Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KATRINA, “The Day After”

Well, the aftermath of Katrina is gradually been unraveled, and she sure did a number on the US gulf coast! From turning New Orleans to a massive bowl of toxic gumbo soup; to upturning of the floating casinos of Biloxi and Gulport, Mississippi; to extensive destruction of homes, properties and businesses spanning four states. To say this is a catastrophe of biblical proportion is not an overstatement.

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans :
“We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,” and other people dead in attics.” When asked how many, he said: “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands” . According to the NBC, “if the mayor’s death-toll estimate holds true, it would make Katrina the worst natural disaster in the United States since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, which have blamed for anywhere from about 500 to 6,000 deaths. Katrina would also be the nation’s deadliest hurricane since 1900, when a storm in Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people.”

A logistical nightmare

The main task at this moment in the regions ravaged by Katrina is the logistics. The logistics of evacuating a whole city- New Orleans, preventing further degradation of the environment and public health, restoring infrastructure, and ex cetera. Everyone needs to step up, both private and corporate. There are many blogs out there with info on how and where to donate, churches have set up feeding camps, even some fire fighters in my neck of the woods here in St Paul, Minnesota, are on their way to ground zero. Private citizens seem to have been stepping up generally.

This is time for corporate responsibility.

However, despite all these warm gestures, I’m yet to set any tangible gestures from the corporate quarters. Where are they? What have they done so far? Here a some of things I’m expecting to see happen: ships in the gulf providing shelter to the displaced; barges of drinking water and food; collaborating with the government in setting up logistics centers; providing temporary antennae/masts so that phones can work…

Meanwhile, Concert for Hurricane Relief will air on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC at 8 p.m. EDT Friday, NBC Universal Television Group announced. All donations go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.” MTV has some plans too. There are indications that Viacom is going to make a $1 million donation to the Red Cross. A paltry sum, I’ll say.

A superpower at work

Well, this is America, and if only one nation can do it, America is that nation! The world will get to see the might of a world superpower at work right in her own backward. And it has started! The warships/vessels are gradually in place, the coast guards have rescued at least 1,200 people by winching them off roof tops, the broken levees have been somehow fixed. I hope they get to deploy some inflatables crafts to get folks across the murky waters.

To the people of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, even if this sounds really naïve- keep on holding on, help is surely on the way.



Sunday, August 28, 2005

The House of Atiku

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President of Nigeria is in trouble! He's been at the center of some controversies since Elendu Reports featured a write-up titled: “Atiku's Mansion and the War against Corruption”, on August 17th. Since then, this article has been featured on some online fora including The Nigerian Village Square and Nigeria World .

According to Jonathan Elendu and Sowore Omoyele, the authors of the article:
“…Nigeria Vice President Atiku Abubakar broke the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on December 1, 2000. This is one and a half years after becoming the Vice President of Nigeria. On that day, he and his wife, Jennifer, bought a mansion in Maryland for $ 1,750,000. The house, a two storey building was constructed in 1988. The land area is about 2.3 acres. Today, that house is valued at over two million dollars.”
The authors state that they not publish photos and address of the mansion out of respect for the security of the Vice President's wife and children. But an image suspected to be a satellite picture of the house can be accessed via Nigerian Village Square: here

Jamilah Atiku Abubakar aka Jennifer Douglas E. aka Jennifer Douglas-Abubakar is the fourth wife of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. She is a former journalist and Ph.D. student at the American University in Washington, Mrs. Atiku is the Founder, President and CEO of GEDE Foundation, a non-profit organization based in the Washington DC area of the United States, according to Elendu and Omoyele.

On August 21st, four days after Elendu Reports’ expose, Atiku, in what seemed like a damage control public relations maneuver, stated during an interview with Nigerian Thisday newspaper, that: “...given the opportunity, he would fight corruption frontally” [to access article, user id and password are: grandiose parlor] Excerpt from that interview:
Thisday:"Any more bigwigs to be prosecuted for corruption?”

Atiku: “No sacred cow. There is certainly none.”

Thisday: “There is a document that is circulating in the internet, alleging that you used your wife to buy a house in the US and that you use your wife to donate money to the Republicans.”

Atiku: “You see, I went to the US when I was in exile, when Abacha hunted us out, when we asked him to handover to a civilian government, then I have been having a home in that place and of course my wife has been having a home in that place since 1994. So what are you talking about?”
Then on Thursday 25th, the “House of Atiku” once again became a news item in a more serious drama involving an ongoing FBI’s investigation. Excerpt from the Washington Post:
“The government confirmed Saturday that the U.S. home of Nigeria's vice president had been searched as part of a federal investigation, which news reports have linked to a Louisiana congressman.”
The congressman referenced above is Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, and the issue under investigation is suspected to be a telecommunications deal invoving iGate Corp., Nigeria and Ghana. According to Ghanaweb:
“…Source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas show agents were looking for records showing whether Jefferson, paid, offered to pay or authorized payments to officials in the government of Nigeria or Ghana.

