African Dialogue: The programme discusses current issues pertaining to South Africa and the continent as a whole. The talk show hosts various experts on interesting and important issues affecting Africa and the globe.
Nigeria gained its Independence from the British on 1 October 1960. Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, assured that Nigeria will be great again and that the season for Nigeria’s promotion and progress has come. Osibanjo was quoted as saying that the 58th year of Nigeria’s independence will mark a great new beginning of peace, prosperity and abundance.
To help us unpack the discussion for the day, we are joined by:
- His Excellency Godwin Adama: Consul General Nigeria
- Dr Ola Bello: Executive Director at Good Governance Africa (GGA) in Lagos, Nigeria
Click here to listen
A tuk tuk driver in Lagos Photo: Olasunkanmi Ariyo
Commuting between mainland Lagos and the central business districts on the island remains a lot more onerous than it should. Long delays on the Third Mainland Bridge during peak periods (what Lagosians refer to as the “rush hours”) is both time and energy consuming. This constitutes a major drain on productivity while hindering the city’s strategic economic role. Slow mobility ranks alongside power shortages as a key structural constraint to Lagos’s competitiveness. Implementing creative ideas to optimise existing transport infrastructure will help. The Third Mainland Bridge especially requires urgent planning interventions to unblock what is arguably the most important transportation artery in Nigeria’s commercial capital.
This will bring relief to motorists even as city planners work on devising more long-term solutions. As the urban conglomeration that accounts for a full quarter of Nigeria’s economic output – and Africa’s first genuine contender for the status of a megacity – Lagos must think boldly and tweak more at the edges. Otherwise its longer-term sustainability and bid to consolidate itself as Nigeria’s economic engine will hang precipitously in the balance. A dysfunctional transport system with worsening mobility will have knock-on effects, likely hobbling Nigeria’s potential to drive integration and prosperity.
A system of scheduled lane switches on the Third Mainland Bridge will help to expand capacity for travellers to Lagos’s islands in the mornings and commuters bound for the mainland in the afternoon. The following are proposals around lane optimisation on the bridge, which could significantly expand capacity for accommodating Lagos’s growing vehicular traffic. This author draws on his own anecdotal experience of early morning commutes on the bridge from the island side in Ikoyi to Ikeja on the mainland, a route he plies about four to six times each month. From about 4am to 8am on work days, island-bound commuters using the bridge contend with steady traffic build-up, which slows to a crawl at around 7am. During the afternoon peak hours, usually from 4pm to 8pm, the direction of the pile up is reversed. Workers leaving the island for their homes on the mainland contend with hours-long traffic delays.
On most working days, an observer entering the bridge at about 7am from the Ikoyi/Osborne ramp towards the mainland will notice the build-up of traffic on the four lanes coming towards the island. This usually tails back several kilometres, sometimes snaking unbroken all the way to the Oworonshoki entry to the bridge on the mainland end. A commuter travelling in the opposite direction towards Oworonshoki at this time might struggle to count up to 100 vehicles plying the entire four lanes. It should normally take about 10-15 minutes to travel the 11.8 km length of the bridge from Osborne to Oworonshoki, but commuters travelling this distance at peak periods sometimes need as much as one to two hours. This raises important questions about how a dynamic lane-switch and expanding system could help improve mobility via co-opting excess lane capacity on the opposite side of congested traffic.
Reshuffle to relieve
The whole Third Mainland Bridge needs creative rethinking. Since the bridge consists of four commuter lanes in each direction, there is a strong case for optimising peak flow through co-opting two proximate lanes from the opposite side to supplement the congested direction. This solution will see a dynamic optimisation of the 4+4 lanes, switching it to a 6+2 system when needed. It essentially requires reversing the normal direction of flow on two lanes on the other side (that is, the two closest to the congested side of the bridge). Some traffic can thus be diverted to the other side to supplement capacity. The two makeshift lanes will add to capacity by forming six lanes, thus freeing up the vehicular flow. The two lanes left on the lighter traffic side will still be sufficient for travellers heading in that direction.
Piloting scheduled lane shifts during peak period promises an exciting template that could be applied elsewhere in the city. The process should operate only on work days (Monday to Friday) with a coordinated arrangement in place to smoothly reverse the flow: six lanes will convey traffic towards the island from 7am-10am and six lanes will be open to vehicular flow towards the mainland from 4pm to 8pm.
