Thursday, August 26, 2010
It is easy enough to recognize what is meant by the expression 'cultural diversity’. That phrasing opens up culture, acknowledges the richness of man's creative existence and palpable manifestations of his inner sensibilities, his aesthetic impulses and sometimes even his spiritual intuitions. It conjures up a panoply of creativity, limitless, an expansion of the human horizon in ways that amplify even the most mundane aspects of the various activities involved in the reproducing of human existence. So far, so good. Unfortunately, another expression has crept into global usage, one that has done its best to substitute for an uncomplicated, thought multi-textured activity of human existence. That phrase of usurpation parades itself as –cultural relativism. And in what context does this substitute intrude itself? Naturally, in the much abused domain of Human Rights. So what exactly is Cultural Relativism?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Nigeria – The Next Generation
Managing Director of the World Bank
Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and
Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health
Task Force members are:
Alhaji Lamido Ado Bayero
The Chiroman Kano
Governor of Cross River State, 1999-2007
Director General, Nigeria Economic Summit Group
Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa
Director of The Centre For Applied Economics at Lagos Business
Principal Partner, Wali Uwais & Co
Nigeria stands on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in its history. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world that has young workers in plentiful supply. Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most precious resource in the twenty-first century.
Nigeria has been struggling against the demographic tide since independence. Rapid population growth has created a huge strain on the country’s economic, social and political systems. Today, just 1.2 adults care for each of the country’s children and old people.
During the past 30 years, the Nigerian economy has stagnated, in sharp contrast to the fortunes of such natural comparators as Indonesia. The 1990s was a lost decade for Nigeria with per capita GDP falling to below 1980 levels.
Today, Nigeria’s demographic tide is finally turning, as population growth slows and its ‘baby boom generation’ enters the workforce. By midcentury, depending on how fast family size falls, there could be as much as a whole additional adult to support each child and old person.
Nigeria stands ready to collect a substantial demographic dividend. If it continues with recent positive economic growth, improves health standards, and harnesses a growing workforce, the average Nigerian will be as much as three times richer by 2030 and over 30 million people will be lifted out of poverty.
If Nigeria fails to collect its demographic dividend, the seriousness of the country’s predicament should not be underestimated. Its prospects will be bleak and could be catastrophic.
In the worst case, Nigeria will see: growing numbers of young people, frustrated by a lack of opportunities; increased competition for jobs, land, natural resources, and political patronage; cities that are increasingly unable to cope with the pressures placed on them; ethnic and religious conflict and radicalisation; and a political system that is discredited by its failure to improve lives.
Demography is pushing Nigerian states and regions onto widely different trajectories, and could further increase inequality if measures are not taken to promote social cohesion.
Demographic factors are steadily increasing Nigeria’s risk of conflict. If it fails to respond appropriately over the next decade, it couldwell face a demographic disaster.
Nigeria is currently poorly positioned to maximise its demographic opportunities, despite marked improvements in the policy environment over the past decade.
At present, health and education standards are low, especially in disadvantaged regions and among the poor. Many young Nigerians are illequipped for life in a modern economy. Young women are especially likely to be excluded from opportunities.
A shortage of jobs is a serious challenge, with young Nigerians taking many years to become productive contributors to society. A Nigerian only produces more than he or she consumes for an average of 30 years of their life, compared to 34 years in Indonesia, 35 years in India, and 37 years in China.
Nigeria urgently needs to develop a thorough action plan for its next generation. At present, policymakers have too little robust data on the country’s future challenges. In effect, they are running the country blind. Better evidence is needed to inform more far-sighted policies.
Investment in people must be substantially boosted. The government should set targets for increasing expenditure on education and health, using oil revenues to fund both infrastructure and recurrent spending, while ensuring that existing funds are spent more efficiently.
For education, the priorities are to develop skills that lead to employment, through expansion of vocational training, and to tackle the gross inequalities in educational provision that threaten Nigeria’s integrity as a cohesive society.
In the health sector, rapid improvements are possible, especially by tackling very high levels of child mortality. Regions with low health standards need emergency funding to build effective primary health systems, with a focus on maternal and child health care.
The needs of young families must also be put at the heart of the Nigerian policy agenda. With better health and education, parents will choose to invest more in fewer children, giving them a much better chance of living a prosperous, secure and fulfilled life. Creating pro-family policies must be a priority for the Nigerian government.
