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How to wreck a country

By anyone’s standards, Lybia is a failed state that threatens to destabilise the rest of Africa. The blame for this lies with NATO, writes Moffat Ekoriko

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama must be gifted in euphemism. Asked about the outcome of the NATO intervention in Libya, he said it is a “mess”. The reporter who anchored the interview apparently taken aback wrote: “Mess is the president’s diplo­matic term; privately, he calls Libya a ‘shot show’.”

The reality is that Libya, once one of the most stable countries in Africa with high ratings on the human development index (HDI), has become a failed state. Hell would have been a better four-letter word to describe a country with no functional gov­ernment, ridden with competing armed mili­tias and one of the three with territories held by the Islamic State. The chaos in Libya is down to the NATO military intervention in the country of 2011, which went ahead despite the protests of the African Union.

As at the time of going to press, the gov­ernment of national unity formed at the instance of the United Nations in January was still based in neighbouring Tunisia. It was meant to end the feud between two rival administrations, one based in Tripoli and the other in the eastern town of Tobruk. The new government, made of 32 cabinet members, was the culmination of a UN- backed peace process. A nine member pres­idential council was set up and tasked with the mandate of appointing the new admin­istration. On the surface of it, this new gov­ernment should work. It has representatives from the two rival parliaments. Fayez Sarraj, a politician from the east will serve as the prime minister. Al-Aref al-Khoga, former interior minister from the west, retains his portfolio in the new arrangement. Khaled Nejm from the east will be responsible for information with Mahdi al Barghathi, an army commander from the east taking charge of defence.

However, given the chaos prevalent in the country, the new government is unable to set foot in Tripoli. Reports say the planned relocation of the new unity government to Tripoli was thwarted by Khalifa Al Ghweil, the prime minister of the Tripoli-based fac­tional government. The new government is also suffering legitimacy questions following the inability of the internationally recognised parliament based at Tobruk to pass a reso­lution endorsing it.

Aguila Saleh Issa, the president of the the Tobruk parliament, had called for debate to endorse the new government, March 28, but there are not enough members to form a quorum. Although the new government said late March, that the security arrangements for it to relocate to Tripoli were complete and that it was mindful of “saving Libyan blood” and therefore wanted to move there when there is guarantee of peace.

Ghweil does not appear to be thinking of that peace. A day before the announcement, he closed the airports at Tripoli and Misrata following rumours that Sarraj was going to fly into the country to assume office., leaving thousands of travellers stranded at the airport.

Even when the new government takes over, it will have to grapple with the wors­ening security situation in the country. Libya is now broken into fiefdoms controlled by different militia. Efforts to disarm the militia have been frustrated by the absence of a national army and a stable political authority. The government faction in Tripoli is backed by Islamist militia. What should be the national army is controlled by Khalifa Haftar, supportive of the Tobruk govern­ment but opposed to Islamists. In between the two major forces are tribal and town based militias.

To compound the security crisis, the dreaded Islamic State (IS) has made Libya its third area of operation. With forces based in around Sirte, the home town of Gaddafi, the IS forces pose a threat to any attempt to impose a nationwide order. Apart from their trademark brutality, IS forces are kid­napping people from as far afield as Tripoli and Adjabbiya. Late last month, they exe­cuted three Libyan army soldiers seized while on leave from their duty posts in Benghazi. The presence of the group has also attracted the intervention of foreign forces. US troops have carried out regular air attacks against the group (without seeking the consent of any government in Libya). So have the Egyptians and the Emirati.

As the security situation worsens, so has the economy. Oil production dropped to 396,000 barrels per day in February against peak production of 1.4 million barrels per day before the overthrow of the Gaaddafi government. The standard of living has plummeted as Libyans face shortages and spiralling cost of staple foods.

It will be an uphill task to stop Libya from falling into complete anarchy not to talk of restoring it to stability. That Libya is in such a state is down to the recklessness of the NATO for effecting regime change and failing to take responsibility for stabilising the country after that. President Obama who led the military operation to topple Gaddafi, said he had believed that the Europeans (in this case, Britain and France) would invest in the follow up. Some Middle East experts like Alan Kuperman of the Texas University at Austin think the present crisis in Libya was totally avoidable since NATO had no real reason to intervene.

So what went wrong? Towards the end of 2010, the Arab Street was very restive. A revolt had dramatically sacked the govern­ments in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt. The success of the protesters had started what was called the Arab Spring. The once impregnable autocrats of the Mddle East, not least Muammar Gaddafi, were looking vulnerable.

In February 2011, following the arrest of a lawyer representing the families of 1,200 people who died in prison, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and later spread to other urban areas. The security forces batded to contain the unrest, which were becoming increasingly violent. By the middle of March 2011, the protests had turned into a full blown rebellion but much of Libya lies bi ruins following NATO’s disastrous intervention the rebels were no match for Gaddafi’s forces. One city after the other, the security forces established order, save for Benghazi, which had become the de facto epicentre of the rebellion. It is at this point that foreign forces stepped in, claiming that Gaddafi was planning to massacre his own people there.

Countries that had axes to grind with him quickly rallied round the rebels, investing their political and diplomatic capital to win them legitimacy. Media from the west and Gulf countries quickly swung behind the narrative. Aljazeera’s false report that Gaddafi’s air force was strafing and bombing civilians in Benghazi was seized upon by those pushing for a no-fly zone. The Saudi- owned channel Al Arabiya reported falsely that the death toll from the clashes was 10,000. Human Rights Watch documented only 233.

Sections of the rebel leadership, much of which had been courted by the CIA for years, were emboldened. The height of this support was a Linited Nations Security Council resolution, which was obtained under the guise of preventing a massacre of civilians by regime forces. The UN Resolution 1973 (passed March 17, 2011) imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and autho­rised the use of all necessary means, save an occupation, to protect civilians. This sup­posed humanitarian intervention was a follow up to the sanctions and embargoes earlier imposed on the country three weeks before then.

Unknown to many, including the Russians who abstained, the trio of the US, Britain and France secretly had regime change at the top of their agenda. Within 24 hours of that resolution, NATO forces attacked Libya. Targets of air strikes included members of the government. With such an advanced air force at their disposal, the rebels became hostile to all efforts at achiev­ing a political resolution.

One of such efforts that was rebuffed by the rebels came from the African Union. After its opposition to military intervention was ignored, the AU came up with a peace plan. The plan was spearheaded by a high powered committee led by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Other members of the committee were presidents Mohammed Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Amadou Toure of Mali, Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazaville and Yoweri Museveni of Llganda.

Under the plan, there was to be an imme­diate ceasefire, unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, protection of foreign nationals, dialogue between the government  and rebels on a political setdement and the suspension of NATO air strikes. The embattled Gaddafi, after meeting with Zuma and three other heads of state plus the foreign minister of Uganda in Tripoli, readily accepted the roadmap. But with NATO behind them, the rebels binned the plan. They insisted there would be no peace until Gaddafi and his sons stood down. NATO was equally dismissive.

