Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Unlearned Lessons from China

"The world witnessed China's unprecedented race to the top while Nigeria has been having a free fall to the bottom of development index. China sustained unprecedented 10 per cent growth rate in the 90s while Nigeria recorded double digits negative growth rate during same period."-- Daily Trust.

It is interesting that some two or three decades back, Nigeria and China were both tagged "under developed countries". In fact, Brazil, Malaysia and India were members of the "undeveloped nation" category, all- except Nigeria- have since moved into a higher classification.

The Chinese president, Hu Jinto, is billed to visit Nigeria later this week; high on the agenda will be trade, this is of high relevance given the $ 2 billion-acquisition of a Nigerian offshore oil bloc by CNOOC Ltd, a Chinese state-controlled company.

As Mr Jinto visits Nigeria, I hope General Obasanjo and his advisors remember that the only way Nigeria "can reap more than just pocketing the forex handed out by the Chinese and other investor-nations is to create an enabling environment for technology transfer- by upgrading old infrastructure and learning to acquire and retain technology".

Learning to retain technology shouldn’t be too difficult I suppose. While the reforms being implemented in Nigeria at present are good and necessary, there appears to be no clear-cut policies toward building a solid technological base in the country. Similarly, the need to revive crumbled national infrastructure seem not to be a priority.

The message one is hearing from Abuja lately is that the money that would have been used to service our foreign loan would now be diverted to the provision of infrastructure. Interesting to note that this is coming after seven years and at the twilight of President Obasanjo’s administration!

This excellent op-ed titled: "Nigeria: The Widening Gap" published by the Daily Trust / provides additional insight into the Sino-Nigerian trade relations and how Nigeria has failed to maximize the opportunities presented by this relationship. This is an excerpt:
"The issue is that while China is development-conscious, Nigeria is development-shy and at worse anti-development in orientation and policy formulation…China promotes the state-led gradualist reform agenda with remarkable social protection for the mass of potential losers as opposed to Nigeria's type "shock-therapy" reform in which a few winners are indulged while the mass of losers are left bare. China did not pursue doctrinaire privatization policy but encouraged state enterprises side by side private enterprises with the eye on value-adding activities, employment creation and inclusive development."
And there are examples of these shock therapies- from the implementation of the 25-billion-Naira capitalization of Nigerian banks, to the monetization policies in the civil service. The latter is particularly a great idea, but the implementation so far has created a lot of confusion and stress for low-mid level civil servants.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this "shock therapy approach" was also used to develop the transportation system and increase power generation in Nigeria? These two represent "low-lying fruits" that would yield impressive return-on-investment because they are the foundation materials needed to build a solid technological base- a prerequisite to move out of the "underdeveloped nation category".



Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nigeria: The Scam of being a Debt-Free Nation

As Nigeria pays off a sizeable chunk of its financial debt, I can’t help but muse on how much Nigerians have benefited from these debts. It took roughly about 20 years to acquire these debt; it started in the early 80’s during the second republic and continued unabated up till the late 90’s.

Being in my thirties, I fall into that category of Nigerians that caught and enjoyed momentarily the tail-end of the "golden years" of Nigeria- the era when “life was good” and “money wasn't the problem but how to spend it”, and the beginning of Nigeria’s debt-mania. This is my attempt, albeit a rough one, to narrate what transpired during the period Nigeria went debt-thirst and how it impacted the lives of its nationals.

The “golden era” disappeared with the emergence of 2nd republic in 1980, and almost in quick succession all sorts of austerity measures and economic adjustment programs were created to revive the economy. These reforms not only failed woefully, the lives of many Nigerians were negatively impacted, even up to this moment.

My generation lived through these periods, and was painful to see our fragile national infrastructure crumble before our eyes- the schools and hospitals were the first to capitulate. After the Naira, Nigerian national currency, had gone through series of of devaluation, the manufacturing industry started operating under par, then banks and other financial institutions started failing. Many Nigerian homes lost sizeable chunks of their meager savings.

As workers started losing their employment and sources of income, and fresh college graduates couldn't get to practice what they had spent a sizeable blocks of their lives studying in the now-decaying universities that had fast became the arena for incessant "strikes" and "occult gangs"; many frustrated Nigerians turned to chauffeurs and started using their vehicles and motorcycles as taxis, marking the emergence of "kabu-kabus" and "okada". These have come to stay and can be found in any Nigerian towns and cities today.

