Focus on Governance of States of Nigeria

There are lots to be read into the recent report by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission on the debt profile of various state governments in 2016. According to the Punch of March 20 2018, which reported extensively on the report, the debt profiles of about 18 states exceeded their gross and net revenues by more than 200 per cent.

The paper quoted the FRC as saying that the debt may have increased by 2017 since “there was no effort by the states to clear them”. It also quoted the FRC as saying that the development was contrary to the guidelines of the Debt Management Office on debt sustainability, which recommends that the debt status of each state should not exceed 50 per cent of the statutory revenue in the previous 12 months.

“In the light of the DMO’s guidelines on the Debt Management Framework, specifically, sections 222 to 273 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007 pertaining to debt sustainability, according to the guidelines, the debt to income ratio of states should not exceed 50 per cent of the statutory revenue for the preceding 12 months,” the FRC was quoted as saying.

Analysis of the FRC report (which was based on the debt profile of the states as of December 31, 2016) showed that most of the states of the federation flouted the regulation as they exceeded their debt to revenue ratio by more than 100 per cent. According to the report, the worst offenders were Lagos (670.42 per cent), Osun (539.25 per cent), Cross River (486.49 per cent), Plateau (342.01 per cent), Oyo (339.56 per cent), Ekiti (339.34 per cent), Ogun (329.47 per cent), Kaduna (297.26 per cent) and Imo (292.82 per cent). Others were Edo (270.8 per cent), Adamawa (261.96 per cent), Delta (259.63 per cent), Bauchi (250.75 per cent), Nasarawa (250.36 per cent), Kogi (221.92 per cent), Enugu (207.49 per cent), Zamfara (204.91 per cent), and Kano (202.61 per cent).

According to the report, the debt to net revenue of the states puts some of the states in even more precarious situation. For instance while the debt to net revenue of Lagos State is a whopping 930.96 per cent that of Cross Rivers State is 940.64 per cent.

The report found that the only states whose debts did not exceed the recommended 50 per cent ratio by more than 100 per cent were Anambra, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and the Federal Capital Territory.

Several extrapolations could be made from the above set of frightening figures:

One, the amount of revenue accruing to a state has no relationship with its debt profile.  For instance Lagos  State which has the highest debt to gross revenue ratio of 670.42 per cent (and  debt to net revenue of 930.96 per cent),   is one of the highest receivers of  funds from the Federation Account. It has also one of the best internally generated revenue profiles (thanks in part to the location of prime businesses there).

In September 2017 for instance, it received from the Federation Account N8.8bn, compared to say Borno and Anambra which received less than half of what it got from the Federation Account alone during the period and yet stayed within the recommended 50 per cent to revenue ratio. Remarkably none of the top receivers of funds from the Federation Account – Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kano and Kaduna States – made it in the ‘honours’ list.

In fact the states whose debt did not exceed the recommended 50 per cent ratio by more than 100 per cent according to FRC received the following sums in September 2017 from the Federation Account (I am using a random month and year for which data on what was received by all the states are available): Anambra (N4.3bn), Borno (N4.9bn), Jigawa, (N4.67) Kebbi (N4.26), Sokoto (N4.1bn), Yobe (N4.15bn).

In contrast, the top receivers of funds, which did not make the ‘honours’ list received the following sums during the period: Delta (N14.2), Akwa Ibom (N12.94bn), Rivers (N12.45bn), Kano (N6.8bn) and Kaduna (N5.4bn). In the same vein, Osun, which is the poorest state in the country in terms of sums received from the Federation Account, (it got only N1.6bn during the period) was not listed among the states with the highest debt to gross revenue ratios. One of the conclusions from this would be the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.”

Two,  a survey published in May 2017  by BudGIT, (a civic organisation founded in 2011to simplify the budget and matters of public spending for citizens), found that most states, including some top receivers of funds from the Federation Account and many heavily indebted states, owed workers arrears in salary and pension payments. Among the States which it found were not owing salaries were Anambra, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Plateau, Sokoto and Yobe.

Remarkably while rich Delta State and Bayelsa States owed upwards of six months salaries, Yobe, Kebbi and Anambra which receive less than half of what they get from the Federation Account did not owe any salary arrears.  The above raises the question of whether revenues accruing to states are good indicators of the viability of states. It will seem from the above that the capacity for governance and managing resources may be better indicators of state viability than the quantum of money that flows to states.

Three, while oil money controlled by the federal government has made it the central site of the intra elite struggles for power and privileges, a commensurate attention is not paid at what happens at the state levels. In fact while the country’s democracy is in a transition mode at the federal level, it appears to be suffering from arrested development at the state levels. Just consider these: In Imo state, which was found by BudGIT to owe primary school teachers two months arrears of salary and pensioners 24 months arrears in May 2017, the government strangely found enough resources to build statutes of personalities that caught his fancy, including that of Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa, who is now facing corruption charges in his country. The same Governor gave the ministerial slot for his state to his father-in-law and is now pushing for his son in-law to succeed him.

