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One Year Of Jonathan’s Presidency Whither The Infrastructural Development?

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Good quality infrastructure is a key ingredient for sustainable development of any nation. The level of development of the social sphere and infrastructure are indicators of the level of national development of an economy. All countries need efficient transport, sanitation, energy and communications systems if they are to prosper and provide a decent standard of living for their populations.

Infrastructure makes it possible to overcome “natural” causes of poverty such as remoteness from material and information resources, provides access to social services, and helps to increase the mobility and economic activities of the population. Very few nations can boast of the resources Nigeria has, both natural and human. The country’s resource endowments leave it with no excuse for the relatively high rate of unemployment and under-industrialisation.

Over the years, development experts have laid emphasis on the need for Nigeria to diversify her revenue sources away from just oil and increasingly encourage industrialisation that can graduate her from a mere consumer nation to productive one.

It is also imperative that for Nigeria to drive a sustained economy with appreciable growth and ability to compete in the global economy, she must develop appropriate infrastructure that can play a vital role in poverty reduction by fast tracking the development of latent resource for the growth of the economy.

In the one year of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, visible efforts can be said to have been made towards tackling infrastructural development challenges of the country. The government has, through its aggressive economic transformation agenda, commenced the implementation of promising policies that reviewed holistically legislations which hitherto hampered sustainable development of the various sectors of Nigeria’s economy, particularly the energy sector.

President Jonathan took a major step in the energy direction when he launched the nation’s Gas Revolution in March this year. Initially, many may have dismissed it as another one of those “white elephant dreams” that will not see the light of day. But one year on, the Federal Government has demonstrated its resolve to ensure that the revolution, aided by the Gas Master Plan becomes a reality.

Determined to take infrastructure developments in phases, the government has fast tracked the monetisation of the nation’s gas resources, instituted a gas based industrialisation as well as increasing the generation capacity of the power sector, to ensure sustainable electricity delivery for domestic and industrial uses.

Although Nigeria’s commercial oil is over 50 years, the discovery of huge gas resources, estimated at about 187 trillion cubic feet proven gas reserves, coupled with about 600 trillion cubic feet undiscovered potential, make industry watchers describe Nigeria more of a gas province than oil.

This discovery and the need to match words with action spurred the Jonathan’s government to embark on infrastructure development – evidenced by the planned construction of gas pipelines that will supply gas to the thermal power plants in the Niger Delta and western Nigeria; the approvals for Free Trade Zones, FTZs; and the planned construction of various fertilisers, petrochemicals and methanol plants in specific locations in the Niger Delta.

These are being implemented mostly through Private Pubic Partnerships, PPP, with a view to “Repositioning Nigeria as the regional hub for gas based industrialisation, through which the country will add value to its natural gas and create a broad platform for aggressive industrialisation,” according to the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Reiterating the commitment to see the gas revolution to fruition, the Group Executive Director, Gas Development, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. David Ige, said at a forum that once government was done with the provision of backbone infrastructure, investments will start springing up across the country. In this regard, he disclosed that a number of contracts have either been approved or undergoing tender in each phase of the development.

Infrastructure development in the area of power include the Itoki-Olorunshogo Pipeline to supply gas to the Olorunshogo Power Plant and the environs; Alaoji Pipeline for the Alaoji Power Plant both to be completed in six months; thus doubling the capacity of the Lagos-Escravos Pipeline from one billion standard cubic feet, SCF, per day to two billion scf/d, to be completed by end of 2012; the Rumuoji-Obigbo-Imo River Pipeline, and a host of many others.

According to Ige, these pipelines are meant “to bridge the gap between excess gas availability in East, shortage in the West, and significantly boost gas availability to the power sector.”

In the area of industrialiSation, he said that approval has been given for the construction of the Koko free Trade Zone, which will be supported with a 40-kilometer pipeline that will feed the fertilizer, petrochemical and methanol plants to be located there. He said the objective is to make Koko, “a gas based industrial city, the biggest of its kind south of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

He added that government also plans to set up another industrial hub in Akwa Ibom and Calabar with the location of fertilizer and methanol plants, and in the Rivers axis, “issued the gas purchase order for two fertilizer plants, and methanol plant around the Onne Free Trade Zone area.”

