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.

Oshiomhole's Master Stroke

Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole builds his political structure ahead of 2012 election with a rally in Benin City which was premised on the Action Congress and the Labour Party alliance

By Victor Osehobo

Barely one year into office, Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has realised all too soon that erecting the critical political structure he will need to secure a second term as governor should begin now. Since he assumed office, the governor has with key appointments attracted grassroots politicians from all the 18 local governments that make up the state. Some of them were hitherto disciples of the aging Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader Chief Tony Anenih, members of the PDP or members of other opposition parties like the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, whose footprints have completely disappeared from the state since 2007.

The Action Congress, AC rally last weekend at the Ogbemudia Stadium was the biggest evidence that the governor was alert to the emerging dimension and intrigues that will rule the politics of Edo in 2012. Apart from the 13 serving local council chairmen elected on the PDP platform who crossed over to the AC, two popular transporters, and key PDP gladiators namely Chief John Adun, owner of the Bob Izua Motors and Chief Goddy Edosa, who owns Goddy Edosa Motors, both in Benin also pitched tent with the AC.

Adun's jump on to the AC train has been described as an attempt to check the losses he has suffered since the governor took office. First, his motor park at Ring Road, Benin for which he claimed a 30-year lease valued at N30, 000 approved by the Oredo local council, was crushed by the government's demolition squad. There were speculations last week that his palatial villa located near the Oba's Palace in Benin occupies a space designed as an annex of the Oba Market and was marked for demolition in the Benin City beautification campaign. He was the PDP Oredo local council chairman.

As for Goody Edosa, his claim to becoming the PDP leader in Egor local council has come under question in recent times. His supporters were sidelined when in December 2007, the PDP chose his opponents to fly the PDP flag in the local government pools which PDP won across the state. The site occupied by his motor company was also speculated to be marked for demolition as it encroaches on the Benin Moat and Walls. It is not certain if the decision of the two politicians to join the AC wagon will spare their business locations. But what is certain is that they have pledged to swim or sink with Oshiomhole wherever he goes from now on.

Oshiomhole had no political structure in 2007. He was popular but rode on the back of the political structure supplied by Chief Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo State. It was a structure which broke off from the PDP in 2004 as the Grace Group, and formed a parallel state PDP executive. This later metamorphosed into the Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD, and finally the Action Congress in 2007. That structure financed the election of all the AC members of the Edo State Assembly and was responsible for picking Dr. Pius Egberawhen Odubu to run with Oshiomhole as deputy governor, though he had a third term House of Representatives ticket from the PDP.

The political structure's plan was for Oshiomhole to serve as governor for four years between 2007 and 2011 and allow Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to fly the flag in 2011.
This structure has undergone changes since November last year although Ize-Iyamu has got his fingers burnt in the process. He had sought control of the AC structure in the state by seeking to be on the party's board of trustees, BoT. But Oshiomhole preferred Senator Roland Owie instead. By his own calculations, Ize-Iyamu is anticipating that he will fly the AC flag in 2012, using the structure that produced Oshiomhole. But Odubu who was supposed to step aside for him to grab the gubernatorial ticket, now appears keen on remaining with Oshiomhole even ahead of 2012.
Conscious of the fact that if Igbinedion plays the godfather and wants his man, Ize-Iyamu to fly the AC flag in 2012, Oshiomhole has already started building his own structure; not in AC but in the Labour Party, LP. This informed the personal reception by the governor of the mammoth crowd of PDP faithfuls who rather than joining AC last weekend opted for the LP. Among them was Hon. Isaiah Osifo, Chief of Staff to Osunbor and easily the governor's loudest critic since November 2008. A two-term council chairman and PDP leader in Uhunwonde, it was Osifo's organisational ability that produced the structure Osunbor relied on in the runoff to the 2006 PDP gubernatorial primaries that defeated Professor Julius Ihonvbere after an angry Anenih withdrew his support with erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo's objection, to Odion’s Ugbesia aspirations. Osifo has worked closely with Ogbemudia and Owie, who are from the Uhunwonde like him. He has never hidden his dislike for Ize-Iyamu, hence his resolve to join LP instead of AC.

Analysts say that in the months ahead, Governor Oshiomhole's moves would be in the direction of consolidating on the gains he has made politically since he came into office. This may see to the sack of some commissioners and their replacements with his loyalists. The dissolution of local councils in the state is also said to be on the cards now that opposition will be minimal with 13 of the erstwhile 19 PDP council chairmen supporting him. Many of them are optimistic that they will get automatic tickets to run in the impending local government polls.

The Crumbling Of Opposition

The defection of Theophilous Bamigboye, a retired army officer, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, renders opposition in Kwara State impotent

By Akin Makanjuola

With last week's cross carpeting of Col. Theophilous Bamigboye (rtd) to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the opposition in Kwara State has finally capitulated to the supremacy and leadership of Olusola Saraki, former leader of the Senate in the second republic. Saraki has held sway over the political life of the state for over 30 years.

Shortly after the 2007 general elections, the opposition in the state came together to confront what they considered the attempt by the PDP to turn Kwara State to a one-party state and a family affair. The Saraki family alone produced the incumbent governor, Bukola and Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who represents Kwara central senatorial district. He also single handedly nominated Abubakar Baraje as national secretary of PDP. Some other political appointees equally had the imprimatur of the elder Saraki. A source told this magazine that “no one becomes anything (in Kwara State) without Saraki's permission.