The importance of good proactive management of dynamically switching lane systems along major commuter arteries cannot be over-emphasised. The devil is in the detail. Many world cities already implement similar approaches based on capacity expansion and constriction in each direction as needed. That has kept commuter cities from Cape Town through to Los Angeles and Tokyo ticking through peak traffic hours. Since the opening of the Third Mainland Bridge in the 1980s, the rapid expansion in the number of vehicles has not seen a corresponding expansion of road infrastructure. Under-capacity of the bridge relative to vehicular traffic growth is therefore one consequence.
Other measures, such as prohibiting some vehicles from plying congested routes on specific days or during specific hours, are more draconian than the capacity-switch system proposed here. Lane switching can alleviate the perennial hardship faced by motorists pending the actualisation of Lagos’s plan to build a 38 km Fourth Mainland Bridge. However, at the core of getting this right – like every public-administration issue in Nigeria – will be good governance of the system. This will require advance publicity, effective commuter education, adequate signage along the entire route, redesign of exit lanes and all other such measures required to create a well-functioning, dynamic and easily understood traffic optimisation system on the bridge.
Piloting this system could allow for another big transformation in Lagos’s traffic management: the creation of a small but uniformed corps to monitor motorists’ adherence to the temporary lane-partition system. This will help deter some of the notorious habits that slow down traffic on the bridge, especially the hundreds of slow-moving vehicles that stay in the fast lanes and obstruct faster moving vehicles. Poor education of motorists over the years, and a general lack of awareness of the drawbacks, has led to “lane-hugging” contributing probably as much as 30% of the traffic build-up, with increasing vehicular entry onto the bridge inevitably slowing down finally to a crawl. The bridge corps will also need to oversee a robustly implemented network of makeshift lanes marked by cones placed at one metre intervals. This will safely partition the two directions of travel. The cones will come into place an hour before the start of the lane expansion at peak-periods in either direction.
A bridge safety corps
While the bridge is a federal road, piloting a state traffic monitoring corps there could help lay the foundation for a dedicated bridge and highway corps. It could gradually grow into a specially trained unit within the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA). Diligent planning and a smooth roll-out will be important to maximise benefits and mitigate potential risks in the system. A careful spatial redesign at specific points is needed to facilitate entry and exit onto the convertible two lanes on the proximate side of peak traffic. This redesign requires some investment but the likely gains for commuters will justify the expenditure.
Even as the fine points of the design and implementation are worked out, extensive precautionary measures will need to be in place to guarantee safety and achieve the intended goal. First, clear signage should be erected well in advance. The bridge corps officers must also be stationed at the entry and exit to the makeshift lanes. They will display information on placards reminding motorists of possible exits if using the two extra lanes.
Second, core components of the system should be carefully piloted before the actual roll-out. One possibility is to dedicate the two extra lanes during the mornings to only those motorists exiting at the Osborne and other ramps further into the island. Another option is to allocate one of the makeshift lanes for the exclusive use of commercial passenger vehicles, which is probably viable given the general shift to longer routing with fewer stops by commercial passenger vehicles.
Third, Lagos is notorious for the large number of motorists (particularly the commercial operators) who ignore road signs, routinely endangering the safety of other road users. Oversight systems and physical barriers will therefore be needed to compel all drivers, for example those needing to exit the bridge earlier at points such as the Oyingbo/Adekunle ramp, to opt for the normal four lanes from their point of entry onto the bridge. Continuing public education and clear and adequate signage throughout the route will guarantee public trust and buy-in for this dynamic-lanes system.
In the longer term, solutions focused on spatial reordering in Lagos will complement short-term tinkering of traffic lanes on the Third Mainland Bridge. In particular, creating safe and well-maintained business clusters and parks in strategic axes on the mainland will help to reduce workers’ commute through congested traffic. Even as city planners pilot such redesign and structural solutions, Lagos stands to derive immediate and sizeable efficiency benefits from switching the existing bridge lanes to aid decongestion at peak traffic hours.
- The Lagos state government needs to explore bolder innovations in traffic management, including the redesign of lanes along major commuter routes and arteries to optimise carrying capacities, even as planners work on longer-term solutions.
- Lagos should leverage the dynamic-routing experience of commuter cities such as Tokyo and Los Angeles. A scheduled switching of the eight-lane, Third Mainland Bridge to form a 6+2 lane system during peak traffic will help optimise flow and expand the bridge’s carrying capacity. This should partially alleviate morning and afternoon traffic congestion.
- More calibrated infrastructure investment is needed in Lagos. An explicit bias towards boosting commercial property development, security and business-enabling amenities on mainland Lagos is needed. Businesses should be incentivised to relocate from the island business districts to modern business parks situated close to working-class neighbourhoods on the mainland.
