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Nigerians Are in Captivity, A Lot of People Are Trying to Escape – Pat Utomi


  • ‘Nigeria has had very bad politicians one generation after another’

A political economist and former presidential candidate, Prof Pat Utomi, who also contested the governorship primary of his party in the last election, shares his thoughts about the state of the nation in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA

Nigeria will be 59 in two days and many Nigerians are grossly disappointed with the country’s level of development. How would you assess the country’s progress so far?

Part of my personal burden is that I have been around for all of those 59 years and so I have seen those 59 years from the eyes of a young person, a teenager, a middle-aged person and someone now entering into the twilight of his time of being. I think one sentence sums it up; excruciating and painful witness to a country’s failure to live its dream. Most of my adult life has been focused on two things; social justice and economic development. In both areas, Nigeria has been a remarkable failure. I still remember as a young academic interested in development issues the days people used to say to Indonesia that ‘if you organise yourselves well, maybe you can be like Nigeria.’ And now I’m living through a time people are saying to Nigeria; maybe you can be like Indonesia. Isn’t that a great irony? In fact, a friend of mine, an American professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins, Peter Lewis, reflected that in a book, titled ‘Growing Apart’, which was a comparison of Nigeria and Indonesia. As Nigeria went south, Indonesia moved up the ladder. If Indonesia is painful to compare Nigeria with, you just try to compare it with Singapore. If I compare what has happened over the years in Singapore and Nigeria, sometimes, I literally break down in the night and begin to sob. I just love Singapore.

What’s the attraction?

Well, it’s the story of a country that was literally nothing. I saw it grow from a fishing village to what it is now. Its Prime Minister once broke down and wept because they thought they could not survive without Malaysia when the Malaya Federation got rid of them. But it became the hub of development. Everything happened before my eyes. Something happened when I went to Singapore this summer, and the story is very real. I was in my hotel room; reflecting and I found myself literally going into private conversations with Chinua Achebe and Nelson Mandela. In many ways, some of their expressions reminded me very deeply, painfully and sorrowfully the failure of Nigeria as a country. I was just lost in conversation with these men and I actually plan to put down a book of those conversations of which I got no reply from these men. Somebody interviewed me in 1990 and I was shocked when the person said there is a topic you would turn to that would animate me any day, which is Nigeria. I have always been pan-Nigeria in all my views, but Nigeria has been a depressing ride; its youths are leaving and they are unsure about the future.

Where do you think the country is getting it wrong?

One of the things that the Nigerian elite have never gotten around is understanding what it means to govern. So we have one generation after the other of very bad politicians. Government has gone from bad to worse; you think it’s going to get better and the next one is just worse than the one before it. It’s depressing when you think they would learn from the mistakes of others but it never happens. Associated with this is the fact that governing Nigeria is expensive; politicians are on ego trips, which must be manifested in motorcades and how they steal the commonwealth in the name of taking care of themselves because they are government officials. In many countries, public officials are some of the least paid persons. Here, they are probably not as well paid but we know how much of our resources they have plunged.

The budget of the country comes to less than six per cent of our Gross Domestic Product and what it takes to run the government is extracted mainly from revenues from crude oil and taxation, and about all of it going into the budget. And this budget maintains less than two million of us who are either civil servants or politicians and they don’t even feel accountable enough to ensure that the rest of us have a decent life. They actually think who are we to be talking to them and asking to be governed well. So, between the civil servants and the politicians, we have a new colonisation of the Nigerian people. Femi Falana said the other day that Nigeria is governed like we are a conquered people and I disagreed with him. I told him we are not governed like we are a conquered people; we are a conquered people. Only a conquered people can be governed the way we are governed. We are in captivity and that is why a lot of people are trying to escape as if they are trying to break out of captivity. It’s a run for freedom. We cannot continue that way; it’s not possible.

Would you have an idea of how the country got to this level if Indonesia once admired us?

Yes, it wasn’t this way from the beginning. I remember the late Prof Emmanuel Elebute saying that when he was appointed a professor of medicine in the 60’s, his pay was higher than that of the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Can you imagine anybody in the National Assembly allowing a professor of medicine to earn more than them? That’s impossible in today’s system. We know how long it took him (Elebute) to get there, but we don’t know how long it took to get to the National Assembly. In some cases, all it takes is to steal a few ballot boxes, even if you are coming from the gutter. A collapse of culture happened somewhere along the way. When there is a collapse of culture, nothing dear exists anymore. Value shapes human progress and it determines what any society becomes, but there has been a collapse of culture in Nigeria and there are no values guiding anything anymore. Anything goes and you can get away with murder, literally. You can steal the maze today and the next day you would be the custodian of the maze. That’s a society that has lost everything.

If Nigeria continues on this route, where do you think the country is headed?

For three decades, I have been trying to get the Nigerian middle class to realise that they are the problem. I recently wrote a book, titled ‘Why Not’, where I talked about the complicit middle. I think I played some role in waking up that middle in 1993 after the annulment of the election. I wrote an article, ‘We must say never again.’ Professionals got up and said truly we couldn’t continue, but everybody went back to sleep and the conquest continued. Fully conquered by the political class, the Nigerian people are wondering who they are and what would happen to them next. But, you see the thing about situations like this is that they are not sustainable; it’s just for a period of time. About 25 years ago, I began using a phrase that Nigeria would witness the revenge of the poor. My friend, Rev Fr George Ehusani, seems to have popularised the phase. It’s happening as we speak. Let the rich travel from Abuja to Kaduna in their flashy cars and see what happens. And it’s just starting. Unfortunately, the poor and middle class are also caught up by it. We could have avoided all of these and build a prosperous and just society for all. When there is no justice, peace is hard to find. Nigeria built an unjust society and today it is searching for peace. It was all avoidable. I can go back to look at all my writings for the last 40 years and I can show where I predicted where we are today. I am tired this time and it’s time to retire.

There are people who believe that the discovery of oil is part of our problem, do you agree with that?

Nigeria has suffered a major problem that led to the collapse of culture, and it’s what I like to call the dangerous alchemy of the convergence of soldiers and oil. Military rule, which brought an authoritarian structure, met with oil, which brought free money. The people in power, who were soldiers, did not need the people because they had enough money coming from oil exploration to do as they pleased. So, people were very happy that they (military) left them alone. Then, they also stopped paying taxes and they stopped asking what they (leaders) were doing with our (oil) money. That drove the emergence of state capture. The people who had power and money basically captured the Nigerian state. I often talked about those who own Nigeria as their property. For nearly 60 years, we have had a group of people who have captured the country and owned it. In many ways, groups negotiate with them entry into sharing some of what they own. I have a very remarkable relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and I love him. There are two sides of him. There is a side of him that is with that rapacious group of captors and a side of him that represents a certain social will for good of all. He’s a very complex man caught in the middle of this and people don’t understand him. There are things about him that you may not like but there are things about him that you can’t but respect. But, there are others in that group that are not given to his pang of conscience. It’s a rapacious parasitic group.

There is also the belief that the Nigerian citizenry went to bed after the return to democracy in 1999, was that truly the case?

While the state capture lasted, they woke up in 1999 and we all fought the system until they (military) decided to let go. After that, we – and I charge myself as the first accused – decided we had done our bit, which was the ultimate mistake, in my view. It opened the doors to a bunch of charlatans and once those traditional politicians moved in, that was it. People who came with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Michael Opara and Ahmadu Bello, who grew up in the understanding of social conscience, thought the military was not serious about going. Then a bunch of bandits stepped in and Nigeria has not recovered since then.

Do you think it is possible to recover?

It is possible to recover. You see, why I think any nation caught in this kind of mess can recover is Brazil. If Brazil can come back, why not (Nigeria)? But my fear is that if we are not careful, instead of taking the Brazil option, we might do Argentina or worst still, we may do our natural ally and soulmate, Venezuela. Do we learn from our mistakes? Nigerian civil war was the worst genocide of the 20th century outside Hitler’s attempt at exterminating the Jews, even though we tried to cover up that history. Rwanda went through genocide and recovered brilliantly in the way President Paul Kagame has tried to rebuild the country. Nigeria has not had a good fortune of learning from the error of the Nigerian genocide in the way Kagame had. So, where do we find hope? I think there is still a group of people committed to the dignity of the human race, who are middle class persons and are still driven by a bigger good. I remember that one of the things I had written while reflecting on my thoughts about Achebe and Mandela was what I titled 1,100 years of servitude. My fear is for Nigeria as a nation not to plunge its people into 1,000 years of servitude. When I talk to many Nigerians, people are so short-termed and instant gratification-driven and it increases my pain. To have elite that are not sensitive to the pains of Nigerians is one of the reasons my time of being has been a depressing one.

Your party, the All Progressives Congress, on assuming power in 2015 lamented what it called PDP’s 16 years of misrule and people felt the APC would do things differently. Do you think anything has changed since your party took over?