What was most shocking was the approach of the western media. According to the BBC in its report of the peace plan: “The situation is muddied by money. Col Gaddafi has bankrolled the AU for years and he has bought friends in Africa.” Translation: the AU has been bought by Gaddafi.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The funding of the AU is through the contribution of all member states and the ratio is pre-determined based on the financial capability of individual countries. Libya’s contributions would have been based on the agreed parameters. Even then, it would not have been more than the contributions of Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt. Besides, such funding would be by Libya as a member state and not Gaddafi as an indi­vidual.

Even with the rebuff from the rebels and insults by the media, the AU did not give up. Zuma made a further trip to Tripoli six weeks later but NATO was in no mood to stop despite further concessions by Gaddafi. Contrary to the perception in the west, the AU dreaded the consequences of Gaddafi’s forced exit from power. There were three dangers: One, Libya could become a failed state. The tribal and ethnic mix of Libya was such that the forced removal of the government would make it difficult to build a political consensus for post- Gaddafi sta­bility. Having lived with consequences of Somalia, African countries knew the cost of having a failed state in the region.

Two, Libya had a huge arms arsenal, which would be difficult to secure in such a vast country. AU felt that these arms would spread all over the region. Three, there were other Africans in the Libyan Army who would return home with military skills to pose a destabilising risk to their home coun­tries. Four, among the rebels were Islamists and terrorists and the AU feared the conse­quences of giving them a safe haven in an post-Gaddafi Libya. Gaddafi, himself, in a tearful letter to Obama, begged NATO to back off so that Libyans could decide its future “within the African Union frame”.

Africa is paying a high cost for NATO’s arrogance. The arms looted from Libya has found its way to armed insurgents in many different parts of the continent. The country itself has become a haven for ter­rorists, threatening the spread of IS. President Obama thinks the problem with Libya is that NATO did not enter the country with a force strong enough to rebuild Libya after the war.

Kuperman thinks the president is wrong. “The error in Libya was not an inadequate intervention effort, but the decision to inter­vene in the first place. The AU is vindicated.”

 

 

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Living up to his promise

Udom Emmanuel, governor of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State, won elections on the back of his promise to transform the state into an economic powerhouse. So far, he is on the right course.

In the run up to the last elections, Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, was touted as the right candidate for the right job at the right time. An accom­plished technocrat, he was promoted as the man who could build on the legacy of his predecessor to take his people to the prom­ised land of economic prosperity. Nearly one year into the job, he has met the expec­tations of his people. He is developing a network of roads to connect the economic centres in the state into one hub; he is boost­ing the power generation capacity of the state to provide the energy to drive an indus­trial revolution, and he is deepening the state’s educational capacity to provide the skills base to drive the economy. On top of all this, he has launched a major re-orienta­tion campaign to change the mindset of the people from that of a dependent to one driven by the sheer drive to succeed. His Dakkada (‘Rise Up’) campaign is pushing the people to realise their potential for great­ness.

He has also aggressively pursued the development of infrastructure to underpin his industrialisation drive. A taxiway, which will also serve as an alternative runway, is under construction at Ibom Airport. Emmanuel has promised to commission the project by the end of July.

He has tackled headlong, the power deficit in the state. Electricity supply is up to 18 hours a day, the highest in the country. He has even secured a licence to generate an additional 685MW of electricity, through the expansion of the Ibom Power plant which currently generates 150 MW a day. 

The results of his hard work in the past months are becoming obvious. The Peacock Paints factory, moribund for more than 30 years, has been resuscitated. At the last count, more than 50 investors have lined up to take advantage of what is emerging as a new economic frontier in the Gulf of Guinea region. His government’s businesslike approach to industrialisation has shortened the turnaround time for the realisation of investment proposals. At the last count, at least 10 industrial projects are at various stages of completion.

Industrialisation

Akwa Ibom State had hitherto been described as a civil service state. At best, one can call it an agrarian state. Therefore, the term industrialisation has been alien to it, but Governor Udom Emmanuel has suc­ceeded in bringing that concept to bear in Akwa Ibom because of his administration’s industrial drive. This is a complete shift from the style of the previous administration. One of the Governor’s cardinal policies before coming to power was industrialisa­tion. This was well encapsulated in his inau­guration speech in May 2015. Since then, a lot has happened, such that even the blind can feel the wave of industrialisation blowing across the state.

In the inaugural address he told Akwa Ibomites: “You have kept your part of the covenant and I intend to keep mine by exe­cuting the programmes I enunciated to you during my official declaration to run for the office of Governor, which include to trans­form the economy of our state via industri­alisation and sustainable public-private sector initiative, thereby opening up oppor­tunities for growth and improved living stan­dards”. It was on this premise that his administration started the current industrial drive in earnest.

To match his words with action, shortly after resuming office, one of the first things Governor Udom did was a visit to the Peacock Paint factory that had been aban­doned for years at Ikot Ekan in Etinan local government area.

The state government subsequently released the sum of N 120m as buy-back to put the factory on track. Today, the factory which is scheduled to produce three million litres of paint a day, is back into productive activities and has engaged unemployed people.

In his commitment to industrialisation, Governor Udom performed the ground­breaking ceremony of an Automotive Assembling Plant in Itu local government area. The plant is in partnership with an Israeli company. When fully operational, it will assemble vehicles like buses, ambu­lances and security transport. It is estimated that at least 50,000 people will be engaged directly and indirectly.

Another landmark in the state govern­ment’s drive towards industrialisation is the plan to establish industrial parks in each of the senatorial zones of the state. As a first step, it is focusing on Ibom Industrial City because it is the international gateway into the state.

The Ibom Deep Sea Port, whose approval was given by the federal government towards the end of preceding administration, is another major step forward in revolutionising the industrial base of Akwa Ibom. On completion, it is expected to redefine maritime business in Nigeria, create employment for thousands and redirect economic activities in the state. Again, it is expected to overhaul the entire cargo handling capacity in the country. This will no doubt, drive youth empowerment, wealth creation and entrepreneurship. There is also the Itam Industrial park and the envisaged Ikot Ekpene Industrial Park, whose conception is in the pipeline.

The current capacity of Ibom International Airport, which at the moment directly and indirectly employs more than 1,000 indi­genes of the state, is also being expanded.. As a result of this, the state government has awarded a contract to increase the ter­minal building to match the industrial dream of the state. To this end, the anticipated structure is expected to be 400m long and incorporate a five star hotel. Also, the runway has been expanded from 3.6 km to 4.2 km, thus making it the longest in the country. According to the Commissioner for Special Duties, Etido Inyang, the whole idea is for these projects to match the new vision of the state government in the area of industrialisation.

