, pub-5517134871463609, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The Oil War

China's quest to wrestle Nigeria's oil from the west has been linked to the current move to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, but not without a fight from the multinationals

By Okechukwu Jombo

The bill has been generating furore in the National Assembly since it was sent to it by the executive. Members of the two chambers are sharply divided over its passage and each side of the divide has its reasons. For lawmakers from the south-south, the bill if passed into law will further pauperise the people of the region. And for their counterparts from the north, any obstacle on the passage of the bill is a calculated effort to frustrate President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's government.

Before the commencement of the public hearing in June this year, the supporters of the bill, from both the House and the Senate, especially those from the North, led by the Senate chief whip, Senator Kanti Mahmud Bello, and Senator Kabi Gaya, former governor of Kano State agreed with the minister of petroleum resources, the initiator of the bill, Dr. Rilwan Lukman, that the bill is the best thing that will happen to the petroleum industry since Nigeria’s independence. On the other hand, some senators and House members from the south, led by the deputy senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and Senator Lee Meaba as well as Hon. Ita Enang and Igo Aguma, the House chairman, ad-hoc committee on the petroleum industry bill stood against the debate in both chambers of the National Assembly.

Two weeks into the public hearing, some group of House members, led by the minority leader, Ali Mohammed Ndume, ANPP, Borno State, and the AC leader, Hon. Femi Gbajamiabila, accused their colleagues of compromising their positions as members of the committee by receiving gratifications from the oil companies to play down the report of the committee. The group at a press conference accused the members of the Igo Aguma committee of receiving gratification from the oil multinational companies to the tune of N5.5 billion.
At the Senate, the Kanti Bello group also accused their southern counterparts of frustrating the passage of the bill. This is the controversy surrounding the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, pending before the National Assembly.
The bill seeks to promote Nigeria's home-grown energy companies and encourage foreign companies to invest in Nigeria's decrepit domestic refining capacity. But beyond these reasons is the struggle over the control of Nigerian oil by the east represented by China and the west represented by America and Britain.
Since the discovery of oil in the country in 1968, British and American companies have dominated the nation's oil exploration. Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, SPDC, Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, Texaco, Total, Exxon-Mobil, ELF and Agip are some of the multinational oil companies in oil exploration in Nigeria. But China is desirous to come in.

Chinese President, Hu Jintao recently undertook a tour to some African countries including Nigeria, Sudan and Angola. The purpose of this tour which also took him to Morocco was not hidden. He wants oil for his country's booming factories. He told the Nigerian government that China would build the country's ailing infrastructure and the railways for a share of the oil. This is good news for the Nigerian government. But there is a snag. The country's laws would not allow the leasing of oil wells to the Chinese because 16 prolific oil mining leases, OMLs, are still being held by some multinational oil firms – Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Total, ELF, Agip and Exxon-Mobil. These firms have held them for over 40years.

To change the situation, the nation needs to change its oil laws and replace them with very liberal ones. This was what brought about the introduction of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB. International oil companies, IOCs, operating in Nigeria have expressed reservations over the bill. They accuse the government of trying to create a monopoly for the national oil company in alliance with the Chinese.
Under the proposed reforms, the oil industry is to be substantially free from government control and run strictly as a business in a deregulated environment. Government is also aiming at deriving more revenue from petroleum resources which the Chinese promised by increasing royalties and taxes payable by oil companies, in addition to giving host communities stakes in the ventures. The outrage generated by the debate appears to have created a deep and widening divide in the nation's oil and gas industry between the ministry of petroleum resources and the multinational oil exploration and production companies.

The bill among other things, seeks to review existing laws in the petroleum sector such as the repeal of the Petroleum Act of 1969 (as amended), Petroleum Profit Tax Act (as amended), the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act of 1999 (as amended), the NNPC Act and PPPRA Act as well as the Oil Pipelines Act, Associated Gas Re-injection Act and Regulations, Petroleum Equalisation Fund Act and Petroleum Technology Development Fund Act among others. It will also create distinct agencies with clear demarcation of responsibilities; create a commercially viable national oil company and incorporate the existing joint ventures to structurally address long term funding challenges.
However, the multinational oil companies which have made their position known at various fora insist that the PIB, as proposed, will not achieve the objectives set out in the reform agenda but is an avenue to hand over the sector to the Chinese. They argued that the bill, if passed in its present form, will bring domestic gas production to a halt because most new gas projects will not be economically viable since according to them, the Chinese are not interested in the oil sector.
"Absence of further investments in gas projects will impede growth of power and will critically impact GDP multiplier aspirations," they noted. But the Chinese insist that a fair bill fiscal regime is capable of encouraging investments to match the type of growth and development taking place in Angola.

