Friday, September 7, 2007

If you have ever taken a trip to Nigeria, then you know that Nigerian roads are dangerous and need an extreme makeover. If you have had the opportunity to discover, then you also know that the railroads are underdeveloped and are desperately seeking an upgrade.

So, it was with great interest that I began to pay close attention to various news reports in the Nigerian media that focused on future, unspecified infrastructural improvements. A recent report from the World Bank advised that the Nigerian government should develop its rail system connecting Lagos to Kano and Port Harcourt to Kano. It also suggested that other rail connections be completed in a secondary phase so as to improve Nigeria's rail infrastructure and provide necessary benefits to the country's domestic market and export economy. These improvements would also facilitate the following planned projects - the US$8-bn Trans-Saharan gas pipeline linking Nigeria and Algeria; the US$6-bn Olokola liquid natural gas (OKLNG) project, and the US$3.5-bn Brass River liquid natural gas (LNG) plant.

A few days after the World Bank report came out, I read that Yardy was in talks with a representative from General Electric. On Monday, September 3rd, Yardy met with Nabil Habayeb, the President and CEO of GE's Middle East and Africa Division. They talked about improving Nigeria's power/energy output and revitalizing the nation's transportation infrastructure. Yardy stated that his administration was "very serious about forging ahead..." with infrastructural improvements and would continue talks with GE.

It is exciting to witness all this 'chatter' about possible development, although, I wait with bated breath for the work to actually begin and be completed. You can't blame me. As a Nigerian, I am used to lots of promises with no results. Nevertheless, here is what bothers me, I find it difficult to believe that there are no Nigerians, inside or outside the country, that have the experience, skill and drive to develop a workable, strategic plan to improve and develop Nigeria's transport scene. Therefore, why is Nigeria considering paying an American firm to help us figure out how to solve the problem? Yardy might be a former school teacher, but his bank account tells me he is 'smart' at making money. So, he must not forget that development is a multimillion dollar business, and unless we become strategic and place the interest of Nigerians first, we will continue to not gain any advantage from the 'development hustle'. Everyone else will make money off our backs and our people will continue to live in poverty in an underdeveloped country with unfulfilled dreams.

It is my opinion that Yardy should have demanded that any company we work with be run by a Nigerian or African, at least. The amount of money to be made in Nigeria would force any company to acquiesce to such a demand and thus give Nigerians an opportunity to improve their position and finally allow the country to gain a real benefit. Such a move would also send a signal to the entire world and stand as a lesson to anyone willing to see that Nigerians look out for their fellow countrymen/women and will work together to improve our lot. I cannot express how disappointed I am in what may happen in the near future. This just seems like another example of the 'White Man's Magic' complex or the fact that our leaders do not care about Nigeria and lack a vision of what the horizon needs to be from a psychological, economic, social and strategic perspective.

I continue to ask, "Who will fight for Nigeria?" I am yet to find an answer.

Read up on Yardy's first 100 days in ofice at The Afro Beat.

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femme said...

truth be told i guess i'm believer in the white man magic. not in the aspect that ur post mentioned but as regards technology. but if a Nigerian or an African is capable, why not? i don't know our technological strengths but with something as important as transportation, it might be the best to get the very best. the repercussions otherwise are not worth it.


Of course, we must get the very best. If not, we will pay the price in the future. But, there are those that have proven themselves to be capable of being the very best but they get overlooked, in my opinion, specifically because they are Nigerian or at least not foreign.

Just my opinion, though. I have no problem with GE. They are extremely capable, I just believe in strategy and using our position of power to garner advantages and empowerment.

Thanks for the comment though!

ijebuman said...

"Yardy should have demanded that any company we work with be run by a Nigerian or African, at least."

I think its a leverage our current leaders are not aware of or they're just too dazzled by the ‘powerpoint presentation’ by the oyinbo ceo.

This issue transcends all aspect of our economy, we allow multinationals to operate in our country without enforcing any quota on the number of expatriates they can employ despite having a large pool of qualified Nigerians who can do the job.

Waffarian said...

I have mixed feelings on this one. The roads that are so terrible in that country, were they not given to "naija contractors"? is it not always the same story, millions of dollars worth of contract awarded to a local contractor and then........NOTHING! In most cases, nobody even knows "who" the contractor is. So, while I really believe in Nigeria and know for sure that there are people there with the brains and know how to help develope our country, past history shows otherwise. Right now, I really don't care who does the job, as far as it is done PROPERLY. Its enough with all the unfinished/half-way jobs in that country.

Dami said...

hmm GE has a proven track record in the power sector,i doubt if an y Nigerian company can handle a power plant.
i understand the whole crux of the issue but remember we should get only the best for the job there are so many shoddy Nigerian contractors who end up selling to India or Lebanese companies.
Nigerian were called from the UK as consultant to some of the rail projects(from punch-august)

Jaja said...

It would uplift Nigerian if yardy insists on nigerian heading such contracts.. but there is another side to this..
Our civil society has always suffered a faliure of Responsibility and leadership.. from leadeers, contractors, civil servants..

We seen this happen over and over and over again. the 'Nigerian Factor' a phrase actively resent.