The arrowhead of the coalition of opposition political parties in the state opposed to the reign of the Saraki family in a multi-ethnic state before now was Col. Bamigboye. As he “surrendered” last week, the former military governor enjoined his Kwara south people “to stop being in opposition. It is not good. I was there before; I was at the other side before and today, I am back to the main fold.”
Governor Oyinlola Olagunsoye, the governor of Osun State, who is fast assuming the role of “a mediator and peacemaker”, brokered the peace between Saraki and Bamigboye.

A source told this magazine that one of the conditions of accepting Bamigboye back to PDP is for him to renounce all claims or plans now or in the future for the governorship of the state and follow the leader. Spokesman of the Action Congress, AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is also from Ilorin, described the growing tendency among politicians to cross carpet to PDP as a sign of weakness and crass opportunism. A leading social critic and leader of the Aforija Descendants Union, Olola Kassum in a telephone conversation told Newsworld that, “The action of Bamigboye, amounts to a sell out and smacks of political prostitution. How do you ignite a fire you cannot control?” He queried.

Kwara State was carved out of the old Ilorin province; it has three major components comprising Lafiagi Pategi, Shonga axis and Igbomina, from where Bamigboye hails from. The opposition to Ilorin emirate has a historical angle to it as the people of Igbomina (Omu-Aran) in the past have tried to resist the spread of Islam and by extension Fulani Jihad. This has formed the fulcrum of the current opposition led by people like Olola Kassum of Aforija Descendants Union, Gbenga Olawepo, a businessman, and AC gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 elections, Senator Ajadi Makanjuola, Wole Oke and until recently, Col. Theophilous Bamigboye.

While the influence of political god-fathers has waned in some parts of the country, the case of Kwara State defies all political permutations –it is a situation where, the god-father never sleeps.

Still A Pain In The Neck

Over 400 Nigerians living in Bakassi Peninsula, which is now ceded to Cameroun, complain of continued harassment by Camerounian security officials

By Increase Abasi-Ubong

For Nigerians who decided to remain in Bakassi after the oil rich Peninsula was ceded to Cameroun, it was a wrong decision after all. This magazine gathered that they are now living in fear following persistent molestation by Camerounian security operatives.

Last week, over 400 Nigerians living in the Peninsula fled the area due to the continued persecution by Camerounian security officials. The victims, who are taking refuge in Ikang, told this magazine that they had to return to Nigeria as their lives were at risk. One of the returnees who spoke on condition of anonymity, said since the area was ceded to Cameroun, they have not been able to go about their normal businesses. “Nigerians living in Bakassi are being subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment by Cameroun gendarmes who molest and extort money from their hapless victims on daily basis. Many of us have lost our means of livelihood as the gendarmes not only seize our fishing boats and nets, but destroy them at the slightest provocation. The unwarranted attack on Nigerians living in Bakassi has resulted in so many deaths, while many of us have been forced out of business.” The returnees had various degrees of injuries all over their bodies which they claimed was inflicted on them by the Camerounians. There were also reports that some Nigerians are languishing in jail in the country while some others are missing. According to the returnees, the gendarmes always torture them whenever their demand for money is not met. “They use horsewhip, belts and machetes to beat us whenever we fail to meet their demands; these injuries on my body were inflicted on me by the gendarmes. They subject us to all forms of inhuman treatment and since we can no longer bear the sufferings, we decided to flee.”

However, many Nigerians are said to be living in Cameroun illegally. Majority of them are reported to reside in the country with fake or expired documents making it extremely difficult for them to regularise their stay.
A source at the Cameroun Consulate in Calabar however denied claims that Nigerians living in the ceded Peninsula were being persecuted by the Camerounian authorities. According to the source who pleaded anonymity, many Nigerians living and doing business in Cameroun have no valid resident permit and no Nigerian with valid papers is ever harassed. “Nigerians with valid documents go about their businesses without molestation, and those complaining of being harassed are Nigerians living in our country illegally.

“Cameroun has great respect for foreigners residing in the country, but we however expect anyone resident in our country to abide by our laws. They should always ensure that their documents are up to date.”
The secretary general of the Nigerian Union in Cameroun, Prince Aston Ovung who was among those that fled the area told Newsworld that Nigerians living in Bakassi have been going about their lawful business, dismissing claims that most of them were living in Cameroun illegally. He said many Nigerians have lost their lives as a result of the brutal assault on Nigerians by the gendarmes while several others have been maimed.” “Nigerians living in Bakassi are law abiding and the constant harassment and brutality of Nigerians by the gendarmes is unwarranted.

Prince Ovung who disclosed that several property belonging to Nigerians living in Bakassi, including fishing boats and nets, have been destroyed by the gendarmes appealed to the Nigerian government to impress on the Camerounians to respect the Green Tree Agreement which he said was being violated with impunity.

The director general of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Mr. Vincent Aquah told Newsworld that the state has taken over the welfare of the returnees. “The Agency has put all necessary machinery in place to ensure that they are accommodated, fed and made comfortable while at the refugee camp.”

