Connect with us

Opinion

Non-aligned movement and Nigeria’s quest for equal access to capital

Published

on

By Tunde Rahman

Is the Non-Aligned Movement still around? Is the organisation still in existence? That was the weighty question Professor Ikechukwu Okoro, a visually impaired Nigerian and Iowa State University don, slammed on me the moment I informed him of my mission in Kampala, Uganda.

Professor Okoro and I had met on our way to Addis-Ababa, me en route Kampala and he, Atlanta, in the United States. It wasn’t as if the issue he raised had not previously crossed my mind, but I did not bother much about it since I was headed for the NAM conference anyway until I encountered the sharp and witty Professor Okoro. He then got me thinking about the question of importance and relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement in today’s global power structure and politics. Indeed, only an unwary observer or naive student of global politics would have missed the seeming emptiness about NAM.

Established in 1961, the group of countries in NAM had espoused non-alignment with either the Eastern bloc or Western bloc, opting for a middle ground and avoiding being part of the cold war. It was during the cold war era. The objectives of NAM then were cooperation, neutrality and self-determination. The cold war was an ideological conflict between the Western and Eastern blocs, which began shortly after the end of World War II in 1945.  It was a conflict over which political-economic system, West’s Capitalist system or Communism of the Eastern bloc- was supreme and more beneficial to countries around the world. However, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the end of the cold war. With the end of the cold war, where is the relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement? Where is the place of NAM, one may ask, echoing Prof. Okoro.

The answer soon emerged as the 19th summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Non-Aligned Movement officially opened on January 19, 2024 when the leaders began delivering their national statements.

NAM offers the biggest gathering of countries, second only to the United Nations. Currently, 120 nations are members of the Non-Aligned Movement with another 18 nations as observers. Most African and Asian countries belong to NAM with others from Americas and Caribbean, Pacific and even Europe.

This organisation with such a strong and extensive membership is a veritable platform to be used to galvanise support for any issue or crusade, against the backdrop of the diverse challenges facing the world, including health pandemics, threats to international peace and security, climate change, terrorism and cyberspace attacks, conflict and wars like those between Russia and Ukraine and the on going wanton killings in Palestine by Israel over Gaza. It is a platform to be engaged for its capacity to galvanise concerted action on major global issues. Such is the significance of NAM that apart from the many heads of state and governments that attended this year’s summit, it had in attendance among other global dignitaries, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and President of UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis.

Two summits actually held in Kampala about within same week. NAM summit ended on January 20 while the Third South Summit of the Group of 77 and China was convened from January 21 to 22. It’s a case of two conferences, similar agenda, and one venue –  Speke Resort & Convention Center, Munyonyo, Uganda, some 15 minutes drive from capital Kampala. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu was represented at the two summits by the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu. With Vice President Kashim Shettima in Davos, Switzerland attending the World Economic Summit, Senator Bagudu was tapped to lead the Federal Government delegation. In the delegation, among others, were Dr. Lanre Adekanye, a director in the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, and this writer. Minister Bagudu is profound, focused and committed to Nigeria’s economic development. He is very strong on issues of global finance and financing mechanisms. This deep understanding of the pressing global economic issues and dynamics of world finance and politics was evident enough in the way and manner he canvassed Nigeria’s position at the two summits, no wonder his presentation at NAM summit was greeted by a thunderous applause.

The highpoint of Nigeria’s presentation at NAM summit is the demand for equitable access to capital for developing countries. President Tinubu said such would provide the much-needed resources for development, adding, however, that the developing world was not seeking sympathy or begging for aid, but fair and equal opportunity.

Quoting President Tinubu, Senator Bagudu said: “The population of the 120 countries that make up the Non-Aligned Movement is 4.63 billion, which is more than half of the world’s population, yet the total financial resources available to all the countries is much less than that of some countries.

“The total budgetary resources for the 120 countries are about $3.4 trillion, which is less than the budget of the United States, and aggregate public debt of $6.6 trillion.”

These startling statistics, according to him, are a clear indication that the Non-Aligned countries suffer from a lack of access to capital and resources for development. “More often than not, public debt available to developing countries is far more expensive and not substantial enough to make an impact.”