The PIB, which has gone through its third reading in both chambers of the National Assembly, is currently being delayed by the IOC lobbyist until next year to force the federal government to renew their leases under existing terms. The IOCs are concerned that the 16 oil blocs they have held since 1968 under joint venture contracts, JVCs, for which their leases expired between November and December last year and renewed for a year by the Yar'Adua administration, may form part of the 23 blocs currently being eyed by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, CNOOC.
The CNOOC recently made a $50 billion offer to the federal government to acquire a 49 percent stake, translating to six billion barrels in oil reserves in 23 of the oil leases held by the IOCs. In its quest to acquire six billion barrels of oil, the CNOOC, acting under the auspices of Sunrise Consortium, applied for 49 percent equity participation in OMLs 67, 68, and 71; OMLs 11 and 13; OMLs 71, 72, 74, 77, 79, 83, 85, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 95, 118, 127, 133, 139 and 140. All the blocs are held by the IOCs.

The request is being given consideration as instructions have gone out for the data on the bloc to be released to Sunrise by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. A negotiating committee has been set up at the NNPC to handle discussions with the company. The committee is to consider the request and determine an optimum price for the reserves in the blocs against the backdrop of the offer made by CNOOC.
A breakdown of the 23 blocs shows that 18 are currently held under the joint venture arrangements while the remaining five are operated under the PSCs. Of the JV blocs, 16 expired late last year while two are due for renewal in 2019. Also, virtually all the expired blocs are located in the continental shelf except the two unexpired ones that are located onshore.

The PSCs were only recently converted to OMLs and are not due for renewal until 2020 at the earliest. Expectedly, all the PSC blocs are located in the deepwater and belong in the first set of deep offshore blocs awarded in the 1993 licensing round.
The oil companies had expected the automatic renewal of licences which expired last year. But the federal government stalled that move, preferring to renew them for only one year in order to take into account the realities of the present time with the passage of the PIB.

However, the IOCs are currently pushing hard to get the 16 expired leases renewed a second time under long-term leases that would carry similar terms and conditions as the subsisting JVC leases. But the government has rejected the idea of renewing the expired leases for longer periods because it is conscious that the PIB regime would usher in an entirely new regime that would require the incorporation of the JVCs and even change the terms for the existing production sharing contracts, PSCs, governing newer leases yet to expire.

A further analysis shows that seven of the oil blocs are held by Shell of which five expired in November 2008; four are held by Exxon-Mobil and three expired in December 2008; 10 are held by Chevron out of which eight have expired; one is held by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCO,-Shell deep offshore subsidiary, and one is held by TotalfinaElf.
A delay in the passage of the bill would stall efforts by the federal government to give a stake in the existing oil leases to the oil communities in the Niger Delta. A clause in the proposed PIB provides for compensation to the oil communities from oil proceeds.

If the PIB is passed, it will not be business as usual because the IOCs will have less influence in the operations of the incorporated joint ventures, IJVs, which will now be restructured to reflect the new ownership structure, board composition and management of the leases.
For a long time, the general perception was that the federal government has not been getting the best possible deal under the JVCs because even though NNPC currently holds a majority stake of 57 percent across board and is supposed to provide its share of the funding in proportion of its equity share, in the contracts, it has long been suspected that the JVCs are entirely funded by the Nigerian government when the cash calls are paid.

With the passage of the PIB, Nigeria through NNPC will have a say in the day-to-day operations of the JVCs and be able to monitor how they are funded by all the partners in the agreement.
The PIB proposes to review several of the contract terms for the PSCs particularly those governing the older PSC signed in 1993, which conceded a zero percent royalties to the IOCs among other unfavourable terms.
High stake politics has since been playing in the industry with the Chinese lobbying to acquire substantial interests as well. They are said to be very adept at campaigning for a non-renewal of the licenses of oil majors.
The decision of most African countries to explore business opportunities with China is because of the west's legacy of oppression. But there is also the risk of a possible 'neo-colonial power.'