He said these developments are targeted at “creating an enabling environment that will reduce the risks that the people face”, adding, we phased the activities in a manner that reduces the risks of the projects and guarantee investors’ confidence.”

With all of these infrastructures coming on stream, Ige opined that investment opportunities abound in the areas of pipelines for gas generation and distribution, central processing facilities to optimise gas resources, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG for domestic and export, and Civil and ports infrastructure at the FTZs.

The Federal Government said it is also ready to collaborate with state governments and private investors on strategic activities aimed at boosting the nation’s economy, especially in the area of infrastructure development, believing that such strategic activities would attract the much needed investment into the country, thus boosting the Gross Domestic Product.

The President noted, at the opening of the Lagos Economic Summit, with the theme “From BRICS to BRINCS, Lagos Holds the Key,” recently, that a partnership between the Federal Government and states was critical to economic development, especially owing to the fact that a key agenda of the federal government was to make the country the preferred investment destination.

To ensure global participation, the president had also directed Nigerian missions to facilitate and grant multiple visas to potential investors coming to the country, adding that such was expected to attract more investments into the country.

“We know that the issue of power cannot be solved by the federal government alone, and there are many investment opportunities that abound in the power sector. So, for this reason, we have privatised the power sector and we will further focus on creating an enabling environment for investors to survive in the country. Our administration will work closely with the state governments and the private sector to deliver power supply to Nigeria”, he said.

Some of these reforms and policies include efforts to halt militancy in the Niger Delta through the Amnesty Programme, the signing of the Nigerian Content Act in April, the launch of the Gas Master Plan, instituting an incentive-driven gas pricing for manufacturers, approval for the construction of four refineries across the country by Chinese investors, signalling an end to the wasteful era of exporting crude to other countries and importing the refined petroleum products as well the development of a road map for the development of the power sector.

During this period, a lot of works have been done to reform the legal apparatus of the petroleum industry with the formulation of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which seeks to overhaul the management of oil and gas resources in the country.

President Jonathan described the Gas Revolution as the Rebirth of Nigeria’s Industrialisation, and vital to the diversification of the economy and for national development.

“This aspiration to re-industrialise Nigeria is aggressive and can only be achieved through a revolution. The focus is to catalyse a major industrialisation of the country by seeding in a few anchor investments that have the highest potential to have far reaching secondary multiplier effect on the economy,” he said during the launch.

Jonathan reassured the investors notably, Xenel of Saudi Arabia, Nagarjuna of India and Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, of government’s readiness to provide the necessary support, including the quick passage of the PIB, which serves as an anchor for sustainable and profitable investment in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

The President hoped that by 2014, Nigeria would have been positioned firmly as the undisputed regional hub for gas based industries. “We would by then, be producing enough fertilizer to create a self sufficient country and a net exporter of fertilizer and food to the world. We would be the leading regional centre for petrochemical production and manufacturer of petrochemical related products both for local and export purposes,” he added.

A leading Nigerian indigenous oil company, the Oando Group, recently made history with the successful completion of a 128-kilometre gas pipeline system from Akwa Ibom to Cross River State, built by one of its subsidiaries, Oando Gas and Power.

Alison-Madueke said the completion of the project marked the successful take-off of the gas revolution programme of the Federal Government, which targets a $25 billion worth of investment, and would generate about $10 billion over the next three years.

According to her, over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created from the Oando gas project and other similar projects contained in the gas revolution agenda.

Speaking with Sweetcrude on the sidelines of the launch, the minister disclosed that ongoing pipeline projects are estimated to cost about $2 billion.

According to her, the President has “a strong vision and passion to re-industrialise Nigeria using the vast natural resources that the country is so richly endowed with. Mr. President is determined to ensure that the efficient and effective utilisation of our natural gas resources will impact positively on the lives of every Nigerian.”

She added that the federal government’s gas agenda, both domestic and export, clearly paves the way for Nigeria to be a regional leader with all the attendant benefits.

“That agenda will necessitate an unprecedented growth in our gas supply, from the current one billion cubic feet per day to over 10 billion cubic feet per day by 2020. Realising this growth calls for a radical review of how the nationwide gas potential is harnessed,” she said.