In Kaduna state, an otherwise smart governor had to pull down a house belonging to his political opponent. In virtually all the States, the Governors behave like monarchs rather than elected executives that are accountable to the electorate.  Is there any State in the country where the State House of Assembly is not a rubber stamp of the Governor? Is it possible for a State Governor to lose a court case in the State’s High Court? Can the party of a state Governor lose Local Government elections in the State? Compared to what is happening at the state level, the federal government seems to be doing well.

Four, what the different ethnic and regional factions of the political class demand from the federal government, they often negate when it comes to their own states. For instance, while we all extol the unwritten power rotation agreement between the Northern and Southern parts of the country, will it be a crime for the politicians to respect the same principle in their states? Will it for instance be a crime for a power rotation arrangement in Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and several other states in the country so that all the key constituents of a State will have a good opportunity of producing the Governor of the State? Several states in the country need restructuring, not just the federal government.

 The hullabaloo over Senators’ N13.5m monthly ‘running cost’

The recent revelation by Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) that each Senator receives the whopping sum of N13.5m as running cost – on top of N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances  –  has led to justified anger in the land. I join in condemnation of bogus payments. But I will like also to put a caveat: several comparisons of what the Senators earn with what their counterparts earn in Europe, USA and elsewhere earn,  miss the context.  The truth is that the electorate in Nigeria (and virtually all parts of Africa) are manifestly different from their European and American counterparts.

For instance while the constituents of a Nigerian Senator expect him or her to attend funerals, naming ceremonies and launchings of all hues and to be among the highest donors in such events, there are no such expectations on their American and European counterparts. Nigerian Senators, like political office holders,  are also expected to become cash cows and to donate handsomely wherever they go and their presence is acknowledged including in churches and mosques.

This is not a justification for any jumbo pay when most Nigerians are just trying to scrape by but to give a sense of proportion to the conversation.

Again, it is important for us to compare like-for-like. So if we are justifiably angry at what Senators take home every month, we must also know how much top members of the executive and the judiciary take home – in consolidated monthly salary and monthly ‘running cost’.

The author is Jideofor ADIBE.  Email: pcjadibe@yahoo.com   and Twitter: @JideoforAdibe. Originally published by Proshare Nigeria on 23 March 2018

 

Meeting growing appetite for Sub-Sahara Africa trade in food, beverages & pharmaceuticals

As a bespoke agribusiness summit in Brussels draws near and attracting an enviable line-up of industry practitioners, the question of the shrinking flow of public financial resources to developing economies is taking centrestage one again. This time around, it is seen more from the perspective of a blessing rather than a curse if you consider that private equity flow to markets in the Sub-Sahara African economy is actually on the rise. Those who have long held that Africa needs trade rather than aid, appear to be winning the debate while the less aggressive business risk takers are suing for caution.

I shall be making the case at the Summit for Blended Finance as one of the few instruments tailor-made for businesses that favour a more prudent finance approach. I shall be introducing the model of blended finance, put simply, as the interface between the significantly decreased development finance and private philantropic funds deployed as seed capital in activating financial flows for activities destined for or emanating from Sub-Sahara Africa. The focus of activities will be the West Flanders Belgium rich food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries including machineries and engineering activities for these industries.

Some of the ready questions that come to mind are: which are these funds, where are they located, what are the criteria for accessing them and how could they be deployed? Placing these and other questions at the core of the discourse, the presentation walks participants through blended Iroko Trade Invest finance opportunities for deal brokerage activities in the Food, Beverage & Pharmaceuticals industries emanating from or destined for Nigeria and other Sub-Sahara African markets in their trade with firms within the Western European market with West Flanders, Belgium as hub.

The speakers line-up, programme and registration for the Summit, which targets only 70 participants are available here

Changing the Nasty Narrative of Europe under Corbyn

When Jeremy Corbyn arrived on the scene as Labour Leader and therefore leader of the official Opposition in Her Majesty’s Government, many could not look beyond his unkempt beards and rather unconventional, quintessential British dressing code. Those of us that had no qualms with someone that looked and dressed differently had more time and open minds listening to his policy contents. I admit that he needed a change of barber, if he had one, and a few smart corporate suits but if he decided he wanted no make-over, I’d still give him a chance because he represents to a large degree the commonsense politics that Europe and Great Britain have lacked for a while. Was this the same as giving him carté blanc?  No! I was mildly concerned about some of his Communist tendencies. Mildly because I knew that it was just a matter of time and reality will force him to a rethink of the few unholy policy positions he nursed. 

Slowly but steadily, Corbyn is admiringly withering the storm, winning the respect of more people to the point that the mental picture of Corbyn as the next British Prime Minister is being painted, day by day, in the eyes of some of his honest detractors. This is even more poignant in the face of the Brexit debates. The Left leaning academic, Professor Mary Kaldor* captured it all recently when she wrote that in twenty years’ time, we will look back on Brexit as a moment of terrifying global irresponsibility. She reminded us of the world we currently live in, which she described as “a world of creeping fascism in Russia, Turkey, China, Trump’s America not to mention the tendencies inside Britain, especially among the hard Brexiteers”

While extolling the beacon for democracy and human rights that the European Union currently represents, people like Kaldor are quick to draw our attention to the dominance a neo-liberal ideology that threatens to undermine the euro-zone and with it the democratic values for which it stands. Developments in Central Europe and the recent elections in Italy of which I am struggling to recover from the rude shock that a fellow European political figure of Nigerian extraction, won a senatorial seat by preaching hate, racial divisions and Italy for Italians. These are a painful reminder of the dangerous possibilities that lie ahead of us, if Europe continues to lack leaders with the pedigree of Jeremy Corbyn.

The fact that there are tendencies for reform inside the European Union gives a ray of hope. Kaldor was kind to humanity when she speculated that if a Corbyn-led Labour Party were to win the next election, there is a unique – indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity – to reform the European Union and this means an opportunity to save Britain, Europe and perhaps the world.

But the British are madly obsessed with the domestic British debate despite all the talk of a global Britain that nobody seems to be discussing or trying to diagnose the frightening scenario of everything going wrong and their role in that scenario. The current nostalgia for Britain’s role in WWII seems to neglect the fact that this was a struggle for democracy, human rights and decency and not just about nationalism. “If we care about those values now” she postulated “we should be worrying about the future of Europe and the world and how what happens in the rest of the world will affect us”

A recent pamphlet published by Another Europe is Possible makes the argument that instead of fretting about how bad Brexit will be for Britain, there is a need to think about what a Corbyn government inside Europe might mean for the future of the European Union. The pamphlet sets out a reform strategy for the European Union that is realistic to achieve if a Corbyn government were to ally with socialists across Europe. Indications are that such reform strategy would enable Britain to address the big global problems of today, and this in turn may well be a necessary condition for implementing the Corbyn-McDonnell plan of action.

Exit of neo-liberal dogmas through the Kaldor lenses

There are already tentative moves away from dogmatic neo-liberal economic policies, which successive UK governments were at the forefront of pushing. President Macron is talking about reform of the eurozone including a common European budget and there is a possibility that his proposals will be met more warmly by the new Social Democrat Coalition in Germany.

The left-wing Portuguese government has demonstrated how an anti-austerity policy can dramatically improve economic performance. There are proposals to close tax havens for multinational corporations and a proposal for a common consolidated corporate tax, something the UK has strongly opposed in the past.

New proposals to stop undercutting, whereby companies deliberately recruit workers abroad under the conditions in the countries where they are recruited to reduce costs, have just been passed and will mean that it will be no longer possible to use migrant workers as a way of putting downward pressure on wages.

And there are proposals for a tax on financial transactions as a way of controlling financial speculation, again a proposal vetoed by the UK in the past. Yet these proposals may be difficult to implement without at least one major power seriously committed to them. For example, in the wake of Brexit, some countries are engaging in beggar-my-neighbour policies in order to take over the UK position especially in financial services. A Corbyn-led government could be key to making these reforms happen.

The same is true for those areas where EU policy has, in the past, been relatively progressive – digital rights, climate change, and ending global conflicts, for example. Thanks to active protests across Europe, EU policy on digital rights, defending online privacy and the ownership of personal data, has been rather progressive – yet without continued active engagement, along the lines of the Labour Party’s Digital Democracy Manifesto, there is a risk that this might be undermined by anti-terror legislation.

In the case of climate change, there is considerable momentum for far-reaching efforts to keep climate change under 2 % including the ‘Clean Energy Package for All Europeans’ and the ‘EU Roadmap for 100% emission cuts by mid-century. These initiatives would mean a massive transformation of the European economy affecting almost every sector. But, given powerful vested interests in our current carbon based economy, it won’t happen without substantial pressures from parties and movements across Europe.

Humane & managed migration policy

As for ending global conflicts, the new global strategy  presented by Federica Mogherini to the European Council the day after the British referendum, envisages an external security policy aimed at human security (the security of people and the communities in which they live) rather the security of borders. This policy was formerly blocked by the UK who preferred the geo-political approach of NATO and so is now moving ahead. Nevertheless, it requires much stronger political backing and more of the kind of resources in which the UK has a comparative advantage.

Finally, a Corbyn-led government could change the conversation about immigration. Anti-immigration sentiment promoted by unscrupulous politicians, it can be argued, produced the refugee crisis. We live in a world of migration and it is more or less impossible to control. What is more Europe with its aging population needs migrants. Instead of creating a border security complex in which smugglers and border guards are enmeshed in an impossible business that fails to prevent the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, we need a policy of managed migration as was actually proposed by the European Commission but opposed by member states – one that involves a resettlement policy across the continent. A Corbyn-led government could push for replacing  the current exclusive and dangerous securitised approach with one based on humanitarian and development considerations.

A reform strategy of this kind offers the possibility of transforming the global model of development from the old US-led model based on mass production and the intensive use of oil, to a new green, digital, decentralised and socially just set of arrangements.

