Category Archives: Press Releases

President Jonathan

Opposition dismisses Jonathan’s self-assessment

President Jonathan

President Jonathan

Opposition parties have dismissed President Goodluck Jonathan’s assessment of his administration in the last two years, saying the President has not performed.

They also said that Nigerians did not need a marking scheme to assess the Jonathan administration.

The Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Nigeria Peoples Party said these on Thursday while reacting to the President’s speech at the Democracy Day event in Abuja on Wednesday.

Jonathan had, at the event, faulted the assessment of his administration by critics, saying his government had done well.

He also urged Nigerians to be objective, adding that they should develop a marking scheme in assessing his administration.

But the ACN, in a statement in Ibadan, on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reminded the President that it was not the business of the opposition to spoon-feed his administration on how to govern.

“Mr. President, Nigerians need no marking scheme to know that the rate of unemployment went up, under your watch, to an unprecedented 23.9% by December 2011, according to figures given by the National Bureau of Statistics. Today, the figure must be hovering above the 50% mark!

“Nigerians need no marking scheme to know that under your watch, security of lives and property, and the welfare of the citizens – the raison d’être of any government – are at the lowest ebb.”

“Mr. President, what marking scheme does one need to know that despite the seemingly impressive economic figures being reeled out by your administration, the average Nigerian is worse off today than he or she was before you assumed office?”

The ACN said the Washington-based global advocacy and campaigning organisation, ONE, listed Nigeria, under President Jonathan, and Democratic Republic of Congo among “laggard countries’’ pulling Africa back from reaching the MDG goals by 2015.

“This global body did not use any ‘Jonathan-style marking scheme’ to name Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana and Ethiopia as the top performing countries in Africa (on the MDGs), even when they are less endowed than Nigeria.”

The party said it would not have wasted its energy on commenting on the mid-term performance record of the Jonathan administration, had the President not disingenuously decided to blame imaginary enemies of his administration for his token achievements in the face of mounting challenges facing the country.

It said, “Mr. President, it is never too late for you to put your shoulder to the wheel, shun the political jobbers around you, reinvigorate your cabinet by chasing away the deadwood there – though some of them come highly recommended on paper – and giving Nigerians a more purposeful governance.

“When that happens,  you will not need to waste valuable time on lecturing your much-sapped compatriots on how to assess your administration, and you would have succeeded in rending those seemingly implacable critics of yours in the media and the opposition jobless.”

Also, the ANPP, which reacted through its spokesman, Emma Eneukwu, said it was not impressed by Jonathan’s assessment.

It said that it had gone out of its way to proffer solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country, out of sheer patriotism.

“Needless to say that such suggestions from us and other well-meaning groups and individuals have been so arrogantly ignored by the administration,’’ it said.

The party wondered why Jonathan was suddenly irritated that Nigerians had not given his administration a pass mark, after about three years in office.

It said that after being bashed by Nigerians for non-performance he had to encourage himself by becoming the exam setter and marker.

The ANPP said, “Performance is like a pregnancy that cannot be hidden. Where did he perform? Is it power, security, job creation, corruption or other infrastructural developments?

“The President knows he has failed Nigerians. Note that it is non- performance of the President that pushed him to aggression and fighting imaginary enemies. A performing President moves with air of confidence knowing that the people are on his side.”

But the Presidency described the statements credited to the opposition political parties on the mid-term performance of  Jonathan as reckless and irresponsible.

Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said contrary to the position of the opposition parties, Jonathan had achieved so much in the two years of his administration.

Gulak said, “The ANPP, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change and other political parties are just making statements that are reckless and irresponsible.

“Have governors of ACN, CPC or ANPP states presented mid-term report to the people of their states? The answer is no.

“This is the first time in history that a President will present his mid-term report to the people of the country. He told Nigerians in clear terms what he has done in the last two years.

“President Jonathan’s achievements are facts and verifiable. They are there for all to see, they are not rhetoric.

“Nigerians should be the ones to be talking and not the ACN and others that will never see anything good in this administration. That was why he said Nigerians who want to assess him should design their marking scheme.”

Chike

In Delta, democracy means development – Ogeah

Chike

Chike

In this interview, Delta State Commissioner for Information, Barrister Chike Ogeah, explains why the state elected to host a business seminar to mark this year’s Democracy Day rather than celebrate with banners and buntings.

Why a business seminar on Democracy Day instead of a celebratory parade?

What we did was an introspection. We assembled eminent Deltans who could look at us and tell us the truth and give us direction and advisory support to achieve our set goals. It is more like a score card for the government and how to improve the result. It is gratifying to note that the resource persons rated the government very high. Mind you, these are not sycophants. These are serious professionals and successful business people who have seen it all in the private sector.

Where we are now in terms of policy direction is Delta Beyond Oil. We are saying when the oil wells eventually run dry what are those things we should do with the revenue from oil in the decades while the oil wells lasted. How can we diversify our economy using our areas of comparative advantage?

What are these areas?

The major ones are the micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs). The success of the MSMEs underscores what we have always believed; that is, Delta is a land of limitless possibilities in terms of human capital and natural resources. Out of all these possibilities, we thought the one we could advance to the next level would be the MSMEs. This is because this happens to be where we have been doing very well. We have won four consecutive Central Bank of Nigeria awards and we had to be magnanimous by not putting in for it so that other states can also win it to encourage them. At the same time we knew it was not yet a perfect scheme. During the rerun election when we had town hall meetings with the people, we noticed that some of them could not access the funds, some did not understand how they were to pay back and other issues. All of this made us to address these issues with experts from the state rather than hosting bazaars as you rightly pointed out.

I can’t remember any celebration in the state in a long while because of the seriousness we attach to governance. What we did recently was to host the South-South Economic Summit which was purely for the benefit of the state and the entire South-South region. It is common knowledge now that the summit was a huge success. It was private-sector driven and the sound bite from that summit seemed to have defined our federation right now. Issues thrown up at the summit have continued to define national discourses but more importantly, the summit kindled a new sense of regional integration among the South-South states.