Let me tell you my own history with that adventure. I think about seven or eight years ago, I was asked to give the annual lecture of the Leadership newspaper and the subject was ‘political parties’. I remember vividly and I remember that in that room were almost all the people who became the bigwigs of the opposition, sitting on the high table. I took the pain to analyse what political parties are; what their role is in building up ideas for social transformation and progress. But there was something interesting after I finished speaking in that hall. Paul Unongo (former Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum) running to the podium saying to me that he felt like locking the doors and preventing all of us from leaving the place so we could sit down and discuss how Nigeria would move forward. That lecture was to get the opposition to realise that the redemption of Nigeria was all these people getting together, crafting ideas about how Nigeria should travel and using the platform of a political party, based on ideals of social democracy, with the people’s capitalism embedded in it, to organise a better society. The first thing I would say about the trouble with Nigeria and my party, as you called it, is that we didn’t form a political party.

How do you mean?

We created something called the APC, but it’s not a political party. Political parties in Nigeria unfortunately remains essentially machines for winning elections; a classic example of machine for elections. Machine politics does not save a nation, rather it produces political actors, whereas Nigeria needs to be saved. Once we did not manage to form a political party out of the APC, the game was lost. The first game that was lost was that the APC had no machine for internal conversation. So, once the machine produced officers, it was the end of the game; we could not even talk internally about what we should be doing as a party. People who can testify are still alive.

I kept going back to talk to Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who was the chairman of the party, about the need for us to sit down, develop ideas and coach all the people elected on the party’s platform about what we stand for and where our country should be. He said we truly needed such but that there was no money, and I told him we didn’t need money. I said he should invite them and leave the rest to me. I told him I would bring my friends free of charge to orient them. So, I went through that with him, but when you can’t find a platform to speak inside your own party, what do you do? Maybe once in a while journalists would harass you (laughs) and you would say one or two things and that is the end. I’m not surprised that we are where we are now. But, it’s a tragedy for our country. And there is this big misconception that we are a rich country; but we are not. We are a bankrupt country. If we are a company, we would have gone like Thomas Cook (a British global travel group that folded up a few days ago).

Have you tried having that conversation with the new leadership of the party?

Remember I said I’m retired (laughs). Since I have no pension, maybe I would first go to an American campus and speak English for two years, perhaps I would earn enough that could sustain me in my village (laughs). It’s a big pity, because this country has so much potential. A professor at Harvard years ago said the central conservative truth is that it is not politics but culture and its values that are responsible for the progress of the society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change the culture and save it from itself. In effect, what he was saying was interpreted very nicely by Samuel P. Huntington (jnr) who gave an example of that. Lee Kuan Yew in many ways represents that central liberal truth.

He was a man who used politics to change the culture of his people and in doing that effectively, he took that country from the third world to the first. Unless there is a change in culture and values in Nigeria, the result would be the same. For example, our youth bulge should be producing demographic dividends for us, but, right now our youth bulge is producing the road to Somalia. Robert Kaplan told us 20 years ago that we would likely descend into anarchy, with ethnic, religious and economic cleavages. Instead of us to work assiduously at preventing that from happening, we just kept on behaving every day to get to the destination we were warned against. If lives were not involved, Nigeria would be a serious comedy, but the lives of millions of people are involved.

You participated in the presidential campaigns of your party prior to the 2015 election, and as an economist, some people expected that you would be in the President’s team to bring your experience to bear. Would you know why you didn’t get an appointment or were you offered and you declined?

One thing I know about God is that He loves me and He doesn’t let me go to where it’s not in my best interest. So, whatever happened was absolutely what God loved to happen, and it has been for my own good.

You took part in the primary election of your party for the governorship election in Delta State in the last election. Even when you wrote to your party to postpone the primary because the list of delegates was not available, you said you got no response. How did you feel about it?

I believe in process. The rule said if you would use the indirect primary you must provide all the aspirants with the list of delegates so they could pitch their ideas to those people, but the list never came. To be on the record, one week to the exercise the list didn’t come, so I wrote to the state and national offices. Even on the day of the exercise, we didn’t see the list. What is tragic about our situation is that we have used social media to confuse many things. I have seen on the social media on how some people said I didn’t know where the primary was taking place and that I went to another place. It was all nonsense. But they planted it in the media to suggest that I was somehow confused. But there was no such thing. 70 per cent of the things I see in the social media with my name don’t emanate from me, but what do you do.

What happened on the day of the primary?

You see, based on what I just said, there was no reason for me to show up; when I didn’t get the list and there was no response to my letters. On the day of the election, which was supposed to start at 9pm, they called for a meeting at noon and the delegation from Abuja was there. The then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Ibe Kachikuwu), who is also from the state was there, including the other aspirants. Every single person, except one, said it didn’t make sense and that we should postpone it. The chairman of the panel said, ‘Prof, you know the way things are in Nigeria’ and I asked if I could see the list but he still didn’t bring it out. He said he saw it yesterday in Abuja and I said okay, can we see it? He said ‘Prof, you know we are brothers, let’s just go to the field.’ I was looking at the man and I asked myself how this country came down so low.

He even said, ‘Prof this is not classroom’ (laughs). At that point I didn’t know whether to be amused or not. I knew it was clear what they came to do, so there was no point. The problem is that people who violate laws don’t go to prison, so it would be done again in the next election. In a normal country, all those involved in that process should be in prison by now. I am watching for the third time in my life, grand treason against the Nigerian people. What has happened in Nigeria unfortunately is that it has become a way of life. It has become a racket. So, rights are denied Nigerians normally. Several times I have told the Nigerian Bar Association that they have a duty to be activists for the rule of law.

At the point that the process didn’t go as planned, did you make any attempt to reach out to the authorities at the national level?

Which authorities, when they were the ones doing it? Whatever it was, there was deliberate collusion from the upper echelons of the party. They (electoral committee) can’t just do that kind of a thing among themselves.

The man who won the primary lost the election, were you surprised?

I expected that to happen. That was why the whole thing was like a no-brainer and I wonder why they didn’t understand that was how it would play out. The general politics of the place was such that anything other than someone like me emerging was baptising the incumbent.

Do you think you would have won if you had emerged as the winner?

Clearly, I would have. People were looking for something new and different. I didn’t wake up to say I wanted to run for any office, but they harassed me in my house. Those concerned persons disrupted my peace. Nobody around me, family and friends, wanted me to contest, but the people who came to me were not even my kinsmen. They were mainly from the central part of the state, which was what impressed me.

What was the position of your wife?

My wife, more than anybody else, was the one going quietly behind me to beg my friends to tell me not to go ahead. But, I also ask myself how history would remember me if there was a chance to mount the stage and effect a change and I walked away. One thing I can never be accused of in this country is not having made the effort to change anything I have ever criticised. I criticised how we treat widows and then I created a centre to support widows and it has been on for nearly 30 years. I observed that we didn’t have a public conversation, so I created Patito’s gang to aid public conversations. I know what it has cost me, beyond what it costs to air and produce the television show for 20 years. But I have been happy to live with all those things as part of my own sacrifice for nation building.

Housing Deficit

Are you still a proud member of the APC?

Political parties are an aggregation of groups in a direction, if it was really a party. The Conservative Party have the back-benchers, so consider me a very serious back-bencher in the APC.

You once contested to be President and then you later contested to be governor, some people would see that as a descent. Did you see it like that initially?

No, I don’t even think of those things like that. Many people thought that way but I don’t think in those terms. That is where pride really is, and the example I gave in my book, ‘’Why Not’ on that subject was that when I was a graduate student in the United States in the 70s, the Governor of California, a gentleman called Jerry Brown did something similar. After he left being the governor, he went to be a local government councillor. Over 30 years after, he ran for governor again. I had a good fortune of becoming friendly with a one-time Prime Minister of France. Just before he died, he was the Mayor of Lyon, after being the Prime Minister. So, I don’t think like that. In fact, if you tell me that what would change Nigeria is if I become a local government councillor, not even chairman, I will. My interest is not in the title but the impact.

After those attempts, do you still have plans to contest any office?

I told you that I’m making the moves to go to my village, you’re talking about an election (laughs). In fact, if not that I’m not buoyant enough to retire, because I don’t have a pension, I won’t be here (laughs). I also believe that impact is not a function of title. I wish people didn’t have to have a title to make a difference. I’m not looking for a job and I’m not looking for a title. What title did Mahatma Gandhi hold in India? You mention India and the first name anybody thinks of is Gandhi. I ran into Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu sometime and she looked at me and shook her head. She said ‘you know I have been watching and following you; I see these people trying to stop you to block you out the way they blocked my father.’ I was struck. As she walked away, I turned to the person next to me and I said I wish they would succeed. If I could go to my grave in the stature of her father, I would rather that than any title in Nigeria.

Now that you want to retire, what do you do at your leisure?

I talk to people like you (laughs). Of course, I read a lot, and that one is a habit. If I have 10 minutes to myself and I didn’t read, something would be wrong because I would always have a book in my hand.

Source: punchng

FMBN Boss, Dangiwa Explains How NHF Subscribers Can Own a Home At 0% Equity

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Ahmed Dangiwa has thrown more light to the bank’s scheme known as the National Housing Fund (NHF).

The NHF scheme according to him is designed to enable Nigerians have access to affordable mortgage loans through a contributory system. He made this known on Friday while granting an interview to Housing TV on their One on One Segment in Abuja.

