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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Nigeria-Community,Society,Collaboration and Development

A society is a group of people defined by the same geographical territory,institutions,political authority and,frequently,cultural exposures.It can also be used to refer to a group of people characterized by relationships based on social status,functions,social networks and political/economic expectations.Men first came together in a group,in an attempt to ward off the predator,whether man or beast.In the earliest society formed by man,the hunter-gatherer society,man lived as a nomad,moving from place to place as he foraged for food.However,as man discovered agriculture,the cultivation of crops and breeding of animals for food,he was able,not only to guarantee food supplies,but also to create food surpluses,while living in one location.

Guaranteed and surplus food supplies made it possible for man to stop wandering from one location to another.Thus man could settle down in one place,build a permanent settlement,thereby forming a sedentary society.Surplus food meant those people not required for food production,could turn their attentions to other pursuits.This led to division of labour as people specialized in the performance of specific economic activities.In time,these settlements became complex,stratified and densely populated,growing to become the towns and cities that we know today.Although agriculture,by providing the means of creating food surpluses,was key,the importance of man’s willingness to collaborate with his fellow man should not be discounted,in the development of civilization.

Collaboration,the process of two or more people or organizations agreeing to work together to achieve certain aims,enabled the process of specialization.According to that definition,the only commonality for the collaborating parties is the set objective.To collaborate,it is not necessary to have the same tribal or religious affiliations.It is necessary to understand this in order to appreciate the true essence of a society.Unlike the community,say your typical village,where membership is affective,based on consanguinity,relationship by blood,birth or marriage,integration in a society is based on commodity-exchange.A society is a mechanical contraption that facilitates commodity-exchange.Everybody brings something to the table.Societies are about skill-exchange.

This should be food-for-thought for Nigerians,especially the leadership.There should be a re-think of the way this country is run.Too much is made of tribal and religious affiliation.Tribal or religious homogeneity is not necessary for productive collaboration.We can collaborate across these lines,with focused leadership.We need to understand that we can only develop by creating more than we consume.Economic growth is about creating value,and this happens only through education and collaboration.We need to equip our people with the necessary skills so they can go out there and produce.Right now we are only concerned with sharing the oil money.This is wrong.This sort of thinking is a throw-back to the political economy of the hunter-gatherer society,which was organized to ” gather food” and then uproot itself to another location,when it has completely defoliated it’s present location.When the oil runs out,do we also move to another country.?


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Nigeria-Because of Christmas Day

As the classic Boney M song goes,”men will live forevermore,because of xmas dayyyyy!!!”How true.For on xmas was born Jesus,who came that all men would have life,and have it more abundantly,according to the gospel of John chapter 10 verse 10.This is the true significance of xmas.On this day God gave mankind the ultimate gift:eternal life through belief in his Son,Jesus.

As the gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16 puts it,”For God so loved the world,that he gave his only begotten son,that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,but have everlasting life”Wherever you may be now,you can receive this gift of eternal life,by saying this simple prayer:Lord Jesus,i believe you died for me,forgive me my sins,come into my life and become my Lord and Saviour right now,thank you Jesus for saving me,amen.If you prayed that prayer,you are now born-again.Look for a bible-believing church to worship in.

Merry xmas wishes to all,if belated.God bless you all.

Nigeria-Poverty,Prostitution and Human Trafficking

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol), an international set of diplomatic guidelines established by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime,adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy in 2000,human trafficking is defined as  “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used. ”

Simply put,human trafficking is a form of slavery as it involves trade in people for the purpose of labour or commercial sexual exploitation.Much of western Europe and the United states are listed as top destinations for victims of human trafficking. Countries that are major sources of trafficked persons include Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, and Romania.A look at the list above,shows that the source countries are mainly poor,while the destination countries are affluent.Obviously,the destination countries have to be rich enough to pay for the services of the victims.Clearly the disparity,in wealth between the source and destination countries,helps to explain,to some extent,the vigour  and resilience of human trafficking.As long as destination countries are seen to provide opportunities,for self-improvement,that are absent in source countries,labour and sex trafficking will persist.

However with sex trafficking,forced commercial sexual exploitation,it is not just the difference in wealth between home and host countries that is driving it. The asymmetry in the legality of prostitution,between home and host countries,is a key factor.In most of these source countries,prostitution is illegal.Being illegal,prostitution is not recognized by the law as a legitimate activity,neither can it be regulated.As a result,the prostitutes have no rights and are completely vulnerable,not only to  sexually transmitted diseases,pimps and extortionate  “security” agencies,but also to traffickers,as they can have no recourse to the protection of the law.Legalizing prostitution will empower the prostitutes by giving them rights that can be legally enforced,which would give them some protection against the predators that are the scourge of the night-life business.

