Continued from Part 21
If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community (Barack Obama)
Our leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people's resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are (Nelson Mandela)
Peace does not fare well where poverty and deprivation reign. It does not flourish where there is ignorance and a lack of education and information. Repression, injustice and exploitation are inimical with peace. Peace is gravely threatened by inter-group fear and envy and by the unleashing of unrealistic expectations. Racial, class and religious intolerance and prejudice are its mortal enemies (Frederik W. de Klerk)
here are unemployment and under-employment in every country, but they are supposed to be reduced to the barest minimum in Nigeria because of what the country is blessed with. But corruption, bad leadership and lack of planning have exacerbated the hardship the Nigerian citizens are facing daily. The name “Nigeria” is now equated with corruption to the extent that even President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had no qualms in depicting Nigerians as corrupt people. Reports by African Examiners of Friday, April 11th, 2014, has it that during the occasion of his 90th birthday, when he hosted his service chiefs, President Robert Mugabe threw a punch on Nigeria describing Nigerians as corrupt people. This writer wonders why the Nigerian government is protesting what is obvious. Since the Nigerian officials do not want to tell themselves the absolute truth, it’s good that someone else is telling them what they do not want to acknowledge or hear. The same report said that the federal government of Nigeria has summoned the Zimbabwe’s Head Chancery in Nigeria, Stanley Kunjeku, to protest President Mugabe’s depiction of Nigerians as corrupt. The Permanent Secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs, Martin Uhomoibhi, on Thursday April 10, also noted that Mugabe’s statement was not only inaccurate but unfortunately coming from a President who should know that such comments are unacceptable in international diplomacy. His words: “We want to present the strongest protest against that statement; not only does it not reflect the reality in our country, but to come from a sitting President of a brotherly country is most unkind and very dishonourable. At the point sanctions were imposed on your country, Nigeria empathised with Zimbabwe”. Who cares? The permanent secretary should know that Mugabe does not care whose ox is gored as he says things as he sees them. It’s always a no-holds-barred on almost any issue as far as Mugabe is concerned. Rather than dwelling on what Mugabe said, the federal government of Nigeria should work hard to bring corruption in the country to the barest minimum. Wilfred A. Peterson (1900–95) was right that “Decision is the spark that ignites action. Until a decision is made, nothing happens.... Decision is the courageous facing of issues, knowing that if they are not faced, problems will remain forever unanswered”. Nigerian government should have known that Mugabe gives no hoot about what Nigeria did for his country before, as long as Nigeria gives him the ammunition to shoot at it, by not getting its act together.
What the government does is to feed the nation with voodoo economics, churning out fake economic statistics. The government just said that the rebased nominal GDP for 2010 was N54.20tn; while for 2011, 2012 and 2013, the figures were N63.25tn; N71.18tn and N80.22tn ($510bn), respectively. The government claims that the country's real GDP for 2011 and 2012 now stood at 5.09 percent and 6.66 percent respectively, while the economy grew by 7.41 percent in real terms last year (GDP now stands at $509.9 billion), meaning that the country had now overtaken South Africa to become the largest economy in the continent of Africa and 26th globally. The president knows that these figures are incompatible with the facts on the ground or the real life situation in Nigeria that he humbly said that although, the feat calls for celebration but that he will not roll out the drums because "too many of our citizens are living in poverty". What’s the value of the largest economy in Africa, when the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, disclosed on Thursday April 10, at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, that Nigeria, as one of the top five countries that has the largest number of poor, is ranked third on world poverty index? For this column, these figures and facts mean nothing because they are not going to put food on people’s table, and will not provide jobs to those who need them. What good is becoming the largest economy in Africa when many Nigerians are dying on daily basis from poverty, ignorance and disease? What is the net worth of being the largest economy in Africa when many Nigerians want to commit suicide because of hardship in the land? This writer concurs with the APC, when it said that the hullabaloo about the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP leading to the country’s emergence as the largest economy in Africa is an orchestrated distraction and a mindless public relations gimmick by the masterminds. The party said "coming after the damning World Bank report which declared Nigeria as one of the countries harbouring the largest population of poor people in the world, there is no doubt that the rebasing noise is the government’s response to the classification". In the party’s words: “However, the federal government has only succeeded in opening itself to ridicule. This is because if ever there was a clear play at oxymoron, this is it: The largest economy with the largest population of the poor, the largest economy with the largest population of unemployed, the largest economy with the largest population of citizens living in darkness, and the largest economy with the worst infrastructure. Simply put, there is too much poverty in the midst of plenty, and the so-called economic growth which the FG has been trumpeting with its dubious statistics is not a result of any deliberate government policies. Policies of government are expected to result in reduction in unemployment, increase in capacity utilization by manufacturers, increased access to basic needs of life (food, water, electricity, health care, education, healthy environment, etc), increase in transparency and accountability, etc. On the contrary, the country continues to slip down the ladder on all of these fronts. The federal government carried its joke too far by even giving the impression that the so-called emergence of the Nigerian economy as the largest in Africa is a function of the economic policies under President Goodluck Jonathan, rather than a rejigging of figures calibrated to fool an unsuspecting public. Fortunately, no one has been fooled by the government, even though it has succeeded, at least temporarily, in diverting attention from the pervasive and worsening insecurity in the land, the hopeless power situation that has seen Nigerians publicly protesting being thrown into perpetual darkness, the ticking time bomb of rising unemployment, especially among our youth, the unprecedented massive frittering away and looting of the commonwealth and the total absence of governance”.
Chief Joseph (1840-1904), Chief of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce Indians, in a speech he gave at Lincoln Hall, Washington DC, on January 14, 1879, said "Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself -- and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty." But such things seem not obtainable in Nigeria of today. Many must have read the pathetic story published by Punch (April 10), where security officials prevented a jobless graduate from committing suicide. This is just one story that hit the limelight, but, thousands of such cases are happening all over Nigeria everyday and people do not hear about them. Let’s retell the story here: An unemployed engineering graduate of Ekiti State University, Mr. Sunday Omotayo, was on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, prevented from committing suicide by the police and prison officials. We learned that Omotayo, who caused a stir when he deliberately jumped out of a speeding Toyota Hiace bus in Akwa Ibom State, expecting to be crushed to death by other vehicles, said that he was tired of life as he had been searching for a job for the past 10 years after graduation. Lying on the main road leading to Akwa Ibom Government House, It took a while for policemen to get him out of the road. He insisted that he must put an end to his poverty-stricken life by committing suicide. Omotayo told The Paper, "There is no state that I have not gone to in search of a job in the past 10 years. I came to Akwa Ibom because this is my last hope because of the stories of Governor Godswill Akpabio and his uncommon transformation. I came with the hope that with what is going on in the state, getting a job would be easy so that I can begin to be a man. But since I came, I discovered that many people from Akwa Ibom are also crying because of poverty and joblessness." Before this heart wrenching story, Omotayo had in the morning gone to the state prison asking the officials to either kill him or make way for him to rot in the prison.
Back to Lagos seaports: Nigerian government officials who are benefiting from the chaos going on at the Lagos ports will do everything to sabotage every effort to make the other seaports in other regions of Nigeria unviable. Those officials will even go as far as bribing those in charge of awarding contracts, which will uplift the condition of the other ports in other regions of Nigeria, so that they can relegate their oversight function to the back burner and then allow the contractors to abandon the projects or to do shoddy work. This was a motion introduced by Hon. O.K. Chinda, representing Obio-Akpor Constituency in Rivers State, in the House of Representatives:
ISSUE: FAILED CONTRACT FOR DREDGING OF THE CALABAR CHANNEL AND PORT HARCOURT PORTS.
FROM: HON. O.K. CHINDA
TO: RT. HON. SPEAKER
DATE: 12TH OCTOBER, 2011.
NOTICE OF MOTION.
ISSUE: FAILED CONTRACT FOR DREDGING OF THE CALABAR CHANNEL AND PORT HARCOURT PORTS.
- Notes with great concern, the poor quality of work done in respect of the dredging of the Calabar Channel in Cross River State and the non-dredging and scooping of the Port Harcourt wharf.
- Aware that in sometime in 2006, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transport awarded contract for the dredging of the Calabar Channel to two firms: Jendewul and Van Hault at the cost of Fifty Seven Million Euros (57m Euro).Each firm was to dredge 25million cubic metres of 41km each at a depth of 9.5 metres from 0-82km.
- Also Aware that thereafter, the two firms mobilized to site, started dredging works but left the site in 2007, claiming to have attained removal of the agreed 25million cubic metres. The firms also claimed to have removed the required quantity, and not to attain the depth of 9.5metres from beginning to the end (0-82km).
- Further Aware that 0-10km was not dredged by the two firms at the time because it was claimed that the Cross River State Government insisted that the sand dredged there from be taken to its site and also because Monipolo Limited, an indigenous Oil Company had an underground pipeline which was not buried deep enough, thus causing an obstruction.
- Also Aware that when notice was given to the two firms to re-mobilize, go back to site and complete the work, they refused, claiming that they have completed their work according to specification and terms of the original agreement, and asked in the alternative, for a variation of the original contract sum to the tune of 25million Euro supplementary budget.
- Worried that that due to the haphazard and poor quality of work done at the Calabar Channel, coupled with the fact that there was no provision for embankment, the dredged sand silted back into the sea and presently it looks as if no dredging work was ever done.
- Also Worried that this is very likely to have unfavourable effects on and further endanger the lives of Nigerians, particularly those resident around the areas in question.
- Again Worried that investment of the Federal Government at the Calabar Port is heavily underutilized as heavy vessels are unable to berth at the Ports.
- Further worried that unless urgent steps are taken to ensure that the dredging work is properly done, disaster could occur in the area and by extension the entire country, would be negatively affected as people would vacate such areas in search of safety and conducive business environment.
Direct that the House Committees on Transport and Customs & Excise investigate the matter and report back to the House within four (4) weeks for further legislative action.
Urge the Federal Government to urgently link the Port Harcourt Onne wharf to the National grid.
HON. O.K. CHINDA.
Obio-Akpor Federal Representative”
While we were complaining that the Lagos Ports are congested, the government is building a new sea port in Lekki, also in Lagos State. The reason for this is not convincing enough, because, there are other places in other states where the government can build such a port and still achieve the desired goals it hopes to achieve from the Lekki port. The Ibaka port in Akwa Ibom State, started by the federal government, should have been an alternative to what Lekki should achieve, but work there has stalled. Why? ThisDay told us that why Lekki or Ibaka port is necessary is because Nigeria and Benin Republic are currently competing on who becomes the load centre, otherwise known as transshipment base in West Africa. Apparently realising the benefits of having a deep seaport in the country, Nigeria is currently considering as much as four of them. When operational, the seaports will be able to compete with any international deep seaport. The planned deep seaports include Lekki Deep Seaport, Ibaka, Calabar and Badagry Deep seaports respectively. Of these four projects, perhaps, the ones that have become realities are Lekki and Ibaka deep seaports. Note that Nigeria’s federal government in December 2013 formally approved the construction of a Deep Sea port in Lekki, Lagos State at the cost of N216 billion ($1.354 billion). In the case of Ibaka, work is yet to start, and the lead consultants are yet to be fully identified. It is a project between the Federal Government and Akwa Ibom State. It is expected that a lead investor who will drive the project on Build, Operate and Transfer (BoT), would be selected. However, Lekki deep seaport project has gone more than this and stands out as major seaport of the future that can compete with any other port in the sub-region. Lekki port with a 1.5km long breakwater, 6 km long approach channel and 14meter draught is seen as a match for the Seme-Benin deep seaport.