The subpoenas, described to The Times-Picayune, seek documents related to Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice president of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Jefferson returned from a five-day visit to Ghana in mid-July, about three weeks before the FBI raided his homes. The subpoenas focus in part on a telecommunications deal Jefferson was trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according to documents and those familiar with details of the investigation…”
To add more intrigue to this drama, the GEGE Foundation website was yanked off the Internet shortly after Elendu's article, and it seems Jennifer Atiku may have since relocated to Nigeria, according to Elendu Reports.

In the meantime, the imbroglio generated by the “House of Atiku” is been closely followed, dissected and analyzed by pundits on The Nigerian Village Square. What I find interesting is the way these “analysts “ have been employing the power of the Internet in digging up information related to this topic (and others). The satellite picture mentioned earlier is an example, also listed in the forum are what looks like the property tax records of “House of Atiku”, and some financial records for GEGE Foundation.

In the spirit of the ongoing “Nigerian war against corruption”, is it too early and naïve to state that Atiku's "hands are heavily soiled", and thus deserve a similar courtesy shown Zuma, the former South African president?

Will there be “No sacred cow"?
Will Atiku get to hear Donald Trump's catch-phrase soon?

Update: August 31
Is this Atiku's Mansion in Potomac, Maryland-USA?
Courtesy Elendu Reports



Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Minnesota, USA: A Doctor's Big Plan for Nigeria

Via Duluth News Tribune by Peter Rebhahn
"We can build a system there as magnificent as we have here," said Ohaju, who speaks in a heavily accented but very good English.

Ohaju, a native Nigerian and a trauma surgeon at St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic Health System, recently founded the Vincent Obioma Ohaju Memorial Foundation with the goal of raising $15 million for a small hospital in southeastern Nigeria.
"This is not going to be a cheap venture, but I'm trying not to let the costs distract me, because I think it's a good venture," Ohaju said.
Ohaju has gathered believers already -- in and out of Duluth. A 13-person board guides the VOOM Foundation. Members include Duluth Drs. Johannes and Martha Aas, who six years ago created an exchange program between medical professionals from Duluth and the African nation of Cameroon.



Thursday, August 18, 2005

Corruption Cleanup Imminent in Nigeria?

The gist of this post is anchored in the fable narrated below thusly:

“Three students John, Chang and Mohammed met and became friends at Harvard in the early seventies. John was from an influential Boston family, Chang was the son of a wealthy Chinese business mogul, and Mohammed was just a Nigerian army lieutenant. Before they left Harvard, they agreed to have a reunion every 5 years at their respective bases.

The first reunion was at Boston (USA) with John, now a city mayor. The John showed them an ongoing construction of a subway system, he said to them in confidence:

"My office is coordinating this project… 2% of the cost goes to my campaign fund, vacation home and children college fund."

The next reunion was with Chang in Beijing (China), now a top shot of the communist party. Chang showed his friends a massive construction of what seems like a seaport. He said:

"I got 20% off the top to make the approvals happen for these construction".

The next reunion was 15 years later in Lagos (Nigeria). Mohammed, now a General and the military head of state of Nigeria, started talking about his accomplishments:

"$350 million spent on an agro-allied industry that will manufacture fertilizers and tractors; $200 million earmarked for an hydroelectric dam project, will provide electricity for my people; $850 billion spent building an oil refinery to produce refined petroleum products; and $2.3 billion invested in a steel mill to produce steel needed to manufacture heavy machinery and equipment, etc."

John and Chang were impressed and asked to see some of the projects.

Mohammed agreed and took them on a helicopter ride, after a short while he pointed towards one of the windows of the helicopter, “they are all there”, he said with a grin. His two colleagues rushed to the window full of anticipation, but all they saw was an area with thick forest with some empty stretches of land. They asked, "Where are they, Mohammed? There is nothing here!" Mohammed said with a smile:

“100% all to me!"
Agreed, the characters are fictitious, but the substance of the fable is as real as day and night. Moreover, there are and were many lesser Mohammeds that manned various aspects of the enterprise called Nigeria since 1960, the year of independence from the British.

At the moment, it seems the game may be over for some “Nigerian Mohammeds” because a News report has it that American authorities have forwarded to Abuja a dossier on several top Nigerian government officials and prominent individuals who allegedly operate foreign accounts and own property in the United States. The document was compiled by U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), immigration officials and banking regulators.