Because of the abundance of coconut in almost every part of the state, the govern­ment has signed a memorandum of under­standing (MoU) with a South African firm on a consultancy basis to produce coconut oil and refined coconut produce. This will create an unprecedented number of jobs for the people. 

Besides this, the government is in collab­oration with LED for the manufacture of low energy saving bulbs and production of electricity meters. The moribund Mapo refinery, which has a chequered history in the state, is also being looked into so that it can come on stream in the months to come. With all of these initiatives focused on industrialisation, Akwa Ibom State is on the way to joining the league of states like Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Kaduna. To that extent, the toga of Akwa Ibom being a civil service state will very soon no longer hold sway.

Finance

If there is any state in Nigeria where the public purse is well managed in line with the realities on the ground today it is Akwa Ibom State. This is not only because Governor Udom Emmanuel is a banker by profession but because he brought with him into governance a crop of individuals who are passionate about the need for the lean resources of the state to be well managed in such a way that all Akwa Ibomites can heave a sigh of relief. The people share in his vision and are willing to fly with him. This is the story of the current administration of Akwa Ibom State Government in the area of prudent man­agement of resources.

For example, less than four months in the life of the present administration, the state government brought relief on the way of local government pensioners who were owed at least 10 years’ gratuities. The Executive Secretary of Local Government Pensions Board, Uduak Udoh, said that a total of 719 pensioners had been paid their dues under the first phase of the exercise. These were people who had retired between 2002 and 2011. The second phase of the exercise, he said, would commence as soon as funds were made available. Mary Bassey James, who retired as a Principal Adult Education Officer in Uyo local government in 2010, is one of the beneficiaries. She says that she was on the point of giving up all hope of receiving a pension until she discovered she was on the list of those to be paid. Now she has been able to set up a small business selling cloth.

Glory Stephen Bira from Itu Local Government, once worked as a Market Superintendent. Thanks to her gratuity, she runs a semi-supermarket in front of her house to augment whatever her husband supplies. Another beneficiary is Okon Ben Ekoh, a former Chief Rural Health Superintendent from Etinam local govern­ment. He has now been able to expand the building he acquired as a result of the money.

With the second phase soon to commence, Udoh warned that anyone who missed out on payments had probably not supplied right documents on time. According to him, a thorough verification exercise along with the biodata of each retiree would be carried out to ensure that only those entitled to gra­tuities would get them.

With the dwindling revenues as a result of the fall in oil prices, Akwa Ibom State Government is prepared to harness every­thing at its disposal towards ensuring that its resources are well managed to provide the needed democracy dividends for all.

The Commissioner for Finance, Akan Okon, said the state government should be grateful for having Udom Emmanuel in power at this time in the history of the state: “I'm glad to tell you that the state govern­ment is doing all those things necessary to sustain transparency in government. Even in the face of the dwindling resources coming to the state, the government is doing everything that needs to be done that can have immediate impact in the life of Akwa Ibom people.”

Unlike what used to occur in the past when state money seemed to go missing at the change of government, Governor Emmanuel ensured that all loopholes leading to such a state of affairs were blocked. Because of his experience in the banking sector, he also made sure that there should not be anything like a multiple revenue account so that it would be easy for auditors to access the accounts anytime the need arises. As a result of this, a lot of wastage were checkmated.

To ameliorate the sufferings many Nigerians are currently going through, the state government, less than 100 days in office, facilitated a micro finance loan from the Central bank of Nigeria, for the citizens of the state at nine per cent interest rate. However, the state government took over the payment of the interest to cushion the effects on the people. Depending on indi­vidual ability, beneficiaries borrowed N300, 000, and in some cases N500,000. A few of them even took on N1 m. All these took into consideration the fact that the state govern­ment was aware of what the people were going through. And to ensure self- sufficiency in many areas, local training schemes were also embarked upon for indi­genes of the state after which the government disbursed small allowances to enable trainees to begin a business of their choice.

Today, when some states in the country cannot pay salaries and the few who can pay are up to three months in arrears, Akwa Ibom State Government does not owe any. According to Okon, “The debt profile of Akwa Ibom State is one of the lowest com­pared to other states in the country. For example, so many states in Nigeria took what they call bail-out loan from the gov­ernment to pay salaries but we did not; yet we do not owe salaries. To that extent, you can testify that the extent of our debt profile is minimal compared to other state. Even pensioners in the state who had been owed for up to 10 years have been paid by this administration.”

Education

Education is not new in Akwa Ibom but what is new about the sector is the innovation which the Emmanuel Udom-led administration has brought to bear.

During its first 100 days in office, the state government conceptualised the educational dreams that the new administration intends to pursue for the overall interest of its people. The previous government of Chief Godswill Akpabio enunciated the popular ‘red roof’ project in all state schools, which is still cherished today, but Governor Udom took the initiative further by ensuring that modern innovations are introduced in all schools.

The free and compulsory education for all children in Akwa Ibom, introduced by the previous government, is something the present administration is not willing to com­promise on. The state Commissioner for Education, Aniekan Simon Akpan, says: “Governor Udom Emmanuel, without mincing words, is passionate about education and he is committed to the free and compulsory education, which is one of the cardinal programmes of this adminis­tration.

“Right from inception, he has shown a lot of commitment. This is because the gov­ernment knows that the drive towards indus­trialisation of the state is anchored on sound education. We can actually build the indus­tries in partnership with foreign partners but His Excellency believes that Akwa Ibomites should be the main drivers whenever they take off.

“To that extent, there must be solid foun­dation; that is why the Udom-led adminis­tration is providing the access through the free education campaign. This is why all the primaiy, secondaiy and technical schools are completely free.” That is why, within less than three months in office, the governor approved a N235 million grant to all heads of primary and secondary schools.

On October 1, 2015, the new educational blueprint was launched by Governor Udom. A major drive in the innovation was the introduction of ICT in all public and private schools in Akwa Ibom. As a first step, the sum of Nlm was released to all schools to begin the first phase of connecting all edu­cational institutions to the internet. This is to ensure that all schools in the state are ICT compliant. Towards achieving this, a MoU was signed between the state govern­ment and the Nigeria Communications Commission. So far about 43 primary and secondary schools have benefited from the scheme. Also, more than 100 computers were supplied to these schools in order to support their ICT needs.

To further complement ICT expansion, the 

Udom administration continued the spon­sorship of 30 indigenes of Akwa Ibom study­ing ICT-related courses in India. The stu­dents, who were being trained in Oracle, Information Technology and Cyber Management, all graduated with Masters Degree in IT with specialisation in different fields towards the end of 2015.

