Thursday, January 28, 2010

Governance by Deceit

Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men.
––Abraham Lincoln, in a speech to Illinois Legislature in 1837.

Ubiquitous these days are myriad of billboards pronouncing the so-called ‘dividends of democracy’ that a governor or local government chairperson has provided for his or her people. A flip through the newspapers and magazines will inundate you with advertorials on the supposed ‘great works’ of our elected political office holders; the citizenry are equally being regaled with similar stories on television and radio. While there’s nothing bad in a government showcasing its achievements, a critical analysis of these advertised projects will reveal that many of them are either photo-tricks or provided at mind-blowing amount that is not commensurate with the magnitude, quality and number of projects executed.
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka recently expressed displeasure with the governance-by-billboards in his home state. While delivering a lecture in honour of the birthday of Chief Sobo Sowemimo in Abeokuta in November 2009 or so, he observed thus: “Traversing our state these days, a visitor cannot but remark at a phenomenon that triggers off memory of that phase of Abacha’s desperation for self-perpetuation, one that resulted in the sprouting of sycophantic excrescences on the landscape and airways of the most stomach-churning kind, the unbridled praise-singing that seeks to conjure up universal appropriation even from trees, rocks, hills and valleys –extending even to infants!
“At least, Sani Abacha had a purpose, however sinister and warped. To what end is the present inundation of such fulsome choruses in Ogun State? Is govern-ance no longer supposed to be by performance and example? Or have we settled for a culture of govern-ance by billboards?”
Governance via slogans, billboards, posters, advertorials, and promissory notes are a common phenomenon in our polity. In fact, added to the list is governance by telephone, the epitome of which is our ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, who is currently on health tourism in Saudi Arabia. Since that fateful November 23, 2009 when he was flown to King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Nigeria has not been at ease.
Fuel queues are yet to disappear at our petrol stations; the 6,000 megawatts of electricity promised the populace in 2009 could not be met. As at the first week of 2010, report said electricity generation hovered between 3,600 – 3,700 MW. There is also high state of insecurity as armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and sectarian violence became the order of the day.
Two key factors responsible for Nigeria’s governance deficit are: defective election process and the absence of the rule of law. We all know that election is a farce in Nigeria. In many instances, the votes of the electorate do not count. Many so- called elected public office holders are actually lackeys of godfathers or cabals. Hence, accountability to the people is compromised. How a candidate sources his or her campaign fund will also largely determine if such a person will run good governance.
The cost of electioneering is too prohibitive for people of average means. It is on record that a former Senate President admitted that many political office holders had to sell their property in order to prosecute their election campaign. In such instance, it will be foolhardy to expect someone whose election was funded by a political godfather or who had to auction his or her property to raise fund for election not to recoup such investment with interest. They not only recover their political investment by fair or foul means, they also engage in primitive accumulation of wealth in order to take care of their uncertain future. Hence, governance suffers.
On the absence of rule of law, it is ironic that the government who prides itself on this doctrine is the same that is trampling on it. The theory of rule of law as propounded by Prof. A.V. Dicey has three major components, viz: Supremacy of the law; Equality before the law and Fundamental Human Rights. Right now, there is no constitutionalism to validate the notion of supremacy of the law in Nigeria. We still pick and choose when to follow the Constitution as a nation.
The ongoing controversy over the prolonged absence of Mr. President would have been unwarranted if the constitutional provision had been followed. Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria was very unambiguous about what a sitting president is supposed to do when going on vacation or unable to discharge the functions of his office. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua has refused to toe this honourable path since his assumption of office in May 2007.
Section 14(2b) of the 1999 Constitution also stipulates that “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” But where is security or welfare in Nigeria as we clock 50 years of nationhood? Nigeria now typifies a Hobbesian State where “life is short, brutish and nasty.”
The doctrine of equality before the law in Nigeria can be likened to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where “All animals are equal but some are more equal than the others.” In this country, the truth is that laws are like cobwebs where the small flies are caught and the great ones break through. The score card of Nigeria on fundamental human rights is not fascinating, as many of the rights are being curtailed directly or indirectly.
The road to good governance must be paved with constitutionalism, transparency and accountability, credible, free and fair elections, as well as high standards of living for the citizenry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Questionable Fundraiser for Soludo

