Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Abuse of the Naira and Being Above the Law

“…The spraying of, dancing or marching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under subsection (1) of this section...” -- Section 21, subsection 1-4 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2006.

Picture: Abuse of the Naira: At a wedding ceremony of son of Professor Jerry Gana (special adviser to the Nigerian President), at the International Conference Centre, Abuja attended by Ministers, top government officials, politicians and captains of industry... recently in Abuja. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA \ Nigerian Guardian; Sunday May 21, 2006.

I wrote in an earlier post that the law quoted above ( yet to drafted into the Nigerian constitution) is an example of an "unenforceable law" and that "I will be surprised if anyone is ever prosecuted for ‘spraying’ and ‘physically abusing’ the Naira as stipulated under this law." The picture above confirms the validity of the statement. The colorful pieces of paper on the floor are Naira- the Nigerian currency.

As I understand the Nigerian Central Bank has been running newspaper ads in Nigeria against the 'act of spraying'- whose chief culprits ironically are the big shots in the society.

Given this gross disregard for- and abuse and defacing of- the Naira, will the CBN boss, Professor Charles Soludo openly reprimand Professor Jerry Gana and his guests?



Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nigerian Yahoo Boys: The Scourge of a Nation

“The fear is that in 5-10 years, what will be left of the African or Nigerian Information society space will be pieces of recycled information about the bad things happening in Nigeria…”-- Edward Popoola.

Smacked right on the my monitor screen is this CNN headline screaming at me: “Online scams create ‘Yahoo! Millionaires’”, and below were these text: “In Lagos, where scamming is an art, the quickest path to wealth for the cyber-generation runs through a computer screen.”

I’m not so much worried about the insult and shame the scams have brought on every Nigerian in the Diaspora than the problem it has caused many budding entrepreneurs in and outside the country- some of whom need letters of credit or similar instruments from western financial institutions, or interact with customers and affiliates overseas.

Headlines such as this create unnecessary obstacles and barriers to business in many ways than is readily obvious. Unfortunately, and shamefully too, these scams have become the Nigerian trademark oversea.

The absence of concrete actions to curb these scams by the authority is as frustrating as it is aggravating. To date, there haven’t been any clear-cut strategies to fight online scam. This shouldn’t be a surprise since some government officials would rather “claimed ignorance of such scams” and “laughed it off as Western propaganda”, according to the CNN article.

Edward, the Nigeria’s Information Technology youth Ambassador and a computer science undergrad, somewhat attributes the proliferation of the scam to unnecessary bureaucracy and delay in the Nigerian justice department.

The problem is more than just bureaucratic bottlenecks though; the proliferation of the scam is due to the shoddy enforcement of the law since there are no clear policies or guidelines on how to deal with suspect cases. Very few law enforcement agents are experienced in investigating these cases; the majority are referred to the overworked EFCC, the anti graft watchdog of the Nigerian government. The corruption that has beleaguered the Nigerian police force has also contributed immensely to the difficulty in enforcing anti-fraud law and prosecuting suspects.

As Edward recommends, anything short of a national campaign against online scam will not yield meaningful results. The Nigerian lawmakers and other policy makers must be galvanized into action since the majority of them are oblivious of the damage caused by these fraudsters. This is a challenge primarily for the Nigerian (local and overseas) IT professionals since this is their domain; so far their efforts against online fraud and scam have been lackluster and rather diffuse. It is their sole responsibility to fire-up the campaign all over again and fight this scourge.



Friday, May 26, 2006

The Bilking of Africans

" Internet users in America pay $20 for one gigabyte of data per month, but people in Africa pay about $1,800 for the same amount of data ..."-- NextBillion.Net

This isn't all; Africans get bilked even more:

  • Africans in the Diaspora pay huge commissions and fees to send money (remittance) back home; western union takes at least $60 for every $1,000 sent.

  • Africans pay astronomical rates in airline tickets each time we visit our brethren in Africa.

  • Africans get hammered with huge fees by multi-international courier agents shipping our stuff from and to the motherland.

  • Africans pay ridiculously high tariff in telephone cost calling the continent.
  • Yet, Africans are the poorest and the more disfranchised people in the world!



    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    The 419 Scam: You can’t Cheat a Honest Man.

