It took President Muhammadu Buhari 54 days after his second term began to send a list of ministerial nominees to the Nigerian Senate for screening. This is a better record than his first term, which began in May 2015. Then Nigerians had to wait six months before the list of ministerial portfolios and offices was announced.

This time around the Senate took just a few days to approve the list, the vast majority of whom served in Buhari’s previous cabinet. Only 14 out of 43 were first-term cabinet members.

The big change was that Buhari elected to expand cabinet positions from 36 to 43. This is likely to mean an expansion of the ministries from the current 23 to accommodate all the appointees.

In Buhari’s first term there were 15 women. That number has more than halved to seven.

In 2015 the excuse for the lengthy delay was that the president needed time to make the selection. This was because he was seeking to appoint individuals untainted by the endemic corruption that has come to typify politics in Nigeria. Back then, Nigerians were open to giving the president a grace period. Several analysts agreed that the blatant corruption seen under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration played a major role in the goodwill towards Buhari.

But it soon became clear that Buhari’s administration would not be radically different. The first cabinet was made up of individuals who were known more for being the president’s political bedfellows than for their technocratic qualifications or achievements. That in itself is not out of the ordinary in almost any political dispensation across the globe. An easily agreeable cabinet makes for swifter and less contentious decision-making.

In Nigeria, however, it is viewed more like compensation for previous political support than selections made on merit.

Buhari’s new cabinet is just like the last. But his supporters are likely to argue that politics, especially in contemporary Nigeria, requires a heavy amount of pragmatism.

What, then, have we learned from Buhari’s appointments?

In my view, the second term cabinet make-up reflects the moribund state of political governance in Nigeria and the tone-deafness of Buhari’s government. Some of the names on the ministerial list are of politicians who have previously been charged with corruption. Others have been associated with corrupt practices while in political office .

And almost all the names on the list are politicians who have served in government in one form or another before – former governors, senators, and political office holders. This raises questions about the sincerity of the president’s pledge in 2015 to select incorruptible people as ministers.

Issues to be considered

There’s a lot that’s wrong with the cabinet.

Firstly, choosing a ministerial cabinet in Nigeria isn’t as simple as just selecting random individuals, even if they are the most qualified candidates. Nigeria has a complex political reality that has to be taken into consideration to fully appreciate the rationale that underlies the way governance looks within the country.

One factor that must be considered is Nigeria’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. To ensure equal representation, the Nigerian Constitution stipulates that each of the country’s 36 states must be represented in the cabinet.

This was necessitated by the ethnic marginalisation that came about after the “forced” amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria by the British, the Biafran Civil War, and several other difficult historical episodes. So, in choosing prospective ministers from each of the 36 states in the country, it could be argued that Buhari is simply following standard political precedent.

It’s also clear that Buhari has again found it prudent to reward political allies with positions. In truth, this is normal practice in most countries. One must ask, then, why the expectations were different where Buhari’s cabinet was concerned. The answer is that he has been a self-declared anti-corruption reformer since his first term. Going against the political grain by choosing merit over kinship might have alienated some of his allies. But it would have gained him goodwill among the Nigerian people.

The gender imbalance of Buhari’s cabinet also serves to advance a common refrain that his government is tone-deaf. The president was criticised during his first term for not appointing enough women ministers. Buhari made a promise to address this during his second term. But the opposite has happened.

This gives the impression of a government that is resistant to progressive ideas and change and makes no pretence about it.

What now?

For cynical observers of the current administration, the adverse effect the drawn-out wait for the ministerial list has had on Nigeria’s economy has not been worth it. If anything, it is a reminder of the snailspeed approach that the current administration has adopted in managing the nation’s affairs.

The nation’s security sector is in poor shape; abductions and terror attacks are becoming commonplace. There seems to be no end in sight to the Fulani herdsmen crisis either. The economy is still being supported by foreign loans, and there have been grim prognostications from the likes of the International Monetary Fund. There is a very real risk of recession.

Adding to that, the early criticisms of Buhari’s government for its lack of a coherent fiscal policy still have currency.

In conclusion, if there is a recurring theme to be picked up from Buhari’s cabinet, it is that things are set to remain the same for the next four years in terms of the political governance, and the administration’s poor management of the Nigerian economy.The Conversation

 

Ini Dele-Adedeji, Research Associate, Politics & Development Studies, University of York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Nigerian central bank held a treasury auction on Wednesday to try to lure foreign investors, traders said, hours after it was announced that the president told the bank to ban access to dollars for food imports to curb demand.

Pressure has been building on the naira currency as oil prices drop and foreign investors book profits on local bonds in response to falling yields. Crude sales account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and two-thirds of government revenues in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer.

Banking stocks fell 1.26% on Wednesday, to help drag the main share index to a more than two-year low as negative sentiment persisted on the stock market.