There are three primary motives for writing this article. The first is that this administration prides itself as being based on rule of law, hence it is imperative to hold it accountable to its commitment; second reason is to sensitize Nigerians on the principles of political finance as we prepare for 2011 elections and the third is to alert the National Assembly Constitution review committees to plug the loopholes in our political finance laws as they amend the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2006. At a fundraiser held on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the February 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, a princely sum of N2 billion was claimed to have been realised at the event. However, there are questions arising from the event which need to be addressed. Before raising the posers, let’s refresh our minds about the story.
Most of the Nigerian dailies of January 14, 2010 reported the fundraising dinner held in support of Charles Soludo by the PDP Finance Committee headed by Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State. Dignitaries present at the dinner were Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP governors, ministers, PDP National Assembly members, Speakers of State Houses of Assembly among others. Details of donation at the event shows that the Chief Launcher, Prince Arthur Eze made a donation of N250 million, followed by Chairman of the occasion, Sir Emeka Offor, who donated N100 million. Chief Ifeanyi Ben Okoye and Chief Ikechi Emenike donated N10 million respectively. The PDP Governors jointly donated N1.5 billion.
The questions are: from which purse did the PDP governors take their N1.5 billion joint contribution? Is it their States’ coffers or their private pockets? Are the organiser and donors at the event aware of Nigeria’s campaign finance regulations? I asked these questions because section 93(2) of the Electoral Act 2006 states that “the maximum of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a Governorship election shall be (N100, 000,000).” Is the two billion Naira raised by PDP for candidate Soludo not an infraction on this provision? Section 93 (9) also said “no individual or other entity shall donate more than (N1, 000,000) to any candidate” Is it not obvious going by this section that all those who donated above N1 million at the aforementioned fundraiser did so in clear breach of the law?
The issue of political finance has been a serious challenge in Nigerian politics. It is under-reported either out of ignorance of its effect or nonchalance. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a political finance expert, gave a broad definition of political finance as inclusive of thirteen different things. These are Election campaign funds; Political party funds; Grants to elected officials; Political organization funds; Pressure and interest group funds; Political lobbying funds; Litigation funds in politically relevant cases; Partisan mass media funds; Corrupt political funds; Unofficial payments to elected officials; Unofficial payments to civil servants; Unofficial payments to the mass media and Payments intended to improve the electoral process. Thus, it is obvious that the wide gamut of political finance covers both legal and illegal income and expenditures. Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2006 as well as the Political Finance Handbook and Manual are replete with clauses that meet international best practices. As usual, our challenge has been that of faithful implementation.
1999 Constitution states in section 221 that “no association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election. This section has been observed more in breach as many private and public organizations are known to donate monies and gifts to the campaign funds of some of the political parties and candidates. During the 2003 general elections campaigns, many banks, construction companies and even the Nigerian Stock Exchange came together under the pseudonym of Corporate Nigeria to donate billions of naira to the campaign funds of some presidential and gubernatorial candidates.
One key aspect of political finance is the use of State and Administrative Resources to pursue electoral contest. These SAR could be financial or in-kind resources of government. Using State and Administrative Resources for personal aggrandizement or purposes for which they are not meant is an abuse. These abuses manifest in form of misuse of financial, regulatory, legislative, media, institutional and coercive resources of government. For example, the Electoral Act 2006 made it clear in S.103 (2) that: State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election” Yet, instances abound where incumbent public office holders monopolize the public media to the disadvantage of their opponents.
There is a thin line between political finance and political corruption. We are all living witnesses to what unregulated political finance caused Anambra State between 1999 and 2006. The truth is that ‘nothing is free, even in Freetown’. Those who donated tens and hundreds of million Naira to the Soludo fundraiser are not doing it for altruistic purpose. It is a business investment which must be duly repaid with huge interest on assumption of office of the candidate, if he wins. This is part of the reasons the law attempts to regulate party and campaign finance. A major lacuna in the extant political finance regulation is lack of provision to compel candidates to submit audited election expenses report to Independent National Electoral Commission as presently required of political parties.
PDP candidate is not the only one out of the 25 contesting the gubernatorial polls in Anambra that may have breached the political finance laws; all the high profile candidates are likely to have spent above the approved benchmark. Will INEC, as the regulator of political party activities in Nigeria, enforce the rules?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Playing the ostrich with terrorism

Since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s 2009 Christmas day botched attempt to bomb the Flight 253 Northwest Delta Detroit-bound Airline, Nigerian officials have been doing their best to absolve the country of any complicity in the infamous act.

