An overview of national refineries performance through 2012.
Signalling is basically an indirect means of transferring information between two or more parties via available communication channels. The ‘agent’ transfers the message, while the ‘principal’ receives, analyzes and acts on it. A most common example in economics involves an individual seeking employment. The individual signals to the employer by constructing a resume replete with skills, expertise, competence and experience that will command attention and intrigue, influencing the employer to schedule an interview subsequently. Every day, individuals engage in varied forms of spoken and unspoken signals to pass across messages to others. Husbands signal to wives and vice-versa, subordinates to bosses, and leaders to followers.
On the 12th of March, 2013, there were reports that the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, requested approval from the Council of State to grant presidential pardon to a list of individuals, including former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Now, history has it that Mr. Alamieyeseigha was sworn-in as Governor on May 29, 1999, re-elected in 2003 for a second term, and impeached for corruption related charges on December 9, 2005. According to the BBC, he was initially apprehended in September 2005 as he travelled through London, and subsequently charged to a UK court for money laundering. London Metropolitan police actually found £1m in cash at his London home. He was granted bail in the UK having surrendered his passport. Nonetheless, Governor Alameiyeseigha surfaced quite mysteriously in Bayelsa in December 2005. He unfortunately could not recall details of his miraculous transit from London to Nigeria. Eventually, in 2007, he pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and false declaration of assets at a Nigerian High Court, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison; 2 years each for the 6 charges, running concurrently, backdated to his first arrest 2 years earlier. Because of the backdating he ended up spending less than a day in prison.
Such is the profile of one of the major purported recipients of the March 2013 presidential pardon. This development really shouldn’t surprise anyone as the president once referred to Alameiyeseigha as his political benefactor. Again, this is rational and understandable because Mr Jonathan served as Deputy Governor to Alameiyeseigha from 1999 to 2005, emerging as Governor after the latter’s impeachment. A benefactor is one who helps develop and bring up another, and as such, there is permissible reason to Jonathan’s description of the ex-governor. No surprise there.
The real issue however is the message emanating from the Jonathan-led government. The agent has signalled the principal. The leader has acted, leaving the followers to hear, see and receive. The masquerade has danced, the village ponders. The gong has been beaten, the subjects mull over the sound. What exactly is this government saying to the people?
A number of possibilities exist – one, it could be a simple gospel type message starting with “He who is without sin should cast the first stone”, and ending with the verdict “Alams, go and sin no more”. Two, maybe it’s the government’s way of demonstrating its Transformation Agenda… changing destinies, transforming ex-convicts. After all, amnesty is granted to militants as part of transformation. Old things have passed away and (by transformation) all things are new. Third, perhaps it’s an obvious signal that a Nigerian can assume an Executive role, commit economic and financial crimes, mysteriously jump bail, spend a day in prison, get released, and assume political relevance again – all it takes is time. Recall that Mr Bode George, who was indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison for fraud, got released in February 2011, to meet much pomp and celebration.
What impressions are being created in the minds of the young generation? That fraud, theft, and economic crimes are frequently embraced by this regime? Or in simple terms, that you can do whatever you want, serve your time ‘creatively’, and emerge eventually as a celebrated personality?
How do teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools teach their students not to steal? How do professors communicate the rudiments of ethical behaviour to their college students? How do you convince the average trader on the streets not to engage in undue opportunistic behaviour in a bid to achieve abnormal profit? How will religious folk, juxtapose the message of ‘sowing and reaping’ with vivid stories of transformed ‘ex-convicts’ around? What are the impacts of such signals on national values, if they still exist?
It would help if there were a commensurate number of corruption cases fully investigated, charged and convicted by the same regime. We however struggle to cite any cogent cases. Little wonder the Opposition considers Jonathan’s government of lacking the capacity to tackle corruption. When people see dark clouds in the sky, it is only reasonable to assume that rain is about to fall. When the orchestra sees the conductor wave his baton, it is time to play. When the entertainer hears the rhythm and kick, it is time to dance. They are only reading the signals.
Information is power… a commonly referenced phrase. The world, at large is said to be in the information age. Clearly, knowledge is king in these digital times. An individual’s wealth of information and knowledge can very well distinguish him or her. Where it remains difficult to access knowledge, the bane of societal transactions results… information asymmetry. Information, in today’s world, must be available, accessible, verifiable and reliable.
Every now and then, one hears this question thrown to the public fore – “How do I join a political party in Nigeria?” “What’s the process to follow?” Naturally, when people require such information nowadays, a Google search does the trick, yielding as many results as possible, meeting the information need. However, a quick Google search for the process of joining a political party in Nigeria yields little or no information. Link to link, page to page, there is hardly a well laid out process for joining. So, for the politically minded Nigerian youth, interested in getting involved at the minimal level of party membership, information asymmetry is the first bottleneck.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) website, there are currently 25 registered political parties in Nigeria. 7 of these have listed websites, but only 2 are functional at the moment – PDP and ACN. Websites have become a basic and primary information channel. The PDP website alone includes a page on ‘How to Join’, detailing eligibility for membership and steps to follow at Zone, State, Local Government and Ward levels. No other party website provides this information. In a country with up to 135 million connected GSM lines as at December 2012, such information ought to be widely spread and readily available online and perhaps on mobile devices. The inadequacy of reliable and clear information in this regard has resulted in people depending on ‘word of mouth’ as an alternative source of information on how to join a political party.