Traders said the central bank asked them to increase their rates at a bills auction on Wednesday compared with rates that the bank paid at the last sale in July.

The move led to a spike in yields on the one-year treasury bill which rose to 12% on Wednesday from around 10% on Friday after the bank told dealers to bid higher rates at its auction, traders said.

Traders said the central bank wanted to offer bills at higher rates to attract foreign investors to boost liquidity on the currency market, which would help support the naira.

On Friday, the naira eased to 364 per dollar, from a quote of 363.50 as falling oil prices tightened liquidity on the currency market.

A dollar shortage was initially caused by a slowdown of foreign inflows after local debt market yields declined.

UNCERTAINTY

"As the naira came under increasing pressure ... stepping up demand management policies in the foreign exchange market furthermore suggests that the central bank faces increasing problems propping up the currency through open market operations," said Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president of Teneo Intelligence.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday told the central bank to stop providing funding for food imports, his spokesman said, in a further sign of pressure on the currency.

A spokesman for the central bank, which is an independent body, has not responded to text messages and phone calls seeking a comment on whether or not the request will be heeded.

Traders said the market was waiting for more information on how such a ban would be implemented, especially for importers with existing lines of credit.

"This adds to the level of uncertainty in the market. How the central bank would implement this remains unclear," one trader said. "Some of the items may already be included in the earlier ban."

The central bank in 2015 banned access to foreign exchange for 43 items in a bid to curb dollar demand, though it continued to sell dollars to offshore investors to boost confidence.

Nigeria, which has Africa's biggest economy, operates a multiple exchange rate regime, which it has used to manage pressure on the currency.

The official rate of 306.90 is supported by the central bank but the traded rate of 364 is widely quoted by foreign investors and exporters.

 

In an effort to boost economic growth in Africa’s most-populous country, Nigeria is giving its banks a choice: lend more money, or hand it over to the central bank and earn nothing on it.

Banks should use at least 60% of their deposits for loans by the end of September, the central bank said on July 3, according to a circular viewed by Bloomberg. Those that don’t will have their cash-reserve requirements increased, meaning they’ll be forced to park more money at the central bank.

Nigeria’s banks are some of the most reluctant lenders in major emerging markets, with an average loan-to-deposit ratio below 60%. That compares with 78% across Africa, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s above 90% in South Africa and about 76% in Kenya.

Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, the nation’s biggest lender by market value, fell 1.9% in Thursday trading, contributing the most to the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index’s decline. Its loan-to-deposit ratio was 53% at the end of March. United Bank for Africa Plc also dropped, while Zenith Bank Plc rose.

The decision was taken “to ramp up growth of the Nigerian economy through investment in the real sector,” Ahmad Abdullahi, director of banking supervision, said in the letter to banks. “To encourage lending to small businesses and consumers and more mortgages, these sectors shall be assigned a weight of 150%” when computing the loan-to-deposits ratio.

The Nigerian economy is struggling to recover from a full-year contraction in 2016 and will expand 2.1% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The central bank cut its key lending rate in March to help boost growth.

Risk Aversion
There was previously no rule on minimum loan-to-deposit ratios, and many Nigerian lenders have ratios of about 40%, Abdullahi said by phone from Abuja, the capital.

The order came after Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele urged banks to boost lending or have access to risk-free assets restricted. Speaking at the most recent Monetary Policy Committee meeting in May, he said he would create “a mechanism” to limit banks’ purchases of government securities.

Risk-averse Nigerian banks have resisted lending to businesses and consumers and instead piled their cash into naira bonds, which yield 14.3% on average, one of the highest rates globally. Lenders worry that with inflation at more than 11%, extending more credit could endanger the financial system through an increase in non-performing loans, or NPLs.

That makes some analysts skeptical of whether the new measures will work.

“Forcing banks to lend under the current macro-economic situation will only result in a buildup in NPLs,” analysts at Lagos-based CSL Research, including Gloria Fadipe, said in a note to clients. “This could pose a risk to financial stability.”

CSL estimates it could result in an additional 1.4 trillion naira ($3.9 billion) of lending if the central bank gets its way.

Bad Loans
Non-performing loans as a percentage of total credit in the Nigerian banking industry declined to 11% in the first quarter from 14% a year ago, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Past experience with such measures isn’t encouraging. The central bank last year allowed banks to use their statutory cash reserves to fund manufacturers on the condition that such loans were at a maximum interest rate of 9% and a minimum maturity of seven years. The lenders didn’t take advantage of the policy due to credit risk and high returns on government bonds, according to Michael Famoroti, an economist and partner at Stears Business.

“I don’t expect much change,’’ Famoroti said by phone from Lagos. “We just came out from a period of high NPLs and banks are very cautious of credit growth at this time.”

 

Credit: Bloomberg

Nigeria’s Otigba Computer Village is arguably the biggest information, communications technology (ICT) market in Africa.