    The advance fee letter scam a.k.a ‘419 scam’ has wreaked a lot of havoc worldwide, even in Nigeria. Victims have lost tens of millions of dollars to the fraudsters many of whom have been described as Nigerians. While it is not my intention to defend this scam- I will never defend the acts of the wicked, I have grown impatient of reading day and night how some in their ignorance, or denial, have heaped the blame on the Nigerians, majority of whom don’t even know how this scam works.

    I have always wondered what could make someone fall prey for this scam, after reading this New Yorker article: “The Perfect Mark”- which offers excellent insights into the scam from a victim’s perspective, I remain convinced in my opinion that greed is the key that opens the wallets of the victims, and it is the is the reason why several people have fallen for this scam. Greed is the only reason anyone would believe a ‘business opportunity’ exists in a scheme that involves money laundering- the foundation upon which all 419 scam plots are built.

    The truth is no one can cheat an honest man! This is food for thought for those taking cheap shots at Nigerians for a scam/scheme whose greedy and gullible victims have ironically helped perpetrated.



    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Who Cares for the Small Business Enterprise in Nigeria?

    The Nigerian Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Scheme (SMEEIS) was established in December 1999. The scheme required all banks in Nigeria to set aside 10% of their profit before tax for equity investment in small and medium scale industries.

    A recent report in the Nigerian financial newspaper, Business Day, indicate that just 29% of this fund has been released since its inception!

    Despite the presence of some well-hailed economic VIP comprising of the big thinkers and heavyweights of the financial world- people who should know better- the economic focus of Mr. Obasanjo's administration appears to have completely missed the Nigerian small businesses!

    My limited knowledge of economics, buttressed by data, suggest that small businesses/enterprise (SME*) are the workhorses of any economy be it in Africa or elsewhere. Using the United States as an example, small businesses create "two out of every three new jobs and account for nearly half of America's overall employment and are 97% of America’s exporters and produce 26 percent of all export value", according to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).

    In fact, the SBA was established by the U.S Congress in 1953, solely to "aid, counsel, assist and protect, insofar as is possible, the interests of small business concerns." According SBA, its charter states “the SBA would ensure small businesses a fair proportion of government contracts and sales of surplus property."

    The Nigerian SMEDAN (Small and Medium Scale Industries Development Agency) is analogous to SBA, but very much younger, weaker and limited in scope and reach. In fact, I’m at a loss on how this agency can assist any entrepreneur wanting to start a small business in Nigeria.

    It is just not right when economic policies are predominately geared toward big business and mainly service consolidation oriented, the two major economic signposts of the Obasanjo's administration. Who really cares for the small businesses? Would the Nigerian SMEs get more respect and attention from the government in 2007 when a new administration takes over?

    *SME, as defined by the Nigerian government, is any enterprise with a maximum asset base of 200 million Naira excluding land and working Capital and with the number of staff employed not less than 10 or more than 300.



    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Atiku's $100,000 Bribe?

    The U.S news media shed more light on the bribery allegation involving William Jefferson, a member of the US House of Representatives, Nigerian Vice President Abubakar Atiku and a private investor wanting to do business in Nigeria and some west Africa countries.

    On hearing that only $100,000 exchanged hands, I realized it is very unlikely that the Nigerian Vee Pee is involved.

    This is because 100G dollars is a mere 14 million Naira- chicken fee to someone of Atiku's caliber, or I'm I wrong with my assumption?

    Since Mr Jefferson couldn't complete the transaction before he was busted by the FBI and the money retrieved from his freezer; it is almost impossible to tell if the money was mean't for Atiku, or if Jefferson simply dropped Atiku's name in order to bilk a gullible investor. At the point, Jefferson is yet to admit to any wrong doing while Atiku continues to maintain his innocence.



    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Nigerian Electric Power Sector: The $9 Billion Mess

    At present, power generation in Nigeria is at about 3,000 megawatt; about 50% of what it was earlier in the year, and way less than what it should be for a nation the size of Nigeria- some have estimated that the nation needs at least 120,000MV of power.

    I read with dismay that after spending about 1.3 trillion Naira (about 9 billion U.S dollars) on power generation between 1999 and 2005 Nigerians will not enjoy a stable supply of the commodity until 50 years from now! Yes, Nigerians should expect stable electricity by year 2056 if investment in the power sector grows at the same rate as the economy, according to the Nigerian minister for power and steel:
    "The current growth of the Nigerian economy stands at seven per cent. If the power sector grows at a rate of seven per cent per annum from now on, we will take another 50 years to catch up on where we should be and that is a real challenge.

