WHEN THOSE THAT ARE PAID TO KNOW DON’T KNOW

Soludo - seeks solution

Soludo - seeks solution

Finally, Nigeria has admitted to the fact that she is not immune to the global economic crisis that resulted from the international capital melt-down, which has its origin in the United States of America’s mortgage crisis. The fact of the crisis seeping through our national border to affect our very existence has been known by many except those who should know and are paid to know, in the first place. And why they chose to play hide and seek, still confounds the logically minded. What is, however, important now is to look at ways we can salvage the situation so as to keep businesses going now that our pretensions have fallen flat on the face.

The world or Nigeria is not new to economic crisis which may result from any of the following situations either by way of shortages of goods or services as a result of over-demand, when companies can not meet up with supplies; or inflation when general price level for raw materials and finished goods rises faster and well above annual average; or as a result of recession or depression which is a situation given rise to by slow-down in economic growth, marked by a decline in orders, high inventories, low capacity utilization and lay offs of workers.

Nigeria in particular has experienced all the above stated factors over the years except, arguably, recession or depression. We have had a fair dose of shortages in the 80s may be as a result of the way the economy was being managed then with heavy government involvement. Just as we have had to perpetually contend with inflation which is still present with us till date.

Before this current crisis things have changed for the better in the way the economy is being managed. The economy has been deregulated. Government has divested from most of the concerns that hitherto created bottle necks in the supply chain of goods. How well this approach to running the economy has been is another kettle of fish, however. But of immediate concern is how we can best manage the present crisis.

Before proffering some strategic options, we need to ascertain that we have on our hands all the economic situations as in shortages, inflation and recession and or depression in Nigeria. It can be said that we do not have shortages as in the developed markets of the west, at least basic needs might be costly, but are available.

It is equally difficult to state that we are in a state of recession because the ingredients for recession are not too visible, at least, for now. Some countries in Europe have already declared recession. In Britain, prices of goods are already driving down.

Arguably, the only factor present with us is inflation and economic instability which has to do more with poorly formulated policies and halt-heated application of same. This situation has been long with us and is not about leaving us. So how do we manage it to our advantage, particularly the businesses?

The very first strategy to pursue in times like this is policy consistency. Nigeria has never had a stable policy on any thing. No one policy has ever lasted up to five years in operation. There are some that were even changed as soon as they were made. Policy inconsistencies and lack of basic guidelines in some key areas as well as official tardiness has combined to create instability in businesses’ plans. Just as lack of state plan from which business can draw from and decayed infrastructure has made the operating environment hostile. A good example of official tardiness that impact negatively on businesses is the ugly drama playing out at the port by the name ‘port congestion,’ which is another shame.

Strategic option number two is to look inward and take advantage of local resources both material and men, which is in abundance here. Let us look back to the nineties when our businesses suffered divestments by the west, leaving Nigerian managers in the saddle. Companies like Lever Brothers as it was then called, Guinness Nigeria plc, Nigerian Breweries to mention a few, did so well in their respective areas of business. They recorded growth and expansion to the envy of the run-away investors, now back.

Our businesses are not wanting in the area of product development with local content base. For example, in the 1980s, NBL came up with a soft drink called ‘Green Sandy’ which suddenly disappeared from the market without trace. The performance of our banks in this area is legendary. More of this innovation will leverage us from the hostile global economic environment where we are too technically weak to compete.

One other area to look at is pulling together of resources to fund some special projects of common value and interest just as the banks did in the area of security recently. Research projects in area of raw material sources could also be jointly funded.

Rather than raise prices endlessly, businesses should take the option of concentrating on those products that gives higher returns but at a moderate cost. For example, Cowbell Milk introduced sachet milk to reduce cost of packaging and yet, has everyone taking milk.

Lastly, it will be appreciated if heavy investment is made in the area of infrastructure. Our roads remain in pretty bad shapes. Energy power is completely out with PHCN refusing to give up power it has held on since it came to be. The education sector remains comatose. The communications sector is having a field day short-changing subscribers on the cheap excuse of having to cope with hash business climate.

Just how do we go forward and when are we going to behave?

Offshore Professionals Queue for Jobs in South Africa

Recruitment agencies have reported a dramatic increase in the number of international professionals and South Africans living abroad who are seeking employment in South Africa after the waves of retrenchments that have hit the US and Europe.

Penny Chaskelson, the managing director of The Personnel Concept, said the agency had seen an increase of between 20 percent and 25 percent in international professionals inquiring about employment opportunities in South Africa.

“There has been a dramatic increase in responses from all over the world, and that is first and foremost a result of the global financial crunch,” she said. “However, this has also been exacerbated by the fact that some professionals were already happy to move to any location for the right job.”

Georgina Barrick, the managing director of Renwick Talent, said the group had seen a jump in inquiries about employment opportunities in South Africa since September.

Some were from South Africans who had been working in financial services outside the country, mostly in the investment and banking sectors.

“We are receiving about five applications a week and about two-thirds of these are South Africans,” she said. Approaches had come from London and other European capitals, but there had been sudden interest from Egypt, with four inquiries from that country last week.