The National Housing Fund scheme managed by FMBN is meant to provide home ownership for low and medium income earning Nigerians. According to Dangiwa, it’s a contributory scheme for Nigerians in formal, informal, private and public sectors to contribute 2.5% of their monthly earnings into the pool of funds. It’s from this pool of funds that they provide mortgages for Nigerians. The contributions are refundable at retirement and it gives its contributors the leverage to approach the bank to get mortgage loans.

Through the National Housing Fund, the FMBN are providing loans for people to either buy, construct or renovate their own house.

For those wishing to buy their own houses, the bank gives soft loans at 6% which can be paid over a period of 30 years for a maximum of 15 million naira.

For Nigerians who wish to obtain housing loans not exceeding N5 million, the bank has been mandated to offer 0% equity. Also, Nigerians will deposit only 10 per cent equity to it to be able to access loans between N6million and N15 million.

For those also intending to construct their own houses, the bank gives loans for that in any location of their choice. But that, according to Dangiwa, is only possible as long as they have a C of O, design and costing.

‘’We also give soft home renovation loan of 1 million naira, but people in the rural areas do not only use it to renovate but to even construct their own houses.

‘’We also give construction finance to developers to build houses for the NHF contributors. When they build the houses, they will bring it forward to the bank, we will choose a Primary Mortgage Bank who will package it or we go through the Rent To Own scheme.

‘’The Rent To Own is another window where once you are packaged for our funded estates, you move in and start paying your rent and at the end of the day the house becomes your own when you have completed the mortgage payment through your rent. These are some of the products the NHF provides,’’ he said.

Dangiwa said the Rent To Own package which was launched early this year is already assisting many Nigerians in accessing affordable housing.

He said, ‘’If you go to Kaduna state you will find the KSDP estate where we built up to 263 houses placed on rent to own. It was packaged by the trade union congress and Nigeria labour congress of Kaduna state. We have done same in many states of the federation.

Dangiwa added that The Rent To Own is a great and much improved option because it also comes with an insurance for beneficiary even while still paying the rent.

Non-Inclusion of Women Engineers Setting Profession Backward – Yohanna Edit

Engineer Ishimdi Yohanna Edit is a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). She was NSE vice president between 2017 and 2018. In this chat with ENE OSANG, she speaks on the challenges women engineers face in Nigeria, even as she insists that the non-inclusion of women engineers is a serious draw back to the general growth of the profession.

Nigeria marked its 59th anniversary recently, would you say women engineers have made commensurate advancement?

Women in engineering, 59 years after independence form less than 0.1 per cent of the professionals, and that is not healthy for us, not healthy for what we want to achieve as women, even men in engineering.

So, how are women engineers fairing?

Women engineers face quite enormous challenges in Nigeria but there is no giving up because challenges are part of life. We are moving.

If I say it is easy to be in a profession where ratio is like 1-1000 I will be lying because someone, somewhere, wants to tell you that by African culture you as a woman should be lower at all times. That your voice must not be heard, even in a meeting where issues are discussed you should be the last to speak and your opinion should be the last to be considered.

I mean, you begin to wonder, we did same exams, sat in same classrooms and possibly I performed better than you. So, it is a big challenge we are battling with. And today, in our professional body, since over 61years we have never had a female president, 61 good years not a single female president.

How has the association of women engineers used this body to address issues affecting women?

Yes, we have association of women engineers but it is still under the Nigerian Society of Engineers. It is a division, an arm.

Look at COREN as well, since its existence back in the 70s there has never been a female president or registrar or executive secretary just like NSE. So, the challenge is enormous but by God’s grace we will beat this.

What’s the effect of non-inclusion of women on the profession?

The non-inclusion of women is one of the major problems of Nigeria today. Women are underutilized, forgetting that they see beyond the present because what a woman sees sitting down a man can’t see standing.

The heart of a woman is unique because she sees the future and when we think, act, and do things, we see the future ahead but a man wants to implement based on present circumstances but that is not what God has created a woman for.

The challenge of engineering practice in Nigeria is due to the failure of allowing female input in the regulations of the engineering profession.

What would you say were your achievements as NSE vice president?

I served as NSE vice president two times, national executive member two times and other females too have been in the executive. But before we would finish our tenure we were terminated.

I call on Nigeria engineers to give females a chance because we have what it takes to make sure that engineering practice is given its rightful place.

What other challenges does NSE face?

Have you ever heard an engineer being the minister of health? Let me remind you that a decade ago, a female pharmacist was nominated to serve as a minister of health. That list did not reach the Senate because the medical doctors said no and stood by it but today who is the minister of works, minister of transportation? They are lawyers so it is just for the NSE to come together put the house in order and by so doing we would be allowed by the federal government to captain the boat of our core ministries like works, power, and transportation.

As a woman, do you regret choosing the engineering profession?

Impossible! I have never regretted and would never. When I was in the university my hopes were always high and I was the best, in my primary and secondary schools I was best in my class, representing my school in maths among others. But we have come out of school and the reverse is the case, those who found it difficult to make it in school are now leading us. When policies are made they are first consulted.

So, there is a serious gender issue that needs serious minded Nigerians to address in order to bring sustainable national development to the NSE and Nigeria in general. If you remove engineering there is no Nigeria and no developing as a nation.

Can you speak on the recently concluded annual conference?

The conference was apt; the meeting which was on disrupting energy is like a routine for NSE. On annual basis each branch organises the conference. The theme of the conference was: Utilizing Emerging Disruptive Technologies for Sustainable national development.

Sustainability is having future in your plan. So, you don’t do something detrimental or that will negatively affect the future.

We are developing as a nation, at 59 we should be better, but it depends on the yard stick we are using to analyse. For me, we have done well and there are rooms for improvement so the younger generation will have no reason to insult us.

What is your take on the increasing rate of building collapse?

The high rate of building collapse is a policy issue because there is no much policy to back up the increasing building collapse. Most buildings that collapse are those built by untrained personnel and they are many in the society today. Imagine a man who doesn’t know what re-enforcement means getting a building contract and then engages a contractor who wants to make profit. There are lots of things involved in this today and it is really not a good sight.

When untrained people handle building projects there are usually lots of compromise. For instance using wrong materials and all of such issues are likely to arise.

These issues cannot be blamed on Nigerian engineers. It is a problem of Nigerian engineers not being allowed to do their job.

How can this problem be addressed to avoid more loss of lives and property?

It is easy. The executive order has been signed by the President but is there adequate political will power to implement this order? There is this big problem of asking a beginner, who is competent to drop a balance of N50 billion before dropping proposal for a project. This is not possible. The regulators demand for items that are highly capital-intensive but if they can break projects into little proportions so that beginners can start something it will be welcomed because a lot of good and competent engineers are not getting contracts

What exactly do you mean by engineers not getting contracts; there are building projects all over?

What I mean is that in drafting policy there should be room for merit and competence. Looking at our capital projects, who are the companies that these projects are awarded to?

Many engineer’s CVs are being used without them knowing and that is why at implementation in Nigeria experts are really sidelined in the budget.

The National Assembly should have a committee of experts to look at the budget on annual basis because there is a lot of repetition on the budget on yearly basis. For instance, people no longer see government as service to the people but for self interest. People don’t have regards for integrity unlike before when you are given an office your heart will beat for what to do so you can be remembered, that is missing today but in my own I think integrity is important for national development.

Why does the NSE and Quantity Surveyors constantly clash, where should both professions draw the line?

Quantity surveyors have their work, which is glaring. We shouldn’t be having issues. There shouldn’t be any disputes if we are working towards national development. We should all be proud of our different professions because we are unique in our own way and should do well separately.

On capital projects, somebody said engineers have no business in costing and I laughed because if I could bring this down to a woman’s kitchen to make a good egusi soup there are different species of egusi and to make a good soup with lump I know the specie to buy. So, for somebody to now say I should not have business with egusi is laughable and one may ask what kind of soup do you want to make?

We can never achieve what all of us are clamouring for from engineering and national development by creating disparities because if you do that there would be problem.

What is your advice to government concerning the engineering profession?

The federal government should please give Nigerian engineering power to deliver on what they have been trained to do.

Source: Blueprintng

Poor Planning, Attitude Major Causes Of Increased Flooding – Aminu-Kano

Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano is the Director-General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation. He tells Journalist that Nigerians need enlightenment on how to reduce flooding:

There has been a series of flooding in recent times. As an environmentalist, what do you think are the possible causes?

I think a number of factors have been contributing to flooding in recent times but the key one is really lack of planning by the authorities and the attitude of Nigerians. These are the two main things. Why did I say lack of planning? We know the rains are coming; it is true that it has been higher due to climate change. More rain does not necessarily mean more flooding and even if it leads to flooding, it should not necessarily mean washing off properties, affecting people’s lives and income.

If you prepare and plan, you will know the rains are coming. It may be higher than usual but it will not affect people because resilience has been built into it. But our planning system in towns and cities leaves much to be desired. People are now building houses in river valleys and encroaching on flood plains.

We are just building anyhow, especially in Lagos; we are just building everywhere without adequate drains. Even the inadequate drains are constantly being blocked by plastics, compost, human and household waste all the time.

So a multiplicity of factors is responsible for what is happening now. Climate change brings out more rains than usual but our lack of planning and preparation also contributes. Also, we are clearing and sand filling marshy and wetlands which used to regulate floods; we are filling them with concrete but water must find its level.