How can I forget the zillion of scraps called vehicles, and all sorts of electronic appliances and "used products" that all of a sudden found new homes in Nigeria, simply because the Naira had become almost worthless, and the majority of Nigerians households couldn't purchase anything new and decent.

When many Nigerians couldn't bear the pain any longer, some "checked out" of the country. Many professional took to their heels in search of greener pastures overseas. I'm sure the Nigerian readers remember the "Andrew don't check-out" slogan then. The weak ones took to drug smuggling and arm banditry. Many Nigerian women even ended up servicing the sexual thirst and hunger of European men to make ends meet and maintain families back home. And all of a sudden Nigerians that once required no visas to visit the United Kingdom and many other Commonwealth nations became undesirable elements and a menace to immigration authorities worldwide.

These were some of what Nigeria had to show for the billions of dollars it borrowed and now paying back, and from the 80's to this moment, fewer and fewer Nigerians have something to show for these billions of borrowed money.

What disturbs me the most is that a greater slice of this money ended in the pockets of a handful of retired generals and former top-level bureaucrats. Many of whom are roaming free today in the country, some have even found new careers in politics and have retraced their steps back to the cookie jar. Some have gone into business, and successfully laundered their stolen wealth in the Nigerian oil, telecom, banking and real estate sectors. These people have become the movers and shakers of the Nigerian society.

As Nigeria strives to pay off its debt, will the country witness another round of reckless borrowing now that its credit is clean? Time will be the judge.



Friday, April 21, 2006

The Scoop on The Palms, the First Mega Shopping Mall in Nigeria

It's not a common occurrence to have a Head of State commission a shopping mall. When I saw the picture of two Nigerian Heads of State- Generals Obasanjo (current president, far right in the picture) and Babangida (former president; on the far left in the picture), and the King of Lagos at the commissioning the Palms Shopping Mall located on the Lekki Pennisula of Lagos, I wondered what the fuss was all about. After a couple minutes of probing the vast expanse of the cybernet, I discerned the reason for the fuss. And there is every reason for it.

What is The Palms?
The Palms is a $40 million greenfield shopping and entertainment mall located on a 44,000 sq. meter site (about 12 acres). The complex comes with off-road parking for approximately 720 vehicles, and has a "total built area of 23,600 sq. meter, a gross leasable area of 19,600 sq. meter with a wide range of retail and service outlets, a food court and a first floor five screen cinema."

The Sponsors
The Palms Shopping center is developed by the Persianas Properties Limited (PPL), an estate development company owned by Actis and Snap Blu.

Actis (formerly CDC Capital partners) is a UK based private equity investor with extensive portfolio in emerging markets, it underwrote the $40 million deal", and holds 64% stakes in Persianas. Snap Blu is owned by a Nigerian developer, Tayo Amusan and his family, it holds 34% stakes in Persianas. The websites of International Finance Corporation and Actis have additional information on the financing of the mall.

The Palms is also accessible online:, even though their website is grossly information-deficient, the complex is "100% already let".

Pictures: (Top left) from the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper and The Palms.



Thursday, April 20, 2006

Photo: What the %$#@ ?

Photo courtesy of Sahara Reporter


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Application into Nigerian Universities is on the Decline

The Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB), the Nigerian agency that oversees admission examination into Nigerian universities reports a 25% drop in applications, according to Nigerian news agencies.

Here is an excerpt from the ThisDay one of the Nigerian news agencies that reported the drop on April 19:
"Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) yesterday announced that it has recorded a 25 per cent drop in the 2006/2007 applicants for the Universities and Matriculation Examination (UME)...The figure represents 281,247 decrease from the 2005 figure of 908,847. In 2004 a total of 838,051 sat for the exam while 1,099,241 sat for the exam in 2003."
On taking a closer look at the figures stated above, I discerned that the reported 25% drop is a gross understatement of the decline in applications.

Using the numbers provided by the agency (above), I created this table below (and I hope math is straight). This year's applications dropped by 31% when compared to 2005 data, and by 43% when compared to 2003. There has been a general decline ( a negative trend) in number of students applying into Nigerian universities since 2003.