On agriculture as pivot of MSMEs

When you talk about MSMEs, you must involve agriculture whether it is agrarian farming or aquaculture. Delta State is 60 percent riverine. If you visited the exhibition ground, you would have noticed the different stands with different products all made in Delta State. One of the beneficiaries now exports her spices abroad and earns foreign exchange from that. At the stands, you could get giant size fishes, all products of the MSME scheme. There are two ministries that are coordinating these MSMEs: the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation which incubates them and brings them to life before they are passed to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry which takes them to medium and possibly big industries. This is one of the initiatives driving our Delta Beyond Oil vision.

On Asaba airport

The Asaba airport if you ask me is the most laudable project of this government. Though if you ask the governor, he will tell you it is the free maternal healthcare. You know he is a doctor who has seen it all in healthcare delivery. He is passionate about it obviously because of his experience. He has seen pregnant women die and all that. But to me, the biggest developmental project by any state in Nigeria is the Asaba international airport. I say this because the airport is a gateway from Asaba to the rest of the world. Before you know it, the rest of the world would only be five hours away from Asaba. It is also a cargo airport and we have Onitsha, the trading capital of the West Africa sub-region just less than 10 minutes away. Now with the dredging of the Koko and Warri ports and the dualisation of the Ugheli-Asaba expressway, the entire South-South and South-East regions are about to experience unprecedented inflow of goods and services and outflow of the same as manufacturers including the MSMEs would take advantage of the airport.

Ugheli-Asaba mega road project

The Ugheli-Asaba expressway dualisation is one of the projects in our bond. We had issues of compensation and all that but they have been sorted out and work is intensifying. When the road is completed, it would aid the movement of goods from Onitsha to the Warri port and vice versa and from the airport to Ugheli, Warri and other places. Don’t forget that the airport is going to be a cargo hub for agricultural produce complete with cold room and other necessary fittings.

Was that part of the entire airport contract?

Yes, it was part of the contract and it is to take advantage of the thriving agricultural resourcefulness in the state and the envisaged agricultural boom when most of the initiatives and partnerships with the private sector begin to bear fruits. Let me also tell you that because of the airport, the hospitality industry in the state is on the upswing. From Asaba to Agbor as we speak, you can’t find a single plot of land that has not been bought along the highway. Already, the airport is impacting on a whole lot of activities in the state and environ. Warehouses, hotels, shopping malls and clusters of industries are all coming up to be able to maximize the economies of scale that would arise from the airport.

What’s so special about this airport?

Talking about the airport itself, I can tell you with certainty that it is the very best in the country with a 4.2km runway, best architectural and structural design befitting a modern airport. The terminal building is second to none, a real masterpiece whichever way you look at it. We are not just talking for talking sake. As they say in Latin, res ipsa loquitor (the fact speaks for itself). The two airlines plying the route will tell you it is one of their most lucrative routes. Yet, they are still being restricted to flying only smaller aircraft because of issues of topography which was what caused a lot of hullabaloo the other time. There is the issue of undulating landscape, hills, rivers and streams all around the airport vicinity but they are being sorted out at the moment. Once these matters are sorted out, the NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority) will give us the all clear and then the big aircraft will start landing and taking off from there.

Too many projects by this government, when is their delivery date?

This governor is a big thinker. He could easily have done what some of his colleagues are doing and that is, do the small jobs and quick wins which bring only temporary palliatives to the people. Instead, he is focusing on Delta in the next 10, 20, 30 years hence he is laying giant foundations in terms of infrastructure and human capital. He is embarking on generational changing projects that would not only impact on this present generation but also on generations to come. These are projects that would impact on the economy of the state in the long run. The governor does not believe in taking short steps that lead to short-lived successes, he prefers to take the long, sometimes hard path that leads to enduring successes. That is why he’s doing projects which have a longer gestation period. But what I can say for sure is that he is committed to completing most of these projects before May 29, 2015. However, you must know that government is a continuum, meaning that any of these projects not completed by this administration would be continued by the next administration because they are all developmental projects.

Does this include the Warri Industrial Park?

The Warri Industrial Park is a PPP (Private Public Partnership). The job of the government is to provide the infrastructure including land, power, road etc. Then the private investors would come in with their money and set up shops. The government has no control over how those funds are brought in so we cannot determine the pace of work there. Government has done what it should do but you can see from the tone of discussion at the seminar that Delta State is Nigeria’s best investment destination because it is capable of supporting diverse types of investments.

Investment in education

We are remodeling our schools all over the state. That’s a huge investment in the future of our children. We have e-libraries, air-conditioned classroom blocks, excellent sporting facilities. We are building 50 model schools, the type never before seen in the state. Don’t forget that Delta State unlike most states has about 21 big towns and cities.

Still on transport

Apart from the airport, we are providing boats and new buses because we want to build an inter-modal transport system that would enhance the movement of goods and services; a type of transport system that would suit the dual topography (water and land) of the state.

Akpabio

My goal is development – Akpabio

Akpabio

Akpabio

“I still don’t understand why the civil war was fought in the East but Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction started from the West” — Akpabio.

In this interview with THEWILL TV, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State speaks on various issues from politics to governance and development. Excerpts.

On being the most decorated governor in Nigeria

I think it’s not really a function of Godswill Akpabio. Nigerians really appreciate good governance. The other governors you mentioned are also receiving awards. I recall that last year, governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, received award for microcredit financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This year, I was honoured by the same CBN, and it referred to me as ‘Mr. Infrastructure’ for what they believe is the infrastructural revolution that I have put in place. Governor Fashola of Lagos has been commended many times, even though I believe he would have done better if he were a PDP governor. Adams Oshiomhole has also been commended by his people.

But be that as it may, I think the major thing is that positive things are, indeed, happening in governance in various states of the federation. I think that’s the message for the Diaspora — that positive things are happening in governance in various states. So, it’s no longer so much of stories of lamentations. You can see the flicker of hope that yes, indeed, governments are working and things are turning around for the better for Nigerians.

Now, the reason why there are so many awards for Godswill Akpabio is because it is God’s will. It’s the will of God. And don’t think that the awards are for nothing. I believe that they are in recognition of efforts of the governor of Akwa Ibom. And each time I see the governor of Akwa Ibom receive an award, I get excited even as a citizen of that state, that yes, indeed, honour is being given to the right man for the right reason, because he has worked very hard and turned things around.

You’ve been to the state recently, and I’m sure that when you leave here, you are likely to organise THEWILL’s award for good governance, which you are likely to give to the same Godswill Akpabio, based on what you saw. This is not a story; you are now an eyewitness to the miracle that is happening in the state, to the uncommon transformation that he has unleashed on the state in the last five years.

When I was contesting for reelection in 2007, I told my people that if I wasn’t contesting election, I would have voted for Godswill Akpabio, because I am a beneficiary of his good governance.

Areas that never saw roads now have roads; communities that never saw light now have light; children that never thought they could be in school are now in school; mothers that couldn’t go to hospitals in the past and ended up dying during childbirth can now walk into hospitals because of the free medical treatment in hospitals; areas that never saw hospitals in farfetched locations now have hospitals.

So, it’s a situation where even people who never thought agriculture could work are now producing; food sufficiency is now a major issue in government’s front burner. And then you can see that for over 50 years, the state was a pedestrian state; but he has turned it into a destination, and people can fly in directly into Uyo: for you to come in from the Diaspora, enter into Abuja, and then enter Uyo; not to talk of those going on pilgrimage, who no longer need to struggle for two and a half hours to Port Harcourt. You just walk to Uyo Airport, 15 minutes later, you are on your way to Israel. Or you may go to Rome or Greece, as it also happens. You can now imagine that, yes, indeed; God’s will was done in Akwa Ibom. So, those were the reasons why I said that if I wasn’t contesting election, I would have voted for this Godswill Akpabio.

Is there any one in your cabinet or government who shares your vision and can continue from wherever you stop?

There are so many people in my government who can continue from where I will stop on 29th May 2015, by God’s grace; there are so many of them. I have personal assistants, special assistants, commissioners, members of the executive council, who have all learnt from me; I also have those who are consultants to the government, who are not necessarily portfolio holders but who believe in what I am doing and have made their contributions; they are equally very capable of continuing from where I will stop. I am very hopeful that the same way the Akwa Ibom people used binoculars to fish me out in 2006 out of 58 aspirants, God will lead them to do the same in 2015; because in 2007, I emerged as governor not because I was contesting for governorship but because we went down on our knees, and we said the situation we found ourselves in could not continue. We wanted God’s will to be done. And when I emerged, God’s will was done in Godswill, and God’s will was done in Akwa Ibom State.

On his dismissal of the then federal military government’s post-civil war efforts at the 3 Rs: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation.

As a young man, you definitely will not understand me. But I was a victim of the Civil War. I was one of those who suffered the pains of the war. I was born sometime in 1962; the civil war came really into our area in 1967. So, I was probably five or six years old during the war; and if I had been around nine years, I would probably have been conscripted.

I saw parents throw their children into pit toilets because they did not want their positions to be made known to the enemy. I saw devastation; I saw kwashiorkor; I saw hunger; I was thousands of people and bodies littered everywhere and smelling while vultures had a field day every day. I saw houses destroyed; I saw families scattered such that till the end of the world, they can never gather themselves together again. There were children who were shipped away to Gabon, and they can never come back to Nigeria again because they were small. How would two-year-olds and three-year-olds ever know where they came from? They are proud Gabonese and I don’t think Nigerians are even asking questions. So, during the Silverbird Man of the Year Award, there were pictures that were shown of the Civil War. Somebody, sitting by me, who is from the West, was asking if those things were acted: the Kwashiorkor-ridden children with their swollen tummies, ugly shapes and bony structures because of hunger and starvation.

The then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon attempted to explain that he tried everything to avoid the scenes that were being shown on the screen, that he did not want the war. The other person who could have answered him, unfortunately, that is Emeka Ojukwu, is dead. He said he tried everything to stop the war from breaking out but it’s only Ojukwu who could have answered whether he equally did his part in avoiding the war.

But something struck me: it was said that Gowon should be commended for initiating the three Rs: reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. And I asked a very simple question, that I came with a written text but I wasn’t going to read it. I thanked Silverbird for the award; and I said I did not want to criticise my leaders because I am also now a leader. But I asked to be allowed to ask a question: how come reconstruction started in the West when the war was actually fought in the East? They started the Third Mainland Bridge, the National Theatre, the international airport, and so on, in the West, while the war was fought in the eastern region. And if we really wanted to ensure total reconciliation, how come every account holder in the eastern region was given only £20? It did not matter whether your father had £10,000,000 or £50,000,000 before the war; you were given just £20. It was a take it or leave it situation. If your family survived and there was an account holder alive, he/she went to the bank, and collected just £20.

Could £20 pounds solve the Kwashiorkor that we were seeing? Could it reconstruct the houses that were burnt? Could it produce food? A lot of other things happened that I did not mention on that occasion. Don’t forget that it was shortly after the war in 1971 that the policy of indigenisation started, where most of the foreign industries and companies were sold to Nigerians, and the war-ravaged eastern regions, which include the entire South-South and the rest of them, could not buy, because no one who did not have money to even feed or clothe himself would have had money to buy any industry. So, I was just wondering, as a young man, if that was true reconciliation, because one would have thought that the government would have gone to any extent to give them more money so that they could truly rehabilitate themselves.

They needed money from reconstruction, and I would have thought that reconstruction would have also started from the East. I just asked because we were lucky to have the dramatis persona of the war right in front of us: General T. Y. Danjuma, General Yakubu Gowon, General Muhammadu Buhari and others. It is very rare to see these past leaders in just one place, so I had to ask. I said also that it is important, even for the current leaders, that we continue to take actions that will unite Nigeria. And we should purge ourselves of actions that tend to cause pains to Nigerians. For me, I believe that because of certain policies of the federal government after the war, the war did not cease in the eastern region until about 30 years after the war.