At the same time, at the upstream, we are cutting down trees which also regulate floods. So, we are leaving the soil bare for more run off of water coming at faster speed towards the ocean. Therefore, we have these issues all over.

Can there be a time when Lagos and other Nigerian cities will be free from flooding if the right things are done or is it going to continue as it is?

That is what we are asking the government. Should we wait year in and year out and face the flooding with suffering and disasters including loss of lives, properties and income? If the right things are done, it may not happen like this.

We need to build adequate drains because those tiny surface drains won’t work. Look at Lekki, it used to be a marshy land soaking up water. Now, people just move in, sometimes they don’t even clear the land. They just sand fill it, compact it and in a few months, you see an estate spring up. And the only drain is a tiny ditch which is half a metre, which is supposed to carry water away. It doesn’t work like that.

We need adequate drains and stop blocking the existing ones with waste and plan well so that we have relevant infrastructure before we build. This must include drainages and not just tiny, less than one-metre open surface ditches. We need real proper a drainage system based on scientific assessment of the level of water and knowing where things should go. Unless we do that, it (flooding) may continue.

Lagos is a low-lying city on the coast, criss-crossed by the lagoon and so many creeks and next to the ocean with sea level rise as well. I envisage if we don’t do the right thing, it will get worse.

How can stakeholders such as environmentalists, town planners and others work together to control flooding?

We do need to work together a lot. There are things that can be done in the short term as a palliative and then there is the long term that will need a lot of resources.

In the short term, non-governmental organisations with support from the government and the private sector need to do a lot of sensitisation and raising awareness for people to understand the dangers of blocking the drains by dumping refuse in them. But beyond that we really need advocates to ask the government to do proper drainage assessment of the whole city and construct adequate drains needed to drain Lagos properly.

Then also, our planning authorities need to look at how they are giving approvals to people to sand fill wetland and build anyhow without proper drains.

What roles are there for individuals to play in the process?

It has to be a change of attitude because our attitude to these whole things as individuals is wrong. Number one, we just leave everything to government; we say what is the government doing about this and we fold our arms. So, when the rains come, we just do what we can, to the point that you see people being carried on the back through flooded streets.

I think we have to change our attitude. Those of us that are elite, especially those building in places like Lekki and its surrounding areas; they need to know that building a massive structure after sand filling and constructing a tiny drainage doesn’t work. They are flooding the whole area.

Even ordinary people who are not so rich and build in other areas, we need to change our attitude to waste disposal. We shouldn’t be throwing refuse from our houses into the gutters; we should be cleaning and making sure that gutters from our house into the larger drainages are free and make sure that the channels are not clogged with waste because it stops the flow of water and impacts on flooding.

Do you think we are doing enough in terms of response to climate change issues as a country? And if not, what do you think should be done?

Climate change is a massive issue and impacts flooding in two ways; one is the sea level rise, which is happening now and likely to get worse. The second is the increase in rainfall. In these two ways, there is more water coming and Lagos and other places are at risk.

Nigerians are not as aware of climate change as they should be; we are not doing enough as a nation, from our government to institutions, the private sector and individuals. But climate change is bigger than Nigeria, no matter what we do. We have to collaborate with other countries of the world to make sure that climate change doesn’t get worse.

Housing Deficit

But more importantly, we have to contribute our quota; we have to make sure we keep to the commitment we made to the international community that we will cut our carbon emission by 20 per cent without help. But if we get help, we can go even further and reduce it by 40 per cent. That promise made in 2015 during the Paris Agreement, which we haven’t really started implementing, is much but we have to ensure we are doing something serious as a country.

Now that we already have flooding, what advice can you give to those that are affected?

People have to do something but the government also has to help them as an emergency to enable them to cope with the current situation. Authorities are getting better at predicting flooding and rain pattern. Every year before the rainy season, they send out predictions.

But I think people in affected areas should move out rather than try to brave it. They have to be careful not to catch water-borne diseases. They should relocate and try to prepare for next year so they don’t get caught in the same situation again.

But above all, the government needs to support people to cope right now because many have lost their properties and means of livelihood.

Source: Punchng

‘If A Man Can Do It, A Woman Can’: Quebecer Breaking Barriers in Construction

A Canadian immigrant is breaking gender stereotypes on construction sites as she helps rebuild Quebec’s largest interchange.

Shengnan Li is helping make inroads for the massive five-year project by operating an articulated dump truck, transporting materials to and from the site.

“The road will be there for many many years and I can tell my daughter, ‘See mommy built that’,” said Li in an interview with CTV National’s Vanessa Lee.

The 35-year-old arrived in Quebec from Tianjin, China in 2007, “with two suitcases” and a diploma in computer sciences. She intended to earn a master’s degree in management.

But two weeks before graduation, she says she had a change of heart.

“I’m a girl who likes action and to try new things and some adventures and then I realized that management is not for me,” she laughed.

Turning to a job skills questionnaire, Li was matched with a heavy machinery operator — a surprise to both her and her civil engineer father.

“He works in big construction sites in Beijing and he told me ‘Oh, there’s big machinery like [an] excavator and bulldozer that maybe you can try but I cannot imagine you doing that,'” said Li.

Despite the surprising result, Li signed up for the trade program and says she hasn’t looked back since.

“The first day for me, it was a little bit scary because I’m so small, so little and the big machinery is so big, so high,” said Li. She added that “if a man can do it, a woman can do it too.”

Li was previously recognized by the Elles Committee of Quebec for her determination to break stereotypes in the construction field after working on several major projects in the province.

She said the male dominated trade is gaining more female representation every year.

“First year, I see maybe three women working here, but now it’s 17,” says Li.

According to the Quebec Construction Commission, there are currently 3,520 women in the construction trades.

Li says she is proud to be one of those women and hopes she encourages other females to join the trade.

Source – CTV NEWS

More Buildings Will Collapse Unless…

Lateef O. Onundi is a Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID). In this interview, he gives reasons why many more buildings may collapse across the country.

There have been cases of building collapse in some states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In 2019 alone, more than 20 buildings have collapsed. What do you think is the major cause?

There have been many building collapse incidences in 2019 in the FCT, Enugu, Jos and Lagos, where one claimed the lives of an entire family of seven. Unfortunately, many more buildings may still collapse because they are not constructed in accordance with the country’s guiding principles for approval, design and construction. These scenarios are similar to the disobedience of many traffic rules that lead to many accidents. The building industry is regulated by scientific axioms, principles and laws. When these are violated, serious consequences occur. It is these consequences that have led to accidents of building collapse. Unless we start complying with appropriate standards for buildings before erecting them, engaging qualified, registered professionals and also strictly ensuring that appropriate materials are used and the technological methods of erection and construction are also strictly complied with this unfortunate situation may continue to rise. Therefore, I am calling on various disciplines of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), not just the building industry, to start working with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Senate to produce local codes of practice and appropriate by laws that will regulate all aspects of approval, design, construction, maintenance and repair of building facilities and services in the country.

There are a lot of quacks who are almost overshadowing professionals in the building industry; what can be done to put a stop to this? Our survey of building collapse between 1971 and 2016 shows that 7.3 per cent of the incidences were caused by the activities of quacks. Private developers of building projects generally assume it is a waste of money to engage qualified professionals because they want to complete their building projects at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, they consider lower cost as first priority over safety. By all rational structural principles and policies, safety comes first before economy. If it is not safe, no optimisation analysis suffices. Therefore, it is very unsafe and unlawful to engage people that are not properly trained and approved by the regulatory authorities to build in any part of the world; not just Nigeria. It is, however, heart-warming that recently President Muhammadu Buhari graciously signed the COREN Act Amendment Bill 2019 to broaden the powers of COREN; of prosecution of infractions, regulating industrial training of engineers, capacity building of local content in the Nigerian engineering industry and the investigation of engineering failures.

Do you think all the professionals are well trained and qualified?

Nigerian engineers and our leaders are not telling other stakeholders: government, private individuals and the international community, the realities of equipment deficit that we suffer either in the training of our technical, engineering and technological institutions, or those essential laboratories, instruments, equipment, light and heavy machinery required by the practicing engineers to enhance their knowledge of problems and improve their productive capacities.

What is the solution to building collapse in Nigeria?

Efficient and functional laboratories must be provided in the technically related tertiary institutions, in the FCT, state and local government areas. It is also necessary to encourage improved technical training for skills and knowledge development of professionals in the building industry. It is even disturbing that government projects like public buildings also collapse under construction. Even worse is the absence of a viable national code of practice. This means that 8.8 per cent faulty designs noted in our data on collapsed buildings could have serious implication on the level of competence of some of the professionals handling public projects. That is why corporate and public buildings collapse is as high as 40 per cent.

The professional institutions: COREN, NSE, Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers, (NICE), etc. and SON are therefore requested to be more serious at checking the level of enforcement of international codes of practice or develop local equivalents for building materials vendors for standardization and quality control.

Perhaps there is a need by SON, in collaboration with  the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) and the Ministry of Works to create two important units: Collapse Building Prevention Unit (CBPU) and Collapse Building Investigation Unit (CBIU) at the project approval departments at the federal, state and local government levels. It is advocated that before a project is approved, CBPU must look at possible factors that can cause three-storey buildings and above to collapse with an aim to preventing them.

Apart from this, a database of the properties of soil, blocks, concrete and steel reinforcements characteristics and strengths at appropriate levels are created for quality control and reference for analyses in case of structural problems. Similarly, CBIU should be charged with the responsibility of investigating all cases of building collapse at all levels. Also, to prevent errors, before approval is given for all three-storey buildings and above, it is vital to make sure that they are checked by a committee of professionals after the design is completed by a consultancy firm; instead of limiting the design responsibility to only one consultancy firm. Expatriates most times win contracts for bridges and high rise buildings and they have not recorded the same level of collapse cases simply because they are well trained and they have good laboratory facilities and equipment to support what they are doing. In fact, some of them use their countries’ codes to do the design and even build. Therefore, the codes, enforcement laws, continuous improvement supervision,  good laboratory facilities and equipment to support what we are doing may be the actual solution to this worrisome national problem; if not, buildings will continue to collapse.

Source: Dailytrustng

Nigeria At 59: We Are A Failed Country —Mailafia

59 years after independence, many Nigerians complain that the country is not where it is. In this interview with SANYA ADEJOKUN, economist, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) deputy governor and presidential candidate in the last election, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, looks at Nigeria’s growth trajectory since 1960.


NIGERIA is 59 years as an independent country. Do you believe it is a nation yet?

Unfortunately, I cannot answer in the affirmative. I wish I could proudly say that our country is a nation. Unfortunately, it isn’t. We are far from being a nation, like the Swedes, Germans, the French, or the Swazis. And it is not only because we are an ethnically heterogeneous country. There are multiethnic nations across the world. Singapore, for example, is a multiethnic and multi-religious country. But thanks to the nation building vision of their founding-father Lee Kuan Yew, Singaporeans enjoy a common national identity despite their heterogeneity. The same may be said for Ghanaians, Russians and Chinese. A nation is defined as a political community in which the people feel a deep organic and spiritual bond; with a shared feeling of belonging and a sense of a common destiny. The great sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo famously described Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression.” A lot of people criticised him for that statement. After 59 years of independence, we are farther away from being a nation than ever before.


Why is that so?

Several factors account for this unhappy state of affairs. The first is quite simply that throughout our decades of independence, we never really had true nation builders among our leaders. The closest we ever came to having nation builders was a figure such as General Yakubu Gowon. He believed – and still believes – in the concept of Nigerian nationhood. In a manner of speaking, he lives it and dreams it and prays it. If ever someone could ever be described as “the Abraham Lincoln of modern Nigeria”, that person would be General Yakubu Gowon. The idea of the NYSC was his. And so was the original proposal to move the capital from Lagos to the geographical centre of the federation. In all his infrastructure and economic planning policies, he had a national vision for our country. In his own cunning way, Olusegun Obasanjo was to some extent also a nation builder. As for most of our other leaders, they neither understood nation building nor did they ever care about it really.

Second, the removal of history from the school curriculum is one of the greatest follies we have ever committed in our country. The study of history right from elementary school is one of the biggest and most effective instruments for imbuing our young people with a national consciousness. Whoever took that decision ought to be tried for high treason. Teaching history is a means of socialisation and enculturation of the young into the myths that make up a nation. All nations to some extent live by myths. We owe it a duty to our children to teach them the kind of myths that reinforce their confidence about our country and its high and noble destiny. Related to this factor is the third element. We are yet to have a truly great national reconciliation exercise. Our history since 1966 is nothing but a hodgepodge of lies and make-belief. Many of our leaders were part of the so-called “Class of ‘66”. They were among the direct actors and dramatis personae in that sordid, macabre drama of violence, blood and death. There are wounds that only truth, justice, recompense and genuine reconciliation will heal. So long as we prefer to bury reality in a dung heap of historical lies, so will nationhood, solidarity and genuine amity continue to elude us. The fourth element is what I call the decade-long civil war that wrecked such untold havoc on our mental psyche. Boko Haram was invented as a weapon of political destabilisation by some of our political elites. Those same elites have also cultivated the murderous herdsmen militias that a committing genocide throughout the Middle Belt and beyond. They have killed men, women, children, the elderly and infirm in a hideous and indiscriminate manner. Some of these people are barbarous aliens from our poverty-stricken neighbours. Our political elites have imported them as armed militias in a bid to re-order our country and to change its demographic geomorphology in line with their own wicked and evil plans. Our leaders fail to realise that man is a moral being. Once you destroy the moral fabric of society there is no end to the evil that takes over. As a consequence, Nigerians feel that they cannot trust their leaders and they cannot feel a sense of loyalty or belonging to a so-called federal entity that behaves like a rapacious beast rather than an instrument of the servant state that caters for their welfare and security.


On October 1, 1960, Nigeria was almost at par with India, Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Singapore and a few others that now appear far ahead. Why was this?

That one is a long story. You are not quite accurate. Nigeria was in fact ahead of some of those countries you mentioned. According to the accounts of the great Austrian-American economist Wolfgang Stolper, who was an adviser during our first National Development during the years 1959-62, our country was well ahead of Malaysia, Singapore and India. Stolper met everybody who mattered in the government and economic planning. He rated such people as Simeon Adebo, Ojetunji Aboyade, Ali Akilu, Abdul Aziz Atta, Sam Aluko, Jerome Udoji and Pius Okigbo as world-class technocrats.

Unfortunately, today, we are nowhere compared to those countries. They have made such giant strides in economic and social development while we have, as a matter of fact, regressed. As of today, our GDP stands at about US$500 billion while our per capita income is US$2,049. Our average life-expectancy is 53 years while our human development index (HDI) is a low 0.532 (157th out of 198 countries). Contrast our position with that of tiny Singapore with a population of 5.6 million. They have a GDP of US$372 billion and a per capita income of US$65,627 and a very high HDI of 0.932 (9th position out of 198 countries). Singapore has an average life-expectancy of 84.8 years. Its physical infrastructures are world-class while ours are relatively primitive. As you probably heard, in 2018 we overtook India as the world capital of poverty. India’s poor are now about 70 million out of a population of 1.3 billion (about 18 per cent of the population) while our poor number some staggering 87 million, representing 45 per cent of our population of 198 million. There is no magic about these development outcomes. The emerging economic powers invested in human capital, skills, infrastructures and agriculture. They built an eco-system that allowed their people to flourish in atmosphere of peace and harmony. They were also relatively stable politically.

Brazil, for example, initiated an ambitious poverty-alleviation programme first under President Hernando Cardoso and then under the more radical socialist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Corruption exists in all countries, but countries such as Indonesia ensured that the money stayed at home. My friend Peter Lewis, Dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC did a brilliant study of Nigeria and Indonesia. Our two countries started with similar initial conditions but diverged widely apart because of the bad policy choices we made. Like us, Indonesia underwent the tragedy of civil war. We similarly experienced corrupt military tyrannies. What made all the difference, according to Lewis, is that the corrupt military tyrants in Indonesia invested in their people and ploughed back their stolen wealth into the economy. By contrast, we created a petro-dollar rentier state where the bulk of the money was squirreled abroad. We simply had no mind to build an inner-directed and inner-propelled developmental state that could bring hope to the teeming millions of our benighted people. To echo William Shakespeare, the fault is not in our star but in ourselves. We are a failed country.


At the beginning there was development plans. Would you regard jettisoning of this as a reason the country is still at this low stage of development?

Yes, indeed, you are correct. But I wouldn’t go so as to say that development planning has been the sole determinant of economic progress among the more advanced emerging economies. But it has been a very critical factor. I don’t where we got the ideas that development planning is bad and that all we need are so-called “rolling plans” and mid-term expenditure frameworks. The history of planning in Nigeria goes back to colonial times. Before independence, the departing British brought in economists from the World Bank and the United States to assist in designing Nigeria’s first five-year economic development covering the years 1962 to 68. We’ve had altogether four national plans since independence, the other three being the Second National Development Plan 1970 to 74, the Third National Development Plan 1975 to 1980 and the Fourth National Development Plan 1981 to 85.


In addition, there has been the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), which, strictosensu, is not an economic plan, but a general overview of economic goals and principles. Experts will continue to debate which, if any, among those plans was successful. It is generally agreed that the Second National Development Plan was among the most successful. It was successful because it was masterminded and implemented by great men such as Obafemi Awolowo and Professor Adebayo Adedeji, with help of technocrats such as Allison Ayida and Phillip Asiodu who were eminent economists in their own right. In 1985 the Ibrahim Babangida military administration were persuaded by the Bretton Woods institutions to jettison planning altogether.

Many of our so-called economists who bought into the fraud were in no position to know that works such as those by Naomi Caiden and Aaron Wildavsky, Planning and Budgeting in Poor Countries, were really sponsored stratagems to ultimately ridicule planning in developing countries and to discourage it. Those were also the years of the Cold War. This is not to by any means idealise planning. Economic development planning cannot be a panacea to solve all economic ills. But I see it as a discipline and tool for resource and political mobilisation that enabled leaders and the nation’s economic managers to focus on their long-term policy choices. Economic planning also helps to minimise the rampant policy inconsistencies and instability that accompanies regime changes. Contrary to what many suppose, the emerging countries that have enjoyed accelerated growth and structural transformation have precisely those countries that never jettisoned economic development plans. These include: China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Those countries have persisted with economic development in disregard to pressure from foreign powers. And the results have been salutary. India recently modified its national planning framework. But they are still very much committed to long-term planning. I heard some noises recently that Minister of Finance, Planning of Budget is thinking of developing a long-term perspective plan for the next 30 years. I warmly welcome that development.


Is it proper to refer to Nigeria as a federal state?

Well, I think we are a sort of a federal state, at least according to the letter of our constitution, if not its spirit. We have an over-centralised federation, which in many ways defeats the real desire and objective of our ethnic nationalities. We have inherited this over-centralised structure from the military era. However, I must point out that those who badger about “true federalism” don’t know what they are talking about. There are forms of federalism. They vary in structure and constitutional forms and practises, from USA to Canada, Russia, Ethiopia Australia, India and Switzerland. My point of departure is that every federal structure should reflect the deepest desires of its constituent ethnic communities, their historical experience, temperament and unique national conditions. We need a federal system that accords with the deepest yearnings of our people. I believe that Nigerians want to continue to live together. But they also desire autonomy and relative self-determination, devoid of an overbearing centre. The constitution that we inherited from the military in 1999 is a 419 contraption. It was prepared by a few jurists from one part of the country. They implanted into the document all sorts of inequities, egregious nonsense and patent jurisprudential mischief. To the extent that it was not the outcome of “We, the people”, it is an illegitimate document. One thing we Nigerians don’t understand is that the best constitutions are written not by lawyers but by political philosophers. We need a new constitution written by our best political-philosophical minds. Leave it to lawyers, and they will inject all sorts of inconsistencies and ambiguities, all for the purpose of buttering their own bread. Those who know the law and nothing else can be very dangerous people!


How should we properly restructure the country to function properly?

Please, allow me to say that I am not among those who are using the idea of “restructuring” merely to bludgeon one party of the country against another. The condition of our country today makes it clear that we have no future as a people unless we face squarely the arduous task of re-engineering our federation. We must be transparent and honest about the process of political reform. We must agree on basic principles: the rights of nationalities, the principle of self-determination and a referendum process that ensures that ethnic nationalities can join whichever region they so wish. We must dust-up several documents that we have buried under the carpet for our selfish and narrow-minded interests, prominently the report of the last political confab and the recommendations of the Willinks Commission on Minorities. In principle, we cannot go back to the tripodal structure we had in 1960. The great doyen of colonial administration at Oxford, Dame Margery Perham, described our federation at the time of independence as an “unstable tripod” which was doomed to collapse. The North, as you know, comprised two-thirds of the landmass of federation, thereby defeating one of the principles of federalism, which asserts that no one region should be so dominant as to threaten the others. For my part, I’m in favour of no more than 5 regions: West, North, Middle Belt, East and Delta. I am also in favour of unicameral legislature together with a modified parliamentary system.


What lessons do you think we have refused to learn as a country; how and why? 

It was the German philosopher, Hegel, who opined that the only lesson history teaches is that people never learn from history. There are, in my opinion, five lessons that we have failed to learn: (i) bad policies will simply produce bad outcomes; (ii) No society can ever transcend the level and mindset of its ruling elites, and if you are ruled by monkeys you will sooner or later become a land of monkeys and even the best among you will begin to mimic the behaviour of monkeys for the sake of self-preservation; (iii) our federation, as currently constituted, is programmed to fail, while the secular process of decline will continue until we take steps to re-engineer our system; (iv) without peace and security, nothing good can be achieved; (v) the whole world knows that our country in its current trajectory will eventually disintegrate if we continue on this self-same path of folly. We have refused to learn because we do not have righteous and enlightened leaders who are God-fearing and who are competent enough to do the right thing. As a society we also lack the institutional mechanism to internalise and promote collective learning in all we do.


Why is the leadership question intractable? 

Economists and social scientists have described a phenomenon that we term “path-dependence”. It is in the nature of human societies that once they set upon a path they tend to continue along those paths. It seems to confirm one of Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion in physics that a body continues in a state of motion until an opposite force either brings it to a halt or forces it to change course. The same is true of leadership traditions. Once countries tend to settle for certain social groups from which leadership recruitment is made, they would tend to perpetuate that system. This is true of democracies old and new: Britain, Germany, France and so on. It’s even true of Russia, where they have never known anything like a liberal leader from Ivan the Terrible to Tsar Alexander and Vladimir Putin. Liberalism in Russian political culture is interpreted as weakness, which is why they quickly got rid of the hapless but well-meaning Mikhail Gorbachev. Nigeria has never had a first-rate leader. We’ve had, at best very mediocre people. The kingmakers and godfathers always prefer low-grade people because they believe they are more malleable. They are suspicious of anyone that seems to have a mind of his own. It has been our greatest undoing. The most outstanding leader who was denied the high magistracy was the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo. What we don’t realise is that the most advanced countries are also unashamedly elitist. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore was a beautiful mind himself and did not feel threatened by equally gifted people. In fact, he surrounded himself with brilliant minds. Another thing we fail to realise is that no society can grow above the level and mentality of its leaders.  The godfathers and self-appointed kingmakers have also ensured that politics remains a prohibitively expensive business. To run for the presidency, you would need a minimum of N10 billion. You would either have to be a thief or a robber baron or a friend of both. And even when they finance you, it goes without saying that you become forever beholden to them. The price you have to pay is to open up the treasury and NNPC for them to loot. You will also have to bend the arc of the commanding heights of the economy to feed their parasitical proclivities. And if I may quote the great Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore: “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history.”


Is there any synergy between the political class and economic elite? How and why? 

Yes, there is an apparent synergy between the political class and the economic elites. But as you know, there is good synergy and bad synergy. Most of what goes for synergy between them has been of the negative variety. The biggest industrial and oil moguls work through a system of political patronage. Businesspeople support politicians financially during elections and in exchange regulatory monopolies are designed to satisfy them. They also receive unfair concessions, including oil blocks and the likes. Some of the privatisation programmes that were implemented achieved unsatisfactory results because of such game-theoretic realities. Another thing we have failed to understand is that you need to shield the higher civil service from external commercial pressure if they are to perform their task in the overall common good. In countries such as South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, they started off with a highly merit-based civil based on competitive examination. Japan set the pattern for that; having copied the system the Chinese that had operated a highly advanced bureaucratic mandarinate since medieval times. To this day, competition into the Chinese civil service is extremely fierce. Only the very best make it into the civil service. India maintains the same tradition. The higher civil service in those countries enjoy prestige, tenure and good emoluments. They are also shielded from undue political pressures and from baneful influences of corrupt businesspeople. This allows them to operate as a technocracy that designs and implement public policies with purely technical considerations in mind. They also have the leeway to give sound professional advice to the politicians.


The citizenship issue in the past and now?

The concept of citizenship since Aristotle has been a binary one. You cannot have citizens without the rulers. It is essentially about rulers and the ruled. It is also about the social contract. In modern political theory the state is essentially a contract that communities enter into with each other to surrender their sovereignty in exchange for protection from the vagaries of nature and man. It is a two-way street. Citizens and rulers have duties as well as obligations. As citizens, we have a duty to pay our taxes, to rise to the defence of our country in the event of war and to perform other civic obligations as are expected of us. The rulers, on their part, have a duty to govern with fairness and justice and to be accountable to the people for whatever they do. A government that fails to protect its citizens and to secure the common peace has ipso facto failed in its most elementary duties. A government that perverts the course of law and public administration can no longer earn the loyalty of its citizens. Citizenship in Nigeria today is under severe threat. Through the excuse of our so-called “porous borders”, millions of illegal immigrants have been allowed into a country, a good number of them bearing arms. They have killed and maimed and committed rapine. We do not even know who is a citizen anymore. Anybody can walk across the border and they can lay claim to rights more than you and me. And unfortunately, some of the policies government is pushing through – Ruga and the bill to take-over all our rivers, waterways and lakes are rightly or wrong perceived as dispossessing indigenous populations of their ancestral patrimony. Those of us who speak the Hausa language know that some of these people are not Nigerians. It happens also that our national passport is the easiest to obtain in the world. Many people committing crimes abroad claim to be “Nigerians” but most are only operating with passports illegally acquired from our interior ministry. The genuine Nigerian citizen has become an alien in his own fatherland.


Why the leadership inertia to the critical issues that trigger threats of dismemberment of the country.

This is a rather difficult one. Somehow one would have to perform the psychic exercise of entering into the minds of those who are ruling us to understand how their mind works. It is absolutely true that our beloved country is hanging on a dangerous precipice. The anger and bitterness is unprecedented. But I think the people concerned don’t give a damn. They reason that because they have monopoly of the use of violence and have absolute control over the institutions and machinery of government, they can do as they please. The alarming interference with the independence of the judiciary is perhaps the most dangerous of these trends. We also watch with dismay as National Broadcasting Commission is bullying people and destroying the foundations of free speech that are so central to our democratic norms. The kind of atmosphere of sheer lunacy that we are seeing is unimaginable. Channels TV, for example, prides itself in being “the best TV station in Nigeria” for the better part of a decade. But they are actually among the worst. They operate by pretending to be “neutral” when what they are in fact projecting is a kind of amoral complicity with murder and genocide in our country. To assert professional neutrality in the face of the killing of innocent, defenceless people is not only unconscionable, it is evil. This phenomenon arises from the very unhealthy atmosphere that has overshadowed political existence in our country today.