Horror In 'IG's Detention Camp'

Tales of torture and extra-judicial killings are told of a detention camp at Force CID Area 10, Abuja, otherwise called IG's detention camp

By Emma Alozie

Located at the heart of Area 10, Garki, just a whispering distance from the popular UTC shopping mall, an artisan's haven, the Force CID headquarters never cut the picture of a torture centre, at least to a passerby. Though the structures are looking dingy and decrepit, an uninformed passerby would think that what goes on inside there is only criminal investigation. However, tales of woes emanating from there by unfortunate inmates of an illegal detention camp christened the 'Dump' by police officers in the station can only be comparable to the notorious Auswitz and Treblinka, Hitler's concentration camps during the second World War.

Directly under the office of the inspector general of police, it is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of investigating crimes, especially high profile ones. But like every other Nigerian project that radiates beauty in intention, it exudes the contrary in practice. The Force CID, Area 10 has carved a niche for itself in notoriety for torture.
As narrated by somebody who can be described as divinely fortunate to have spent just 24 hours in the torture chambers of the station, everything goes on inside the place. From extra-judicial killing to rape, accommodation racketeering to unusual torture – only few of those who enter there came out without a sour tale.

Originally, the facility was not meant to be a prison house for criminals, but today, it accommodates over 135 inmates in the most dehumanising of conditions. An inmate who has been detained in the 'dump' in the last six months from Anambra State said he was arrested for giving information to the police as always requested by the police. “There was a fire incidence where a rich man was implicated. The fire outbreak was not by accident but deliberately ignited by the rich contractor to cover up his misdeeds. As police investigation on the cause of the fire incident was ongoing, I volunteered information to the police on how the fire started and the agents the man used in setting the property on fire. The police actually arrested the man, but that was the beginning of my troubles,” the victim told this magazine. The case of arson was turned against him immediately after the police finished hobnobbing with the contractor. Before he could prove his innocence, the contractor had used his 'connections' to swiftly transfer the case from Anambra to Abuja where the 25-year old was detained.

Another inmate who has been in the detention camp for three years without trial said he was arrested on a trumped-up allegation of organising an armed robbery attack against his cousin. He said he was implicated by three armed robbery suspects who robbed his cousin three years ago. They claimed he gave them information that led to the robbery. He is the only one among the suspects still in the cell. The other three, according to him might have been summarily executed by the police.

Five brothers from Anambra State who have been at the detention camp for the past three months said they were arrested for confronting the man who bought their landed property from their uncle. The said uncle claimed he sold the property to offset the debt incurred during the burial of their father. They have since renounced the ownership of the property after police torture at the cell.

The IG's 'dump' has a way of making an angel confess to a crime he never committed. According to a victim who spent 24 hours in the cell, many of the detainees have a ring-like mark on their ankle. This is a mark of brutal torture by the police officers at the station in order to extract information from suspects. The suspects, according to him are normally hung on a suspended torture stake for hours with handcuffs. Any suspect that proves a tough nut to crack is hung upside down for up to 24 hours and at all costs, the 'truth' must be extracted from such a suspect. And once a confessional statement is gotten from a suspect, it is tape-recorded or the suspect forced to make a handwritten statement. The inmates confess that many have been extra-judicially exterminated in this manner on several occasions.

Investigations also revealed that some inmates are just used as cover up for main criminals. One of the leaders in the detention camp said that most people paraded by the police for committing one crime or the other is just a ruse to divert attention and make people believe that the police is working hard. “These are people taken from different detention camps, people who are detained on account of one allegation or the other and paraded as criminals. What happens is that when a high profile crime is committed and the police seem to be at a loss on what to do, they quickly arrange for inmates who they would parade as the culprits,” the inmate said.

They not only parade them as criminals, they use them to implicate other innocent people to make money off them. Some inmates revealed how the police sometimes handcuff them and take them to the nearest mechanic workshop or shop to readily point at one innocent person as the one who bought a stolen good or an accomplice with whom he went to rob a man the previous week. The police would promptly arrest the so called accomplice knowing that at least some money would be used to bail him from the police station.

There are policemen in the station whose job is simply to twist cases and turn it against a complainant as long as the price is right. The extent of brutality meted out to a victim depends on how much the person that wants such victim punished can afford to pay. The least amount officers in the station would accept to transfer cases from state command to Area 10 is half a million naira.

A routine check on the detainees is carried out every morning. One inspector popularly called 'Action' is said to be notorious in asking: “how many people died today” whenever he carries out inspection on the detainees. He is said to revel in seeing suspects wriggle in pain; his sadism is only comparable to the men of the inquisition era.

The camp is said to be strictly out of bounds to newsmen, lawyers and human rights activists. Many lawyers have been brutalised trying to secure bail for hapless inmates. They hide under the umbrella of office of the inspector general to meddle in cases that should have been settled within a state command.
Emmanuel Ojukwu, force public relations officer, FPRO, was not available when Newsworld went to seek for his comment. His second in command however, declined to comment.

The Rains Slowed Down Oshiomhole

Ahonsi Unuigbe, Edo State commissioner on budget and planning spoke to Victor Osehobo on the challenges facing the Adams Oshiomhole government in implementing this year's budget

There are many who feel that less than two months to end of the year, you should not be sending a supplementary budget to the assembly. What do you think?