The newly emerging Asian superpower has a population of 1.3 billion people. Apart from her interest in the Nigerian oil, China has billion-dollar oil deals in Sudan and Angola, in addition to mineral mining and timber logging. China has been accused of exacerbating the genocidal war going on in the Darfur region of Sudan because of her interest in the country's oil and she has used her United Nations veto to block Western sanctions on Khartoum over the Darfur crisis.
Again, China engages in the importation of labour rather than making the use of labour in her host country. It engages in illegal logging of timber in Gabon, Central African Republic. According to Human Rights Watch, China has 10,000 workers in Sudan alone including Chinese prison labourers involved in building a $8 billion pipeline from Sudan to the Red Sea.

Chinese involvement in some African countries is believed to be beneficial to the host countries. For instance, Angola, the third major oil producing nation, got a US$3 billion oil-backed loan from Chinese state-owned Eximbank in 2005, a deal which occurred after Angola rejected IMF demands. China is also helping Uganda's anti-malaria efforts. It has cancelled Senegal and Liberia's debts while investing millions in their infrastructure. The country is building railways in Angola, roads and bridges in Rwanda, a dam in Ethiopia, and has helped Nigeria launch a communications and weather satellite into space. The Chinese approach contrasts with decades of neglect and marginalisation towards Africa from western governments and institutions. At the end of 2005, over 800 Chinese companies were operating in Africa and have invested $ 6 billion in the continent.

Monday 16 November 2009

Worsening An Already Bad Situation

Experts blame the acute shortage of houses in the country on the current banking sector reforms which seem to discourage long term lending by commercial banks

By Raphael Nkwocha

Alhaji Mutari Ango, an estate developer in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja had acquired about 15 acres of land along Gwagwalada-Zuba road to build an estate comprising 500 houses, ranging from twin duplexes to two bedroom bungalows. But his plan was put on hold till mid 2010, a period his bankers say would be feasible for them to fund any housing project in the country, due to the present banking system sanitisation ushered in by the Mallam Sanusi led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
At present, Ango has diversified into other businesses to keep him busy till when the bank would be ready to fund the project. Interestingly, the bank was instrumental in his venturing into the estate business, which both agreed to execute in partnership.

In spite of Ango's present predicament, estate business had witnessed a boom in the country in the recent past leading to government’s intervention to checkmate shylock property owners from short-changing unsuspecting clients. Indeed, Ango was among some lucky few that got the federal government's mandate to develop mass housing projects across the country.

Government's policy to provide adequate and affordable housing for its citizens got the needed boost few years ago, immediately after the banking consolidation programme. Private developers left no stone unturned in their bid to secure the much sort after land. In the end, housing projects began to spring up in major cities across the country due to heavy financial backing from banks. Banks were able to finance these projects because of tremendous financial outlay at their disposal, courtesy of the banking consolidation exercise. At the end of the consolidation programme, housing and property business became lucrative for any individual to jump into as banks began to finance housing projects and other urban infrastructure like shopping malls and international market construction. The trend has changed in the last couple of months.
Recently , things have began to look down for estate developers at the start of the global economic meltdown and became worst after the Sanusi led banking system sanitisation as most banks have since stopped funding private housing development across the country.

The financial crunch weighing down on the property segment of the economy has reached a level that has literally compelled players in the sector to speak up. One of them, Mr. Kayode Oyewole, Managing Director of Amorit International Ltd., at the commissioning of Amorite housing estate recently in Abuja warned that unless banks begin to finance housing projects in the next one year, a huge crisis looms in the housing sector of the economy, which will take another five years to emerge from the consequences. According to him, the federal government had early in the year made known its focus in the development and delivery of decent and affordable houses in the next five years. And it should be done with greater emphasis on supporting the private developers and encourage banks to extend credit facilities to the developers, he stated.

Worried by the stifling financial squeeze in the real estate sector, Mr. Sarumi Adeda, an estate developer disclosed that about 50,000 houses were scheduled for completion before the end of the year across the country by private developers but the Sanusi led reform prevented the banks from releasing the funds. He stated that some of the banks who were really funding housing projects across the country are those seriously involved in the financial crisis. According to him, banks like Oceanic, Intercontinental and Bank PHB are surviving on the life-line from the CBN, a situation that has hindered lending to estate developers. A way out of the quagmire, in Adeda's estimation, is for the government and CBN to prevail on the banks to start funding housing projects if government is serious on realising its objective of providing affordable and adequate houses to its teeming population as mass housing project require multi-billion naira investments that an individual cannot afford to bank-roll.