Was the 25% reported a misprint, or an error from JAMB?

A visit to the JAMB's website ( didn't help; the most recent data on the site is for year 2001 as at the time of this post.

The gist is not the discrepancies in the numbers really; it is the fact that few Nigerians are getting admitted into the universities. And what can account for this?

The major determinants in the application process are two, namely: having the prerequisite high school qualifications and cost of application.

Has the pool of qualified high school students shrunk over the years because of the failed educational system in Nigeria, or the cost of application materials has simply become unaffordable for more prospective students?

Surprisingly, JAMB failed to give some insight into why there is a drop of this magnitude; maybe the reported "25% drop" isn't big enough. Rather, their news release focued on how the agency has added 13 new testing centers and being able to take "additional measures aimed at curbing the activities of examination cheats."

It is arguable that a 4-year worth of data is typically not enough for trend analysis, but in this case the gradient is simply too step to ignore.

As it is usually the case with Nigerian issues, more questions pop up the closer one looks and the deeper one digs. Here are some:

Should there be fewer applications into the universities because of the of inability of the Nigerian economy to absorb the graduates as they are being produced?

Where do the newly licensed private universities fit in all these?

Apparently the emergence of these universities has not translated into more Nigerians wanting to attend universities, in fact, it appears it's quite the contrary.

External Links:
ThisDay (article):



Monday, April 17, 2006

On Tax Revenue in Nigeria

The deadline for the submission of relevant paper work and payment of income taxes in the United States is today. The deadline closes at 11.59PM April 17th. The deadline is usually on the 15th of April every year; the deadline was shifted this year because it falls on a weekend.

I happen to fall among the greater chunk of Americans who procrastinate till the very end before getting their paper work in order. Thanks goodness for electronic filling and the zillion tax preparation software available; these tools have really taken the pain and stress out of this yearly civic duty.

As I battled with my tax papers over the weekend, I couldn't help but reflect on tax related issues and how these are being handled in Nigeria. The body saddled with this horrendous task is the Nigerian Inland Revenue Service, a federal agency fashioned after the British Inland Revenue. If the content and quality of the Nigerian agency's website is a yardstick, one wouldn't be surprised at its level of efficiency.

"For the year 2002, there were $250m (£142m) that the companies say they paid to the central bank that do not appear in central bank records...there were also discrepancies between figures provided by different arms of the government, and that accounting standards were low across the board." --BBC: Audit shows lost Nigeria oil taxes.

Note that this audit focused just on the oil sector. You can imagine what similar audits would uncover in other sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Even if Nigeria has all the oil fields in the universe, the lack of probity and the wishy-washy way financial matters are handled will always thwart the best reforms and efforts to move the economy out of the doldrums.

External links:
BBC: Audit shows lost Nigeria oil taxes
Nigerian Inland Revenue Service:



Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Analysis of the Absurd: Diane Abbott's Nigeria-Jamaica Comparison

Why is it always tough (for Nigerians) to be on the receiving end of criticism, especially when the critique is coming from a "foreigner"?

This is the case with the Jamaica-Nigeria comparison ("Think Jamaica is bad? Try Nigeria") done by a British Member of Parliament, Ms Diane Abbott.

Her comparison was her style of putting the state of affairs in Jamaica in the right perspective, given the gloominess surrounding this caribbean state.

I have read her comparison, and I must say it's dead accurate. Her facts are straight and depict the situation on ground in Nigeria. Read the article if you haven't. Here is the intro:
"There is no doubt that Jamaica faces challenges. But I travelled around Nigeria last week with a group of British MPs. This West African country is potentially much richer and more powerful than Jamaica could ever be. Yet, in certain crucial aspects Nigeria is in an even worse position than little Jamaica, and contemplating the Nigerian situation might cause even the gloomiest Jamaican talk show host to count their blessings."
To my fellow Nigerians who have some beef with Ms Abbott(you know yourselves) over this issue, I'll say: "Cut the crap"! "Don't hate the player, hate the game!!!

On the other hand, Ms Abbott's comparison is somewhat absurd in the sense that she has successfully compared "oranges" to "apples"; for there is no, or little grounds for comparison in the first place. Even if their nationals look alike because of skin color; the demographics and socioeconomics of the two countries are not identical. Neither are their historical backgrounds.