Your relationship with the governors of the south-south states in view of the legal tussle over oil wells between your state versus Rivers and Cross River States.

All those lawsuits were not instituted by my administration; they were done in the administration between 1999 and 2007. I became a governor in 2007. For instance, the reason we are in court with Rivers is because certain oil wells were realigned and a lot of Akwa Ibom oil wells were given to Rivers State. They took us to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the two states should share the 172 wells equally. Supreme Court is the final court, and its judgment cannot be argued against. So, that’s one.

Secondly, the International Criminal Court (ICC) also handed over Bakassi to Cameroon. The last government took 75 oil wells in 2005 and gave to Cross River on the condition that Cross River would have a seaward boundary, because Nigeria was negotiating to retain Western Bakassi as part of it. In 2008, unfortunately, Western Bakassi went to Cameroon; and therefore, the 75 oil wells that were taken from Akwa Ibom were returned. And Cross River State went to court. They have a right to exercise their fundamental human rights. But these are not issues that can cause friction between me and my brother governors because they were not our making; they were on the ground. And even in families, the wife and the husband have disagreements once in a while, but it doesn’t mean that they will not continue with their marriage.

So, to be honest with you, despite the small misunderstandings that we met as governors, we have managed to bond together. There would have been no BRACED (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Delta) Commission that you see today if the south-south states were not united. So, barring the minor differences that we met on ground, we have attempted to focus on regional integration, to bring the entire south-south region together, so that we can accomplish projects that will show that we are a focused region. Today, we are looking at regional power, regional railway; and in future, we will be talking about regional bank, regional agriculture, regional marine transportation, and so on. Regional marine transportation will make it easy for someone to move from Warri or Sapele to Akwa Ibom by sea, and it will be easy for us to move goods and services from our various ports and then supply to the rest of the eastern region. Those are things we should focus on, because we, as governors, think that if we continue to focus on individual development, we will only have staccato development; and it will be uncoordinated. The only way to have coordinated development is to think of how to integrate the various efforts of the governments of the south-south region. That focus is very clear, and I do not think the minor issues on ground can come between us. I think we are bonded together very seriously.

Why are many members of the Governors’ forum opposed to financial autonomy for state legislatures?

I am so surprised. Go and look at the budgeting. Just get this very clearly. It’s a very funny situation. I see those things on the pages of newspapers and I keep smiling. The federal government shares money to states in arrears. For example, if you hear FAAC accounts of May, it is actually that of April that is being shared. So, the federal government is always one month behind. This means that money is always available at the federal level; but the state government spends its money whenever it becomes due. So, it is what states collect in a particular month that they spend the same month. If as a state, you collect FAAC money before 20th of the month, it means that you pay your salary from the 21st or 22nd, and then know your expenditure. And therefore, there’s nothing for you to have by way of financial autonomy to pass to the legislature, because you don’t even know what will come to you; you have no idea what you would collect that month; you have no idea what your resources would be. But the federal government has a reservoir of funds and does it in arrears.

If the states, for instance had money, then they could afford to say that there is financial autonomy for the legislature, and then release the money in advance. Go and look at all the federal ministries, you will notice that they get money in advance. By November or December, federal ministries return unspent money to the federal government account. But it is not the same at the state level, because you only spend when the money comes. The state only estimates. So, when you look at financial autonomy, you have to consider that there is difference between estimate and reality.

Budgets are only estimates, these monies are not available. So, if you are going to do financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly based on estimates, then you are going to cause a lot of confusion, because the House of Assembly that budgets N155, 000,000,000 expects to have N155, 000,000,000. But can it have it? No.

No state will have that kind of money to give its House of Assembly. It is as it comes in. And sometimes, a state can budget N400, 000,000,000 in a year and what eventually comes in is N200,000.000. So it has to make do with it. If within that N400, 000,000,000 that you have budgeted for that year, the House of Assembly’s share was N50, 000,000, 000 then the House does not want to hear stories; it expects the N50, 000,000, 000. If at the end of that year, what comes in is N200, 000,000,000, it means everybody’s budget will be reduced by 50 per cent. Will the House of Assembly accept to take 50 per cent of its budget? It will become an impeachable offence against the governor.

So, when I hear these arguments on the pages of newspapers, I always laugh. It is not the same thing as what happens with the federation account. At the federal level, the money is already available, so each year, you just give each ministry its money once the budgets are concluded. Then, towards the end of the year, when they have not spent what was budgeted, they return. Have you ever heard of any state or any ministry in any state returning money?

The money is never there; states only depend on estimates and projections. So, are you going to have financial autonomy for a House of Assembly based on projections? And some of them are so young (due respect to them) that when that projection is not met, they won’t understand the difference between estimate and reality. The expenditure is different from budgeting because you can only spend what comes in. What you expend is different from what you budget for. If you projected N300b and at the end of the year you end up with N1880b, then it is only N180b that you can spend.

So, there are certain provisions that cause confusion when you put them in the system. The same thing happens at the federal level, where the federal government will issue a circular to increase salaries for its workers, and then workers at the state level will say it must be applied to them, and the next thing is that there are strikes all over the country. Just like the issue of minimum wage: if the federal government can afford it, can some states? The answer is no.

So if you practice financial autonomy for the legislature at the federal level, is the state set up for financial autonomy? Unless you want us to practice true federalism, which means that everything that comes, the federal government keeps and then gives to the legislature, judiciary and so on, and then budget on what is left. But that is not the situation. We are dealing with projections and estimates only. And if you are dealing with such, when the projection fails, then there is impeachment, and there is confusion, and there is crisis. It would cause crises in the various Houses of Assembly. So, it is not as if governors are against it, it is just that it is impracticable.

Why has President Jonathan not used the Akwa Ibom model to solve the country’s problems?

A state is different from a federation. The problem of a federation is unique; the problem of a state is different from that of a federation. That is the first thing you need to know. So, what works for a state may not necessarily work for a federation. And then you need to know that at the state level, I am only emulating the policies of the federal government; I am copying the policies of the federal government. The federal government is undertaking transformation in all areas, from power to the industries and then to road transportation. I copied that policy but I turned it to ‘uncommon’ level. So, while the federal government is undertaking transformation, I am undertaking uncommon transformation, because the federal government is going to transform an already existing power sector or an existing railway system that has become moribund, but I am going to Etinepo-Ika that has never had a road 65km long, that has needed a bridge right from 1967 when the one done by our colonial masters collapsed; and I am going there to build a 56km road with a bridge, so mine becomes uncommon transformation. The federal government’s is already existing, so it’s is transformation, while mine, which is not existing, is uncommon transformation. So, who’s copying from whom? I’m copying from the federal government. The federal government is setting the standards and the policies; mine is to turn them around to suit my own state, because a state is different from a federation.

And you have to give President Goodluck Jonathan time. Godswill Akpabio has been in office for five years. How long has President Jonathan been in office? Just one year. He was elected last year as President and he is barely one year old. In the other one year when he was acting president, he was struggling to unravel the policies of late President Yar’Adua. So you have to give him time.

And I have always told Nigerians that we have to be patient. The rot we have found ourselves in took over 50 years to happen. I did not cause the situation; Jonathan did not cause it, so we have to give him time. I can tell you that in the next one to two years, some of the policies he is enunciating today will begin to crystallise. And I’m very hopeful. He recently added two key presidential initiatives; one was on power, and I was very impressed with what is going on in the gas sector, because it is one thing to build all the turbines trough the NIPP, and it is another thing to have gas available to turn the turbines around and give electricity to Nigerians. He is also trying to deregulate the sector, to enable big players come in, in terms of transmission and distribution. And these are things that were never there before. Don’t forget that it was really when we unbundled NITEL that it was possible for the MTNs, the V-mobiles, and the Etisalats to come in; and today, we have over 100 million telephone lines. But when NITEL was sitting down like PHCN is doing, people believed it was impossible. So, the President is now trying to unbundle PHCN, and that is the policy of deregulation that is going on. He is also pursuing it with the idea of making gas available, and increasing power generation and increasing the transmission lines.

I am very hopeful that these policies will bring result to Nigerians very soon. And also there is the job sector. There is ATIC, that is Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, which has never been done in the history of this country, to begin to diversify the economy, so that we can take away our dependence on crude oil, so that we do not focus on a mono-economy. And Nigerians can then think of food sufficiency and employment generation through agriculture. These are not just mere policies, but initiatives that are being implemented on ground. I am a member of that council, and I’m sure Mr. President put me on the council because he knows that I have something to contribute.

How can Nigerians in the Diaspora key into your policy of ‘uncommon transformation’?

I plead with Nigerians in the Diaspora to look homewards. We have a saying in our language that no matter how high the birds fly in the sky, the legs must point to the ground. No matter the country you stay in, your natural place of birth still remains Nigeria. So, they must not overlook the country. I will like them to come into the country and partner with us to get us out of the situation we have found ourselves in. We must have a collective effort to create employment opportunities for our children.

And what we have done in Akwa Ibom State is that we have about N30b, which we have set aside, in the budget, for industrialisation. We want to come in as security partners, as contributors to create industries — at least one small industry or factory in every local government in the state. That way, we can create employment opportunities for our children. So, I will like Nigerians in the Diaspora to look into that direction, to come in and join us in any area. The power sector is still a virgin area; my state has produced the independent power plant, the Ibom Plant; and as I speak now, we are doing the expansion. We are also thinking of the transmission line as well as the distribution; these are areas which the Diaspora can come into.

We produce so much of cassava; and as I speak now, we may end up with a cassava glut. Unless we can go into the process that can produce starch for the pharmaceutical industry and also produce noodles, which of course, will also make food available. At the same time, we are surrounded by water. So, the seafood is there. People are coming in to take away our shrimps, the best in the whole coastline. So, in terms of preservation, there is space for the Diaspora.

We are also looking for people to partner with us in the aviation industry, to run, maintain and repair other facilities we have at the airport. Even in tourism, our people in the Diaspora can come in to set standards. We are building a second five-star hotel. Luckily, we have the big names coming in to run our hotels; we have convention centres, shopping malls and cinema places. People should come to join us in building the state, particularly in health. We are building a lot of hospitals and we would like to hand them over to our sons and daughters in the medical field in the Diaspora. The same standards we see there, they should bring them here, so that we can stop capital flight and stop the idea of medical tourism to India.

They should forget about the insecurity they hear about; these things will not last. The government is working very hard to bring the situation under control. And in spite of all the stories you hear, your country still remains your country and you cannot run away from it. Come and join us, and I assure you that your security will be taken care of. We are working very hard and we are minimising insecurity.

How can those interested access these opportunities?

If it is in my office, I have a special assistant on Diaspora affairs. His name is Clement Ikpatt. We also brought in a former minister of commerce as a Special Adviser on industry. He is working with us because of his experience. We have set up a big Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation; and we have set up a robust team to go on a road show to China, Malaysia and other places, to look at seedlings and also look at the manufacturing sector, and see what we can do to make people partner with us. The Diaspora cannot be left out, because in all these things, if our people do not have percentages in them, we will end up building all these things and handing them over to outsiders; and in future, it would still lead to capital flight. So, it is important that you come in now, because this is the best time for you to invest, no matter how minimal. The state is ready to offer its assistance, so that together, we can create employment opportunities and take our people to the next level.

Where is Godswill Akpabio going after his tenure expires in 2015?

I pray that 2015 will meet all of us alive. I see myself as an elder statesman, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, sitting down as a development consultant, giving advice to the youths from the local government level to the state. I also want to be there for my family especially my kids who will need me to guide them as they grow up.

The Fifth Delta State Assembly: Excellent?… The ayes have it!