For Kennedy Osuagwu, a chartered accountant and financial consultant, the current banking crisis in the country has impacted negatively on the housing sector as almost all the mass housing projects going on in the country has been stopped abruptly due to financial crunch. According to him, some banks were very keen in financing housing projects until the sudden bank reform by the new CBN Governor shocked the banking sector and brought it to a standstill.
Although he commended the ongoing reforms as being timely and in the right direction, Osuagwu pointed out that the apex bank should have carried it out in a gradual manner, which would have ameliorated the shock now being experienced by the banks with its attendant ripple effects on the economy. In his view, because banks were not prepared for the fate that has befallen them, they have resorted to panic measures to stay afloat and in the process, have stopped financing mega projects like mass housing schemes.

He reasoned that the country will have to wait for at least the next one year before banks will be really willing to fund mega businesses.
Mr. Osuagwu noted that Sanusi's failure to put in place a sort of financial shock absorber before embarking on the reform has led to a slow down in the economic growth indices of the country, stressing that the housing sector which is in the state of comatose is one of the growth drivers of any economy.
He stated that only the presence of a vibrant financial sector can guarantee a long- term credit that will enable the housing sector and others affected by the reform's shock to regain their shape.

The financial industry's inability to grant long term credit to the relevant sectors of the economy has been attributed to the short term fund at the disposal of the banks.

Danger Signal

The prevalent rate of HIV/AIDS in Karu local government area of Nasarawa State is now a source of worry to the authorities

By Emmanuel Afonne

Fear of the unknown is now the order of the day in Karu local government area of Nasarawa State. The reason is not far fetched. The high rate of HIV/AIDS infection among orphans and vulnerable children in the area is causing sleepless nights to community based health organisation operating in the state. The development has caused many people living in the area to be apprehensive of whom they date.

Latest findings show that many factors including extra-marital affairs, unprotected sex, alcoholism, absence of voluntary counselling and testing, VCT centres in the area among others contribute to this development. The infected have no adequate care and support. While some believe that the infection is as a result of “evil power”, others say it is a destiny that God has already planned for them.

Rufus Adeagbo, executive director of Adolescent Action Pact, AAP, a non governmental organisation, NGO, told this magazine that the outcome of research conducted among the people is scary. The research was conducted in a total 5,704 households in seven communities using a structured questionnaire. The communities include Ado, Masaka, Gwandara, Angwan-Doka, Gurku, One-man-village and Kodape. Adeagbo expressed fear that things could get out of hand if urgent intervention fails to come.

The need to strengthen the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and raising awareness to create a supportive environment for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable children were proscribed as necessary ingredients needed to safeguard the future of these children. A 13-year old, Emeka Eze from Abia State tested positive to HIV after losing his parents in 2007. His case was worsened by inaccessibility to the anti retroviral drugs, ARV.
Investigation by this magazine revealed that the attitude of government officials, who are in charge of agencies fighting HIV/AIDS, is a major hindrance to the war against HIV/AIDS. It was alleged that officials of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, indulge in sharp practices which in turn denies the less privileged people living with the disease from accessing the ARVs. This might have informed the decision of the ministry of health to take over the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The treatment of the virus is becoming increasingly too expensive for the ordinary Nigerian affected with the disease. An Indian company, which was awarded a N2.5 billion contract for the manufacture of ARVs by the former minister of health, Professor Eyitayo Lambo has not delivered the drugs more than three years after the contract was awarded.
A total sum of $44 million has so far been released to the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR. This is the third highest amount to have been released to the committee. Another N95 million was also given to PEPFAR by the Global Fund for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and the expansion of mother-to-child treatment and prevention, yet the disease is still ravaging the country. Despite the funds alloted to Nigeria, the ARV drugs are not available for people living with HIV/AIDS, PLWHA in the country.

In 2006, only about 10 percent of HIV infected women and men had access to anti-retroviral therapy while seven percent of pregnant women received treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission prevention. This magazine gathered that N14.7 billion was alloted to NACA in 2006 for mother-to-child treatment. Mr. Simon Olawala, a HIV/AIDS positive patient told this magazine that the government has not made the ARV available to half of the population that needs it.
A source disclosed that when funds are released to the agency, overhead cost comes first before issues related to PLWHA cases are addressed. That was why the global fund canceled the over $200 million grant to Nigeria in 2006 for non-performance. HIV/AIDS epidemic has suddenly become an avenue for money making. Mallam Sanni Ado alleged that some state governments intentionally increased the number of those infected with the HIV/AIDS status to get grant from international donor agencies and from the federal government fund.

