Blog, Essays, Monishots

Should Folorunsho Alakija be a role model?

  Success is where preparation and opportunity meet ~ Bobby Unser Nigeria is an interesting country, a very interesting one at that. We are a people blessed with so much talent and so many resources yet we continue to languish in the bottom ladder of critical developmental indices. One remarkable thing about Nigerians is the pattern of daily discourse around the socio-political issues on our various social media platforms. Who doesn’t have a thing or two to say? From the high to the low, we all seem to be opinionated, having an answer or a solution to every issue whether or not it is our area of knowledge let alone expertise. And this is especially manifest on social media. Someone said of Nigeria that while the intellectuals are running the government on social media the mediocre ones are on the ground doing same in practice. It happened that Folorunsho Alakija who of course needs no introduction as the richest Nigerian woman or is it, African woman, (I can’t be too sure now) used her Twitter handle to share her story of ‘faith’ perhaps to encourage and inspire the young entrepreneurs out there but ended up being bashed and insulted by some of those she was trying to inspire. So I just decided to do a little research on the Alakija story and present a brief media report. A cursory look at some of the obvious lies and likely truths. She has been labelled IBB’s housemaid or errand girl. She was not. Those who know her family way back in Lagos Island attest to the fact that though she came from a large polygamous family and that her background cannot in any way be described as poor. So she was nobody’s maid or errand girl. She was never a hairdresser as many have also erroneously tagged her, but rather from available records she started out as a secretary at Sijuade Enterprises and moved to the International Merchant Bank before she eventually left and started her Rose of Sharon Fashion House and Digital Reality Prints later. Some have called her Maryam Babangida’s ‘tailor’. Again the truth is that much as Maryam Babangida was among her A-list clientele the lady was no roadside tailor. As a matter of fact, she studied fashion and design in the UK and already had a budding outfit in Surulere, Lagos before she met IBB’s wife. Now having stated the foregoing it is worthy of mention that some of the narratives in her numerous interviews are likely sugar-coated in the usual manner associated with many success stories. For instance, I don’t believe she was ‘advised’ to venture into oil exploration by the then minister of petroleum Jubril Aminu after failed attempts to partner with the NNPC in other areas. Truth be told, any discerning Nigerian knows that many of our oil blocs are often held in ‘trust’ by proxies of the ruling elite who have cornered that vital resource since the end of the civil war. It also sounds incredible that ‘nobody’ wanted the oil bloc allocated to her as she has claimed severally. I bet some of you equally had a good laugh reading that fib. I can list a million and one things we all loathe about our country but it does not in any way include an oil license because much as exploration is an expensive venture with no guarantee of success we still have foreign giants partnering with NNPC to scrape for the black gold in the arid Lake Chad region. So no matter how far or deep into the Atlantic the bloc may be there is likely to be at least one firm out there willing to give it a shot. However, you still have to give Madam Alakija a lot of credit because oil exploration is not bread and butter. Much as she may have gotten her license through nepotism she still had to go through the tortuous process of licensing, acquisition and prospecting. And perhaps most importantly, Famfa oil smartly got capable partners in Star Deep Water Petroleum Ltd, a subsidiary of Texaco. Not a few have failed in this aspect because the government can still revoke your license for many reasons even after you might have invested millions of dollars. You can also read a recent article in which Paddy Adenuga shared his experience about a near-hit venture that almost landed Chevron Netherlands on his lap. In that piece, he confessed his love for the oil business and stated that: “the exploration and production (upstream) side, was the mixture of strategy, operational capability, technical know-how, politics and business acumen which all had to be married with a gambling spirit and sheer luck to be successful” He then went ahead and detailed how ego and advice from inexperienced partners cost him a deal that would have probably surpassed his father’s exploits in the years to come. Let’s not forget that when Madam Alakija did strike gold, her license was snatched by the almighty OBJ, it took several years of litigation processes up to the apex court to get it back. A fact which Obasanjo doesn’t deny but rather flimsily claimed to have made her a billionaire. So Alakija’s success story did not start in the oil industry, it started from her days as a secretary and spanned through her venture into fashion, printing and oil industries. It takes some hard work to rise from a secretarial position to the head of corporate affairs department in a bank. I have an aunt that rose to a similar height in a manufacturing firm. She is now happily retired and lives on her own property in Lagos where she tends to her grandkids and flowers. We often find it easy to sit behind a screen and cast aspersions at achievers who have been through many ups and downs to get to the top. There is an age-old saying that if you cannot manage one kobo you definitely cannot manage one billion naira. So

Blog, Essays

Data and the oil industry by Thisday

Thisday newspaper takes a critical look at the shameful opacity in NNPC in this editorial. Read… —————————————————————————————————————————— It is shameful but rather typical that even when Nigeria was able to provide the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Country (OPEC) with some credible data, the country keeps none for its own reference. “I am ashamed we didn’t have data source on Nigeria. I think as we provide data for OPEC, we should address the question of churning credible data to be consumed in-country. It is a pity when students are looking for data we have to go to OPEC to get data about Nigeria,” said Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Unfortunately, such concerns no longer seem an anomaly as the Nigerian oil and gas sector operates more or less in secrecy and obscurity. The dearth of data has remained a major challenge in accessing and in assessing the operations of the state-owned behemoth, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is notorious for its institutional opacity. Indeed, for the entire gamut of the industry – from exploration to crude oil production to oil lifting, exports and sales – the data value chain is unreliable and weakened, giving rise to lack of transparency and rabid corruption. According to a recent policy briefing by the reinvigorated Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the NNPC owes the government a backlog of unremitted oil revenue running into billions of naira. Although the state-owned oil company has started making public a detailed overview of its finances, the reports are said to be deficient because they do not delineate “the operational and financial performance of NNPC subsidiaries, including sales-level data.” It is also noteworthy that one of the most valuable oil block contracts, OPL 245 – an opaque contract better known as the Malabu Oil – was awarded by the NNPC. The contract, which is still a subject of headlines and litigations, has cost the nation several billions of dollars. All this merely confirmed what the London Economics wrote about the country’s oil industry some few years back: “Information about Africa’s biggest oil industry is an opaque myriad of numbers. No one knows which ones are accurate; no one knows how much oil Nigeria actually produces.If there were an authoritative figure, the truly horrifying scope of corruption would be exposed.” That the lack of accurate data has made many to raise doubts on the accuracy of payments made by oil companies to the government with respect to tax and royalty is an understatement. Nigeria reportedly loses about N2.2 trillion annually to inaccurate measurement system adopted across all sectors of the economy, especially in the oil and gas sector. According to the CEO of Nigerco Nig. Ltd, Mr. Yagbagi Sani, Nigeria’s exact crude oil production is not correctly known based on the fact that calculation is usually done on estimates and comparison of temperature and pressure at the well heads. He added: “No one actually knows what comes out of the well and what happens between the well and tank farms.” For decades, there have been efforts to address the institutional and regulatory framework weighing down the NNPC and indeed, the oil industry. The present administration vowed to redress the wrongs. It was also the need to bring integrity, transparency and accountability to bear on the operations of the problematic oil sector and indeed the entire economy that made the country to recently join the Open Government Partnership. But there cannot be openness in darkness and that is why availability of data is important not only to aid planning and research, but also for transparency and containing impunity. When there are gaps in essential information – as there are today in the oil and gas sector– and the accuracy and validity of the data is widely questioned, it is easy to game such a system.

