Our young voice for this Friday is not that young – Ayo Oyalowo (@Ayourb on Twitter) is in his late 30s,so part of the demographic group that accounts for nearly 80% of our country’s population. Ayo’s experience has been in financial services and today is one of the most vocal and emerging voices on social media particularly on Twitter.
Ayo’s New Year message isabout the distortion of our incentive structure in Nigeria which has reachedstratospheric levels under the Jonathan administration – the rewarding of laziness,crime and bigotry while punishing hard work, righteousness and social inclusion amongst our people. Our leadership has failed massively in 2012. Ayo and the rest of us hope that they will listen to the voices of the majority and dobetter in 2013.
It is my singular honou rand privilege to present Mr. Ayobami Oyalowo and his contribution to improvingour nation, in the footsteps of young patriots like Chinedu Ekeke, ElnathanJohn, Auwal Sani Anwar, Japhet Omojuwa, Zainab Usman, Jude Egbas and Ogunyemi Bukola. Happy New Year.
– Nasir El-Rufai
Crime: Nigeria’sOnly Thriving Industry? By AyobamiOyalowo
The rising wave of crime is disheartening to most Nigerians. On Sunday, November 28,2012, Nigerians were greeted by a hitherto unimaginableevent: the bombing of a church in Jaji (near Kaduna, North-Central Nigeria), oneof the “most-secure” military facilities in Nigeria. Hardly had thenews sunk in than news of another attack on the office complex of the SpecialAnti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja greeted the airwaves. Then came the news abouta heavy bombardment of banks, a police station and some military facilities inAuchi (Edo State, South-South Nigeria). All these incidents happened within a24-hour interval, leaving in its wake a huge number of casualties. The reality oftoday is that life has little value in the Jonathan-ruled Nigeria.
But, how did we get here? Gradually. Because, while the rot didnot start with the present government, it is clear to any discerning mind thatthe highly unfocused posture of this government has given criminals andmilitants the boldness to take on the state without fear of retribution.
No society is totally crime-free. However, in egalitariansocieties, where equality is a norm and justice is guaranteed should there be abreach, crime rates are generally at the barest minimum. In present dayNigeria, though, this is not the case. No thanks to the high unemploymentstatistics – swelled even more by the huge number of graduates and other school-leaverschurned out annually, add to that the large number of underemployed andfrustrated citizens – Nigeria is in a highly volatile state, armed with willingyouths needing economic emancipation. And since our society does not frown anymoreat sudden wealth or a display of opulence, we are surely ripe for the picking.Throw in an inept, rudderless government, and you have the complete recipe fordisaster.
A cursory look at the proposed budget of Nigeria in 2013, tells asad tale to any discerning mind. The health of a corporation, state or nation,can easily be ascertained by looking at the quality of the budget; and a lookat next year’s budget, as proposed by the “most brilliant” CoordinatingMinister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, shows a nation bereft of developmental ideas and a leadership lacking in sincerity and focus. With thesum of N2.6 billion budgeted for the president’s numerous, but mostly avoidable,international junketing termed ‘foreign trips’, and another N1.3 billionbudgeted for feeding and snacks for the office of the President and his vice,one wonders at the focus and priority of these “leaders”.
How do you allocate N60.1billion to education, N55.8billion to health and N31.8billion to Science & Technology, then N23.6billion to only30,000 ex-militants? Why shouldn’t the 70% of the population under the age of35 years join these militants? Because, if you take up arms against the state,create as much tension, shed as much blood as possible, and then negotiate withthe government, you will go scot-free, get juicy contracts and enjoyfederal patronage, as well.
In August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) broke some disturbingnews about Nigeria. It was reported that some ex-militants in the NigerDelta had been paid about N6.32billion within the past one year by the NigerianNational Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Yes, for the ‘noble’ service of providingsecurity against vandals for the Corporation’s oil pipeline network. Imagine! Thebreakdown, as outlined by WSJ, is this:
Chief Government Ekpumopolo (alias Tompolo), Alhaji MujahidAsari-Dokubo, ‘General’ Ebikabowei Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and ‘General’ Ateke Tomwere respectively paid N5.1 billion, N1.44 billion, N608 million and N608 millionyearly by the state-owned NNPC, as ‘protection money’ to guard the pipelines theyonce attacked.
As if that was not enough an insult on the collective intelligenceof Nigerians, earlier in the year the Federal Government awarded a contractworth $103.4million (over N15billion) to the Global West Vessel SpecialistLimited (GWVSL) – a firm widely believed to be owned by Tompolo to supply 20 vessels for the use of thenation’s military authorities to secure the waterways. Director-General of theNigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), ZiadekeAkpobolokemi, had last year sent a memo titled, “Award of Contract for the Strategic Concessioning Partnership withNIMASA to Provide Platforms for Tracking Ships and Cargoes, Enforce RegulatoryCompliance and Surveillance Of The Entire Nigerian Maritime Domain,” toPresident Goodluck Jonathan.
