It’s no longer news that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, left the shores of the country on January 19, 2017, to commence a 10 day vacation in the United Kingdom. There is nothing wrong with this as the President is entitled to annual vacation. The 2008 Public Service Rules specify a 30 day annual vacation for the highest grade level. These rules apply to the President as far as there is no inconsistency with the constitution. As is expected, President Buhari wrote the National Assembly, following due diligence, to hand over power to the Vice President in his absence. During his 10 days off, he planned to ‘undergo routine medical check ups’… almost typical of the average upper middle class Nigerian… leveraging their vacation abroad to conduct health checks. No prizes for guessing why this happens. He was due to resume February 6, 2017.
On the eve of the tenth day of his leave, the President communicated again to the National Assembly, extending his vacation “in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors”. He did not specify how long this extension would last. Again, nothing particularly wrong here. Due process was followed and his vacation duration has not exceeded the annual allowance.
Let’s work this backward a little bit. To resume on Monday February 6, after 10 working days off-work, means the first day of vacation should be Monday January 23. His letter to the National Assembly also corroborates this. However, what was the effective start date of his 10 day vacation?
A quick look at section 145 of the constitution which was referenced in his communication to the National Assembly – “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation… until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
When did he transmit to the National Assembly? January 19. Has he issued a written declaration to the contrary? No. So may we infer that according to law, the President’s functions were transferred to the Vice President on January 19, hence his vacation commenced same day and by same inference, his original vacation duration was 12 working days and not 10 days as widely publicized? Did our incorruptible President tell an inadvertent lie?
The interesting thing is that this is not the first time Nigeria is being thrown into a moment of uncertainty regarding the whereabouts and state of the President.
In the early hours of January 15, 1966, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, was abducted from his residence by coup plotters and led away to an unknown destination. For 5 days, no one knew the state or location of the Prime Minister. Within this period, the coup attempt had fallen through with Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi taking over leadership after some form of ‘agreement’ with the Council of Ministers, so there really was no lacuna at the top administratively… but the whereabouts of the Prime Minister remained uncertain. Unfortunately, he was discovered dead in some bush along the Lagos – Abeokuta road.
Similarly, in July of the same year, Nigeria witnessed the infamous 1966 counter coup. The plotters arrested the then Head of State, and led him away similar to the January occurrence. Several days after, the state and location of the Head of State was unknown, despite the fact that a semblance of leadership had assumed the seat of power. You may argue again that there was no real vacuum in leadership but there was uncertainty about the erstwhile leader.
Fast forward to November 2009 when the serving President was flown out of country urgently for medical treatment. This case is peculiar as it presented both public uncertainty and a lacuna in leadership. For over 2 months, his status was shrouded in some form of secrecy leaving Nigeria to drift in stormy waters like a rudderless ship. His omission to formally write the National Assembly and transfer the duties of leadership left Nigeria in the hands of a corrupt and treasury looting cabal. Unfortunately, it took his death for uncertainty to give way. With the eventual intervention of the Nigeria Bar Association, Supreme Court and the Senate’s ‘doctrine of necessity’, power was transferred to the Vice President in a bid to set the nation on the right path.
Today, there are still similarities. With the President transferring power legally to his Vice, he commendably averted a leadership void. However, there are quite a few uncertainties. What is the true status of our President, beyond being ‘hale and hearty’? Besides being located at Abuja house in London, where is his true location? Is he more in the hospital, taking pictures only at convenient moments or are those just rumors and imaginations? Did he request and announce a 10 day vacation when it was actually 12 working days? Is he entitled to 30 calendar days or 30 working days of leave or an unlimited duration? 30 calendar days was exhausted February 19. 30 working days will be exhausted March 1. So.. is this really ‘annual leave’ or ‘sick leave’? How long is a serving President allowed to be away from duties before we are forced to ask whether he remains capable of resuming work to discharge his duties?