During their convocation in India, Education Commissioner Akpan, who was representing Governor Udom, remarked that the students were products of a deliberate effort to consolidate on ICT as laid down by the previous administration in the state. Today, all the graduates are back home in Akwa Ibom in both the public and private sector building up the next generation of ICT professionals. Michael Bassey; Aniefiok Stephen; Mkpongke Mfot; Emmanuel Ekerefe and Umoh Offiong, who were among the MSc graduates from India, said they were grateful to the state government for choosing them for the programme. Aniefiok, an engineering graduate from the University of Uyo, ran a lesson centre in Uyo while some of his colleagues were doing menial jobs. “The exposure this train­ing has given us can never leave all through our lives,” he said. “We are grateful to Governor Udom for not abandoning us after the end of the last administration. We are back and willing to share this knowledge with everyone. There is no aspect of ICT that we did not study in India. Remember that India is the centre of ICT in the whole world.”

The retirement age crisis that had almost crippled academic activities in the state was also resolved less than six months after Udom assumed office. For instance, the mandatory retirement age for all academic staff is now 65 years. That has put to rest the issue which had been lingering for years. Also, the monthly grant of N200m to each of the higher institutions in the state for capital projects was increased to N250m. With this, each of the institutions is now able to carry out capital projects in their respective campuses.

The welfare of teachers in Akwa Ibom has not been compromised by the present admin­istration, say its supporters. According to Akpan, “Training and retraining has been our watchword.” Many teachers have been trained in the last eight months either by the state govern­ment or through collaboration with other agencies. For example, 800 teachers were trained by Mobil last year, of which 400 were from public schools and the remaining 400 were from private schools.

As is the case with other sectors, education in Akwa Ibom has taken another leap forward. 

Emmanuel’s divine mandate

SPEND A FEW minutes with Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and you would think he has a direct line to God. The man who says he cannot separate God from governance believes he has a divine mandate to transform the lot of his people. In a way, you cannot fault his faith. He was carrying on with his career as a professional banker when his predecessor invited him to serve the state as secretary to the state government.

From that position, he contested and won election to the office of state governor. Despite a gruelling legal fight by his opponents, he kept his mandate. He sees God’s hand in all this and in his mission to use his experience in business to turn the state into an economic powerhouse.

Born July 11,1966, Udom Emmanuel, banker, accountant and politician, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the ladder of leadership and service. He was sworn into office as governor of the Oil rich state in Nigeria's Delta region, Akwa Ibom State on May 29, 2015 after running successfully for the office of governor in the April elections on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

His speedy odyssey in the world of politics began in July 2013 when he was appointed Secretary to the State Government of Akwa Ibom State. In2014, he aspired for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in a hotly contested primary election and defeated 22 other aspirants (christened G22) to emerge the PDP candidate.

He went on to win the contest with 999, 071 votes, defeating the All Progressive Congress'candidate, UmanaOkon Umana, who scored 89, 865 votes. 

A native of Awa Iman, in Onnal local government area, Udom Emmanuel attended Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Akpan Ishietin Onna LG A from

where he obtained his West African Examination Council’s Certificate (WAEC). From there, Udom Emmanuel went on to attend the School of Arts and Science, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where he received his Advanced Certificate of Basic Studies (CBS) and a Higher School Certificate (HSC). He enrolled at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in

Accounting in 1988. He has also attended the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD, France. He is a Chartered Accountant by profession and trained with Price Waterhouse Coopers and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management.

Before his appointment in 2013 as Secretary to the State Government, Udom Emmanuel was Executive Director on the Board of Zenith Bank Pic since He joined Zenith Bank in 1996 from Diamond Bank Limited and was the pioneer Manager of its Lagos Central Branch.

He served as Chief Financial Officer of Zenith Bank Pic. He also served as Group Head of Income Optimisation, Financial Control and Strategic Planning Department at Zenith, was in charge of the Telecommunications Sector as well as serving as overall General Manager.

Udom Emmanuel also doubled as Non- Executive Director, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) from 2008 to the time of his appointment, and Director, Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement Systems (NIBBS) from 2009; Non-Executive Director,

Zenith Bank, United Kingdom; Zenith Bank- Gambia; Zenith Bank-Sierra Leone; Zenith Insurance; Zenith Pensions and Custodian; Zenith Securities; Zenith Trustees and Zenith Registrars. 

Emmanuel and his family are devoted members of Qua Iboe Church, Nigeria where he serves as a deacon.

 

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How to wreck a country

Anger over ‘Gulliver’s travels’

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The problem of over-dependancy

FIVE AND A half decades since independence not much structural change in the Nigerian economy has taken place. Crop production still dominates economic activity, followed by trading and services. Oil, though, with a much bigger share of total output today than it had at independence in 1960, remains about the fourth largest sector. Meanwhile, manufacturing, construction and solid minerals contribute less to the economy today than before.

Crops, which dominated exports in the first decade after independence, have been replaced by oil as the dominant export earner in the past five decades. Yet crops supply the bulk of domestic production, employment, trading and and spending today, while oil continues to post weak links with domestic production and employment, but generates a huge chunk of government revenue and foreign exchange for financing imports.

In the absence of structural change, the country’s economic performance depends on the strength of the global economy, essentially transmitted through merchandise trade and commodity prices. In Nigeria’s case, it is principally through oil. 

Commodities, mainly crops, and, since the 1970s, mainly oil, accounted for more than 90 per cent of the nation’s productive activity since 1960.

With only commodities to export, it is not surprising that global economic shocks over the decaded have dovetailed into domestic stagnation and macroeconomic instability for the country. A weak global economy also means weak oil and non-oil commodity prices in Nigeria, inhibiting incentives for their production. Crop and oil production have constricted, government revenue and external reserves both dropped to insignificant levels, putting pressures on government debt, and on an unholy trinity comprising inflation, exchange rate, and interest rates.

Dunnlorenmerrifield (DLM) Research maintains in a recent Economic Update made available to NewsAfrica: “We note that the prospect of significantly increasing foreign exchange inflow

in the short term to restore market equilibrium is largely bleak as it is predicated on a major rebound in global oil prices, increased foreign direct investment and/or an increased export base particularly from non-oil items. The current structure of the nation’s export remains largely dominated by crude oil exports with a contribution of 69.1 per cent recorded in 3Q15 and we note that the ramping up of non-oil exports is a medium term objective. In addition, the uncertainty

surrounding the ‘future of the naira’ further dampens investor enthusiasm towards FDIs. Given the decline in global oil prices, we are not oblivious of the fact that accretion to reserves at this time will be a challenge in view of the country’s reliance on oil export for foreign exchange needs.” DLM continued: “While we note that growth in oil sector retreated further into the negative territory, we also observed the decline in contribution to the nation’s GDP. The contribution of the oil sector to GDP declined to 8.06 per cent in 4Q15 from 10.27 per cent in the preceding quarter, though slightly lower from 8.97 per cent in the corresponding period of 2014.