In considering the memo, President Goodluck Jonathan andAkpobolokemi chose GWVSL as the preferred company for the 10-year concessionagreement, renewable for two terms of five years each. Jonathan, in a memodated 9th November, 2011, with reference number PRES/99/MT/61, approvedAkpobolokemi’s memo, which the Federal Executive Council rubber-stamped on 5thJanuary, 2012. According to Akpobolokemi, GWVSL “will provide platforms foreffective policing of Nigeria’s maritime domain and ensure compliance withinternational maritime conventions on vessels and ships voyaging the country’swaters”. NIMASA maintains that the concessionaire would help the Federal Governmentto enforce the sabotage law and collect levies on its behalf. This, in acountry that still maintains a statutory Naval force, and without a track record for GWVSL?
When you consider the reckless budget, and the pampering ofcriminals nicknamed militants by the government as led by Jonathan, theconclusion is very grim. Now, the government plans to negotiate with the Boko Haram terrorists group. This is a clear indication of the failure, nay, surrender, of government. It points to just one thing: this government lacks balls! Harass and intimidate it and you are assured of juicy returns after negotiation.
The Basque Separatists Movement in Spain, which has been on a collision course with the Spanish authorities since 1959, has a casualty figureof 800 in their 53 years of existence. Boko Haram, which came alive just about 3 years ago, the figure is in thousands.Indeed, the lives of ordinary Nigerians mean little or nothing to those ingovernment. After all, the government itself routinely murders citizens extra-judiciallythrough its security personnel at check points. The case of Lucy of Apo inAbuja and the 5-day old groom in Lagos readily spring to mind, amongst countless others.
The total annual emolument of a senator as recommended by Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) stands at N12.766 million per annum (aboutN1.063 million per month), with slightly less figures for members of the Houseof Representatives, amounting to N5.6billion for the 469 members of theNational Assembly. The 2013 budget, however, makes a provision of N150billionfor the National Assembly, so members earn in a month more than they areentitled to in a year (based on the RMAFC recommendation). Indeed, therecklessness is not limited to the executive; it is a total package of bare-facedfiscal irresponsibility, by all arms of government.
Though the above paint a grim picture, the entire story is yet tobe told: Mallam Nasir El-rufai had earlier stated that, to clear the backlog of jobless youths, Nigeria will need to create about 3 million jobs annually for 5years. Add to this the number of NYSC members that get discharged annually, plusthe number of those recently laid off by banks and the picture gets bleaker. Andwhy won’t it, if over 60% of the budget is either lost or unaccounted for andonly 30% annual budget performance?
In all these, though, I dare say that the case of Nigeria is not ahopeless one. Yes, Nigeria’s foreign debt profile currently stands at about$7billion. But, then, Nigeria’s problem is largely a man-made problem. Greed,avarice, selfishness and corruption in high places are our bane. Hence, ourgovernment officials only need to stop stealing or, at least, reduce what theyregularly steal. The government cannot continue to preach sacrifice to the sufferingNigerian masses while its executives live in opulence. The governor of Kanostate recently bought 3 bullet-proof SUVs valued at N156million, while thegovernors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states also acquired Bombardier jets, each valued at about$45million.
Government at all levels must cut down on avoidable expenses. Nonation can develop with a 70:30 recurrent to capital expenditure ratio. We mustwake up and realize that developing Nigeria is an assignment for us all. Wedon’t determine the price of the oil which provides the bulk of our nationalrevenue. Again, it is a volatile product, whose terminal date is about 39yearsaway. A sensible government, therefore, should begin to plan for that time.
Again, more countries are discovering oil, as well as alternativesources of energy. This means that soon, our oil will no longer be as importantand lucrative as it is today.
Furthermore, the discarded probe reports and endlesscommittees/panels have revealed that the government lacks the will to fight corruption. Then, with KPMG declaring Nigeria the most corrupt country in theirhalf-term report of 2012 and the Gallup poll showing the Nigeria government tobe the second most corrupt in the world, the government must work at improvingthe statistics.
Finally, like I earlier averred, the case of Nigeria is not a totally hopeless one, but the government must be sincere and be truly ready tofight corruption and nepotism. Until corruption is killed, Nigerians willcontinue to die cheap deaths, while criminals will continually have a free reignin the land. Awarding contracts to kingpins in the guise of amnesty is not onlytravesty, but an open invitation to anarchy, as well. Accountability andprobity are non-negotiable in our march to greatness. The government either exterminates corruption or by consequence of inaction, will continually contribute to dividing,impoverishing and punishing Nigerians.
As a wise man once said, “You can deceive some of the people some of the time, or even all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.”
I am @Ayourb on Twitter.