serious business, not a vocation,not a hobby. Visible efforts were made to show that Agriculture is not a business for the old, women and the uneducated but for young people as well. A crop of young people called Nagropreneurs were born and showcased. Several funding initiatives were opened by the Ministry and the CBN at single digit interest rate. What I can not vouch for, is the ease with which these facilities were accessed by the applicants. It has never been easy to borrow money in Nigeria from the banks, especially for the target prospects. Those who often benefit more from these schemes:  Operation feed the Nation, Green revolution ,NERFUND to the recent schemes such as Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund( ACGSF), Agricultural Credit Support Scheme( ACSS), Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme( CACS) etc, are usually emergency farmers and fly- by- night businessmen . Nevertheless we saw big investments into Agriculture by Dangote Group, Dansa, Teragro, Olam, Okomu, Presco in addition to the existing big farms such as Obasanjo Farms( Gen.Olusegun Obasanjo), Maizube Farms( Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar),Sebore Farms( Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako), Anadariya Farms( Usman Dantata),Ojemai farms( Sir Joseph Arumeni-Ikhide), Jorama Farms(Arinze Onebunne ), Folawiyo farms ( Alhaji Wahab Folawiyo) ,Anuoluwa farms( Peter Adeniyi) and a few others.
  Recently, we have heard of the GREEN ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE PROMOTION POLICY- the new agriculture program launched by the present Government. The Agric Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who is a reputed farmer has been speaking so passionately about this new programme in and outside the Country including in Kenya last week. We know it is not in the nature of Nigerian politics, for new regimes to continue with the projects or programs of the previous regimes( more so if they are from different parties), but our hope is that this new program is building on the platforms and successes already achieved. We do not have the luxury to reinvent wheels at this time, besides we do not have the money I think. But No matter the coloration of this new programme, five issues continue to doug Nigeria's agriculture .One is land tenure system and the ease of getting land for commercial Agriculture. The second is extension services and appropriate technology and expertise which are in very short supply these days. The third is related , that is the availability of seed stock and fast maturing species and access to affordable fertilizer. The fourth is access to capital that is friendly to agriculture. The fifth and perhaps most critical at this time is how to process the harvest through value addition to ensure preservation and higher returns. Most of our Agric exports are mere commodities with little value addition  that become easily susceptible to global market price volatilities. Many Agric enthusiasts have had their fingers burnt by watching their harvest spoil and lose value before they could get off-takers. Those are critical issues which the minister must focus all his attention to resolve if we must go beyond slogans and symbols.
  To be sure, the major economic challenge we have is not shortage of dollars or foreign exchange but low productivity. We export rubber and import tyres, export cocoa and import chocolate,export hides & Skin and import shoes & hand bags; export Crude oil and import PMS, DPK, DIESEL and JET A1. We still produce a lot of tomatoes but consume so much of imported Tomato concentrate and purée.Much of the packaged cashew nuts we buy from our supermarkets are imported, made from the raw cashew nuts we export. And because, the cost of buying a unit of the processed items is higher than what we earn from the export of the raw materials, we find that we are perennially short of forex. Therefore if I have one advice to give Nigeria as the surest way of working ourselves out of this recession and perhaps never to return to it again ever, it is to advocate a single minded focus on Manufacturing- Production through value addition. If our Country pursues a determined manufacturing policy, most of our current economic challenges - high unemployment, high inflation, high exchange rate etc will abate. 
  And that's why I think that the recent directive of the CBN to banks to allocate 60% of their foreign exchange to manufacturers is revolutionary. In my reckoning it is a better option than banning anything. Since we have proven incapable of enforcing bans and also because bans are becoming anathema in our current global market space, preferential allocation of foreign exchange to manufacturing operations represents one key way of incentivizing Manufacturing in our country at this time. If the Government follows this with other fiscal incentives like the Export Expansion Grant Scheme, then we may not only be promoting local manufacturing but also exports that will help diversify our national revenue sources, lessen our current over-dependance  on Crude oil while reducing foreign exchange scarcities and pressures in the long run.
   Of course, the challenge as always is how to enforce the directive. This is always our default line. Good policies, good intentions, good pronouncements and launching ceremonies but after that, the 'Nigerian Factor' steps in. I believe that the CBN will have to watch the backs of the banks and analyse their monthly returns and publications on forex utilization. The manufacturers themselves have to set up a mechanism to monitor weekly allocations and provide feedback to the CBN and to the People of Nigeria.  Also because emergency manufacturers will arise which will not be entirely bad, if only they will actually manufacture, Industry groups have to authenticate their memberships. To eliminate abuse by the Manufacturers themselves, because anything is possible in Nigeria, the CBN and the banks must ensure that the forex allocated  is used strictly to import manufacturing inputs ONLY and not finished goods or diverted to other uses. There are many smart Alec's around! . Additionally we must have a way of assessing the impact of this initiative to be sure it is achieving the intended objective.
  Let me conclude by saying that my normal preference is for a level playing field for all economic agents. I am usually for the free interplay of the forces of supply and demand to determine allocation of resources in a free market. But  given the perfect imperfection of our market and given our known penchant to follow the least line of resistance which makes us import what ever is importable including toothpicks, rubber toys and apples, it is justifiable to create a regime of preferences and discretionary allocation of scarce resources to force a behavioral change that could prove revolutionary if all the precautions are taken. We must work ourselves out of this crippling recession. And an undivided focus on Agriculture linked to manufacturing looks to me to be a necessary and viable policy option.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR.