Monday, November 23, 2015

The passing of a political giant: Abubakar Audu (1947-2015)

Prince Abubakar Audu bestrode the political landscape of Kogi State from its creation in 1991 till his death yesterday when he was about to make it a triple as governor of the Confluence state. Born 68 years ago into a royal family in Ogbonicha, Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State, the late politician showed signs of greatness at a tender age. His late father, HRH Pa Audu Oyidi, Orego Attah of Igalaland was the paramount ruler of Ogbonicha-Alloma.

Prince Abubakar Audu was the first elected governor of Kogi State in 1992 on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention. He was responsible for the laying of the infrastructural foundation of the state. He was responsible for the establishment of the Kogi State University, Kogi State Polytechnic, Kogi State Broadcasting Corporation and many other institutions in the state. His first spell as governor ended with General Sani Abacha’s dismantling of the structures of the Third Republic on November 17, 1993.

In 1999, Audu contested and won the governorship election for the second time on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP having defeated the late Arc. Stephen Olorunfemi of the People’s Democratic Party. He was a politician cherished by the Igala people of Kogi State.
His bid for re-election was truncated in 2003 when he lost to PDP’s Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. The 2003 loss heralded a chain of loses in 2007, 2008 and 2011. He was cruising to victory in his sixth governorship contest conducted on Saturday, against the incumbent governor, Capt. Idris Wada. Audu was believed to have died yesterday morning before the election was declared inconclusive yesterday evening.

Prince Audu was a charismatic and flamboyant leader who was never afraid of confronting authorities in his lifetime. For many years, he was the leader of opposition politics in Kogi State, sinking his resources into nurturing parties such as the National Republican Convention, the defunct APP, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and lately, the All Progressives Congress. He will be sorely missed by the political community in the confluence state.

His socio-economic contribution in the state is to date a point of reference to the generality of the people and many aspiring leaders. Some of his major achievements during his first two stints in office include the establishment of three different housing schemes for public officers consisting of over 1,500 housing units in Lokoja, the transformation of Lokoja township with asphalt roads, street lights, aesthetic roundabouts, the construction of inter-township and rural roads, over 75 electrification schemes and 50 water projects.

Others include the founding of Kogi State Polytechnic, the establishment of a television station, radio station (both AM and FM), a state newspaper, the transformation of the colonial residence of Lord Lugard into an Ultra-Modern Government House Complex, the construction of office blocks for ministries as the new state had no office accommodation, the construction of shopping arcade complex to enhance commercial activities, among others. He was regarded as the father of development in Kogi State.

source: Vanguard

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Covenant Voices of South Africa win international accolades

Covenant Voices, a South African mass gospel choir, have become an International multi award winning group after they won the Akademia Music Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Video for ‘Children’ in the November 2015 Akademia Music Awards, adding to their previous success three months ago when they won, 'Best Gospel Song' at the August 2015 edition of Akademia awards in Los Angeles, United States of America.

Covenant Voices was founded and named in 2007 by Rev. Tim Omotoso, after he hosted gospel music auditions, a first for the organization in Durban. 

This became the first initiative of the Youth Empowerment Project (Y.E.P.) of Tim Omotoso Global Outreach. They are based in Durban, South Africa, and their music has Traditional Zulu, Jazz, R&B and Contemporary influences.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Images of Veterans day

America honored its greatest heroes today as Veterans Day parades and commemorations took place across the country, paying homage to the sacrifices made by those in uniform. President Barack Obama led tributes in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns - a poignant tribute to all those killed in conflicts whose remains could not be identified - as New York held its annual Veterans Parade, the largest to take place in the country.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Monday, November 9, 2015

Virgin Atlantic ditches Nigerian based Cabin Crew

Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced that it will be discontinuing with the services of Nigerian based cabin crew in its operations. Reacting to unconfirmed reports that the airline was withdrawing its services from Nigeria, its Nigerian Sales Agent, Chief John Adebanjo; "We have decided that we will no longer have crew based in Lagos.  This is by no means a reflection on our Lagos-based cabin crew. 