Legalizing prostitution calls for more guts and rationality than are usually displayed by these source countries’ governments.For a start,in most of these countries,people are religious  and subscribe to the view that prostitution is a sin.Sure,i agree.But the fact it is a sin does not have to make it a crime.It is not the business of the state to determine an individual’s route to heaven,paradise or spiritual harmony.The business of the state is the protection of life and property,and facilitating the individual’s pursuit of happiness within that remit.The government should not have any spiritual revelation,not to talk of imposing it on anybody.This is the essence of the church-state divide.This cotract restricts the government to a secular interpretation and limitation of it’s interventions.Make no mistake about it,prostitution is driven by poverty.Just look at it’s definition:it is the rendering of sexual service by one person to another,in return for payment.Poverty fosters prostitution.Given that fact,we are better off acknowledging and regulating it,rather than ignoring it,as it is not going to disappear anytime soon.

Nigeria-Nollywood,Information Goods,Digital Piracy and Differentiation

Nollywood

Nollywood is the moniker for Nigeria’s film industry.Although the first Nigerian films were made in 1960s,by the likes of Ola Balogun and Hubert Ogunde,it was the release of the box-office movie Living in Bondage in 1992 by NEK Video Links owned by Kenneth Nnebue in the eastern city of Onitsha,that gave birth to Nollywood as it is known today.The film,Living in Bondage,became so succesful,that other video business owners became film makers,overnight.According to UNESCO,in 2009,Nollywood became the second-largest film industry in the world,in terms of number of films made,after Bollywood,and the second-largest employer of labour in Nigeria. According to Hala Gorani and Jeff Koinange formerly of CNN, Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, churning out some 200 videos for the home video market every month.

It is safe to say that Nollywood has come a way in about 20 years of it’s existence.But it has much farther to go,if it is to achieve global reckoning.For truth be told,much of it’s fare is of indifferent quality.But make no mistake about it,Nollywood is important.Not only because it is economically relevant,as an employer of labour,but also because it is a vehicle through which Africa can tell it’s story,from it’s own perspective.Most Africans suffer from an inferiority-complex,which is why we seem to have an aptitude for mediocrity.We seem to think it is our birth-right to fail,especially where governance is concerned.Predictable after hundreds of years of slavery and colonization.But i believe the black race is the equal of any.We just need to be told that.This is what our movies can do for us.

Through the medium of film,we can learn about our roots,origins and about who we truly are.This understanding of our past is necessary,if we are to achieve all our aspirations as a people.I am not advocating the making of propaganda films,sponsored by the government.Films should be honest and reflect society as seen by their makers.The artist should have the latitude to express himself.Too often,you hear government officials complaining that some films do not portray the country in a good light.Sure,some films are distasteful.But no one judges the Unted States on the basis of it’s porn industry.This is because the US film industry,Hollywood,is differentiated,into category A movies,videos and then porn/fetish,with the category A movies representing Hollywood.As a result,when you think Hollywood,you think of category A movies.Nollywood should take a cue from them.

Lack of differentiation is the reason Nollywood appears to over-produce.With differentiation,we would not be talking about 200 movies a month; no,we would be talking about ten percent of that figure as category A movies,the others would just be videos.The ten percent would be representative of Nollywood,and of much higher quality than the rest.International film festivals or organizations seeking Nigerian films would,most likely,take their pick from the ten percent,instead of trawling through thousands of indifferent videos,making life easier for everyone.Although we lack a network of theaters and established studios,the mechanism through which Hollywood is differentiated,by intelligent regulation and robust enforcement,we can achieve the same objective.A movie is an information good,meaning that it’s value is tied to the information contained therein.This gives it certain unique properties.

Movies are experience goods,meaning that you have to experience them to know whether they are any good.This uncertainty of utility- problem,whereby the process of assessing the utility or value of a movie,is bundled with it’s consumption,creates a problem for it’s marketing.Consumers will not pay unless they know it is worth the price.And they may not pay,if they have already seen the movie.To get around this problem,publishers resort to three devices:advertising/trailers;brands/reputation;and third-party reviews.For Nigeria,i would choose the review option.I advocate a college of reviewers,with members drawn from our electronic and print media.Ideally,there would be a board of ten media houses,which would rate movies on a scale of 1 to 5,according to clearly agreed parameters.Category A movies would have a rating of 4 or 5.The rest would be just videos.