Is it because of class interest or hegemony? 

I would say more hegemony than class. A section of our elites have taken it upon themselves to re-imagine our country in the image of a backward ideology. People who do such things actually deliberately encourage economic stagnation like they did in Sudan until recently. The logic is simple. People can only rebel when things are looking up, not when they have been reduced to Point Zero. So they deliberately kill the economy, allow illegal aliens infiltrate our country, turn a blind eye to rural bandits, and allow chaos to prevail. It is either they allow it or the unable to do anything about it. This is why they describe horrendous murders in the anodyne terms of “farmers-herders clashes”. Where are the clashes when well-armed bandits descend on a poor defenceless peasant with his wife and children in Zamfara or Adara land? The truth is that they continue to rule through fear and intimidation. Anybody who dares to criticise them becomes an “enemy” of the state. Blinded by power, they do not know that our country is bleeding to death.

Which among the gains and losses for Nigeria as a federation in 59 years, surpasses the other so far; and why?

We lost almost three million people during the tragic civil war. It was an unnecessary. If the highly overrated Dim Emeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu had not been such an arrogant fool; and if General Gowon had exercised more restraint and more forbearance we would not have had to go to war. They were relatively young men. Gowon was barely 32 and Ojukwu was barely a year older. They were mere kids playing with big dangerous toys. We lost so much treasure by way of capital and blood. The wounds continue to rankle. According to some estimates, out of the US$1 trillion made in the last 40 years, some US$400 million has either been stolen our expended in questionable projects. We have robbed future generation of infrastructures, world-class high speed trains, good highways and outstanding universities that could compete with the best in the world. We also lost the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon out of our greed and incompetence. Bakassi has been our biggest foreign policy debacle since independence. We have lost the chance to make ours a great nation. We have become a beggarly nation – a byword for mediocrity, folly and collective failure. Our national image stands among the lowest of all the countries of the earth, right next to Somalia, Afghanistan and Haiti. How are the mighty fallen!


Affordable Housing Delivery Critical to Ending Mass Poverty in Nigeria –Nwora, EFAB Boss

DR. Fabian Nwora, is the CEO/ Chairman, EFAB Properties Ltd, a household name in real estate sector in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview, the property magnate said President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is achievable if houses are made affordable to more Nigerians.

He called on government to address the issue of multiple taxation on house owners and also reduce the prices of building materials to enable more people build their own houses.

He urged President Buhari to appoint a person who is familiar with housing sector as Minister of Works in his new cabinet, adding that the person should be willing to partner key players in the hous- ing sector. He speaks on how he rose from grass to grace.

Humble beginning

First of all, let me start by in- troducing myself. My name is Dr. Fabian Nwora, a businessman and CEO, EFAB Properties Ltd. I’m from Osumeyi in Nnewi South Lo- cal Government Area of Anambra State. I started as a trader with my elder brother, Chief Louis Nwora, in Onitsha in 1974. In 1977, I was transferred to Kano State to estab- lish the building materials section and we deal on iron rod, tiles and cement. From there, I went to open another branch in Sokoto State. In 1992, we moved into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and started the same busi- ness, building materials. It was a kind of family business. So, when I left Sokoto to Abuja, I settled in Idu where I had to build my office since there was no existing structure for me to rent. So I built a house which served as my shop where we were selling iron rod. I built my house at Idu with mud because that was the only convenient and affordable material. Not quite long, we discovered that property business was moving fast in Abuja, hence I realised that there was need for me to build a house to live with my family in that remote area. So, I approached the villagers to sell a plot of land to me, which

I bought at the cost of N2,000 without Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O).

I built a four-bedroom apart- ment with boy’s quarter and I moved in with my family, but I later discovered that I was lonely with my family because I didn’t have neigbours. The house was almost in the bush, but because I knew where I was going and what I had in mind, I didn’t bother. Before then, I was in Sokoto Government Reserve Area (GRA), but because I was focused, I damned the conse- quence and decided to live there. So, in order to have neigbours, I decided to buy another land for N2,500 from the villagers. I built 10 flats of a room and parlour self- contained and I let them out and those who needed accommodation paid for them. I built the house with N10,000 and after letting the apartment for N6,000, it was then I realised that I could recoup both the money for the land and building with two years rent. Then I said to myself, this is a lucrative busi- ness and that was how I went into property business.


I went further to build more houses though with mud block and plastered them with cement and let them and we recovered our total investment in just one rent of two years. I found out that property business was more profitable than buying and selling hence, we combined the two, that is, building mud houses in Idu and buying and selling building materials. Many of my friends who visited me from big cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onitsha said they could not live in a mud house in an obscure area where there was no electricity, no pipe borne water and security. I told them that in life you must start within your limit because if you live above your means, definitely, you will go under.

I told them that in life you must first build capital, else, if you live above your income, you will find it difficult to maintain such bloated lifestyle. So, some of them took my advice and will always pass the night in my house while some chose to go to hotels. As God may have it, I moved my property busi- ness into town in FCT. So, in 1995, we started at Garki precisely where I bought two plots of land. We started building on the two plots at the same time, one is where I eventually live and I sold the other. There were ready buyers who were anxious to have a house in FCT. Before you would complete a building, some had started paying deposit. And because developers were few in Abuja then, we spread our tentacles by moving 70 per cent of our capital into properties and built more houses across FCT.

Later, we moved further from building houses to estates and the first estate we built was EFAB City Estate (Mbora 1) and because people knew that we could deliver, they chose to buy houses from us. We had a lot of challenges because there were a lot of squatters on the land allocated to us by FCDA. It was difficult moving them since they got their allocation through village heads. We tried to dialogue with them and in the cause of our discussions, we found out that they didn’t have anywhere to go so we decided to give them a little help as we could.

We bought 8 hectares of land at Masaka and divided it among them and allocated them free of charge. Some of them that had mud houses or batcher got three, four, five and six hundred square meters of land respectively so that they could have permanent houses. After they moved, we demolished the place and built the estate and that has been our strategy. That was how I consolidated and God being on our side, we have been successful.

Secret of my success

Honesty, customer satisfaction and hope in God. In EFAB, the customer is the king and we listen to their complaints and ensure that our customers go home smiling.

Maintaining cordial rela- tionship with FCT indigenes

It has to do with courage and wisdom on how I relate with them. I put them in my shoes because they are human beings like me and I make sure I reach out to them and listen to their complaints and fashion a way to solve such problems. You must always know how to call them to a roundtable discussion to agree and disagree and at the end you reach a consensus. Even if it means parting with some money as compensation, so be it. This is necessary because they own the land and it is their source of living. So, I carry them along and they are happy. I always engage them and I assist them in my little way.

Assistance from the Fed- eral Government in dealing with land owners in FCT

The only way the government supports us is through allocation of land even though they are supposed to put up infrastructure up to the gate of the estate, but that is not always the case. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t and if you keep on waiting for them it may take too long.

Therefore, you have to bridge the gap between government and the indigenes by providing most of the infrastructure.

Source: sunnewsonline

‘Implement National Urban Development Policy’

Dr. Olubunmi is a past president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners. In this interview, he spoke on the impact of the government’s inability to implement physical development policy and why the profession remains endangered.

In some of your advocacies, you raised concerns that more than 75 percent of Nigerian cities have no development plans. Why is it difficult for state governments to design a workable physical plan for their cities? 
It is because of who they are. I have traveled around this country and talked to governors. There is this governor I met in Plateau state in 2001, he was very bold and asked me why do you want me to spend N30 million to do a master plan for Jos while I could use the N30 million to build five kilometers of road. He spoke the minds and attitudes of almost every governor. But I told him, I believed that you have built a house, he said yes, and I asked him before you built the house what was the first thing you did He said I acquired a land. I asked him, what was given to you; he said a piece of paper.

Again, I asked him, when the government allocated the land to you and gave you a certificate of occupancy, they gave you another piece of paper. I told him when the government gave your survey plan; it was another piece of paper. Also, I said when he was about to build; the architect gave him a piece of paper. The same thing goes for engineers and quantity surveyors. I told him, you wouldn’t have gotten the house if you hadn’t pay for those pieces of papers.
I then said the physical development plan is a piece of paper that you have to pay for before you could have a master plan.

The average policymakers in power looks at the report of the physical development plan as a piece of paper and don’t look at the benefit that would come from those pieces of papers. Those in power dramatize rather than really act and that is why we don’t realise that we have to plan.

The professionals to have their fault; they have become too technical to the detriment of the government. If the professionals understood clearly their urban economics, they should be able to tell the policymakers that by doing a particular plan, they would make sure that traffic in a particular location would disappear because the land uses would be changed.