It started off as a one-man business on a street called “Otigba” in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State. Within a short time it grew to a few thousand businesses occupying a vast area in the state. It represents an ICT solution centre for Nigeria as well as West Africa.

Three years ago Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics estimated that the informal sector had accounted for as much as 41% of the country’s economy in 2015. The informal sector in Nigeria continues to grow for numerous reasons. These include:

  • limited ability of the formal economy to absorb surplus labour (largely dominated by people aged between 15 and 50 years);

  • barriers to entry into the formal economy by young entrepreneurs who have ideas but little capital to compete with large firms in the formal sector;

  • weak government institutions (regulatory bodies); and

  • poor economic conditions which are forcing many consumers to demand cheap goods and services.

The Otigba cluster is no exception. It remains largely informal despite its size, the volume of economic transactions being done daily and the technical knowledge put to use in the market. Numerous studies have been done to evaluate the size and capacity of the cluster, its evolution, mode of operation, performance, sustainability and constraints.

But before my research there had been no studies on how businesses within the cluster identified new and useful knowledge and how they applied that knowledge to innovation to increase their performance and profitability by scaling-up their operations.

Research across the world shows that when businesses cluster together there is bound to be an exchange of knowledge. This can be through spillovers or conscious transfers. With more than 4000 businesses, Otigba should be no exception. So, I set out to test this by surveying 200 business units, representing about 5% of the size of the cluster. I wanted to understand how knowledge is being identified, acquired, developed, used and diffused in the cluster.

The study also sought to understand how the spread of knowledge within the cluster led to innovation and the scaling of business operations. Innovation here refers to significant technical changes in the product, services, production processes or delivery method.

To measure the scaling up of businesses, the study examined:

  • inputs (access to more finances, number of employees),

  • activities (sub-contracting, outsourcing and collaborations),

  • outputs (turnover, quality, quantity) and

  • impacts (compliance to international standard, technology upgrading and net export).

The study used these indicators because they are yardsticks for measuring growth in firms in the formal sector.

Some interesting findings

When businesses operate in close proximity, as they do in clusters, knowledge sharing is inevitable. I found this to be true in Otigba. This is mainly because the daily routine of the businesses involves: rotation of tasks and the regular training of employees (mainly apprentices) by highly skilled technical personnel, usually the owner of the business or someone appointed as senior manager.

Most businesses didn’t give preference to employees with relevant experience when hiring. Instead, they used the expertise of qualified technicians to train new employees. As a result apprentices learnt on the job.

By and large, it took new employees less than two years to acquire all the necessary knowledge they needed to do the jobs they were hired for. The result is that apprenticeship has become one of the major channels for skills acquisition and knowledge diffusion within the cluster. Apprenticeship involves on-the-job learning by young employees under the supervision of experts. During this period, tacit knowledge is passed on to the apprentices until they become experts themselves. These apprentices thus graduate, ready to start their own businesses or secure employment as technicians in the formal sector.

The other channel for diffusion of knowledge within the clusters is the trade association and the unions. These have enabled collaborative innovation in the cluster which has made it possible for firms to compete as a cluster against international players. This is because of the monitoring role played by trade association and unions such as the Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria. The union ensures that new knowledge about new technologies (product and process) are made known to all it members. The union facilitates collective importation of expensive equipment as well as sharing to tools and technicians among its members.

Because of knowledge sharing in the cluster, the majority of new businesses were able to scale up their operations within the first three years of operation. This is remarkable given that research shows that a third of new small business die within two years, and half within five years of starting up. Thus knowledge sharing through clustering is organic incubation – one viable way to survive the first three years as a start-up.

Knowledge sharing also enabled most of the enterprises to increase their capital resources within three years of start-up. They did this either through their own generated resources or through loans. The main source of loans came from commercial banks followed by co-operative societies, business angels and micro-credit organisations.

Most enterprises increased their work force to run their businesses because of good business performance. During the scaling-up period, there was lots of collaboration between firms within the cluster as well as with other businesses, organisations and institutions outside of the cluster. This facilitated the transfer of knowledge among cooperating firms.

Finally, the effects of scaling-up enhanced the ability of businesses to:

  • satisfy customers’ demands;

  • comply with Nigerian regulations and standards;

  • develop more environmentally friendly products/processes; and

  • improve product quality.

Also, knowledge sharing that happened during the scaling up enabled businesses to extend their product range, deal successfully with new competitors abroad, and lower their production costs.

Conclusion

My research found that openness and proximity increased access to information, customers, new domestic markets, tools and technology, suppliers of raw materials and inputs. In addition, all the enterprises that benefited from proximity in the cluster were involved in at least one form of innovation.