This is no longer, if it ever was, something that can be pursued in one country. On the contrary, a post-Brexit Labour government could easily be derailed by predatory action from larger economic blocs and financial markets. And the alarming tendencies for European disintegration, right-wing authoritarianism not to mention criminal and ethnic violence are likely to infect us as well. But if Labour were to pursue a ‘Remain and Reform’ strategy, there is a chance to remake Europe and initiate a process of taming and controlling the dark forces of globalisation.

*Inspired by and based on a pamphlet first published in Open Democracy by Professor Mary Kaldor entitled “What could a Corbyn government inside Europe mean for the future of the European Union?”

The Historian with Uncommon Interpretative Skills

At the lobby of a hotel in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria where I had taken my two teenage sons to, a few years back, for an Anioma art exhibition as part of our occasional family cultural homecoming, laid a copy of a magazine ‘Anioma Essence’. A read, piece by piece of the articles contained in the magazine, was my first encounter with Emeka Esogbue, editor of the magazine.  On further enquiry, the ‘Pen Master’ as he turned out to be known and fondly called, is my Isieke-Umuekea Village kinsman in Igbuzo, a historian and avid writer. A Diaspora friend and kinsman of the Enuani (Anioma) stock based in the United States of America would later do me the pleasure in July 2017 of presenting me a Birthday gift; a book entitled ‘Essentials of Anioma History’ by no other than the Pen Master himself. I have since enlarged my list of prospective books acquisition to enrich my personal library to include other works of the Pen Master, which I had earlier borrowed and read. These are: “A Study of the Origins and Migrations of Anioma Settlements” and “A Short History of Omu”.

Being away from home for more than two decades and half, one begins to suffer what National Geographic Society’s Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis called the “erosion of the ethnosphere.” Along with language, one also begins to lose touch with the arts, crafts, vocational skills, folklore, and customs of his traditional and indigenous peoples. Works such as those by Emeka Esogbue are for me a means of staying connected to my Igbuzo, Anioma heritage. Despite best efforts, the longer you are away from home the more the propensity for the culture, history and heritage to erode you. Ironically for me, my appreciation of the same heritage grows more at the same time. Next to Nna, my father and living encyclopedia of Igbuzo history, I have found the works of Emeka Esogbue immeasurable sources of knowledge of not only our history but also our traditions and customs. I would always dip into his work to arm myself for my numerous discussions and debates with my sons, now in their early twenties, who remain eager to sort out the cultural conflicts that come with been born abroad yet connected deeply to your roots. I would always tell them especially when I appear to be losing the debate to commonsense that you can’t logically disagree with something or an issue that you have no firm grasp of. The works of Emeka Esogbue help me to grasp the essence of the Igbuzo, Anioma history. I disagree with some isolated aspects of the customs but understanding them help me appreciate them. This is to a large extent because in his writings, Emeka Esogbue does not simply chronicle them as most historians before him would do, he interprets them.

Emeka Esogbue deploys a writing style that is refreshing. He is first and foremost a historian. Reading records is therefore his point of departure. But what he does with the records actually marks him out from his peers. He is far from what I refer to as ‘historian of chronicles’ where a report is simply given on what a historian finds and informs the wider world about the past usually arranged in chronological order and providing no further comments or discussions.

I guess what I find most invaluable in the work of Emeka Esogbue is his uncommon realization that historical records that survive for most periods of history are both incomplete and often contradictory. Take the case of the origin of the people of Igbuzo as example. The Pen Master’s position on this important issue is perhaps the most intelligent attempt so far in addressing the gaps and contradictions in the existing accounts. His interpretative skills in addressing historical gaps and contradictions have placed him a notch above his generation of historians and authors.

 

Collins NWEKE

New Era of Nigeria-Belgium Relations

Nigeria and Belgium have a 56 year diplomatic relations. When the new Ambassador of Nigeria to Belgium presents her Letters of Credence to His Majesty, Phillipe I, King of the Belgians today, Wednesday 13 September 2017, the relationship will witness a new era. Ambassador Nonye Udo will make history as the first female Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Kingdom of Belgium. With this, one can say that  Belgium has a lesson to learn from Nigeria on gender equality and gender balance because unless I am mistaken, no woman has ever had the opportunity to be appointed Ambassador of Belgium to Nigeria. For a change, Belgium is therefore welcome to play the catch-up here.

That is on the lighter side. On a more serious note, Ambassador Nonye Udo was not sent by President Muhammadu Buhari to represent his Government in Belgium, with concurrent accreditation to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Mission to the European Union because he is desirous to making history. Far from it. The plain fact is that a seasoned diplomat who knows her onions was appointed on merit into one of the most strategic diplomatic posts for Nigeria. That seasoned diplomat simply happened to be a woman, one whose appointment made history!

That raises the curious question of what is Her Excellency’s story? Who is Nonye Udo? Those in the know of her person and career would, before anything else, describe her as “A fine Foreign Service Officer” Ambassador Nonye Udo is a career diplomat. Having served at different diplomatic posts worldwide including Nigeria’s Mission to the United Nations, was until her appointment the Director of the Department of International Organizations at the Abuja Headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria. The strategic nature of Brussels in the scheme of things in Nigeria’s global aspirations perhaps gives one a sense of why President Buhari made that decision to send unarguably the best to Belgium.

