BEING CYNICAL ABOUT CEMENT, NIGERIA & THE IFC

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I believe that cynicism can be very healthy if it is balanced. By balanced, I simply mean that even cynics must be open to the possibility that their cynicism may prove unwarranted. When it comes to Nigeria, I have learned time and again, that a healthy dose of cynicism is necessary to navigate through the turbulent waters of Nigerian politics.

So, this cynicism guided my approach to discussing Yar'adua's recent lifting on the cement importation ban. I believe in thinking critically, and consequently, I couldn't just take Yardy's action at face value. I implored to do a little research and low and behold, the harder I looked, the more potentially questionable information I discovered.

IMNAKOYA'S POINT...
Nevertheless, Imnakoya (if you haven't been by his blog recently, you really must go there and watch "Ghana go hear Wien") rightly pointed out that we must not be overly cynical and he noted that the Obajana Cement project (please read initial post and comments for context) is one that will be beneficial to Nigeria in the long run. He also noted that the project was financed by the IFC and that this fact should temper our concerns about any possible improprities surrounding the origin of the project.

AN IFC INSIDER LAYS DOWN THE LAW
I called up a friend who works for the IFC and spends her days greenlighting projects such as the Obajana Cement project. She informed me that even though some of us are concerned about any possible unjust enrichment or undue influence, we should not be afraid. She, let's call her Susan, stressed that the World bank and all its affiliates are under pressure to ensure that all dealings are not just financially sound and profitable, but that they also be ethically sound. Susan also tried to reassure me that if any impropriety is revealed, the IFC will pull its funding.

MY THOUGHTS
It was good to speak to Susan and learn from someone who is an integral part of IFC funding operations. However, her conviction that the Obajana Cement project was most likely trustworthy and her unquestioning belief that any future or former signs of impropriety would bring an end to the company's funding did not completely convince me.

I believe that Banks are in the business of making money. As such, without any additional factors, withdrawing funding from a potentially profitable project that will provide jobs, good will and be helpful to all the European funders (and there are many) that put money into the Obajana Cement project, will probably not happen. Business is business. Besides, the question I ask myself is would I want people that are depending on Obajana Cement to suffer if there is a withdrawal of funding from the project because they lost their means of livelihood? I might be a cynic, but I am not evil and I understand that a legal job, any job, is better than no job at all.

So, congratulations to everyone else who is involved in the Obajana cement project. I sincerely applaud you for creating a venture that will bring jobs to Nigerians and will provide Nigeria's construction industry with affordable cement. And by the way, despite what we think about various Big Boys, Dangote is one Big Boy that is working the publicity machine to its fullest. His advisors should be commended. Dangote recently made serious donations to a few orphanages in Nigeria.

Further reading:
- Did Yar'Adua Lift The Cement Ban For The People's Benefit?

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A READER'S REACTION...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I received the following via email and it is a response to I think Nigeria Needs a 'Revolution' and also reacts to a post that was on The Afrobeat.

I am curious to know your thoughts on this one...

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PUTTING A NIGERIAN 'REVOLUTION' INTO CONTEXT

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The word revolution can mean many things. A quick look at a dictionary or thesaurus provides many synonyms for it. However, no matter how you twist or bend it, the word 'revolution' has a historical connotation of violence, bloodshed and turmoil. Given this historical context, I wish I had a term other than revolution to express the change I wrote of in my last original post. Despite clearly stating that I am against the use of physical violence to enforce change, a look at the discussions that my 'Nigerian Revolution' post created shows that many commentators have understandably tied my suggestions of radical change to violence.

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A WEEK OF REJOINDERS....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The last few weeks have been quite eventful and fast paced. As such, it has been difficult to adequately respond to many of the ideas generated by our discussions at this blog.

Consequently, I will spend this week writing 'rejoinders' - acknowledging and responding to many of the comments that various posts have elicited. I believe that this is necessary to disclose my mostly revised thoughts on various issues. I will frankly admit that on many issues, I have managed to adjust my opinion based on the discussions we had here. As such, I believe that it is only fair to admit this in full detail.

Therefore, the 'Rejoinders' schedule is as follows -

  1. My Nigerian 'Revolution' Meme/I think Nigerian Needs a 'Revolution' - Monday, 01/28
  2. Did Yar'Adua Lift The Cement Ban For the People's Benefit? - Wednesday, 01/30
  3. Polygamy and the State of the Nigerian Union - Friday, 02/01
I hope that you will take the time to stop by, read these posts and even make a comment or two. Your input is always appreciated, even when it differs from mine. It is only through the exchange of ideas that we can gain intelligence and maybe, someday, wisdom.

The Nigerian Curiosity Person of 2007 will be announced on February 4th. Be sure to check it out. Also, vote at the poll if you are yet to do so.

Enjoy your weekend!


RIP Viv, I miss you greatly and am crushed that TE, TK and Bomboy never got to meet you. Nonetheless, I thank God for the time I had with you. You will never be forgotten, my dear cousin. God bless.