Moreover, Nigeria being messed up despite its huge natural resources shouldn't be an excuse for Jamaica not to get its affairs in shape. Nigeria has had very turbulent past- the country survived a bloody civil war and successive rounds of dubious and visionless leadership. At times I wonder what keeps the country together despite the recurrent trauma it has suffered.

So to make Ms Abbott's comparison valid, one has to adjust for all the differences inherent in the countries so one can now compare "apples" to "apples". That is how it's done, not through a beer parlor analysis.

Jamaica just sworn in her first female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller as the seventh prime minister on March 30th, 2006. This is an excellent opportunity to break the jinx, bring about meaningful changes, and generally improve the lot of Jamaicans. That is what matters...not some analysis/comparison of the absurd.



Monday, April 10, 2006

Innovative Technology in Africa

White African blog writes: "there are three main areas of web technology innovation in Africa, three regions that define it...These three countries are Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. They represent the power nexus of Africas technological future."

This excerpt is from his post- "African Technology Powerhouses", where he discusses the "recognized technology leaders in their region".

Not that I have any objections to his post; however, I think Rwanda probably deserves a mention, not only because of their innovative, ground breaking, and award winning venture into cheap energy- biogas, Rwanda achieved this feat just a couple of years after going through one of the most horrific genocidal calamity in African history.

"The award winning Kigali institute of Technology [KIST]is a prime driver of Biogas techonology, their 'Centre for Innovations and Technology transfer'... has designed and built a 150m3 fixed dome digester in Cyangugu prison that is fed with human waste generated by 1,500 prisoners...has also solved the sewerage and hygiene problem at Lysee de Kigali School by providing a 25m3-Fixed Dome digester connected to 6 bio-latrines. The methane gas produced is used to cook for 400 students and for operating bunsen burners in the school science laboratories..."-- Timbuktu Chronicles: KIST Rwanda, Biogas.

I believe Africa's technological breakthrough lies more in the innovation and emergence of sustainable and/or cheap technology that can be replicated continent-wide with very minimal friction and easier adaptation. The biogas venture in Kigali prison and school is just one of them. The ability to create value from what seem worthless, and even repulsive, is nothing but sheer bliss and worthy of replication by other African nations.



Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Third Term Agenda is Over Heating the Nigerian Polity

Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar spoke again and against the much talked about third term agenda in Nigeria. He met with a group tagged "Movement 2007" which comprises mainly members of the National Assembly opposed to the third term of President Obasanjo.

This is an extract from his speech, culled from The Nigerian Vanguard:
"You have absolutely no reason to doubt or to fear because over the last few months, you have seen clearly, in the print media, in the radio, all over that more than 90 per cent of Nigerians are opposed to this agenda...

"On the 25th of August last year, when I granted interview to Thisday Newspapers, I revealed clearly this agenda and my total opposition to it. That was when I was branded a disloyal Vice-President. The following month, on the 25th of September, at the Yar’Adua Centre, I raised an alarm that the PDP was about to be hijacked so that a particular agenda could be achieved. I was proved right. Hasn’t PDP been hijacked? Was there any election? At all levels, there was no election. It was hijacked so that a particular agenda or the party could be used to achieve a particular agenda. So, what better testimony, what better evidence do we need that this is a real agenda?"
Not that Mr Atiku has much credibility in my book, and his sharp criticism may be borne out of his desire to contest the presidential elections next year. However, his speech, and the reactions from the Mr Obasanjo's political machinery, speaks volume to the desire of the president to stay in office beyond the time stipulated by the constitution.

The Presideny has called for Atiku to resign because of his recent statement.

The vanguard quotes Fani-Kayode, the president's "mouth piece" as follows:
"Somebody on his [President Obasanjo] right hand or beside or directly behind as his number two who is criticising him and attempting to stick a dagger in his back, attempting to undermine him and attempting to organise opposition forces to subject the president to ridicule. No president expects such a thing from his vice."
The polity is getting unduely heated up in Nigeria, and much attention is being focused and expended on this unproductive and nonsensical business of third term.

It is shameful, disgraceful, and undeniably callous of the parties stoking the fire of the third term agenda, particularly the man right in the middle of the controversy; who in his infinite wisdom, and for reasons best known to him, has chosen to play dumb.

