Saturday, April 14, 2012

THERE ARE STILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ADMISSIONS INTO TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS THAT WILL NOT BE COUNTED


Children who will be asking for tertiary education tomorrow. Their journey just started. Credit: Ben Fash/Commons.wikimedia.org



Last month, as UTME was being written by more than one million Nigerian youths, a news article reported that the tertiary institutions in the country can only admit about five hundred thousand (500,000) of the more than one million five hundred thousand (1,500,000) that were registered for the exams. These does not mean that the remaining one million are still left without any hope of getting a tertiary education.

Where demand overshoots supply, provided the price is right, the educational system will always find a way to make it up.

Clearly, our youths make every sacrifice to be admitted into our Universities. Irrespective of family background or economic status, millions of youths seek tertiary education at any cost. That is why it is with missed feelings one reads the news that millions of youths who will not make it into tertiary institutions through the Unified Tertiary Institutions and Polytechnics Matriculation Examination (UTME) will be denied such a privilege.

Because the demand is so high, tertiary institutions have devised several ways of accepting the teeming number of students who lurk at their gates. Direct entry programs, distance learning and outreach programs are quite some brilliant innovative ways. Although the cost of acquiring a university education might increase, the concomitant effect of admitting a large number of students along with the cost effective use of technology like the Nigerian Open University of Nigeria, part-time tertiary education and satellite campuses have an opposite effect of mopping up the expected increase in the cost of acquiring such an education.

The proliferation of private universities, some obscure at best, some offering quality education, but all responding to the demands of the educational marketplace for increased access to university education, even something remotely resembling one, reinforce the mopping up operation for those students who the primary UTME examination will not admit.

Motivated students and well-adjusted adults also take advantage of the numerous opportunities to learn while working, without ever seeing the four walls of a university. On my Facebook wall is a well- loved satellite channel that teaches interesting courses that could be comparable to GCE A-levels. MIT opencourseware although rigorous at best, is a very good alternative when UTME seems farfetched.

The effect of all these alternatives is to increase the number of students who are able to have the privilege of a quality university education while keeping the costs equal or nearly so, to what is obtained at our Federal Universities and Polytechnics.

So even if our universities, polytechnics and monotechnics can only admit about five hundred thousand (500,000) of the more than one million five hundred thousand students who sat for UTME this year, that does not mean about a million youths will be sitting in front of their television screens awaiting 2013. The education market knows how to absorb and make them part of the fold of educated learned members of the society, provided they are well motivated.


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WOULD YOU PROVIDE POTABLE WATER IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN BREAK EVEN?


Thank God for a glass of cold water! Credit: Walter J. Pilsak/Commons.wikimedia.org

Residents of suburban Abuja moan for potable water from the Government. Since a major part of the population of Abuja (80%) live in satellite towns and its suburbs, one wonders when Government will find the will to respond to this plea. Unlike other services, few private firms will be willing to play the role of Government.

Potable water is a service that is very expensive to establish and after setting it up, even if you make sales or not, you still have to maintain it – like buy fuel for generators, ensure the pipes do not burst etc. Since private firms have refused to enter the business, then one can conclude that the price they could charge for providing potable water to the residents of suburban Abuja might never make them break even.

It is imperative then that Government comes to the rescue. For one, when a private firm endeavors to take the risk of investing in a service like potable water, it faces competition from meruwa (water vendors) who trek from street to street, and private boreholes. Would that firm be able to price its water at above cost, where the meruwa(s) sale for competitive rates? Furthermore, if the private boreholes make jealous profits, then boreholes would be springing up aplenty for a share of the profits.

The private boreholes that exist were established to serve the water needs of the households that set them up, and whatever revenue is made from selling to the community is not tempting.

At satellite town, along Badagry-Expressway where I live, we have the same problem. Water is delivered to houses by Lorries with tanks full of water. The private boreholes that have been established do not exist to break even.

To further compound the problem of building a network of pipes to serve the community, is the fear that some miscreant could burst these pipes in order to draw water from them for nothing, further compounding its cost situation.

These are why the Government should step in. When private firms find it difficult to provide potable water, or power, or clean up pollution, for reasons that are beyond their abilities, we pay taxes for the Government to do this.

But does the Government have the will and the ability?

If Bala Mohammed, the FCT Minister, is interested in keeping true to his promise, then would the meruwa(s) not be determined to take the ability from him, calling on age-old traditional ties and lobbies? It would be a pity that so many of them would have to lose a means of livelihood if he keeps true to his words. By the way, the satellite towns and suburbs surrounding Abuja do not count for much in his estimation. So why should he bother? This problem will not stop at anything but being epileptic but prolonged.