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'MY NIGERIAN REVOLUTION' Meme

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blogville has a new meme - My Nigerian Revolution Meme

Nigerian bloggers are drafting their ideas of what a Nigerian Revolution would like like to them. The first meme is from Omodudu.com and can be read here. Please watch this space for links to memes from other bloggers. Also, feel free to write one of your own. It can be long or short and say whatever you want. Send me an email and I'll add it to the list so other can read.

NIGERIA, WHERE MANY ARE ONE.

  1. Omodudu at Omodudu.com
  2. Imnakoya at Grandiose Parlor
  3. Snazzy at Aijuswanarite
  4. Caretaker at African Loft
  5. Nigeria Politricks at Nigeria Politricks
  6.  For The Love Of Me at For The Love Of Me
  7. Rethots at Musings


Further Reading:
- Putting A Nigerian Revolution in Context
- I think Nigeria Needs a Revolution

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I THINK NIGERIA NEEDS A 'REVOLUTION'

Sunday, January 20, 2008

That got your attention didn't it? I bet it did. You saw the words 'Nigeria' and 'Revolution' in the same sentence and you couldn't resist. I don't blame you. Considering the uncertainty and the frustration many feel, I wouldn't be surprised if some part of your consciousness lit up at the possibility of such a thing happening in Nigeria.

http://greencanada.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/revolution.jpg

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MULTICULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS: A NIGERIAN PERSPECTIVE

Friday, January 18, 2008

Many Nigerian parents expect their children to eventually marry an individual that is of the same religion and tribe. One of the reasons usually given for this attitude is that doing such will lessen marital strife. For Nigerians who leave the country for business or education abroad, they are often warned that bringing a foreigner as a spouse is forbidden and instructed to find a Nigerian to marry instead. However, in a world where advances make our ability to interact with each other easier and where Nigerians are forced to work and live with foreigners in their midst, is it reasonable to force one's children to limit themselves to a specific religion, tribe, race or nationality when they choose to marry?

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DID YAR'ADUA LIFT THE CEMENT BAN FOR THE PEOPLE'S INTEREST?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It appears Yardy is trying to convince Nigerians that he has their interests at heart. He is now reversing Obasanjo's ban on cement importation. According to Nigeria's Punch newspaper, Yardy approved the mass importation of cement into the country. Apparently, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Charles Ugwu, presented Yardy proposed the idea because the nation is experiencing a deficit of 13000 tonnes of cement necessary for various works. Ugwu said,

"we established that there is a shortfall with regards to supply and requested President Yar’Adua to approve, in accordance with the cement policy, the importation of the differential between demand and the established local production capacity.”
He also went on to stress that this act was for the benefit of the Nigerian people.

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NIGERIAN CURIOSITY'S PERSON OF 2007

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The race is on to announce Nigerian Curiosity's Person of 2007. Who would you recommend as the Person of 2007? A villain? A dreamer? An activist? It doesn't matter who he or she is as long as (s)he is Nigerian and has arguably had an impact on Nigeria and Nigerians.

I have a few people in mind, but want to know what you think.

Get curious.


Hattip to Ijebuman, whose Ijebuman's 2007 Awards convinced me that it is not too late to do this.

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RIBADU'S REMOVAL

Monday, January 7, 2008

The circumstances surrounding Ribadu's alleged removal are convoluted. Last week, Nigeria's current Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, informed the media that Ribadu was one of seven senior police officers that must spend a year studying in Jos. Despite this very public announcement, Ribadu responded that he was never informed of the proposed transfer. Aondoakaa has since come out and informed Nigerians that Ribadu's removal was not without Yar'Adua's permission. With each passing day, there is some new piece of information that continues to impress upon some that this removal is an attempt to derail the anti-corruption crusade which has netted big fish like Ibori and just recently focused the resources of the EFCC on Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello. It is highly doubtful that the average Nigerian will ever know what exactly has happened and why.

There are many things about this situation that I simply do not know, but a few issues keep reverberating in my head, especially at night.

WHY THE DEAFENING SILENCE?
I know that the President of Nigeria has a lot on his plate, but, as I have said in the past, there comes a time when a leader must converse with the people (s)he leads. Effective presidents rise to the occasion particularly when citizens are experiencing a period of confusion and uncertainty. Now would be a good time for Yardy to either have a tete-a-tete with Nigerian citizens or at least issue a statement that clarifies his stance on this matter.

Last week, Aondoakaa suggested that Yardy gave his 'blessings' for the transfer. However, considering the bad blood between Aondoakaa and Ribadu, I do not think that he should be the President's mouth piece on this issue. When discussing the incessant back and forth between Aondoakaa and Ribadu in 'SABOTAGE: AONDOAKAA VS. RIBADU ET. AL.', I stressed the importance of Yardy talking to the people. I believed then and do now, that it will make the difference of reassuring Nigerians that their hopes for a Nigeria where corruption does not pay was not in vain. If I may repeat myself, again, "Can someone please impress upon him that comments by Aondoakaa will not suffice...."