IMG_0034-300x200Words were not spared to describe the vibrancy of the 5th Assembly of Delta State. What was advertised as a lecture to mark the first year anniversary of the 5th Assembly (2011-2015) of Delta State last month soon morphed into a festival of ideas. The concourse of humanity who has thronged the expansive dome at the state’s Convention Centre accentuated the import of the day’s event. The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, was on hand to welcome the special guests which included the governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal. The governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi (represented by his deputy, Tere Ikuru), Professors Michael Ikhariale and Fidelis Odita among others completed the ensemble of special guests.

Speaker after speaker gave a thumps up to the Delta legislature not just for its fecundity at making laws for the good governance of the state but for complementing the Executive in ensuring that peace is sustained in the state. Delta State was once a theatre of fatal combat among ethnic nationalities. To add to the fizz, youths in the state joined their colleagues in the Niger Delta to protest the injustice meted out to their communities by oil majors in cahoots with the federal government. But the state Assembly particularly the fifth Assembly working closely with the Executive has been able to quell the rage of the youths.

Courtesy of the cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, Delta has transformed to one of the fastest developing states in the country. Urban and rural roads, electrification projects, housing, the promotion of free enterprise, job-creation through agriculture and micro, small and medium scale enterprises have continued to define governance in the state. Education, one of the strong points of the state is being remodelled, more independent power plants are being built, an international airport is already functional and the waterways are being expanded.

Ochei in his welcome remark attributed this to the quality of laws from the state Assembly and the willingness of the Executive to see the legislature as a partner in the overall development of the state. “We have the most vibrant legislature in the country and it shows in our experience, quality of legislation, and impact our laws have had on the people. It shows in our oversight skills and ability which has brought stability in the polity as well as helped to cut cost of governance”, he told the audience.

For the speaker, the last 12 months of the Assembly had been eventful, epitomised by the passage of bills and sundry legislative duties. “Our commitment to the legislative business is evident in the passage of six bills out of 19 so far received, four of them signed into law by the Governor of Delta State besides 96 motions, 86 of which were adopted, seven negatived and three later withdrawn. We have also carried out our oversight functions through the 20 standing committees”, he said.

Delta fifth Assembly consists of 29 members – four female and 25 male – which begs the 30 per cent Affirmative Action, but even that has not silenced the voice of the women in the Assembly. “We may be few but we have made significant contributions to the law-making process and oversight duties of the House that would justify the people voting in more women to represent them next time”, one of the female legislators, Hon. (Mrs.) Amaechi Mrakpor (Aniocha South) told Nigeria Political Economist.

At inauguration, the fifth Assembly took off with 17 PDP members, nine members from the DPP, one from ACN and one from the UDP. The fifth Assembly was birthed on June 6, 2011 with Rt. Honourables Victor Ochei and Basil Ganagana unanimously elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. Both came into the House with a pedigree of experience in public service and outstanding performance in the private sector.  Whereas Ganagana has been a constant face in the House since 1999, Ochei made it to the House in 2003 and has since manifested peerless leadership qualities. Under his leadership, the House has remained stable and has collaborated effectively with other arms of government. The 1993 engineering graduate of the University of Benin (he also holds an MBA from the same university among other post-graduate degrees from overseas universities) has for the past 12 months ensured that the rights and privileges of every law-maker in the state are guaranteed.

The Governor of the state, Dr. Uduaghan attested to the immense contribution of the Ochei leadership to the successful implementation of the three-point agenda of his government. ”Yes, as the Executive, we have had our challenges and differences with the legislature but at all times we were able to mutually resolve those differences for the common good of the state. I want to place on record that I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the state legislature. This is very key. Every disagreement and agreement we have had with the legislature has been in the interest of the people of Delta State.

“Sometimes people measure the success of a legislature by how many times they threw chairs at themselves or by how many times they disagreed with the Executive, that is not the character of a successful legislature. You know a successful legislature by the quality of its laws, the maturity and discipline of its members, its internal stability, its independence even while collaborating with other arms of government and its oversight abilities. All of this I have seen in the Delta State legislature”, Uduaghan said, drawing a sustained applause from the crowd.

Uduaghan is right. Delta State fifth Assembly has demonstrated a clear understanding of legislative responsibility anchored on the ramparts that their mandate is a collective mandate given by the people hence must be used for the common good of the people. This has seen them show urgency on matters of state importance. For instance, it passed the 2012 appropriation bill in 2011, the first time in the history of the state. This is what the federal legislature has not been able to achieve since 1999.

Speaker Tambuwal who chaired the occasion scored the Delta fifth Assembly very high. He said they have demonstrated urgency, maturity, insight, legislative sagacity and efficiency. He urged all Assemblies in the country to intensify their public enlightenment drives, outreaches and public hearings as a way of deepening the nation’s democratic space.

Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, took the audience through the labyrinth of the doctrine of separation of powers.  Modern idea of the separation of powers was explored in greater details by French political writer Baron Montesquieu  in his work  ‘The Spirit of the Laws’ (1748). It was an expansion of earlier works on the same subject by great philosophers and writers namely Aristotle, Plato, and Niccolò Machiavelli and much later, English political theorist, John Locke.

But for the concept of separation of powers which assigns specific duties and powers to the three arms of government, dictatorship would have flourished even in the best of democracies.  Amaechi, who was a lawmaker in his state before he became governor, said all legislators have a joint mandate: to make laws for the good governance of the people. He said there is always a tendency for the Executive to assume superiority over the other arms of government. This is wrong because all the three arms must complement one another. He said democracy thrives when the Executive and Legislature complement each other as partners, not as individual institutions trying to undo or outdo each other. But within the context of such collaboration, each of the institutions must maintain its individual independence, rights and privileges.

The cumulative verdict on the fifth Delta Assembly is that of excellence. The swiftness with which they have responded to issues, the stability they have wrought in the state, the resourcefulness they have manifested in the business of law-making all attest to a legislature working assiduously to have its name etched on the bright side of history.

