Thursday, November 20, 2008


A somewhat positive ranking for a change. But as much as Nigeria has been ranked the least vulnerable economy in the world by Merrill Lynch, we do have to think about the implications of being an oil-dependent economy (a very vulnerable resource in terms of pricing). Oil contributes 20% directly to the GDP. Given the recent decline in oil prices, one can expect that a further decline will contract our GDP causing government revenues to fall. Now, of course not everyone's as pessimistic as I am about this ranking, if the recent run on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is anything to go by, Nigerians should proceed with caution at this seemingly good news...

Nigeria: Merrill Lynch Ranks Country World's Safest Economy -

A major boost was given to Nigeria's quest for foreign investment inflow at the weekend as the country was named the least vulnerable economy in the world, according to a report, Global Economics, compiled by a team of experts from Merrill Lynch.

The report, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY at the weekend, was compiled following several data requests from clients of the investment bank for key risk indicators for all major economies including Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

According to the statistics, the world's 10 least vulnerable economies are Nigeria, Mexico, Phili-ppines, Colombia, Egypt, Oman, Indonesia, Peru, China and Russia.

Also, the report identified Australia, Switzerland, Korea, Romania, Hungary, Sweden, Bulgaria, Euro area, United Kingdom and the United States of America as the highest risk economies in the world.

The risk ranking was based on seven indicators and they are - current account financing gap, foreign exchange reser-ves/short-term external debt ratio, private credit-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, and private credit growth, loans to deposits and banks capital-to-assets ratio. Merrill Lynch said the report also addressed all the requests in 62 indicators of the 60 world economies.

According to the report, Nigeria, with a population of 141.41million, was able to record a 7.3 per cent growth in GDP, with its Consumer Price Index hovering at 11.5 per cent, its current account balance, fiscal balance and public debt at 6 per cent, 6.3 and 10.4 percentage respectively.

To determine its external vulnerability, Nigeria's external debt position was put at 12.9 per cent of the GDP, while external debt /exports ratio was put at 9 per cent. Her forex reserves totalled $60.8billion.

The percentage of Nigeria's total external debt in relation to the GDP was put at two per cent, total foreign claims is $15.3billion while international claims stood at $13.1billion.

The report stated that the percentage of Current Account Balance plus net Foreign Direct Investment of the Nigerian GDP was 34, Forex reserves/short-term external debt totalled 41, while percentage of export of the GDP was 38 point.

The percentage of private credit of GDP was 43, while the percentage of bank capital to assets, according to Merrill Lynch was 41.

The 10 most vulnerable countries, which are mostly European countries, were said to have exhibited worse balance of payments positions, stretched external debt service ratios and overleveraged financial systems.

Explaining further on how it put the report together, Merrill Lynch states that: "While we believe that our country risk ranking produces plausible results, one needs to be aware that, as any ranking of that type, it is highly sensitive to the selection of indicators employed. For example, developed countries can probably sustain higher external vulnerability indicators than emerging markets; some Euro area country statistics are possibly misleading given there is a monetary union."

In their reactions, the leadership of the Nigerian organised private sector said the various investment-friendly programmes put in place especially in the past five years largely gave Nigeria a pride of place in the ranking.

Immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Dr. Mansur Ahmed said the latest ranking has confirmed that Nigeria is indeed an investors-haven. The feat, he said, should be traced to a regime of consistent and sustained improvement in the nation's fiscal management.

Speaking with THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday, Ahmed acknowledged that Nigeria has been able to maintain a healthy foreign exchange management, low budget deficit and heavily low external indebtedness, which he said have combined to grossly reduce the nation's level of risk. He said those indices have also endeared the nation's economy to foreign investors.

According to the incumbent DG of the NESG, the key indicator to the safety of investment in Nigeria is the freedom to invest in any part of the country without government's intervention. He maintained that issues like hostile acquisitions, or government take-over is not common in Nigeria, explaining that even in cases where government reversed policies, it is always limited to government investments.

"In Nigeria, people can invest anywhere without hindrance. Other important considerations are the sheer size of the Nigerian market and underlying macro-economic issues," Ohuanbuwa said.

He noted that although investors in Nigeria are still complaining of high cost of doing business, the level of risk is far lower than what obtains some other economies of the world.