For all one can say, the residents of suburban Abuja would have to do with meruwas and private boreholes for a long while.



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IF I HAD KNOWN, I WOULD HAVE LEFT HIM AND THE DEVIL WITH THE TEN NAIRA.


A restaurant attendant, Bright Effiong, for killing his customer, Chibuike Onyekachi, over an argument of a difference of ten naira (N10) in his bill, will have to face a one-count charge of murder. The restaurant where he is employed will probably be under lock and key while he awaits May 5, the day of his trial.

Misplaced priorities, when confused for poverty and ignorance, can be costly. Bright Effiong has learnt this the hard way.

What could make two young men fight over a difference of ten naira (N10)? If none of them could be indifferent to the difference, then nothing but biting poverty. But poverty or ignorance is no justification for one man to take the life of another.

As he sits in prison for the murder of Chibuike Onyekachi, Effiong will be moaning his loss of liberty and possibly life for going so far as to take another life. But unfortunately for him, he had all the opportunity in the world to have prevented this sorry state of affairs.

Like Judas, regrets cannot bring back the clock.
Credit: Almeida Junior on Wikimedia Commons

First of all, there is no justification for violence, especially murderous violence. Violence is very costly to everyone concerned. No nation in history has ever gone to war without making use of every window of opportunity for peaceful resolution.

The window was open for Effiong but he did not use it.

He could have decided that if the difference of ten naira was so capital to the running of his restaurant, he would have allowed the devil be and split it between him and Onyekachi. Where both men were staunch in their belief that they were right, then the probability was that 50-50, one was right and the other was wrong and they could have agreed to share the loss for a settlement of five naira (N5) each.

On the other hand, if that sharing formula was calling for too much, then Effiong should have considered the time and public relations cost, vis-à-vis other restaurants at Ijeshatedo where this took place, of engaging in a lengthy quarrel with Onyekachi when other customers were watching, and eventually to a fight. The highest reward he would have gained from this monumental loss was only ten naira (N10). As people say, ignorance is a disease, and crass ignorance should be a deeply entrenched syndrome.

All I can say is that, since the window of peace was wide open for him, then where he chose the “pieces” option, then he will have to sit down in the dark pits of the prison and await his fate come May 5.

Never forget the essentials. No matter the amount involved, always remember that peace is an option which opportunity cost is very low when you count the loss in time, people, trust, faith, loyalty, money etc. So, make for peace and pursue it.


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Friday, April 6, 2012

THE USE OF UNAUTHORISED FREQUENCIES BY THE BANKS AT BENIN WILL CONTINUE UNLESS NCC KNOWS HOW TO MEASURE THE BENEFITS.


It was reported by Daily Times that the Benin branch of Ecobank was penalized for unauthorized use of frequencies of megahertz (Mhz) band but the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) noticed that Ecobank is not the only bank engaging in this illegal practice. Every other bank does it.

Even bad good business is costly for everyone.

Everyone suffers when nobody wants to do the right thing. That is why the cost of using cyberspace would increase by this activity. The banks know this as much as you and I. Because the benefits of this practice far outweighs any cost, which the simple eye cannot even see by the way, then no one would complain.

It has been argued several times that we all need the services of the Government. When you realize that its activities serve to sanitize the markets and enables competition and entrepreneurship to flourish, that is when you will be willing to cooperate with Government policies.

Although sometimes Government does the wrong things; like every mortal does. Government is run by mortals like you and I.

As for private firms, they are in the business of maximizing profits. Social costs and benefits or morality are their tools when it would help them make more money. So isEcobank, and every other bank. If she is penalized by the NCC for unauthorized use of frequencies in cyberspace, she would not count the social costs she has imposed on others which called for this penalty but, what would she lose if she stops doing this?

If what Ecobank stands to gain is above the penalty, then I bet you, she will continue to invade cyberspace at Benin branch unauthorized.

How much penalty is enough for this case?

That is why NCC knows she has to calculate how much penalty is enough to stop this practice. If she can, it would a loss to engage in it.cbn revokes 47 licenses.That is the problem of every regulator, not only that of NCC. They do not have enough information to act to make defaulters face the true costs of their actions. Even if it is in the best interest of everyone for NCC to know this, nobody is prepared to risk its company secrets to allow some regulator go through its books without being watched.

So where the penalty can never be enough, all the banks will continue this practice. NCC should be content with public warnings and occasional penalties and fines.

The end result of all this, where it pays to be bad, is that we suffer for things we would have avoided, like Ecobank’s neighbor finding that sometimes her frequencies are jammed or clogged. It might lose him money, trust, or customer loyalty, but since no one can calculate how much, it is up to anyone’s guess.