They could educate the government on what the time wasted in traffic would cost the government. When town planners are making their case, they should justify it in an economic blueprint on the benefits government would derive in naira and kobo and not in descriptive terms. Town planners must tell the government the financial implication of not doing development plans. That is one of the areas that are deficient in the training of town planners is urban economics.

A report by the National Population Commission (NPC) Nigerian says city growth is expected to reach 58.3 per cent by 2020, yet urbanisation is demographically driven without commensurate socio-economic dividends. What is the way forward?
We are pretending that urbanisation would go away whereas urbanisation is real and growing. The politicians have all neglected the rural development of rural areas. Every person in rural areas has all come back to town. The rate, at which every city in the country is growing, is alarming and we are sitting on a time bomb. Abuja, for example, was designed for three million people now we have from seven million to nine million living in that city. That’s why the infrastructure is failing and authorities couldn’t manage the city. The government shouldn’t pay lip service to the issue of urbanisation but address it frontally. If not addressed, the revolution would start from urban centres.

The national urban development policy should be implemented to address urbanisation issues. It shouldn’t remain a document like it has been for years, because no single step has been taken to implement that document. There should be central coordination of all plans rather than everyone doing their things in silos. The Federal Government should look at the land surface area of Nigeria, identify the land that is available for mining, agriculture among others and determine where to divert people. We are not lacking in the pieces of paper, what we are lacking is the strength of character to implement our plans.

Town planning seems to be endangered. What are the problems and your advice for new entrants into the profession on how to grow?
It is historical, how planning started in this country was as a result of the bubonic plague. The colonial master came to this country to react to the situation and that is why we have various laws such as swamp clearance, street lighting law, sanitation, and others. Many of them are one ‘subject law’ without a provision for town-wide planning. The nearest that came close to planning is the one that created the government reserved area.

Right from the beginning, there was an interest in the administration of the cities rather than the planning. The colonial master didn’t direct our minds to planning the cities but to collect taxes and for another administration purpose.

Another thing is that we didn’t have any school for teaching town planning at the beginning. It came as a technical education, where the students were trained on how to do planning schemes and not citywide planning. However, it was the United Nations that came to Lagos, saw the rate at which the city was growing and came up with the issue of the master plan for Lagos, fully financed by them.

Additionally, right from day one, the negative image that the town planners got is that they are seen as people that come to demolish buildings in the society.

The town planners have to understand the whole area of financial issues to rectify the deficiency in the education of town planning.

They should acknowledge their ignorance if they want to move forward. New entrants have mistaken computer literacy for knowledge. They should be ready to learn and be humble because the industry is knowledge-driven. Acquire the practical knowledge and realise that town planning is a public relations subject and so must develop the skills to deal with various publics.

They should also understand that growth is a gradual process, be ambitious but not be too much in a hurry.

Ultimately, they should develop outspoken and handwritten skills for report writing and presentation and continue participation in professional practice as well as continuous reading.

Various issues have emanated in all fronts such as flooding, waste management, farmers/herdsmen clashes, insecurity, traffic congestion, and degenerating slums. How could the government use planning to resolve such challenges?
All these are not problems but symptoms of a fundamental issue of lack of planning. It is a human being that disorganises nature and once you don’t structure your relationship with nature, there would be a collision and nature would win.

The problem of traffic is a function of land uses. Where you would travel to, is a function of land use available there. If you arrange your land use in such a way that you either reduce the need for travel, then the traffic issues would be reduced.

On waste management, the first thing is to identify the landfill sites using technology. If your town is well laid out, the roads would be accessible to transport wastes to landfills.

Talking about insecurity, more than half of the population in Lagos, for example, doesn’t have a house address and a person that doesn’t have a home address, is already a security risk to you because if he or she commits a crime, nowhere to trace them to. In some places that are even well laid out, there is no proper numbering. When there are no roads, where would the policemen pass to arrest a criminal? Once an area is not well laid out on how people should build, what you would have is slums.

The concept of RUGA is not wrong but the environment in each it is been introduced was suspicious. The government needs to encourage private sector investors with various incentives and ensure that the policy is only implemented where there is land. The southeast is the densest part of Nigeria, no land but they have the population and so to find land for RUGA could be a problem.

Everything is tied to and revolves around adequate physical planning.

If you were to advise the Federal and State authorities on urban governance, what would you recommend as ways to make cities workable and prosperous?
Let each state go and work out its own urban governance that would work for them. The reason for that is because the Yoruba urbanisation is different from Igbo urbanisation and so on. Currently, our cities are abandoned and ignored in terms of physical development, no document to guide them and so they can never be good.

We have waited for too long and almost lost the battle of urban governance in Nigeria. Before the traditional rulers in a typical Yoruba town were in the ones in charge of the cities but politics came and we now have another level of government called the local government. They don’t even know their roles in urbanisation; the document, which they have, didn’t prescribe a particular role for them in urban governance till today. The laws that have been in existence since 1946 talked about them doing ‘planning schemes’ and not master plans for the cities.

The 1992 law was the indigenous one that gave them power for physical planning but unfortunately, it was during the military regime and therefore has a military sense. To make matters worst the state government never allows the local government to function, they took all their powers, making them be helpless.


Land administration and management in Nigeria is still highly centralised. What kinds of reforms do you think would help the nation to reap huge benefits from this resource?
The Land Use Act is one of the greatest dis-services to this country. Some of the provisions are inimical to development. The most inimical part of development is the issue of the governor’s consent before people could transact on their lands. Why it has been difficult to amend the Land Use Act is because the governors are making so much money and holding so much power. So, any attempt to amend the act could be the use of another military fiat. The land is the basis of capital and someone who controls land, controls everything. That provision, in particular, is hindering development.

The New Urban Agenda was unanimously adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) four years ago, serving as a new vision for our cities and municipalities for the next 20 years. What is the best way to implement it for Nigeria to ensure sustainable development?
We are used to going to these international conferences and signing the treaties but what does Nigeria do with their outcomes. I don’t have any hope. The only thing it does is that it creates awareness for urbanisation in cities. If you managed urbanisation very well, urbanization contributes the highest percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If your cities were productive, your GDP would increase.

Nigeria hasn’t done a single master plan ever- since they endorsed it. You can’t tell a white man that your cities haven’t a plan they won’t believe you. Planning goes from the bigger to the smaller. A town planner doesn’t work from the small pieces and hoping that you would merge, you must look at the bigger picture as a professional.

If the Lagos state governor goes any conference in the world today, how many plans does he have to carry along if he wants to talk about metropolitan Lagos? The model city plans in Lagos is a disservice to Lagos state government and an embarrassment to the people. The government would have no other choice than to complete the small plans they have started, merge it and see what the picture would look like.

Source: guardianmg

‘Nigerian Engineers Need More Opportunities in Construction’

Engr. Jose Enrique Rodriguez Pupo is the Managing Director, Juba Construction Company Nigeria Limited with interest in highway and building construction among others. In this interview, Engr. Pupo talks about challenges in the sector. Excerpts:

What are the challenges your firm is facing working in Nigeria?

Normally, there will be challenges. Perhaps the main challenges we have in the country are the processes of getting contracts and get paid on time. Another challenge is that sometimes, it’s so difficult to link with governors or people that will have solution to a problem. It is difficult to get them directly, you need to pass through many channels.

What is your assessment of Nigeria’s infrastructure?

There should be construction of low-cost houses, power, roads, and railways. If the leaders can continue like this, I think the country can go far and achieve more. For example, when I travelled from Sokoto to Kebbi, I saw good roads in remote villages and hospitals, the same for Ondo and Kwara states where I saw good schools and many things.  Surely, Nigeria is working and making progress. Between 1960 and now, there are many achievements.

How do you think the present lull in the construction industry can be addressed?

I think this is a bad period that everybody knows and feels. Nevertheless, I feel Nigeria is passing through a very bad period that everything is slow and the people have to be patient. In the very near future, the economy of the country will be fine but we need to have faith and work for it.

There is this pervading view that we lack project management skills and that Nigerian engineers are not competent. What is your experience working with them?

I totally disagree. I have been in this country since 2004 and to be honest with you, I met with lots of good engineers. The schools are good, the engineers are good. What is happening is like you have a baby and you are not giving him what he needs to be prepared, you won’t get anything from him.

There are some companies that employ Nigerian engineers and are not giving them specific duties and didn’t get what they want. What we are doing now is working with them and using very few expatriates. We are giving Nigerian engineers all they need to work and I am very happy and proud of them. What they need are more opportunities. In the construction industry, Nigerian engineers needed to be given more opportunity for the benefit of the doubt. They are wonderful people with good knowledge.

If you look at some of the problems we are facing in Nigeria, where we experience building collapse, project abandonment, some of these projects are being done by indigenous players. Then what accounts for failures?

I think it is not only to indigenous engineers or companies but to many others. Mistakes are made, accidents are happening. In this country we don’t talk about earthquakes but movements of the earth are happening but are not noticed. Sometimes, the soil tests are not properly done and sometimes, the design of the foundation are not proper. I don’t blame indigenous engineers, I blame companies that don’t engage professionals in the structure. But to be honest, the way I see it, this is not only happening to Nigerian indigenous companies. In my country, it is happening a lot. The problem is that when supervision is poor there will be an accident.

Source: dailytrustng

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