In conclusion, the study posits that knowledge need not be protected in clusters or in the informal sector generally. Instead, it should be shared widely so that other businesses can adopt, or adapt, it. This in turn spurs further innovation and the rapid development of the sector. Openness will also aid the development of other sectors through knowledge spill overs. This, in turn, will create healthy competition among businesses.The Conversation

 

Oluseye Jegede, Senior Researcher, SARCHI Industrial Development Unit, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

On Wednesday the 29th of May 2019, the Federal Republic of Nigeria again swore in President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office. For many Nigerians, the administration’s return to power presents an opportunity for it to consolidate many of its reform agenda.

Muhammadu Buhari GCFR is a Nigerian politician currently serving as the President of Nigeria, in office since 2015. He is a retired major general in the Nigerian Army and previously served as the nation's head of state from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after taking power in a military coup d'état.

Muhammadu Buhari GCFR is a Nigerian politician currently serving as the President of Nigeria, in office since 2015. He is a retired major general in the Nigerian Army and previously served as the nation's head of state from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after taking power in a military coup d'état.

This piece argues that given the multifarious challenges that the new Nigerian Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) already faces, i.e, from Nigeria’s status as a developing country, the commission can take advantage of the institutional openings presented by the new Nigerian regime, to advance its objectives.

Importantly, beyond the technical issues of the necessity of a competition culture, and resources, for the efficacy of the new Nigerian competition law, the broader administrative law context of Nigeria is also relevant. Here, the newly re-inaugurated Nigerian administration presents some key opportunities, the Nigerian agency can utilize.

Specifically, the generally accepted denominators of a successful competition law are the relevant social norms of competition; the requisite resources to sustain or galvanise the framework, when it is introduced, and the appropriate legal structures to interface with the enacted law to actualise the law’s objectives.

For example, concerning the social norms, the relevant social practices that priorities the acceptability of ‘competition’, as a market value, and necessitates its inclusion in the relevant markets, contribute highly to the success of a competition law. In the key jurisdictions where the law has flourished, the broad-based social acceptance of ‘competition’, as a desirable social value, and the norm by which the market ought to be regulated, greatly advances the purposes of the jurisdictions.

In the US, for example, the country’s anti-trust law was originally inaugurated on, and continues to be sustained by, a social acceptance of competition over the grip of ‘cartels’. Similarly, in other jurisdictions, the success of the regimes draws from the broad-based social acceptance of ‘competition’, i.e., over other forms of monopolistic tendencies, especially, by the relevant societal actors.

Concerning resources, the availability of the requisite human and financial resources, for the enforcement of a competition law, forms the bedrock of the efficacy of the law. Similarly, the appropriate legal framework refers to the complimentary ancillary rules and procedures that will assist the enforcer of a country’s competition law achieve its aim. A good example is the existence of plea bargaining in the US. However, beyond the above ‘technical’ requirements, for a competition law, other societal components are also relevant. They include the overall, broader, societal ‘space’ within which the adopted law of a country will operate, and the absence of corruption to ensure that the introduced law will be free of hijack and distortion.

The relevant broader social space or ‘culture’ refers to the broader social perceptions that guide the general attitudes of citizens towards the laws of a state (or how the citizens perceive the overall legitimacy of a state’s laws to be), and the absence of corruption refers to the bedrock or institutional ‘normalcy’, of a state, that guarantees the long-term success of its laws or frameworks.

In Nigeria, the condition of the above parameters, before the ascension of the current government, is documented. Especially, within previous regimes, a pervasive and institutionalised dissatisfaction, with the government, and the process of governing, existed in Nigeria.

A 2012 report submitted to the United States Congress by the Secretary of State John Kerry has alleged massive corruption at all levels of the Nigerian government.

A 2012 report submitted to the United States Congress by the Secretary of State John Kerry has alleged massive corruption at all levels of the Nigerian government.

Also, a concretised and largely unchallenged, grand, form of corruption was also the norm. The first (disaffection) flowed from the absence of genuine and targeted pro-poor programs, in the previous administrations (or the failures of the same where they existed), and the latter (corruption) arose from the complicity of the governments, in the vice of corruption, coupled with the manifest lack of punishment for corrupt figures where they were discovered.

However, with the current administration (while by no means perfect), a huge chunk of the regime’s popularity has arisen from its demonstrated willingness to interrogate the above status quo. Specifically, two areas where the government has been successful, include its pro-poor social agenda and the regime’s war on corruption.

In the first case, for example, following the regime’s inauguration, in 2015, the administration introduced various social measures to combat the almost institutionalised sense of inequality in Nigeria. Examples of measures introduced by the regime include the Nigerian Social Investment Program (N-SIP), consisting of the N-Power program; the Home-Grown School Feeding program, and the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme meant to assist petty traders, university graduates, NCE holders and less-privileged Nigerians.