In consonance with the theme of the summit, which is “Deepening Cooperation for Shared Global Affluence,” the Nigerian leader called for greater collaboration among member-states of NAM to be able to address the multidimensional challenges facing them including inequality in access to capital.

The theme of the summit, bore relevance with respect to the current trend of wars, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, threat of use of nuclear weapons and the dangerous polarization between developed countries similar to the era of cold war, President Tinubu pointed out.

“In this regard, we must recommit to the foundational principles of Non-Aligned Movement to better assure of global peace and security,” the minister stated on behalf of the Nigerian leader.

In the speech, President Tinubu also lent Nigeria’s voice to NAM’s Member States’ common position, condemning the present wanton destruction of lives and properties in the State of Palestine, which has assumed a critical dimension.

“Nigeria supports and reiterates call for an immediate durable and sustained humanitarian truce in that region. Many lives, including women and children, have been lost since the commencement of the crisis between the States of Israel of Palestine with so many displaced.

“The daily increase of displaced persons and shortage of humanitarian supplies due to impeded access have greatly impacted on the people, exacerbated the humanitarian catastrophe in the region and increased civilian casualties,” he added.

He urged the parties in the conflict to uphold the fundamental values of international humanitarian law, which places premium on ensuring civilians’ safety and wellbeing.

At the Third South Summit of G77 and China, President Tinubu also put the same vital issue of capital on the front burner, advocating a review of global tax system, saying redressing the imbalance in the international tax regime had become imperative.

“The current international tax systems, largely shaped by the interests of more affluent nations, often leave developing countries at a disadvantage, especially in taxing digital economies. This systemic imbalance has led to significant revenue losses, hampering our efforts towards sustainable development and economic self-reliance,” the Minister of Budget posited, quoting the President.

On the sidelines of the two summits, Senator Bagudu had bilateral talks with leaders of delegation of several countries including those of Singapore and Venezuela during which they canvassed issues of mutual interests and the need to scale up relations between these countries and Nigeria.

In all the interactions, Minister Bagudu made a strong case for the countries to come and invest in the country, saying Nigeria is open and ready for business given the business-friendly policies and actions of President Tinubu.

Nigeria employed the NAM global stage to ventilate and garner global support for the matter of equal access to capital, which is dear to President Tinubu’s heart. Indeed, for the Nigerian President, the battle to secure equitable finance for the developing world, the Global South, is gradually emerging a major crusade, a global project if you like. It’s something akin to the struggle for reparations for Africa embarked upon then by the late business mogul and winner of the annulled June 12 presidential election in Nigeria, Chief MKO Abiola. Is the struggle for equitable access to capital for all nations a valuable and laudable project? Yes, I think so!

-Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Nigeria: The changing governance story

Published

on

By Temitope Ajayi

Tracking many stories of remarkable progress currently taking place in Nigeria can be a very difficult task. This is so because these important stories are lost to some who daily indulge in the cacophony of negative reports. Negative news often dominates the headlines.

With a 24-hour news cycle that tends to focus only on the distasteful narratives, several Nigerians have been made to accept the view that nothing good is happening in their country.

Those who rely on the mainstream media and social media as the only sources of news and information they consume are the worst hit by the cycle of misinformation that portrays our country as descending rapidly to the edge of the precipice.

However, the reality is different: the country is making progress in leaps and bounds.

Late Swedish physician and Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute, Hans Rosling, his son, Ola Rosling, and daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling, extensively dwell on this subject in, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,” a book published in 2018.  In the book, the authors demonstrate that the majority of the people are made to hold the wrong notion about the state of the world because the media project data, analyse trends and select stories to make people assume that things are getting worse around them.

The authors assert that a majority of the people view the world as poorer, less healthy, and a more dangerous place to live in than it actually is. In other words, many people believe they are living in a worse period in the history of mankind because of misinformation.

The same situation the Roslings describe in their book is at play in Nigeria, where individuals, interest groups, activists, analysts, self-serving politicians, and opposition elements constantly project and amplify negative stories.