Movies are non-rival and nonexcludable.This means that one person’s consumption is not at another person’s expense.Movies also have the problem of high fixed costs and low marginal costs.This means that whereas the cost of production is high,the cost of re-production is low.This cost problem and the nonexcludability property make movies susceptible to illicit copying or piracy.The problem of digital piracy is worsened by the fact that Nollywood operates a pirate-friendly business model.A movie of indistinct quality is sold in four different parts,pricing it out of the reach of private consumers,who cannot afford to pay four times for one movie.The prominence of video clubs,which constitutes a form of piracy, is driven by this high-margin business model,as consumers opt for rentals only.Nollywood can reduce piracy,if it differentiates and delivers it’s movies in one part.People would definitely buy  category A movies if they were delivered as one disc.

Nigeria-Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,Dick Cheney,Domestic Corruption and Supranational Intervention .

Dick Cheney

According to Saharareporters,an online community of international reporters and social advocates, “former US Vice President, Dick Cheney, may soon have a “red notice” issued for his arrest as the Nigerian authorities today(7/11/2010) officially filed corruption charges against him before a Federal Capital Territory High Court judge in Abuja.Prosecutors in the Federal Attorney General’s office, led by Godwin Obla, confirmed to Saharareporters from the Office of the Minister of Justice that Nigeria has officially filed 16 -count charges to bring Dick Cheney to trial for corruptly enriching Nigerian officials when he led Halliburton, an oil services firm that distributed over $180 million to top Nigerian officials in order to obtain juicy contracts from the Nigerian government.The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is spearheading the trial of Mr. Cheney and others. According to Mr. Obla, the next steps include issuing a bench warrant and seeking the help of the Interpol to track dow and arrest Mr. Cheney to enable him face trial in Nigeria.”

A lot of Nigerians feel that the economic and financial crimes commission,EFCC,in pursuing Dick Cheney,is putting the cart before the horse.The feeling is that the EFCC should have first gone  after the Nigerian recipients of the alleged bribes.In other words,the EFCC should name and prosecute the “big men”,probaby top government officials,who collected the alleged bribes.The EFCC seeming unwillingness or inability to go after the Nigerians involved in the alleged bribe incident,underscores the problems faced by domestic law-enforcement agencies created to fight against domestic political corruption,in Africa.Given that most of the people allegedly involved in acts of corruption are top government officials and their cronies,it is difficult for an agency appointed and funded by the same government to indict them.

With no one to keep them in check,top government officials are a law on to themselves.They behave with impunity.It is no wonder that the main reason Africa is poor,is because it’s leadership is poor and corrupt.Very corrupt.When the sole motivation for seeking public office is self-aggrandizement,meaningful and sustainable development will not happen.Instead,a culture of impunity and corruption will be fostered.In such an atmosphere,people of integrity will stay out of government,further denuding the system of much needed expertise and quality.If Africa is to overcome poverty and disease,it’s best hands must be on deck.This will happen only in a corruption-free and meritocrtatic system.The fight against corruption will succeed only if top government leaders,past and present,can be held accountable for their actions.

This is where the Dick Cheney case comes in.For me,the big issue here is not the culpability or otherwise of mr Cheney.Rather, it is in the fact that,by bringing charges against a former vice president of the US,we are signing-up to the international police frame-work.We now accept that,our own leaders,past and present,are subject to criminal charges,originating outside our own borders.Given the limited domestic capacity for dealing with the depredations of our leaders,the imminence of supranational interdiction of domestic corruption,calls for celebrations.Supranational is here defined as the ability to act beyond national borders.This means that supranational intervention can be achieved through the efforts of the UN or member-states.

Nigeria-Electoral Theft:Crime Without Punishment Or Perpetrator(s)

In the last few weeks,some state governors have had to vacate their offices,as a result of judicial pronouncements.These pronouncements were the culmination of appeals against the “results” of the 2007 elections,as returned by the electoral body.Begun by the “losing” parties,some these appeals have dragged on for more than three years.During that period,the beneficiaries of those “elections”,appointed by the electoral body,were in charge of the affairs of their state for which they were handsomely rewarded,in the shape salaries,allowances and other priviledges.There is a lot of talk,about not only forcing the evicted governors to regurgitate the emolument collected during their reign,but also prosecuting and jailing them.

But so far,it has been all talk and no action.In keeping with our genius for originality,we have seemingly contrived a situation where,according to the law courts,crimes have clearly been committed,victims exist,and yet there are no suspects charged with committing those crimes.Apparently,the courts have decided that neither the politicians nor electoral broke the law.If this interpretation of the situation is allowed to stand,then stealing of elections would have been given added impetus.For,it is a very good piece of business,to steal an election,occupy the office for some financially highly-rewarding years,then vacate office with your loot intact and no chance of been punished for your crime.