Other schemes also include the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan—that established the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, constituted of the government and key private sector representatives at the highest levels of the country; agriculture sectoral initiatives—including the Nigerian Anchor Borrower’s program, operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria and kicked off to assist subsistent and industrial farmers improve their quality of living and reduce Nigeria’s dependency on imports, and the Special Presidential Committee on key commodities, set up to effectively strategise the Nigerian government’s efforts in the area. The government has also embarked on a wide range of infrastructural developments to foster a sense of inclusion amongst Nigerians and improve their lots.

In addition to the above, the current administration has also been aggressive against corruption; with the country’s anti-corruption agency recording at least nine hundred and forty-three anti-corruption cases between 2015- 2018. Particularly, during the period, erstwhile ‘powerful’ and ‘untouchable’ entities in Nigeria have been arrested, with some currently serving jail terms. The list includes serving senators of the federal republic of Nigeria; past governors of states and federal ministers; a serving chief justice of the federation; different judges; the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and the heads of various governmental parastatals.

Other measures that have been also put in place by the administration to combat the menace of corruption in Nigeria include, the implementation of a Treasury Single Account (TSA); a whistleblowing policy; an Efficiency Unit of the government, and an Integrated Payroll Personnel System (IPPIS), implemented across the various governmental MDAs, to enhance the efficiency of the government and remove unjustified payroll entries from the government’s fiscal registers. 

Admittedly, the above measures by the current Nigerian administration hardly touch directly on the technical prerequisites for the success of a competition law. But they open up significant opportunities which the new Nigerian competition law commission can utilise to advance its objectives.

Especially, the success of a competition law is informed by the political, social, cultural and institutional fertility of the forum into which the law is introduced. Furthermore, in Nigeria, owing from the nation’s ostentatious status as a developing country, the country already faces significant drawbacks, in its ability to operationalise a competition law. Therefore, both facts make the above ‘successes’ of the current Nigerian administration relevant.

The Nigerian agency can adopt the following measures to advance its objectives.

First, the agency can take advantage of the current good will of many Nigerians, to advance the formative message of the importance of a competition law for Nigeria. Particularly, the current Nigeran administration’s social programs have reduced (not eliminated) the previous, characteristic, suspicion of many Nigerians towards the government. This reality presents a distinct opportunity for the competition agency to position itself as a socially inclusive organisation, working in line with the Nigerian Federal Government, to better the welfare of Nigerians. A successful utilisation of the strategy, by the commission, will reduce its resource burdens.

For example, in the face of the current widespread social acceptance by Nigerians, more Nigerians will be willing to voluntarily obey the competition law, as espoused by the agency, and Nigerians will also be willing to distribute the information of the commission, thereby reducing its overall costs. Here, the agency can achieve the objective by recruiting popular Nigerian (entertainment) figures and community leaders to share the message of social and economic inclusion, through competition, and the commission can also take advantage of the prime role religion plays in the Nigerian society.

Second, the Nigerian competition commission can also utilise the current federal government’s ‘war’ on corruption to advances its mission. Specifically, the commission can couch anti-competitive practices as a form of corruption that disadvantages Nigerians.

Further still, the commission can also carefully select cases to prosecute, relying on the currently reduced chances of ‘hijack’ by corrupt judges on appeal, in Nigeria, to get its message out. (A similar strategy has been successfully adopted by the Nigerian EFCC, a comparable law enforcement agency). The competition commission can also take advantage of the anti-corruption policies of the current federal government and lobby for the extension of the same to anti-competitive practices. One such key policy is the Nigerian whistleblowers’ policy, set up by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), in December 2016. A key component of the whistleblowers’ policy is the Nigerian federal government’s attempt to undermine the secrecy that ordinarily advantages corruption in Nigeria, including by providing financial rewards (parts of the recovered booty) to informants.

Therefore, by relying on the already functioning Federal Government of Nigeria’s policy on whistleblowing, and especially its provision for financial rewards to whistleblowers, the Nigerian competition commission can integrate an otherwise problematically developed competition law tool, and leapfrog certain advanced jurisdictions (including the United States of America).

Competition law reform is a complicated form of legal engineering and the analyses typically focus on the existence of technical prerequisites for the success of regimes. However, in developing countries, issues beyond the above technical analyses are also relevant. In the contexts, interrogating broader questions of the overall societal and institutional ‘space’ of a competition law is crucial. This piece has highlighted specific opportunities that currently exist under the present Nigerian administration. The opportunities are non-traditional, but they are significant, and the Nigerian agency will be better off if it utilises them.

The writer Dr Bob Enofe is an international researcher in International and Comparative Competition Law

Corruption can have a crippling effect on a country’s economy. This is why African businesses have described ending corruption as “priority number one”.

Take Nigeria, where the basic infrastructure deficit is huge but funds to improve its infrastructure always seem to end up missing or misallocated. In addition, projects are started and never finished. As a result the country’s roads, rail and ports are in a deplorable state.