“In terms of real growth, the oil sector recorded a deceleration to -8.28 per cent during the quarter compared to 1.06 per cent in 3Q15. Overall, we observed that the sector growth and contribution recorded during the quarter is the lowest in eight quarters.

“The weak performance of the oil sector was driven by the decline in the nation’s oil production to an average of 2.16 million barrels per day (mbpd), down from 2.17mbpd and 2.18mbpd in 3Q15 and 4Q14 respectively.”

In 2016, the government intends to lay the foundation for sustainable growth. In his presentation of the budget, President Buhari said: “The 2016 budget is designed to ensure that we revive our economy, deliver inclusive growth to Nigerians and create a significant number of jobs. We aim to ensure macroeconomic stability by achieving a real GDP growth rate of 4.37 per cent and managing inflation. To achieve this, we will ensure the aligning of fiscal, monetary, trade and industrial policies.”

(NANTA), Segun Adewale, has called on the government to do all that is possible to address the economic hardships facing the country and review its forex policy, which is affecting the aviation industry.

Latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data compiled for Stanbic IBTC Bank by Markit Economics Limited shows that Nigeria’s private sector economy slipped into reverse gear during February. “After having pointed to a notable growth slow­down in January, the latest seasonally adjust­ed PMI signalled an outright deterioration in business conditions,” said Markit Group.

“This was a survey first, driven by unprecedented falls in output and new orders. Official figures updated to the fourth quarter of 2015 released last week were equally worrying. Annual growth of GDP at market prices in the fourth quarter eased to a new low of 1.8 per cent, a far cry from the marked expansion seen in the same period during 2014 (6.4 per cent).

“The recent downturn in the PMI and continually low oil prices suggests that growth could slow further or even turn negative in the first quarter of 2016. Delving deeper into the PMI dataset, multiple head­winds were flagged in February. Companies indicated that client demand was particularly subdued, leading to a solid reduction in new orders.

“Output dropped as a result for the first time since the series began at the start of 2014. Sharply rising input costs were a key obstacle facing companies in Nigeria. This reportedly stemmed from currency weak­ness relative to the US dollar, which was linked in turn to the ongoing oil price slump. With cost pressures picking up, charges rose at the fastest pace since data collection began. The weak oil price also appears to be hurting exports, which fell at a survey-record pace in February.

The scale of the challenges facing Nigeria was underlined by its status as Africa’s worst- performing major economy in February, according to PMI data. Kenya’s private sector has surged ahead in recent months, but the latest downturn in Nigeria was greater even than that seen in South Africa — a country which has been in contraction since last June.”

NewsAfrica gathered that the next release of Nigerian PMI data from Stanbic IBTC Bank, scheduled for April 5, would provide further clarity on the overall performance of the private sector economy in Q1 2016. It will be interesting to know how the country would fare by then.

While the president argues that the economy is growing, the IMF is unhappy that Nigeria’s external challenges are dete­riorating. The Fund is increasingly worried that Nigeria’s reliance on oil revenues doubled the general government deficit to 3.3  per cent of the GDP in 2015, with exports plunging 40 per cent, and the current account deficit climbing to 2.4 per cent of GDP. Worse still, foreign portfolio flows shrank and caused reserves to fall to $28bn at the end of the year.

With eyes focused on flexible exchange rate policy, the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde visited Nigeria in January to discuss the fall in oil prices, the need for fiscal discipline, and to offer advice on improving tax and debt management. Lagarde also recommended the broadening of the country’s revenue based by increasing VAT.

However, experts say raising VAT alone will not be sufficient to resolve the country’s challenges, with the argument that VAT is like a sales tax in that ultimately only the end-consumer is taxed. They are quick to highlight that it backfired in Japan, an advanced economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hoped it would strengthen the economy while supporting the growth, but realised it weakened the debt-ridden country. They further argue that VAT is regressive that leaves the poor paying more than the wealthy as a percentage of their income.

Figures show that agriculture employs more than 70 per cent of the labour force in Nigeria. Officially, unemployment rate is 10 percent, but analysts believe that the underemployment rate exceeds 17 per cent. More than 60 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line of $2 per day. Given this scenario, VAT would only increase chal­lenges. Moreover, the tax is difficult and cosdy to administer, so revenues are often lower than expected.

It is not all doom and gloom, though. The good news is that sectors with limited foreign exchange availability, increased gov­ernment expenditure on infrastructure and capital expenditure, local content and labour intensive activities, less dependency on bank debt, are export competitive and reliant on large consumer base and urbanisation, are expected to drive growth in 2016. These include civil works, construction and real estate, pipeline and storage, domestic avia­tion, agriculture and power sectors, according to Bismarck Rewane, head of Financial Derivatives Limited.

From whichever perspective it is viewed, the importance of oil to Nigeria cannot be overemphasised. It is the country’s main source of foreign exchange earnings and government financing. It generates 94 per cent of Nigerian export revenues, 70 per cent of Nigeria’s government income and 11 per cent of its GDP. Prices recently tumbled to as low as $30 per barrel before rallying to $40.

It is not surprising, therefore, that growth expectations for the economy have deteri­orated as a result of the oil slump. For instance, the ministry of finance projected growth last year of 5.5 per cent, down from 6.4  per cent at the start of 2014. Sadly, the country’s GDP fell to a mere 2.5 per cent by year-end, a performance described by analysts as the lowest since 1999 when Nigeria made detour to democracy.

In its report on economic scenarios for 2015 and 2016 — ‘What next for Nigeria’s economy? Navigating the rocky road ahead,’ - accountants PWC stated: “We expect that even under a benign economic scenario, the Nigerian economy will struggle to realise growth much higher than 4.0 per cent. Nigeria’s economy has tended to suffer following an oil price crash, although its resilience has improved in more recent times.

 

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New dawn at FIFA

Emergence of a new leader at the summit of world football raises posers on Africa’s fortunes, reports Oladipo Okubanjo

TWO MONTHS after emerging as new president of FIFA, world football’s govern­ing body, Gianni Infantino is fast settling down to business. But, given the corruption crisis that engulfed the organisation last year, the Switzerland-born Italian certainly has his work cut out.

The 46-year-old former general secretary of UEFA, the union of European football associations now has the responsibility of repositioning the organisation so that it will once again command the respect of stake­holders.

Conscious of the fact that under the lead­ership of the now disgraced Sepp Blatter, FIFA was transformed from a near beggarly enterprise to a money-making behemoth that became synonymous with bribery and corruption, FIFPro, the International Federation of Professional Footballers, rep­resenting 65,000 players, has recently set out what they believe are vital steps if Infantino is to succeed as president.

Money matters

FIFPro says FIFA must prove it has the capacity to drive the reform of a democratic and politically complex global body, and treat the game above all as a sport.

According to article 69, paragraph 2 of the FIFA statutes, its revenue and expendi­ture “shall be managed so that they balance out over the financial period”.