- In a next step, a holistic spatial redesign of the city should be pursued within a new city masterplan that gives careful thought to decongestion, commuting, and access to services and infrastructure on a more inclusive, sustainable basis. This will create a better urban experience and deliver efficiencies in terms of integrated transportation, housing and commercial zoning.
- A bridge corps should also be created to police makeshift lanes demarcated by cones placed at intervals, better to guarantee partition of the travel directions.
– Nigeria’s mineral revenue sharing formula needs a revamp, to incentivise states beyond the meagre 13% derivation that applies in the more mature oil and gas sector.
– To co-opt states as effective mineral sector administrators, the federal government should target the multiple legal, administrative, practical and other obstacles preventing states from attracting investment partnerships. This will help grow their mineral rents and broader internally generated revenues.
– Reform targeting the artisanal and small scale mining sector needs to be accelerated, in order to unleash poverty reduction and broad-based (especially women) empowerment using Nigeria’s vast development mineral reserves, including semi-precious stones and ornaments.
– A more gender sensitive approach to mining is needed to eliminate legal and other constraints faced by women, such as sections 55 and 56 of Nigeria’s 2004 Labour Act, which prohibit women from working in mines at certain hours and from undertaking manual labour underground.
– A greater focus on experience-sharing among Nigerian stakeholders – and with African peers – will yield practical insights into securing inclusive benefits from the mining sector. This is essential to transcend Nigeria’s extant revenue focus, and to expand jobs, skills and development finance opportunities at the grassroots where their poverty reduction and social transformation impact is greatest.
The pressure to diversify Nigeria’s economy presents opportunities. Yet, deeper reform in mining is needed to realise the sector’s enormous potential. If there is an African country that requires sustainable mining to drive manufacturing for its large internal market, that country is Nigeria. Getting mining right also holds out the promise of national self-redemption, with success potentially mitigating the legacy of the ‘oil curse’. A widely respected mining sector which supports Nigeria’s industrialisation ambitions could be within grasp. This though calls for new governance approaches and dynamic stakeholder learning on a scale never before seen in Nigeria.
Bold changes can help align Nigeria’s mining with global best practises. These include the fiscal, conflict-management, social inclusiveness, technical linkage and the human and gender rights dimensions of governance in the sector. Even as geological exploration lags, Nigeria’s known reserves – modestly estimated at 47 distinct minerals – could support the creation of 250,000 new jobs. The 7th Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) conference took place recently in Abuja. With its theme of ‘Managing Conflict and Security’ the conference highlighted Nigeria’s sustainability challenge which hampers the sector.
Road less travelled
Adorning the walls of informal money-changers throughout Nigeria, an untrained eye may not recognise the value of ornaments created from Nigeria’s semi-precious stones. From upmarket hotels in Abuja and Zamfara, to merchants’ shops in Bayelsa, Lagos and Yola, these semi-precious stones are among the most sought after items by discerning foreign visitors to our shores. Expatriates can usually acquire these ornaments at a fraction of their cost in Asia, Europe and North America. With proper regulation, training and market support, Nigeria’s semi-precious stones, together with dimension stones could provide sustainable livelihood for millions of its citizens. The United Nations Development Programme has been working to increase awareness of the sector’s potential, most notably in its development minerals programme which convened a West Africa regional workshop in Accra in 2016.
As the Abuja sustainability conference unfolded, major national newspapers reported on multiple mining-related incidents in Ebonyi state. These point to worsening communal conflicts driven by illegal mining activities; alleged police brutality against host communities; intra-community rivalries with factions granting partial ‘consent’ to mine operators; and non-compliance of some licenced miners with state tax regulations. In addressing its extractive challenges, some observers complain that Nigeria copies foreign solutions that are ill-suited to our context. In mining, it seems that the key difficulty resides in our treatment of minerals with their distinctive value chains and high labour absorptiveness in the same way that we treat the more mature oil and gas sector.
Whereas states and local authorities are at the frontline, Nigeria’s 13% derivation formula offers paltry incentive to these grassroots governance actors to help reorganise the sector to drive job creation. Unless we give states an attractive stake, Nigeria’s dream of improved mineral sector governance will remain a pipe-dream. If so, we risk in the longer-term being saddled with stranded assets – mineral and energy resources that are no longer economically viable to extract – because we failed to capitalise on them before the world’s productive systems shift wholesale to renewables.