It is as if we are in a race with those who can say the most horrible things about our country.  Yet, we have an abundance of good stories to tell the world. We seem so numb to the good news that we are dismissive of breakthroughs and innovative trends.

For instance, we downplay the significance of Dangote Petroleum Refinery and its possibilities to reflate the economy.

Many people forget so soon that we had been importing petroleum products for over three decades because the state-owned refineries are moribund. Our national economy bled, and the country was in a fiscal cul-de-sac for those years as a result of subsidy payments on petroleum products.

Today, however, Nigeria is home to the largest single train refinery in the world with the capacity to process 650,000 barrels of crude per day.  Cynics do not see this as a breakthrough.

Nigerians who are 60 years old and below started seeing modern rail infrastructure from 2016 when the All Progressives Congress-led administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari  commissioned the standard gauge rail system, beginning with Abuja-Kaduna route, later Lagos-Ibadan and then, the Warri-Itakpe.

The national rail modernisation project is progressing with Kano-Katsina-Maradi and Kano-Kaduna standard gauge rail projects at different stages of completion. The contractor working on rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge recently announced the completion of the Port Harcourt-Aba section. While the Federal Government is rallying stakeholders to promote economic integration across the country, the Lagos State Government recently launched two metro rail lines -Blue and Red Rail lines – as part of the state’s elaborate masterplan to build a modern and efficient megacity. Like Lagos State, there are visible signs of remarkable, quantifiable progress in several other states, including Kaduna, Kano, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Kebbi, Borno, Gombe, Oyo, Ekiti and Ogun, among others.

A few weeks ago, the President Bola Tinubu-led administration embarked on the construction of the 700 kilometres Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway that will connect nine coastal states in another bold move to further bolster economic growth and open up the country to productive economic activities.

While it may be very easy for critics and other armchair analysts to ignore these developments and their significance to remaking Nigeria, there is no gainsaying that these projects and many more that are ongoing or about to be instituted across critical sectors are the core of President Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda. Indeed, it is hard to process why the so-called critics and cynics can not see the Lagos-Calabar Highway project as a clear demonstration of the President’s commitment to harnessing the potential of our renascent Blue Economy.Despite what is bandied by the most vociferous critics, a recent policy intervention on the state of the economy by the Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI), a think-tank group, refuted the apocalyptic prognosis of the economic situation of the country by opposition figures, led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The experts at IMPI made brilliant and well-thought-out submissions that repudiated the doomsday prophecy of critics.

Acting true to type, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential candidate in the last election, and a few others, including business advocacy groups, derisively heightened tension with their pronouncements on the state of the economy. They framed the country under the leadership of President Tinubu as a hostile business environment, scoring the administration low on business enablement. While politicians, such as Atiku Abubakar, will naturally play politics with everything to score cheap points, some corporate advocacy groups often raise needless alarms, ostensibly, to compel the government to do their bidding and usually in manners inimical to the interests of the people.

For example, while private sector advocacy groups, such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), regularly issue press statements on many businesses shutting their operations in Nigeria, such statements always fail to disclose that new businesses are also springing up in the country.

It is not only in Nigeria that businesses shut down operations. And in any case, businesses wind up operations for many reasons that may have nothing to do with the operating environment.

It is a worldwide phenomenon shaped by a variety of factors. For instance, when the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria announced that 767 companies shut down in 2023, the Small Business advocacy group in the United Kingdom announced that 345,000 businesses closed shop in the UK.

The UK Group said: “More businesses closing down than starting up for the first time in 12 years.”

While it is not good for any business to shut down operations, irrespective of the number of employees, those who project the negative narrative should be nuanced and more balanced in their analyses.

In its submission titled, “In Defence of the Nigerian Economy,” the Independent Media and Policy Initiative declared: “767 companies that closed down in Nigeria do not in any way come close to the 345,000 closures recorded in the United Kingdom in that same period. Neither can the number be compared to the 460,000 companies that shut down every quarter, that is every three months, in China, or the 10,655 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) shut down in 2022-2023 in India.

“As routinely rendered, we are further informed by the Indian data that there were over 11,000 new firms that started business afresh for every one of the 175 shutdowns in 2022.”