When the budget was passed in April 2009, there was a particular area of the ministry of health, the health management board, HMB, which was under budgeted for. The HMB got a mere N200 million whereas it caters for the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in the public service across the state. So the supplementary budget is making provision of N2.1 million for capital and N3.5 billion for recurrent. In effect, 10 percent of the entire budget is for the board while the balance will address other sectors. You know the government's key policies revolve around job creation, quality health services and good schools as well as infrastructural development. We are putting in more money into the ongoing beautification to sustain the tempo; we also want to purchase some equipment for refuse disposal to keep our streets clean.

How would you rate the implementation of the 2009 budget so far?

The real situation is interesting although we do intend to go public with the details of the performance of the 2009 budget since it was signed into law. As you are aware, November marks the first anniversary of the comrade governor coming into office but you can see a lot going on based on the implementation of the budget. Every week, I am sure you are aware that after the state executive council meetings, the commissioner for information briefs the press on contracts that have been awarded and all that. But I can tell you that the late passage of the budget has affected its implementation because it was not until after May that things began to take shape. Most of us in government were new and meeting for the first time so we needed time to be able to find our rhythm. That done, you are sure we have been working. Even before the award of contracts for building and construction, we had to award contracts for designs and get the best bids before talking of the contract itself. This took plenty of time. And it is in all sectors – works, health, education. So we have had quite a number of visitors coming into Benin City to assess the work they are bidding for and submitting designs that showed they had the job. As you are aware, the governor said he will not give jobs to local people who do not have references elsewhere.

Can you be specific on the implementation of the budget?

Most of the jobs cannot be done in the rains. Contractors will be asking for more money once their equipments are on site and the rains hinder their work.
Talking about the implementation of the budget in May, I would tell you that we achieved five to six percent and 10 percent in July. The level of performance will be much higher in November and in December. I intend to give details of the full implementation soon.

There are critical aspects of the budget like the maintenance of Ugbowo and Airport roads. Will they still be implemented?

Work will start on the Ugbowo and Airport Roads once the rains are over. We have completed the design. Ugbowo may start first because of the tremendous goodwill of the students for the government; the same for Airport Road which got the Oba of Benin's endorsement. For a budget that came to be based on popular participation, we will not disappoint the people. The roads will be done this year.

Is it not a case of revenue expectation falling short that is why the budget implementation is slow?


Revenue expectation falling short is part of the reasons for the slow implementation of the budget but as I told you before, the major reason is the delay in the passage. If revenue falls short, it should not affect the implementation because that is when you are required to prioritise. But revenue has not fallen short and we are well on target for revenue.


At this rate, will the 2010 budget be on time or will it be delayed like the 2009 budget?


Consultations are already in top gear for the 2010 budget. The governor has set up the committee under the chairmanship of the deputy governor. He has asked the speaker to nominate some lawmakers to be part of the committee. All ministries and departments have submitted draft proposals, which they will be required to defend subsequently.

We are now planning visits to each of the three senatorial districts to get inputs from the people. These visits will run concurrently with the defense by ministries and departments.

Policing The 2011 Elections (II)

By Lt Col Peter Egbe- Ulu (rtd)