The clock is ticking, the opposition is raging, the world is watching. Will the political class join hands to intervene (like the doctrine of necessity) or insist on strict observance to extant laws regulating how long a public servant can be away from work? Time will tell and history may just be the best guide to answering these questions.
We live in a time where information is readily available to help both businesses and individuals plan and make good decisions. Yet, in 2015, Nigeria still struggles with primary data and statistics to enable proper national planning. Almost 3 decades since oil was first discovered, the opacity within the industry is appalling. Nobody seems to know how much oil is produced per day at each wellhead, the volume of oil stocked at each refinery on a daily basis or the inventory is held at the refineries hold on a going basis. It is not surprising that a popular joke around suggests the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) does not even know how many bank accounts it operates!
How Much Petrol Do We Consume?
In its November 2011 report on “The real cost of subsidy and tax implications, PWC estimated our daily consumption as 32 million liters. According to Punch in October 2012, demand was 40.32 million liters per day. The Journal of Petroleum and Gas Engineering in November 2013 puts this figure at 30 million liters per day. In the same month, November 2013, an online news platform, published national daily consumption as 39.66 million liters, quoting the immediate past Minister of Petroleum. September 2014, another online news platform reported daily consumption as 40 million liters per day. February 2015, The Nigerian Guardian reported same national metric as 40 million liters per day. This is probably why the current public impression is somewhere between 30 and 40 million liters per day. What is the basis for these figures? Is there any clear statistical method to support this? If we are unable to accurately estimate daily demand, how do we know what quantity of petrol to import? It seems Nigeria does not know how much petrol it consumes, but like our former President once said, maybe America will know… or perchance the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics might help. In May 2015, the NBS initiated plans to conduct a survey on domestic supply and demand for petroleum products. Hopefully, when this survey is completed, we will have clarity on how much petrol Nigeria consumes. While we anticipate, let’s see whether the NNPC can help a bit.
The NNPC actually logs some data on supply and distribution of petroleum products but the reports are often delayed (most recent is March 2015, published July 2015) and carry a huge disclaimer: “Although NNPC endeavors to ensure accuracy of information in these documents, it cannot guarantee 100% accuracy nor can it be held liable for errors that may occur. Users are to note that use of any information herein is purely at their discretion.”
A review of 2014 product distribution data shows that 4,375.7 million liters of PMS were distributed across the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory by the NNPC, Major marketers and Independent Marketers. “Disclaimer: Product distribution data was not received from majors like Forte Oil, MRS Etc. at the time of the report”. 544.2 million liters of Household Kerosene (HHK) and 416. 3 million liters of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) were distributed nationwide through the year. This puts the average monthly distribution for 2014 at 364.6 million, 45.3 million and 34.6 million liters of PMS, HHK and AGO respectively. 2014 daily distribution extracted from same data yields 12.2 million, 1.5 million and 1.2 million liters of PMS, HHK and AGO respectively.
In 2014, the FCT, Delta and Lagos States received the largest volume supplies of PMS from NNPC distribution. 2014 volumes distributed by Independent and Major Marketers are not broken down by State.
2015 daily distribution (January through March) as extracted was 12.6 million, 1.0 million and 0.6 million liters of PMS, HHK and AGO respectively.
A consistent trend observed from the NNPC reports is the average daily distribution of PMS. From 2014 through 2015 March, the data shows an average of 12.3 million liters of PMS distributed for consumption per day. If we double this to cater for disclaimers (non-available data from some oil majors) and unknowns, it results in a worst case estimate in the range of 25 million liters of PMS per day.
This raises some important questions around the difference in consumption. Does Nigeria consume 25 million liters per day or 40 million liters? How much of this is consumed locally and what percentage is smuggled to neighboring countries where petrol sells for at least N140 per liter? In a period where fuel subsidy costs exceed our capital expenditure, it is important to understand how much wastage can be cut from budgets. For this to happen, the NBS needs to be properly funded to undertake the necessary research and data gathering needed to capture local information and aid national planning.
Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections are due to hold in a couple of days, barring any last minute changes to the rescheduled date, March 28. The poll was initially scheduled for February 14 but deferred due to ‘security concerns’, as stated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The postponement was not a welcome development to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the country’s strongest opposition political party, considering the massive momentum and traction gathered ahead of the planned February 14 date. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the other hand appeared to be in sync with the decision to reschedule. Popular public opinion holds that if the elections had been held as initially planned, the APC would have come out victorious, perhaps inching towards a landslide. This impression was further alluded to by the likes of Dr. Frederick Fasehun, leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), in a speech delivered at a post-national conference forum on March 20.
The six weeks of postponement have afforded the ruling party a little more time to ramp up its campaign efforts, with a reported unrestricted flow of cash incentives to party loyalists and the public at large in a bid to secure sufficient votes to return the incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to power. Public impression was that APC momentum had burned out, its campaign funds exhausted, to the extent that even campaign jingles via traditional media were few and far between compared with the PDP’s which appeared to have been heightened. Town hall meetings also became a major channel employed by both parties, reaching out to multiple voting segments.
Several conspiracy theories characterized the six week waiting period, chief of which was the alleged plan of the PDP to ensure that Prof Jega, the electoral body chairman, was removed from office via terminal leave on or before March 28. Three days to the elections, Prof Jega still remains the INEC chairman. Likewise, there was the war against the use of PVC’s and card readers, considering that INEC only decided to run a public sample test post February 14. The tenacity and commitment of INEC and its stakeholders met this opposition effectively, restoring public confidence in the use of PVC’s and Card readers as part of anti-electoral fraud initiatives. INEC continued to progress distribution of PVC’s to eligible voters and to date has recorded an approximate 82% PVC collection rate. This assumes that out of 68.8 million registered voters per 2015 Voters Register, 56.4 million have received their permanent voter cards.
The success of the military in its onslaught against insurgency in the North East has told its own story so far. Regardless, there are still major concerns surrounding the seeming ‘strategic’ timing of this recent wave – “why wait to do in 6 weeks what should have been done over 6 years?”
With the 6 week waiting period almost exhausted, it is natural to expect to see a shift in focus from conspiracy theories to election result forecasting on several bases and assumptions. Leveraging data from INEC’s Voter Register per geopolitical zone, assuming historic voting patterns adjusted to reflect current political sway, an average of 65% voter turnout in each State, admitting the influence of incumbent governors on their states, ongoing public response to party campaigns, and intuitive subjectivity, the table below presents an individual forecast of what may be expected. It is by no means the final result and cannot be so interpreted. Rather, it is a prediction anticipating several cross comparisons. This forecast predicts a majority victory for the APC in the presidential elections with 18.4 million over PDP 17.0 million votes.
For cross comparisons, share your forecast here
Don’t give up! This phrase has become the mantra of motivational speakers, spoken regularly to millions the world over. Many at their wits end have found life in it.
If there is anyone who has become a living example of this message, it is none other than the retired General, Muhammad Buhari.
Buhari was presidential aspirant on the platform of ANPP. Polling 19% of votes, he lost to PDP’s Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
Buhari contested the same number one position as flag bearer for CPC. He lost to PDP’s Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the incumbent Nigerian president.
Again, Buhari is listed as one of the the key aspirants contesting for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket.
Buhari started contesting for the presidency when he was 61 years old. At 72 years of age, 11 years and 3 tries later, he is still running – for the same position.
The question that lingers in the minds of many Nigerians is: ‘why?’ Why is Buhari running for the same position over and over again? Does this reveal a quest for ultimate power by any means? Did he forget something in the State House? Is he suffering withdrawal symptoms?
Recall however that this same man has led the country as Military Head of State (Dec 1983 – Aug 1985). Prior to that had served as Military Governor for the North-East, Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Chairman NNPC and Chairman PTF. Buhari is not new to Federal power! Been there, done that, with a much talked about record of integrity.
From the foregoing, it seems unlikely that the retired General is power-craving.