The primary purpose of our locally based cabin crew has been to provide cultural expertise and customer feedback has shown us that this is no longer a requirement on the Lagos route”.

He further stated; ‘’The additional complexity required to operate an international crew base where there are no foreign language requirement means it is no longer sustainable going forward. 

This announcement has no impact on our flying programme and we plan to continue flights between Lagos and London. ‘’After 14 years of flying the route, we remain committed to servicing the Nigeria people, whether it be for business, family or education.’’

New anti-corruption czar named for Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari has named a former operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu as the new Chairman after the sack of Ibrahim Lamorde. During his time at the EFCC, he led investigations into the affairs of officials including former Delta Governor James Ibori and current Senate President, Bukola Saraki.  Magu is a recipient of USG and London Metropolitan Police institute training.

He reportedly worked with Ribadu to jail his brother-in-law and former Bank of the North chief, Shettima Bulama. Bulama was later pardoned by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He is a member of the investigative committee convened by National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the procurement of arms in the Armed Forces from 2007 till now. He is a Chief Superintendent of Police.

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 things Buhari must do to define ‘CHANGE’

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was inaugurated May 29, is the antithesis of the stereotypical Nigerian politician: incorruptible, soft-spoken, self-effacing and deliberate.  He embraces the nickname “Baba Go-Slow and Steady.” Buhari’s unhurried style has its downsides, however: It took him an unprecedented four months to name a solid but un-extraordinary cabinet.  His reform agenda appears to be sauntering out of the gates, according to the civil society-run Buharimeter.
In the meantime, the challenges facing Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy continue to grow: Oil revenues are down, currency value has slipped and Boko Haram has killed more than 1,700 since June.  Nigerians nevertheless expect their new president’s reform agenda to show tangible results, and soon. Given these imperatives, here are five things Buhari can do to get the ball rolling:

1. Carefully clean house. Buhari’s reform agenda probably faces its greatest threat from corrupt, old-school politicians within his own All Progressives Congress (APC) party.  Buhari should neutralize some of the APC’s shadiest figures, who could emerge as “veto players,” as described in Carl LeVan’s recent book. 
Examples of these kleptocrats are not hard to find.  The U.S. Department of Justice has accused one sitting APC governor of helping former dictator Sani Abacha steal at least $458 million from state coffers.  Likewise, both APC candidates in the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa State governorship elections have been indicted by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency.
Admittedly, housecleaning carries political risks for Buhari. After all, his victorious electoral coalition included powerful defectors from former president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  If he unduly antagonizes these establishment figures, they could derail his party’s newfound dominance by joining their former comrades in the opposition PDP.

2. Pare down the parastatals.  Buhari has an opportunity to realize immediate savings by eliminating or merging some of Nigeria’s more than 500 federal parastatals and boards. Parastatals are government-operated companies or commercial agencies.  Pundits allege that past presidents used parastatal appointments to cultivate national political allies and provincial cronies.  These institutions, which range from the lucrative to the modest to the moribund, have long been a cornerstone of corruption in Nigeria — a complicated topic expertly explained by Daniel Jordan Smith.
Buhari may also want to disband some nice-to-have but non-essential parastatals in light of competing priorities and current fiscal constraints.  Does Nigeria need to spend more than $4 million annually on a Center for Space Transport and Propulsion? Is there an effort underway to rescue the supposedly stranded Nigerian astronaut featured in this legendary scam letter?
President Muhammadu Buhari
3. Tame the white elephants.  Buhari’s apparent determination to revive two “white elephant” economic sectors — domestic oil refineries and steel mills — worry industry experts.  Nigeria is replete with these kinds of investment projects where state-owned enterprises are funded for long periods even if they incur huge losses.  For decades, Nigerian leaders have thrown good money after bad at these projects because, as Robinson and Torvik argue, white elephant projects yield short-term political gains.
Buhari, like any of the rest of us, could stumble into a sunk cost dilemma where his efforts to maximize future returns of Nigeria’s white elephants only increase their cumulative losses. Instead, he should address the graft, inconsistent policies and opaque privatization deals that experts say turned these industries into white elephants in the first place.