The chairman of Nigeria's ruling party famously quipped that the party will be in power for the next 60 years. In other words, the party probably has a secret weapon that will ensure its political longevity in the absence of any viable democratic institutions such as a professional civil service, an independent judiciary, an integrated and inclusive economy, a proper constitution, a proactive, competent national legislature, an educated polity with a competitive manpower base, a dynamic, skilled workforce, a professional military establishment, an accountable and responsible political elite, in short strong, democratic institutions. While the polity exhibits all the signs of a sick or failed system, that urgently needs attention, a minister of a very troubled ministry found it a good time to throw an international birthday bash that cost in excess of N100 million. And the head of a major federal parastatal and prominent ruling party trustee found it expedient to use his time and other public resources to throw his own 70-something birthday bash. Office holders in the current dispensation are behaving like the proverbial ostrich that buries it head in the sand when confronted with danger or the house owner who prefers to chase rats while his abode is on fire. While the polity is experiencing unprecedented instability and needs the unmitigated attention of all well–meaning citizen, the ruling elite prefers to engage in distractions, diversions and perfunctory preoccupations. The flatulence emanating from political office holders in the current government betrays an elite eons away from the transcendental figures that the nation direly needs at this time.
Since inception in 2007, no one in government has deemed it fit to bring about the enactment of laws that will correct salient errors and pitfalls encountered in past elections, notably those of 2003 and 2007. That betrays a mindset of denial about the urgency and the enormity of the task that needs to be done before the next general elections. Such a mindset smacks of unbelievable naivety. Those in power today, quite pitifully, think that the power of incumbency which they currently enjoy can effectively override the dire need for constitutional and institutional reforms. Having apparently survived the last 10 years or so, largely under Chief Obasanjo's deviousness and inane chicaneries, which was unraveling even before he left office, the promoters of the status quo are persuaded that they can hold on to power for the next 60 years or more, never mind that all that they have so far achieved is to turn the country into a highly conflicted polity, rated as a world class pariah nation, in the same league as or worse than Myanmar and North Korea. Since 1999 there has been no constructive use of the power of incumbency. Rather it has been used in the breach of democratic norms, from dealing with corruption in high places, to the conduct of elections, to transparency issues. The ruling party has shown itself to be the largest spoils system in the world, not the largest party in Africa as is trumpeted in self promotion. This is confirmed by the mindless diversion of public funds during the Obasanjo administration, through fake, unexecuted or failed contracts, for which full payments were made. The fact that key players in that administration have been retained or are otherwise active in the present administration is enough proof that that culture continues.
The Anambra gubernatorial election, coming up, in February 2010, is another opportunity for the police to get its acts together, in preparation for the 'big do' in 2011. But the likelihood of any of that coming about in the light of the insidious, political roistering and lethal political gangsterism going on there in anticipation of the elections is remote. One would have thought that the task of policing elections is a simple one: prevent any breaches of the peace and promptly arrest and prosecute any law breakers; pretty much the same as routine police work. Such a job would not be difficult if those involved abstain from taking sides and getting involved in the politics of elections or otherwise allowing themselves to be suborned by politicians. Whether the police admits it or not, a major reason elections have always been indecent affairs in Nigeria is because the police have consistently failed to do their jobs professionally during elections by leaving politicians to their politics while the police concentrates on the business of policing. Nigerians are not differently constituted from people in other lands. If those minded to break the law know that they will surely be caught during elections and that the penalties will be high and exacting, Nigerians, including the general public and in particular politicians, will conform and behave themselves.
When General Obasanjo was running the government as a civilian president, Aso Rock led the way in suborning the police generally and in particular during elections, to ensure their partisanship in security operations. Such situations often gave police officers the ready–made excuse, often given rather gleefully, that they were 'obeying orders from above' whenever their behaviour was questioned. The situation underlines a salient but unfortunate fact that the leadership of the police and for that matter other federal institutions also, have not yet emancipated to the point where, like in better democracies, they can confidently stand up to any public officer no matter how highly placed, and refuse to compromise their institutions professionally, regardless of the magnitude of the pressure on them to do so. In other words Nigeria's public institutions, in particular the police are yet to attain the level of professionalism that will enable them to take independent action, based on what the constitution dictates. They have seemed to delight in doing whatever the person in power wants them to do, including carrying out instructions from reprobate political office holders. It is an instructive irony that General Obasanjo who did his best to undermine transparency and professionalism in public affairs as president is today the beneficiary of professionalism and transparency from the Spanish government: His son, Muyiwa, by his deceased wife, Stella, is reported to have been awarded some 120,000 euro or N24.7 million compensation for the wrongful death of his mother in the hands of a quack Spanish plastic surgeon. She had gone to the doctor to alter her looks, a frivolous endeavour, most probably at public expense. One hopes that the Obsanjos of this world, in particular Nigerian leaders, past, present and in the future, political and institutional, especially the incumbent Attorney General of the federation, would have learnt an important lesson from the Spanish system's handling of the case.
Since practically nothing has been done on the part of the federal government to prepare for the next elections, particularly in terms of forestalling the constitutional and legal inadequacies that bedeviled past elections, it has to be presumed that the ruling party intends to re-enact the 2003 and 2007style charade or something worse, in 2011.
Apparently the ruling elite have indicated, if their words and deeds are anything to go by, their pre-occupation with surviving in office beyond 2011. Their strategy for realising this objective is to create a situation, by omission or commission that will permit maximum rigging of the elections. In other words the 2011 elections will pose, one more time, a serious challenge to the national and international sense of decency. It will also be a security debacle. The Ekiti re-run elections has already given a foretaste of what is to be expected. That means once again that in 2011 Nigerians will be re-learning the lessons of having a rogue government running their affairs.
The word 'rogue' is not used lightly, nor is it intended as a hyperbole. Some people may find it a bit extreme but what do you call a government that has consistently evaded political responsibility right from inception and seems to have surrendered policy making for public interest to a small band of both faceless and overt insiders, who have held the government and the people hostage to their whims and caprices. Since 1999 there has been no improvement in political practice. The reason for this state of things is that those in authority do not want things to improve. They profit from the status quo. It is that simple. Obasanjo's style of governance made it possible for public officers, including governors, ministers, local government council chairmen, legislators, etc, to think nothing of raising personal militia to fight elections or to fight opposition. Under that government the country achieved unprecedented levels of lawlessness and insecurity. What has the nation gained from that culture? One is that the nation's legislative chambers are now occupied by political delinquents who lack the slightest ideas of their strategic responsibilities to the people they are supposed to represent. In functional democracies legislators make ground breaking laws for good governance but in Nigeria legislators break new ground only in appropriating more emoluments for themselves and in seeking to exclude themselves from the prosecutorial process that other citizens are required to comply with when accused of wrong doing. What a typical Nigerian senator considers ground breaking is to table a farcical bill to regulate how women may dress, taking the matter all the way to the United Nations in New York, to the eternal embarrassment of not only her 'distinguished' self but the nation also. A common refrain in official circles around the country is that there is a 'cordial relationship' between the executive and the legislature: code for the ineptitude of the latter in respect of its ability to perform its oversight functions and proactively pursue the interest of their constituencies. It is also a euphemism for a tacit agreement between the two arms to share the spoils of office to the exclusion of all other stake holders. Another name for a situation that is so often described as a 'cordial relationship' between the executive and legislature is a rubberstamp assembly. It is not a relationship based on mutual respect. It is one based on mutual vested interest, a conspiracy against the people in whose name the government exists.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Milking The Cash-Cow



The nation's continued oil crisis is blamed on a tiny group in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, which ensures that no government oil reform policy succeeds because of its vested interests

By Emma Alozie

Long queues of vehicles have once again returned to the nation's filling stations barely three weeks after such had disrupted socio-economic activities of the country. Last month's crisis was blamed on the huge sums of money owed to independent marketers by the federal government on fuel importation. The marketers claimed that government was indebted to them to the tune of N70 billion on petroleum subsidy. As a result of this, fuel importation by the marketers was halted leaving the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation to be the sole importer of the products.