Without remedial action, the crisis in the job market will worsen rapidly as growing numbers of young Nigerians enter the workforce. Nigeria needs to create almost 25 million jobs over the next ten years if it is to offer work to new entrants, and halve current unemployment.
Nigeria needs to develop the infrastructure that will underpin a world class economy, spending up to an additional 4% of GDP on this task. It should diversify away from oil, with an emphasis on sectors that will improve employment prospects for young people, while removing obstacles to economic growth and private enterprise.
The oil industry contributes 40% to national GDP, but employs less than 0.15% of the population. Other industries still in their infancy offer greater potential to Nigeria and Nigerians: communications; manufacturing (textiles, clothing and footwear; automobiles); and the mining of resources other than oil.
Nigeria must tap into the energies of the next generation itself, releasing its innovative and entrepreneurial potential, and ensuring that young people have increasing opportunities for political expression. It should also harness the potential of the diaspora, both to provide opportunities for the young; and for new ideas, investments, and contacts of the global Nigerian network.
With the right policies for the next generation, Nigeria’s aspiration to become one of the world’s largest 20 economies is in reach. If Nigeria’s leaders make the wrong choices today, the country will suffer the consequences for many decades to come – and Nigeria’s development breakthrough could be forever lost.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
How Governor Akala And His Cohorts Milked Oyo State Dry
Written by Administrator
Thursday, 29 July 2010
The Otunba Alao-Akala administration in Oyo State has been at the receiving end of criticisms most of which bother on financial issues. While pro Akala elements hail the Oyo State chief executive as the O yato Governor (The Governor with a difference), those not favourably disposed to his ways often say the only different thing about him is his way of embezzling public funds.
The average Oyo State indigene believes that large scale corruption is being perpetrated by the Akala government. It is often said that his government ranks among the most corrupt in Nigeria and that he has little or nothing to offer the average citizen. What is more paramount as a source put it is his “looting program.” Today, the Governor who was said to have misappropriated N 1 billion in his fist eleven months in office is believed to be among the richest men in Oyo State. Though sometime ago, Alhaji Yekini Adeojo was quoted as saying that Governor Akala told him that at the time Senator Ladoja was to be impeached, he (Akala) could not boast of N 100,000 (one hundred thousand Naira) in his account.
The government is said to have a characteristic way of squandering money, especially with the Governor allegedly hosting not less than two parties in a week. ‘That is the extent of His Excellency’s idleness’, a source observed.
Apart from his many parties, the Oyo State Governor is a frequent traveler. He is about the most traveled Governor in this dispensation with not less than 100 trips behind him. Most of those trips are to the United States and England. It was observed in some quarters that in spite of those trips, not a single investment has been facilitated in the state by any foreign investor. Those who know Otunba Alao Akala at very close quarters have revealed that “as a man with a great power of enjoyment, whenever he chooses to enjoy himself, he spares no cost. At times, he goes to functions in the U.S.A and U.K with traditional Yoruba drummers and jesters.”
One of his birthdays was reportedly celebrated lavishly in three different countries; England, Ireland and Canada.
To some others, the Governor’s frivolous spending defies competent description. Not only does he throw lavish parties to celebrate his children’s marriages, his wife and mistresses’ birthdays, the former police officer has embarked on a slapdash purchase of chieftaincy titles. There seems to be no end to the titles- Otun of The Source, Bobagunwa of Owu Kingdom, The Atunluse of Ibarapa and so many more.
Not a few indigenes wonder at the basis of the many unmerited traditional titles the Governor has in his kitty. Or to what does one adduce the magnanimity of the monarchs who confer the titles? If the Governor’s contribution to the town or region is the reason for the conferment, what of the titles from outside Oyo State? Some people even wonder whether some Obas put the feelings of their subjects into consideration before conferring titles on people like the Governor.
Till date, the state cannot satisfactorily account for about N 27 billion that accrued to it from the excess crude oil fund account.It has been alleged that not long after the money was released to the 33 local government areas in the state, Governor Akala formulated a rather cunning way of denying the local governments of their statutory dues by introducing a fraudulent and compulsory 5 kilometer road construction project to all the local government areas in the state. Incidentally, the consultant for the project was no other than Engineer Femi Babalola, the CEO of Pentagon Engineering Limited who said to be one of the Governor’s fronts. Each local government chairman was made to sign a sum of N 250 million towards the job; that of course brings the total figure involved in the scam to N 8.2 billion. The Governor was also said to have ensured that the consultant got 60 % upfront payment as against the normal 15 % mobilization fee required by law.