When on January 4, 2010 U.S. blacklisted Nigeria alongside Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan and Somalia as “countries of interest” and lists Cuba, Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism, many Nigerians were shell shocked.

The implication of the blacklisting is that henceforth, air travellers flying into the U.S from and other "countries of interest" would be subjected to advance screening techniques, such as body scans, pat-downs and a thorough search of carry-on luggage. This is rubbing salt on a festering sore. Nigeria all along has dented international image as hitherto, we are regarded as a country of scammers. Added to this infamy is terrorism. Yet, we aren’t all criminals as many of us are law abiding citizens with good character.

It may be true that U.S is displaying double standard more so as there are facts to the effect that European countries whose nationals made similar dastardly attempts in the past were never meted with same treatment as is being applied to Nigeria. However, if you must blame the hawk for wickedness, first scold mother hen for exposing her children to danger. In my opinion, what has happened is a clarion call for Nigeria to do the needful to curb the growing incidences of terrorism in the country. I laugh when government officials fall over themselves to declare that terrorism is alien to our character as a country. Since the era of military adventurism into Nigerian politics, terrorism has become part of us. What is novel is suicide bombing the kind of which Farouk attempted last Christmas day.

According to the 7th Edition of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ‘terrorism is the use of violent action in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to act’. When Abacha’s killer squad were maiming and killing members of National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO) was that not a terrorist act? When Dele Giwa was killed via letter bomb, and unarmed protesters against the annulment of June 12 were gunned down on the streets of Lagos, were those not terrorist acts?

How do we categorise the activities of ethnic militias such as the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) who few years back killed and maimed with impunity in parts of the South West and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) whose men, according to Saturday Sun of January 9, 2010, carry out banditry, rape and illegal detention centres in many communities in Onuimo Local Government Area of Imo State?

Can we in good conscience say that the dozens of campus cults operating in our various academic institutions are not terrorist groups? Justice Kayode Esho’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its March 10, 2009 report observed that there were 116 cult groups operating in Rivers State alone and called for their proscription. What shall we call the menacing acts of street urchins popularly called ‘area boys’ and Al-majiris? How best can we describe the years of sustained militancy by men and women of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) and other dissident groups who wilfully blow up pipelines, engaged in illegal oil bunkering and institutionalise hostage taking and ransom kidnapping? What about those hooligans engaged by politicians to wreak havoc during campaigns and elections? Recall that over 300 lives were lost in the November 2008 political violence over election into Jos North Local Government of Plateau State.

In 2009, there were about four sectarian violence in some states of the federation with the Boko Haram of July and Kala-Kato of December 2009 being the bloodiest. While over 700 people were reportedly killed in the Boko Haram religious war, 38 people were officially claimed to have been killed and over a thousand injured in the Kala-Kato intra-sect violence. In fact, two of the Boko Haram suspects alleged that they were trained in Afghanistan.

I have gone to this length to cite all the aforementioned examples to indicate that Nigeria over the years have been a terrorist laden society. Unfortunately, in spite of many commissions of inquiry into the root causes of these acts of rebellion, such reports were in most cases not acted upon as they gather dusts in various government houses. The insufficient political will to prosecute the arrowheads and masterminds of these fiendish acts is partly responsible for the prevalence of this national malaise. It would be recalled that the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Gadzama Afakriya, had in July 2009 accused government of ignoring security reports when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Police Affairs. He also alleged disconnect between and among the security agencies in the country. This disconnect manifest over Umar Farouk’s case as SSS claimed that the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) to whom Abdulmutallab senior reported the extremist tendencies of his son did not share the intelligence information with the SSS.

With all the hullaballoo generated over the last December suicide bombing attempt, it is gratifying to note that measures are being put in place by Nigerian authorities for stricter security checks at the airports as well as demand being made for the passage of anti-terrorism bill sent to the National Assembly by the President last October or thereabout. Good as these initial steps seem, they will not curb intimidation or acts of brigandage in the country. The best counters to terrorism are equity, justice and fair-play which are derivatives of good governance. Issues of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and insecurity must be tackled, otherwise Nigeria will continue to be a fertile ground for all forms of terrorism, suicide bombing inclusive.