Changing the ground-rules
Any suggestion that states be given autonomy over mines, with a percentage of mineral revenues being remitted to the federal government, is bound to prove controversial. Yet, successful mining countries with federal constitutions similar to ours, including Canada and Australia, allow states control over their mineral endowments. Such arrangement could help states to aggressively grow their internally generated revenues whilst rebuilding tax and royalty collection systems.
Nigeria under President Buhari has been receiving help from the African Mining Vision (AMV), a pan-African initiative for good governance in the mining sector with seven distinct principles on linkages, environmental protection and others. It was endorsed in 2009 by African Heads of State. Working with members of the African Union (AU) Technical Working Group (TWG) advising the institution on AMV implementation, the AU and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) began consultative missions to Nigeria’s mining ministry in February 2016.
The Fayemi-led mines and steel ministry achieved much in terms of the process revamps that are needed, notably in the endorsement of the mining roadmap by the Federal Executive Council in 2016. Among other measures, Nigeria now offers mining investors a three-year tax holiday and a duty-free importation of equipment. Steps are being taken to establish the Nigerian Mining Commission as regulator in the sector and a ‘strategic partnership’ between the federal and state governments on mining is also on the cards.
Nevertheless, much remains to be done, including striking the right regulatory and revenue-sharing balance between the federal and state governments. We should not pretend that we can impose the same fiscal provisions in the embryonic mining sector as those in the well-established oil and gas industry. Adjusting mineral revenue-sharing may require bold changes to Nigeria’s constitution. Inclusive analysis of benefits, diligent sensitisation in mining communities, and proactive consultations among regulatory, corporate, communal and CSO stakeholders will help.
Also, a more substantive gender focus is needed. This will increase the prospects for pro-women, poverty-reduction strategies in the sector, particularly in artisanal and small scale mining. Beyond recalibrating the state-federal fiscal formula, legislative changes should provide for community mining trusts to forestall local strife. Amending gender-discriminatory clauses in the 2004 Labour Act – such as section 55 which excludes women from working at certain hours and section 56 which prohibits the employment of women for manual labour underground – is also key. We must allow women choice even whilst sensitising them on the hazards of working underground. This applies also to operations such as the sieving of ores. Women are preferred for sieving because of their painstakingness. This though disproportionately exposes them to harmful substances such as lead and mercury.
Recovering lost ground
Momentum has since been lost in the Nigeria-AU-UNECA consultations. Still, Nigeria remains one of the more promising contexts for actualising the AMV’s sustainability principles. Going forward, our policymakers must seek closer alignment with AMV principles. We should couple external learning with deeper introspection of Nigeria’s own experiences. We can leverage for example Nigeria’s successful local content approaches in the oil industry. That should make for richer exchanges with African peers and foster holistic national learning. With our large internal market suited to mineral benefaction and minerals-based industrialisation, we could see several green-field mining projects rapidly emerge.
To maximise potential, Nigeria requires a reformed mining education curriculum covering mineral geology, engineering, monitoring Environmental and Strategic Impact Assessment (ESIA), and information technology to drive the mining cadastre. Industry and regulators must work together to identify skills gaps and design trainings specifically for the sector. Whilst approving concessions, we need beefed-up arrangements to monitor Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). If we fail to protect local rights, we will endanger corporate sustainability and stoke conflicts such as the one in Ebonyi and elsewhere. That surely will put paid to the creation of shared value in Nigeria’s resurgent mines. Click here to download
* Dr. Ola Bello, @drolabello holds MPhil and PhD degrees from Cambridge University and is the Executive Director of Good Governance Africa Nigeria (GGA). Copyright©2018 Vol 4, No 10. GGA Nigeria. All rights reserved.
- Nigeria needs to focus attention on procedural anti-corruption, embedded in the impersonal application of the law, institution-building, and matching of appropriate expertise to functions across the public oversight agencies.
- The statutory anti-graft bodies require a root and branch overhaul to strengthen their mandates and capacity. These include the Auditor-General and Ombudsman, and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission among others.
- Also, revamping the judiciary is key to set correct incentives and combat impunity through exemplary, regionally-balanced prosecution of high-level corrupt officials, past and present.
- Nigeria’s leader should emulate African best practices such as the Ghanaian president’s choice of a respected opposition figure to head Ghana’s anti-graft agency.
- Sustained citizen engagement and pressure is the bedrock of effective anti-corruption, with constant vigilance over functionaries untainted by the ethnic and other divisive distractions.