At a stakeholders workshop organised by AAP and other community based organisations in conjunction with Karu local government area, Cartier Simon Auta, associate director, medical services (community) of Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria, GHAIN, warned that the activities of sex workers should be curtailed. He maintained that the about 2,618 drinking outlets from Masaka to Mararaba Building Materials market and the 41 brothels, out of which 18 have residential sex workers, portend danger for the area in the nearest future if government allows such outlets to operate. Auta further stated that red- spot areas such as gay people in Mararaba popularly known as “yan daudo” a local name for homosexuals must be chased out of existence.

The Gathering Storm

The defection of some politicians to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is causing some rumblings in the Abia State chapter of the party ahead of the 2010 governorship primaries

By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

By the time political activities heat up next year, the contest for the gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for Abia State will be intense. Two political heavyweights: – Chief Ikechi Emenike and Chief Uzodinma Okpara defected to the party. Emenike, a major financier of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was the party's governorship candidate in 2007 while Okpara, son of the former Premier of the then eastern region, Dr. Michael Okpara was the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. Their defection is believed to enable them pick the 2011 gubernatorial ticket on the PDP platform.
This magazine gathered that what prompted their defection is the strong rumour that PDP might not re-nominate Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, the party's governorship candidate in 2007 to fly its flag in 2011. A chieftain of the party who craved anonymity cited Ugochukwu's inability to win the 2007 election despite the resources at his disposal as the likely reason.

“He had everything to clinch the position at his disposal but he could not deliver; the party's leadership is not disposed to use him the second time lest we may fail the second time,” the source volunteered.
Another factor which might have influenced Okpara and Emenike to join PDP is the party's plan to still pick its governorship candidate in 2011 from Umuahia in Abia central. This was reinforced by the likelihood of the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, to field Governor Theodore Orji who is also from the area as its candidate in 2011. It was also calculated that if Chief Ugochukwu is denied the PDP ticket, replacing him with another Umuahia compatriot would soothe frayed nerves.

Political pundits are however, of the view that the calculations might upset the apple cart and cost PDP the gubernatorial election in 2011. This is informed by reactions, which have already trailed Emenike and Okpara's defection.
Shortly after their defection, a group which called itself Abia Equity Forum sprang up. The group accused them of serving the interests of some people from Ngwa who are in PDP. This is based on a letter addressed to the PDP chairman, Chief Ndidi Okereke by the group. The group in the letter requested the party to nominate a candidate from the Ngwa divide in the 2011 gubernatorial election.

“The present political calculation is that Abia central senatorial zone will produce our candidate for 2011. The zone is made up of six LGAs namely: Umuahia South, Umuahia North, Ikwuano Umuahia, Isiala Ngwa North,Isiala South and Osisioma Ngwa. There are however, two sides of the divide: Umuahia and Ngwa. We believe that since the other zone has produced a governorship candidate (Chief Onyema Ugochukwu) in 2007, equity, justice and fair play demands that the other side of the divide (Ngwa) should now produce a candidate for 2011,” the group stated in the letter.

It argued that the Ukwa-Ngwa has a homogenous voting pattern and as well command a more superior voting strength than any other divide in Abia State. Again, according to the group, the Ngwa divide is a PDP stronghold having PDP candidates in the previous elections such as Martins Azubuike, Darlington Nwokocha, Dr. Ikechukwu Nwabeke, Young Onyike, Sir Chinenye Ike and Senator Nkechi Nwaorgu, and contended that the ticket would excite the opposition parties to the age long agitation of the people for a governor of Ngwa extraction. “It will create a new political road map. They (the political parties) will abandon their various political parties to achieve one goal. Ukwa-Ngwa people both old and young will identify with PDP and indeed all Abians. From the analysis above, this calculation when fully accepted and implemented by the executive will minimise friction and bitterness that normally arise after gubernatorial primaries,” the group concluded.

Mr. Festus Chiemela Nwachukwu, however, disagrees with the Equity Group. According to him, the group's calculation could only work if the sitting governor, Theodore Orji does not pick a re-nomination in PPA. But if PPA in its wisdom returns Governor Orji as its gubernatorial candidate in the 2011 election, that would settle the problem because the governor has the machinery to upset any PDP incursion in Abia State.
Outside the above factor, numerous other factors are weighing against PDP. One of the factors is the friction and bitterness that may arise from the gubernatorial primaries.