On measures to improve on the latest ranking, the experts were unanimous in their call for the sustenance of investor-friendly policies by the government.

Ahmed emphasised the need for effective management of the nation's foreign asset especially in the face of the dwindling prices of crude oil at the international market.

Ohuanbuwa charged the government to liberalise the economy by removing all hindrances to the economy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jerry Useni And A Forgetful Nation

One of the things that touch a raw nerve in me regarding Nigeria(ns) is that we forget easily. We forget our heroes, our villains, our collective experiences and the lessons we shoulda/woulda/coulda learned from them. We therefore do not question when our media airs such stupid (for lack of a more creative word at 1am) comments made by government sycophants, as that made by Useni (below). We are too interested in where our next meal is coming from that we dare not be bothered by whose memory is being tarnished for whatever reasons. 13 years on, as Britain remembers 90 years of brave soldiers who fought and died for their country, I hope that we as Nigerians in our respective hustle and bustle, will take a moment or two to remember a great Nigerian hero - Ken Saro-Wiwa - who paid the ultimate price for the justice that still eludes the victims of the Niger Delta's pillage, who died for his country, for OUR COUNTRY.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jerry Useni And A Forgetful Nation - By Reuben Abati

"I'm in good spirits...There's no doubt that my ideas will succeed in time, but I'll have to bear the pain of the moment...the most important thing for me is that I've used my talents as a writer to enable the Ogoni people to confront their tormentors. I was not able to do it as a politician or a businessman. My writing did it. And it sure makes me feel good! I'm mentally prepared for the worst, but hopeful for the best. I think I have the moral victory" - Ken Saro-Wiwa

The nation-wide excitement over Senator Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential election, almost allowed Lt Gen. Jeremiah Useni to get away with some of the silly things he has been saying lately about federalism and even more offensively about the late Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed by the Abacha junta, of which Useni was a principal member, 13 years ago. Indeed, it will be exactly 13 years tomorrow since we lost Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others who were hanged on trumped up charges of murder. The timing of Jerry Useni verbal diarrhoea could not have been fortuitous, it comes across as a pre-determined attempt to rubbish Ken Saro-Wiwa's memory and to diminish the significance of the struggle that he championed. But Jerry Useni is wrong, and he needs to be told so, clearly and in no unmistaken terms.

Permit me to note that Jerry Useni is one of those conveniently forgotten figures of Nigerian history. In a more disciplined society, a man like him would not have the gumption to speak up with such reckless confidence, he would be in self-imposed hiding out of shame and contrition. But in Nigeria, we forget so easily, so quickly and so readily, that some of the architects of past pains can now come forward to tell us how to run our lives and we are forced to listen, because the media, fighting a battle against censorship, can also not afford to censor the views of others even when they seem unreasonable. These days, surprisingly, even General Ibrahim Babangida, the man who annulled the democratic elections of June 1993, also gives lectures on democracy and his views are given air-time!

It is a sad comment on the capacity of Nigerians to remember and reward and sanction past conduct that a Jerry Useni would still be able to stand up in the market square and pontificate. He was Abacha's side-kick, and one of the main promoters of military tyranny. His dismissal of Ken Saro-Wiwa as a traitor who deserved to be murdered by the Nigerian state is therefore in character, but it is such a lie that should not be allowed to stand.

On October 28, Lt. Gen Jerry Useni showed up in the day's papers as having uttered the following tosh at an encounter with journalists in Jos: that the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in November 1995 was in the "country's best interest" because "the Nigerian state was under Western threat"; that "Saro-Wiwa was a surrogate of the West. Executing him at that time was to save the Niger Delta from his terror;" that a film was made available to the Abacha government which showed Saro Wiwa using crude methods to torture his kinsmen; that the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry is likely to worsen the situation in the Niger Delta, and that Nigeria is not yet ripe for federalism because federalism might lead to the country's break-up". Useni with these statements confirms the long-held and widely affirmed view that Nigeria suffers from a crisis of leadership. Useni, by the accident of history is supposed to be a national leader, but see how poorly he reasons!