She further noted that in order to grow the gas industry at the envisioned pace, there must be flexibility in our gas resource development and supply base. “This calls for the strategic development of various inland basins, in addition to the Niger Delta and offshore basins.

“Over the next five years, we will be prioritising about $1 billion for further seismic data gathering, aeromagnetic surveys, exploration and appraisal drilling. By enhancing the prospectivity of these basins, we hope to build significant supply bases across the various geopolitical zones that complement the existing gas supply centres in the Niger Delta,” she added.

Part of the agenda is to make the petrochemical project alone the largest industrial complex in Africa, producing over 150 containers worth of products. These products will enable the growth of numerous downstream plastic manufacturing industries. With these, secondary industries such as the high end printed circuit boards, car dashboards etc. can be established here in Nigeria.

The spiral effect of such a huge plant is the redevelopment and expansion of the port facilities near the plant locations. This will create a hub of economic and commercial activity around the hitherto quiet port towns.

The fertilizer plants and their customised blending plants will result in a radical transformation of the nation’s agricultural productivity from subsistence farming to full scale industrial farming. The concept of customised blending plants as introduced by this project will ensure that the fertilizer is formulated to suit the type of soil in the zone resulting in enhanced productivity.

Also, increased productivity will lead to the establishment of many agro processing industries to cope with the production growth that will emerge.

Beyond the specific projects being launched in the initiative, it is expected that the various gas pipeline projects will revive the many textile industries and numerous other industries in the North, which have hitherto shut down as a result of high energy costs. Natural gas will replace fuel oil as fuel for industrial boilers.

Industry experts estimate that over 100,000 engineering design and construction related jobs would be created from 2012 and beyond to deliver all these plants. Engineers will be required to participate in the design of the petrochemical, fertilizer, central processing facilities and numerous pipeline projects.

Local fabrication yards will need to gear up capacity to provide relevant construction support. Skilled workers such as welders, fitters etc. will also be required. The civil construction effort required both offshore and onshore and at the ports will impact on demand for cement.

Government said the strategy adopted for the fertilizer project, for instance, means it would expect a significant increase in employment from the agricultural sector. In total this initiative will result in over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs from construction, logistics, hotel and hospitality service, fabrication, banking and above all agriculture.

As government delivers the LPG agenda, there will be a boost in the disposable income of households as cheaper fuel becomes available. In particular, women in small scale catering business will benefit significantly from the relative cheapness of LPG.

This initiative provides a test bed to actualise the intent of the Nigerian Content Act which was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan last year. Before the reforms, previous governments paid lip service to the development of local content, which led to the loss of over 85 per cent of in-country jobs to other countries.

However, it is expected that the full application of the Law will stimulate these jobs and opportunities, and a significant portion of the jobs created will be for Nigerians. The nation’s service sector should benefit significantly from these opportunities.

According to the president, “When we are done we would have created a Nigeria that we all would be proud of. The Nigerian youth can clearly see the roadmap to engagement and self worth as they get gainfully employed. This is not just a plan, this is now in action.”

However, observers fear that this economic revolution may be jeopardised by the delay in the passage of the PIB. Indeed, hopes of a quick passage for the bill, which has been delayed for upwards of three years at the National Assembly, may have been dashed by the inglorious politicking in the legislature, and matters may get worse as the new legislature, in the habit of the last, continue to thumb its nose at the PIB.

The impasse in the federal legislature has not been helped by the obtuse racketeering by various stakeholders including the NNPC, the international oil companies, IOCs, and even the organised labour organisations.

Experts believe that the long delay in the passage of the bill has blocked billions of dollars worth of investments in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. For instance, the Royal Dutch Shell said it put aside $40 billion worth of potential investment in deepwater oil projects on hold as it awaits the outcome of the bill. Other oil majors like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Texaco, ENI and Total, all consolidated their positions by frowning at some provisions in the PIB.

A former Regional Executive Vice President of Shell Exploration and Production, Africa, Ms. Ann Pickard, had lamented the “failure to recognise that we all benefit from taking a fair share of a growing industry rather than an excessive share of a declining one; an unwillingness by some to stand up and take decisions.”