Nigeria is grappling with both historic and recently self-inflicted difficulties in its anti-corruption war. Stumbling blocks have proliferated to thwart the effectiveness of government’s efforts to revamp institutions, tackle mismanagement and wilful theft from the treasury. The operational challenges span institutional weakness, defective personnel, disregard for due-process and a proclivity to create media spectacle to the neglect of serious anti-graft investigations. There exist legion political failings too, such as the government’s lack of political will, questionable sincerity and the naked politicisation which has created sacred cows whilst damaging President Buhari’s credibility. Analysts will likely look back in a decade from now and adjudge his floundering anti-corruption drive as a case-study in how not to combat graft.
The immediate spur for this article is the N1.4tn, which according to Nigeria’s junior oil minister, is now being spent annually on oil subsidy outside the regular budget. Essentially, the difference between the N171 cost of importing petrol per litre and the regulated N145 pump price is being funded from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) as “under recovery”. It is a regrettable moved away from a not very transparent subsidy system towards one that is even more opaque in the extreme. The NNPC spends what is effectively billions of dollars on petrol subsidy, without any detailed account being rendered publicly or the underlying mechanisms transparently explained.
Little wonder that the NNPC has retraced its steps from its widely commended move in 2016 to publish monthly accounts of its financial position. With much of the earmarked subsidy disappearing into private pockets in years past, Nigeria now has even less of a chance at ensuring accountability with the present arrangement. The extant NNPC subsidy programme and the obfuscation over how it is financed away from legislative oversight is the biggest economic corruption scandal that Nigeria has seen in the past three years. And that is leaving aside the currency subsidy in the form of the N285 concessional rate at which the NNPC accesses dollars from the central bank for fuel importation.
Widespread apathy on the part of citizens has not helped to create effective pressure on public functionaries. Nigerians must be more willing to transcend the ethnic and other distractions better to maintain effective vigilance over politicians and bureaucrats. One example is the March 2018 revelation by Senator Shehu Sanni of the unappropriated N13.5m paid to each Nigerian senator monthly and a slightly lesser sum given to those in the lower legislative house as “running expenses”. This was just one in a series of scandals that should normally cause outrage. Nigerians though have failed consistently to leverage such opportunities for mass action to drive change. The bar for anti-corruption is set so low in Nigeria that citizens willingly credit Buhari’s mediocre achievement on graft.
The logical and procedural flaws bedevilling Nigeria’s battle against graft are legion and threaten to drown the nation. The Buhari government’s lack of consistent attention to strengthening procedural accountability remains all-too-central to the difficulty dogging fiscal administration and reform. Changing this will be vital to improve our perception in the Transparency International ranking. For a government that prides itself on its anticorruption stance, the “invisible” subsidy represents a regrettable step backwards in terms of embedding transparency in the workings of government. Efforts to recover loots or to name and shame perpetrators are necessary. More important though is the reshaping of institutions and fine-tuning of processes throughout government to make it difficult to divert or intentionally mismanage public funds in the first place.
Nigeria’s government recently mandated the anti-corruption agencies to investigate violations of the Public Procurement Act of 2007. Many observers doubt the sincerity or even the political neutrality of this sudden show of interest in regularising procurement. It normally should be a routine process overseen by statutory bodies such as the Auditor-General’s office. The latter, however, has been of marginal relevance even as Nigerians agitate unsuccessfully for the public disclosure of the emolument package of national lawmakers. Neither the demand side petitions using Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act of 2011 nor the supply side relying on the discretion of the Auditor-General’s office have led to this information being published. The Public Complaints Commission (the Ombudsman) remains moribund, which arguably suits errant functionaries. Similarly, the limitations of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission Board have been evident through episodes such as the Senator Shehu Sanni revelation on compensations not earmarked but illegally taken by Nigerian lawmakers.
The dominant incentive pattern determines the morality of a society. Alleged mismanagement of Nigeria’s treasury is left unpunished. From the outgone president, Goodluck Jonathan, to his predecessors, all remain immune. It is inconceivable that Nigeria could deter would-be offenders when current and past misdeeds are papered over. A bold anti-corruption leader would take risks in seeking exemplary prosecutions that touch errant public office holders from all of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones. That surely would give the lie to politicians who have always exploited our dysfunctionality and ethnic and religious fractiousness to allege that anti-corruption prosecutions are sectional or biased. Brazil’s former president Lula recently began a twelve year jail term for corruption. Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s immediate past president, is being swiftly brought to justice. In Nigeria, those who pocketed multiples of Zuma’s corruption proceeds still walk free.