Ken Saro Wiwa did not deserve to die in the hands of Abacha's hangman. He was not a traitor, he was a patriot. He was not a saboteur, he was a nationalist. He was not a villain, he was a hero. He was a martyr and a victim of military tyranny and the sadism of the military elite. His murder was certainly not in the nation's best interest, and Useni should know as Ken Saro-Wiwa's ghost continues to haunt the Nigerian state in the Niger Delta. Ken Saro-Wiwa wanted for his people, the Ogoni, in the Southern part of the country what every Nigerian desires for his or her own people: dignity, better life, humanity, equity and justice. But the Ogoni, 500, 000 of them, whose land supplies Nigeria with the bulk of its oil wealth, lived and continue to live in abject poverty, their land despoiled, their farmlands laid waste, their air polluted due to oil exploration activities.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, author, writer, polemicist, entrepreneur, television personality, accomplished public affairs analyst, decided to wake up his people and mobilise them to fight against the injustices of the Nigerian state. He was a rich man of means who decided to sacrifice it all in order to lead his people and raise their voices. He was a class-rebel who chose to defend the truth. In 1990, he set up the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). The accent on survival is worth noting, it speaks to the threats faced by the Ogoni. In October 1990, an Ogoni Bill of Rights was launched and "presented to the government and people of Nigeria". The Bill noted in part:

That in over 30 years of oil mining, the Ogoni nationality has provided the Nigerian nation with a total revenue estimated at over forty billion naira, thirty billion dollars.

That in return for the above contribution, the Ogoni people ahve received NOTHING.

That today, the Ogoni people have:

(i) No representative whatsoever in ALL institutions of the Federal Government of Nigeria

(ii) No pipe-borne water

(iii) No electricity

(iv) No job opportunities for the citizens in Federal, state, public sector or private sector companies

(v) No social or economic project of the Federal Government.

These, among others, were the injustices that Ken Saro-Wiwa and others chose to rebel against. But Ken Saro-Wiwa, the leader of the struggle, was not a nihilist. He preached non-violence, he ran a struggle driven by ideas. He simply wanted a better Nigeria and a better deal for the Ogoni. He wanted his people to be treated as "equal members of the Nigerian federation".

In 1993, General Sani Abacha siezed power and became Nigeria's Head of State. The country was on the boil over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. The Ogoni struggle was in full ferment. AbaCha was a typical soldier, he could not handle arguments. He turned the gun on every subject and anything that moved.

It is a long story that cannot be made better by cutting it short but for the moment, it is enough to state that in May 1994, Ken Saro-Wiwa and fifteen others were arrested and accussed of having had a hand in the murder of four Ogoni chiefs. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the others denied the charges. On November 2, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other men were sentenced to death. Eight days later, they were hanged at the Port Harcourt prison, in spite of appeals from all over the world. The trial was an abuse of due process and fair hearing, in the course of the trial, the accused persons were not allowed the right to fair trial and an appeal. Indeed, the defence lawyers at some stage had to withdraw in protest! The government's eventual open display of wickedness earned Nigeria a suspension from the Commonwealth and sanctions from across the world. Saro-Wiwa and others were buried in unmarked graves and there were reports that Saro-Wiwa's body was doused with acid, to be sure that he would not suddenly ressurect. Jerry Useni and his friends were afraid of Ken Saro Wiwa even in death. Thirteen years later, it is instructive that they are still afraid. Truly, conscience is a wound.

But the truth, I hope Useni gets to read this, or hears about it in case he is one of those Nigerians who are too big and too rich to read newspapers, is that Ken Saro-Wiwa has long been vindicated. Stupid Nigerian leaders have forever postponed the evil day by refusing to listen to ideas and by refusing to engage voices of reason. The evil day that Saro-Wiwa sought to prevent is now upon the Niger Delta and the rest of Nigeria. The present-day militants are his children but they are also not exactly his children: they are his children because they are fighting for change and justice and hope for their people, but they are not his children because they have opted for violence; in that regard, they are the children of Nigeria, the children of a nation that is forever seeking an embrace with evil by postponing a dialogue with the present.

Ken Saro-Wiwa has been vindicated because what he fought and died for has become the issue in Nigerian politics: the need for equality, justice and equity. But Jerry Useni doesn't get it. Ken Saro-Wiwa and other revolutionaries of the Delta sowed the seeds for the emergence of the Niger Delta Ministry. They made the argument afresh for federalism, but Jerry Useni does not understand, so he says a Niger Delta Ministry is unnecessary and that federalism is undesirable. He lives, we can see, in the past. If Useni were an American, he would have voted for McCain and he would have lost his vote. Ken Saro-Wiwa has been vindicated because he has liberated the minds of his people and brought them recognition. It was the fashion not to take the Ogoni seriously, but through MOSOP, the people have shown their capacity for resolve. Shell, the arch-villain of the Ogoni struggle had to close its wells in that area, 13 years later, it still has its tails between its legs in Ogoniland.