More recent reports have the President's spokesman also suggesting that his boss gave permission for Ribadu's study leave. However, the spokesman came short of actually saying that Yar'Adua actually wants Ribadu to be in Jos for the year. Why the bait and switch moves? All Yardy has to do is come out and say that this is a Police matter and that he will not intervene. Clearly, he is trying to avoid the problem - he just refused Ribadu's entry to Aso Rock. But, I will say this again, as President of the country, he does not have the luxury of avoiding the tough issues. Sometimes, and this is a perfect situation, he has to answer to the people.

IS THIS "FAIR AND TRANSPARENT"?
President Bush recently hailed Yardy as a President committed to providing Nigerians with a government that is "fair and transparent." My gut tells me that this act of removing Ribadu from the EFCC has nothing to do with such attributes and more to do with satisfying the 'gods' that want to stem the anti-corruption crusade and protect their interests and secrets. Additionally, removing Ribadu at this particular point in the nation's agenda against corruption sends the wrong message - if you work hard, you will be punished. Nigerians are finally excited by the fact that previously untouchable characters are now forced to return stolen public money and others will defend themselves in a court of law. This is unprecedented in Nigeria, so why derail the process? If the EFCC is doing a good job, why remove its chief without adequate notice so that the Commission can adequately prepare for a new Chief who will continue to work towards the Commission's mandate? Would that not have been "fair and transparent"?

WHEN WAS RIBADU INFORMED OF THIS TRANSFER?

As of January 4th, Ribadu has now announced that he will be going on study leave to Kuru, but it still is unclear when exactly he was informed that he needed to go. However, up uptil last night, Nigerian newspapers insisted that he had not been personally informed via communication tith the Inspector General of Police of the course. Keep in mind that Okiro announced Ribadu's removal on December 25th, 2007. According to pursuant information, the Police course is set to begin in February 2008 and run until the end of the year. How can a participant adequately plan to spend the majority of the year in another state (though it is in driving distance from Abuja where Ribadu resides) without adequate notice?

WHEN WILL OUR LAWS BE STREAMLINED?
I hate to lay blame at the feet of Obasanjo, but I think there is enough blame to pass around. Remember what happened when he brought Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to run the Ministry of Finance? Her salary contract caused consternation because it denominated her pay in U.S. dollars and not Naira, Nigeria's currency. That was in direct conflict with laws already inplace that required all Nigerian officials to be paid in Naira.

With regard to the current situation, Obasanjo's decision to elevate Ribadu to Assistant Inspector General as a means to keep him in office after the transition to Yar'Adua's administration plays a key role in the current confusion that Nigerians are experiencing. Ribadu is beholden to the laws and requirements of Nigeria's police force and must honor his instructions as a police officer. My curious mind cannot help but wonder whether that was a ploy by OBJ to keep a potential leash on the EFCC that can be used if and when necessary. Before anyone attacks me for raising a potential conspiracy theme, please do not forget that Ribadu's study leave came up less than a week after Iyabo-Obasanjo-Bello's allegedly fraudulent activity was revealed to the public.

Nevertheless, as was the case with Okonjo-Iweala, our laws are unclear. Who does Ribadu answer to? The President, the Inspector general of Police, the National Assembly or no one at all? It appears that the EFCC Act "does not permit the President or the Inspector-General of Police to send the EFCC agents and other personnel on any course..." Too often, our laws are in conflict with each other. Whatever the case may be, I am glad that the National Assembly has committed itself to reviewing the constitution this year and hope that this move will also lead to a clarification of other laws that constantly conflict with each other.

This Ribadu situation raises so many issues that I hope will be resolved sooner, rather than later. As is usually the case, only time will tell what will happen. I desperately hope that the EFCC will overlook this bureaucratic confusion and get back to investigating corrupt individuals and forcing them to pay up.

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BARACK OBAMA & KENYA

Friday, January 4, 2008

The results are in and Barack Obama decisively won the Iowa Caucus. His win in Iowa, which is over 90% white, suggests that his message of change resonates with voters. By beating Hillary Clinton by over 9 percentage points, he has also proven that a Clinton is not untouchable. That being the case, it is no mistake that Hillary's husband, former President Bill Clinton, was known as the comeback kid. When he ran for President, he did not win the Iowa Caucus but still managed to become Commander in Chief. That history of coming from behind will most likely benefit Hillary who still has the opportunity to prove that she can become the first female President of the United States.

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ON TICKING TIME BOMBS: KENYA, NIGERIA ET.AL.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Western coverage of Kenya's post election violence frequently focuses on the West's shock that a "stable", "democratic" country, could descend to such chaos. I, on the other hand, am not surprised by the current circumstances that Kenyans are experiencing. Kenya reflects a confluence of problematic factors that is common to many African countries and I am surprised that this fact is repeatedly ignored.

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DEVECONDATA - ELECTION RESULTS INFO

Election info from subsaharan Africa is available at

http://africanelections.tripod.com/


hattip to Chris @ http://chrisblattman.blogspot.com/

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DEVECONDATA - ELECTION RESULTS INFO

Election info from subsaharan Africa is available at

http://africanelections.tripod.com/

Read more!