The EFCC is said to be finalizing its own probe to corroborate the content of the dossier before presenting it to the Presidency. This development formed the basis of the President’s address during the first executive session of the EFCC in Abuja where he stated:
"...Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today, will be tackled head-on at all levels. Corruption is incipient in all human societies and in most human activities. But it must not be condoned. No society can achieve anything near its full potential if it allows corruption to become the full-blown cancer it has become in Nigeria…There will be no sacred cows, nobody, no matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with the breach of the law or the perpetration of corruption and evil. Under the administration, therefore, all the rules and regulations designed to help honesty and transparency in dealings with government will be restored and enforced…"
Well said Mr. President, but what about those that own foreign accounts and properties in the other continents? Didn’t the Paris club provide a list too? The eye of the world is on Nigeria, and it is my hope that this exercise is implemented fairly and thoroughly. Time will tell.



Saturday, August 13, 2005

CreditRegistry Corporation: Nigeria Credit Service Pioneer

The Nigerian real estate sector got a boost recently from the Development Credit Authority (DCA), a division of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The DCA has agreed to issue guarantees to PMIs for local and foreign currency loans. The guarantees will cover up to 90% of the risk in lending to projects in the housing industry by local financial institutions and up to 50% for offshore loans, according to the Nigerian Guardian Newspapers.

Crucial to the DCA’s initiative is the availability of a solid credit bureau service; there is none in existence in Nigeria at the moment. "A high degree of asymmetric information" is one of the reasons banks in less developed countries do not lend more to the private sector, because this creates difficulties in ascertaining borrowers' credit worthiness, according to a USAID report on loan guarantee. This may change soon because Brandthrust Ltd., LRC credit bureau, International Credit Information Bureau (ICIB) Nigeria Limited, Accenture, and CreditRegistry Corporation all seem to have initiated some sort of strategic maneuvering to grab and consolidate stakes in the yet-to-burgeon, but crucial credit service sector of the Nigerian economy. Going by name recognition and market share, Accenture, a global management consulting technology services and outsourcing company, appears to be the most prominent of those mentioned, but for some reasons CreditRegistry Corporation stands out of the pack.

CreditRegistry Corporation seem to be the only one with a visible and innovative action plans that address the difficulties of running a credit bureau service in a developing economy such as Nigeria. CreditRegistry Corporation was founded by Taiwo Ayedun, a former Senior Consultant with Microsoft Corporation. He also a co-founder of IntelliSuite Technologies- an organization serving large some multinational organizations.

According to CreditRegistry:

“…it was critical to understand the specific behavioral characteristics of the market and its weak law enforcement problems in order to create a robust system that would increase lenders’ confidence in the system while simultaneously preventing potential abuse of consumer privacy. The design of CreditRegistry’s modern credit bureau platform meets these objectives handily. In its third version, CreditRegistry’s credit bureau platform has incorporated lessons learnt from three years of pilots, technical evaluations and actual use in Nigeria.”
CreditRegistry’s approach smack of creativity that suggest a deep understanding of emerging markets’ unique situation and the need to use innovative technology to address pertinent issues.

Nigeria like many developing economies lacks national identity numbers, the bedrock of traditional credit bureaus. Here is CreditRegistry statement and solution:
“Traditional credit bureaus rely on National ID numbers to identify customers. Because countries in developing markets do not typically have National ID numbers, traditional credit bureau system are impractical for these markets…CreditRegistry introduces superior solutions based on advanced fingerprint biometrics to securely and positively identify consumers…”
Not only is CreditRegistry's use of biometrics a logical approach to engage emerging markets; it is also a sound technological deterrent to identity-theft.

The company also demonstrates deep thoughtfulness and experience by using a system software that promises to be user friendly: check out what appears like a simple wizard-driven user interface on their brochure!

The primary responsibility of any government is to empower its citizenry. This can be achieved through many means (education, healthcare, security, etc). Also crucial is the provision of an enabling environment for commerce.

Out of all the contenders mentioned above, Accenture, a global multibillion dollar “King Kong” is the fiercest competitor, and it poses a clear and imminent danger to CreditRegistry.
It is imperative that startups like CreditRegistry Corporation are empowered. I hope that the Nigerian government, private sector and investors are indeed keeping their eyes on companies like CreditRegistry, and generally on Nigerians like Taiwo Ayedun.

Update:Sept 7
From Taiwo Ayedun:

"I just wanted to share with you a recent interview that I did with the Nigerian Business Forum

"The interview is on Page 11 of the newsletter and it includes a discussion about CreditRegistry; the newsletter also showcases one of CreditRegistry’s recent ads in the Nigerian media on Page 20."

All the best!



Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Vagabond in power
Top on my list of sober-flection is the incredible statement of Nigerien President Mamadou Tanja, that there is no famine in his country…just pockets of areas experiencing food scarcity! He said: "The people of Niger look well-fed, as you can see." I'm utterly astounded. It is a great pity that Nigeriens, like many Africans, have been disenfranchised, otherwise what business does a creature like Mamadou Tanja have leading them? I’m sad to say, Niger and Nigeriens are in deep doo-doo!