    "So, if we set a target for growth of the economy at 10 per cent, then indeed, the power sector has to grow in the region of 12-15 per cent, each year. And when you translate that into cash, it means an investment in the region of $10 billion each year."—Dr Imoke, Nigerian Minister for Power and Steel.
    It is puzzling that a nation- that seems so reform-crazy, so eager to liberalize its economy, and whose worn and hoarse head of state have spent more time overseas repeatedly giving sales pitch to foreign investors- has failed to implement any measurable reforms in the power sector. Yet adequate and regular power supply is the number one prerequisite for industrial and economic growth; it is a catalyst that impacts both big and small businesses.

    The first noticeable activity in the power sector was not registered until 2005 when the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission was established under the Nigerian Electric Power Sector Reform Act.

    Some government sources claim that deregulation in the sector has already led to private sector participation in the power generation and the operation of a number of independent power plants in the country, these achievements appear to exist only on paper and often come to life whenever officials wants to use them as points of reference.

    Despite spending $9 billion in six years, power generation is at an all-time low in Nigeria. The excuse for the recent decline in supply has been attributed to the insurgency in the Niger-Delta region, a region that has been volatile for more than 10 years. One wonders if gas is the only ingredent for electricity generation; coal is plentiful in Nigeria, why not use more of it? In 2000, the United States derive 40% of its power supply from coal i.e. 260,990MW of power!

    I wonder if there isn’t more going on at the power and steel ministry than meets the eye; an accounting audit may not be entirely out of place in my opinion.



    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    The Admixture of Poverty, Ignorance and Greed is Lethal!

    People stand behind burned corpses lying on the ground after a gas pipeline exploded at the waterside village of Ilado, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of Lagos. Gas gushing from a ruptured Nigeria pipeline exploded Friday as villagers scavenged for the free fuel, setting off an inferno that killed up to 200 people and left charred bodies scattered around the site.(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba). Source: Yahoo!

    Police officers stand behind fuel containers belonging to victims Saturday, May 13, 2006 after a gas pipeline exploded on Friday, at Ilado, Nigeria. President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered increased security around Nigeria's pipelines following a gasoline conduit explosion that killed up to 200 people, as rescue workers sought Saturday to finish burying the dead in mass graves. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba) Source: Newsvine.



    Nigeria: And The President Erred!

    “Have you ever wondered why and how Nigeria's Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Matthew Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo goes free and moves triumphantly where angels are afraid to tread?”—Bola Adawara, e-Life online magazine

    He was a champion during the Nigerian civil war. The Biafran military might- or what was left of it- surrendered to him despite not firing a single bullet, and “when actually those who fought and won the war were the like of Alabi Isima, Mohammed Shuwa, Murtala Mohammed, Black Scorpion, Alani Akinrinade, etc", according to Adawara's article.

    He became the Commissioner for Works under General Gowon, and supervised the bulk of the reconstruction effort after the war and the modernization of the state of Lagos, then the federal capital, by constructing many of the transportation amenities existing there today.

    Fate later smiled on him when he became the second-in-command after the coup that brought General Murtala Mohammed to power. He knew nothing about the coup, as I understand, yet he was favored. This eventually led to him being the head of state after the assassination of his boss, Gen Mohammed.

    His administration gave birth to the second republic when he organized the elections in 1979 and became the first military head of state to hand over power to a democratically-elected civilian government.

    He was thrown in jail by General Abacha in the 1995 because of a botched coup he claimed he wasn’t part of. He suffered huge losses as a result, and almost lost his life in the process. Yet he came out victorious, and yet again, broke the record by being the first Nigerian to occupy the most exalted political seat in the land; he became the Nigerian president, the second time.

    One can say the Nigerian president, Mr. Obasanjo is lucky chap, given his travails. Has he enjoyed tremendous favor from above? Absolutely, and to paraphrase the writer quoted above: President Obasanjo is favored because he is a covenant child of God.

