Thursday, May 24, 2012

EVEN IF THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT IS TEMPTING, THE STICK LOOKS MORE STIFF THAN TEMPTING


Have you heard – that the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government are all out to clean up our roads? I was reading a piece concerning the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and thought, waoh, this is a master stroke.

It is highly tempting we agree for our truck drivers to park on these roads because they have easy access to the ports and other destinations. The cost though of these actions can tell insidiously on businesses. So both arms of government decided recently to start tidying up the roads in Lagos.

The first act they have done is to give the truckers ultimatum to vacate those roads. These will not stop roadblocks at all but at least will go a long way in limiting the causes of go-slows, as we call it here in Lagos, and road congestion. The casual reader would ask – how long will that vacating last? Not for long. They will be back. It happens all the time. So, in her wisdom, the Federal Government decided to deal these truckers a master stroke.

SIGN AN UNDERTAKING OF GOOD BEHAVIOR

Ask them to sign an undertaking that the act will not be repeated.

Although one doubts the constitutionality of such an undertaking, but it is still legal if both parties agree to it. What it does is place a charge on committing the act of parking on those roads ‘in the future’, like a sword of Damocles. Even if the truckers think they can resume the status quo when the government turns the other eye, the threat of a charge from an undertaking is too strong to disregard. It gives the government the right to carry out punitive measures against them arbitrarily – because they have agreed to it.

Because this charge is placed ‘in the future’, the truckers for the meantime will act as if they impute these charge into the cost of their business and since every business wants to make profit, they’d rather obey the law than break it. In a country where breaking the law is the norm, it is not the norm that you can be asked to pay for breaking the law unconstitutionally.

That is the risk of an undertaking. It gives the government the right to even carry out vendetta actions on these truckers who are usually carrying goods for oil companies.

That is why I call it a master stroke.


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THIS MIGHT BE THE REAL IITA WARNING


I believe you must have read the IITA warning to Nigeria concerning the exportation of cassava. It was reported, virtually verbatim, online by many newspapers covering business news on Nigeria. In that report, the IITA station manager, Mr. Olusegun Adunoye reiterated that rather than exporting cassava, Nigeria should invest in refining it internally for production of derivatives like bread, confectioneries and pastries.

His foreboding brings up questions such as: “If Nigeria is more efficient and effective in producing cassava, why should she not be exporting it even if she builds industries for refining derivatives from cassava?” His warning makes one believe that there should be a real fear lurking behind the warning.

THE BASIS FOR ADUNOYE’S ARGUMENTS

Refining cassava internally for revenue generation and creating employment for the millions of unemployment youths is laudable. Everyone should be all out for it. Exporting and refining abroad, then importing these cassava derivatives, true, will make us pay more than we will earn because the process of refining adds value to cassava as a raw material for the production process which makes the value of equivalent imports higher than the value of exporting these cassava. No one likes spending more than he earns.

But I do not think that Adunoye realizes that we are already an import dependent country. So whether we export our cassava or not, it will never change the fact that Nigerians will still be importing refined cassava derivatives. Our exporting cassava does not depend in any way on the importation of cassava derivatives. So spending on cassava and its derivatives will always be a fact of life. Why should we not be exporting so as to earn money that can mop up the country’s reserves or prevent us from running into debt?

His warning raises lots of questions on the reader’s mind. I believe there is an underlying untold story to that warning.

THE UNTOLD STORY OR THE REAL WARNING

One of the untold stories is what some writers call the farming problem. Due to the nature of market demand for agricultural products, increasing output of these at a rapid rate might end up reducing the total revenue for the industry or farmers as a whole. This is a fact of the industry and there is nothing anyone can do about it. If our cassava is sought for abroad, we have no option but to increase output and wish these problem does not befall our farmers. On the other hand, I have come to realize that when people kick against a process that should be natural, then they are acting out of experience based on what might have happened in the past or from fear of a past event.

We have lots of experience from the past that should make IITA or Adunoye afraid of opening up the cassava industry to the prying eyes of experts from abroad (e.g biotechnology). One of them is the Oil industry. Because the country was afraid foreigners would take over Nigerian Oil, government embarked on a lame indigenization program. Yet, the major players in the industry are still multinationals and our indigenous companies are still struggling along. We can also draw an example from the fate of southern African countries. In a bid to inexorably expand output, they opened up their land to foreign investment and ended up losing it.

I think that should be the fear that might be lurking at the back of Adunoye’s head. Exporting our cassava would mean increasing output in that sector and if the demand is very high, we might have to depend on science and technology for improved and mechanized farming methods, including investment from abroad. Nigerians are not adept in biotechnology but western companies or multinationals are. Opening up the cassava industry to them might result in our going the way of the oil industry or of Southern African countries who are forced to go on GM (genetically modified) foods and food aids.