Some links to related posts on the third term agenda:



Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Does Showering After Sex Reduces Chances of HIV Transmission ?

Is there a connection between HIV transmission and showering after sex?

If you are a recluse residing deep inside the Amazon forest, you may be unsure of the connection; however, if you were the former Vice President and the second highest in the political hierarchy of the largest economy in Africa, it is simply a catastrophic blunder to think that there is a connection between the two!

Yet, the former Vee Pee of South Africa and a political bigwig, Jacob Zuma believes that there is a connection!

In fact, he believes that taking a shower right after sex reducing chances of HIV transmission after sex, and he did took one after having sex with a women he very well knew to be HIV positive!

Here is an excerpt of Mr Jacob Zuma's blunder via BBC:
“South African ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma said he showered after sex with an HIV-positive woman, thinking this would reduce his risk of being infected… Mr. Zuma's testimony that he did not use a condom during the encounter, despite knowing the woman was HIV-positive, caused dismay among local AIDS activists...”
Despite the myriad and sleuth of information on HIV/AIDS (South Afrcia has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world), it is shameful, despicable, laughable, and most unfortunate that that someone as exposed and high-up as Zuma would believe “taking shower after sex reduces the chances of HIV transmission”.

This statement reveals a lot about Zuma and the mentality of many African leaders, and its also indicative of why the continent is “upside down” and backwards because many of its leaders are Zuma-like.

How can men who risk their lives (like Zuma did) for transient ecstatic bliss of sex be trusted in any capacity at all?

Given this type of mentality it isn’t a surprise that Mr. Zuma was fired for financial impropriety, and neither is it shocking that he’s embroiled in a rape scandal. A man that would risk his life over frivolities can do anything.



Monday, April 03, 2006

Did Charles Taylor Received Help From Top Nigerian Officials to Escape?

An Associated Press reports in a statement credited to Charles Taylor's spiritual leader, the Indian evangelist Kilari Anand Paul, that the Nigerian security agents assisted Charles Taylor in his escape and abandoned him when they received order from "above" to terminate their mission:
"Nigerian security forces encouraged former Liberian President Charles Taylor to flee and helped him get to the Cameroon border before the same agents turned around and arrested him in a double-cross..."
Taylor definitely received some help to escape; however, to assert that his escape was probably orchestrated by the top hierarchy of the Nigerian security forces is troubling and warrants a thorough investigation.

Source: Taylor says Nigeria betrayed him, via CNN



Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Redeemed Christian Church of God is Set for Global Evangelism

"The Redeemed Christian Church of God believe Jesus has sent them to spread a difficult truth in the United States: Demonic forces are corrupting society and only spiritual warfare can stop them"

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) appears set for global dissemination of the gospel on a scale that yet to be matched by any church out of Africa.

EthnicLoft carried a story about the Church about a week ago: African Christians a growing dynamic force.

Since then there have been more stories on the church. From its incursion into movies via the Nigerian Nollywood to its growth in the United States, the RCCG has been on a fast track of being the numero uno of pentecostal churches that originated from Africa.
"The church stormed into Nollywood with its first four movies last year, including the English-language "The AIDS' Patient" about an infected woman cured by the Holy Spirit and "Agan" (or "None Shall be Barren"), a story in the local Yoruba language about a pastor and his wife who finally conceive a
baby after deep prayer..."--Associated Press via Yahoo
Aside from its incursion into movies via the Nigerian Nollywood, the Church is constructing a TV studio on its newsly acquired 600 acres lot in Dallas. All these are being finance by the Dove media Group, a subsidiary of the church.
"It [the church] opened its first U.S. congregation in 1992, when [Pastor] Adeboye [the General Overseer] prayed in a Detroit living room with a Nigerian engineer...Churches in Tallahassee, Florida, and Dallas soon opened, and many more followed...Fifty miles north of Dallas, the church is building a multimillion-dollar national headquarters and conference complex on more than 600 acres of farm land in rural Floyd, Texas." --Yahoo News.

PS: To those familiar with the Lagos-Ibadan express-way, wouldn't it be pure bliss if the RCCG would use it enormous influence and resources to find a permanent solution to the agonizing traffic congestion (and the associated public health hazards) on this major freeway on the days the church hosts its monthly revivals? Just a thought.