The generally accepted and verbally communicated process of joining a political party in Nigeria is as follows: Interested individuals are advised to visit the respective party headquarters at their Wards and seek the attention of the Ward Secretary (Each Local Government Area is subdivided into Wards for political purposes). The individual will fill a party registration form and provide supporting documents and payment as may be required by the party. Once registration is judged to be complete, a membership card will be processed and issued to the individual as confirmation. Then, the individual is referred to as a ‘card-carrying member’. Political parties typically hold weekly Ward meetings which members are expected to attend. A simple process, yet, requiring increased awareness and widespread documentation.
The least expectation is that each political party manages a functional website, publishing therein its national structure – a breakdown of Zones, States, Local Government Areas and Wards with contact details for party officials at each level. An individual who seeks to join a political party should be able to pick an internet enabled mobile phone, browse the website for the party of interest, navigate the national structure down to the Ward closest to him/her, copy details of the responsible party official, make an inquiry call and/or physical visit. Information should be at the public’s beck and call. So, while the PDP site provides initial information on ‘how to join’, it needs to incorporate information and contact details down to the Ward level. It currently lists PDP State Chairmen with few of their contact numbers but excludes details on LGA and Ward officials.
The Lagos State Government has been kind enough to publish via its website, the list of all Lagos State LGA’s, respective Wards and contact details of the Chairman and Vice Chairman – a ready-made template for each political party to adopt. The Oyo State Government website has a similar list of LGA’S within the State. Unfortunately, there is no breakdown of the Ward structure for each LGA, neither are contact details included.
Moreover, each political party should fully explore and execute the option of online registration for prospective party members. The Action Congress of Nigeria seems to be the trailblazer with this concept and may be testing it already via its Join ACN Today link.
In enhancing our growing democracy, information on political processes and requirements for partial or total involvement must become readily available to the average citizen. The ease and speed of accessing reliable information are key success factors to increasing and improving political involvement especially for Nigerian youth.
A quick peek into how our national refineries have fared through 2012.
Available data is limited to Jan – Aug 2012
Blanket bans were a hallmark of the military era in Nigeria in the ’80s and ’90s. Many will recall the infamous announcement of government takeover by General Abacha in 1993:
“The National and State Assemblies are dissolved…The State Executive Councils are dissolved… All Local Governments stand dissolved… The two political parties are hereby dissolved… All processions, political meetings and associations of any type in any part of the country are hereby banned.”
Such was the character of military style leadership – command and rule. Democracy on the other hand eschews such top-down insensitivities. It rather embraces the voice of the people, evaluating the impacts of both actions and inactions of leaders on the people.
Accordingly, one would hardly expect that an evolving mega city like Lagos, within a democratic dispensation, would employ the use of a blanket ban to fix the issue with motorcycle taxis, popularly referred to as ‘okada’. While the arguments in favour of the ban may be cogent, the strategy of execution generates much concern.
A critical analysis of the issue further elucidates this discourse. What is/was the primary issue? Okadas had become very conspicuous on Lagos roads. Like flies, these motorcycles swarmed both major and minor roads, meandering their way around traffic, constantly plying the route of least resistance, oblivious to every traffic sign and signal, scarcely seeing the need to apply the brakes even in precarious conditions. Consequently, they became highly accident prone, leaving many Lagosians with severe injuries, orthopaedic damage, and in extreme cases, death.
Numerous accounts have also been told and recorded of theft and armed robbery involving the use of okadas especially at ungodly hours. Obviously, based on the foregoing, okadas became a high risk to public safety, health and security in Lagos State.
Having understood the ‘What’, the discourse is furthered by root cause analysis to define the ‘Why’ – Why did okadas ever become a means of transport? Why is the use still sustained? The answer is simply expressed – ‘a need’.
Motivational speakers and business people have for ages spoken of identifying public needs as a trigger to business solutions. Similarly, there was a transportation need, a gap. The inability of existing public and private transportation to adequately cover the metropolis, irregular routes, bad roads and inconspicuous locations created a need. The inability of the State to rid its roads of traffic-induced downtime created a need for a faster means of transport. Okadas became the solution to a public need. Furthermore, okada, while meeting public transportation needs, provided employment to many young unskilled men, providing them a steady cash flow. A government-induced public need simply attracted a private-driven innovative response, laden with high risk. It was labelled ‘okada’.
Juxtaposing the ‘what’ against the ‘why’, one wonders, how does a government manage a ‘high-risk’ solution to an obvious need? Eliminate the solution with its attendant risk, thus re-creating the need? Or tactically work out a withdrawal and substitution parallel plan? So far, what has been done is an outright ban, elimination. Yet, the need persists and commuters are stranded at bus stops, previous okada riders become unemployed, creating another risk of idle hands, prone to evil and crime. Elimination ultimately creates another risk cycle of unemployment and crime.