Approximately 90 per cent of FIFA’s revenue is generated through the sale of tel­evision, marketing, hospitality and licensing rights for the FIFA World Cup. The revenue from the commercialisation of these rights and sufficient equity is of crucial importance to it because, in addition to funding its range of development pro­grammes and covering general running costs, it must also finance the organisation of various international tournaments, including, most notably, the fifa World Cup.

Almost 70 per cent of expenditure flows back into football development in the form of financial support, development pro­grammes and funding competitions.

And amid revelations in the corruption scandal, which suggest part of the profit made by FIFA might have been misappro­priated, FIFPro says: “A clean break from the past is essential for FIFAto climb out of the toxic pit, which continues to produce serious accusations of corrupt behaviour on almost a daily basis. At the same time, there is no doubt the present mayhem has left FIFA morally bankrupt.”

The politics

In the build-up to the February 26 FIFA presidential election in Zurich, Infantino was seen as the standard bearer for European interests following the withdrawal of Michel Platini, the UEFA president, who was slapped with a six-year ban from football for collecting CHF2m from Blatter and FIFA without a written contract.

But Infantino had a big hurdle to surmount in Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, the Asian football confederation president tipped by pundits as the frontrun- ner, with the Confederation of African Football, CAF, and the Asian confederation - two of the largest confederations that make up fifa - pledging their votes for him.

Infantino, in a bid to break Sheikh Salman’s supposed stranglehold on CAF, reportedly embarked on a diplomatic shuttle to Africa, where he was said to have prom­ised $5m in development grants to each federation, including $lm as travel expens­es, “if required”, should they support him in his presidential bid.

Infantino also flew to South Africa for short-notice talks with Tokyo Sexwale, the only African among the five candidates con­testing the FIFA presidency. Though Infantino denied he was there for a deal, saying, “I have nothing to hide”, Sexwale told reporters: “I’m open to deals ... it’s a secretive process.”

He added: “It’s like the Vatican. You never know what will come out.”

This apparently accounted for why Sexwale dramatically withdrew his candi­dacy on the day of the election. The first balloting did not produce a clear winner, with Infantino finishing ahead of Sheikh Salman 115 to 88 in the second vote.

Future for Africa

However, despite the late backing that Africa gave to Infantino, there are reports that the victory of the trained lawyer sent many football chiefs on the continent into a panic mode. There remain palpable fears that Africa may cease to enjoy the kind of patronage it enjoyed from FIFA under Blatter’s leadership.

Blatter is credited with helping to reduce the ‘Eurocentric’ nature of FIFA. First of all, the number of African teams at the World Cup increased from two to five after his election as FIFA president in 1998. As a result of this, minnows like Senegal, Togo and Angola have been able to feature in the tournament over the years.

Another benefit the African continent and developing countries as a whole gained during Blatter’s time was the FIFA goal project, a programme aimed at supporting the growth of member associations by pro­viding them with the resources to jumpstart their development by implementing key football projects.

Since its inception, numerous football associations have been provided with state- of-the-art headquarters. There has also been development of artificial pitches, not for­getting the various seminars and football clinics which FIFA organised under Blatter to educate people about the game.

This has helped many countries with limited resources from their central govern­ment for football to, at least, catch up with the more developed countries.

In addition, since the inception of the FIFA World Cup, the hosting rights were seen as the exclusive preserve of Europe and the Americas, but Blatter helped to change all that and in 2010 Africa got to host its first FIFA World Cup, and the tournament took place very successfully in South Africa.

This essentially left the various football associations in Africa in Blatter’s debt, and they appeared to show some appreciation in 2002 when many of them gave their votes to him in that year’s FIFA elections, which was also contested by Issa Hayatou, the CAF president.

Speaking on the future of Africa under Infantino’s presidency, John Fashanu, a former England international who is now a football ambassador for Nigeria, said in an interview with NewsAfrica that although the continent enjoyed a great deal of patronage from FIFA under Blatter, there is no reason why this should change under Infantino.

“Africa had it so good obviously,” said Fashanu. ‘He [Blatter] was looking after Africa. But it’s a new dawn and we don’t know which way Infantino will go; though I know he’s not the type that gives out bribes, you’d have to earn it the right way.

“However, for the fact that Africa has been exposed as a powerful continent, nobody can decrease the level Africa has attained. He [Infantino] would have to continue with Blatter’s legacy and bring out many new initiatives.’

To Paul Bassey, a veteran Nigerian jour­nalist who serves on different committees of CAF and FIFA, “any FIFA president that does not favour Africa is digging his own grave”.

Infantino, he said, recognises the place of Africa as an emerging power in world foot­ball. “The patronage is likely to continue.

Infantino knows he can’t ignore Africa; he’s not a novice in world football, he knows the politics because he’s been around for quite some time up until he became the UEFA general secretary. ’

Simataa Simataa, a former Zambia FA chief, told the BBC, “A lot of things have been done using FIFA money and in Africa the perception is that it’s Sepp Blatter’s money. But this should be done anyway, whether Mr Blatter is there or not.” Infantino’s election, according to Danny Jordaan, head of the South Africa FA, has made FIFA a better organisation. “The reporting lines are clear, the governance of FIFA is strengthened, and transparency has been strengthened,” he said.

“So on the plus side, he comes into a new environment for organising, managing and controlling world football but he’s a person that has, I think, significant experience to steer FIFA into calmer waters.’

Infantino’s election followed the approval of a series of reforms aimed at improving FIFA’s governance and preventing another all-powerful ruler as president.

Unlike his long serving predecessor, Infantino will be limited to three, four-year terms and the office will be more ambassa­dorial.

In addition, a compliance officer will work closely with FIFA’s chief executive and each confederation will have a female represen­tative on FIFA’s ruling council.

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Leveraging our advantages

The drive to industrialise the state is explained by Emmanuel Enoidem, Commissioner for Investment, Commerce and Industries

NewsAfrica: This government has set a target of industrialising the state by changing its economic landscape. What do you want to achieve through this?

Enoiden: When we talk about industrial­isation, we mean what the government can do both as a government and as an individ­ual. This can be in the fonn of foreign direct investment or through local investors. These are the things we are consolidating on to give us the capacity to meet our targets. Basically, the present administration in Akwa Ibom is set to take the state into the industrial development realm to empower the people and give them an enabling envi­ronment for other investors to come.

Because of this, we have severally embarked on fact-finding missions to countries like the US, Singapore, Turkey, Israel, Britain, Germany and many others just to understudy what is happening there and replicate it in Akwa Ibom. Honestly, in our attempt at marketing the same on a global scale, the response has been tremendous.

When you say some industries have been rejuvenated, what do you mean in concrete terms and what are these com­panies?