Tomorrow, it will be 13 years to the day since Ken Saro-Wiwa and others were murdered by the Nigerian state, Jerry Useni and his friends may remember the day with joy, but those who cherish the truth, justice and equity, and all who love Nigeria will light a candle in remembrance of the fallen martyrs. Ken Saro-Wiwa lives. The Ogoni Four and the Ogoni Eight also. Tell that to Jerry Useni, please.

Rest in Peace Miriam Makeba:


Still trying to find out the locations of the London and New Jersey demonstrations.

Dear All,

I was with Uzoma Okere in Alausa yesterday and at the Ministry of Justice therafter where we edited the petition to ensure it was explicit about what we want.But let's not celebrate yet. The battle has just begun.It ends when we justice has been served. And we will keep at these protests until justice is administered on these monsters.

If you want to lend your voice to the injustice, please come to 14 Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos at 12.30p.m on Sunday November 9, 2008.We will be there till 3pm with a video camera to record the faces and voices of incensed Nigerians.From there we will proceed to University of Lagos where filming will continue from 4pm - 7pm in front of Moremi Hall.

Similar filming will take place on Sunday in London, New Jersey and Beijing.We all have a responsibility for what happened. We permit the brutality by not speaking out.We intend to broadcast the footage on local and international television in order to inspire shame in each of us as individuals, and in our government for failing in its duty to protect us from such attacks.We will continue to air the clip on rotation until justice is served. Please spread the word.

We look forward to seeing you there on Sunday and please send this to all your friends on facebook.

Ebun Olatoye.-----------------------------------------------------

For details on the Uzoma Okere story, please copy and paste the following links into your web browser:

To see the video of the assault, please click here:

We are counting on your support to make this effort a success. If you have any questions or need further information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Kemi Ogunleye

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"YES THEY CAN" - Armed Nigerian Naval Men Abuse Power

Two days ago, on Monday, November 3rd, 2008, 6 armed naval officials attached to a Rear Admiral, identified as Harry Arogundade, severely beat and publicly disgraced a young woman, identified as an employee of Price Waterhouse Coopers. Uzoma Okere was assaulted for not moving over quickly enough for the navy convoy as it tried to tear through traffic on Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

During the course of the violent public confrontation, she was beaten with gun butts and horsewhips, ripping off her clothing. When the navy men were done dealing with the young woman, they "forcibly handcuffed and dragged" her into a private residence on the street. She was left with "a battered face, blood-shot eyes and bruises all over her body" and later on admitted to a hospital nearby.

The Nigerian Navy has tried to shift responsibility for the actions of its officials by assigning blame to the victim, who they say provoked the incident. This official response accused the victim of making up stories to "embarrass" the Admiral.

(The information above has largely been drawn from an article published by Punch newspaper today, Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.)

I heard about this incident today, on the same day that the world's most powerful nation elected it's first black President. Throughout today, i have heard people echo the slogan, "Yes We Can," over and over again because they have been inspired and believe that Nigeria can grow and develop into a strong democratic nation with a booming economy. Many have talked, argued and debated over the possibility of attaining Vision 2020 - a vision that sees Nigeria as one of the top 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020.

Most of us stayed up throughout the night to witness history in the making and as a result are more convinced that "yes we can" reach Vision 2020. However, having seen the video of this incidence, I question whether our country can progress if the civil liberties of citizens such as Uzoma Okere can be publicly violated in such a manner. How can we boast to be a democratic nation if public officials can publicly commit such an act and remain unpunished. Over the past few years, we have talked about corruption and hoped that institutions such as the EFCC will clean up our society. However, we are still waiting. This incidence proves that little has been done. If our leaders are unable to act appropriately and responsibly, we must take matters into our own hands.

Please take a look at the link below and join me by lending your voice to this note so that we can raise awareness and draw the attention of those who are in the position to do something about this.

Aisha B.