Nigerians also suffer from persistent electricity shortages. They lack pipe-borne water and proper sanitation facilities. Housing provision is a problem too.

The country has spent billions of US dollars to resuscitate its power and transport sectors. But it has very little to show for it. Nigeria is not alone. Researchers often report that infrastructure spending is regularly used by public officers and government officials across the continent to misappropriate funds.

Tackling corruption is notoriously difficult. Once it’s embedded in a country’s systems it’s difficult to weed out. But a fresh approach is being pursued in Nigeria – with some startling results. Ordinary citizens are mobilising the use of technology and social media to produce evidence that’s used to hold officials to account.

Our research set out to discover whether the use of technology and social media by ordinary citizens to monitor infrastructure projects could result in more infrastructure projects being completed – and could also lessen corruption.

A version of this approach has been tried in countries like Peru and South Korea. Nigeria seems to be the first – at least on the African continent – to monitor infrastructure projects in this way.

Our research found, for example, that the camera feed showing the construction of the second river Niger bridge, and similar schemes by Tracka gave citizens the power to monitor infrastructure projects. It also increased transparency and could be used to hold the government and engineering firms that build infrastructure to account.

But we also found that there were challenges. For example, citizens needed data and power to monitor infrastructure projects. Neither was always available.

The approach

Monitoring projects has been used by firms and the government as a way to provide more transparency.

For example, research from Uganda shows that corrupt government officials were less able to siphon money for their own enrichment when citizens knew where money was supposed to go and could therefore monitor spending; the diversion of funds fell by 12% over six years.

Research from Kenya also showed that public monitoring of government projects reduced corruption by 20%.

In Nigeria, we investigated infrastructure projects that were monitored by citizens and compared these to infrastructure projects that weren’t monitored. We found that there was a positive link between citizens using technology and social media to monitor infrastructure projects and better completion rates and standards for the infrastructure projects.

Generally, when government officials and infrastructure building engineering firms knew that they were being monitored, they didn’t want to get caught out. In certain cases, citizens were able to engage with the ministry of works and their state governor and use social media to engage in discussions about the project.

By taking pictures of the proposed infrastructure sites and tagging their state governors or representatives in regular posts about the infrastructure projects, civic participation was encouraged. Although there was no often response in the first instance, the high visibility generated by social media and the threat of losing forthcoming elections often resulted in the infrastructure projects being completed. But this was only for projects that citizens could monitor – and there are too few of these. Even we struggled to find many.

Our investigations also revealed that frequent offline and online discussions created awareness about the infrastructure projects and helped citizens to suggest projects that would be useful for their communities.

Challenges to this approach

This approach is not without its challenges.

For example, citizens needed key information to monitor infrastructure projects properly. This included the type, cost, key stages and duration of the projects. Only then would they be able to compare what was actually happening before their eyes to what had been budgeted for so they could alert the relevant authorities as soon as there were discrepancies.

Mobile network technology and access to social media platforms are also needed to make this work.

There were also social and cultural issues. Some citizens didn’t want to engage with social media and technology for personal reasons. In addition, when evidence of corruption was reported by citizens, some saw this as a politically motivated attack. The result was that they lashed out instead of trying to solve the corruption being exposed.

Other challenges included:

  • a lack of clear penalties for individuals involved with monitored infrastructure projects that not completed, or not completed to a decent standard;

  • a lack of follow up by the relevant anti-corruption authorities; and

  • not enough being done when there were clear cases of standards not being met.

Implications

Technology and social media can be used as effective tools by citizens to monitor infrastructure projects. But this isn’t enough on its own. It can only be effective if budgets are also made fully visible.

This would enable citizens to know what they are monitoring and what to look for. Citizens would be wise to demand such transparency: honest governments will have nothing to fear.

This points to the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling corruption. This would need to include transparency and offline and online citizen engagement. In this context, technology and social media could be used as complementary tools.

If African governments and infrastructure building engineering firms on the continent are really concerned about corruption and want to show that they have nothing to hide, they can use this approach to gain more trust from the citizenry.The Conversation

 

Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer in Economics, Staffordshire University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A British court has seized £211,000,000 million  looted from the Nigerian treasury by the former Nigerian dictator and military head of state, General Sani Abacha.
 
Abacha was head of state between 17 November 1993 and 8 June 1998, when he died. According to a report by the UK Metro, the said money was seized from a Jersey bank account linked to General Abacha.
 
The money was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company. The money worth £211,000,000 was laundered through the U.S. into the Channel Islands but eventually discovered and recovered.
 
The report said, “Money to the value of £211,000,000 has been seized from a Jersey bank account that belonged to a former dictator.
 
“General Sani Abacha was a Nigerian army officer and de facto president between 1993 until his death in 1998.
 
“He laundered money through the U.S. into the Channel Islands and now that money has been recovered.
 
“The money was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company.
 