We have launched a vehicle assembly plant where we can assemble buses, ambulances and even security cars. We have also done something on LED which is in the area of

electrical appliances for low energy saving bulbs. We have also done something on a factory that will produce fertiliser. We have got the endorsement for the expansion of the Shoprite Mall through which hundreds and thousands can be engaged. Not too long ago, we got the Africa Independent Television, AIT, to setup its state-ofthe-art studio here in Akwa Ibom. The ground­breaking ceremony for rolling out electric meters is ongoing in the state. Don’t forget too that there is an ongoing effort to bring up coconut factory because of the prevalence of the product here. This industry will be in the form of oil and refining of coconut produce.

We want to harness all the resources this state has, beginning from palm oil, which is in abundance here. The state government recently signed a MoU with a South African firm in that regard on a consultancy basis because the firm is noted for its exploits in coconut refinery. This contract, which was signed in November 2015, has developed to the level of clearing a 20,000-acre of land as its proposed site. Thousands of people will be employed when all of these fully come on stream.

The government is desperately wooing investors. What then are you doing to make the business environment as attrac­tive as possible?

The global economic recession is not pecu­liar to Akwa Ibom but to all other states in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. However we need to do certain things to ensure that we provide a friendly business environment for them to work in. One area where we feel

that the enabling environment should be created is power generation. In all the states of Nigeria, it is only Akwa Ibom that delib­erately goes out to ensure that power gen­eration and distribution are improved. We have the largest licence to produce the biggest power in Akwa Ibom as we speak. Even before this time, we were the largest producer of power in the country. Now that we have the licence to produce more, we are doing it to encourage industrialisation in the state. Expectedly, in the next one year, Akwa Ibom will enjoy an uninterrupted power supply especially where we have industrial parks.

Where do you intend to have these industrial parks?

At least, we want to have one in each of the senatorial zones but the overall industrial hub is the Ibom Industrial City, which will be an international gateway into the state. It will be an integral part of Ibom Deep Sea Port. I just got the papers for the ITAM Industrial park. We also want to set up another one in Ikot Ekpene and then get the one in Ikot Abasi to work.

That of Ikot Abasi will be the major indus­trial park because of several peculiarities the place holds for the state. Plans are on to expand Ibom Airport in line with the indus­trial need of the state.

At least, we want to have one in each of the senatorial zones but the overall industrial hub is the Ibom Industrial City, which will be an international gateway into the state. It will be an integral part of Ibom Deep Sea Port. I just got the papers for the ITAM Industrial park. We also want to set up another one in Ikot Ekpene and then get the one in Ikot Abasi to work.

That of Ikot Abasi will be the major indus­trial park because of several peculiarities the place holds for the state. Plans are on to expand Ibom Airport in line with the indus­trial need of the state.

Government is also leveraging on the Ibom Deep Sea Port to develop it into a trans­shipment port, which is second to none in the country.

Remember, it is the closest to the coast so we will have a serious advantage over even the one in Lekki, Lagos. Beside all this, we have a pleasing natural environment in Akwa Ibom, an advantage that is not found anywhere in Nigeria. With a friendly set of people and a network of hotels like Ibom Resort with the best golf course and a pleas­ing ambience not known anywhere, it is a great advantage. There are several tourist attractions that we will not take for granted. These are our advantages and we will lever­age on them as our unique selling point.

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Battle for the solar market

 Solar wars heat up following German firm’s arrival into Kenya market. By achary Ochieg, Nairobi

THE STAGE is set for a major battle in the solar sector following the March entry into the Kenyan market of Mobisol, a provider of smart solar home solutions from Germany. By installing a free solar unit at a house in Juja, Kiambu County, about 50km from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Mobisol has ignited a price war that is bound to shake the market for sometime to come.

The solar unit - comprising a 120 watt solar lighting system and Mobisol-branded 32-inch flat screen TV - was installed at the one-bedroomed house of John Kimani Wanjiru, who became the company’s first customer in Kenya.

To witness the event were various high- profile guests, including Kiambu County deputy governor Gerald Gakuha Githinji, a member of the parliamentary committee on energy James Rege, Germany’s envoy to Kenya Jutta Frasch, and the director for renewable energy at the ministry of energy and petroleum, Isaac Kiva.

Kenya becomes the third East African country targeted by Mobisol, after the firm unveiled its products in Rwanda and Tanzania. 

Speaking during the pilot installation cer­emony, Mobisol’s CEO Thomas Gottschalk said that the Mobisol solar unit sizes are by “far the only credible substitute to grid elec­trification.

“We believe that ‘big is beautiful’ - our systems are designed to power entire house­holds and even businesses, with a variety of highly efficient DC appliances. Many of our customers in Tanzania and Rwanda not only run 32-inch flat screen TVs with their system, but also power haircutters and hair- straighteners simultaneously, while enter­taining their barbershop customers with music stereos,” continued Gottschalk.

Gottschalk noted that the company had realised a significant gap in the number of Kenyans connected to the national grid, especially in areas outside urban centres.

“More than 70 per cent of Kenya’s popu­lation does not have access to electricity. While solar solutions are increasingly gaining popularity for low-income individ­uals, the local market does not really carry large solar solutions, strong enough to power large TVs, music stereo systems, or even fridges,” he pointed out, adding: “Looking at the fact that our systems are 10 times bigger than those of similar providers on the market, much more powerful, but just as affordable, encourages us to provide our solutions also to Kenyans.”

Mobisol’s entry into the market, together with its branded solar-powered TVs came just a few weeks after local home solar solu­tions provider, M-Kopa Solar, launched its solar-powered TV sets for its existing users and new clients.

This has led consumers to believe that the local and regional home solar solutions market is set to experience previously unseen competition once Mobisol makes its products commercially available.

Mobisol is funded by the German Development Bank and has set its eyes on the region’s low-income households, most of whom are unable to apply for and get con­nected to the national power grid, mainly due to the high fees involved.

Many people are thought to need such home solar energy solutions and are looking forward to them as alternative to grid power, as confirmed by John Kimani Wanjiru, the beneficiary of Mobisol’s pilot installation in Kenya.

“I applied unsuccessfully for a grid con­nection a long time ago,” he said. “Within just one hour, Mobisol brought not only elec­tricity to our house, but also a new lifestyle. Now, my family and I can watch our favourite shows and news on our big flat screen TV, have multiple lights running during the night and even make money by selling excess electricity.”

Wanjiru said that he expects this additional income will allow him to buy more solar appliances from Mobisol, ranging from branded haircutters, straighteners and music stereo systems, to super efficient flat screen TVs, available in 19-inch up to 32-inch sizes, and DC powered cooking stoves.

Mobisol’s lighting systems are available in three sizes - 80 watt, 120 watt and 200 watt.

Until last month, Kenya’s home solar energy solutions market was synonymous with M-Kopa Solar, which has Safaricom Foundation among its funding partners.