Ndi

Therapy for the Nigerian stock market, by Ndi Okereke-onyiuke

Ndi

Ndi

The global financial meltdown which started from the US, in 2006 as a result of the glut in the mortgage industry, spread like a contagion to Europe, Asia, and then to the emerging markets in Africa, including Nigeria. That ill wind got to Nigeria in 2008 and no stock market was spared of the catastrophic meltdown, just like the Great market crash of 1929.

Even though it was a global financial meltdown, the Nigerian market was insulated until about 2008. The effect was mainly in the banking sector.

This is because banks account for about 60% of the listed securities. Therefore, whatever affects the banking sector has profound impact on the market capitalization. It is a known position that the Nigerian Stock Market has been slow to recovering, after the Global Financial Crisis which hit the global stock markets, commencing from the US mortgage industry and other corporate entities. Furthermore, I wish to state that the stock market is cyclical with boom and burst periods.

This is normal in all stock markets. However other markets are now moving upwards while the Nigerian market is still southwards. In order to have a thorough understanding and a holistic position of the current problem, it will be absolutely necessary to briefly outline the primary causes of the down turn and thereafter suggest remedial actions that will help to halt the free fall of the market; restore investors’ confidence and prevent further losses to the investing public.

Between January 2000 (when I became the Director-General) and December 2008, there were a lot of positive developments in the Nigerian Capital Market as exemplified by activities and transactions both in the primary and secondary market of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. In emphasis, issuers of securities had a ready market. The market truly lived up to its functions as a more prudent financing window for individual, corporate, state, federal and foreign investors. Apart from enjoying the benefits of the function of the market as a financing window, Federal and State Governments in Nigeria also benefited enormously from the boom in the market through tax revenue, enhanced employment opportunities and transaction fees that went to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as the Government regulator of the capital market.

During the period (performance measurement introduced); Market Capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange rose from N800 million in Year 2000 to N13.3 trillion at the beginning of 2008; The All-Share Index hit an all-time High of 58,990.22 basis points in 2008 from 100 points in 1984 when I introduced Index in the Nigerian market; Annual capital raised by companies and Government on the Stock Exchange rose to the peak of N2.8 trillion at the end of 2008. All of this was as a result of a combination of factors, including experienced and effective Stock Exchange leadership. There were a lot of new entrants – issuers and investors alike; local investors and foreign investors. There was investor confidence and the Middle Class re-emerged… in Nigeria.

Margin Loans by Banks

The indiscriminate granting of margin loans by the banks to all manners of investors and market operators caused the market bubble. This is similar to what happened in the US mortgage industry. Margin loans by themselves are not bad, because they help to create more liquidity in the market, globally.

However, in the case of Nigeria, the banks gave out these loans indiscriminately, and in most cases insisted that such margin loans were used to purchase their own shares. Some banks were deeply involved in granting margin loans that were not properly structured and this created excess cash in the market, and the share prices got bloated.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange Management at several occasions WARNED market operators, that Regulators i.e CBN and SEC had not issued Guidelines on Margin Loans. Subsequently, it became quite evident that the margin loan facilities had been abused. However, they are off balance sheet items, not easily detected. (CBN/SEC recently issued the Guidelines on Margin Loans).

Numerous Unlisted Private Placement, IPOs.

Another factor militating against the Nigerian stock market’s rebound is the problem of unlisted private placement issues. Several companies undertook private placements which were NOT LISTED ON the Nigerian Stock Exchange. This had negative effect on investors’ confidence, because many of the subscribers bought the shares with the hope that they will be listed on the Stock Exchange.

The truth of the matter is that most of the issuers of these private placements MISLED the public via the style of placing and also wanted to list their shares at very high premium, instead of listing at the prices the securities were issued. The Management of Nigerian Stock Exchange objected and rejected any attempt of listing any shares above the price they were issued at private placement offer.

The NSE took this stand so as to protect innocent investors who would buy the listed shares at the secondary market level. The NSE took this step because it noted that immediately after the listing; the directors and officers of the issuing companies are usually the first to off-load their holdings, while they deliberately withhold the release of shares certificates to other subscribers. For all intents and purposes this is market manipulation on the investing public. The NSE does not regulate Registrars of companies (SEC does); however persuasive advisory was at different times advanced by NSE against the practice of issuers using their in-house registrars and issuing houses for their public offers.

The problem of unlisted private placement of shares can be solved if SEC (who approves private placement) compels all the companies to list those shares at the prices the shares were issued, or at a marginal premium, because of the time value for money. This will bring some respite to the market and will enhance market capitalization, in addition to boosting investor’s confidence. If not, the issuers must be made to refund monies to investors, with interest.

Insider dealings

The above connotation is a well-known practice in Stock Market the world over. Although S.111 (1) and (2) of ISA, makes Insider Trading (by Directors of Quoted Companies) a crime, the proof of insider trading is usually very difficult to establish and prove, therefore the law needs to be revisited to make it more effective.

This is a crime that is not easy to establish even in the more advanced stock markets. As a criminal offence, the standard of proof is “Proof beyond reasonable doubt”. This is a very ‘tall order’ for market regulators the world over, therefore some jurisdictions have shifted emphasis from criminalising market insider dealing infraction to “market abuse model” which emphasises civil liabilities and the encouragement of voluntary compliance with the market laws, rules, regulations, practices and conventions.

Public Offering by Banks

Following CBN directives to banks to capitalise from N2billion to N25 billion as minimum share capital, almost all banks utilized and accessed the capital market to raise funds. Within two years, many of the banks besieged the capital market falling over one another to raise funds through mega offers in a single tranche. The banks competed in mopping up every liquidity from the stock market, thus crowding the market. A total of about N2.2trillion was raised through various public offers dominated by the banks in 2008, via Listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Divestment by Foreign Portfolio Managers

This is another factor that seriously contributed to the continuous fall of the Nigerian Stock Market. Many foreign investors that already had troubles in their home economies pulled out of the Nigerian Stock Market leading to dumping of shares beyond the ability of domestic investors to absorb.