“The money is now being held by the government until authorities in Jersey, the U.S. and Nigeria come to an agreement on how it should be distributed.
 
“Any money that Jersey does keep will be put into the Criminal Confiscation Fund, which is used to pay for a variety of projects. In the past the fund has been used for the new police station and developments at La Moye Prison.
 
“It is expected that even more money held by Doraville is likely to be seized and paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund in the future.”
 
Attorney General Robert MacRae said: “In restraining the funds at the request of the United States of America, through whose banking system the funds were laundered prior to arriving here, and in achieving the payment of the bulk of the funds into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund, Jersey has once again demonstrated its commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.”
 
In 2014, at the request of the U.S. authorities, the Island’s Attorney General applied for, and the Royal Court granted, a restraining order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville.
 
The purpose of the restraining order was to preserve the money until a final civil asset recovery order could be registered in the Royal Court.
 
Doraville applied to the Royal Court for the restraint order to be discharged, but the Royal Court dismissed the application in 2016.
 
Then in 2017, Doraville challenged the Royal Court’s decision, taking the case to Jersey’s Court of Appeal. That challenge was again rejected.
 
Finally, following the decision of Jersey’s Court of Appeal, Doraville made an application to appeal against the restraint order before the Privy Council – Jersey’s ultimate appellate court.
 
In February 2018 the Privy Council announced its rejection of this final legal challenge.
 
Last week, Solicitor General Mark Temple gave a presentation in Vienna, Austria, about Doraville at a UN conference on corruption.
 
He said: “The conference of the States Parties to the United Nations convention against corruption is an important international forum concerned with anti-corruption measures and asset returns.
 
“The conference was a good opportunity to demonstrate progress with the Doraville case, as well as Jersey’s determination to deal with international financial crime more generally.”

Egypt has been ranked top of 10 leading countries in Africa where hotel development has seen an upsurge, with Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia trailing. This is according to the 11th annual survey by W Hospitality Group, which over the years has earned global acclaim for its expertise in hospitality business.

The four countries lead the pack by numbers of rooms in the internationally-branded hotel development pipeline, with Egypt showing 15,158 rooms in 51 new hotels. A total of 75,155 branded rooms in 401 hotels are in development across the continent, a net increase (ignoring recent openings and taking in to account deals that have not come to fruition) of almost 11,000 rooms in the pipeline, 17% up on 2018.
W Hospitality Group’s Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa survey had a record 43 international and regional hotel contributors this year, covering 54 countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean islands.

The top-line figures show that in North Africa the rooms’ pipeline is up 2.3% on 2018, and down 3.8% in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to several of the chains ‘cleaning’ their pipelines, deleting deals that they believe are not going to happen. These cleaning adjustments amount to more than 12,000 rooms in 74 hotels.

Nevertheless, despite this significant adjustment, there has been growth of 51% in the total pipeline rooms since 2015 – North Africa up by 58%, and sub-Saharan Africa up by 47%.

According to survey, the top 10 countries account for 69% of the total hotels in the survey, and 74% of the rooms. Details of the survey report is expected to be presented for discussion at the forthcoming Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Addis Ababa, billed for September 23 and 25. The annual forum is organised by Bench Events.

The Managing Director of W Hospitality Group, Trevor Ward, said: “Egypt has by far the largest number of rooms in the pipeline this year, almost double the number in Nigeria, which is in second place. There has been huge activity by the chains in Egypt, with over 2,000 new rooms signed there in 2017, and a further 4,500 in 2018, of which 1,850 were signed by Radisson. Accor has no fewer than 16 deals with 6,363 hotels in Egypt, boosted by new brands from its acquisitions, including Mövenpick and Fairmont.”

Ward described this as an interesting development: “It’s interesting that there has also been a lot of activity in some of Africa’s countries, such as Niger and Zambia. In Niamey (Niger), where there is currently no branded hotel supply, there are no fewer than five hotels in the pipeline, and in Lusaka (Zambia), the chains signed 11 deals in 2018 and early 2019, taking the total pipeline there to 15 hotels with almost 1,900 rooms.’’
Looking at the top 10 cities, Cairo, with over 8,000 rooms in development and Addis Ababa, with over 5,000, have a clear lead. They are followed by Lagos (the leader for several previous years) and then Nairobi, Algiers, Abuja, Dakar, Abijan, Lusaka and Marrakech, the last two in the top 10 for the first time.

Egypt is not only the country with the most internationally-branded hotels in development, it also has the most internationally-branded properties already operated by the contributors, 108 hotels with 35,711 rooms between them. The countries which rank next, in terms of branded hotel rooms already operating are South Africa with 24,048, Morocco with 12,498 and then Tunisia, Nigeria and Algeria, all with just over 5,000. Kenya has over 4,000 branded rooms and it is followed by Ghana, Tanzania and Cape Verde, each with just over 2,000. At the other end of the list, there are four countries with no internationally-branded hotels and none in the development pipeline; they are Central African Republic, Eritrea, The Gambia and Somalia.

