Monday, August 31, 2009

Over the last few years, Nigerians have grown accustomed to an increase in kidnappings. Initially used by MEND militants as a tactic to terrorize foreigners working in the nations oil industry, kidnapping is increasingly used by some to make money quickly. Kidnappings have become a lucrative business with the taking of children such as Margaret Hill in 2007, foreigners that have lived in Nigeria and selflessly helped communities for decades, such as Dr. Robert Whittaker, and even defenseless senior citizens across the Eastern region. The most recent publicized kidnapping involved legendary Nollywood actor, Pete Edochie. Edochie played the role of Okonkwo in the series production of Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart'. While Edochie was released unharmed and allegedly without having to pay a ransom, what is clear is that kidnapping has gone beyond being a remote trend to become a constant part of Nigerian existence in certain parts of the country.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Recently, I had a discussion with a Nigerian who argued that Nigerians were wasting their time blaming Yar'Adua for their woes. Instead, he passionately argued, Nigerians should look closer at former President Olusegun Obasanjo who handpicked Yar'Adua to be President and whose failures as President will have long lasting ramifications on the country. After reading the recently released Chatham House report, Thirst For Oil, in which the group compared the experience of Asian companies in the oil sectors of Nigeria and Angola, I cannot help but understand why anyone would want an investigation into the 2-term Obasanjo administration.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

A recent Washington Post article explained that scam artists in Nigeria were beginning to feel the effects of the global recession. Apparently, their victims were holding on tighter to the little money in their wallets meaning it is harder to get these individuals to send out the requisite check or 2 to collect on a dead dictators stolen monies or lottery winnings that the victim never actually played in. As a consequence, scammers were resorting to indigenous charms and medicines to increase their prowess and success. They were also working harder than ever to ensure that their chosen line of illegal business paid off for them. For all the hardships the recession has brought, it might just be the opportunity to steer victims clear of online scams regardless of their origin and give Nigeria a chance to overcome its reputation as the home of online scams.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

I recently watched a video of a favorite Nigerian artist, 9ice, on Youtube, In the video, 9ice is singing along to what is apparently a song from his upcoming album. While doing so, a young child taps on the window and begs for some money. 9ice shoos away the young boy and keeps driving.

What was a video put online to get fans excited about a new album, has now become a heated discussion on the appropriate protocols necessary for dealing with beggars. This issue is pertinent given the fact that beggars are a common site in certain parts of Nigeria as they are in large cities around the world such as Washington D.C., Mumbai, London or New York.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I recently asserted that the drop in Nigeria's oil revenue could be a silver lining because it could motivate all levels of government to diversify their source of income and reinvigorate many ailing domestic industries. Some readers correctly pointed to Lagos State which has managed to generate money independent of the oil money it receives from the federal government. In fact, in 2007 Lagos State achieved a GDP of N3.68 trillion ($29.028 billion). Other readers questioned the idea that many state governors would work to not rely on the oil wealth they currently depend upon.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

In 'Soiled hands & Strategy: What Nigeria Says About Democracy,' I observed that despite the flawed Nigerian presidential elections in 2007, the world was willing to look the other way and welcome Yar'Adua with open arms. Those elections were considered by all observers, domestic and foreign, to be fraudulent. At the time, many countries and individuals made strong public statements in reaction. Nevertheless, the U.S. and many other global powers were quick to send dignitaries to attend the inauguration of Umar Yar'Adua, despite how he came to power. Then, as now, Nigeria's oil speaks volumes and the world, including the United States, is forced to listen attentively. And, Nigerian officials continue to make basic mistakes that are capable of jeopardizing the possibility of peace in the country.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adu
(Sunday Alamba/AP)