As I reflected on the shape of this new diplomatic era, the challenges that face the Nigeria-Belgium relations, but also the huge opportunities awaiting Nigeria and Belgium to explore, and in a funny way, what readily comes to mind was one of the trickiest media questions I’ve had to answer as Belgian of Nigerian origin. A cheeky journalist,   bent on testing my loyalty or allegiance to these two countries that mean the world to me. This was on the occasion of a football match between Nigeria and Belgium. He went: which country do you favour to win this match – Belgium or Nigeria? I paused and looking him straight in the eyes and without thinking, I responded that the better team will win and whichever it is, it’s a WIN for me all the way. I am not sure, but walking away, the mischief-maker looked disappointed. He appeared not to have gotten the answer he wanted that would create certain kind of news sensation for him.

In a note I sent earlier today to the amiable Ambassador, I opined that beyond confirmation of her formal diplomatic accreditation as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, I am sure that I will be expressing the sentiments held deep in the hearts of many Nigerians and Belgians with interests in both countries that her historic appointment as first female Ambassador could not have come at a better time. “You must have every reason to feel a great sense of honour to be head of mission in a country with which Nigeria has such a cordial, mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic relations dating back to 1961, and with which there are so many opportunities for collaboration across many fields of endeavour including trade and investment, manufacturing, agriculture, machinery, energy or power production and distribution, sports and culture, to name but a few” I said this with confidence because long before Her Excellency assumed office, the Belgium Luxembourg Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, a network of business people and players, Belgians and Nigerians, of which I have the privilege to serve on the Board as Director Business Development and a number of other groups and individuals, have been working to reinforce these ties, and to forge new alliances. My personal goal, which I am sure a significant number of peers share with me, is to set the ball rolling towards taking the Nigeria-Belgium bilateral relations a notch higher, outside the multilateral sphere. Contacts with our Belgian friends and associates do confirm their favourable disposition and readiness to enhance engagement with Nigeria. My immediate constituency of West Flanders boasts of the finest industries in pharmaceutical manufacturing, food and beverage as well as tourism and agriculture, exactly the sectors that Nigeria is impatient to delve into, since the future is no longer oil. When I close my eyes, these are the industries I see and wish to get business people from both sides talking business. The Embassy could be an omissible arranger and facilitator.

I also thought of my Nigerian-Guinean Diaspora friend that works as International Civil Servant at the European Commission who once called me a “dreamer” after listening to one of my TV calls for a better balance between bilateralism and indirect international development model where the civil society organisations and the NGO’s are more involved in development projects with a lessening of Government-to-Government traditional approach. I do hope to take this dream to our new lady in town in the coming months. Who knows, we might set the ball rolling gradually.

Reflections on a Commission for the Diaspora

Talks of a Nigerian Diaspora Commission began more than 10 years ago. Some of us felt then that a full-fledged Ministry for Diaspora Affairs was more deserving but we do not mind making a start with a Commission. Our friends on the opposite side declared us bunkers and would have nothing of that sort. The Oronsanye Civil Service Report that recommended the scraping of 102 redundant agencies would conveniently arm them with extra arguments. As rebuttal we would remind our opponents that the Civil Service Reforms recommendation was all about plugging waste and operating smart. If that meant, as we were sure it did, developing or sharpening the instrument to empower a constituency that annually reeks an average of USD 30 Billion into Nigeria oil dependent economy; so be it. The highs and lows in the evolution graph of the Diaspora Commission debates over the last decade were shaped by these conflicting thoughts. When an injury heals, its pains go with it. This adage captures the mood of the Diaspora when on 30 June 2017; Acting President finally assented to the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Bill.

Diaspora Commission as hard but logical priority choice

In my tenure as Chief Executive of the European arm of Nigeria’s official Diaspora body, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) from 2004 – 2006 and serving in its Board of Trustees as General Secretary between 2007 and 2009 and Board Chairman from 2011 to 2013, two main activities took centre-stage in my work. These were the agitation for the realization of the Diaspora Commission Bill and making the case for Out-of-Country voting for Nigerians in Diaspora. With the Diaspora Commission now a reality, I am sure you can hear me think: one down, one to go!  As with all policy work, my office quickly identified the strategic partners needed to set the ball rolling on Out-of-Country Voting or Diaspora Voting and Diaspora Bill. A Bill is essentially a legislative matter. It was no brainer therefore that our natural ally for the Diaspora Commission Bill would be the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives. The 2005 National Political Reforms Conference offered no better platform to launch our case for Diaspora Voting. Our Delegates to the national parley wasted no time in taking up the case for Diaspora Voting resting on the preparatory work and initial research provided by the Headquarter of NIDO Europe under my leadership as Chief Executive. By 2009 the building blocks or legislative framework for the Diaspora Commission Bill were in place. In tandem we had commenced initial work on a national policy on Diaspora affairs and after meeting several brick walls in its realization, we thought it makes all the sense in the world to choose our fights carefully. From 2 February 2010 when a public hearing was held in the National Assembly, ably coordinated and hosted by the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs to 30 June 2017 when the Presidency assented to the Bill, a lot of water had passed under the bridge.