In the battle of the brands, Accor is the strongest pipeline player in Africa with more than 27,000 rooms spread across 162 hotels. It is followed by Marriott with over 23,000 rooms in 135 hotels. However, if both complete their current development pipelines with no further additions, they will stand neck and neck with just over 40,000 rooms each operating in Africa. Hilton is in third place, Radisson fourth and IHG fifth, after which, there is a substantial gap between the big five and other international chains.

 

Source: New Telegraph Nigeria

The Nigerian government has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and his then oil minister of accepting bribes and breaking the country's laws to broker a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago, a London court filing shows.

The deal, in which Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Italian peer Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield, has spawned legal cases spanning several countries.

In papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni, lawyers for the Nigerian government said Jonathan and former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired to "receive bribes and make a secret profit", keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal.

"Bribes were paid," the filing, reviewed by Reuters, states. It says "the receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law."

A spokesman for Jonathan declined to comment and said the former president was in South Africa as part of an election monitoring team. A London-based lawyer for Madueke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Goodluck Jonathan

Nigerian attorney general Abubakar Malami did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2011 deal is also the subject of a corruption trial in Milan in which two middlemen have been convicted and former and current Shell and Eni officials are also on trial.

An Eni spokesman said the Italian firm was assessing whether UK courts had jurisdiction on a case of "such duplication" to the Milan proceedings and repeated its view on "the correctness and compliance of every aspect of the transaction."

Shell did not immediately comment, but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to OPL 245.

The London lawsuit relates to payments that Shell and Eni made to acquire the license.

The companies transferred more than $1 billion to the Nigerian government, according to the filing. Milan prosecutors have argued in their case that the bulk of that money was sent on to Malabu Oil and Gas, which was controlled by another former oil minister, Dan Etete.

Eni and Shell retain the rights to develop the field, which has yet to enter production but is one of the biggest untapped oil resources in Africa, with reserves estimated at 9 billion barrels.

In the London court filing, the Nigerian government said it only received a $209 million signature bonus in relation to the deal, and that it estimates the value of the oilfield to have been "at least $3.5 billion". It said it would seek to calculate damages on that basis.

The Nigerian government has also filed a London case against U.S. bank JPMorgan for its role in transferring over $800 million of government funds to Etete, who has been convicted of money laundering. JPMorgan has denied any wrongdoing.

Dutch prosecutors are also preparing criminal charges against Shell.

Despite the international cases, only Nigerian officials can rescind the rights to the block. Oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said the case should not hinder development of the field. His office did not immediately reply to a further request for comment. [reut.rs/2HcyAnu]

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is pursuing a criminal case against other former officials in relation to OPL 245.

President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in February, campaigning on the same anti-corruption message that helped him defeat Jonathan in 2015. But opinions within the cabinet differ over how to handle OPL 245.

Some have cited what they view as a lack of evidence, while others point to concerns that taking away the rights could hinder the field's development in a nation where oil accounts for around 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

 

Source: Reuters

Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy,  Mr Charles Udoh says the provision of infrastructure, industrialisation, integrity in government, human capacity development and entrepreneural development are programmes put in place by the administration of Mr Udom Emmanuel to make the state an enviable and viable place for investment.
 
The Commissioner gave this indication recently while being hosted by Comfort FM radio in a Breakfast programme.
 
The Commissioner who stressed that  Governor Udom Emmanuel is poised to make Akwa Ibom State a model for Nigeria added that the completion agenda of the Governor is designed to consolidate on the 5 point Agenda of the first tenure which he enumerated to include wealth creation, job creation, poverty alleviation, infrastructural expansion and inclusion as well as political and economic inclusion.
 
Mr Udoh said Governor Udom Emmanuel's zeal in making life better for the citizens of the state is unfolded rural and riverine areas development and small and medium scale enterprise innumerable which are some of the programmes ear marked for the governor's Completion Agenda.
 
He said the provision of rice processing plant and access road to ease transportation of farm produce to the centre in Ini Local Government Area and fish processing plant in rural areas have added value and a great boost to entrepreneurship in the state, this Mr Udoh emphasised has diversifiedn the state's economy and made it more economically vibrant.
 
The Information Boss applauded the Governor for his mien, integrity and ingenuity in governance. He said this was brought to fore when the Governor Need Analysis and interviews of what citizens actually expected from the government in his second tenure. This Analysis, the Commissioner revealed were the aspirations of the citizens which formed the contents of the Governor's Completion Agenda.
 
The Commissioner gave an assurance that with the conducive environment provided in the state and the various investment opportunities in addition to the infrastructural development in the state, the relocation of EXXON Mobil to Akwa Ibom State will not be negotiable.
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