Martin Westcott, the chief executive of Production Engineers Corporate Services, said the trend of international professionals seeking jobs in the country was logical because the South African economy was still showing some growth.

He said the trend had come at a time when South Africa needed to recruit more skilled professionals to reduce inefficiencies across the spectrum.

“This is as a result of skills shortages. Some companies were even failing to realise their employment equity targets, due to a lack of appropriately skilled personnel.

“The arrival of these personnel in the country could provide us with the opportunity of skills transfer,” he said.

In apparent validation of this trend, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund said that it had taken advantage of the situation by recruiting 20 skilled professionals who would be partnered with 40 young South Africans to develop their skills.

Malose Kekana, the fund’s chief executive, said 15 skilled professionals had been identified. They would be partnered with local youths “with the purpose of grooming them for us. We have put the effects of the financial crisis to good use.”

Kekana said the professionals would not have great cost implications for the fund, as Umsobomvu would pay only for their flights, accommodation and meals.

We are the future of television in Nigeria

Tayo Adewusi was right at the heart of the democratic struggle to validate the annulled presidential mandate of Bashorun MKO Abiola after his 1993 presidential election was annulled by the military government of then military president Ibrahim Babangida. But today, he is a wave making TV-preneur, the owner of a TV satellite channel.


In this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE, Tayo recounts his days in the struggle and how that exposure ultimately attracted him to broadcasting.

What prompted you into becoming a TV-Preneur?

Because of my inclination, influence and motivation from the likes of my big brother, Mr. Niyi Akinsiju, whom I met in my formative years and who was always there to encourage me with all his heart; Mr. Niyi Akinsiju is one of Nigeria’s most articulate journalists, who, today, publishes FORTUNE & CLASS magazines, Nigeria’s most authentic and authoritative business journal, and the likes of Mr. Segun Banjo, who also writes for Fortune & Class and Mr. Femi Davies, who currently manages the White House Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.

But among all these friends, I have in the entertainment and showbiz world, the man, whom I can call my mentor, Bob Dee [Mr. Dele Momodu] the publisher of Ovation, I can’t forget these people. They were there in my trying periods, their words were energizers that kept me going until I arrived here. You know, having been to most of these TV and radio stations for MAVED programme, I was exposed to the power of television which I realized is the most powerful media tool.

But really, it was my brother in-law who introduced me to mainstream broadcasting, he was the one who called me and told me to come and relief him in presenting his Information Technology focused IT TV programme while he was away for just one month as he was relocating his family to Europe then. Can you believe that that one month had become six years as I’ve been producing, directing and presenting the programme since then and I’ve even elevated it to become ICT WATCH on MITV, and MINAJ and some other stations.

However, in the course of doing some ICT public relations jobs for Engineer Banjo, the Chairman and CEO of DISC Communications Ltd. we became very close because he was one of the pioneers of indigenous TV in Nigeria and, of course, I also aired my programme on the platform.

It was in the middle of a discussion with Femi Davies who called me at MITV and said “Tayo, you are very close to Uncle Banjo, why don’t you tell him you want to have a TV channel on his platform,” I said, ‘fine,’ it was this statement that spurred me into the adventure you all are seeing today as FOCUS TV.

I remember that it was in July, 2006 that I first came to see him (Engr. Banjo) and told him my intension to have my own TV channel. Engr. Banjo’s response was, “my friend, do you know what it takes to have a channel?” I said, ‘yes, I’m prepared.’ He then asked if I had the money; naturally, that question was popular with him. He loved to ask anybody who made such a request on him, if they have the money to manage a cable station.

I responded that I was capable, so, I went to the drawing board and between that July in 2006 and April 2007, when we were given the nod to start, we commenced operations inside a very small cubicle, where we started our test transmission that April ending in 2007. Because I knew that every new station that comes up the first thing that they always do to attract viewing is to have a lot of entertainment programmes like film and musicals.

We just had it behind our minds that we were not going to do what other people were already doing, so we remained FOCUSed just like our name and our plan then was to be the channel to beat on this platform in six months, but in just two months of our operations, we became the channel to beat and that again threw up challenges of remaining on top for us.

Was that really your biggest challenge as TV- preneur ?

I would say no, it was just one of the challenges but because we don’t have any bank to support us. Nigerian banks don’t help small customers grow; they prefer to go and sponsor blue chip companies with billions of naira whereas there are entrepreneurs who need only N50,000 to survive. My brother, just like any other business owner in Nigeria today, I still believe power is one of our biggest problems.

If I tell you how much it is costing us to fuel our three stand-by generators in a month, now, if that same amount is injected into our operations, our production quality will be better and tighter and that means more income for us. Despite the fact that we are in an industrial neighbourhood, we at times, don’t have power from NEPA or PHCN as they call them, for hundreds of hours in a month. It is annoying when they prefer to supply power in the thick of the night while everyone was asleep and then switch it off before day break. If government can listen to me, let them forget other infrastructure and face power supply, every other thing will fall in place.

How have you been able to manage your business related challenges?