 

Bride of the moment.

The Diaspora Commission Bill is, and rightfully so, the bride of the moment. Accordingly I am impatient to share some reflections and perhaps some anecdotes on the Bill. Before I do, let me briefly justify my position. We had tried to take on the Bill, Diaspora Policy and Diaspora Voting in addition to numerous other knotty national development issues. These are perfectly doable items to simultaneously take on though sometimes, it does feel like we have bitten more than we could chew. When we met numerous brick walls, we naturally put up the brave face and tinkered on but we seemed to be failing in all fronts. Re-strategizing, it made sense to prioritize, the outcome of which was the decision to channel more energy, if not most of the energies, to Diaspora Bill. Here was the reasoning: the Diaspora Commission will be an omissible anchor of all matters Diaspora.

 

An excellent, yet imperfect Bill

Do we have a perfect Bill? Certainly not! But perhaps a perfect Bill does not exist. Most important thing today is that we have a Bill, one that took into consideration certain anomalies that the Diaspora pinpointed from the onset. Looking at the Bill as assented to by the Presidency and the initial draft presented by the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, on which early debates were based, there are huge similarities. Ironical isn’t it? Not really. It tells us a few things. Firstly, the House Committee leadership knew what a sound Diaspora Commission Bill ought to look like and initially delivered one. Secondly it exposes the vulnerability of the same House Committee leadership to undue influence by powerful Diaspora lobby. One clear evidence of this is: the initial draft Establishment Bill as put forth by the House Committee on Diaspora recognized the place of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in providing policy coherence in the Diaspora for the work of the proposed Commission. The pre-NIDO era lacked coherence. It was characterized by thousands of community, professional, religious, ethnic and cultural organisations of Nigerians in Diaspora, fighting, like children in a disjointed polygamous family, to dominate the space. As can be expected, the law of the jungle applied. This is because NIDO stands on its way in exerting undue control over Diaspora affairs. The other issue, closely complimentary to this is the disproportionate representation of Nigerian Diaspora on the Governing Board of the Commission. The Diaspora disagreed on quite a lot but an issue that organized Diaspora worldwide saw eye-to-eye on as the enemy to fight to a standstill was the buildup of powerful lobby in the Diaspora and returnee Diaspora, largely undermining the draft Establishment Bill and skillfully manipulating its seemingly naïve authors. Its purpose? To kill NIDO. Thirdly, it revealed that NIDO leadership has the ability and the gusto to take on its own fight and defend the interest of its constituency despite the perceived disarray of its rank and file. Despite the powerful lobby NIDO succeeded in bringing back its status as the lead Diaspora partner in the implementation of the Diaspora Commission and equal representation of the Diaspora on the Governing Board.

 

A lean or an obese Diaspora Commission?

Going forward, the Diaspora Commission is not a done deal. Indeed the assent of the Presidency to the Bill marks the beginning of the real work. The devil is in the details, as they say. One of such details which should be acknowledged is the correction of a few obvious details that were wrong in the amended draft. Number one is the recognition and representation of NIDO Africa in the Bill and ultimately in the Commission. Secondly and related to that is the correction of the anomaly of having only 3 Diaspora representatives in a Governing Board of 17 members. With NIDO Africa recognised and the Americas broken down in North & South as well as Asia and Oceania, being independently caved out, NIDO representation was doubled to six. Though I believe that the full interests and broad perspectives of the Diaspora will be credibly served by an arrangement where some 8 out of the 17 Board seats are occupied by the Diaspora, 6 seats is a reasonable compromise. That said, a look at the proposed staffing of the Commission will convince management experts that Nigeria needs a Master Class on Lean Management Concept. I am not sure that a Commission needs staff strength of 141 employees. This certainly needs a review prior to commencement of operations as wastefulness both in manpower and financially must be a thing of the past. Talking of financials, a lean structure will also mean that the total projected cost for first year of operation of the Commission estimated at nearly NGN 660 Million could be reduced significantly. The 17 Governing Board members are meant to be paid salaries on part-time basis. Nigeria could try a model of sitting allowance whereby the proposed part-time salary arrangement is replaced with payment on the basis of the actual work that you do in terms of Board sittings. If you do not show up for Board meetings, you do not get paid.

 

Strategic, purposeful leadership is key to success.

The Chief Executive of the Diaspora Commission has an obligation to deliver and he or she can be rest assured that the Diaspora will not have the business as usual mentality. We are aware that what we may term as good practices in the parts of the world where the Diaspora lives and work, may not necessarily be applicable in the Nigerian context but a core part of it would work if adapted to the Nigerian idiosyncrasies. That the head of a Commission anywhere in the world works out a First Year Strategic Plan gleaned from the Establishment Act, infused with the conclusions of a basic needs analysis has nothing to do with Nigeria, Japan or Britain but has all to do with purposeful leadership and sound management. There are signs that if the Diaspora could succeed in sending the emerging Diaspora oligarchs on retreat in terms of stopping them from hijacking the Diaspora Commission through an Establishment Bill tilted in their favour, I am certain that the required scrutiny will be brought to bear on whoever emerges head of the Commission (Chairman & Director-General) as well as the Board. I guess the clear message is, if you do not plan to deliver on the Diaspora Commission mandate, better reconsider your candidacy for the Governing Board because the Diaspora is willing and supremely capable of taking you to task.