Domestic oil consumption in the country is in the region of between 30 and 35 million litres per day. Major oil marketers import about 60 percent of this figure while the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, makes up the balance. The suspension of oil importation by the marketers means that only less than 15 million litres of fuel will be available for local consumption in the country. This will definitely result in scarcity especially during festive periods when there will be increase in vehicular activities.

The scarcity was again blamed on the ongoing reform in the banking sector, which made it difficult for the marketers to get loan to finance petroleum importation.

The current scarcity started two weeks ago. At first, it was thought to be caused by panic buyers who feared that prices of petroleum products would still increase by November 1, the earlier date announced by the federal government for the commencement of its deregulation policy. But as the queues persisted, some more reasons began to emerge. It was blamed on a cabal in the NNPC and its subsidiaries who are holding the entire country to ransom. Members of the cabal are believed to be benefiting handsomely from fuel importation into the country.

Nigeria has two facilities for the storage of imported fuel – the Atlas Cove in Lagos and Mosimi in Sagamu, Ogun State. It was gathered that the cabal, in pretence of ensuring adequate fuel supply in the country, would import more than the two government owned facilities can accommodate. This will require additional storage facilities, this time private jetties. The most available ones are Yinka Folawiyo and Capital Oil. Unlike government owned facilities, storage in the private jetties attracts some charges. This time, N3 is paid per litre of petroleum product stored in these private jetties. This is a business between the cabal and owners of the jetties. The cabal is entitled to N1 on every litre of petroleum product stored. The two private storage facilities are said to have a combined storage capacity of over five million litres of any product. What this translates into is N5 million a day.

Apart from that, they also make money from inflated demurrage charges. Again, the cabal also encourages the importation of up to 66-ship load of products, which berth at the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports at the same time, awaiting discharge. About $8,000 is paid per ship whereas $2,000 is paid as demurrage to port officials. This amounts to about $48,000 as over-invoicing. With the tactical out muscling of independent marketers, the corporation has monopolised the industry. The petroleum products price regulating agency, PPPRA, was also accused of denying oil licences to oil majors.

These, in addition to commission from commodity traders swell the pocket of the cabal. Officials of Glencore, Trafigura and Vitol are believed to pay about $500,000 daily as commission to the cabal to retain the petroleum products importation contract.

The current and debilitating fuel shortage being experienced by Nigerians is as a result of the move by NNPC to muscle out opposition in product importation. And the only reason why they are desperate to oust any competition is to create the atmosphere for more kickbacks.

Levi Ajonuma, general manager, public affairs, however denied the allegations. Ajonuma, in an advertorial in national dailies, explained that it was the handiwork of oil marketers who are vexed with the federal government's directive that NNPC should ensure that there is no fuel scarcity during the U-17 World Championship being hosted in Nigeria. “Indeed there is no prize for guessing that the said story emanated from the camp of some major oil marketers still ruining the federal government's directive that NNPC should ensure that there is no fuel scarcity in the run-up to the FIFA U-17 tournament, Sallah/Christmas festivities,” Ajonuma said.

In another advertorial, a group which called itself, concerned oil industry professionals, absolved NNPC of any wrongdoing in the current state of affairs in the downstream sector of the oil industry. The advert was signed by one Engr Raphael Akintunde and Engr Amaechi Ubaka as national coordinator and secretary respectively. The association's defence however, contradicted the position of Dr. Ajonuma. Ajonuma, who in his advertorial, denied the abandonment of Atlas Cove and Mosimi jetties. “It is important to state that the NNPC has not and will not abandon the Atlas Cove storage facility and the Mosimi depot in preference for Yinka Folawiyo and Capital Oil depots. For the first time in many years, the Mosimi depot did not record a single case of pipeline rupture for a whole month. This feat enabled pumping of products to peak at 100 percent in Mosimi,” he stated. But the professional while admitting that the Yinka Folawiyo and Capital Oil facilities are on lease, submitted that the two private depots are the best in Nigeria and therefore their use should be encouraged. “It is common knowledge within the downstream sector that the Folawiyo jetty is so far the best in-shore jetty. The jetty is able to accommodate an import vessel of 30,000 metric tonnes capacity without lightening. This in turn reduces the waiting time and consequently reduces demurrage. Also, Capital Oil jetty has the second best in-shore draft after Folawiyo and as such, can accommodate vessels of 25,000 metric tonnes. This again reduces vessel turn-around time and cuts down demurrage,” the group concluded.

The existence of a cabal in the nation's oil sector is an undeniable fact. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in May this year when the country was gripped with fuel crisis, attributed the problem to the handiwork of a cabal in the oil sector. Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, minister of petroleum also accused the cartel of frustrating the deregulation policy of the federal government.