Weaknesses, especially procedural ones, have been evident in Buhari’s anti-corruption style from the start. He began brightly by implementing the treasury single account initiative introduced by his predecessor. His government then controversially created multiple windows for foreign exchange. This remains one of the biggest lure to unearned income and large-scale arbitrage ever seen in Nigeria. The damage is only being partly mitigated by the recently introduced and more transparent investors and exporters segment. In legislative terms, the idea of a special anti-corruption court has been mooted but its lethargic consideration by our lawmakers contrasts sharply with their enthusiastic pursuit of the death sentence for kidnapping and hate speech crimes leading to the loss of victims’ lives.
The duplicity in Buhari’s anti-graft fight are littered all around for objective observers to see. This covers cases such as that of Babachir Lawal, former scribe to the government, and his alleged diversion of N220 million intended for those displaced by Boko Haram in the northeast. Ambassador Ayo Oke, former head of the National Intelligence Agency, allegedly hid $43million of government’s fund in a Lagos apartment. The National Health Insurance Scheme’s boss, Professor Usman Yusuf, was reinstated despite being under investigation for fraud involving N919 million. Abdulrasheed Maina, who escaped being arrested for a N2.7 billion pension scam, was brazenly reinstated into the civil service with a promotion. Although directives have been given by President Buhari that all personalities involved in the cases should be investigated, the delayed action from the top came mostly after public pressure.
For those seeking serious examples in prosecuting graft, the recent announcement of a partial and politicised list of so called treasury looters by Nigeria’s information minister is unlikely to inspire much confidence. By contrast, Ghana’s president set a good example in his surprising appointment of Martin Amidu, a respected and uncompromising anti-corruption crusader from the rank of the country’s opposition, to head his new anti-graft agency. With this appointment, Ghana’s president won the public over, sending out an unequivocal message about the genuineness of his effort. A few public figures once considered untouchable from both side of Ghana’s great political divide have since been hauled before the special courts for corruption.
Ghana’s achievement here is not a one-off. The revelation in 2015 by a brave investigator, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who secretly filmed justices receiving bribes, led to the jailing and the premature termination of the career of several judicial functionaries. Nigeria, by contrast, was lethargic in dealing with revelation of justices stashing away corruptly obtained funds, including in a bathroom in one of the cases. The best that Nigerians got was obfuscation and a rare guard action of the sort that has effectively left disciplinary procedures for errant justices in the hand of the National Judicial Council. The body itself is perceived by many to be far from neutral and it can, in any case, only dismiss judicial officers. Its power does not extend to meting out sentences for wrong doers. What incentive patterns are being created when incidents of corruption involving judges cannot be prosecuted in normal courts presided over by one of their own peers but hushed away within disciplinary procedures?
Accepting the obvious
After clashing over the EFCC head, Ibrahim Magu, Nigeria’s president and lawmakers began an economically damaging standoff, which prevented the Central Bank’s monetary policy committee from meeting for months as lawmakers refused to conduct confirmation hearings for nominees to a slew of public offices. In the national interest, why didn’t the squabbling political actors save face by requesting the secondment of a top anti-corruption technocrats from the UK to replace Magu?
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has been almost exclusively in charge of the corruption cases successfully pursued against Nigerian functionaries in the past two decades. British prosecutors helped to nail Nigerian politicians from Alameseigha to Dariye, through Ibori to Deizani Alison-Madueke. The latter’s case is still ongoing in London. A top level international hire to lead the EFCC will inspire younger Nigerian prosecutors to high professionalism. Exposure to a different managerial culture may also encourage them to prioritise professional investigation over the useless media trials.
Defects in the EFCC’s operational culture reflects the background of its heads to date. From Nuhu Ribadu to Farida Waziri all the way to Ibrahim Lamorde and Ibrahim Magu, each has been a career police officer. Leading the EFCC effectively requires skillsets beyond the core policing functions. Serious damages have been incurred as government unwisely side-steps the rule of law. Examples include the continuing detention of Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Advisor, in disregard of court orders. Nothing is more injurious to Nigeria’s bid to instil discipline, probity and accountability than a government which undermines the law in its ill-conceived and incompetent pursuit of justice.
A foreign EFCC head will operate in the full glare of the international community, likely enhancing their immunity from political pressure, manipulation or even blackmail. This is not to suggest that Nigeria lacks suitably qualified citizens who can do the job or that a foreign recruit will approximate a saint. Rather, it is a call for the closing of the circle, to welcome direct and constructive inputs from better-equipped partners that have given Nigeria copious anti-corruption support in recent years. UK prosecutors are especially well-positioned with the unrivalled wealth of financial intelligence they possess on corrupt Nigerian individuals. If Buhari dared, he might find in a foreign anti-corruption czar an invaluable counsel that could boost his ostensible bid to save Nigeria from corruption. That might also strike fear into a few corrupt figures in high places. In the meantime, Nigeria’s future success is increasingly less certain as its self-serving elites pay lip-service to anti-corruption whilst immune from popular pressure.