*Collins Nweke is Founder / CEO of Global Village Consult Belgium, brand owners of Nigeria Human Capital. He had served variously as Chief Executive, General Secretary and Board Chairman between 2004 and 2013 of the Board of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe. Collins is a Municipal Legislator at Ostend City Council Belgium where he is serving a second term as elected Councillor. He writes from Brussels.

Redefining Europe National Interest

Being Abstract of a paper by Collins NWEKE presented at the Diaspora Project Summit, under the Framework of African Union Day 2017, Dortmund Germany, 26/27 May 2017 entitled

REDEFINING THE CONCEPT OF NATIONAL INTERESTS IN GLOBAL MIGRATION MANAGEMENT – THE DIASPORA FACTOR & FACILITATOR ROLE

(A PowerPoint version of the presentation is available through this link: Project Summit Dortmund – EU Migration Fund for Africa)

The saying that time changes and so too must people and systems, runs true with the classic place that the concept of national interest occupies today. That classic definition of national interest departs from the notion that it does not accept the distinction between a morality-based and an interest-based foreign policy. According to its proponents, moral values are simply intangible interests.

In European migration management and at best, the reactive migration policy in place at present, leaders and experts may point out the costs of indulging these values. But if an informed public disagrees, experts cannot deny the legitimacy of public opinion. Numerous polls have shown both in Europe and the United States that the citizens are neither isolationist nor eager to see their leaders serve as the world’s police[i]. Finding a middle course is however proving difficult and complex particularly in light of the election of President Donald Trump. Evidence are beginning to emerge that not only debunks the complexity around finding this needed middle-ground, but also supports the reasoning that national interest of a nation state can be seen from a broader prism of shared priorities regarding relations with the rest of the world. Though broader than strategic interests, national interest is always an integral part thereof. National interest does include values such as human rights and democracy, if the public feels that those values are important to its identity that it is willing to pay a price to promote them. The European Union obviously believes that their interests include certain values, such as protection of lives of young desperate migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, human rights, female circumcision, living in human dignity,… The promotion of these values abroad is to the EU and the vast majority of its citizens of vital rather than secondary importance[ii].

It is important to separate the ideas of survival and progression, because whilst secondary national interests are not necessarily concerned with the practical survival of the state but of its development, they have an openness to be confused and blurred by politics and politicians into a perception of actually being vital national interests. In other words, they are open to political manipulation precisely because they are determined by circumstance rather than necessity. Add domestic politics and the desire (interest) for election and re-election into the mix and the difference between the two become easily, intentionally, and perhaps naturally, blurred.

In the management of international migration especially from the Sub-Sahara Region of Africa, signs are that the EU may be rethinking its concept of national interest.  An agreement which came on the back of the  Valletta Summit, a high-level meeting between EU and African leaders that took place in Malta in November 2015 is a good pointer. The summit resulted in the establishment of an Emergency Trust Fund for Africa aimed at tackling the root causes of irregular migration, to which the EU pledged 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion). The EU has proposed partnerships with four other African countries — Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal — in a bid to cut the flow of migrants arriving in Italy. The EU has stated it will “apply the necessary leverage” in order to secure them. This has been interpreted to be an apparent threat to cut foreign aid to African countries unless they cooperate in reducing irregular migration.

The situation today offers opportunity for African Diaspora led by NIDO Europe to:

  1. Initiate relevant strategic high-level debates in order that the definition of national interest is officially broader than its current narrow perspective.
  2. Work with African home governments to carry out needs analysis aimed at identifying sustainable areas where EU Migration funds should be channeled towards and encourage activation of matching funds.
  3. Identify international project partners to assess and partly manage the funds for the mutual benefit of Europe, their host and Africa, the homeland.

This intervention will conceptualize and redefine national interest, recommend strategies to activate international project partnership and lay out proactive steps towards assessing the available and related capitals in a crowd-funding environment for impact in Nigeria and Africa along the line of accelerating national development from the Diaspora vantage point.

 

Collins NWEKE

Global Affairs Analyst & Councillor Ostend City Council Belgium

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[i] George Buchan, The Bruges Group, 2012

[ii] Carl Wallin, Swedish National Defense College, 2014

Reinvigorated Faith in Humankind

Three interesting scenarios within the past 48 hours reinvigorates my faith in humankind, and indeed in project Nigeria, and do not mirror it with partisan prism because it will fail you. Only a broad-based binoculars will reveal the positives therein.

The first is the return of another batch of the innocents of Chibok, the second is the medical trip to London by Mr President and the attendant transmission of full Presidential Powers to the Vice President, and the third is the emergence of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron as the President of France.