Interestingly, while the announced exit from Nigeria by GSK and Sanofi generated much furore on the social media and mainstream media last year, about the same period the two companies were planning their exit, indigenous pharmaceutical companies, such as  Emzor were making new multi-million Dollar investments to expand their production lines in Nigeria.

More balanced news reports on Nigeria in that respect should have also included statistics circulated by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which indicated that 105 applications for the construction of drug manufacturing facilities across the country were approved, and 35 percent of the promoters of the approved applications actually completed construction of their factories. Within this period, Emzor Pharmaceuticals Company owned by Mrs. Stella Okoli, Japanese Multinational Pharma, Otsuka, and over 20 newly registered local drug manufacturers cumulatively, invested over $2 billion to complete their World Health Organisation (WHO)-compliant facilities to produce quality pharmaceuticals and essential drugs for Nigerians.

In its ranking of Africa’s 100 fastest growing companies in 2023, Financial Times (FT) ranked 27 Nigerian businesses on the list.

The FT list, again, validated the strength of the Nigerian economy and its viability as a business destination for investors seeking to make good returns on their investments.

Since his assumption of office less than a year ago, President Tinubu has been bullish in addressing the identified problems besetting the investment climate in Nigeria.

The administration has restored global confidence in the monetary policy reforms of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that have seen the Naira rebound strongly against the Dollar, and other convertible currencies, making the Naira the best performing currency in the world.

On the back of the reforms embarked upon by the fiscal and monetary authorities, the country’s currency gained N900 against the US Dollar within a span of two months. This is spectacular, but to subjective critics, they are unimportant.On security, the progress being made is noticeable and can be felt in the calmness that has returned to the South-East geopolitical zone.

This is where the criminal activities of outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group and its Eastern Security Network (ESN) have been brought under control. In the North-West zone, and parts of North-Central, most especially, Abuja, where there was a surge in banditry and kidnapping, the Nigerian Military and Police have successfully gained control and counterbalanced major threats to security of lives and property. The National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, announced on Monday, April 15, 2024, that the security forces had rescued 1,000 Nigerians from their abductors without payment of ransom.

This is the evidence of successful security operations across the country. Again, the cynics and inveterate critics will not find such feats interesting to amplify.

In the technology ecosystem, Nigerian startup companies have continued to record big strides. At least 10 Nigerian startups were selected among 40 technology firms listed for the $4 million Black Founders Fund.

The Black Founders Fund is sponsored by Google for Startups (GfS). Nigeria continues to lead the pack in tech startups and capital raising in Africa. In the First Quarter (Q1) of 2024, 121 African tech startups, led by Nigeria’s Moove, raised $466 million.  Of the total amount raised in Q1 2024 by tech startups on the African continent, Nigerian startups got the lion’s share of $160 million. Nigeria’s startup ecosystem has remained vibrant and a huge centre of innovation and driver of economic growth. A 2022 report on African Tech Startups Funding by Disrupt Africa also showed that startups from Nigeria accounted for 28.4 percent of the total funded ventures and received 29.3 percent of total investments in Africa.

The report indicated that 180 startups from Nigeria collectively raised $976 million out of the $3.3 billion that flowed into the continent. From the Nigerian tech ecosystem, Andela, Flutterwave, Opay, Jumia, and Interswitch emerged unicorns out of a total of 7 unicorns in Africa.

That each one of these five companies with over $1 billion in valuation came out of Nigeria is an affirmation of the progress Nigeria is making in human capital development.

Another interesting twist to this enchanting story is that the majority of the founders of the leading startups came out of the Nigerian school system. They had their education from primary school up to the university level in Nigeria.

The story of Kiakia Bits Limited and Sycamore, two companies managed by innovative and enterprising young Nigerians, illustrates the impact Financial Technology (FinTech) companies are making on the economy as enablers of growth for small businesses. Established in 2016 by Olajide Abiola and his partner, Chiemeziem Anyadike, Kiakia has over 200,000 customers and has advanced credit worth over N20 billion to more than 12,000 small and medium scale enterprises within eight years. Babatunde Akin-Moses and two of his partners started Sycamore in 2019 after they met during their MBA programme at Pan-Atlantic University (PAU), in Lagos.