    What confuses me is why would such a person succumb to the trappings of power and make nonsense of a stellar record at the twilight of his career? Why would he soil his testimony by manipulating, albeit unsuccessfully, the constitution he seemed to have fought so hard to protect? What could make a man err so badly?

    Mr. Obasanjo’s bid to continue his reign as the Nigerian President failed woefully, and in the process, he’s allowed his integrity to be stained by greed, and shredded by some dubious political characters and associates.

    Based on human intelligence, it appears his covenant with God may have been broken, shattered and scattered, and whether it can be mended or not, is left for the Divine Being to decide; after all, He deemed it fit in His infinite wisdom to smile on him in the first place.

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet said: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Mr. Obasanjo started his journey into public service on a solid and good footing but fatally fumbles shortly before it ends, and forever his name will be stated in the annals of Nigerian history, (along with others) as a president who attempted to usurp power.

    In my opinion, the failed amendment to the Nigerian constitution that would have permitted Obasanjo's third term will be the most remembered of his legacies; a sad and most undignifying recollection of what would have been a stellar legacy, and an unfortunate blemish on an impressive record of public service.



    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    BBC Documentary on Nigerian Drug Regulatory Agency (NAFDAC) Wins Award

    A survey conducted by the World Health Organization a while back found more than half the drugs on sale in Nigeria were fake or sub-standard.British Broadcasting Corporation.

    The Dr Dora Akunyili-led Nigerian National Food and Drug Agency (NAFDAC) has performed exceeding well in implementing and enforcing major regulations, and bringing back santity to the often-risky Nigerian food and drug sector.

    Until her arrival, writes the BBC, "NAFDAC, like many other government organisations in Nigeria, had functioned little better than a toll gate. Importers simply paid a bribe to get their products into the market...When the public saw the dragons she [Akunyili] was slaying, she may have become Nigeria's uncrowned queen, but the counterfeiters fought back. They burnt down NAFDAC's offices... shot her in her car.... she survived."

    The agency and some of its activities have been discussed on this site and other Nigerian sites. The agency was also the focus of an award-winning BBC TV documentary: This World: Bad Medicine, produced by Olenka Frenkiel in 2005. This documentary has won the Peabody Awards, an award given in recognition of "outstanding achievement in broadcasting and cable", the award is also open to works produced for "alternative distribution, including corporate, educational, home-video release, CD-ROM and World Wide Web."



    Monday, May 08, 2006

    When it is Necessary to Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

    "I don't really know myself [why the report was never released]...I did my job as a civil servant"--Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi- a senior government official and the head of the team that probed the Pfizer's illegal clinical trial in Kano.

    This is the concluding part of an earlier post: Did Pfizer Use Nigerian Children as Guinea Pigs?

    When I discussed suspended global AIDS funds and the incompetence of some Nigerian healthcare managers, I didn’t realize more bombshells would drop- first the was Julius Berger's unethical drug policy and now, Pfizer criminal clinical trial.

    Those in doubt of Pfizer’s wrong step should read Dr Peter Ross’s article on The Huffington’s Post. Dr Ross was the former Vice President for Pfizer, he became well known in 2004 ‘when he emerged as the first drug company executive to speak out in favor of reimportation of drugs’, according to his biography on the site.

    As I concluded in the earlier post, the ‘unkindest cut’ came from the Nigerian officials who investigated and found that Pfizer seriously contravened and acted in ways that was contrary to medical standards and regulations but kept quiet. Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi, a senior health official was surely one of those that inflicted those cut.

    Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi appears to have his fingerprints and handwritings on the Pfizer blunder. Dr Nasidi was the head of the investigative team that examined the Pfizer clinical trial and found that the “experiment violated Nigerian law, the international Declaration of Helsinki that governs ethical medical research and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child” quoting the statement on Washington Post that first broke the news.

    "I don't really know myself why the report was never released...I did my job as a civil servant," said Dr Nasidi in a telephone interview with the Washington Post.

    Dr Nasidi is a senior civil servant, a health professional, a professor (he's an academic in the health/medical field, I’m not sure if he’s a physician though), and as the Director of Special project in the Nigerian Federal health Ministry, he owes Nigerians an apology for his unprofessional and lackadaisical statement and attitude.