Investigations reveal that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, representing Abia south senatorial zone is interested in the governorship of Abia State. Abaribe was deputy governor under Orji Uzor Kalu. He is a force to reckon with as far as Abia politics is concerned and any arrangement that would not accommodate his interest may suffer a hitch.
Senator Abaribe contested the 2003 gubernatorial election and lost to former Governor Orji Kalu. In 2007, he was instrumental to the emergence of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as the PDP candidate, an action which his Ngwa kinsmen are not comfortable with. According to sources, any attempt to concede the nomination to another person other than him might prove disastrous for PDP.

On the other hand, both Chief Okpara and Chief Emenike have a large followership and if they are eventually unable to succeed in securing the nomination, they might defect to another party to actualise their ambition. John Ekekwe Egu, a former PDP chieftain who later defected to PPA noted that the inability of PDP to carry out genuine post-primaries reconciliation cost the party the 2007 gubernatorial election. “As an insider, I knew that the attempts at reconciliation were insincere and superficial, and advised that a more genuine effort be made. But those around feared that genuine reconciliation will jeopardise their chances, and so came charging like bulldogs,” Egu reminded Chief Onyema Ugochukwu on the eve of his departure to PPA.

The situation led to defection of major politicians from PDP to PPA on the eve of the 2007 elections. PDP could have fought as a united army if the likes of Chief Okezie Orji, a former aspirant who was on the fringe of picking the nomination had remained in the fold. The indifference of other aggrieved members who decided to remain in the fold did not help issues either.

Controversy Over Suspected Robbers' Death

Police and members of the public disagree over the identity of two suspected members of a robbery gang that killed a leader of a vigilante group in Anyigba, Kogi State

By Labaran Tijani

Alhaji Salisu Ibrahim, leader of a vigilante group in Anyigba, Kogi State probably woke up on Tuesday, October 27 without any premonition that death was lurking around the corner. He was said to be in his farm in the suburb of the town when a phone call came over a robbery incident at the Ayingba branch of Afri and Unity Banks at Anyigba. It was in the process of trying to foil the robbery against the advise of family members and elders of the town that Ibrahim (popularly known as Rambo) lost his life in a cross fire. Three members of the anti-riot squad of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, also died in the operation. Solomon Emmanuel, believed to be chairman of a vigilante group in Ejule in Ofu local government area equally lost his life. Some other members of the vigilante group who joined in the ill-fated manhunt are receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Lokoja and Grimard Hospital, Anyigba, following various degrees of injury they sustained.

Abdullahi Magaji, Kogi State acting commissioner of police, said the robbers invaded the banks at Anyigba in two buses. Magaji said two members of the gang, a male and female were killed by the police while one person was arrested. He disclosed that a bus with a dead body and an Ak- 47 assault riffle believed to have been used for the operation was later found at Nsukka in Enugu State. The police commissioner further explained that the arrested member of the 27-member gang has made a useful statement, adding that the police are already on the trail of bandits believed to have come from Lagos, Enugu and other neighbouring states, including their collaborators from Anyigba town.
This magazine learnt that a few days after the encounter, five more bodies suspected to be members of the robbery gang have been picked from the bush around the scene of the robbery.

Controversy has however, continued to trail the death of the two suspected members of the gang killed during the incident. The police said the suspects, a man and a lady were robbers but eye-witnesses contended that the lady was a corps member travelling with the man to an unknown destination when their vehicle ran into the cross fire. “The vehicle I boarded from Ejule market was the first to arrive at Ukanukpoda, the spot of the incidence. Some policemen standing by beckoned on us to come closer to assist. I saw a lady faced up wearing a corper uniform and a man faced down with two N500 notes in his hands. Both were dead,” an eyewitness explained. A man was said to have claimed to be the husband of the deceased lady and the master of the dead man whom he said is his driver. But the police authority still maintained that the two were members of the gang.