The alternative is a multiple prong approach. First, effective communication and involvement of the public is paramount in determining a substitute solution with less risk. Perhaps consider an initial withdrawal of all okadas, then a substitution midway – with appropriate structure and controls in place. Motorcycle lanes should be marked out/demarcated on all major roads. A parallel follow-up to this may be a re-registration program for all potential motorcycle riders involving an intensive mental health check, safety indoctrination, road traffic education, several driving tests, motorcycle road worthiness, first aid training, and some business planning and management for value-add. Licenses should be issued only to successful candidates. Each okada driver should then be deployed to a pre-determined local government area with bi-weekly surveillance reports.
A similar case is seen in the construction of a highway within a city, leaving residences on both sides. While this portends a solution, it nonetheless creates a need. Pedestrians may need to move from one side of the road to the other. A high-risk solution rears its head – run across the road. Ban pedestrians from crossing the highway? No. Rather, build usable average height pedestrian bridges at regular crossing points. Employ change management to motivate pedestrians to use it.
In the bid to eliminate adjudged high-risk solutions, government must endeavour to avert re-creating public needs. A blanket ban hardly augurs well in the long run. Public need will always beckon innovative solutions, each with attendant risks. Parallel substitution is vital.
Eliminate solutions? No. Eliminate needs. Provide solutions. Improve solutions. Mitigate risk.
“In the next 10 years, Nigeria will be the largest producer of cocoa in the world”.
This was the prediction of African agriculture experts from Conservation Alliance in April 2012.
Cocoa has witnessed tremendous growth in production and demand over aeons. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, there has been a 3% annual increase in demand for the past 100 years. Being the key ingredient in the production of chocolate, this continuous growth in cocoa demand is in tandem with the budding demand for chocolate.
Annual global consumption is estimated at 2.8 million tons with the key consumers comprising Europe, Brazil and the US, while annual cocoa production is estimated to be in the range of 3 million tons, with 70% of this sourced from West African countries. The World Cocoa Foundation further predicts a 3% yearly growth in global demand for cocoa.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2010, ranked Nigeria as the 4th largest producer of cocoa in the world, with a 2010 output of 0.4 million tonnes. Apart from crude oil, cocoa is the highest foreign exchange earner in Nigeria. There are 14 states endowed with the appropriate climate to grow the crop, namely Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Taraba, employing over 5 million people nationwide. Southwest Nigeria accounts for 70% of the country’s cocoa production. Majority of the product (>90%) is exported annually.
National cocoa production and export value has grown over the years by an average of 40% year on year, and a cumulative of 280% from $215m in 2006 to $822m in 2010 according to the National Export Promotion Council (NEPC). The agricultural industry, specific to crop production, contributed 27% to 2010 GDP and grew to 34.5% as at 1Q 2012. Crude oil, the major driver of GDP, constituted 43% of GDP (2010). Judging from these statistics, it is clear that the Nigerian government, both at Federal and State levels, has no need of a crystal ball to foretell where national wealth should be created and harnessed. The agricultural sector holds such strong potential for job creation and mass employment.
With an available market and fair economic potential, cocoa expansion should be central to the economic master plan of these Nigerian states. Majority of the producing farmers in Nigeria are said to run small-scale operations, via family farms. Cocoa is a delicate crop especially in its tender years, requiring much care and shelter from the sun and wind. How do these farmers expand their production without well structured, low-cost financial support? Favourable environments must be created for lenders to invest, thus providing customer-friendly, long term financial products to support expansive cocoa production. These products should target all sectors of the production chain – upstream farmers, mid, downstream transporters, marketers, shippers and processers.
Downstream, opportunities remain to be exploited. Chocolate, a cocoa-centric product, is heavily imported into Nigeria from Europe and the US. This is ironic for the obvious reason – cocoa is grown in Nigeria, packaged and exported for processing into chocolate and other by-products, which in turn are imported to Nigeria. Yet, according to Fairtrade Foundation, the downstream sector currently earns 17% share of a chocolate bar value, while processing factories earn the majority 70% share. The residual share is accruable to the upstream producing farms. As such, cocoa producing states must begin to lure the private sector to invest in cocoa processing firms within their regions. The challenges of power supply and security notwithstanding, innovative means must be explored to incentivise such in-country investments. Manufacturing firms will always require skilled and unskilled labour, ultimately driving employment rates up. Corporate taxes on the other hand will boost the states’ fiscal position.
The old Western Region holds a historical example in this regard. Under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, cocoa was the mainstay of the regional economy with resultant visible infrastructural developments. The establishments of Cocoa House (the first skyscraper in tropical Africa), Western Nigeria Television (the first television station in Africa), Liberty Stadium, and the introduction of free primary education, were all based on cocoa proceeds.
Indeed, there is a cocoa alternative which Nigerian states, through their public and private sectors need to aggressively embrace and exploit. The next three years will tell.