    It was wrong for him to have sat on his butt and not ensure that the report got the attention it deserved. If he really believes in what he professes, and values his reputation, he would have gone above and beyond what a low cadre official would have done- which is to do nothing. He knew his report was 'gathering dust on a shelf' somewhere, yet he kept quiet knowing fully well that many children were violated and lives lost because of the trial. I wonder how he was able to sleep at night.

    That is not all, Dr Nasidi is also associated with the administrative blunder that led to the freezing of the AIDS fund reported earlier on this blog; as the head of a national health task force on HIV/AIDS, he is part of the inner caucus of the Nigerian Health Ministry and definitely a member of the team that applied for, and monitors the AIDS grants, one of which got suspended in April this year. This is an excerpt of Dr Nasidi’s statement to the BBC on HIV/AIDS treatment in Nigeria:
    “Those that are already receiving the treatment that were paying that token money will just be getting the drugs free of charge. [For new patients] all the drugs will also be given to them free of charge."
    It is interesting that some of the reasons given for suspending the AIDS fund is that the “country [Nigeria] failed to meet targets on drug access and transparency”. In other words, the financiers have no confidence in the data presented by Dr Nasidi and his team on the number of Nigerians who have access to HIV/AIDS medications/treatment. Secondly, the financier found the accounting system of the task force fuzzy and dubious.

    Attitude like Dr Nasidi’s will get Nigeria nothing but failure upon failure as the nation strives to get out of the quagmire. What can get Nigeria going is for government officials to not be mere 'civil servants' and 'just do their jobs'. Nigeria needs passionate and committed minds to run its affairs; not some Nasidis that would be contended to just sit on their butts and 'mark time at work’ on the tax-payers’ money, and gallivant all over the world attending meaningless conferences and seminars! No wonder nothing works in Nigeria!

    It is convenient to heap all the blame on Dr Nasidi, but because I'm a Nigerian and understands the Nigerian system is fraught with limitations that are uncommonly encountered elsewhere, I can relate to the man's circumstances and probably why he kept mute. But regardless of his circumstance, he could have done better.

    What does it take to have Nigerian whistle-blowers like Dr Peter Ross (the former Vice President for Pfizer)? It is dificult. Even in the United states, it stops being a tea party the moment one crosses the line and start 'whistling'. But if not for these few conscientious souls, many great injustice and evil would never have made the limelight.

    It takes commitment, courage, passion, and a deeper understanding of the concept of 'common good'. It takes having loving families and loyal circles of friends. Most importantly, it takes a society that appreciates honesty and the rule of law.

    To some degree, these are issues that have eluded Nigeria right from its birth, and which the nation will grapple with for many years to come. The extent to which Nigeria can muster and inculcate these attributes into the collective psyche of its citizens will determine, to a larger extent, its success as a progressive nation.



    Did Pfizer Use Nigerian Children as Guinea Pigs?

    Those you have seen the movie The Constant Gardner can probably relate to this post better, the only difference is that this isn’t a movie script; it is real, and it occurred in northern Nigeria in 1996!

    There are strong indications that Pfizer, the world largest drug manufacturer, did conduct an illegal and fraudulent clinical trail in 1996 at a remote location in Kano, northern Nigeria. The subjects of experiment were some children who were treated for meningitis with an illegal antibiotic called Trovan.
    “…Pfizer never obtained authorization from the Nigerian government to give the unproven drug to nearly 100 children and infants. Pfizer selected the patients at a field hospital in the city of Kano, where the children had been taken to be treated for an often deadly strain of meningitis…There are no records documenting that Pfizer told the children or their parents that they were part of an experiment…An approval letter from a Nigerian ethics committee, which Pfizer used to justify its actions had been concocted and backdated by the company's lead researcher in Kano”--Washington Post.
    The Washington Post claims it has one of the three copies of the confidential report written by Nigerian experts commissioned in 2000 to investigate the Pfizer clinical trial. What is intriguing is that the report has remained unreleased for five years despite inquiries from the children's attorneys, from the media, and the findings that the ‘experiment violated Nigerian law, the international Declaration of Helsinki that governs ethical medical research and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.’

    ‘Mum’ is the word in Abuja over the report; the health minister has refused to comment, and everyone connected to the experiment has either developed convenient amnesia or denied any wrongdoing.
    “The Nigerian government has neither contacted Pfizer about any of the committee's findings nor are we aware that the committee has approved a final report. Therefore it would be inappropriate for the company to respond to specific points in the document….”-- Pfizer
    It is somewhat interesting that the post preceding this dwells on a similar topic- Julius Berger and its unethical drug policies.