That might be the real fear behind Adunoye’s warning.


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NAFDAC MIGHT HAVE EARNED ROUND ONE BUT THE FIGHT MIGHT NOT EVEN END.


The consistent and dogged bad press through the public awareness efforts of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is paying off. Drug counterfeiters have risen their hands in defeat and moved to the rural areas. Fine and good, but unfortunately, this is just round one. Remember that the dynamics of the urban and rural areas are of two opposite divides.

HARD WON FIGHT

What would one expect with the likes of Dr. Akunyili standing behind NAFDAC for many years before she left? NAFDAC’s consistent campaign has clothed drug counterfeiting and buying of fake drugs with such bad press that people have started opting for legal, over-the-counter drugs and this movement to rural areas is not only because the people are acting positively to NAFDAC’s efforts, these campaigns have also made the cost of selling fake drugs higher than recognized drugs. NAFDAC has achieved a laudable success over the years. Yet, one should realize that by moving to the rural areas, these drug counterfeiters can still come back to the cities because at the cities you can find people who are more receptive to NAFDAC’s message than at the rural areas because they are more enlightened, educated and have access to better health facilities and information.

These factors could weaken NAFDAC’s fight as she shifts the fight to the rural areas.

SUPERSTITION AND FEAR VS EDUCATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT

images like this are the stuff rural areas feed upon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Two factors might work against NAFDAC if she thinks she can fight with the same way as she has won at the rural areas.

One of them is that the rural areas are less educated than the urban areas and they still are the custodians of our traditions and customs which traditions and customs will always be against western education and enlightenment. NAFDAC will be spreading its message to a whole new set of ears who do not understand cityspeak.

Another mitigating factor is that whereas there is a standard to how one can broadcast and deliver messages to educated people as a body, there is no known documented and workable way in which NAFDAC can deliver its messages to the rural areas as one body. Each village or clan have accepted customs and traditions that one should say unfortunately is laden with superstitions that were created by the support and encouragement of herbal doctors. These are to the benefit of fake drug sellers who promise all sorts of cure for even a simple drug as paracetamol. The dynamics of the rural areas makes her work harder.

Only time will tell how the fight will end, but surely, if they are not defeated, these drug counterfeiters will bid their time to return to the cities when NAFDAC loses steam or loses sense of direction. On these latter, I can place my bets.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NOTABLE EXPOSITIONS AND FAIRS IN JUNE


These three expositions and fairs are important for small businesses. If you are interested in attending all or any, mark them on your calendar.

Turkish Products Exhibition in Nigeria.

The first Turkish products exhibition and fair, in collaboration with the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, will be taking place in June between the 12th and 14th. The venue will be the Eko Hotel Exhibition Center, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The entrance is free and open to all members of the public.

For enquiries, contact Lekan Ayotebi, or Akin Adesodin on 08023010894, 08023183880. Or email: billoptionslimited@yahoo.com.

Cards, ATM and Mobile Exposition.

Although the first of its kind as Nigerians await the complete and full implementation of the planned cashless economy, this is the 12th International Exhibition of the Cards, ATM and Mobile Exposition, and it will be holding between 12th to 14th of June, 2012. Expect to see new products and offerings that are geared towards the cashless economy at the exhibition ground. The venue is the Civic Center, Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Entrance is free to all members of the public. There will be free buses to attendees from specific points in Lagos. Check the website below for bus locations.

Website: www.cardexpoafrica.com. Facebook page: www.facebook.com/cardexpoafrica

Contact: ann@intermarc_ng.com, 08023243412.

International Furniture, Home Textile, Home supplies and Houseware Fair.

For small businesses who import or deal in these products, pay a visit to this fair which will be holding between the 27th and 30th of June, 2012 at the Federal Palace Hotel, Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Entrance is free to all members of the public.

Contact: 01 – 8160198.


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Saturday, May 19, 2012

IS NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA BECOMING CANONICAL?


While reading some news articles I have noticed that some writers have taken to replacing the names of the Minister of Finance, Ngozi OKonjo-Iweala, with the abbreviations, NOI. The uniqueness of this practice is that it is not usually done for every public figure, but for those who have created a niche or mark for themselves in ways the media is unable to unravel?

SOME EXAMPLES

I believe you all know what the abbreviations IBB and OBJ stands for in this country? Those two are also canonical. The same as Zik, Pa Awo etc. Read my lips, I am not saying NOI has risen to the stature or maturity, but the future is often written with little snippets of a careless ink here or there, or maybe not some careless ink, but some telling psychological nuances and bends in writings.

RECORDS ANY?

Although she lost the fight for the top seat of the World Bank to Jim Yong Kim, she lost honorably. If you are used to reading the stats, you should realize that Nigeria has been making some gains in the economic front, especially when it comes to an area that our importers are very sensitive to, the exchange rate, although the unemployment rate is very disappointing.