Let’s Not Take Constitutional Provisions for Granted

The present state of anomie in Nigeria has brought out some home truths, and correction of many time-honoured errors. Until recently, I never knew that the commonly used coinage 'Federal Executive Council' does not exist in Nigeria's 1999 Constitution. A report in NEXT on Sunday, 03 January 2010 alleged that our Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Andoakaa recently goofed in court when he contended with the legal luminary Bamidele Aturu on the appropriate designation of Nigeria's ministerial council. The latter has gone to court asking the court to compel the vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, to act in the absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua. The justice minister reportedly told the judge that instead of referring to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in his suit, Aturu made reference to the Executive Council of the Federation which, he claimed, does not exist. The plaintiff was said to have insisted that he was right by virtue of section 144 of the constitution. I have since confirmed that section 144 (1a) of the CFRN 1999 referred to 'executive council of the Federation' and not FEC as we have been erroneously made to believe in the last 10 years of our civil rule.

Until the feud between the Senate and the House of Representatives broke out in 2009, many do not know that the annual ritual of presidential presentation of budget before the joint chambers of the National Assembly does not enjoy constitutional blessing. The face off over the venue to host budget presentation in November 2009 made us realise that what section 81 (1) prescribed is that: “The president shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.”

The NASS crisis also brought to the fore that as against the media reference to the Senate as Upper Legislative Chamber and House of Representatives as Lower Legislative Chamber, the 1999 Constitution never made such reference as section 47 only said “There shall be a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” In fact sections 58 and 59 of the constitution made it compulsory for both chambers to pass a bill and harmonise their positions before such bills can become an act after the president's assent. All the arguments about a chamber being superior to the other by virtue of qualification, remuneration and privileges are only imputations or inferences. The only joint committee of the National Assembly mentioned or created by the constitution is the 'joint finance committee' established by section 62(3). This shows that the initial Joint Committee on Constitution Reform (JCCR) which broke down irretrievably last January 16 in Minna was a marriage of convenience and not legality.

Lastly, the media oftentimes refer to re-run elections as bye-elections. This is wrong as the appropriate term is by-election. According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, by-election which has its root in British English is “an election of a new Member of Parliament to replace somebody who has died or left parliament”. Other variant of elections are general elections, party primary (election meant to nominate a party candidate for a general election), and supplementary election (as we had in April/May 2009 in Ekiti State where gubernatorial election was held into some wards in the state while the results of other wards remain valid).
The media as agency of mass education and enlightenment should take note of these facts.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Assessment of Nigeria’s 2009 Economic Performance

