Items filtered by date: Sunday, 22 July 2018

According to the government, the strategic partners are expected to run the airline as a private sector initiative to avoid suffering the fate of defunct Nigeria Airways.

The previous national carrier, the Nigeria Airways, founded in 1958, was wholly owned and managed by the Federal Government before it went under in 2003.

Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, said on Wednesday that the government would not own more than five per cent of the new carrier. He made the comments while giving details of the airline at the Farnborough air show in England.

The government plans to launch the airline in December, making good on President Muhammadu Buhari’s election campaign promise.

Decades of neglect and lack of investment have left Nigeria with low-quality infrastructure seen as a hurdle to prosperity. The government has said that upgrading it would require private investment. “The initial capital is likely to be in the range of $US 150 to $300 million, in- vested in tranches over time from start up through the first five years of operation,” a government document stated.

It said the government would provide initial capital but did not state the sum or give further details.

The government will “facilitate the process for opening up the capital of the airline to private sector financial investors”, the document stated.

A private operator, sought through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) process, will manage the airline without interference, it said.

Nigeria Air would serve domestic and international markets and expect to have a fleet of 30 aircraft in five years with hubs in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria’s two main cities.

British billionaire Richard Branson set up domestic and international carrier Virgin Nigeria in 2000, but pulled out in 2010 over what he said was interference by politicians and regulators.

The airline he created, which was later rebranded Air Nigeria, closed in 2012 after collapsing under N35 billion of debt which left it unable to pay staff, a former finance director of the company said at the time.

Nigeria is overhauling its aviation infrastructure and handing over its airports to private managers in order to improve the business environment for the industry and to attract investment, the document said. It said current air traffic in Nigeria is around 15 million passengers which is expected to grow at five percent per annum through to 2036.

 

Source: Sunday Sun.

Published in Travel & Tourism

The Nigerian government has announced that USD$322 million (£244 million) stolen by Nigeria’s former military ruler, Sani Abacha, has been returned by the Swiss authorities.

Abacha, an army general who was head of state from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled between USD$3 to 5 billion of public money.

Plans have also been announced to distribute the recovered loot to around 300,000 households in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Under the plan each household would get around USD$14 a month. The handouts would be paid to poor Nigerians for about six years.

Roberto Balzaretti, one of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, reported that there would be strict conditions attached to the transfer of the money back to Nigeria. Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland and the World Bank agreeing the modalities for the return of the stolen funds.

The Nigerian government has opted for cash payments to be made to help poor families as part of the Nigeria National Social Safety Net Program. The money is to be paid in instalments and in small amounts under the supervision of the World Bank, which will also conduct regular audits. If the first instalment is not properly accounted for, subsequent payments will be halted. This is to prevent the funds from being stolen again.

But there are fears that this is not the best way to use the recovered funds and that the “distribution” is just a ruse to influence the Nigerian elections next year. Concerns have been raised that it’s an easy way for the ruling political party to score cheap points ahead of the 2019 polls. And there are strong views about how the money can be better spent, particularly on the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

Vote Buying?

The money is being returned to Nigeria at a delicate time. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that he will be seeking reelection next year. This despite his ill health and corruption scandals.

Nigerian politicians are infamous for buying votes.

Suspicions that the redistribution scheme is another vote buying ruse have been fuelled by the fact that the government plans to give money to only 19 states out of the 36. The government has said that 17 states where excluded from the scheme because they didn’t have the “appropriate platform” to implement the conditional cash transfers.

There are also fears that the recovered loot might end up in the coffers of ghost beneficiaries.

The Nigerian house of representatives – the lower house of Nigeria’s bicameral National Assembly – has passed a motion that the money must be distributed in line with the country’s revenue sharing formula for disbursing money to all 36 states.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a Nigerian nongovernmental anti-corruption agency, has added its voice to criticisms of the plan. It has pointed out that the distribution of funds is

mis-targeted and would not bring any tangible benefits to the beneficiaries.

The project argues that the president should renegotiate the memorandum of understanding with the Swiss authorities in consultation with the communities affected by grand corruption so that the recovered loot can be put to better use.

A better way?

Is there a better way to utilise the recovered loot?

Nigeria needs proper procedures to manage recovered money as it continues with its anti-corruption agenda. The government will be better placed in the future to manage recovered funds if it has a coherent plan detailing how they should be handled. The plan will need to be overseen by the country’s anti-corruption institution.

There’s a strong view that the recovered money should be used to foot the bill for infrastructure projects that would improve the lives of the victims of corruption and also help alleviate poverty.

Infrastructure projects, such as proper transport systems and power generation, also have the advantage of being highly visible and could be easily tracked through Budgit and Tracka. Construction projects would also create jobs.