M-Kopa Solar was launched in Nairobi, in October 2012. Since its launch, it has con­nected more than 280,000 homes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to solar power.

M-Kopa Solar (whose name has been coined from ‘m’ for mobile and ‘kopa’, Swahili for ‘borrow’) has a similar aim to Mobisol, which is to provide affordable solar products for modest households, which can then own them flexibly via an installment plan.

M-Kopa users acquire solar units after paying an agreed deposit, then make daily instalments of $0.50 (Kshs50) via Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money platform. After 12 months of payments, customers then own the solar systems. The embedded GSM sensors in each solar system allow M- Kopa staff to monitor real-time performance of each unit and regulate usage based on payments.

Mobisol does not rely on one mobile payment platform and has indicated during the pilot ceremony that it would offer clients multiple payment platforms - whether M- Pesa, Airtel Money, Orange Money or Equitel.

For now, M-Kopa Solar has majority of people using its solar energy systems but holding this market share may prove difficult once Mobisol’s products hit the market from July. Consumers will also need to be per­suaded which product offers better value - whether in terns of quality, pricing or cus­tomer support.

 

 

 

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Why are Nigerians still travelling abroad for healthcare?

On the sick list – Thousands of Nigerians every year travel abroad for medical treatment because of lack of healthcare at home. By Martins Azuwike

THE REPORT last month by the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ajjampur Ghanashyam, that stated 20,000 Nigerians visit his country every year in search of medical treatment clearly shows that lucrative opportunities in the healthcare sector are being lost to other countries through medical tourism. 

Back in 2009, it was revealed that the Indian High Commission in Nigeria issued 4,000 visas to Nigerians seeking medical treatment in Indian hospitals that year. As in the case of the country’s oil and gas industry, failure to establish and implement policies aimed at strengthening the health care sector has held it back. 

“About 40,000 Nigerians go to India annually and 50 per cent of them go for medical reasons,” said Ghana­shyam.

“The remaining 50 per cent go for tourism, business, training and as students. The rejection rate is very low – not more than 25 per cent.”

In 2012 when 38,000 visas were issued to Nigerians, 18,000 travelled for medical treatment, spending $260m, or $15,000 each. Open-heart surgery, renal transplants, brain surgery, cancer and eye treatment were the main treatments sought.

India is the world’s third largest producer of pharmaceutical products by volume and the value of the country’s export to Nigeria was $307m as of March 31, 2012. To underline the ongoing trend of medical tourism, a Renub Research report puts Nigeria as among the top 63 countries in the world for it.

Aside from India, other top medical tour­ist destinations include the UK, the US and countries in the Persian Gulf. In 2009, even President Yar’Adua turned his back on Nigeria and flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment and only returned home a few months later to die.  

There is a good reason for all this. Nigeria’s lacks a comprehensive public health service, with a dismal record of 0.4 physicians and 1.605 nursing and midwifery staff per 1,000 people. 

For pharmacists the figure is 0.095, and laboratory health workers 0.168.The results are damning. Chris Akani, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, and provost of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt, revealed that Nigeria accounted for 25 per cent of maternal, new born and child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014.

“Also, 4.7 million of the 4.9 million new born and child births per year occur in the region, with Nigeria accounting for significant percentage of this number,” he said.”

“The risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria is about one in 15, as opposed to one in 5,000 in developed nations.”

Additionally, an estimated 52,900 women and estimated 250,000 newborn die from pregnancy-related complications annually.” Poor public health services and lack of ac­c­ess to medical care were the major contributors to these disturbing statistics. 

“Government should also enforce due process on birth and death registration in all political wards, while strengthening emergency obstetrics services in communities,” said Akani. He added that the government should be more committed to the implementation of number four and five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which seek to reduce maternal mortality ratio and under-five mortality rates.

Despite the huge opportunities offered by healthcare industry, only nine out of the 130 pharmaceutical companies in Africa’s largest eco­nomy are listed on the Nigerian Stock Ex­change, according to Farouk Gu­mel, a partner with PriceWaterHou­seCoop­ers Nigeria. The drugs most commonly produced in the country include anti-malaria medication, vaccines, antiretrovirals, antibiotics, and oncology and diabetic drugs. 

“Nigeria has critically low levels of human and infrastructure resources for health care,” said Gumel pointing out that Nigeria possessed just five hospital beds for every 100,000 persons against the world median of 35 beds, South Africa’s 24, Algeria and Egypt’s 18. 

“Pharmaceutical imports reached a value of $481m in 2013 and are expected to reach $789m by 2018, widening the country’s ph­arm­aceu­tical trade deficit from 475million in 2013 to $778m in 2018,” he said. 

Spending statistics from the federal Ministry of Health reveals that households spend 69 per cent on healthcare, the federal government 12 per cent, the states 8 per cent, local government areas 4 per cent, development partners 4 per cent, and companies 3 per cent. 

Nigeria has 47 federal medical centres and university teaching hospitals to cater for the healthcare needs of its huge population, estimated to be 170 million. There are also 700 general hospitals, more than 1,700 maternity units and 4,500 health centres. Privately provided healthcare, which comprises both profit-seeking and faith-based and voluntary hospitals and clinics, accounts for at least 40 per cent of all facilities in the country.

Although the private sector is growing, there are accusations that they offer poor quality services and are not value for money. They are most widely patronised in urban areas, though accurate data on them is usually difficult to collect. Ironically, while the health care system continues to be wanting, thousands of newly trained doctors, pharmacists and nurses often find it difficult to find work in Nigeria. As a result, many are forced to work abroad. 

In addition, a number of promising programmes designed to alleviate the problem have difficulty in getting off the ground. For example, the establishment of the American Hospital Limited (AHL) in Nigeria has been held up by red tape and political meddling for the past ten years, say those behind it.

According to its promoter Dr Ifeanyi Obiakor, AHL aims to “ensure that Nig­erians in particular, and sub-Saharan Af­ricans in general, achieve and maintain high quality public health and longevity that is comparable to the best in the world”. 

He added that AHL would also serve to promote medical tourism in Nigeria from the rest of Africa and even Europe and America. 

Its target clientele are those very Nigerians who travel to India and other parts of the world for medical care. AHL also includes a medical training programme. 

However, the Ebola epidemic in parts of West Africa has highlighted the need for a public health service. Despite its limitations on the health front, Nigeria was able to mobilise its resources to successfully contain the disease, whereas in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where protracted civil wars  hollowed out already thin-on-the-ground services, it ran rampant. It is in no one’s interest if only the well off receive treatment in an epidemic, say analysts.

A number of states in Nigeria have made improved health delivery one of their top priorities, pouring money into new hospitals and clinics. In Akwa Ibom, for example, the 20th Anniversary Hospital is being constructed to provide quality healthcare for both indigenes and Nigerians at large.

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