The performance of Nigeria’s economy in 2009 is nothing to cheer. It is more of unfulfilled promises than notable achievements. The year’s budget of N3.102 trillion passed by both chambers of the National Assembly in April 2009 handed out a lot of promises. Two supplementary budgets were later sent to NASS. In July, the first supplementary budget totalling N102 billion was sent to the NASS while another supplementary appropriation bill of N353.6 billion was sent in November. Both were passed but the entire performance level was dismal.
In its self assessment while presenting the 2010 budget to the National Assembly in November 2009, President Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua has this to say about the Nigeria Economy: “Notwithstanding the global economic crisis, the Nigerian macroeconomic environment has improved with macroeconomic stability maintained in 2009 due to Government's proactive response to the crisis. As a result, economic growth has remained resilient, with real GDP growth for 2009 estimated to be about 5.86%. Headline inflation has fallen from 15.1% in December 2008 to 10.4% in September, with core inflation falling to 7.4% over the year to September 2009. The government's debt position remains sustainable, with an external debt stock of US$3.86billion as at the end of October 2009. Indeed, our total public debt is estimated to be less than 10% of our GDP, showing that it is still within acceptable and cautious limits compared to countries in our peer group. Our external reserves position is secure, with reserves increasing from US$43.19billion in early July to US$44.095billion at the middle of October 2009. The official and parallel market exchange rates have converged considerably as a result of further liberalisation of the inter-bank market by the Central Bank.”
How I wish these were true. However, the facts on the ground contradict the upbeat and optimistic picture presented by the president in the 2010 budget speech. By President’s own admission, “implementation of the 2009 Budget has been challenging with revenue from both oil and non-oil sources falling well below projections. On a positive note, oil prices recovered during the course of the year from a low of US$37/barrel recorded in December 2008 to the present level of about US$79/barrel. However, oil production in our country suffered numerous disruptions during the first half of 2009. Non-oil revenue receipts were affected by the global economic downturn which impacted on the domestic business environment. Consequently, both oil and non-oil revenues were about 17% and 21%, respectively, below budgeted levels as at the end of the third quarter.
On the expenditure side, while budgetary allocations have been promptly released to the MDAs, actual utilisation has been below expectation.”
Whatever may be the official position of the President or Ministries, Departments and Agencies under him on the economy in 2009, what I do know for sure is that majority of Nigerians are worse off in terms of standard of living. This is to be expected as the cost of living soared to high heavens. The Niger-Delta crisis particularly between January and October when the amnesty deal was sealed robbed Nigeria of huge oil revenue as the militants acts of destabilisation ensured that Nigeria do not meet her oil production quota. The other issue which was a carryover from 2008 was the global financial crisis which impacted negatively on Nigeria’s financial sector. First to be exposed was the Nigeria Stock Exchange where the initial bull market turned bearish with yet no end in sight. Hitherto, shares particularly those of banks which used to be the most sought after between 2006 and early part of 2008 have lost between 70 to 80 per cent of their values during the initial public offerings. The bearish trend that started in 2008 continued throughout 2009 and as such shareholders in the stock market lost considerable investment in the market.
Concomitant to the Stock market debacle is the on-going banking reform that was ignited by the audit of the 24 operating banks in Nigeria in August and September 2009. The outcome of the audit was eye-popping. 10 banks were found wanting in three main areas viz. Liquidity, capital adequacy and corporate governance. Chief Executive Officers and Managing Directors of eight of the 10 banks were removed and arraigned in court for corrupt practices alongside with some of their executive directors. These are former MDs of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc, Union Bank Plc, Afri Bank Plc, Fin Bank, Bank PHB Plc, Spring Bank Plc and Equatorial Trust Bank Plc. The other two affected banks were Unity Bank and Wema Bank whose new owners were given until June 2010 to recapitalise. Kudos should be given to the new management of the Central Bank of Nigeria who ensured that a bail-out of N620 billion was given to the ailing banks to rescue them from total collapse. Official report has it that there is no run on any of the banks while Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has assisted the banks to recover over N100 billion hitherto non-performing loans.
As part of the banking reform, a bill has been drafted and sent to the National Assembly for the establishment of Asset Management Company. The company is to facilitate an improvement in banking sector liquidity, protection of the earnings of banks from further erosion and a reduction of the debt overhang on the capital market and its participants. This, CBN says, should provide a much-needed fillip for the revival of the Nigerian Capital Market.
The CBN has also promised that it’s recent intervention in the banking sector "focus on building capacity within the regulatory regime; fast-tracking the implementation of risk-based consolidated and cross border supervision frameworks; easing the flow of credit, particularly to the real sector of the economy; improving governance structures and practices in the financial services sector; and improving confidence in the economy in general." It is hoped that Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of CBN will sustain the tempo of the reform.
One of the many factors that have made Nigerian economy dysfunctional is the power sector or energy sector challenge. The Federal Government has allocated huge funds to the sector to ensure speedy completion of the various power projects across the country. Unfortunately, in spite of these gargantuan financial commitment to the sector, Government was unable to meet the 6,000 MW of electricity generation it promised the citizenry by December 2009. The main official excuse being adduced for the inability to deliver on the set target was inadequate gas supply to the thermal stations located at Egbin, Papalanto, Omotosho, Geregu, Utorogu and others. Other reasons include pipeline vandalisation, low water level for the hydro electric dams of Shiroro, Jebba and Kainji, weak transmission lines etc. The negative impact this has had on our economy is that it has made us essentially a generator economy as the country relies heavily on private power generators. A news report in Thisday of September 28, 2009 quoting a National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) source said Nigerians spend about N796.4 billion on fuel to generate electric power every year. A breakdown shows that N540.9 billion is spent on diesel and N255.5 billion goes into the purchase of petrol annually for power generating sets.