The government claims that Lekki port, when completed is expected to cover an area of 90 hectares however with plans of expansion, and that:
- The physical characteristics of the port include a length of fresh waters of 1,500 meters. The main key hold will be 575 meters; the channel length will be six kilometers and the width of the channel leading to the port, 200 meters. The channel is going to be dredged 17.5 meters and that is going to be the deepest we will have in the country.
- The port is designed to handle 20 feet containers per annum, it will have the capacity to handle four million tons of cargoes and it is indeed going to be the first of its kind not just in Nigeria but in the entire West African sub region.
- The economic benefits of the port to the country need not to be overemphasised. Not less than $9.3 billion will accrue to NPA made up of $2.6 billion from marine services and royalties and $6.7 billion share of profits from the investments.
- Other benefits include the ripple effects of operation of the port from custom charges and other economic benefits which will not be less than $379 billion over the period of 45 years.
- That the ports would create at least 162,000 jobs and facilitate the decongestion of existing ports particularly in Lagos while saving the road infrastructure.
- It would save cost on demurrage on importers because of the cost reduction.
- It will be of immense benefit to this country because as of today, our ports are overstretched particularly the Lagos port with an installed capacity of 60 million metric tons per annum but today it is forced to handle over 100 million metric tons per annum.
Nice words! A Deep Sea Port elsewhere in Nigeria would also achieve all of the above and more. The problem this writer has here is that Lekki seaport and an international airport, also being constructed there, will not de-congest Lagos. The government should have de-emphasized Lagos by taking this Deep seaport to another state. The federal government should have helped Ondo or Delta or Akwa Ibom State fast track their proposed Deep sea Port. Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, recently took a practical step in his determination to actualize the establishment of a Deep Sea Port in the state as he instituted a Technical Committee on Deep Sea Development that would fast track the speedy development of the Port. He disclosed the readiness of his administration to cash in on the vantage position of the State which has the longest coastline in the nation and the presence of the Olokola Free Trade Zone (OK FTZ) to establish a Deep Sea Port within the shortest time possible. And to show it seriousness to the establishment of the Port, Dr Mimiko disclosed that the State Government has already committed the sum of N24bn on the construction of a 3-lane access road to the Zone with a view to ensuring smooth passage for the thousands of trucks that would move goods to and from the Port when completed. His words: “The Port project is expected to serve as the hub of maritime activities in West Africa, providing a clear alternative to extant port facilities in Nigeria. Bear in mind that Nigeria controls over 65 percent of the ship traffic and cargo trade generated by the West and Central African sub-regions. It is increasingly obvious that the off-shore oil and gas blocks are moving westwards. We now have these blocks right in front of the Zone. The Port will thus be a supply base with shorter sailing times and thus cheaper services. As we all strive to make the Local Contents Act a success, the Port provides the opportunity for ship building, ship repairs, breaking up and recycling of ships. Ondo State is blessed with natural resources. With the Port, our bitumen could now be processed and exported, just as other minerals could now be mined and shipped out at viable costs. Needless to also note that the Port will help facilitate exportation of agricultural produce, such as rubber and palm oil, both of which are being produced in large quantities in Ondo State! This Deep Sea Port is more than ten years late and we cannot wait any longer. Going by our natural endowments, we should actually be a maritime, oil and gas industrial hub of Nigeria based on the fact that we have the longest coast in Nigeria”.
In another but similar case; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, while meeting investors in Lagos few weeks ago, assured that his Delta State is very safe for investment to thrive, emphasising that enabling environment has been created for investors to do business. The governor disclosed that the state has two airports at Warri and Asaba while the Federal Government is constructing an airstrip at Ogidigben, adding that sea ports are located in Warri, Sapele, Burutu, Koko, and Escravos. The governor stated that the port at Escravos was being used by an oil company and plans are on for another deep sea port to be constructed at Ogidigben.
To be continued!
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 21