Till date I cannot tell you I’ve conquered my challenges because they are still there. There are some I cannot conquer, so what I did was to find a means of living with them like the alternative power supply. These are some of the challenges that as an individual I cannot conquer. We are barely floating, I tell you, since the day we commissioned our live studio in October 2008, if I show you the bill we’ve paid on fuel alone you’ll marvel, but I can tell you we are still not close to our target. The dream is big, we are not even close yet. It is just a dream coming true, but we are not yet there.

How would you describe the impact of regulations in your industry of choice compared to other sectors?

What I can say about the ICT sector of the economy is that we once clapped our hands for increasing telephone subscriber base from NITEL’s 400,000 to the 62 million lines we have now. But looking at it critically, a lot of people carry an average of two to three phones, so don’t let us look at the specific number but the service delivered. It would have been okay if we all carry one phone and we are satisfied with the services. The issue is that I want to call Mr. A and I want to reach him on time and spend my normal time but you’ll see that before I can reach him I will have to spend some additional time and when you even make the calls, they are not going and you have drop them.

Even at that, the GSM service providers are better than the CDMA phone service providers. The moment you started dialing their computer will start counting on your charges between the time you started dialing and the time your receiver picked up his phone, you are already being charged for time spent calling. Why can’t they configure their lines just like the GSM service providers, the quality of services rendered by all the networks are very poor and that had been our campaign for a very long time; the regulators, in fairness to them, one should say they’ve done a good job, but when we look at the quality of services by these providers, it leaves much to be concerned about.

Does this have direct negative or positive impact on your operations?

Yes, because we are still under the same ministry, the current challenges those of us in the broadcast sector are having with the National Communication Commission is that while we are trying to better the quality of our services, the frequency we transmit from, the NCC is planning to auction it. We are talking of people who had secured their licences for the past 15 years; the frequency had been allocated in the past 15 years, why are you now opting to sell it while these people have their renewal in the last five years still in tact.

I think that there are duplications of roles by the regulators; we are under BON [Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria] and if there is any erring broadcaster or operator, he should be disciplined by the NBC [Nigerian Broadcasting Commission] but the NCC is usurping that role of overseeing the frequency band. According to Engr. Banjo, the power of broadcasting cannot be compared to the power of communications, the two are far apart, the industry needs more regulatory framework that will help drive and develop the sector.

How would you compare the impact of the new minister on the sector with that of the former minister?

I think the background of the new Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili as a renowned regulator has certain implications. Being in the kind of the country we are, she should be in the real sense of it the Minister of Information and Communications and not the Minister of NCC as she is now inclined to be. I say this because there has been a tendency in Nigeria’s government where ministers appointed to oversee different aspects of a ministry ended up just concentrating on one aspects of the responsibility of the ministry.

We have had sports ministers that performed more or less as ministers for football, while ministers for mines and power have only concerned themselves with electric power, leaving the mines aspect of the ministry. Now, since Prof. Akunyili does her things with passion, we are expecting her to use the same passion to drive the general information sector.

For now it will be unfair for me to start comparing her with her predecessors, all I know is that the sector needs someone who will help nurture and tend it.

What is the capital base or worth of FOCUS TV?

Well, I may not be able to tell you how big we are or how rich we are, but I know we are still acquiring equipment and expanding our frontiers, so the only thing I know is that to have a local channel on our platform, you’ll need to build your own studio from the scratch like I did, costing you millions of naira; but what I know is that you must be a millionaire to run or own a TV station in Nigeria, because we have over head very close to what obtain in banks, because we burn our generators 24/7, so when you add that alone to the cost, it is very heavy. What I’ve learnt over the years, running this business, is that every business has a gestation period and it must be clearly defined at the inception. What we are doing now is to plough back all our returns to the business, and to remain focused.

What are the future expectations of focus TV?

By the special grace of God we know that FOCUS CABLE Channel will be transforming to terrestrial television, but we are also looking at the possibility of kicking off with our own private owned radio station and our area of coverage is Lagos zone though we have our footprints in all the South West states of Nigeria, at times we stray into the Midwestern states.

You know, the Federal Government has declared that by 2011 every broadcast establishment must go digital that means that AIT, GALAXY, MITV,etc; will be satellite stations and you can only watch them via cable network system, that is the future of television broadcasting.

We hope advertisers can see the quality of our programmes, like some of our superb programmes that can stand shoulder to shoulder with some premium TV programmes on our local stations. We have a popular breakfast talk-show running from Monday through Saturday, ICT programme runs from Monday to Saturday, Lalale Friday is an entertainment programme that showcases spots for fun seeking viewers to know what is happening around town and where they are happening. Our presenters are seasoned professionals with track records in the industry.

Our Celebrities Hangout programme over the last three months had showcased and featured top celebrities including the likes of Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, Sammie Okposo, Adewale Ayuba, Wale Thompson while we have lined up artistes of the likes of KWAM 1, Lanre Teriba Atorise, Evag. Dunni Olanrewaju Opelope Annointing, as our next set of guests.