Deport terror advocates, not the Zimbabweans!
The UK has been embarking on a forced repatriation of unsuccessful asylum seekers from Zimbabwe since last year. However, last week the government issued a moratorium on further deportations . This is good news and it is long overdue. It is on record that the UK has deported hundreds of unsuccessful asylum seekers despite mounting evidence of serious human right violations upon returning to Zimbabwe.

"If the UK can already deport those who pose a threat to national security, why not religious fanatics that advocate terror; are they not security threat?"
No, they are not by UK law, and this is why Mr. Blair has outlined a set of plans to extend his powers to deport foreigners who encourage terrorism.

This is one of the things Fela, the late enigmatic Nigerian Afro-beat musician termed “perambulation” in his own lingo. Stop "perambulating" and deport those that really deserve it!

Mauritanian Coup: The lure of petro $$?
Although the people rejoiced, and the new head of state, Colonel Vall promised he will stay for just 2 years to set up a care-taker government that will usher in a new democratic government. But is there more to Colonel Vall’s intent than meets the eye? The country will commence oil exportation next year when its first offshore oilfield starts production.

Nigeria’s next frontier: Space
While receiving representatives of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO- I don’t know much about NIDO, all I know is that they are government funded), President Obasanjo said that the government is keen in going to space between the next 15 to 25 years. Nigeria’s Space Policy and Programs was initiated in 2001, the country's first earth observation satellite, the Nigeriasat-1, was launched in 2003.
"Must we go to space just because we have the brainpower and resources? Why invest in space when the billions can be used right here on earth- Nigeria? This is not only a case of gross misplacement of priority and it also borders on the verge of grandiose delusion!"

The departure of great minds

First, JG

Then, RC

Now, JJ

Although they were from three continents, and they walked on different life tracks, and pursued ideologies; they all had one time in common:
they were freedom fighters. They wanted the best for their people, and for mankind

What a world we live in!
What a world we live in indeed! While many African nations are struggling with famine (or better still- food scarcity), war, and political assassination, coup, et cetera, et cetera; some other continents were busy “playing god” many miles above earth! My late grandmother called it the "Oyinbo witchcraft". Not witchcraft ma, it is science.

Welcome back Discovery and its crew, I'm sure it feels great to be back on your feet and among earthlings.



Saturday, August 06, 2005

Niger Famine: A Live8 Remix?

Niger’s first Lady has organized a concert-for-food aid. The concert is billed for Niamey, Niger’s capital city today, August 6.

I wonder what the musicians will sing about. I hope there is a “ballad” about the messed-up government policies that is partly responsible for this crisis, or maybe a "lullaby" for the selfish Nigerien business men that hoard food to make a profit? If I may suggest: a “Live8 remix” will be most appropriate to the nations that were slow to “heed the call” for aid.

Further more, I will like an “a cappella” dedicated to the first families and top shots in Niger, asking them what they have personally done to help ease the pain of their fellow Nigeriens. Many have donated cash and all sorts using quite ingenious approach, for example Dale Swinburne's family has been skipping meals and sending the cash equivalent to Niger. So what exactly have they done? It will be of huge import for these artists to do a “cantata” asking the nations currently under the siege of quela birds, the steps being taken to avert future disasters.

I sincerely hope the concert will bring in more money, and I do not intend to trivialize the gravity of the famine; however, I’m just tired and ashamed of the drought of ideas of those that should know better! It is just unfortunate that “aid” did not arrive on time for the Nigeriens, now many will die, and this famine will soon become another chapter in the achieves of African disasters.

The question is:
"What is this government (and others) going to do to avert/mitigate future occurrence? If they have to mortgage all they have to prevent an encore of this macabre drama; it is well worth it…a nation that can’t feed itself is in deep doo-doo!"



Friday, August 05, 2005

ICE your Cell Phone

Update August 8: Vial of Life
Every person should have a Vial of Life form filled out. Seniors need this because of their constant medical changes and medications. It's the right thing to do. Put one in your wallet, in your glove compartment, and especially on your refrigerator door, and one in your child's pocket. Read more here

I got this from work...

Paramedics will turn to a victim's cell phone. Read this please. Paramedics will turn to a victim's cell phone for clues to that person's identity. You can make their job much easier with a simple idea that they are trying to get everyone to adopt ICE. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. If you add an entry in the contacts list in your cell phone under ICE, with the name and phone no. of the person that the emergency services should call on your behalf, you can save them a lot of time and have your loved ones contacted quickly. It only takes a few moments of your time to do. Paramedics know what ICE means and they look for it immediately. ICE your cell phone.

Following the disaster in London...East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In case of Emergency ( ICE ) " campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston. The idea is that You store the word "ICE" in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency". In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It's so simple that everyone can do it. Please do.

Please will you also email this to everybody in your address book, it won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one's mind at rest. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

Thanks Rachel!