I do not buy into the scepticism and the cynicism of conspiracy theorists regarding the Chibok story. I believe as evidenced by the committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan that certain innocents of Chibok were ferried away by the villainous and impish Haramists some three years ago. Thank God another batch is back from captivity.

On Mr President’s medical trip, at last a seemingly intractable era of lies, falsehood and needless propaganda goes to sleep. Now we know where and what’s happening, and we know that we have an Acting President with full Presidential Powers. Praise be the Almighty.

On the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France, I’m exhilarated that eccentrics are blazing the global trail. Over my head I see a ballot based peoples revolution in this clime come 2019. Not a long way off, Yes it is not.

I’m confident because the darkest point of the night is closest to dawn. And my faith is unwavering because the universe is just, and it tilts the pendulum of divine munificence the way of men and women of FAITH.

Do not worry about how this will happen, for it will. The prevalent existential pressure and the dire socio-economic strait faced by the ORDINARY PEOPLE tells the proximity of cosmic intervention, we must therefore be ready, willing and able. I AM IN, ARE YOU?

To be CONT’D.

By Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr
#COUNTRYFIRST

EASTER REFLECTIONS OF AN AFRICAN BRAND ICON

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Christian religious belief that, after being put to death, Jesus rose again from the dead. It is the central tenet of Christian theology and part of the Nicene Creed: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures”. His resurrection changed our witnessing, our conversations, our beliefs… Our faith in Christ Jesus gave us hope for eternity.

Easter brings Nigeria to my mind with the central question of whether this is the Nigeria handed down to us by our forefathers…

No, this is not the Nigeria our forefathers dreamt of and bequeathed to us. The brazen and unapologetic looting of the national treasury has never been this bad.
Leadership based on ego, whims and personal needs as against the global or communal. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, we need to reflect on our personal values… individually and collectively. It’s time to go back to the basics.  It’s time for a national rebirth…

Easter brings to mind the Brands to Watch for the good of the Nigerian nation.

The spirit of Easter gives me reasons to reflect on those national human treasures who by what they have chosen to do are the brands that are helping to reshape Nigeria. The message this Easter is that such brands appear to be in short supply and must be multiplied for the good of nation.

This is our next call.
Would your Brand Rise Up and be Counted?
Time to Resurrect the Good in us all.
Happy Holidays Nigeria
Happy Easter World

The author, Charles O’Tudor is one of Nigeria’s foremost brand expert, founder Adstrat Brand Management Consultants and the Chairman of The Brand Council, owners of Charles O’Tudor BrandToWatch Awards

Thinking Global & Finally Ready to Act Local?

Since January 1, 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations officially came into force. These are 17 targets which are divided into five major themes: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. The Organisation of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (known by its Dutch acronym VVSG) has launched a pilot project where it seeks to recruit 20 volunteer Cities & Municipalities by 30 March 2017 to jointly examine how sustainability can be integrated coherently into the city and urban policy 2020-2024.

As the successor of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) SDG has a fundamental difference being that they no longer rely on the traditional North-South divide. According to the VVSG* Sustainable Developments are universal and apply to all countries in the world, North and South, East and West. This means that there are many challenges and yet many opportunities to jointly strive towards helping to tell this universal story. Therefore, it is logical that they are targeting mainly local governments as well as companies, universities, scientific institutions and associations. Ordinary citizens the world over are encouraged to play their parts.

For Ostend, and its Department for Social Welfare, also known as the Social House, as the arm of government closest to the people, SDG offers an interesting framework to create a link between the City Council and local practices on the one hand and local and global connection on the other. And Ostend is no starters in this domain. Oostende Mondiaal, the Municipal Council for International Development, for example, has long been active in the City-on-Sea with a strong 11-11-11 Standing Committee as well as the City-Link between Ostend City Council and Banjul City Council in The Gambia. The Gent City Council challenged several central cities and would collaborate with Ostend as SDG Voice within the framework of SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being. The City of Ghent is engaging Ostend for the project “Everybody Cycles” or “Iedereen Fietst”. In concrete both cities want as many people as possible to cultivate the habit of cycling both for its health and economic benefits.

Ostend needs the coaching and guidance provided by the VVSG mainly because in the long-term, it enables it to leverage on the strategic solutions to climate change, to ensure an accessible service for all and to galvanize citizens towards local consumption otherwise referred to as the ‘Short Food Chain’. These are all just examples of how sustainable development can be translated into the Ostend municipal level. There are strong indications that Ostend, being a mid-size metropolis, of huge cultural diversity, with over 130 different cultures, will see this as a unique opportunity “to contribute to the welfare of the citizens and to the sustainable development of the municipal area” as contained in Article 2 of the Municipal Decree.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether Ostend will be one of 20 participants in the pilot project offered by the VVSG. The ball is now squarely on the court of the supervising Councillor for International Development, Tom Germonpré (sp.a) to deliver this project for Ostend. The deadline for signing up is 30 March 2017. Time is of essence!

The Dutch version first published in www.collinsnweke.be is available here

Collins Nweke | Green Party Councillor Ostend City Council Belgium

21 March 2017

*Based on briefing by VVSG International