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, lands in Abuja, Nigeria, the world watches keenly to see how her visit with Nigeria's leadership will be. After Obama's recent trip to neighboring Ghana and, the glaring omissions of that trip, it will be interesting to hear exactly how Ms. Clinton will go about taking "a tough line" on the needs for electoral reform, violence, an end to the corruption in government and the problems in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Nigeria remains the top African exporter of oil to the US, it is the United State's largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. is home to a growing number of Nigerians in the diaspora. These realities are not lost on America's leadership and according to Assistant US Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson,"Nigeria is undoubtedly the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa". Questions remain as to what issues the Nigerian government will in turn raise with their powerful ally.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In late April, the offices of the Benue State government was raided. On a hot night, thieves stole N2.5 million without leaving much of a trace. Apparently, the thieves entered the office through an opening intended for an air conditioning unit. They tried the safe but after realizing it was empty, they forced open some drawers to gain access to the money.  This was the second such theft in Benue's Government House this year alone.At the time, there were police officers on guard protecting the building and, there was also an accounts officer on duty. Yet, nobody was aware of any thieves entering the Accounts Section.

Almost 4 months later, the mystery of the stolen N2.5 million is still to be solved and even worse, employees at Benue's Government House are yet to receive their salaries for the month of August. The State Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Oklobia Omadachi, told journalists that he signed the salaries about two weeks ago, but could not confirm whether or not staff had received their salary. He also stated that he could not reach his superiors. And, during all this confusion, state employees are going without the pay they need to satisfy their obligations.

It seems this mysterious theft of N2.5 million reflects the way money tends to 'disappear' (legally and illegally) in Benue State. It's governor,Gabriel Suswam, speaks of transparency, accountability and good governance, but, ironically, has spent almost N1 billion in barely 2 years on foreign trips. An additional N6.8 billion has been spent by the governor on "unspecified" gifts. A former Benue State lawmaker has accused the governor of theft to the tune of N23 billion.

Notwithstanding the damning evidence, Suswam has been credited with infrastructural development in some areas of Benue State. This alone has galvanized some and it seems his camp already begun campaigning for reelection although the next elections do not take place until 2011 and in direct opposition of President Yar'Adua's call to all governors to hold off on early campaigning. It would be interesting if the governor took some time to look into this situation and ensure that staff receive the salaries due them.

If there is one thing that happens far too often in Nigeria, it is that people go for weeks, months and sometimes years, without pay. Benue State staff should obviously get paid, especially since the state's Commissioner for Finance stated in June 2009 that Benue is capable of functioning during the economic downturn. When this will happen, remains the question.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Like any other country, Nigeria takes the time to grant citizenship to foreigners that meet certain requirements. A main way for foreigners to obtain Nigerian citizenship is via 'naturalization', which requires the following - an individual must be at least 17 years that resided in Nigeria for at least 15 years, is of good character, plans to remain in Nigeria, is familiar with Nigerian language and customs, has a viable means of support, and has renounced previous citizenship. Another way is through 'registration' and this mostly applies to women (not men) married to a Nigerian citizenship. Of course, individuals with at least one Nigerian citizen for a parent can also become Nigerian citizens themselves.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Boko Haram is the militant Islamist sect responsible for the death of at least 800 individuals in northern Nigeria during a series of attacks in late July. It's attack began in Bauchi State and soon spread violence across other predominantly Muslim states, forcing 4000 to flee their homes, according to officials. In addition to the deaths, businesses, homes and churches were burnt in the process. Its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was apparently killed in custody by officials, despite initial assertions to the contrary, and in the aftermath of the violence which spanned several states, there remain many unanswered questions.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ask some Nigerians what it is about their country that they would change and many would say, "Everything." Others argue that corruption is the key problem that underlies every other issue faced by the country. In response to this belief that tackling corruption would help solve other issues, various tactics have been employed by the Nigerian government, expending money, time and the goodwill of citizens and foreigners alike. But, what if the emphasis on corruption has been misplaced? What if there is a different 'problem' whose solution could ease the quest for development and advancement across the Nigerian spectrum?

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