We have a review of 10 top movies in English and Yoruba home videos; there are a lot of programmes on the terrestrial TV that are also on our channel, both local and foreign. Really, FOCUS TV is a must watch channel for everyone.

What does it take to get FOCUS TV to our homes?

All you need to do if you reside in Lagos State or its neighbouring towns or cities, is to buy the old antenna and a decoder, this will cost you about N300, but if you preferred the bundle, it is going to cost you N11,500 plus one month free subscription. And you are likely to watch about 60 channels, you are even permitted to watch about 16 foreign channels, and 20 indigenous channels including FOCUS TV when you are not able to pay your monthly subscription. The bundle subscription is family channel including CNN, Al jazerah, Christian Channel, Cartoon Tv, Sports, Music Channel, Movie Channel and many more. You cannot compare FOCUS TV with all these regular TV stations, our programmes are packaged with the niche viewers in mind and the maturity in our production is of world class standard.

Who is Tayo Adewusi?

I was born 40 years ago in Ilorin, Kwara State to Owu parents, which means I’m an Owu person. I started my primary education in Ile-Ife, Osun State, but I completed it in Lagos, I was at the Methodist Boys High School, Lagos and thereafter at the Lagos State School of Basic Studies, on Agidingbi Road, Ikeja, now converted to the Lagos State Technical College, Ikeja.

After my studies at the Lagos State School of Basic Studies, I did not get into a higher institution straight away because I wasn’t able to secure admission for the course of my interest so this delayed me a bit because I told myself that once I did not secure admission for the course of my interest I will not go for any other course. My intention then was to study Computer Science but I invariably went into the Lagos State Polytechnic to study accounting.

Again, though I had the goal to get to the top of my accounting career, to be a Chattered Accountant, due to my inclination for the democratic struggle in Nigeria during the heady days of the military era, I was more or less distracted.

I started out my democratic struggle while in school as a student activist, I was the public relations officer of the Student Union Government – Lagos State Polytechnic, and later, the Director of Travels & Exchange of the National Association of Nigerian Students [NANS] Under Dennis leadership. These were some of the things I engaged in between 1992-1996,and thereafter, by the time I was probably leaving the school, my encounter with the likes of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Olisa Agbakoba, Ayo Obe, Femi Falana, Festus Keyamo had influenced my decision to go into a full time activism which made me to pitch my tenth with the Civil Liberties Organisations [CLO] I use to have my desk at the CLO’s office.

This was at the height of the June 12 crisis, of course, we formed the Moshood Abiola Vanguard For Democracy [MAVFD] I was the founding and still the Secretary General. It was a trying period for all of us in the struggle between 1993-1999, it was evident that we weren’t looking beyond 1999 when we had democracy. Even Baba Abraham Adesanya, the leader of the Afenifere then, now of blessed memory, was not looking beyond 1999.

We were short sighted in the contemplation of what those that struggled for democracy should do when the military returned power to civilians in 1999. That is why, today, most of us that were in the struggle were not really part of the team running the country now. A lot of us were not just prepared for that, none of us was preparing to become even a councillor or hold any political position.

But in the course of our struggles, two organizations really supported and funded us, they gave financial backing to MAVFD programmes, these were the Democratic Department of the United States Embassy, and the Dutch Embassy. They were very supportive of our advocacy programmes. I can recall that we went into a relationship with MITV, RayPower 100.1FM, and MINAJ TV. We aired a programme called “Democratic Values” on all these stations between 1999 and 2001.

In the course of your activism which singular event would you say influenced you greatly?

One of such event as an activist was that I was privileged to be one of the few people that spoke with late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the winner of June 12 election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, before she was shot dead. She had a brief meeting with our group, the Moshood Abiola Vanguard For Democracy [MAVFD] which I was the General Secretary at their home before she was shot and killed less than an hour later.

SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL

Government is no doubt the biggest business in Nigeria, so it is in countries around the world. Exception is that in more economically developed lands, especially those that are inclined to the capitalist economic model, rather than government to directly engage in the economic arena, they provide an environment where individuals play the economy in pursuit of personal benefit for the good of society in accord with the policies and philosophy of government.

The Nigerian situation won’t pass the test of a capitalist model, what with the confusion that defines government roles in the productive and service sectors that had left public utilities in vicious spasm of a slow death.

The failure of the Nigerian government in business and provision of society’s essentials like potable water and electricity power is no longer controvertible, Nigerians have generally given up on their expectations from government in this regard, it is, however, troubling that government and its agencies now garb economic policy positions and thrusts with odious subterfuge and double speak.