President Jonathan, obviously bothered by the protracted delay in the passage of the PIB, was effusive with thanks to Saudi Arabia, India, Italy and the USA, noting that, “Your decision to invest in Nigeria is a testament of the confidence you have both in our vision and our resources.

“I assure you that as you have taken the bold step to invest, even when many things hinge on passage of the PIB; government will support you every step of the way to ensure that this is delivered successfully. Your commitment will serve as a challenge to other investors elsewhere, letting them know that Nigeria is indeed open for business.”

In the area of housing, the Jonathan’s government has opened up channel of communication with professionals in the built industry with a view to partnering to reduce the infrastructural gap in the country. President Goodluck Jonathan said this in Abuja while declaring open the 42th annual conference of Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV).

President said that the present administration would collaborate with the institution, adding that its role in providing the skills and technical knowhow needed for a nation’s development has made NIESV an institution of reckoning in the country. He said the institution has strategic role to play in his transformation agenda in the housing delivery sector.

He said,  “the Federal Government wants to charge NIESV to do more in the area of land reform and administration, housing and infrastructural development. We want to collaborate with NIESV to play a significant role such that every Nigerian can one day lay claim to one plot of land.’’

Speaking at the event, the President of NIESV, Mr Bode Adediji said that the theme of the conference which is “Transformation of Nigeria through the Built Environment”, was carefully chosen in-line with the current administration’s transformation agenda He stressed that the current administration had shown commitment to move the country forward by putting round pegs in the round holes through the involvement of professionals in all sector of the economy.

 

Amieyeofori Ibim

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Entertainment

Transforming Nigeria Through Movies, Music, Arts

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Oil since its discovery in commercial quantity in Nigeria has dominated the nation’s economy, oil exports have contributed 98 percent of the Federal Government’s revenue. This over dependence has made the Nigeria’s economy unstable, non-static and has displayed a large over dependence on oil incomes.
It is on this premise that studies have been carried out to identify other sectors of the economy that could minimise the over dependence and mono economy syndrome of the nation. One of the veritable sectors is the entertainment industry, also known as the creative sector which comprises the movie, music, comedy, arts and culture, among others.
As Nigeria celebrates 60 years of independence from colonial rule, an indepth analysis of these eventful years reveals that the creative industry is dynamic and has not only generated unprecedented wealth for the country, but has also created employment opportunities for her citizens, contributed immensely towards transforming the country into a leading nation in Africa as well as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world.
After Nigeria’s independence in October 1,1960, the cinema business rapidly expanded. In 1972, the indigenisation Decree issued by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon encouraged the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinema houses from their foreign owners to Nigerians resulting in more Nigerians playing active roles in cinemas and film businesses.
Today, Nigeria’s film industry popularly known as Nollywood is adjudged the third largest film industry in the world after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India and contributed 2.3 percent (N 239 billion) to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016. It is one of the priority sectors identified in the economic and recovery growth plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a planned $ 1 billion in export revenue by the end of 2020.
In the music sector, music has become Nigeria’s new export, in November 2017, Nigeria’s music star, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards held in London, the first for Africa-based artistes. At the same MOBO Awards, another Nigerian super star, Davido, took home the Best African Act Award for his song “IF”, a love themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and RnB.
Since its release in February 2017, the official IF video has raked in up more than 60 million views on You Tube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African
Across the African continent, other musical groups such as Kenya’s, boy band, Soto Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal.
Reuters news service calls Nigerian music,’’ a cultural export’ and the Nigerian government is now looking towards the creative industry including performing arts and music to generate revenue.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics Report that the local music sector grew in real term by 8.4 percent for the first three months of 2016 and that in the first quarter of 2017 the sector grew by 12 percent compared with the same period one year prior.
The Price Water Cooper (PWC) reports that the global attention the Nigerian music scene has received in the past three years has been accelerating. There is no better time for Nigerian artistes to use data and insight to reach billions with their musical content which will help to reposition the country.
According to the vice president, International Strategy and Sperations Warner Music Group, Mr. Temi Adeniyi,” the promise of what could be achieved by Nigeria’s booming music industry in the next decade is awe-inspiring especially if the industry focuses on the critical issues of adequate compensation and piracy.
In Arts, the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe noted that” culture is the new revenue driving sector which can serve as an alternative to the oil sector in Nigeria “
He stated this at the official opening of the 13th edition of Akwaa Travel and Tourism fare in Lagos in 2017. He maintained that culture was a viable alternative revenue generating sector that could help to boost the economy.
According to a recent entertainment and media output report by PWC, Nigerian entertainment and media industry is expected to rise from $4.46 billion in 2018 to $10.8 billion by the end of 2023.The report which was released in October 2019 disclosed that the market is dominated by internet revenue as it presently contributes about 61 percent of the sector’s revenue followed by television and radio which is expected to push towards $1billion in revenue by 2023.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “We are ready to explore and exploit the new oil. When we talk about diversifying the economy, it is not just Agriculture or solid Minerals alone, it is about the creative industry, about the films, theatre and music”.
The minister made the comments ahead of a Creative Industry Financing Conference held in Lagos in 2018.He noted that the Nigerian government is already providing incentives in the sector including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians preparing to set up business in the creative industry.
He also said, “The country is allowing the industry pioneer status, meaning that those inventing in motion picture, video and TV production, music production publishing, distribution exhibition and photography can enjoy a three to five years tax holiday.
Other incentives such as government backed and privately backed investment funds are also been implemented. The minister noted that with the impressive performance so far recorded, the creative industry has been viewed as a sector that could help the government reach its goal of diversifying the nation’s economy away from oil.