So is he bored? Or does he still feel shortchanged, having been sacked barely two years into his sojourn as Head of State in 1985?
Is there something the retired General knows that we do not? Does he hold the magic wand to the peculiar art of governance in Nigeria, ready to wave it on being voted in?
On assuming power via a military coup on the last day of December 1983, his speech commenced with what could be considered a mandate: “In pursuance of the primary objective of saving our great nation from total collapse…” He referenced Nigeria’s dwindling economy, national insecurity, legislative largesse, financial indiscipline, economic mismanagement, and a corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership. Is today’s Buhari driven by the same urgent call of duty to ‘intervene’ and save the nation from imminent collapse? An analysis of Nigeria today reveals a country unchanged from 1983. Politics is still a life or death game, legislative largesse goes without saying, financial indiscipline is still rife, corruption has escalated to sophisticated dimensions.
Is Buhari joining the race, again, because he thinks he has the capability and experience to fix Nigeria? What did he fix 1983 – 85?
The reality of that first stint in the presidency, thirty years ago, is worth exploring. It was tainted by public perception of his initiatives as being extreme and authoritarian. His ‘War Against Indiscipline’ (WAI) program, though noble in its intent, was brutish in experience. Nigerians were forced by whip-brandishing soldiers to queue up at bus stops; tardy civil servants were subjected to ‘frog jump’ punishment, and press freedom restricted.
In a bid to grow the economy, import bans were put in place, causing a rise in commodity prices, ultimately resulting in inflation.
Subsequently however, his stint as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) between March 1995 and May 1999 demonstrated a level of prudence, and strength in financial management.
The general perception is that Buhari managed the excess oil revenue fund with transparency and efficiency, successfully executing projects nationwide, regardless of the impression that they may have been skewed towards the Northern region.
It ultimately remains unclear what exactly underpins General Buhari’s determination to return to power, what fuels his passion for dusting himself off again and again.
Why is Buhari running… again? Perhaps the weeks ahead will make that clear beyond doubt…
This post was first published via YNaija under the title “Our government has made things worse for us“
Our government has done it again! It is tough enough already for Nigerians who travel frequently to different corners of the world… the numerous cases of profiling, stereotyping and undue suspicion that meet any individual carrying that green passport, leave many wondering why they were born in such a country. The age-old stigma of being 419ers’ and intrinsically corrupt humans remains an every moment battle for those in the diaspora. Despite these prevailing circumstances, the Nigerian government has plunged the nation into an embarrassing scandal. On the 5th day of September, 2014, 9.3 million dollars was transported from Nigeria to South Africa in cash via a private jet. Thankfully, the booty was intercepted at a South African airport by Customs officials who were vigilant enough to observe ‘irregularities’ perhaps while scanning the luggage. A total of three bags were intercepted and cash, laid out in 90 packs, worth $100, 000 each, confiscated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The three passengers on the aircraft alleged that they transported the cash to procure arms in favor of Nigerian security services. $9.3 million is the equivalent of N1.5 billion, the worth of 40 four bedroom duplexes in Lekki axis.
Why was the cash seized? South African laws stipulate a maximum amount of cash allowed to be brought in country by an individual. According to the SARS, “Currency brought into or taken from South Africa is monitored by law. Should you have more than $10 000… this must be declared”. These three passengers transported over 900 times the limit… it does not take a prophet to guess that they did not attempt to declare same.
Was this cash movement, now deemed illegal by South Africa law, truly in favor of the Nigeria government? A known Nigerian newspaper details its findings from a ‘top intelligence official’ as follows “The security chiefs took time to explain that urgent security issues warranted the direct purchase of the arms”. There we have it. A government at the peak of the rollout of a cashless initiative, decides to procure arms via the movement of raw cash to the point of contravening the laws of another country. Fail! As if that were not embarrassing enough, worse still is the report that the security chiefs had to take time to explain to the President why this line of action was undertaken. For a country whose President is also named the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, it is shocking that such a decision seems to have been taken with urgent action implemented, oblivious to the C-in-C. Fail!