    The action of Pfizer is not really a surprise because anyone half familiar with modus-operadi of any mega company and multinationals would know how dirty and rotten they are. These non-fictional movies: Erin Brockovich: where a woman ‘single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city's water supply’, and The Constant Gardener have shown how it's done.

    What is most painful, however, is that those that should be the custodians of the people, somehow, became amnesic when it mattered most. Well, this isn't a surprise either...hasn't this become the norm in Nigeria?

    See: for the final piece of this post.



    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Julius Berger, a Nigerian Multinational Sanctioned for Unethical Drug Policy

    Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, a Nigerian offshoot of the German multi service group- Bilfinger Berger, and a major player in Nigerian socioeconomic landscape has been nailed for unethical ‘pharmaceutical practices and discriminatory administration of drugs’ by the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) late last month. The regulatory agency has since shut down all four pharmaceutical drug stores of Julius Berger.
    “…The organisation keeps two separate stores, at different climatic conditions for the storage of drugs for expatriate staff and Nigerian staff...While drug stores for expatriate staff of the company conformed to required conditions, the stores that serve Nigerian staff did not only fail required conditions, but it contained drugs made by blacklisted Sinochem Nigbo of China.”—ThisDay, April 28, 2006. Fake Drugs: NAFDAC Seals Julius Berger Drug Stores
    The NFADAC boss, Ms Dora Akunyili, states:
    "Julius Berger has committed multiple offences in Nigeria. A situation where the expatriates do not use drugs given to their Nigerian counterparts. Apart from that, they also sell out the same drugs to Nigerian drug marketers and also supply clinics. They will never taste the drugs meant for their Nigerian workers. We are not pushing them out of the country, but we want them to know that what they have done is wrong and NAFDAC will not leave them to just go unpunished. The company they sold some of these fake drugs to are already known to us. We will ensure they stop such barbaric act in Nigeria".—ThisDay, May 5, 2005. Fake drugs: Julius Berger to pay fine.
    This is despicable! It marks a new low in corporate irresponsibility and flagrant disregard for human lives by both indigenous and multinational companies operating in Nigeria. This shameful neo-colonialistic mentality and attitude of Julius Berger must not be treated lightly; it demands the most stringent punishment and sanctions possible under the law.



    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    When a Minister Turns into a Road-side Medic

    Motor vehicle accidents are common in Nigeria, and are fatal most of the time it occurs. The victims either die instanta or moments later; many while waiting to be retrieved from the accident site by medics that don't exist, or while on their way to a medical center.

    I don't really know how to react to this accident story in ThisDay (posted below), a Nigerian newspaper, where a member of the Nigerian federal government (Dr Mimiko) found himself playing the role of a medic/rescue coordinator at the site of a fatal motor crash. Perhaps all is not lost yet for Nigeria, because it is not uncommon for top government officials, who usually travel in convoy and at high speed, to ignore accidents victims along their route.

    Here is the story as written in ThisDay newspaper, all yours to spin as you wish:

    The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko yesterday found himself at the head of an emergency rescue team when his convoy ran into the scene of a ghastly motor accident which occurred a few kilometres away from Kwali town along the Abuja-Lokoja highway.

    Four people, all men, died on the spot while more than 10 others sustained varying degrees of injuries.The accident which involved an Edo-registered Mercedes Bus was said to have been caused by a burst rear tyre while the vehicle was on high speed.

    According to a lucky survivor who sustained minor injuries and just simply gave her name as Kate, the vehicle took off from Zuba Park in the Federal Capital Territory and was heading for Lagos but had a burst tyre less than 45 minutes into the journey. She said the driver lost control when one of the rear tyres burst and threw the vehicle off-course leading to several somersaults before it finally rested by the road side after throwing out several passengers.

    On seeing the confused situation at the scene, Dr. Mimiko quickly took control as there were no rescue efforts before his arrival. He quickly organised a rescue team from among his personal aides and some lucky survivors of the accident.

    While he checked the condition of the victims and offered first aid to those that were still alive, his security details controlled traffic and organised vehicles to take the wounded to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital which was a few kilometres away.