The contract was said to have been extended to some phony companies, one of which was Banik Engineering Services Limited, a company not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Street Journal’s findings revealed that the looting spree did not just start today; it dates back to the illegal eleven month reign of Otunba Akala as Governor of the Pacesetter state. Way back then, a number of brand new vehicles belonging to the state were sold as scrap for amounts as ridiculously low as N 10,000 (Ten thousand Naira). The beneficiaries of course were top government functionaries. At another time, about 32 brand new cars were reportedly bought in one day and given out to the Governor’s cronies.
In spite of the enormous amount accruing to the state from the federal government, all the state can boast of is are its moribund Water Corporation, a corrupt Ministry of Lands and Housing and a dead Ministry of Works.
A glaring testimony of His Excellency the Governor’s wealth on the other hand lies in the amount of properties he has acquired between the time he served as pro tem Governor and now. He has more than enough to become a realtor after the expiration of his term of office. For instance, a few months after his boss, Senator Ladoja was impeached; Governor Akala allegedly bought a house in Dover, a waterfront highbrow area of London.
Apart from his many properties in Europe, the Governor has properties in choice areas of Ibadan. He reportedly bought over General David Medaiyese Jemibewon’s house in Bodija for the sum of N 200 million. Other properties acquired by the Governor include the Itesiwaju House around the Dugbe –Ogunpa axis which is Ibadan’s main commercial centre. Close sources revealed that Barrister Kunle Isola, son of former Governor Kolapo Olawuyi Isola was one of those who helped the Governor to facilitate the purrchase of the sprawling shopping complex. It is also on good authority that all the occupants of the complex have been issued quit notices. And in Ikoyi, the Governor is alleged to be the proud owner of a house three buildings away from the NDLEA Chairman’s residence.
Ask the average Ibadan indigene what the Government has done so far, you are likely to be told that there is nothing much on ground to show for the existence of this government. Even the much celebrated road projects have come under severe criticism. An example is the Challenge-Molete road which was pothole infested. Particularly notorious was the Idi-Odo roundabout, it had an embarrassing pothole that caused perpetual traffic jams in that area. But on the eve of President Jonathan’s visit to Ibadan, workmen were conspicuously seen around there filling all potholes. It was later discovered that the road received attention just because Mr. President was one of those expected to grace the service marking the Governor’s 60th birthday at the Molete Baptist Church. Residents of the area could not help praying that the President would become a regular visitor to Ibadan so that other things too would receive attention.
Public attention was first drawn to the large scale fraud being perpetrated by Governor Akala and his team when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released a report on the activities of the Governor. It surprised many to discover that even books could be used to siphon money from the accounts of a state.According to the EFCC report, a contract for the supply of text books to Oyo State Government was awarded to Macmillan Publishers Limited for the sum of N630,614,750 and that the company had already been paid N586,470, 647.50 while a balance of N61,000,000 was still outstanding.
It was also revealed that the contract was highly inflated as investigation revealed that Macmillan Publishers Limited spent only the sum of N98,356,574.76 to execute the contract.
Macmillan inflated the contract to the tune of N488,114,073.50 and had already refunded the sum of N10,000,000 to the Oyo State Government.
It was also revealed that a contract for the supply of text books to Oyo State was awarded to Evans Brothers Publishers for the sum of N630,000,000 and that N504,292,602 had already been paid.
Evans Brothers Publishers expended the sum of N108,141,026 to execute the entire contract.
Evans Brothers Publishers inflated the contract by the sum of N396,151,185 and had already refunded the sum of N12,000,000
A contract to supply the Oyo State Government with text books was also awarded to Longman Nigeria Plc for the sum of N39,724,300 and the sum of N29,000,000 was paid.
Governor Alao-Akala also released the total sum of N190,000,000 to 19 lawmakers of the State House of Assembly for Constituency Projects though the Government checks were issued in their individual names.
To those who know the way things run in the Akala government, it is not surprising that contractors inflate contract sums. It has been alleged that His Excellency, the Governor is said to be an apostle of giving unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. It has been alleged that no booty passes him by as his share in every contract is 20%. A source also pointed it out that ‘the reason for the looting cannot be divorced from the 2011 elections’. Speaking further, the source explained that “the calculation is that Baba Adedibu who used to do most of the politicking for the Governor is no more. But with the economic power at his disposal, he feels he can buy his way through to his reelection.”