Where was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through this process? What happened to wire transfers? Where was the cash withdrawn? The CBN? Or from wardrobes in a house as typified by one-time Governor of Delta State?
It is clear that there was no plan for transparency and financial accountability in the execution of this transaction, rather an obvious attempt to avert process and procedure to the point of illegality. The entirety of the story is clandestine.
There is also the issue around the ownership of the private jet involved. It is owned by a firm, Eagle Air Company, in which Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has vested interest. Pastor Ayo is currently the president of Christian Association of Nigeria. However, the company has issued a statement indicating that the aircraft was leased commercially by a certain John Ishyaku for a Lagos – Johannesburg – Lagos flight. Was Eagle Air and/or Pastor Ayo aware of the purpose for which the aircraft was hired or not? Are there any guiding regulations by the NCAA requiring full disclosure of intent for aircraft hire? Is there a valid case of aiding and abetting or rather pure happenstance? In the country which we live in, the default mindset on such occurrences is that there is some form of collusion, no matter how passive it may be. It is pretty much a form of guilty until proven innocent. There is hardly any reason to alter this paradigm as yet. As usual, the country expects to hear that investigations are underway… but until one case of corruption is seen to completion, with the guilty charged and punished, the hope for justice remains just that, hope!
Here again, we are confronted with a leadership gaffe. True leadership ensures that urgent decisions with far reaching impacts, are taken at upper echelons, with full alignment of stakeholders and at least due notification to other affected parties. Actions are implemented in conformance with laid down guiding principles. Processes are put in place for efficient execution. For example, a procedure exists for transacting urgent huge sums of forex to foreign recipients, in favor of government purchase. Someone, somewhere in the chain of command, breached management procedure or as it is popularly dubbed, due process, and has plunged the country into an embarrassing scandal.
In the final analysis, the only thing to worry about is whether strong action will be taken against this leadership blunder. Yay or nay? Do the nays have it?
In case you missed it, the President’s May 29 speech is as below:
I greet and felicitate with you all, today, as we mark 15 years of uninterrupted democratic governance in our beloved country.
Our dear nation, Nigeria, has certainly come a long way and made notable progress since our first Democracy Day on May 29, 1999 when the military finally relinquished power and handed over to a democratically-elected government, marking the true beginning of a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Although I have ordered a low-key commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day in deference to the current mood of the nation, there can be no doubt that the past 15 years, the longest period of sustained democratic governance in our country, have been a blessing to us, as a people.
As we commemorate 15 years of our Fourth Republic today therefore, I believe that it is fitting that we pay tribute once again to all those who played a part in restoring our nation to the true path of democratic governance, built on the foundations of rule of law and freedom of expression.
As a result of our collective efforts since 1999, democratic governance is now entrenched in our nation and institutions. I wholeheartedly believe that our people are the better for it. The scope of fundamental rights and liberties enjoyed by our people over the past 15 years has been expanded beyond measure.
On my watch, we have witnessed high national economic growth rates, steady improvements and expansion of national infrastructure including airports and roads, the restoration of rail transportation, the efficient implementation of a roadmap for improved power supply, a revolutionary approach to agricultural production, as well as advances in education, sports, youth development, healthcare delivery, housing, water supply and other social services.
In the oil and gas sector, our promotion of a sustainable local content policy, continues to guarantee equity and better opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs and skilled personnel.
Significant increase in mobile telephone and national broadband penetration, making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. We have also developed strong financial markets and regulatory institutions. Our banks now have regional and global footprints.
Nigeria has also gained recognition as the largest economy in Africa, the most preferred investment destination in the continent and in terms of returns on investment, the fourth in the world. We are pleased that the world has noticed, as global leaders converged in Abuja early this month for the World Economic Forum in Africa.
The event not only witnessed a record attendance, it brought the prospect of an additional flow of investment into the Nigerian economy estimated at over $68 billion over the next few years.