There is a clear link between infrastructural development and economic growth – an area where Nigeria could really do with some help. The country struggles from infrastructure deficits, particularly in power generation, transport, education and health care.

Experts also argue that giving the money to poor households will only serve as temporary respite from poverty. Investing in infrastructure that can improve growth, employment, production, education and health care would create better and longer-term value.

The government might be wise to listen to these views.

 

Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer in Economics, Staffordshire University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday assured Zimbabwe's white farmers that their land will not be taken, calling on them to work together with the government ahead of landmark elections on July 30.

Under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, white farmers were evicted in favour of landless black people from 2000 by a controversial policy that wrecked agriculture and triggered an economic collapse. 

But less than two weeks to go before Zimbabwe's first elections since Mugabe's ouster, Mnangagwa moved to quash any fears the practice would be repeated.

"This issue of new (land) invasions is a thing of the past. The rule of law must now apply," Mnangagwa told a group of about 200 white and Asian people gathered in the capital Harare, adding that the "animal farm mentality," was a thing of the past.

"I am saying we should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of colour. It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, black farmer, a white farmer is a Zimbabwean farmer."

Mnangagwa said his government was "racially blind" and needed the expertise of everyone across the economy. 

Zimbabwe's white population has fallen to less than one percent of the country's 16 million after Mugabe imposed the policy to expropriate farms in 2000.

Agricultural output crashed in the aftermath, with investors leaving and mass unemployment forcing millions of Zimbabweans out of the country to seek work.

- 'A lot of encouragement' -

Mnangagwa acknowledged the failure of the land reforms, saying the expertise of white people in the farming sector was still needed and encouraging them to take part in rebuilding Zimbabwe.

"We must build the Zimbabwe we want. We want to restore the status of Zimbabwe as a food basket of the region," he said.

"He gave us a lot of encouragement. We came here to ask for options for farming," Louisa Horsely, 51, told AFP. 

"I wanted to know if my husband's expertise is still needed if he wants to farm and wants to help other people to farm and that is what we are interested in. It sounds (like) he wants us to be part of it."

Tara Chatterton, 39, who runs an auctioning business, said she attended the rally to hear what Mnangagwa's plans were since the military intervention last year that resulted in the removal of Robert Mugabe after nearly four decades.

"We are here just to see... what he is aiming at in trying to bring the country back up and trying to get people to work together as one nation," Chatterton said.

Paul Sexton, 71, who works for a printing company, said he was impressed that the leader "didn't make any outlandish promises".

"It's going to take time and that's the truth."

AFP

Published in Agriculture

China’s President Xi Jinping pledged during a visit to Senegal on Saturday to strengthen economic ties with Africa, a continent already awash with cheap Chinese loans in exchange for minerals and huge construction projects.

Xi arrived in Senegal on Saturday for a two-day visit to sign bilateral deals, the first leg of an Africa tour that will also take him to Rwanda and South Africa, the latter for a summit of BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China now does more trade with Africa than any other nation does, and its consistent overtures to the continent contrast sharply with the United States, whose President Donald Trump has shown little interest in it.

The visit was Xi’s first trip to West Africa as president, but his fourth to Africa, he told a joint press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall after their third ever meeting.

“Every time I come to Africa, I have seen the dynamism of the continent and the aspirations of its people for development,” Xi said. “I am very confident in the future of Sino-African relations.”

Earlier, Xi was greeted by a brass band and hundreds of people waving Chinese and Senegalese flags and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the two leaders’ faces. 

LOADING UP ON CHINESE DEBT
Africa is in the midst of a boom in infrastructure projects, managed and cheaply financed by China, part of Xi’s “Belt and Road” initiative to build a transport network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

China has pledged $126 billion for the plan, which has been praised by its supporters as a source of vital financing for the developing world. In Senegal, Chinese loans have financed a highway linking the capital Dakar to Touba, its second main city, and part of an industrial park on the Dakar peninsula.

China’s ambassador to Senegal Zhang Xun was quoted by the local press in March as saying China had invested $100 million in Senegal in 2017.

“Senegal takes a positive view of China’s role in Africa,” Sall said at the news conference. “For its contribution to peace and stability and equally ... for the financing of budgets.”

But critics say Africa is loading itself up on Chinese debt that it may struggle to repay, with estimates ranging in the tens of billions of dollars. That could leave African nations with no choice but to hand over controlling stakes in strategic assets to the Chinese state.

U.S. officials have warned that a port in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, a host to major U.S. and French military bases, could suffer this fate, although Djibouti rejects the fear.

In Guinea, meanwhile, one of the world’s poorest nations, China is lending $20 billion to the government in exchange for aluminium ore concessions.

As well as trade and minerals, China has also seen Africa as a source of political support. Chinese diplomacy has, as of May this year, succeeded in getting every African country except Swaziland to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province.

(Reuters)

Published in Economy

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