The way out / forward

For the market to recover and start moving upwards, I wish to professionally suggest that the following palliative measures be considered for implementation. The Nigerian Stock Exchange Transformation Document 2010-2015 which the Council, Management and Accenture worked on 2008-2010 contains the solutions for our capital market to bounce back. The synopses are as follows: Federal Government Intervention via AMCON / Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

Only direct physical injection of funds can change the direction of the capital market just as AMCON did for the Money Market. No amount of “Workshops and Discussions” will avail.

A strong Government Bail-out as obtained in USA, Britain, Russia, Singapore e.t.c is the magic wand needed. Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) was set up by CBN to buy these toxic assets (Margin Loans) with the hope of divesting when the market picks up. However, the modus operandi of AMCON in this respect seems unconcerned as far as market operators and shareholders are concerned.

AMCON seems to concentrate only on banks. The Nigerian Stock Exchange and its stockbrokers worked assiduously in collaboration with CBN to bring AMCON to life and the day the National Assembly acquiesced to AMCON, we were all here in the presence of the President of Senate, Deputy Speaker of the House, Senate & House Committee Chairman on Banking and Capital Market…Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Hon. Ozomgbachi and Hon. Buba Jubril. Assurances were reiterated that AMCON will bail-out both the money market and the capital market i.e. beneficiaries will be Banks, Stock broking firms and Nigerian Shareholders. Urgent action needs to be taken on this because AMCON is largely servicing Banks only at the moment.

Appointment of Market Makers and their Fund Providers

In April 2010, The Nigerian Stock Exchange appointed market makers who would provide market liquidity and stock-lending. The market makers could not take off in 2010 because the CBN did not approve their proposed Fund Providers (Deposit Money Banks).

Now that the NSE has re-appointed them, investors need to know more details in this area of market markers recently appointed. What securities are they making market on? Are the selected market markers well-funded to undertake this role of buyer and seller of last resort? Have their Fund Providers been approved by the Regulator? How much money is the Transaction Float? Certainly this policy will encourage new investors, especially the retail investors. This is a quick-win solution…if properly implemented.

Listing of Upstream Oil Companies / Telecom Companies

The Federal Government should encourage the Upstream Oil companies and the major Telecoms companies to list on the Daily official list of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. However, the Government should induce them by introducing tax holidays, and other incentives such as Gov’t contracts to make listing attractive to them. The truth is that all these companies are listed in their home countries; why are they refusing to list in Nigeria?

In addition, more indigenous quotable companies should be encouraged to seek listing, by giving them incentives like tax holidays, tax rebate and other incentives. This will boost the economy by generating more jobs and government will get more tax revenue. Furthermore, their listing will enhance transparency of financial disclosure in their operations. One incentive that never fails is a policy of Government that ONLY Companies Quoted / Listed on the local Stock Exchange can get Gov’t contracts above certain amount (N2Billion Naira or $500million dollars.)?

Mergers of Stockbroking Firms

Stock broking firms should be encouraged to come together, either through merger or outright acquisition. This will make them stronger and more viable and it will enhance good corporate governance and professionalism in the affected entities. As at today many of the surviving stockbroking firms that are too weak financially to stand alone may be allowed to practise as Broker / Dealer only without Portfolio Management.

Dematerialization: e-dividends, e-certificates.

This means the conversion of share certificates from paper form into electronic format as in the CSCS —The Clearing House of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A specific time frame (3-6 months) when the market will be fully dematerialised should be announced by SEC, NSE and Registrars. Same goes for dividend payments.

Unclaimed Dividends / Unclaimed Certificates

A large portion of Unclaimed Dividends and Certificates emanated from the 1972 and 1977 indigenisation when photocopying machines were not available for people to keep track of their signatures. A lot of those unclaimed instruments are Statute Barred (12 years). There is absolutely no need to establish a new inefficient parastatal for unclaimed dividend. The Law in CAMA is that after 12 years, the money should be utilized by the company concerned to create more wealth for shareholders. In practice, if the beneficiaries of a late investor appear, The Stock Exchange always persuades the company to pay.

Regulatory Oversight: sound and effective corporate governance

The regulatory authorities of the Nigerian Capital Market and of the whole financial system must ensure that the approved code of corporate governance is adhered to by all entities under their supervision. To guard against market abuses and insider trading, the monitoring units of these agencies must be strengthened and well equipped to perform their functions. Also, SEC must not ignore its Developmental functions to grow the market; this function must not be left for the stock exchange and market operators alone… for you must bake the cake before you can eat it.

Federal Government should Fund SEC 100% SEC as government regulator of the Capital Market should be fully funded by the Federal Government. At the moment, SEC is partly dependent on the market fees and penalties collected from the market operators. This may have the tendency of compromising its regulatory functions.

Privatisation

Government must ensure that its Privatisation programme remains on course to kick-start the market; BPE should be energised to perform to expectation.

Abolition of VAT on capital market transactions.

VAT should NOT be imposed on capital market investments in any form, it is a disincentive to investment. Taxes should be on consumption. Hence, any form of tax including stamp duties should be removed on listed securities. The governments of Ghana, Zambia etc have done away with VAT on listed securities to encourage new stock market Listings and Gov’t earned more revenues because Listed companies PAY APPROPRIATE TAX, unlike many private companies.

Conclusion

Hon. Chair & Hon. Members may I conclude saying that this market is my passion and I believe that our capital market will bounce back by the Grace of Almighty God. This will require the collective effort of all stakeholders with the Federal Government leading and creating the positive environment. Also, the oversight function of this Honourable House will surely provide the required investor’s confidence which will positively impact on the market. We should all work hard to ensure that our market is brought back to life by pursuing genuine measures geared towards achieving a robust stock market. In this regard I promise that even in my VOLUNTARY retirement, I stand ready to DONATE my time and expertise to the resuscitation of the market for the benefit of ALL Investors, Issuers and our dear Nation, NIGERIA.

Professor Okereke-Onyiuke(OON), former DG Nigerian Stock Exchange, delivered this to the Ad-hoc committee of the House of Reps during the capital market probe