* Dr. Ola Oladiran Ola Bello, holds MPhil and PhD degrees from Cambridge University and is the Executive Director of Good Governance Africa Nigeria (GGA). @drolabello. Copyright©2018 GGA Nigeria. All rights reserved. Click here to download
Dr Ola Bello, Executive Director, Good Governance Africa (GGA) Nigeria
- Nigeria needs to frame stronger state-corporate coordination on economic policymaking, with a central harmonization role given to a coordinating minister for coherence and strategic clarity.
- An elevated economic management discourse driven by informed and engaged citizens is needed. This requires urgent investment in both a process revamp in government and the establishment of more knowledge generating institutions with specialist focus on Nigerian economic diplomacy.
- More stringent oversight of economic stewardship by Nigeria’s policy elites is also needed with legal provisions for regular monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment and structured stakeholder and broader citizens’ inputs.
Africa’s agreement on a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is aimed at delivering the largest regional trade liberalisation arrangement since the WTO. About 44 African leaders initialed the agreement in Kigali, Rwanda this past week with Nigeria surprisingly pulling out at the last minute. Given the abrupt withdrawal, debates have raged about the coherence of Nigeria’s economic governance. We engaged actively in the CFTA negotiations from its inception in 2015. So why has the country – standing to win much from the agreement – failed enthusiastically to sign up? One answer lies in our lack of a national economic vision anchored in sound analysis that involves government, citizens and corporates alike.
Crafted appropriately, the CFTA’s utility is incontrovertible, especially for the larger economies such as Nigeria. It will pool the strength of all 55 African countries with their 1.2 billion people and combined GDP of over $2tn. It promises expanded intra-African trade, boost to regional value chains and a qualitative African structural economic transformation. Less than one-fifth of Africa’s trade takes place among countries on the continent. Comparable figures for Europe and Asia currently stand at 67% and 58% respectively.
Nigeria’s foremost business figure, Aliko Dangote, averred recently the need for the Nigerian private sector to lead in formulating a national industrial plan that will transcend elected administrations. On the CFTA and our economic diplomacy, a similarly activist and disciplined approach by the private sector will go a long way towards orienting government’s external economic actions.
The cancellation of President Buhari’s trip to the Kigali signing ceremony was ostensibly forced by the determined opposition of the Nigerian Organized Private Sector and labour union. With an ill-informed business leadership and a government seemingly incapable of canvassing stakeholder support in a timely fashion, Nigeria looks unprepared to optimise the CFTA’s benefits. At the symbolic moment, we demurred on an important agreement which could salvage Africa from its perennial economic underperformance. Worse still, our action might have emboldened those opposed in Africa to a more enabling business environment in which our citizens could freely pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and help to drive broader African prosperity.
Nigeria is especially primed to take advantage. Legions of its citizens live across the continent, oftentimes as nimble operators in some of the most stifling regulatory regimes. Thousands of small and medium-sized Nigerian enterprises should enjoy the first mover advantage in a CFTA scenario. They already have a foot on the ground, however tenuous, in key markets. Nigerian banks increasingly exert their heft across swathes of the continent too, positioned to help facilitate access for businesses seeking to expand or venture outwards.
Nigeria might not be ready to compete, say with South Africa or Morocco, in some advanced manufacturing. Nevertheless, national champions in sectors such as e-commerce (Jumia, Konga and Yudala are prime examples) are suited to exploit markets opportunities beyond our frontiers. The CFTA proposes 90 percent liberalisation for physically traded goods and 100% liberalisation for services. The latter is one area in which Nigeria has seen rapid growth in the past few decades. It may even be that the rewards going to bigger conglomerates like Dangote will pale in comparison to the expanded market opportunities for Nigerian players in sectors like services. Nevertheless, it appears that lack of analysis and vision and the inept economic diplomacy may conspire to help us throw away opportunities under the CFTA. The lack of situational and strategic awareness in our private sector seems rivalled only by the myopia and inertia of our governance and political leadership.