Meanwhile, the Kogi state government has given a state burial to the deceased, Salisu Ibrahim and Solomon Emmanuel for their patriotism. The governor, Ibrahim Idris said their last moment on earth demonstrated the virtues of patriotism powered by gallantry and exceptional courage. “They laid their lives down for peace and security of their community. Their other compatriots used their blood to sound a note of warning to hoodlums and blood-thirsty, greedy bandits that no part of this state will be ceded to their devilry.” Governor Idris said a trophy would be donated in honour of the fallen heroes to be competed for among the youths in the 21 local government areas of the state. Equally, the state government housing estate at Dekina and Igalamela/Odolu local government areas are to be named after them.

Still A Vista For National Integration

In spite of problems bedeviling the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, leading to call from some quarters for it to be scrapped, the scheme still remains relevant for national integration

By Emma Ibeleme

When he was posted to Jigawa State for his mandatory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC programme, Marcel Umesi wanted to seek for reposting. His fear was hinged on some nasty stories he heard about the state and her people. Being a Christian, Marcel imagined what would be his fate should there be a religious riot in Jigawa State. But during his recent visit to Abuja, the corps member who is doing his primary assignment with Jigawa Radio said he would have regretted his action if he had been posted out of Jigawa State. He told this magazine that but for the NYSC scheme, he would not have had the opportunity of visiting Jigawa State, at least not now. Another corps member, Olawole who served in Bayelsa State and was later retained in the state ministry of information after his service year, said he would have been roaming about the streets looking for a non-existing job if not for the NYSC scheme.

Since the death of some Corps members in some parts of the country, there has been the debate on the desirability or otherwise of the NYSC scheme. Richard Akinjide, former attorney general and minister of justice in the second republic is one of those against the continued existence of the scheme. He is therefore calling for its scrapp. In the alternative, Akinjide said it should be made voluntary and not mandatory for university graduates if at all government still wants to retain it. “What is happening in Nigeria is what I will call ‘Lugard Doctrine’. When Lord Lugard was amalgamating the southern and northern protectorates in 1914 to form the present Nigeria, he said: “Amalgamate the country, but do not amalgamate the people,” Akinjide said in a recent interview with a national newspaper.
Another opponent of the scheme, Chief Bisi Akande, national chairman of the Action Congress, AC, wants the scheme to be replaced with “compulsory military service after secondary education.”

Established in May 1973 by the military government of General Yakubu Gowon, the NYSC still remains one of the schemes created for socio-cultural integration of Nigerian youths. The scheme exposes the youths to the modes of living of the people in different parts of the country and encourages them to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences. Corps members are encouraged to seek career employment in their places of primary assignment at the end of their service year.
The NYSC has lived up to the dream of its founding fathers. A close look at the objectives of the scheme, conceived some 36 years ago, shows a deliberate effort at progressive movement of the country by the Nigerian youths. These objectives are aimed at inculcating discipline in youths by instilling in them, a tradition of patriotism and loyalty to the country, and co-existence.

Commentators have continued to laud the establishment of the scheme. They see it as a unifying factor and a tool for national integration. True to the dream of the founding fathers to establish a scheme that will give the youths the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievements, social and cultural improvement, past and even present corps members have been able to develop national consciousness after participating in the NYSC scheme. Some marriages, which otherwise, would not have taken place became possible. Everlasting relationships and contacts are established by ex-corps members. Before the coming of NYSC, apart from the itinerant and ubiquitous Igbo traders, many other Nigerians did not know much about people of other tribes. With the NYSC, it became compelling that young Nigerians who ordinarily would not leave their states and zones, now become conversant with other people and tribes. Others have acquired experiences and suitable training, which will make them more amenable to mobilisation to national development. As a result, most youths have dropped their earlier prejudices against other sections of the country.

The recent call for the scrapping of the scheme was informed by the death of some corps members. During the November 27, 2008 riot in Jos, Plateau State, three corps members – Akande Oluwaleke Olalekan, Akinjobi Ibukun Oluwatosin and Odusote Adetola Oluwole lost their lives, another corps member, Miss Anthonia Amarachi Okeke, a corps liaison officer, CLO, was declared missing in mysterious circumstances on December 19, last year, at Ilawe community in Ekiti south-west local government of Ekiti State, while 22-year old, Miss Grace Adei Ushang from Cross River State was raped and murdered in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on September 26, this year. All these deaths are regrettable. But then Nigerians from other parts of the country were killed in political and religious circumstances in places outside their states of origin. Even among people of the same communities, communal conflicts have sent many to their early graves. Is it enough justification to discourage inter-tribal or inter-ethnic settlements? Not at all! The NYSC is the only national scheme that encourages peaceful co-existence and socio-cultural integration.