Moments after, the economies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom went into a tailspin, even the most economically ignorant was able to conjecture that the global economy was on its way to a storm which consequences may surpass the storied damnation of the Great Depression that commenced in 1929. But officials of Nigerian government would rather see no evil, hear no evil. The two finance ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria assured that the country was immune to the vagaries of the devastation that had begun to shake the economic foundations of the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

Yet, signs of malevolent economic change were becoming obvious. Price of crude oil, the nation’s mainstay natural resource suddenly took a dive southward from high in the $150 per barrel of crude oil to $44. Reason for this is obvious, one needs not be a Keynesian to rationalize that developed economies that are the major consumers of crude oil disciplined their appetite for crude oil which in turn reduced the pressure on the demand with attendant fall in price. For Nigeria the implication is grievous, reduced revenue collection, cut down in GDP growth projection, a cascading fall in value of the naira, the national currency, the direct deployment of the $58.11 billion foreign reserve as intervention to save an imperiled economy. And eventually, a life of further distress for the average Nigerian. You don’t need to be a professor of economics to anticipate this turn in the economic sphere.

Already, the scenarios are playing out, the national budget for 2009 is a deficit budget due to anticipated reduction in revenue, three weeks ago, the Naira took a hiding from speculators and others when it lost more than ten per cent of its value to the Dollar in three days; just as there are discomfiting indications of distresses in financial institutions.

The CBN, after its Monetary Policy Committee meeting announced it was going to intervene directly in the daily two way quote foreign exchange market with fund from the nation’s foreign reserve.

Apparently, government and its agencies lack economic anticipatory skill. Soon after the first sign of trouble in the west emerged, a more focused government and its agencies would have cobbled a fiscal and monetary policy position targeted at the eventual impact of the roiling global economic scene on the country.

It is not too late, rather than the piece meal attention to specific worrisome spectre of economic emergency, it is better for the CBN, finance ministry and whoever, to evolve policies and measures with strong anticipatory ingredient to address likely troublesome financial and economic scenarios that may impact the country in the next 12 months.

As it is, we lost the opportunity to seize the initiative of building a bulwark against the negative consequences of the global economic downturn by acting the ostrich with its head in the sand even as trouble raged.

Certainly, responsible and responsive countries around the world are girding their loins in anticipation of a long tenor of battling with the economic crises. For Nigeria, the consequences of the global economic troubles are yet to fully manifest in the country, it would, indeed, be a matter of common sense to put together measures and policies that can help stave the negatives of the eventual infiltration of the global economic crises. This is a better option than to continue to beat the chest in the assurance of the community enjoying certain immunity from the global crises.

We all know that Nigeria is not exactly blessed with enduring economic structures and initiatives that have the capabilities to self correct in the face of a crisis that slowly but inevitably heads toward the country.

The ‘I Before You’ Syndrome

A System can be defined as units or parts (sub-systems) that interact with each part or unit to function as a whole. The units or parts are designed in a manner that makes its operations optimal with less grid-lock and distractions or un-necessary overlapping that will create bottle necks or tardiness to function effectively so much so that all the units that make a whole will almost automatically fit into place to give one big system.

A well managed system institutionalized becomes so functional that every body will on entry into the system know what to do and how to do it without relying on brain wave or native intelligence or worst still rely on the ‘thoughts’ of the man on the spot to carry out official functions as was the case with our military detractors, extended by our ‘Mr. know all’ General OBJ even when we claim to be operating a democratic system of government.

Some of the features of a functional system lies in its ability to be self regulatory, detects deviations from set standards which it allows for setting with ease in the first place and setting of further standards, makes planning easy and effective and gives enough room for appraisal of operations and above all brings about efficiency and professionalism because of its effectiveness. A good functional system even allow for accurate projections to be made in all the areas of society’s needs with precision.

System is so central to human activities that no plan no matter how good it may look like can function in a dysfunctional system though a functional system is a result of good planning. So total is a system that it is easy to discern a functional society viding the system in place thus allowing things to done in a particular way with character as the common denominator.

Whether in governance or business or even in our private lives, its none application gives room for dislocations through faulty assumptions that sometimes are very costly and fatal resulting to instability and social vices. A good example is our inability to have a budget on time. Inter and intra governmental conflict in the country is also another sore point of the confused situation we are into.

For a very long while now you see and hear Nigerians lamenting either through write-ups in the newspapers or comments on TV station(s) the break down of system in Nigeria or lack of it claiming that that is why nothing functions here. Often comparison is drawn between Nigeria and Europe and United States of America, places where in their reckoning things work. They are absolutely right except that no one so far has posited why theirs is working and ours is not.

What we have not been able to do like others we often refer to is that we have allowed institutions that should be nurtured and grown into functional systems to be revolved around individuals who are holders of those offices at any point in time. Rather than allow institutions to make persons we allow persons to make the institutions, a direct opposite of what obtains in the places we see and refer to as better than ours.

Bastardization of institutions started with IBB regime when the civil service was dismantled all because one man wants to remain in power at all cost and the rules will not fast track it hence total demolition of all the structures built over time that has given a semblance of system to our governance. Ask Gen. Gowon the usefulness of the civil service and see what a good system it was before IBB and all the rapacious regimes that followed later including Obasanjos’.

Now we today are celebrating the judiciary as the last hope of the common man with some even suggesting rightly too as the only institution or arm of government functioning. The fact is that is about the only institution spared by all the military regimes that has ruled this country even though it is for selfish reasons. The judiciary managed to resist or escape the over-bearing tendencies of the military for reason known to them.