In foreign relations, our country has equally done well within this period, by establishing and strengthening strong partnerships with all ECOWAS countries and the rest of the world. This has helped to deepen Nigeria’s leadership role in multilateral institutions including the United Nations.
Furthermore, under this administration, we have made consistent progress in improving the standard of elections in our country to ensure that they are ever more credible and truly representative of the people’s free choice. The National Conference we initiated to deliberate and make recommendations on the best ways of resolving our current political and socio-economic challenges is on-going. It is our expectation that its outcomes will help to further consolidate the gains we have made from democracy in the past 15 years, and place our dear nation even more firmly on the path to greatness.
It is a sad fact that as I address you today, all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores. Our dear country, Nigeria is facing a new challenge. A war has been unleashed on us. Extremist foreign elements, collaborating with some of our misguided citizens, are focused on an attempt to bring down our country and the democracy and freedom we cherish and celebrate today.
The despicable abduction of school girls from Chibok in Borno State has brought to the awareness of the entire world, the heartless brutality of these terrorists who want to instigate a descent into anarchy and balkanize our nation.
In recent years, terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of several of our compatriots, many have been injured or maimed, whole villages and communities have been destroyed and the economy of some of our states is in jeopardy.
There can be no doubt that what we are witnessing in Nigeria today is a manifestation of the same warped and ferocious world view that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, killed innocent persons in Boston and led to the murder of defenceless people in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd. Terrorist activities have brought war and pains to Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These agents of evil continue to brainwash and incite ignorant young men and women to attack the innocent. We cannot allow this to continue.
I welcome the statements of solidarity from patriotic citizens and the global community in support of our efforts to stamp out terrorism. I applaud the understanding that in a democracy, such as we are building, people can have differences while sharing worthy values and standing together in opposition to the scourge of terrorism. Nigeria is the only country we have and we must all work to preserve it for present and future generations.
Despite the challenges we face, we must commend our security forces. We must not forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond. Our forces have paid the supreme price in several places at several times.
Today, they face a different challenge, an unconventional war by terrorists. They are adjusting and are being equipped to tackle the new menace of terrorism. We must show confidence in their ability. I have no doubt that, with the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists.
It is now 45 days since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians and I assure them once again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our daughters home.
I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country, and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable. I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.
I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away – it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.
My government, while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents, and to ensure their de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society.
We must remain united to win the war against terrorism. Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear.
The war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hardwork, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces.
We are a strong, resilient and courageous people. We will continue to partner with the civilized world, to confront international terrorism and every other challenge that comes our way with patriotic zeal and determination.
Yes, we have challenges but we will surely overcome. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria is blessed. We will all collectively protect, defend and develop this country for ourselves, and our children.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thank you and God bless Nigeria.”
In the early hours of Saturday, March 15, 2014, thousands of job applicants made their way to 37 test centers nationwide as directed by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). The test centers comprised trade fair complexes, football stadia, high schools and tertiary institutions. Applicants were further instructed to come along with the following – acknowledgement slip, means of identification, writing materials and clothing suitable for physical exercise.
Matter of fact, the recruitment exercise did not start here. September 2013, the NIS published a notification for general recruitment. Applications were solicited from suitably qualified candidates (SSCE, NCE, ND, HND, BSc, PhD holders). The outlined process required interested applicants purchasing an ‘Access Code’ for a sum of one thousand naira (or more… the jury is still out on how much was required) via designated bank(s). This code was then to be used to complete an online application. Candidates who completed this successfully got an acknowledgement slip issued to them.
As expected, in November 2013, there was public outcry against this application fee charged to interested candidates. In response to this, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, explained that the one thousand naira fee “is the charge by the consulting firm to defray cost of accessing the website to fill forms. This is also intended to save the applicants the cost of travelling to Abuja to submit their application forms, as well as avoid other inherent risks, including unauthorized middlemen activities and other abuses”.