4. Rein in subnational debt.  As Buhari tries to put Nigeria’s public finances back in order, the balance sheets of the country’s 36 states are sinking deeper into the red.  In a decentralized federal system like Nigeria’s, state budgets typically affect the lives of ordinary citizens more than federal spending does. Since taking office, Buhari has already bailed out 27 cash-strapped states to the tune of $2.1 billion.  States’ borrowing trends are risky and need to be addressed, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank.
All but a few states generate minimal revenue outside of their monthly allocation of Nigeria’s anemic oil income.  While Nigeria’s national debt is still relatively low by global standards, fiscal federalism means that if states default on their debts, the federal government foots the bill.  Buhari’s reasons for watching state borrowing should also be personal: One of the stated reasons for the 1983 military coup that first brought him to power was runaway borrowing by state governors.

5. Legislate for the long run.  Nigeria will need to feel the “Buhari Effect” (the sense, evident in a recent New York Times article, that there is a new sheriff in town) long after the president’s tenure is over.  The best way for him to protect his legacy is to partner with the National Assembly to enact legislation enshrining key reforms.  With few other politicians like him on the horizon, Buhari should put his legacy in writing.
A good place to start would be an act prohibiting the use of “security votes.” Both a definitive article by Uche et al. and a 2007 Human Rights Watch report illustrate how these secretive budgetary line items are used by officials at all levels of government as slush funds. Even Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption agency had a $1,000,000 security vote included in its 2014 budget. Buhari has his work cut out for him.

Matthew Page is an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTPage.

NCC MTN fine will impact the Nigerian Economy

Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator-NCC recently fined MTN $5.2 billion, wiping almost 20 percent off its market value over the space of four days. The incident has brought to light the high level of risk when doing business in Nigeria. Many observers wonder how NCC arrived at the staggering fine which is the total National budget for most African countries. Some media commentaries also speculate that it may be a calculated attempt to halt the Nation’s largest GSM operators operation in Nigeria. 

MTN Nigeria is currently the largest employer of Labour in the communications sector and is also the single source of income for hundreds of telecom service start-ups across Nigeria. It has millions of dollars in infrastructure and has also invested largely in the booming Nigerian entertainment industry. Such a fine will definitely have a trickledown effect on thousands of Nigerians.
MTN Nigeria MD, Mike Ikpoki
While Johannesburg-based MTN is in talks with Nigerian authorities over the penalty, imposed for failing to disconnect customers with unregistered SIM cards and having incomplete data, failure to negotiate a lower sanction means the company will be paying away more than double the group’s estimated net income for 2015. It also exceeds sales of almost 54 billion rand ($3.9 billion) that the operator made in Nigeria in 2014, about 37 percent of total revenue.

After buying one of four Nigerian mobile-phone licenses for $285 million, MTN went from handling its first call in the West African country in 2001 to being the market leader with more than 62.5 million customers. Over the same period, its share price on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange soared more than sixfold as the company expanded from its home base into more than 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and in Cyprus.

A full payment would exceed the revenue the Nigerian government made from oil in the second-quarter, and be more than double the state’s non-crude proceeds, according to central bank data.
Trading in MTN’s shares was halted more than three hours after rebounding from a decline of as much as 9.7 percent.  The dispute with MTN also comes as the economy struggles to cope with sliding oil prices, currency restrictions and no finance minister, with growth at its slowest pace this decade. The dispute couldn’t come at a worse time for MTN, with the company’s 15-year license up for renewal.

Source: Bloomberg