    The minister’s background as a medical doctor was quite evident as he was very professional in organising the rescue team and offering first aid to the victims.



    Are Nigerian (Healthcare) Managers Simply Incompetent?

    Following the EthnicLoft's introduction of the multi-authored Nigerian university blog Unilag Faces, I have spent some time perusing the entries on the site. The site do offer some unique insight on issues commonly discussed on the Nigerian blogosphere. This post "Bad Theatre conditions" is one of such.

    The author, Pablo, writes about an emergent surgery done on an accident victim at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH) where the "Surgeons had to operate on the patient in a very hot and humid environment. The main problem here is that, the air-conditioners have been out of use for so many months..."

    Now, one can start stating the obvious and ranting about the poor funding of hospitals and other public institutions in Nigeria. Well, that is getting a bit stale I'm afraid.

    What has the LUTH hospital management done to source funds and endowments from the private sector and wealthy individuals in Lagos? After all Lagos is the financial and business capital of Nigeria.

    The non-functioning air-conditioners at LUTH, is just one example of the poor managerial skill of some of those running public institutions in Nigeria. Now, I won't be surprised at all if the LUTH CEO's office has working air-conditioners...

    If Nigerian healthcare administrators can't manage air-conditioners, how can they formulate and successfully implement policies? Do they even have the skill-sets necessary for the successful management of major grants and projects?

    At present, Nigeria may lose a $50-million-grant because of some administrative blunder:
    "One of the main financiers of Nigeria's fight against HIV/AIDS halted about $50 million in assistance on Friday [April 28, 2006] because the country failed to meet targets on drug access and transparency. The board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria voted to suspend two five-year grants after just two years because of low numbers of people on anti-retroviral drug treatment and concerns over data accuracy..."
    Nigeria was first suspended from the Global AIDS Funds in December 2005, that decision was later rescinded after reassurrance from the Nigerian president. In addition, the government promised to provide free anti-retroviral drugs:
    "Nigeria's government will provide all anti-retroviral drugs needed to fight HIV/Aids free of charge..."Those that are already receiving the treatment that were paying that token money will just be getting the drugs free of charge. [For new patients] all the drugs will also be given to them free of charge..."--Nigeria to offer free Aids drugs on BBC, December 23 2005.
    This promise definitely holds no water. This is also a sad confirmation that Nigeria has a serious problem- the absence of seasoned and qualified managers at the helms of affairs. It is disturbing that even when there is access to free money through grants, some Nigerian bureaucrats (or technocrats) can still find ways to mess things up. This is preposterous!



    Monday, May 01, 2006

    The Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2006

    Section 21, subsection 1-4 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2006:
    "Any person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the Bank is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or to both cash fine and imprisonment.”
    This Act is introduced to the National assembly today by the Nigerian President, seeks to curtail the abuse, tampering, and counterfeiting of the country's currency, Naira. It also outlaws and criminalizes the “spraying of currencies” at any social gatherings.
    “…The spraying of, dancing or marching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under subsection (1) of this section.”
    Spraying is defined by the law as: “Adorning, decorating anything or any person or any part of any person or the person of another with naira notes or coins…It also explained "marching" to include spreading, scattering or littering of any surface with any naira notes or coins and stepping thereon.”

    Also, "a coin or note shall be deemed to have been tampered with if the coin or note has been impaired, diminished or lightened otherwise than by fair wear and tear or has been defaced by stamping, engraving, mutilating, piercing, stapling, writing, tearing, soiling, squeezing or any other form of deliberate and willful abuse whether the coin or note has or has not been thereby diminished or lightened…”

    Only those who have seen a 'mutilated' Naira would understand the rationale behind this bill. However, I find really amusing that 'squeezing', and 'writing and stamping' a Naira note is now an offence! I don’t really are about ‘spraying’ I’ve never supported in it.

    From the tellers in the air-conditioned halls of the mega banks, to the roadside orange sellers and bus conductors; many will contravene this aspect of the law when it goes into effect.

    Section 21, subsection 1-4 of the CBN Act is just another example of unenforceable laws, and I will be surprised if anyone is ever prosecuted for ‘spraying’ and ‘physically abusing’ the Naira as stipulated under this law.

    It is interesting that that of all the numerous legislative fixes needed in Nigeria, this is one of those being pushed by the presidency.