Furthermore, personnel in the same Ministry expressed reservations about this levy citing that a potential six billion naira would be generated from an estimated six million candidates. Was this a recruitment drive or revenue generation gimmick? Did the NIS not include recruitment in its plan and budget for this financial year? How was this to be funded originally? Where in the world do employers charge job applicants as little as a dime?
Nigeria’s unemployment rate is put at 23.9% (2012), on the increasing trend over the past couple of years. Too many Nigerians are unemployed. They are available and able to work but a quarter of the labor force is out there seeking employment on a daily basis. It therefore is a no brainer that the response to an NIS job vacancy advert would be in the thousands. People are looking for jobs, and for a country where government is perceived to be the biggest employer of labor, the quickest means to inexplicable wealth, and the leapfrog catalyst from grass to grace, it is only normal to expect such a massive response to a government job vacancy.
While there is no confirmed official count of how many attended the purported NIS job test, informal reports have it that football stadia in Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja were appreciably filled to the higher tens of thousands. When a thirsty man hears there’s water around the corner, he will expedite his steps in that direction. It is likely the NIS and its consulting firm anticipated this massive turnout, influencing the choice of test center types, predominantly stadia.
What kind of recruitment test is conducted at a football stadium anyway? What was the plan to structure the seating arrangement for candidates? Was the personnel supervision requirement for this large expanse even considered? There was going to be a written test as applicants were asked to come with writing materials. Are there desks or writing pads in a typical Nigerian football stadium? How were applicants supposed to write? How would they have prevented examination malpractice in such a large and porous venue? Applicants were also asked to come with suitable clothes for physical exercise. Was this to be conducted at the same venue, in the same duration as a written test? What manner of thought process failure seems to be demonstrating itself thus? Was there no option to conduct the test first in batches, and then in phases with the physical examination/exercise/fitness phase done on a subsequent date?
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam is held annually in Nigeria, with well over a million candidates. Recently, JAMB announced the designation of 256 centers planned for the 2014 exam. Why couldn’t the NIS synergize its job test planning with such tested formats? What consulting firm was hired for this recruitment drive? Was there no plan to shortlist candidates from online applications as a crowd control measure?
Furthermore, candidates were requested to be at the venue by 7am. Access to the venues was definitely a challenge with the massive turnout and ill-prepared personnel. There are reports of candidates having to jump fences to get into the stadium. By the rule of convergence, when you have a large volume of substance approaching a narrow flow point, there is bound to be pressure build up. This principle is evident in traffic jams all over the country – 4 lanes reducing to 2, a jam results. Similarly, a few venue gates (say 8 hypothetically) serving a crowd of 20,000 people results in 2,500 people attempting to rush through 1 gate. This failure to plan and anticipate unknowns became a carefully orchestrated set up for a stampede. People desperate to get in, eyes on the prize – that government job with supposedly limitless opportunity, too few access points, more people trying to get in, impatience, fear, uncertainty, confusion, pushing, nudging, prodding … a breakdown of order.
Unfortunately, there were casualties. It is feared that there were as many as 7 fatalities in Abuja alone. Nigerians who left home in the morning, in pursuit of a job, ended up in the morgue. They came to the NIS for jobs, but got death in exchange. God rest their souls.
There are not too many words fit to describe this sham of an exercise than failure – Failure to outsource aright; Failure to leverage and synergize; Failure to protect; Failure to solve; Failure to execute; Failure to deliver! What a mess indeed. A peculiar mess. A national embarrassment.