Painfully though is the fact that Nigerians in more than so many ways contributed immensely to the destruction of our institutions through direct collaboration and or complacency. The attitude we exhibited in enthroning ‘me’ instead of ‘we’ that has seen individuals more powerful or relevant than the institution they head is what we are all witnessing in the case of Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC and the police as institution.

The role of the media on this saga, who was supposed to educate on issues of this nature, is to say the least, is appalling. There is the suggestion going by the write-ups in the media that Ribadu is being given some bad treatment thus insinuating he is bigger than EFCC or that without him there will be no EFCC. And it is a shame that the watch dog role the media is supposed to play in ensuring public office holders account for their stewardship which Nuhu Ribadu has failed to do so far is being questioned shamelessly. We did it during the regimes of IBB, Sani Abacha, even Obasanjo. But they all have left office and Nigeria remains. Some sanity please.

It is my opinion that Ribadu should go and answer to questions being raised over his stewardship at EFCC. He should also realize that he is a police man first before being Chairman of EFCC and most importantly him as a lawyer ought to know and he should know that the police are an institution with its rules and regulation. The police have its own system still functioning. If for any reason he finds it difficult to operate within that system he should honourably bow out. The people urging him on knows this and will deny him soon, very soon.

By the way where is DSP Ogugbuaja?