But having said that, I love the feeling of being stood up for.. I would like yaradua to do that..but also something needs to be done about accountability...

the recently built roads to the airport in Port harcourt is falling apart.. Who in the world are the contractors that built them..? Where are they???

abeg I no wan vex this morning..

snazzy said...

If GE were to come in, their role will not be the actual building or construction stuff their role will be project management. The sad truth is that almost every Nigerian company, that has successfully done any large scale project worth talking about in the last 8 years has in part or in whole outsourced the project management aspect of the job.

However what has changed is that a lot of the subcontracting for projects (i.e most of the billable work) is being done in naij by nigerian companies and people and these companies are building skills and competence.

For example the expenditure profile for the oil and gas industry in the next 5 years is over $50 billion and the expenditure profile in power is about $20 billion. An obscene amount of that $70 billion will be earned by Nigerian companies.

Here is what a lot of people forget, "development industries" and the oil and gas industry tends to make the only the people directly involved stupid money. There are not that many forward and backward linkages between those industries and other sectors of the economy. However they create an enabling environment for other things to work cos we roads, refineries, power and so on. So we should be more concerned about the end result than about the nationality of the person that gets the 30% (or 40% in some cases) profit margin.

Nyemoni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nyemoni said...

I think that insisting on Nigerian-run companies for our contracts is good, but it may also cause too much dilly dallying and may prove to slow things down... Although it would be a to the country's benefit i.e elevating one or some of our own, we must not make that the back-bone of awarding contracts. I believe we should give whatever contracts there are out to who will deliver the goods...we (Nigerians)have had so many issues of accountablity from our own so I believe that should not be the key element towards awarding contracts

Atutupoyoyo said...

Some interesting points there. The question you raise "why is Nigeria considering paying an American firm to help us figure out how to solve the problem" is answered by what I call the Julius Berger mentality. This mentality has been ingrained in the thinking of our leaders since the mid 60s when Julius Berger, then a largely German concern, were enlisted as contractors of Eko Bridge. We have not looked domestically since.

I am in encouragement of awarding construction contracts to local firms. However there is the obvious problems of inadequate checks and balances. There is simply no system in place to ensure that work is progressing at the prescribed pace nor is there a way to assess the quality of the work done, other than when yet another luxurious bus swerves to avoid a Grand Canyon sized pothole in the road only to plunge headlong into a 504 carrying 9 passengers.

A foreign company possesses, as part of it's corporate identity, a realisation that goodwill and the reputation of a company has a value that cannot be quantified. They will often use the quality of their work as a bargaining chip to generate further custom. The average Nigerian contractor seems to see each contract as one fat payday. A major road can be completed in one month under such circumstances with scant regard for the longevity of the surface.

The solution is as you suggest; a marriage of local know-how and foreign expertise. Provided the Nigerians are not relegated to the role of suited up field hands, there is no reason why this cannot be to the benefit of Nigerian infrastructure in the long term.

Omodudu said...

Solomon I disagree with you on the suggestion that every company should be headed by Nigeria thingie. It has not worked in the past, it discourages foreign investment, it is a depature from the norms of a free economy, it projects Nigeria as a Zimbabwe and it is one of the surest ways to kill foreign interest in ones country. There is sort of a cobweb effect with this things. Policies like this hurt more than the good they do.
One of the tenets in econ is that the only thing worse than a country being exploited by capitalist is a country that is not exploited at all.
Keep up the good work.

Bro. Tee said...

I disagree with you on this particular point.

The Nigerian businessmen have done much to discourage one requesting that government projects be given to them.

They indeed have the required expertise, but the problem is "cutting corners".

Instead of doing projects to the required standard, they believe that once they "settle" the government officials who are expected to inspect and certify such jobs, then they can get away with any shoddy job.

In Port-Harcourt for example. Many road consructions that were given to local contractors in the past 8years did not last for even six months before they developed all manner of potholes. Any layman observing the work can deduce that the jobs were not been done to standard, yet the contractors are paid and government commissioned such roads.

So, I will rather have foreigners come in at this stage and handle critical infrastructural issues such that we have a good foundation for the next level of development.

Funny enough, I know that the so call foreigners will still employ our people, however, they have proved that they still value their names. As such they cannot afford to do shoddy jobs.

Ayo Adene said...

In the end, maybe it shudnt be about Whiteness or Blackness, as the great neo-political philosopher Michaelus Jacksonus once said in his hit song, "Black or White". In Europe, White people have built some of the most fantastic train systems and roads in the world. Germany has its Autobahn. London has its Tube. New York even has its Underground. Nigeria has its...well, nothing. So in terms of Best Practice, Nigeria shud swallow pride, open eye and invite Oyinbos to implement Rail Systems That Work for us. You already know it will provide jobs and boost the economy. I've been there, seen Trains and Trams abroad, we need them here like Yesterday and it's not gon happen while we consider the color of the engineer's skin.

Beauty said...

We are encouraged to see "snazzy"'s "So we should be more concerned about the end result". This is about the end game, we should be planning for a clean corruption free handover and lessons learnt from the project. That, of course, if it takes off as there has been a huge number of "pies in the sky".

Everyone is a potential leader and it exists everywhere. We are confident that many people are only concerned with the benefits to us all and not who leads this huge money machine. The leadership yield is too tiny compared to the huge number of selfish petty thieves (State Governors et all).

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