Over the last few weeks, Nigerians have again been faced with an age old occurrence, commonly dubbed fuel scarcity. This is a national phenomenon that has recurred over and again. There are numerous and quite memorable accounts of people taking turns to spend days and nights at petrol stations, on endless queues, in the attempt to buy fuel for use. Many have honed additional driving skills learning to maneuver their cars into the smallest available spaces, outsmarting sleeping drivers, all in a bid to buy tens of liters of premium motor spirit, petrol. It is appalling, having this particular problem persist over the years, same manner, similar process, typical triggers, without a true solution. Daily national demand for PMS continues to be an educated guess and has consistently ranged between 35 – 40 million liters in the recent past. In basic economics, scarcity arises from a limited availability or supply of resources compared with the attendant demand for the same. So what suddenly truncated national PMS supply? For a country whose citizens depend squarely on petrol (Premium Motor Spirit) as fuel to power their vehicles and household generators, why is the supply chain periodically challenged?
It will be odd to hear a crop farmer complain of hunger when his harvest is obviously full, except his produce is being constantly pilfered under his very eyes, or the infrastructure required to process the crops into valuable food is unavailable, dilapidated or out dated. However, this is a clear picture of the national situation. Sitting on such massive hydrocarbon reserves, we have been unable to effectively operate and manage the infrastructure to harness value accordingly. The four refineries with a total refining capacity of 445,000bpd operated at an average capacity utilization of approx. 28% YTD Oct 2013 – processing 124,600bpd of crude able to yield approx. 10 million liters PMS/day.
Comparing this local supply to the anticipated demand of 40m liters, there is a significant volume left to supply. Where an organic solution to production fails, an inorganic intervention may suffice. As such, the nation constantly needs to import the shortfall of products to satisfy demand. When importation is impaired, delayed or truncated for the slightest reason, scarcity results. According to the head of NUPENG’s tanker drivers, “importers got their permits for the first quarter only last week and this has created a shortfall in supply“. Why should import permits for 1Q14 be issued at the end of February, when two-thirds of the quarter is already gone? Consequently, fuel depots across the country have been emptying on the go, and most ran out of product supplies by mid-February, according to the union head. As at January, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had shortlisted 32 marketing companies for importing petroleum products including NNPC (with the highest import allocation) and other major marketers. Yet, there is a shortfall supply spanning February to March.
What kind of planning results in this? Who is responsible to issue import permits? Were import permits really delayed? Why were they delayed? What happened to the principles of demand forecasting and fulfillment? Is there some unseen angle to the story? The solution to this scarcity is not seen in the reactive measure of inspecting petrol stations to apprehend those selling above the stipulated pump price. Such opportunistic behavior is only typical of the market, where price goes up in the face of rising demand and dwindling supply, with businesses attempting to maximize an economic rent while they can. The root cause is a supply side issue. Cause and effect – Eliminate the cause, eradicate the effect. Supply! Supply! Supply!
Again, one of the core concepts of change management within any industry is communication and involvement. In the execution of projects and/or daily operations, changes are bound to occur to typical routine processes, whether anticipated or not. What makes the difference for the manager or leader is the ability, skill and will to proactively communicate change effectively to the workforce and affected stakeholders, keeping them abreast of the what, the why, the how and when of changes. Sometimes, our government agencies need to take a cue from this. Be upfront about situations irrespective of causes. Is it such an arduous task to make an unambiguous statement on national news, clearly keeping the nation abreast of when and why there is fuel scarcity, what exactly the mitigation interventions are in the short term, and what the long term solutions to prevent its further recurrence are? Unfortunately, this is a country where information asymmetry is pretty much the norm.
Is the leadership of the nation pleased to have its workforce wake up early Monday morning, with worries of how to get fuel to drive to work instead of applying same ‘gray matter’ to develop breakthrough ideas that can foster economic growth? Will we grow our GDP (leave rebasing aside for a bit) when majority of the labor force spends most of their productive time running up and about town searching for petrol stations selling fuel? Or commuters stranded at bus stops for hours because even the commercial transport system is paralyzed due to the same situation? Or researchers and technocrats spending their time at fuel queues when they should be churning out solutions and formulating policies?
Someone, somewhere, needs to fix this recurring issue once and for all! Yet, given the foregoing, one wonders when import permits for the second quarter will be granted! Scarcity continua?
An overview of national refineries performance through 2013. Available data is limited to Jan – Jun 2013