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News

Oil Exploration And Niger Delta Environment

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From the first crude oil export in 1958 to the exploration of its associated products such as gas, the Niger Delta region for the past 60 years has not fared well in terms of sustained development despite being the source of the nation’s means of livelihood.
According to reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the region generates between 65% to 75% of all Federal Government’s revenue especially after the end of the Civil War in 1970.
But today, although oil and gas and its associated products still run the nation’s economy, its bye-products and impact on the region are quite devastating on both environment and the socio-economic life of the people of the area. The aquatic life, forests and farmlands have been so degraded that some areas are now devoid of human and animal habitation. Diseases and sickness are now prevalent with some communities are facing great health challenges.
Worried by these hazards, the late renowned playwright, and novelist, Kenuule Saro-Wiwa raised alarm in the late 1980’s about the fast paced degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta region. Although he was eventually killed during the struggle to find an equitable solution to the problem, the fight for a comprehensive study and remediation of the environment continued unabated despite the obstacles placed on would-be environmental activists.
The region is also described as one of the most polluted in the world. It is estimated that while the European Union experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, Nigeria recorded 9,343 cases in 10 years which could be described as a deliberate effort to slowly eradicate life from the area through poisoning of the environment.
Following the long agitations and protests from the area, the Federal Government in 2016 finally gave the nod for the implementation of the long awaited United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report beginning from 2016.
In a foreword to the report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as a case study, UNEP had this to say: “The history of oil exploration and production in Ogoni land is a large complex and often painful one that till date has become seemingly intractable in terms of its resolution and future discussion.”
It also says, “It is also history that has put people and politics and the oil industry at loggerheads rendering a landscape characterised by lack of trust, paralysis and become set against a worsening situation for the communities concerned.”
The situation in Ogoniland is peculiar to the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State was the beginning of the environmental crisis bedeviling the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the agitation for environmental reparation of the Niger Delta region dated back to the colonial times.
The agitations led to the setting up of the Willinks Commission of inquiry into the fears of the minorities. Although the commission amongst others, recommended the granting of special developmental status to the Niger Delta, the recommendation was never implemented by successive Nigerian governments after independence.
The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Niger Delta region can be said to be of mixed blessings to the region.
On the one hand, it improved the per capita income of the region through the creation of middle and high income earners. But on the other hand, it has led to series of environmental pollutions, thereby depriving communities in the region of their sources of livelihood.
This situation has led to series of crisis in the region such as the Ogoni crisis of 1990 to 1993, the Kaiama Declaration which led to the creation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the crisis in Umuechem in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and others.
Similarly, the development of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta has also been blamed for contributing to the recent acid rain and black soot in the environment.
Although the Nigerian authorities may have taken some measures to ameliorate the sufferings caused by oil explorations in the region, through the creation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) which metamorphosed into Federal Ministry of Environment, the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); inclusion of derivation into the Constitution and the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have not been able to provide the much-needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta as the problems still persist.
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta to the environmental degradation of the region. At a recent Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo shared a documentary of the current situation in the Niger Delta, adding that the region has remained backward despite its huge economic contributions to the Nigerian nation.
Ambassador Toyo who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration said, “it is frustrating to know that the context has not changed as these challenges still stare the region in the face.
“The Niger Delta is still very much degraded as issues such as the following are still debated upon: gas flaring, abject poverty, militancy, crude oil theft, unemployment, cultism and organised crime, poor state of infrastructure and underdevelopment,” she said.
She also said; “apart from lack of opportunities in the region, there is also the breakdown of law and order in the communities.
“Communities often fight over who gets what when development opportunities arise as seen in some communities in Ogoni with regards to the clean-up,” adding that such fight can scare investors away and the region will continue to suffer underdevelopment.
Also in its policy brief note on insecurity in Rivers State, the Niger Delta Dialogue Secretariat says, “there is an environmental dimension to insecurity in Rivers State. For several years now, Port Harcourt and its environs have been covered by soot.
“This is as a result of increased artisanal refining of crude oil and other forms of pollution in the state.
“These pollution-inducing activities from both illegal artisanal and legal oil production has increased environmental insecurity in Rivers State.
“This has negatively impacted on the quality of life in Rivers State,” it said.
Also speaking on the issue, a civil society activist, Ambassador Christy Iwezor said the Nigerian nation has not done enough for the Niger Delta.
She said 60 years down the lane, some oil producing communities have no water to drink and cited the example of some communities in ogoniland in which sources of water have been polluted.
Also speaking, another civil rights activist, Prince William Chinwo stressed the need for a policy that will incorporate the polluters pay principle into the Nigerian law.
According to him, if multinational companies are fined for pollution, they will be more careful in their operations.
He also blamed environmental problems on sanitary conducts.
“The problems of environmental degradation in Nigerian is caused by poor sanitary conduct of Nigerians and inefficient use of local government council workers on environmental sanitation.”
According to him, local government councils must also wakeup to their responsibilities of ensuring improved level of hygiene in their various communities.
The question is after 60 years of independence, have we really made any meaningful progress in the Niger Delta compared to similar environments across the globe where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy. It would be noted that the gulf countries where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy have gone far ahead in terms of environmental remediation.
The 60 years anniversary should provide the opportunity for the country to further look into the Niger Delta issues.