Blog, Essays

Federal Republic of Northern Nigeria by Jesse Bay

  Ok, you may enjoy and luxuriate in your ignorance. I am not under a contract to share it with you. So the president asked for the World Bank to concentrate its loans for development in the North East of Nigeria. These are the issues for me. The name of the country is the Federal REPUBLIC of Nigeria. That means there are FEDERATING units which make up the Republic. That have needs. They also have responsibilities. One of such responsibilities is to be accountable for their own economy. That we are in a federation doesn’t mean that you abandon the task to feed, clothe and preserve yourself. And you don’t have to saddle the other federating units with your problems. They are not your creator, father, mother or god. This is the crux of self-determination fights since the days of Adaka Boro. Now that we have established that for the kindergartens, we can move on to the other aspects of responsibility and duty. Nigeria refused to evolve a proper federal fiscal system since Aguiyi Ironsi did the unthinkable in the 60s. So we have been feeding off the huge, crude breasts of the Niger Delta peoples. This feeding frenzy lottery has been won by the denizens of the North by a mile. Not only has the oil funds been the mainstay of the Northern States since the groundnut pyramids disappeared, the people who have arrogated the power to seize this massively wealthy breasts as ‘administrators’ have largely been from the North. So you would expect that the unequal and even illegal appropriation of somebody else’s wealth would be used to develop the North. But no. We were given the gift of 5 million Almajiris. Free roaming kids with no care, education, love or ability to make a livelihood. From the ranks of these hordes came the Boko Haram sect. Of course, social deprivation, mixed with religion always produce disasters in abundance. At least, 70% of the massive social upheavals have had their beginnings from the North. Fulani Herdsmen. Maitatsine. Kafanchan. Zangon Kataf. Bauchi. Boko Haram. Zak Zakky. Now, the failure of governments in the North to educate kids, in spite of allocating, disproportionately, more local councils to themselves than any other region – a way of cornering the Niger Delta wealth – produced millions of kids ready to become additional problems to other regions. Lagos has complained about the unsustainable influx of low skilled Northern youths into the place. There aren’t enough gate men jobs to go round and too many motorcycles as taxis. In a nutshell, the North East that President Buhari has asked special treatment for, came as a result of decades of failure on the path of Northern governments to do the needful. And we have all paid for their selfish, inane and irresponsible decisions or indecisions. A. More of the Niger Delta oil cash would not have been spent to defend the North East unnecessarily if the right things were done earlier. B. The other federating units have lost sons, dads, daughters, and mums in the service of defending the North East. We are paying lives for the sin of not educating kids and giving them hope. Something we already paid cash for by denying ourselves. Most of the foot soldiers of Boko Haram have come from the ranks of the Almajiri. So these are the ones shooting and killing our boys and girls. These kids are the ones being used to destroy their own corner of Nigeria. It’s not the Yoruba, Tiv, Urhobo, Efik or Benin youths doing this. We have Agberos in my corner of Nigeria. We are yet to have the need for Nigerian soldiers to die from their activities. C. It is this perpetual spoon feeding of the North that is fuelling the secessionist ideas. The spokespeople of the Northern lottery winners make matters worse by making incendiary comments. Just listen to the Junaid muppet. D. The lopsided nature of government and civil service appointments, favouring the North is another problem. Buhari typified this by his contract awards while in PTF. And this administration has seen more than necessary of the lopsided appointments. I don’t know how you expect the Ijaw to feel. E. On top of all of that, justice is buried while we are being asked to foot the bill of the perfidious jamborees. Now, imagine that some Northern governors were implicated in the Boko Haram debacle. Were they properly investigated? All the agencies to do the investigations are probably too lopsided in their appointments to even bother. So, back to the divisive, ethnic, and illegal request to the IMF by the president; WHEN THE BILL FOR THE REPAYMENT OF THE LOANS IS TO BE MADE, ALL THE FEDERATING UNITS WILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY UP. THAT WILL BE US CLEANING UP AFTER THEIR CORRUPT BEHINDS. That’s you and your kids forking out for loans you never asked for. NEVER MIND THAT SUCH LOANS OUGHT TO BE SHARED OUT TO THE FEDERATING UNITS. NEVER MIND THAT THESE NORTHERN STATES DO NOT TAKE PRISONERS WHEN IT COMES TO SHARING THE VAT MONEY UNDER THE ‘DO OR DIE’, ‘FOR BETTER OR WORSE’ GUISE. I am merely helping you to break things down so you can understand. Jesse Bay is on Facebook

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