NIGERIAN ENTERPRENEURS SCARE: GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT DESTROYED BIG-TIME BUSINESSES

Only the naïve entrepreneur in Nigeria is excited with the contemplation of floating a manufacturing concern. The wise ones, schooled in the experiences they have had to contend with in the ever changing dynamics of manufacturing and other investments tasks in the production lines have fled the scene to the shelter of trading and merchandising. This, for good reasons. The challenges of conducting manufacturing and related production activities in the country, though, besetting, are however benign when compared with the ease with which government oft volte-face on policies and action stamp out the promises or existence of a once upon-a-time manufacturing plant.
In this review, we track some of the celebrated industrial concerns that had been heckled into non-existence by government policy summersaults over the years, official actions or inaction that have become the scare of entrepreneurs.
Presidential Initiative on Cassava Production
In 2002, cassava suddenly gained national prominence following the pronouncement of a Presidential Initiative. The intent of the Initiative was to use cassava as the engine of growth in Nigeria. In the ordinary sense, the perception is that cassava is indigenous to the country, official statistics claim that Nigeria grows more cassava than any other country in the world with a production capacity of about 34 million metric tones a year.
The Presidential Initiative on Cassava production and export was initiated in the year 2002. The goal of the initiative was to promote cassava as a foreign exchange earner in Nigeria as well as to satisfy national demand. The challenge of the initiative was to make Nigeria earn 5 billion US dollars from value added cassava exports by 2007. The objectives of the Presidential Initiative on Cassava was to expand primary processing and utilisation to absorb the national cassava production glut, identify and develop new market opportunities for import substitution and export stimulate increased private sector investment in the establishment of export oriented Cassava industries, ensure the availability of clean (disease free) planting materials targeted at the emerging industries, increase the yield, productivity and expand annual production to achieve global cassava competitiveness, advocate for conducive policy and institutional reforms for the development of the Nigerian cassava sector and integrate the rural poor especially women and youths into the mainstream of the national economy.
The federal government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo backed the initiative with funding support while encouraging banks and other government and multilateral agencies to drive the initiative through funding support.
Suffice to say that in response to the government drive, an industry revolving around cassava plantation and processing started emerging. Opportunity seekers were encouraged to invest because of the obvious outward flourish of government. The signs were obvious too, under the Presidential Initiative on Cassava, Nigeria mandated millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread, a percentage mix of ethanol in refined petroleum motor spirit (petrol) in the nation’s refineries. These were moves aimed at increasing the utilization of the tuber crop.
Other statistics pointed to the profitability of entrepreneurial engagement in cassava related activities; the domestic demand for cassava starch is about 130,000 tonnes per annum and 200,000 tonnes per annum for high quality cassava flour. The domestic demand for ethanol is 180 million litres – all ethanol is imported In Nigeria. None of these markets are being satisfied by local supplier even till today in Nigeria.
Individual entrepreneurs were attracted into the field and the buzz made the rounds of great things happening in cassava production in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the fancy was just for a time, even before the exit of the Obasanjo’s regime, there were obvious signs of government distancing itself from the clarion call to cassava farming and processing, soon after the assumption of office of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, immediate successor to Obasanjo, federal government articulation of the cassava initiative lost its din.
The lacklustre enforcement of the policy of mandating flour millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread and other confectionaries were altogether abandoned. Of course, the idealism of the refinery blend of ethanol with petrol had been a mirage according to entrepreneurs that had found their ways into cassava processing. “The nation’s refineries only functioned epileptically, rather, the bulk of refined products are being imported from foreign refineries, so the idea of the ethanol could not have worked out at all.” A cassava processor said
The government of Yar’Adua nailed the fledgling sector by abandoning the ethos of the Obasanjo initiated presidential initiative on cassava initiative. Importations of cassava processed by products and all have been allowed in the country with import tariff of 20 percent value.
“Apparently, this has sounded the death knell for that endeavour.” Another cassava processor said. “Local conditions have made it difficult to produce and process cassava, the thinking was to protect the industry until such a time that it would be able to compete favourably with importation but I understand that government decided to make this reversal because of the need to mitigate increased food prices. But then, we think that it would have been better to strengthen cassava production and processing in the country to boost food supply and to earn more income for government through export.
In the final analysis, the fact is that most entrepreneurs have had their investment and efforts gone up in smoke, another promise subverted by inconsistent government policy shift.
NIGERIAN LAMP PLC
One of the outstanding business endeveavour the recently demised Chief Beyioku Adebowlale of the Adebowale Store fame would be remembered for is his Nigerian Lamp Industry Plc. A courageous indigenous effort to play in the main stream manufacturing sector, when Adebowale built the Nigerian Lamp plant in his native Epe in Lagos State, it was reported to be the first of its kind in Africa. The plant was equipped to manufacture light bulbs and fluorescent.
It is reported that Adebowale was encouraged to make a foray into the manufacturing effort away from his electronic products trading concern in the Adebowale Electronic Store by the positive outlook of government incentive for indigenous manufacturers to commit to the economy in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, by the time the plant came on stream, it was like hitting dirt on first day of commission, government had made a reversal on policy, rather than protect local industries, government lifted the restricted importation of bulbs and fluorescents tube and other lamp forms. The market place was immediately flooded with Asian and Far East Asian countries bulb brands, which were cheaper though low in quality.
Nigerian Lamp, unfortunately, had become a publicly quoted company, Nigerians had subscribed to is initial public offer, but with the influx of cheaper products and brands into the market, the company’s operation became blighted and soon after became literally comatose. The company that never took off for operation eventually was placed under a receiver manager. This officially announced the demise of the once upon a Time promising company.
ROKANA INDUSTRIES PLC
Rokana Industries, had, back in the late 1980s caught the attention of the dentistry world with its production of the uniquely styled Jordan tooth brush. The market penetration of the Rokana brand of tooth brush was fast and quite domineering. It is reported that in its first year of introduction, the Rokana brand had pushed other imported brands to the back of the shelves. Jodan tooth brush was, considered the authentic Nigerian brand though the brand is a British franchise.
The dominance of the brand won’t endure for long however, because the Federal Government felt no need to specifically outlaw the activities of importers who would rather import fake Jordan tooth brush into Nigeria than to import other brands.
This more or less killed the vibrancy of the brand in the market place, it is however to the credit of the endearing qualities of the brand that it still subsists till day despite the continuous import of its counterfeit. The limitation is that Rokana, the producing company which is also a publicly quoted company floated by the immediate past commerce minister in the Yar’Adua’s cabinet Mr. Charles Ugwuh, has remained more or less moribund on the stock exchange’s price listing as investors ignored it even when the stock market was upbeat.
DOYIN INDUSTRIES
Doyin Industries is still a flourishing concern, this would not have been so if the man behind the manufacturing concern had not been well grounded in the ways of manufacturing in Nigeria. Of course he had been badly burnt from his engagement with manufacturing.
Samuel Adedoyin, the man behind Doyin Industries started out in business as a trader and he made quite a success of it that he diversified into manufacturing of household and food items and body care products. By 1996 he mobilized credit to build an awesome factory to manufacture his company’s range of products, and he was daring enough to take on multi-national companies. Travails soon ensued, electricity limitation to power the factory and the credit sourcing for funding the factory project became a burden, the market was also flooded with cheaper products from Asian countries.
The operations of the company soon became hamstrung, credit issues from City Express Bank became a public embarrassment for the Kwara State born industrialist, eventually, a production line of the industry had to close down and workers lay off.
DUNLOP
Dunlop Nigeria Plc is the latest of once buoyant companies to hit the dirt. The company had endured the harsh economic environment and had over the years returned impressive earnings to investors in the company being a public quoted company a greater majority of 95 per cent of the company’s shares belongs to several state governments, public companies and no fewer than 93,000 private Nigerians.
In 1991, it acquired majority shareholding in PAMOL (Nigeria) Limited, a rubber producing company to ensure uninterrupted supply of the right quality natural rubber, a major raw material in tyre manufacturing.
The company pioneered the radial car tubeless tyres in West Africa; produced the first crossply tyre in tubeless in Nigerian market; was the first Nigerian tyre company to hold the E.C.E 30 Certificate, an export requirement for car tyres to Europe; and first manufacturing company in Africa (beside South Africa) to hold the ISO 9002 certification.
It would soon be revealed during the former minister of commerce visit to Dunlop factory late last year that the company was merely struggling to stay afloat. The managing director of the company had complained about infrastructural deficiency, especially energy (electricity and recently, gas outages) and import duty regimes, inconsistent tax regimes which combine to place local manufacturers at significant disadvantage.
A major gripe of the company was its N8 billion expansion into the Heavy Truck Radial segment which was frustrated by reversal of government policy on tariff for imported truck/bus tyres from 40 per cent to 10 per cent at the beginning of 2007. This according to the company’s officials, created unfair and inequitable advantages for importers of finished tyres.
The dichotomy between tariff for car tyres (50 per cent) and Truck/Bus tyres (10 per cent) is said to have been abused by importers, both in terms of tariff and haulage evasion.
The situation confers undue advantages on importation rather than local manufacturing, now, the company has declared its incapacity to continue manufacturing activities in the country. Unofficial source said it would resort to tyre importation with grave implications for the rubber from its subsidiary, Pamol.
FAMAD (FORMERLY BATA) PLC and LENNARDS NIGERIA PLC
Before the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme, Bata’s ubiquitous outlets were the ultimate in foot wear shopping for all ages, Bata with its lesser cousin, Lennards Nigeria Plc. After 1986, the promise of flourishing was effectively shut out of the footwear manufacturing outfits. Government could not stem smuggling activities.
Synthetic shoes from Dubai and other Asian countries and high quality leather foot wear from Europe smuggled large scale into Nigeria particularly suffocated indigenous production. Ironically, the nation’s export in their raw forms the materials needed for footwear manufacturing. The products are exported, refined, recycled and packaged abroad to be sent back to Nigeria as import.
Till date, no appropriate government policy has addressed the inadequacy in the sector that has turned FAMAD (BATA) and LENNARDS into moribund companies.
VOLKSWAGEN AND PAN NIGERIA
In the 1970s Nigerian was the centre of attraction in the African continent with its hosting of the Volkswagen and Peugeot Automobile Nigeria plants. Nigerians, before the economic deluge of the last quarter of 1986 were sure of brand new cars proudly assembled in Nigeria. The assembly plants were supposed to be transitional in the nation’s march to becoming a full fledged vehicle manufacturing country.
The dream was cut short by government policy. Government steel rolling mills could not produce an ounce to support the desire to attain full production capacity, just as the value of the naira had suddenly depreciated in the years running to the close of the 1980 decade, and government back in the days, unofficially gave the go ahead for the importation of second hand vehicle (Tokunbo) at outrageously low tariff without consideration for age of vehicle to be imported.

FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT CASTIGATES FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICES FOR PROTECTING OIL COMPANIES

Issues in appropriate auditing process and accountability have, over the years become a constant source of worries and had, often led to cases of finger pointing by Federal Government agencies responsible for regulating the oil and gas sector and the mostly multinational oil producing companies in the country.

The contentious issue had always revolved around the huge discrepancies between amount that up stream oil companies say they paid and what the government says it actually received.

Financial experts and officials of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative had, since 2004 continued to dismiss the measure of transparency and accounting standards as generally poor.

But a United States of America based Nigerian forensic accountant has accused the Federal Inland Revenue Services of shielding the influential multinational oil companies from the investigative probing of forensic accounting. The Federal Inland Revenue Services is the primary government agency responsible for assessing tax and other revenue due to the government from oil and gas exploration and production activities of shielding.

Mr. Nat Cole, the Forensic Accountant observed that he had been aware of a flourishing practice of under reporting of revenue due to the Federal Government from the multinational oil companies in Nigeria and had approached the Chair person of the FIRS to approve for him, at no cost to the government, the responsibility of auditing the oil companies on the auditing model of forensic accounting’. Cole said.

“The Federal Government and other stakeholders in the oil and gas sector have always been suspicious of figures declared by multinational companies in the now vexed joint venture arrangement with the government in oil exploration and production. In fact, the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative had, in an audit covering the period 1999 to 2004, uncovered huge discrepancies in the figures returned to the government by the oil companies and the figures that are, actually, due to the government.

“As a veteran forensic accountant with more than 28 years auditing the oil and gas sector in the United States and other countries in Europe, I had volunteered my services to the FIRS to audit the books of the oil companies without charges to the Federal Government. I told the Chairman of the FIRS, Mrs. Omoigui Ifueko-Okauru of the limitations of the conventional auditing style to get the actual status of revenue accruable to Nigerians through payment to the government by the oil companies.

“The fact is that by deploying the forensic model of auditing one would be avoiding the what you see is what you get model of auditing. The fact is that with the auditing, you can only work within and by the figures the companies present to you. You won’t be able to ask questions beyond the figures presented. But with forensic accounting and auditing procedure you apply investigative techniques and that will uncover more facts that can be authenticated.

“But the FIRS seems not be to be bothered about what I all of us believe are the wrong things the oil companies are doing as they deliberately act to short change us. I offered my service and I think it is the responsibility of the FIRS management, if they are really serious about getting the right picture of what is happening in the oil and gas sector, to approve the forensic auditing of the companies in the sector.

“But I fear that the FIRS may not be willing to do this because it might be protecting the oil companies from what I can’t really understand. Well, the truth is that the oil giants have become so influential in government that they seem to do things at will and get away with these inappropriate things. It won’t be until we muster enough courage to confront them that the nation would be able to get what is rightfully its, from the oil giants.” Nat explained.