I wonder if that abbreviation will continue for a long time? If it does, then she will have become canonical, or an establishment in the likes of IBB, OBJ, Dangote etc. Only history can tell.


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SOMETIMES ONE BELIEVES OUR PUBLIC OFFICIALS SHOULD BE TAKING COURSES IN PUBLIC SPEAKING AND COMMUNICATION


Sometimes, when you read the speeches of our public officials, you wish they should be taking courses or lectures in public speaking and communication. While reading some articles on the online edition of The Daily Times of Nigeria, I thought the words of Folorunso Oginni, the Chairman of The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), does not augur well for millions of Nigerians who desire to portray a positive image of the country.

Words coated with much innuendos.

A snippet: “Nigeria has not recorded much investment in the oil sector because there is no law governing operations of the country’s petroleum industry.” In other words, what he means is that, if there is a law governing operations of the country’s petroleum industry, then Nigeria will record much investment in the oil sector.

Some of the consequences of those words are that: The operations of the country’s petroleum industry are carried out within an illegal framework. An illegal framework signifies lawlessness and with lawlessness, the Government would be raising dust because power has been taken from her.

What he must have meant.

No one likes to be a foreteller but I believe I understand what he wanted to say. What Folorunso Oginni must have meant is that the laws in force in the Oil industry possess so many loopholes that it encourages illegality which would scare foreign investors. Therefore, what he needs or wants are reforms of those laws.

Do failing oil companies cause crime?

The second snippet: “Most of the oil servicing companies we have here are not working and because they are not working, they have laid off their staff and this has increased the crime rate in the country.” Even though the casual reader would be interested in issues such as this, why are those companies not working? Is it because they cannot compete or they cannot break even? Also, do they need subsidies from the Government to survive or do we allow them to die? What are the consequences? Let’s stick to what I didn’t like about those statements.

Folorunso is insinuating here, and distastefully, that when workers are laid off from work, the only option left is to take to crime. I am unemployed for several years, but criminality has never been considered as an option for a source of revenue. Has it been for you? It tends to breach the limits of taste and careful speech.

What he does not realize.

Folorunso Oginni should realize, as I must believe he does, that although the unemployment rate in the country is very high (about 23%) but there are so many law abiding Nigerians walking the streets. That even if indigenous companies in the country cannot compete in the industry, the system has a way of absorbing these staff that have been laid off into other industries. Point of correction!


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CREATIVE IDEAS FOR FACEBOOK COVERPAGES


Since the introduction of the new Facebook timeline, I have seen a proliferation of cover pages. I looked at my profile page and decided I needed a cover page myself. That set the muse flowing. So I decided to, from time to time, build cover pages for whomever so wishes to have one, from me, for a little fee. Just one thousand, five hundred naira (N1,500.00). The price is negotiable though, as is every item in a Nigerian market.

Go through the list below. I added just six. But you can see an extensive list at one of the albums on my profile named cover page samples. I will keep adding to the gallery from time to time, so if you are interested in having a cover page from me, you can download one, try it on your timeline and if you like it, just message me on Facebook or email: nnaemeka.david@gmail.com, or phone: +234-081-56366920 (mobile communication is preferable though) and just give me your specifications and I’ll arrange one for you.

Go through the six below, or visit the gallery on Facebook.

Odimegwu David: I built this for myself, splattering ink all over the canvas. Must have been influenced by the idea I had while building it, engagement ink, another business that is still being nurtured.

Rosemary crèche: Was influenced by the picture of the little child on my desktop and also the fact that there are so many crèches and daycare center in my neighborhood in satellite town. I thought one or two might be interested in something for advertising their business.

Satellite Herald: The canvas is colored red and with power lines because I believe newspapers possess a hidden power to influence the masses. You can see how the red resonates through the cover page with another sea of red towards the bottom where there are pictures of public figures.

Turaya 1: The typical cover page for a profile. Similar to mine above, only that this was meant for a man with a family.

Turaya 2: Same idea as Turaya 1 only that I decided to change the outline of the text and then color of the canvas. Little changes in color here and there and in placement of images are 360 degrees significant.

Green Lawn Restaurant: Restaurants and eateries are one of the faces of Lagos streets, so how can I start with cover pages for both profiles and pages and not think of a restaurant? The regular meals on the menu are above the semi-circle. I thought the lawn was better at the bottom, where the logo will be when the cover page is uploaded on Facebook.

You can see an extensive list at one of the albums on my profile named Facebook cover page samples. I will keep adding to the gallery from time to time, so if you are interested in having a cover page from me, you can download one, try it on your timeline and if you like it, just message me on Facebook or email: nnaemeka.david@gmail.com, or phone: +234-081-56366920 (mobile communication is preferable though) and just give me your specifications and I’ll arrange one for you.


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