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Special Edition

How ICT Can Push The Envelop In National Dev

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If it was just for information and its gathering, processing and transmission, it can be said without any fear of equivocation that Nigeria has never lagged, especially in the context of the development of that sector within sub-Saharan Africa. After all, the first crop of the country’s political leaders was among the best journalists and newspaper publishers in the region, namely Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and Anthony Enahoro, among others.
Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and the Western Nigeria Television inaugurated in 1959 by Awolowo served to inform, educate and entertain the people while also effectively galvanizing them for the Independence struggle of the time.
At that time, radio broadcasting had already been dominated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). All the people did was to cluster around their short-wave radio sets for an hourly dose of news from London. Private radio stations were not a common sight, if they existed at all.
Cinema was a luxury then as the mobile cinema units of the various regional information ministries travelled around to entertain mostly rural dwellers who had little or no access to electricity and television. A community was considered lucky if it enjoyed such visitation as many as three times in one year.
On the other hand, telecommunication and its associated technology did not develop as rapidly, being the more expensive. For a long time after attaining Independence on October 1, 1960, Nigerians depended on whatever communication infrastructure their British colonial masters left behind. This consisted of the local town crier system, postal and wire services (including land telephone, telegraph and cable telegram). The Post and Telecommunications (P&T) Department saw to the provision of the latter services. It was later split into the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), now privatised as NTel.
Foreign companies like the International Telephone and Telegraphs (ITT) won major contracts for the development and rehabilitation of communication infrastructure, especially after the Nigerian Civil War in the early 1970s. Recall that the late politician and business mogul, MKO Abiola, once rose to become its chief executive officer for the African region.
It is widely believed that not until the introduction of the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) on August 6, 2001 by the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led civilian government did the face of ICT change in Nigeria.
The government took the decision to deregulate the telecom sector through its policy on adoption of ICT in 1999 by licensing such international mobile phone service providers as ECONET (now Airtel), MTN, and Etisalat (9Mobile) to set up shop in Nigeria. They were later joined by an indigenous telecom firm, Globacom, as a Second National Operator (SNO).
It could be recalled that the entry of Globacom into the telecom industry was at a time when call cost was N50 per second. The firm immediately introduced a pricing system that charged 11 kobo per second, thereby forcing a crash in the cost of mobile telephony as the competition was practically whipped into line. As if that was not enough, it soon undertook the laying of underwater international fibre-optic cable for superior service delivery.
Private Telephone Operators (PTOs) like Starcomm, Reliance Telephone (Reltel), Multilinks and Visafone were also licensed to provide mobile phone services but mainly on the fixed wireless GSM and CDMA platforms.
With regard to its social and economic impact on the nation, industry experts are agreed that the GSM revolution has led to massive employment generation. From the ubiquitous roadside under-the-umbrella call centres to the street corner cybercafés and cell phone retail shops the nation had never witnessed such rise in the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Additionally, available statistics indicate that the overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the telecoms sector stood at $32 billion in mid-2015; second only to the oil and gas sector. Others have even posited that, with the collapse of crude oil prices between 2015 and 2017, activities and earnings from this sector may have seen to Nigeria’s quick recovery from the recession of those years.