Gaius Obaseki, former group managing director of the NNPC in June 2009 told members of the House of Representatives ad- hoc committee probing the activities of the corporation and its subsidiaries that when he took over in 1999, he met a cabal on ground, but he fought them to a standstill. He admitted before the committee that the cartel at the NNPC was responsible for the granting of oil licences even 10 years ahead of time. Obaseki also said that he suspected that the amorphous cabal was responsible for the comatose state of the nation's four refineries.

The syndicate is said to be responsible for the dysfunctional state of the nation's refineries so as to continue to sell the local crude allocation daily and import finished products at a price determined by them. The house committee was also told how the mafia masterminded the inflation in 2000 by increasing the quantity of petrol imported into the country from 5.9 million metric tonnes to 7.3 metric tonnes only to turn around and pocket the money.

Since the advent of democracy in 1999, the country has sunk in millions of dollars in trying to revamp the ever ailing refineries. Rasheed Gbadamosi, former chairman of PPPRA, not too long ago, said the nation spent $700 million between 1999 and 2003 on both turn around maintenance and rehabilitation projects on the refineries. In 2008, $57.9 million was earmarked for the turn around maintenance, TAM, of Kaduna refinery alone.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been voted in to revive the refineries. Rather, the authorities from the NNPC and petroleum ministry continue to contradict each other on the true state of the refineries. In an interview with journalists in London recently, Lukman promised that three out of the four refineries would be back to their full capacity soon. But the acting director of the department of petroleum resources, DPR, Billy Agha, said that local refining has been on the free fall without any hope of picking up soon. “If we recall, the local production of petroleum products has generally continued to fall as the refineries are operating under very low capacity utilisation.”

Investigations have shown that the refineries no matter how hard the government tries may never work. A source told this magazine that the same persons that make sure that several million dollars is expended on turn around maintenance, TAM, will also ensure that the refineries would still lay prostrate because of their entrenched interests. “These men are not working alone. They maintain various strategic positions at the NNPC in the interest of their fellow powerful importers and this perhaps explains why no matter how hard the government of the day tries, the refineries would not work,” the source said.

The cabal would not allow what it regards as external influence to jeopardise members' personal interest, which is to continue to reap the oil lucre. Sources equally revealed to this magazine that during the Obasanjo administration, all proposals brought through the corporation for government to help out in the establishment of new and modern refineries never saw the light of the day because what the clique continued to drum in the ears of the then president was that the project is capital intensive.

At the height of the oil boom during the Obasanjo regime, Nigerians in Diaspora presented a proposal on how to make the nation's oil sector more efficient. They had argued that no matter how many licenses the government grants to private individuals for new refineries, the prohibitive cost of a refinery coupled with the suspicion of foreign investors on the political stability of Nigeria would make it almost impossible for private individuals to invest in the downstream sector of Nigeria's oil industry. They therefore proposed that the government should set aside at least $10 billion from the excess crude account and treat such as loan advance to individuals who would then use such money to build refineries. According to them, there should be a five year moratorium on the loan, which should be interest free. With this, it was strongly believed that these high net worth individuals would site the refineries without consideration to the usual Nigeria geo-politics and by now, it would have been yielding the desired result.

This proposal was killed by the top echelon of NNPC because it would put an end to their products import slush fund and take business away from their outside collaborators. The cabal argued that government has no business in doing business and has heightened the campaign that deregulation is the only solution to the numerous problems besetting the sector.

Doubt Over New Textile Policy


Government's stance of injecting over N100 billion into the dying textile industry is raising some misgivings among stakeholders


