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Awaiting A Miracle …The Fairy Dream of a New World

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Anytime today or late Wednesday, the world shall behold or reject a new President of the World Bank by name Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or Prof Yong Kim. The former is Nigeria’s Finance Minister and coordinating minister of the economy while the latter is a renowned health expert and nominee of the United States of America (USA)

Considering the measure of passion injected into the lobby for the position, especially among the emerging economies, it would be a major disappointment should the vote by the bank’s  board go the way of Yong Kim, a Korean-American, whose credentials on development economy, finance and banking are weightless against what Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala parades.

By Friday, the  race had become one between just two, on account of  the withdrawal of the Brazilian nominee, Dr Jose Antonio Ocampo, over lack of support from his home country, Colombia, which seems more interested in the presidency of the International Labour Organization (ILO), than the World Bank.

However, before throwing-in the towel, Ocampo rallied support for the virtues of merit, integrity, fairness, leadership and indeed competence which he said characterized the candidacy of Nigeria’s Finance Minister, and indeed, expectation of the emerging economies of the world.

A Director of Economic and Political Development at the Columbia University in New York, Ocampo  had expressed doubts over the neutrality of the selection process, and  expressed fears over its eventual outcome. “We did not believe the selection process had been conducted in a fully open, transparent and merit-based fashion, but it had established a strong precedent”.

On this column, April 2, 2012, titled World Bank Presidency: The Odds Against Okonjo-Iweala, My Agony had raised the alarm that International politics, America’s greed and indeed precedent, rather than merit, competence, integrity and indeed leadership will determine the choice of a world Bank President.

Our view: “If the choice of President of the World Bank were to be based purely on the integrity, experience,  expertise, merit and popularity of contending players, without an iota of doubt, Nigeria’s coordinating minister of the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should succeed Mr. Robert Zoellick whose tenure expires June, 2012. But the world today is used to doing without the best and there are yet no positive signs that the choice of a world bank President will be any different”.

In fulfillment of this view and in spite of the impressive credentials of Okonjo-Iweala, the massive support her candidacy enjoys among the emerging economies and indeed the withdrawal of one of the contestants, Ocampo in support of  Nigeria’s Finance Minister, it thus, appears that the  choice of Yong Kim has been pre-determined.

For instance, while, all African directors of the bank voiced support for Okonjo-Iweala during last Friday’s straw polling, the US, Canada, Japan and all European Union countries were seen to be backing the American nominee against popular expectations that the selection process will be open and transparent and the outcome of the interviews be made public.

The last straw that broke the Camel’s back and which now leaves Nigeria’s hope for a World Bank Presidency hinging only on a miracle, came with the defection of Russia from Okonjo-Iweala’s support base. With Russia going the way of the US, the gains derivable from the exit of Ocampo appear minimal.

In fact, as it stands, the battle is now drawn between support for the US, Europe and Russia as against Africa and a divided group of emerging economies like China, Brazil, which nominated Ocampo in the first instance and indeed India.

This scenario is predictable, even understandable, for the same reasons this column advanced on April 2nd, this year, as earlier predicted.

“When on April 20, 2012, the 187-member nations’ board will sit to determine, by consensus, a choice for president of the world Bank, more than the amiable credentials of the Nigerian candidate and the two others will be in consideration”.(My Agony)

Strangely, the vote needs not wait till then as there are indications that the choice could have been made already and merely waiting to be made public either today or as the New York Times has speculated as early as Wednesday. This means the US is close to a consensus if not so, already.

It was for fear of this  in the first instance, that My Agony predicted; “the biggest hurdle shall be the seeming oath taken by Europe and the United States since the inception of the bank after World War II,… That understanding allows Europe headship of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while, the US has kept the World Bank ever since”.

Worse still, US Secretary of Treasury, Tim Geither virtually fore-closed likelihood of his country bending to global pressure needed to give Okonjo-Iweala a go at the World Bank Presidency, when, he was quoted as saying, a fortnight ago, “the US has no problem with either Okonjo-Iweala or Ocampo, but should the presidency of the World Bank be allowed to go to a non-American, it will be difficult to get the US congress to pay US commitments to the bank.” And the US is the major shareholder of the World Bank upon which the survival of the bank and its development projects depend.

Bottomline: It would be absurd, even unthinkable for emerging economies to depend on funds from the World Bank for their development and at the same time, insist on managing such funds. At normal times, this is a possibility but not in an election year, when, the Republican fray is still fishing for more reasons bordering on outsourcing of American honour, to slam US President Barack Obama.

As it is today, the failure of the US nominee, Yong Kim  has been made to appear to be failure of not just President Obama or his Democratic Party but indeed the United States of America. This is the blackmail instrument which will render difficult any attempt to do right, from global perspectives and commit political suicide before American voters.

More importantly, “if the bank’s succession history since 1944 is anything to go by, then it will require more than a miracle for the US to bend or for Europe to betray its major ally in the US, for, wait developing nations.” This, as we canvassed earlier, “is most unlikely, given the imperatives.

This column then suggested:

‘The only solution, methinks, is to shift the conversation to the US political scene and make it an issue, at least to feel the pulse of American voters, whether Republicans or Democrats. Now, all that is late.

However, no matter how unpleasant, the eventual outcome might be come Wednesday, or even later today, Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala  is both a winner and history maker if for nothing else, for going this far in pricking global conscience in pursuit of merit and against the double standards of world powers not doing what they often preach.

Happily, Okonjo-Iweala alluded to that while thanking Ocampo for his support when she said, “I am proud that Dr Ocampo and I have helped make history by changing the way that World Bank Presidential elections are contested”. Unfortunately, that was in hope that the board would vote, in a transparent manner, the right choice on April 20, this year, not knowing that a decision might have been reached and merely awaiting official announcement today or Wednesday.

My Agony is that the scenario now leaves Okonjo-Iweala with only a tiny hope of a miracle. A miracle which will see the US and her powerful European allies and even Russia, make U-turn to support one from the emerging economies like Africa’s lone candidate. This, no matter Okonjo-Iweala’s amazing credentials, seems unlikely, today.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

Okonjo-Iweala

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90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

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Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW

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Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.

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