Expectedly,most Nigerians are unhappy about this.The view on the street is that the ex-governors should be made to return all the salaries and allowances,received while in office.My own view is that the focus on the evicted governors is a distraction.Instead,the searchlight should be on the electoral commission.In an election,the electoral officials are the guys calling the shots.While it is true that in Nigeria,elections are rigged through the unholy alliance of politicians and electoral officials,the possibility exists that,in a tight contest between two almost-equally matched aspirants,a genuine mistake on the part of the electoral officials can decide the vote against the slightly-more favoured candidate.In this case,you can not hold the politician responsible for the mistake of the electoral officials.

For me,the first line of action should be the prosecution of the electoral officials involved in any “irregular” elections.In the process of prosecuting the electoral officials,if it is determined that the politician suborned the electoral process,either by bribing/attempting to bribe or otherwise intimidate the electoral officials,then,and only then,can the politician be deemed culpable,and subjected to appropriate punishment.It is therefore very heartening to read that professor Attahiru Jega,chairman of the electoral commission,has declared that electoral officials involved in electoral malpractices,would be prosecuted.If deterrence is to be achieved,the good professor should go further,and initiate the process of  prosecuting those electoral officials who turned the 2007 elections into a mockery.

Nigeria-Public Enterprises,Regulatory Capture,Corruption And Privatization

According to the United Nations,a public enterprise is ‘an incorporated or large unincorporated enterprise in which public authorities hold a majority of the shares and/or exercise control over management decisions’.In other words,public enterprises are corporations that are wholly or partly owned,and controlled by the state.The key point here is that management of these organizations is appointed and controlled by the state.In Nigeria,the history of the public enterprise is a tale of woe,inefficiency and corruption.In every sector of the society,state ownership of companies has proved counter-productive.

The main reason is that management appointments are not based on  qualification,competence and integrity.Usually,appointments are based on such considerations as loyalty to government and political heavy-hitters or the need to reflect ethnic or religious balance.This results in a management that owes it’s emergence to it’s political connections,rather than it’s qualifications,and knows it.These managers are likely to be  loyal  to the  individuals who facilitated their appointments, rather than to the public.To demonstrate their loyalty,they are likely to run their companies to promote the special interests of their benefactors,to the detriment of the public.

The other reason is to do with regulatory capture.Regulatory capture refers to a situation where a state regulatory agency created to protect the public interest in a given sector,instead promotes the narrow commercial and special interests of the groups dominating that sector.This is worst when the groups dominating the sector are public enterprises.Think about that.State agencies regulating state companies.The state as both principal and regulator.Imagine Barcelona football club bringing their own referees to football matches.With public enterprises owned by the government,you can see how easy it would be for them to secure the policy outcomes they prefer,from the regulators,usually to the benefit of special interests,and the disadvantage of the public.

It should be clear now,that state ownership of companies fosters waste,inefficiency and corruption.On the other hand,privatization,which is the sale of state-owned organizations or the transfer of public services to private sector interests,eliminates some of the drawbacks plaguing public enterprises.Such considerations as  ethnic,political or religious leaning would not be the basis,for appointing management in private companies,given that the profit incentive is the reason for their existence.Their main interest being the bottom line,these companies would promote efficiency and merit in order to make profit.This should result in better products and services,to the benefit of the public.To privatize successfully,two conditions must be met.

First,fair market price must be asked.When state are sold cheaply,speculators and other opportunists with little technical know-how or experience in the relevant sector can  afford to buy them.A high price is an entry-barrier that eliminates these people,ensuring that only serious and tested investors can purchase these assets.Having paid a steep price for these companies,the owners have to work hard  in order to recoup their expenditure.This means emphasis on new technology,new technique and efficiency,leading to improved products and services.Low prices let in speculators who lack the know-how or the motivation for improving productivity:having paid a pittance for the assets,they can still turn a profit without any improvement in the running of these businesses.

Second,these assets  should not be sold to government officials as this would lead to regulatory capture,as these owners would use their priviledged positions to extract favourable policy-outcomes from those regulating the sector.Once the regulators get into bed the owners,public interest is sure to be sacrificed on the altar of narrow commercial or special interests.With the ability to manipulate policy in it’s favour,these owners can make a lot of money without necessarily improving or changing the business model underpinning their operations.And if there is no improvement in it’s operations,then products and services will not improve.

The point in this rather long post is that enterprises,whether public or private,exist to provide products and services to the public.When they provide these services,the little guy on the street benefits.When they fail to provide them,the little guy loses.By definition,the little guy has no political connections,and so is unlikely to benefit from a culture of patronage or spoils system,as no one is going to appoint him to the board of some public enterprise.His only chance of benefiting from these enterprises,is if products and services are available and affordable.An outcome that is more likely to be secured through privatization than otherwise.