By Raphael Nkwocha

Former textile worker, Mr. Akintunde Olayinka with the defunct Arewa Textile Company in Kaduna, located along the Kaduna-Abuja road which has been put for sale believes that most statements from the government are nothing but political, and are never implemented. Olayinka was reacting to the statement made by the minister of commerce and industry, Chief Achike Udenwa that government is giving N100 billion comprehensive lifeline to the textile industry. The minister had revealed that the proposal which was submitted to the government has received government backing and will soon be implemented.
Newsworld gathered that the quest to arrest the collapse of the nation's textile industry from under the weight of the hostile business environment in the country was conceived by the former administration of Olusegun Obasanjo. N70 billion was first budgeted as intervention fund which did not see the light of the day. However, some intricacies attached to the pooling of the fund did not allow it to take off. The latest fund the minister said, is to enable Nigerian textile companies invest in critical areas of need in order to strengthen the sector against foreign competition.
The fund was initially planned to be sourced through the Eurobond, a European multilateral organisation with facilities for enterprise development in the developing world. But somehow, the federal government failed to meet the conditions as stipulated by Eurobond and this resulted in the failure to make the loan accessible to the sector.
Meanwhile the country's textile sector has completely collapsed. Stating the fate of the sector, the general secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Comrade Issa Aremu told Newsworld that 38 textile firms have so far closed shop and 15 others operate skeletal businesses, while only three are still in business. The biggest hit came last year when the textile largest mill on the continent of Africa, United Nigeria Textile Company collapsed, causing over 5000 direct job losses and over 30,000 indirect ones including those of suppliers, traders and cotton growers.
Comrade Issa Aremu revealed that so many factors have aided in crippling the textile firms. Amongst them are perennial power supply failure, dearth of expansion fund, payment of multiple taxes, prohibitive interest rates, high cost of imported raw materials and a stiff competition from the booming second hand clothing business. Newsworld gathered that before the Obasanjo government decided to offer a lifeline to the sector, all the major indices of production in the sector had nose-dived. For example, the sector, which had an official workforce of about 253,000 people in 1992, had less than 60,000 in 2006. The minister, Achike Udenwa, disclosed that the N70 billion intervention fund for the textile sector proposed by the last administration was not realised before its terminal date, but that the present administration is proposing a N100 billion to save the industry and it will be sourced from the Bank of Industry and the World Banks and also that it will be implemented according to the World Bank conditions.
The scheme known as the cotton and government scheme is geared towards the revival of the comatose textile industry. According to the minister of state for commerce and industry, Mr. Humphrey Abba at the international conference on Nigeria's textile industry , the fund is only accessible by credible organisations and it will be on a single digit interest rate for the borrowers, but Mr. Felix Adeduwo stated that if only government will implement the revitalisation scheme, it will increase the industry's earnings by N300 billion. He also stated that the sector can be revived in two years from now and within five years, will generate a minimum of 10million direct and indirect employment opportunities not only in Nigeria but also, to all other parts of the world. Comrade Aremu revealed that the N100 billion scheme can only be realistic if the government matches its words with action and it should also improve on the factors militating against its smooth running like interrupted power supply, reduction in multiple taxes and enforcement of government ban on second hand clothes. He also revealed that the government should first put its house in order as most of the importers of textile materials into the country are highly placed government officials.

NITEL: Creating A Level Playing Field


The Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, bars existing licensed GSM operators from bidding for the mobile arm of the Nigeria Telecommunications, NITEL, as the sale reaches the last stage


The Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, is making another move to privatise the Nigeria Telecommunications Plc, NITEL. This second attempt is coming less than one year after the botched effort to sell the telecommunications company to Transnational Corporation, TRANSCORP.
Already, many companies in the telecommunications business have indicated interest to buy NITEL. Industry watchers have expressed worry over the inability of BPE to effect the privatisation since 2006.
The companies that have indicated interest to buy NITEL include Etisalat Nigeria, EMTS, FineTex Consortium, MTNL Ltd, Globacom Ltd and Glob COM Ltd. Others are Anas Network Services Ltd, Telefonica Consortium, Metro Limited, Galaxy Backbone Plc and Cocnau Ltd.
Given the difficulties that have been encountered in trying to privatise NITEL, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, proposed that NITEL be unbundled into units in order to be sold separately so that any bidder could buy any combination of units.
Notwithstanding the NCC's position, the BPE told Newsworld that existing GSM operators would be barred from buying the mobile arm of NITEL if NITEL is sold by a single unbundled unit because they are presently holding GSM licenses.
According to Dr Christopher Anyanwu who is BPE's director-general, “the present GSM license holders – MTN, Glo, Zain and Etisalat, are disqualified from buying the mobile arm of NITEL (M-Tel) if M-Tel is sold as a single unbundled unit given that they are presently holders of GSM licenses.”
Agreeing with BPE's position, NCC said that the purchase of M-Tel by any of the present GSM holders would present competition challenges and would be in conflict with regulator's guidelines and licensing conditions.
Glo holds the Second National Operator, SNO license which is why NCC has ruled it out of purchasing a bundled NITEL so as not to make it have two national operator licenses which would not be good for competition, giving them an undue advantage over other operators in the country.
While agreeing that it would be right for any of the local operating firms to buy NITEL without M-Tel and SAT-3, the NCC added that a reserved price tag should be placed on each unbundled unit of NITEL in proportion to its potential market value and asset base.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Chief Earnest Ndukwe said that NITEL's assets consist of digital mobile license, fixed wireless, land line and long distance operator licenses, international cable landing right license and value added licenses.
To get maximum use of the unbundling bid, it is believed that NITEL can be unbundled into digital mobile license and infrastructure gateway and SAT-3 submarine cable access. Other components include fixed network, CDMA fixed wireless, digital switches, external line plants cable network and metropolitan fibre cable networks.
Chief Ndukwe is of the opinion that CDMA fixed wireless network could be upgraded to a CDMA mobile network if the buyer obtains a universal access (internet service provider, prepaid card, coin box, internet exchange point, etc.).
Chief Ndukwe further said that unbundling NITEL would help BPE to overcome some of the regulatory barriers since “each buyer will likely pay a higher price for the component it values most important for its strategic plan. It will thereby enable government to make more money from the entire privatisation process.”
According to Ndukwe, unbundling would enable the small and medium size operators to participate in the process, thereby increasing the number of players and creating more chances of getting buyers for each component.
“The more the number of participants, the more the competition for the purchase of the items,” he noted.
The NCC boss said that 090 analogue equipment was obsolete and may not have much market value because “telecommunication is a fast changing industry, hence equipment and systems have tendency to become obsolete very quickly.”
One analyst who is not impressed with the expressions so far is Barrister Ndioye Uteh who said the unbundling of NITEL might present a more complicated challenge because selling NITEL in units might not be appealing to prospective investors.