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COULD WINNERS CHAPEL BE USING MONEY TO DRAG MORE MEMBERS TO HIS CHURCH THROUGH ITS HEBRON SACHET WATER? JUDGE FOR YOURSELF.


power can even be more powerful than the pull of electromagnetic waves that drive electricity.” Credit: Tony Boon/tonyboon.co.uk

I have no qualms against religious bodies producing commercially, but when the product is labeled as “holy”, like Hebron sachet water produced by the founder of Winners Chapel, David Oyedepo, and the price is fifty percent (50%) cheaper than the usual, then this is a predator in the market!

Hebron sachet water was born to be a monopolist.

Hebron sachet water could eventually be a natural monopoly in the market for sachet waters at Ota and like everybody would eventually learn, you better beware of entering its territory.

For one, the residents of Ota say that the water is “holy.” On the other hand, Oyedepo has decided to sell it at fifty percent of the actual price in the market. The demand for his product is so high that it even interferes with church services.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that if Oyedepo is allowed to continue this way, he is sooner than latter going to drive so many of his competitors out of the market. When he gains monopoly power, (oh, how sweet power is!), we could see a trend where resellers of the sachet water would come from only amongst people who attend his church. By selling it at N120, the market price, they get to make a profit of N60 on each bag of sachet water which profit no other sachet water can provide. So, only his devotees will eventually control the market.

Hebron sachet water could see a line of Hebron bottle water, Hebron spring water and so on and so forth in the near future. That is the benefit monopoly confers.

But what if his monopoly power is only a tool to further increase his religious powers?

Business must be good for his company. And also for his members who have given him a cost advantage over his rivals. Altruism and the volunteering spirit would make sure the cost of input for his business is lower than the average. This indeed is a good thing, especially if they get to share from the profits.

The downside is that this could be a strategy, well known in poverty ridden Africa, of enriching his church members as a bait used to attract other people who are not members of his church. This would be a dangerous thing. But what if everyone does it and would surely want to do it?

Power corrupts and so does religion.

After gaining monopoly power and driving his competitors out of the market, what if Oyedepo decides to increase the price of Hebron sachet water to reflect the true market price? Because he has all of Ota at his fingertips when it comes to sachet water, he could see his revenue and profits double, triple and quadruple overnight. He has the power to decide who will be in the business or not, especially when he must have started with the faithful of his church. Religion and power are dangerous things, you must agree with me, and when both resides in the palms of a single mortal, then one only wonders when corruption will start creeping in.

Notwithstanding, everyone likes a cheap product and he has it going for him.




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AN INSURANCE WORTH N5.5m? YOU BET THERE ARE LOTS OF TROUBLED MINDS FOR THIS BUSINESS TO FLOURISH.


Two conmen, one a herbalist, DanlamiMakarfi, were sentenced to prison on three count charges based on criminality for duping another man, Adamu Mohammed, of N5.5m in cash and properties. The intent of the conmen was to pray for Adamu so as to relieve him of his problems.

Those afraid of taking risk will always be ready to pay.

The principle behind Adamu’s action, like that of every other troubled mind, is similar to the raison d’etre of the insurance industry: people who are risk averse are prepared to pay a premium in order to forestall the bad outcome. Adamu Mohammed, for paying a herbalist to pray for him to help relieve him of his problems was not mad or insane, he was just acting as a risk averse person, but the twist to the story was that the two conmen must have overstepped the bounds of what is acceptable into the territory of the fraudulent.

Adamu must have valued the claim of DanlamiMakarfi and his colleague at N5.5m with the belief that his problems will be solved, because amongst other reasons, he must have tried solving those problems himself over so many years and had hit a brick wall. Therefore, he valued his own efforts at N0 and the probability that he would succeed if he keeps trying on his own at 0. One can say that Adamu was not a stupid person to have paid such an amount of money, only that, as we Nigerians say, he was a typical case of “money miss road.”

A life insurance worth N5.5m needs lots of convincing.

I keep wondering why he should value the herbalist’s claim at N5.5m. I believe the Judge must have solved that problem, although the news article did not say, but it is certain that the herbalist and his colleague must have been glib salesmen. They must have sent false signals to the troubled Adamu and manipulated him very well such that the judge had to send them to prison on a three count charge.

Otherwise, why should N5.5m not be able to provide them with a good lawyer who can defend them very well?

Just like insurance, the business of offering prayers or miracles to relieve people of their problems will always exist. People will either be risk averse, and be customers, or be risk loving, and keep bearing and enduring their problems. But for an insurance policy on one’s life to be worth N5.5m; that is worth breaking the gates of heaven.


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