Within five years, the company has gained recognition and reputation as one of the most visible and viable brands in the FinTech space. Sycamore has 140,000 registered customers, out of which over 10 percent are active.

The value of transactions on Sycamore’s platform in dollar terms is in excess of $30 million. The company has disbursed over N25 billion in credit to various small and medium enterprises. A major revelation from both Kiakia and Sycamore is the report that 99 percent of their credit to small and medium scale enterprises are performing, an indication that the businesses they support are doing well.

Overall, the groundbreaking performance of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) as, possibly, Africa’s best stock exchange in terms of capital appreciation, the footprints of BUA Group in manufacturing and other consumer goods, the solidity of IHS Towers and MainOne as Africa’s telecoms infrastructure backbones, the disruption caused by Air Peace on the lucrative Lagos-London route, the grandeur of the sprawling Lekki-Deep Sea Port rank highly among countless high-impact business endeavours. And finally, the indomitable spirit of Nigerians epitomises the narrative of progress that should be regularly amplified by all patriotic Nigerians.

Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to President Tinubu on media and publicity.

Continue Reading

Opinion

In the interest of justice

Published

on

By Bola Bolawole

One question which has always agitated my mind was answered last Monday, 15th April, 2024  by retired Justice Andrew Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye in a keynote address he delivered at the 2024 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Warri Branch, whose theme was “Emerging trends in legal practice and administration of justice: Challenges and prospects.” Justice Omolaye-Ajileye’s paper was titled “Tomorrow’s legal profession today: Today’s legal profession tomorrow”

I have always wondered if two sets of referees pursuing the same goal(s) can act in the same manner and still achieve the same result. The first is an official refereeing a football match and the second is a judge adjudicating in a matter between litigants. What is expected of both is impartiality, fairness, thoroughness, and even-handedness so that one side is not given undue advantage and unmerited edge over the other. So that, in the course of maintaining an even keel, the cause of justice can be served.

Now, a football referee that (repeatedly or in strategic moments) makes decisions that favour one team against another is said to have stepped into the field or ring. He is deemed to be biased and the cause of justice cannot in that way be served. But can a judge afford to maintain similar aloofness and neutrality in all instances and still serve the cause of justice?

In my 39 years in the journalism profession, I have seen cases lost not because the litigant did not have a good case but because of poor handling by counsel; sometimes deliberately so contrived for varying reasons. Uncountable number of cases get dismissed or get lost (and won) for lack of diligent prosecution; again, sometimes deliberately and in some others because of incompetence or carelessness of the prosecution or counsel.

In that instance, the innocent may suffer and the cause of justice may not have been served. Should a judge step into the ring in certain situations to avert the miscarriage of justice?  Oftentimes, we hear judges lambast counsel and bemoan the miscarriage of justice for lack of brilliance or diligent prosecution of cases. In that situation, can a judge step into the ring?

There was a time in this country when some of its brightest judges like Kayode Esho, Akinola Aguda, and Chukwudifu Oputa were not only described as philosopher-judges but also were well respected for what some have called their judicial activism. Yes, judges interpret the law but in interpreting laws, cerebral and conscious judges also make laws! Some even make statements.

Judges, when they are in their court, especially when reading their judgments, enjoy immunity, like the members of the Legislature when those ones, too, are in their hallowed chamber. Judges and the lawyers appearing before them are referred to as officers in the temple of justice, meaning that their primary obligation, even when lawyers represent opposing sides or views, is that justice is served, and not miscarried.

As such, even counsel not directly involved in a matter can chip in something as “amicus curiae,” that is, an impartial adviser to a court of law in a particular case or matter. This being so, are there instances that allow or, better still, is it incumbent on the judicial umpire to step into the ring to ensure that justice is not miscarried? Or should he or she simply maintain aloofness and rely only on the evidence brought before him or her to make a ruling?