According to a news report in The Guardian of July 24, 2009, Nigeria’s harsh economic clime has forced 820 manufacturing firms out of business in the last eight years, according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). A breakdown of this figure shows that an average of 100 firms were shut down yearly due to operational constraints between 2000 and 2008. MAN President, Alhaji Bashir Borodo at the association's 37th yearly general meeting said a major cause of the pitiable state of the industrial sector which has necessitated the relocation of some manufacturing companies from Nigeria to neighbouring West African countries is the inadequate supply of energy for manufacturing operations. It remains to be seen how Nigeria intends to stimulate the economy without resolving the energy conundrum.
Similar to the power sector challenge is the unresolved issue of regular fuel supply to power the economy. In 2009 there were frequent fuel crisis as a result of acts of sabotage such as the pipeline vandalism as a result of the Niger Delta militancy, industrial action by various unions in the sectors such as National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), NUPENG, and PENGASSAN or the inability of Independent Petrol Marketers to get approval or credit to import fuel. Like in previous years, Nigeria is still largely import driven as the nation’s four refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna remain comatose or epileptic. Early in the year the President vowed to expose and deal with the cartel that has been plundering the oil sector. However, rather than matching words with action, government decided to foist on Nigerians deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry. Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Organisations have given pre-conditions to government before they could support deregulation. Some of these include the revival of the oil refineries and fixing of Nigerians roads. There are insinuations that the current fuel scarcity is not unconnected with the assumption that deregulation will commence by January 1, 2010.
One unprecedented thing that happened in 2009 that is worth mentioning is the reduction in the price of petrol from N70 to N65 per litre. This is as a result of the fall in the price of crude-oil in the international market. It should however be noted that fuel only sell at the official price at major cities such as Lagos and Abuja. In many other parts of the country, a litre sells for double the official price or more. Kerosene and Diesel remain more expensive than petrol as a result of previous deregulation. A major initiative of the presidency in 2009 was the drafting of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The bill generated a lot of controversies particularly among stakeholders in the Niger Delta area as well as the International Oil Companies (OICs). Many who have read the bill which is under consideration by the National Assembly say it is the best piece of legislation on the oil industry. The latest inclusion on the bill is the president’s directive that oil communities should now enjoy 10 per cent royalty from oil explored in their domain. It is hoped that work will be concluded on this bill early in the New Year.
In the Solid Mineral sector, there was a lot of motion without movement as the nation’s enormous natural resources remain largely untapped. Even though the president in his budget speech claimed that “agriculture continues to improve and drive non-oil growth, with 5% more land under cultivation being achieved and food production increasing.” This is at variance with the reality on ground as food security remains a Herculean challenge especially with inadequate funding and threat of climate change. With the passage of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act, the coast is now clear for government to fully engage the private sector under the Public Private Partnership mechanism. Already, the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway rehabilitation and expansion has been awarded to Bi Courtney on the basis of Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT).
It will be uncharitable to say that efforts are not being made to stimulate the economy, especially with all the highlighted initiatives as well as other similar attempts to revive the railway sector, award of contracts for road rehabilitation and construction as well as the commencement of the dredging of the lower Niger River. However, if these initiatives are not seen to completion or are allowed to turn into white elephant projects, then Nigeria will be worse for it. There are palpable fear that the success recorded in October 2009 with the amnesty deal as well as the prior establishment of the Niger Delta Ministry may be undermined by the non-implementation of the supplementary budget passed by the NASS in November 2009 as a result of the prolonged hospitalisation of the president in Saudi Arabia. The recent resumption of hostility by Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta as well as the street protests by ex-militants in Warri, Port-Harcourt, Yenagoa and Calabar are pointers in this direction.
By far the greatest threat to Nigeria’s economic survival is the issue of corruption. Though the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) disclosed in its 2008 annual report to the Senate in September 2009 that it recorded 74 criminal convictions and recovered assets worth over N15 billion from those investigated and prosecuted. Many Nigerians are not convinced that the nation is doing enough to fight corruption. For instance, the only celebrated case of anti-corruption in 2009 was the imprisonment of Chief Bode George in October. In the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2009, Nigeria occupies the unenviable 130th position. This was after US Secretary of States; Hilary Clinton had earlier told us that Nigeria’s anti-corruption war has fallen off the radar. Many Nigerians are still asking questions about when those who took bribes in the Halliburton, Wilbros and Siemens contracts will be brought to justice.
On the whole, in 2009, Nigeria’s economy still remains in the doldrums. As noted in the 2009 African Peer Review Panel report on Nigeria, the country's inability to effectively implement policies and laws, weak political will and lack of accountability mechanisms in the public sector are the major challenges to the nation’s development.