There is no doubt that the ideals enunciated by the founding fathers of the scheme have not been executed to the letter. Yet, whatever problems that have been encountered have not been because of any lack of vision. Somehow, the problem of the NYSC, like the problem of Nigeria is artificial.

Case s abound where corps members embarked on community projects such as construction of classrooms in remote villages where children studied under trees; the construction of bus stops and community round-about, road repairs and environmental sanitation and beautification as part of their contribution to the development of their host communities. In most cases, many communities in appreciation of the efforts by corps members serving in their locality give chieftaincy titles to some of these youths.

The Allure of Kilish

In Kaduna, kilishi, a Hausa local meat delicacy provides employment and entertainment for different classes of people

By Femi Olanrewaju

Gidan Kilishi located at S5, Jos Road, Kaduna is a very popular place. Its popularity is because of the kilishi, a local Hausa meat delicacy.
Kilishi is enjoyed by the low and mighty in Kaduna State. It can be taken as a snack or used in drinking pap, soaked garri or by patrons of drinking joints as appetiser. The meat is soaked in seasonings, which leaves a lasting taste in the mouth. Apart from the local consumption, people come from eastern and western parts of the country to trade in it. It is also said that some people export kilishi abroad. Kilishi is patronised because its inexpensive. With as little as N50, one can buy a piece.

Kilishi has become a family business in Gidan Kilishi (literally meaning: dry meat house). Almost all male children in this family know no other trade than kilishi. Danlami Abdullahhi, a member of the family told this magazine: “We have six masters, a number of apprentices and workers here. All the masters are members of the same family, and we inherited the business from our late father, Alhaji Abdul, Ministan-kilishi.” Alhaji Abdul was called ministan kilishi (minister of dried meat) by his admirers when he was alive because of the unique way he prepared the meat.

Danlami, who is in his early 40s holds an HND in purchasing and supply from the Kaduna Polytechnic. A father of six, Danlami told Newsworld that he opted for the trade despite his academic qualification because it gives him more money than a white collar job. He said he earns between N2, 000 to N3, 000 per day which he may not earn doing a white collar job. During weekends, the profit may be higher than that and most especially when new visitors who have learnt about kilishi visit Kaduna. He said he paid for his education and got married from the business.

Besides, he said the trade gives him comfort and freedom, and has assisted the government to create employment opportunities for the unemployed.
Apart from Jos Road, other areas kilishi can be found in Kaduna State are Angwar Sarki, Musulumi and Range Road. Danlami however, maintained that their own kilishi is the best and unique because the trade started in the family long ago.
It requires about N20, 000 to start kilishi business. The items required, according to Danlami include: an oven, show-glass, tables, benches, a raft of guineacorn stalks (karan-gado), raw meat, seasoning such as pepper, seasoning cubes, onion, masaro, kanufari and the likes. He added that a prospective kilishi trader must have the necessary skills.

Kilishi is preserved through the use of solar energy. The sliced meat is spread on the karan-gado. The meat is mixed with ground groundnut, salt and water to form paste. The meat is spread in the sun to dry. It is roasted in an oven for about 20 to 30 minutes before being spread again under the sun before being displayed in a show-glass where it can stay for over three months without getting spoilt.

Apart from finance, another likely problem, according to Danlami is heavy downpour during the rainy season because there may be no solar energy to dry the meat. In this case, the meat could be dried inside with electric fan. But the epileptic power supply from Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, presents another hinderence, forcing the traders to resort to the use of generator which costs much to fuel.

Hygiene is very important in kilishi business. Danlami disclosed that as registered members of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, and the Hygiene Association under the local government council, they obey all regulations regarding cleanliness. He said they use disinfectants to clean their shops every morning before work and every evening after work. Besides, those agencies also pay unscheduled periodic visits to monitor their operations and advise on how to maintain good sanitary conditions.

Danlami called on the government at all levels to give soft loans under the Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP, to the operators to produce kilish in large quantity for export. This will serve as a source of foreign exchange, increase the earnings of those in the industry and create employment opportunities for teeming unemployed youths.

Even though kilishi production and sale has become a family business for the residents of S5, Jos Road, Kaduna, Danlami is not yet sure whether any of his six children would embrace the trade. Since it gives good health and can stay longer after preparation compared to suya, Danlami enjoined the lovers of kilishi to continue with its consumption while those who have not tasted it before should give it a trial.