Nowhere does this intrigue me more than in election matters and other cases that are as controversial or that have attracted a lot of public discourse and controversy. Judges, too, are members of the society. They read newspapers. They listen to the radio. They watch television. They may also be active on social media. They may or may not visit pubs and listen to gossip but they have friends and family members. Therefore, they must be aware, if I may so put it, of the merits and demerits of some of the cases coming before them before the arrival of such cases. Should they discountenance such information and only limit themselves to the evidence presented before them?

Omolaye-Ajileye provided what I consider to be an answer when he said, “I want to comment on a change of culture we can bring about in the way justice is administered. Administration of justice must shift from the orthodox adversarial approach to more collaboration between lawyers, parties and the court with the focus being an earnest effort to isolate the real issues in a dispute from a maze of ill-digested causes of action and defences.

“The judge’s role must be transformed from the traditional umpire role to that of active case manager. By this, I mean we must introduce in our Rule of Court situations where judges must take an active part – together with learned counsel – in identifying at an early stage of the proceedings what is the real dispute between the parties and, working together with the parties, charting a course that will result in the adjudication of the dispute as speedily as possible and at minimum costs. That is now the system of judicial case management that is taking hold in many jurisdictions across the world. We must move with the world in this regard.

“The days of over-pleading, raising as many issues that you can muster in the hope that one might just stick, should be something of the past. Courts should decide only the real disputes between the parties. In that way, the court’s time is saved and judges can dispose of more cases. Litigation should be limited to what is truly in dispute between the parties and not to obfuscate and terrorize the other side”

That is the answer I have been searching for! If the main objective is to serve the cause of justice at minimal costs and in record time, this is the way to go. I have watched such a system in operation in other climes and it is fun to watch, is not elaborate, is not long-drawn, adversarial and costly as the system we operate here.

Besides, the new system advocated by Omolaye-Ajileye will remove tension, enmity and bitterness amongst litigants. Our people have a saying, based on the adversarial system of administration of justice that we operate at the moment, that people who drag each other to court do not return from there to still be friends. We must change that narrative because it poisons the good health of our society.

Justice Omolaye-Ajileye may not have known or meant it; but he, like the Kayode Eshos, Akinola Agudas and Chukwudifu Oputas before him, is also seen by many as a fearless but even-handed judicial activist and icon. The judgments he delivered while on the Bench of the Kogi State judiciary testify to that. When he was retiring on 15 February, 2023, the outcry was much, as leading members of the Bar and others made a case that he be promoted to the higher Bench, which he eminently deserved, so that the Judiciary might still retain his services for an additional five years at the least. His pioneering work on the emerging field of electronic evidence stands him out as a leading authority in that field.

In the paper he delivered at Warri, the retired judge advocated what he described as “paradigm shift” in the practice of law and the administration of justice in the country “in order to secure tomorrow’s legal profession today”. He said: “The advocacy here is that our conservatism should not make us resist change. We live in a changing world. It is a great momentous and exciting time. Change is happening around us in ways that we had not imagined just a few years ago. All aspects of human endeavour are changing. The legal sector – to be precise, the practice of law and the administration of justice – is not spared. We must be amenable to change. As lawyers and judges, we must constantly adapt and innovate or be prepared to be pushed aside and become irrelevant.”

He advocated that lawyers and judges must imbibe technology because “we are in the middle of a technological revolution of a great magnitude, scale, scope, and complexity…To maintain relevance and remain competitive in any industry, profession or endeavour, one needs to understand the impact of emerging technologies on the future. Indeed, we need to go beyond the acquisition of knowledge. We must be prepared to integrate modern innovations strategically in our work to increase efficiency and productivity and improve our paradigms.”

Chief Consultant, Forensic Electronic and Digital Law Consultancy, Omolaye-Ajileye is also a visiting professor at the National Open University of Nigeria. To corroborate what he said, I recall here a personal experience of how technology can make hitherto indispensable hands redundant and surplus to requirement: When I was editor of PUNCH newspapers, the advent of computers displaced compugraphic machines and cut-and-paste artists had to be sent for training to plan pages on computer. Ironically, one of our best cut-and-past artists, much sought-after by everyone, could not cope with the new technology and had to be sent away!