In terms of policy and regulatory oversight, ICT in Nigeria is said to be conducted under three major policy documents, namely: the National Mass Communication Policy of 1990 which implementation falls under the purview of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); the National Telecommunications Policy of 2000 with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) as chief executor; and the National Policy for Information Technology of 2001 to be executed by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
NBC is the main regulator of the broadcast industry in Nigeria. Some of its activities include the issuance of broadcast licences, allocation of transmission frequencies, establishing operational standards and ensuring compliance with the broadcast code.
The Commission is, by law, required to report to the Presidency through its parent ministry (Information and National Orientation).
The NCC which came into existence via an Act in 2003 has regulatory authority over activities in the telecommunications industry. It has powers to license operators, encourage competition, ensure quality service, monitor tariffs and protect consumers, among others.
The NITDA came on board through a 2007 Act and is charged with the planning, promotion and development of IT penetration and projects across Nigeria.
There are four other policy implementation and regulatory bodies within the ICT sector. They are: the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA); NIGCOMSAT; National Frequency Management Council (NFMC); and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).
The non-ICT sector has also recorded some significant gains arising from developments in information and communications technology. For instance, the use of presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint in schools and corporate boardrooms, computer spreadsheet for accounting, e-learning, e-library, e-banking and e-commerce are some popular applications that have yielded good social and commercial dividends.
The use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale (POS) terminals and mobile money transfers have helped to decongest banking halls and also save man-hours that would ordinarily have been wasted in long queues.
Another benefit of ICT was made even more manifest at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were abruptly shut down and children who could afford it engaged in virtual learning from their homes. Even some of their parents were forced to work from home using whatever ICT means available to them.
Also, the New Media which is powered by ICT and includes Internet publishing and social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have significantly enhanced real-time information sharing and social interaction with people across the globe.
Personnel management and remuneration systems have been made easier with the advent of biometric exercises, electronic time-keeping and integrated staff records and payroll methods long adopted by the private sector, and more recently, the federal, state and local governments. Even the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the systems upgrade steadily being undertaken by some of its agencies are ICT-driven.
In agriculture, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration used GSM phones to dislodge middlemen while distributing fertilizers and other farm inputs directly to beneficiaries in the rural areas. This may have served to boost food production.
After successfully emerging from the latest economic recession, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration drew up a four-year Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan (ERGP). In this plan was included an ICT Roadmap 2017-2020 which it hoped to achieve through activities of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and which seeks to create two million jobs by the end of 2020.
Overall, the ICT sector still has the potential of yielding more positive results if only the government can follow through with some of its lofty roadmaps, especially those that aim to establish ICT Centres and Innovation Hubs in selected states across the country.

 

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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