South Africa, adroit at exploiting continental economic expansionist opportunities, also balked at initialing the CFTA. Pretoria pointed to the legal and other instruments associated with the planned trade bloc which still need to be reviewed and ratified by its parliament and economic stakeholders. However, unlike Buhari, South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, presented himself in Kigali where he enthusiastically declared support for the pact. Nevertheless, the non-signature by the two continental powerhouses leaves a big question mark hanging over the practical implementation of Africa’s biggest ever trade opportunity.
Of significance, smaller countries such as Rwanda have led from the front as Nigeria prevaricates. Rwanda’s enthusiastic backing of the CFTA is principled and consistent. As Chairman of the AU for 2018, the Rwandan President Paul Kagame has helped to propel forward such important agreements as the Single African Air Transport Market. Much of this effort is not unconnected with Kagame’s clear-eyed plan for Rwanda. Following its catastrophic genocide in 1994, the country has pursued an ambitious economic vision which is advancing by the day. Kagame’s promotion of the CFTA is a logical extension of his impressive economic record at home. GDP growth of 6.1% in 2017 and a projected expansion of 7.2% this year ranks Rwanda as one of Africa’s star economic performers alongside Ethiopia.
RwandAir, the national airline, steadily increased its capacity with acquisition of larger passenger jets over 2016-2018 to give wings to the dream of turning Rwanda into a major air travel hub. The target markets include Nigeria as the east African nation’s airline now find rich pickings on multiple Nigerian routes where the defunct Nigerian Airways and its privately-owned successors have failed. As AU chairman, Kagame with an unprecedented display of urgency is confronting the task of clearing red tape and inefficiencies across Africa which stand in the way of his country’s ambitions. For natural-resource-poor Rwanda, it is a question of economic survival.
It is necessary to pursue the sort of extended stakeholder consultation that Buhari saw belatedly. Yet, it should precede the formal signature ceremony not the other way round. We are consulting so late that we imperil our own place at the table. If Nigeria were guided by a coherent leadership, we would have done our homework, preparing the ground to secure key concessions in the negotiations. Following that, we would happily sign off on the pact assured that we have secured sizeable concessions to justify our opt-in. This author was responsible for drafting the economic case in a paper prepared by the International Organisation for Migration in 2017 to facilitate inter-governmental negotiations on the freedom of movement and settlement across Africa. Some of the countries most reluctant to open up their borders to free movement – including South Africa and Morocco – are also some of the keenest free traders seeing opportunities for their conglomerates.
Were we more strategic, there exist issue-linking opportunities for Nigeria to help push for freer movement of businesspeople across the continent together with greater market openness. We could even use concessions secured to assuage our domestic constituencies fretful over freer economic competition. It is true that cheaper imports pose a particular challenge, but it is neither a problem unique to Nigeria nor one that can be addressed through insularity or shielding inefficient providers that fail to compete on price or quality. Working to address structural constraints to competitiveness, for example electricity, will be more effective whilst driving up quality. Nigeria having abdicating its leadership responsibility in Kigali, only 29 countries signed up to the agreement on free movement and the African passport.
Bringing citizens back in
Nigeria is caught in a warp in which citizens take keen interest in the politics of elections but leave the politicians grossly unchecked in the aftermath. Between the election seasons, citizens’ focus should stay squarely on the more urgent task of governance, demanding accountable management of resources and broader economic policy. Active vigilance is vital: Nigerian politicians need to face far tougher questions on their stewardship of the economy in a way that continuously puts on guard those vested with guarding the collective economic interest. When citizen show little inclination to exercise real agency, their catalytic role in sensible economic decision-making is compromised, and fiascos such as Nigeria’s no-show in Kigali will be prone to recur.
Looking forward, Africa should proceed cautiously so that the CFTA does not become a giant trade zone only in name. We desperately need the arrangement to feature more than just a token of African manufactures. It cannot be a backdoor for dumping of foreign goods, stifle Africa’s industrialization, or unfairly hurt its already weak manufacturing sector. Yet, systemically important players like Nigeria risk jeopardizing the rest of the continent as we suffer from a shortage of knowledge-generating institutions and think-tanks devoted to analyses of trade, investment and economic diplomacy. There currently exist a handful of institutions that fall into this category but they are too few and far-between for Nigeria’s economy of 180 million people accounting for well over 15% of Africa’s GDP. Without a more solid evidence base, informed policy engagement by corporates and citizens becomes impossible. And unless the outlook changes, Nigeria could lose out significantly in Africa’s emerging integration project. click here to download
*Dr. Oladiran Ola Bello, holds MPhil and PhD degrees from Cambridge University and is the Executive Director of Good Governance Africa (GGA).