Those who have ears, let them hear what Omolaye-Ajileye is saying to the Bar and Bench!

Bolawole is a former Editor of PUNCH newspapers and public affairs analyst on radio and television.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Ten years since Chibok, Nigeria will no longer pay the price

Published

on

By Bola Tinubu, President of Nigeria

Ten years ago today, 276 girls were abducted in the night from their school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. The attack by Boko Haram pricked the conscience of the world. From London to Washington, protesters held placards reading #BringBackOurGirls—the hashtag the girls’ families had posted to pressure their idle government into action. It would take almost three weeks for then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan even to make a public announcement. Critical time had been lost.

When this March, 137 children were tragically taken from a school in Kaduna, northwestern Nigeria, the shadow of Chibok lay ever present. Why, Nigerians and the world asked, after the passage of a decade was such an atrocity still happening?

This time, unlike Chibok, the girls and boys were brought back a fortnight later, the security and intelligence agencies deployed immediately to rescue them. Nevertheless, legitimate concerns over kidnappings persist in Africa’s most populous country. Success in Kaduna has brought families relief and praise for the military, yet the government bears no illusions: The scourge of kidnappings must be routed once and for all.

It begins with recognising the changing nature of the threat. Boko Haram translates to “Western Education is Forbidden” and reflects an ideological impetus as jihadi insurgents opposed to the very idea of a Nigerian state. Today, Boko Haram are splintered, and mass abductions are primarily the work of criminal gangs. There is no ideology here: kidnapping has become an illegal industry rewarded with ransoms. Within days of the Kaduna attack, the abductors were demanding 1 billion naira ($600,000).

Nothing was paid. As president, I have been clear that ransoms stop. Resolution through payment only perpetuates the wider problem. This extortion racket must be squeezed out of existence. Meanwhile, the costs for perpetrators must be raised: They will receive not a dime, and instead security services’ counter action.

But compressing the kidnap for ransom market only addresses the pull factors. If we are to avoid funneling the same people into other crimes that cause normal Nigerians to feel insecure, we must address the push factors: poverty, inequality, and a paucity of opportunity. Criminal gangs can find easy recruits among those without either a job, or the prospect of one.

Some 63 percent of Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. They are bearing the economic consequences of a failure by successive governments to get to grip with the Nigerian economy. Fiscal and monetary albatrosses have grounded the country’s flight, when surging demographics demand high economic growth to just maintain current standards of living.

A decades-old fuel subsidy was exhausting paltry public finances. By 2022, the cost had ballooned to $10 billion—more than the government’s combined spending on education, health care, and infrastructure in a budget of $40 billion. Currency controls that artificially propped up the naira deterred investment and led to shortages of foreign exchange. For decades we have been financially ransoming ourselves. When my government took office last May, we faced a pile of debt obligations.

Just as with kidnappers, we had to be tough with the economy. Unsustainable market distortions had to be removed. As expected, floating the naira caused it to plunge. Given Nigeria is a net food importer, the average shopping basket has consequently risen in price. The removal of the fuel subsidy, in a country where many businesses and households rely on generators for power, has also had far reaching effects. These reforms have caused pain across Nigeria; they are still painful. Yet there is no better alternative: These and other difficult reforms are necessary to arrest the economic rot that lies at the heart of insecurity.

Green shoots are now visible. In the first quarter of this year, foreign currency inflows have almost matched those for the whole of last year. A multi-billion forex backlog at the central bank has been cleared, giving foreign investors’ confidence to invest in Africa’s largest economy, safe in the knowledge they can repatriate earnings. The naira has begun to stabilize after its initial downward trend and has made huge gains against the dollar.

Talk of macroeconomics might seem remote from the challenge of insecurity. But without the fundamentals in place, it is impossible for an enabling environment where the private sector thrives, jobs are created, and opportunity is spread across the country. It is how we ensure children can go to school without fear.

For any who may have doubted our direction, it should now be clear. There will be no more ransoms paid—not to kidnappers, nor toward those policies which have trapped our people economically. Nigerians, and their economy, will be liberated.

Bola Tinubu is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Continue Reading

Trending